Representation Matters (Pt. 2)

*It’s not enough for PoC to be included in the narrative. They also have to have character, not just be a character. Also, the more people of color in the narrative the less likely the writers (who are almost always NOT PoC) will resort to stereotypes, or rather the number of PoC in the narrative will help to ameliorate any stereotypes that are present.

It’s also important for PoC to be behind the scenes. It’s hard to create action stars  when there aren’t enough PoC as stunt doubles. It’s difficult to have authentic environments of PoC when seen through the lens of white male writers who are too lazy to do the proper research (We’re looking at you Scott Buck!), and even if they did, would never be able to capture all the details and nuances of being a recent Chinese immigrant, a transgender Latina, or a gay Black man. I’m not saying that white people can’t write these characters, but a lot  of them either don’t know, or care enough, to get their shit right.

When white women began writing more movies and TV shows, we started to getting more nuanced,  authentic, portrayals of white women in movies, and the same thing happens when PoC write and star in their own stories. For example, what makes the Luke Cage series stand out as an iconic depiction of Black life, is that the creators are Black themselves, and are aware of all the tiny details, of Black life, that would be missed by white writers, to whom none of those details would even occur.

One of the reasons Into the Badlands looks as rich as it does is because Asian men are the showrunners and the stunt crew. Now compare this show to Iron Fist, where the white writers didn’t seem to kgive a damn that a show (and character) so steeped in Orientalist culture, about a white man who learns Kung Fu, doesn’t actually feature the Kung Fu very well, or any of the Asian culture on which the character is based, and a showrunner who  seemed indifferent to what fight scenes there were. Scott Buck cared  so little about the show’s action scenes, that he didn’t give  his star, Finn Jones, enough time to practice so he could shine in those scenes. If you have a Martial Arts character named Iron Fist, and you don’t showcase the action, youre gonna get booed. I’m just sayin’.

Even White people ( as much as we hear about the racist ones who seem to hate diversity in media) actually crave different types of stories. I’ve come across the occasional essay by White people lamenting  the lack of variety in movies, and TV shows. They want something different from the “bland white guy gets the call to adventure” type of  story. They too want to see stories like Hidden Figures, and Moonlight, rather than yet another story of a white man’s growing pains in the Midwest, or another romantic comedy where the spunky, young, white actress of the moment, eventually hooks up with the bland, white guy, she initially hated.

We understand that Hollywood is a business and will keep trying  to give us the same product they have successfully sold us many times, but with the studios bottom lines beginning to suffer, it’s time for them to be less conservative, and much more daring. Yes, movies cost a lot of money, and people are loathe to risk not getting a return on their investment, but they’re losing money now, and need to try some new things.

Well, they could at least try making the same old movies, just without the same twenty five White actors we’ve been seeing.

 

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results…

I’m not celebrating or sad.  This is emblematic of a huge shift in entertainment media that will progress with or without those who stubbornly adhere to old myopic ways.

They happened upon that wave early and let it wash past them instead of surfing it out of pure hubris, color-blindness, and stubbornness.

Sleepy Hollow came before Hamilton, Queen Sugar, Underground, Insecure, Atlanta, American Gods, Luke Cage, Get Out, Moonlight, and the upcoming, A Wrinkle in Time…  Black people and other marginalized groups are increasingly occupying genres and spaces they’ve rare-to-never been leads in, where they are having their perspectives and feelings served, instead of serving a white man’s story, as so many fans have been starved to see.

Such is business that if there is a need that will make money, it will eventually be filled by someone(s) if you choose not to.

That’s what I got out of this debacle.

That and, when you cater to a singular perspective for a long, long, time, no matter how new or “fresh” a spin you think you have on it, it’s probably been done and is trite, boring, and even offensive in its refusal to treat anyone who isn’t a white guy like they matter.

In other words, the exclusion of the other being central to these narratives for so long created this condition where those very narrow white boy dreams are getting staler and staler to audiences.

They aren’t the first white male writers and producers left dumbstruck and scratching their heads wondering what the hell happened after treating everything who isn’t the central white dude like shit and they won’t be the last.

You either evolve or get left behind.

(The show being referenced above is Sleepy Hollow, a show which had been lauded in its first and second seasons, but has just been canceled after its fourth season, after fans learned how the showrunners had been mistreating its female lead, and then unceremoniously, and without  warning, killed off her character. All I have left  to say about that is: They gon’ learn!)

 

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13 Times Hollywood Made Totally Racist Casting Decisions

In the 2015 box office bomb, Stone’s character Captian Allison Ng is written as being one quarter Chinese and one quarter Hawaiian. Many viewers of the film accused the filmmakers of whitewashing the cast, as Stone doesn’t belong to either heritage. The director of the film, Cameron Crowe, released the following as a statement: “I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you …
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*I laughed at this waaay too hard:
Chris Pine’s SNL monologue reminds us how bad Hollywood’s superhero diversity problem is:
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Alright, this was just hilarious for me:
What diversity actually is:
How Hollywood sees diversity:
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*That’s it! The next time I see some fan whinging about Historical accuracy, in a movie that casts any POC, I’m gonna have to (digitally) punch ’em in the side of the neck. 
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  • White actors cast as ancient Egyptian kings: “I know they weren’t white but it doesn’t have to be historically accurate to be a good movie. They should just hire the best person for the job!”
  • Black actor suggested to play fictional white character:“James Bond has always been white! I don’t care how good of an actor he is, you can’t just change history!!!”
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*I think I mentioned this one on somebody’s comments section, that the vast media machine that exists in the US is pretty much geared towards one group of people and that is middle-class, White, cis-gender, and straight, but without any religious connotations. I really only noticed this while watching TV commercials. 
Now remember, the reason why we have television shows at all, is to make us watch ads for the sponsors of those shows. Television can exist without ads (otherwise there’s be no HBO, or Netflix) but you have to pay for it out of your own pocket (subscriptions). The companies that sponsor these showsaim their ads specifically at White middle class people because that’s who, or so they believe, has all the money. Its pretty much been like this since the invvention of the TV. Middle class people were the only ones who could afford TVs anyway. In order to catch those White, middle-class, eyeballs, they created shows geared towards reflecting their lifestyles, which is why the vast majority of television shows feature White, middle-class, often urban professionals. Those are the people that advertisers want, have always wanted.
Several things not taken into account; as TVs became more affordable to the working class, and then the poor, people who are not members of the prevailing socio-economic class would see those lifestyles as something they wanted to attain. Advertisers were quick to grasp that idea and started sponsoring shows geared towards working class whites, but only a few, and mostly comedies. The vast majority of shows featured White men, in some lucrative, but  unspecified city job (Quick! What did Leave it Beaver’s Dad do for a living?), doctors, lawyers, and the occasional detective. The shows reflected the lifestyles people lived, were trying to attain, or power fantasy stories for White men, like Westerns and Police stories. 
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Case in point!
Since the eighties though, television programmers decided that the most lucrative dollar to chase, was the White male, aged 18-35. Just about every form of media, outside of magazines, in the eighties and well into the nineties, was geared towards this specific demographic. Most, if not all of TV, movies, and most forms of music, was aimed at getting these young, white men to spend their money. These young men liked sex and violence, or so it was determined by programmers, so they made movies, and TV shows, about people having sex, and committing acts of violence. Just look at any of the comedies that were released during the eighties. Anybody else who happened to be ewatching these programs were mostly disregarded. (This was not a hard and fast rule.  
There were some things geared towards non-White people, whenever White programmers and Ad-men remembered that  the rest of us had money, they would sponsor a comedy, or made for TV movie, which explains Roots and The Jeffersons.) When it was discovered that these same young white men liked Rap music, advertisers began sponsoring more shows and movies with those themes, although initially, these things were aimed at Black people, (which is how we ended up with movies like Friday, and Boyz in the Hood.)
This is not to say that nothing was aimed at non-Whites. There were a few shows and movies aimed at women, Blacks, and the occasional Latinx,  but they were rare. Occasionally some “Actor of Color” would blow up in the media and manage to get a film career out of it, which explains Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. And the entire time, everyone of every color, was inundated with racist stereotypes of everyone who wasn’t White, sexist lies and tropes about women, and lots and lots of jokes, at gay and transgender people’s expense. 
*And in a not-unrelated post on the racial dynamics of Hollywood movies, Teej lays it all bare, but without my polite indoor voice.

It’s time to kill the idea of white women as leads in movies as “baby steps! :)” toward inclusion of women of color and that WoC and PoC generally need to pay to see these films otherwise Hollywood will never include WoC/more PoC because “Hollywood only listens to money.”

People proffering this argument are either gullible, not paying attention, have no understanding of how racism works in Hollywood, or all three.

Hollywood knows that Black movies and shows make money (I’m focusing on Blackness because it’s what I know and antiblackness exists in all communities). Straight Out of Compton made money, Selma made money, 12 Years a Slave made money, Tyler Perry’s movies make money (much to my chagrin), and those are just some recent ones. There is a history of Black cinema and films that made money. Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder are led by Black women and Empire has a predominately Black cast, and they’re wildly popular shows.

Black people and other PoC have money and we have and will continue to spend it in theaters to see films that feature us. HOLLYWOOD IS WELL AWARE OF THIS. Stop believing and proliferating their tired excuses and lies.

The issue is that Hollywood only cares about a specific type of money: white money.  

When Hollywood refuses to put Black women and men and other PoC in lead roles in upcoming Blockbusters it’s because they don’t think white people will relate to or be comfortable with the idea of PoC as heroes. It’s not just about money (because Black people and other PoC will definitely spend money to see those films), it’s about whiteness. It’s the WHITE DOLLAR and the white audience that these studios are after and are worried about losing. They know that white people have difficulty empathizing with Black people and other PoC. They know that white people only find Black led films palatable if there’s a BLATANT NEED OR REASON that the lead/cast is Black.

That is why, due to white racism, Hollywood is only comfortable telling one kind of story of Blackness (and stereotypical stories about other PoC). So they’ll acknowledge films about slavery (usually as long as there’s one white savior), they’ll allow comedic films about Black folks, they’ll allow films about Black sports legends, etc. because they know that these kinds of images are largely palatable to white people. Occasionally, when a Black actor like Will Smith reaches mainstream appeal (read: white people no longer see them as “just Black”),  they’ll let him be the hero in a Blockbuster or two (Independence Day, Men in Black, etc) as long as he’s accompanied by enough white people to make the white audience feel comfortable.

White women have lead movies in all genres because they are white, not because Hollywood is taking “baby steps! :)” to becoming more racially inclusive. It is in furtherance of whiteness and white supremacy that white women are chosen to lead instead of PoC. Implicit in the argument that white women “need to go first” is the reality that whiteness is privileged. Continuing to privilege that whiteness is never going to lead to acceptance of PoC, especially not WoC, because widening the scope of which white people can access the privileges usually afforded to cishet white men will never lead to inclusion of WoC, least of all, Black women. Hierarchies need someone at the bottom.

This is especially obvious when white women are given roles based on characters or real women who are not white (Katniss, Tiger Lily, Angelina Jolie in blackface as Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart, etc).

Hollywood is built on continuing to sell white people the fantasy of them being heroic protagonists with sidekicks of color, and if they can’t be the protagonist, they must be the white savior. These stories are the ones white people time and time again will pay to see.

When you understand all of this, it is clear that progress isn’t going to come because Black people and other PoC support white lady led films. That idea is frankly laughable. Hollywood has been making lily white films since the dawn of film without any concern as to whether Black people and other PoC will pay to see them.

Change will only come when white folks show that they will support films led by WoC and other PoC as more than tokens following/supporting the white dude/lady protagonist. And these WoC need to visibly be of color–these white passing women getting leading roles are just further example of how whiteness is what is truly at work here, not just money.

There’s a reason why Black folks have a whole host of Black led movies we can reference and laugh about together that we saw in theaters and that made money that white people don’t know the first thing about: because white people by and large do not support films with black/other poc leads/casts.

So, instead of all these White Feminists ™ telling Black women and other WoC that we need to hand over our cash to support yet another white lady lead in hopes that we might one day get a WoC lead, white people need to demonstrate that they will support a WoC lead.  Get on Twitter and Facebook and ask these studios why they cast yet another white lady. Spend your white money on a film with a Black/other PoC lead/cast. Stop spending your money on these typical white male hero movies. Stop patting Hollywood on the back for doing the most basic shit and stop praising them for only spotlighting white women as if it’s opening the door for anything other than more white women.

In short, Black women and other PoC not supporting white lady led films is not the problem. The problem is white people not supporting WoC and other PoC led films. We are not the problem. You are.

Yeah, this is all bumming me out, so I know its probably bumming you out too. So here, have a Spidercat!
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