On Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, and Star Wars

There’s a TedTalk which bothers me. Once again my focus is the storytelling elements. Storytelling is amazing for teaching, especially children who haven’t developed logical centers in the brain. And so in our modern age that duty falls often to movies. In the talk Colin Stokes exclusively leaves it up to movies to teach his children about sort of important things like violence against women which I think is pretty lazy fucking parenting but hey I’m not parent what do I know. So of course he talks about Star Wars, tapping into a vein of discourse we’ve been seeing lately saying oh sure Leia’s great and all but the films are still too boycentric (also in that vein is oh sure there’s a black guy but only one and where are all the gay people). I’m not going to sit here and debate whether or not Leia should or shouldn’t be a feminist role model that debate has been had, and will continue to be had for centuries I’m sure. I want to explore why it matters so much.

I support and enjoy extrapolating pop culture to say something about meta culture. For example, taking early hollywood movies with horrible chinese stereotypes and figuring out the viewing audience in the forties might have been a tad a racist by today’s standards. But I think it’s gone a bit far when we want the Fellowship to mirror the genetic and sexual pie-chart of modern America otherwise it’s an obvious beacon of all the isms and phobias we’re hyper-aware of. The problem is putting the politics before the art. Activists writing protest songs make terrible music, great songwriters expressing themselves sometimes lines up with activist beliefs and it’s called a great protest song. If the goal of movie is first to give everybody a loveable hero character that looks like them and second to be a good story we’ll just wind up with movies that look like city council meetings with shitty music and product placement.

Lena Dunham took some criticism for her HBO softcore hipster porn show “Girls” being about four white (waitforit) girls in New York. Like most shows set in NY it has no black lead characters. I honestly know nothing else about Lena except that she replied by tweeting “What really bothered me about [the movie] Precious was that there was no representation of ME” Of course she was burned at the blogosphere stake for it but c’mon, that’s pretty funny. A white girl from NY makes a show about white girls in NY and a black girl from NY made a movie about a black girl in NY. I’m fine with both of those things. I don’t give out oscars or have an influential hollywood blog though. If in forty years we want to look back at both those pieces of art and say where’s the chinese girl growing up in New York movie, fine but let’s not force change on artists in the present because we’re afraid the future thinks we’re racist.

Speaking of Asians this reaction seems extreme. Equating the phrase What Kind Of Asian Are You to committing war crimes with a jeep and the line about never being a leading man might seem odd to guys like Jackie Chan and Jet Li if Harold & Kumar ain’t your thing. What I want to give him props for, though, is actually doing something. He slammed some poetry. He perceived a problem and incorporated into his art. Didn’t just go all Anita Sarkeesian and act like identifying a problem is a sophisticated accomplishment. I’d like to see more J.K Rowlings creating the art she wants her children to be exposed to rather than criticizing those who do.

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Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Pop Culture

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