Tripping Over The Low Bar – ScarJo’s Learned Nothing

We all make mistakes.

It’s all part of growing up, living, learning, and just being a human being in general. We make mistakes, we learn from them, and sometimes we don’t make them again.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Scarlet Johanson, in a recent interview with As If magazine, she made yet another mistake, in which she said that as an actor, she “should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”

Considering her past mistakes, this line, and others in the interview, is really telling of her ignorance of her own privilege as a straight, white, cisgender woman.

One also can’t help but think about how that line in particular pretty much equates playing trees and animals to playing transgender people and people of other ethnicity. It’s very insulting, to say the least, especially with the demonization of transgender people that transphobes regularly engage in.

For a quick reminder, ScarJo took on the role, then backed out and apologized, of Dante Tex Gill, a transgender male mob boss in 1970s Chicago, as well as taking on the role of Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese woman, in Ghost in the Shell.

She’s since apologized for what she said in the As If magazine, claiming they had been taken out of context.

They weren’t.

Personally, I prefer this explanation for her apology from one of my favourite people on Twitter, Clarkisha Kent:

At this rate, I feel like the main question to be asked is when does she stop getting chances to screw up, because she’s been doing a darn good job of that, at least once a year for the past 3 years on some very important discussions of representation and diversity in our media. Yes, we’re allowed to make more than one mistake a year, and to expect perfection of people is downright impossible and inconsiderate.

However, we’re not asking for perfection, just some basic empathy and for ScarJo to stop making the same mistakes over and over. Whenever something like this comes out, it feels as though any forward momentum we’re making is slowed, even stalled, to explain, once again, why this is a bad thing.

At times like this, I’m reminiscent of when I first learned about her, in her role as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. By Avengers, I know a lot of MCU fans were eager for a Black Widow movie, something to break up the monotony of straight, white, male-centric movies that continues to be much of what Marvel Studios puts out. When Winter Soldier came out, we were certain that a Black Widow movie was coming out. Under the direction of the Russo Bros and that incredible script, we got a really nuanced, intriguing character in Black Widow.

Now though? She’s pretty much killed off any and all enthusiasm I’ve had for the Black Widow movie that is finally coming out, after Captain Marvel and the end of what’s been basically the Infinity Gauntlet Saga in Endgame.

(On a side note, part of the delay in seeing any kind of female-lead movie from Marvel Studios feels like they were waiting to see if DC’s Wonder Woman would sink or swim instead of simply having faith… but that’s a topic for another day.)

This is in total opposition to what Brie Larson has done in the PR work for Captain Marvel, where she actively worked to include more diverse voices in the discussion of the movie, as well as push for more diversity onscreen. This isn’t an attempt to pit one woman against another, but to highlight how one recognizes her power and privilege and use it to push for diversity, and the other remains ignorant.

And another thing that makes me frustrated?

As I and others have expressed our desire not to see the Black Widow movie, it means that if it under performs (and the goal posts for the success of any movie lead by anyone who’s not a straight, white male are easily moved by people who think only straight white dudes can sell a movie), then some people will take it as evidence that women can’t sell movies.

A lot of those people are still in charge in Hollywood, either as casting directors, heads of studios, etc, and will believe only that despite the success of movies like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, the Resident Evil series, and others. It feels a bit like a Catch-22, where people continue to push a self-fulfilling prophecy in spite of reality, and then assume that is the reality. This has resulted in movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra, to name a few.

They weren’t bad films because they starred women, they were bad films because they had bad writing and directing, and I sure as heck don’t recall them being advertised as much as their male superhero counterparts.

At the very least, ScarJo only appears to make this kind of mistake once a year, and as it’s happened in July, we won’t get any others for the rest of the year.

I hope.

But I’m not gonna hold my breath or anything…

Black Panther And The Impending Doom Of Hollywood’s Mediocrity

Recently, the success of Black Panther has exceeded even the most wildest of expectations, having passed 1 billion world wide, then 1.25 billion, and now has sailed past the record set by Titanic by James Cameron.

Heck, Black Panther will also be the first movie screened in Saudi Arabia after its 35 year cinema ban ends. Quite the extra achievement there.

Continue reading “Black Panther And The Impending Doom Of Hollywood’s Mediocrity”

Horizon Zero Dawn’s White Saviour Problem

It’s been awhile since Horizon Zero Dawn has come out, in fact it’s been a year, and after watching so much of its fans talk about it on tumblr, sharing fanart and fanfiction, I finally broke down and borrowed my niece’s copy.

I wasn’t too impressed with its trailer, which depicted its heroine, Alloy, dressed up in an outfit that was part post-apocolyptic and part hipster who just took an DNA test and found out she was 5% Indigenous and put together a quick outfit from the Halloween sale at the local dress shop.

In fact, I discussed my feelings before on what bothered me about the game initially. 

Now, having put more than a number of hours into the game (in fact, I’m close to the end I believe), I find myself enjoying it, yet bothered by the White Saviour Narrative that underlines it.

As it’s been out for a year now, people should know there’s going to be spoilers abound in this, but I’ll still say, from here on there be spoilers.

Continue reading “Horizon Zero Dawn’s White Saviour Problem”

Pandering and the Default

So, in the midst of the continued fall out from Weistein, the accusations against Kevin Spacey increasing by the day as more come forward to tell of his predatory nature, Twitter continuing to not do a thing about Nazis but erasing bisexuals, this bit of criticism about Jeph Jacque’s Questionable Content from a fan, and Jeph’s subsequent response, came across my feed.

Now, in the picture provided in the link here, there’s a lot to unpack about what the fan has to say to Jeph, especially the subtle bit of transphobia by saying Marten isn’t in a hetero relationship. The bit not said is that since Claire is a transgender woman, she’s not a REAL woman, and so Marten is in a gay relationship.

That is some TERF Laci Green level of logic right there.

However, I want to focus on the Pandering bit of the statement, that in having so many characters who are LGBTQIA, Jeph Jacques is somehow pandering to people who identify as such, and that this is somehow a bad thing.

It is, as my friend Tim Yang, the producer behind the podcasts All Comics Considered and Race Invaders, said on his Facebook page in discussing this, “It’s code for “why aren’t you pandering to me?!”

This is hardly a lone example in the past few years of people angry that changes are being made to something they like, and it says a lot that the people who are angry are straight, white, cisgender, able bodied men.

Game Critic and article writer Tauriq Fousa was the recipient of mass harassment on Twitter and elsewhere for his article being critical of The Witcher 3 for having a predominantly white cast.

Leslie Jones was the target of a mass harassment campaign simply for staring in the remake of Ghostbusters that had an all female cast.

Marvel Comics came under fire for having a female Thor, a black Spider-Man, a Muslim superhero in Kamala Khan as the new Ms Marvel, and accusations of becoming overrun by SJWs.

The fallout from the new Doctor being a woman? Same thing.

When straight white, cisgender able bodied men like me complain about these things, and other showings of diversity in our movies, comic books, video games, and books, it comes from a place of insecurity, I feel. For so long, in Western society, a lot of what we enjoyed was made for us by us, and so many of us were so used to this for so long that to see even the smallest increase in diversity of any kind is, on some level, a threat to our very existence. It is something worth going to war for, as evidenced by the Gamergate Hate Movement against women and diversity in games.

In a way, the straight white dudes who complain about creators pandering to people not like them come off as Dudley Dursley, face twisted up in rage as he receives one less present than the previous year for his birthday, decrying the injustice of it all and demanding recompense for this mild slight against him.

Dudleyangry.jpg

They can’t possibly understand WHY others wish to see themselves in the games they play, the books they read, and the movies they watch. After all, we grew up seeing so many white men inhabiting all sorts of roles, and if they can’t relate to them, then that’s their problem, not ours.

It’s not FAIR! They had Winston in Ghostbusters, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why make Spider-man black!? Women had She-Ra and Xena, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why have Thor be a feeeemalllee…? Or Valkyrie be a black woman in the new Thor movie?! Or the new Doctor?! It makes no sense for a time traveling alien who regenerates into different bodies to avoid death to change his gender!

What guys like that don’t understand is that for as much diversity as we are seeing, people of colour, LGBTQIA people, basically people who aren’t straight, white, cisgender, male and able bodied are still woefully under represented in our various forms of media.

Part of the problem that lies within was explained perfectly by Rebecca Kuang when discussing the diversity panel she’d been a part of at a recent convention, in this wonderful thread I’d highly recommend you check out.

When you have unfair, heightened standards for a movie, a book, a game to succeed when the lead is not a straight white cisgender man, you are setting it up to fail.

It was a problem with superhero movies as lead by women, wherein movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra were not given as good a treatment in terms of production, writing, promotion etc as their male counterparts. It becomes, in effect, a self fulfilling prophecy that other gatekeepers can then point to as evidence that, hey, people just don’t like female lead superhero movies.

It was something that Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter did, without even taking into account how many male superhero movies bomb, either critically or financially, such as Ghost Rider, Amazing Spider-Man, Batman Vs Superman, Green Lantern, and Daredevil to name a few.

So lets see about rebooting Spider-man and Batman for the millionith time, eh?

Until Wonder Woman arrived on the scene, that is.

JL_Wonder_Woman

She’s arguably, single handedly saved the DC movieverse with its success of over 800 million dollars world wide, making it the highest grossing superhero origin movie to date. Who did it beat out? One of Marvel’s most popular characters, Spider-Man from 2002, directed by Sam Raimi.

The truth of the matter is that as we continue progressing forward, the default of the Straight, White, Cisgender, Able Bodied Male is becoming less the gold standard for an assured success, and more a sign of the gatekeeping that merely thinks that people only want to see straight, white, cisgender able bodied men.

And that they will ignore all evidence to the contrary. One only need look at the poor performances of The Great Wall, The Last Airbender, and Iron Fist to see that people don’t want to see all white people all the time, and still studios will try to hamfist white people into roles not meant for them, such as Scarlet Johansson’s leading role in Ghost in the Shell, because the people who make the decisions still believe that audiences only want to see white people in leading roles.

The Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies come from this line of thinking as well, believing that science fiction and fantasy should not pander to people not like them (straight white cisgender dudes) and tried to influence the votes of the Hugo Awards.

That they failed should be seen as a sign that people want more diversity and not the outdated views of bigots and racists, although their very presence should also be taken with caution that said people will not go quietly into the night.

There’s a great deal of progress yet to be made, especially where hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite continue to garner incredible traction, across all forms of entertainment, and that barriers to the success of creators who ‘pander’ to people like them need to be dismantled.

This feels especially important in the light of Trump becoming president of the US last year, where there was an incredibly vocal and violent pushback against people who didn’t have it so great in the good old days of the distant 50s Americana.

Pop Culture is more than just a means of entertainment and escapism for us. It can educate us about social issues important to us, as Star Trek did when it first started, and can show us a better, brighter future that we can work towards.

To remain rooted in the out dated way of thinking in terms of representation is a failure on the part of fans who want nothing different and the people in charge who see money only in the faces of people who look like them.

Brain Food – Episode 66

Hello everyone, it’s a new episode of Brain Food!

In it, I review Jesse Petterson’s In The Dead Volume 1, an anthology of short stories about zombie survivors so white you’d think someone dropped it in a bag of flour.

I used a different format this time, using stock imagery from Pixels and Unsplash, instead of just filming myself, and I hope everyone likes it.

Yes, I was heavily influenced by Jim Sterling’s videos.

So please enjoy, comment, like, and subscribe!