Friday, March 18, 2011

It's A White, White, White, White World

Sure, she's pretty, but could she be any whiter?

Dear Hollywood:

I think it's time we had a little chat.

Specifically, I think it's time you listened to me. I listen to your infantile blitherings all the time. I pay attention to your news. I dutifully amp up my excitement over each new titbit of casting info and each new teaser, however disappointed I've been in the past.

I see a movie on average once a week, and, while I do try to support independent and foreign films, a lot of them are of necessity produced by Hollywood. And I put up with a lot of crap. Of the fifty or so movies I saw at the cinema in 2010, do you know how many had a female protagonist? Six. Do you know how many had a protagonist of color? Three. Gay protagonist? Two. Protagonist with a disability? One.

So I get it, Hollywood. I get that you are only interested in telling the stories of straight, white, cisgendered, non-disabled men. I get that you have spun yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy that only straight, white, cis, non-disabled men go to the movies, that they want to see only characters just like them, and that any successful movie with a different kind of protagonist is a fluke. It depresses, disheartens, and sickens me that you perpetuate the concept of straight-white-cis-able-man as “default” and anything else as “other”, and claim that you are following society's trends rather than helping to shape them; but I get it.

Frankly, though, I've had enough. I don't know how much longer we can continue in this relationship. I give you my (minority woman's) money, to the tune of hundreds of dollars a year, hoping only for two hours of entertainment that won't offend me; you trot out the same few tired stereotypes of women and minorities, when you bother to include us at all, and then use my and all the other women's and minority folks' money to make more movies that continue the cycle.

And when you get a chance to do something different – when you're adapting an excellent book, written by a woman, with a strong and complex female protagonist – you cock it up at the very first hurdle.

Don't get me wrong: I love Jennifer Lawrence. She is an extremely talented actress, and much the best thing about the underwhelming Winter's Bone; but, for God's sake, did you learn nothing from the race-bending scandal around last year's best comedy, The Last Airbender? Or the whitewashing of Prince of Persia?

Who am I kidding? Of course you learned nothing. All you care about is money, and your heinous misconception that only white people have it. You don't care one whit what people of color or anti-racist allies think. It's not about social responsibility or artistic integrity: it's all about the almighty dollar.

I'm sure the Hunger Games movie will make you lots of money. I'm sure you'll say that the success of a movie with a female protagonist is a one-off. And I'm sure you'll say that casting a white and delightsome woman in the lead role was a market-driven decision for which you cannot be held politically responsible. Just like the total lack of people of color among the nominees for last month's Academy Awards. Just like the race-bending of Prince of Persia and The Last Airbender. Just like the continued absence of anyone who's not white and straight and able-bodied and cis from the multiplex screens.

Well, as I said, I don't know how much longer I can take this. You can keep insulting me, but eventually I – and my $500 a year – will walk away.


  1. Hm. I suppose if it wasn't Jennifer Lawrence, I'd totally be nodding my head in agreement. I just loved her so much in Winter's Bone that I kind of think she can play Harriet Tubman if the part came up.

  2. OH LOOK: