Go#$%!$ Hollywood!


::Stops. Takes deep, calming breath. Goes for bike ride, reads something, seeks the peace within herself, etc.::

Okay. Let’s try that again.

I went to see X-Men: First Class last night. I actually really, really liked the film — much better than the last two with their increasingly obsessive focus on Wolverine (probably my least favorite X-Man), and their increasingly muddled attempts to tell a good story vs just blowing shit up. I can blow shit up at home on my XBox; when I pay $13 to see a movie in the theater, I want something that engages more than just my adrenal glands. This film did that, with excellent acting on the part of its three male leads (including Kevin Bacon here), good dialogue, good pacing, all that. It was a genuinely good film. (I have some issues with the female leads’ acting, but that’s a rant for a different day.)

But. (Spoilers, and more profanity, from here forth.)

The black guy died first. All the people of color (including those mutants who can’t pass for human, like Azazel and Raven) and less-acceptable ethnicities (counting Erik’s Jewishness here) ended up “going bad”. The lone brown woman in the story, Angel, was intensely sexualized. One of the PoC on the side of the “bad guys” — and in this case I’m referring to the Spanish actor Álex González, who’s likely to read as Latino to American eyes even though he’s European — never speaks a line; he’s just a (mutant-powered) thug in the background. There’s plenty of evidence of institutional sexism — e.g. the CIA director’s blatantly sexist comments to Moira — but none of institutional racism, since I kinda don’t think Darwin would’ve been treated like the other mutants in 1962. The CIA was pro-Apartheid (and pro-Jim Crow, the local flavor of the same thing) back then; I imagine they would’ve kept him and Angel in a separate room from the other mutants at the very least. And as Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, the Cuban missile crisis wasn’t the only thing going on in America in 1962 — but there’s no sign in the film that the story takes place in an America gripped by racial unrest. As he puts it, “the most powerful adversaries of spectacular apartheid are a team of enlightened white dudes.”

Yeah, never seen that before.

What gets me is, this was an otherwise thoughtful film. The X-Men franchise has always been stupid about race. I’ve seen multiple interviews in which director Bryan Singer has framed Professor Xavier as Martin Luther King and Magneto as Malcolm X in some kind of cartoonish epic struggle of good vs evil — but this is how people think when their knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement goes no deeper than the three-day unit spent on it in high school US history. (In reality, MLK and Malcolm X were not adversaries, neither was “good” nor “evil” no matter how the white media framed them at the time, and both of them changed drastically over the courses of their lives.) This film was smarter. For the first time I saw a hint that Singer has dropped that “MLK vs X” dumbassery in favor of a more complex characterization. I especially loved how Erik’s open amorality was contrasted against Charles’ unexamined amorality-in-denial (the dude mind-wiped a woman without her consent; I would really like to know whether he thought twice about doing it, though I suspect he didn’t). Also, Charles’ privileged background and its impact on his pie-in-the-sky thinking, versus Erik’s traumatized realism. I especially loved how Raven/Mystique went through the full cycle of racial identity development over the course of the film, and how much of that struggle was framed in terms of her determination to be accepted and considered beautiful in her “natural” state — something I can very much empathize with.

So this movie was close to being perfect for me, and that sooo close feeling is intensely frustrating. All the producers had to do was put just a little of the thought spent on the film’s allegorical treatment of race/ethnicity into its actual treatment of race/ethnicity. I know that not every character can get the depth of exploration that the leads did. I know we’re dealing with Hollywood here, and Hollywood’s all about the white guys. But how motherfucking hard is it to not kill the black guy first? To let the brown guy speak a couple of lines? To let the brown chick put some damn clothes on for a minute?

The answer is, it’s not that hard. If you don’t have blinders on about your own racism, while telling a story about race.


56 thoughts on “Go#$%!$ Hollywood!”

  1. That’s pretty much the same reaction I had coming out of X-Men: First Class. I enjoyed it, but then felt really guilty about enjoying it. When it looked like Darwin was going to betray, I was like: “No, they did not just do that, did they?” All the white guys on one side and the minorities on the other. Then he didn’t betray, and I was relieved. Then he died and I was back to the same question.

  2. Without refuting your points (because I agree with them), I should like to point out that Angel Gonzales was sexualised in the comics, so to have made her demure in the movie would have been weird. In fact, I think she might have become one of the Queens at the Hellfire Club, but don’t quote me on that; my memory sucks.

    I object just as much to the way they changed Riptide’s powers – he’s supposed to be able to spin himself rapidly and then fling deadly projectiles from within that. So they made him speechless (though I don’t exactly recall him being overly talkative) AND they made his powers lame.

    I was really shocked by Darwin’s death – I thought the era of killing the lone black guy first went out with muttonchops, but who am I to say?

  3. “But how motherfucking hard is it to not kill the black guy first?” LOL! OMG! I though me and my wife were the only one who noticed this crap in movies. We actually make a bet on how long it’s going to take for the black dude to die when we go to the movies. You hit it right on nail. It’s time for some new blood in White guy wood. Until we get more diverse writers, producers, and executives in cinema, we will continue to see this type of blatant racism.

  4. ‘neither was “good” nor “evil” no matter how the white media framed them at the time,’

    Neither are Prof X or Magneto, though. Hell, in the comics, their relationship is seriously complicated. Magneto doe good, Prof X does bad, etc.

    (Shame they’re both white, though, Marvel…)

    Really good points on the rest, but… I kind of like the Malcom X and MLK comparison. It’s always rang true to me. *clings*

  5. Yes. This. Exactly this.

    I actually spent the better part of this morning talking about these problems with my husband: specifically, about how much more disappointing it is when a film that aspires to make a moral/social point in its narrative ends up failing that point in its execution. The Darwin thing bothered me hugely, as did Angel’s defection and her lack of clothes; but as well as the glaring race problems, I was also disappointed by the female costuming. This is a film that hit some strong notes about the sexism of the period, and yet all the girls end up fighting in their underwear – I mean, what the fuck was up with Emma Frost’s (I use the word generously) outfits? I get the point of Mystique’s switch to nudity as a powerful sign of her own self-realisation; I’m less happy with the fact that turning ‘evil’ apparently causes Angel to loose all her clothes. Again. (Not that she really had much of a shot of them, but that final outfit was definitely more revealing than its predecessors – or so it seemed to me.)

    Anyway: GAH, and spot-on article.

  6. ‘Friend: The white people are metaphors for black people.’
    So are the blue aliens, the robots, the house elves…I’ve seen more metaphors for brown folk than actual brown folk in movies. Surely we’re easier to come by and cheaper than CGI?

  7. “Surely we’re easier to come by and cheaper than CGI?”

    Alas, this made me laugh so hard I snorted. It was a cynical, angry laugh, though, because it’s so true that . . .

    I haven’t seen X Men: First Class and likely won’t. I’m so sick of it. This post is so right on. After all this, this is the best mainstream Hollywood can do while congratulating themselves on doing it?

    A few weeks ago my son recommended I see FAST FIVE. It was an enjoyable if not deep or complex film, he said, then added ‘but you’ll like it because it actually has a diverse cast, including only one white guy.’ That it’s done well makes me hope that box office monies may drive some change. Hope: it’s a terrible thing.

  8. You hit the nail on the head. I went to see the movie last week, and my mother couldn’t understand why I walked out of the film underwhelmed and more than a little disappointed. When Angel switched sides I literally slapped my forehead wondering how that was going to play out; when they killed Darwin I had to resist the urge to shout, “I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE”. And then of course there was the mind wipe.

    I somehow wonder, though, that this film isn’t a prime example of how moral philosophy and discussion often plays out in society. It’s something people, especially white people in matters of race, talk about often, but rarely do they sit and consider its hard implications in real life. That was always, in my opinion, one of the glaring weaknesses of X-Men storytelling for the majority of writers. Just like with True Blood (TV) for example, the writers get caught up in telling a controlled-environment story with fictional racial divides (humans and mutants / humans and vampires), and consequentially ignore real-world race relations, image, and impact. And it shows. In the end the discussion of the movie felt more like a discussion about race amongst a bunch of white people.

  9. Also, I think Foz wrote something about “Sucker Punch” — a film I also didn’t see — that kind of summed up that movie as “let’s comment about the sexual exploitation of women by sexually exploiting women.” Although I may be mis-characterizing the review, in which case I hope to be corected.

  10. Awesome insight. I was wondering why I thought something bugged me throughout the movie, and now I realize what it was.

    On one point though… Bryan Singer did not direct X-Men: First Class. Matthew Vaughn did. Singer is still one of the producers for the movie. Singer dropped out because he was caught up doing another movie at the same time.

  11. @Kate, re Sucker Punch – No, that was pretty much how it went. I fail to see how dressing a bunch of wrongfully imprisoned young women as sexy schoolgirls and having them raped is empowering, but then, I don’t have Zack Snyder’s experience at directing racist/sexist allegories in CGI.

  12. [Spoliers ahead]

    I’m not going to add anything that hasn’t already been said, but I was so ticked off when they killed Darwin. I remembered an essay that Steve Barnes wrote for his novelization of “Far Beyond the Stars.” He wrote about how the black guy always got killed in SF films, and how much of a sea change it was when Will Smith was the hero who lived in Independence Day.

    When Darwin was killed, I turned to Nomi and expressed my astonishment and anger at what they had just done. I mean, seriously, what were they thinking?

  13. The sexism of the movie reminded me of the series Mad Men, or any other movie or TV show set in a time before the 80s. It’s like they do so only to get around the “problem” of having to treat women like people.

    I like your point about the unreality of the movie and race – in the 60s they would not have treated Darwin and Angel the same way as the others.

    I live in Spain, so we had to laugh in disbelief when Alex Gonzalez didn’t speak – although he did grunt at one point. My partner said at the end of the movie “it has to suck to be in a movie and not be allowed to say anything.”

  14. Katchan,

    Thanks — I didn’t know who the hell Angel was supposed to be. I was an X-Men reader for a few years back in college, until they started that whole “one storyline across six different comic lines” schtick that made it too expensive, plus that was around the time I started to get annoyed that all the women had scoliosis and there weren’t enough brown faces. So most of those characters just made me go “bwuh?” I have a vague memory of knowing about Banshee, but the guy who fired off the laser hula-hoops (until they gave him a Frisbee for his chest)? Kevin Bacon’s character? No clue.

    Was Angel also a multiracial woman in the comics? My problem isn’t with them sexualizing the women — at least they did it across the board, given that we had to endure Emma Frost’s outfit throughout the film, and Moira’s brief moment of wearing her skivvies. (Neither of them looked right in it, IMO. Clothes like that are made for women with 1960s curves, not Twenteenies skinnyness. You need an ass for what Moira was wearing, and tits for what Emma was wearing.) But it’s common for the lone woman of color in a film to be either masculinized and/or treated as asexual, or treated as an oversexed “slut”. Women of color can’t just be women, as varied and complex as white women are allowed to be. And I’m tired of it.

  15. I thought the same thing when I saw the movie. At this point it’s all just a tired punchline these days. (Come on, Thor had dozens of gods and the only black god was a doorman?)


    Angel came after my comic reading days too, but after doing some reading, I think in the comic she’s a teen who’s more interested in boys then fighting evil.

    Read up on Darwin too, seems he did get killed too, but he didn’t die just evolved into a disincorporated energy mist…or something.

  16. Kate,

    I’ve also heard that Fast Five in some way represents the future that Hollywood keeps avoiding — a story that contains realistic diversity and isn’t all! whiteguy! all! thetime! …But… it’s a movie about guys driving cars. I really wish this innovativeness had been spent on a movie I’m actually interested in seeing. -_-

  17. need_tea,

    Thanks — I didn’t realize Singer hadn’t done this one. (Maybe that’s why I liked it more? It seemed much less ham-handed than the first films…)

  18. Alex,

    I also got the “Mad Men” vibe, and I actually liked it — MM has made it okay to explicitly depict the ugliness of blatant sexism, instead of blithely pretending it didn’t exist in those days. But where’s the TV show that will make it okay to be honest about the blatant racism of those days? Hollywood is still trying to pretend those days weren’t as pervasive or ugly as they really were.

  19. I’m going to put my hand up and say first of all that I know nothing about the US Civil Rights Movement, and I haven’t seen this movie either. I haven’t read the comics for a long time (yes, they got too expensive for me too).

    But “In reality, [Name 1] and [Name 2] were not adversaries, neither was ‘good’ nor ‘evil’ … and both of them changed drastically over the courses of their lives” is a pretty good description of how I remember Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto. They started off as friends, split over how they thought they could best help their people, then Magneto ended up looking after Xavier’s students. I believe it all went pear-shaped after that, but there was certainly change for both, including walking on or crossing the good/evil lines.

  20. Arline,

    Maybe my memory fails me, but in the comics I thought Magneto was pretty solidly pegged as “evil”, or at least so ruthless that he might as well be considered evil. I seem to recall him making — and implementing — various plans to take over the world, killing craploads of people, trying to blow up shit on a massive scale, and generally doing most of the stuff on the Evil Overlord List. Malcolm X never killed anyone as a civil rights leader (he did in his earlier life, as a smalltime criminal); he never tried to take over anything — though he did advocate the overthrow of the US government because it was racist so that it could be replaced with a less-racist system, which apparently felt like “they want to conquer/enslave us” to white Americans at the time; he advocated self-defense rather than aggression (or nonviolence); he was never a terrorist, though the US government and media tried hard to paint him as such.

    And the differences between Professor X and MLK are even greater. MLK was never as naive or conciliatory as ProfX was, and he was an infinitely better chessmaster/political strategist.

    Frankly, I find the effort to compare these real people with comic-book characters to be really, really problematic — bordering on offensive. Singer really just shouldn’t have said this. It discourages a deeper engagement with what these two great thinkers really said and did, and encourages a frankly cartoony oversimplification of their positions. It’s high school US history all over again — and that shit was wrong to begin with.

  21. Yeah, it’s like they took Mad Men and then removed what critical though was there- “Look, 60’s, sexism, LOL!”

    In the end, the movie is about 3 rich white guys, lounging around in yachts, submarines, nightclubs and mansions, drinking a lot, telling women what to do, and arguing about why society is stupid.

    And the rest of the movie is stuff blowing up, or people deciding where they stand on that scale.

  22. I couldn’t actually believe what I was watching. ‘They’re not actually going to kill him? Are they? Now? Really? Seriously? They totally are. What the frell!’

    He never even made it into any of the posed shots.

  23. Wow, I actually didn’t think about the film like that (though I agree about the idiotic/naive comparison of Prof X and Magneto to MLK and Malcolm X). Definitely makes me think about how the film was made in a different light…..that being said I still really liked X-Men:First Class lol.

  24. Hey, if it starts with guys driving cars, then at least it starts somewhere. But I agree with having a lack of interest in guys driving cars. Is it too much to ask for a kick-ass sf show with all that?

  25. Being a slave to tv tropes, I’m well aware of ‘Black Dude Dies First’. Considering the powers Darwin had (I looked up all the characters before I went to see it, as I’ve only recently got back into Xmen), I was feeling optimistic. ‘Okay, so we haven’t seen him much in the promotional material, but hey, maybe he goes undercover or something?’

    And then Angel defects. (Which I can sort of understand, but it was annoying that it was her and not any of the ‘American Apple Pie’ boys.) And Darwin, who I’d come to like after only a few minutes of screen time, whose power is essentially adapting so that he can’t die…dies.

    I remember turning to my friend and saying, ‘They’re not going to do that, right, surely they wouldn’t- oh god, they did! You did, you killed the black man! You eejits!’ This is a character who, in comic verse, uncontrollably teleports himself away from a deadly energy leak, whose bones turn to rubber if he falls off a building – and he gets a concentrated concussive blast shoved down his throat, and that’s it. And, after they say they don’t have a body to bury, they never mention him again.

    I was wondering about apartheid as well – even if they’re all mutants, no way they’d be able to treat Darwin and perhaps Angel as equals straight off. There’d be issues. I personally think they only put her in for eye candy and someone to chase Banshee during the fight.

    And, of course, the fact that Moira gets her kit off within two minutes of meeting her did not help, to say nothing of what they did to Emma Frost. Who is a real b***h in the comics, but who is at least incredibly entertaining. Which this lady was not.

  26. X-Men nerd to the rescue!

    The guy with the laser hula-hoops was Alex Summers — in the comics, he’s Havok, Scott Summers/Cyclops’s brother.

    Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw was always a major player in the Hellfire Club, though they took some liberties with his character. I don’t think he was nearly so evil, and he didn’t have any Nazi ties, etc.

    As for Angel, she’s Angel Salvadore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_Salvadore

    She falls into a whole number of uncomfortable stereotypes, but I rather liked her character. Despite the stereotypes, she was an entertaining, semi-rounded character who actually got a surprising amount of screentime. She was introduced to the comics looking like this; I never thought she was as sexualized as a lot of other superheroines, and in her early days she looked refreshingly realistic, but I haven’t read comics in a couple of years so who knows what other artists did to her. A Google Images search for her first + last name shows a range of different interpretations. I was irritated with Zoë Kravitz’s casting — she looks a lot lighter-skinned, thinner, and straighter-haired than the comics!Angel I remember.

    I don’t think she ever had any connection to the Hellfire Club whatsoever, though, and she was definitely never a stripper.

    As far as the MLK and Malcolm X references, I don’t think Singer came up with that. I’m pretty sure Stan Lee & co. mentioned the parallels to the Civil Rights Movement a number of times.

    As far as your actual post goes: YES. They screwed over every character who’s not a white dude so very hard, and a lot of the time it didn’t even make sense in the story. I enjoyed the film enough that I really hope there’ll be a sequel, but I’m going to hit things if they make the exact same mistakes.

  27. @Katchan: My employer took a bunch of us to see Super 8 last Friday. (Perhaps someone thought that they could improve the productivity of our engineers by keeping them out of the office for half a day. Given our last quarter’s financial statement, they may be on to something.) Anyway, that movie had two black characters: one who heroically lays down his life in the first act and one Air Force officer who hardly has any speaking lines.

    Thank God for Netflix.

  28. Though I normally take movies at face value and don’t delve into what pressures were exerted on them from ‘the real world’, I have to admit that I too found Darwin’s death to be very irksome and blatantly Black Guy Dies First (BGDF).

    What I’ve been wondering over the last few days though, is what your take on the movie Serenity is.

    {Spoiler Zone Incoming}

    First off, the movie suffers from BGDF as well. Personally, I thought it worked well with the story (certainly a lot better than the pilot’s death, which as far as I can tell was Joss Wheadon trying to get a rise out of his audiences).

    The movie does, however, have a strong female of color character who is neither a poster-girl for eating disorders, nor a scantily-clad sex beast. Further, she isn’t some cold witch looking for the touch of a man to warm her frozen heart and fill her with completeness in life. She’s married to Wash (the pilot), fights every bit as well as the men around her, and defies the stereotype of The Smart Woman Explains Our Hero’s Plans To Us by snarkily commenting on them instead.

    Then there’s the film’s antagonist, the Operative. Cold and methodical, he’s probably the most competent person in the whole franchise, who commands fleets (admittedly assembled exclusively out of white men), displays a level of intelligence and planning that no one else seems capable of, and also not once, but twice kicks the ever-loving crap out of our hero (and is defeated both times only by the fickle hand of fate and storyline expectations). To me, he’s a ‘villain’ I can get behind (though I wonder if people will take umbrage at the fact that he’s also an example of Hollywood’s idea that Black = Bad). Oh, and I love Chiwetel Ejiofor.

    So yes. That’s been on my mind all week.

  29. Shepherd Book gets the BGDF treatment in Serenity, but in Firefly, the short-lived TV series that Serenity is based on, he is a major character. If you liked the movie, you’ll love the TV show.

  30. I felt that Fast Five did well with both race and gender. One of my biggest issues with the series has been the way that Jordana Brewster’s character was portrayed. She was little more than a plot device designed to give the two male leads a reason to hate each other (and later love each other, like brothers of course). In Fast Five she finally had something specific to do in the larger plot.

    And there were not one, not two, but three strong female characters! They were as one dimensional as the rest of the cast, but they were strong, sexy, capable, and treated as equal partners in the heist/chase.

    The films have only gotten better since Justin Lin started directing them (he did the last 3). And Fast Five is the highest grossing and best rated of all of them (according to wikipedia). But I bet Hollywood will take that as there needing to be more heist films and more car films, and not more films with a diverse cast.

  31. Seth Gordon,

    Sorry to hear about Super 8; I was looking forward to that one. But getting burned twice in a month isn’t really an experience I have the time or energy for right now, so I guess I’ll wait ’til that one’s on Netflix, or skip it altogether.

  32. Sabine,

    My problem with BGDF is that it’s usually the black guy, as in the only one; he’s there as a token, never intended to be a significant character. Serenity salvages this by making the Operative black, and further by making him a complex and important character rather than just The Other Black Token. And there’s a black woman who’s equally complex and important.

    The film still had a lot of problems wrt race representation, though, and this is one that carried over from the Firefly TV show: no Asians. They swear in Chinese, there’s hanzi all over the place, apparently half of the initial colonization was a Chinese venture, but I don’t think I even saw an Asian background character in the film (at least the TV show threw in a few as extras). I’m told that River and Simon Tam were supposed to be part Chinese, but neither of the actors are. So with that one I found myself asking, “How motherfucking hard is it to make a couple of the secondary characters Asian?” The ideal, of course, would be to make the majority of all the characters in the show Asian; Asians are more than half of the human race now, and this will only grow in the future. But the film and show’s failure to include even one is a constant irritation to me.

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  34. Aren’t you making an assumption that the “Bad Guys” are the evil ones here? Did Erik/Magneto “go bad”? Is Charles/X “enlightened”?

    The film seems to make a different statement. At the end of the film, Erik seems to be — while amoral — more the realist who is willing to fight for his people while Charles seems to be willing to be more of a patsy. How would a Holocaust survivor look upon the world if he had the power of Erik?

    Interesting film, and gives me lots to think about.

  35. Aaron, I doubt most Holocaust survivors, even with phenomenal power to hand, would join up with a group of folks who’d willingly been planning the murder-by-Armageddon of a few billion humans and mutants a few minutes beforehand. (That’s leaving aside all the other things Magneto does in the “later” films and the comic books.) By that reasoning, we should have seen multiple attempts by Holocaust survivors to raze Germany from the map and annihilate the (non-Jewish) German people down to the last infant. Outside of the paranoid fever-dreams of Aryan white supremacists, that has never happened.

    I empathize greatly with Erik’s position on things, but there’s a lot of gradation between “revolutionary” and “terrorist” — though I get that for those vested in the status quo they’re one and the same (another reason the effort to compare Magneto to Malcolm X offends me; it feeds into this privileged-peoples’ paradigm). Erik’s way past being merely a revolutionary.

  36. Captain America

    I have one word to describe the writer of this screed.


    Darwin wasn’t killed because he was the black guy. Darwin was killed because he was Darwin, AKA one of the least known and least important characters in the X-Men mythos. Someone who was retconned into X-Men history and who holds such a trivial role in X-Men lore that he’s not even on the X-Men, anymore. That’s why he died. No other reason. After all, just look at all the other candidates.

    Beast – He was in X-Men 3, so they couldn’t kill him off.

    Mystique – She was in the three previous X-Men movies, so they couldn’t kill her off.

    Havok – There’s an undetermined connection between him and Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, so they couldn’t kill him off.

    That left Banshee, Angel, and Darwin. And of those three, Banshee’s the one with the longest and most storied history with the X-Men. He’s the most important of the three, whereas Angel and Darwin have nowhere near the importance in the X-Men mythos which Banshee holds. So yeah, that’s why he’s the one which A) survived, and B) stayed an X-Man while Angel switched sides and Darwin died. It’s really that simple. That you couldn’t come to that conclusion on your own and instead immediately started screaming “RACISM!” just proves that you’re a blithering imbecile.

  37. Captain America

    Quick Addendum:

    When I say “Havok – There’s an undetermined connection between him and Scott Summers, aka Cyclops” I’m talking about the movie continuity. In the comics he’s Cyclops’ younger brother, but here he’s clearly a whole lot older than Cyclops. Whether they intend for him to now be the older brother, or maybe even Cyclops’ father, remains to be seen.

  38. Captain America,

    Right, well, the fact that you came to a stranger’s blog and insulted her for no reason, plus tried to excuse racism, and are bothering to get pedantic about the comics vs film continuity when that’s neither the point of the discussion nor important in any way, proves that you have no home training and shouldn’t be allowed to speak while the grown-ups are talking. So I’ve banned you.

  39. Cerebral Magpie

    Dear Cap,

    Please get acquainted with DerailingForDummies.com before you sprain a braincell and your bigot-bone.

    Trying to tell a PoC how racism works? Yeah, not classy.

  40. Cap,

    Yes, the person who writes a blog is putting their thoughts out for the Internet to view. However, that does not entitle you to call them a moron, and frankly, NKJ (I really don’t know how to refer to you, so I figure that or Ms Jemisin) did not make any such directly insulting remark about anyone actually in the film, as you speciously claim. The closest she gets is describing Singer’s perception of Martin Luther and Malcolm X as ‘dumbassery’.

    Sorry to say, that argument does not hold water.

    Also, while there is a good point that certain characters could not die, or had to switch sides, in order to match the existing movie continuity, that does not change the fact that the movie could still have avoided the other issues mentioned. Mix up the cast a little. Give the black guy more lines/screentime before he dies, if it’s even necessary to kill him off at all.

    Heck, use different characters to begin with, so that issues like ‘well, they’re the ONLY ONES THIS COULD HAPPEN TO’ aren’t an issue.

    It may not be intended racism on Hollywood’s part, but clearly, a PoC can be offended by what they see.

    Have some sensitivity. It’s the adult thing to do.

  41. James Davis Nicoll

    The ideal, of course, would be to make the majority of all the characters in the show Asian; Asians are more than half of the human race now, and this will only grow in the future.

    Actually, yes and no.

    As far as absolute numbers go, current models suggest population in Asia should rise in the near future. At this time it looks like it’s not unreasonable to suppose it might stop growing at about 1.5x – 2x the current population; it could even begin to decline, as Japan’s population has been declining since the mid-00s.

    As far as fraction of humanity goes, many Asian nations have or are going through the demographic transition to low birth rates, low death rates so while their populations will grow, they won’t for the most part grow rapidly and some will shrink. Currently the region likely to experience the most rapid growth is Africa, with the result that their share of humanity will grow and everyone else’s will shrink (because “fraction of humanity” is a zero sum game). It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that by 2050, their share will have gone from around 13% of humanity to about a quarter and some scenarios have almost half of the human population living in Africa by 2100.

    For an amusing source of scenarios that completely fail to take into account things like immigration, see the UNITED NATIONS EXPERT MEETING ON WORLD POPULATION IN 2300.

    Which isn’t to say Joss Whedon couldn’t have cast more Asians [1] in Firefly but in his defense, his shows are increasingly terrible and he’s never, ever been a go-to guy as far non-white actors being given rewarding roles [2][3]; Firefly in particular is, deliberately or not, filled with revisionist pro-Confederacy dog-whistles so it’s not like it’s a particularly likely show for him to suddenly break out in racial sensitivity.

    1: Ah, memories of people arguing that Anara counts because she’s Buddhist.

    2: Daniel Day Kim, J. August Richards, Ron Glass, Dichen Lachman… Am I forgetting any visible minority actors with long-running significant roles in his TV shows?

    3: And who can forget that time he cast his Asian-American sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen as Groupie #1 in Doctor Horrible? And then he included her song “Nobody’s Asian In The Movies” as an extra, which probably would have come off a bit better if his body of work wasn’t an example of what the song is about.

  42. James Davis Nicoll

    Currently the region likely to experience the most rapid growth is Africa, with the result that their share of humanity will grow and everyone else’s will shrink (because “fraction of humanity” is a zero sum game). It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that by 2050, their share will have gone from around 13% of humanity to about a quarter and some scenarios have almost half of the human population living in Africa by 2100.

    Depending on what degree of economic convergence is seen in the next century, this has interesting economic consequences. Traditionally, around half of the world’s economy was in India and China; recent developments – post 1700, say – are highly atypical of human history (the British managed to turn one of the richest areas of the planet into one of the poorest through simple malmanagement that kept economic growth to a minimum for centuries). If nations in general converge on the same per capita income over the next century, and if we assume because I am lazy that the medium growth scenario is right, then in 2100 the world GDP could be distributed as follows

    Africa: 24.9%
    Asia: 55.4%
    Latin America and the Caribbean: 8.1%
    North America: 5.2%
    Europe: 5.9%
    Oceana: .5%

    Considering that right now, the EU makes up 26% of the world economy, the US (most of the population in North America as the UN apparently defines it is the US) is another 23% abd China is 9%, this implies the potential for some radical changes in balances of power by 2100. The US could, for example, find itself as a significant second rank power, like modern-day Germany or France; not nobody but not a superpower.

  43. Jerone Mitchell

    A little bit of racism touched with a hint of trolling can annihilate a decent point.

    If one chooses to look at the characters in XMFC through the prism of race then you will not be happy with the results (though I’d argue that people have been quick to cast Azazel and Mystique in the “with color” group for some odd reason). Here’s the problem with that thought:

    There are exactly four characters in that movie: Xavier, Magneto, Beast, and Mystique. Everyone else, including Shaw, is a prop for one of those four to play off of. Every other “entity” is static and irrelevent when not playing off one of those four (except obviously Shaw, who serves to move the plot). I remember reading a review of this and seeing Azazel and Riptide referred to not as characters but as special effects, and it summarizes everyone else. Really… what exactly does White Queen, one of the more cerebral characters in the X Universe, do as soon as she’s confronted with Two Real Characters? Get caught and reveal the entire plan. Yup… now that is TOTALLY in character. She exists to give Xavier another telepath, NOT as a real character.

    It’s not that people of color are abused in this movie; EVERY observation you are saying is true. I would cite that you’re not in the right mindset. If you lower your expectations of everyone else (which, with such an A-List lineup of Banshee, Havok, and Darwin… they couldn’t find a budget for Cannonball and Maggot while they were at it), you’ll see that everyone is screwed just as bad as Darwin was when FACED WITH AN ATTACK HE CAN EASILY DEAL WITH IN THE COMICS…

    Yeah, really… I WAS more bugged by that and not “the black guy that did walk with soul died first”…

  44. James Davis Nicoll

    The US could, for example, find itself as a significant second rank power, like modern-day Germany or France; not nobody but not a superpower.

    Whereas Canada, all things being equal, would have a global throw-weight roughly comparable to the influence on the current world enjoyed by modern-day Phoenix, AZ. No G20 conferences for us….

  45. Hi Jerone,

    I’m coming to this as someone who didn’t read the comics in that era, as you probably remember. :) I was only a hardcore reader for awhile back in high school and college — that would be around the time of Genosha, and ending around the time of the whole Rob Liefeld/Image mess. But that’s actually irrelevant. The problem here isn’t about the film’s adherence to canon; that’s a red herring. As you and others have pointed out, the film didn’t adhere to canon. Darwin wasn’t in the comics when they first appeared. In the comics Erik wasn’t Jewish; originally he was Roma. Raven didn’t grow up with Charles Xavier. And so on, and so on.

    If they were going to change all these things, why stop there? This is my problem with the film: not which choices they made, but why they made them. They are the ones who decided to examine this material through a racial lens. It’s obvious that they made Erik Jewish because most Americans know diddlysquat about history and don’t know the Roma were slaughtered by the Nazis too. It’s equally obvious that they made Mystique Charles’ “sister” in order to give him closer exposure to the issue of visible minority status. They made the sexism of the era explicit — possibly because “Mad Men” did it first and is popular, but also to lend depth to Moira McTaggert’s character. They thought deeply about this. They made all these choices in order to carefully construct a story about bigotry and oppression and cross-/inter-cultural misunderstandings. And then they made it all about three white guys.

  46. Wouldn’t it be cool if they made a Green Lantern film with John Stewart as the hero? Not Hal’s sidekick but the tride and true main protagonist of the superhero movie?

    Sorry, not much to do with X-Men….just a thought.

  47. James,

    All good points, and I’ll admit I haven’t done a lot of looking at population projections beyond 50 or so years from now. But even with the medium-growth scenario you’re positing, my statement stands — more than half the show’s cast should be Asian, if Firefly/Serenity takes place in the relatively near future. I don’t think the show does take place in the near future, though; I think it’s far-future, and frankly no one can really project what the world’s composition will be like hundreds or thousands of years from now, and after a massive colonization effort. Which is why I would just like a show set in 2010 to try looking like 2010, for starters. Let’s get the present right, then worry about the future. :)

  48. James Davis Nicoll

    I am not disagreeing with you but just nattering on at length.

    It seems to me that the fact that Asia has been home to a large fraction of humanity for thousands of years [1] makes it reasonable to support it will continue to play this role into the future. In fact, it seems to have become dominant again in Whedon’s setting, going by language and such. This would make the lack of on-stage Asians inexplicable if it wasn’t for Whedon’s track record in this matter.

    One might speculate that the Firefly system was settled by people fleeing domination by another culture [2] and that the reason there are no Asians is because the colony ship deliberately excluded them. That would match what we see and it could explain the fetishization of the American West, which perhaps the settlers saw as the high water mark for their culture.

    1: The closest humans have ever come to a universal government, around 40% of the species under one government, have all been based in Asia.

    2: Yeah, they say Earth is used up but given the technology we see there’s no reason they cannot transform the place into a physical paradise. For that matter, there’s no reason they couldn’t have transformed Mars, the asteroids or the various moons. It makes sense to me that they didn’t because someone else already had.

  49. James Davis Nicoll

    [i]All good points, and I’ll admit I haven’t done a lot of looking at population projections beyond 50 or so years from now. [/i]

    Allow me to recommend the hilarity that is population projections of the period we are in made back in the 1960s [1]; some people seemed happy to assume the rates in the 1960s were sustainable save through calamity and that the 2.2% population growth rate peak was instead a norm. This led to estimates of world population in our time significantly higher than we got; the decline in TFRs was not due to Mathusian factors at all.

    Some models assumed the growth rates would themselves keep increasing, with the result some models predict an infinite human population in the 21st century. This appears not to be a correct model.

    1: With the warning that the politics of the people making those predictions tends towards the skeevy; Ehrlich doesn’t seem to have encountered a brown person whose fertility he wasn’t willing to use heavy-handed methods to suppress, for example.

  50. Pingback: The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » The Summer of Spandex (or Superhero Movies, 2011 Style)

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