J.J Abrams of Star Trek and Star Wars fame is stepping up his diversity game . Inspired by the second year in a row of controversy surrounding the lack of melanin in the Oscars nominees, Abrams is moving towards a more inclusive casting experience.
This year, roles like Idris Elba’s in Beasts of No Nation and Michael B Jordan’s turn as Creed went unacknowledged, prompting the resurgence of the old hashtag. Prominent actors began to speak out against the problem and formed a boycott. Chris Rock completely rewrote his Oscars monologue. And amidst all of this turmoil the question at the top of the list was “how do we fix this.”
Now certainly these snubs which have come from an academy that is overwhelmingly white, male, and old have to be addressed. However another major point brought to light has been the lack of Oscar Award worthy roles for actors of color. You can’t win for roles that don’t exist. If you’re always playing a stereotype you’ll definitely be ignored for the big league awards.
So J.J Abrams and his team have a plan. The want to make their films look like America looks, in front of AND behind the screen.
Abrams, who also produced the latest Star Trek movies, isn’t just talking about finding a few token actors: he’s directed the casting agency that works with his production agency, Bad Robot, to send him lists of people — writers, producers, directors — who are proportionally representative to the U.S. population.
“Any list that we have for projects, it needs to be representative of this country.”
Not only is this a big development in the fight for equal representation in Hollywood, Abrams will likely see more money at the box office for his effort as diverse films make more money.
This move hits all the right notes that many people may slip up on. It’s not just the “casting of the show” as fool Matt Damon would tell us. In front of the screen is only part of the issue, getting a diverse writing and production staff is another huge fight as those positions have been whitewashed since the beginning of film. Most of the time that’s forgotten but Abrams is going out of his way to be decent in a Hollywood that’s extremely racist. Kudos and fist bump to you sir.
Thanks for reading!
So, I was lucky enough to go see the new Jesse Owens movie before most people. This article will be full of “spoilers” unlike my usual review so…enter only ye who do not care. 2nd warning: I mean it’s called “Race” so if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like racial topics or bluntly honest people…just leave now.
Let’s start from the beginning here because the failure of this movie is spectacular in its scope.
1st thing is, Ludacris came to the front of the theater to say a few generic things about Jesse Owens. This struck me as odd, but I figured, maybe he was a producer, or perhaps an actor in the film. Nah, he was just some random guy that happened to be in Atlanta that they paid to speak.
Then the actor who played Jesse came down, fumbled through some off the cuff remarks, thanked everyone for coming and left. The fact that he didn’t know any personal stories about Jesse to share didn’t bode well.
By the way, I know they thought the title “Race” was clever. Oh, it’s about race as in skin color and race as in he’s running oh that’s deep. No, it isn’t, it’s lame, predictable, and lazy. Stop it.
Ok, so the film finally starts. The amount of immediate exposition is almost unfathomable. The Grandmother is speaking to Jesse, she gives a long speech about having to cut out a tumor from baby Jesse’s chest, him going to college, etc. etc. Basically, she tells us who he is EXACTLY, which is necessary because they do approximately zero character development outside of this. Oh, and she literally never speaks again. Ever.
So right off the bat I know the writers are no good. About 30 seconds in I also realize there is absolutely no way anybody black had anything to do with the creative aspects of this film. Sure enough when I finally left and checked out who wrote it, 2 sub-par white writers Joe Shrapnel and Anne Waterhouse. None of their work before this was particularly noteworthy.
My critiques of the writers’ history aren’t insinuating that they aren’t capable of doing amazing work, it’s just that their lack of providing hits shows the lack of care the studios had for this story. If they actually cared they would’ve given it to someone who has proven, at least once, that they can churn out a hit. Indeed the writers they chose failed in this endeavor to create a compelling story.
The director, also, is white which is going to be a running theme here so, you know…
The overall story was bland, predictable, and suffered from far too many white saviors. I counted 7.
1. The coach played by Jason Sudeikis teaches a black man in 1935 how to deal with racism. He is also completely not racist at all and they are “totes besties” by the end of the film (Even though in real life he went on to be an Olympic coach because of Owens while Owens was banned from racing and had to work as a janitor at the school).
2. Olympic Committee member- He does a back door deal with the Nazis but gets all righteously angry when Hitler wouldn’t shake Jesse’s hand after winning. Jesse stands there silently while the OCM gives the Olympic director a tongue lashing and then physically moves Jesse out of the room. Because Jesse is incapable of doing anything for himself. Or showing any emotion. Or…you know, walking out himself.
3 and 4. The Jewish members of the team that they pretty much made the whole 2nd and 3rd act about. Jesse again is waiting for another white person to tell him what to do here. This is only real, overt, catalyzing discrimination shown against anyone in the entire movie was enacted against Jewish people. Which most definitely you must show by all means (I mean it’s the Nazis). However when you’ve ignored anti-black racism as just something you can close your eyes and get over? At a time when anti lynching legislation was still being debated by congress? Completely taking over a black man’s story to tell your own is a big problem here.
5. The German Luz- The story has been embellished in this film. Yet again, Jesse is shown to be unable to perform without the help of a white man. Who is categorically not racist. He tells Jesse that a black man is better off in America than a white man in Germany(because they wanted him to impregnate some girl), to which Jesse is quite simply befuddled as to whether that could be true or not.
6. The woman Nazi filmmaker who is hell bent on telling Jesse’s story and thus, proving the Nazi regime (which she is apart of) false in its racist assumptions.
7. The little white boy- This one needs a little explaining, here goes. At the end of the film Jesse is heading to a dinner in his honor with his wife and coach.
Upon arriving at the hotel’s front door they are told that the “coloreds” will have to go around back. After some righteous white anger from Sudeikis Jesse and his wife calmly acquiesce and head around to the back. A few black people immediately recognize him and speak, Jesse ignores them and goes inside.
Immediately a little white boy runs up to him smiling in dirty clothes (because we have to show that everybody had it bad back then, not just blacks) and asks “Can I have your autograph?” This finally gets a smile out of Owens and he signs the paper for the child. They zoom in for a close up on the child’s (overly) happy face. Then they go to a close up on Jesse’s smiling face….And just like that, overt racism doesn’t matter, going around the back for your own celebration doesn’t matter, not meeting the president as is customary for Olympic Gold winning athletes, doesn’t matter….It wasn’t seeing his fellow black brothers and sisters back there (whom he treated as a kind of peasant fanbase), it was white acceptance. Because remember folks, white acceptance, even from a child, validates black existence.
Honorable mention. All of the white teammates who were just “so excited” that the black athletes were able to stay in the same dorms as them. They literally jumped up and down with glee. Seriously.
Race suffers from the usual issues films about black heroes written by white people face. Jesse himself has no real character, it’s all about creating a world in which, the racism in America (perpetuated by whites) is “ok” or otherwise dismissed because there are SO MANY “good” white people who just don’t “see color.” However this rainbow colored filter they put on the past immediately turns into Owens not being able to do anything for himself. He must rely exclusively on the teachings and actions of white people to either show him the right way or stand up for him because every single racist encounter isn’t about him it’s about showing good white people.
Yet, historically in this time period, we see people being beaten in the streets, hung up in trees, burned, shot, beaten, hoses turned on them…I wonder where those good white people were?
Here’s the thing. They didn’t exist. At least not in any number that makes any difference. The pervasive attitude throughout the country, was that of overt, oppressive, racism. That was the norm, those were the laws on the books. And if you can’t address that reality in a movie TITLED RACE then I literally “can’t even.”
When white people tell these stories they create characters they THINK they would’ve been, but, in reality they’d have been right there tying a banana around a man’s neck.
I’m writing like this because this truth is dirty, it’s gritty, it ain’t pretty at all. But time and time again, and especially in this film it’s portrayed as “oh they called me a name lemme ignore them.” Yay racism is over, thanks for showing us lowly Negroes how to handle systematic oppression, murder, redlining and other atrocities. ‘Preciate that.
Even without the race issues the outright awfulness of this movie is unforgivable.
The scene that was clearly supposed to get Jason Sudeikis an Oscar nod was so absurd people in the theater actually laughed out loud. They really glaze over the fact that the U.S president, Franklin Roosevelt, never invited Owens to the white house as is customary.
This film about a black historical figure was not made for black people. But more so to appease the “white gaze”. They should stop trying to tell our stories since clearly they can’t help but insert themselves into them, completely destroying everything that made the story worth telling in the process.
This film about Jesse Owens deserves better. Straight F’s across the board.
Well, the acting was decent, they did what they could with the terrible script they were given. Half a star. Don’t waste your money on this. It’s destined to be the terrible movie the clueless history teacher rolls in on the TV cart (the one with the Velcro straps) and nobody pays attention to it.
I love that comics have become such a huge cultural fixation. Honestly they’ve always been, but with the introduction into the film world, they’ve found more followers than ever. Amidst ever-changing social acceptances and norms, comics are changing too. This means the comics that were once so white and male they’d have been lost in the snow and not have been able to see anyone to not ask directions from, are kind of getting a face lift. It’s about time.
These creations, though loved for years, were originally created in a culture that praised the racist, misogynistic, homophobic viewpoint. Thus they became white males by default. With the exception of a very few (that were created by Stan Lee who faced great opposition) minorities were pretty much shut out, though they enjoyed the comics just as much as their majority counterparts.
So now that comics have moved to film races are changing, genders are changing and that’s great because it’s a step towards fixing a tainted legacy and including all of those people who love and support this industry. Later I’ll do a list of the best comic book heroes who’s race or gender has been altered.
However today I’d like to salute those women that came before all of this, before Blade made it profitable to be a comic book hero on the big screen. This isn’t a ranking in order by the way, these women were selected because they are bad ass and in some cases, broke barriers. If they are “alternate dimension” versions or versions made primarily to capitalize off of a male hero’s popularity they aren’t on this list. So anything with “she” in their title ain’t on here.
This list was created in response to the lack of knowledge people have in regards to women super heroes and the desire to see a list about them that didn’t involve the words “hot”, “sexy”, or “boobs.”
#10 Wonder Woman
Has to be on here of course so I just went ahead and put her first. First appearing in December of 1941, Wonder woman came on the heels of a new exciting interest in comic books.
With Superman and batman leading the way, detective comics wanted to find a way to really capitalize on the comic book medium. Diana was created by the already very successful psychologist William Moulton Marston and his wife Elizabeth. He’d already invented the polygraph (lasso of truth inspiration) and had been hired as an educational consultant. Though her past after his death was a bit rocky, she was quite objectified for a while and dumbed down. Each issue had a different “pin-up” poster of her.
Eventually though they got it together and she regained her bad ass status as a warrior of the Amazons. In addition to succesful comic books, she had her own very successful television show.
“Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world”, Marston wrote. With her bad ass attitude, fighting prowess, magic lasso, sword, armor, flight, and super strength, if she says she’s ruling the world. You’ll be fighting her, not me.
Another one that HAD to make this list. First appearing in 1975 in the book Giant X-men, storm was originally supposed to be a male named Typhoon. However as they didn’t want an all male team, they combined two of the characters into one Storm Ororo Munroe. Born in Harlem to an African princess and a photojournalist, she didn’t have the cushy life one would expect of such noble birth. After moving to Egypt, her parents die leaving her an orphan.
Eventually she discovers her ability to control the weather and fly. She wanders through Cairo and the Serengeti using her powers to bring water to drought ravaged areas which eventually leads to her being praised as a goddess.
If that isn’t bad ass enough she eventually defeats Cyclops to become leader of the X-men, marries the black panther which literally makes her a queen of the most advanced civilization on the planet, she’s a diplomat, trained wolverine and most of the x-men in hand to hand combat, and is one of the most respected and widely known heroes ever created.
That’s Rocket. Flying through an attacking alien spaceship. In this issue she takes on a Gauntlet of 6 of the strongest alien warriors in the galaxy, and whoops all of them. Rocket has a pretty unique character arch. After discovering Agustus Freeman’s unique abilities, she is able to convince him to start helping people under the moniker of Icon.
There’s a whole arch where she gets pregnant and her best friend takes over as Rocket until she gives birth. When she comes back she’s stronger than before and a lot more willing to protect the planet. She’s teamed up with Static, Star chamber AND Shadow Cabinet, Super Boy, Static, and many more.
You probably got used to her on television’s Young Justice. Determined, Strong willed, and infinitely creative Rocket is one to follow with this new relaunch of Milestone.
Oh yeah Rocket “Never back down, Never Surrender.”
#7 Black Canary
First appearing in 1941 she appeared to be a villain. Turns out she was infiltrating a criminal gang. She eventually became popular enough to take over the comic she originally was only a side character in! Dinah Lance is an extremely adept hand to hand combatant and in different incarnations can utilize an ultrasonic scream.
She helped found the birds of prey(if you get a chance check out the birds of prey episode of Batman Brave and the Bold). A time endearing hero, she’s been featured in almost all of the incarnations of the DC universe from Justice League cartoons to the Arrow live action television show.
Black canary is one powerful hero.
#6 Amanda Waller
I want you to look at that cover. I mean REALLY look at it. Joker doesn’t even talk to Batman like that. You know who does? Amanda “The Wall” Waller Ph.D. First appearing November 1986 shes been a “good guy” sometimes and a “bad guy other times.” But her motives are never selfish. What she does she does because of her un-matchable ability to see the big picture. Always calm and collected she’s got a plan for everything. No super powers but hangs with the biggest and baddest of the DC universe from Brainiac to Darkseid. She started the suicide squad and has been a government agent for years. She’s basically the Nick Fury of the DC universe. She’s been played by Pam Grier, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and now Viola Davis.
#5 Iron ButterFly
That’s Iron Butterfly liberating a refugee camp from the evil soldiers that had taken over. She’s a Palestinian Muslim and has ferrokinetic control of any and all metallic substances. As a young girl she had to flee from persecution in her home town. Eventually her family ends up in a refugee camp that begins testing gas chemicals on them. As she watched her family die in front of her, she was gifted with her powers. At least that’s the story she tells people. A founding member of the Shadow Cabinet, she’s saved the world more times than we’ll probably ever know. Completely militaristic in her dedication to her task, she is no-nonsense and fights with great intelligence and perfect utilization of her powers.
She never backs down from a fight and has the strength, tenacity, and strategic skills to walk away a winner.
#4 Donner & Blitzen
Yes I know it’s a “two-fer” but these two are truly a pair. Donner is the super strong, bullet resistant, stoic one and Blitzen is the super fast, super smart, wise cracking one. After becoming unsatisfied with the Shadow Cabinet, they start their own faction called Heroes including Iota, Payback, Starlight, and the one and only Static Shock. They move to New York and immediately stop an alien invasion. Oh and they are lesbians, openly, which is kind of a big deal in comics, especially 90s comics.
Always ready to go fight at the drop of a dime, these two teammates work together splendidly.
#3 Invisible Woman Susan Richards
Susan Richards had somewhat of a rocky start. When she first appeared in 1961 she was completely utilized as the damsel in distress. Being captured, running away to hide, or waiting for her husband to come save her was her M.O. But with the advent of her Force field projection powers she’s become widely recognized as the strongest member of the team. This is witnessed several times in the Civil War arch. She is strong and no longer defined by her husband.
Especially in Civil War she actually leaves him due to differences in opinion on the registration act and how things were being handled. From the comics, to the television shows old and new, to the films, this character’s growth has turned her into the heart and soul of one of the greatest superhero teams ever created.
Vixen was supposed to be the first African woman super hero for DC. Unfortunately they canceled her series before it was made. But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the most recognizable woman superheroes of all time.
In ancient Africa, the warrior Tantu asked Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give the wearer all of the powers of the animal kingdom, only if they would use the power to protect the innocent. Tantu used the totem to become Africa’s first legendary hero. The totem was later passed down to Tantu’s descendants until it reached the McCabes.
Growing up in a small African village in the fictional nation of Zambesi, M’Changa province, Mari Jiwe McCabe heard the legend of the “Tantu Totem” from her mother. Sometime later, Mari’s mother was killed by poachers and she was raised by her father Reverend Richard Jiwe, the village priest. Reverend Jiwe himself was killed by his half-brother (Mari’s uncle) General Maksai. Maksai wanted the Tantu Totem, which Jiwe had possessed. Mari ultimately moved to America, where she established an identity as Mari McCabe and got a job as a model in New York City. She used her newfound wealth to travel the world. On a trip back to Africa, she came across her uncle and took back the Tantu Totem, using its power to become the costumed superhero Vixen.
Vixen subsequently has had her own limited series and has been featured in a wide variety of DC properties from television to video games.
#1 Lady Death Wish
If you haven’t noticed this list has a lot of Milestone characters. Well trust they deserve to be on here, see that’s what happens when you make characters actually like people and not some stereotypical nonsense that fulfills your fantasy of what you want them to be. Take Deathwish for instance.
Now the original Deathwish has a terrifying backstory but Lady Deathwish (I know I said I wouldn’t have people like that but hear me out on one this one) has a pretty interesting tale and the entire series is told from his/her point of view.
Let me explain.
Deathwish starts off as male cop LT. Martin Rahm, but even then he knew deep down, this wasn’t who he really was (he still identified as male though). On a case he meets the original Death wish who shoves a gun in his face before realizing that Rahm was a cop searching the murder scene alone.
They fast forward four years and Martin Rahm is now Marisa, spoiler alert sex changes don’t make people any less bad ass. Marisa goes on a hunt for a sicko and ends up taking up the Moniker of DeathWish. Unfortunately only a limited series but there was plenty in there to solidify her standing as one of the biggest bad ass women in comic book history.
Well that’s my list, hope you guys enjoyed it. Are there other’s you’d like to see? Agree or Disagree? Go ahead and leave a comment I’d love to hear your ideas!
Before I get into why it matters for EVERYONE (especially you money makers) I’d like to start with a tweet.
I know I’ve briefly touched on diversity in films in the past but this development has me diving back into the subject.
So a few days ago Rupert Murdoch decided to tweet something. I assume when his old wrinkly thumbs were moving across his blackberry screen he was clear-headed and not at all inebriated. But the tweet he sent out was ridiculous nonetheless. A tweet claiming that all the Egyptians he knew were white so whats the big deal about having an all white cast……for a movie filmed….. in Africa. While I don’t doubt uncle money bags only knows white people in Egypt. Your tiny little club of people you know in Egypt clearly doesn’t represent the entire country. And oh I’m sorry it’s not an all white cast, How silly of me. Here let’s see the cast.
So…the main characters, the kings and queens. Those can be white, but for the slaves and assassins, now we have to be realistic. If all of the Egyptians Murdoch knows are white, why isn’t he complaining that the servants aren’t white as well? Blatant racism and whitewashing is why this film has been facing a boycott since its inception. #Boycottexodus is a pretty huge movement as minorities are tired of getting the old “heave-ho” whenever big productions feel like it. Which leads us to some very interesting statistics about diversity in film. Here are a few stats about Race and Hollywood based on a study done at UCLA.
The lack of minority representation has always been known, but sometimes it’s good to actually see it. It’s actually sickening. But here’s the GOOD news. Because of things like boycotts and people in general just being tired of this mess. There seems to be an upswing in people going to see films and tv shows with higher minority representation. This comes through in data obtained by
Movies with higher minority representation(21-30%) posted $160.1 million in global box office receipts in 2011. Films with lower Minority involvement(less than 10%) made just $68.5 million. That’s 91.6 million dollars MORE just for doing something you should be doing ANYWAY. I mean asinine, archaic Hollywood casting practices aside, the data is very clear. By being bigoted you are losing money Hollywood. Here’s the full report. See that’s why it matters for everyone, everyone makes more money, A LOT more money in the end. So do the right thing. Diversify your talent, your creators, your directors, hell diversify the agents at the agencies that represent these people. Watch your profits (which have been steadily dropping) soar.