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Super Social Analysis: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and LGBT in Movies

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So, I saw Brick Mansions over the weekend because I loved Banlieue 13 (the original). Now, I was not expecting Shakespeare, just some awesome parkour. And I got that. Unfortunately, what I also got was two women (one 'good' and one 'bad') whose outfits were so preposterous that my brain nearly exploded.

 

Costume and mini-plot spoilers ahoy (not that anyone likely gives a shit): The good girl was kidnapped from the diner she works at. The movie is set in a dystopian future Detroit but the diner she worked at was apparently stuck in a time-warp where female servers still wore super tight white button downs over their barely contained boobs and a super short skirt, all the better for up-skirt and undies shots during action scenes. The bad girl, surely for plot-related reasons that I am too dim to figure out, wore, essentially, silky black panties, fishnets with garters and a corset thing. Because when you want to kick someone's ass in the 'hood, you want your tits and ass hanging out. Jesus Christ. And did I mention that the bad girl couldn't seem to make up her as to whether she wanted to kill the 'good' girl or fuck her? Because....yeah.

 

I suppose I should be relieved that they weren't wearing heels?

 

Meanwhile, one of the male co-stars was occasionally shirtless. All the other dudes, to my recollection, were always covered up. So, in short: fuck you Brick Mansions.

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Apparently the new Bruce Lee biopic will be told through the eyes of a white disciple/protege named Steve Macklin. I'm assuming the guy's fictional because I haven't heard of him anywhere else and google's not turning anything up. It's kind of eyeroll-worthy that they're making the POV character yet another white dude in the first place, and if it turns out that he's completely made up, that would be even more annoying. Hopefully there really is a Steve Macklin out there and my google fu just failed me, lmao.

 

In animated news, people have been complaining that Hiro Hamada from Disney's Big Hero 6 doesn't look Asian enough. I wonder what exactly would make him look "Asian enough" for some people? Maybe something like the Chang triplets from The Proud Family? Not that I think it's impossible to read Hiro as being white (aside from his name, obviously), but that has more to do with the fact that white is considered the default in Western animation, so viewers tend to demand more exaggerated, stereotypical features to distinguish other races. It reminds me of when people kept insisting that Aang looked white in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

 

Finally, what do people think about Blended? I kept cringing during the trailer when they kept referring to Africa. Just Africa. Because Africa is a monolith and a single country instead of a continent. Maybe the actual movie is better, but it's Adam Sandler, so I don't know....

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Finally, what do people think about Blended? I kept cringing during the trailer when they kept referring to Africa. Just Africa. Because Africa is a monolith and a single country instead of a continent. Maybe the actual movie is better, but it's Adam Sandler, so I don't know....

 

I've never been an Adam Sandler fan, so it's not like I planned to see this anyway.  But the "Africa" references turned me right off.  Maybe the references were called out as ridiculous in the film, but I'll never know.  I'm just tired of Africa being referred to as a country, particularly since no other continent is referred to as a country in American media, as far as I know. Maybe Australia, but usually references to Australia are indeed of the country, not the continent.

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Make that multiple statements - that he insulted Mandela directly, even his death, is even more egregious than whining that 12 Years a Slave "sucked up all the guilt about black people that was available." The level of entitlement and arrogance is just...I can't even. Most of the comments aren't much better.

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Now that Edge of Tomorrow has been released, I'd like to mention that it's based off the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill. The main character's name is Keiji Kiriya. 

 

Stop it, Hollywood. 

 

"But it's an American adaptation!" Whatever, like Asian-Americans don't exist. Why does "American adaptation" always default to white? (Rhetorical question.) 

Edited by galax-arena
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Well, America is majority white.

Making Keiji Japanese in a Japanese work was just like making him white in the American adaptation. Especially considering the .... ways the original treats it's supporting non Japanese male characters. Plus the movie avoids many of the Animesque pitfalls that the original one falls into (there's a comic relief character whose character revolves entirely around her tits, for starters).

And it's unlikely that the film will have ever been made without a white American movie star in the lead role. And while it's underperforming in the US, I doubt it would be doing so well in the international market (including Asian countries) without white Tom Cruise headlining the film.

Edited by Mars477

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In animated news, people have been complaining that Hiro Hamada from Disney's Big Hero 6 doesn't look Asian enough. I wonder what exactly would make him look "Asian enough" for some people? Maybe something like the Chang triplets from The Proud Family? Not that I think it's impossible to read Hiro as being white (aside from his name, obviously), but that has more to do with the fact that white is considered the default in Western animation, so viewers tend to demand more exaggerated, stereotypical features to distinguish other races. It reminds me of when people kept insisting that Aang looked white in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I'm reserving judgment but if you're asking, I think the bigger problem is the animation style. It's not that he looks "white." It's that he looks Pixar-ish (and also like the Tangled and Frozen characters to some degree). I think its both a problem with computer animation in general and with a lack of real interesting character design specifically. I mean at least the beady eyes and body type they gave Merida was a bit of a departure from the majority of characters that computer animated films have been churning out. 

 

"But it's an American adaptation!" Whatever, like Asian-Americans don't exist. Why does "American adaptation" always default to white? (Rhetorical question.)

Why is the default always white? There are tons of stories where the characters don't need to be white. There are tons of stories where you have to change the characters to make them white. People ask why Mindy Kaling isn't in a sari and why she doesn't show more of her "Indian heritage" on her show because we suck so much at showing non-Caucasian Americans just being "normal."

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It would be nice to have romantic leads of different races. I can't think of any in recent memory (but I will admit that I haven't seen a ton of movies).

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It would be nice to have romantic leads of different races. I can't think of any in recent memory (but I will admit that I haven't seen a ton of movies).

Madea's anything. It is a Tyler Perry trope

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It is a Tyler Perry trope

 

First thing, I am not sure I've ever seen a Tyler Perry movie. "Why did I get married?" may be a Tyler Perry movie, and I saw that one. But only same race couples. Second thing, I didn't expand my statement very well. I meant movies that don't obsess over the fact that the couple is interracial. Because Ashton Kutcher was in a movie with Bernie Mac called "Guess Who?" which has an interracial couple as the lead characters but focuses on their differences the entire time.

 

You are right though. The movies are being made, and I'm just not seeing them. 

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Pacific Rim had Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Hunnam as kind of love interests. It's a giant robot fighting movie and not a love story so there wasn't a whole lot of time put into developing it, but I thought it was great. Idris Elba was in it as Rinko's adoptive father. That film did an admirable job of diversifying the cast without making a big deal of it in-story.

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Second thing, I didn't expand my statement very well. I meant movies that don't obsess over the fact that the couple is interracial. Because Ashton Kutcher was in a movie with Bernie Mac called "Guess Who?" which has an interracial couple as the lead characters but focuses on their differences the entire time.

Yeah, seeing how the numbers change when you take out movies that repeatedly mention how the couple is interracial or pair a non-Caucasian woman with a Caucasian man makes the originally depressing numbers more depressing. Earlier this year, I watched Today's Special on Netflix. It's a poorly constructed movie but it does feature an interracial relationship and while that fact is brought up it's downplayed more than in other movies so... yay?

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Frankly, I wish that the idea behind introducing a person of color into the story was not all about how they differ from the rest of the characters because of their ethnicity, but what kind of people they are.

The defining feature of a fictional character should not be their race but their personality.

 

I'm not talking about films based on true stories or accounts of historical events, but contemporary stories or stories set in the future, fantasy stories, etc. 

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Those movies like the Madea series that in part are aimed at a Black church audience often have a Black woman with a man of another race. In Make A Joyful Noise with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah an older Black woman was with two separate Asian men. And the high school senior sex symbol had a White male love interest.

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The American remake of Death at a Funeral had an interracial couple in it. 

 

Peter Dinklage and the dead father were an interracial couple

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First thing, I am not sure I've ever seen a Tyler Perry movie. "Why did I get married?" may be a Tyler Perry movie, and I saw that one. But only same race couples. Second thing, I didn't expand my statement very well. I meant movies that don't obsess over the fact that the couple is interracial. Because Ashton Kutcher was in a movie with Bernie Mac called "Guess Who?" which has an interracial couple as the lead characters but focuses on their differences the entire time.

 

You are right though. The movies are being made, and I'm just not seeing them. 

Going back to the biracial angle Sharon Leal, who played Tyler Perry's mate in the movie Why Did I Get Married.  almost always plays straight Black characters. She has a Filipino mother. At the moment American TV which does not have to attract a global audience is more likely to have multiracial couples, especially in the background or as girlfriend of the week then the big movies. Sideways is playing on Sundance this weekend and Sandra Oh among other Asian actresses often are cast with no racial angle mentioned especially in the smaller Art House movies which are not expecting billions of dollars worldwide with the different nations cultural sensitivities needing to be accounted for. 

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It would be nice to have romantic leads of different races. I can't think of any in recent memory (but I will admit that I haven't seen a ton of movies).

In The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman's love interest was Japanese.

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In The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman's love interest was Japanese.

And in the previous one, she was Native American.

 

Grand Budapest Hotel - Agatha (white) and Zero (probably Arabic)

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I meant movies that don't obsess over the fact that the couple is interracial. Because Ashton Kutcher was in a movie with Bernie Mac called "Guess Who?" which has an interracial couple as the lead characters but focuses on their differences the entire time.

 

I assume this goes without saying, but just in case ... that was a (hideous) remake of the last Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy collaboration, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, which was entirely about the familial ramifications of a young interracial couple's intended marriage. 

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 There are tons of stories where you have to change the characters to make them white. People ask why Mindy Kaling isn't in a sari and why she doesn't show more of her "Indian heritage" on her show because we suck so much at showing non-Caucasian Americans just being "normal."

The problem is, you just can't make everyone happy. You depict Mindy as just a "normal" American who just happens to be of Indian heritage, and the outrage merchants howl about her being a white character in brown skin. Put her in a sari and they bemoan stereotyping. Usually it's the same people who complain about both. I call it the "Cosby Conumdrum". In his 80's sitcom, Bill Cosby played Cliff Huxtable, who was a doctor, while his wife Claire was a lawyer. And there were people who beefed that characters who were doctors and lawyers did not portray the true black experience. At the same time you had people who asked, "Why are black characters always pimps and drug pushers and gang members? Why can't they be doctors and lawyers?" So you can't win with people who are determined to be offended.

Edited by Rum Punch
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I agree, Rum Punch, and that's why I feel it's so important to show a wide range of stories and identities. There won't be so much pressure on the movie with the female protagonist to be everything to every feminist and female audience member if you have a huge range of movies with female protagonists. Precious is one person's truth. You can't just avoid portraying it because it's not very flattering. But the Cosby's are another person's truth. 

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I assume this goes without saying, but just in case ... that was a (hideous) remake of the last Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy collaboration, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,

 

I did understand that Guess Who was a remake and they flipped the genders to make it a new "twist" on that topic. That was just the only example that came to mind where people aren't looking past race besides the couple. 

 

I feel it's so important to show a wide range of stories and identities.

 

That's exactly the solution. If movies are made about individuals and individual experiences, we may not end up having so few points of view. I'm sure there is an Asian/Mexican/Greek girl somewhere who wanted to hang out with the popular girls (of varied races), so we should have a Mean Girls that isn't about white-only experiences. It's also unnecessary to make a movie with only one race represented. Black-Only movies like Precious (terrible example since I hate this movie) could have sprinkled in characters of other races. Any of Robert Rodriguez's movies could include some other races too, he makes a point of casting actors with Hispanic (?) heritage. 

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I disagree to an extent. I don't believe in diversity for the sake of diversity or always having a melting pot where you have to check off each race or ethnicity. If you're telling a specific story sometimes the point is you've got a very insulated, wealthy community. It makes sense that the high school in mean girls was predominantly white and Asian. It was discussing the prejudices and behaviors of a specific subset of the culture vs. a general high school experience. That said, I think it's important to have all kinds of stories. So you can have Mean Girls but you can also have all of these other movies. I'm not saying, you can't have Saving Private Ryan, but then also make movies about the women and minorities that serve in the armed forces or play roles behind the scenes. Do what feels natural. A lot of things are set in New York City which is incredibly diverse but you'd never know it from the people they cast. 

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Do what feels natural.

 

I agree. I always use Mean Girls as an example because it is always on my mind. But many movies can be more racially diverse without taking anything away from the story. They shouldn't force it. 

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That reminds me of when Fast & Furious 6 came out, and it turned out that half the audience was female, which was somewhat surprising for a macho action franchise.

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This is always going to be a generalisation, but it seems to me that the sort of manic, fervent fans that you'd get on tumblr, generating buzz for your movie, are more likely to be female than male. Look at Loki, for example. From what I've seen, a huge amount of the character's popularity is down to how well he was received by the female audience, and how well Tom Hiddleston is loved by them.

 

It's interesting, because comic books and action movies have always been seen as a predominantly male interest, yet there does seem to be a definite female vibe to the fandoms, at least in terms of online fandoms. That even extends to professional wrestling, I have discovered, with girls on tumblr who adore the likes of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.

 

Their voices might not be as many, but they seem to be the ones shouting the loudest. Perhaps movie makers need to pay more attention to them, and try and attract them.

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Movie going audiences have always been slightly more female. See this report from 2010-2012. It's an even split. I think women are more noticeable in fandoms because they are in general, more vocal about things.

 

As for the Fast and Furious, they designed those in a way to largely cater to both men, but it did feel like they worked on the female audience too. They also put an international spin on it. I never watched after the first one, but given the way they marketed and cast the movies, not a big surprise the franchise was profitable.

 

I enjoy many action movies, bu there are many I will avoid. I think HollywoodReporter article is right that this summer's movies are overcatering. Hollywood really underestimates how much the female movie going audience has always had. As for Transformers, I stopped watching the franchise because it really does feel male oriented. It does not even try to cater to females by having interesting female characters or on a shallow note suitable male eye candy. I think the posters in the Transformers topic here even mentioned the lack of it when you cast Mark Wahlberg.

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It's also unnecessary to make a movie with only one race represented. Black-Only movies like Precious (terrible example since I hate this movie) could have sprinkled in characters of other races.

 

 

 BoogieBurns, "Lee Daniels' 'Precious' based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" (Phew. My fingers are tired already) tells the story of one particular black girl and her small world, which happens to include only black people. It's the same as a movie like "Grease," which has an all-white cast -- most high schools in the 1950s remained segregated, and the movie focused on one group of white friends, who didn't have any non-white friends.

 

The difference is that Grease is not called a "White-only" movie.

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I understand that period movies, Grease is set in the 50's, may not show what I'm asking for. I'm saying new movies can mix it up a bit. 

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I don't remember much mixing up in Blue Jasmine, Her, August: Osage County, or The Wolf of Wall Street. I'm not saying that every movie has to look like a Benetton ad, but you rarely hear complaints about the lack of diversity in mainstream movies. Except from people of color.

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I don't remember much mixing up in Blue Jasmine, Her, August: Osage County, or The Wolf of Wall Street. I'm not saying that every movie has to look like a Benetton ad, but you rarely hear complaints about the lack of diversity in mainstream movies. Except from people of color.

I know this is oversimplifying but... privilege. Female reviewers are often the ones pointing out the sidelined roles of female characters and people of color are more likely to notice the absence of people of color in a movie. 

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When I heard they wree looking for black women out of shape, I just assumed, that was just what they wanted. But that? Oh, very charming. WTF are some people thinking?

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Oh, Hollywood (sigh)

 

That's really what the casting call said? That wasn't a joke? Even if someone wrote it, at least one other person had to approve it.

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I can't get over how disturbing that NWA casting call is.  It even has it's own grading system.  Unbelievable.

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No kidding.  How hard would it have been to just say they were on the lookout for talented actors and actresses with physical resemblances to the real people?  

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They were looking for extras and a couple of bit parts (featured extras), so they didn't have to look like any specific people. I get what they were trying for, but they shouldn't have tied color, beauty, and social class together so explicitly. Not that colorism doesn't exist, because it very obviously does, but I think they could have done the casting call according to intended roles instead.

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That was absurd.  I am an actor in LA, and I have never seen a casting call like that in my life.  No reputable casting agency would have put that out.  Are they trying to save on money and hired someone's sister-in-law, baby cousin Tracy to do casting?  No casting description is that long for a featured extra.  Certainly not one with a grading system.  Truly ridiculous.

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I'm completely ignorant of the casting process, but couldn't they figure out which group to place each girl in once they saw them in person? Extras don't have lines, so you could move people around as needed. There were so many other ways to go about this, and they picked the worst one. The call could have said "women of color needed for 4 scenes, look like yourself." 

 

Hypothetical, but where would a non-skinny light-skinned girl go? It's just silly that they expect all their extras to fit in 4 defined categories. 

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I have problems, of the gender kind, with Luc Besson's Lucy

 

*******SPOILERS AHOY!! Also Trigger Warning for Sexual Assault*************

 

Good? Scarlet Johansson, as she can play kick-ass Strong Women.

Bad? A good chunk of the film's set up is about how Lucy is stripped of consent, made to deal with trauma after trauma after trauma because of Big,Imposing, Asshole Criminal Other (he speaks no English and has a disembodied person translate over a phone line for Lucy.)

 

Good? Lucy frees herself.

Bad? After she's beaten for giving a would-be rapist essentially a paper cut, he beats her unconscious, which releases the drug she's carrying into her body.

Good? She uses her new abilities to figure out a plan....

Bad?... that involves literally spreading her legs as a come-on to her other jailer so she can disable and disarm him.

 

Good? There is a French cop that she likes and wants him around to remind her of Humanity.

Good? There are no sex scenes between them, as he wasn't there for that and he totally didn't feel the pantsfeels for her.

 

Good? Lucy told her dated-for-a-week assy friend "No!" Clearly. First nicely, then directly.

Bad? Assy Friend handcuffed the McGuffin that started the fun to her anyway.

I also could've done without the Cliff Notes for Those in The Audience Who Weren't Sure; scenes of a gazelle being stalked by a lioness! No lie, ya'll! Gazelle-stalking.

 

Good? The Captain trusted Lucy, even with reservations.

Good?  The Captain and Morgan Freeman's Professor didn't try to mansplain why what Lucy was doing was impossible/she should stop what she was doing/she was doing it wrong/ whatever decision she made, she was doing it wrong or for the wrong reasons.

Good? The men were not made to look Less Than. No one could top Lucy, but that was due to narrative, not sexism. You stop a woman who can make reality The Matrix.   

 

**************SPOILER END!!**************************

 

With the Brick Mansions mention upthread, do I need to re-evaluate my Luc Besson enjoyment?

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So how are we all feeling about the official Dear White People trailer that got released? I think it could be an interesting movie. I am worried that it could just be a college movie with all the accompanying tropes and stereotypes and I'm worried about one of the characters. If the Caucasian actor who brings up Taylor Swift gets romantically involved with the "bougie Lisa Bonet wannabe" then I can definitely see them running away with the movie and distracting from all the issues the movie wants to discuss. 

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