Stirring the Sh** Pot: Hollywood

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an avid movie lover, my love ranges from the old days of black and white films such as Metropolis to modern films such as Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina. But recently in Hollywood, with the announcement of the ‘remake’ of the 1915 film Birth of a Nation coming to theaters and completely missing the point of the original to the extent that it is no longer a remake, but a PC culture cash-in, I have to talk about this. This is going to be an uncensored insight at the blatant stupidity that once proud Hollywood is reducing itself to in a new section called Stirring the Shitpot. 

Hollywood and the world of Cinema has produced some amazing films that have become cultural standpoints in society ranging from people quoting Humphrey Bogart’s iconic lines from Casablanca to creating statues and artwork of characters like The Blues Brothers. Many people have dedicated their lives to cinema whether if it is becoming involved in the film industry to simply having movie nights every Friday. But as time goes on, it seems that Hollywood has long since peaked and have gone into a creative and social tailspin into a burning crash of a seemingly uncertain return.


One of the largest problems that can be seen with the film industry is that this is becoming the era of the remakes. I have nothing against remaking an older film for a new audience, in some instances, it could work. Take for example True Grit, based off the film with the same name, which was remade by the Coen Brothers in 2010 and was met with appraisal from both critics and movie goers alike, even nominating Jeff Bridges for an Academy Award. With the right directors, right people and the drive to make a film worthy of the one before it, a remake can work. But a lot of times, it doesn’t. It seems like more times these days, a reboot is just a means to cash in on the people’s nostalgic feelings of old.

One of the strongest examples of this would be the release of the trailer for the already infamous Ghostbusters remake starring an all-female cast featuring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Within the first month of this trailer being released, it had already been faced with over five hundred thousand thumbs down and negative comments ranging from:

THEY REBOOTED GHOSTBUSTERS
THEY REBOOTED FUCKING GHOSTBUSTERS
WHY ? JUST WHY ?!

to

Why are Sony promoting feminist bullshit?! Enough is enough Sony, can´t bury this one! 500k disslikes and still counting, allthough you´re paying google for likes!

Trust when I say, when the trailer first came out, the comments were worst. But what I find to be the most offensive thing about this film is not that it is a reboot or that there is an all female cast. What offends me is that they had the balls to think that they could remake an iconic movie with memorable characters and lines and dumb it down to an insulting excuse of a comedy that relies on more cheap slapstick and jokes that have been more successful twenty years ago. One set example of the jokes that completely fails in the trailer is at the 1:40 point, where Kristen Wiig is walking down a row of wigs and Kate McKinnon is waiting for her wearing one of the wigs, trying to scare her. Do you know where we had seen this joke before? Young Fucking Frankenstein! Yeah, this joke has been around since the 1970’s and they think that they could make it funny by having McKinnon made awkward chitchat after the ‘scare’? No, it doesn’t work like that.

Before I have even seen this movie, I can tell you the plot. The main characters saw the original ghost busters as children and dedicate their lives to it. All grown up, they realize that someone is bringing the ghosts back through a device and they have to stop them. The plot twist is…it’s one of the original ghost busters who is doing this, so they can find some sort of fame again. If this was the plot of the movie, then they could make the film point out some of the problems of the first two movies or provided funny commentary. But so far from what we had seen, it is falling back on the cliche humor that is killing a lot of comedies these days.

If you make a remake of a well-known movie franchise, then you have to pay respect to the original source material and show that you can actually make a film that is worthy of the name.


Another of the issues that I am seeing is Hollywood’s repeated and humiliating attempts at becoming more inclusive when it comes to including people of color and all genders in film. With each year, we see the almost annual Oscars So White controversies where there are continual claims that not enough actors of different races and creeds are represented at the award shows. But truthfully, it is the industry on the whole that needs to reform. An editorial from the Economist would say that only fifteen percent of minorities are chosen for top roles. As for women, an article in the Guardian would state that while the number of women in top roles have increased, they only take about twenty two percent of all the top roles.

There have been some films recently that have done well in giving women and minorities the leads in films such as Creed, Dope and Carol.  But Hollywood’s commonly seen response to this is not to create original films that would create iconic and signature roles, but to instead recolor a pre-existing film such as the Men in Black reboot which promises us a ‘Prominent Woman in Black‘ and recently announced Jumanji remake starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Kevin Hart.

No…Just, fucking no…

This is not the way to social progress or correcting any white male dominance or past whitewashing in cinema and film. If anything, it is just trying to make things worse. By allocating talented actors of all genders and races to roles like these, it comes off more as trying to make a quick buck off of a person’s identity rather than make the industry more inclusive.

This brings me back to a movie mentioned earlier Birth of a Nation. Now, anyone who knows their films knows that the original released in 1915 was about the fears of a post civil war United States where the largest fear was that black people would control the American South and that the white’s only hope was going to be with the Klu Klux Klan. Yeah, this movie was considered racist enough that the NAACP were protesting for the film to be banned.

What’s the new movie about?

Nate Parker‘s (who directed, produced and starred in the leading role) The Birth of a Nation isn’t about the post civil war America and the fears that followed it. Instead it is a historic fiction based on a true story about Nat Turner (what a fucking coincidence) who leads the rebellion of slaves and free blacks in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831 and killing scores of white people in the process. Do you see the colossal difference? It is NOT the same movie, not even close. It is apparent that this movie is nothing more than a vanity project imposed by the director posing under a historic fiction. I don’t have a problem with telling the story of Nat Turner, he was a standing figure in American history and black culture. His story helped inspire others to break the chains of oppression and stand up for what you believe in. But if you are going to make a film about his life, then don’t name it after one of the most racist films of all time.

When Nate Parker was asked by Filmmaker Magazine why he chose the title for this movie, this is what he had to say:

I’ve reclaimed this title and re-purposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America, to inspire a riotous disposition toward any and all injustice in this country (and abroad) and to promote the kind of honest confrontation that will galvanize our society toward healing and sustained systemic change.

No, that’s not how social change works. If that is how that worked, then Kayne West would own the exclusive rights to the confederate flag.  This is what a pretentious asshole says when he wants to use a controversial title for a movie that isn’t even related to the original source material in order to draw attention to his film. It doesn’t help that the movie was made in less than a month.

Sorry, I am getting off point. What I am trying to say is that you can’t create females or minorities into a forced project and claim that it is a ‘feminist movie’ or a ‘racially diverse’ film. If you want a film that is actually helping promote equality, then go against the grind and make stand alone characters in films that people will remember. I am going to mention a name and I want you to imagine the first film that comes to your head.

Sigourney Weaver.

What is the first movie you thought of? It was the Aliens series, wasn’t it? There is a reason for that. Sigourney Weaver’s character of Ellen Ripley had shown to be more than just a token female, but a strong woman who could hold her own. She had become a role model for both men and women and stood out in the film world when action films with muscle bound men like Sylvester Stallone dominated the industry. There were no gimmicks, there was no production company trying to cash in on what was popular at the time. That’s how you promote social change through film. You make characters that people will remember for years to come.

I am not an expert on race relations, but it is still apparent that Hollywood is trying to correct the problem too quickly for it to have a standing impact in the future. Instead of using a useful medicine that takes time, they are using the bandage method and praying that an infection doesn’t come.


So with all that said, is the film industry on its way to fucking itself over? Well, while Hollywood continues to shovel out crap to make a quick dollar on what is popular (see the IMDB page on spoof movies), there are some films that show that there is still some creativity in Hollywood and there are still actors and directors willing to make a good project. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s and Leonardo DeCaprio’s recent film The Revenant pushes the limits of what not only film technology, but what the actors are truly capable of. But it seems that some of the better movies that are coming out are the ones that aren’t mass advertised on website streamers, bus stops, television and radio.

Is Hollywood still going to fuck up from time to time? Yes, yes they are. There will always be incidents where Hollywood will try to have an actor portray a different race or sexuality than their own, recently seen with the Zoe Saldana black-face controversy with her portrayal of Nina Simone. But with each passing day, this is becoming less common that it once was. Remember there was once a time where the only roles that black or minority actors could get would be portraying stereotypes such as Uncle Remus or being put on the sidelines without even a spoken line. If Hollywood wants to make progress, then it will have to take time.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Opinion Pieces, Uncategorized

One response to “Stirring the Sh** Pot: Hollywood

  1. Great post with a lot of important issues! Having much less knowledge of film than you do, here’s my two cents:

    I think Hollywood needs to work on building more well-defined characters, which you alluded to. But by this I mean writing protagonists from diverse backgrounds. Not writing for a black protagonist for the sake of writing for a black protagonist, but writing a black protagonist who’s from rural Nebraska and was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and lost his little sister in a house fire when he was a kid and whatever else because all that stuff fills in an realistic complexity to the character and no one aspect of it defines his identity. He’s not a black lead or an ex-JW or a PTSD sufferer or whatever, he’s an interesting person with a story for the audience.

    I think that, if Hollywood found a way to elicit stronger, more compelling, and more realistic characters and got some of its (probably overwhelmingly white male) screenwriters to step outside of their comfort zones when coming up with lead characters, we’d be able to put a lot of these inequities behind us and wind up with better storytelling that relied less on safe reboots and tired repackaged ideas.

    Like

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