Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

An Attitude of Appeasement

Do not applaud Disney because its princesses now claim to be independent or because the cast of Mulan had people of color in it. Do not applaud Hollywood because “girls can kick butt” (what about women?). Mulan is not the model of cultural sensitivity and Charlie’s Angels is not the poster child for second-wave feminism. In fact, interviewed for such movies as Charlie’s Angels and Bad Girls, Drew Barrymore repeatedly asserts how refreshing it is to be able to be a woman in an action role without being a feminist.

What’s so dirty about being a feminist? Feminists have wondered this for years. It seems that movie producers have a worldview that includes two kinds of people: people who want to have fun and people who complain and spoil the fun.

Really, it’s the powers of the film industry that have polarized entertainment and politics. Would most Hollywood or Disney execs be thrilled about a film that

1. didn’t portray a strong woman as a stone cold “bitch” or a disorganized neurotic who simply needs a man to make her life better?
2. had Asian-American, African-American, Latino or Native American characters as the central focus of the film, with white people as only waiters, bus boys and taxi cab drivers?
3. didn’t make reference to the holocaust as the worst crime of humanity or Hitler as the ultimate representation of evil?
4. had a gay male character or characters who were not comic relief?
5. had a lesbian character or characters who did not somehow convert to wanting a man by the end of the movie?
6. did not have America as the hero of some war?
7. included social commentary without being oppressively preachy a la Milos Forman and Oliver Stone?
8. …and had fun while doing it?!

More troubling perhaps is the idea of the probable reaction of some Hollywood exec reading this short essay and saying, “Maybe if actually endorsed a movie that had those eight characteristics all those radicals would just shut the fuck up!”

“A [i.e. only one] movie…”
“those radicals…”

Hollywood isn’t interested in entertainment that’s enlightened or that promotes family (or any particular kind of values). Hollywood is like a candidate running for president 12 times a year. “What formula can we employ that minimizes costs, makes a lot of money, requires little imagination, and will give us the least amount of protest and lawsuits?” Think the “little imagination” is a bit harsh? Why did Blair Witch Project 2 come out? Why did Josie & the Pussycats follow shortly after Charlie’s Angels and Coyote Ugly ?

I understand the plight of Hollywood. For each member of a major motion picture production company, a job hangs on the line with every decision she makes. She might not be able to take a risk on a culturally sensitive film. For anyone who thinks that’s a valid excuse for the racist, antifeminist, overly patriotic, homophobic, tokenist drivel Hollywood puts out every one or two weeks, cry racism, cry antifeminism, homophobia, Americentrism, tokenism! Make sure everyone knows at least that there is a problem.

Those so-called “radicals” will not shut up until Hollywood ceases its attempts to stop them from speaking and really starts listening to what they’re saying.

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