Excuse Me While I Whip This Out
Three movies are dominating my thoughts today, The Day After Tomorrow, Soul Plane, and Blazing Saddles. Blazing Saddles is what I'm watching right now, so if any dialogue slips in there, that's why. I saw Day After Tomorrow(DAT)yesterday. Last week, I saw a lot of commentary condemning DAT as basically a liberal polemic to get people worked up and worried about global warming. At the time, I was thinking, "it's just a disaster picture. Why make a political isse of it?" Then I saw it. Blogging affiliations and ideology notwithstanding, I'm not about all that "liberals do this and liberals ain't that" nuttiness. Stuff like that gets me bored and makes me tired. Then I saw the movie. It really was all political. The Vice-President was obviously supposed to be Cheyney, and the President was supposed to be Bush, although he physically resembled Al Gore. Then at the end, there's this scene where the VP (who becomes President when the President dies) gives this speech about how we always thought we could keep consuming at the rate we always have and whatnot... Now I'll be the first one to say that I'm not the one who's gonna sit up there and act like all the talk about global warming is junk science. I'll be up front and say that I haven't read all (any of) the serious literature, but I've read some opinions on the issue. The biases of the writers precludes me from taking any of the opinons very seriously. Basically, as with any scientific ideas that pass through politics, I'm suspicious. Junk science is not confined to one side of the aisle. And even if the global warming will not lead to climatological disaster, is there really a reason we shouldn't take care of the environment? Is there really a reason to act like it's a bad idea that we not drive everywhere just because we can? I don't think so, but that's just me. At any rate, that's my political beef with the movie. As a disaster flick, it has problems as well. I like disaster flicks, especially those concerning natural disasters. As a result, I usually hang my little physics knowledge at the door. When I go into the theater, I know that there are going to be some things that just couldn't happen in this world. That's what made it film-worthy. The only problem I have is when the science in the movie is not consistent. For the sake of anybody who may be going to see this movie, I won't get into all the flaws right now, but suffice it to say that the weather ain't the only anomaly in there. I say this understanding that there is a formula to disaster movies and knowing that I'm just going to be disappointed most of the time. I want to see people gettin' it. If people are getting wiped out, I want to see one of the main charcters get it too. Unless there's a specific reason for Protagonist, Protagonist's family member/significant other/dog/ NOT to suffer, they should be right out there too. But that's just me. Charlie: Bart, they said you was hung! Bart: And they was right. Ambra has written at length about Soul Plane, as have Joseph C. Phillips (via Booker Rising). They're right in condemning that piece of work as a 2004 minstrel show. For a while, I was thinking I would just write the most stereotypical things I could think of (like listing the top 5 fried chicken joints), but it got to be too much work. Also, I started thinking about something. Why are we so pressed over a movie? Granted, it's a waste of film and a capital waste of money (18 million for that crap? Yeah, it's all politically expedient to talk about what we could do for schools with the money we're spending on the war in Iraq and all that, but what about the money we spend on movies, both on production and consumption? I bet that 18 million could liquidate all but the most indebted school districts, but we ain't gon' talk about that. And we surely won't mention the monies spent by regular people going to the movies. I'm not exempt either, by the way.) Anyway, the fact that Soul Plane has been made is the least of our problems. Not to justify it at all, but it's like this: when we talk about the stereotypical presentation of Black folks in the mass media, the underlying premise seems to be that if we were portrayed differently then it would diminish the impact of racism, since some people's only experience with Black people is via the television and to a lesser extent, the movie screen. Connections are often drawn between characters in the current "work", for lack of a better term, and the classic stereotypes of Black people, many of which were present in D.W. Griffith's Birth Of A Nation, aka The Klansman. Since Birth Of A Nation was used as ostensible grounds for racist actions, then the thinking seems to be that keeping those stereotypes going helps to perpetuate racism. I don't know that I'm sold on that any more. It seems to me that people who want to be racist don't need a movie or thugged-out hip-hop or OJ Simpson or anything else to justify their position. Racism is not logical. People may attempt to justify their racist attitudes with examples of Black "misbehavior" but the truth is, it's not the behavior that the racist objects to, it's the person, whether he's Dr. King, Farrakahn, Snoop, Dr. Charles Drew, Bill Cosby, or whoever. Having said that, I will reiterate that I think there are more than enough grounds to protest this piece of crap being made, but I think we also need to maintain some perspective on the matter. We can't just go around looking for all the stereotypes that can possibly be conferred onto a character in movie. One of my favorite examples from when I was taking a Blacks in Film class at Temple was Kramer from Seinfeld. If Kramer had been Black, people would have been protesting that he was just an updated version of the coon stereotype. He wasn't Black, though, and he was one of the most popular characters on the box at that time. At some point, characters just have the right to be funny and people have the right to their sense of humor, as unsophisticated as that may be. I will cosign on Joseph C. Phillips' call for diversity within Black cinema and television because that's the real problem. It's not Soul Plane, per se, it's that Black folks don't usually support good dramas or smart comedies. But then, "good" drama or "smart" comedy is just a matter of taste. Personally, I never liked Martin, but I know lots of people who thought it was the funniest thing on television. As far as I was concerned, it couldn't get any worse than Martin, but that's just me. Now, one thing that did disappont me about Soul Plane was that it was not a spoof of other movies. I only know one person who saw it, and she watched the bootleg (how poetic is that?), but she said she would've been mad if she had paid to see it. It would be one thing if the point of the movie was to make fun of the stereotypes, but I don't think there's enough separation between the charcters and their actions to signify an awareness of the stereotypes. They're not poking fun, they're being it for real. Juxtapose that with Blazing Saddles, which exists solely to mock the conventions by which the characters think and move. There's probably a good satire in Soul Plane somewhere. Too bad nobody thought to bring it out.