“Woke” Without Waking Up to History … and Real Life

 

Four days ago on the website of the SyFy Channel, film critic, screenwriter, and comic book author Marc Bernardin wrote about the 2018 slate of pictures to be released.

If 2017 was the tip of the representational spear, then 2018 will be the long shaft that follows. This year will deliver Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Ocean’s 8, and Crazy Rich Asians — studio movies catering to historically underserved audiences, many of which are written and directed by members of those same audiences.

In other words, 2018 is the year that white dudes will be confronted with inescapable media that isn’t about them.

In Hollywood’s Golden Age, before the FCC lifted restrictions on construction of television stations, it’s not hard to make the case that the major studios ignored black America. There were only six all-black movies that were produced and distributed by the major studios during that era, and not all of them were without controversy. One of the first, Warner Brother’s The Green Pastures (1936) was slammed for its racial stereotyping. Still, this was the era of the truly mass market film. The studio heads were risk adverse and programming to 10 percent of the population was something they weren’t particularly interested in.

But this is not where I take issue with Mr. Bernandin. What I take issue with is this:

Black Panther might be the biggest, blackest movie ever made. And white nerds are going to have to go see it, because it’s a Marvel movie. They are going to have to learn to identify with someone who doesn’t look like them, who doesn’t live where they live, who doesn’t talk or act they way they do. They are going to have to learn cinematic empathy.

A fan embraces his hero (cincysportsgallery.com)

“Learning to identify with someone who doesn’t look like them.” Has this man ever attended a professional sporting event? When I go to Cincinnati Reds home games in the summers I see old white guys in Joe Morgan jerseys, middle-aged white guys in Eric Davis jerseys, and younger white fans in Brandon Phillips gear. Although none of them are on the roster today, these pigmentally-challenged individuals still identify with their favorite black athletes.

They just didn’t want to cheer these men. They wanted to be these men. It is something that’s repeated all over this country — from MLB parks to NFL stadiums and NBA arenas — and it’s been going on for 71 years, ever since that April day when Jackie Robinson first walked across that white line at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

The identification level of sports fans is certainly stronger than most comic book aficionados. While there may be an occasional completely out-of-touch nerd who desperately wants to be a guy who dresses up like a bat with a leather fetish, one only has to watch a grown man meet the sports hero of his youth to see real cross-race empathy and admiration.

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  1. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Nobody cares about the race or gender except SJW.  If they make an entertaining movie then people will go.  The only problem is that these SJW types don’t really care if it is entertaining as much as pushing a message.  If so it will flop just like most the Christian movies do for basically the same reasons.

    • #1
  2. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Nobody cares about the race or gender except SJW. If they make an entertaining movie then people will go. The only problem is that these SJW types don’t really care if it is entertaining as much as pushing a message. If so it will flop just like most the Christian movies donor basically the same reasons.

    Yep. Pandering may win awards, but it don’t make bank.

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    EJHill: “In other words, 2018 is the year that white dudes will be confronted with inescapable media that isn’t about them.”

    Unless they choose not to watch them, which is so much easier to do nowadays since virtually the entire history of motion picture arts and sciences has been digitized and is available online.

    White dudes don’t need every new movie to be all about us. Not as long as we have a free and uncensored Internet.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Maybe Mr. Bernandin is right about Black Panther, or maybe Disney is going to have to order red ink by the barrel. I’m done with superhero movies. I’ll stay home and watch baseball. Integrated baseball.

    • #4
  5. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    EJHill: “Black Panther might be the biggest, blackest movie ever made. And white nerds are going to have to go see it, because it’s a Marvel movie. They are going to have to learn to identify with someone who doesn’t look like them, who doesn’t live where they live, who doesn’t talk or act they way they do. They are going to have to learn cinematic empathy.”

    Who does Mr. Bernandin think was buying Black Panther comic books for all those years?

    • #5
  6. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    “They are going to have to learn to identify with someone who doesn’t look like them, who doesn’t live where they live, who doesn’t talk or act they way they do.”

    I’ve already done all that. I watched Sanford and Son when I was a kid. It didn’t seem like that much work at the time.

    • #6
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending: Who does Mr. Bernandin think was buying Black Panther comic books for all those years?

    You mean that character that’s been around since 1966?

    • #7
  8. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending: Who does Mr. Bernandin think was buying Black Panther comic books for all those years?

    You mean that character that’s been around since 1966?

    Exactly.  For people like Mr. Bernandin, history started about five minutes ago.

    • #8
  9. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Does Marc Bernardin think there is a great overlap between science fiction/comic book fans and the white supremacist movement?  Or does he just take it for granted that almost all white people do everything they can to avoid movies with black people in them?  Or is he just trying to whip up publicity and make “woke” people think that they are putting the slapdown on racists by spending $12 to see a movie?

    • #9
  10. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    EJHill:But this is not where I take issue with Mr. Bernandin. What I take issue with is this:

    “Black Panther might be the biggest, blackest movie ever made. And white nerds are going to have to go see it, because it’s a Marvel movie. They are going to have to learn to identify with someone who doesn’t look like them, who doesn’t live where they live, who doesn’t talk or act they way they do. They are going to have to learn cinematic empathy.”

    People like Bernandin are forever setting up the white supremacist straw man. It’s the same thing as when — allegedly — white nerds were upset about a black stormtrooper in Star Wars. Without these straw men, the films have to stand on their own as entertainment and there’s no built-in “white nerds wouldn’t go see it!” excuse when they fail. So we create the white nerds who won’t see Star Wars, or the men who refuse to see Lady Ghostbusters. They’re putting up an excuse in advance in case the movie fails and they can blame white people for it.

    The Black Panther storyline of Captain America: Civil War was one of the better plot threads in that mess of a movie. So I’m hoping for good things from the movie based on that. The writing, the plot, the character. Not because he’s black. But because the character is interesting.

    Imagine that. I’m more interested in the content of his character than the color of his skin. Didn’t someone famous once make a famous comment about that?

    • #10
  11. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    By the way, I saw the trailer for “A Wrinkle in Time” and hardly recognized it. This is not the book I remember.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    By the way, I saw the trailer for “A Wrinkle in Time” and hardly recognized it. This is not the book I remember.

    That could be a good thing.  I always found the book rather boring.

    • #12
  13. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    By the way, I saw the trailer for “A Wrinkle in Time” and hardly recognized it. This is not the book I remember.

    That could be a good thing. I always found the book rather boring.

    I never really liked it either, having read it again very recently to my kids (who both thought it was too weird).

     

    • #13
  14. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    By the way, I saw the trailer for “A Wrinkle in Time” and hardly recognized it. This is not the book I remember.

    That could be a good thing. I always found the book rather boring.

    I never really liked it either, having read it again very recently to my kids (who both thought it was too weird).

    I thought it was actually a great read – though the other books in the series were better.

    And as for it being “black” – well, Madeline L’Engle’s original characters were white.  All this movie is doing to changing the characters’ races to score points.  That’s hardly culturally original.  Heck, I’m just grateful they kept the characters’ sexes the same at this point.

    • #14
  15. Chris O. Coolidge
    Chris O.
    @ChrisO

    I’m not sure I ever saw a bad story line out of Wakanda back in the day. The title comic was canceled when I started, but I picked up a lot of the back story through old Avengers issues and, particularly, an Iron Man Annual (no. 5, I think) that was more about T’Challa and the politics of his kingdom than it was about Tony Stark/Iron Man. I’m looking forward to the movie.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Chris O. (View Comment):
    I’m not sure I ever saw a bad story line out of Wakanda back in the day. The title comic was canceled when I started, but I picked up a lot of the back story through old Avengers issues and, particularly, an Iron Man Annual (no. 5, I think) that was more about T’Challa and the politics of his kingdom than it was about Tony Stark/Iron Man. I’m looking forward to the movie.

    The biggest problem with doing the movie now is that Marvel (I think) still doesn’t have the movie rights to Namor yet, and the ongoing cold war between Wakanda and Atlantis is such a big part of the comic books.

    • #16
  17. Chris O. Coolidge
    Chris O.
    @ChrisO

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    Chris O. (View Comment):
    I’m not sure I ever saw a bad story line out of Wakanda back in the day. The title comic was canceled when I started, but I picked up a lot of the back story through old Avengers issues and, particularly, an Iron Man Annual (no. 5, I think) that was more about T’Challa and the politics of his kingdom than it was about Tony Stark/Iron Man. I’m looking forward to the movie.

    The biggest problem with doing the movie now is that Marvel (I think) still doesn’t have the movie rights to Namor yet, and the ongoing cold war between Wakanda and Atlantis is such a big part of the comic books.

    They don’t? I mean he preceded Marvel, but I guess it’s because his return came in the FF book. I wasn’t aware of the Wakanda-Atlantis story line, but judging from the movie poster I expect the main villains will be Madame Slay and Killmonger.

    • #17
  18. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Chris O. (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    Chris O. (View Comment):
    I’m not sure I ever saw a bad story line out of Wakanda back in the day. The title comic was canceled when I started, but I picked up a lot of the back story through old Avengers issues and, particularly, an Iron Man Annual (no. 5, I think) that was more about T’Challa and the politics of his kingdom than it was about Tony Stark/Iron Man. I’m looking forward to the movie.

    The biggest problem with doing the movie now is that Marvel (I think) still doesn’t have the movie rights to Namor yet, and the ongoing cold war between Wakanda and Atlantis is such a big part of the comic books.

    They don’t? I mean he preceded Marvel, but I guess it’s because his return came in the FF book. I wasn’t aware of the Wakanda-Atlantis story line, but judging from the movie poster I expect the main villains will be Madame Slay and Killmonger.

    Actually, I believe it’s Universal that has the rights to Namor.  He wasn’t part of the FF deal with Fox.

    • #18
  19. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Re: Namor

    According to the latest on the interwebs (and they’re never wrong) Universal did not develop the property fast enough and it has reverted to Disney.

    • #19
  20. Chris O. Coolidge
    Chris O.
    @ChrisO

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    Actually, I believe it’s Universal that has the rights to Namor. He wasn’t part of the FF deal with Fox.

    Took a look at a couple of news items. It seems “most” of the rights are back with Marvel. I have no idea what “most” means, but there is a TV property in development that no one knows a thing about and it’s based in Hawaii…

    • #20
  21. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    By the way, I saw the trailer for “A Wrinkle in Time” and hardly recognized it. This is not the book I remember.

    That could be a good thing. I always found the book rather boring.

    I never really liked it either, having read it again very recently to my kids (who both thought it was too weird).

    I thought it was actually a great read – though the other books in the series were better.

    And as for it being “black” – well, Madeline L’Engle’s original characters were white. All this movie is doing to changing the characters’ races to score points. That’s hardly culturally original. Heck, I’m just grateful they kept the characters’ sexes the same at this point.

    It’s not about changing the race of the characters, it’s that it looks like a Big Sci Fi Special Effects Action Extravaganza!

    • #21
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    A lot of white folk inhabit the dreams of leftists.

    In their dreams we are upset that Star Wars has non-white characters, and Star Trek too.  In their dreams we’re upset that Marvel has black superheros.

    Is there any basis in reality here?

    • #22
  23. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    A lot of white folk inhabit the dreams of leftists.

    In their dreams we are upset that Star Wars has non-white characters, and Star Trek too. In their dreams we’re upset that Marvel has black superheros.

    Is there any basis in reality here?

    None at all.

    • #23
  24. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    To be honest I have some trepidation about going to see the Black Panther.  Not because the cast is mostly black but because I suspect the movie is going to be heavy on all whites are evil all blacks are oppressed claptrap.  I am a little tired of that narrative and dislike paying people to feed it too me, but we will see.  I may be wrong.

    • #24
  25. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    A lot of white folk inhabit the dreams of leftists.

    In their dreams we are upset that Star Wars has non-white characters, and Star Trek too.

    I know. Flash back to the first reveal of Star Trek Voyager: the captain’s a woman and the Vulcan is black! 

    Star Trek fans: cool. What’s the ship look like?

    No one cared. People were a bit cool on DS9 for a while because Brooks played Cisco so remote, and cool on Voyager because they had to get used to Mulgrew’s  chain-smoking-Katherine-Hepburn voice, but they were cool on TNG the first season as well. If the characters and stories work, no one cares about who ticks off which box.

    Besides, it’s all there in the DNA of Trek. The original was diverse, but it wasn’t multi-cultural; the Federation was multi-cultural by definition, but Starfleet was monocultural by necessity, because you couldn’t assign a pacifist to weapons targeting. It’s hard to imagine Spock lodging a complaint with HR because Bones called him a green-blooded pointy-eared hobgoblin. He would arch a brow and call Dr. McCoy an overwrought Earthman whose skills barely exceeded those of a medieval bloodletter.

     

    • #25
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    A lot of white folk inhabit the dreams of leftists.

    In their dreams we are upset that Star Wars has non-white characters, and Star Trek too.

    I know. Flash back to the first reveal of Star Trek Voyager: the captain’s a woman and the Vulcan is black!

    Star Trek fans: cool. What’s the ship look like?

    No one cared. People were a bit cool on DS9 for a while because Brooks played Cisco so remote, and cool on Voyager because they had to get used to Mulgrew’s chain-smoking-Katherine-Hepburn voice, but they were cool on TNG the first season as well. If the characters and stories work, no one cares about who ticks off which box.

    Besides, it’s all there in the DNA of Trek. The original was diverse, but it wasn’t multi-cultural; the Federation was multi-cultural by definition, but Starfleet was monocultural by necessity, because you couldn’t assign a pacifist to weapons targeting. It’s hard to imagine Spock lodging a complaint with HR because Bones called him a green-blooded pointy-eared hobgoblin. He would arch a brow and call Dr. McCoy an overwrought Earthman whose skills barely exceeded those of a medieval bloodletter.

    Yep.

    • #26
  27. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    “They are going to have to learn to identify with someone who doesn’t look like them, who doesn’t live where they live, who doesn’t talk or act they way they do.”

    I’ve already done all that. I watched Sanford and Son when I was a kid. It didn’t seem like that much work at the time.

    AND Good Times and The Jeffersons. (Who were richer than our family by a mile, living in a deeeeluxe apartment [in the sky] and all that.)

    I also read all the Luke Cage comics, despite the fact that I was in Fargo and everyone in the comics was definitely Not In Fargo.  Wasn’t the managing editor of the Daily Bugle an African-American? No one cared. Did anyone care that the Rebel Alliance had Mon Mothma? No. Did anyone cheer Porkins because it was a blow for body positivity? It’s all so very tiresome.

    • #27
  28. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    The original was diverse, but it wasn’t multi-cultural;

    Well, yes and no.  It was multi-cultural on the old model; e pluribus unum.  You’ve got the alien, the Asian guy, the black woman; even a Russian guy, which was pretty damn diverse for the time.  But they’ve bonded into a single Starfleet culture.

    • #28
  29. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    EJHill (View Comment):
    Re: Namor

    According to the latest on the interwebs (and they’re never wrong) Universal did not develop the property fast enough and it has reverted to Disney.

    Cool.

    I’d like to think they’d explore the cold war between Atlantis and Wakanda in good faith, but I doubt it.  It’s far too nuanced and difficult to shoehorn into today’s manichean view of world politics.  There are no good guys or bad guys in the Atlantis/Wakandan conflict.  Both sides are awful.  Portraying it honestly on-screen would mean showing the Wakandans committing war crimes, and that would never fly in today’s environment.

    • #29
  30. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    The original was diverse, but it wasn’t multi-cultural;

    Well, yes and no. It was multi-cultural on the old model; e pluribus unum. You’ve got the alien, the Asian guy, the black woman; even a Russian guy, which was pretty damn diverse for the time. But they’ve bonded into a single Starfleet culture.

    And yet, even hundreds of years in the future, the Russian guy (and the Scottish guy) speaks with a very heavy accent.  The Asian guy, the black woman, and the alien, all speak perfect American English.  Even the Southern guy has virtually no Southern accent.

    So, the North American continent has become a linguistic monoculture, but the rest of the planet hasn’t?

    • #30

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