Sunday, March 09, 2014

Raising the Bar

Annie is coming back to the big screen. You remember Annie: little, red-headed orphan girl, no pupils, rags to riches with Sandy. Yep, she's coming back, officially and formally. Now, here's the thing ~ I don't actually like this story. The play is fine. I loathed the 1980s movie. It's a push. So, when I heard about the remake, it was more along the lines of 'eh, whatever.'

Until... Until the haters started. The movie's been updated. Instead of being set in pre-WWII Hooverville New York, it's modern day. Miss Hannigan isn't old and broken, but played by Cameron Diaz (and not terribly well, if the trailer is any indication). But this isn't what started the hate. Take a guess what started the hate.

Annie is being played by Quvenzhane' Wallis. Daddy Warbucks is being played by Jamie Foxx. And the racists were off. Annie is white... Annie is red headed... Annie is not a little black girl... It's not racist, it's just how it is... Mind you, these same people are silent when white folks play characters of color, but that's different and doesn't mean they're racists.


I can't even give out my traditional are you fucking kidding me exclamation, because I know they aren't. They are announcing how racist they aren't, and then proceeding to be exactly that racist. (An aside ~ it's a damn good bet that if you have to start a sentence with "I'm not racist, but..." you're about to be really fucking racist. Just a tip from me to you.)

Now I'm not so indifferent any longer. Now, I'm going to see this damn movie. Pay full-price, for an evening showing. Even if I didn't go in and watch the movie, it's worth it to me to give them my money. But here's the crazy part...It looks really good. It looks like a movie I don't just want to give my money to, but a movie I want to see. If you aren't interested because Annie doesn't flip your kilt, fine. I get that. I really do. But if you aren't interested because Annie isn't white and Daddy Warbucks is actually a powerful, successful, black man, then are you fucking kidding me?

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.


Anonymous said...

This one's tough. I don't THINK I'm racist. And honestly I don't care about Annie. But I don't think I have a problem with the idea of a powerful, successful black man. And I can't think of something that I wanted to see where the main character was supposed to be black but was portrayed by a white person. So I can't say that I've felt that same frustration.

But I do get bothered when people care enough to translate something that I know and enjoy from one medium to another but then change everything.

Spiderman, making his webs organic instead of web-shooters that were a part of his canon for decades? Making Nick Fury a black man? I like Samuel L. Jackson. I like watching him act. And after as many appearances as he's made as Nick Fury, I've gotten used to it. But that's still not the Nick Fury I grew up with and got excited to read for decades. Maybe if the comics had only been text with no images, it wouldn't be so jarring to me, but why was the change necessary?

If the other details didn't bother me, costume, location, time period, hair color, etc... I'd maybe question the reasoning behind my being offended.

Now obviously I can only speak for myself...

BostonPobble said...

So and So ~ First, WOW it's good to see you around again. :)

Now, to the specific issue at hand...The problem is indeed that generally, there is amazing silence around the white-washing of characters, or the pervasive white-guy-comes-in-and-does-it-better trope. As a general rule, people are okay with Keanu Reeves as a Samurai, or Benedict Cumberbach as Khan, or Johnny Depp as Tonto, or Asian characters being cast as white people. Those are written off as "creative choices" or "the best actor for the job" or simply not addressed at all, but taken as acceptable. But when the reverse happens ~ an actor of color gets cast in a traditionally/canonically white role ~ people are up in arms. And the hypocrisy there is based in race. Perhaps subconscious, perhaps unrecognized socialized, but race nonetheless.

It's also about visibility. For a far more eloquent explanation of that than I could manage here, I suggest you (and everyone else reading this comment) check out Felicia Day's write up:

While I understand you, personally, dislike any changes in canon, most people seem to not mind it when it reflects white culture back at them. And it is worth looking at our reactions to whitewashing compared to our reactions to the reverse.

The very fact that you are willing to say you don't THINK you are racist instead of saying flat out you aren't/couldn't be/are above being racist, and are even willing to do some examination of the issue puts you ahead of the game.