"Everything is as it should be."

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'Patron Saint of Incels'? Woke Outrage over Joker is a Bad Joke

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 47 seconds

Critics and woke people are up in arms over Joker because they think “evil” white men will like it and be inspired to kill.

It used to be that it was right-wingers who would get outraged over movies they deemed “dangerous” because they offended their delicate sensibilities, Last Temptation of Christ and Brokeback Mountain being prime examples. Now it is left-wing scolds who reflexively denounce movies they find “problematic”, with the highly anticipated Joker having raised their self-righteous ire.

Joker opens on October 4th and is directed by Todd Phillips and stars Joaquin Phoenix. The highly anticipated movie is inspired by Martin Scorsese’s films Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy and is thought to be a breath of fresh air in the comic book genre and the antithesis of the corporate Marvel movies. Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a disaffected white man who eventually becomes Batman’s nemesis, the super villain Joker.

Fleck being white has ignited a moral panic over Joker, because according to woke twitter, white men are inherently violent, and so Joker is dangerous as it will act as a pied piper leading lonely white men to commit Joker-esque mass shootings.

The criticisms of Joker on twitter are stunning for the shameless level of scorn and hatred brazenly heaped upon white men.

Tweets saying “I don’t want to be around any of the lonely white boys who relate to it”, and “Joker movie is starting to look like a sympathetic tale of a ‘wronged by society’ white dude and their entitlement to violence” and “in a time of increasing violence perpetrated by disaffected white men, is it really the best thing to keep making movies that portray disaffected white men doing violence as sympathetic?”, highlight the racial animus animating the Joker moral panic. It is inconceivable that such venom would be acceptable against any other racial group, such as African-Americans or Muslims.

The Joker panic has spread like a contagion from twitter to the real world, where police have vowed to increase their presence at theatres, and some cinemas are banning ticket holders who wear costumes.

The US Army and the FBI have issued a warning that some “incels” or involuntary celibates, may violently target screenings of Joker.

Family members of victims of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting, have even written a letter to Warner Brothers, conveying their concerns over Joker and imploring the studio to support anti-gun causes. This is puzzling as the Aurora tragedy was during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, which didn’t feature the Joker, and while some early reports claimed the shooter dressed like the Joker and declared,  “I am the Joker”, those reports have been thoroughly debunked. This conflating of Joker with Aurora reveals the vacuity of the frenzy.

The hysteria around Joker has infected American film critics as well. When Joker premiered at the prestigious Venice Film Festival it received a twenty-minute ovation and won the coveted Golden Lion for best picture. The last two Golden Lion winners, Roma and The Shape of Water, went on to be nominated for twenty-three Oscars combined, winning seven. Joker’s reception at Venice would seem to be indicative of the film’s artistic bona fides, but American critics, who are more interested in pretentious pandering and virtue signaling, strongly disagree.

Stephanie Zacharek of Time, said of Joker, “the aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy of Joker is his (director Phillips) alone to answer for”.

Zacharek goes on to state that Arthur Fleck, “could easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels.”

Anthony Lane of The New Yorker opined, “I happen to dislike the film as heartily as anything I’ve seen in the past decade…”

David Edelstein of Vulture, described the film as “morally blech”, then went full on Godwin’s law in his review when he declared, “As Hannah Arendt saw banality in the supposed evil of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, I see in Joker an attempt to elevate nerdy revenge to the plane of myth.”

Film critics getting the vapors over a movie is nothing new, as cinema history is riddled with fraught hyperbole over “dangerous” movies.

In 1955 New York Times critic Bosley Crowther bemoaned Rebel Without a Cause because “it is a violent, brutal and disturbing picture.”

In 1971 esteemed critic Pauline Kael decried A Clockwork Orange, denouncing the film as “corrupt” and describing director Stanley Kubrick as “a pornographer”.

In 1989, Joe Klein, a critic for New York wrote an infamous piece on Spike Lee’s iconic film Do the Right Thing. Klein wrote, “If Lee does hook large black audiences, there’s a good chance the message they take from the film will increase racial tensions…if they react violently – which can’t be ruled out…”

Klein went on to write that the sole message black teens would take from the film was “The police are your enemy” and “White people are your enemy”.

In a great example of the intoxicating power of the Joker moral panic, Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr wrote an article about Joker where he references Klein’s historically embarrassing take on Do the Right Thing, but instead of using Klein’s egregiously myopic article as a cautionary tale, Burr instead embraces the reflexive emotionalism of the Joker moral panic.

Burr declares of Joker, ““Is it “reckless”? Honestly, in my opinion, yeah, and if that makes me this year’s Joe Klein, so be it. To release into this America at this time a power fantasy that celebrates — that’s right, Warner Bros., celebrates — a mocked loner turned locked-and-loaded avenging angel is an act of willful corporate naivete at best, complicity at worst, and blindness in the middle”

As Burr concedes in his article, there is no causal link between violent movies or video games and mass shootings, and yet because Burr “feels” uneasy, he deems Joker guilty of being “dangerous”.

The bottom line is this, there have been shootings before Joker, and unfortunately, there will certainly be shootings after Joker, but Joker will not “cause” anyone to kill people. Human beings will be violent not because of movies but because they are human beings. As Kubrick so eloquently showed us in 2001: A Space Odyssey, evolution has not removed our violent impulse, only given us better weapons.

The purpose of art is to, sometimes uncomfortably, examine humanity and reflect the world in which it exists, and by examining and reflecting, hopefully give the audience a deeper insight and understanding of themselves, their fellow humans and the world in which they inhabit. I have not seen Joker, so I don’t know if it does those things well, but from the plethora of negative reviews I’ve read from American critics, their problem with Joker is that it does those things all too well.

These critics, both professional and amateur, prefer not to examine the origins of the isolation, alienation and rage felt by disaffected white working class males who are inundated with messages from the media and the education system that stigmatize and/or criminalize whiteness and traditional masculinity.

They want to ignore or malign these men, particularly those in middle age, even though they are dying from deaths of despair (suicide, drug overdose or alcoholism) at alarming rates that have more than doubled over the last twenty years.

Joker is not a clarion call to white male violence, it is a desperate attempt at a diagnosis of the pandemic that is killing white men and will eventually kill America.

Joker’s effete and effeminate critics, the eunuchs sprawled on fainting couches at the thought of having to bear a cinematic meditation on the heart of darkness at the center of an iconic super villain, are a bad joke. Their insidiously overwrought outrage and moral panic over Joker exposes their egregious unworthiness as thinkers and critics, and frankly, the vapid unseriousness of our culture.

 A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 1, 2019 AT RT.

© 2019

The Last Black Man in San Francisco: A Review

****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A unique and original film that is beautifully shot, dramatically compelling and painfully insightful.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco, based on a story by Jimmie Fails and written and directed by Joe Talbot, is the story of Jimmie, a black man trying to reclaim his childhood house, a beautiful Victorian built by his grandfather in the 1940’s, that sits in an upscale San Francisco neighborhood. The film stars Jimmie Fails as Jimmie, with supporting turns from Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover and Mike Epps.

Thus far, 2019 has been a pretty dismal year in terms of American film. Of the four lonely films I have recommended so far this year, all of them are foreign. Thankfully, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is like a tall, cool glass of cinematic water in the parched desert of American movies in 2019. The film, which is based upon a story created by its lead actor Jimmie Fails (who is black) and its director Joe Talbot (who is white), pulsates with a life, artistic vibrancy and intelligence that is an utter joy to behold.

On the surface the film examines gentrification in San Francisco and the consequences of it. What I really loved about the movie though is that it does not take the easy, emotionalist route in exploring this complicated issue. Although it is often lumped in as simply a racism issue, the changing face of a neighborhood is a result of a much more nuanced set of elements. For instance my white family (and extended family) were part of the white flight from Brooklyn in the 1970’s because the neighborhood was rapidly changing from Irish, Italian and Jewish to Haitian and Jamaican. It is easy to chalk this up as simply racism, but the reality is, regardless of race or ethnicity, people like to be around people who not only look like them, but have the same culture and relatively same belief system. This is why immigration is such a huge issue, it isn’t a function of racism but rather a function of cultural comfort. The same is true here in Los Angeles where black neighborhoods get really angry when white people move in because they feel the “essence” of the neighborhood is changing. That isn’t racism…it is human nature.

To the movie’s great credit it does not take the easy road in addressing this polarizing issue, but instead embraces the complexity and subtlety of it. Besides the maze that is gentrification, the film also dances through the minefield that is toxic black masculinity, black violence, myth and identity, the cancer of capitalism, self-deception, self-delusion and most especially…the importance of Truth.

Jimmie yearns to return to the house of his childhood, which has no doubt been sanitized in his own mind. His dream of a return is fueled by his tumultuous life since leaving the house and the myth that gives meaning to the structure, namely that his grandfather built the house from the ground up in a Japanese neighborhood. Unlike the greedy white people taking over San Francisco now and pushing out minorities, Jimmie’s black grandfather didn’t steal anyone’s house, he defied racial stereotypes and oppression and created one from scratch.

Jimmie’s journey is a fascinating one, and while the actor Jimmie Fails (playing a character with the same name) is not the greatest actor in the world, he is certainly likable and does Yoeman’s work as the protagonist. Fails succeeds at being a worthy host for his two-hour narrative journey.

The performance that I did find remarkable though was that of Jonathan Majors as Montgomery Allen, Jimmie’s best friend. Majors brings such a beautiful and delicate sense of humanity to Montgomery that it is mesmerizing. Montgomery is the consummate artist as he is a writer, director, actor, sketch artist, wardrobe…you name it, and because he is an artist he is motivated by only one thing…the Truth. Majors fills Allen with an off-beat but very specific and detailed intentionality that gives him an understated but undeniable charisma and power.

Danny Glover and Mike Epps have small roles in the film but do quality work in them and bring a certain level of professionalism to the cast. In general, the other supporting actors feel a little rough around the edges, but that aesthetic works well for the movie.

Director Talbot does a tremendous job of bringing what could have been a maudlin and middling story to life with a dazzling emotional and dramatic vitality. The movie is beautifully shot as Talbot and cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra do an outstanding job framing their shots and even throw in some delicious 70’s, throw-back, long shot zooms. I loved those shots as they not only gave the film a distinct look and feel but were also imbued with a much deeper, archetypal meaning.

Talbot’s direction reminded me a little bit, just a little, of Spike Lee, in that he masterfully uses music, particularly jazz and/or classical, to build both dramatic and narrative momentum. Also like Lee, he populates his story with eccentrics who never fall into stereotype or caricature, no easy feat. Unlike Lee, and to his credit, Talbot wholeheartedly embraces a narrative complexity and subtlety that forces introspection rather than accusation, and is not afraid to tell the Truth even when the Truth hurts.

Even though the director Joe Talbot is white, the story is told exclusively from a black man’s perspective. What I found intriguing about this is that Talbot establishes this fact from the opening shot and makes clear that white people are aliens…literally…as they look like astronauts walking on a distant planet. What is so refreshing about Talbot’s approach is that he keeps white people as “alien” throughout…they are, ultimately, truly unknowable to black people. Of course the reverse is true as well, but in this movie we only see the black perspective and it was refreshing because it forced all of the issues and responsibilities back onto black characters. There are no one dimensional, white villains to blame or scapegoat (unlike, for instance, in some of Spike Lee’s films, or in last year’s If Beale Street Could Talk).

In conclusion, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a gorgeous film that never takes any short cuts and never fails to challenge, captivate and illuminate. This is a smart, original, unique and extremely well made film that I highly recommend you take the time and effort to go see in the theatre.

©2019

The Emotionalist Buffoonery of Charles Blow


Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 22 seconds

This past Friday night, New York Times columnist Charles Blow was a guest on Bill Maher’s insipid HBO show Real Time, where Blow made a strong case for his emotionalist buffoonery. Blow then followed that up on Monday morning when he solidified those findings with an op-ed in The New York Times.

The most glaring example of Mr. Blow’s aforementioned emotionalist buffonery occurred on Real Time during a discussion on abortion and the Hyde amendment, a 1976 law which prohibits government funds from being used on abortion. It was at this point that Mr. Blow indignantly got up on his high horse, which is no doubt named Mr. Tibbs, and proclaimed that the Hyde amendment was meant to specifically target black women.

Blow said, “they knew this was about poor women…particularly on Medicaid, and that most of those women are not white women. That this is black women who are poor. And that they were cutting off access for those women because those were the ones that they could cut it off for.”

Blow’s thesis can basically be boiled down to this…that an evil “they”, which he would no doubt label white supremacists or racists, including members of the Democratic party by the way, came together in 1976 to specifically target black women and collectively punish them by not funding their abortions through the Hyde amendment.

Even a cursory examination of Mr. Blow’s premise exposes the absurd illogic of it all, and anyone with half a brain in their head can easily discern that Blow has less than half of one in his. Blow reveals himself with this thesis to be either a liar, a moron, or both.

Let’s dissect Mr. Blow’s premise on the most basic level. If someone is a racist or a white supremacist, why would they want to limit abortions for black women which would result in more black children being born and not less? Wouldn’t the white supremacist be afraid that the more black children there are…the more whites will have to give their hard-earned money to “welfare queens” to feed and cloth these black children? Doesn’t the racist also believe that these black children will grow to become criminally inclined black adults who will either masterfully leach off of the welfare system or rape white women and rob and steal from white men? So wouldn’t a white supremacist or racist want there to be MORE abortions of black children in order to, in their mind, “cull the savage herd”, so to speak? Obviously Mr. Blow’s thinking is at odds with itself as it believes that Hyde amendment supporters hate black people so much that they want more of them.

Another major problem with Blow’s thesis is that it distorts facts in order to make its point. Blow’s claim that “this was about poor women, particularly on Medicaid, and that most of those women are not white women” is a painful contortion of statistical reality, if not an outright lie. According to a Kaiser Family study, of all non-elderly Medicaid recipients - these are the ones who would potentially be getting abortions, whites make up 43% and blacks 18%.

It is true that a greater percentage of the black population is on non-elderly Medicaid than the white population, as blacks make up 12% of the general population and 18 % of the non-elderly Medicaid recipients, while whites make up 70% of the general population and are 43% of non-elderly Medicaid users, but in terms of raw numbers, whites are by far the highest group of recipients as nearly 24 million whites receive non-elderly Medicaid, which is double the amount of blacks that do, which is 11.5 million. If the Hyde amendment is a racist weapon to hurt black women, it might be a boomerang because it hurts considerably more white women than its alleged intended target.

Another striking thing is that the foundation of Blow’s argument about the Hyde amendment is based on the idea that blacks receive far more Medicaid benefits than whites do. This assumption by Blow is contrary to the facts and is pretty blatantly “racist”, or at least Blow would think it was if a white person espoused it.

Of course, Maher’s audience, filled with sycophants and fools, cheered Blow from his opening statement solely because he used the magic word “equality”. Any lies or distortions of statistical reality that he made after that are irrelevant to these dullards and dopes who immediately shut off their critical thinking ability and mindlessly cheer every time they hear the words “equality”, “diversity” or “inclusion”.

As for Blow’s piece in the NY Times, “‘Help Us!’ The Panic at D.C. Pride”, it is a powerful display of charlatantry and psychosis in action. In the article, Blow describes how as he was getting dressed in his hotel room in Washington D.C. this past weekend, he heard a commotion in the hallway and then four young white women were banging on his door for help. The women were running away from the Gay Pride parade where a panic had ensued when there were thought to be gunshots.

In one of the unintentionally funnier moments in the article, Blow describes the situation thus, “they were panicked, so I figured that the best thing I could do for them was to be a calming presence.” The idea of Charles Blow, a professional hysteric, being a “calming presence” at any point in time shows you how self-deluded he really is. On top of that, can you imagine being the poor soul, running for your life and looking for someone to defend you and frantically knocking on random doors and then one opens and for a split second you think you are saved and then you realize it is Charles Blow looking back at you? How deflating must that be to think Charles Blow, the man whose panties are in a perpetual bunch, is supposed to protect and defend you from some impending danger?

The sit-com level ridiculousness of Blow helping four frightened lesbians aside, what is really striking about the article is that it is at once about a panic, yet is also an an exercise in creating and sustaining a panic.

What is most unintentionally illuminating about Blow’s article is the panic it describes is based upon a non-event, as there were no threats or guns pulled or shots fired at the Pride parade in Washington, D.C. that day. This panic was ignited by our cultural mania over “mass shootings”. Blow is blind to that irony as he writes, “Those women in my room had every right to fear for their lives. It was perfectly understandable that they could believe that a mass shooter could be anywhere…”. Blow is endorsing the notion here that the boogie man of a mass shooter could literally “be anywhere”. Under these Orwellian and broad parameters that means that there is literally nowhere where you are safe from an evil mass shooter. In theory that is true, I suppose, but it is also true of other media “boogie men” through the years, like Muslim terrorists or black gang members or Latino illegal immigrants.

The reality is that the media plants lots of fears in America’s cultural consciousness, but that doesn’t mean that they are rational. Throughout American history there have been similar panics to the current “mass shooting” panic that Charles Blow endorses. In the 1950’s there were panics over switchblades. In the 1970’s panics over crimes and drugs began and continue to this day. In the 1980’s there were panics over videogames, dungeons and dragons and AIDS, and the list goes on and on and on. Hell, the summer before 9-11 the media was in a full blown panic over shark attacks.

The panic at the Pride parade came about as a result of media conditioning people to be constantly afraid, and Mr. Blow does the same thing with his article on the subject. As Blow writes in his column, “Mass shooters have become our domestic terrorists, and the possibility of their presence and threat of their carnage is now an ambient dread in the American psyche.”

This type of conditioning is standard procedure for tyrants of every stripe, an example of which was the Bush administration’s heightening of the “ambient dread in the American psyche” over Muslims terrorists in the years after 9-11. The government and the media preyed upon people’s fear and used that fear-based compliance to eviscerate civil liberties and catastrophically invade Iraq.

Of course Muslim terrorists do exist, but fear of them is inversely proportional to the threat they represent, as over their lifetime Americans are more likely to die from from their tv falling on them than in at the hands of a foreign terrorist.

The “ambient dread” of being killed in a mass shooting is equally irrational as the lifetime odds of being killed in a mass shooting are about equal to the chance of dying by legal execution in America.

The truth is that the media and government stoke fears in order to frighten people and trigger them to act out of emotion and not reason. A perfect example of this are the four young women in Blow’s story who, even after knowing that there was no threat, still demanded that Blow escort them out of his hotel (This begs the question, what type of weak-kneed feminists are these lesbians that they need a man to defend them, and then even need him to hold their hand once the threat is gone?). When people are scared and emotional, they are easily controlled and manipulated because they are looking for someone to protect them. In the wake of 9-11 the American people acted no different than those four women in Blow’s hotel room when they embraced the Patriot Act and then the Iraq war.

The lesson that Charles Blow learns from the hysterical panic at the Pride parade is the exact opposite of what it should be. Even after time passed and the heat of the moment cooled, instead of acknowledging the over-reaction and trying to get his readers to stay calm and think logically, Blow doubled down on the mania with his article by insisting that the irrational hysteria on display at the Pride parade is deserving of dissemination and amplification.

For Charles Blow and his ilk, subjective feelings trump objective reality and emotion is more important than reason. Blow feels like the Hyde amendment is written by racists to punish black women, and won’t let facts or logic dissuade him from that subjective feeling which is very distorted from objective reality. These four women from the Pride parade were panicked and in an emotional state but Mr. Blow doesn’t try and “be a calming presence” by recognizing objective reality of the fact that there was no shooter, and there is a very slim statistical possibility of dying at the hands of a mass shooter, but instead embraces emotionalism, irrational fear and hysteria by cultivating the hysteria and stoking the flames of fear.

The conclusion I draw from Charles Blow’s work is that he is impossibly enthralled with his identity as a victim and that distorts his grasp and perception of reality. Blow is the proverbial black hammer who sees the whole world as a racist white nail. Blow’s addiction to his victim identity blinds him to the obvious gaping holes in his logic regarding racists and the Hyde amendment and the statistical reality of the impact of that amendment on white people. It also forces him to impulsively embrace an invigorating but deceptive emotionalism which leads him to be a compulsive hysteric forever on the search for his next high of indignation and outrage. This is evidenced in his writing, as his formula for his columns is one part righteous rage, one part victim hood mantra, combined with a total lack of nuance, introspection or commitment to Truth. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The bottom line is this, Charles Blow is a raging mediocrity as a writer and an insipidly and insidiously vapid and grotesque thinker, yet because he wears the mask of the noble and defiant victim he is a “useful idiot” to those in power and is thus given a prime spot in the esteemed New York Times. And from this lofty cultural perch he does what he was hired to do…dissemble, distort, distract and disinform his readers all in service to his own narcissistic psychological desires and the status quo, which keeps him thoroughly enslaved in a perpetual cycle of victim hood.

To be fair to Charles Blow though, he and his lack of testicular fortitude and intellectual integrity are just symptoms of the disease that is currently ravaging our culture and eating away at it from the inside out. This disease of narcissism, emotionalism and the exultation of victim hood, is like syphilis, if left untreated, it leads to insanity and then death. As evidenced by Charles Blow’s recent ramblings, we are obviously well into the insanity stage.

©2019

Beating the Dead Horse of Grammy Award's Racism

Estimated reading Time: 4 minutes 48 seconds

It is that time of year again, awards season! And with the Grammy Awards tonight (quickly followed in two weeks by the Oscars) comes with them the oh-so-predictable and tired charges of racism.

Every year at this time, both pre and post the awards, there are a cavalcade of articles in the media bemoaning the blatant racist snubs of the Recording Academy and blaming every Black artist’s loss on the vicious racism of Academy members. These articles, like the New York Times piece post-2017 awards that declared the Grammy had a “pernicious” race problem, are grounded in baseless assumptions and often play fast and loose with the facts in order to bolster their case.

What frustrates me the most about these “Grammys are Racist” stories is that they actually undermine and distract from genuine racial issues in America. Like American’s overuse of antibiotics leads to a dangerous diminishing of their power, crying racism at every turn, such as with perceived awards show snubs, makes that charge much less powerful when applied to life and death issues like criminal justice, health care and voting rights.

The underlying assumption fueling these articles is the idea that Black artists are under-represented at the Grammys. As I wrote in 2017 and 2018, this assumption is not based on fact. The elite media who bemoan racism at the Grammys never mention one very important statistic, namely the demographic reality of African-Americans in the United States, or the Black population in the Anglosphere (English speaking world - U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia).

The Black population in the U.S. is 12.6% which comes as a surprise to many people who only have a passing knowledge of demographics. The Black population in the Anglosphere is even smaller, coming in at 9%. When contrasting the 12.6% or 9% population figure against the percentage of Grammy nominees and winners who are Black, it becomes very obvious that Black performers aren’t under represented at all, but rather are over-represented.

For example, from 1987 to 2017, in the Best Album category 37% of the nominees and 13% of the winners were Black artists. In the Record of the Year category 36% of the nominees and 20% of the winners were Black artists. In the Song of the Year category 28% of the nominees and 23% of the winners were Black artists. In the Best New Artist category 32.6% of the nominees and 40% of the winners were Black artists. If you look closely at those numbers you will realize that all of them are larger than 12.6%, some more than twice as large.

The media never mentions Black over-representation when discussing Grammy racism, it is just accepted as fact that Black artists are being cheated out of awards because of race. A great example of this vacuous narrative in the media is found in the writing of John Vilanova, whose work has appeared in The Atlantic and The Los Angeles Times among other places. To further Vilanova’s establishment bona fides, he is also in the process of getting his PhD from the prestigious Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a recent article for The AtlanticWhat it Takes for Black Artists to Win Big at the Grammys”, Vilanova makes the same case he made a year ago in the LA Times (“Beyonce’s Grammy Snub and the Glass Ceiling on Black Art”), namely that Black “musicians” run into a glass ceiling when it comes to the Grammy awards. Vilanova’s assertions are standard, mainstream thought among the media and academic class in America…namely that racism is such a “pernicious” problem that it is baked into the cake even in the allegedly liberal bastions of the music and film industries.

Not surprisingly, Vilanova never mentions the demographics and statistics which I lay out in my articles on the subject and which decimate his thesis. In fact, in order to fit the facts around his virtue signaling story line, he blatantly distorts and contorts statistical reality to such a degree as to be duplicitous. For example he ignores the Best new Artist category entirely and only looks back as far as 1999 in regards to the other major categories.

Another example is when Vilanova compares Beyonce, the most nominated women in Grammy history with 62, to White country artist Alison Krauss, who has 40 nominations. Vilanova claims that Beyonce’s Grammy win percentage (22 awards out of 62 nominations - 37%) in relation to Alison Krauss’s 27 wins in 42 nominations, is “markedly low”, but never mentions the uncomfortable fact that obliterates his thesis of racism at the Grammys, namely that of the top four popular music Grammy awards winners in history, only one, Krauss, is White (the other three are Beyonce, Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder are Black). Vilanova also fails to mention another glaring difference between Krauss and Beyonce besides their race and Grammy win percentage, and that is that unlike Beyonce, Krauss, in addition to singing, plays an instrument (violin/piano).

Besides laying out a statistical argument in my previous articles, i also lay out a stylistic one, making the case that the Recording Academy is made up of musicians, engineers and producers, and that they appreciate musicianship above all else. This seems a rather self-evident claim to make, that musicians, who have dedicated their life to mastering their craft, would admire other musicians who have done the same. This is a major reason why rap gets short shrift at the Grammys, it isn’t because the Academy hates Blacks, it is because they love musicians, and rappers are not musicians.

Vilanova unintentionally makes my point for me in his Atlantic piece when he bemoans the only Black artists to have won major Grammy awards (Album of the Year, Song of the year and Record of the Year) this century are artists whose “auterist bonafides…carry them to the podium”. The list includes Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Ray Charles, Luther Vandross, Outkast, Herbie Hancock and Beyonce. You know what else these artists have in common besides being auteurs, Black and Grammy winners? They are all remarkable musicians. Beyonce, Luther Vandross and Lauryn Hill are master vocalists, Herbie Hancock, Alicia Keys and Ray Charles master pianists, and Outkast are masters of all trades including playing instruments.

If you look at non-Black winners of major Grammys you find the same type of artists as the group above. Bruno Mars, Adele, Taylor Swift, Mumford and Sons, Arcade Fire, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, they all have mastered an instrument (voice is an instrument) and/or play an instrument and write their own songs.

Vilanova’s self-righteous obtuseness doesn’t stop there as he makes an even more vapid and flaccid argument that these Black artists (Beyonce, Herbie Hancock, Alicia Keys, Outkast etc.) have broken the glass ceiling only because they aren’t making “Black” music, which apparently according to Vilanova must only be rap. Vilanova even goes so far as to claim that the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album is in itself a racist award. Vilanova is basically saying that if a Black artist wins a major Grammy then by definition the music they are making is not “Black music”. This is madness.

The reality is that Black artists are over-represented at the Grammys. And on top of that, the statistical reality is that Rock music, which is still the most popular music in America in terms of consumption, album sales and concert ticket sales, is horrendously under-represented. In fact, only one rock band, Greta Van Fleet, is nominated in any of the major Grammy categories this year, and that is in Best new Artist. But you won’t read that story in any major media outlets and certainly not from the desk of John Vilanova.

The question then becomes why do people like John Vilanova believe the things they do when it is very clear that they are factually incorrect? I cannot read minds, but maybe Vilanova is simply playing the game and telling his superiors and his audience what they want to hear. Or maybe he really does believe the things he writes and is simply an intellectual midget. Or maybe Vilanova is so ensconced in the elite media and academic universe that he inhabits that he is totally blind to his own establishment orthodoxy indoctrination and is inoculated against critical thinking. Who knows? But the truth is this, that it is obvious and provable through demographics, statistics and history, that John Vilanova’s thesis of a “ceiling for Black artists” is entirely fallacious. And yet, despite being so obtuse, intentionally or otherwise, Vilanova gets paid to write for the hallowed Atlantic magazine and the LA Times, and I write for RT, and he is getting a PhD from Penn and I have a sixth grade education. Maybe I should blame racism for my failings…it would be just as credible an excuse as it as for Black artists’ failures at the Grammys.

Besides watering down the power of the charge of racism, the Grammy awards have watered themselves down due to these scurrilous charges of racism. To combat this non-existent problem, the Grammys have made dramatic moves to alter their voting population in an effort to “diversify” their nominees and winners. The Grammys have also expanded their nominee numbers from 5 to 8, in order to appease calls for diversity and inclusivity. What these changes have really done though, is diminish the prestige and cache of being nominated for, or winning, a Grammy. In a sense, these Grammy elections are now rigged in order to give a “leg up” to Black artists who are already well outperforming their demographic reality.

In conclusion, as proven by Mr. Vilanova and the rest of the media’s relentlessly vacuous articles on the subject, no matter who wins at the Grammy Awards tonight, racism will be the excuse for why someone lost…which means Truth, as always, will be big loser once again.

©2019

If Beale Street Could Talk: A Review

****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. A Beautiful mess of a movie that is gorgeous to look at but story wise is derivative and dull, making it difficult to sit through.

If Beale Street Could Talk, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, is an adaptation of the James Baldwin story of the same name that follows the travails of two African-Americans, Tish and Fonny, as they navigate the perils of young love in a racist New York City of the 1970’s. The film stars Kiki Layne as Tish and Stephon James as Fonny with supporting turns from Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry .

If Beale Street Could Talk, director Barry Jenkin’s much anticipated follow up to his 2016 Best Picture winning Moonlight, is another in a long line of disappointments on the very bumpy ride of cinema in 2018.

Based on the James Baldwin story of the same name (which I have not read), If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful mess of a movie. It is at once visually stunning yet also narratively pedestrian and culturally juvenile.

Let’s start with the good news. Cinematographer James Laxton delivers an impeccably lush and cinematically vibrant aesthetic to the film. Laxton’s camera engages in an exquisite dance with his subjects while painting the world of the film with a delicate and ethereal palate that is not only gorgeous to behold but narratively profound. Laxton’s work on Moonlight was equally sublime and dramatically insightful, and with If Beale Street Could Talk, Laxton has shown himself to be not only a master craftsman but a powerful artist.

Sadly, Barry Jenkins script never lives up to Laxton’s stirring cinematography. Jenkins inability to write efficient and effective dialogue and build a coherent and compelling narrative make If Beale Street Could Talk a frustratingly uneven and ultimately unsatisfying film to watch.

When Jenkins (and Laxton) flashes back and focuses on the blossoming first love of Tish and Fonny, the film crackles with life. The chemistry between actors Kiki Layne (Tish) and Stephon James (Fonny) in these flashback scenes is palpable, and Laxton superbly bathes them in gorgeous light, shadow and color as he lets the viewer see the characters as they see each other, through the prism of unabashed love.

It is when the film shifts to the present moment and its drama of “legal peril”, which is decidedly stale and stultifying with cringe worthy dialogue to match, when the wheels come of the cinematic wagon. An example of which is that there is a scene between Tish and Fonny’s families that is so poorly written, poorly directed and poorly acted that it was like watching kids put on a play…a very bad play…in their basement.

The “legal peril” storyline is so trite, hackneyed and derivative it seems like it was lifted from an episode of Law and Order or some equally awful television show. Anytime the focus of the film shifts to the legal story and its adjacent narratives, it serves as little more than an irritating distraction.

The film is equally abysmal when it tries to convey a political or socially conscious message. When Jenkins tries to use the movie as a statement on race in America, it reveals itself to be, at best, painfully adolescent in its cosmology.

Ironically, in its social themes, If Beale Street Could Talk is as much an unnuanced distorted Black view of America as Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry is a unnuanced distorted view of America through the White perspective. Both film’s are little more than wish fulfillment and fantasies driven by archetypes deeply embedded in the American psyche. In the case of Dirty Harry, it is the archetypal Righteous Gun Slinging Vigilante, who is part of the system but operates outside of it to protect Whites from those lawless “others”, most notably Blacks (think of the “you feel lucky” scene, where Dirty Harry points his .44 Magnum in the face of a “Black criminal”).


In If Beale Street Could Talk, the thematic archetype is one of the Righteous Victim (think of Fonny as the young Black criminal with Dirty Harry’s .44 in his face), who is oppressed by the system and must operate outside of it in order to survive it. In this way, If Beale Street Could Talk is social justice/victimhood porn and propaganda, which on its surface claims to be about speaking the truth of the Black perspective in America, but in reality is about reinforcing and strengthening the victim archetype and narrative.

What is striking to me about this aspect of the film, is that it also reinforces the racist tropes that fueled the Dirty Harry era to begin with and which eventually led to Clinton’s infamous crime bill in the 90’s which further criminalized Black men. For instance, the lead character Fonny which, along with Tish, is whom the viewer is supposed to identify with, and yet when we first learn about Fonny, he commits a crime, theft. Fonny’s lawlessness is not even given a second thought, but in the narrative structure of the film it subconsciously undermines the audiences connection to him to a devastating degree. This is not some personal revelation from me, this is just Cinema 101: Basic Storytelling and Character Development.

The same is true of the other Black men in the movie, all of whom are equally lawless and all of whom commit crimes. Fonny’s father steals from the docks, and his pseudo father in law not only steals but beats the hell out of his wife…and yet these men are supposed to represent “regular Black men”.

Add to that Fonny’s friend Daniel who is fresh out of prison, and just like Fonny claims he is entirely innocent of the charges against him. Apparently Fonny and Daniel are the two guys who really didn’t do it…even though we’ve already seen Fonny commit a crime and Daniel’s sketchy reputation precedes him.

While all of the Black men in the film are criminals, none of them take responsibility for their criminality. The crimes they commit are all the fault of the system that is screwing them, thus demeaning these men even further as they are deprived of any and all agency. This is the Victim archetype in full bloom, where no matter what the character does it is never their fault. This is an extremely unsatisfying quality in a cinematic Hero, as it simply castrates the Hero and asks the audience to pity them rather than relate or project on to them. It also does not allow for any catharsis on the part of the character, and that in turn doesn’t allow for any catharsis on the part of the viewer, which results in a psychologically frustrating movie-going experience.

Consider other Hero stories where the Hero is brought down by a corrupt system…movies like Braveheart, where William Wallace ultimately loses, but he goes down swinging, screaming “Freedom” at the top of his lungs as he is torn to shreds. Or think of a parallel for the Fonny character to maybe the best known Hero story of them all…Jesus Christ. Jesus is persecuted, just like Fonny, but the key to the Jesus story is that he has agency and chooses to be crucified….thus becoming Christ. Jesus is the empowered form of the Victim archetype…which is the martyr, who is victim by choice. The choice here is the important thing as it means the Hero may suffer a terrible defeat but he still maintains his agency. In contrast, the perpetually disempowered Fonny is just laundry being tossed and turned in a washing machine, who never chooses but always loses.

In terms of the criminality of the characters in the film, there are other contrasting examples, think of The Godfather or Goodfellas. The mobsters in those movies do awful things to people and yet audiences relate to them and embrace them as “Heroes” of the story, why is that? The reason for that is because those characters, from Michael Corleone to Henry Hill, embrace their criminality. They maintain their agency and don’t claim to be victims of the system, instead they are gaming the system.

These details in the DNA of If Beale Street Could Talk may seem minute to the less sophisticated viewer, but it is these specific elements that can make or break a film and its narrative in the unconscious of the audience. In the case of If Beale Street Could Talk, these subtle archetypal issues deter viewers from fully accepting and embracing the characters, story and film.

It isn’t just the Black men who fair poorly in If Beale Street Could Talk, as White men are portrayed as truly devils in this movie. White men are sexual predators (again, the inverse of the Dirty Harry movie where Black men are predators) and are inherently evil, from a lecherous perfume shopper to a cop who is so consumed with racial hatred he comes across as more than a little insane. For the White characters in this movie, just like Black characters in Dirty Harry, they are entirely devoid of nuance and are absurd caricatures. Even White characters we never see are predators, as there is one who impregnates a poor Latina women and then leaves her with nothing, and then maybe even returns to rape her.

It is for these reasons that If Beale Street Could Talk is just as insidious and insipid as the blatantly racist Dirty Harry movies.

As for the acting, Stephon James and Kiki Layne are glorious in their falling in love sequences. Laxton’s camera holds on their loving gazes for extended periods and their love for one another is tangible in these shots. But when they are asked to do more than just look longingly and lovingly at one another, the two stars lose much of their power.

James is a charismatic screen presence, but he seems rather limited when it comes to the more static shots. James is unable to compress his magnetism and dynamism when he is contained in such a confining space and he loses his power because of it.

Kiki Layne is quite engaging during the dreamy love sequences as well, but she too falls well short when things get much more complicated. Layne’s strong suit is her ability to seem to be overcome by her wonder for the world, but when the world stops being wondrous, she stops being interesting and starts being wooden.

Regina King does solid work as Tish’s mom, but she is hamstrung by being stuck in the intolerably mundane legal drama portion of the story, and while she is a compelling actress, none of her scenes are particularly noteworthy.

If Beale Street Could Talk, which may be the second most mis-leading title in the history of cinema right behind The Never Ending Story because Beale Street is never seen in the movie and all the action takes place in New York (I am kidding, the title is explained in the opening, but still…I found it funny), is another in a long line of films that underwhelmed in 2018. Barry Jenkins (and his cinematographer James Laxton) has a distinct and luscious visual flair to his work, but his storytelling and character development need serious work. Therefore I can only recommend this film to the most committed of cinephiles who would want to see the cinematography on the big screen. For everyone else, there is no reason to see this in the theatre, but if you stumble upon it on cable one night or on Netflix, feel free to check it out if you like, and tell me if I am wrong or not.

In conclusion, if Beale Street could talk, I’d tell it to shut up because while it talks a lot and does so in a beautifully melodious and mellifluous visual voice, it actually doesn’t say a whole hell of a lot, and what little it does have to say is so vapid and vacuous that it has no value whatsoever.

©2018

Green Book: A Review

****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A finely crafted, classic Hollywood, feel good tale that is worth seeing either in the theatre or on Netflix or cable.

Green Book, written by Nick Vallelonga, Bryan Curry and Peter Farrelly and directed by Farrelly, is the true story of the relationship between African-American Jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley and his Italian-American driver/bodyguard Tony Vallelonga during a concert tour of the deep south in 1962. The film stars Mahershala Ali as Dr. Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as Tony.

If I am being honest, I have to admit that I had little interest in Green Book prior to going to see it. The film looked like a slight twist on the stale Driving Miss Daisy idea and seemed a bit too mainstream and, dare I say it, simple and saccharine, for my tastes. Even after I heard from a few people that it was good, I was still hesitant. But, since I have MoviePass, I figured what the hell, so I rolled the dice and went to the theatre with low expectations.

As is often the case in life, my low expectations were greatly exceeded. To be clear, Green Book is not a great or original film, but it is a good one, mostly because it is well crafted, which as a film critic, I can tell you is a rare thing nowadays.

Green Book is a traditional Hollywood film in its structure and genre. It is at once a road picture, a relationship/friendship comedy and a Christmas movie all at once, that touches upon a deeper social issue…in this case, racism. If Green Book came out ten or twenty years ago, it would be pure Oscar-bait, and would no doubt win a handful of prizes and maybe even the big prize, Best Picture, because of its classical structure, “social consciousness” and optimism. But those days where nice movies about coming together across racial lines can bring home Oscar gold are long gone. Green Book will not win any Oscars in 2018, in fact, as our politics and racial politics have become more and more tribal, even liking Green Book somehow leaves you open to charges of being racist.

In our current age where “Diversity and Inclusivity” are the most holy of religions, and racism the most common and scurrilous of charges, Green Book makes for an easy target. The biggest issue some people have with the film is that it is a story about American racism told through the eyes of a “White” man (White is in quotes because depending on the severity of your racism, some folks do not consider Italians to be White. Personally, not only do I not consider Italians to be White, I don’t even consider them to be human…of course, I’m kidding…sort of). White men are currently atop the Most Unwanted list among the cultural elite at the moment, and when the topic of racism is involved, then White Men’s perspectives are most definitely anathema. To some people, telling a story about racism from a White man’s perspective in this day and age is akin to making Schindler’s List from Amon Goth’s (Ralph Fiennes Nazi character) point of view.

Green Book, to its credit, doesn’t shamelessly pander on issues of prejudice and race as some of the most interesting scenes in the film are when Tony argues that Dr. Shirley is just as bad as he is because Dr. Shirley holds the same prejudices against Italians (or other Whites) as Tony does against Blacks. These scenes are pretty uncomfortable on one level because Tony is saying aloud what you aren’t allowed to say anymore, and also because they are logically and rationally right on the money and cut through the subjective experience/ victimhood identity that so skews and soils the politics and racial politics of today.

What makes the film interesting to me though are not the racial dynamics, which have been examined ad nauseum in other films over the years, but rather the class dynamics. To me, Dr. Shirley is less a symbol of the Black man than he is the rich, effete intellectual while Tony is less a symbol of the White man than the poor/working class brute. As the film shows, the two men have a much easier time overcoming their racial differences than their class differences, and that to me, makes Green Book an interesting film.

Regardless of how you feel about the politics of the film, Peter Farrelly does a solid job of walking the line between comedy and drama. Farrelly wisely goes the Odd Couple route and makes Tony the slovenly fool and Dr. Shirley the prim and proper, tight-assed snob. This contrast works for laughs and also helps to build a genuine relationship between the two men.

Farrely’s greatest achievement is in the pacing as he keeps the film tight, and there are no wasted scenes just for comedic effect. The narrative drives efficiently through the entire story, and while it is all pretty predictable, it is never done predictably.

Mahershala Ali does simply stellar work as Dr. Don Shirley, the uptight musical genius in need of protection from the more nefarious elements of White America in the South. There is a speech Dr. Shirley gives early in the film where he speaks on the need to always maintain dignity, and that speech very clearly elucidates Dr. Shirley’s cosmology and character and his survival mechanism in a hostile world.

Ali masterfully inhabits Dr. Shirley, most notably with his commitment to the character’s distinct physicality. Ali’s Shirley maintains his dignity and decorum under all circumstances and it is reflected in his impeccable posture. It is when Dr. Shirley starts to lose his grip though, where Ali really shines, letting the turmoil that boils just beneath the veneer of controlled perfection break through the surface to reveal the conflicted and tormented storm raging inside him.

Viggo Mortensen deftly brings the Tony character to life with a combination of grounded humanity and comedic aplomb. Mortensen does a lot of heavy lifting with this role and he runs the great risk of falling into empty caricature (the big-hearted, Italian lug), but he uses his craft and skill wisely to avoid that trap by making Tony both earnest and wily, and rigid yet flexible. While Tony is certainly a simple character on one level, Mortensen never fails to make him morally and ethically complex and compelling.

Maybe I liked the film because Tony, the Italian meathead from the Bronx, reminded me of my Irish working class uncles from Brooklyn. My uncles all had the same prejudices and all threw around the same casual racism as Tony, but they too were still decent human beings….not perfect by any stretch…but very decent. My uncles, and Tony, are, like all people of all races and ethnicities, complicated in that way.

Linda Cardellini plays Tony’s wife Dolores, and she reminded me of some of my Irish uncle’s wonderful Italian wives (I know…the scandal!!…an Irishman marrying an Italian!! Talk about a mixed marriage!!) from Brooklyn. Cardellini turns what could have been a throwaway role into a real gem, giving Dolores multiple dimensions and palpable intentions that enhance the film a great deal.

In conclusion, Green Book is a classic, traditional, mainstream Hollywood film that in an earlier age, rightly or wrongly, would be much more highly regarded than it is now. The film boasts two winning performances from its leads and a terrific supporting performance from Cardellini, and is at times genuinely funny and profoundly moving. Green Book is not the greatest piece of cinema you’ll ever see, but even a cynical cinephile like me found it thoroughly entertaining and at times even insightful, and that is why I recommend you check it out, either in the theatre or on Netflix/cable when available.

If in our current tumultuous and contentious age, you find yourself feeling nostalgic, not for the early 1960’s when Black people were invisible and discrimination was rampant and violent, but rather for a time when finding common humanity wasn’t seen as weakness or betrayal of your tribe but rather as a sign of enlightened evolution, then Green Book is definitely for you…and you and I have a lot in common.

©2018

Serena Williams and her Basket of Deplorables

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 04 seconds

On Saturday, September 8th, Naomi Osaka won the Women’s U.S. Open Tennis Championship by trouncing Serena Williams in resounding fashion. Instead of the media and fans focusing on the sublime athletic brilliance that was Osaka, they instead focused on Serena Williams, which is just how Serena wanted it.

WHAT HAPPENED

The big show at the U.S. Women’s Open final wasn’t Naomi Osaka’s dismantling of the 23 time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, it was Serena William’s rage-fueled meltdown and tirade against Chair Umpire Carlos Ramos.

What instigated Serena’s anger towards Ramos was that he had the temerity to actually hold Serena to the rules of tennis when he properly issued her a warning after Serena’s coach was caught coaching her in the first set, which is clearly against the established rules.

Serena claimed she wasn’t being coached and that Ramos was maligning her integrity by insinuating she was cheating, which infuriated her because as she was quick to point out, she “is a mother”…which I guess for some reason means she cannot cheat since mother’s are infallible and morally incorruptible

Later in the match after losing another game, Serena slammed her racket on the ground in frustration, breaking her racket, which again, is explicitly against the rules in tennis, so Ramos did what he was obligated to do and called Serena on her violation. Due to the fact that it was her second violation of the match, the first being the coaching, Serena was docked a point to start the next game.

Serena then returned to arguing with Ramos about the coaching call and how unfair it was, but to no avail, the lost point stayed lost. As the match progressed from there and it became even more glaringly obvious that Serena was going to lose, she relentlessly berated Ramos at every turn and during a change over lit into him, threatening he would never be on one of “her courts” ever again. She then called him “a thief” for having stolen a point from her, and Ramos cited her for the third time for a violation, this time for verbal abuse, which according to the rules of tennis, the third violation results in a loss of an entire game.

At that point Serena went into full victim mode and called for the tournament officials, who came out and listened to her argument that Ramos was being sexist and she was being punished simply because she was a woman. Serena said that men do much worse but never face sanctions. She claimed that Ramos was doing this to her because she was a woman. The Open officials seemed deferential to Serena, but never changed the ruling, and soon, amid a cavalcade of boos, the match re-started and Serena was finally beaten by Osaka and the tournament was over and Serena was the loser.

Sadly, things only got worse from there and it wasn’t just Serena being exposed as a deplorable human being. As the trophy ceremony went on, the crowd booed continuously, which caused Naomi Osaka to never break a smile and actually cry, not tears of joy, but tears of sadness, after having won the tournament fair and square.

DEMONSTRABLY WRONG

Serena’s wail of victimhood during the match and her argument that sexism was responsible for her being punished for violating the rules was repulsive, disgusting, shameless, contrived and manipulative…and also demonstrably wrong.

To start, Serena claimed she wasn’t being coached, but in the moment, during the live broadcast of the event, her coach admitted he was coaching her, which exposes Serena to charges of not only being a cheat but a liar. The coach’s defense was that “everybody does it”, which is a pretty weak argument.

In addition, umpire Carlos Ramos is notorious for being a stickler for the rules, a trait much needed in an umpire, and many of the top men’s players like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokavic have had run-ins with him over his strict adherence to the rules, but none of those men ever escalated their disagreements like Serena Williams did.

More damning evidence against Serena came to light this past weekend when the New York Times released a study complied by officials at Grand Slam tournaments that shows that men are fined proportionally more often than the women. For instance, over the last twenty years (1998-2018) at Grand Slam events (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open), men have been fined 646 times for racket abuse and 287 times for unsportsmanlike conduct while women have been fined for the same offenses 99 and 67 times respectively. In terms of verbal abuse, the violation that capped off Serena’s meltdown, men have been fined 62 times over the last twenty years and women 16 times.

While men do play more tennis in Grand Slam tournaments, with more qualifying spots and playing best of five set matches as opposed to the women’s best of three, the disparity in terms of fines for men is well beyond the greater percentage of tennis they play.

SERENA TRUMP

The reality of the situation is this, Serena Williams is an immature, spoiled brat, and when she was held to account for her misdeeds on the tennis court she had a tantrum. Does Ms. Williams behavior sound familiar? It should, because it is exactly what our President does on a daily basis.

Ms. William’s imitation of Trump was spot on, as she acted entitled, petulant, petty, vindictive, dishonest, aggressively defensive and disrespectful of the “authority” that admonished her for breaking the rules that everyone is supposed to follow but which she believes do not apply to her. On top of that Serena masterfully played the victim in order to garner sympathy and distract from her failings which is quintessential Trump.

Serena’s behavior on the court and in the interview room afterwards was Trumpian from start to finish, and what was even more telling was that her fans, in the stadium, online and in the media, the overwhelming majority of which despise Trump, all joined in a Trumpian chorus to blindly defend her.

As the equally entitled and obnoxious fans in the stadium booed during the match and trophy ceremony, it was reminiscent of Trump’s rallies where his crowds who Hillary described as a “basket of deplorables” boo the media for “attacking” Trump with “fake news”. And just as Trump spurs on his followers to boo the media for fake news, Serena spurred on her fans to boo Ramos for having attacked her for “fake rules”.

MEDIA MENDACITY

The media response to Serena’s petulant behavior was even worse. I watched ESPN on the following Monday and was astounded that of the six taking heads who chimed in with their hot takes during the network’s plethora of faux argument shows, only one, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, had the intellectual integrity and testicular fortitude to take Serena to task for her aberrant behavior. The rest all agreed that Serena is the greatest female tennis player of of all-time (some even went so far as to proclaim Serena Williams the greatest athlete of all-time, which is so hysterical as to be absurd. Serena is certainly a great female tennis player, but if she played the top 100 male tennis players in the world, she wouldn’t even win a set, and if she played any of the the top 1,000 male tennis players she still wouldn’t win a match), that sexism and racism was at play in the situation, and that sexism and racism are a major problem in tennis, and to finish it off that even though Serena did violate the coaching rule it is a stupid rule and on and on and on.

In newspaper column after column Serena was hailed by female writers, particularly women of color, who proclaimed that Black women aren’t allowed to get angry in America, and Serena’s treatment at the hands of the official and the U.S. Open was an atrocious display of misogyny and racism. Other writers declared that Black women should follow Serena’s example and embrace their rage and let it out (horrendous advice).

This indulgent approach is what is wrong with America, the media and the #Resistance in particular and it is why we have Trump as president. To celebrate emotional incontinence and outrage for the sake of outrage is so counter-productive, self-defeating and foolish as to be astonishing.

The vast majority of writers and pundits pontificating on the subject have absolutely no knowledge of tennis, but would regurgitate some simple minded phrases they heard, such as, “McEnroe and Connors did much worse back in the day!” Of course, this is true, BUT THAT WAS THIRTY YEARS AGO! And on top of that, McEnroe and Connor’s horrendous behavior is why the rules that were applied to Serena were put in place in the first place in the late 80’s.

The mindless and shallow punditry continued throughout the week and the pro-Serena crowd were the vast majority in the media, at least in America, but certainly not across the globe, as British and particularly Australian writers were much more willing to hold Serena to account. The vapid pro-Serena punditry on ESPN and elsewhere reminded me of the vacuous pro-Trump nonsense that passes for news on Fox News.

The Social Justice Warrior/Identity Politics goosestepping done by the pundit class of the establishment is just as brazenly shameless and devoid of intellectual and moral integrity as anything you’ll see on Trump’s favorite show Fox and Friends.

A VOICE OF REASON - STOP YELLING AT YOUR KIDS!

Thankfully, a true champion and one of the greatest female tennis players of all-time, Martina Navratilova, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that was the opposite of Serena Williams because it was the epitome of thoughtfulness, integrity and class. Ms. Navratilova was respectful of Serena Williams and said that if women are being treated more harshly than men (which the study the other Times article proves is not true) than that injustice should change, yet proclaimed that Serena’s behavior was unacceptable and dishonored the sport of tennis regardless.

The same week Martina’s op-ed was published the New York Times ran an article that spoke to this issue even though it had nothing to do with sport or Serena Williams titled “ Why You Should Stop Yelling at your Kids”. The gist of the article is this, that yelling at your kids is a sign of weakness, not strength. I think Serena Williams, who is quick to point out she is a mother, and her basket of deplorable fans, should heed that sage advice, because embracing and venting your rage is not a sign of empowerment but of weakness. If you are raising a child and want that child to be successful in life, you will not teach them to display their rage and be ruled by their emotions. People who do those things are terrible people, and if you are teaching your child to behave that way, you are a terrible person too.

BEING SERENA TRUMP

Serena berating an official shows her to be a morally, mentally, emotionally and psychologically weak human being. Serena’s history of acting out when she is losing, such as her previous outbursts at the U.S. Open (in 2009 and 2011 Serena had similar meltdowns) reveals a bully mentality that is incapable of genuine reflection, introspection and taking of responsibility…again…she sounds just like Trump.

Will Martina’s perspective and the release of the study showing Serena is dead wrong about disparity in punishment for male tennis players, change the mind of any of Serena’s fans, or any of the identity politics contingent that came to her defense knowing nothing about the situation or even the sport? No, of course not, because these people are immune to facts and immune to reason, and just like Serena and Trump they only have their hysterical emotions and rage to guide them. Serena is as shameless a liar and manipulator as Trump, and both of them are blessed to have fans who are gullible fools who lap up their bullshit like cold water on a hot Summer’s day.

Because Serena is a woman, and boldly played the sexism card, and because she is Black, and always deftly plays the racism card, the wealthy fans in Flushing Meadows and those in the media, will wave the flag of identity politics as high as they can and refuse to see their own hypocrisy and moronity. These fans and media members excuse Serena’s inexcusable misbehavior simply because of her gender and the color of her skin. These people do not believe in equality, they believe in a separate set of rules…one for them and the people they like, and a harsher one for everyone else.

These same fans and media members think Trump and Trumpers are hateful buffoons, but the reality is that Serena Williams and her entourage of sycophantic media personalities and fans are Trumpian in their cult-like resilience to facts, reason and logic and their addiction to identity above all else. Serena and her fans, like Trump and his supporters, are incapable of understanding objective reality, and instead cling to their subjective experience as the incontrovertible Truth.

Trump may lose the mid-term elections or his re-election campaign or be impeached or resign, but the truth is Trump has already won in the biggest way imaginable, as he has made his enemies into mirror images of himself. Like a scene out of a horrifying remake of Being John Malkovich, everywhere you turn in America there are Trumps acting out in all sorts of selfish and self-gratifying ways. Those filled with fear and loathing of Trump have become the monster they so despise. When Trump is long gone, the Trump infection will live on, in the hearts, minds and actions of those who pretend to be his antithesis.

The Trump virus is spreading and the abysmal display put on by Serena Williams and her acolytes in the media and stands is a stark reminder things are going to get much much worse here in America before they ever get better…and they might never get better.

©2018

BlacKkKlansman: A Review

****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!! THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!****

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A flawed but insightful, incisive and compelling film that speaks to the struggles of our time.

BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee and written by Lee and a coterie of others (based on the book Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth), is the true story of Ron Stallworth, a Black cop in Colorado Springs who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. The film stars John David Washington as Stallworth, with supporting turns from Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and Topher Grace.

At one time, in the late 1980's and early 1990's, Spike Lee was one of the most important filmmakers in cinema. His breakthrough film, 1989's Do the Right Thing, which featured Lee's signature aesthetic of humor, drama and cultural commentary was an explosive piece of cinema that catapulted Lee into the spotlight and into the hearts of cinephiles everywhere.

Lee followed up Do the Right Thing with two films that weren't quite as ground breaking but were noteworthy films nonetheless, Mo' Better Blues (1990) and Jungle Fever (1991). Following those two critical and commercial successes Lee then made his masterpiece, the phenomenal Malcolm X (1992), which is a staggering cinematic achievement.

After reaching the summit with Malcolm X, the cinematic world seemed his for the taking, but then something strange happened to Spike Lee...he lost his fastball. I am not sure why it happened, whether it was a case of the muse abandoning him, his mojo shrinking, his spirit being broken or his just not giving a shit anymore, but I know it most certainly did happened. To be clear, he didn't lose it all at once...but there was a noticeable and precipitous decline in the quality and artistry of his work in the wake of Malcolm X.

The middling movies Crooklyn, Clockers, Get on the Bus, He Got Game and Summer of Sam are all painfully lackluster efforts, especially in the shadow of the murderers row of Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever and the Babe Ruth of the canon Malcolm X. The precipitous decline in Lee's filmmaking ability was equaled by his fall from cinematic relevance.

Lee wasn't just losing his artistic and critical fastball, the box office had left him as well as none of those films even made back their production budgets, making this unfortunate streak a near death blow to Lee's career. Directors can churn out average and below average films for decades...but only if they make their investors money or at the very least do not lose their investors money...a perfect example is Ron Howard.

The last Spike Lee film I saw in the theatre was also the first Spike Lee film to make any money since Malcom X, and that was 2002's 25th Hour. Three things stood out about this movie in regards to Lee's other films, the first is that it is a story about a White protagonist and stars a White cast. Secondly, it made more profit than all of the previous seven second tier Lee films (post Malcolm X) combined, and actually made more in net profit than even Malcolm X. And third, even though I thoroughly enjoyed 25th Hour, it was not a "Spike Lee film" as his signature aesthetic was noticeably absent. While I hoped 25th Hour signaled a new phase in Lee's career and began his long climb back into relevance...it didn't. Lee's descent into cinematic irrelevance only seemed to quicken its pace.

In 2006, Lee had a financial hit on his hands with the film Inside Man (which was originally supposed to be directed by...ironically, Ron Howard), but while the box office was stellar, the biggest of his career, Lee's artistry was lacking, and the movie was little more than a Denzel Washington star vehicle rather than a Spike Lee joint, and again, could have been directed by anyone. After Inside Man the wheels came off the cinematic wagon for Lee as he churned out a string of films, one more awful and irrelevant than the next.

Which brings us to BlacKKKlansman. With BlacKKKlansman Spike Lee has done something extraordinary...he got his fastball back. Now, it isn't all the way back, not by a long shot. If Lee was throwing 98 MPH heat in his early 90's heyday, and in his post-Malcolm X phase dropped to an anemic 90 MPH, and in the last decade has been hurling up grotesque 84 MPH meatballs, with BlacKKKlansman he hits a solid and very respectable 92 to 94 MPH on the radar gun.

The story of BlacKKKlansman is the right story at the right time with the right filmmaker. BlacKkKlansman is right in Spike Lee's wheelhouse and shows him to be artistically and cinematically invigorated by the material because it allows him to highlight his best quality...namely his flair for mixing of humor, politics and cultural commentary. Though not as sharply crafted as his sterling early works, this movie is easily Lee's best effort in the last 25 years, hands down. It is vibrantly relevant, pulsatingly alive and at times gloriously infectious.

Lee's direction is energetic as he unfurls an insightful and incisive story that lays bare the perilously combustible nature of our time. Lee's politics, particularly his racial politics, have always been overt in his films, but in BlacKKKlansman he is not only able to get a blunt and brazen message across out in the open, but also covertly weaves a subtler, yet ultimately more nuanced, mature and impactful political message just beneath the emotionally furious surface of the film.

As much as some may take this film as an anti-White and pro-Black screed, they would be missing the deeper messages embedded in the movie. If you can leave your preconceived notions at the door and watch the film looking for Lee's masterful weaving together of the dynamics at play in the Black and White power struggle, you will be surprised, if not downright shocked, as to what the film is telling/teaching you. In my reading of the film Lee's vision is not so starkly black and white (pardon the pun) but he appears to be trying to find allies where he once saw enemies, and is trying to solve problems rather than exacerbate them.

The film's star, John David Washington, gives a charismatic and magnetic performance as Ron Stallworth. Unbeknownst to me prior to seeing the movie, John David is Denzel Washington's son, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. John David is certainly not the skillful actor and master craftsman his father is...but that is an unfair bar to set...rather John David is his own actor, and to his benefit he isn't a look-alike of his father either. John David does have his father's undeniable charisma and charm though and he carries this film from start to finish with aplomb and ease. Funny, likeable and genuine, John David Washington's confidence never crosses the river into arrogance, and that is a quality that will serve him well in the future, which will hopefully be very bright.

Adam Driver is an actor I generally do not understand. I do no think he is very good and cannot for the life of me understand why other people do. That said, he does solid work in BlacKKKlansman and is an asset to the movie. Driver's character is a bit underwritten, but he makes the most of what he is given.

The luminous Laura Harrier plays Patrice, the love interest of Ron, and she is excellent. Harrier is able to imbue Patrice with not only a determined strength, but a nagging fragility that is compelling to behold. Harrier makes Patrice a complex character where a lesser actress would've made her a two-dimensional bore.

Topher Grace is spectacular as Klan leader David Duke (yes, THAT David Duke). Topher's performance is so understated and comedically genius as to be sublime. Of course, Topher is aided by the fact that David Duke is such a repulsive and captivating character as to be amazing, but to Topher's credit, he does not make Duke a caricature but rather a very real and genuine human being. Topher's ability to seamlessly and subtly make the Duke character's emotional transitions elevates the film considerably.

It is also worth noting that two actors give terrific performances in very small parts. Alec Baldwin has a cameo as Dr. Kennebrew Beaureguard, and he crushes his minimal screen time, which was a treat since the last time I saw him he was embarrassing himself with his hackneyed performance in Mission Impossible. And Corey Hawkins has a small supporting role as Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) that is electric. The scene where Ture gives a speech is one of the best in the film and Hawkins' performance (and Lee's direction) is dynamic.

As much as I liked BlacKKKlansman, it isn't a perfect film. I thought the Klansman characters were very poorly written, or underwritten as the case may be. The caricature of all Klansman as stupid and redneck is a cheap and easy way to make fun of them, but a bad way to make the case that racism is a prevalent and predominant evil in our society. The Klansmen in the movie lack a genuine desperation and fear which would make them much more complicated (and believable) characters instead of being the cartoon cutouts that are only motivated by sheer lack of I.Q. combined with in-bred hate that the movie makes them out to be.

Lee may have some of his fastball back, but certainly not all of it. The final 1/3 or 1/4 of the film shows the cracks in Lee's skill level. As the story accelerates towards its climax Lee's direction gets messy if not downright sloppy. Lee's cinematic incoherence is matched by some dubious writing and plot twists that make for a muddled and mundane finale to an otherwise pretty riveting narrative.

Lee then adds a coda to the film that is completely extraneous, indulgent, logically absurd and frankly embarrassingly idiotic, that in many ways scuttles the exquisite cinematic experience of the movie. This coda is so amateurish and dreadfully awful it is truly amazing, so much so that I felt myself and my opinion of the movie deflating as the scene wore on. This scene feels like it is from a bad high school morality play rather than a quality piece of cinema. But then...Lee redeems himself with a second coda that ends the movie...which I will not spoil...only to say that it is dramatic and emotional dynamite and is extremely well-done and poignant.

In conclusion, BlacKKKlansman is easily Spike Lee's best film of the last 25 years. It is a relevant piece of cinema that speaks to the troubles of our time by equating it with the troubles in our past. Buoyed by a strong lead performance from John David Washington, BlacKKKlansman is a smart, often subtle and insightful film that packs a wallop, and is well-worth your time and money to go see in the theatre.

©2018

The Whitewashing Controversy

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 18 seconds

HELLBOY IN HELL

Last week, Ed Skrein, an up and coming actor best known for his work as the villain in Deadpool, dropped out of the role for which he was cast in the remake of Hellboy, after charges of "whitewashing" were made against the producers of the film on social media. You may be asking yourself…what is whitewashing? Well, whitewashing is when White actors are cast in traditionally non-White character roles. In the case of Hellboy, Ed Skrein is a White actor and his character Ben Daimio is Japanese-American in the original comic book source material. 

Once the Hellboy whitewashing uproar gained some steam on social networks, Skrein dropped out of the role stating, “I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right.”

Skrein continued, “Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family,” he said (Skrein is of Austrian-Jewish and English descent). “It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and give voice to inclusivity.”

From a public relations standpoint, this is a masterstroke by Skrein. He turned a story that was potentially damaging to his career into one that makes him out to be the hero. As for the repercussions of Skrein's decision on the wider world in general, and Hollywood in particular, I am skeptical that his kowtowing to the anti-whitewashing mob is a positive maneuver. 

THE WITCHES OF WHITEWASHING AND MICKEY ROONEY SUCKS

Whitewashing has been a hot topic in Hollywood of late, as a string of high profile White women have been cast in Asian roles or that had Asian women in the source material. The three most notable were when Scarlett Johannsen was cast as the lead in Ghost in the Shell to play a character that was Asian in the source material, Tilda Siwnton was cast in a role that in the comic book was a male Asian guru in Dr. Strange, and Emma Stone was cast as a woman who was 1/4 Hawaiin and 1/4 Chinese in Cameron Crowe's Aloha.

Whitewashing is not to be confused with "yellow face", which is when a White actor plays an Asian character and wears make up to simulate Asian characteristics. Yellowface is to Asians as Blackface is to Blacks, it is a highly offensive and aggressive way to demean and diminish a minority through caricature and stereotype. The most famous instance of yellow face is Mickey Rooney's cringe-worthy performance in Breakfast at Tiffanys, but other famous actors, including Marlon Brando and Katherine Hepburn, have done it as well. And it wasn't just back in the 50's and 60's either, as recently as 1992 Jonathon Pryce starred on the London stage wearing yellow face in Miss Saigon.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT AND STATISTICAL REALITY

In terms of whitewashing, the theory behind people's resistance to it is entirely understandable. As long as Hollywood has been in existence, the majority of roles have been for White actors, and for a good portion of that time minority actors were systematically discriminated against, so casting Whites in potentially minority roles doesn't sit very well with some people. That historical context is important to keep in mind when addressing the whitewashing issue, and it easily explains the perception that White actors are still cast at disproportionately high rates compared to minority actors. That being said, while the conventional wisdom is that there is an imbalance towards Whites in casting, the statistical reality does not match up with that perception.

Whites are certainly cast in the overwhelming majority of roles, but that isn't due to racism, but more likely because Whites make up the overwhelming majority of the U.S. (and English speaking world's) population. Some statistics jump out at me in regards to casting and population in terms of race and ethnicity. For instance, an Annenberg study found that Asians are cast in 5.1% of roles in film and television, which doesn't seem like much, but, according to the American Community Survey in the 2010 U.S. Census, Asians make up 5.1% of the U.S. general population. This shows that Asians are not under represented in casting, but in fact, are perfectly represented. The same is also true of Black actors, who are cast in 12.2% of roles and make up 12.4% of the U.S. population. These statistics show that contrary to popular opinion, Asian and Black actors are not under represented. 

In addition, a further look at the Annenberg study shows that White actors are not over represented according to their population percentage, but slightly under represented. According to the Annenberg study, Whites are cast in 71.7 % of roles and the census tells us that Whites account for 73% of the population. This seems counter intuitive to many people, but it is accurate, at least according to the Annenberg study and the census.

REVERSE RACISM? SO WHAT!

The question remains though, do any of these statistics matter in regard to the whitewashing controversy? The casting pendulum, so long on the White side of things, has swung away from White dominance in the last few decades, and now casts people (at least Asian, Black and White people) at relatively the same rate as their population percentage. This is a positive thing, but the fact that some people still perceive an imbalance towards Whites creates an atmosphere where whitewashing accusations resonate. 

The problem with claims of whitewashing, is that they push the pendulum beyond the center sweet spot of equality, with its embrace of a meritocracy, to a position of identity/inclusivity, where an actors ethnicity or race trump questions of talent and skill. This identity/inclusivity approach is just as unfair as a White dominated approach, and is ultimately cancerous in the wider culture as it brings with it a backlash in the form of White resentment and in some cases, even White supremacy. 

Many people would say, "so what?" to charges that identity/inclusivity angers White people because it is a form of reverse racism. Some people I have spoken to on the subject tell me that White people are racists or have an inherit privilege, so they deserve to be shortchanged for once. I get the sentiment, I do, it is entirely understandable in historical context, but the problem with that kind of thinking is it is entirely emotionally driven and not rational. Shortchanging White actors because they are White may be emotionally rewarding in the moment, but in the long run it is not only unfair to White actors, but undermines talented minority artists and diminishes artistic quality across the board.

IS WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE WHITE GOOSE, GOOD FOR THE MINORITY GANDER?

An example of this can be found in the Skrein case where, according to the producer, he was cast not because he was White, but because he gave the best audition. Merit is why he was chosen, not race, and replacing him with an ethnically "appropriate" actor who was not as good, will reduce the quality of the film. But for those crying "whitewashing", merit has no appeal in casting decisions, only identity/inclusivity matters. Again, this approach may feel emotionally gratifying at the moment, but it is intellectually incoherent, and ultimately counter productive for minority actors when taken to its logical conclusion. For instance, if, as those crying whitewashing wish, we base casting decisions solely on the identity of the character in the source material, then no minority actor would ever be able to do classical theatre like Shakespeare (with Othello being the notable exception), Chekhov or Ibsen and Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams would be off the table as well.

Identity casting is much like identity politics, it is a double edged sword. When democrats make politics about identity, then not only will minorities respond to that siren's call, but White people will embrace their identity as well, and like it or not, White people are the overwhelming majority of America. In casting, this slavish embrace of identity can, and most likely will, come back to haunt those who celebrate it. An example of this was seen when Edward Albee's estate refused to let a theatre company do a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? with a Black cast member. People were outraged by this decision and charges of racism soon followed, but Albee's argument (through his esate, Albee died in 2016) was that the play is about White people, and a Black actor would distort the meaning of the play. This is the flip side of the same argument that the whitewashing crowd uses against Scarlett Johannsen playing the lead in Ghost in the Shell

The reality is that many minority actors have gotten jobs not despite of their ethnicity, but because of it. Many theatre companies are compelled to use diverse casts in order to get grants and funding and it is in their best interest in some cases to eschew a more talented White actor in favor of a less talented minority actor, in order to get that funding. The same is true of tv shows and films, because contrary to what "whitewashing" critics think, networks, studios and producers desperately want diverse casts. This leads to minority actors actually having a slight advantage in the casting process, not a disadvantage, due to their non-White identity.  

The bigger problem, beyond claims of whitewashing, is the mania and hysteria brought on by our current addiction to identity, be it in casting or politics. This hysteria showed its face with the vapid #OscarsSoWhite campaign over the alleged racism of the Academy Awards. Just like claims of whitewashing, claims of Oscar racism are emotionally driven as well, and are proven false by statistical analysis. (see that statistical reality here).

CRY RACISM, AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAR

Another story from last week that highlights the corrosive effect our current identity/inclusivity mania and hysteria has on Hollywood and our culture, was when actress Chloe Bennet, best known for her role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., played the role of victim when she said that Hollywood is racist. Bennet, whose real last name is Wang, is of Taiwanese descent, and when someone questioned her for changing her Taiwanese last name, her defense was that she changed her name because "Hollywood is racist." This episode is a wonderful study in how identity politics and casting will devour those that cling to them. 

To start with, Ms. Bennet was smart enough to sense that she was going to be the victim of the same mob that attacked Hellboy and Ed Skrein when asked about her name change. The left is great at eating their own, and Ms. Bennet knew to throw them some red meat or she would be the next meal. In order to avoid the consequences/shame of her name change, Bennet took the cheap and cynical way out by crying racism, which seems to be the only way many liberals can argue these days, and claimed she never got cast in anything until she changed her name. Of course, the charge is vacuous at best, and insidious at worst.

Are there racists in Hollywood? Sure, there are racists in all walks of life. But did Ms. Bennet not get cast prior to her name change because of racism? To think that anyone would care if an actress had the last name of Wang as opposed to Bennet is the height of absurdity. Casting people don't give a rat's ass about your last name, usually only your fame, talent and your attractiveness. Ms. Bennet did not become more or less attractive or talented with a different last name. Ms. Bennet basically admitted her reasoning was circumspect when she said, "Changing my last name doesn’t change the fact that my blood is half-Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin, or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese". Yes, her name is different but she still looks exotic and not pasty White, so if Hollywood was racist they would discriminate against her for how she looked, not her last name. 

Ms. Bennet's cries of racism, besides being self-serving, were counter productive, not only in Hollywood, but in America. It is statistical fact that Asians are cast at exactly the same rate that they make up the population, so there is no casting bias against them. Yet by crying racism, Ms. Bennet diminishes the power of that charge, and undermines and belittles the struggles of people who are truly suffering under the torment of racism and injustice in the real world. 

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. STRANGE

An example of the intellectual inconsistencies of the anti-whitewashing crowd was also on display when Tilda Swinton was cast in Dr. Strange. Swinton's character, the Ancient One, is a Tibetan man in the comic books, and the reason the producers cast a White, middle-aged woman in the role was because they explicitly wanted to avoid any racial stereotypes, such as the Fu Manchu - Asian man, stereotype. The anti-whitewashing crowd got up in arms about it anyway. Apparently Asian men are higher on the victim scale than White woman, which will come as a terrible shock to many of the White women I know in Hollywood who proudly wear the hat of victimhood like a crown. 

Further making the Dr. Strange case intellectually incoherent, was the fact that in order to have a more diverse cast, the producers cast Chiwetel Ejiofor, a Black actor, in a role that was a White character in the original source material. Apparently, slavish adherence to source material only matters when White actors are cast in minority roles and not vice versa.

BREAKING NEWS: THE BRITISH ARE PASTY WHITE

The identity/inclusivity mania and hysteria was even on full display this summer regarding the film Dunkirk. The film, set in 1942, tells the story of the British army and their emergency evacuation from Dunkirk, France in world war two. The cast of the film is almost entirely White, which is completely in keeping with the historical facts of the story, yet controversy swirled around the film for not having a diverse cast. USA Today's reviewer, Brian Truitt, commented about the film's lack of minorities in his review by writing, “the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way". Not surprisingly, right wing writers had a field day at Truitt's expense, turning what some thought was a molehill of a comment into a mountain of political correctness. 

In response to the right-wing backlash against Truitt's review, Jason Wilson, a writer at the Guardian, wrote a piece decrying the right wing outrage as being manufactured nonsense because no person in their right mind would be bothered by Dunkirk's racial make up. Wilson's piece makes pains to point out that the right wing is itching for a culture war over Dunkirk, but none exists. Then a week later, Sunny Singh, a writer at the Guardian, wrote a piece directly in contrast to her compatriot Wilson by decrying Dunkirk's unabashed whitewashing and lack of Black faces. The cherry on top of the unintentional comedy of Singh's article is that Dunkirk actually does have some Black faces in it, the same ones she longs for in her piece. 

The whole Dunkirk episode, and most of the cries of whitewashing or racism, are exhausting because they are so bloated with the wine (or is it whine?) of emotion, and are thirsting for even a drop of the rational. But sadly, in this emotionalist age in which we live, this is the nonsense that captures our imaginations. 

LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE

In a perfect world, we would live under the rule of equality, where meritocracy reigns supreme, and as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, people would be judged by the content of their character, or in this case, their ability, talent and skill, instead of their ethnic or racial identity. I certainly hope that we get there one day, but I am not nearly as optimistic as Dr. King. If history and human nature is any guide, with our current pendulum swing beyond the center where equality lives, into the deeper realm where cries of whitewashing and imaginary racism are not only accepted but encouraged, then the inevitable swing back away from that will go into even darker and more perilous waters than I care to consider. 

In our current age of emotionalism, people of all races and ethnicities do not value merit, or talent, or content of character, as much as they care about identity and instant gratification. This rise of this Church of Identity brings with it dangers, and one of those dangers now resides in the White House. If we are going to make things about identity, then we can expect to feel the wrath of the majority identity in America…White people. The resurgence of White identity, and White supremacy, is a direct result of the emotionally-driven, factually unsubstantiated claims made by those decrying White privilege where no privilege exists. As the Annenberg study and the census proves, this is the case in regards to the casting of television and film. 

When viewed within the troubling historical context of White domination in casting and the vicious arrogance and repulsive racism of yellow face, it is understandable that some, if not most, Asian actors and their supporters, would find the story of a White actor, like Ed Skrein, losing a job simply because he is White, emotionally satisfying, but that doesn't mean it is logical, rational, fair or right. Sadly, the whitewashing controversy is just another sign of our troubled and troubling times.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying Hollywood is a wonderful place filled with rainbows and puppy dogs where people are treated kindly and fairly…it isn't and they aren't. Make no mistake, Hollywood is an absolutely awful place where people are routinely and systematically dehumanized, diminished, exploited and victimized. That said, it is apparent to me that  Hollywood, with its unquenchable hunger for money and power, treats everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, equally like shit.

 

©2017