Saturday, 30 April 2016

Hollywood Babble On & On #1263: Some Shilling Then It Gets Offensive...

FIRST SOME SHILLING!

Okay, if you're a regular reader of my blog, or my Twitter feed, you will know that I sold a novel to Fahrenheit Press of Los Angeles. Soon A MINT CONDITION CORPSE will be available. It's what I call a "nerd noir" a satirical whodunnit set at a comic book convention starring a brilliant geek detective named KIRBY BAXTER, and his Scooby gang of friends.

So I'm putting out a call to any and all people who are taste-makers in the geek community, or they know taste makers, for some help. We can arrange preview copies of the book, for perusal, and if you, or they, like it, please get the word out. 

I need all the help I can get to get people to read this book. Those who do seem to enjoy it, so the more the merrier.

If you have any leads, let me know, either by my e-mail or via Twitter, and I'll make arrangements with my publisher.

Thanks in advance.

Now onto…

SOMETHING OFFENSIVE PART ONE

For a brief period SNL alumni Will Ferrell considered and then dropped out of a gig playing the late actor/governor/president Ronald Reagan with a twist.

That twist was that it was going to be a comedy inspired by the conspiracy theory that the Alzheimer's disease that destroyed the last ten years of Reagan's life secretly happened at the beginning of his second term. The theory goes on to say that he only made it through because his staff, in the movie; a young intern, convinced Reagan that he was playing the president in a movie.

Already Republicans, Reagan relatives, and many others are saying this is an offensive idea spawned by deep seeded political malice. The outrage probably was what scared Ferrell off the project in the end.

I also have something to add.

It will be an enormous waste of money and time.

The financiers would be better off putting the budget in a pile and setting it on fire. At least that way they can maybe have a wiener roast.
An even better idea is that they could give the budget to me, and let me make something worth watching, or just to live a lush lifestyle.

That's because this film falls into the far edge of what I call the Offend/Bore Matrix. That's where a film dealing with a controversial subject, like politics and/or religion is so aggressively partisan that it can only offend the opposite side of the issue and bore those who agree with the filmmaker.

But when you get out to the far edge, like this idea, you slip into the realm of the Offend/Creep region. That means that its militant partisanship has gone too far, and has become toxic, making anyone who likes it look like a creep.

Why?

Let's say you are a partisan Democrat. You despised Ronald Reagan and think he was the spawn of hell.

That's fine, you have a right to have your opinion of a politician. But there's that little something extra to this script, and that's Alzheimer's Disease.

Do you want to be known as the person who laughs at someone with Alzheimer's Disease?

Bring in Alzheimer's disease and political affiliations tend to fall by the wayside, and it slips into the realm of intense personal suffering.

Very few would find that kind of soul-destroying suffering funny, even if it happened to a Republican, and even fewer would publicly admit to finding it funny solely because it happens to a Republican.

Imagine this conversation:


A: Did you see the new movie about Reagan. It's the funniest thing ever made. 
B: Isn't that about him having Alzheimer's? 
A: Yeah, and it's hilarious. I laughed so much at his inability to remember things like friends and family. 
B: We didn't find it funny when that happened to my Grandpa. 
A: But this a Republican we're talking about. 
B: So?
A: That makes laughing at Alzheimer's okay! 
B: I can't even look at the trailers or commercials without remembering how bad things got for my Grandfather before he died. 
A: You have no sense of humour.
That might put a damper on the word of mouth.

SOMETHING OFFENSIVE PART TWO

Actress Scarlett Johansson has been cast in the lead role of an American movie version of the Japanese anime Ghost In The Shell.

This led to cries of outrage that the originally Japanese role hadn't gone to a Japanese actor. Most of the cries of "whitewashing" came from Asian-American organizations, and a lot of angry white people.

But do you know who wasn't offended by the casting?

The Japanese.

Most Japanese pundits and media outlets don't really care about Johansson's casting, and many are even enthusiastic about it.

The Japanese aren't freaking out over Johansson because they assume that an American version of a Japanese story would have an "American" actor (translation "White"). Part of this is because the Japanese have no qualms doing a Japanese version of a Euro-American story with Japanese versions of those once white characters. Kurosawa adapted several works of Shakespeare and the tropes of the American Western movie into many of his samurai films.

Then there's the other part: Even when it's not a Japanese version of a Euro-American story, but a Japanese story featuring caucasian European or American characters they will still use Japanese actors.

Case in point...


However, cast a Chinese, or Korean actor to play a Japanese character, or vice-versa, and then they get offended.

To explain that would involve explaining centuries of Asia's ethnic politics and prejudices, and I ain't going there.

Does this mean that "whitewashing" is not a problem?

No.

Whitewashing especially of Asian characters is a real problem, and it's part of the short shrift that Asian actors have been getting in Hollywood since the dawn of the medium.

White actors in bad make-up speaking pidgin English have been used to play Asian characters for over a century.  The most infamous being the popular Charlie Chan movies of the 1930s-1940s which managed to make the character of a brilliant detective shorthand for an insulting and offensive stereotype. 

But even when Asian-American actors break through in Hollywood they still got shafted. The first Asian-American movie star,  California born Anna May Wong* was beautiful, talented, and denied most of the plum roles she probably deserved.

Why?

There were actual laws on the books against the portrayal of interracial romance or "miscegenation."  That meant that she couldn't even kiss a white co-star on screen, even if he was playing an Asian character.

That meant that she was trapped playing stock or stereotyped characters for most of her career.

Those laws are gone, but the narrow casting of Asian actors in Hollywood continues. Also the recent demands for greater diversity in Hollywood also seem to leave them out.

That isn't right.

Hollywood does need to reflect the wider audience, and to ditch a lot of the stereotypes that hold back not only actors, but the art of storytelling.

But that will take effort, and Hollywood isn't known for spending effort, they just prefer to throw money at empty gestures and hope the problem goes away.

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*Anna May Wong was also the inspiration for this classic love song…

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