Tuesday Talk*: Looks Like Who?

The first time I heard someone take issue with the absence of any fictional character who “looks like me” was on the twitters, when someone (forgive me, I can’t remember who it was anymore [Edit: Remembered! It was Anil Dash]) complained that there was no one in Harry Potter who “looked like” his child. My reaction was, “so write your own Harry Potter and make your child happy.” It struck me as an infinitely silly complaint.

At the time, I didn’t have any idea where this point of contention came from. I never thought any characters looked like me, and it didn’t trouble me in the least. But the call continued, and appears to have resonated with many who complain about the lack of black or transgenders or Aleuts in films, television and books.

My initial reaction was that this was a rallying cry that people latched on to because it served their purpose, but that they didn’t really care and weren’t really “hurt” by it. Obviously, every story can’t involve every identity group. Is the absence of an Hispanic cast member a cause of pain, of outrage? Does having the same skin color or genitalia make you feel like Denzel Washington or Meryl Streep? It doesn’t make me feel like Robert Redford, though we’ve been confused on occasion.

But this issue has not only persisted, but has never really been questioned:
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay spoke at the New Yorker Festival last fall about breaking into a movie industry that she said “wasn’t made for me.”

Hollywood was “made by white men, for white men, to make things for white men,” said Ms. DuVernay, who is best known for the films “Selma” and “13th.”

Her thoughts on the industry’s historic lack of representation prompted us at Race/Related to ask: When was the first time you saw yourself represented on the silver screen?

Is my inability to grasp the “no one looks like me” issue a white male privilege thing? Is this a red herring, a disingenuous argument that people have seized upon despite not truly believing or caring? Do you relate to people on the screen because of your race or gender, your ancestry or religion? Do you suffer the degradations of not seeing yourself in a Harry Potter character?

Much as I don’t see it, this may be a blindspot of mine because there is no shortage of white men in the movies. I can afford not to relate, whereas the absence of others on screen does make others feel marginalized, erased, as unworthy of being the hero of the movie. Does it matter whether people “look like you”?

*Yes, it’s Wednesday, but that happens sometimes. Tuesday Talk rules apply.

74 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Looks Like Who?

  1. REvers

    It’s never been an issue for me.

    I look like Jerry Garcia or Kenny Rogers, depending on how long it’s been since my last haircut. Or so my clients tell me. And most of the defense bar says so, too. I really think I’d rather have the money like Jerry and Kenny and look like someone else.

  2. wilbur

    The report of your blogging demise was premature. A boon to the rest of us.

    I haven’t been to a movie in nearly 25 years, following my father’s lead in his claim that the last movie he saw was “Going My Way”. Our reasons are divergent. He claimed he didn’t see the point in paying a quarter to fall asleep. I’ve just been averse to putting a quarter in Hollywood’s pocket.

    1. SHG Post author

      Dr. SJ goes to redbox or the library to get our movies. I would watch broadcast television, but it’s insufferable.

  3. Billy Bob

    Tomorrow we get Wacky Wednesday Talk. Thirsty Thursday Talk will arrive on Friday (a day late and a dollar short). Or did we get it backwards?

  4. Dan

    I thought it was racist to in any way suggest that “all $MINORITY look alike.” If that’s so, why would one black trans female in a film “look like” your hypothetical black trans female child?

  5. B. McLeod

    I have never “identified” with characters based on the ethnicity of the actors. I do think there is a point where white actors playing Native American and Asian characters will push an intended drama over the line into comedy.

  6. Kathleen Casey

    Stories teach life lessons, that they don’t seem to understand, from what characters do and say. What they look like is an immutable trait to work with or work around.

    I identify with Fred MacMurray’s nemesis in Double Indemnity. All right that’s not nice. 😉 Cher in Moonstruck. Better yet, Olympia Dukakis. That’s the ticket. Cleopatra? Hmmm no. Fact is stranger than fiction, and more useful because we can from other people’s mistakes. History.

  7. Morgan O.

    I understand it. I also find it profoundly juvenile. I can understand why a young child, first learning to read, might want to have children’s books or programming where someone looks like them. But once you’re school age? Do I need to be female to admire Elizabeth Bennet’s quick wit in Pride and Prejudice? Were all the hours spent learning Iroquois folklore wasted? Should I even bother going to see Black Panther, as I am not black?

    It’s an odd argument, as these Social Justice types also demand that I celebrate people who don’t look like me. How can I celebrate them if I can’t identify with or understand them? There I go, with my Loathsome Oppressive Genocidal Islamophobic Cisheteronormativity again…

  8. Patrick Maupin

    Soon, when you got to a movie theater, you will be able to go into a vestibule where a computer will scan you in various poses. Then, using the barcode off your ticket so it knows where your seat is, it will alter its projection so that the movie you see from that seat will have you as protagonist.

    You’ll be fine until you try any of that stuff from the movie at home.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      But I go to the movies to escape MY life. Why would you want to torture me more? Let someone else do the stuff. I’ll watch.

  9. Skink

    No one goes to movies because of the race, gender or sexual preference of the cast. If they do, they’re doing movies wrong. It’s entertainment–funny, thought-provoking or scary–it’s entertainment. Does the composition of the cast make it better? Nope. Rock Hudson was gay, but who cares? I wasn’t sleeping with him; I was being entertained.

    I don’t go to movies, mostly because being in large groups of people is a bag of suck. I go to my cave, where I connect to Earth. It has a 65-inch, 500 watt, 40 inch speakers and access to everything. I watch old gangster and monster movies. The gangster movies have white guy mobsters, white guy cops and sluts. I don’t care about the race, gender or preferences of the monsters. I care if they look real. It doesn’t matter one bit that J. Edgar liked to wear panties as hats–is his character entertaining in the movie? Would it be better if his part was played by Denzel? The “entertainment people” don’t get it: the story is what matters. Molding the cast to fit an ideal instead of the story ain’t entertaining It’s an Al Gore telling me what to do movie. These people will PC themselves onto nothingness.

    I’ll stay in the cave.

    1. Fubar

      I don’t care about the race, gender or preferences of the monsters.

      Monster movies the Hollywood white patriarchy refused to make:

      The Daddy

      The Visible Woman

      The Creature from the White Lagoon

      Zhit Came from Outer Space

      Zhit Came from Beneath the Sea

      Goddesszilla

      Goddesszilla Meets Mothraf*cker

      FrancesStein

      The Husband of FrancesStein

      Goddesszilla Meets FrancesStein

      Draculois

      The Husband of Draculois

      Kung Kong

      The Giant Beshemoth

      Zhem!

      Alienette

      1. Wrongway

        that has to be the greatest on topic comment I’ve ever seen in the history of on topic comments..

  10. Paul

    My whiteness and maleness have not interfered with my ability to enjoy Drunken Master, Ong Bak, Enter the Dragon or any other myriad of films devoid of white people (although I suppose they still have males) or where whitey is the bad guy.

    Well qualified Yale applicants would explain to me that it’s because I don’t have to view everything through the lens of race because of my privilege. I would say I’m not a narcissist obsessed with identity politics. There will be no meaningful debate – just breathless scolding. The world will keep turning and Russell’s teapot will still be orbiting the sun.

  11. Tristan

    Being a white male I am told my opinions do not matter. Still, I thought Black Panther was pretty good.

  12. AH

    Being a partial minority, perhaps I fall somewhere in the middle. I can understand the sentiment, although perhaps not to the degree to which it is embraced by some people. The issue is not with any one particular movie, it is with every movie. Kumail Nanjiani (who did make a movie for people who look like him) made the point at the Oscars: “Some of my favorite movies are movies by straight white dudes, about white straight dudes. Now, straight white dudes can watch movies starring me and you relate to that. It’s not that hard. I’ve done it my whole life.”

    The hurt comes where there isn’t any mainstream movie in which there is someone who looks like you. And here I’m talking race, not general appearance. It begins to make you feel like an outsider in a place where you believe you should be accepted as part of the pool of varied races. It’s in some ways like the immigrant outsider problem and perhaps perpetuates it: if you don’t look like us (usually white since we’re talking about North America), you must be from somewhere else.

    You made the point yesterday, it would be weird if in a movie about New York, every single person was white. I think people are trying to point out that where, despite the diversity of the population, films do not reflect that diversity, it makes them feel like outsiders in the place that they are from. That being said, the movie business is just that, a business. We need to stop looking at it as though it has any sort of conscience.

    1. SHG Post author

      Thank you for helping to make me better understand it. I can better understand why, if the movie was Japan, it would be offensive to have a white dude play the emperor, but why would a Harry Potter movie make you feel either way because nobody looks like you?

      I’m still struggling to understand what about absence of a character who “looks like you” makes you feel anything for that reason. In the same vein, it there’s an Asian character, does it make you feel more included? White dudes don’t do that for me. Why is it different for others?

      1. phv3773

        Fort Dix, 1969. I’m watching TV with some other guys in the unit. A scene comes on with four guys (three white, one black) singing a song. A white guy steps forward and sings a solo verse. One of my unit-mates, a black guy who is somewhat “woke” by the standards of the time says “I bet they don’t have the brother come forward and sing a verse.” And, of course, he didn’t.

        As AH suggests, it’s not what happens once, it’s what happens never.

      2. AH

        I think it’s because, and I don’t mean this as an insult, you always feel included by default. If you grew up in Japan and never saw a single white person in a movie, it would be a reminder every time you saw a movie that you weren’t like people in Japan. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a judgment against Japanese cinema. If only .01 percent of the population was white, it makes sense why that would be the case. You are, in fact, an outlier. But I bet if you had grown up in that situation, if you then saw a movie with a white guy in it, you would be excited to watch someone who looks like you.

        I think the issue becomes even more significant where you make up a more significant proportion of the population, but that isn’t reflected in the popular culture. Then, even though it might be completely unconscious, it feels like a dismissal of your presence in the culture, which raises more nuanced feelings than never seeing yourself in movies when you wouldn’t necessarily expect to (like our Japan example). So yes, I do think having a person of your ethnic background in a movie from time to time does make people feel more included or at least accepted as playing a role in the culture from which the movie derives.

        1. SHG Post author

          I get the total exclusion aspect, but is the problem total exclusion or just not inclusion in every movie? And not just minority groups with significant populations, but gay Laplanders with one eye?

          1. AH

            I think everyone would probably have a different answer to your question. For me personally, I don’t think one should expect inclusion in every movie. I don’t see this as a movie by movie quota issue. If the movie is set in Norway, there’s no reason to expect many minorities to be depicted. As to your second question, I think the more specific your identity is and the smaller a proportion you make up of the whole, the less you can expect to be included in popular culture and the less reason you have to be offended if you aren’t.

            PS I apologize for my duplicate comment below. Please feel free to delete.

            1. SHG Post author

              Don’t see any dup, so nothing to apologize for or delete. Outside of a significant population being totally excluded, is there a “look like me” issue, then?

            2. AH

              I think I’ve run out of the reply option.

              I do think there could be a “look at me” issue in some cases. And hey, I totally understand wanting to see someone who looks like you in the movies. It’s the getting mad/upset about it that I don’t understand (unless we’re talking about situations like those discussed in the prior posts.)

            3. SHG Post author

              I don’t want to see anybody who looks like me. I want to see beautiful people. If I wanted to see me, I’d look in the mirror.

          2. Billy Bob

            If I were you, I would not look in the mirror too often, or turn around that often. Someone might be gainin’ on ya. Hey, I don’t look in the mirror that often, and I’m fine with that. Too many mirrors, not enough *beautiful people*. All the beauties are in Norway,… or Colombia/Venezuela/Brazil. Ha.

      3. Patrick Maupin

        All good questions, but answers may be harder to come by.

        There may be a subtle distinction between the question of whether the presence of white dudes makes you feel included or not, and the question of whether the complete absence of white dudes would make you feel excluded or not.

        If there were no white heroes in any movies, would that be a problem? Could white kids imagine themselves as Idris Elba as easily as Harrison Ford? Is it even necessary or useful for the escapism to reach that level?

        1. SHG Post author

          Are there no black heroes? Or are there not enough black heroes? Or should every movie have a black hero? And if so, is that transphobic?

      4. Chris Ryan

        A little background, I am an upper midwestern white guy married to a Taiwanese immigrant, with three kids (13, 11, 8). I have run into this type of discussion many times, but it always seem to be only coming from my most progressive circle of acquaintances. Personally, the only time I have noticed issues in movies, is usually from forced diversity that doesnt sit well (Much Ado About Nothing and Denzel Washington just didnt work for me).

        My kids are halfsies, and several times they have been approached with questions/attitudes similar to this, and they respond by looking confused and not being able to figure out the point of the question. I laughed my butt off one day, when one person talked to my eldest about how it must be nice to finally see someone like himself in Star Wars (ie asian), and he gave a quizzical look and said that there have always been humans in Star Wars, duh!

        Complaining about a specific book/movie/etc, is just manufactured outrage. Teaching that outrage to your kids is a pity, There is enough problems around us to be outraged about, that focusing on one like this seems like a waste of oxygen.

    2. Billy Bob

      Partial minority! That’s a new one. Well, it’s better than being an im-partial minority. Pretty soon, us WASPs will be the new minority. It’s happening as we speak, according to the demographers. When that happens, do you think we’ll be partial or impartial? No, we’ll all declare martial law, and that will be that. Our guns are legal, yours are not. Put that in your smoke and pipe it. A place for everything, and everything in its place. The white man can put on *black face*, asian face, red face, etc. and get away with it. The black man will never be able to play a white man. It does not work like that. It’s a one-way street, Cary Grant-breath. Bill Cosby comes to mind. Don’t ask me why? Also, classically, Sidney (Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner) Poitier, a gentleman and a scholar, yes he was.

      There was a time when every single person in New York (New Amsterdam) was a white man, except for the redman. Ha. Hey, we did the best we could under *trying circumstances*, and nasty weather. If the redmen had not made “furtive gestures” behind our backs, we might have gotten along better and buried the hatchet. The hatchet has yet to be buried, but Trump-Master is working on it. Who wants to look like the Orange Man? Puhleeeze.

    3. Nemo

      You begin by stating you are a partial minority, and not seeing people who look like you in movies “hurts”. So, to portray a character who “looks like you”, do we cast from one side of your heritage, or must it be someone who is the same sort of mix as you?

      You strike me as making a reasonable argument, and even make a point or two I agree with, so please don’t take the above as hostile. I’m trying to point up a problem with your premise. “Looks like me” is pretty ambiguous. Social Justice is very strict, and demands rigorous compliance. Are you intersectional enough to merit the SJW award of someone with your exact heritage to play a major part in a movie?

      Anyone else remember that Nick Fury was white, in the original comics? Anyone think that Sam Jackson couldn’t handle the role, for some reason? I have a mixed heritage, but no “minority genes” that I know of. Just those no-account white folks, even if they were different cultures. That’s the SJW message, you know. Whites, to the extent they matter, are bad people.

      You talk about minorities; are you aware that our Gracious Host (or mean-assed editor) is of minority heritage? Or does Jewishness not count, due to “whiteness”? Don’t be sad, though. Status decided by victim points is hard. Casting that way’s even harder. Should Fury have been played by a Black Muslim Lesbian TransWoman in a wheelchair? What good would that do? Make someone who fits that description not feel “hurt”? Doubt it, since there’s always another movie to be outraged about, that isn’t “inclusive” enough.

      Apparently Johnny Depp has some American Indian heritage. Did that make the Lone Ranger remake good? Was Depp “too white” for the role? Remember, he’s a “partial minority”, so keep that in mind as you answer the (rhetorical) question.

      Which isn’t to say that everything’s fair, but consider the past. Robert A. Heinlein (now considered a misogynistic fascist shitlord) had to sneak women and minorities into leading roles at first, and then used his popularity to leverage more in. He had to write the lead for Tunnel in the Sky very carefully, because he was writing Rod Walker as Black, but couldn’t do so openly and still be published. You don’t find out that Johnny Rico, from that horrid tome Starship Troopers, is actually Juan Rico, and Filipino, until the very end. “Friday” starred a female “Artificial Person”, and APs (My mother was a test tube, my father was a knife) were seriously discriminated against, but by then he was famous, it was the 80s, and publishing it was no longer a problem. Now, though, he’s “evil”.

      Hadn’t intended to drag that out, but it illustrates a point that’s relevant here. Heinlein fought like hell for inclusion of women and minorities in SF stories – and now he’s a pariah, albeit a dead one. Why? Because the Left decided that Starship Troopers was “fascist”, long ago, so that’s it, case closed. Everything he did for inclusion means nothing, the man was “literally Hitler”. Could a “fascist” write Stranger in a Strange Land? Apparently so. You should read that if you haven’t, BTW. In the 60s, it was called by some “the bible of the counterculture”, probably because it satirized both America’s view on religion and morals about sex.

      So the Progressive (formerly Liberal) logic’s right there, in a nutshell. Doesn’t matter how much good you do, state one wrong belief in public, and you’re shit. Ban whites from leading roles, and wHollyweird will find some other issue to be passionate about – so long as the “right” people can be blamed, and the “correct” people can get cred for complaining about it. Which would happen, because that’s how it works. It’s inherent to Progressivism.

      And yet, wHollyweirdos yammer as though the “problem” with movies is something that I should actively be trying to “fix”. Why? I have no control over the industry. What would it help, if I kept my opinions silent, and parroted the current pravda? Since you are a partial minority (whatever that means), you should know what I’m talking about. “Check your privilege” means “sit down and shut up while the important people are talking, white boy”. That’s not a “dog whistle”, BTW. That message is brutally clear, behind all the woke-ness of the actual words.

      So here’s powerless little me. I have the wrong skin, the wrong gender, and the wrong ideas – and yet I’m supposed to join this crusade against films that hurt people because they aren’t inclusive enough. But all that’s desired, and probably required, of me is to parrot a party line that I disagree with, or be shouted down with “free speech”. The whole line, mind you, or else, like Heinlein, I’m a miserable shitlord who deserves all the hate I receive. From the “pro-tolerance, pro-diversity” crowd, no less.

      Now keep in mind, I’m not dumping all this on you, as you’ve shown little to no inclination to act that way. I’m also breaking all kinds of rules here (though I hope I’m within the TT guidelines), including making this about me. But you cast the discussion as being about personal hurt, so I pointed out some personal hurt of my own. How many people like me get hurt by the quest to give you movie and TV characters that look like you? Do we count?

      So, love to help you with your hurt, but I’m not allowed to help, because I don’t conform to the SJW cult’s rules. And you aren’t allowed to help me and remain unhated by that cult. Speak up for me, and you will get an earful from the Left. You see, you’re included, because minority-something-something – but not if you stand up for me and my hurt. Do that, and you, too, can be a horrid shitlord in the eyes of the Left. So yeah, I can’t help with your movie issue, and you won’t help with my issue with the hate on the Left. Impasse. Now what?

      Anyway, doesn’t matter. I could post a laundry list of things done specifically to hurt me, even including false (social, not to police, thank Cthulu) accusations of rape – except that never happens, even when it happens. That wouldn’t do anything, though. You see, I don’t get a say in anything, so far as the Left’s concerned. It’s ok, mostly. Been dealing with it my whole life, from Left, Right, and Center. I’ve carried on for over a half century, expect I can manage, somehow.

      But ya know what? “No one in the movies looks like me” is a First World Problem, if you know your memes. I hope it’s the worst of the ills that you face.

      Regards,

      Nemo

      P. S. to SHG: N.B. This is how I generally comment on things. I’m verbose, but here, I restrain myself, except now. I’ll go back into my previous mode, but i hope I get a little credit for restraint, going forward, because without it, you’d be seeing this drivel much more often. Besides, I don’t want to make anyone stupider, if I can avoid it. Learning is.

      1. Billy Bob

        Good grief, Nemo! We did not know you had it in you,… [to put out such a vitriolic diatribe]. Not since Carl David Ceder–check the archives– without the overt threats of bodily harm. Have you seen your therapist lately? Get thee to the psychiatrist’s couch, sooner rather than later. That’s an Order. Only kidding!

        Making anyone stupider, is the part we like best. Learning is,… What? It’s raining here in the Eastern District. It’s the Ides of March (?). Now we get it! Maybe some godawful planet is going retrograde?
        You never know. Oh wait: Learning is the Encyclopedia Britannica, that’s it! Almost forgot.

      2. AH

        I’m not sure if I should even respond to this as you have imputed a lot of things to me that have nothing to do with me or what I’ve said above, but I don’t want you to take my silence as tacit acceptance of what you have said. To try to succinctly and coherently respond to your points:

        1. I don’t personally feel hurt by lack of representation in movies. I mentioned my “partial minority-ness” only because I think it has allowed me to better understand why people might be hurt by lack of representation.

        2. I specifically mentioned that when talking about people who look like you I was talking about broad racial representation not someone who looks exactly like you. I am aware that SHG is a minority, but I wouldn’t say that people who “look like him” are underrepresented in movies.

        3. I don’t think anyone is asking you to do anything about it. I certainly wasn’t. I was simply responding to the question posed.

        4. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say in the middle of your post, but for what it’s worth, I don’t agree with the philosophy of condemning someone wholesale because you disagree with some portion of their worldview. And to me recognizing your privilege is simply about recognizing that other people may be facing unfortunate situations not because of any fault of their own, but because of certain systemic inequalities that you may not have had to face. Or, as recognized by SHG in this post, you may not understand something because of your privilege so it is worth it to consider someone else’s viewpoint. None of that involves sitting down or shutting up, although it may involve some listening and compassion.

        5. Although it is tempting to say it’s a first world problem, love/belonging is pretty low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

        1. SHG Post author

          Nemo needed to get it out of him (at enormous length, obviously). It really had nothing to do with you, AH. You just got caught in the crossfire. There’s no requirement that you respond.

  13. PAV

    When I was a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was Transformers, where every character but one or two were giant colorful robots that turned into cars or planes. I related very well to one of them, and in some ways still do, because of his personality, his interests, and his attitudes reflected mine. So, not only did I not need a female character to relate to, I didn’t even need a human one.

    I understand why it would be a bonus to see someone like yourself reflected on-screen, and why it might be a drag to never see someone like you, but not why someone would feel unable to relate without the right identy boxes checked. In fact, I often find pushes for representation of my particular identity boxes obnoxious, artificial, and off-putting. Ultimately, I don’t really get it either.

  14. Jim Tyre

    It doesn’t make me feel like Robert Redford, though we’ve been confused on occasion.

    smdh

    1. j a higginbotham

      I don’t know about Redford, but i can believe that Greenfield’s been confused on occasion. Even dazed.

  15. DHMCarver

    I think you answered your own question when you concluded, “this may be a blindspot of mine because there is no shortage of white men in the movies”. AH pretty much nailed the issue. Until very recently, think of how few movies had any people of color in them in any sort of significant role, other than the occasional “magical Negro” or wise Asian sage. Think of how many movies are basically re-tellings of the white (male) savior story. If you follow these debates about what films get made by Hollywood, this was very conscious on the studios’ part — they did not believe that films with black or female stars, or black or female majority casts, would sell, outside of niche markets (thus Tyler Perry movies and chick flicks). And for all of Hollywood’s supposedly liberal politics, in the end, it is always about what will get butts in seats. Why is there nobody in Harry Potter who looks like me is shorthand for, goddamn it, can’t non-white people have their fantasy universes too? Yes, there are people who take this identity-policing too far, sometimes way, way too far — but that does not mean the core issue is not meaningful. (A side note — I write this as a white male Southerner, so I know a thing or two about people being written out of the narrative.)

      1. DHMCarver

        Note I said “how few”, not none. And not to be pedantic (but we are under Tuesday Talk rules), Lee had made his reputation in Hong King before Hollywood would allow him a starring role.

    1. Billy Bob

      But are you a deep southerner? That’s where we separate the sheep from the goats. I’m a deep southerner too, but my family moved North after the Civil War. So now, I’m a northerner and know v. little about the South other than what I read and hear. Just as Dorothy was no longer in Kansas any more, so many of us are no longer southerners any more. It was a time and place which no longer exists; it’s a veritable will o’ the wisp best captured by some of our best writers, who need not be named here.

      Most movies are overrated anyhow. We like Dr. Strangelove and 2001, A Space Odyssey. As well as a few others we’ve misplaced over the years. Catch-22 was good, but the book is better. To Kill a Mockingbird, the best! The Graduate,… a dud. Movies come and go; so do racial stereotypes. The whole movie busyness is weird, if you ask me. The Matrix is the last movie I saw. It sucked, seriously! That’s when computer-generated shit started hitting the screen. See ya! We’re outta here. That’s not real cinema.

    2. Sacho

      > Until very recently, think of how few movies had any people of color in them in any sort of significant role, other than the occasional “magical Negro” or wise Asian sage.

      Can you clarify what “until very recently” means? I seem to recall the following actors all having great careers during the 80s and 90s:

      – Denzel Washington
      – Morgan Freeman
      – Samuel L Jackson
      – James Earl Jones(what a voice!!)
      – Will Smith
      – Eddie Murphy
      – Wesley Snipes(you know, the *actual* first black Marvel superhero?)
      – Martin Lawrence
      – Chris Tucker
      – Billy Dee Williams

      …and more because I don’t really watch all that many movies. You’re not really arguing that there’s *no one*, you’re arguing that some quota hasn’t been met, right?

      > can’t non-white people have their fantasy universes too?

      It’s confusing that you talk about culture yet paint “whites” with a broad brush, enough to talk about “white fantasy universes” and “white (male) saviour story”, as if “whites” are some kind of homogenous blob that draw their culture and identity from a single source. You have to be more specific what “fantasy universes” you’re looking for that aren’t represented. Do you know how many movies Hollywood has produced that depict my culture and nationality? Yeah, zero. There’s local markets producing local movies where the cultural effect is the strongest – in the countries of origin! Why would you expect the same effect in the US? You’re a nation of immigrants, and some immigrants aren’t as interested in their history as others.

      Lastly, why the focus on movies? Movies aren’t the be-all end-all of cultural expression…..which is exactly what makes the core issue not be so meaningful. Black culture is strongly expressed through music, not so much through books. We have lots of books, but our movies are underdeveloped. Should every disbalance be addressed until quotas are met? What is the *meaningful* problem here?

  16. Erik H

    I think it’s also about culture and hidden mannerisms–which are heavily linked to identity–as much as race. There’s a certain easy familiarity when you’re looking at people who your brain processes as similar, which makes communication easier and less work. The “other-race effect” isn’t just a white thing. How many non-POC here routinely watch BET, for example?

    Obviously it can go too far (tiny minority groups make no sense to track.) But the idea that people should sometimes have access to non-white media seems pretty reasonable to me.

    1. SHG Post author

      Interesting that you raise BET. Is everything else WET? I remember a Sanford & Son episode years ago where Lamont said, “I read Life magazine, do you read Ebony?”

      So are you speaking from your own experience or is this just your theory of how other people feel? Or maybe they elected you spokesman? Is that it, are you the spokesman?

  17. KP

    Gosh I didn’t realise you Americans had laws that limited movie-making to white guys only. This ban on anyone making a movie about anything with anyone starring in it must be diffcult to live with. There can be nothing else stopping any minority making any movie they like.

    I figure that when they pass laws covering the percentage of people in movies based on race and sex then the porn industry will become unreconizeable as all those black guys with giant dicks have to find a real job and lesbians have to do it all with a guy.

  18. rjh

    I experience elements of this, but not the monomaniacal categories of the SJW. I have zero interest in American Football or basketball. So there are some seasons when I was basically cut off from part of society. It was a clear split, but I’m not alone in this and found others who also didn’t care. Similarly, when working in another country for a while there is a clear feeling of alienation. It’s actually a lot stronger than some of the US racial separations, to the degree that black and white Americans are much happier being able to share and socialize together when in some countries.

    But those are experiences that translate into “this movie/show is not aimed at me” rather than the SJW “looks like me”. As long as there are movies and shows aimed at me it doesn’t matter. It’s when there are no such shows that it matters.

    I did get a chance to discuss this with some of the cast of Wired. (They also use Acela.) There were two aspects:
    1. There is a huge Hollywood insider vs everyone else. Wired was a Baltimore show. This was uniformly experienced.
    2. This was one of the few shows where races had lots of different characters to play. Blacks and whites all had hero, villain, idiot, wise, and other alternatives. The richness of available characters was noteworthy. They didn’t experience the usual Hollywood “We’ve got an Asian character who does this” and “We’ve got a black character who does that”. This made a big difference. Actors could take many roles, not just the standard Hollywood role assigned to that race.

  19. tim

    Being gay I’ve experienced first hand what having a positive role model can do to someone who has been maligned and put down because of who they are or what they look like. Seeing a positive role model on screen that they can identify with can do wonders to someone’s self esteem.

    As for myself – in my twenties I have a found memory of seeing “Queer as Folk” (the original British version – not the American remake disaster) for the first time. It wasn’t that I could necessarily identify with all the characters – but it was an one honest portrayal of gay life that hasn’t made it on screen before and reinforced my decision to come out. I also switched careers into InfoSec. Maybe related. Maybe not.

  20. Rxc

    Slightly off topic- I feel really bad because I never see any slightly overweight, short, Italians who can’t jump playing in the NBA.

  21. Shadow of a Doubt

    I normally wouldn’t jump in just to agree with you but it’s Tues(Wedns?)day talk so Why not.

    I don’t think this is much of a blind spot. I’m not a movie buff, but I don’t see many half-German half-Danish balding, muscular but overweight (Think Maui from Moana but paler) white men with a chest rug, tattoos and a light Canadian accent in the movies I do see.

    Suggesting that Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise is representation of me is akin to me saying that all Asians or black folk look like, or saying a fit black man with a British accent would be good representation for fat Jamaicans.

    Even if we’re going with “I want to see someone who looks like me” I look a lot more like the average Samoan than Robert Downey Jr. The whole thing is completely fallacious unless one is the type of person who sees everything through the lens of the oppression olympics.

    1. SHG Post author

      My obvious connection to Redford notwithstanding, the entire notion of it never crossed my mind.

  22. Cassius Dre

    People who “take issue with the absence” of characters who look like them are just exhibiting their narcissism. They just use the popular film as a base from which to talk about themselves. So with narcissism, the problem is not the lack of a diverse cast per se; instead, the problem becomes the lack of diversity as it relates only to themselves.

    It seems to have worked, since Anil got you to talk about him. It’s narcissism all the way down.

    1. SHG Post author

      I bet Anil would rather I not talk about him. Narcissism is epidemic, but part of the problem is that it’s so widespread that narcissists don’t realize they’re narcissists, and don’t see anything wrong with their narcissism. To make matters worse, other narcissists don’t see it in them either. They’ve normalized narcissism.

      1. jyjon

        The only reason twitter is a thing is because of the narcissists. The same with blogs and posting in forums. Actually, now that I think about it, the internet isn’t for porn, it’s for Narcissists.

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