Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

Representation count: What “Rough Night” and “Girls Trip” mean for you

Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures

The upcoming film Rough Night is being marketed as the next feel-good comedy for raunchy feminist women looking for a film that portrays women as “women.” Starring Scarlett Johansson (who is currently taking an L for Ghost in the Shell), Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Demi Moore, Colton Haynes, Jillian Bell, Ty Burrell, Dean Winters, Ilana Glazer, and Karan Soni, the film follows a group of best friends who meet in Miami Beach to celebrate one of their own’s wedding, only to somehow kill a male stripper. The film will be in theaters June 16.

Here’s the red band trailer for you see the film for yourself:

Are you on the fence about seeing this movie? If you need help getting your mind together, here are some things we can glean from the trailer and Twitter chatter that might help.

The racial representation is low: Kravitz and Soni are the only people of color in the main cast (I guess, if you want to be technical about, you can include Ty Burrell since he did find out he has black ancestry…but he’s as black as I am East Asian. We’ll still welcome him in the Racial Draft, though.) It’s a shame that, as much as Kravitz has talked openly about racism in the casting office, she’s still relegated to being “the black friend” in a movie. There’s no telling what Soni’s character “Raviv” does. But one can assume he’s not a major character.

Not mentioned in this rundown is Enrique Murciano. He could very well be a part of the main cast, but as of this post, his character hasn’t been named on IMDB, which points in the direction of him being a minor character. However, we’ll have to see once the film is released to theaters.

The fat jokes are many, just in the trailer: So, the trailer spoils for us that Jillian Bell’s character Alice is the one who kills the stripper by basically jumping on his lap, but actually landing on his neck, with the brute force propelling the poor guy on his back, where his head hits the hard tile floor, causing a fatal brain (and possibly neck) injury. Quite gruesome. But what’s also gruesome is that the death is played as the punchline to the age-old joke of the plus-size woman being somehow grotesque, foolish, and less-than the other skinnier women she’s surrounded by. It’s no mistake that the one getting married is Johansson, not Bell.

You can tell who’s the lead woman in charge, can’t you? Everyone else has some minor or major “difference” with them.

Minor gay representation in the cast, no word on their characters’ sexualities: We do have out actors Haynes and McKinnon as a part of this film, but their characters are probably straight, if we go by Hollywood history.

The fact that the film’s jokey premise rests on a male stripper being brutally killed while doing his job: The real victim of this story aren’t the women at the bachelorette party; it’s the dude who was doing his job that night. I know the film is trying to pull a Weekend at Bernie’s thing, but I don’t think storylines like that are going to fly nowadays, especially since the guy at the center of this story is an innocent guy just trying to make a living. At least Bernie was in with the mob! He knew the risks! (Not that his being a criminal precludes he should die, but you get what I’m saying.)

Look, strippers have lives too, and his life should be given some sort of acknowledgement instead of just using him as a prop to advance the story.

Twitter isn’t really feeling this film for that reason:


Refinery 29 has more on why folks are upset.

“First thing’s first: Strippers are people, and sex workers unfortunately have to tirelessly remind people of this over and over. ‘Sex workers are very marginalized groups of people who don’t have the same workplace safety and rights as other workers—and we get murdered a lot,’” says Arabelle Raphael, a porn performer and sex worker in Los Angeles. ‘Our lives are seen as disposable.’ A long-term mortality study on sex workers found that active sex workers have a mortality rate of 459 per 100,000 people—to put that in perspective, the general public mortality rate is around 1.9 per every 100,000 people.”

In short, this film just might become another L Johansson will have to live with. She certainly is getting red on her film ledger, indeed.

As if to act as a counter, Girls Trip will be hitting theaters July 21. The film, starring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Kofi Siriboe and Larenz Tate, features a group of girlfriends who go on a road trip to the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans. Along the way, they rediscover their friendship while getting into all kinds of romantic and wild misadventures. Also: no male strippers get killed.

Here’s the red band trailer for Girls Trip:

So what’s in this film for you?

An all-black main cast: We don’t have to worry about diversity counts in this cast. Us black people are covered. And, if you’re an ally looking to support a black cast, you can’t find a better one. Not only do you have OGs like Queen Latifah, Pinkett Smith, Hall, and Tate in the cast, but you also have relatively new faces like Haddish (who has been around for a while, but is still in the up-and-coming set) and Siriboe, who has made waves on the OWN hit show, Queen Sugar. Also, as the trailer shows, Morris Chestnut is also in the mix. There’s plenty for everyone!

No word on LGBT representation: We’ll have to see when the movie comes out.

The film is co-written by Kenya Barris: We love his writing on black-ish, and his funny writing is all over this film. Which means:

The trailer is laugh-out-loud funny: If just the trailer can make me laugh, then I’m sold. I didn’t laugh once in Rough Night’s trailer, and that’s not just because I was already side-eyeing the film. If there were some actually funny moments, I would have laughed; if something’s funny, I can’t not laugh. But I didn’t So, here we are.

It actually feels like a good time: This feels like a movie you want to go with your good girlfriends to see and make a night of it. This is definitely one of those films you go watch, go to dinner afterwards, then possibly go back to one of your friends’ house and drink wine and gossip (I write as if I drink wine…I’m just going off of what the Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder commercials tell me). In any event, it looks like great fun for the adult set, whether you take your friends, your significant other, or your adult siblings.

This looks they’re genuinely having a good time, right? I want to be a part of this friend group. (More than likely, I’d be Jada Pinkett Smith’s character.)

What do you think about Rough Night? Give your opinions below!

“Ghost in the Shell” roundup: First negative review, meme-gate & Aoki remix flop


There are several Ghost in the Shell things to catch up on, so let’s get into it.

Last thing to discuss: Paramount has invested in some viral marketing to make Ghost in the Shell a hit with the social media crowd. Their meme website allows anyone to create memes of themselves illustrating why they’re unique. Folks who are upset with this film, like writer Valerie Complex, have used it to showcase their frustration with this film, as well as other pieces of media that use Asian themes without Asian faces, like Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, and others.

She inspired many more to make memes of their own:

Ghost in the Shell’s first 12 minutes premiered for critics, and while several critics are giving the film the thumbs-up, Valerie Complex wrote a different tune for Nerds of Color.

First, here’s what some of the reviewers said about the first 12 minutes:

“It’s hard to tell from these twelve minutes how faithful (or not) this new live-action Ghost in the Shell will be to the manga, anime or animated feature(s). But it does appear to be exploring the same themes of individuality, consciousness, and the intersection between the two. If the rest of the movie is anything like these twelve minutes, Ghost in the Shell may well be the deepest and strangest big budget film of its ilk in quite some time. I, for one, can’t wait.” –Tommy Cook, Collider

“Visually speaking there is much to be impressed by. Sure twelve minutes can’t tell you a whole lot, but it appears that the filmmakers have really tried to do justice to the franchise. From The Major’s appearance to the hustle and bustle of the futuristic city, there is much to admire in the look of the film. When she comes crashing through a window and the shards of glass explode around her, there isa definite energy that is on-screen.”—JimmyO, JoBlo.com

Now, here’s what Valerie wrote for Nerds of Color. This is the take you’ll want to grab a seat for.

“The plot of this movie is nothing like anything in the original Ghost in The Shell films or shows. Don’t let a few of the philosophical conversations in the trailers fool you. It’s a hodge-podge of familiar elements from different parts of the series, but the philosophy and exploration of existentialism seem to be missing. Even the trailers denote this adaptation is nothing more than a revenge story. Nothing about the original Ghost in the Shell has been about revenge. Revenge is never a prime theme here.”

As Valerie writes, the film is worse than just Scarlett Johansson playing “The Major,” which is bad enough.

“From the sneak [peek] footage I saw, it looks [like] the Major is originally Japanese. Let me explain. It appears that the character is in a nearly fatal accident. This accident causes her body to be rendered useless, but her brain is the only thing that can be salvaged. So this Japanese woman whose brain is recovered is transferred into a body, or Shell, that just happens to be Scarlett Johansson’s new body. Now her name is ‘Mira.’

This is horrifying.”

We’ll see what the full reviews will be like once the film comes out March 31.

What I will say is that any attempt for anybody to say that the film isn’t aware of its source material’s Japanese roots and that it isn’t whitewashing hasn’t seen this trailer, which literally has Kenji Kawai’s theme for 1995’s animated Ghost in the Shell, “Utai I Making of Cyborg” in it, remixed by Steve Aoki (yet another instance of this film using an Asian face to try to allay fears of whitewashing without actually fixing the root of the problem).

Here’s the real version of that song:

The lyrics from that song, as IMDB states, are written in Old Japanese (like Olde English for us Westerners), steeping it even more in Japanese history and culture. The lyrics are also confusing at first:

When you are dancing, a beautiful lady becomes drunken.

When you are dancing, a shining moon rings.


A god descends for a wedding,

And dawn approaches while the night bird sings.


When you are dancing, a beautiful lady becomes drunken.

When you are dancing, a shining moon rings.


A god descends for a wedding,

And dawn approaches while the night bird sings. (Lyrics Wikia)

But after thinking over what the 1995 film is about and pairing it with what I know about “The Ballad of Puppets” from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, I’m going to venture a guess that not only are the lyrics referencing something ominous that happen in the film (Spoiler alert: Major Motoko Kusanagi unwillingly merges with the villain of the film, The Puppet Master, hence the line about a “wedding”), but also reference the overpowering might of technology in the Ghost in the Shell world, the technology being referenced as a “God,” and life before technology as the person dancing so beautifully they can make people drunk and make the moon ring. Like “Ballad of Puppets,” the song is sung in an exclusively Japanese folk style called min’yō.

Sidebar: you can read my whole dissertation on the meaning of “Ballad of Puppets” in relation to Japanese history and Ghost in the Shell at Nerds of Color, in which I posit that the song deals with exclusively Japanese themes that subtly relate back to Japan’s existential war with technology invading its memory of the past as well as how it affects Japan’s future.

This point is not even bringing up the fact that the film is flooded with Japanese imagery and Japanese actors playing secondary roles. Secondary roles in their own story. What’s that about?!

What do you think about Ghost in the Shell? Give your opinions in the comments section below!