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(Photo credit: Dana Starbard/CTMG)
I bet you wouldn’t have pegged Proud Mary as the first film of 2018 to spark controversy. The issue isn’t with the film itself; its how the film has been promoted–hardly at all.
Folks on Twitter (both regular users and big folks with blue check marks) voiced their concern and anger of the lack of promotion Sony Pictures/Screen Gems is giving this film. To be honest, I’ve only just started seeing TV spots about a week ago. Compare that to a movie like Red Sparrow, which is coming out in March, but already has a TV spot out this month.
The common thought when films try to suppress a movie is that the film must be horrible. Usually, that’s the case; if a film is embargoed to critics until its release date, that generally means the studio doesn’t have confidence in it. There have only been a few times when a film is so good that the embargo is put in place so critics don’t accidentally spoil it. But this didn’t seem to be the case with Proud Mary.
After viewing the trailer and artwork for the film last year, I was immediately worried. Something about it told me this film wasn’t going to get the attention it deserved. Maybe it’s because the trailer focused on some heavily worn-down tropes in the female spy genre; the blond wig, the thigh-high boots, the arsenal of weapons in their home, etc. The wig really got me, to be honest. I thought the purpose of a wig was so you can’t be identified; wouldn’t a loud blonde wig like that make the character stand out even more?
Even with that said, though, how bad could Proud Mary be? With stars like Taraji P. Henson and Danny Glover headlining, the film has to at least be moderately enjoyable and profitable enough for Sony to feel like they’ll at least break even. But what do the critics say?
For this post, I’ve specifically cataloged what critics of color have to say about this film. Every blurb you’ll read in this post is from a critic of color. This is not because I don’t trust what white male critics have to say. But I specifically want to know what folks with some skin in this representation game have to say about this film and the promotion scandal surrounding it. People who are tacitly in tune with the battles actors of color face in Hollywood might have a different perspective and frame of reference than someone who doesn’t. Plus, I’d like to highlight what their viewpoints are, since 1) this is a film starring actors of color and 2) signal-boosting some of the few POC critics there is a really important thing to do. So with all of that said, let’s get into it.
Britany Murphy, Geeks of Color
“…[T]he characters of [Danny] Glover and [Billy] Brown are the typical, uninspired head-honcho types and while they provide some foil for Mary, you could have interchanged the pair with any other actors and ended up with similar results. Also, there was hardly enough Mary. I went into the theater believing the film would be something similar to Atomic Blonde or John Wick – with Mary kicking a** and taking names, but I was surprised to see that they focused more on the family drama aspect.
Now, while I did enjoy this and was glad that it delved deeper into a story than just Mary shooting up everyone in her sight, it should not have taken until the third act to get into most of the action. The progression was a bit slow to get to the boiling point and the lackluster secondary characters did not help much. However, the performances of Henson and Winston most certainly make up for the film’s slow points. As does the music – from The Temptations to Tina Turner, the soundtrack will have you dancing in your seat and while the film is set in today’s era, the throwback jams fit the mood of the film perfectly.”
Michael Ordoña, Common Sense Media
“This action film’s lack of originality and cleverness is made worse by a self-defeating visual style and overuse of music. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the main character is an ace killer who wants out of the biz after bonding with a kid. Her bosses “love” her but won’t let her go….The folks behind Proud Mary seem to have decided against character development, so there’s nothing to distinguish one person from another in terms of their behavior…The dialogue is flat and predictable, and the action scenes are uninterestingly executed, with no tension or wow factor.
All this is compounded by hyperactive editing that seems flat-out inappropriate in most scenes, especially the quieter ones. All the excessive cutting prevents the scenes from having any flow. It actually makes the film hard to watch at times — not because of the speed of the edits, but because it feels like someone keeps rhythmically hitting the “previous channel” key on a remote control…Proud Mary is a style-less exercise that wastes some talent.”
Inkoo Kang, The Wrap
“‘Proud Mary’ did not screen for critics, nor should it have. It’s a copy of a copy of a mediocre original, with the drab aesthetics of a TV movie and the emotional hollowness of an infomercial. Ostensibly about a hired killer (the Halloween wigs and running-in-stilettos kind) who decides to reclaim her femininity, the picture is sunk by its all-male writing and directing team’s narrow conception of womanhood as lipstick and maternal instincts. (“London Has Fallen” helmer Babak Najafi directs; the screenplay is credited to Steve Antin, John Stuart Newman, and Christian Swegal.) Being a mercenary has never looked so cheesy.”
Joi Childs, Black Girl Nerds
“…There are articles out there that have detailed the lack of promotion for this film, which I won’t re-iterate, but I agree with. Layer in the fact that critics, including myself, did not receive screeners for this film. Now add another layer that in the whole five borough city of New York, there were less than five theaters showing evening screenings…[But] for 90 minutes, Proud Mary delivered to me a campy, enthralling and fun movie.
Proud Mary is a solid addition to the female-led action film lexicon. What makes it even more solid is Taraji’s single-minded determination to provide a range of Black women-led roles. Make no mistake: from the characters, to the cadence, the Black mom moments and phenomenal wigs, this is a Black-ass film. While not perfect, the film still shines despite the odds (and A&M budget) stacked against it.
And that’s something to be proud of.”
Travis Hopson, Punch Drunk Critics
“Taraji P. Henson? Badass. We love her as the tough-as-nails Cookie Lyon on Empire, and when she finally received the acclaim she deserved for Hidden Figures, we all saw it as a victory. We’ve been rooting for Henson ever since her character’s transformative arc in Hustle ‘n Flow. So when the trailers for Proud Mary promised Taraji as a John Wick-style killer set to a ’70s Blaxploitation vibe, there was legit reason to get hyped. Taraji’s about to kick some ass, y’all!!!
Well, nah. Proud Mary is a disaster from start to finish, and we see why Sony has quietly dumped the movie in the middle of January with zero buzz. How could that possibly happen? Who could possibly screw up Taraji P. Henson packin’ heat with attitude to match and a soundtrack of Motown’s finest? Blame London has Fallen director Babaj Najafi and a couple of so-called writers who have foisted upon Taraji a bland, boring, and dreary assassin flick the quality of the Bruce Willis/50 Cent stinkers piling up DVD bins at Walmart. Right from the beginning there is something cheap and inartful about it, as trained contract killer Mary Goodwin does her morning workout to the tune of “Poppa was a Rolling Stone” over title credits that may have been lifted from Cleopatra Jones.”
From these reviews, the verdict is that Proud Mary is a movie that had potential, and if you’re down for some campy fun, you might enjoy it. But overall, Proud Mary seems like it’s a film that squanders Henson’s talents for something derivative.
If you’ve seen the film, what did you think about it? Do you have a different opinion? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
Bruno Mars and Cardi B have changed the game with their In Living Color tribute video for the “Finesse” remix. Yes, I’m gonna be that bold and write such a claim, solely on the fact that the video made it concrete that ’90s fashion is here to stay. ’90s fashion has been havinng a resurgence for a couple of years now, and between 2017 and 2018, late ’80s and early ’90s fashion have become an even stronger “cool kid” calling card, especially since brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Nauticaa are making tons of money with their vintage or vintage-leaning lines, like Tommy Jeans, Fila Heritage, and Reebok Classic and Nautica’s Lil Yachty collection, which brings back themes of ’90s Nautica. It’s either highly ironic or highly masterful that Bruno’s 24K Magic plays right into this trend.
So how can you get the look? Well, one way is to scour your local thrift stores and/or garages. Another way is to get ’90s-esque fashion from affordable (or at least “reasonable”) stores like Forever 21, Zara, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, etc. However, if you’re looking to go completely authentic while buying brand new clothes (and you have some expendable dollars to spend), here are some clothing choices from choice brands that were huge in the ’90s, but now use their ’90s cred to make boutique items.
One of the breakout fashion stars of the “Finesse” music video is Cardi B’s multicolored bomber jacket. It’s hard to tell if it’s actually vintage or if it’s of today, but regardless, it brings back tons of ’90s memories.
One of the ’90s brands that was big on multicolored jackets was Cross Colours. Believe it or not, Cross Colours is still in existence, making awesome jackets and shirts. Take for instance this colorblocked hooded jacket.
This jacket immediately takes you back to the early ’90s, which was not only big on bright colors, but also Afrocentrism. It’s more evident in some of Cross Colours’ other jackets, but this one also carries the same themes of Afrocentrism, with the emphasis on red, black, and green, the colors of the Pan-African flag.
Throughout the ’90s, particularly the mid-’90s, stripes were big. Striped hoodies in particular seemed really big. I couldn’t tell you why stripes were so popular, but they were; perhaps it’s because it seemed more modern than the deconstructivist/’80s art deco patterns that were slowly fading out. Stripes are a lot more streamlined than the busier patterns of earlier years, and maybe that hint of futurism poked at the burgeoning world of the internet. I don’t know, but it’s a theory.
In any case, the quintessential striped hoodie is showcased in rare form on Bruno as he exudes swagger and, yes, finesse, as the leader of this music video.
I feel like I’m a bit too young to remember Karl Kani as a name brand–the self-proclaimed “Originator of Urban Fashion” was established in 1989, one year after I was born–but that name was huge in the ’90s nonetheless, and judging by what the brand currently has for sale, it would seem that one of their specialties was the striped hoodie.
This hoodie, the Marcy Ave. Rugby Hoodie, has all of the things you want in a striped hoodie. It’s got bright colors, tons of interest, and it’s got short sleeves, perfect for that layered look Bruno is rocking in the above screenshot.
I wish hats could come back in style. One of the things I miss from the ’90s is the plethora of hats people wore on a semi-daily basis. The most popular proponent of ’90s hats was the titular character of Blossom, but hats were everywhere and on everyone, even on puppets–remember Jody from The Puzzle Place? She was a huge hat person. (The prime combo in the ’90s was the sun hat-flowery vest-long skirt combo. So much fabric, but it looked so cool.)
Between bucket hats, sun hats, baseball caps and all other manner of hats, there’s no way you can really go wrong when compiling a ’90s wardrobe. For this post, however, we’re focusing on the multicolored baseball cap, as shown on one of these dancers below.
Karl Kani comes correct again with their multicolored baseball cap, aptly called the “’90s Hat.”
This hat is pretty self-explanatory. It’s multicolored, it’s bright, it’s bold, and it screams ’90s. What more can you ask for?
The next component of quintessential ’90s fashion is mom jeans. I don’t know if they were called “mom jeans” back in the day–I just remember them as “jeans.” These jeans were not just popular with moms–they were popular for all women, even young teens. Just take a look at the fashion on the covers of The Babysitters Club books. They’re all wearing mom jeans.
Nowadays, mom jeans are coming back with a vengeance. Check out the stylish mom jeans on this dancer below.
Luckily for us, Jordache, the preeminent fashion jean brand, is still making mom jeans along with their more modern cuts.
The “Cheryl” High Waisted Mom Skinny Jeans are part of Jordache’s vintage line, and these pants give you everything you were asking for in a classic mom jean. It’s stone washed with a tapered leg, it’s got the classic high waist, and it looks like it’s just on this side of “cute.” It seems like the best mom jeans are just on the border between “cute and fashionable” and “horribly ill-fitting.” Just my opinion, anyways.
The last element of ’90s fashion I’m discussing in this post are the puffy sneakers. For some reason, sneakers are the mos vivid memories I have of ’90s fashion outside of all the Disney stuff I loved as a kid and the fashion tragedies I was subjected to (to this day, I hate stirrup pants). Perhaps it was because I was so connected to Michael Jordan’s career, like so many kids my age were, but I distinctly recall when the Air Jordans came out and the subsequent hype surrounding those shoes. Preceding that was the hype surrounding the Reebok Pump shoes. To this day, I still want both a pair of Air Jordans and Reebok Pumps. I still could get both, but I don’t feel like shelling out the money for it.
In any case, puffy, chunky sneakers were all the rage back in the day. Case in point–Bruno and his crew’s sneakers.
There are many routes you can go with ’90s sneakers–you can go to Nike, Fila, Reebok, and several other brands to get that right ’90s look. I chose to go with Reebok, since Reeboks had been my sneaker of choice in childhood (or, rather, my parents’ sneaker of choice for me.)
The Men’s Classics EX-O-FIT Clean Hi S and the Women’s Classics Freestyle Hi has that ’90s look down. To me, these sneakers are unisex, since a foot’s a foot. Also, Reebok tends to give the men’s sneakers more of a classic ’90s look, whereas the women’s side focuses more on fashion colors (too much more, I think). But regardless of which way you go, Reebok knows that its audience loves the early ’90s silhouette that made the brand famous, and it keeps that silhouette going, even in some of their more modern shoes.
After you get your ’90s wardrobe down, all you got to do is get some gold doorknockers or a chunky gold necklace, and you’ll be dripping in finesse, too.
(Photo credit: Tidal/YouTube)
One of the highlights of Jay Z’s Family Feud video, directed and conceptualized by Ava DuVernay, is the exploration of female leadership in families and, indeed, in a future America. Seeing scores of diverse women running the country, culminating in co-presidency between Irene Bedard and Omari Hardwick, only made me want to see a full-fledged drama series based around these characters and this new, Afrofuturistic and ethnofuturistic world.
Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling interviewed Bedard about her role and the importance of honoring female strength in relation to the nation and the world. Here are some key points from her interview.
On getting the call to star in Family Feud while at Standing Rock:
“…In the midst of all of this in Standing Rock, where reception is terrible, I got a call from my agent asking if I could be ready in three days to do a video project in New York. I got on a plane not knowing what I was doing except it was an untitled Ava DuVernay project. I love her and I knew whatever she was doing, it would be awesome. I went with complete faith.”
On hearing she was playing Madame President:
“[DuVernay] looked at me and said, ‘So, you are the President of the United States in the year 2444.’ I was like, ‘What?’ (laughs.) She said, ‘You are actually the co-President because at this time we have realized over the generations that we need to have more balance between the feminine and masculine.’… Of course this was going to done right with a director like Ava, but then to have Beyoncé and Jay-Z? I got to tell my son about this, He was like, ‘what?’ (laughs.) This project gave me some teenager cool points. (laughs.)”
On the importance of representing the matrilineal aspect of leadership:
“…Violence to Mother Earth is another representation of violence against women. Why do we do this? I feel it is because we are out of balance.
If you look at the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman, there are two men who come to her and one man wanted to own her, while the other wanted to give respect and value. The man who wanted to own her got the thunderbolt, the other who wanted to honor her received the gifts, the pipe and the people thrived.
We are lacking in intelligent discourse. I believe that we as a society are much more capable of being tolerant and loving to one another, than what might appear on the internet.”
Read the full interview at Indian Country Today.
With Star Trek: Discovery around the corner, I’m reviewing some of the things I hope we find out in the second half of the season.
1. The Ash Tyler/Voq mystery will finally be put to rest
I’ve written extensively about this in my SlashFilm Star Trek: Discovery recaps, but I personally think that the “Tyler is Voq” theory is past its prime because what’s the most important thing now is how will Tyler overcome the trauma he’s endured at the hands of L’Rell. Whether he’s really Voq inside is no relevance since Tyler can’t remember his former life and his bond with L’Rell anyways. Meanwhile, even though L’Rell might know everything, she’s removed Voq’s ability to consent to anything. So, sorry to say this L’Rell fans, but your girl’s a rapist.
What can I say about Tyler’s graphic nightmare? First of all, it was horrific. What’s even more horrific is that Tyler’s dreams could get worse now that L’Rell is actually on board. Second, the amount of abuse Tyler suffered — and the anger towards the Klingons he’s amassed because of it — negates any credence a “Voq overtakes the Discovery as Tyler” theory. We saw how he instantly went into shock at the sight of L’Rell when he and Michael were aboard the Ship of the Dead. At this point, all Tyler wants is peace, and if anything, the hypothetical scenario of him learning he’s actually a Klingon could make him want to kill L’Rell and all Klingons even more.
How could he go from tortured soul to the newly risen Klingon leader between now and the end of the first season in 2018? With how he’s acted around the Klingons, plus him saying he’s found peace with Michael, it seems like Tyler is with the good guys, regardless of who he is underneath. In short: Tyler or Voq isn’t doing anything to Discovery except save it when push comes to shove. Once the Discovery gets what they want out of L’Rell, he’s either going to take her down or it’ll be a battle between L’Rell and Michael over Tyler. As we have seen from Michael’s fight with Kol and her slaying of T’Kuvma, she’s good at taking down Klingons.
This opinion backs up what I originally wrote about Tyler’s situation in the “Choose Your Pain” recap:
The insinuation that Tyler has been raped repeatedly by the Klingon captain was so subtle in the dialogue between Tyler and Lorca that it’s easy to look past it, or even excuse it away as Tyler purposefully using his sex appeal to his advantage. But the way he swings at the Klingon captain tells a different story. He’s trying to throw back some of the pain she’s caused him.
Tyler’s victimhood might also go unrecognized by some viewers due to how much our society’s view of toxic masculinity keeps us from seeing men as sexual assault victims, especially when it’s at the hands of a woman. Male victims are often scorned or seen as weak. Just look to last week [at the time of writing this review], when Terry Crews revealed he had been sexually assaulted by a powerful Hollywood executive. While Crews received tons of support, there were also people — many of them men — wondering why he didn’t say anything and why he, as a man, didn’t do anything, particularly since his assailant was another man. Some people assumed Crews couldn’t be a victim just because he’s a burly man (that’s not counting the racial implications there are to this assumption).
While women are often wrongly stereotyped as “asking for it,” male victims are also stereotyped in the same way. Somehow, it’s always painted as the victim’s fault — not the perpetrator’s — for their own assault. Even worse for men is when other men might congratulate male victims for “getting lucky” if their assailant happened to be a woman. I haven’t seen much on the internet in the way of actually recognizing Tyler’s trauma — I’ve only seen one person tweet about wanting the show to explore Tyler’s PTSD. I’ve also seen a person say Tyler ended “a relationship” with the Klingon captain? This was no relationship. Hopefully, Discovery will explore this further. After all, Star Trek has always been about using science fiction to tackle real world social, moral, and ethical questions and quandaries. It’s only right for the new show to dig deep here.
At any rate, it’s not going to achieve what some fans hope it does, which is invalidate Tyler’s relationship with Michael. Speaking of:
2. Michael and Tyler’s relationship gets taken to the next level
It’d appear that these two are already getting more serious than I initially thought they would by midseason; maybe I’m just used to shows from the ‘90s that take at least three seasons for a romance to actually get off of first base. But I’m quite excited at the prospect of a big relationship for Michael. It can only help define both her and Tyler grow in a myriad of ways.
I’d also like to bring up something that’s been poking me for a while, and that’s the paranoia I have surrounding some fans steadfastly against Michael having any romantic relationships. Perhaps I’m wrongly lumping some fans in with the fans who are so focused on Tyler being Voq just so they can trample on Tyler and Michael’s relationship. But the conflation of “Michael shouldn’t be with anyone” with “Tyler has to be Voq because of his relationship with Michael” annoys me. With some fans, these two sentiments work in tandem, and having lived through the Sleepy Hollow drama regarding Abbie and Ichabod’s OBVIOUS relationship and the show’s insistence on working against said relationship, plus the Into the Badlands drama with Veil’s death and my subsequent chat with EP Al Gough, my hackles are up. I’m ready to guard this relationship until the canon says otherwise. And even then, I might defend this relationship. That’s my position and I’m sticking to it.
3. More focus on the other bridge crew members
The first half of the season was to establish Michael’s story. Perhaps all of this season will be a complete beginning and end to Michael’s first chapter. But I’d like for the rest of this season and subsequent seasons to focus on the other crew members as well as Michael.
We’ve already had Saru’s character exploration episode; I’m now ready for us to get into what’s behind Owosekun, Rhys, and Bryce. I especially want to know the stories behind Airiam, the augmented human (or alien?) who mysteriously never speaks, and Detmer, who now sports ocular and cranial implants due to her injuries from the Battle of the Binary Stars.
If we were in a “standard” Star Trek series, I wouldn’t worry about if we’d ever learn more about these characters, because on every Star Trek series up until Discovery, entire episodes would be set aside to explore smaller characters, such as the Voyager episode “Warhead” featuring Ensign Harry Kim as its major character. With Discovery, the lay of the land is different. But I do hope that element of prior series remains and is explored at some point in Discovery’s lifespan.
4. More Georgiou
My biggest gripe with Discovery thus far is how little time we spent with Georgiou. With a great talent like Michelle Yeoh, it makes more sense for Discovery to feature her as much as possible. I would love to see more flashbacks with her, or maybe some alternate universe episodes featuring a still-living Georgiou. I just want Georgiou back, point blank. I’m quite sure I’m not alone in that. It has been confirmed that we’d see more of Georgiou, so that’s a bit of news we can hang our hat on.
What do you hope gets addressed during the back half of Discovery’s first season? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
It’s 2018! For many of us, that means fresh starts. It certainly means that for me.
I’m sure you can relate to this, but 2017 was a serious challenge for me. Without a doubt, it was one of the toughest years of my life. Granted, when life gives you challenges, it’s only meant for you to grow. But you can’t deny how hard it is to learn those lessons and deal with the awful packages some of those lessons tend to come in.
If you’re like me and you’re glad you’ve made it out of the fire, congratulations! You’ve endured some tough stuff, which means you’re much stronger than you’ve probably given yourself credit for. You’ve learned some hard life lessons, dealt with unforeseen drama, and found more of yourself in the process. Now that we’re out of the forge of 2017 all brand new, let’s keep 2018 going in the right direction by mapping out exactly how you want your 2018 to go down.
It’s definitely important to keep your goals and life lessons handy because if you forget (and you will), you can easily find and review them to keep yourself on the right path. What I’ve done is make myself a laptop wallpaper that doubles as my 2018 goals checklist. My plan is to update this checklist throughout the year, so throughout the year, my wallpaper will have new goals added or old goals scratched off. (If you’d like to make your own, Canva already has a wallpaper-sized template with several layouts you can choose from, or you can use the blank template and make your own theme from scratch.)
If you don’t want to make a wallpaper or can access your thoughts better in journal form, I’ve made this short 2018 cheat sheet PDF. You can print out the pages and stick them in your notebook, journal, binder, pin them to your wall, or do whatever you need to with them to remind yourself of what you’re working towards and what you’d like to avoid. Click the image to download.
Just as a disclaimer–I’m not a psychologist or therapist. I’m just someone who has learned a lot in 2017 and felt a document like this one will help others jumpstart getting their lives in order for 2018. I’m gonna use this myself, since 2017 wouldn’t quit, even down its last hours.
2018 is a year I hope we can all look to as a time to get out from under our personal rubble and start anew. It’s time to get rid of bad habits, shake off bad influences and prepare ourselves for awesome lives ahead.
What are some of your goals for 2018? Share if you feel so inclined in the comments section below!
If you don’t know Frank Waln, you need to know him. The Sicangu Lakota rapper and activist has given voice to the voiceless and educated fans with his timely, moving, and politically sharp lyrics. He’s also put his words to power by working with The Dream Defenders in Palestine, fought against the Keystone XL pipeline, and regularly promotes his activism through his Twitter account. Understand Waln better by reading his own words about his music, his politics, and his message to fans old and new.
On his latest EP, The Bridge:
“The world is hungry for Indigenous voices and stories right now. This album [The Bridge], like all Indgenous art, holds centuries of Indigenous stories, personal and universal. I made this project for myself and other Indigenous people like me who need honesty, vulnerability and healing in their lives.”
On the historical background of his song, “Treaties”:
“As an Indigenous producer and songwriter, center the voices of Indigenous elders in a song is a great way to show my audience who I learn from, and to share knowledge directly from the source. Thhis song is as relevant now as it was hundreds of years ago, when the U.S. government was breaking its treaty rights. It’s happening right now with the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines being built onto treaty land.
How can the United States call itself the greatest country in the world when it won’t even honor the treaties that founded this country? I hope this song spurs every American citizen who hears it, Indigenous or not, to pressure our government to follow its own laws and honor its treaties. This song is about justice.”
The song that started his hip-hop journey:
“…[W]hen I was seven or eight, I fell in love with playing piano. I started teaching myself how to play keys. So, I would say, my dedication to music started at the piano when I was seven or eight. Eminem was my introduction to hip-hop. But then, when I heard the Nas song “One Mic” that’s when I decided I wanted to be a rapper. That’s really when I devoted myself to hip-hop.”
On hip-hop’s resonance with Native Americans:
“Hip-hop resonates with a lot of people of my generation, whether they be in a city or on a reservation. I was thinking about this a lot lately. When I was growing up, the representations of Natives that we saw on TV were nothing like what we were living. Nothing like our reality. It was always, like, these savage Indians of the past. Very stereotypical. The media we saw, the artwork that we saw, the images in mainstream media that we related to the most, were hip-hop. Those artists were telling stories that definitely related to things we were going through, and are going through on the reservation.”
Describing his activism:
“What I’m doing – the ideology and worldview that I’m using to approach what I do – is older than the word and concept of an “activist.” I’m just Lakota. That’s why I care about my people. That’s why I care about the earth. That’s why I care about the water. That’s why I care about my community. That’s why I care about people around me. That’s why I devote my gift of music and why I use my platform to protect those things. Because I am Lakota. That’s how I was raised by mother, and my aunties, and my community. That’s what I’m taught in my culture and in my ceremonies. A lot of time Native people get pinned as activists, but really we’re just being Native. I’m just living my life, and trying to live my life in a way that my ancestors and elders and my parents and my culture raised me.”
Coco has premiered to great fanfare at the Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico, and so far, the buzz is positive! Hearing about good buzz is different than actually reading it, so here are seven reviews from both American and Mexican critics, all of which have something positive to say about the film that finally breaks through Pixar’s color and non-Western cultural barrier.
“A walk among the Mexicans”
The general impression is one of admiration and even respect [;].although it does not give us one of the biggest Pixar movies, at least it gives the world the possibility of dreaming of a walk among the Mexicans.—Alonso Díaz de la Vega, El Universal [translation]
“Coco [points] toward a less-homogenized…future”
“There’s no getting around that Disney/Pixar hope “Coco” absolves them of past ethnic-representation sins in forging popular movie fare. But the honest feeling coursing through “Coco” is its own marigold bridge in a way, pointing toward a less-homogenized, but no less universal-in-theme future for creators of animated movies.”–Robert Abele, The Wrap
“[Coco speaks] of a real knowledge of the world that it wants to portray.”
“[T]here is a series of data, winks, images, phrases and faces that speak of a real knowledge of the world that it wants to portray, fruit undoubtedly of a deep investigation and without hurries. Coco gets it not without stumbling, but with a kindness that will leave you open-mouthed more than once.”–Erick Estrada, CineGarage [translation]
“[Coco is] free of the watering down or whitewashing [in] Americanized appropriations.”
“Delivering a universal message about family bonds while adhering to folkloric traditions free of the watering down or whitewashing that have often typified Americanized appropriations of cultural heritage, the gorgeous production also boasts vibrant visuals and a peerless voice cast populated almost entirely by Mexican and Latino actors.”–Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
“Unkrich and his team [demonstrate] an essential understanding of the Mexican tradition.”
“Unkrich and his team avoid reductionism by demonstrating an essential understanding of the Mexican tradition through a respectful and caring approach, and seeking the opportune moment to pay tribute to iconic Mexican cultural icons such as El Santo, Frida Kahlo, Cantinflas, Pedro Infante and, Of course, José Guadalupe Posada, whose engravings immortalized the figure of La Catrina. Although the film abuses the somewhat naive and childish physical gags – almost all linked to the ease with which the dead manipulate or lose their own bones – Coco is a film about the celebration of the family, the importance of memories and the connection through the generations[.]–Luis Fernando Galván, En Filme [translation, links added]
“Unkrich…embraces and incorporates the customs and folklore of Día de Muertos into the very fabric of the film.”
“For Mexican audiences — or those who live in California, Texas, or any place with a visible Latino presence — the cultural iconography of the Land of the Dead ought to look quite familiar, as Unkrich (who previously oversaw “Toy Story 3”) embraces and incorporates the customs and folklore of Día de Muertos into the very fabric of the film.”–Peter Debruge, Variety
“The most risky Pixar film and, therefore, the most fruitful.”
“One thing is for sure: the creators of Coco did the homework.The various research trips they made to the country are evident in what could be the most risky Pixar film and, therefore, the most fruitful and even hopeful[.]”–Jessica Oliva, Cine Premiere [translation]
Coco comes to theaters Nov. 22.
It’s official–he MCU finally has a confirmed LGBT character! According to Tessa Thompson (in response to someone else who was being antagonistic), her Thor: Ragnarok character Valkyrie is bisexual, just like how she is in the comic books.
She’s bi. And yes, she cares very little about what men think of her. What a joy to play! https://t.co/d0LZKTHCfL
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) October 21, 2017
She later tweeted this clarification.
YES! Val is Bi in the comics & I was faithful to that in her depiction. But her sexuality isn’t explicitly addressed in Thor: Ragnarok. https://t.co/hmb5lYN5to
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) October 23, 2017
When the news broke, the internet was decidedly of two camps–one who felt Thompson’s admission was proof of Marvel (aka Disney) finally giving much-needed bisexual representation, and the other, who felt like it was still Marvel/Disney trying to have their cake and eat it too.
Guess what? Both camps are right. Here’s why.
1. Yes, it is a step in the right direction
Even though an actor admitting that her character is still canonically bi shouldn’t be that big of a deal (i.e. when Ryan Reynolds said Deadpool was still going to be bi in his film adaptations), for a place as faux-liberal as Disney, it’s a very big deal. This is coming from a company that has created their Marvel franchise into a world of toxic and fragile masculinity, where even crying gets seen as a girly thing to do.
Even though fans have long had their speculations about certain characters, this is the first time anyone from the MCU has finally gone on record as saying their character is part of the LGBT spectrum. For many fans, this will mean they can finally, canonically claim someone as a positive representation. They’ll be able to go see Thor: Ragnarok and feel happy that finally there’s someone like them on screen. Also, for some, the fact that her sexuality isn’t expressed could be a positive; the ultimate goal for LGBT characters is for their sexuality to be treated like a non-issue; for some viewers, having it as a “non-issue” means that it’s not used as Valkyrie’s defining quality.
2. Valkyrie’s bisexuality not being physically represented could be a problem.
Comic book writer Gail Simone tweeted this sentiment, and I don’t think she’s alone.
I want to be happy about this but…
Dang it, why is this stuff still coded and ‘implied?’ https://t.co/jQLN227J2C
— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) October 24, 2017
For as many people who are happy just to her that Valkyrie is still bisexual in the films, there are just as many who will feel like Disney hasn’t gone far enough. It’s one thing to have an actor say that their character is still canon-compliant as far as their sexual orientation goes; it’s another to actually have that character express that orientation on screen. If it’s not a big deal, then why can’t she be seen with a girlfriend or a boyfriend?
To be fair, Thompson implied to a Twitter follower that a blonde valkyrie seen with her character is, in fact, our Valkyrie’s girlfriend, but the implication is made with a winking emoji, not words. To use Simone’s words, it’s still an implication, not an outright fact.
What can we take from this?
To look at this thing from a macro view, Disney is a company that has many branches that don’t often work together. For instance, the Disney Channel is making its own network history by having its first openly gay storyline in its popular show Andi Mack. And earlier this year, Disney Junior showcased its first lesbian couple on the massively popular Doc McStuffins. ABC routinely focuses on LGBT storylines through How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, Fresh Off the Boat, black-ish, When We Rise and The Real O’Neals (recently cancelled).
Disney proper has also dabbled with gay representation, to clumsy effect, in Beauty and the Beast (it’s the thought that counts, but still, it wasn’t as groundbreaking as it was made out to be, and it was made worse by Josh Gad severely backtracking for no reason). But while its offshoots have a much more nimble time delving into LGBT-friendly storylines, Disney itself has trouble, as evidenced by that Beauty and the Beast scenario and the severe lack of storylines in Lucasfilm and Marvel movies. Maybe Valkyrie is the first true step for LGBT representation in Marvel films. If that’s the case, then maybe their next foray will be less timid and more boisterous.