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Usually, POC lovers of media are quick to call out moments of whitewashing. However, now comes the time when we have to police how POC actors take roles from other POC.
Adam Beach, one of the most prominent Native actors in Hollywood, is calling on people to boycott the Paramount Network’s first scripted series, Yellowstone. The show, starring Kevin Costner, focuses on Costner’s character John Dutton, who owns the biggest contiguous ranch in the country. The ranch under attack by Yellowstone National Park itself, as well as land developers and a nearby Native American reservation who, I’m assuming, see it as a threat to their way of life since the rest of the synopsis, according to Coming Soon, reads thusly:
“It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny—where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations. Where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news: they are a consequence of living in the new frontier. It is the best and worst of America seen through the eyes of a family that represents both.”
The controversy comes in with the casting of Kelsey Asbille, formerly known as Kelsey Chow, as the Native American character Monica. Asbille is half Chinese, according to Wikipedia. As Clevver writes, “the 25-year-old actress is half-white/half-Taiwanese ‘with some Cherokee ancestry.’ Others state that she was born to a ‘Chinese-Taiwanese father and a mother of English and Cherokee descent.’” Wikipedia’s entry on Asbille states nothing about any Cherokee ancestry. At the end of the day, there seems to be a question surrounding her possible Native American ancestry.
This isn’t the first time she’s been cast as a Native American, which is troubling, since her recent role before Yellowstone, a Native American character named Natalie in the acclaimed film Wind River, is probably what allowed her to secure this Yellowstone role.
According to Clevver, Beach wrote on Instagram that the Yellowstone casting was “failure in diversity.”
“I’m asking my Native Actors to stay away from this project. ‘Yellowstone’ is telling the world that there are no Native actresses capable of leading a TV show. Unless your great-great grandparents are Cherokee,” he wrote.
“I speak on behalf of all my woman Natives who work so hard to get noticed and they wake up to this,” he wrote.
Will more speak out against Asbille’s casting? We’ll see what happens as Yellowstone ramps up.
Latinx representation in Hollywood is something that seems to be suspiciously under the radar, even though it’s highly important, as the Latinx identity is one that is diverse and multifaceted. Despite characters like Sofia Vergara’s Gloria in ABC’s Modern Family and the casts of Lifetime’s Devious Maids and TNT’s Queen of the South existing in the media, there’s still more that needs to be done in Hollywood, such as focusing more on darker-skinned tones, racial diversity, and whitewashing. For every Gloria onscreen, there’s only one April Sexton, Yaya DaCosta’s Afro-Brazilian role on NBC’s Chicago Med, or Carla Espinosa, Judy Reyes’ proud Dominican character on NBC’s Scrubs. Even the roles like Vergara’s role—which is a “sexy Latina” stereotype—need work in order to exist outside of the stereotypes that have been wrongly attached to Latinx characters and actors.
Two of the latest instances of Hollywood’s failure at Latinx representation are X-Men Sunspot and Dr. Cecilia Reyes. The Afro-Latinx characters, which will be part of the new X-Men film The New Mutants, will be played by Henry Zaga and Alice Braga. Zaga is Brazilian, but he isn’t black or biracial, which removes much of the context from Sunspot’s character, as his characterization stems from the racial issues he’s had to face as a biracial Afro-Brazilian. Alternatively, Braga is Afro-Latina, but being light-skinned, she’s able to exhibit a privilege that the original, darker-skinned actress up for the role, Rosario Dawson, can’t. Again, it takes an important piece away from a character that is not just Puerto Rican, but defined by her place in the African Diaspora.
Throughout this year, I spoke with several Latinx creators about how they feel about Hollywood’s Latinx representation and what can be done to make it better. This is a longform piece, so I’ll break this up into several sections:
- The roles afforded to Latinx actors in Hollywood
- Whitewashing and brownface in Hollywood
- The good and bad of Hollywood’s Latinx representation
- Wrapping up—why you must take Latinx representation seriously
The roles afforded to Latinx actors in Hollywood
Latinx actors, like many POC actors, are offered less than their fair share of meaningful roles. When they are offered roles, they’re often racist.
“When Latinx actors do get roles, I feel they’re oftentimes stereotypes,” wrote Desiree Rodriguez, Editorial Assistant for Lion Forge sci-fi comic book Catalyst Prime and writer for Women on Comics and The Nerds of Color, in an email interview. “The Spicy Latina, the Buffoon, the Tough Chick Who Dies, the Sexual Exotic Fantasy, the Drug Dealer, the Gangster, and so on.
“…What I find frustrating is when Latinx actors do get roles, it’s a struggle and they are locked into stereotypes,” said Rodriguez. “I’m a huge fan of Diego Luna, but the first role I saw him in he played a Cuban – when he is Mexican – man who was basically the exotic fantasy for the white female lead in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. This isn’t even getting into how Afro-Latinxs, Asian-Latinxs, and other mixed raced Latinxs are barred from roles because they don’t fit Hollywood’s pre-packaged idea of what being Latinx looks like.”
“I think currently, while we are seeing more visibility, the current roles that are offered or available to Latinos are the role of a servant position, like a maid or something that falls in line with the stereotypes people have about Latinos, like maybe a sidekick or a criminal,” said Janel Martinez, founder and editor-in-chief of Ain’t I Latina, a site celebrating Afro-Latinas and Afro-Latinx culture.
“For example, in Orange is the New Black, a lot of people were hyped about the fact that there was a great representation of Latinas in the actual show, which is awesome, but when you look on the flipside of that, this is a show about women in jail,” she said. “Also, Devious Maids, [co-produced by Eva Longoria], it’s a full cast of Latinas, two of them identifying as Afro-Latina, and they were maids. I think people are seeing the visibility, people are excited to be able to say if you’re watching the show, you’re seeing our representation…but I think it’s still in a very limited scope. I find that it’s not just a Carrie Bradshaw or just someone who happens to be a Latina but maybe they’re the magazine editor in the movie. Their identity, while it’s important, isn’t in line with stereotypes and then manifested in the character that they essentially embody.”
“Typically, I see lots of immigrant, day laborers and criminal roles going to Latinx actors,” wrote Gerry Maravilla, Head of Crowdfunding at Seed and Spark and writer-director of Cross, in an email interview. “I think this comes from often lack of interaction on behalf of writers and filmmakers with Latinx people in the real world. As such, they rely on what they’ve already seen in films or what they see from the vantage point of their more insulated experience.”
“By ‘insulated,’ I don’t mean that they live secluded or antisocial lives, but rather the lives they lead don’t actually include Latinx people in any meaningful way,” he said. “Instead, they see the Latinx peoples working in roles like day laborers or think about Latinx gang culture because of its coverage in the media.”
“I think the most important thing to remember about stereotypes is how detrimental they are to Latinx actors who are trying to be cast in roles that are meaningful [as well as] to creators and consumers as a whole,” said Kimberly Hoyos, filmmaker and creator of The Light Leaks, a website designed to support, educate and empower female and gender non-conforming filmmakers. “As a Latina creator, I’m not going to write a character that I wouldn’t personally maybe want to act as. I wouldn’t create someone who is my ethnicity that doesn’t represent something larger as a whole. As a consumer growing up, that’s what I would see, maids and…anything that was oversexualized or overcriminalized. I think that in part pushed me to be a creator so I would be in charge of what was being produced.”
Amy Novondo, singer and actor, said that several people she knows are frustrated with the lack of quality roles.
“[Hollywood] thinks of that over-dramatized telenovela atmosphere and [they think that] Latinos are only capable of that kind of acting their minds,” she said. “I know a couple of Latinos who are really mad about this because we barely get a chance to get into the audition room and when we do, we’re stereotyped right out of the box. It’s like, come on—I want a little more than that.”
Why have these stereotypes stayed around, and why have they kept their power? The answers lie in the pervasiveness of media itself, wrote Rodriguez.
“Media has a lot of power. The images we see, coupled with the words we read or we hear imprint on us however subtly,” she wrote. “It’s something of an irony that the Latin Lover trope can be attributed to Rudolph Valentino’s – a white Italian man – performance in 1921’s The Sheik, while stereotypes like The Domestic – where Latinx characters are gardeners, maids, etc – are perpetrated by popular, well known Latinx actors like Jennifer Lopez. And in Lopez’s case, we have an instance where Hollywood shows how deeply entrenched it is with its discomfort and ignorance dealing with the Latinx identity.”
Rodriguez references The Wedding Planner and Maid in Manhattan, which exhibit Lopez in two roles that reinforce racial and ethnic hierarchies.
“In The Wedding Planner, Lopez plays an Italian woman who is, for all intents and purposes, highly successful and comfortably well off. In Maid in Manhattan, Lopez plays a Latina woman who works as a maid in an expensive hotel, just scraping by as a single mom, and only finds success after she falls in love with a white man,” she wrote. “This creates a distorted image. As an Italian woman, Lopez’s character is an independent and successful career woman who eventually finds love. As a Latina woman, Lopez’s character is a single mom (enforcing the idea that Latino men are absentee fathers/bad family men), working as a maid until a rich white man “saves” her; then and only then does she find success.”
“This is, perhaps, a cynical viewing of what are two separate, and admittedly tropey romantic comedies. But again, media has power. Consciously or not, there’s a negative message to be had in the fact that Lopez’s Latina identity was erased in favor of an Italian one in The Wedding Planner,” she wrote. “By erasing our Latinx identities in favor of white ones, either by erasing the very existence of our Latinx identities or whitewashing them with white actors, media contributes to misinformation about what being Latinx is. Who we are as a collective culture and people – which is highly diverse and layered. Yet these stereotypes are upheld by this continued enforcement of ignorance and whitewashing.”
“[Stereotyping is] very, very detrimental and limiting because when you think of Latin America, we’re talking about over 20 countries and yes, we’re talking about Spanish [as a language] there are other languages [as well]…so I will say that when it comes down to not just representation, but inclusion in Hollywood, a person has to be invested in learning about the culture because there’s so many different moving parts,” said Martinez. “You can be Latino, Latina, Latinx, but you can be black, you can be Asian, you can be white and Latino. There has to be a great understanding of the culture.”
“…I think the work that is needed to really depict a Latino hasn’t been done and I think, specifically, when it comes to the representation, a lot of times they don’t even specify the nationality of the Latino [character]. …[Viewers] don’t even know if this person is Ecuadorian or Puerto Rican or if they’re from Honduras or Nicaragua or wherever because whoever wrote the role[.]”
Martinez also talked about how the different languages, slang words, and other cultural identifiers that make up Latin America aren’t taken seriously as characterization tools.
“When we see the portrayals on our screen, those things are not necessarily taken into account,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a strong grasp on what it means to be Latino, either Latino in America or Latino abroad.”
Hoyos said that stereotypes are at their most insidious when people don’t even recognize them as such.
“I think the most dangerous thing about stereotypes is that to the untrained eye, they’re not seen as anything negative…To the average viewer, if they see one crime movie with Latinx as they gang members or the thugs, they may not even call that movie racist,” she said. “They might be like, ‘Oh, other movies do that.’ It becomes a normalized thing, and I think that’s why need to educate ourselves as a whole. I think a lot of that goes to correcting others when we see problematic media as a whole.”
Maravilla echoes this point by examining the news’ portrayal of Latinx Americans.
“I think these stereotypes originate from a similar place as the kind of roles that go to Latinx actors. They come from an isolated or insulated experience from Latinx people that prevents them from seeing or understanding them as complex, three-dimensional people,” he wrote. “When you look at other films, Latinx people are often criminals, immigrants, blue-collar people, and when they look at news coverage, this is also typically our depiction.”
“As filmmakers try to balance telling an engaging and affective story, it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of making a narrative work at a story level, he wrote. “Because their focus or interest isn’t necessarily on accurate cultural representation, they rely on stereotypes to satisfy their story needs, but end up not fully realizing (and in some cases just not caring) about the harm these stereotypes are doing.”
Next: Whitewashing and brownface in Hollywood
Originally published on Nerds of Color
At this point, it’s damn near impossible to keep up with the onslaught of Netflix original programming. Along with all of the film and series content, the tentacles of the entertainment Kraken inevitably started reaching out for more international collaborations. Around Thanksgiving we were treated to the Brazilian series 3%. In terms of originality, it doesn’t score high: another variation on the theme of a future world where young adults do what they have to do to survive.
It does have its points of deviation though from say The Hunger Games and Divergent with a touch of Elysium. Brazil has had a long and appalling history of income inequality, which I’m sure is where the idea of the tagline came from: “In a dystopian future there is a clear divide between the rich and poor, but when a person turns 20, they have the opportunity to cross the divide.” As implied, by free will all the candidates get to try to make it from the miserable mainland to the utopian island Mar Alto; that looks kind of like Recife to Fernando de Noronha on the map. The tests they undergo are less physical and more psychological until they are whittled down to the fabled 3%. The setting, albeit futuristic, feels closer to present as we undergo our own survival in the collapse.
The cast is stellar. Like a small Brazilian microcosm, the ethnic roots of the world are all on screen. Lovely diverse faces. And yet, this is where my principal criticisms also lie. Within all of the inclusiveness, two things happen. Firstly, for audiences both in and out of Brazil, I worry it could perpetuate the Brazilian myth of the “racial democracy.” I have attached a short appendix with a quick break down of Brazilian history and race relations from points I remember studying. And yelling at people in debates. The point is this and let me be clear: Brazil is racist as fuck.
Allow me to do a quick, sloppy, and profane history of Brazilian history and race relations through an anti-fascist lens breaking down some of the sub-myths that make up the larger “racial democracy” myth.
Myth #1: “The Portuguese were far nicer and more benevolent to Native peoples compared to the Spanish and other Europeans. Look at all the tribes that have survived comparatively.”
The Portuguese were mercantilist, imperialist, racist, genocidal terrorists. They not only employed the literal sword, but — certainly different than their English Puritan counter parts — were masters of the metaphorical sword raping who-knows-how-many indigenous women and forcing their children into Jesuit churches to be reprogrammed until their language and culture was lost and gone forever. So add misogynist to the above list.
As for the second part, this is mostly because of the sheer size and terrain of the country; specifically, in the Amazon. There are some tribes still being encountered. Hide comrades, hide! My native ancestors that were once all over had their population drastically decreased and relegated to what is now Paraguay (a Guarani word meaning “born of water”). Good on Paraguay too to keep the language alive and recognize Guarani as an official language, though you can’t travel anywhere in Brazil without seeing Guarani names for places and natural features. Yes, Uruguay is also a Guarani word (“bird river/waters”).
Myth #2: “Slavery wasn’t as bad in Brazil as it was in the Southern U.S. or the Caribbean. The master-slave relation was better and more eqaul.”
If you ever hear this; please, please, head-butt the person. Zidane style; right in the damn nose. This nonsense stems from Freyre’s famous Casa Grande e Senzala work that every student reads at some time and forms the basis for the racial democracy propaganda campaign. If this were the case, millions of Africans would not have been brutalized and countless murdered under the system. If this were the case, there would have been no reason for the centuries of African resistance revolving around the Quilombos and the legendary revolutionary leader Zumbi dos Palmares. If this were true, any of you that practice capoeira would have no capoeira to practice.
If this were true, the idea of branqueamento along with the absurd amount of ethnic identities that exist in Brazil to keep the multi-ethnic populace confused, divided by identity and dependent on nationalism to unify and bow to the flag, would not exist. If this were true, all of the racism and inequities that all people of African descent must navigate anywhere in the Americas, would not be present in Brazil. If you call police violence against black folk in the U.S. genocide, then it breaks my heart to say, but it’s some kind of hyper-genocide in Brazil. Slavery was hell, because of course it was. Nobody gets to use “better” and “slavery” in the same sentence. Slavery was fucking slavery. Period.
Myth #3: “Brazil is far more religiously tolerant than the rest of the Americas.”
This one falls apart quickly with the disappearance of numerous indigenous people’s beliefs with genocide and forced Christian conversions. Slaves had to create syncretic religions like Candomblé to fake out masters to keep their beliefs and traditions alive. Judaism and Islam arrived with the first Portuguese foot prints on the sand, because of the simple fact there was and is no such thing as an ethnically pure Portuguese.
Most were recently converted poor Sephardic Jews and Moors looking to get rich quick or die trying to better themselves back home. Ironically, the early Portuguese that barely understood Christianity would harass and attack those who held on to their original religions. The first synagogue in the Americas was founded in Pernambuco, under less attentive Dutch colonial rule in the 17th century, and Jews and Muslims played key roles in the quilombo’s resistance. Kind of like an earlier version of the underground railroad hiding and protecting run-away slaves until they were safe in the quilombo. Today, following corporate media hysteria from the north, Islamophobia is on the rise from Brazilian media even though a large percentage of the populous has ties to the Islamic world via Portuguese roots or more recent immigration.
Myth #4: “Brazil has always been welcoming to immigrants.”
On the surface, this is true. But you don’t have to scratch hard to peel back the sinister underbelly. Outside of the home lands, there are more people of Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, and other nationalities I’m forgetting in Brazil. Former president Dilma is the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant and current illegitimate coup leader Temer is of Lebanese descent. Refugees welcome. Sort of. That white elite — to tie it in let’s call them “the 3%” — whose families a few generations prior were slave owners eventually found themselves in political and economic power. As the 3% looked around and realized that there were far more people of color than them, they needed to take action. Open borders; especially to Europeans.
Back to branqueamento; but a different tactic on the whitening of Brazil. German immigration began in the 19th century for the same reasons many came to the U.S. While not as large in numbers compared to the U.S., after Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese descendants, Germans are fifth largest at present. The big difference with the U.S. was the isolation of the German communities in the Southern Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paraná. They did not assimilate and held strong to language and culture. You can easily hear German on the streets of Blumenau today. Fast forward to Hitler’s rise, and the world ended up with large numbers of Nazi sympathizers in Brazil and the Southern Cone.
As racists and fascists themselves, the white political elite had no problems with the Axis and tried to play both sides and stay neutral in WWII. After they started letting the U.S. set up bases, U-Boats began sinking Brazilian ships and forced Brazil’s hand to join the Allies. At the same time, there were Brazilian born Germans fighting with the Reich. The war declaration and more attention to assimilation only heightened tensions with the South. In the aftermath, the Southern states sought a sort of revenge to protect their kin.
There are pieces of truth in the fictional Boys from Brazil story, and thousands of Nazis ended up in hiding in Brazil and the Southern Cone. Almost out of the pages of a second Man in the High Castle book, Hitler was well aware of his South American support and planned a “re-colonization” effort of the Southern Cone. I know of two friends of family in Santa Catarina that learned after their reclusive grandfathers died that one was a former SS officer and the other fought in the underground Jewish resistance in Germany. And they lived on the same block.
The three Southern states tried to secede on more than one occasion, mainly because: racism. Oh and by the way, the movement is still active at present. Finally, while it may sound impossible, when you take all of this into account, it really isn’t too surprising that there is a city in Brazil where the U.S. Confederacy lives on. Yep. Shit is ugly, but the future is ours. A luta continua.
Without even knowing Brazil’s complicated history, all you have to do is walk a few blocks out of your comfort zone in a city like São Paulo, Rio, or a small town like Quirinópolis, and talk to people. If you dropped any white college kid and a black college kid, say, from Minneapolis, in the same city anywhere in Brazil and checked on them a few months later, you’d likely hear stories as though they were on two different planets. Not unlike such a reverse experiment in the U.S. With the brown skin I’m in from my Mediterranean/indigenous roots, I’ve even felt that discomfort in Southern Brazil a few times. While I’d agree there are differences in the dynamics in race relations between the U.S. and Brazil, the racial democracy angle is still a clever tool of white supremacy and ultra-nationalist bullshit.
The topic of race in Brazil is super deep, and I’ve got to get to the show. Google it and you won’t run out of books to read. Borrow some of mine, if you’d like. All of the issues people of color deal with in the U.S. exist there and the rest of the Americas with our common ties to a past of colonialism, imperialism, genocide, slavery, capitalism, and neo-liberalism into the fascist butterflies all coming out of their cocoons. The latter may be something new to many in the U.S. (it shouldn’t be), but it’s just a new wave in the case of Brazil and Latin America. At this point in socio-political history, the countries have more in common with one another than ever before. Yikes. On the positive side, it has been interesting to see how the Black Lives Matter movement has influenced the Afro-Brazilian movements of the same nature.
Next, even with Brazilians of African, Native, Asian, and MENA/Mediterranean descent cast in the show, the triangle between Michele, Ezequiel, and Rafael always seems to come into focus. There’s a reason for that, no spoilers. But the whiteness. Although not as blatant as Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Matt Damon’s new thing (come on, Zhang Yimou!), or any of the many other examples, we have the subtle arm of the white savior complex a foot here in the 3% exam world.
Whiteness has been the theme in Brazilian media since, well, shit, forever. There’s a famous quote, to whom I wish I could give credit, that goes something like: “If you only watched TV and never left your hotel room in Brazil, you would think you were in Switzerland.” Or Sweden is it? Either works and having traveled elsewhere in the Americas, it changes little. Actually you don’t have to go anywhere; turn on Univision. For diplomats and businessman, this is, as it turns out, closer to their own bubbled realities while they are there.
It was certainly like this when I was younger, and has improved some to be sure, but the racist ties in Brazilian media seem endless. I disclaim that I haven’t watched TV Globo in years, I’ll check with my mom or feel free to correct me, but Netflix coming after them and making these kind of casting and writing choices is definitely going to apply pressure. Then there’s the reach. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this one Brazilian Netflix show in Portuguese will be watched by more people worldwide than the last half century of Brazilian television programming. Boom.
If we briefly look at history, we can add a few extra layers of media revulsion; because racism isn’t bad enough. Ah how the road to fascist dictatorship doth need media collaborators at the wheel. This may sound familiar. The largest media conglomerate in all of Latin America, Globo, aided in disinformation (then as print media, just beginning TV) during the Operation Condor U.S. sponsored coup d’etat in the ’60s that led to decades of dictatorship and utter terror for millions of Brazilians. Some very close to me. In fact, the opening scene in the final episode shows a, let’s call it a “hard scene to watch,” with ties to the School of the Americas in the U.S. that was then perfected by the Brazilian Military Police of that time. Globo was, unsurprisingly, the dictators’ megaphone. Alternative fucking facts.
More recently, history repeated itself as TV Globo acted like Fox News on nitro during the “Car Wash” political scandal that rocked the country last year. But now imagine Fox News ate and took the reach and power of all the other networks combined and became super powered propaganda. TV Globo led the charge against former president Dilma and played the key role in swaying public opinion for her impeachment. Not that she was innocent, but the aftermath at present has been much worse. Familiar, right? Whenever capitalism and democracy pollinate, the fruit is rotten. Glenn Greenwald may be a polarizing figure, but he was badass in exposing all of Globo’s bullshit; to the point he started the Brazilian wing of The Intercept (Greenwald lives in Rio).
Okay, well, the world is fucked. But you know this, so here are some reasons to give 3% a try for a little escapism. I mentioned it before, but the cast. The cast! The ensemble is tight. What the production team lacks in funds, they make up with talented young and older actors. The youngsters get their own Lost-like backstory vignettes letting us in on where they’re coming from and what makes them tick. Michele (Bianca Comparato) is fire and on a mission and her relationship with Fernando (Michel Gomes) is lovely. Fernando is the heart and inspiring force of the ensemble.
Did I mention he’s a POC in a wheelchair? Rafael (Rodolfo Valente) is annoyingly good for the POS you want to punch every time he says something.
Ezequiel (João Miguel) is a captivating complicated mess, and Aline (Viviane Porto) is powerful and also one of the most beautiful humans on Earth.
I can’t talk about Marco (Rafael Lozano) without spoiling, but holy shit, his episode is… it brings a certain kids book to mind that gave me nightmares. Zézé Motta (Nair) is a living legend and the queen of Afro-Brazilian cinema. Dandara! Last, but definitely not least, is the true star of this whole thing for me: Vaneza Oliveira as Joana.
She is incredible. Steals every scene. I kept thinking; “where have I seen her before?” And the answer is: nowhere. 3% IS HER DEBUT! What a casting gem. Remarkable.
Behind the cameras, there is also some good news. 3% started out as a film project turned web series from Pedro Aguilera. He had three directors on his team, one guy and two ladies, and made the good decision to keep the team together as they made the jump into Netflixlandia. While they added César Charlone (City of God) as the principal director with their heftier budget (still tiny compared to other Netflix shows), Daina Giannecchini and Dani Libardi get to tag in for directing responsibilities.
Trying to remain spoiler free, but one thing I will say is that the way the first season ends, it leaves the strong possibility that the white savior complex may be resolved. Which is awesome. And which is why I’m in for the second season and which is why you should swim through the sea of Netflix programing to find it and give it a shot. Take a little of my messy Brazilian history with you, turn on the Netflix, and know that what you’re about to watch may not be perfect, but it may also be the best Brazilian show ever filmed.
The Legend of Tarzan is a film you already knew was going to be received poorly just from the trailer, if not the name of the film itself. Even the synopsis of the film is one that would raise eyebrows.
It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Margot Robbie) at his side. Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.
Retreading a white supremacist story of a white savior of Africa isn’t something most people were begging Hollywood to make. And, it seems strange that Hollywood would want to go down this road again in the first place. But the film is here, and as expected, it’s a big bomb.
The film has gotten 34% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the critics are ranging from giving a heart-heavy sigh to wringing the film for its woe-begotten aspirations at relevance and social consciousness.
MTV’s Amy Nicholson wrote that she felt the film did its best to make Tarzan contemporary in these more sophisticated times.
“How do you make a colonial Africa blockbuster in think piece-tizzied 2016? Very, very carefully. In David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan, the ape-raised athlete no longer represents innate Caucasian dominance, the cavalier supremacy that had him introduce himself to Jane as ‘the killer of beasts and many black men.” Swipe left on any Tinder charmer who uses that in his profile.”
She felt that the film had “an itch to make this Tarzan a corrective, a vengeful Congo Unchained that reteams Jackson and Waltz,” but she concedes at the end of her review that the film will always be haunted by the shadow of the origins of the Tarzan story: white supremacy as the supposed natural order of the world.
“As much as I enjoyed this bizarre, ambitious adventure and its careful popcorn kitsch, Tarzan’s story will always leave our ears ringing with something we hate, whether you choose Burrough’s white-savior syndrome or Christoph Waltz’ shivery final speech: ‘The future belongs to me.'”
Kate Taylor for The Globe and Mail wasn’t as kind; in fact, she ripped into the film for its’ audacity to try to update a nearly non-updatable character. *
There seems little reason to resurrect Tarzan in 2016; his character, or at least his creator, the turn-of-the-century American schlockmeister Edgar Rice Burroughs, is racist and sexist by any contemporary standard. Titillating audiences with his wild side while reassuring them of his essential European civility, Tarzan in all his many incarnations was always just an unkempt version of the mighty whitey. Jane, the African natives and even his simian family were little more than props in his triumphant story. Heck, let’s call the guy a species-ist, too.
She also ripped into the fact that the film tried to soften the blow of Tarzan’s outdateness by introducing a fictional version of the real life George Washington Williams, who wrote several books on African-American history and spoke out against King Leopold II’s genocide of the Congolese people.
Enter screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer with a script in which the genteel John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke must come out of his retirement on his English estate, tear off his shirt and return to Africa to rescue is Congolese friends and wife Jane from Belgian slave traders.
Does this sound like a movie suffering from a white-savior complex?
No worries, Tarzan’s initial goad and eventual sidekick is one George Washington Williams, an American ambassador and Civil War veteran determined to prove that the Belgian King Leopold is running a slave trade to pay for his Congolese colony. He’s black.
Sean Burns of Spliced Personality also disliked the film for it being a seemingly pointless exercise in rehashing a story that didn’t need to be told again, or at least not in the way the film presented it.
…[I]f you had any misgivings about the possibly queasy overtones of making another Tarzan movie in the year of our lord 2016, rest assured they’re shared by the filmmakers. It is a strange feeling to be watching a movie that seems to be apologizing for itself as it goes along.
Burns ends his review with a suggestion, something that Hollywood should pay attention to.
It’s impossible not to come away from The Legend Of Tarzan wishing that a more aggressive adventurous filmmaker — like Craig Brewer, maybe — might someday tell the real George Washington Williams story. I bet they could even get Samuel L. Jackson to play him.
If you watched The Legend of Tarzan, what did you think of it? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
*It would seem the only time Hollywood has been successful at updating Tarzan was with Disney’s Tarzan. Even though, as it has been stated before on other outlets, the film removed all traces of African people from the film, Disney at least knew how to turn Tarzan into a charming prince-like character. We know Disney’s good at making princes.
It’s one day after the horrifying terror attack that took place at Pulse, an Orlando LGBT nightclub. Now that there’s more information, let’s take a look at what we know and how we can offer help to those in need (as well as how to stick it to those who have allowed certain loopholes to persist).
“What You Need to Know About Gun Control in America” | The New York Times: If you are muddled on the issues surrounding gun control, the ways guns can get into the wrong hands legally and illegally, and what is being done to close the legal loopholes, read this comprehensive coverage by the New York Times, comprised of several articles giving fuller detail on the issues.
“How They Got Their Guns” | The New York Times: The Times also has an article, an article that was written last year but has since been updated to reflect the Orlando shooting, that details how mass murderers get their weapons. This article also includes profiles on how the shooters of San Bernadino, the shooter at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College and others got their guns as well.
“Victim vignettes” | Associated Press: Some people might find reading about the victims as a way to cope with what happened. If that happens to be the case for you, the AP has compiled small bios of those lost.
“Florida Man Feels ‘Helpless’ After Failed Blood Donation Attempt” | NBC OUT: One of the stories coming out of this tragedy is that, despite the attack being leveled against LGBT men and women (specifically Latino LGBT men and women), some in the LGBT community can’t give blood to help their own. NBC OUT posted a story about a young man who felt “helpless” after being unable to give blood to help victims.
Calling out insincere congresspeople
Igor Volsky, the deputy director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, has used his Twitter feed to expose congressmen and women who gave “condolences” and offers for “prayers” on social media, but have been funded by the NRA, the main organization keeping certain congresspeople from acting on common sense gun reform.
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) June 12, 2016
“These GOP Lawmakers Sent “Prayers” After Pulse Shooting–But Took Money From NRA” | Mic: Mic also has an article on Volsky’s Twitter feed, showing just a small sampling of how many elected officials have been funded by the NRA.
GetEQUAL, a grassroots social justice network for LGBT equality, also tweeted out to several congressmen who offered condolences despite having the ability to save lives with legislation:
— GetEQUAL (@GetEQUAL) June 12, 2016
This is just some of the amount of tweets GetEQUAL sent to members of Congress.
How to Help:
There are many blood donation centers that need help. As of June 12, News Talk Florida tweeted out blood donation centers who were asking for donations.
— News Talk Florida (@newstalkflorida) June 12, 2016
“How To Help Orlando” | MTV: MTV has compiled a list of how people can help as well, which includes many of the blood donation centers on this list, as well as where people can donate to victims’ families and who people can call for counseling.
People can also contact their elected officials to urge them to close legal loopholes and, frankly, do their jobs to protect their constituents.
If you have any link, petition, or service you’d like to add to this list, let me know either via Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week has been one of the roughest weeks I’ve had. I’ve moved my site, had trouble with my email, and all my tech issues caused me to get behind on the premiere of Fall TV 2015! Color me frustrated, tired, and annoyed from getting headaches. But journaling is not what we’re here for, is it? We’re here to discuss Minority Report.
James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” If that’s true for black people, I’d say the same has to be true for Native Americans, particularly since they were the first non-white people of America to be brutalized. It’s for this reason that I’ve always thought Native and black people should work together to help end each other’s strife, and it’s also this reason that I was confused as to why people were getting on rapper-turned investigative journalist/activist Mykki Blanco’s case.
After Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III, Eric Garner, the Charleston massacre and now suspicious church burnings that are somehow “weather-related,” yet happening within miles of each other, America is tired. Black America specifically. But with so many problems with policing, gun violence, and the root cause of all of these—racism—to take care of, you might be wondering where to begin, much less how to take care of yourself in the midst of this ongoing trauma.
I’m happy to have spoken with Dr. Isaiah Pickens, an NYC psychologist and founder of iOpening Enterprises. I spoke with him about how implicit and explicit biases come into play when discussing racism, how some people manage to break out of racist ideology, and how we should engage in tough conversations about race, and where he hopes America is headed.
Here’s what’s been going down since the world learned about that awful McKinney pool party incident.