Zootopia and Cognitive Dissonance

Well, it happened. And unless a miracle occurs, it’s going to stick around for about four years (hopefully no more). It probably won’t be AS bad as we think it will be, but things are going to be difficult from here on out.

Still, watching the election gave me this negative, nagging thought: did Zootopia teach us nothing?

Zootopia came out earlier this year and was a huge success. In addition to grossing over a billion dollars worldwide (!), it got lots of praise from critics (with a Rotten Tomatoes score of like 98%) and plenty of adoring fans. The reason? It delivered a ‘timely’ and ‘important’ message about bias and prejudice in a racially charged environment. People were praising its message of ‘uwu try to make a difference change starts with you’.

Yet apparently this message didn’t stick because soon after racism and other forms of bigotry just got more and more intense in the coming months, and ultimately, hate won out in the election.

This also got me thinking: how come THIS is the movie that got so much praise for tackling a (metaphorical) issue? Where were these people with Pocahontas or The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Those are movies that tackle actual problems with racism and prejudice (with people of colour, not animals!), no metaphors, and deliver a definite, clear message of “don’t just try, DO make a difference, or else the worst will happen”?

No, those movies got derided for being ‘preachy’ or ‘boring’ or ‘serious’.

So, to recap: when you show kids a movie that takes the subject matter of prejudice and bias seriously, with no metaphors and with marginalized groups present and onscreen, it’s a bad movie, but when you show kids a more sugar-coated, metaphorical movie on similar issues, all of a sudden it’s a masterpiece and important.

Yeah, I don’t like that. I’m not saying Pocahontas or The Hunchback of Notre Dame are perfect, but the point is, they TRIED to represent non-white people (and feature women of colour leads) and TRIED to discuss an important issue with depth and maturity. There’s really nothing Zootopia offers that is new, but because it has cute animals, it’s omg so important!

But again, it doesn’t really matter, because the message of the movie didn’t stick. And I’m not surprised. We live in a world where people like to pat themselves on the back for not being racist without actually doing anything to combat or change racism in real life. Zootopia just made white people feel better about themselves, but it didn’t actually have an impact to cause white people to go out and do anything. And that’s just disappointing.

I’ll leave on a positive note: we still have Moana and the Big Hero 6 TV series coming out, which will remind children of colour that they are still important and powerful. That should help us stay afloat while we go out and actually do make a difference.

 

 

‘Kubo’ and the Whitewashing Controversy

When Kubo and the Two Strings was first announced, I was excited. A new film from Laika, the creators of ParaNorman and Coraline! It looked like it was going to be an interesting film…until I read the cast list.

Charlize Theron? Ralph Fiennes? Rooney Mara? Mathew McConaughey? As main stars in a movie set in ancient Japan? And the main character, a Japanese boy, is voiced by the Irish Art Parkinson? When the movie was first announced, there were absolutely no Japanese or even Asian actors listed, so my interest in the movie went out the window.

Later, I was informed that George Takei would take part in the film…but not a very big one. In fact, the extended cast list does list a few Japanese actors, but they are all conveniently minor characters. All the major characters? No no, they belong to white people.

I know what some of you are thinking: but it’s not live action, so why does it matter? Well, the thing is, in all mediums, Asian American actors don’t get a lot of opportunity. (To the point where some Asian American actors have to go to to Asia to get roles!) And worse still, a lot of actual Asian roles get downplayed or erased completely to make room for white characters and actors. So Kubo ends up rehashing the Hollywood formula of taking parts of Japanese culture they like and not bothering to give enough roles to actual Japanese people.

This article is especially insulting because the director, Travis Knight, insists that Art Parkinson was picked on talent (oh so Asian actors aren’t talented enough to voice a character of their race?) and it’s clear that white actors were cast pretty much to rake in the money. Well it doesn’t look like that worked because this movie is disappointing at the box office, so really, it was all for nothing.

And what especially makes me especially wary of this film is that it looks like no Japanese people, save for a few actors, were involved with the film’s production (and please let me know if that’s not the case). So how do I know for sure that this film accurately portrays Japanese culture? Say what you will about Big Hero 6, but at least they accurate cast the characters (Ryan Potter, a Japanese/white actor, plays the Japanese white protagonist Hiro Hamada, Jamie Chung voices Gogo, Damon Wayans Jr. plays Wasabi, etc., and they even went the extra mile of casting black/Jewish Maya Rudolph as the white Aunt Cass), and Asian people were heavily involved with the production. Jin Kim and Shiyoon Kim worked as character designers, and Scott Watanabe created the world of San Fransokyo, just to name some of the more important examples. What is Kubo‘s excuse?

So I’m disappointed. Am I going to see this movie? Probably, because Laika is capable of telling amazing stories with progressive themes, along with some beautiful stop motion animation, and I wouldn’t want them to go bankrupt. But I want them to learn from this. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the whitewashing of their cast hurt this movie’s success, and while I don’t want this mistake to completely ruin them, they need to keep this in mind before they make more movies about non-white characters and non-Western worlds.

Leslie Jones, I am so sorry

I am so fucking angry. And hurt. And horrified.

It looks like hating the new Ghostbusters for having an all-female team wasn’t enough. Oh no. It looks like misogynoir and general antiblackness fuels their fires too. Huzzah!

On the alt-right site Breitbart.com (where all the scum of humanity flourish), Islamophohbic (and racist and sexist) writer Milo Yiannopoulos wrote a negative review of the movie, and went out of his way to attack Leslie Jones (who plays Patty Tolan) in particular, essentially calling her ugly and unappealing and saying everyone should be offended by her existening.

It only got worse. On Twitter, he essentially encouraged his fans (a lot of them legitimate white supremacists and KKK members) to go out and attack Leslie Jones, calling and comparing her to apes, saying she’s ugly, making fake tweets of her being offensive, and other hateful, misogynoiristic comments. And the worst part? Yiannopoulos has the gall to laugh in her face about it and saying she’s playing victim!

So, to anyone who tries to say that the hatred of Ghostbusters (which is a legitimately funny, exciting, and empowering movie) has absolutely nothing to do with bigotry and people who point it out are ‘idiots’, you are very much mistaken. It’s very fucking obvious that, with the rise of nationalism, misogyny and antiblackness within this year alone (thank you, Donald Trump), all the evil alt-right-wingers are crawling out of the woodwork like the worms they are are attacking Ghostbusters and Leslie Jones in particular with glee, and they know not a damn person is going to stop them. Not even Twitter, which has proven time and time again it is useless when it comes to stopping harassment.

I am so sorry, Leslie Jones. I am so sorry you have to deal with this. All for the crime of starring (and being awesome in) a movie that racist white fuckboys cannot handle. I am so sorry that you’re being driven off Twitter over this. I am so sorry.

To anyone reading this, don’t stay silent. Give Leslie Jones as much love and support as you can and tear the haters down. We should not be living in a world where bigotry can go unpunished.