This is a part of a larger post I found on cracked.com. While the entire list (this was #1) was not all this poignant, I think what they have to say here makes an incredibly important point; if we say we’re working hard towards racial reconciliation in America, we need to be willing to admit there is still work to do. And like an iceberg, the biggest issues lurk beneath the surface of our culture.
We’re not exactly blowing your mind when we say that 300 had some slight historical inaccuracies when it came to the race of its heroes, or that Jesus was not exactly the European-looking Superman we’re used to seeing in movies, paintings and bumper stickers.
What’s weirder is when the movie pretends to be about the triumph of a minority character, but instead spends all its time talking about the white people who save him. Like in The Blind Side, which was supposed to be about Michael Oher, a poor black kid who ended up being adopted by a wealthy white family and going to college on a football scholarship. The movie is, of course, all about the white family. Michael Oher is just a thing that needs to be taken care of, not an actual character.
In real life, there’s a fair amount of controversy regarding Oher’s path to college, but the movie edits all that out because white people are perfect. They even add a scene where Sandra Bullock faces down a gang leader on his own front porch, in front of his peers. Which not only never happened, but is also pretty insane considering that she’s addressing what is supposed to be a member of the Gangster Disciples.
But whitening up minority stories isn’t limited to The Blind Side. Remember the white Canadians who built Rubin Carter’s case to get him freed in The Hurricane? According to Carter’s lawyer Lewis Steel, all they really did was provide emotional support. And the fact that Carter ended up marrying one of those white characters isn’t even mentioned.
“OK, this shot isn’t working. Let’s try switching Denzel’s spot with the white guy in the back.”
So What’s the Deal?
Money. Once again, it’s money. To get white people in the theater seats, the story has to revolve around white people.
And the phenomenon isn’t even limited to stereotypes — Stuck, a movie about an African-American woman who is convicted of murder, had to cast a white woman in the lead role to get financed because, as one casting director pointed out, “It’s about getting the movie done. Everyone is looking to make their money back.” And as we already covered, black actresses don’t bring in money. Giving white actresses cornrows, on the other hand, apparently will.
This screengrab pretty much sums up race relations in 21st century America.
Or take The Help, a story about how the American civil rights movement affected the home lives of privileged white college graduates who have a book deal. That wouldn’t really be a problem (you don’t always have to tell the biggest story) if it weren’t for the fact that it’s one of the very few big-budget movies made about the civil rights movement. Ever. And just like Mississippi Burning, Ghosts of Mississippi and Driving Miss Daisy, the story is told from a white perspective.
And the examples just keep coming. Let’s say you want to cash in on that “samurai” thing all the kids are talking about …
… or Native Americans in the 18th century …
…or the Massacre of Nanking.
Even if you don’t care about racism or moving forward as a culture — even if you just care about seeing good movies — this sucks, because there are really cool true stories that would make really awesome movies. Like this one about Haitian Revolutionary Leader Toussant Louverture. Danny Glover’s been trying to get it made for years, but he can’t get funding because producers keep saying, “Where are the white heroes?”
Again, we can blame the studios all we want. But they’ve learned from hard experience that for the most part, if they don’t play to our prejudices, we simply won’t go see their movie.