Sunday, November 13, 2016

Political Correctness, Ghost in the Shell, and Doctor Strange - This is Why We Lost

My last post was a bit too negative, I'll say. It's been a terrifying week here in the United States. But now that week is over, Donald Trump is president. And so far the world hasn't ended. The world still could end. There's a lot that Donald Trump represents that is truly scary. But you know that. It might be time to wonder: are you being made to be afraid? (Just a thought.) This nation needs to calm the fuck down for a moment. We can panic when Trump does something. Protesting his (semi)-legitimate election*, I mean, sorry, legitimate election is doing nothing. It's only making us angrier, more scared, and making things worse.

So instead, why don't we do something that we should have done and look inward. Hillary Clinton got the majority of the vote, the Democrats are the majority opinion in this country, yet they've lost every step of government. Why are we so ineffectual?

Well, I have a theory: the liberal media sucks. I'm barely a media person, so I can only slightly count myself in this camp. But let's be real here: we've done a bad job. I'm not saying reporting has failed. I'm not saying Breitbart and Fox News should be the new standard for reality. Yet I can say the liberal side of the equation has been focused on the wrong things. I can't tell you every answer. The media can be blamed for making Donald Trump the only Republican candidate, they can be blamed for never talking about the real issues in this election.

They thought a sex scandal from eleven years ago was what should decide the election. Not the economy, not trade, not foreign policy, but that Donald Trump isn't very polite. I'm sorry, this is delusional. We are lecturing to people. The liberal media is telling people what to think and focusing on the wrong things.

And one of those things is going to be the subject of this article right now: political correctness in film criticism and why it isn't helping.

Do you remember "Ghostbusters" this year? It's probably the ugliest single film story of the year, and it's a truly bad sign for us in media. The movie in the end turned out to be an utterly mediocre, if not even bad comedy that in no way held up to the original. It was exactly what it looked like. But because it had a female cast, for some reason it was above criticism. The fact that fans of the original "Ghostbusters" just legitimately did not want a remake didn't mean anything. I was lectured for six months that thinking the remake looked like shit was sexism.

Who did any of this protect in the end? "Ghostbusters" was not a landmark statement for women's roles in film. The creators of the movies didn't care about issues either. This was a poo-poo and pee pee comedy meant to sell itself as a shared universe. Because that's what we need, more blockbusters, more sequels, and more "Ghostbusters".

Film critics were out there protecting the utterly crash marketing of an artistically-empty franchise because they thought some nobody commentators were being mean to millionaire celebrities. Do you see how bad this position is?

Look, there are real issues in this country right now. If you want to know what those issues are, go see "13th" or "Moonlight" or "Loving". There's a beautiful run of brilliant filmmaking, all answering the complaint that the Oscars this year was too white. But here's the thing, and I know film critics don't really want to hear it, but you'll hear it anyway: activism in your film reviews is not activism. You aren't solving the nation's problems by complaining about "Doctor Strange".

"Doctor Strange" is frankly a terribly boring movie that is nothing more than another Marvel origin story. There is nothing interesting to talk about with it, which is why I haven't really. Imagery aside, man that movie is dull. We've seen it already. Like six times. Most blockbusters are just not politically interesting. I know we need a story when a movie this bland but popular comes around, but is this the best we got?

So the problem with "Doctor Strange" is Tilda Swinton's character. She plays the Ancient One, who in the comics is apparently a generic East Asian bearded wizard guy. Marvel was nice enough to gender-lift the character, thus actually creating a strong female presence in a scrip that otherwise would not have had one. (Rachel McAdams' character is so pointless they don't even bother to end her kinda-romantic-ish plotline with Benedict Cumberbatch's wanna-be Dr. House character.) So is that enough? Nope. The Ancient One was East Asian, so now it's racist that a white actress is playing the role.

Okay. There is an issue in film that East Asian actors probably don't get enough good roles. At least here in the United States - abroad that's another issue entirely. Best movie of the year so far is Park Chan-wook's "The Handmaiden", with an all-Asian cast. But generally I don't see an outpouring of protests from East Asians over "Doctor Strange". The general public doesn't care. Most of them have no idea who the Ancient One even is, and they go to superhero movies to escape politics and real issues. To them, the Ancient One is an enigmatic character played by the always great Tilda Swinton, who adds just a little bit of impish fun to what would otherwise be a very flat character.

Then you have the issue with "The Great Wall", where I see white commentators yelling at a Chinese film company for casting Matt Damon. Who the fuck are you to tell another country who is allowed to star in its movies? Who gave you the balls?

Today, the first trailer for the live action remake of "Ghost in the Shell" came out, starring Scarlett Johansson. I am fairly certain this movie is not going to be good, but it won't be Johansson's fault. And they are trying, god bless them. The trailer actually gets the look and sound of the original "Ghost in the Shell" down perfectly. It recreates whole scenes, albeit without showing nipples. This is much more visually interesting than say, "Doctor Strange".

But here comes the narrative again, exactly as you'd predict it: white actress gets cast as the Japanese Major Kusanagi. Liberals on social media are pissed.

First off, "Ghost in the Shell" is a movie made to make money. Nobody was going to see it without an A-list star at the helm. Scarlett Johansson is a talented actress with name recognition. Black Widow is pretty much the same character as the Major. Also Johansson has the range to pull in a weirder kind of otherworldly vibe, as seen in the highly overrated "Under the Skin" or the highly underrated "Lucy". This is a Western adaptation of "Ghost in the Shell", whether we like it or not.

And in the end, nobody cares. Masamune Shirow isn't complaining. I don't see a huge backlash from either the Western or Japanese fans. As long as we get a cool cyberpunk movie with maybe more brain cells than say... "Doctor Strange", the movie will be fine.

So you want to know why the American people aren't listening to you, liberal media? It's exactly this. There is no real controversy with "Doctor Strange" or "Ghostbusters" or "Ghost in the Shell" outside our little web forums and twitter. Nobody is outside protesting like they did with "Last Temptation of Christ". People just want fun movies. They don't need every level of their lives politicized and judged. Does every movie need to go through this ringer of being liberal enough? "Ghost in the Shell" has an interracial lesbian kiss in its trailer, does that make you happy?

Political correctness is bullshit. It's a line the other side will kill us over. It is time to abandon it, it is time to talk about real issues. Stop being triggered. Stop putting on goddamn safety pins as if it matters for shit. Let's stop feeling guilty. Let's get fucking mad and do something real.

You want to have a culture war. Do it. Right now the Trump presidency has the power to eventually change the Supreme Court, they could end abortion and gay marriage. They have the power right now to deport millions of people. They can bring untold horrors to black people and continue the prison-slave economy. We're trying to make gains on trangendered people being accepted in society**, Trump can stop that. We're winning the fight to end the drug war, do you want to see him pull that back? Look around at the real world if you want to fight against tyranny. Get out there in that real world and off twitter.

We're just fighting with ourselves and looking stupid doing it. This is why we lost.

* There's a lot I can say about the Electoral College but I won't. I dare you to try me in the comments. Just know, I'm not going to be civil on this. That's my red line.

** Wait no, we're going to ignore that issue and instead complain that actual transgendered actors are not being cast in "Dallas Buyer Club" or "The Danish Woman". Do you see how shit we are? Those movies are pro-LGBT but not the right way? Fuck off.

I bet somebody will bitch if it turns out that the main heroes of the new Star Wars movies are straight.Oh sure, they're a trio of a black male, a white woman, and a Latino male, but that's not diverse enough.


  1. Good article, but i thought the bullshit drama over Magic Hugo Strange was that the Ancient one was Tibet and Marvel changed the race to avoid offending China?

  2. No one complained about the electoral college until Trump won.

    1. Donald Trump complained.