Category Archives: movies

If A Transwoman Can Play A Transwoman In Indian Movies, How About In Hollywood?

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally posted at TransGriot.

karpaga

I found it interesting last year that a young Indian transwoman has gone somewhere that transpeople in the States haven’t. But what else is new for us here?

Last year Karpaga made history in India as she became the first transwoman to be cast in a lead role in a commercial film. She was cast as the lead in a Tamil language film called Paal, which means gender in the Tamil language.

While Indian transpeople are justifiably proud of this cultural step up since they have been dissed for far too long in movies like their American cousins, at least they actually have transwomen playing transwomen in their films.

And based on the plot synopsis for this one, Paal looks pretty interesting. She’s playing an intellectual filmmaker who falls in love and faces the ‘do I tell’ dilemma.

What we’ve gotten here in the States, be it the silver screen or television is cisgender actresses scooping up those role. The recent announcement that Nicole Kidman is set to play pioneer transwoman Lili Elbe in the indie film The Danish Girl only heightens our annoyance about this.

candiscayne1

It’s not like we don’t have transgender actresses in Hollywood. Candis Cayne, Calpernia Addams, Aleshia Brevard, Jazzmun and Alexandra Billings are some of the ones that come to mind. Candis recently had her groundbreaking role in the now cancelled Dirty Sexy Money that ended predictably in her death, but that’s another post.

It would be nice if Hollywood would actually put a transwoman in a transgender role, but they still can’t get it right with cisgender women of color either.

What’s going to have to happen is that transwomen are going to have to write, produce and direct their own stories, and one of those indie films is going to have to make enough money and garner enough awards to get the peeps in Hollywood’s attention.

As for Paal, here’s hoping it’s an artistic and commercial success in India and beyond, and it leads to a nice career for Karpaga and other Indian transwomen who follow in her pumps.

So Bobby Jindal is the Slumdog Governor?

by Latoya Peterson

Oh, this is so fucking cute. Daniel Larison writing for Eunomia (a blog hosted on the American Conservative site) sheds the spotlight on some very racist comments:

What on earth is this? Well, it is an interview between Michael Steele and ABC Radio’s Curtis Sliwa, but beyond that I don’t know how else to describe it:

    SLIWA: Now, using a little bit of that street terminology, are you giving him [Jindal] any Slum love, Michael?

    STEELE: (laughter)

    SLIWA: Because he is — when guys look at him and young women look at him — they say oh, that’s the slumdog millionaire, governor. So, give me some slum love.

    STEELE: I love it. (inaudible) … some slum love out to my buddy. Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin’ awesome job in his state. He’s really turned around on some core principles — like hey, government ought not be corrupt. The good stuff … the easy stuff.

Oh wait, and here’s Ann Coulter:

Wasn’t Bobby great in “Slumdog Millionaire”?

Look.

I know Bobby Jindal isn’t going to trip over this. He’s still finding his feet as a rising GOPer and he probably won’t make his new friends uncomfortable by calling out their dumb jokes. But that shit is ridiculous. Cracking jokes that begin and end with someone’s ethnicity isn’t funny, it’s callous. Especially with the reputation this crew has for racist behavior.

Oh, and Steele? Remember the Oreo incident? That mess wasn’t funny. Neither was this. Don’t forget that when laugh off racism towards others, you could be the next target.

Update: Kuriusjurge writes in the comments that the Oreo incident was probably fabricated. Even still, Steele should know better!

(Hat Tip to Ta-Nehisi)

Frank Miller’s “300” and the Persistence of Accepted Racism

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

When Frank Miller’s “300″ film was released, I was absolutely outraged by the racist content of the film and more so at the insensitivity of movie-goers who simply argued “it’s just a movie.” Later on, I would hear these same individuals say, “The movie makes you want to slice up some Persians.” I wrote an article about the film almost immediately after it was released, and now that I’m still noticing people quoting the movie or listing it as their “favorite movies,” I’ve decided to update my original post and discuss some points that will hopefully shed some new light.

“300” not only represents the ever-growing trend of accepted racism towards Middle-Easterners in mainstream media and society, but also the reinforcement of Samuel P. Huntington’s overly clichéd, yet persisting, theory of “The Clash of Civilizations,” which proposes that cultural and religious differences are the primary sources for war and conflict rather than political, ideological, and/or economic differences. The fact that “300” grossed nearly $500 million worldwide in the box office may not be enough to suggest that movie-goers share the film’s racist and jingoistic views, but it is enough to indicate how successful such a film can be without many people noticing its relentless racist content. As Osagie K. Obasogie wrote in a brilliant critique of the film, “300” is “arguably the most racially charged film since D. W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’” – the latter being a 1915 silent film that celebrated the Ku Klux Klan’s rise to defend the South against liberated African-Americans. Oddly enough, both films were immensely successful despite protests and charges of racism.

Media imagery is very important to study. Without analyzing and critiquing images in pop culture, especially controversial and reoccurring images, we are ignoring the most powerful medium in which people receive their information from. A novel, for example, may appeal to a large demographic, but a film appeals to a much wider audience not only because of recent video-sharing websites and other internet advancements, but also because the information is so much easier to process and absorb.

According to the Cultivation Theory, a social theory developed by George Gerbner and Larry Gross, television is the most powerful storyteller in culture – it repeats the myths, ideologies, and facts and patterns of standardized roles and behaviors that define social order. Music videos, for example, cultivate a pattern of images that establish socialized norms about gender. In a typical western music video, you may see female singers like Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce wearing the scantiest of clothing and dancing in erotic and provocative ways that merely cater to their heterosexual male audiences. These images of women appear so frequently and repetitively that they develop an expectation for women in the music industry, i.e. in order to be successful, a woman needs to have a certain body type, fit society’s ideal for beauty, and dance half-nakedly. Stereotypical images of men in music videos, on the other hand, include violent-related imagery, “pimping” with multiple women, and showing off luxury. Such images make violence and promiscuous sexual behavior “cool” and more acceptable for males. As we can see from two studies by Greeson & Williams (1986) and Kalof (1999), exposure to stereotypical images of gender and sexual content in music videos increase older adolescents’ acceptance of non-marital sexual behavior and interpersonal violence.

Cognitive Social Learning Theory is another social theory which posits, in respect to media, that television presents us with attractive and relatable models for us to shape our experiences from. In other words, a person may learn particular behaviors and knowledge through observing the images displayed on television. A person may also emulate the behavior of a particular character in a film or television show, especially if a close-identification is established between the viewer and the character. Both theories – Cultivation Theory and Cognitive Social Learning Theory – apply in my following analysis of “300.”

In order to deconstruct “300,” I will start by (1) discussing its distortion of history, then (2) contrast the film’s representation of Persians and Spartans, (3) correlate Frank Miller’s Islamophobic remarks on NPR with the messages conveyed in “300,” and (4) conclude with the importance of confronting stereotypical images in mainstream media and acknowledging the contributions of all societies and civilizations. Continue reading

Stuff white people do: think that racism is ok if you’re being ironic about it

by Guest Contributor Macon Dee, originally published at Stuff White People Do

Do you remember Pauly Shore? I don’t find him especially worth remembering, but I think his new project, a movie called Adopted, deserves attention. Critical attention.

It seems to me that in the trailer below, Shore enacts a common white tendency: acting racist in a way that’s supposed to signal that you know you’re acting racist. And thinking as you do so that because you’re being ironic, you don’t really mean to be racist, so the racism you’re enacting is okay. And kinda cool and funny too.

The film’s official site describes it the following way, with, presumably, a heavy dose of irony. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, as people used to say:

For hundreds of years, Africa has existed in a state of despair. Famine, civil wars and rampant disease have left the continent without hope, but for the efforts of Western do-gooders. At first, they arrived with food, bibles and the magic of penicillin; more recently they have hosted rock concerts and sent plane loads of grain. And in the last decade of the 20th century they arrived and took babies home with them. First there was Angelina, then Madonna, and now…Pauly Shore!

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Andy Garcia: “I’m Not A Latino Actor.”

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee

In a press conference for his latest movie, The Pink Panther 2 (Why, God, why?!), Andy Garcia was quoted as saying, “I’m not a Latino actor, sincerely.” And, well. We think he has a point!

At the press conference, Andy said that, while he is known for being immensely proud of his Cuban heritage, he has tried (unsuccessfully, perhaps) to shed the label of “Latino” from being tacked in front of “Actor Andy Garcia.” He explains:

Everyone knows that I love my culture and that I’m Cuban, but I don’t consider myself a Latino actor, nor do I want other to classify me in that way. All actors should be classified in the same manner.

Dustin Hoffman isn’t described as “Jewish, American” actor. I don’t think heritage has anything to do with acting ability; in reality, we’ll all actors. In my case, I happen to be actor who is American with a Cuban heritage that’s given me a certain sensibility and point of view that maybe others might not have.

Andy also went on to address one of the stereotypes of Latino actors that we most love to loathe:

It’s possible that I’m thought of this way, but I’ve never accepted a script where I’ve had to play the “Latin Lover.” I’m not interested in that type of film.

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Racialicious at the Movies: He’s Just Not That Into You

by Latoya Peterson

You know, dear readers, I am sometimes entirely too curious for my own good.

But I’m going to blame Joseph for this latest bout of killing the cat, since it was his comment (#58) on the original HJNTIY thread that led me to the Friday matinee show.

Before I jump into my impressions of the movie, let me add a little background information. We often receive comments on Racialicious about how sometimes people just want to escape, or that movies are made for “intellectuals,” or that we critique everything and never like anything, or that we are busy judging things we haven’t seen or don’t watch or whatever.

These comments are generally incorrect. In the case of He’s Just Not That Into You :

  • I remember where this all started, as I watched Seasons 1 – 4 of Sex and the City, and sporadically finished out the rest of the series. (I enjoyed the series, glaring race and class issues aside – I just tend to lose patience with most shows after a few seasons.)
  • Not only do I remember the episode that spawned the book, I actually read He’s Just Not That Into You. The book wasn’t very memorable, but it is infinitely better than It’s Called A Break Up Because It’s Broken which made me want to gouge out my eyes with the spoon I was supposed to use to eat my break-up mandated pint of Chunky Monkey. (No, that’s in the book. The cover shot is an empty pint of ice cream.) Instead of reading that, I recommend Cindy Chupack’s Between Boyfriends. She also wrote for Sex and the City and while the book isn’t self-help, it’s probably more helpful than that mess.
  • I really enjoy escapist romantic comedies. Seriously. I deal with race, gender, class and activism all freaking day – what do you think I go home and do? All I ever want is a glass of wine and something funny. That’s all. However, I would prefer that comedy doesn’t actively insult my intelligence. (In another post, somewhere in the future, I’ll talk about one of my favorite romcoms – That’s The Way I Like It – and why it works using the romcom formula without becoming formulaic.)

So, I went to the movie cautious. While I hated the trailers, the alternate trailer (marketed to guys, natch) made the movie seem more interesting than I had anticipated. So after lunch, I suckered my boyfriend into going with me.

*WARNING: SPOLIERS AHEAD* Continue reading

Push Gets Oprah and Tyler Perry

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, originally published at Women and Hollywood

When Push won the big awards at Sundance over a week ago I posited that it would be an awesome opportunity for Tyler Perry to use his mailing list and developed audience to promote a film outside his comfort zone which is pretty much himself. Here’s what I wrote on January 25th:

    Film doesn’t yet have distribution, but hopefully now someone will sign on. I think this would be a great opportunity for Tyler Perry. I know that he is pretty much focused on his own work but he has a built in list and if he (or even Oprah) would put their names and muscle behind this film I bet it could get a release. Even though I have not seen the film I would guess that from the reception and reviews and awards that the issue with this film will be its hard content especially in this market.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would happen. I am shocked and thrilled. The film was bought by Lion’s Gate for approx $5.5 million making it the biggest deal of the festival. Since it won both the audience and jury prize it make sense to me that it got the biggest deal. (Things should work this way yet hardly ever do.) Oprah and Tyler Perry are both going to put their muscle behind the film to get the word out. Props to Lion’s Gate for really thinking outside of their comfort zone on this film. They do very well with Tyler Perry and it makes sense that this film also has potential, but Tyler Perry’s films sell themselves and this one will take a lot of work.

Here’s what Oprah and Perry had to say about the film

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The moment I saw ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,’ I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage other people to see this movie. The film is so raw and powerful — it split me open,” Winfrey said.

“I am honored to join Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate in releasing Lee Daniels’ exceptional film,” Perry said.

Lionsgate, Winfrey, Perry push ‘Push‘ (Variety)

Moving Beyond the Niche

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, originally published at Women and Hollywood

A couple of weeks ago the NY Times ran a piece about the lack of progress of African American directors over the last decade. It seems that African American filmmakers suffer the same issues as women filmmakers — being stuck in a niche and unable to get out. Whether it’s right or not, or desired or not, most African American directors get pigeon holed into creating stories for African American audiences which are still not seen as “mainstream.” Personally, I would rather see a film like The Secret Life of Bees directed by an African American woman like it was, because I would venture to say that Gina Prince-Bythewood (pictured top right) would do a better job than a white woman or white man. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But because women and people of color are seen as “niche audiences” anyone who is in those groups gets stuck. I don’t think the problem is with the audiences. The Secret Life of Bees was a steady earner all through the fall with black and white women. I think the word niche is evil and should be banished. Why aren’t stories like Cadillac Records which boasts an amazing performance from Beyonce (tell me why they couldn’t sell her?) seen as American stories? Once the movie business figures out that they can make money by getting people beyond the “niche” maybe we will see more opportunities for African American directors and women directors.

Some points from the article:

You could now literally count on one hand (using two fingers) the number of black directors who can get their projects made and distributed at a steady rate. One is (Spike) Lee…while the other is Tyler Perry.

Momentum for African-American cinema, it would seem, has been curtailed or at least stalled in part by studio executives’ preconceptions that black films are “niche product” with limited appeal. Yet at the same time black directors and producers still express optimism that they not only can continue to cultivate their black audiences but also can reach out further and wider to the mainstream…

Darnell Martin, the director of Cadillac Record is a cautionary, yet surprisingly typical tale of what happens to women directors:

Ms. Martin places much of the blame for her sporadic career in the feature-film business on the conflicts she had over the promotion of “I Like It Like That.” “They insisted on making me the poster child for the film, the ‘female Spike Lee,’ and I said, ‘Look, I don’t mind that. I’m proud to be a black woman director, and I want that out there.’ But we’d gotten some great reviews, and I felt that was what they should be leading with. If it had been a white director, they would have emphasized the reviews, but instead they were trying to get people to see it only because I was black.

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