What’s supposed to be a romantic moment in Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope ends up being one of its more problematic: we see the protagonist, Malcolm, tell his love interest Nakia, “Don’t sell yourself short” when she explains that, should she get her GED, she plans to attend a community college before, hopefully, moving on to Cal State Fullerton or a school in that system.
Malcolm’s remark is meant to be encouraging, to spur her on to defying expectations. But there’s also a touch of unwitting condescension, of classism in play in that response. And the vexing thing about Dope is that it’s a coming-of-age tale that won’t let him see that other side even as it insists he’s maturing before our eyes.
Earlier this week we covered the burgeoning campaign against Adam Sandler, Netflix, and their Ridiculous 6 project.
During our coverage, we caught up to Megan Red-Shirt Shaw, who devised the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag in the wake of the mass walkout by a group of Native American performers, and talked about how the tag came together, how she feels about the defense of the film as “satire,” and where the campaign goes from here.
Let’s start at the beginning: describe, if you would, the moments when you first heard about the actors walking off the Sandler set. How did you go from there to getting the tag together?
Megan Red-Shirt Shaw: I was definitely upset, but also empowered by their decision to take a stand. It’s really difficult to hear that people within our communities are being dishonored – especially in ways that seem like “vintage” issues — the old Western and “Cowboys and Indians” films we’ve come to know really well. I went on Twitter to see what different voices were talking about and realized there wasn’t a hashtag consolidating the ideas. I looked through the original article by Vince Schilling and saw the quotation by Allie Young about being a “Hollywood Indian.” I knew that was what we had to get trending. Continue reading →
“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” said actor Loren Anthony, a Navajo Nation member. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”
ICTMN also posted video taken on the set from another performer, Goldie Tom, showing actors voicing their concerns to an unidentified producer.
“We don’t need to sell out our people,” one actor says in the footage.
“I understand completely,” the producer replies. “But we’re not gonna change ‘Beaver Breath.'”
“It’s no surprise, of course, that Adam Sandler has written another movie overflowing with the kinds of jokes that might feel edgy to an 11-year-old who finally understands what sex is,” Sargent observed.
The story quickly picked up traction nationally, blossoming into a rare public blunder for Netflix, which was just coming off the largely-favorable reception for Marvel’s new Daredevil series. And the budding broadcast hub chose to address the issue with a somewhat warmed-over statement.
“The movie has Ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous,” the company stated. “It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke.”
While Sandler himself has not weighed in, the chorus of Native Americans supporting the actors has only grown. Natives In America founder Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, a past Racialicious contributor, organized the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag to rally attention to the incident.
And Netflix itself now faces the prospect of a boycott, as the #WalkOffNetflix campaign is also gaining steam. Online supporters are threatening to abandon the streaming service if it does not cancel Sandler’s project.
Meanwhile, the production staff has reportedly reached out to the actors who left the set, including 74-year-old Choctaw performer David Hill.
“I hope they will listen to us,” said Hill, a member of the American Indian Movement. “We understand this is a comedy, we understand this is humor, but we won’t tolerate disrespect. I told the director if he had talked to a native woman the way they were talked to in this movie — I said I would knock his ass out. This isn’t my first rodeo, if someone doesn’t speak up, no one will.”
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: [Black pathology] has two causes: one is institutionalized racism, and we just have to admit that America was built on a fault line called race, and that thing is cracking wide open. So, all of these are symptoms of that. Some of them are that we internalize the narrative. And I think the other thing, you were pointing to a little while ago, is that somehow it makes us feel like we have more power, if it’s ‘our stuff’ — we’ve got more power to examine it, to fix it. But I think the bottom line is, this isn’t at all about Black pathology; it is about racism in America, which is in fact, pathological.
In the days following Doctor Who‘s latest season finale, you can expect most of the credit (or blame) for the show’s transition this year into the Twelth Doctor era on showrunner Steven Moffat, or on stars Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi.
But we’d like to argue that — somewhat unexpectedly — the show’s most valuable player this season was Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink. The character many probably expected to be the show’s third wheel turned into its moral compass. And Anderson should be recognized for providing the dramatic glue in a season that was at times disconcerting, and not for the reasons Moffat might have intended.
There are actually two parts to this. One is, there are troubling racial politics, but it’s not just about men of color. The other racial politics about this are that white women appear the most vulnerable, right, to these menacing men. But this happens to women of color, and women of color have been on the front lines. Three years ago at the Crunk Feminist Collective, we published a video that Girls for Gender Equity did where they had Black teenage girls talking about being harassed, and that video does not have 25 million hits. — Interview aired on “All in With Chris Hayes,” Oct. 31, 2014.
“Hey … Shorty!” by Girls for Gender Equity NYC can be seen below.
Not one scrap of dignity. Not one little bit of humanity. Nothing. None. Nada. One would think after a blood-soaked summer, those of us battle scared and weary by current events could find a refuge in television, with one of the most diverse seasons we’ve seen since the start of this blog. Even if diversity behind the camera is still suffering, we could at least relax into our favorite televised escapes, right?
Wrong. We’re not going to talk about *that* article, though we hope we see something from the New York Times public editor addressing the controversy.
Update: Margaret Sullivan is on it. While she is investigating how this got published, she shared this letter from Patricia Washington:
I am a black woman and a lawyer. I have worked very hard to achieve in my profession and earn respect. I live in a very nice suburban community in Maryland. And yet, none of that makes one bit of difference because a New York Times writer can make whatever offhanded, racist opinions about a successful TV producer who is a black woman she cares to make, and because she has the protection of The New York Times behind her, can publish it. Because Ms. Stanley is a New York Times writer, her story has reached a national audience. Why is Ms. Stanley allowed to characterize Ms. Rhimes as she did and get away it? Why is she allowed to characterize Viola Davis as she did in her story and get away with it?
Ms. Stanley’s story was a backhand to me and it hurts. For the first time, I am considering cancelling my New York Times subscription because this story is much more than disagreeing with the writer’s opinion. This story denigrated every black woman in America, beginning with Shonda Rhimes, that dares to strive to make a respectable life for herself. No matter what we do, as far as Ms. Stanley is concerned, we will always be angry and have potent libidos as we have been perceived from slavery, to Jim Crow, and sadly in September 2014, the 21st century.
How deep does this go? Melissa Harris-Perry and her team on MSNBC created an amazing send-up, analyzing the role of the Angry White Man on television:
If MHP’s bit felt a little strange, it’s just a little dissonance: we are not accustomed to turning the othering gaze used on white characters.
But this situation begs the question: what now? The online community rallied to support of Rhimes, but what else can we do? A tweet in? A watch in? What could we do to deliver a message that these kind of mistakes are not just an editorial judgement error, but a societal problem?
And in case you were confused by the title of this piece: