Is the movie industry/ film criticism becoming too politicised?

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by lucasisking, Apr 24, 2016.

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  1. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    Something I've been noticing for a while now is how politics seems to be dominating film and film discussion lately. There's been the Oscarssowhite controversy; Youtubers are dedicating entire videos to complain about casting choices and perceived socio-political agendas; critics are waging full-on wars with each other -accusing each other of being paid off by film studios to promote/ criticise films from rival studios; people are constantly second guessing studio decisions and casting based on race, gender and plaigarism issues. Internet memes like 'Mary Sue', 'whitewashing', and 'mansplaining' are being forced into the lexicon to create issues where arguably none exist (or if they do, they are commerically driven rather than political).

    Examples:
    Star Wars the Force Awakens has been accused of pushing a 'Mary Sue' protagonist.
    Rogue One accused of compounding a Star Wars 'feminist' agenda.
    Hollywood criticised for having too many white main actors.
    Marvel criticised for not having a female main superhero eg. Black Widow movie.
    The Hateful Eight criticsed for being misogynistic.
    Batman Vs Superman's critical bashing being blamed on a Marvel-funded conspiracy.
    Ghost In The Shell being slated for Scarlett Johansson not being 'asian'.
    Ghostbusters accused of having a black stereotype.
    Gods of Egypt, Exodus= whitewashing.
    etc etc.

    Are we becoming blinded to what's actually important about movies (whether or not they entertain) due to people forcing their personal agendas on us? Or are the complaints/ concerns valid? Are there fundamental political problems in Hollywood that demand attention? Or is it just that we live in a time of bored, entitled, self-righteous internet ingrates?
     
  2. Coz22998

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    Great post - my view is definitely the latter. People now have access to other people via the Internet and feel they have a voice and the ability to be heard. And be damned, they're going to be heard!!!

    Hollywood has always had issues similar to the ones we have now - not enough people of colour (Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffanys anyone??? Hell even Connery got involved in You Only Live Twice!!!!), not enough women, etc.

    While without a doubt, these issues have greatly improved, just like society as a whole, it's still not perfect, not by a long shot.

    But the difference know is people have access to a platform to be heard and therefore have a massively inflated sense of entitlement. "If I have a view about anything I have a right to air that view".

    Another thing the Internet has given us is fanboys. These things that people feel so passionately about breeds that sense of rightous indignation if anyone else doesn't agree with them - skewered do brilliantly in Spaced! Look at the console fanboys!!!!! Again that passion finally has an outlet and people are using it - hence the frankly mystifying Marvel v DC barnies doing the rounds recently.

    Don't get me wrong I'm all for people airing views - why else would I frequent forums like this??? But it's how people use them that's worrying - I post because I hope that I might steer people towards a few films they might not have heard of, not because I like counting 'likes'. Or to help with a choice about a bit of kit. It's why this forum is the only form of social media I indulge in - I'm not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or anything like that as that's just sharing stuff for the sake of sharing. In my view anyways.

    To get the post back on topic, I think the only thing we need to be concerned about is how the studios start to use these people - I like the story of Ain't It Cool in the beginning and how WB thought that by giving early access to Harry Knowles as a new form of Internet blogger, they would secure favourable press......and he skewered Batman and Robin something rotten!!! Since then though, even he is now is considered part of the establishment. So as long as we continue to get independent, well put together and thoughtful comment and criticism that is outside of the studios pocket, then I'm all for the keyboard warriors peddling their views......as long as I always have the choice of whom to read.

    In terms of what's important about movies, I think we still get the right focus put on those - story, characters, acting and more story. It's just current society is very sensationalist so traditional critical comment has to compete with the tabloid rags and while that's is a worry, there is always a sensible critical voice available somewhere......like these forums. So if all else fails.....we'll always have each other!!!!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
  3. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    Spot on. I'm all for debate, and would be bored if we just posted opinions without challenging them. But why can't we debate filmmaking merits rather than try to infuse wider social and political issues onto an industry that, like any other, is primarily a commercial/ artistic venture. Like anything else, the film industry is a part of wider society and reflects the times. I happen to think that we live in a less sexist and less racist era than any other; and that translates (roughly) to the screen. Ironically though, we are also more socially aware then ever, and so scrutinise movies with ever-increasing levels of political sensitivity. Which means if we dont get it right 100% of the time, there's hostility.

    Star Wars for example; we get not only our first black stormtrooper but a black character in a leading role (one of the 'main three' star wars protagonists). Is this taken as a positive? No! Instead we're angry that he's not the main character. We get our first ever female lead character. Good news? No! She's too white apparently. And she's a 'Mary Sue'. The film is bashed because the female character is too capable. Whereas when you portray a female character as needing help, she becomes a 'damsel in distress' (eg Jupiter Ascending) and that's sexist. And if by some miracle they get the casting just right, the internet will get angry because they're being too politically correct and therefore pursuing a social agenda at the expense of story. How can they win?

    The fanboy thing is also getting out of hand. Grace Randolf (a well known youtube movie critic with an acute preoccupation with race and gender) has recently- hilariously- compared Zach Snyder to Stanley Kubrick and has said that the critical bashing of Batman vs Superman is the result of an internet movement purposely designed to discredit DC films, and that movie reviewers critical of the film were secretly paid off by Marvel. I think she's off her rocker.
     
  4. Trollslayer

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    There are things that need to improve in films but on the other hand there are also people who look for something to be a hero about.
    Hollywood is undoubtedly sexist and if you look there are other biases but it gets complicated by some who are determined to rescue others so they can feel good about it.
     
  5. Trollslayer

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    BTW, Lucas has a very good point about separating the merits of a film from this.
     
  6. simonblue

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    Hasn't it always been this way,but since the internet everybody can have their say,right or wrong ?

    :)
     
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  7. Trollslayer

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    Good point.
     
  8. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    Perhaps it has, but the internet is a couple of decades old now. What I'm noticing is a more recent surge of political commentary and it seems increasingly pervasive in film discussion in the last few years. For example I'd not heard of 'Mary Sue' before Star Wars The Force Awakens but now it seems to be the meme of choice every time a strong young female is portrayed on film.

    Not that AV Forums is a barometer of that; us guys are pretty level-headed in comparison to many websites. Perhaps I spend too much time on youtube and other movie blogs. Nowadays, videos are made commenting on and reacting to mere trailers or even set photos; where (without a finished movie to give context) its easy to prejudge and second guess what directors and studios are doing. People are already talking about boycotting Ghostbusters, Ghost in the Shell and Rogue One, based on scant information. Usually because of social justice warriors going viral and others bandwagon-jumping.

    Whatever happened to just watching a movie just because it interests you, and judging it as a film?
     
  9. hippo99

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    A lot of these controversial/political discussions are also started by or perpetuated by the film/gossip websites purely as click bait.

    It wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't started off by a headline grabbing 'Is Rey a great role model for girls or just a Mary Sue'?

    There's just so much click bait around everywhere nowadays, I rarely visit the film gossip sites anymore.
     
  10. Greg Hook

    Greg Hook
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    Same here. I hate those click bait sites and their stupid links. It usually has some made up number of items such as 'these 13 reasons will cause you to look at x differently' or '14 secret ways to do something'. Grrrrr
     
  11. Smurfin

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    For you and I maybe, but in truth, not for most people. I think there's been a massive change in internet culture in the last 5-8 years. Everyone - including older people - are getting used to having a voice on the internet, and it's all driven by social media.

    As to the question, I'm oblivious to most of it; I thought the OhSoWhite Oscars debacle was a joke, so I ignore most of it now.
     
  12. simonblue

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    The internet has been around for an while,but what has happen is money,youtube and others sites you can now earn money from adds revenue,the more hits the more money,which can and does make people more conversational to draw you in.
    I must admit i dont go to movies blogs or youtube reviews,and i mainly watch movies for their entertainment value,and some because the story might grab me.

    :)
     
  13. Hixs

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    I've never really had much time for film critics besides Kermode. They tend all to be opinionated pompous asses with an over inflated view of self worth. They should all be placed on an island to do battle.
     
  14. Mark_a

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    Hmmm, opinionated pompous ass is pretty much how I see Kermode too.

    Regards

    Mark
     
  15. Lusankya

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    It is what I do.

    Because I bury my head in the sand regarding most films until I have seen them for fear of spoilers.
    I find I am totally oblivious to alot of what you have mentioned. Obviously not an ideal view point for a serious film buff like yourself. I have no idea what a Mary Sue is. (Will Google in a sec)

    I did know about the Oscars thing. There was a point to be made, fair enough. Just not the way it was. Will Smith makes everything about race and in my opinion generally takes the issue backwards rather than forwards.

    As said, people now feel because they can speak to a wide audience without fear of being challenged they think they should be listened to.

    I think old Qui Gon said it perfectly. "The ability to speak does not make you intelligent"

    I would add that the only people more pointless than youtube commentors are porn video commentors.
     
  16. Smurfin

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    Aren't we all opinionated?
     
  17. BlueOrange25

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    I think it's good that some politically-motivated issues are being discussed and decision makers held to account. As with all things connected with the internet, politics and/or the media, the key is to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    Issues around race, gender and socio economic background and the lack of opportunities are valid, even if it's 'just' the entertainment industry. The problem lies with people on various sides of the argument. Some are too sensitive and quick to pick an issue to bang on about, and some are too quick to bury their head in the sand.

    On the issue of race, it's time for the film industry to start developing non-white stars. Generally, the world isn't as (openly) racist as it was 30+ years ago; audiences are receptive to non-white casting. We're all used to hearing how race makes no difference, yet the answer isn't black and white (no pun intended). It would be great if we could move to a colour and gender blind way of casting fictional characters, but the industry as a whole just isn't set up for that at the moment.
    The casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell is 'whitewashing', but it's easy to see why from an economic and business sense. The issue, for me, is to look at the root cause i.e. how non-white talent, specifically Asian (and Middle Eastern), is so ignored by one of the biggest entertainment sectors which operates on a global scale. Part of it, I'm sure, is down to demographics and simple numbers, but in film casting, race is still a consideration.

    Large parts of the entertainment industry are cut off from people from poorer backgrounds. Generally speaking, work in front of or behind the camera isn't a viable career path unless you have parents/people who can afford to support you. Similarly, if you want to get into the business side of the industry, poor people can't afford to apply for internships that pay nothing or (minimum wage if you're lucky) in exchange for full-time work.

    Bear in mind that the business is almost wholly concentrated in London, and trying to survive on a short term minimum wage job is just that bit harder (unless you can live with your parents within commuting distance).

    I mentioned above that the key is to sort the wheat from the chaff. It's harder now than ever to do this with the internet and especially social media. I wasn't aware that people were criticising The Force Awakens for a 'Mary Sue' and for not casting John Boyega as the main lead. I find both statements to be silly. The biggest issue about Rey is that Daisy Ridley's acting is the least convincing of all the main characters.
     
  18. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    Yes. It's easy to conflate different issues. The casting of Scarlett Johansson was made not because studios felt that audiences needed a white actor. It was that they felt audiences needed a well-known actor. There are no well-known Japanese actresses in Hollywood, or even well known Asian actresses (assuming we think any 'asian' will do in the role). If Rinko Kikuchi was as famous as Scarjo, she would have got the part no question.

    No problems casting Denzel Washington or Will Smith for example; they are big enough actors to sell movies. So its not casting directors that are at fault, its a wider 'problem' that there aren't enough big name ethnic stars in Hollywood.

    This all assumes of course that different ethnic groups 'need' to be 'represented'. The Japanese supposedly aren't at all bothered that Scarlett was cast. By the same token I can't say I'm particularly bothered at the lack of caucasian respresentation in Japanese cinema.
     
  19. hippo99

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    That's a vicious circle though. How do you become a big name ethnic star in Hollywood if casting directors aren't willing to cast them in any large roles?
     
  20. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    They start in smaller ones. There's no way to control or manipulate whether the 'right' people become megastars or not. Those two examples just did (probably because both are charismatic and have screen presence on top of being good actors), and they started out in smaller roles, or tv.

    That's the only answer. Have a system where everyone has the same opportunity to get started in Hollywood regardless of ethnicity. The rest is up to the actor.

    It's no use demanding that directors gamble their budgets on little-known actors for the sake of being ethnically diverse. The people making those demands aren't usually the ones putting up the $200+ million budgets for a movie.
     
  21. hippo99

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    You can only use that argument IF it applies to everyone. That isn't the system that is being used at the moment in Hollywood, hence why people are protesting.

    At the moment, they are (rightly or wrongly) willing to risk their $200+m budget on no name white actors though 12 unknown actors cast in major blockbusters
     
  22. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    To stick with the Ghost In The Shell example, that's a very unconvincing list.
    1. Brandon Routh: The Superman franchise is big enough that you don't need an A-lister. In any case, its a bad example as the movie wasn't popular.
    2. Matthew McConaughey: Time to kill wasn't a mega budget film. It was a courtroom drama.
    3. Hayden Christenden: see example 1
    4. Matt Damon: see example 2
    5. Shia Labeouf: see example 1. And where is he now??
    6. Hugh Jackman: X-Men was an ensemble film. It didn't ride on any one actor.
    7. Leo DiCaprio: Titanic was always going to be a massive ensemble event-movie regardless of cast.
    8. Eric Bana: again, example 1. and again, it wasn't a massive success.
    9. Sam Neil: Come on. Jurassic Park, directed by Spielberg, and an ensemble cast. You could have cast Donald Duck and it would have been a massive hit.
    10. Julia Ormond: Wasn't the star of First Knight. That would be Richard Gere and, um, SEAN CONNERY.
    11. Bill Campbell: The Rocketeer was a flop.
    12. Claire Forlani: See 10. Meet Joe Black was a Brad Pitt vehicle.

    To use the case of Ghost In the Shell, that is an obscure, cerebral sci-fi based on a Japanese manga that will be unknown to anyone outside the genre. It will also require a huge budget in order to realise. The main character is also central to the story, so it will stand or fall based on its star.

    Casting an unknown to play Motoko Kusanagi would be like casting Edward James Olmos as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner.
     
  23. hippo99

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    I totally understand why they've gone with Scarlett Johansson for Ghost in the Shell.
    That scenario doesn't apply in most other cases.

    Even with some of your rebuttals above- Brandon Routh, Eric Bana- the films weren't a success with the unknown white actor.
    The films flopping is neither here nor there. The fact is that the studio/casting directors DID take a risk with their $200+ million with the unknown white actor. Would the studio/casting directors take the same risk with their $200+ million with an unknown black actor?

    It's not a level playing field. That's the difference.
    You may have given 'justifications' as to why these unknown white actors were all given these roles (I think you're stretching with quite a few of the justifications), but why did they not go with an established white actor to both earn a bigger box office & protect their $200+m investment? Why risk $200+ million using an unknown white actor?

    Can you name 12 unknown black actors who got leading roles in major blockbusters?
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  24. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    Again, Hulk and Superman are big enough that people will see them regardless, so the risk of casting an unknown is massively offset by that.

    You say they wouldn't do the same for black or asian actors, but perhaps that's just because there are so few black and Asian superheroes in popular consciousness (not Hollywood's fault).

    In fact, they did take a punt at Spawn (Michael Jai White) and they are doing the same again with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Both little known actors. Then there's Michael B Jordan as Johnny Storm in Fantfourstick and- outside the fantasy genre- the lead character in Creed.

    What is it you think needs to change?
     
  25. imightbewrong

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  26. hippo99

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    Well they both flopped horribly, so that logic didn't work out did it.
    Will they use white unknown actors again? Probably.
    Will they use black unknown actors? Less likely.

    That's the million dollar question. I don't have a clue :laugh:

    I'm just saying this isn't an 'imagined' situation in Hollywood casting.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  27. lucasisking

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  28. hippo99

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    Do you remember the fuss kicked up when it was suggested that Idris Elba should become the new James Bond? Great actor and would be absolutely perfect for the role, other than race. I don't think it would ever happen as it'd be too controversial. (Daniel Craig was also pretty much an unknown white actor when given the role of Bond as well, so he was a risk)

    Also the fuss kicked up on rumours/suggestions that the current reboot of Spider-man should use Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker.

    Personally I wasn't in favour of changing either Bond or Spider-man in a reboot.
     
  29. lucasisking

    lucasisking
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    To be honest I don't remember a 'fuss' over Elba. In the case of black Spiderman I think a lot of people saw that as being agenda-driven for the sake of it.

    I remember the 'craigisnotbond' movement though. Good grief, never mind skin colour. Imagine objecting to someone with the wrong colour hair?
     
  30. hippo99

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    I remember quite a few high profile people (in the James Bond world) got a lot of flack. Roger Moore got into trouble for saying James Bond should be English-English, & Anthony Horowitz saying he was 'too street'.
    Roger Moore denies racist comments about Idris Elba playing James Bond
    Then you had the usual idiots on both sides making a big fuss.

    I don't think Hollywood would ever hire a white actor to play Shaft either, but it's everything in between. Apocalypto is a case where they didn't 'whitewash' the cast (& benefits greatly from it), but it's more the exception than the rule.
     

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