Well, I’m glad to return to The Epoch Times after a little hiatus in which I was busy getting my new novel published. I am thankful that the good folks here at this unique newspaper welcomed me back, and not only to write about entertainment matters, but also pieces on other subjects as well, in a weekly column called “Kane’s Corner.” While I was away, I gleaned a few insights—a couple big, but most of them small and insignificant; ah yes, the distracted and muddled mind of a writer.
While stepping back and looking at current events and what is going on in this whacky modern world we all live in, I am filled with hope; there really is just nowhere to go from here but up (hopefully). For a while now, a trend has been growing and now appears to be catching fire: being unoriginal. From the rise of ultra-political correctness in almost every facet of contemporary society, where just about anything said outside of the pop group-mind is shunned, to such things as no new popular forms of good music being created, and a climate which fosters the germination of a truly bizarre creation; the modern hipster. The dress code de rigueur for this group seems to be a combination of everything bad from other offshoot movements, all slapped together into cute little highly packaged, skinny-legged clones of irony. Hipsters, in an extremely unsightly attempt to be different from the mainstream, have become mainstream; to the extent that they are now regularly featured in advertising and other forms of popular media.
This trend of being unoriginal seems to be continuing unabated, and strange as it may sound, that gives me hope. Take the recent redux of the 2014 film “47 Ronin.” Many critics have already panned the acting, set design, production, writing, etc., so I won’t jump onto that band-wagon. Let’s just say that if you haven’t seen the original 1941 Mizoguchi Kenji (in Japanese the family name comes first) film, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Keanu Reeves shows up wearing his one expression and does a serviceable job as the main character throughout most of film, which once again features a (for all intents and purposes) white male as the primary lead in a film taking place in a non-white foreign land.
That makes at least three major productions (there are probably many more) in which pale white guys are the pivotal leads in feudal Japanese films; the other two being 2003’s “The Last Samurai,” which starred Tom Pitt, I meant Brad Dicaprio, ooops—it was Tom Cruise (silly me!), as well as 1980’s “Shogun” with Richard Chamberlain. What did these three productions have in common? Why, of course…the white guys weren’t just the focus of a Japanese film, they also got to lay the primary Japanese female whom the men native to their country apparently aren’t deserved of.
Yes, in quite many a film, video game, comic book, etc., white men are free to partake of these beautiful foreign women of color, just as one would pluck an exotic fruit from a tree, and then swagger off with his treasure into the sunset for some hanky-panky. The reverse is not true at all, at least in popular media. As an aside; interestingly enough, a couple of men I know who do the whole online dating thing have noted that most women of color (Asian, Hispanic, and African American) on dating sites state quite frankly that they are only looking to date white men. They couldn’t have been brainwashed by these ubiquitous themes, no way!
Johnny Depp appears in reverse whiteface, as Tonto, in The Lone Ranger-Image courtesy of Disney.com
But I digress. The peculiar phenomenon of whites depicting people of color is also present when filmmakers wanted to portray Native American characters. Apparently they couldn’t rustle up any native actors, and so had to smear blackfa—oops, I meant redface (Oh stop; I’m sure they get the color make-up jars mixed up sometimes!) onto white actors, such as when Burt Lancaster bravely (no pun intended) made his great contribution to this pattern in 1954’s “Apache,” or Chuck Connors in 1964’s “Geronimo.” To continue this trend, contemporary modern day films still endorse and promote this proud legacy, such as in 2008’s “Killshot,” with Mickey Rourke, and Johnny Depp in 1997’s “The Brave.” Johnny evidently felt especially compelled to double-dip into this depleted and dried-up well, also portraying the fictional Native American character Tonto in 2013’s unnecessary “The Lone Ranger.” As tripwire.com pointed out: “Depp has made vague claims of Native American heritage — “I was told I was Cherokee as a kid. I was told I was Creek as a kid and Chickasaw” — but activists note he’s never had his claims verified.”
Not that the movie-going public would ever take things as sacrosanct. This has nothing to do with the actors themselves (they are all quite capable in their own unique ways), it has more to do with a pattern that I see. The only reason that I am bringing it up is because I expect more in this day and age.
In spite of these factors, you keep hearing of the film industry being so “liberal.” Right, it is just sooooo liberal that filmmakers still won’t show even A-list African American actors kissing white women, or women from any other ethnicity other than black women, and even then it’s a rare occurrence in the very sheltered and pigeon-holed “black romantic comedy” realm. But I see this as a sign of hope.
My theory is that in an age where the most popular movies about the black experience are centered around slavery (2012’s “Django Unchained,” 2013’s “12 Years a Slave”), these films draw audiences into the multiplexes with their latest brand of voraciously exploitative ethno-porn by showing African American men violated and mistreated in various ways. But here’s the hook: in order to distance whites (especially those liberal whites who might feel guilt) from the whole evil institution of slavery, they always have to suddenly interject a white man into the film at some point that saves the poor slave(s), and all is right in the world again.
That’s right, black people can’t fight for their own freedom and win it without the assistance of benevolent white males, who are almost angelic in their actions and therefore innocent and beyond reproach. With today’s audiences’ seemingly bottomless and insatiable appetite for gratuitous violence and gore, I say why not just be done with the thinly-veiled veneer of contrived and warped historical references and just give them what they want, along with their gigantic dripping buckets of popcorn.
How about they just crank out a new conveyor-belt line of products, oops I meant films, for consumers, ooops I meant audiences, similar to the popular “Hostel” franchise. In these new films they could just feature a bunch of cells containing captured African Americans, and then have some depraved white people saunter in and take their time torturing their captives while audiences cheer and hoot and buckets of blood and gore are virtually tossed into their faces in one big undulating, orgiastic feast of ethno-torture porn.
The filmmakers could also be really creative with the titles too; I can just see them now: “Django Re-Chained: The Day We Got Him,” “Slave Master 2: The Hound Whisperer.” But I think at first the producers would have to be careful about who to feature as the victims. Even though I’m sure there would be a long line of African American actors desperate for mainstream roles and eager to step up, instead you could feature white actors with some smeared-on blackface in order to alleviate any white guilt that some of the movie-goers might feel. At least in the beginning, and then they could ratchet-up the wholesale depravity from there in the sequels with authentic black actors as the torture victims. And since films are about making money, they could feature a full line of merchandizing including Big Gulps and tee-shirts with fan favorite victims emblazoned on them. But all of this would be too original and so, un-cool…for now.
Oh, the hopeful part…yes. Well, one film recently took a brave chance by depicting a black character not as a slave, but as a (gasp!) butler, in 2013’s historical fiction film— you guessed it: “The Butler.” Okay, okay, the main character’s mother does get raped by some white guy, but he still manages to go on and become some important white peoples’ butler. Call me overly-optimistic, but I believe that is several steps up from being a slave.
That’s not all; a while back I was at a friend’s house who insisted on watching some dopey cartoon movie that are all the rage these days. It featured some sort of talking vehicles as its main characters, and one of them was a purple tow truck or something that jumped around a lot, and its voice-actor spoke in an over-the-top ebonical dialect. You know what I’m talking about; the kind of vernacular heard in fried chicken commercials and the like, in which the narrator says stuff like: “We just love us some fried chicken…mmm, mmm good!” Anyway, at one point the truck leans over to a cute little light yellow car, which happens to be very shy and quiet and is excellent with math (wonder what ethnicity they’re trying to convey there), and kisses her/it on the front fender. While the kiss wasn’t quite on the lips, at least they took a risk there and hopefully next time they can work up to the mouth region.