kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 vortex of stupidity)
[personal profile] kaigou
Dear Hollywood:

It's not just that you suck. You do that, plenty (and you always have, as has the vast majority of any entertainment anywhere at any time, if we're honest). It's that you spend so much freaking money on things that suck. The result isn't that I'm mad that you suck, I'm mad that you suck in ways that leave me out.

I don't mean in the sense of "I don't see myself on the screen". I sure see plenty of stereotypical representations of myself -- well, I used to, and then I turned 30 and any actress my age who couldn't continue to pass for twenty-two effectively dropped off the screen. (Not counting the few lucky ones who resurfaced in their mid-40s as token powerhouses.)

I mean in the sense that, well, I resent the hell out of what you produce.

It's glorious! It's ground-breaking! It's absolutely breathtaking and awe-inspiring! The CGI, the 3D, the blue screen is a thing of the past and we're into full surround-sound green-screen worlds-only-in-my-head now on the big screen. If Cocteau were alive today, I don't know whether he'd be having apoplexy at directors' inability to do any tricks in-camera these days, or whether he'd be kicking Cameron's ass for Director Most Likely To Spend 98% Of The Budget On Effects.

But I resent it, because what's a glorious visual is absolutely the most incredibly mediocre -- if not outright pathetic -- story. It's like, somewhere along the way, you guys forgot that your job is to tell stories, or you just got tired at how much that's, y'know, hard work, and you figured if you just threw a whole bunch of pretty pictures at us, we wouldn't notice the big honking lack of story.

I resent getting calls from friends and family telling me I really should see Cameron's Avatar, that's it's such an amazing visual experience. I resent knowing that because I have an actual brain -- not to demean my friends and family, but I do, and I have standards for my entertainment -- and that because I'm aware of the power of stories, that I cannot, in good conscience, watch that crap for two hours. I can't even manage the entire trailer.

It's because the story fucking sucks.

I resent that you create this tripe and throw it up on the screen and make such a big production out of it, and have such a massive influence on our popular culture, that between exposure and sheer cash you can end up with a disproportionate domination over what the average person will accept as "a good story". I resent that you've become the standards by which the average person judges something as "a good story", not realizing that pretty pictures do not, in fact, make a freaking story. Pictures are only half the story. Less than that, possibly. Characters, plot, and conflict make up the rest, and no amount of pretty pictures can compensate for the lack of one, and never for all three.

I resent your power to overwhelm any other versions of a story, such that your version becomes the dominant -- to the extent of being the only -- version of the story. I've met people who can't even remember their personal interpretation of Harry Potter and his friends, pre-movie, and people who can't conceive of Frodo looking like anyone but Elijah Wood. Hell, I have trouble sometimes recalling how I'd visualized characters when I'd read the books, and moreso if the movie hit saturation. I don't mean "made a big impact on me," either -- I mean, you freaking put your version of characters on one-shots, on soda-pop cups, on french-fry boxes, on billboards, and little collectible dolls. It's not that I can't think back to when I had my own idea of the character and cherished it, it's that to do so I have to fight past a year's worth of your publicizing to find that memory.

I resent the fact that this overwhelming saturation becomes a kind of erasure, against which I have to fight valiantly to recall that you are not the final say just because you spent twice the GDP of a small Pacific nation on your advertising budget.

I resent that you seem to think I don't need a decent story, and I resent most of all that you think I won't notice.

Which probably doesn't bother you. I get that. I get that you don't care. But maybe you'll care more about the other half of my complaint: Hollywood, you're boring me.

Oh, I've heard plenty of times that there aren't any new stories. I write them myself, so I know pretty much any story out there has been done, a million times across this planet. That's not the problem with you, Hollywood. Your problem is that you're only willing to tell three of those stories, and I assure you, even among the old stories, there's a hell of a lot more than three possible, if you actually, y'know, tried to vary them.

Here are the three stories you give me, Hollywood, over and over.

1. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl. Or girl dies in teeth of combine engine.
2. Boy fights seemingly all-powerful [external] bad guy/disaster/situation, wins day and wins girl.
3. Boy fights seemingly overwhelming [internal] odds (disability, social status, etc) to become better person, achieve fame. Also, wins girl.

And, I should state explicitly that the boy is almost always white, and the girl he wins is therefore also almost always white. If the boy is not white, the girl will not be white, either, and those films get relegated to only certain theaters based on your assumption that people will only watch movies if there's a white guy, because everyone can relate to white guys.

Maybe this is true. Maybe because I've spent my entire life watching white guys on television, in films, even playing the damn music I listen to, that I've gotten used to seeing white guys as the default, tabula rasa, we-can-all-relate kind of blank character. It's not that I can or can't relate to white guys. It's that I'm just freaking bored with it.

I'm not kidding when I say "my entire life". That's really the vast majority of what I've seen on the screen, to the point even my entire graduating class wouldn't have enough fingers and toes for all the lead roles that have been middle-class, heterosexual, cisgendered, cissexed, implied-Christian, white guys. Yet I can name, pretty much time place and give-you-the-story kind of naming, every mainstream Hollywood movie I've seen with a non-white guy as a lead part. I'd even have fingers and toes left over when I'm done. I mean, one might think, based on this manifested proportion in Hollywood movies, that the only conflict worth watching is a white guy's conflict. Taking it farther, hell, we could reasonably conclude that for Hollywood, the white guy's internal or external conflict isn't just the most important, it's the only conflict that even exists.

But speaking as someone who is most of the things on the above list -- and can pass for much of the rest, given time and motivation -- I have to say: I am freaking sick and tired of the goddamned white guys. You have done them to death. I can't take one more white guy trying to save the world, or his relationship, or his company, or his little ship, because hello: white guy. Worse, white middle-class heterosexual cisgendered cissexed able-bodied white guy.

BORED NOW.

I don't know where this belief comes from, that people will only watch white guys in the lead role. Personally, I think it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: people only watch white guys because you can't be arsed to give us anything else. You'd think the fact that Will Smith -- NOT a white guy -- being the highest-paid actor in Hollywood might be, say, a tiny clue that I'm not the only one who's tired of always seeing White Guy playing the hero. But no, your idea of varying the theme, of being edgy, is to give me a white guy of "Italian-American heritage" instead of a white guy of "Swedish-Finnish heritage". Oh, yeah, that's so totally mixing it up, Hollywood. NOT.

And don't think I'm fooled, either, because all these white guys? They run together. I can't tell them apart anymore. Yes, they really do all look alike to me. And I mean that in the worst way possible.

I'm just plain tired of always the same faces, the same middle-class heterosexual cisgendered cissexed abled white male take on things. I want something different. I'm tired of seeing and hearing ads for movie after movie with fabulous budget and intriguing premise and amazing effects and knowing that the story's centerpiece is, wow, quelle shock, another freaking white guy. I'm tired of no longer being even amused by the lack of surprise at watching a film where there's a black sidekick and knowing that if he does get a girl, she'll be black, as well. I can't even muster the energy to pretend to be surprised when, among a diverse cast, the lead role (white guy) will automatically only be attracted to, and only end up with, the one white girl in the cast. Wow. I never would've seen that one coming, Hollywood.

Oh, wait, yes, I would have: because that's all you write. And it's all you give me, and I'm bored. Absolutely, totally, completely bored. I've heard these stories, and they're not even very good stories, and you just make it worse when you can't even think of mixing up the characters. You go right on saying that the only path to a blockbuster is to have a main character who's an abled, heterosexual, middle-class, white guy -- who is also, preferably, American. I'm sure me complaining won't stop you. But you're not getting any more money from me.

One thing I truly resent is catching sight of the Last Airbender trailers and thinking, wow, that's amazing, how awesome to see that in live-action... and how much it goddamn sucks at the same time, because it's just a younger variation on the same goddamn White Guy. It won't be getting my money, and in fact, none of the franchise will ever get my money, because I'm not giving money to anything that could be wrapped up in yet more justification of why we need Yet Another White Guy.

I can hear you saying it, Hollywood: look, we made a bazillion bucks on this movie! And then you sprain your arms patting yourselves on the back about the fact that this proves (at least to you) that you're justified in your white-guy approach. It's like the entertainment world's version of how racists states in the US used literacy tests to prevent black citizens from voting... and then used that lack of voting as evidence that blacks don't vote. It's the same kind of racist, sexist, xenophobic bullshit that chases its own tail in a circular argument.

Even if that does mean the majority of our popular culture is going to be inundated with a story that I find mediocre, offensive, just plain boring tripe. You can have that audience, Hollywood. I'll be over here in the corner with my several thousand -- how many are subscribed to racebending.com, now? -- or more friends, who are waiting to spend our hard-earned cash on something other than Yet Another White Guy. Because creative, Hollywood, you are NOT. You're just boring.

Also.

Completely hypothetical. A pure what-if. Absolutely no basis in intention. Really. Okay, disclaimer complete for any corporate legal goon reading this. A number of years ago (pre-DVD) there was a minor but important kerfluffle in the film world, in which Ted Turner was aggressively pursuing the notion of colorizing old black-and-white films. At the time, I had a contract with a video post-production company (and was working at a cult video store, too), so I got an earful of the why's and wherefor's in which colorization is not just counterproductive due to the lighting used when it's grayscale film versus color, but also in the ethics and copyright issues. However, it's been looking like DVD and other newer technology have made colorization (and a subset of this, restoration) more viable.

I think someone should colorize The Last Airbender.

This doesn't get rid of all the issues, of course. Those are still, fundamentally, white actors on the screen, and there's nothing to be done about the fact that Dev Patel is far too craggy to be Zuko -- who borders on being a Chinese pretty-boy, really, who grows into being classically handsome -- not to mention that Patel looks about ten years too old to be playing Zuko's still-somewhat-baby-faced sixteen. Then again, who knows, with the power of technology? While I'm putting in this hypothetical request for a fan revision, can I request different heads on the bodies?

Yeah, that would majorly piss off Paramount and Nickelodeon, so discretion would be the most important part of valour in this case. But it'd sure make a statement about what people would like to watch -- and it's a version I'd be willing to watch, if only to make the point that my lack of spending on Hollywood isn't because I have no money. It's because they have nothing, currently, that's worth my money.

And in the end, I don't really care how pretty the pictures are. Pictures aren't worth much when the story puts me to sleep.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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