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.


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.


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.


Date: 6 Apr 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
reileen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] reileen
Beautiful, beautiful rant. Even if some people can't identify with/understand/care about the wish of many PoC to see themselves represented onscreen in a fully humanized way (awkward wording, but can't think of another way to write it right now), people have to at least agree that the Tale of the White Man's Woes has been ground into the fucking ground for ages already, and it's boring.

Date: 7 Apr 2010 04:37 am (UTC)
dragonhand: (frozen trees)
From: [personal profile] dragonhand
*annoyed* and it's not even fresh ground, so the taste is gonna be off anyway... /stupidness

Date: 6 Apr 2010 07:32 pm (UTC)
darkemeralds: Manga-style avatar of DarkEm with caption Hee (cartoony me)
From: [personal profile] darkemeralds
Wonderful rant. Found you on Latest Things and really enjoyed this!

Date: 6 Apr 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
*toasts you* Avatar is such an egregious example, too. I mean, seriously. I have to try and consciousness raise whenever someone mentions it in my lit course because it's just that bad.

Date: 6 Apr 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
I know. Depressing, isn't it?

Date: 6 Apr 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
esmenet: Little!Anthy with swords (Default)
From: [personal profile] esmenet
white middle-class heterosexual cisgendered cissexed able-bodied white guy.

I've never watched a live-action American film that didn't fall into this. Not a one. (Of course, only watching about one movie a year may have influenced this. Still, I think I've gotten a pretty accurate cross-section.)

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.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Date: 6 Apr 2010 08:35 pm (UTC)
kappalicious: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kappalicious
God, I know this feeling. This rant reminds me of seeing someone trying to explain why The Last Airbender casting was intensely problematic even if it was a fantasy world, and made some example like suggesting that the Lord of the Rings had been filmed with an all black cast, Morgan Freeman as Gandalf, etc, and everything played more or less exactly the same way otherwise. And all I could think at the time was that, no, actually that would be way more interesting. Because at least that wouldn't be predictable, and you know, done well the reversal would at least have the potential to make an artistic statement.

The whitewashing thing isn't the same because, along with everything else that's wrong with it, it's totally expected, absolutely true to the Hollywood formula, been done thousands of times before.

Date: 7 Apr 2010 06:27 am (UTC)
kappalicious: (Chicks with guns.)
From: [personal profile] kappalicious
I haven't seen The Wiz since I was like ten. I wouldn't have thought of it--I think a lot of people don't because unlike The Wizard of Oz, it's treated as more of a cult classic than a mainstream classic.

Probably for very obvious reasons.

Date: 7 Apr 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] kali

And all I could think at the time was that, no, actually that would be way more interesting.

Wordy mcword.  Except I don't actually have that much respect for LotR, so not exactly feeling the loss, either....

I heard that there was once a production of Othello where the entire cast was black, except for Othello, who was cast as white.  Which I guess makes it about another white dude, but still! still an interesting idea!

Date: 7 Apr 2010 06:35 am (UTC)
kappalicious: (Because Arthur/Merlin is sort of boring.)
From: [personal profile] kappalicious
The appeal of something like LotR, for me, is less about how invested I am in the original text, and much more about how influential it is in the SFF sphere. And imagining the people who would suddenly care very much about being true to the original in terms of race rather than shrugging it off as "Oh, it's a fantasy world," once they're confronted with the possibility of a black man playing Aragorn. And also, because it would make a really interesting statement on all of the quasi-Asian fantasy worlds out there full of green eyed blonds--much like The Last Airbender.

I did hear about Othello. I want to say Patrick Stewart was Othello in that?

Date: 6 Apr 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
dragovianknight: closeup of a green dragon (Godzilla - My Heroes Have Always Been Mo)
From: [personal profile] dragovianknight
people only watch white guys because you can't be arsed to give us anything else

This. Exactly.

(Also, most of the current crop of white actors, male and female, look alike to me, too.)

Date: 6 Apr 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
dragovianknight: closeup of a green dragon (Default)
From: [personal profile] dragovianknight
My knowledge of actors is generally, "Erm, he was on The Muppet Show once, right?" I have zero interest in actors outside of the roles they play. (But, yeah, I can pick certain voice actors out.)

Sometimes, I think I gravitate toward the CoC in shows because they're the ones I can consistently identify. *facepalm* "Hey, you might not get a lot of story time, but at least I know you're you rather than waiting for another character to identify who the hell just showed up!" And I don't mean just because they're the Token Minority; Hollywood seems to let actors of color be somewhat more diverse than white actors. The men, at least.
Edited Date: 6 Apr 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)

Date: 6 Apr 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
hokuton_punch: An icon of the cover of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, titled "Holy shit you fucked up EVERYTHING." (iconomicon fucked up)
From: [personal profile] hokuton_punch

This is why I love The Fall so hard: pretty pictures AND story! But one movie is so, so not enough. DDDDD:

Date: 7 Apr 2010 12:36 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] kellicat
You took the words right out of my mouth. I saw Avatar once in the theatre when it first came out and I have no intention of seeing it again. If I want pretty pictures, I'll just re-watch Coraline again which has gorgeous stop-motion animation and a girl as the protagonist. It also has a black sidekick character that doesn't make me want to spit nails. He's a kid who just happens to be black/mixed race (hard to tell, it's never specified) rather than a Black Kid as Dreamed Up by Hollywood. It also has the good fortune of not relying solely on 3D for its visual gimmicks. I've seen it in both 3D and 2D, and while the 3D version is fun, you really don't need to watch it that way to enjoy the movie.

For the most part though, Hollywood sucks donkey balls when it comes to being innovative in terms of story.


Date: 7 Apr 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
marcella_mcphee: fancy key (Default)
From: [personal profile] marcella_mcphee
Well said.

Also--you might enjoy the mashup created for a class project by a multimedia student.


Date: 7 Apr 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
dragonhand: (desert lighting)
From: [personal profile] dragonhand
In design, they revealed a secret. If your concept is stellar, your execution doesn't have to be - but if your concept is average, or worse, even excellent execution won't save you. The story is it. Without the story, the effects are worthless, having nothing to attach to. I'm tired of non-stories, too. What worries me more is that, well, what if so many people have never really had good stories, so they think this is it? So they can't see how much better it could be in any and all entertainment industries? That makes me sad.

Date: 7 Apr 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whatistigerbalm
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.

This is why I quit after seeing the first LotR film.

Date: 7 Apr 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
mishalak: Mishalak with long hair and modified so as to look faded. (Faded Photo)
From: [personal profile] mishalak
I heard a really great interview on Fresh Air that is relevant to this. It was with Edward Jay Epstein author of The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies. What I heard when I fired up the podcast today made me feel, "This is everything I would say about movies." The reason movies are juvenile is because that's what people are willing to pay big money to buy. Non-juvenile people often do not go to movies terribly often. It was the 04-01-2010 broadcast if you want to look it up.

I, like the guy interviewed, suspect that the people in Hollywood would make more movies that were less 'mass market' if they didn't have to care about the money. Though there would still be Peter Jackson showing us his version of what the books were like in his head. And I found the movie useful because I went back and reread the book actually saying the dialogue aloud and I found that the actual book was not the same as the book that was in my head as a kid.

Date: 21 Apr 2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
mishalak: Mishalak with long hair and modified so as to look faded. (Faded Photo)
From: [personal profile] mishalak
Did you even read that first PDF? According to it 15% of the people movie tickets sold are sold to people from age 12-17 according to that while they only make up 9% of the population. And young people 18-24 buy 19% while making up only 10% of the population. So we have 19% of the population buying 34%, over a third, of all the movie tickets sold.

Every age group over 25 slightly under performs its proportion of the population vs. how many tickets are sold. That is as the situation is now, but come on. It's clear where the cream is.

Date: 22 Apr 2010 09:03 am (UTC)
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kathmandu
Yes, I did, and I can do math. Young people do indeed buy 34% of movie tickets. That is indeed a third. You're being dazzled by proportions: even though young people go to movies more often than other age groups, they are still such a small part of the total population that two-thirds of the money comes from older people; that's where the cream is.

Date: 22 Apr 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
mishalak: Mishalak with long hair and modified so as to look faded. (Faded Photo)
From: [personal profile] mishalak
Um.. that's not true. Cream is the extra rich stuff that rises to the top. Older viewers, who by the way only buy 52% of tickets, are the milk. Milk is important to a business, but you cannot be profitable without the money from the cream. The other 13% of ticket sales are to people under the age of 12, BTW.

And if go to page 18 and look at the movie going frequency by age you'll get an even clearer picture. Only 4% of teens never attend movies. 16% of young adults never attend movies, 26% of the people my age, 25-39, never attend movies. And the proportion gets consistently larger as people get older. I assume this is largely because people are busy and unlike teens their income is not 100% disposable. I've got to pay for bed frames and save up for new tires. I rarely can afford to go to the movies and I'm unlikely to go even if I hear there is some really great movie that I shouldn't miss.

And movie tickets are just the first bite of the film apple. I bet that despite their downloading proclivities teens and young adults still buy more movie tie in stuff, DVDs, and all the other revenue streams, that make money for the industry.

And even if you assume that adults are more important that does not mean that you should necessarily make more thoughtful films. Is an immature adult or one with a thoughtful intellectual life more likely to go to a movie? And when intellectual people go to movies do they all go to the same one or are they spread out watching half a dozen indy films that appeal to their own narrow set of interests?

Big budgets movies are a phenomenon of the lowest common denominator.

Date: 8 Apr 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
windsorblue: (fanboys linus)
From: [personal profile] windsorblue
Dear Mr. Cameron -

When your villains make George Lucas look like a nuanced and subtle developer of characters, it's time to go out and get yourself a writer who is not you.



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

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