Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Annie Wilkes Model Of Culture

I had read in various corners about Tim Burton's supposed racist comments in the context of his new film, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, contained in an interview in The Bustle, as to why his movies are so, so white:
“Nowadays, people are talking about it more […]things either call for things, or they don’t. I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct, like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black — I used to get more offended by that than just — I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”
This, of course, met with howls of protest from people for whom "diversity" is really code for "must make movies in exactly the way I want them made" — as for instance this:
To add insult to injury, you claim that “things” (movies and other shows?) either call for “things” (diversity), or they don’t. Ok, whatever, I’ll bite. If that’s so, then why did the role of a villain call for a black man? It sends kind of a questionable message. This is the first time you’ve had a person of color in a major role in any of your movies, and according to you, things either call for diversity or they don’t, so you felt the role of a particularly awful villain (we’ve both read the book, I’m sure. That guy is just the fucking worst.) called for a black actor. The only time your films have called for any significant diversity so far has been when you needed someone to be the worst kind of evil? That’s not a good look, buddy. It leaves a horrible taste in my mouth about you that watching “Sweeney Todd” and “Edward Scissorhands” on loop just won’t wash out.
So in other words, it's not enough to cast a black man in his films — no, blacks must be cast in the roles the author wants, have the qualities the author wants, etc. For his part, Samuel L. Jackson appeared to think the whole thing was a nothingburger:
With”Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” Samuel L. Jackson will be the first black actor to play a leading role in a Burton movie, according to Bustle.  “I don’t think it’s any fault of his or his method of storytelling, it’s just how it’s played out,” Jackson told Bustle. “Tim’s a really great guy.”
This represents yet another instance of the narcissistic view that creators must make stories for fans in exactly the way the fans want them, and with exactly the right political overtones. As Joss Whedon found out, even tiny diversions from orthodoxy are met with shrieking. We see the echoes of this with the Sad Puppies Hugo slate and the Ghostbusters reboot lynch mob: both involve orchestrated attempts by loud minorities to manipulate public opinion by shaming, and both face titanic uphill battles. The more vicious of these recall Annie Wilkes from Misery: they plan on bludgeoning creators until they get it right, for some value of "right".