Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Big Picture: "Correctitude"

40 comments:

Ezenwa said...

Very very good episode. Thanks, Bob. But, I have to ask you, if political incorrectness pretty much sums up joking or referring to sensitive material rather crassly, where does that leave someone like, say, Seth McFarlane or Kevin Smith? And, where do you think you stand in all of this? Do you consider yourself politically correct?

Plus, I never knew Carlos Mencia and Jeff Dunham were just being jerks. Perhaps it's because I don't think they are funny either. Hence, why I never listen to their acts.

But, all in all, a good vid.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

I wholly agree with this episode without exception.

Alcibiades said...

MovieBob bringing the awesome once more

Adam said...

This was a good episode and I can definitely see your side of the argument. I'd even agree that the term PC is used WAY more than it has any right to be. Also, Carlos Mencia and Jeff Dunham, painfully not funny and bad for so many reasons. Making fried chicken jokes at Obama: Lame and a jerk move.

However I could never agree that Political Correctness does not exist and when valid isn't a problem. You bring up changing races of old characters so that they're more inclusive. So I'd like to pose a hypothetical to see what you think.

Back when the Spider-Man reboot was just starting there were talks of whether a black actor should play Peter Parker this time. Some people thought this was wrong. Others thought it was a great idea. Others just didn't care.

http://www.hollywood.com/news/Can_a_black_actor_play_Spider_Man/6884108#

I'd ask you this: would you be ok with Spider-Man being played by anyone other than a white guy? And if yes I have a follow up.

Suppose back when they were casting the X-Men movies the actress they cast to play Storm ended up being white, or heck any ethnicity other than black. Would that have been ok then?

Lucas Neumann said...

Yeah, I agree pretty much with everything, alongside with the G.I Joe episode, this one was the best, congrats!

Still, about Resident 5, I don't see that much of motives to be ticked. Even the tribal Frazetta attire Shania wears. I mean, it's fan service, I hardly think any black women sould be offended by this.

political correctness can be a shield for jerks to be jerks, but when it's used to nitpick about every little think, it turns every duscussion treading on eggshells exercice, and it sucks just as much

Tim said...

WHAT'S NEXT? WHAT'S NEXT? WHAT'S NEXT?

WilhelmVonHaig said...

A great episode, and pretty much exactly how I feel about this subject. Just in reference To Resident evil 5, my main complaint wasn't that it was insensitive and broderline racist, but that it was such a shitty, lazy, unenjoyable and badly designed game.
Fran Lebowitz said that racism is a fantasy, and shes absolutely right. Racism is the fantasy that one race is intrinsically different or better than others. That races aren't actually better or different to one another, but that the difference is in individual people, is something we should all try to remember.

personaenongratae33 said...

Storm became iconic by being a black character (female at that!) and not sucking at a time when their were basically none to be had in the Big 2 (still a major issue). There weren't a lot of black icons in mass media period at the time. She doesn't really square with Spiderman.

Mark said...

bob,

excellent episode. took the words right out of many of our mouths, i'm betting. this is exactly the kind of neither-here-nor-there-but-tottally-worthy-of-discussion topic that i think this show was made for! I just hope you don't get too much of a shitstorm from the gamer crowd for the RE5 thing coming up again.

@Adam
Echoing png33 above me, I don't think making PP black and Storm white are the same thing. The idea of diversifying a cast to better reflect a modern, more egalitarian world is one thing. Making PP black could be a move in that direction. However, making Storm white would be a move AWAY from that direction. Although, I suppose, if they cast storm as white, and Wolverine as a hispanic, and Prof. X as a black guy, and Nightcrawler was pink, then it probably wouldn't be such a bad things, since they're so obviously drawing a whole new set of cards, so to speak, without necessarily misrepresenting the modern world or the political-corectness movement. In that situation, Storm would no longer be "iconic" in the old vein as mentioned by png33 above, but other of the xmen would probably take the mantle from her, in a sense.

But, that said, this doesn't make sense for all characters. Some characters are partially defined by their race. Making Huck fin a black kid would totally destroy the whole learning-about-racism-through-a-white-kid experience of that book.

Elessar said...

Easily your best big picture video. Bravo.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ personaenongratae33

See, this is the same issue I had when people were complaining about Uhura in the recent Star Trek movie... While there was a time when simply being a black character was significant in and of itself, it really isn't any more. It's normal and mundane. To say that Storm is "an iconic black character" is only marginally more descriptive then calling her "a character"... which is probably why Uhura and Storm are nearly completely un-characterized, and ended up being so bland in their recent movies.

Perhaps a racial shake-up could make her more interesting.

Adam said...

@personaenongratae33

Ok. For the sake of argument I'll drop Storm and pick a different hero. How about Spawn? Or Blade? War Machine?

Honestly if people want greater diversity in their Super Heroes the companies that create this entertainment (and Hollywood also has a big problem with this) then the industry needs to make new more diverse characters. Bob mentioned this himself in one of his earliest "Game Overthinkers". We need original diverse characters in all mediums, not "Mario's Black Friend Germaine" in the next Super Mario game.

The problem is that most new characters don't becom that popular overnight. How long have comic books been around? And how long did it take for their movie adaptations to become both good and mainstream popular? That's the unfortunate reality of it. There is no "quick fix" to this.

I think a big part of the problem is that some of these characters have just been around too damn long and there isn't enough room for newbies to come in and share the spotlight. I could argue that it may be time for a lot of the old standbyes to retire and go away to make room for some fresh faces but we all know that's not going to happen so we may be stuck here.

KevinCV said...

Thank you for commenting on this, Bob. Let me give you an example I've seen that's related to the "black character in Thor" one you used. Again, I'm going to delving into the Whoniverse, so bear with me. When the show came back in 2005 with openly gay man Russell T. Davies at the helm of it, we saw an influx of characters in the show and it's spinoff show Torchwood who were gay, bi, or what have you. Certain "fans" lambasted it as Russell inflicting a "gay agenda" on the show. Me? I took it as a great way to show children from a young age that there are people like this, and they're just as ordinary as you and me. The only difference being who they choose to be romantically involved with.

Russell recently spoke up about this in an interview previewing the upcoming 4th season of Torchwood, and he said that his reasoning behind it was similar to what I said. Plus, he wanted to provide a much more realistic view of where we are now in the 21st century to make for a nice contrast and offset to the more fantastical elements of the program and also allow them to be much more believable as a result. That totally makes sense to me, and I don't know why people have to always get in their head that when something they don't like is done in a show it's to purport some ideology they don't agree with. However, that probably won't stop some people of continuing to be accused of being homophobic because he killed off a male character in season 3 of Torchwood who had to be romantically involved with Captain Jack since season 2.

Is killing off said character REALLY homophobic if the man who made the show is gay himself? Plus, would you still be just as outraged if that character was a woman instead of a man? Hell, it's been firmly established that Jack will go for anything that moves, be it alien or human, regardless of gender. It's also been just as firmly established that he's like that because that's due to the time period in which he was raised.

KevinCV said...

Continuing to accuse Russell T. Davies of being homophobic, I mean. Sorry for the mix-up.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ KevinCV

I never had any issue with Russell T. Davies bringing sexual diversity to the Doctor Who universe, just that he had absolutely no tact or subtlety about it. I thought of the sexual exploits in Torchwood as almost comically unrealistic, like he was almost going out of his way to piss people off.

KevinCV said...

I see where you're coming from TheAlmightyNarf, (awesome username, btw) but sometimes, that's the only way for children to realize that gay people exist, and that they're regular folks just like straight people. It may piss some people off, but that's they're problem. If they don't like it, then they have the choice not to watch it. However, I do agree that some of the romantic stuff in Torchwood is a bit absurd. But it doesn't diminish my liking of the show in the least.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ KevinCV

The problem being that the characters in Torchwood aren't "regular folks". They're portrayed as a bunch of sex addicts with zero self control. Hell, Will & Grace had a more a tasteful portrayal of homosexuals then Torchwood ever did.

RAven_Glory said...

I'm pretty sure this was your best one yet, you put something into words which i have personally thought for a long time now. Please keep up the good work.

Amy said...

Dear Bob,
I am a huge fan of your work and was just hoping for more info, how are Mel Brooks and George Carlin Un-PC instead of being jerks, is the really difference just that humor is behind it? I am just not sure I understand what makes them different Mencia and I would love to hear more. I feel I am learning alot from your blogs and I hope to hear back.

A. in SF

Adam said...

Hey Bob. Totally not on topic but I had my fanboy nerve tickled and just had to share with people. The 25th Anniversary of the Legend of Zelda was a few days ago right?

Well check out this glorious piece of fan art commemorating it.

http://www.destructoid.com/totally-crap-embarrassing-zelda-25th-anniversary-art-194754.phtml?s=0#comments

I get the feeling this might not be quite what you picture when you personally think of Zelda but you have to admit it's still pretty sweet.

TheDVDGrouch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Willingdruid said...

In Australian political correctness is the main reason behind banning Cannibal Corpse albums and movies like Nekromantik and Slaughtered Vomit Dolls.
Hell, we still don't even have an R18+ for video games!
I'm just thankful that Australian customs is as slack as it is so i can easily import what i what from overseas.

white templar said...

Jeff Dunham is not funny? 'I kill you'

TheDVDGrouch said...

Loved the picture of Lock-Up 52 seconds in. He always was my favorite one shot villain from Batman TAS. I also really enjoyed the show it gave me a lot to think about.

KevinCV said...

@TheAlmightyNarf Again, I see where your coming from, but the fact there's LGBT representation in a show like Doctor Who is a good sign.

Fun fact: John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack Harkenss, is openly gay and he auditioned for the role of Will in "Will and Grace", but didn't get the role because they didn't think he was "gay enough", so they when with a straight actor instead so that Will would be more stereotypically gay. So I think that throws your argument about "Will and Grace" treating homosexuality more tastefully right out the window.

Plus, my gay friends who like Doctor Who and Torchwood don't see those people "sex addicts with zero control". They just saw them as very sexual people. Granted, they might be in denial, but the fact that they weren't bothered by it and yet you were speaks volumes.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ KevinCV

I don't see "stereotypical" and "tasteful" as mutually exclusive, but, admittedly, you may have a point. And, one could argue that the hyper-sexuality portrayed in Torchwood is also a negative stereotype of the LGBT community.

I wouldn't say I'm "bothered" by the sexuality in Torchwood... I just see it as exaggerated to unrealistic levels.

Iron Dragon said...

@Adam

While not being Moviebob I suppose I would say this; In the case of Peter Parker it would depend on the reasons. IE if they had the best damn actor for the role and they happened to be a minority it would probably work, if it was a matter of two equals..I'd probably say go with the white guy due to subject matter but I would probably be an either way kind of thing.

As for the case in Storm, I would argue that it is different. One reason is simply that there is a basic question as to why they felt the need to make one of the few 'minority' characters white instead of black. Maybe the case was another incident of best damn actress or something similar, maybe. But I think that the comparison loses something when you look at the idea of institutional racism and biases. IE why people seem to assume that a minority got into a college or got hired due to affirmative action but not assume that a member of whatever majority was brought in because of being a legacy or family friend, etc.

Adam said...

@Iron Dragon

I can see your points, but honestly I still don't "get" it. Let me try this explanation why it might bug some people to have Spider-Man played by a non-white guy. I will try as hard as I can to not sound like a douche.

I was once told I could pass for a Hispanic even though I'm white. I was surprised but not offended because there's nothing wrong with being Hispanic. If someone were to come up and ask if I were Hispanic I wouldn't be pissed but I would correct them. Why? Because while my ethnicity doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things it's still part of who I am.

Now of course being a white person in America means that in that regard I am not particularly unique, but that doesn't mean it's not important. It just doesn't seem important because I currently live in a place where so many people look like me. But I have been in situations in America where I know I've been treated different because I was "the white guy". Also if I travel to Asia or South America (which I have done) I stick out like a sore thumb and people have treated me differently based solely on that. So my skin color may not seem as relevant in my natural home (even though at times it can be), it sure does matter in a whole lot of other places in the world.

So when people talk about changing established characters like Peter Parker into something else because his skin color isn't important but characters like Storm are off limits because it's an important part of her identity (even though in her actual stories it never really was) it basically comes across as saying "our ethnicity is an important part of our identity but yours is not". So I'm sorry but I just can't accept that rationale. You can define yourself by whatever you think is important to you and that's great by me, but you do not also have the luxury of defining me (and those like me) by what you think is important about me.

Bob said...

Storm's origin-story is that she spent most of her life in an African tribe where everyone believed she was a God, including herself - hence the attitude. You can't really do that with a non-black actress.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Bob

An Indian or Native American actress/background would work just as well. Perhaps even an Eastern European background were she was seen as some sort of miraculous saint.

Adam said...

Yeah, sorry Bob but I don't really agree. Storm was born in America (New York if I remember right) and her family then moved to Africa where her father would work as a journalist. When her parents died while she was a child she walked around the continent on her own until she was taken in by a village and its people. Being a miraculous child/Goddess with weather powers could have worked with any ethnicity.

Roland said...

Absolutely superb episode. I always enjoy your stuff on The Escapist but this one struck a particular chord. :)

CraftyAndy said...

The fact that there is no race that we all stem from the same organism should of been the thing instilled in schools in the first place but oh wait that statement is insensitive to christians...not politically correct.
I guess the issue of RE5 would of been resolved if a alternate outfit for chris would be a flannel shirt, a ball cap, beer in hand and a football in the other.

Benfea said...

OK, for a change, you're pretty well spot on about almost everything in this video essay.

I've been saying for years that whining and crying about "PC" is just a tool rightists use to change the topic of discussion from how racist/misogynist/bigoted they are to how unfair and persecuted they are because people are allowed to openly criticize them.

I do however, have to disagree with your characterization of the ventriloquist guy. I don't particularly like him, but I think we need to point out that his act is racist/bigoted from an American perspective.

You see, in America, even the so-called "liberal media" frequently pushes the meme that "Middle Eastern person = terrorist". Therefore, when that idiot does his act in America, it is seen as a commentary on all Middle Easterners, and thus is seen as racist.

However, I recently found out that certain parts of the Middle East find that act funny (which shocked me). Why? Because they don't see it as a commentary on all people of the Middle East, nor even of all Muslims from the Middle East. Rather, they see it as a commentary on terrorists.

tyra menendez said...

But having a group of black natives worshiping a white woman encroaches on the racist territory of many a "jungle queen" story from the mid-20th. I think it would be wholly insensitive to play it as "ignorant black people worshiping a white woman as a goddess". Though it could be interesting to do it the other way around, as a kind of commentary on the whole idea.

And I'm sure Ahmed, the dead terrorist is a cynical tactic to drum up controversy and get attention. Why do you think South Park became so popular? It sure wasn't the material, itself, it was the fuss over 8 year-olds swearing.

tyra menendez said...

Also, I forgot to kick you in the ass, Bob, about this "90's is the suck" kick you're still on.
If you're honest, you'll make a list of all the things you like, then make a balance sheet of when they came about, or at least were popularized and see that the 80's weren't that great and the 90's weren't that bad. Every decade sucks.
Seriously, create a balance sheet.

Iron Dragon said...

@Adam

Lemme try a slightly different perspective. How familiar are you with the old movie practice of blackface? This is where you would frequently have white actors using greasepaint and cork to appear black, it was done in various plays and even many movies for quite a few years. Please consider the fact that this meant that literally black people could not have the roles, no matter how good they were, to play actual black people.

Changing the race of a character can be good or bad depending on the reasons involved but there is a difference between taking a white character and making them a minority and making a minority character white. On some level it gives a psychology to the comics and to the world that we see expressed in the movies, comics, TV etc.

To put it another way, why is it that no one questions a superhero being white, straight, etc. but if the hero is black, hispanic, muslim, atheist, gay, female (though this is less common) it is because of 'PC pressure' or something similar?

Adam said...

@Iron Dragon I know about "blackface and I think it was wrong because as you said it was used to keep different ethnic groups from performing in entertainment. In an ideal world I think any ethnic group could do that (i.e. black people could also pretend to be white or whatever they wanted) since it is playing pretend basically, and no one should get too riled up about it. But since people do care then I just wouldn't practice it these days. Hell no one's immune from the criticism of "blackface". The other day I read a story about Beyonce (who is black for those living under a rock) wearing make-up to appear even darker then she is for a photoshoot where she wore fashions inspired by African (perhaps stereotypical; I don't know) tribal wear, and a number of people thought that was wrong.

But changing the race of an established fictional character in general I feel is not a good idea unless you're doing a Twilight Zone type of deal where EVERYTHING is all switched around. I see it as being completely different from creating a new character. People who say "Why do we need more black/latino/female/gay/atheist/religious superheroes?" don't have a place in the discussion for me as I don't think it's worth arguing with them. I say create new hereoes and fashion them however you want to envision them and write whatever story you want to write.

But with established characters I think changing them is 1.) Kind of insulting to the original creators particularly if the change adds nothing to the story. If Peter Parker is made black or whatever just for the sake of it then what's the point? And 2.) I think it could be considered insulting to all parties, even the non-white ones. I could see some African-Americans seeing Spider-Man change to look like them and yes many would think that was cool, but I could also see others feeling like they were being pandered to. "Ok, African-Americans, we're sorry that black superheroes just aren't as popular as white ones, so we're going to give you one of ours so people will start caring." You could argue that it might open the door for people start caring about different types of characters, but really whenver I see it tried in this way I just see a lot of pissed off people.

tyra menendez said...

And Shakespearean actors wore drag, because women weren't allowed to be actors. Just a little added perspective.

Sophie said...

Wow I am actually impressed. What made you choose thate topic, cause you sounded really pissed off at the end of the clip, so I am assuming somthing triggered that great choice?