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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

how much of the success of Fast & Furious 6 is due to the diversity of its cast?

Fast and Furious 6 diverse cast

I’m not a fan of Fast & Furious 6, but one thing that I do love about it is how the one white guy among the protagonists is a definite minority onscreen. Its headlining cast is populated by people who are black, Asian, Hispanic, and/or combinations thereof — Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Gina Carano, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang — and it features not one, not two, but three women in substantive roles, for Fast and Furious values of “substantive,” anyway. (The movie might even pass the Bechdel Test, but I’d have to see it again to be sure.) Poor Paul Walker has only Luke Evans’ villain to turn to for someone who looks most like him. All Furious 7 needs to add to its mix is some scantily clad himbos gyrating next to muscle cars while the camera lingers in their crotchal areas to be truly all-inclusive.

This is honestly a great example for movies to be setting, and even better is that most of the roles are pretty color blind. With the earlier films, it hardly seemed progressive to have a gang of criminals all portrayed by nonwhite actors, but now with multiple law-enforcement characters in the mix, Fast and Furious 6 actually looks more like the real world than many other Hollywood films.

And now, Furious 6 has just had one of the biggest Memorial Day openings ever in North America: $120 million for the four-day weekend… a figure it almost doubles when its phenomenal international opening is added in.

How much of the success of Fast and Furious 6 is due to the diversity of its cast?

Certainly global audiences have flocked for years to Hollywood movies starring white men doing exciting things such as rescuing white women. Have the Fast and Furious movies suddenly made everyone realize just how white movies have been? Is it merely a coincidence that this particular amalgam of car chases and explosions happens to be more diverse? If the franchise’s diversity is a factor in its success — or even merely perceived by the industry as a factor — why haven’t we seen more Hollywood films try to copy that aspect of it?

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)


  • I think the success has more to do with the diversity of the cars than the diversity of the cast. ;) But I’d like to be wrong!

  • RussellListon

    I would like to agree, but I agree with Drave I think it’s the cars,plus Its a big Hollywood action film and those usually do big business. That said, I’m glad it shows that a diverse cast can carry a big Hollywood film.

  • David N-T

    It might have a little to do with it, given that it makes it easier to pull in people from a more diverse demographic than films that cater to one subset of the population. It’s also done in a manner that feels like it’s checking off a list, though: the characters are all interchangeable, if you ask me, and while the cast is diverse, the topic of race, ethnicity or anything like that is unlikely to come up. It’s like those united colours of Benetton ads. In a sense, I think that it caters to people’s wishes to live in a post-racial era. I find the notion a bit offensive because very often, it’s used in a way to paper over discrimination that goes on to this day.

    Personally, I think that the films are popular mostly because they cater to teenage boys -and men with arrested development issues- who think that driving fast, thereby winning the affections of scantily clad, personality-free objectified beauty, and reckless endagerment of others as well as themselves is as cool as can be. I distinctly remember a story in the local media about police officers giving a large number of speeding tickets to people coming out the film.

  • Tangeu

    The diversity may have something to do with it but I think their strange dedication to continuity is a big part of it. It takes itself deadly serious while layering on more craziness that somehow ties together everything it has done in the past (or ‘future’ in the case of Tokyo Drift). It’s like watching a soap opera but with fast cars and the Rock punching people.

  • RogerBW

    I wonder where “colour-blind roles” shades into “roles so simplistic that they could equally plausibly be played by a black man, a white woman, or a fermented Icelandic shark”.

  • Danielm80

    The Doctor has been played by more than eleven people, and I don’t think his character is simplistic at all. It would be terrific to see the role played by a black man or a white woman. I’m not sure how I feel about the shark.

    Hollywood is full of simplistic roles, of course, but those existed long before “color blind” casting. They exist mostly because of lowest-common-denominator marketing. And stupidity.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    How about a sentient cabbage?

  • The reason it’s diverse is because the first film was based on a magazine article that emphasized the diversity of street racers. While the first one is actually the least diverse of the movies (three white guys in Dom’s crew in that movie), it worked out for the best, because the second brought in other non-white stars to replace Diesel, and the third had Lin in the director’s chair, who really pushed that angle from then on. A nice case of the stars aligning correctly on a franchise that could’ve ended up as white as the others in Hollywood.

    As for RogerBW’s comment, that seems like the racial equivalent to the conversation I had with MaryAnn on my facebook about women in movies the other day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s simplistic or elaborate. They still cast it the way they cast it.

  • That’s true, but Hollywood movies are chock full of simplistic characters who are nevertheless played by a veritable panoply of white men.

  • The reason it’s diverse is because the first film was based on a
    magazine article that emphasized the diversity of street racers.

    But that in no way means the movies had to be as diverse as they are. Many a Hollywood movie has whitewashed the reality of the true-ish story it was depicting.

  • LaSargenta

    Look, if I were to ever label something a ‘guilty pleasure’ for me, it would be the Fast and Furious movies. I enjoy them. I like the baddass women (edited to add: who are part of the gang…not the arm candy who aren’t dignified with the benefit of even names usually…but, I see that in so many movies that, honestly, it just washes over me. If I stop to think about that last bit, I’d have adrenal glands that crapped out years ago from constant blind rage.) in them, I like the craziness with the cars (despite being a cranky Edward Abbey-esque nature-firster without the anti-immigrant shit), I like the stupid simplicity, and I really don’t apologise for it. People who know me are just kinda surprised when they find out and NO ONE ever wants to see one with me. I had no problem getting friends to go to Bright Star, but, this? Won’t happen. Maybe I should take the pixie to this one. Maybe he’d get why I like it…or maybe it would be just more of his ma’s weirdness.

    I dunno…hangover from my early adolescence when I admired Jody Sheckter and wanted to win the FIA Championship as the first female driver for Ferrari?

  • natef

    “…and while the cast is diverse, the topic of race, ethnicity or anything like that is unlikely to come up. It’s like those united colours of Benetton ads. In a sense, I think that it caters to people’s wishes to live in a post-racial era. I find the notion a bit offensive because very often, it’s used in a way to paper over discrimination that goes on to this day.”

    I think this is the wrong perspective to take on this. I mean, unless they’re hiding something I think the cast members are all pretty amiable to each other in real life, so why force them to address issues that don’t really apply to them if all they’re trying to do is make an action film?

    Frankly, I think these kinds of multiracial films that don’t actually talk about race should be encouraged. Even if it doesn’t represent “reality”, it can be an influence on that reality if it makes people who do have some kind of racial bias subconsciously rethink their mindset.

  • singlestick

    Wesley Morris wrote a noteworthy piece for the Boston Globe website (don’t know how to link or if it is allowed here) notes that the Fast and Furious films are a glorious exception to the cinematic segregation that is the Hollywood norm:

    “The most progressive force in Hollywood today is the “Fast and Furious” movies. They’re loud, ludicrous, and visually incoherent.
    They’re also the last bunch of movies you’d expect to see in the same
    sentence as “incredibly important.” But they are—if only because they
    feature race as a fact of life as opposed to a social problem or an
    occasion for self-congratulation. (And this doesn’t even account for the
    gay tension between the male leads, and the occasional crypto-lesbian
    make-out.)”

    [edited by maj to shorten quote]

  • I think I addressed that in the rest of the post. I should have also mentioned that John Singleton directed the second movie, which probably led to more racially diverse casting to fill Diesel’s shoes.

  • That’s way too long a quote. A short quote and a link is fine. I’m not interested in stealing another writer’s work. We should always be sending traffic to the good stuff.

    I’m deleting most of the quote. Please feel free to add a link either by editing your comment or posting another below it.

  • singlestick

    Actually, it’s just the opposite: some characters are written so well that they can, and have been, played by a black man or a white woman. And it has been more a reflection of the stupidity and cowardice of the studios that has not led to more intelligent casting. Ripley in the Alien films is one of the best examples of a role that conventional thinking would see cast as a male, but which worked gloriously with a woman in the role.

  • singlestick

    I tried to edit the post, but something didn’t take. Here is a link to the excellent Boston Globe piece, “Fast forward: Why a movie about car thieves is the most progressive force in American cinema,”

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/04/24/fast_forward/

  • singlestick

    RE: Personally, I think that the films are popular mostly because they cater to teenage boys -and men with arrested development issues.

    Here’s a little something on the weekend demographics for Fast and Furious 6: “On the topic of demographics, Fast & Furious 6 attracted an audience that was 32 percent Latino and 49 percent women. Forty-three percent of the viewers were under the age of 25.”

    http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/fast-and-furious-6-wins-box-office-drag-race.html

    A strong showing among women. Doesn’t sound like a film catering solely to teenage boys. And the film features strong women in key roles both as heroes and villains. And one of the key characters is played by a former Miss Israel, and yet her character, Giselle, is noted for her physical grace, her strength of character, and her deadly aim with a handgun, not how she looks in a bathing suit.

  • CB

    Well Ripley in Alien, anyway, who was originally written as a man but of course worked ridiculously well with Weaver in the role because the character wasn’t about *being* male or female.

    James Cameron changed that by playing up the motherhood angle in Aliens, making the role distinctly female, *which is fine* because it still didn’t define the character, who was now owned by Weaver.

  • Captain_Swing666

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that Vin Diesel has had some influence here. He ensured Judy Dench was properly paid for “The Chronicles of Riddick” and I wouldn’t put it past him to use his pulling power here to shape the cast.

    Addendum – look at the cast of “Riddik”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1411250/

    This is produced by “One Race Productions” which belongs to Vinnie. and also produces the Fast and Furious franchise. AHA!

  • David N-T

    Whether the cast got along really well or hated each other with a passion doesn’t strike me as particularly relevant regarding whether the films ought to discuss, even if it’s only to acknowledge it, or altogether ignore the issue of race and ethnicity.

    My main problem with multiracial films that completely ignore race is precisely that they unwittingly end up reinforcing racial bias, not the opposite. Call it the Huxtable effect, if you will: in the 1980s, the Cosby show sitcom ruled over the airwaves. It portrayed a well-off, upwardly mobile black family, but avoided discussing the issues of race and class. A study was conducted to measure attitudes of the show’s viewers. It found that viewers of the show were more likely to believe that racial prejudice was largely a thing of the past, and that institutional obstacles to black achievement no longer existed. This has a dual effect: not only does it create a blind spot where people cannot see racism, but it also contributes to a situation where white people, when confronted with the socio-economic reality that blacks don’t do as well as whites as a group, will more readily come to the conclusion that the reasons primarily lay with black people themselves.

  • singlestick

    RE: My main problem with multiracial films that completely ignore race is
    precisely that they unwittingly end up reinforcing racial bias…

    Don’t think so. This is like saying that any film that stars a woman must address gender issues. And it is pointless to suggest that movies that feature nonwhite actors must always drag some political or social baggage behind them. Besides, racists are probably going to be racists no matter what. And fundamentally, you seem to be saying that nonwhites can’t be working actors, making money and raising their standard of living, until racial prejudice is eliminated. Kinda self-defeating, wouldn’t you say? It’s also curious that multicultural is somehow equated primarily with black. Asian Americans tend to earn more than whites; so what is the excuse for not having more films featuring Asian American actors?

  • singlestick

    There are very few films in which the character is about *being* male or female. And Cameron could have played up a parenthood angle in Aliens with a male character. Of course, Cameron also made a female one of the central characters in the Terminator films. Writing well for women or for nonwhite characters is clearly about creativity and not being a slave to convention or dumb expectations.

    And of course, the hit play and film “The Front Page” was redone as “His Girl Friday” with a role previously male totally re-written to be a woman. The result is a comedy classic.

    You could totally reboot the first Star Wars films with Luke as a black, Latina or Asian female.

  • I don’t think most of the success of “Fast & Furious 6” is due to the multi-ethnic cast, but simply because Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are back. Changing up the cast in the second and third films actually hurt the franchise. It was when they got them back for “Fast & Furious” and “Fast Five” that the franchise started growing.

    Using some of the supporting players from the third film, as well as casting Dwayne Johnson, did help it. But Diesel’s involvement drew people back.

  • David N-T

    I’m not convinced by the demographics argument: 42% of Twilight’s viewers were male. Does it mean that Twilight doesn’t pander to teen girls? The reason for this phenomenon is that movies are a pretty much a standard date experience, so it’s pretty common for a guy to bring his girlfriend along to a movie that he wants to see, or vice-versa.

    And while I haven’t seen the most recent film, doesn’t the plot of this film revolve around a guy rescuing his girlfriend? For the matter, the series as a whole hasn’t been too kind for womankind: for instance, Tokyo Drift features a race where a woman offers herself off as prize for the winner of a race, and the female lead is so devoid of personality that I honestly cannot remember anything about her beyond her appearance. Doesn’t that strike you as somewhat problematic?

  • David N-T

    “This is like saying that any film that stars a woman must address gender issues.”

    A film that stars a woman inherently addresses gender issues even if it’s unwittingly: if, for instance, the character she plays is a helpless damsel in distress who needs a man to save her or a fiercely independent woman who doesn’t need to be saved, it’s a choice that is, yes, political.

    “And it is pointless to suggest that movies that feature nonwhite actors must always drag some political or social baggage behind them.”

    I’m not saying that it has to hit you over the head with it. In fact, when done right, it doesn’t. Take for instance, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: it’s feminist because here, it’s a female who is the heroin and a running theme throughout the TV series is female empowerment. It just takes it as a starting assumption, and works from there. Star Trek might not strike you as very political, but it featured the first scripted interracial kiss on American TV, and the character of Uhura apparently served as an inspiration for a number of black girls who saw a black woman who wasn’t playing a maid.

    “Besides, racists are probably going to be racists no matter what.”

    The problem isn’t those nasty other people, it’s a set of widely held attitudes. Your statement is as absurd as saying that rapists are going to be rapists no matter what, so it’s pointless to challenge widely held attitudes that men (and a surprising number of women) have towards women.

    “And fundamentally, you seem to be saying that nonwhites can’t be working actors, making money and raising their standard of living, until racial prejudice is eliminated.”

    Unless you can elaborate on that and demonstrate how what I wrote suggests what you ascribe to me, that seems to me like either a strawman or a red herring:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawman

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring

    ” It’s also curious that multicultural is somehow equated primarily with black.”

    Just because I gave an example that was about blacks doesn’t mean that I equate multicultural with black.

    “Asian Americans tend to earn more than whites; so what is the excuse for not having more films featuring Asian American actors?”

    What does this have to do with anything?

  • singlestick

    RE: I’m not convinced by the demographics argument: 42% of Twilight’s viewers were male

    Box Office analysis of “Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1” indicates that 80% of the film’s opening weekend audience was female, and 60% was over age 21 and under age 25.

    http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Does-Breaking-Dawn-Aging-Audience-Prove-Twilight-Just-Fad-27996.html

    Whether the film “panders” to teenage girls doesn’t much interest me. Whether a film is good, and why audiences enjoy them is more fascinating.

    Never saw Tokyo Drift, so I could not comment on it, nor need it affect my considerations of Fast 6.

  • Prankster36

    I’ve heard of what you term the Huxtable Effect, and I get the point, but I think that’s a huge oversimplification. It’s not The Cosby Show’s fault that people started assuming that “racism is over”; that was a function of the larger culture in the 80 and early 90s, which was busily papering over a whole raft of socio-economic problems. A single show, even one as popular as Cosby’s, can’t be held responsible for that.

    To use a modern example, you might as well claim that Obama’s election is a bad thing because it’s led a lot of people to the same “racism is over” conclusion–and believe me, I heard a lot of bitter “You liberals can’t claim racism is a thing anymore” statements from conservatives after he was elected. So…should he NOT have been elected, then?

    I think most viewers of colour would KILL for more upper-middle-class representation on TV and at the movies, and that’s a function of where our culture is at right now. Movies and TV are desperate for “authenticity” and to look like they’re tackling issues head-on, which in many ways is a good thing. But there’s a value to pure fantasy, as well. It’s like Star Trek syndrome–you can complain about Utopian bubbleheadedness, but at the same time, it’s legitimately heartening to watch these ideals made “real” (sort of) via the movies. It provides a sort of confirmation that other people have the same ideals, that they’re valid. It gives people something to strive for. Acknowledging that blacks and latinos are frequently lower-class, or that a lot of criminals are people of colour, may be “realistic”, but movies are supposed to transcend reality at times.

  • singlestick

    Nobody ever demanded that Buffy be “realistic,” or that it had to address emotional or physical abuse of teens by their boyfriends or employment discrimination or wage inequality. No one rational ever suggested that until societies attitudes toward women change, there might be some Buffy Effect that would lead some people to think that the status of women might be negatively affected by what was depicted in a fantasy TV show. What you write about Star Trek and Uhura is on point. And some of its power, as with Buffy, was partly overlooked because a lot of people just refuse to take sci fi and fantasy shows seriously.

    But consider: white actress Shirley Booth played a feisty maid in “Hazel,” and “Bewitched” featured an entirely fantasy woman sorceress, and the shows where hits and enjoyed by millions. On the other hand, in 1968, the TV show “Julia” presented a strong, independent, confident black woman as a nurse, and self-appointed cultural guardians went nuts deriding the show for being unrealistic and apolitical. White characters were free to just be characters; black characters had to conform to some pseudo-realistic portrayal of the supposed “bitter realities of Negro life,” as noted in dumb reviews of the time. And it should be noted that tons of people cheered the positive depiction of a black woman on TV in “Julia” just as much as they did in “Star Trek.”

    Similarly, the diversity of “Fast and Furious 6” is as empowering as Buffy, even if you look at both shows as fantasies.

  • Prankster36

    True, but let’s not pretend making the “His Girl Friday” into a woman didn’t drastically change the dynamic–which in fact made it into a much better story (well, I’m guessing, obviously I haven’t seen “The Front Page”, but it seems like it would be rather dull in comparison). There are indeed plenty of roles that could go to either gender, but that’s not *quite* the same thing as saying the character isn’t “about” being male or female. In the Terminator, for instance, it’s obviously fairly important that Sarah Connor be a woman and Kyle Reese be a man. You could tell that story about a guy who gets contacted by a woman from the future and told that he’s the father of the saviour of the human race…maybe it would be better? Worse? As good? (Probably worse) but it would become a pretty radically different story.
    Obviously that’s a pretty major example since pregnancy is part of the story, but I do think it’s important to note that the dynamic shifts with different genders, ethnicities, etc. in certain roles, even if there’s no actual acknowledgement of it in the script. This is not to be one of those tiresome “MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT YOU GUYS BECAUSE LIFTING STRENGTH” people, but if you’re going to write rich, interesting characters you do need to acknowledge factors like this in the performances and story dynamics. The point is that a lot of basic STORY PREMISES don’t change regardless of race, gender, etc., but the characters themselves do.

  • RogerBW

    Never saw Tokyo Drift, so I could not comment on it

    Oh, man.

    It’s like one of those Famous Artists School ads. You can be a screenwriter and earn big bucks! Just complete this phrase: “If you want to live in my house, you…”

  • David N-T
  • Danielm80

    As far as I can tell from that extremely vague pie chart, the statistics have to do with language use and how many people are talking about Twilight, not how many people saw the movies. Lexicalist.com appears to be a site devoted to words and linguistics.

    I looked up the movies on boxofficemojo.com and found this quote about the first Breaking Dawn movie:

    The audience was 80 percent female and 60 percent over 21 years old. That’s more female-skewing than Eclipse (65 percent) but even with New Moon (80 percent). Also, the audience was younger for those movies (only 50 percent over 21 years old), though it’s logical for the crowd to age along with the series. Breaking Dawn received a “B+” CinemaScore, which improved to an “A-” among females.

    The audience for the first film in the series was 75% female. Singlestick’s figures for the last film appear to be fairly accurate.

    Of course, none of this means that the Twilight movies represent women positively, or accurately, only that many women went to see them.

  • CB

    No, I just don’t think it would be the same if the final confrontation wasn’t mother vs mother.

  • David N-T

    Thank you for clarifying.

  • JT

    Say what you will about Vin’s movies, but he always comes across as a genuinely good guy who cares about his fans. I just wish he was reading better scripts…

  • David N-T

    Let me just ask you the following question regarding the Cosby show and its contribution to the problem: if you have a show that features, week after week, an affluent black family that never ever has to deal with racism. Would you say that this reinforces the beliefs of someone who believes or wants to believe that racism is over, or have the opposite effect?

    Secondly, the Obama election and campaign before he first became president only highlighted, to me, how much ground there is left to cover in the struggle against racism, as the racist backlash against Obama amply proved. I mean, the desperate way in which liberals clung onto Obama during his first electoral campaign as if his election somehow meant that racism was over struck me as naive at best, and a disingenuous unwillingness to look at reality in the face so we can all move on and ignore the race and ethnicity related issues going on today and therefore perpetuate them in blissful ignorance at worst. In fact, my own comments and thoughts at the time of his first electoral campaign was that he was all too willing to play along and feed into the delusions that his followers had regarding race, and other issues. The point, to me, is not whether he should have been elected or not, but whether he should have been direct and honest in his campaign rather than skirting around the issue of race, among others.

    Last but not least, to me it’s not about so much about whether or not ethnic characters depicted are drug dealers or accountants, but how they are contextualized. For instance, a story about, say, a latino gang member can portray the character in an unsympathetic light, for instance, as an instinctually violent psychopathic monster, or as someone who was forced to choose between bad options and worse options due to circumstances beyond their control. A story about a black civil rights activist could depict them as an uppity, entitled snot, or as a courageous principled person. Similarly, a work of pure fantasy can perpetuate stereotypes regarding minorities, or help tear them down. But to do that, you have to be swimming upstream, not just going with the flow.

  • Prankster36

    But why should a show be expected to engage with someone’s belief that “Racism is over”? That is, quite frankly, a delusion, and the fact that someone could arrive at it says more about the overall culture than any one particular show.

    Everyone wants a bit of escapism once in a while, too. No one wants to watch Important Issue Movies all the time, and this is true in the specific case of people of colour and movies about racism too. They all deserve a break from dealing CONSTANTLY with the theme of racism in their entertainment just because there’s a black or Latino or Asian lead. Indeed, I’ve seen movies like Crash mocked precisely because it portrays a world where everyone sinks into outright racism at the drop of a hat, because Paul Haggis had IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY DAMMIT. Simply acknowledging that racism exists doesn’t make your movie more “realistic” or “grounded” or “important”.

    To use an even more egregious example–apparently someone behind “Wild, Wild West” felt that there needed to be an acknowledgement, since it starred Will Smith, of the racism in the south at the time. Which sounds good on paper, but in practice it lead to at least one really ugly scene (I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety, since it’s awful) where the villain throws racial slurs at Smith. How the hell does that help? Especially since this is an outright fantasy movie with a steampunk tarantula and other such nonsense. Sure, casting Will Smith in a movie set in 1870-whatever and having no one acknowledge his race isn’t “realistic”, but neither is Independence Day or Men in Black. Movies have the license to be fantasies sometimes.

    To go back to the Cosby Show–you’re concerned about the impact on white people who want to deny racism. But what about black people who need heroic, positive role models? We all need those, and the supposed “cost” of having a few idiots reinforce their delusion seems like a small price to pay.

  • singlestick

    RE: (well, I’m guessing, obviously I haven’t seen “The Front Page”, but it seems like it would be rather dull in comparison)

    The original stage play of “The Front Page” was a big hit; the 1931 film won Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor and is considered a great screwball comedy. And “His Girl Friday” is a masterpiece. Yeah, making the character female change the dynamics of the story, and also permitted greater creative possibilities than following the path of least resistance. But there was no mention of the fact that Hildy in “His Girl Friday” was a woman reporter; the basic dynamic, that she was a great reporter with a nose for the hottest scoop did not depend in any way on noting or acknowledging her gender or the historical status of women in journalism.

    You’re right that it is a key plot point that Sarah Connor be the mother of the future leader, but it’s ironic here that until the directors of the Alien and Terminator films turned gender on its head, the conventional wisdom was that sci fi stories just HAD to have male characters at the center of the action. And that’s the point: neither gender nor race has to determine anything with respect to a good story.

  • singlestick

    I compared the opening weekend demographics of Fast 6 with the opening weekend demographics of Twilight Breaking Dawn. I am not sure what your chart takes into account or its usefulness here.

  • David N-T

    “But why should a show be expected to engage with someone’s belief that “Racism is over”? That is, quite frankly, a delusion, and the fact that someone could arrive at it says more about the overall culture than any one particular show.”

    The show is part and parcel of that culture, and the fact that the viewers of the show are more likely to hold the belief that racism is a thing of the past that doesn’t really affect people’s chances anymore suggests that the show encourages its viewers to believe that racism is over, that people who hold the belief that racism is over are more likely to view the show because it conforms to their world view or a combination of the two. Any way you slice it, it’s not particularly flattering.

    “Everyone wants a bit of escapism once in a while, too.”

    Just because something is escapist doesn’t mean that it gets a free pass or that it is value-free. Temple of Doom and Transformers 2 were escapist entertainment, but they were also rondly criticized for their racist portrayals, and I don’t think that it’s an unjust assessment.

    For instance, take Disney’s the Princess and the Frog. Its story plays out in early 1900s NOLA, and its leads are a white man and a black woman, but it takes place in a completely integrated New Orleans, it completely omits the segregation laws and in particular the anti-miscegenation laws that would have prohibited their marriage. Besides these omissions, the film ends with the indolent prince having learned the value of hard work, and the couple is now happily working in her restaurant. Besides the omission, do you not see that the film promotes certain values despite it being an escapist fairy-tale? The Matrix is escapist, but I doubt that it escaped anyone’s notice that rebellion is a central theme of the film.

    “No one wants to watch Important Issue Movies all the time, and this is true in the specific case of people of colour and movies about racism too.”

    That’s not my position, nor did I argue in favour of that, so why argue this?

    “They all deserve a break from dealing CONSTANTLY with the theme of racism in their entertainment just because there’s a black or Latino or Asian lead.”

    Movies do not CONSTANTLY deal with the theme of racism, nor does music and television.

    “I’ve seen movies like Crash mocked precisely because it portrays a world where everyone sinks into outright racism at the drop of a hat, because Paul Haggis had IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY DAMMIT.”

    I think that Crash was mocked for its ham-fisted melodramatics, but I think that it also has something to do with the fact that it made people uncomfortable.

    “Simply acknowledging that racism exists doesn’t make your movie more “realistic” or “grounded” or “important”.”

    I didn’t argue that it did, so again, why argue it as if it’s an opinion that I hold and had defended?

    “To use an even more egregious example–apparently someone behind “Wild, Wild West” felt that there needed to be an acknowledgement, since it starred Will Smith, of the racism in the south at the time. Which sounds good on paper, but in practice it lead to at least one really ugly scene (I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety, since it’s awful) where the villain throws racial slurs at Smith.”

    There is a difference between a good idea and good execution. I’ve given examples elsewhere about this.

    Further, your example is part of Hollywood’s problematic dealings with race: it makes racism the character flaw of an individual, rather than placing it in a broader context. So people go watch the film, hate the snarling racist villain, and feel good about themselves because gee golly, they’re not at all like the villain.

    “To go back to the Cosby Show–you’re concerned about the impact on white people who want to deny racism.”

    Actually, I don’t care very much, if at all, about its impact on white people. What I do care about is how it will affect race relations and minorities’ prospects.

    “But what about black people who need heroic, positive role models? We all need those, and the supposed “cost” of having a few idiots reinforce their delusion seems like a small price to pay.”

    Bill Cosby and his character are definitely not heroic, and as far as being role-model goes, my personal opinion is that it’s really a mixed bag. I mean, his outburst at black youth some years back goes a long way to show his disconnect from urban black youth and a deep misunderstanding of the situation in general.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/cosby.asp

  • Tonio Kruger

    As much as I love Michelle Rodriguez, I must admit that my conservative middle brother is more likely to be a fan of the latest edition of the series than myself. But then I got burnt out on car racing movies a long time ago. And hey, it’s not like anyone’s crediting diversity with the success of the Rush Hour movies…

  • Tonio Kruger

    Why don’t we see more Asian-American actors in Hollywood? If we are going to have a serious discussion about diversity in Hollywood, it seems silly to avoid such an obvious question.

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