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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

why has Anchor Bay dick-washed and whitewashed The Sapphires? (final? update)

UPDATE: I’ve closed comments on this because it’s now doing nothing but bring out trolls.

UPDATE later Tuesday: I make CNN, in a post with the charming headline “Racist, or good marketing?”… cuz really, which is more important? They name me and quote me but don’t link to me. Gee, thanks. And for sanity’s sake, do not read the comments. You’ll need a toothbrush to the brain.

UPDATE Tuesday: Anchor Bay has responded. From Australia’s The Age:

The American distributor of The Sapphires DVD has apologised for causing offence with its choice of cover, and has offered to rethink the artwork for future editions of the film.

In a short statement, distributor Anchor Bay said it “regrets any unintentional upset caused by the upcoming US DVD release of The Sapphires”.

It added that “new cover art is being considered for future replenishment orders”.

That would require, of course, that the initial run sells out.

previous Aug 2 2013

UPDATE Friday: The Australian Daily Telegraph has an article about this issue without mentioning how it learned about it — that is, this very post at FlickFilosopher.com. How do I know they learned of it here? Because they quote commenter singlestick without attributing it at all. Here’s a screengrab (in case they change it):


Compare with singlestick’s comment.

Not cool, Telegraph. Totally not cool.

UPDATE 2 Friday: Great. The newspaper The Australian also neglects to mention where this story originated.

UPDATE 3 Friday: And a thank-you to the Australian paper The Age, which does credit its sources.

previous Jul 30 2013

The Sapphires — out on DVD in the U.S. and Canada next week — is fantastic. It really is. It is pure cinematic joy. You will love it.

But it is not, as DVD distributor Anchor Bay would have you believe, the story of a white man and his blue-monotone backup singers. It simply isn’t. So what the hell is this on the Region 1 cover?


The Sapphires is the story of four young Australian women who form a singing group and travel to Vietnam in the 1960s to entertain the American troops there. Their new manager, who is along for the ride, is indeed a white man. The women are Aborigines. They are black black black black blackety-black black. Not blue. Oh, and they’re women. And this is their story. It’s even a true story.

I adore Chris O’Dowd. And he’s even more wonderful in this movie than he has been in the past. I have nothing against him, at all. (I shouldn’t even need to say this, because it’s completely irrelevant to this matter, but I’m heading off some potential complaints about my complaining.) But the most you can say about his character here is that he is part of an ensemble. He is not the lead character. And he is outweighed in that ensemble by four nonwhite women. So why are they shoved into the background, the color of their skin disguised by that blue monotone?

This is a problem.

Movies about women are rare enough. Movies about black women are even rarer. And now we’re gonna pretend the movies about women, whatever their color, aren’t even about them at all?

UPDATE: Reader Lucy has posted a petition at Change.org to ask Anchor Bay to change the cover. With the Region 1 DVD releasing next week, it’s probably too late at this point to have the desired impact (though future editions could conceivably get a new cover), but it’s still worth letting them know that this is a problem and how unhappy we are about it.

  • LaSargenta

    Same old, same old.

    I suppose the distributor is using the excuse of “but he’s the only famous one”.

  • RogerBW

    Why does a company do something? Money, always money. They think they’ll get more sales by hiding the non-white people (and the non-male people, since there isn’t a convenient sexy shot of them) than they’ll lose to people who actually want non-white and non-male protagonists.

    And they’re probably correct in that thought.

  • He’s not that famous.

  • misterb

    When does anyone see the cover of a DVD these days? I agree that DVD marketing people are slime, but they may be obsolete slime at this point in time. What is the little picture that Netflix is showing?

  • LaSargenta

    Yeah, but he’s more well-known in the US (and I presume UK) than others in the movie.

    These people have no imagination and, yes, they are being racist.

  • Geoff LaTulippe

    Sigh. Why is it that we can’t fight the battles that are really worth fighting when it comes to misogyny in Hollywood?

    This isn’t a matter of whitewashing or dickwashing (seriously, give me a fucking break) a movie. It’s a matter of marketing and getting people to buy the goddamned DVD in the first place. It’s an Australian movie releasing in North America. In North America, Chris O’Dowd is the only actor who is recognizable – and he’s pretty popular, thanks to BRIDESMAIDS. No one else in the film – terrific as they may be – would register one iota with 99% of North Americans. Therein, there is ZERO reason to put ANYONE else on the cover for ANY reason. Because fuck women? Because fuck black people? No. Because the directors, writers and producers and everyone else involved with the film WANT IT TO MAKE MONEY AND BE SEEN BY PEOPLE.

    This happens all the time. Check the bargain bin wherever DVDs are sold – older films with (now) major stars in tiny supporting roles are now repackaged with their faces prominently on the covers all the time. Why? Because no one would buy them on just about any other occasion. Is this sneaky? Sure. Is it racist or misogynistic? For Christ’s sake, no.

    Get pissed about the whitewashing in LAST AIRBENDER. Get pissed that women direct 10% of studio films. Get pissed that many TV writing staffs have few, if any, women. Don’t focus words and effort on this positively trite bullshit. When you’re getting angry just to get angry, you’re pissing into the wind, and you’re the one getting wet.

  • Steven Peterson

    lol, truly this is a cause worth fighting for, HA!

  • Farmer Waltz

    Wouldn’t this technically be blue-washing? Smurf-washing? Ah, screw it…

  • Danielm80

    Sigh. Just because we can explain why a problem exists doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. If someone produced a DVD of Love Happy with a giant picture of Marilyn Monroe on the cover and a tiny image of the Marx brothers behind her, a lot of customers would complain that it was misleading, and they would be right. This DVD is worse, because it’s one of the few movies with interesting, substantial roles for women of color. Some people are desperate to find films like that, and this cover hides the movie from them.

    We all know why the studio did it. People rationalize all kinds of things by saying, “We needed the money.” But it’s an excuse, not a defense.

    There are bigger battles to fight. For example, it would be great to see more movies with interesting, substantial roles for women of color. But sometimes the little battles are worth fighting, too. And when a film like this comes out, it’s worth fighting to let people know.

  • Geoff LaTulippe

    If you feel the need to waste your efforts on this, it’s your playground..

  • Kris

    Is the movie really that good? I saw the trailer and was so annoyed that it focused so thoroughly on the character development of the white male manager when it was theoretically supposed to be telling the story of the career of four ladies of color that I resolved not to see it entirely. This poster isn’t helping that impression at all. Does the movie itself focus properly on their lives and stories?

  • I’m getting tired of the money “excuse.” Might have a rant coming on…

  • Guess what? You don’t get to tell me which battles I should fight and which battles I shouldn’t fight. You don’t want to fight them? Fine. No one is asking you to. But you don’t get to decide which battles *other people* should or shouldn’t find worthy.

    And either this is the only post you’ve ever seen at this site, in which case you have no idea what other battles I’m fighting, or you’re perfectly aware of the other battles I’m fighting and you’re simply being obnoxious.

    So seriously, give *me* a fucking break.

  • RogerBW

    It seems to me that “making as much money as possible in the short term” is not in itself a particularly laudable goal. Unfortunately we’ve ended up with a system in which many of the more powerful actors are by design incapable of doing anything else.

  • Yes, the movie truly is about the women.

  • singlestick

    The cover makes the women look like Chris O’Dowd’s backup singers. Maybe O’Dowd’s managers have a lot of clout to get him on the cover. Maybe the studio’s marketing department is asinine (more likely). O’Dowd may be marginally more recognizable than the other actors in the film, but I didn’t know him from a bum on the street. I never saw “Bridesmaids.” On the other hand, I had heard about this film, and would be interested in seeing it.

    But if I glanced at the cover of the DVD at the store, I would think that this was some other movie called “The Sapphires” and not the story of the female singers.

    And yeah, the shading does seem to try to hide the fact that the women are women of color.

    Bottom line, the cover is not only dishonest, but might confuse people who are specifically looking for this film. Imagine if a DVD of “A Hard Day’s Night” had manager Brian Epstein in the foreground, and the Beatles in the background, barely recognizable.

  • David C-D

    The Netflix picture has Chris O’Dowd front and center, but the ladies are not blue-washed.

  • singlestick

    Just out of curiosity, I went to the Amazon Instant Video site to see if this film was there. It is, and it uses the same, crappy, misleading, blue-rinse cover art with Chris O’Dowd front and center. So, it’s not just an issue of DVD marketing.

  • Rob Galbraith

    Sorry, but no.

    1. I am from North America and I have no clue who Chris O’Dowd is. I didn’t recognize him at all.

    What caught my eye on this cover was the women in the background
    because it channelled The Supremes and Dreamgirl. I would add that the
    advertisements for Dreamgirl didn’t have a white man prominent on their

    3. I am with MaryAnn in picking my own battles thank you
    very much. I will choose to be angry when I want. And ain’t nobody
    pissing into wind here. Sorry about your shoes though.

    4. I could
    give less of a rat’s ass what directors and producers want. If they’re
    going to dare to use the words “based on a true story” perhaps they
    should be true in what they are selling (I know… novel concept…) If
    the story about these women is truly interesting, you don’t need to
    dickwash it. If they are going to whitewash it, there could have been
    any other number of ways.

  • Rob Galbraith
  • This is a *far* more accurate representation of the film. Even to the degree that some of the women have more prominent arcs than others (as you would expect with so many characters to juggle).

  • Georgia247

    It’s magnificent and beautiful. You will cry. Chris is good but he is not the main character and sad that people may not see it thinking its about his character. Both the real women from the story and the women who play them are incredible.

  • LaSargenta

    Yup. Waaaaaaay better.

    (I really enjoyed this movie, by the way.)

  • I bawled. Both times I saw it.

  • andrewjgrimm

    Not so much blue-monotone as *sapphire*-monotone?

    Also, while black women being in the entertainment industry is fairly uncommon in Australia, it wouldn’t be that uncommon in America. Maybe whoever made that cover wasn’t knowledgeable enough about Australia to know this. Which in itself is would be problematic, but a different problem to what you’re describing.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    I probably should point out that ‘Aborigines’ is spelt with a capital ‘A’. Just like ‘Australian’ and ‘American’ are.

  • Jay

    Because Chris O’Dowd is a sellable name in Region One. Unfortunate, but nothing more

  • Josh

    Chris O’Dowd is the only one who has something of a name in America though… Even if he is merely “that guy” in This is 40, the IT Crowd, The Boat that Rocked and Bridesmaids. It’s by no means uncommon to put the biggest name first and foremost, and he would certainly be more recognizable to Americans than someone who’s been on Playschool or won Australian Idol

  • frosty

    ‘Even’ if it is because of marketing reasons it
    is still offense. The story is about the women. The original movie
    poster (and DVD cover) you can still
    clearly see Chris O’Dowd, but manages not to demean the importance of
    the other actors. Proud female Indigenous actors at that.

  • Turdmon

    Maybe because everyone knows who Chris O’dowd is… which means more viewers? not hard to work out.. yet you go on about skin colour… grow up.

  • Hannah Armstrong

    You really, honestly can’t see why this is a shitty thing?? No-one is complaining about Chris O’Dowd – someone’s pointing out the problems with making him/his character the main focal point of a dvd cover. He’s not the main character, as stated above, and it’s not a story about a white dude! So why make it look as though it is?

  • Hannah Armstrong

    So why place the four Aboriginal women & stars behind him, and behind a blue filter? It’s not good enough for it to simply be the norm (which, as we all know, is permanent and unchanging across all time and places, ever).

  • Hannah Armstrong

    The film does tell the story of real band, The Sapphires, and is based on the stage musical of the same name.

  • Larrylongballs

    No one complains when brad pitt gets top billing for an ensemble. in fact, pitt clocked up so little screen time in inglorious basterds, babel and killing the, softly he probably shouldnt even been featured on the posters. also, It’s not like they’ve edited the film or remade it with a white cast. This cover poster will sell the film internationally. That’s a fact. Once people watch it I’m sure they’ll fall in love with the girls and will be more open to watching aboriginal themed films in the future. If they used the poster we had in Australia, the film would most likely be ignored.

  • That’s a bullshit excuse. Advertising writers and designers get paid a ton of money because they’re supposedly extremely creative and imaginative. They can’t come up with a way to sell the film that accurately represents it? Ridiculous.

  • Not everyone knows who O’Dowd is. And even if they did, that wouldn’t stop this from being offensive *and* misleading.

    Why is it more important to cater to racists and sexists who wouldn’t want to see a movie about black women than it is to sell a movie about black women to those who would want to see it?

    If “growing up” means sitting back and accepting racism and sexism, no thank you.

  • Hannah Armstrong

    Okay, you can continue to ignore the differences and particular problems with this – you’re clearly not going to realise that it’s an issue. As an Aboriginal woman, I can’t help but be upset by this – even knowing the possible reasons the people responsible for this design (whatever they are, it’s cynical and ‘dumbs down’ – not good enough). Also – Aboriginal themed movie? I’m laughing at you.

  • I didn’t realize that. Thanks for letting me know. I’ve corrected the post.

  • ThatGuy

    Everyone commenting on the fact that Chris O’Dowd is the most well known in the USA is correct. As to the “blue monotone”, this again is simple advertising. Certain colours affect the way we buy a product (look it up, there’s plenty of evidence) and that is all there is to it. Good god, some people look for any excuse to push their ridiculous agendas…

  • Daniel Ralph

    Well obviously the blue isn’t about covering up their appearance – it’s simply the colour of sapphire. That’s just my input.

  • Larrylongballs

    So you’re claiming this is race related? Well it’s most likely not, this happens. Stars get top billing. Marlon Brando appeared in Superman for less than 10 minutes. His name was plastered all over the posters and Christopher reeves face wasn’t even on the poster and didn’t even get his name above the title. Christopher Reeve is white.

  • Hannah Armstrong

    Okay – there is definitely a visual link, that much is obvious. So..why not have Chris O’Dowd blue-rinsed? Or just leave the rinse off because everyone on the cover is already wearing sapphire-blue clothes.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    Great, thanks for that! It’s amazing how often people will refuse to see the point.

    (And looking at my post I realise it might have seemed a bit brusque and snarky. It certainly wasn’t intended that way, but apologies if any offence was caused!)

  • registradus

    I don’t think EVERYONE knows who Chris O’Dowd is…

  • Turdmon

    Well his more familiar than the unknowns in the background. And Sexism and Racism only exists because people like you stink up a storm over a DVD cover… yes… grow up please.

  • Turdmon

    Yes but it explains why the girls are in the background… And the whole point of the article is all this sexist racism BS…

  • Ebony

    Just because other shitty things have happened doesn’t mean this thing isn’t shitty.

  • Luke

    This below is the poster used when the film was released in the UK. When it was released there is was also a reasonable box office success – possibly due to O’ Dowd’s undeniable fame there.

    The fact that the girls get equal share of the space does undermine the assertions that the US cover is a pragmatic marketing design.


  • Larrylongballs

    It just means that there are patterns that are not necessarily race related. If it is race related then you should be asking not “what’s wrong with anchor bay?” But “what’s wrong with those countries that need the poster changed to be marketable?”

  • Iain_S

    It’s not necessarily about race or gender, as this DVD cover features Miranda Hart front and centre despite the fact that she only makes a five-minute cameo. And even though she suffers from the apparent handicaps of being both female and large, the fact is that she is far more famous than anyone else in the cast, and as such is its biggest selling point. Both the Sapphires cover and this one are misleading and ethically dubious, but it is perhaps slightly naive to think that money-men think about anything other than money. They may well be misogynistic racists, but they’d never let that get in the way of making a few bob.

  • Turdmon

    Just be glad they’re showing the world this.

  • beckgwen

    He is not more well known than the women in the background – HERE in Australia. You’re naive. And the existence of both racism and sexism has nothing to do with this DVD cover. Perhaps you should grow up.

  • Turdmon

    Then why the hell are people bitching about sexism and racism? And I’m Australian and I have no idea who they are. I know Chris though.

  • beckgwen

    The movie IS that good. The trailer you have seen is misleading. The movie really focuses on their journey from Cummeragunja to Vietnam and the relationships that are both healed and formed along the way. It also touches on the Stolen Generation, although to a person not aware of that particular history it would appear to be the simple separation of a child from loved ones. Also, this film is BASED on the true story – in ‘real-life’ there were only TWO members of the Sapphires who travelled to Vietnam to sing for the soldiers.

  • Rebecca Healy

    actually, the preferred terms are ‘Aboriginal people’ or Indigenous Australians – most Aboriginal people find the term ‘Aborigine’ a bit patronising and offensive. Love this post by the way :)

  • Hannah Armstrong

    That thing is not equivalent to this thing – okay? Is Superman a story about women? Is Superman a story about women of colour?
    Why are you so invested in defending this? Is it really so difficult to see why it’s upsetting? The only reason little things like this can happen, and continue to happen, is because too many people are totally fine with making excuses for bullshit when it’s staring them in the face.

  • Max

    well whoppdy flippin doo to you!!

  • Max

    what a load of bullshit!!

  • Max

    well you’re certainly doing a good job at that!!

  • Pee Bee

    The thing is, there ARE convenient sexy shots of the women – one of the women’s entire character is pretty much built around her confident sexiness. They would still be obviously non-white women, but there’s no shortage of sexy photos they could have used if they wanted to appeal to men’s penises.

  • Victor Hart

    Exactly. Good cal! Who’s was the brain dead market researcher (s) who thought this would be appropriate O’Dowd would never have agreed to this warped crap.

  • ReB

    Who the hell is Chris O’Dowd and why should I know him? Isn’t it just a little possible that there may be a large number of Americans (particularly ‘black’ American women) who would be impressed to see a movie about ‘black’ Australian women living their dreams?

  • caillan

    I am offended by this cover.
    I hate to see a grown mans sex face all over the cover of a good family movie. It’s made worse by the footnote “A blast of joy”, which brings forward the idea that one will ejaculate if watching the film. It makes me feel frustrated that grown mature people cant just make a decent cover for a decent movie.

  • David N-T

    I’m not entirely convinced by the arguments that this is simply marketing and that racism and sexism has nothing to do with it. I will agree that it is not explicitly racist or sexist, but there is such a thing as institutional racism and sexism: it is a system that, while not even having to mention race or sex in any way, shape, or form, puts women and non-whites at a disadvantage. In the case of cinema, it’s just a fact that the biggest stars tend to be white and male (which is itself a racial and gender issue, but I digress), which makes it more frequent for them to get top billing, which means that they are also more likely to get pimped in promotional displays, which, in turn, hurts the chances of non-whites and women to get their place in the spotlight. Does this system sometimes work in favour of non-whites and women? Sure, it occasionally can and does, but in the grand scheme of things, the recipients of this preferential treatment are far more likely to be white and/or male than non-whites or women.

  • David N-T

    [quote]Sexism and Racism only exists because people like you stink up a storm over a DVD cover…[/quote]

    Ummm, no. That’s the standard excuse of people who would prefer to sweep the discussion under the rug. Racism and sexism will endure unless they are dealt with. If you think MaryAnn is off the mark on this one, then make your case.

  • Josh

    Did you listen to what I said? I said it’s a marketing decision, not a racial one. People are more likely to watch a movie with a recognisable cast member – why wouldn’t you foreground the recognisable one?
    It’s happened time and time again – Marlin Brando only appeared for 20 minutes in the 3 hour long Apocalypse Now but the posters were all branded around him and his name. And before you saying O’Dowd isn’t a Brando (an obvious statement), consider the comparative pulling power. Brando is to Martin Sheen (the lead role in Apocalypse Now) what O’Dowd is to Mauboy in America.

  • LaSargenta

    OT question to Rebecca or others w/ the knowledge: Are there different nations and languages among the Indigenous Australians as among the First Nations in the Americas? I’ve been wondering this for a while and keep neglecting to seek out the answer. (I’m in N. America, no regular cultural contact w/ Aus.)

  • That might just barely be plausible if we hadn’t seen this same thing done MANY times before: rendering nonwhite actors in a monochrome in order to disguise the fact that they’re not white.

  • Marketing that caters to racists and sexists *is* racist and sexist.

  • No. We will not “just be glad.”

  • “Sexism and Racism only exists because people like you stink up a storm over a DVD cover”

    You’re on the verge of getting bounced as a troll.

  • “Simple advertising” that is racist and sexist will get called out as racist and sexist.

  • No, it’s naive to think that money-men are actually thinking about money when they ignore the audience that isn’t white and male. Why aren’t the money-men worried that women and black people who might be drawn to this movie if they knew it was about black women are being turned away?

  • Is this a joke?

  • snipergirl

    Even ignoring the race & sex issues (which are clearly present), the cover is highly misleading. It’s reminiscent of all those Hollywood comedies where some flamboyant dick in the music industry makes it big by discovering a new group. This is a movie that is clearly nothing to do with that! i imagine that a bunch of people who pick the movie up expecting one thing will be disappointed to find out that it has nothing to do with the premise they expected- and a bunch of people who would have watched it would be put off by the cover.

    From a graphical perspective, the fact that the lead actresses are barely visible with a low contrast pale blue while o’dowd is centre stage and mostly in full colour is incredibly misleading. It implies that he’s the main character as well as the most famous actor (I have no idea who he is either). Even if he was in the centre, surrounded by the girls, all in full colour, this would be a very different effect and a lot less misleading.

    It’s bad graphic design and it’s poor marketing.

  • Josh

    Same thing happened with Brando in Apocalypse now. It’s star power and that’s how the industry works.

  • snipergirl

    No idea, but it’s hilarious!

  • snipergirl

    It’s actually pretty shoddy advertising. It’s both misleading and poor design.

  • RogerBW

    If they did actually think about it — rather than just assuming that everyone, like them, finds white men more interesting than everyone else — they may claim that more people will buy the thing with this cover than with a more representative one. But I don’t think anyone actually experiments with this stuff; it’s all assumptions and rules of thumb, which tend to be ways of justifying what they wanted to do anyway.

  • RogerBW

    i imagine that a bunch of people who pick the movie up expecting one thing will be disappointed to find out that it has nothing to do with the premise they expected- and a bunch of people who would have watched it would be put off by the cover.

    Though as long as the first group don’t actually return the film for a refund, mission accomplished.

  • Josh

    Again, you’ve covered your ears and refused to hear my argument. Mauboy and the other leads are not famous in America – period. Is that because they’re black? No, it’s because they’re minor actors in Australia who have nothing of an international career. O’Dowd is put at the front because people prefer to watch a movie with actors they know. How does that make Americans racist?

  • snipergirl

    The issue is also missing out on the people who would be interested in watching it and losing sales that way. Plus, word of mouth goes a long way in finding new viewers, and if that’s poisoned…

  • David N-T

    Maybe because a movie about a while male isn’t expected to turn away women and non-white viewers the way that a movie about women and non-whites is expected to drive away white males. That, plus white males tend to be more affluent, so they must be catered to over and above anyone else, who must be content to fill a niche market.

  • Josh

    Because he’s foregrounded. I will admit though… the monochrome background is bordering on dodgy – doctoring people’s skin colour has been done plenty of times – such as making O.J. Simpson to appear darker and then more “menacing”, while Beyonce is often “lightened up” to appear more marketable. That is quite a sad reflection.
    I do however give this poster the benefit of the doubt in regards to the O’Dowd foregrounding.

  • RogerBW

    And if all the films look as though they’re about white men, those uppity womenfolk and black folk won’t have any choice.

  • singlestick

    RE: As to the “blue monotone”, this again is simple advertising. Certain colours affect the way we buy a product

    Bullcrap. Anyone making a glance at the cover would think that O’Dowd is the lead singer and the women his backup singers. They might even think the movie is a knock-off of “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” which is actually about backup singers.

    The UK graphic noted by another poster is far more clear about the film in a single image, showing O’Dowd presenting the women. And no one is pushed into the background.

    It’s absurd to say that O’Dowd is featured prominently just because he is well known. The cover pointlessly misrepresents his role in the film, which would probably rankle his fans. So you have stupid marketing on top of racist and sexist marketing.

  • LaSargenta

    Maybe black women in the entertainment industry are more common in the US (as part of “America”), but them getting whitewashed out of prominent positions in the marketing materials is also woefully common.

  • singlestick

    RE: This cover poster will sell the film internationally. That’s a fact.

    Well, no. That’s not a fact. That’s not even an opinion. That’s speculation.

    And yeah, people DO complain about misleading posters that over-hype a star’s small role.

  • Tsankara

    1. There’s a difference between how films are billed (usually related to contracts with actors based on popularity, or sometimes getting switched up if a star emerges, such as what they did with Dave Chappelle in Half-Baked) and how their covers are butchered when creating a different international version.
    2. Who the hell is Chris O’Dowd
    3. If you cannot see the extremely creepy racist/sexist undertones in taking a movie with a bunch of non-major stars which is mostly about 4 of them who are women of color but also has a white male (this is just from my understanding of the story as posted as it not being a story about him finding stars) and creating an entirely new cover that is 95% white male (but with floaty desaturated blue ghost women in the background) then you have to be either willfully not seeing it or stupid
    4. Yes this is some random import studio blah blah blah but it is an EXAMPLE of how institutional racism and sexism still exist and color the media. Fixing this will not magically end racism/sexism, but still it is there

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Josh, everyone hears your argument just fine. They think you’re way underestimating the role of casual racism and sexism in the design. And they’re pointing to well-established history to back up their argument. That history of racist practices in advertising won’t just go away simply because you stomp your feet and will it so.

    FWIW, everything that you’re pointing to as rationales for the design are correct, but it is also incomplete without noting that this is something that gets done to women and minority actors. Advertisers will make design choices, in an effort to appeal to a narrower demographic, that diminishes the role of such actors in their films.

    The possibility that the ad designers are not being deliberately racist and sexist, at best, only diminishes the degree of the racism/sexism.

  • plumumba

    Because I don’t think chris o’dowd has the star power in america to make it not be a thing about race and sex. It has a white male on the cover because the most interest white males have in women/non-whites would be if the story is about a white man and how he either profits from or sexually uses them so they crassly play to the patriarchal norms with the cover, no matter the content of the film. It is all about women hating (in a subtle way, just like the million other ways women are put down)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You seem to be laboring under the belief that unless an action is deliberately racist/sexist, then it can’t be racist/sexist at all. But you’d be wrong. Casual racism/sexism are a thing that happens.

  • singlestick

    RE: Again, you’ve covered your ears and refused to hear my argument.

    People hear your argument, and reject it because it is clearly wrong. The cover doesn’t simply put O’Dowd in the front. It makes it appear that he is the lead singer and the women are his backup singers. Period. It gives a false sense of what the film is about, as even defenders of the poster admit. Further, there are other examples of graphic art for this film that still give O’Dowd a prominent place without displacing the women in the film, and which give a better idea of what the film is about.

  • There is no such thing as “simple advertising.” None.

  • No offense taken.

  • Damian Barajas

    “How does that make Americans racist?”
    Josh, you should really think on this for a while.

    I would recommend asking yourself the following questions:
    Q: Are American’s (I mean the people who live in the United States of America, not all the people on the continent of America) racist?
    A: You might not like the answer to this.

    Q: How does racism rear its ugly head in business, specifically advertising?

    If you start with the assumption that you yourself are not racist, and you understand how a “business decision” like this makes economic sense to you as well, then you are automatically blinded to the social repercussions of things done purely for money.
    You are blind to all but the most overt expressions of racism, and are not aware of how it is institutionalized and how it is protected from change.
    Consider it.

  • That, plus white males tend to be more affluent, so they must be catered to over and above anyone else, who must be content to fill a niche market.

    You just made my head explode.

    Must be content to fill a niche?! Fuck. That. Shit.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I had no idea words were a limited resource.

  • Danielm80

    I like this article:


    It’s part of a series in which sixth graders look at the covers of books and talk about the way they portray race and gender. One student said:

    Do illustrators think that if a person of color is fully shown, it won’t sell as many copies?

  • David N-T

    What is it about what I wrote that made your head explode?

  • LaSargenta

    Sums it up.

    I’d add to your post this: “It has a white male on the cover because of the assumption that the most interest white males have in women/non-white…”

  • Matt Clayton

    I honestly can’t argue with you on this one, MAJ.

  • LaSargenta

    Didn’t you get the memo? The Government Organizational Board of Bundling Literary Exegesis (GOBBLE) issued that last year.

  • Matt Clayton

    And I’m honestly befuddled by the horrible Photoshopped jobs on a lot of DVDs, to be honest. It’d be a lot less effort on the studios’ part if they ported over the one-sheet artwork for the home video releases. (99% of the time they’re better than the actual DVD covers anyway.)

  • LaSargenta

    That was interesting.

  • Dan

    I understand the outraged.. Very crappy. However I think they did it from a marketing point. Chris O’dowd is just more recognisable then Jessica Malboy and Co. Making money tops good taste :-(

  • All the bizarre presumptions in your comment.

  • Please read through the other comments. Your presumptions have already been addressed here.

  • Iain_S

    Posters, DVD covers, and trailers are forever
    misrepresenting the content, tone, casting, and even language of films, which
    of course really pisses me off. The cover of THE SAPPHIRES R1 DVD is no
    different; I find it as objectionable as any other wilful misrepresentation.
    However, to make this age old problem suddenly about race and gender is
    troublesome. Why not be up in arms about the prominent DVD cover positions of
    the cameoing trio of Miranda Hart in TWELVE IN A BOX, Bette Davis in PHONE CALL
    FROM A STRANGER, and Marilyn Monroe in LOVE HAPPY, or even about all those
    dialogue-free trailers for foreign language films that are forever entrapping subtitle-phobic
    rubes? Anyway, racist and misogynistic or just plain greedy, Bill Hicks had the
    right idea about people that work in the ethical black hole that is advertising
    and marketing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

  • Danielm80

    I had assumed he was being sarcastic about “content to fill a niche market.” Are you assuming the opposite?

  • Amanda

    Hi, I’ve signed the petition. Thanks for taking the time to address this wrong-ness.

  • David N-T

    My comment about niche markets was made sarcastically, intended in semi-satirical jest. I thought it was rather obvious. *shrug*

  • JonathanMaddox
  • cameronhorsburgh

    Definitely—when white people first came here there were approximately 600 languages being spoken in Australia by distinct people groups. Many of those languages still survive, and more have pidginised with other languages to form new languages.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    The problem isn’t that O’Dowd was foregrounded. It was that the singers were backgrounded.

    These four women are well known in Australia, and certainly better known than Chris O’Dowd. I’d never even heard of him until I saw this movie. By your logic the Australian marketers should have backgrounded him and filtered him for the marketing material here, yet they gave him equal exposure.

    Why is that?

  • cameronhorsburgh

    You have no idea who Jessica Mauboy and Deborah Mailman are? How long ago did you leave Australia? It’s pretty clear you haven’t been here for at least ten years.

  • christine

    Blue – sapphires. Not everything is about being black white or green! Get over it. If you watch the movie you know how wonderful these women are. these women are inspiring people, human beings. if we just stop dividing people into colours people will stop thinking its such a big thing.

  • The Dingo

    OMG. Who are these people? What have they done to The Sapphires?
    You can’t call this marketing. If so, then i suggest the people responsible are hung out to dry. They can not have done their homework on this movie. For if they’d had the slightest idea about its storyline, the reviews, and awards received. There is no way on earth, they would have made the mistake of slapping such a cheesy, B grade, going straight to the bargain bin cover on it. Would you have us think so little of the movie, that we’d fall for covering up an act of sheer ignorance? This has to be the biggest blunder in movie marketing history. At the very least, it stinks of an elitist arrogance. Their attitude towards low budget Australian productions, and the ability of four little known black actresses to carry the movie, has made this a very costly mistake on all fronts.

  • frog

    They changed it to something that will sell. Sorry for you.

  • Josh

    You don’t represent everyone in the world, your logical fallacy is personal experience.
    He’s been in HOLLYWOOD movies, he gives the movie credibility.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    No, but I do know he doesn’t have star power in Australia whilst at least two of the women do. I don’t know anyone here who wanted to see ‘that new Chris O’Dowd movie’ but plenty who wanted to see ‘that movie where Jessica Mauboy is in a girl band with Deb Mailman.’

    Your logic suggests that he should be backgrounded in the Australian marketing material yet he wasn’t.

    Why not?

  • Josh

    And you think I’m being offensive? You’ve made the broad, sweeping statement that Americans (yes, as everyone knows, is the colloquial term for residents of the U.S. of A.) are racist. What an offensive statement to Americans.
    Wow. It’s funny how we like to think how progressive we are while we only gave Aboriginals the right to vote in the late 60s while similar rights were achieved earlier in the United States.
    I’m much more inclined to believe the “washing out” argument – which has happened in the past with O.J. Simpson and Beyonce – who have had their images either darkened or lightened for various media purposes.
    However, just because something is done for money doesn’t mean it has sinister purposes… It might represent an unfair image of the movie but it is by no means AUTOMATICALLY racist. Again, I’ll recall my previous points that similarly, other actors who have had very minimal roles in films have recieved top billing: Brad Pitt in Killing them Softly, Marlon Brando in just about ANY film in the later half of his career. They didn’t jump black people, but whites as well.
    I think you have to sit back and analyse some things first before jumping to a conclusion that it is based on race – that is a serious accusation, as much as it is a serious offence.

  • Josh

    Well, at least you have given me a decent rebuttal. Why doesn’t this have more thumbs up then comments where people jump to call all Americans racist? And yes, people have either misrepresented my arguments before, or twisted them into their own version. E.g.: Marketing that caters to racists and sexists *is* racist and sexist.
    That was in response to me saying why O’Dowd recieved top billing, because he is the biggest star in the film. Note how it has either ignored my point that O’Dowd is the biggest star. Either that or…? What? I’d like someone to explain it to me? Are they denying he’s the biggest star in the film? Do they think it’s racist that he’s appeared in more Hollywood films?
    The fact that if it is a false sense of what the film is about doesn’t make it racist. Call it irresponsible, yada yada yada but honestly, don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s racist. I do agree that it does give a false representation, but is that a crime? Should it be a crime?

  • SandraD

    I agree with you all, how good is a bit of angry feminism. Gah! Like you all when I get sexually frustrated I must vent about how rude men are and not respecting women. This is a prime example. How dare they!

  • We’re not the ones “dividing people into colors.”

  • Well, I was thinking about buying the DVD, but I will not buy it now. It’s that simple. I don’t like seeing movies so misrepresented. Remember Farrah Fawcett in the original movie Logan’s Run? No? She had a teeny, tiny party. When the movie was shown on TV, Charlie’s Angel had become huge so the ad in TV Guide made it look like she was the star of Logan’s Run. Uggh.

  • And, the other funny thing is – because of the way the photo is on the DVD cover, it really doesn’t look that much like Chris O’Dowd. But suddenly a character (a white guy) who was a manager in the movie is made to look like he’s a singer, and the real lead singers (black women) are made to look like back-up singers. Hate that kind of crap.

  • ScottyEnn

    It is, indeed, a bullshit excuse. Sadly, I’m pretty sure that ‘creative’, ‘imaginative’ and ‘advertising’ are words that don’t go together nearly as often as they should.

  • HF

    Actually australian aboriginals are on average light brown – olive unless suntanned – many aboriginal australians are white – to insist that we are black is very very colourist of you

  • I was being facetious, rubbing the not-whiteness of the leading characters in the face of racists who apparently are unable to cope with a story about nonwhite people.

    I thought that was obvious.

  • Speak for yourself. This has nothing to do with sexual frustration on my part.

  • LaSargenta


  • LaSargenta

    Thanks for the link.

  • It wasn’t obvious to me. But thanks for letting me know.

  • singlestick

    Wow. Who knew that my off the cuff remarks would end up online down under. But it is crappy that MAJ and her site was not appropriately sourced. But props that the issue was raised and acknowledged as problematic.

  • Rebecca Healy

    Looks like Cameron beat me to it, from the 600 there are about 60 still spoken today. There is work to encourage Aboriginal children to be bilingual now, historically their languages were forbidden and there was a sustained effort to make them assimilate and reject their history and culture – they were made to feel ashamed of their Aboriginal heritage, so this whitewash could definitely be offensive. This period in history was only a year after the country voted to include them in the census – actual people rather than fauna.

  • Damian Barajas

    You think I was calling you racist? I didn’t.
    (I’ll put aside my own experiences in your country. A place with good people but with a lot of systems in place set to discriminate solely on physical traits.)

    I said that identifying as non racist makes you blind to racism.
    A good argument for this is your defense of the term “American”® while avoiding the obvious implication to privilege I was making.

    “Just because something is done for money doesn’t mean it has sinister purposes…”
    You seem to be saying that having good intentions automatically leads to good actions.
    But we both know that’s a straw man at best.

    It doesn’t matter if its being done for whatever some people call, “good reasons”. What is the effect it has on reality?

    Anyway, answer me this.
    if it was wrong to falsely imply that Brando and Pitt starred in their respective movies, why is it right to put O’Dowd up front in this one?

    Oh, so they’re both wrong?
    Well, this one’s misleading. And racist to boot.

    Wait, its being done for money?
    Oh that makes it all right then.

  • LaSargenta

    …actual people rather than fauna

    Funny you should say that. Here, there’s this entity called the Bureau of Indian Affairs which, despite supposedly being an agency dedicated to administration of treaties with people, is a part of the Department of the Interior which exists to administer “natural resources”. The Bureau of Indian Education is also under the DOI.

  • singlestick

    RE: That was in response to me saying why O’Dowd recieved top billing, because he is the biggest star in the film.

    Again, the point is that you are simply wrong. The original marketing for the film did not place O’Dowd front-and-center. And he is at best a mid-level star in the US, not particularly well known. Yes, more well known than the women actors in the film, but still hardly a well known commodity.

    But it is clearly not about O’Dowd or his filmography, so your question “Do they think it’s racist that he’s appeared in more Hollywood films?” is simply irrelevant. You should also dispense with the hyperbole “should it be a crime?” nonsense. Something can be unethical and distasteful and worthy of condemnation even if it is not criminal.

    You might better have written about the possible desperation in the marketing. “The Sapphires” did well in Australia and was often well reviewed elsewhere, but it failed at the box office in many markets. So, yeah, it is likely that some of the marketing was a last-ditch effort to appeal to people who know O’Dowd. But since the film is specifically about the women and their struggle to find some fame, it is yes, racist, sexist and UNCREATIVE to fall back on the lame misdirection that the marketers have tried here.

  • Sammy

    Let me get this straight snipergirl. You’re basing your comments on the premise that the only deciding factor for people to watch this film is the DVD cover?

  • Sammy

    You might want to improve your writing skills before you think people can “obviously” pick up your “facetiousness”.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You seem to be saying that having good intentions automatically leads to good actions.But we both know that’s a straw man at best.

    Unless you’re Orson Scott Card. Then it’s the basis for a best selling series of science fiction novels.

  • snipergirl

    Let me get this straight Sammy. You’ve never browsed DVDs and had a look at ones you’d never heard of before?

  • snipergirl

    Hear hear1

  • snipergirl

    Agreed. It’s great to see the ‘big two’ sides of the Australian media (Fairfax and NewsLtd) agreeing that this is completely inappropriate marketing and sends completely the wrong message!

    your comment was perfect btw :D

  • snipergirl

    Why not buy an Aussie or UK copy instead and get it imported? It’d be a shame to miss out on owning a movie which has a message that is the opposite of what this particular example of advertising is

  • Karl Morton IV

    Her writing skills are fine. Her awesome use of the compound word “blackety-black” (which I intend to use in conversation once a day from now on) really didn’t tip anyone off?

  • Bluejay

    You might want to improve your reading skills in order to appreciate obvious facetiousness.

  • Would a racist even have noted the problem with this DVD cover in the first place?

  • If people don’t base their decision to watch a DVD on the cover, then why not feature the four black women prominently and shuffle the white man to the background?

  • Sammy

    Of course I have. But I didn’t make my decision to watch it based on the front cover. I read the summary on the back, I look atthe actors, the director, the producers etc. Who would rent/buy a DVD soley based on the front cover??? By the sound of it, you.
    P.S. Any chance you could answer my first question?

  • Sammy

    I’m not disagreeing with the premise of your article MAJ, just some of the rationale behind it.

  • The repetition was a tip-off too, I’d have thought.

  • Mal Bowker

    Maybe if enough people write about this to The Project or A Current Affair etc if might get some national TV time.

  • andrewjgrimm

    Oops – I usually don’t use “America” when referring to the US. Ironically, I probably used it because I’m learning Japanese, and the most common Japanese word for the US is アメリカ (Amerika).

  • Clare O’Reilly

    This is not atypical. Aboriginal people in Australia rarely get press for the positive things that they are doing. My question is what is it about the US and Canadian audiences that they need this type of cover/cover-up?
    Let’s not discuss writing styles as this takes away from the real issue here.

  • Hannah Armstrong

    In Australia, Aboriginal people were “protected” under the ‘Flora and Fauna Act.’ Right up until 1966, the year my mother was born. As well as now being included in census data, we were now Official Citizens in a country our ancestors had walked for tens of thousands of years.
    As other commenters have noted, some state governments have taken a better turn in promoting bilingua, but even that has been largely due to the work of communities and grass-roots groups.

  • DItto! ;->

  • Good point…we have a region 1 DVD player.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Yes, bait-and-switch advertisements for movies have been around almost as long as movies themselves. I still remember a time when I was in grade school when my father took my siblings and me to see what he had thought from the ads to be a nature documentary only to find out that it was a film about the adventures of a big game hunter. For years afterward, he was so mad about having been taken in by the false advertising that he used to say that he would have much rather taken us all to see a bit of outright pornography than a similar movie.

  • Tonio Kruger

    It must be nice to live in a world where Orson Scott Card is the only person who comes to mind when you talk about good intentions automatically leading to good actions. :-)

  • It’s not that the women are Aboriginal that’s considered problematic for American audiences: it’s that they’re not white.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, he’s not the only person who comes to mind, just the one I’ve been thinking about lately. ACtually, the entire Evangelical Christian “Faith > Works” subculture also comes to mind.

  • I remember hearing that some people were confused by a movie called “A Boy and His Dog” back in 1974. While it was clearly rated R, some people would take their kids to it anyway (and, in places, it was a pretty hard R). In that case, it was not a “bait and switch” though. The movie was based on a story by Harlan Ellison, that I think was originally called “Blood’s a Rover.” The new title did fit the movie perfectly, even if it wasn’t a movie for boys.

  • donaldo

    Please. Someone who has starred in Bridesmaids and Friends with Kids is as well known as an Australian soap star and musician and to unknowns?

  • donaldo

    ahem… a white man helped make the group what it is. So reality (no pun intended) reflects the film. The marketing of such simply reinforces all the problems in our culture that still exist.

  • donaldo

    A brilliant voice of reason!

  • donaldo

    That’s also a bullshit take on the advertising industry. Even the synopses on DVD back covers rarely relate to the story. And yes, I work in advertising, it pains me too.

  • donaldo

    Good question. My brother and I both shut our eyes and cover our ears when the trailers come on in the cinema. We don’t read reviews until after seeing a film. I ask friends of course, but don’t let them tell me plot details. Trust your instincts and see who made the thing. That’s usually enough.

  • donaldo

    Attention is.

  • donaldo


  • donaldo

    A goofy looking dude in a retro jacket who is loved or admired by four women in some way. So the movie may be close to that. It is. Three of the women look black, one looks white, just like in the movie (in fact, all three look mixed race). There is no microphone: he is not the lead singer and they are not his back up singers. In fact, there is no singing going on. The movie could be primarily about him: he is the only name mentioned. Flip to the back, you read something about a talent scout finding four singers and taking them to Vietnam after converting them from country and western to soul. Sounds about right? Greyscale, or in this case duotone using blue, cannot hide dark tones in skin colour.

    So after all that, you say, hmm, a movie with that guy from (insert latest thing here) with some Australian chicks, set in the sixties. Sounds like fun/sounds like crap.

    Inherent racism/sexism/famism aside, it’s just a bad cover.

  • LaSargenta

    Have you seen this movie? He is not the main character. He is not central. He is part of an ensemble. He doesn’t even appear until a good 20 min into the film, disappears from it for a bit later.

    And obviously the marketing reinforces the problems that exist. That’s what’s being discussed here.

  • LaSargenta

    Interesting. Looks to me that you’ve praised Dr. R and corrected me above while Dr. R and I are saying slightly different things on the same side of the discussion. Pourquoi?

  • singlestick

    RE: Someone who has starred in Bridesmaids…

    O’Dowd is not the star of “Bridesmaids,” nor does he appear on the cover art for that movie. He is even listed well down before other performers in the IMDB listing of the film.

    But it is not about O’Dowd or the marketer’s attempt to use him as marketing bait. The cover does not simply trade on his supposed greater fame; it is misleading, and makes it appear as though he is the lead singer of the group.

    Here is why the cover is crap: the marketers said, “OK, we have a movie about 4 Aboriginal women singers fighting a’gainst marginalization. So, let’s marginalize them.” This stinks because it is cynical, uncreative, and racist and sexist. And because it violates the spirit of the film that they are trying to sell. So let’s add stupid to everything else.

    And coming back to Bridesmaids. Let’s say that the studios decided that even though John Hamm has only a small role in the film, he should be on the cover of the DVD art because he is more well known than most of the other women actors in the film. Most people would howl because of the sexism and brain dead marketing.

    Same thing with this sorry exercise in crappy marketing for The Sapphires.

  • snipergirl

    The majority of potential buyers in a place like America where there has been very little media coverage of “the Sapphires” would take the following route:

    1) Having never heard of the movie, pick it up while browsing, based on the cover
    2) Read the back to see if they’re interested
    3) Think about buying based on price, cover, blurb, etc

    The problem is this:

    1) The people attracted to the cover are those who think it’s about this guy played by Chris O’Dowd and his backup singers; they’d be very unlikely to be interested in a quirky based on true life Australian movie about Aboriginal women singers going to support the troops
    2) The people who ARE interested in a quirky based on true life Australian movie about Aboriginal women singers going to support the troops would find it an off-putting cover because they think it’s about this guy played by Chris O’Dowd and his backup singers and would never pick it up to read the blurb in the first place.

    In Australia you’d be absolutely right as most people have heard of The Sapphires. In America, not at all.

    This is what I mean by terrible marketing.

  • snipergirl

    He’s come out as saying the cover is vile!

  • Bob Boatman

    I saw this movie with my 23-year old daughter, and we loved it. I wondered as we left, “Is this film going to catch on? I hope so, because it is tremendous, is based on a true story, but sure could use a wider release”…we saw it at the indie theater (The Arbor) in Austin. As far as I know, it didn’t catch on with anyone but the critics.
    Now reading this article, I see the point, but the marketers probably took the best approach. O’Dowd is the only “known” actor in the movie (red hot from “Bridesmaids”). There’s a chance that DVD cover with him, though a bit disleading, will catch more movie-lovers’ attention. Maybe. Otherwise, that movie will sadly go completely unnoticed. And that is unfortunate, because it is a gem… worth 1000 “Lone Rangers”.

    PS O’Dowd is very good in it… but it’s the ladies story, and they are sensational!

  • Bob Boatman

    That’s good logic, but swallow your pride and get it, anyway… it was the feel-good movie of the year, Laurie :)

  • Colin

    not that i agree what they have done, but it is not the first time this type of thing has been done, Mad Max was called the road worrier in the USA to get people to go see it, poor old Bruce Willis wasnt even on the posters for Die Hard

  • blahblah

    yawn , wouldnt even bother to dload a torrent of this rubbish , haha all the PC hand wringing and crying is entertaining though

  • RachyP

    FYI Aboriginals were still classed as “flora & fauna” until 1967. The year before this film is set. Now they’re wallpaper on this US version of the DVD cover it seems. Don’t tell me Australia have come further than the US?

  • Dave

    Whoopi GoldbergVerified account

    saw really great film The
    Sapphires Fantastic performances&singing Chris O’Dowd,Jessica M
    ,Debora M Shari S & Miranda T fabulous
    C THIS!!

    Should we boycot Whoopi for listing Chris first?

  • Are you being a wiseass, or do you have something to contribute to this conversation?

  • Almost everyone has come further than the US in lots of things in recent decades.

  • Yes, those are completely the same thing as what we’re talking about here.

  • This isn’t about the “pride” of the individual purchasing a DVD.

  • Right. I like the movie, I’ve been talking up the movie since i saw it, but I have an intense dislike of this kind of marketing.

  • Turdmon

    Stop it. Just stop MaryAnn. You have too much time on your’re hands.

  • David N-T

    Why don’t you take your own advice?

  • Bluejay

    No one’s forcing you to come here. You’re not interested in her comments? Stop reading.

  • Fionna

    MaryAnn is spending time expressing her opinion and participating in debate on her own website and product. There are worse things one could spend time on. And since some of us enjoy MaryAnn’s opinions (whether or not we agree with them) and appreciate the expression there-of, we’d prefer it if she DIDN’T ‘just stop’.

  • bronxbee

    seems to me you have a lot more and really don’t mind wasting it. at least maryann is using her time for something she sees as wrong and is calling it out. you’re just trolling.

  • Please do not comment here again. You are not welcome.

  • Geoff Latulippe

    This is always the whining excuse of someone having their views challenged. “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!” As if I did that, or I’m someone that has the power to do such a thing. I didn’t and I can’t, so put the straw man to bed.

    Your argument is tenuous at best and ignores the realities of how foreign films are distributed for the home video market. If you’re OK pressing forward knowing that, be my guest. All I’ve suggested is that it’s YOU who’ll be taken less seriously for your efforts. So knock yourself out. I just find it worth calling out people who complain ignorantly about the industry in which I actually work and attempt to ascribe nefarious qualities to otherwise hardworking people. Ditto to the people who think their anecdotal “evidence” (“Hey, I don’t know who Chris O’Dowd is, so that probably means NO ONE DOES!”) somehow gives them any clue about this issue.

    And, just FYI, I HAVE only read one article on your site, and that’s all I’ll ever read. Not only was this rant hackneyed and ill-informed, it was also played off with emotion over common sense and annoyingly written (which is where MY “give me a fucking break” came from – that painfully amateur “dick-washing” line). So my guess is that you’ve got the lockdown on obnoxious, and far be it for me to encroach on your territory.

  • Bluejay

    All I’ve suggested is that it’s YOU who’ll be taken less seriously for your efforts.

    And yet, her article has, attributed or not, been picked up by the newspapers mentioned at the beginning of this post, as well as several others. It has come to the attention of Chris O’Dowd himself, who says the cover is “vile.” And the original Sapphires themselves think the DVD cover is racist.

    So much for people who complain about this issue not being taken seriously. Try again.

  • Geoff LaTulippe

    Try again? I made my point, and you clearly missed it.

  • Bluejay

    Nah, I didn’t miss your point, but you’re the one missing the point made by others.

    the industry in which I actually work … attempt to ascribe nefarious qualities to otherwise hardworking people …

    Ahhh, now it comes out. You’re feeling personally attacked.

    Sometimes actions are racist and sexist in effect even if they aren’t racist or sexist in overt intent. It’s worth pointing out those actions when they happen, and doing what we can to change the underlying cultural attitudes that allow such actions to be seen as normal, acceptable, and inevitable.

    When survivors of racism complain that the movie about their lives is being marketed in a racist manner, perhaps the movie’s marketers shouldn’t dismiss their concerns so glibly and easily.

  • All I’ve suggested is that it’s YOU who’ll be taken less seriously for your efforts.

    Ah, a concern troll. You’re very considerate to be so worried about my reputation.

  • Geoff LaTulippe

    You confuse “being concerned” with “making a point” (confusion seems a preferred state of being on this blog). And to reduce me to a troll rather than to look back at your mess of an argument objectively is…well, it appears to be par for the course around these parts. Not real surprised by any of it, though.

  • Geoff LaTulippe

    Actually, I’m not being attacked at all. I’m…not sure how you got that. The point I was making is that it’s very easy and depressingly lazy for those working outside the bounds of the industry to cast stones at people who are just doing their jobs. You can try to make that into something else if you want, I guess.

    And thank you for the lesson, Professor. I’m quite aware of accidental racism/sexism, and I’m not even remotely arguing your point. What I take issue with is the author’s attempt to accuse a group of people of INTENDED racism/sexism, despite her awkward attempts to obfuscate it.

    But thanks for playing? You guys are running out of talking points, though.

  • Bluejay

    “Just doing their jobs” seems to be your own talking point, and you beat that into the ground quite some time ago. I’m sure you’re aware that “just doing their jobs” is a pretty weak excuse for a lot of things.

  • Classic trolling. A babbling boy who doesn’t use his full name, throws apples (a person’s comments, but who knows if Whoopi really wrote them) when you’re discussing oranges (a marketing campaign for America).

  • applekate

    Chris O’Dowd tweeted his opinion about the DVD cover: “it’s ridiculous, misleading, ill-judged, insensitive and everything the film wasn’t.”

    That pretty much sums it up. So much ugh for this sexist, racist asshattery, and over such a wonderful, heartwarming, funny movie.

  • Ronald

    Do we know who runs the official Facebook page and created that image with Chris front and centre?
    Do we know if the producers supplied the artwork?

  • The Facebook page and the art were likely created by the DVD distributor. I don’t know this for certain, however.

  • dickwashing?

  • I’m black y’all, an I’m black y’all, and I’m backity black blublack black y’all!

  • I follow Chris O’Dowd and if he tweeted this, he didn’t do it from his regular Twitter account.

  • Anchor Bay’s comments were better than nothing.

  • singlestick

    The current episode of the slashfilm podcast (After Dark Episode 238) talks about and ultimately condemns the “dick washing” going on with respect to the Sapphires cover art and gives full credit to Flick Filosopher.


  • Bemused

    Do you people know nothing of America? Its all about the $$$$. Mr. O’Dowd is known in America, the other actors are not.

  • Please read through the other comments before posting something that has already been discussed to death here.

  • Cool.

  • No.

  • maybe later?

  • singlestick

    the web site Jezebel also picked up the story, again, with proper attribution, and has some interesting notes about reaction and followup to the issue of the crappy cover.


    A lot of good conversation sparked by your original posting.

  • I tweeted at Jezebel the day I posted this, and have been checking their site since then to see if they picked it up. They could have had it earlier…

  • Not a chance.

  • applekate

    I got it from Jezebel who got it from here: https://twitter.com/BigBoyler/status/363093898320556032

  • Cass

    It shouldn’t be too embarrassing for Jessica – great performer but her Javanese born Father and Timorese born Mother will also quickly get over it.

  • Larrylongballs

    Not labouring under anything but the facts. Take Hairspray for example. John travolta got top billing and the largest image on the poster. The lead actor is seen down in the left hand corner. Movies market their films on who the biggest names are. It might be shitty, that’s debatable but if the do this to all races and cultures then it is clearly not racist. It is clearly not racist because they are not being singled out because of their skin colour or nationality.

  • Ronald

    It looks like the official twitter account is run by Hopscotch Films, the Australia and presumably first distributor. They may have begun the process of moving Chris to the front. For the record my preferred poster is https://twitter.com/SapphiresFilm/status/217475103091466240/photo/1 – looks like they went for, the more in vogue?, Jessica Mauboy for the Australian release.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You’re still trying to argue that racism is only racism if it’s deliberate, intentional racism? Because that’s wrong. Repeating it isn’t going to make it any less wrong.

    I’m also not sure how you think pointing out another example of sexist, deceptive marketing helps your argument. Do you think that anyone complaining (and a lot of people are complaining, enough that the distributor issued an apology) thinks that this DVD cover represents something that’s never happened before? Oh, no, no, this is just one particularly egregious example of a much bigger problem.

    Also too, you seem to be trying to say that consistently favoring white men over all other races and cultures is somehow not racist. Maybe if you could produce a few examples of marketing that overemphasized the bigger star when said star wasn’t a white man, you could make those last two sentences sound a lot less irredeemably stupid. It’d still be pebbles in the river, but it’d be something.

  • Larrylongballs

    Your reading too much into what I’ve said. My arguments do not resemble your paraphrasing in the slightest. Simple argument. If it can happen to any culture or race and it does happen, then it cannot logically be racist. It’s very simple. Anchor bay are apologising because they want to sell DVDs. It’s PR. nothing more. Also Denzel washington got top billing and an Oscar win for training day when the film was about the training of the Ethan Hawke character. Is that racist?

  • Anne-Kari

    Hey MaryAnn – at least the folks over at Jezebel managed to properly credit AND link to you: http://jezebel.com/the-sapphires-us-dvd-cover-relegates-black-female-stars-1031697027

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m reading exactly what you’re saying. Maybe you’re not thinking it all the way through.

    If it can happen to any culture or race and it does happen

    You have yet to support this assertion.

    it cannot logically be racist.

    That doesn’t follow logically. What does follow is that it’s racist every time it happens.

    Anchor bay are apologising because they want to sell DVDs. It’s PR. nothing more.

    Yeah, there’s no possible way they could have looked at the criticism, realized “Wow, you know what, that is kind of crappy what we did.” Because unusually institutionalized racism and sexism are so obvious that everybody sees them.

    Regarding “Training Day”, First, good, you came up with an example. Well done. Second, major, A-list, international stars negotiating top billing over actors playing ostensibly larger roles is a common film industry phenomenon, and one that is also occasionally fraught with racism and sexism. But that’s not the issue at hand here. The issue here is the visual construction of the marketing art. Now, the art for “Training Day” does present Denzel Washington more prominently Ethan Hawke. So, yes, you could make the argument that the “Training Day” marketing is racist. Significant;y less so than “The Sapphires” example, given that Hawke is only placed behind Washington, nor is either actors’ ethnicity clumsily disguised, nor is the nature of the characters’ relationship misrepresented. But yeah, you could make it. If you ignore the entire concept of institutionalized racism, of course. Otherwise, you might instead see Denzel’s ability to negotiate himself the more prominent role in the marketing of a film in which he has an arguably supporting role, despite being black, as progress. That argument could also be made.

  • What is this supposed to mean?

  • Hopscotch probably has nothing to do with this cover. Anchor Bay is the US DVD distributor.

  • Larrylongballs

    How can you seriously rationalise training day as being racist. It’s simply evidence that skin colour is not relevant to film marketing? However, I do agree with you about them tinting the colour on the DVD cover. Btw, evidence is not proof. Also, there is no need to turn an open discussion into anything personal. Your sarcasm was unnecessary.

  • you got moxie, I like that.
    *moonwalks out the room*

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    How can you seriously rationalise training day as being racist.


    *heavy sigh*

    No one calls out the poster for “Training Day” as racist, even though there is certain degree of deception there, because of context. That same context is what causes the art for “The Sapphires” to be racist and sexist. Chris O-Dowd does not carry remotely same star power of Denzel Washington, and Ethan Hawke does not represent not one, not two, but three historically oppressed groups. Context.

    evidence is not proof

    No, but assertion without evidence is just rhetorical masturbation.

    Your sarcasm was unnecessary.

    Well, Mr Longballs, I was assuming that you were an adult, and could handle a mild sarcastic ribbing. But I’ll be more direct: you, and I mean you personally, are attempting to dismiss the one victory, the one bright spot in this story. I can only assume that you feel the need to do so because Anchor Bay’s public admission of being in the wrong on this is hugely inconvenient to your argument. This is not a winning position to try and stake out. I suggest you rethink it.

  • You’ve reduced yourself to a troll, my son. Resist the urge to have the last word on this and prove otherwise.

    Your arguments are made, and answered. Whether the answers satisfy you is not a metric for winning. You’ve taken a stand here on foreign soil. Now, your points made (so very eloquently), fuck off.

  • Man… @MaryAnnJohanson:disqus can we just disable Guest comments from now on or something?

  • novak84

    it’s monochrome darling monochrome……..”monotone” you are really disrespecting them…….we’ve all tried being a smart arse and failed a few times in our lives.

  • novak84

    “Monotone refers to a sound, for example speech or music, that has a single unvaried tone.” oh hockey sticks!

  • Larrylongballs

    And by that logic the actors who played the sapphires do not have the same star power of Ethan Hawke who had a 16 year career in a range of internationally acclaimed films prior to training day. No, they have no star power at all in the international market. I had never heard of Jessica Malboy, before seeing the promos at the nova last year. Hence why they were in the background of this marketing poster. The colour tinting was unnecessary. I do agree on that.

    And, a friendly ribbing? At what point did we become friends?

  • Ronald

    Possibly. Is offense not taken by all of the changes? Ageist – Sexist – Racist, Either that or non at all I believe.

  • Bluejay

    Try going beyond Wikipedia sometime.

    “Monotone: …Sameness or dull repetition in sound, style, manner, or color … Of or having a single color” – American Heritage Dictionary

    Oh fondue spears!

  • David

    Not sure this is fair criticism, flickfilosopher.

    I mean, the son of one of the original Sapphires – the film’s writer – created a white male main character (who didn’t exist in reality) who teaches these Aboriginal women how to be “black” – i.e. sing soul. He takes their interest in country music – what the Sapphires mostly sang in reality – and makes it “black” by turning them onto soul, which the girls seem totally clueless about before he arrives.

    So why go so aggressively after the video release company – who are simply trying to push the film’s most marketable star (the guy who was in “Bridesmaids”) – when the fault lies in a story that places a fictitious white man in story about four aboriginal women?

    Sure, you’ve made the video company apologise (no company wants to be seen as racist…) – but honestly, is that really fair?

    Why not criticise the film’s producers – or writer for that matter – for having the need to place a fictitious white character front and centre in this movie at all?

  • novak84

    ha ha i didn’t need the dictionary, but quickly posted a copy and paste on the first thing i found. You quote American Heritage Dictionary, ptffffff try the Oxford English Dictionary old chap, much more knowledgeable and trustworthy.

    Here is the definition of MonoChrome, you tell me the best fit.


  • Are you disagreeing with what I’ve written? Or are you trolling for a reaction?

  • Have you seen the film? He is not “front and center.”

  • I have no idea what you’re trying to say here.

  • novak84

    I’m a troll because i point out you should be using Monochrome?

    Anyway, I disagree, PC gone mad. The original DVD cover looks old and dated. There are many DVD covers out there, black actors turned in to monochrome and in the background, is it racist or just a design? Most normal people would have the opinion it is a design, but you would have us believe we are racist………. take a look at these, are you fuming about these, no probably not.




  • Danielm80

    The first two images represent the movies accurately, and black and white characters are given equal prominence.

    The Southland Tales cover is a bizarre and ugly piece of artwork. So, arguably, it represents the movie fairly. But it’s barely in monochrome at all, and the color of Dwayne Johnson’s skin is perfectly obvious.

  • novak84

    sorry i wanted to add a comment to the Dwayne Johnson cover. He is airbrused so much he looks silly, and almost white, also pushed to the back.

    The 2 over covers have black actors in monochrome, no-one is offended.

    The Sapphires cover looks fresh much better than the old one.

    A case of much ado about nothing.

  • novak84

    The Sapphires new cover, i don’t look at it and think, oh look at those white women behind chris whatshisname, just like i don’t look at ice cube or bill cosby and think they look white.

  • Bluejay

    I didn’t say “monochrome” was wrong, or wasn’t the best fit. But “monotone” in reference to color is also accepted usage, something you didn’t acknowledge. (Also, google “monotone color schemes” to see how widely used the term is in interior design, graphic design, etc.)

    Basically you’re trolling MaryAnn for an acceptable vocabulary choice that does the job of conveying her meaning. That would be as trivial as me trolling you for not following proper capitalization or punctuation. But hey, if that floats your little boat, knock yourself out. *shrug*

  • John

    I’m sorry, but this is by far the most dumbest petition that has ever been created by anyone. I fail to understand why such a banal topic gets this much attention over a simple DVD cover that’s neither racist nor sexist in my opinion.

  • David

    Yes, seen the film.

    He’s very much a lead/main character, in just as many scenes as the girls, if not more if you’re talking any single one of them – that’s what I meant by “front and centre,” obviously not in the sense of on-stage performing.

    The point I’m making is that the producers and writer created a white male manager who teaches them how to sing soul which is the key thing they do in the movie. Like… they couldn’t do it without this white guy showing them how to.

    And isn’t that just as much “whitewashing” these women’s story as the DVD box artwork?

    Look, the movie tanked everywhere except Australia – so for the DVD release, Anchor Bay is playing it safe. O’Dowd’s the only bankable star (sort of) so that’s what they went with. To label it racist is to just not understand the reality of them having to try to move DVD’s by yelling “it’s got the guy from Bridesmaids!” Compare it to the “Dreamgirls” (same movie) box art – one of them’s Beyonce. So you show Beyonce, not Eddie or Jamie.

    And… what is “dick-washed” by the way (just noticed it at the top…)? You mean like something male that replaces something female?

  • Bluejay

    The 2 over covers have black actors in monochrome, no-one is offended.

    Because they are still shown as having equal status with the white actors, who are ALSO in monotone/monochrome. ;-) If the black actors remained in the background and in monochrome, while the white actors were pushed up front and shown in full color, would the covers still accurately represent the characters’ relationships and relative importance in those movies?

  • LaSargenta

    He’s very much a lead/main character, in just as many scenes as the
    girls, if not more if you’re talking any single one of them

    Really? He doesn’t turn up until about 20 minutes into the film and even disappears for a while. We don’t know his history, he’s there as a foil for the sisters/cousins and provides the MarySue for one of them to tell us all her history with her cousin. I don’t consider that a lead.

  • novak84

    ice cube is in the background.

  • novak84

    you try being a designer………try and put 5 people on a dvd cover and make it look good. The original was crap and no wonder it got revamped.

  • novak84

    yeah never start a sentence with a conjunction, in this case “BUT”, very lazy. Have that tip for free, knock yourself out, shrug.

  • David

    O’Dowd was awarded “Best Lead Actor” at the Australian Academy Awards (AACTA.)

    His character’s listed first on the film’s imdb and wikipedia pages and everywhere else (Amazon, Rottentomatoes, etc.)?

  • LaSargenta

    How does that change this topic?

  • Bluejay
  • Bluejay

    As I said: trivial. Thanks for proving my point.

  • novak84

    Yeah show me one that looks good.

    I take it you think the new cover is racist?

    If so, we might as well end it here.

  • Calgary Drew

    I would like to poitn out to all of you who say or agree that this cover is “white-washed” and “gender-washed” that in fact you are the racist ones for taking a word that has no race meaning by default, applying a negative connotation to it, and using it to describe a race.

    “White-washed” means “to gloss over or cover up (as vices or crimes) ”

    So my using white-washed, you either mean these ladies were themselves the scandal, or you mean they put white people in their place. One is wrong, one is racist, both are ignorant.

    One can only assume that since “gender-washed” (which is not even a word or term) is used right after white-washed, that you are in fact implying that word means ones race covered over by white people.

    So perhaps before you try and pull the moral card, and claim racism, you can have a look at yourselves.

    Yes perhaps the covers is racist, or gender biased, and I would definitely agree it is inappropriate and belittling. It is not “white-washed” or whitewashed.

    Is Black-washed a word in your vocabulary too? Because it shouldn’t be.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, it’s good thing we have you around to explain these things, isn’t it?

    Hey, everybody, Drew just let us know that we’re the racist ones. We can all go home now.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I fail to understand…

    …in my opinion

    Feel free not to sign it then.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Maybe not a troll, but pedantic for sure.

  • Thanks. This is extremely helpful and enlightening on the matter.

    Oh, wait: No, it itsn’t.

  • Do you seriously believe that racism (and sexism) in the name of making money isn’t racist and sexist?

    Why does it bother you so much that I’ve complained about this? (And yes, you’ve caught on to what “dick-washing” means.)

  • You’re a troll because your comment has nothing whatsoever to do with the matter at hand.

    Yes, when the color of nonwhite actors’ skin is disguised by “just a design,” it’s racist? Why is it so important to you to defend such a thing? How does it serve you to deny racism?

    I am proud not to be “normal.” Thanks for noticing.

  • What “original” cover do you keep referring to?

  • Oh, for fuck’s sake. I am a publishing professional. I have worked professionally in print publishing. Monotone, duotuone, etc, are all terms used in the industry.

  • Unless you start to behave yourself and stick to the topic, you will not be welcome here. Shape up or ship out.

  • David


    Your opinion was that O’Dowd wasn’t a lead, but evidence proves otherwise.

  • Bluejay

    At first I thought he was talking about how “whitewashed” is also a derogatory term used by some to refer to nonwhite people who are “ashamed of their culture” or “acting white,” whatever that means. But that doesn’t seem to be what he’s after. And it should be blindingly obvious that that’s not the meaning of “whitewashed” being employed in this thread.

  • David

    To be very specific (as you keep sidestepping it) – I’m asking you why – in a discussion of racism in regards to this film – it doesn’t bother you that the filmmakers created a fictitious white male character to teach these aboriginal women how to both sing soul and be “black.”

    Look, racism and sexism need to be called when it’s appropriate – I’m just saying how does it make any sense in this case?

    Let’s be absolutely clear and set aside the hyperbole. It’s a movie ABOUT four women of colour – that’s in the logline of the movie – how on earth does it serve Anchor Bay to try to erase that? By trying to infer that the women were actually white? It makes no sense.

    The reason it “bothers” me is that there is SO much racism and sexism out there, but it distracts and denigrates the true seriousness of it when blog posts like yours point that finger when even upon a cursory examination this is a (yes, callously) commercial decision to go with the bigger star to make money, not driven by racism or sexism.

    The fact that he’s white and male makes no difference in this particular case. Ten years ago, if Whoopie Goldberg was in a movie playing the manager of a white male group played by unknowns, who would be the focus up front in the cover art like O’Dowd? Be honest.

    And dick-washing… just… doesn’t have the same ring to it as whitewashing. It sort of just brings to mind the use of soap…

  • Danielm80

    To be very specific (as you keep sidestepping it) – I’m asking you why – in a discussion of racism in regards to this film – it doesn’t bother you that the filmmakers created a fictitious white male character to teach these aboriginal women how to both sing soul and be “black.”

    That’s a perfectly reasonable question, and a legitimate criticism of the film. But you also said:

    So why go so aggressively after the video release company – who are simply trying to push the film’s most marketable star (the guy who was in “Bridesmaids”) – when the fault lies in a story that places a fictitious white man in story about four aboriginal women?

    Your argument appears to be: The film is racist, so it’s unfair to complain that the DVD cover is racist.

    I would understand if you were making a slightly different point: If someone complains about the marketing, then for consistency’s sake, she ought to complain about the film as well.

    Instead, you seem to be saying that MaryAnn has no right to be upset about the DVD cover. You seem to be saying: It’s just marketing. They only did it for the money, so everything’s okay.

    And maybe that’s not what you meant to say, but it certainly comes across that way. It sounds as though you’re dismissing MaryAnn’s well-justified anger, and that’s why some of us object to your comment.

  • David

    No one seems to want to touch this very prickly question, do they? You are dancing around it also.

    So I will clearly state the subtext of your response, and Mary Ann’s also:

    “In the true story of a singing group composed of women of colour, I don’t have a problem with the creation of a fictitious white male character who teaches them how to sing soul and “be black””

    Please correct this statement if it does not precisely represent your view.

    The two issues – the creation of this fictitious white character and the character’s depiction on the box art – are not unrelated as you appear to suggest.

  • singlestick

    RE: O’Dowd was awarded “Best Lead Actor” at the Australian Academy Awards (AACTA.)

    You failed to note that Jessica Mauboy won Best Supporting Actress, and that Deborah Mailman won Best Lead Actress at the AACTA. Why the omission?

    So, even by your own “evidence,” the women should be featured more prominently on the DVD cover.

    And oh, yeah, Deborah Mailman is the first Aboriginal actress to win the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

  • David

    Please fully read comments before posting a response.

    My comment was in response to another poster who stated that O’Dowd was not a main character. I mentioned the award as proof that he was.

    I was obviously not diminishing the female leads in any way by doing that, nor claiming they were not leads in the movie.

  • Danielm80

    “In the true story of a singing group composed of women of colour, I don’t have a problem with the creation of a fictitious white male character who teaches them how to sing soul and “be black””

    That’s just about the opposite of what I wrote. I said that your criticism of the film was legitimate.

    But even if you hadn’t distorted my comment, I would still have trouble following your logic. Why isn’t it possible to object to the film (or one aspect of it) and also object to the cover of the DVD?

  • David

    I apologise for distorting your comment, so let’s start again to clear this up.

    To clarify – you consider that aspect of the film to be racist (i.e. the creation of a fictitious white male lead character to teach the based-on-fact women of colour to sing soul and “be black”) AND you consider the DVD box art racist, but you don’t consider these two things as linked in any way?

  • Ronald

    just chatting really but I’ll focus…
    Do you think the first design change was ageist? Would it bother you if it was?
    Did you know about the Cannes image before you wrote your article?
    assumptions seem to have been made in assigning guilt. I think you
    need to find out what Hopscotch were responsible for and maybe revise
    your accusations against Anchor Bay.

    Don’t feel obliged to answer any of this I’m sure you’ve got other things to do.

  • Danielm80

    I think that the DVD artwork misrepresents the film. If the film is also problematic, in a different way, that’s a separate issue, though perhaps worthy of discussion.

    My question–which you still haven’t answered–is: If you the film is problematic, and the artwork is also problematic, then why is it fair to criticize one but not the other?

  • David

    See how we’re trading questions, let me turn that around on you (ha!) – Why simply say the DVD box art is racist without discussing – AT ALL – the key factor that set it in motion?

    “also problematic” “worthy of discussion”? These are weak, gloss-over-it words, right?

    On the one hand we get screams of whitewashing and ball-washing (oh, I mean dick-washing – Mary Ann’s term still gets me all in lather) and “CNN didn’t cite me!” yet on the other hand, we refuse to even acknowledge the elephant in the room…

    That had the producers/writer of the film not chosen to create a major fictitious white character to teach these real-life women to sing soul, the box art could never have been what it was.

    You create that character (let’s see a story of colour through a white surrogate character!) and then you cast that actor – AND you have an understanding about the way the film business works – and 100% inevitably… you get that DVD box art.

    Get where I’m coming from?

    Now… anyone want to discuss this racist aspect of the film? Anyone? It’s a white guy teaching women of colour to sing soul… c’mon! Mary Ann? I dare you! Anyone?! (insert sound of crickets…)

  • Danielm80

    I don’t think it’s inevitable at all. Predictable maybe. Marketers often misrepresent a film. That doesn’t mean we have no right to challenge them. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we should excuse them by saying they’re just doing their job.

  • Ronald

    Why then is Jessica ‘front & centre’ and not Deb? Was that a marketing decision? If so why doesn’t anyone here have a problem with that?

  • David

    Just so it’s very clear, please answer yes or no to this question:

    Is the creation of a fictitious white male character who teaches these women of colour to sing soul and “be black” a racist addition to this true story?

  • Danielm80

    I feel as though you’re asking the question in order to set up a bizarre and misleading argument. If I say that the film is racist, then you can say: The DVD cover is a fair representation of the horribly racist film that was being promoted. And I don’t believe that. I think the cover distorts the film rather badly.

    I do think that one particular aspect of the film is racist, whether the filmmakers intended it that way or not. But I think that the film as a whole is clearly not racist–it’s very much the opposite–and any criticism has to be seen in that context. The overall tone and message are tremendously empowering, and the promotional artwork should reflect that.

    You can criticize the film for its flaws. You should. But the DVD cover is still a terrible piece of marketing. I think that’s worth criticizing as well. I’m confused as to why you don’t.

  • Rebecca Healy

    yes, the women were not ‘glossed over’ or ‘covered’ in any way at all.
    You show your own prejudice by assuming that anyone thought that it referred to the colour of the women’s skin.

  • I don’t have a problem with the film. I thought that was obvious. I wasn’t “sidestepping” anything.

  • “In the true story of a singing group composed of women of colour, I don’t have a problem with the creation of a fictitious white male character who teaches them how to sing soul and “be black””

    That is your interpretation of the film, not mine. I don’t see any issues with the film itself. The women are also amalgams of real people. That’s also not a problem.

    The film highlights racism and sexism in the 1960s in Australia (and among the U.S. Army, too, in a few places). I’m fine with how it does that.

  • (oh, I mean dick-washing – Mary Ann’s term still gets me all in lather)

    Good. It’s meant to be shocking.

  • We have answered your question, even though it’s a dishonest one. Let it go.

  • David

    Yeah, but it’s not really “shocking” though. It’s just sort of dirty in a juvenile way, something a high school boy would come up with… you know, a cross between “not that clever” and “kind of creepy” but gets a reaction nonetheless?

    Let’s just say you’re not heading to the New Yorker any time soon with that one.

  • David

    Be specific – HOW is it a dishonest question exactly? Be truthful, Mary Ann – don’t evade this. It’s what the producers created and inserted into a true women of colour story.

    And no, you didn’t answer it. You didn’t because you loved the movie and it has a major racist aspect (that you totally missed because of your tapping toes) and you can’t acknowledge that because you’ve now put yourself out there in the media as a sort “racist whistleblower” with the video box art thing. You got your citations from a couple of news outlets and you can’t blow this now by criticising the movie you’re defending it from those racist/sexist video box people.

    You couldn’t acknowledge it even if you wanted to – you hands are tied here. That’s the truth.

    And “Let it go”? That sounds awfully, awfully weak doesn’t it? It sounds a whole lot like “you have a point and I’m just going to mock you, do a little blogspeak and hope you go away.” Right?

  • David

    Just so we get past this bogus “interpretation” thing, and so we are both on the same page here –

    In the film, “The Sapphires”, a white male manager (a person who didn’t exist in reality, created by the filmmakers) teaches the women of colour (composites of the real-life Sapphires) how to sing soul and in many ways how to “be black” by discussing the African American origins of soul music.

    Correct me if I’m wrong – “interpretations” aside, this is literally what happens in the movie, right? Just so our memories are clear.

  • I object to your “how to ‘be black'” stuff. So, no, I don’t think that’s “literally what happens.”

    I have said everything I have to say on this. Drop it.

    If you have a problem with this, perhaps you should take it up with the screenwriter.

  • You crush me.

  • You couldn’t acknowledge it even if you wanted to – you hands are tied here. That’s the truth.

    You are now invited to leave this forum.

  • Calgary Drew

    Why use the word gender-washed right after white-washed if it wasn’t mean as a descriptor of what was “washed”?
    Also whitewashed in the real meaning, means, something that was bad, was made to look good. So saying they were whitewashed means they are bad, but now they look good. Just pure ignorance to the meaning of the word.

  • Calgary Drew

    There is only one meaning of whitewashed, and that was my point.
    Not only was it used wrong, since the people portrayed were not a negative, covered with a nice clean coat to make them seem good, but then it was intermingled with a new word “gender-washed”.
    If whitewashed, to the author, didn’t mean something about their race, why did they need to say gender washed too, would whitewashed (used incorrectly as a simple glossing over) not be suffice for both their race being played down as well as their gender?

    CLEARY to any educated intelligent person, using the two terms together with an “and” between them means they are different words, describing two adjectives for a similar action… ei. “white-ified”, and “gender-ified”

  • Calgary Drew

    You are, if you think white-washed means making minorities look white. And if you use the made up word, gender-washed or this blog writes even more crass Dick-washed, along with white washed, in this context, there could be no other interpretation.

    If you read what I wrote, you’ll see I was making that same point. The url of this blog is racist.

    Dick-washed? what does that mean? Women played down by the covering up with men?
    Or did this blog author just witness anchor bay washing a dick? ‘Cause if she said I stand corrected.

    But if she is saying what seems obvious, then she is also taking a word, “whitewashed” and using it negative way other than it’s meaning and applying it to race.

    Using “whitewashed” would have sufficed, albeit ignorant to actual meaning of whitewashed, and wrong.

  • Danielm80

    You might try Googling the phrases “play on words” and “intentional irony.”

  • Do you really need this explained to you?

    The DVD cover whitewashes the film in making it look like a white person is the subject of it, and it dick-washes the film in making it look like it’s about a man.

    “Whitewash” has *absolutely* been used in this sense before, by many other writers on pop culture.

    As far as I’m aware, I coined “dick-washing,” which is clearly a gender-based variant on the same concept.

    It’s called poetic license, and I am not interested in debating vocabulary with you.

  • There is NOT “only one meaning of whitewashed.”

  • You are, if you think white-washed means making minorities look white.

    That IS what it means, and many others have used it. Is IS a negative term, but it is NOT negative toward nonwhite people.

    Please stop now.

  • Bluejay

    Buddy, new words are invented all the time. And existing words pick up new meanings all the time. This is how language works.

  • Bluejay

    Now you’re coming across as a bully. You’ve made your argument, several times. MaryAnn has made it clear that she disagrees with you, and that she’s said all she has to say. You could walk away and let your argument stand on its strengths, whatever they are. Let people upvote or downvote it as they wish. But you just HAVE to keep pushing her on it until you “win.” Admit it, the only thing that would satisfy you is if she said, “David, you’re right about everything you said, and I was wrong about everything I said. I take it all back.” Right? Be honest. Don’t evade this.

    You’re an insecure guy who isn’t content to make his point and move on. You desperately crave the affirmation and agreement of others. That’s the truth.

    Oh, and if it feels like I’m trying to read your mind and put words in your mouth, tough. You dish it out, you gotta take it.

  • Bluejay

    Yeah, but it’s not really “shocking” though.

    And yet you’ve mentioned it three times in three separate comments, so clearly the term is bugging you and you just can’t stop thinking about it.


  • Right? Be honest. Don’t evade this.

    Well, he’s blocked now, so he won’t be able to respond.

  • Bluejay

    I suppose he could always get a new Disqus account and come back to cry “censorship!” or “I agree with David!” or somesuch. But I’m sure he’d find that too sad and pathetic to even attempt.

  • Rebecca Healy

    No. Whitewashed means – among other things -anything used to ‘cover up or gloss over faults errors or wrongdoings’ as previously mentioned. It does not mean something bad is made to look good.

    And, if by the real meaning you mean the original meaning, it originally referred to white or chalked lime paint used to make something seem clean and of uniform appearance. It does not mean the object to be covered was inherently bad.

    It’s not a difficult word, your explanation of the meaning is extremely patronising and your interpretation is actually completely wrong, because nobody suggested the women were a scandal, and there is no interpretation of the word which indicates that white people were put in their place. I don’t even understand how you go to that.

    Suggesting the cover is white-washed DOES fit, as as a decision was made by the distributor to ‘improve’ the original picture by COVERING or GLOSSING over the original.

    Plus, white-washed does not mean the object covered was white, it is what was used to cover the object.

    You have to let go of the gender-washed thing, it is irrelevant and I can’t even see where it has been used. It’s a non word.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yeah, yeah, we all get it. You’re trying to play a variation on the “Everyone who points out racism is racist” gambit. And you’re doing it in a particularly pedantic, condescending, and dickish way. You must be very proud.

    To borrow a phrase: a dictionary is descriptive, not proscriptive.

  • David
  • LaSargenta

    Any comments to go with the link?

  • David

    This image looks to pre-date the blue version. It may have begun the ‘Dick Washing’ – and if so EW should by in Mary’s sights. Mary might like to contact the author for comment – both on the image used in EW and it’s potential influence on the DVD cover.

  • That’s a poster for the theatrical release. There are many images connected to this movie used to promote it in various regions and created by different companies

    That image was certainly NOT created by EW, so why hell would EW be in “Mary’s” sights… whoever the hell “Mary” is?

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