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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Isle of Dogs movie review: a breed apart, or a breed too far?

Isle of Dogs green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Absolutely delightful and utterly original, with its lovingly crafted stop-motion animation bursting with sweetness but also with a winking mockery. I have just a few caveats…tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love Wes Anderson’s films
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

I confess: the first thing I thought at the end of Isle of Dogs is, “What an absolutely delightful and utterly original movie!” I was bothered by some very unoriginal narrowness of the female characters: the only female dogs with any significant presence in the film are defined solely as the mates of the male dogs; the male dogs are, of course, drawn as varied and complex characters, and this is very much their story alone. But I was willing to overlook that — though it still chafes — because the movie on the whole is so deliciously odd and manages to pull off the rare feat of being funny and sad at the same time. This isn’t a movie that it feels like we’ve seen a thousand times before — or even once before! — not in its story and not in what it literally looks like, with its lovingly crafted stop-motion animation bursting with sweetness but also constantly poking at itself with a winking mockery. I can forgive a lot with a movie that genuinely surprises me, as this one did.

But was I overlooking stuff that I shouldn’t forgive? My screening took place before the release of the film on either side of the Atlantic, but there had been festival screenings, and critics and film lovers were beginning to talk about the movie, and beginning to talk in particular about whether writer-director Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox) has engaged in unseemly appropriation of Japanese culture. In fact, we’ve been talking about this since the prerelease publicity started and we saw how many white Western actors Anderson had voice-cast for his cartoon set in Japan. So I knew this conversation was happening. Even if I hadn’t, I’d have had to be a blind ignoramus not to know that I was heading onto uncertain ground with a movie set in Japan and steeped in Japanese culture (and pop culture) and iconography told by a white American.

Oh, the existential terror of being a dog without his master...

Oh, the existential terror of being a dog without his master…

So, is Isle of Dogs problematic? Has Anderson overstepped what he should have seen as his rightful bounds and blundered into a tricky situation that he could have and should have avoided? Is Isle of Dogs offensive? Is it racist? I… I don’t know. The only criticism on this front that I have any confidence in offering is that the only human character with any meaningful presence in the film is a white American foreign-exchange student (voiced by Greta Gerwig: 20th Century Women, Mistress America) who has a tinge — though just a tinge — of the awful white savior trope about her. But the rest of it? To me, Isle of Dogs looks like an affectionate homage to Japanese pop culture from anime to monster movies. It looks like a respectful celebration of Japanese culture… though maybe it’s only the trappings of that culture that are on display, and maybe there’s nothing respectful in that. Maybe Isle of Dogs is utilizing the Japanese setting merely for its exoticism. I fully admit that that exoticism does appeal to me. Is it okay to enjoy such exoticism as long as you don’t mistake it for true appreciation or understanding?

I don’t know.

Has Wes Anderson engaged in unseemly appropriation of Japanese culture? I honestly don’t know.
tweet

I do know that I love how Anderson — with his cowriters Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited, CQ), Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited), and Kunichi Nomura — has created a love letter to dogs and their relationship with humans from the dogs’ perspective, and what happens when dogs are separated from their beloved and pampering humans. What’s more, he uses the fact that most of his Western audience won’t understand the language the humans are speaking to enhance that dog’s-eye view. You see, most of the Japanese dialogue is not translated or subtitled: the people speak Japanese, and the dogs’ language is rendered for our ears as English. So the dogs don’t understand what the people are saying, for the most part, any more than we do. (In a few instances, a few setting-the-stage scenes that don’t feature the dogs, an interpreter [the voice of Frances McDormand: Hail, Caesar!, Promised Land] translates the humans’ speech for our benefit. It’s like something we might have seen in a 1950s Godzilla movie brought over to America and rejiggered for an English-speaking audience.)

The search for Spots...

The search for Spots…

The dogs are on their own because, “20 years in the future” in “the city of Megasaki,” mean Mayor Kobayashi (the voice of Nomura: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Lost in Translation) has ordered all the animals exiled to “Trash Island” after outbreaks of “dog flu” and “snout fever.” But then 12-year-old Atari (the voice of Koyu Rankin), the mayor’s ward, sneaks onto the island to try to find his dog Spots, who had been the first to be expelled from the city. (Atari? Really? It is actually a word in Japanese, and sometimes a name, it seems, but I’m sure Anderson et al picked it for its Western connotation.) There, he meets the pack led by gruff Chief (the voice of Bryan Cranston: The Disaster Artist, Wakefield), a proud stray who doesn’t “believe in masters,” and his pals Rex (the voice of Edward Norton: Collateral Beauty, Birdman), King (the voice of Bob Balaban: The Monuments Men, Fading Gigolo), Boss (the voice of Bill Murray: Ghostbusters, Rock the Kasbah), and Duke (the voice of Jeff Goldblum: Thor: Ragnarok, Independence Day: Resurgence). The dogs are able to get the gist of what Atari is after — he has a photo of Spots — and they agree to help him. Because they remember and miss their masters. (Chief’s love interest is Nutmeg, voiced by Scarlett Johansson [Ghost in the Shell, Sing]; the other lady-love dog doesn’t speak, which is even more troublesome. Tilda Swinton [Doctor Strange, Trainwreck] voices the mysterious dog Oracle, whom Chief and his pals consult in the search for Spots, but she appears only very briefly.)

Could Wes Anderson have achieved the marvel he achieves here without the Japanese setting? Probably.
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Not a spoiler: Chief may just come to appreciate the joys of being a boy’s dog. *happy sniff*

Could Wes Anderson have achieved the marvel he achieves here without the Japanese setting? Probably. (The humans could have spoken in an invented language, for one thing.) The joys of this film are many, and that appealing exoticism is but a very small part of it. Just listening to the cast of Anderson regulars with their very distinctive voices and personalities gone doggy is huge fun. There’s a surprising tenderness to the animation (and sometimes a clunking goofiness), and an empathetic expressiveness to the dogs’ faces and body language: this movie is one of those examples of animation being truer than live-action. I won’t apologize for loving this movie, but I wish I didn’t have to feel like maybe I should.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.


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Isle of Dogs (2018) | directed by Wes Anderson
US/Can release: Mar 23 2018
UK/Ire release: Mar 30 2018

MPAA: rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images
BBFC: rated PG (mild threat, violence, language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card (now updated for 2017’s trolls!) you might want to reconsider.

  • It’s been noted elsewhere – I need to find the article – that in Wes Anderson movies the women characters do not get any deep characterization compared to the main male characters (one or more wounded souls – brothers or a Band of Brothers – looking for redemption in a flawed manufactured world). That for even important, effective characters like Margot in Royal Tenenbaums they are defined by their relationships to the men. Granted, from the movies I’ve watched – not all of them – the women are still intelligent, insightful, powerful in their own rights (and there are a lot of them, there’s rarely a Smurfette situation in what I’ve seen), they’re still satellite characters within the story.

  • Doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.

  • WE KNOW

    You’re not wrong.

    Anderson’s films can rub people the wrong way, for many different reasons. Just the quirk factor can get to you. Sometimes it’s too much and it becomes irritating. But if you stay with the movie, you get over it, sometimes. Sometimes you don’t, and you just say, well, that’s a part of this Wes Anderson movie I don’t like.

    The way he deals with women in his movies is also a bit limited, maybe. Some people might get tripped up on that, or feel left out. I think it’s a bit of a weakness. In his defense, maybe he shouldn’t try to do things he’s not inspired to do. Also in his defense, as the previous comment said, Anderson does make the female roles interesting. It’s not all bad. And I don’t think it would be better if he picked his cast and characters based on what a diversity committee told him would sell to the public.

    Maybe Wes Anderson makes movies that are narrow in certain ways, and you have to say, well, okay, that’s what we’re dealing with. What does he do with it?

    Since you brought it up, the cultural appropriation thing, I think Wes Anderson is on the autistic spectrum or something. He’s obsessive about details on a level very few people are. And maybe he leaves some important details out. But that doesn’t make him a bad person. It doesn’t mean he’s looking for trouble.

    And the other thing about cultural appropriation is that as a film nerd he sees everything through the lens of classic cinema. When he says in interviews that the Japan of Isle of Dogs is built out of Japanese cinema, he’s not joking. Is he appropriating that? Yes, but Japanese cinema also appropriates from American cinema. We have all heard of the remix. Well, Wes Anderson remixes cinema, and it’s a real, hidden treat for serious film buffs to discover his unusual quotations which offer all kinds of insights.

    So it’s a fictional Japan appropriated from Japanese cinema. It’s definitely not racism, even if there are some awkward moments where you might go, oh, Wes, why this? No.

    Like why did Anderson put a map of Mexico on the side of Agatha’s face in The Grand Budapest Hotel? It’s so bizarre and you just have to swallow it and decide to move on. Unless you enjoyed it.

    Isle of Dogs is a film about people being excluded, and it’s a bit sad if people feel excluded from that. But I also think a lot of the controversy is manufactured to get clicks.

    All I can suggest is that people accept it for what it is, enjoy it for what it is, learn something from the master, and maybe make their own movies that fit their world better.

    We don’t have to tear each other down.

  • Danielm80

    Wes Anderson isn’t locked away in a tower. If enough people complain that his films are twee or repetitive or culturally insensitive, he may reconsider the way he makes his movies.

    Granted, he’s shown no sign of doing this so far—and I admire some of his films precisely because they’re so gloriously bonkers—but that doesn’t mean that we have to passively accept his every quirk just because he’s often brilliant. Art is part of a cultural conversation. If women and minorities feel that the films about them don’t represent their actual lives, it’s important that they speak up, so that our culture can change. And even if people are just complaining about a movie they don’t like, because a director has gotten too self-indulgent for his own good, that’s important, too. Sometimes it leads to better art, which is kind of the point of film criticism.

  • Bluejay

    Here’s a perspective on the race and othering issues in the film.

    https://mashable.com/2018/03/23/isle-of-dogs-japanese-culture/#AmcnnyFmOZqu

    And if it turns out that Japanese people in Japan have no problem with how the film depicts them, there’s this.

    http://www.yomyomf.com/i-dont-care-if-asians-in-asia-arent-offended-by-offensive-asian-portrayals-in-hollywood-movies/

  • Bluejay

    And here’s a really thoughtful take from Marc Bernardin. I like his two bits of advice at the end: “do the work” and “don’t be a strip-miner.”

    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/isle-dogs-is-cultural-appropriation-hollywoods-next-big-battleground-1098228

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    I can’t believe that people are railing against a sweet Wes Anderson movie when there are seriously so many real sociopolitical issues to worry about. We can get the Democratic congress we need in 2018 OR we can attack movies for harmless “cultural appropriation” and be The oversensitive, authoritarian fun police and alienate countless allies. It’s a zero sum game. Whether it’s because of intersectionality or Christianity, being told you’re a bad person for liking Game of Thrones or Doctor Strange makes you feel horrible, even if one has more basis in reality than the other.

  • Bluejay

    It’s a zero sum game.

    No, it isn’t. We can critique movies and still march for gun control and black lives and turn out the vote for November 2018. We have big primate brains, you know.

    being told you’re a bad person for liking Game of Thrones or Doctor Strange makes you feel horrible

    I like both GoT and DS, but the critiques they get are valid. We can like problematic things while being aware that they’re problematic. But if you feel horrible because people are pointing out flaws in the thing you like, maybe the mature thing to do is reconsider your opinion and acknowledge the perspective of others, rather than stamp your foot and shout at the mean critics for spoiling your oblivious fun.

  • Bluejay

    The oversensitive, authoritarian fun police and alienate countless allies

    And if you say you don’t care that women are objectified or minorities are whitewashed/otherized in your entertainment, then aren’t you alienating YOUR allies? Why do their concerns matter less than your fun?

  • Danielm80
  • Bluejay

    Your link doesn’t seem to work, but here’s a fixed one that does. Thanks for pointing me to it.

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    It’s people attacking me as a person for liking things that bothers me. It’s self-righteous and authoritarian and alienating. It’s like when someone said the only reason my favorite band (Radiohead) is famous was due to white privilege and identity politics makes “Bodak Yellow” an objectively better song than “Karma Police”. And it’s not like movies can’t be offensive (i.e. God’s Not Dead) but our generation has gotten so humorless, whiny and self-righteous. When did anyone on the left start wanting to censor art? “Problematic” is the new “Too Mainstream” except emphasizing one’s moral superiority rather than intellectual superiority– and it’s much harder to counter or brush off. And this holier-than-thou BS WILL affect the vote. People who aren’t as politically active as I am look at this new line of thinking and see something not dissimilar from when religious freaks tried to ban Harry Potter. People are going to associate the party I fight for with whiny, self-righteous assholes who whine about how corruptive pop culture is, not see themselves on either end of the horseshoe in an increasingly polarized society, not see what the Democratic Party really is and not vote. The more we talk down to people about how “harmful” sweet Wes Anderson movies with dogs are, especially when serious issues are happening at the exact same time, the fewer people will take us seriously. This is the WORST possible time to start a culture war like a whiny Evangelical. This isn’t what matters. Shut up and let people have fun and don’t tell them you’re right and they’re wrong. IT’S SO EASY!

    I’m a milennial but I feel stuck in 2013 (I’ll always love Doctor Who and The Hunger Games!). Millennials used to (until 2015, I think) be fun, creative people who cosplayed and shared our fan art. What happened to us?

    “We had it all. WE WERE SO BEAUTIFUL!”

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    It IS important that everyone gets represented on film, and done well. And the more great movies about women (The Hunger Games) and minorities (Black Panther) and woman minorities (where the Hell is my Mako Mori movie?!) that get made, the more open the door will be for everyone to be able to make a great movie about people like them regardless of what they look like. We also need auteurs to be able to tell the stories they want to tell and not impinge of anyone’s creative vision. Silencing voices like Wes Anderson will be harmful as well. A world without auteurs will mean more art by committee and will hurt everyone’s movies. If Wes Anderson can’t tell the story he wants to tell, what’s to stop other filmmakers from around the world not being allowed to either?

  • Bluejay

    where’s my Mako Mori movie?!

    It’s called Pacific Rim: Uprising, and if you’ve seen it, then you know how terribly they treated her character. So is it okay to complain about that, or are we ruining the fun of everyone else who enjoyed the movie?

    Silencing voices like Wes Anderson

    Nobody. Is. Silencing. Wes. Anderson.

    But. Wes. Anderson, Is. Not. Exempt. From. Criticism.

    You keep wanting to make it about censorship, but this is about cultural dialogue. Anderson will make whatever films he wants to make, and no one can stop him. His fans will go see those movies, and no one can stop them. No one is even TRYING to stop them. But people who have problems with his movies ALSO have a right to speak, and to point them out. Why can’t you deal with others’ dissenting opinions? Stop being such a sensitive snowflake.

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    I can just imagine a dystopian future where artists who make mistakes or offend someone get strung up and their work is burned. This is a goddamn slippery slope. If we ban V For Vendetta or mother! or Baby Driver or Edge of Tomorrow or Misfits or whatever is upsetting a vocal few oversensitive people and say that people are no longer allowed to tell the stories they want because some people’s feelings get hurt and censor people’s creativity then WHAT DOES THAT MAKE US? Oh, and if you’re worried about “cultural appropriation” while innocents are being murdered by our law enforcement because of the color of their skin, you should check your privilege, you hypocrite.

    You’re not a bluejay. Bluejays are nice and bring joy. You take joy away. You’re a shrike.

    “To take away our expression is to impoverish our existence!” -Enter Shikari

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    I was absolutely pissed at Pacific Rim: Uprising. But that has nothing to do with here nor there. Pacific Rim was a work of singular creativity and Uprising was art by committee. Also I have friends who like Uprising and I told them my issues while sitting at their level. I didn’t climb up a mountain and scream that they’re wrong and evil.

  • Bluejay

    When did anyone on the left start wanting to censor art?

    So is the left shutting down movie theaters and taking paintings off museum walls? TALKING about art, including its flaws and issues, is NOT CENSORSHIP.

    “Problematic” is the new “Too Mainstream” except emphasizing one’s moral superiority rather than intellectual superiority

    Translation: “I like what I like, and if others point out problems with what I like, and I feel bad about liking it, then it’s THEIR fault. It’s never MY fault for never even considering that they may have a point or a valid (if different) point of view.”

    People are going to associate the party I fight for with whiny, self-righteous assholes who whine about how corruptive pop culture is

    Which “people” are going to think this? Because if we fight for pop culture to treat women/LGBTQ/minorities better, I bet THOSE people would feel good about a party that cares about them. Unless, of course, those aren’t the people you’re talking about.

  • Bluejay

    What a killjoy you are! Lots of people enjoyed PR:U! Stop ruining their fun and making them feel bad for liking it!

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    I want those things too but telling people that like Isle of Dogs that they are racists won’t do that. AND it takes away the horrors of actual racists.

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    I’m not. We just had a conversation where we both admitted that the other opinions were valid.

  • Bluejay

    So criticizing art = burning artists? You’re criticizing my comments; does that mean you’re going to come to my house with a torch?

    if you’re worried about “cultural appropriation” while innocents are being murdered by our law enforcement because of the color of their skin, you should check your privilege, you hypocrite.

    I can be worried about both, to the degree appropriate to each. If you’re getting treatment for cancer, does that mean you shouldn’t try to take medicine for your cough?

    And by the way, media representation is ABSOLUTELY related to the treatment of real people. Cops murder black people because they see them as a threat, and a significant reason is that we have been RAISED to see black people as threats by our media. Same with women and sexism; we treat women badly partly because our STORIES keep showing us women being treated badly. These problems are connected, and pushing for a solution to one will HELP in finding a solution to the other.

    Shrikes are badass, and Shrike is one of my favorite characters in YA lit. So thank you.

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    Fandom is dead. Long live identity politics.

  • Bluejay

    No one is telling you you’re a racist for liking Isle of Dogs. They’re saying the film has some PROBLEMS with how it treats race. And no one is saying Wes Anderson is as bad as David Duke! You keep refusing to recognize the nuance in these critiques, and you keep making it personal, as if your identity and the pop culture things you enjoy are one and the same. This isn’t about YOU. Is it?

  • Bluejay

    “Identity politics” is what people call civil rights when they think it doesn’t apply to them.

  • Bluejay

    We just had a conversation where we both admitted that the other opinions were valid.

    And you can’t extend that courtesy to critics who have a problem with Isle of Dogs? You can’t say, “Hmm, you’ve got a valid point there”? Instead, you’re playing victim and claiming that critics who point out the film’s race issues are calling YOU racist, and evil. Again: get over yourself.

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    Maryanne pointed then out but admitted that it didn’t ruin the movie for her. Big difference.

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    You’re a Mortal Engines fan? ME TOO!!! Surprised considering that Anna Fang is Asian but written by a white guy.

    On a different note, I’ve been thinking, and realized that people on the Internet, myself included, just all come across as assholes. I’m sorry if I didn’t consider differing opinions as much as I’d like to.

  • Bluejay

    Yeah, but her response isn’t the only valid response. If the racial issue DOES ruin the movie for some critics, that’s a valid personal response too, even if it’s not the same as yours.

  • Bluejay

    Surprised considering that Anna Fang is Asian but written by a white guy.

    Interesting that you assumed I’d have an issue with it. I have no problem with white authors writing POC characters IF they do the work of cultural research and empathy and don’t use lazy or harmful stereotypes. It’s been a while since I read Mortal Engines, but I don’t remember anything offensive about how Anna Fang is characterized. Of course I could be wrong.

    But yes, I’m a Mortal Engines fan. I hope Peter Jackson doesn’t ruin it.

  • susmart3

    Liked the article. Liked what you picked to highlight it.

  • I don’t think it would be better if he picked his cast and characters based on what a diversity committee told him would sell to the public.

    For the love of fuck, the idea that women are human people is not something a “diversity committee” might come up with annoy men.

    Anderson does make the female roles interesting

    Says you. “Interesting” women do not have lives that revolve solely around what they can do and be for men.

    a film nerd he sees everything through the lens of classic cinema

    I don’t know if that’s the case, but if it is, that does not speak well of him as an artist. This is a huge problem with fandom and geekdom, though: too many people think they are well-rounded and interesting because they can rattle off trivia about a movie or a game. (See: Ready Player One.)

    I also think a lot of the controversy is manufactured to get clicks.

    No. The all-but exclusion of everyone not white, straight, male, and able-bodied IS NOT a ginned-up controversy that no one actually has a problem with.

    You created an awful lot of straw men with this long comment of yours, and I suggest that it is you who needs to listen to and accept what other people are saying rather than just telling is all to chill out.

  • No one is suggesting that Wes Anderson should be silenced. But at a bare minimum, we need to make room for all the Wes Andersons who are not straight white men. When there are plenty of movies that focus on women, on nonwhite people, etc, it won’t be a problem that there are also movies that focus on white men.

  • That second link is especially spot on. The onscreen representation of Asian Americans in American pop culture is appalling.

  • How sad that you are unable to keep more than one thought in your head at a time. I myself have no problem critiquing a movie and worrying about other sociopolitical issues at the same time.

    And I’d hardly call a 4.5/5 review “railing against”!

    It’s a zero sum game.

    I’m not sure you know what that phrase means.

  • t’s like when someone said the only reason my favorite band (Radiohead) is famous was due to white privilege and identity politics makes “Bodak Yellow” an objectively better song than “Karma Police”

    But… those are not personal attacks on you.

    When did anyone on the left start wanting to censor art?

    What are you talking about?! No one is calling for censoring anything here.

    This isn’t what matters.

    You don’t get to dictate what “matters.”

  • Dude, you’re the one who’s coming across as oversensitive.

  • Unthinking spoiled privileged fandom isn’t quite dead, but it’s under attack. And with good riddance.

    Maybe don’t invest your entire being in whatever stuff you’re a fan of. And why not try listening to others who might like to enjoy stuff like you enjoy without having denying part of themselves in order to do so?

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    Well, I’m a Peter Jackson fan as a whole although he’s been increasingly hit-and-miss. Also, Robert Sheehan is playing Tom and he’s a fountain of charisma.

  • no no, you can and you should. this is a noticeable problem with Anderson’s films. I’m just noting that others are noting it. And that while your review has it as a Green (liked it) grade, you’re seeing the flaws for what they are.

  • CB

    Nice. Or “Identity politics” is what people call it when they’re asked to recognize the existence and validity of identities other than their own.

  • Except that people who aren’t straight white men never get to think of themselves as “default.”

  • CB

    *looks at who uses ‘identity politics’ in a pejorative sense*
    Yep, checks out.

  • CB

    The difference between a racist and a non-racist isn’t that a non-racist never says, thinks, creates, or likes a creation that is racially problematic.

    The difference is a racist doesn’t care, while a non-racist can recognize problems and want to improve them.

    I swear I’m beginning to realize that a huge component of the cultural backlash is people resenting being asked to self-reflect and improve themselves, so they blame the ones pointing out the things which require self-reflection.

  • CB

    Just noticed the irony of complaining about identity politics, framed as being in opposition to the concept of building one’s identity around something.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    “It’s a zero sum game.”

    Even if (and that’s a big “if”) we accept your binary formulation, it’s really, really, really not a zero sum game.

  • Bluejay

    people resenting being asked to self-reflect and improve themselves, so they blame the ones pointing out the things which require self-reflection

    I’ve recommended this before, and I’ll do it again: Jay Smooth’s TED talk on how to discuss race and critique (and receive critiques on) racism is highly worth watching. Favorite metaphor: We need to move away from the “tonsils” paradigm of discussing race (i.e. “I’ve had my prejudice removed, I’m all good now”) toward the “dental hygiene” paradigm (i.e. being non-racist is a constant process of self-maintenance, and none of us is going to be flawless every time).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

  • Tormund Giantsbane

    I for the most part agree with you even though you go a bit far. While I think most people (especially white people) who complain about “cultural appropriation” are just looking for ways to be offended by things to show how pure and virtuous they are, I don’t think there’s such thing as a “diversity committee”. Also, I love Wes Anderson but he hasn’t had many particularly memorable female characters. In all fairness, neither did Tolkien and he’s one of my favorite writers.

  • I think most people (especially white people) who complain about “cultural appropriation” are just looking for ways to be offended by things to show how pure and virtuous they are

    Spoken like someone massively privileged by our culture who sees himself reflected everywhere.

    Here’s a clue for you: Most people who are not straight, white, and male do not need to go looking for things to be offended by. EVERY DAMN DAY we encounter endless reminders of how the world considers us lesser. We don’t need to go looking for them: they smack us in the face constantly. I WISH I could avoid them!

  • Mark Bayer

    For an interesting addition to the ongoing debate about whether one can appreciate a beloved filmmaker’s work while still being aware of its possible sexist or racist elements, check out the testimony of an expert witness: Molly Ringwald’s recent New Yorker account of her work with John Hughes. Clearly she’s proud of it and loved him, but wasn’t fond of his more negative aspects (Sixteen Candles IS great, but remember Long Duck Dong?) Perhaps this is why Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which is virtually devoid of these elements, is his best and most satisfying film.

  • Bluejay

    Yes, that’s a remarkable article. Here’s the link:
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/what-about-the-breakfast-club-molly-ringwald-metoo-john-hughes-pretty-in-pink

    Great quote: “How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”

    Criticism is not censorship. It should be possible to look at art and celebrate all the ways it pushes boundaries and challenges the status quo, AND be clear-eyed about all the blind spots it still has.

    And there’s a difference between a historical appreciation/critique of past art and how we should consider CURRENT art. John Hughes’ work was groundbreaking for its time, and we can put his blind spots within the context of his time. But social consciousness evolves, and art that’s made in 2018 should be held to a higher standard than something made decades ago. That’s how we know we’ve progressed.

    Also: there’s more than one valid response to art. “I appreciate and enjoy how good this art is, while acknowledging its problematic aspects” is one response. But so is this: “As a member of a targeted/marginalized group, I’ve had to put up with certain kinds of shit all my life, and I simply can’t bring myself to love any art that has even a whiff of that shit in it, no matter how good you tell me it is.” Both are valid, both subjective (since objectivity in arts criticism doesn’t exist), and both deserve a place in the spectrum of possible responses to art.

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