Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A New James Bond

A Sony email was recently leaked suggesting that Idris Elba, a black actor, was up for the role of James Bond. 

This sparked some controversy. Rush Limbaugh went on a rant against the idea of a non-white Bond, saying, "James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is."  He later says, in frustration, "We have 50 years of white Bonds because Bond is white!" And while the actors in the past who have played Bond have all been white, not all have been of Scottish decent, so it why does it matter if the actor has a different color skin?

Limbaugh also went on to say that Elba playing the role of James Bond would be like if George Clooney and Kate Hudson were cast as President Obama and Michelle Obama. This is an absurd thing to say; James Bond is a fictional character. Actors cast for these fictional characters can be anyone; it's a creative decision made by the director.  

Private Eye, a satirical magazine (sort of like a U.K. version of The Onion), published this spoof letter about the suggestion that Elba may play James Bond. Viewers can sit and watch all of Bond’s crazy endeavors (like defeating an army while only being armed with a pencil), and find them believable. But if a man with a different color skin were to play the role of Bond, it would be ludicrous?

This would be a great step if Idris Elba was cast as James Bond because it would show that you can replace a cast member with one of different ethnicity and it would still be the same story. It’s the same concept as the remake of Annie, with two African-American actors cast as Annie and Will Stacks (main characters in the movie). Minorities should be given more of these lead roles. We need to see more diversity on the screen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The “Token” Black in Sitcoms

When I told my brother about what we were learning about in class (TV Tokenism), he immediately thought of this character on South Park. He is an African-American character named “Token Black,” with a big “T” on his shirt reminding viewers he’s there to be the token black. While I don’t watch the show, many high schoolers watch or have heard of the show South Park,  an animated adult sitcom. I have only seen about an episode's worth my entire life, but I do remember one scene specifically where Token Black is made fun of for having expensive clothes, or being the "best dressed minority" as we discussed in class.

 We saw a clip in class of the show 30 Rock, which had this same idea of the making it clear the black character “Toofer” was there to be a token black character.  Sitcoms often use stereotypes that we are familiar with to make us laugh. One of the sitcoms I do watch, Modern Family, has made quite a few of these exaggerated stereotype jokes about Asians specifically, for example being bad at driving. I was laughing when I watched that scene, but my little sister wasn't, and asked me to explain it to her. She hasn't been as exposed to stereotypes, so the joke went over her head. 

I wonder if by using this as material for comedy it shows progression or not. We find them funny because they’re so exaggerated, but is it just further enforcing these stereotypes? If we’re laughing at them does that make them okay?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Where Are All the Female Directors?

On Sunday, many of us sat down and watched the Golden Globes. The nominees for best director had me thinking a little bit. Here were the nominees:

Last year, the nominees were the following movies:

I noticed a trend (almost all men). I never really noticed before that I scarcely ever saw a woman in this category. It seemed normal to me that a man was a director. Though Ava DuVernay did not win best director, it certainly sparked my attention when she was nominated. Why don’t we see more women directing these critically-acclaimed films just as much as men?

I started doing some research, and found an interesting article about women in the directing business. The researcher Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, found that in 2013, female characters made up just 15 percent of protagonists and 30 percent of all speaking characters in the top 100 grossing movies. Female directors generally direct more movies about women than male directors do, but they need the means to do so. It becomes a vicious cycle where a woman can’t get hired because of her lacking credentials, and then as a result is unable to build her resumé, meaning less women in this field. Women can’t prove they are equally qualified for the job if they aren’t given the opportunity in the first place. We need to diversify the voice that tells us stories in America. If the people making decisions about movies continues to be all male, we’re only getting one angle. Something has to be done about diversifying the directing industry.