In Movies and on TV, Racism Made PlainWesley is this gay black “critic-at-large” who appears to have been given, post-Trayvon, a contract with the New York Times to free associate about race, racism, racists, and the hotness of Channing Tatum. I’ll trim out most of this lengthy essay other than paragraph topic sentences, but you are not missing much:
By WESLEY MORRIS
AUGUST 23, 2017
We’re supposed to be fixated, at the moment, on the shock of a president capable of finding “fine people” among hordes of white supremacists. …Uh, because it’s Soderbergh’s “redneck Ocean’s 11” movie about some comic criminal brothers, led by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, trying to recruit safecracker Daniel Craig to take part in their NASCAR racetrack heist?
But to watch the movies or TV — or even to catch the hype for a certain boxing match — is to know that normalized white supremacy has been here all summer. …
How else could anyone explain Lee? Not the aforementioned hero of the Confederacy but the dunce from ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” …
Isn’t a water pill preferable to whatever Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor got up to last month? …
Not too long ago, men like Lee and Mr. McGregor remained hidden within message boards. They were anonymous Twitter eggs. …
Last month, HBO announced plans for a dramatic series called “Confederate,” which hypothesizes what America might look like if the rebels had won the Civil War. …
That was also some of the problem with “Detroit,” a docudrama that opened at the very end of July, and sought to recreate racial violence that occurred in 1967 as a way of seeing the racial violence occurring today. …
Whatever white supremacy was and is — the murderousness of the K.K.K., the centuries-old institutional bias toward white people, the self-pitying narcissism of the so-called alt-right — it’s older than what happened in Charlottesville, older than this presidency. It’s wedged in the bedrock of American popular culture. Even when you aren’t looking, it manages to find you.
Not too long ago, I was enjoying “Logan Lucky,” the new Steven Soderbergh heist movie, when I noticed that in the inmate-visitation scenes, the white characters were put in the foreground while the black prisoners sat in the distance.
(In the future, perhaps there will be woke redneck SJW activists who will make a big stink out of a white actor being cast as a safe cracker.)
I really like “Logan Lucky,”I bet you do.
but I also found myself wondering how many times lesser directors used similar framing in other movies and I hadn’t even noticed.
See? See how Soderbergh puts the James Bond guy up front in the middle of the screen while the Prisoners of Color are off in the distance on the sides?
Granted, directors situating their movie stars in the foreground and their extras in the background have been pretty common in film at least since Birth of a Nation in 1915.
But that just proves how racist the “close-up” is.
… There’s no equating the people responsible for any of this work with the people who descended upon Charlottesville in General Lee’s name. But the criminal-justice apparatus that preys upon black men has wound up linking blackness and incarceration statistically — and, apparently, culturally. So you’re free to imagine a casting situation in which people are trying to make, say, a prison visitation scene with the movie’s white protagonists more authentic. How about putting some brown smudges in the frame?As Susan Sontag wrote fifty years ago:
Calling for the removal of statues, street names, even the sitting president might feel right. But doing so is a separate project from truly considering the institutions that led to their installation. For that, you need something more radical than protests. You need real education. You need a kind of racial chemotherapy.
If America is the culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far.… The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.The more things change the more they stay the same.