Tuesday, March 21, 2017
See Yourself on the Silver Screen
But this isn't about the boycott. There has been plenty written about that already, most recently at Unfundamentalist Christian. No, this is about the silver screen itself and our desire to see ourselves reflected, or rather projected, as the heroine, the princess, or at times even the villain.
My daughter wants to see the movie because she wants to see Belle dance and sing (along with candelabras, teacups, and clocks). She likes to watch Mulan to see the girl become the hero. She loves Lilo and Stitch because of the rambunctious girl who always seems to get into trouble, yet always finds a way to work everything out in the end.
But not everyone can enjoy movies that same way. As a middle-class white male, I don't have to think twice about whether or not I'm represented on screen. And if I can't relate to a character, it is usually because of the choices he makes or the dialogue he fails to deliver convincingly. I don't think twice about whether that character looks just like me or represents my demographic.
Having LeFou's latent homosexuality slightly more explicit than was depicted in the animated movie means a lot to homosexuals who long to see themselves depicted on the screen. For this to be the first explicitly gay character in a Disney movie is taken by some to be groundbreaking.
But this post isn't about homosexuality either. Because they are not the only minority group struggling to be represented in Hollywood.
I'm a comic book nerd, so I haven't been able to avoid hearing about the "whitewashing" of characters from The Ancient One in Dr Strange, to The Major in The Ghost in the Shell; or the missed opportunity to cast a minority in The Iron Fist; or split opinions over Idris Elba being cast as Roland, the Gunslinger, in The Dark Tower; or the celebration over the casting choices for The Black Panther.
These things aren't new. It was a big deal to have a single mother portrayed in a leading role on Murphy Brown just as it was groundbreaking (much more so than any character in Beauty and the Beast) for there to be a gay lead on Will & Grace. What is new to me is that now I notice.
I have a lot more to write about "white privilege" that will have to wait for another time. But in this case, I wanted to call our attention to the fact that white straight Americans take for granted our position in society, as evidenced by the roles we see in movies and on television. Black-ish has become my favorite TV show because it challenges my perceptions and assumptions. I wouldn't call myself "woke", but I'm getting there.
As Christians, we need to have more empathy. Period. I'm not saying minimizing sin (if that's your conviction) for the sake of tolerance, because that just goes in line with being politically correct. No, empathy is a heart-condition. It is the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and to see the world the way they do.
In the case of Beauty and the Beast, there are closeted gays who might for the first time feel accepted simply by a couple lines in a movie, who might no longer be suicidal, who might for a change have hope. And that should be celebrated, not boycotted.