Celebrity Blind Spots and Fixing Racist Narratives [By Making Everyone White]

ANCIENTONETILDALast week it was announced that Tilda Swinton was in talks to join Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, specifically in the role of the Ancient One. For those of you who don’t read a lot of comic books [and even those who do] the character in question is Doctor Strange’s teacher, a Tibetan mystic named Yao. If it wasn’t plainly apparent to you, Swinton is about as Tibetan as Emma Stone is Chinese or Native Hawaiian. The numerous comic book news outlets that I frequent have covered this in as much depth as they possibly can seeing as nothing is set in stone at this point, but I’ve noticed a trend in responses to the presumed casting choice. That perspective is what I’ll be covering first, following that up with how “progressive” Swinton playing this role would actually be-

“Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice.”

Look, we’ve all seen at least one episode of Modern Family, and most of us can remember Cam reciting those exact words when lauding the actor’s ability to be perfect in any role. Like most effective jokes it’s funny because it’s a slight exaggeration of how people actually think and feel, in this case about their favourite talent.

Gordon lambasted the blog “Your Fave Is Problematic” last year, and for reasons that I generally agree with given their penchant of going overboard when finding areas in which celebrities and media have screwed up. That being said, at bare minimum the title of the site is effective in that it forces us to realize that nobody is above reproach. No one is so incredible that they should be given carte blanche to do [or be] whatever they want, yet that’s the attitude I’ve seen so many people give this news.

opinions

That’s not to say that people aren’t entitled to their own opinions of who can play what character, but that we’ll so quickly make exceptions when they involve people we love to watch perform. After it was announced that Martin Freeman would be appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the number of people who wanted to see Martin Freeman as Wong opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange was staggering. That’s right, Martin Freeman. As a person named “Wong”.

martinwong Continue reading

Mad Max has a Feminist Hero for (Almost) Everyone

I know. Pretty well every woman with a computer has written about how great Mad Max: Fury Road was. I actually meant to write about it last week, but then I decided that I needed to address the news about the Duggars instead.

Not only am I late to the Mad Max conversation, but when I went to write about this post I came across the video I’ve included below, which succinctly summarizes many of the points I was hoping to make.

Even though Rowan Ellis beat me to the punch with several of her points, I loved this movie too much not to add my two cents. I also wanted to dig deeper into some of the feminist identities offered in the film and how they impacted me as a female viewer. Spoilers, obviously.

Furiosa: The Tough, Capable Woman

Furiosa is, of course, the first person anyone is going to think of when I say “strong female character”. She is a brave, intelligent, and capable character. I also love that she isn’t sexualized by the camera angles, and that we aren’t forced to view her through the male gaze.

As much as I absolutely love Furiosa, she doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. We’ve already had hardcore, confident female leaders like Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley since the 80’s. And as much as I want to be like Furiosa, I don’t always feel myself reflected in these kind of figures. Sometimes that’s okay, sometimes all I want is to escape into the kind of fantasy where I can imagine myself kicking ass and taking names. However, it can be discouraging when movies only have one type of “strong female character”  to offer. While I absolutely love female heroes like Furiosa, I really loved having less capable heroines in Mad Max as well. Heroines who were well-rounded and brave in spite of their weaknesses and fears. Continue reading

Gordon’s TV Recommendations: Summer 2015

Well boys and girls, it’s that time again.

10:20 on a warm Las Vegas night, with yours truly sitting in bed, laptop at hand, and with absolutely nothing to write about.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

The great state of Nevada is presently attempting to blow nearly a million dollars building an execution chamber (seeing as how a grand total of zero people have even been executed in the past decade). While there still seems to be some conflicting reports on whether or not the funds have actually been approved, I’m going to go ahead and leave this little petition right here to get that money spent on literally anything else:

No New Execution Chamber for Nevada 

But that’s all I’ll say about that.

Folks, you know my stance on the death penalty. At this point, I don’t know that there’s anything left for me to say about it.

Let me instead talk about something flippin’ pleasant for a change.

Now folks, while we here at this blog have adopted the term “Culture War Reporters”, I imagine that over the past few years it’s been made pretty clear that we have our own agenda here. And for the record, I’ve got no guilt saying that. Part of why we’re here is to promote that which we find noble, true, and constructive, which is my cue to crowbar in my picks for the best tv of the year.

Rick and Morty

Returning for a second season on July 26th, Rick and Morty is the animated sci-fi comedy brainchild of Dan Harmon, creator of Community. And just with his ill-fated original project, Rick & Morty has seen a meteoric rise in popularity. And while part of me is still nervous about a similar Community style burnout, Harmon and his crew may very well have found their venue. Following the adventures of Morty and his mad scientist uncle, the show delivers us disjointed, surreal, madcap episode after madcap episode, with enough elastic reality for the stories to get as crazy as possible without ever really feeling like they’re losing their original charm. And as dark as the show gets (and we’re talking about some pretty black humor right here), Harmon still manages to insert a substantial amount of depth and surprising thoughtfulness to balance things out. You’ve got about a month folks- go get caught up. Continue reading

2 Broke Girls And the Interview with Federico Dordei, Part 2 – Behind the Scenes at Stage 21

feddor copyThree days ago I posted the first half of my interview with actor Federico Dordei, which largely concerned how his character ended up departing 2 Broke Girls. In the second we talked about how the regular cast handles criticism, the future of multicamera sitcoms, and how in the end absolutely everything is up to Michael Patrick King.

Just like last time, my questions and comments are in bold, with his responses as regular text.


So in a lot of my reviews I often hold the writers’ room accountable for any jokes that I feel go a little bit too far-

Michael Patrick King has the final say. There’s even a picture of him on set that says “Godfather”! [laughs]

Really?

There’s a pyramid on the wall of photos and his at the very top and says “Godfather” on it.

Every episode one writer comes up with an idea. So one writer goes to the writers’ room with the thing he wrote and then all together the writers pitch in to make it something that Michael Patrick King will like. He also supervises the whole thing saying I don’t like this or I don’t like that. So the completed work is a mix between what the writers wants and what he wants.

For every multicam show the creator has the ultimate say, and he’s a writer, too.

I do know that he’ll be credited for writing full episodes from time to time, like last week’s season finale.

One episode that he wrote I wasn’t very happy with. I remember someone in the audience told me “Great job!” and I said “What do you mean? I had no funny lines!”

Maybe that also did not ring well with him… [laughs]

But when it comes to the writers for the most part they’re great. I once told one of them they wrote a great episode and he said “No, no, no. It’s not just me.” They give credit to everyone, never taking credit for the whole thing. Continue reading

Two Things Forgiveness Should Never Mean (i.e. Learning from the Duggars)

On May 19th In Touch Weekly published an article alleging that when Josh Duggar was a teenager, he molested five underage girls, including several of his sisters.

I didn’t want to write about the Duggars, but I felt compelled to. I wanted to write about this case because I am a Christian, so I understand a lot of the rhetoric of forgiveness that the Duggars and their supporters have used to explain their stance towards the eldest son. However, I am also a feminist, and I have seen the effects of sexual violence on the lives of people I love. So for this post, I want to explain why the Duggar’s act of forgiveness doesn’t make me angry, instead, it is the decisions they made along with that gift of forgiveness that have left me in disbelief.

We Need Forgiveness More Than We Realize

Those of you who know me in person have probably chatted with me about Christianity. I’ve struggled with it a lot over the last few years, and considered throwing the label out the window altogether. However, there are a few things that keep pulling me back to the faith I grew up in. One of these things is the tenant of forgiveness.

You have probably all heard some kind of variation of the quote I included above. While most of these sayings have essentially become cliches, I honestly believe the act of forgiveness can help wounded individuals in their journey of healing. In my own life, I’ve had experiences that could have easily led me to foster an intense bitterness towards certain individuals. The theology I grew up with helped me to understand those individuals as damaged people, which made it much easier to move on from those events.

The tenant of forgiveness extends far beyond the Christian faith. Forgiveness is a valued aspect of most world religions, and is even recognized by doctors and psychologists as a key part of healing. However, there are certain aspects about the Duggar case that undermine their appeal to forgiveness. Continue reading

2 Broke Girls And the Interview with Federico Dordei, Part 1 – What Happened To Luis?

fedluisLast Friday I was blessed with the opportunity to have a very lengthy conversation with actor Federico Dordei, who appeared in a number of episodes of 2 Broke Girls as Luis, the day waiter at the Williamsburg Diner. He initially left a comment on one of my reviews of the show and agreed to answer a few of my questions about what it was like to be a part of it. Given that we ended up talking for a full hour I’ve opted to split the interview up into two parts.

In this first segment of questions and answers Fed [I can call him that since we are friends now] reveals what his time on the show was like, as well as what ultimately ended up happening to both him and Luis. My questions and comments are in bold, with his responses as regular text.


Your character Luis is one of my all-time favourites on the show, and reading back on my review of the first episode he appeared in it’s pretty apparent how much I liked him. Now you appeared in nine episodes of 2 Broke Girls-

I actually shot ten episodes, not nine.

I was supposed to start out as a guest star for an arc of three episodes, then it was renewed to six and they finally brought me back for four more. During this time I got the assumption that I may become a regular due to numerous comments made by some of the executives, such as “This is your home now!”, “This is just the beginning!”, etc. [Creator and producer] Michael Patrick King loved me and the character I brought to life.

tv series animated GIF

The first episode was great, too, the writing was sarcastic and very funny. It was a little bit exaggerated, but I felt like I could bring it to life and have a lot of fun with it. The next two episodes you saw, the writing was kind of off with Luis. Not that funny, I didn’t know what to do with it. I was worried the live audience wouldn’t laugh!

For the most part it seems like things were looking pretty good for both you and Luis.

Well, after the third episode I shot I was invited to the birthday of one of the show’s producers. I was drinking and partying with some of the writers, talking about the show, and said that I really loved the writing for Luis, but that the next two episodes were not as funny for that character. It was a simple fun chat between co-workers while enjoying ourselves. One of the writers, he went to Michael Patrick King telling him that I was complaining about lines. Took things out of context and made it look like I was talking shit.

What Michael Patrick King does, he calls me and rips me a new asshole. Got me on the phone and shredded me to pieces, asking how dare I talk shit, I should be lucky he gave me any lines at all. He went on and on. At the end of the conversation I explained that I wasn’t talking shit, that it was just an innocent and honest chat between party buds having fun! And that it was passed on to him out of context and that I felt utterly blessed to be part of the show. He said “Have you ever heard the Girls [Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs] complain about lines?” Of course I said “No,” ’cause I’m not a snitch… But if he was ever with us in the makeup room he would have known the answer to that [laughs].

I thought it was just a normal comment, but he said that writers are like babies; they’re very difficult and very sensitive, especially when their words on paper are criticized. The writer was very young, too. He said this can’t happen anymore. He said “Do you know why I’m calling you?” I said, “You’re firing me?” He told me, “Nope, I’m calling you because I want to keep you and for you to rectify this. I don’t want this to happen again.”

Now, I’m Italian! Before I was making lasagna for everyone (around 200 people) and treated every single person on Stage 21 as family. But Michael Patrick King told me to be a professional, that this wasn’t a family, it’s work! Continue reading

Culture War Reporters’ Memorial Day Montage

War.

For the vast majority of the lives of every writer here at CWR, wars and rumors of war have been a part of daily life. As of 2013, over 43% of the US military is comprised of men and women aged 25 or younger, an additional 22% just barely older. The majority of this nation’s army are tasked with fighting in conflicts many are barely old enough to remember the start of. The once rare presence of a person in uniform has now become a commonplace in airports all across the continent, and for good or ill, the armed forces have become a major element in our culture, and we here at CWR have engaged the subject over and over again.

Today’s post comes to you on Memorial Day for Americans. In the spirit of the day, I figured we should take a moment to offer a review on the material we’ve produced on the subject of the military. The good, the bad, the ugly- altogether.

Why We Need Graphic Violence

Violence in media is often cited as being one of the chief sources of violence in everyday life. But is our paralytic fear of showing blood and gore actually a good thing? Here we argue that disturbing images need to be seen for us to be really and truly disturbed, and that there’s no better place to start than with war. How else can we measure the real cost?

Stars Earn Stripes (Is A Terrible, Awful, Idiotic Abomination)

Fortunately cancelled after only four weeks of airtime, NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes stands as a demonstration of just how depraved we can be when it comes to exploiting the horror of war and our sympathy for folks in uniform. Here we break down every repellent detail of why this show (and shows like it) are as damaging as they are deluding.

No War, No More

During the height of tensions with North Korea during the spring of 2013 there was more than a little bravado on the side of Americans mocking the little dictatorship and laughing at the prospect of bombing the country out of existence. Frustrated by the cavalier attitude of so many, we provided this reminder of the actual nature of war and conflict.

Shame Day: War As A Fashion Statement

Later that same year, Evan covered the trend on militaria as a fashion, targeting the ironic(?) use of Vietnam War caps specifically. Disrespectful to veterans? Trivializing of combat? Read on to see for yourself.

(Admittedly, the title’s probably a giveaway. It’s still a good piece- read it anyways.)

America Wants Dead Soldiers

In what was perhaps the most shocking titles ever given to a post here at CWR, yours truly argues that the sympathy offered the members of the armed services (especially on days such as today) are by and large crocodile tears. Actual gratitude to the men and women in uniform has a strange habit of disappearing when it involves any actual sacrifice or effort on our part. Read on to discover why.

The Black And White Of American Sniper [No, This Isn’t About Race]

While real support for the armed forces is no easy task, honest criticism’s no picnic either, as Evan demonstrates in his analysis of the reactions to American Sniper. In addressing the legacy of celebrated marksman Chris Kyle we examine how quickly both history and our depictions of it can be distorted to complement our own views. If you look at nothing else today, look at this one.