How Hollywood is Foretelling the Future While Still Falling on the Wrong Side of History

No one wants to be “on the wrong side of history”.

No one wants to be wrong, period, and even those of us who raise their hackles at being described as “progressive” fear that those words, when leveled against them, might come true. To hear that phrase is to be threatened, told that you’re a dinosaur; except without any of the perks like monstrous size and claws and teeth, more the being pushed out by newer lifeforms and soon to be extinct. The message is, essentially, to keep up or be left behind.

To be asked whether you want to be “on the wrong side of history” is only hypothetical as far as what your choice will be. That the world will actually be changing is not the question; it’s being stated as a direct fact.

Almost two years ago to the day I wrote about film producer Avi Arad, who has been responsible for the past five [an absurd amount even for me, who considers him my favourite superhero] Spider-Man films. In particular I called attention to his response regarding whether the White Peter Parker would always be the one donning the webbed tights [“Absolutely”] and his response to whether or not the lack of diversity in comic book movies an issue [emphasis mine]:

“But I think we are finally becoming more of one world, and you’re going to see more and more diversity in the selection of characters. [. . .] It’s all going to change. I think sometimes we consciously look at it. We would love to have a superhero, we would love Marvel to create a superhero — We can create villains, but we’d love to have a Chinese superhero with something that is really interesting and how they got here, and what is their issue, and so on. But it’s coming. And it’s inevitable. It’s really inevitable. But it didn’t come naturally to comics in the days that no one was aware that there were actually other countries and other people.

aviaradkenjenningsI prefaced that article with a short bit of fiction in which Arad awakens in a cold sweat, realizing that the world he had once foretold had finally come to pass. By saying that these changes are “inevitable” he acknowledges that they are the impending future. By stating in direct terms that as long as he’s involved Spider-Man will never be Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teen who has carried the title for years now, he both outlines the two camps [those who will, and won’t, be on the wrong side of history] and which side he will find himself in.

The reason that I return to, and have summarized, that particular post is because of recent blurbs from various other people in the film industry that more or less line up with what Arad said up above.

In an interview with The Daily Beast J. J. Abrams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was asked if he saw “a future for a gay character in the galaxy” [emphasis theirs]:

“Of course! When I talk about inclusivity it’s not excluding gay characters. It’s about inclusivity. So of course.

I would love it. To me, the fun of Star Wars is the glory of possibility. So it seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.”

gaystormtroopersGranted, he shares that he “would love it” as he has given up the reins to the Star Wars films to director Gareth Edwards and cannot directly affect them moving forward. That being said, there are absolutely no comments made about what he could have done to create any sort of LGBT presence within that universe. It’s merely the sentiment that “it would be great” but no admission that he had the chance to create any changes himself.

To continue underneath the unbelievably broad entertainment umbrella that is Disney, directors of Captain America: Civil War Joe & Anthony Russo were presented with the question of “what do you think the chances are of a [sic] LGBT character entering the Marvel universe?”, to which Joe responded:

“I think the chances are strong. I mean, it’s incumbent upon us as storytellers who are making mass-appeal movies to make mass-appeal movies, and to diversify as much as possible. It’s sad in the way that Hollywood lags behind other industries so significantly, one because you think that it would be a progressive industry, and two it’s such a visible industry. So I think it’s important that on all fronts we keep pushing for diversification because then the storytelling becomes more interesting, more rich, and more truthful.”

With Anthony following up with:

“I think this is a philosophy of Marvel, in success it becomes easier to take risks. There’s a lot of unconventional ideas in Civil War in terms of what people’s expectations of a superhero movie are, but I think we were able to do that because Winter Soldier worked and Marvel’s been working in general, so there’s more of a boldness in terms of what you can try and where you can go. So I think that’s very hopeful for all of us moving forward that bolder and bolder choices can be made.”

In many ways it’s about as solid a response as you could expect, with Joe specifically citing the narrative benefits to embracing diversity. The real question, however, is whether or not introducing LGBT characters into the Marvel universe would be a “risk” or a “bolder choice”. American opinion on whether or not to legalize gay marriage has risen 20% in the past 15 years and I don’t see that number taking a dip anytime soon. It may have been truly, if I can use this word without it being a pejorative, brave to do so in years past, but eventually it won’t be anymore.

It is well and good to declare that the world is changing and that diversity is positive, it is another thing entirely to actually state that you will play an active part in creating that future. While I hope that filmmakers and others continue to speak out in favour of starring more ethnic minorities and LGBT people what I would actually love to hear are promises that they will.

The difference between being told that things are going to be different and being promised the exact same is that with the latter I can look to you. What will you be doing to make it happen?

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