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  #1  
Old 29 January 2019, 03:59 AM
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Default Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Reconciliation Fantasies?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/a...riendship.html
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Not knowing what these movies were “about” didn’t mean it wasn’t clear what they were about. They symbolize a style of American storytelling in which the wheels of interracial friendship are greased by employment, in which prolonged exposure to the black half of the duo enhances the humanity of his white, frequently racist counterpart. All the optimism of racial progress — from desegregation to integration to equality to something like true companionship — is stipulated by terms of service.
This could be a book. The article is not long though.
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  #2  
Old 29 January 2019, 06:10 AM
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Hmm, I've been trying to verbalize what about Green Book feels off to me. This is an excellent summation.
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  #3  
Old 29 January 2019, 02:00 PM
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I haven't seen that one and one of the others mentioned yet but one that wasn't mented yet comes to mind immediately is Corrina, Corrina with Ray Liotta and Whoopie Golberg. Now, I like that movie. I liked Driving Miss Daisy too despite its flaws. But once one see these tropes again and again, it makes them a bit less light-hearted, even a bit scarier. I like how he contrasted with Do the Right Thing. It goes back to this whole (in my opinion, harmful) myth of racism as a kind of personal blemish, a bit of faulty thinking - that all we have to do is get along and do the right thing.
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Old 29 January 2019, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
It goes back to this whole (in my opinion, harmful) myth of racism as a kind of personal blemish, a bit of faulty thinking - that all we have to do is get along and do the right thing.
One of the most confusing appearances of that myth, as you say, I've ever seen has got to be this scene from Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Caesar (who I'm sure we'll all recognize as the leader of the Apes) tells one of his human slaves (who happens to be black) that he's sure that even with humans being treated as an underclass, one day just by getting along and being friendly and living together, things will turn out alright. We just need to get to know each other and that will lead to equality.

It's confusing because the human character seems quite satisfied with what Caesar has said and I don't recall any sort of "wink" or other hint to the audience that it's satire, but it sure seems like it ought to be. I don't know if it was meant to represent a sincere effort to advance the (false) narrative you describe, or if it's meant to show that Caesar is a flawed hero who is naive when it comes to inter-species relations (operating as a proxy for inter-race relations). It's not a particularly deep movie, being the last in the string of five films with progressively lower budgets.

Also, I really hope that in the next Planet of the Apes reboot, when someone utters the phrase, "Ape shall never kill ape," the retort is, "Uh, humans are apes too, buddy." Or words to that effect.
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Old 29 January 2019, 02:55 PM
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IMO, the article fails to show how the Oscars keep "falling for" the fantasies. It provided one example of how a more realistic race-relations movie lost to a race fantasy movie. The insinuation is that it is because the voters preferred the fantasy to the reality. Which is a) never demonstrated and b) kind of an odd thing to complain about for an industry that is all about creating fantasy.
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  #6  
Old 29 January 2019, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL View Post
It's confusing because the human character seems quite satisfied with what Caesar has said and I don't recall any sort of "wink" or other hint to the audience that it's satire, but it sure seems like it ought to be. I don't know if it was meant to represent a sincere effort to advance the (false) narrative you describe, or if it's meant to show that Caesar is a flawed hero who is naive when it comes to inter-species relations (operating as a proxy for inter-race relations). It's not a particularly deep movie, being the last in the string of five films with progressively lower budgets.
I was about to respond with some semblance of confusion when I figured you were not talking about the most recent Trilogy!

Quote:
Also, I really hope that in the next Planet of the Apes reboot, when someone utters the phrase, "Ape shall never kill ape," the retort is, "Uh, humans are apes too, buddy." Or words to that effect.
The theme and the conflict of that Maxim is one of the things that made the recent (Serkis) story pretty bloody interesting to me.
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  #7  
Old 30 January 2019, 12:48 AM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
IMO, the article fails to show how the Oscars keep "falling for" the fantasies. It provided one example of how a more realistic race-relations movie lost to a race fantasy movie. The insinuation is that it is because the voters preferred the fantasy to the reality. Which is a) never demonstrated and b) kind of an odd thing to complain about for an industry that is all about creating fantasy.
Huh?? It mentions many others even in one sentence: To Kill a Mockingbird, Mississippi Burning, The Blind Side, The Help. There are several others mentioned in there but you have to actually read it. Then you would also see it's not criticising the fantasy because it's a fantasy.
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  #8  
Old 30 January 2019, 01:14 AM
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I still haven't formulated this into an independent thread topic, but I will be take the opportunity to plug a really important podcast series, "Seeing White" on Scene on Radio. It has so much relevance to this topic, in many ways.
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  #9  
Old 30 January 2019, 02:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Huh?? It mentions many others even in one sentence: To Kill a Mockingbird, Mississippi Burning, The Blind Side, The Help. There are several others mentioned in there but you have to actually read it. Then you would also see it's not criticising the fantasy because it's a fantasy.
None of those movies beat out a more "worthy" race movie in their year. Unless the writer is saying that the only way to not "fall for" a race reconciliation fantasy is to completely ignore it for any awards. Best movie does not mean that a movie is perfect or without issues, it means that it was better than any other movie that was submitted that year.

Last edited by GenYus234; 30 January 2019 at 03:15 PM. Reason: removed snark
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  #10  
Old 30 January 2019, 03:50 PM
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The Help... Speaking of 2012 best picture nominees, can I just say I felt such a connection seeing The Tree of Life in the theater? I had just come back from Iraq and after spending three weeks on a couch in my parent's attic (well, it wasn't quite the attic) I finally went out and, well, I'm not a religious person, but the whole take on the Book of Job thing really spoke to me. I particularly liked this scene with the dinosaurs:
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  #11  
Old 30 January 2019, 06:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
IMO, the article fails to show how the Oscars keep "falling for" the fantasies. It provided one example of how a more realistic race-relations movie lost to a race fantasy movie. The insinuation is that it is because the voters preferred the fantasy to the reality. Which is a) never demonstrated and b) kind of an odd thing to complain about for an industry that is all about creating fantasy.
I don't think it's built around saying racial fantasy movies beat out more realistic race relations movies in direct competition. It is saying that the Academy loves these kinds of race-relations movies.

And so does white America, for that matter. Movies that locate Racism writ-large in the past and/or in the South. That portray individual racists as individuals who are ignorant and don't know better, who are improved by getting to know individual black people.* These are stories told in a paradigm that is eminently comfortable and satifying for whites, and very satisfying to reward with nominations and awards. They make us feel good about how far we've come, how much better and more enlightened we are as individuals, and how we show that by recognizing the important story of how ignorant whites need to be enlightened. (The stories are often the journey of the ignorant white person to a place of enlightenment and improvement from their contact with the black person.)

To the extent that it is comparing, I think it is pointing out that for the most part, actual black film makers are not making race-relations movies, and when they do, they are not ones like these. It is White fantasy of race relations.

* In the podcast I mentioned earlier, one point that was very interesting is that, generally, whites get defensive and uncomfortable when referred to by race. We don't identify as such, and want to be recognized as individuals. We generally see racism as a problem of individuals, not systems -- either a problem of individual ignorance or individual malice (bad apples, e.g.). And literally, when you ask whites about race, they tend to use the word individual over and over again -- practically every other word. This is how whites view race, and how we are comfortable seeing it portrayed. I hesitate to try to discuss a single point from the podcast, because it's far too much to encapsulate, and it builds as it goes, but this seemed very relevant to the OP.

Last edited by erwins; 30 January 2019 at 06:46 PM.
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  #12  
Old 30 January 2019, 06:44 PM
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To Kill a Mockingbird, Mississippi Burning, The Blind Side and The Help were all nominated for Best Picture but didn't win. There were some Oscars given out for Best Actor/Actress and Cinematography.

I don't think TKAMB is a great argument for the proposition that anyone "keeps" doing anything, given that it was released in 1963. The only other movie I've seen of the ones mentioned above is The Help, and I did find that hugely problematic for a variety of reasons and was disappointed that it was even nominated.
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Old 31 January 2019, 02:02 AM
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I agree with what erwins said. And thanks a lot for the podcast intro; I'm really looking forward to that.

About the "Oscars" and the "keep" and the "falling for" that EM and GenYus have criticised: Focusing on a few words in the title that aren't really essential to the point, which, as I see it is more about certain insidious tropes and what they mean about the American psyche, suggests one hasn't actually read the piece (at least not carefully). But if you must nitpick the title, "keep falling for" implies to me that movies of this type have been nominated from long ago to the present, not a whole lot more. (Although, arguably, "falling for" may imply they weren't deserving of quite as much attention, again, it's not the main point.) Anyway, I think if one wants to criticise the piece, one should criticise the actual contents, not nitpick the title of an article. It's really not about the Oscars. He takes it back before the Oscars to Huck Finn and, I think, there are a couple of theses that could be written on that theme alone. (Honestly I think the nitpick about "they were nominations for Best Picture, not wins" or "they were wins for other Oscars, not best picture" is just... so trivial. They obviously got attention from the Oscars! And won Oscars! Which is really just the start of the conversation anyway.)
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Old 31 January 2019, 02:32 AM
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I'm not saying I don't agree with the central idea. I actually do. But I think precision matters, and it's worth talking about the strength of the specific arguments made, and whether they support the thesis or just something closely related to it.
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  #15  
Old 31 January 2019, 02:45 AM
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I can't understand precisely which argument you want to address in your comments. He only says those movies got a "Good for you!" from the academy. They all got multiple nominations and won Oscars.
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Old 31 January 2019, 03:41 AM
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Esprise Me, do you think the title is the thesis of the piece? I didn't get that from reading it. I also know that authors don't always write or approve of headlines in newspapers.
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Old 01 February 2019, 06:56 PM
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I'm aware of that. What do you think the title of the piece is or should be, based on the arguments cogently made within?
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Old 01 February 2019, 09:08 PM
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I don't know. I'm no good at writing titles.

The title of this one was sufficient to convey that the article would be interesting to me. I have no problem granting that someone might expect an article that was different in some way based on their reading of the title. But I don't think that is remotely interesting. Obviously, MMV on that.

I would be interested in knowing what you would say is the thesis of the piece, whether that is the title, or some other thesis. And I would be interested in knowing more about what you think of the article itself. I'm interested in what people think about it in general, and in what you think in particular, as someone whose take I usually find to be insightful. But if that isn't interesting to you, I have no problem with that.
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Old 02 February 2019, 06:58 AM
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I think it's a fine title. Sort of like asking "What should the title of A Modest Proposal be, considering it is neither modest nor a proposal." The piece speaks for itself, IMO. It's not a news article so the title isn't intended to summarise or encapsulate its ideas. I think the title in this case is leading the reader into some much broader concepts.

But if one must take it so literally, one can either agree with it or not. If one doesn't agree that the Academy has nominated and awarded many movies with the tropes described, then why do they seem to be disproportionately represented? GenYus says (I think wrongly but for the sake of his odd argument): "Unless the writer is saying that the only way to not 'fall for' a race reconciliation fantasy is to completely ignore it for any awards." In point of fact, the large majority of movies eligible for Oscars do not get any nominations, never mind the much larger proportion that get no awards. So, although that is not IMO anything close to the the arguments being made, it wouldn't be wrong. Maybe if one has to take this as a literal kind of comparison, how many of this type got no nominations or awards at all? I can only think of one and I've already mentioned it. Proportionally speaking, by my back of the napkin math, there should be around ten or fifteen 'ignored' for every one that got an award or about 3 to 4 not nominated for every one that was... I don't get why the author should have to do a statistical analysis of something that's 1) not the point and 2) almost definitely true no matter how one does the computation or parses the phrase. I don't take the "why" in the title as completely rhetorical. But it's a bit deeper than asking about Oscars.

If (g)you agree with the title, then I think you'll find the other ideas interesting. If you disagree then say what you think is actually going on with these tropes and, if you insist, numbers of awards and accolades. If you're not sure if you agree but you're interested in these things, then I think you'll find the other ideas interesting.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 02 February 2019 at 07:04 AM.
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Old 10 February 2019, 11:22 PM
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I thought the title pretty well represented the argument being made, too; I just didn't think the argument was made as well as it could have been. And I say that as someone who agrees that the Academy and Hollywood in general and the white American viewing public more generally tend to be seduced by stories of racial harmony that center and lionize the white character(s) without fully acknowledging the greater and unresolved challenges faced by the people of color in the story. Which is pretty close to what the title hinted at, if a bit clunkier. Why does it matter whether the author made his point, if he's right? Why does it matter how well any of us do our jobs, if our jobs are meaningful? Well, it matters all the more! In my line of work, we don't ask whether the client is guilty; we don't even dwell on whether you won or lost; we ask how well you defended him.

I've noticed a trend of people writing or sharing rants about racism or other hot-button issues, then responding poorly to even fair criticism of the rhetoric within. I see this largely on social media, and I have some sympathy for the private individual whose hastily-written post goes viral beyond its intended audience and those who relate to it who feel attacked by people pointing out its flaws. But this piece was published in the New York Times. If we can't analyze that logic, and if we can't do it on this board, then where?
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