January 22, 2016

Race, actors, representation

The 2015 Oscars, much like those of 2014, have not nominated any blacks (or, save Inarritu, minorities) in any categories. While black groups are acting on this with boycotts and editorials, the primary social presence is via the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. This is on its face a statistical oddity, so what representation would we expect based on the racial makeup of the US? The Wikipedia article on this, excluding measurements of mixed race, provides several groups of slightly different percentages. The first group comes from the article header representing census numbers, the second from the section on racial makeup representing estimates:

  • White - 62.6%
  • Hispanic (ethnic) - 17.1%
  • Black (race) - 13.2%
  • Other - 7.1% (remainder from the above)
  • White - 63.0% (2012 est.)
  • Black - 16.3% (2014 est.)
  • Hispanic - 14.1% (2012 est.)
  • Asian - 4.4% (2008 est.)
  • Other - 1.2% (remainder from the above)

Going with these numbers, we are ignoring actual minority participation in the acting community (i.e. there are probably no Quaker bankers, few white rappers, etc.), barrier to entry (here's where racism comes in to play), and representation in high-quality and possibly well-financed films (if there is a ghettoization of a minority, participation and support of projects becomes extremely problematic). Also, and perhaps more importantly, we are assuming that artistic skill is distributed evenly across humans no matter the race or ethnicity (or gender or left-handedness, etc.). Given that best and supporting actor and actress categories have five nominations each, any racial or ethnic minority would need 20% of the population to make a slot statistically representative (I suck at statistics; are there issues with this logic?). Blacks and Hispanics are under that 20% margin, but not by too much. Suspicious?

Related: there has been some grousing regarding non-transgendered (cisgendered) actors getting transgendered roles. I have not read enough of the articles/editorials to provide a good summary, but Jared Leto is probably going to win an Oscar tonight, and I feel weird about it (updated) from two years ago gets close to the group gestalt. Simply: it's an insider complaining that a dramatic representation is not as faithful as it could be. Complications arise when the insider status coincides with deep prejudice from society and the oft-correlated ignorance that begets prejudice. More even than racism, I'm treading into dangerous waters here.

As a relatively well-informed musician and a long-time industry software developer, I know from imprecise dramatic liberties. Many example exist; some are egregious; most are harmless. The getting-it-right is satisfying to see, but art is suggestion and generally not encyclopedic. A good writer can hit key points and work around that they don't know the difference between F# and Gb or how EBCDIC is related to ASCII.

With that in mind, I dislike the assumption that like must play like. Writers and actors research in an attempt to portray the diversity of human nature by having the full of humanity in their palette. Many don't succeed; some don't spectacularly; most are harmless. When you've seen a good actor in two roles in diametric opposition and embody them to their fullest, it's difficult to want to make typecasting a requirement. We constantly accept that French characters only ever speak to other French people with a French accent, and accept that the actor is not actually French. When did actor-to-role authenticity become mandatory?

Conversely: is man-playing-woman ever acceptable? Or--and here's the real icky part--is white playing black ever acceptable? Is this the same as cis-playing-trans?

posted by sstrader at 5:29 PM in Cinema , Culture & Society | permalink

January 9, 2016

Where was I?

What excesses happened in December?

Movies: We started with Krampus [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] on Sunday the 6th to remember the reason for the season. A goofy, garish horror flick that re-frames X-mas in the same way that any recent Grimms' stories attempt to honor the source material. Watch if you like Evil Dead or Rare Exports (another seasonal flick) or maybe Troll Hunters (haven't seen tho). End of the month was of course Star Wars: The Force Awakens [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. We went Sunday the 20th and revisited Saturday the 26th. I was surprised that for all the flaws, it was still so emotional. I didn't have a big problem with the many dramatic parallels it has to the original movie. With the time that's passed, the re-emergence of the original actors, and the purge of George Lucas, calling back to the 1977 original felt a useful touch to clean the slate. Tarantino's 8th, The Hateful Eight [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] was a couple of days later on Monday at Atlantic Station during the 100-city tour with 70 mm film projectors and surprise guest Walton Goggins to introduce. Jennifer Jason Leigh's and Goggins' characters were the absolute best and worth a rewatch just to see their performances again. The 70 mm was impressive and reminded me of watching the re-mastered Lawrence of Arabia last April at Landmark. Next up: more violence with The Revenant at Lafont in Sandy Springs.

star wars cards

Childhood obsession I found a few years back when cleaning out my parents' house.


A gift from Lisa!

Music: Friday the 18th was Yacht Rock Revue's 70s Holiday Party at Venkman's. Not much X-mas music but lots of AM fabulousness with the musicians dressed as Star Wars stormtroopers. New Year's Day +1 we went with a co-worker and friends to Smith's Olde Bar to see Puddles Pity Party to continue the 70s theme of YRR. We first saw him by chance at The Goat Farm for a Halloween party in 2014 where he performed in front of a huge screen projecting video from a drone that was flying around the stage. It broke our brains with craziness and was as enjoyable a second time. Schmaltz pop songs performed by a sad clown with a booming tenor voice. Is he respecting the songs or mocking them as if channeling a McSweeney's detachment? Or is this the apotheosis of karaoke (or American Idol) with concerts consisting of a singer singing covers against a pre-recorded backing band? Cf. also Peaches etc. singing originals against a sequencer or Girl Talk etc. performing with a laptop. Next up: more cover songs with Yacht Rock Review performing a Led Zeppelin vs. The Who battle of the bands tonight at Venkman's.


Jeff Lynne battles the force

Events: my first company holiday party Friday the 11th at the CFO's house/mansion in Buckhead. Wine at the basement bar/piano lounge and food from the ginormous food truck out back. Our Uber driver said that Tyler Perry lives nearby but we never saw him. X-mas proper in Knoxville with Too Much Good Food. NYE proper at Gun Show for the second year in a row with more Too Much Good Food. Next up: dieting.

posted by sstrader at 10:35 AM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged new years | permalink