Sunday, July 29, 2007

Double Feature (Featuring Racist Comments)

We went to one of the few remaining Drive-Ins this weekend for a double feature of The Simpsons Movie (do go make your avatar -- almost as fun as becoming an mm) in its opening weekend and Live Free or Die Hard a few weeks late. The plan was that Miss I would fall asleep before the Simpsons, which -- much to his grandparents' horror -- we had agreed to allow Little Bun to see, and that if Little Bun would fall asleep before Live Free or Die Hard we'd stay for it too. Unlike the time we tried to get Little Bun to fall asleep before the first movie (Ron Burgundy, which is not only not that funny, but also really really not funny at all with no sound), it sort of worked.

Miss I stayed awake for too much Simpsons, which didn't earn its PG-13 rating (the frontal nudity wasn't full, the "s*x scene" was only intimated and wouldn't be caught by anyone as young as Little Bun, and in our house the "p" word isn't a bad word), took up a cause so important to the Bloom household, and reinforced "family values" in the end, as the show often does. If you don't watch the show, you wouldn't know that Ned Flanders is often an object of derision -- his commitment to his kids is inspiring, and finally touches Bart. Two major disappointments: no big musical number (Green Day's appearance was cute, but no more than that) and too little Montgomery Burns.

Fortunately both kids were asleep by the trailers before Live Free or Die Hard. While the violence was gratuitous -- isn't that why we love the Die Hard series -- it was far less glaring or gratuitous than the film's racism. I was shocked and disappointed by McClane's references to Mai [Maggie Q] as "little b*tch Asian girlfriend" and "Asian b*tch hooker girlfriend." After she's (loose quotation) trapped at the bottom of an elevator shaft with a (large vehicle) "up her *ss" he assures her villain boyfriend that though she's dead, she'll be easily replaced. She was also half-skilled (as displayed in the film) in "kung fu" (described by McClane as the trait least likely to be found in the next Asian b*tch hooker).

It shocked me that someone wrote it (and you can see in the credits that it took a heck of a lot of writers to bring us this masterpiece). It shocked me that someone else said it, even if that someone was Bruce Willis. And honestly, it shocked me that a whole slew of people (many white, some people of color) were there on hand, as actors, director, producers, crew and no one thought "Wait -- why does he say that?!" It shocked me that if they tested it, those lines tested okay.

But it shouldn't have shocked me. I shouldn't be shocked at the racism, misogyny, exoticization/sexualization. But that doesn't justify it. Neither does the fact that McClane is a "tough guy," or that he "isn't very nice," or anything else. Perhaps the character McClane might have made racist, misogynist comments regardless of the female villain's race -- and regardless of race his sexism gleams in his decision not to shoot her, and also his subsequent decision to beat the h*ll out of her) but the fact is that no audience would tolerate it if she hadn't been Asian. Try inserting another race into those phrases and imagine whether or not there would be vocal protests. This is not to say that there are not a bazillion racist and misogynist movies -- indeed there are -- but it is to say that we shouldn't put up with it.

Other elements of the film -- including the spectacular destruction so spectacular that it makes you crave the pre-digital age of real cars crashing into real things and the way the film undercuts its own astonishing effects by showing a simulated demolition of the Capitol and also "proving" within the film that the image was, happily, only a simulation -- were far less stunning than these phrases.

The bottom line is that while we paid very little to see the movie, had I done a little homework we wouldn't even have stayed. And I actually liked Die Hard.


justenjoyhim/judy said...

Well then, I think I'll skip "Live Free or Die Hard." I don't have time for many movies at all anyways so have to make the most of the time that I do have for them.

Lola said...

My Movie Advice: