Green Book Whitewashing

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Green Book whitewashes a black story into oblivion.)

Someone on Twitter asked me the other day, “How do you whitewash the Green Books?” It’s a valid question, given how the new film Green Book sidelines its eponymous subject in favor of its racist white male character (Viggo Mortensen), a professional driver who heads down south from New York City during Jim Crow on tour with a famed black classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) and is effectively cured of his bigotry. As a result, the historical Green Books (or The Negro Motorist Green Books, as they’re officially titled), an invaluable series used by black people to protect themselves from the horrors of racism while traveling, become a mere prop in what’s initially presented as its own story.

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As The Walking Dead zombie crawls to season 9, the question that’s been on many fans’ minds is how the series will keep things fresh and exciting after so many years. Turns out, the answer is completely turning everything we know about this apocalyptic world on its head. With the ascension of writer Angela Kang as the new showrunner and the impending departure of Andrew Lincoln as leader Rick Grimes, change is most definitely in the air.

Here are 10 things we learned while visiting the blistering Atlanta set.

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The Nun imagery

There’s a moment in The Nun when I thought I had it all figured out. It’s when Father Burke (Demian Bichir), the priest sent from the Vatican to investigate the mysterious death of a nun in 1952 Romania, falls and is subsequently trapped inside an open coffin while following behind an ominous presence outside at night. It’s because he comes this close to being yanked deeper into the ground by the creepy phantom fingers of a rabid demonic nun while inside the box. He’s a priest. He shouldn’t be so susceptible to demonic presences, right?

That is, unless this latest installment in the Conjuring series went the way of an early example of modern religious horror — The Exorcist. That 1973 classic also follows a priest sent from the Vatican to investigate a demonic presence, in that case one that overtakes a young girl, and is so terrified by the sight that he drops his Bible right out of his hands. I figured that, like what happens in the William Friedkin-directed film, The Nun would reveal that Father Burke had been struggling with his faith, which effectively leads him to become prey for demonization. I was wrong.

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Women of Crazy Rich Asians

One of the most profound things about Crazy Rich Asians is how it shows Asian and Asian-American people simply living. It sounds basic, but when you consider Hollywood history, much of which erases Asian characters and Asian culture altogether, you know that this is major.  As nearly every advertisement has read: “it’s not a movie; it’s a movement.” But beyond its breezy, romantic, and genuine laugh-out-loud moments, it also shows the power of single women — particularly single women of color. And even more significantly, it highlights the grace, strength, and sheer self-efficacy that embolden so many single mothers and their daughters.

Spoilers for Crazy Rich Asians lie ahead.

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The Purge TV Show Characters

If there’s one thing The Purge movies have taught us, it’s that there’s no telling how someone will react when presented with criminal impunity. Throughout the films, we’ve seen everyone from the poor to the rich, the white to the black, grapple with the spaces they occupy in a capitalist and white supremacist society, and how that motivates them on the night of the Purge — when all crime, especially murder, is completely legal. But while the films have raised questions of morality in a lawless state, they don’t delve into each character’s story and the personal conflicts they’ve faced throughout this intentionally established dystopia.

That’s where the new TV adaptation comes in.

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I’m not one to champion a whole bunch of sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, but let me tell you something — when it was announced that there was going to be a TV adaptation of The Purge, I perked right up. I’m a fan of the film franchise — and its unflinching indictment of our real-life dystopia highlighting our history of violence and rage — and I was interested to see how creator James DeMonaco and producer Jason Blum would expand the story in an episodic format. After visiting their New Orleans set back in June, I can say that at this point I am truly invested.

Premiering September 4 on USA, The Purge will be a 10-episode series that follows several characters as they struggle to survive on the one night of the year when all crime — including murder — is completely legal. As the night wears on, each character is forced to reckon with their past and their own self-motivations as they determine just how far they’ll go to confront the horror around them.

The series, which revolves around the Purge’s standard 12-hour period, is written and executive produced by showrunner Thomas Kelly. Here’s everything we now know from the set visit.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Spike Lee’s latest movie is his first to cater directly to white audiences and that’s something worth talking about.)

At first glance, BlacKkKlansman checks all of director Spike Lee’s typical boxes — it’s black, unapologetic, and confrontational. It’s distinctly told from the point of view of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black male police officer-turned-detective in Colorado Springs in the 1970s. That description alone is loaded with conflict, and Lee doesn’t shy away from any of it.

But the crux of the film tells an even more poignant story about this real-life hero, who boldly decides to go undercover in the Ku Klux Klan — with the help of his white Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) as his physical proxy while he infiltrates the hate group behind the scenes and through covert phone calls. It’s a radical plan and a subsequently radical film that succeeds in illuminating, through a common ground of oppression embodied by these two very different men, the true function of the KKK: absolute power and hatred of everyone who is not a white Protestant man.

But it’s the very thing that makes BlacKkKlansman as compelling as much as it is extremely palatable.

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sorry to bother you spoilers

It’s easy to get swept up into the sheer WTF-ness of Sorry to Bother You. A black male telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) becomes a white man over the phone in order to accelerate his professional success, subsequently gets swallowed up into the system, and tries to fight the power only after he becomes the mutant creature “the man” has always seen him as. It’s a lot to wrap your head around. But for many black people, this metaphorically captures the struggles that so many face on a day-to-day basis in Corporate America. 

(The rest of this post contains spoilers for Sorry to Bother You.)

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buffy the vampire slayer revival

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: it’s time that talent of color get their own narratives, not white hand-me-downs.)

I don’t know why Hollywood continues to ignore us (AKA people of color) whenever we throw free ideas up into the air about great original narratives centering on minority characters that can easily be adapted for TV or film. They know these stories exist. They know they already have built-in audiences. Still, they choose to not even consider it. They’d rather take an already existing white film or TV show and remake it with minority actors in roles immortalized by white talent — like they’re planning to do with the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which will star a black actress in the title role.

This is not okay.

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(Welcome to The Dark Knight Legacy, a series of articles that explore Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece in celebration of its 10th anniversary.)

There has always been a strange appeal to Heath Ledger’s The Joker in The Dark Knight, a playful yet formidable villain capable of making you laugh uncomfortably just as easily as he could throw you off a roof and skip away without so much of a second glance. It’s a fascination propelled by the fact that he not only walks around in a wrinkled purple suit and a face caked with melted clown makeup, but he has a long jagged red scar where his smile is supposed to be. Because as absurd as his maquillage and attire are, The Joker’s scars hide something far more sinister and tell a story about him that, until The Dark Knight, we hadn’t heard before.

But The Joker doesn’t simply recall a haunting tale from his past to appease his curious victims. Rather, he captivates them with the comforting sense that his maniacal behavior is not ungrounded — right before he turns that on its head in the most brutal way.

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