Pre-Review Jitters

overt and covert racism

Found on social media

I’ll have to keep this relatively short since I promised my wife I’d help her in the yard this afternoon.

I tend to “catch up” on movies after they’ve left the theater by renting the DVDs from the public library. Even if the film is a stinker, I’m not out a dime, though I’ll never get those two hours back.

Last night, I watched the 2017 film Thor: Ragnarok and completely enjoyed it. I’ll write a more comprehensive review later. Relative to this blog, I’ve also watched and should review Wonder Woman (another winner), Spider-Man: Homecoming (ditto), and Lucy (uh…).

Tonight’s feature is Avengers: Infinity War.

I’ve put a library hold on the Black Panther, and thereby hangs a tale, or at least trepidation.

The movie has been touted as amazing, over the top, and a social justice victory for Disney and Marvel. The Black Panther was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and debuted in 1966 in Fantastic Four #52, and it remains one of my favorite FF comic books. Of course, being created by two Jewish guys might not fly well in the 21st century, but that’s the reality of it.

However, as I said, things have changed. African-American author and screenwriter Steven Barnes blogged at length about the film’s implications as well as both the Black Panther and Wonder Woman.

African-American author and activist Denny Upkins has also blogged about the Black Panther phenomenon, which brings me to my point.

Look at my profile pic. I’m white. Obviously I don’t have an African-American lived experience to draw upon when viewing and reviewing the “Black Panther” film. That means, my own lived experience will be different because of my personal identity, my own experiences, and my cultural context.

Again, I haven’t seen the film yet, and I’ve avoided spoilers for the most part, but even if I think the movie is terrific, will that somehow still bring someone’s ire down upon my head? Is a non-Person of Color (POC) reviewing this movie failing to stay in his own lane by drifting onto someone else’s?

Okay, maybe I’m being paranoid, but relative to the image I posted at the top of this blog post, and other recent news I have to take pause.

Oh, I’ll still see and review the movie, and I’ll try, as with all of my other reviews, to be as fair and objective as possible, but being human, I will still have an opinion, and I may find something about the film that isn’t perfect. What if I don’t like the set design or the soundtrack? What if I find a plot hole? In other words, should I treat this movie just like any other movie I’ve ever seen and reviewed?

What do you think?

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32 thoughts on “Pre-Review Jitters

  1. To be honest, I am personally tired of the “identity” debate…it only applies anyway when discussing human beings, and can get utterly ridiculous. You never hear someone complain because the author/creator’s MC was poor and the author is not poor. It used to be that books and movies allowed one to escape reality. Only recently have I heard children say they cannot relate to something because they are of a different color/culture/etc.

    I say watch what you want, write what you want, and let others decide if they want to read your review. It’s ridiculous that people even pause to wonder if they should write something because they do not “belong” to a particular group.

    Good grief, nothing would ever be created again if you had to be the same as your MC.

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    • Although it would be an interesting assignment. What if you had to create a world where everyone was like you? That couldn’t be too literal, because my world would be full of nothing but 60+ year old white men, which would be pretty boring. Okay, let’s say the assignment allows for men, women, and children, but they all had to be the same race? That would be racist since all the characters would be white, and it would be even worse if my mythical society were happy and successful.

      An argument could be made for POC to create their own worlds that looked like them. Perhaps the Black Panther is such a film. What would happen if your writing assignment was to create a world of people all like each other and then suddenly, they encountered something different?

      It occurs to me that’s what happens to children. Imagine a white child born to white parents and living in a white neighborhood. Then an African-American or Mexican-American family moves in who has a child the same age as the white child? In this case, I don’t have to imagine what would happen, because this happens to kids all the time. Below a certain age, the kids relate to each other as kids. Yes, they know something’s different, and they’re curious about each other (just like a four year old boy and girl who “play doctor” because they’ve discovered their genitals are different from one another), but there’s no hostility, because they haven’t been sufficiently exposed to racial attitudes of their cultures yet.

      It would be interesting to create that writing challenge, but it would only work if a highly diverse population participated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Adults could take a few lessons from kids, that’s for sure. I remember my son having a problem with his teacher because he disagreed that people think boys play sports better than girls. In his world, people are people and each one is capable of the same thing (within reason of course). Personally, I love reading re-tellings of fairytales based on different cultures. The problem though lies in the notion that a work can be defined as “insert race/culture” based on its author. My son has an English teacher that thinks along those lines. Just yesterday she called Homer’s Odyssey “White literature”. Excuse me? Some of the arguments on Twitter is that no author should write in a different voice/race/culture than their own. Well, there goes sci-fi. I think people should focus on the quality of the story rather than the author’s skin color or cultural heritage. The world is full of fantastic viewpoints that would be lost if we “stayed with our own kind” (not my words).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t understand your hesitancy. Are you expecting a mob to gather around your house after someone researches who you are and where you live, because they didn’t like your perspective in a film review and deem it biased by your own experiences which don’t include those presumed to characterize the film’s characters? Has the rule of law become passé? Has mob rule eliminated constitutional freedoms? Must the National Guard be summoned to disperse rioting mobs? Have terrorists so intimidated you that you would consider for even one moment that you must censor your writing? If so, I might recommend that the time has come to take up arms to defend yourself and your family. The pen may be mightier than the sword in a civilized environment, but if civilization has been destroyed by deliberate disdain of the social contract that supports American Liberty and Justice, then the sword may be the only remaining recourse.

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  3. I happen to be native, and my best friend happens to be black (we ar Peruvian). Both are comic book readers and neither of us have seen Black Panther. With all the fanfare about the cast for us it seemed ridiculous, as negating Blade or Spawn in the cine, we just want good stories, so it was not a boycott but lack of tiredness for the hype. It can be a good movie, it seems so, but I prefer to see it in a better time. The movie was popular here because any Marvel movie is popular, not because it would be a justice movement, what is preposterous as it is a product from multi billion corporations in search to be multi trillion corporations hehe

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  4. This has really gone over the top. You, James, have been talking about civil war repeatedly and hating all white men and now a fear of writing a review — to the point PL thinks you’re actually thinking there will be a violent (literal violence) retaliation for what you write. Of course, that’s not only due to you; our liar in chief spreads lies all the time — one of which was calling people speaking their minds and Democrats mobs and anti-law. But do you think you could dispel the notion you truly think there is a real threat to you if you review a movie?

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      • If you’ll notice, Marleen, I posed a number of questions, pushing the envelope of the more general question: “Just how bad is the situation, really?” I hope you recognize likewise that you are pushing the limits of another envelope of exaggeration with your reference to a “liar in chief”. Now, such things have been said about every president since at least JFK, though I might challenge your criticism of the present POTUS by asking you to distinguish between statements of view or opinion with which you disagree and actual lies to cover up misconduct or crimes of office. I will also demand that you discount issues relating to sexual infidelity because such behavior has not been limited to only this president, but has been noted also particularly for Bill Clinton and for JFK. President Trump has antagonized numerous people with statements that challenged or disrespected their most cherished beliefs. That renders him as an iconoclast, but not as a liar. He has, on the other hand, pursued vigorously his program to “MAGA”, a meme employed also by Reagan who was likewise resisted. He has reduced unemployment and improved the economy, and has made some gains with his foreign policy. He could do more, undoubtedly, if not for the constant sniping that began even before his election.

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      • Also characteristic of the present political climate is the demonization of one’s political adversaries, along with simplistic black-and-white judgmentalism and exaggeration of their human failings. The truth is usually much more nuanced and complex.

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      • Speaking of judgment and “demonization” — again, we have those who have done it for decades or more suddenly shocked that anyone cares about morals or ethics (and even calling caring “virtue signalling” — tables turned on people who mistakenly grew up in good faith believing the moralizers and seeing exceptions as exceptions until… it isn’t true anymore). Perhaps you saw that I said this recently: I … am now looking at a Facebook message of a state level committee member who said, [quote] Little Ms. Pritchett – you and your comrades stealth attack on Yoder is going to blow up in your leftist face. The REAL REPUBLICANS will remember what the scum DEMONRATS tried to do [to someone other than Yoder] … in November. Your radical socialist kick boxing lesbian Indian will be sent back packing to the reservation[too many exclamation points to count!]!

        [Then an afternote from me:]
        [It appears] Pritchett is … female (and maybe a different kind of Republican) and not a hater of minorities (and specifically indigenous people) and not a literal demonizer of another party.

        It might have been in the same conversation, otherwise in a different recent one, that I showed there is a supposed prophecy (among leading religionists) about Trump. Tell me… you are a religious person. What happens to people on the wrong side of prophecy?

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      • Funny you should ask about prophecy, Marleen. There is a Talmudic assertion that the gift of prophecy was taken away from the wise and given to children and madmen. If you note there a sense of cynicism, you wouldn’t be wrong. Consequently it would be a very Jewish question to ask, about anyone offering current prophecy, into which of those two categories should they be deemed to fit. When reading comments on social media, even when there is no hint of prophecy, I still find myself thinking that children would be better mannered and madmen would make more sense.

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