I’ve been having some serious introspective sessions lately with my life choices, career path and general choices I’ve made since graduation. Consequently, I’ve found myself thinking more deeply about what kind of art I consume–specifically what kind of movies and television shows I watch.
I find myself in a conundrum: Many of the franchises/style of films I enjoy employ problematic actors to play out tropes that demean women or are unintentionally homophobic/transphobic or play into stereotypes that are harmful to the communities they aim to represent (re: bury your gays), so can I watch these films without feeling guilty for enjoying them? With the rash of celebrities recently caught up in the #MeToo movement, and the queer feminist perspective I maintain, I have yet to find some show or movie untarnished by the misdeeds of its artistic team or participants. So, can I separate the art from the artist?
Watching these films with a critical eye and bringing up what makes them problematic when I discuss them with others seems to be a compromise that works. Granted, not everyone I discuss these films with will share my views. But, calling out a problem and starting the discussion is an important part of changing the industry. So, the next time you watch the latest Marvel movie, enjoy it! But afterwards, consider the implications it has for the minorities or marginalized communities portrayed within it.
Need an example? Try Deadpool 2, one of my favorite movies by the way, which includes a lesbian couple but nearly erases Deadpool’s pansexual identity. Didn’t know that Deadpool is pan? That’s the point. This article discusses what’s included and what is left to be desired from the queer perspective in the movie (and does a really good job explaining things that may not be common knowledge too).
Quick sidenote before I change the subject: here are a couple of resources I find really helpful in critically examining the films and tv shows I watch:
So, how do we evaluate a film critically when it’s a problematic actor we have to be aware of? Well, the easiest way I’ve found is getting to know the actor through the use of the google machine, and using what you know about them to inform what you see them do on the screen. Wow that was a long sentence. Better way to say it: Learn what pitfalls the actor commonly has and watch out for them in movies they are in.
Example: Jared Leto. Sewer system of a human being. Not a great coworker. Sends dead pigs, used condoms and anal beads to fellow actors. Okay, wait. Not a good example. I don’t really like his work at all anyway. But if you did like a movie he’s in, say, Dallas Buyers Club, there’s definite potential to separate Leto the actor from his character Rayon.
I realize this is another problematic movie since they cast Leto as a trans woman–speaking of which, good on you ScarJo for dropping the role of Dante “Tex” Gill albeit after significant backlash and an ill-advised public statement. But that’s part of the research I’m talking about to inform your watching of the film. Ask yourself: should Leto be playing a trans woman? What past experience and support for the queer community has he shown? What will inform his playing of the role? What is he like as an actor? What do his costars from the show say about him? Are his acting methods beneficial to the character? These are a few of the questions to use the internet or other resources to find the answers for.
I’d advise developing a few of your own questions to research as well for things you feel strongly about, like queer issues or race issues or the portrayal of characters with disabilities. Who am I to tell you what to care about? Anyway, just make sure when you watch a film or a show, you know what you’re getting into. If not the first time, do some research before you rewatch a film you really enjoyed and decide whether its something you want to support.
That’s all I have for today. Here’s a few little easter eggs from my research I thought you might enjoy:
This video isn’t as scary as the cover photo looks I promise.
There’s this cool article about feminist consumption of pop culture:
This article is a lengthy list of problematic actors.
A continuation of my distaste for Jared Leto and everything he stands for.
Also here is the link for the cover photo to this post.