So Michelle Rodriguez put her foot in her mouth this past week – or did she?
According to TMZ,
“Rodriguez was cruising out of Katsuya Friday night when she shot down rumors she’s in talks to play the Green Lantern … while also throwing shade at minorities who play white superheroes.
Michelle has evidence it’s happening. Cases in point … Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury … and the online campaign for Idris Elba to become Bond.”
Naturally folks got upset about the comments, particular the part about “minorities” supposed appropriation of White artistry. And eventually Rodriguez issued an apology, if she offended anybody, and explained that she has a tendency to speak without filter. And just like people who don’t know they are already in a hole, she continued to dig even deeper by elaborating on her theories about the rampant misappropriation of White culture being committed by minorities:
“What I really meant was that ultimately at the end of the day, there’s a language. And the language that you speak in Hollywood is successful franchise. And I think there are many cultures in Hollywood that are not white that can come up with their own mythology. I mean, we get it all from the same reservoir of life, the fountain of life.
And it doesn’t matter what culture you come from. I’m just saying that instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy. Or trying to turn a white character into a black character or latin character, I think that people should stop being lazy and, you know, and that people should actually make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology. And if American is your mythology and the American culture is deep embedded into who you are and what makes you, or the archetype you are trying to portray, in a hollywood feature or a comic book, so be that…”
Girl, just stop!
But she didn’t. Instead she waxed poetic about all the different “minorities”that are represented in Hollywood – and she even did the air quote thing around the word “minorities” too. And then she advised those same “minorities,” concerned about the lack of characters representing them in Hollywood, to “start focusing on my making that a serious priority. You know?”
No girl. We don’t know about you. Also who are you, now? What happened to the raspy New York accent we had grown to love? Now, she sounds like one of those condescending whiny-voiced yuppy White girls pontificating on all that colorblind and post-racial, airy New-age crap over grass wheat and chai shots at the local Yoga Pants bar.
I don’t know where Rodriguez has been (probably hanging with those whiny-voiced White girls at Yoga Pants bars), but folks, particularly the minorities, have been making the lack of diversity in Hollywood a priority for a long while. Likewise, the whole “why don’t you make your own”-mantra folks like to throw out there to excuse their own apathy fails to consider how the lack of investment – as well as access to distribution platforms -acts as major barriers for why we don’t get to see those mythologies based around people of color on the big screen.
The last I checked, Danny Glover is still hoping to one day get his “epic” film on Haitian revolution leader Toussaint L’Ouverture made and distributed. The same could be said for any of the production teams behind this list of 50 biopics on Black figures currently in limbo. That list includes such notable figures as Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, Oscar Micheaux (the father of Black cinema) and Mahalia Jackson.
Independent filmmakers go broke trying to produce content outside of the Hollywood structure. We can talk about Kickstarting a film all we want, but once you get it made and produced, where is this independent film going to screen? Why there aren’t enough church basements at a person’s disposal, which could produce a return worthy of the investment. So if Black filmmakers (and those doing projects on Black subjects) can’t even get support for these projects about real-life human beings, then what chances does a mythological superhero have? Probably as much chance as Spiderman at a Raid factory.
And we’re talking about producing an independently-created minority superhero. I have no doubt that this character and it’s lore would be pretty bad-ass. But the only way a film about a minority superhero, which doesn’t involve a White savior, will ever see the light of day is if a crazed Black man with a gun highjacks the projector room in an actual movie theater and runs the flick himself. And before any starving Black filmmakers get any ideas: Do not do that! You’ll be dead before you could reach for your popcorn during the opening credits.
More to the point, Rodriguez should know how hard it is for a “minorities” and woman to find work outside of racialized characters. Seriously, she hasn’t starred in a film since Girlfight and we barely see her in supporting roles either, outside of the Fast & Furious franchise or some bit part in another action flick. And when she is working, she is typecast as the hard-as-nails sexually ambiguous Latina chick from New York, who knows how to take a punch as good as she can give one. I’m talking, this is her character in every single film. Surely she can see the lack of diversity in that? But some folks are just happy to be working, I guess…
Although I will say that Rodriguez does have a decent point:
The whole color and gender cast-switching trend, which has become so pervasive in mainstream filmmaking, is all kinds of wack. I wrote before of my outright disdain at the idea of a Black James Bond, mainly because the Bond character is kind of a racist. Therefore, why would we want to put a Black face on that? Not to mention that studio or production company will use color/gender swapping in film as a way to deflect criticism about its true lack of diversity, which often happens behind the camera.
Still, it’s those rudimentary and dismissive views of racism as well as sexism, which irks me the most. And if she as well as others like her (and yes, I’m talking about Anthony Mackie) weren’t so self-involved, spaces for Black filmmakers to dream up, produce and eventually distribute their products might open up in Hollywood.
Like Rodriguez, I would rather see new characters on screen which have been created from the minds and in the voices of real “minorities.” However I also don’t think it is rather lazy to blame the “minorities” for trying to move-in on White people’s game, while completely ignoring the fact that it is the studios who are making these color and gender swapping decisions in the first place.