Join Date: Mar 2006
Re: The Twins: Racist?
Blacks and Crime:
I used to watch COPS and many other crime shows. Of course blacks commit crimes, but I would argue that media coverage, coupled with mass media (entertainment) slant the coverage to some extent to project a negative view of blacks. In the past it might have been intentional, I'm not so sure if that is the case today, but the effects are similar regardless. For example, even then-Senator Obama and John Edwards were both saying during the campaign that more blacks are in prison than are in college. I believed that, and most other people probably believed that too. Thankfully the Washington Post actually did the research and found out that it isn't true. And it led me to wonder why I so easily believed that. I believe in part it was based on a steady diet of cop shows, crime reports on the news, etc. that paint a picture of black criminality. Not to mention that I didn't do the research like I guess I should've.
But how many reports do you see of blacks doing well in the mainstream media? There are some reports, and a lot more now that Obama is in the White House. Of young blacks not involved in crime, helping their communities, graduating from college, etc.? The media usually doesn't talk about good things across the board, but it does mention human interest stories quite a bit. Also, there's CNN and it's so-called helpful Black in America series where great minds sit around and ponder about all the problems in the black community. When white people have problems its a national problem, or an "American" problem. With black people, it's just our problem. Now, I'm sure there are problems in the white community too, in fact I'm guessing that they are dealing with a lot of the same problems we are dealing with, however they don't get singled out like that. They aren't put in a corner and pointed at essentially.
And I wonder how much of this negative imaging makes things like racial profiling, redlining, disparity in home loans for blacks and whites (which affects the wealth gap between whites and blacks, perhaps one of the truest measures of economic freedom), following blacks around in stores, limiting the number of black youths that can come into stores at times, not picking up black people in cabs, etc. How much of that behavior comes from an actual reading of crime statistics? Or how much of it comes from perceptions of how black people are, perhaps shaped in part by the media?
BTW, back in the day, just look back at some of the way 'respectable' papers like the New York Times referred to black people. I only bring it up to say there is a precedent for slanted coverage.
Blacks and TV:
There's one drama series headlined by a black person, on the network and basic cable shows, and that's a lot of channels: Hawthorne. CW recently cancelled The Game and Everybody Hates Chris. CBS also cancelled The Unit. Currently, Tyler Perry has two sitcoms on TBS. To my knowledge, there is one black sitcom coming in the fall on FOX, Brothers (which I guarantee you won't last long; the commericals look terrible), and the animated Cleveland Show (though Cleveland Brown is voiced by a white guy; some of the cast at least will be black). To be fair, there are blacks threaded throughout TV. The network execs couldn't get away with having almost zero blacks these days but most of the roles are sideline or support characters.
You keep saying well white characters suffer the same problems of lack of development, etc. That's true. But I think you fail to grasp that there are so many more roles for white actors, so many different types of character roles that whites play in comparison to black. Why aren't Derek Luke, Lauren London, Sharon Leal, Meagan Goode, Columbus Short, and other members of young black Hollywood, getting the kind of push that Megan Fox and Shia LeBouf for example have? Is it for lack of talent? Is it for lack of looks? Is it because of marketability? If so, why is that? Could it be that whites, and other international markets are still reluctant to support blacks except for Will Smith?
Thanks for reminding me about Spawn. To me, it would seem like Hollywood would want to profit off the urban market and the popularity of hip hop by rushing to put more black heroes on the screen. But that hasn't really happened. If you just start from 2000, you have to take Meteor Man, Blankman, Spawn, Steel, and on TV MANTIS out of the equation. That leaves two Blade films, Catwoman, and Hancock. And there were notable roles by MCD and Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable, the Spirit, and I would argue Iron Man.
Now, since 2000, you've had: three X-Men (And Halle Berry wasn't a major portion of the film. Her popularity helped sell it, but she her storyline was never major. She was eye candy. Though they tried to 'beef' up her role in the last two films, her storylines were never part of the main action), two Batman films, V for Vendetta, LXG, Watchmen, two Hulk films, Daredevil, Iron Man, Ghost Rider, The Spirit, two Punisher films, two Fantastic Four films, Superman Returns, Wolverine, three Spider-Man films, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, Sin City, 300, and I'm sure I'm missing some. All had predominately white cast. The only ones I would say had significant roles for blacks were The Spirit, Daredevil, Iron Man (and that's a maybe), the Batfilms. The point I'm trying to make is there has been an explosion in comic book films recently and black projects have not ridden that wave.
Of course you have argued that its based on the popularity of these projects. To some extent that's true, but there have been more than one obscure project made (all the Alan Moore films, Road to Perdition, The Spirit, AHOV, for example) during this period. I think the history of race in comics and the lack of support for black heroes, not to mention other non-white male heroes, has played a factor in it. Also, I think that has played a role in how many mainstream black characters headline books, which is a good sign of their popularity. As it stands now, Black Panther and War Machine have their own title. The new Azrael's is coming. That's about it. Three, at DC and Marvel combined. Spawn, at Image, is no longer a black character to my knowledge and I'm not sure if there are any black headliners at Image. I heard something about the Free Agent, a Captain America type that's coming. Also, Image is working with Tyrese to produce Mayhem, which is also coming later this fall.
Black Lightning is heading the Outsiders (though his name is not above the credits so I don't know if he counts), Steel and his niece were the main stars of the recently cancelled Infinity Inc, and blacks are on almost every team book at both companies, and spread throughout various series. So there is more exposure. But how important the roles they play is debatable. And how many most white readers know or care about, or could see or would support if given a shot on the big screen is unknown. Even Blade was a C-list, or D-list character and Goyer and Snipes struck gold with him, and he hasn't found much success on the printed page.
I do want to give the comics companies more credit though. They've improved much since I was a kid. They've produced good stuff like Captain America: The Truth, and Marvel is standing behind Black Panther, and recently there have been quite a few miniseries about Vixen, Black Lightning, Cyborg, Storm, Blue Marvel, Bishop, so that's all a step in the right direction. Luke Cage: Noir is coming later this summer.
But sadly, John Stewart has been featured in Geoff Johns GL series, but I don't know how much development he's received. I think he's still a second banana, despite his great role in the JL/JLU series. Only recently has Jim Rhodes again stepped out of Stark's shadow with his War Machine series, though in the movies he's still at the sidekick stage. I don't have a problem with sidekicks per se, but when most of the major white characters are the main heroes and a good deal of the blacks are sidekicks or sideline characters, scoring a diversity point but not doing much else, I do have a problem with that. I feel that might be the case still for too many black characters.
Rap and Minstrely:
The debate over the n-word rages on in the black community. It's not something that all blacks have embraced, even the ones that use the word frequently. It's not a term I consider personally powerful at all, because if someone white called me that, or someone non-black, heck even some black people, then I would be insulted. It's a word with a lot of context behind it that's best left to history. You can't clean up crap no matter how hard you try. The NAACP even held a burial for this word a couple years ago, which is a good indication, despite how symbolic and futile that was, that the black community is divided over its use.
I think that gangsta rap has helped to promote a negative image of blacks, young urban blacks in particularly, but the ghetto tag has filtered beyond the inner city, helped by the popularity of rap music. It has had a tremendous impact on how many young blacks see the world and themselves in it, and it has influenced other aspects of the mass media, and it has shaped perceptions. Perhaps I shouldn't say all. But to me, I think there has been largely limited social interaction among blacks and whites. It has gotten better over time, but there are still gaps there, and if there is an information void, and you don't want to do the work-because sometimes it's hard work-really getting to know another person and another culture, particularly between blacks and whites due to our shared history-then the media can provide a short hand. And if you're seeing stuff like Bill O'Reilly going to a Harlem restaurant and marveling about how the black patrons weren't shouting or cursing, or how FOX tried to link domestic violence (Chris Brown-Rihanna) to hip hop culture, etc., I fear you might not want to get to know other people because you think you already do courtesy of the media. Of course, about the domestic violence thing, they threw in James Brown, Jim Brown, Ike Turner (I think) and a token white guy just for good measure.
A minstrel was an uneducated black person (a white person's idea of a black person), simple, fun loving, or perhaps scheming. What is the image projected by most gangsta rappers-ignorant, more concerned with street learning than book learning, love to go to parties and do drugs and sleep with women, and scheming or hustling to make money usually by exploiting other blacks. There are differences. There is a violence component that wasn't there with the minstrels, the minstrels knew they had to be non-threatening to white people if they wanted to avoid getting blacklisted or lynched. The gangsta rapper doesn't have to worry about that of course, and despite the occassional vague criticism of the system, most of the gangsta rap focuses on exploiting the people they at the same time say they are 'representing'. And far too many young black people IMO have bought into this for a variety of reasons and allowed gangsta rap to cloak itself with a label of authencity that many young whites have gobbled up as authentic. I would argue that many whites also saw the minstrels as authentic too, or at least wished it were so. Neither the gangsta or the minstrel is a threat to white people. The gangsta is more a threat to his own community and the minstrel was more an embarrassment to his own community. It's not a direct link, but I do think the images promoted by gangsta rap are the descendants of the minstrel images.
The Twins were certainly not the main characters of his film. To him, they were probably sidenote characters, there to inject a little fun or hipness. But what bothers me is that he probably didn't even stop to think how other people might perceive it. I'm sure he wants everyone to go and enjoy his movie. He wants everyone's money and for him not to blink an eye, or not blink too much gives me concern.
When you have two characters who are going to be preceived as being hip hop, which is largely, overwhelmingly, identified with black youth culture promoting the idea that they don't read, breakdancing (I heard), and cursing, it's just one more link in a chain of negative images. It alone, hopefully, won't make some others think that all black people are like that, or that black culture is something different or funny. Coupled with the shock jocks, other movies, other TV shows, etc. it creates a distorted collage.
I don't know Bay. I can't assume what his intentions are. I hope they aren't negative or pernicious when it comes to racial issues or any other matter. But I will say that he had quite a bit of control of what got in the film and what didn't, and also in shaping the characters. If he didn't want the twins, as they are presented in the film, to be in there, they wouldn't be. Placing two robots who purposely mimic hip hop (ie. young black urban culture) was deliberate. Now, whether he intended for it to be negative is a matter of debate. One that perhaps is unwinnable, because I don't think either of us or any other posters know his mind. But we can perhaps gauge the effect, and IMO, from what I've read, I don't think its out of bounds for people to consider the Twins racially offensive.
Last edited by DarKush; 06-29-2009 at 04:57 PM.