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We need to talk about problematic Hollywood

It’s not just Mary Poppins that needs to be brought into the 21st century, argues Godfrey Elfwick

February 1, 2019

11:24 AM

1 February 2019

11:24 AM

This week the New York Times published an article which was long overdue, illustrating the obvious racism featured in the original Mary Poppins movie. (Something which, incidentally, Titania McGrath had already flagged up in a tweet last September:

mary poppins problematic hollywood

I remember watching that scene as a child one Christmas, and even at the tender age of four, a woman putting coal on her face instantly reminded me of the black and white minstrel show which I would read about 14 years later when studying for my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Rights and Social Justice (Hons). This, coupled with the cultural appropriation of Dick Van Dyke putting on a West Indian accent throughout the entire film utterly nauseated me. This has prompted me to think about other movies that flaunt worryingly problematic narratives under the guise of ‘entertainment’.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 years a slave problematic hollywood

On the surface, this movie appears to be drawing attention to the inhuman suffering of Africans and African Americans during the period of American slavery before the Thirteenth Amendment was passed. However, if we dig a little deeper, we see it’s nothing but a shameful display of harmful stereotyping. An opportunity was completely lost here to promote a more a positive and empowered image of PoC. They could have followed the UK’s Doctor Who’s shining example of diversifying history when it depicted a version of Victorian London in which people of all ethnicities, despite evidence to the contrary, were socially accepted. Or the episode ‘Empress of Mars’ which depicted a black actor as a soldier in Queen Victoria’s army. Who cares if none of that actually happened? What damage does it do to pretend history didn’t play out the way we really wish it had? I see no issues with this. So why then didn’t they call it ‘12 Years a Bank Manager’? Or ‘12 Years a Lawyer in an Up and Coming African American Dominated Law Firm’? Instead, they chose to concentrate on the usual lazy trope of black people being slaves. Racism-laced apathy on the screenwriter’s part there, I feel.

E.T the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

et problematic hollywood

In the scene where Elliott’s sister dresses E.T. in women’s clothes, he is clearly very comfortable with his new identity. However, Elliott does not approve, stating: ‘We should give him (notice the refusal to use feminine or non-binary pronouns?) his dignity back. He then goes on to say how ‘ridiculous’ E.T. looks, despite the fact E.T. looks stunning and brave. Watching this scene again now makes it clear to me that it should be re-dubbed for modern attitudes.

Here is an example of how I believe the script should play out:

(Elliott opens the door to see E.T. looking stunning and brave, dressed in a non-gender conforming outfit)

ELLIOTT: Hey E.T. you look stunning and brave.

E.T.: I appreciate the fact you are showing such tolerance even though this is the early Eighties.

ELLIOTT: No problem, the trans community has a hard enough time as it is without me adding more ignorance and hate speech. What are your preferred pronouns?

E.T.: Excuse me but my pronouns are ze/zir/zim, and these are not my ‘preferred’ pronouns, they ARE my pronouns and you need to respect that.

ELLIOTT: Apologies, this will not happen again.

E.T.: Damn right it won’t or I’ll call the space police and have you arrested for doing a hate crime.

DREW BARRYMORE: You tell him zister! (she high-fives E.T. and Elliott looks suitably ashamed, perhaps you could do this using CGI, or reshoot the scene with Warwick Davies and just get Drew Barrymore to kneel down)


Ghostbusters (1984)

ghostbusters problematic hollywood

This film has become hugely problematic due to the fact it impacts heavily on the success of Ghostbusters (2016). I find it an insult to the feminist struggle that a film can come along 32 years previously, completely ignore the lore of the original 2016 female-led reboot and be vastly more successful due to it being ‘better’. I’ve seen both versions and would argue that a movie should not have to be well-written, wonderfully cast, original, funny and ingeniously creative in order to get good reviews and break box-office records. No. A movie should merely have Paul Feig telling us over and over again how good it is, then losing his shit and calling the original movie’s fanbase ‘assholes’ when the trailer comes out and makes it look like a pile of crap.

Honestly, the ONLY reason this film got bad reviews was due to sexism. It’s as simple as that. All those pathetic manbabies hated the fact that a movie had been released that had WOMEN in it. A completely female-led cast of strong women (directed by Paul Feig), proving to the entire world that men (apart from Paul Feig) are not needed. Take THAT patriarchy!

The fact that the 1984 version has not yet been destroyed and removed from movie databases such as IMDB tells us all we need to know about the obsessive need men have to constantly be in control (except Paul Feig, obviously).

Schindler’s List (1993)

Three words: Too. Many. Nazis.

(Mr Spielberg when you’ve read this article, make the proposed amendments asap. PM me on Facebook for my Paypal details).

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