movies about true events; movies where white people don’t belong

I posted a Facebook status today after reading the amazing story about the Chilean miners. It’s pretty amazing to see what a system for living they came up with during the two months (!) they were stuck inside. I really do have a lot of respect and admiration for them, and I wish them the best, but that’s so not the point of this post. My status was about how I bet it’s not long until Hollywood makes a movie about it and puts a bunch of white guys in it to star as Chilean miners. Brad Pitt, Ethan Hawke, or Jake Gyllenhaal will be the lead, and there will be one Mexican guy with the wrong accent to make it “authentic” (because everyone who speaks Spanish looks and sounds the same), kind of like how Rita Moreno was secondary to Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” but made it more legit, because at least she’s actually Puerto Rican.

Another thing I could talk about is how it’s actually okay for people of one race to portray people of another race in a film. Because films are art, not life. Right?

Except that art imitates life. Also, it’s really not okay, because it’s only okay in one situation, and that unfairness means that really, it should just be considered completely not okay. You should only play the race that you are. Here’s why: white people play everyone, but if I wanted to be in a movie that takes place in 1700s upper class Britain, I would be told that that would be anachronistic, because black people wouldn’t have been there. Or if I wanted to play Hillary Clinton in a biopic, I would be told that that’s not right, because she’s not black. But if Lindsay Lohan wanted to play Imelda Marcos, they’d dye her hair and do her makeup to make her look Asian. If it’s okay for the white people, it has to be okay for everyone. Or it has to be not okay for everyone. Pick one, Hollywood.

I have no doubt that in the next five years, there will be a film about this. I think that’s a little crass. It’s like movies about 9/11. Or the new movie about Valerie Plame. It’s too recent. Give it time to die. Give the people in it time to die, or at least time to scuttle back into their lives. (Also, in general, Hollywood needs to write its own stories every once in awhile and stop stealing from books and current events. That would be nice.) And, though I know this will never change because it’s not how society works, it would be really nice if, when those movies do get made, that the cast at least looked like the real people would have looked. That is, not all smolderingly attractive, and NOT ALL WHITE. This will do a lot of things: a) make Hollywood look less racist; b) not appropriate stories belonging to a group of people and decide that they belong to a different group; c) help the general public see value in people who are not usually depicted in films; d) allow struggling actors who are not usually the kind of people cast in films to be cast in films; and e) be a more valid film. The other option is for people to come up with their own original stories and do whatever they want with them, rather than taking something real and fictionalizing nearly everything about it to suit a studio’s agenda. It’s one thing to combine minor characters or take out a few storylines. It’s another to pretend something is “real” or “history” and make it as unrealistic and historically inaccurate as possible.

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2 thoughts on “movies about true events; movies where white people don’t belong

  1. Came here by way of racialicious…this post is so true. I will have to poke around your site some more. Keep writing good stuff!

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