Monday, March 5, 2018

The hypocrisy of the politics of "inclusion" in Hollywood: Frances McDormand, white woman, has won more Best Actor Oscars—two—than all Hispanic actors combined.

Before I get to the main topic, a refresher course: Donald Trump, following the “guidance” of the racist tag-team of Jeff Sessions and Steven Miller, ended DACA on September 5, providing himself the “fig leaf” of giving Congress six months to pass a law “officially” legalizing the Obama era order. After six months, nothing was done; this shouldn’t have been a surprise, given Trump being “convinced” that he could use DACA as leverage to pass the anti-immigrant agenda supported by the likes of Miller and John Kelly when he could have easily ignored Republican extremists. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has no personal interest in passing an immigration bill, and thus we saw how the “effort” died a quick death in the Senate. A leading supporter of immigrants, Sen. Dick Durbin, has declared that given that the status of “Dreamers” is currently on hold due to two court decisions and the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear the case until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals renders a decision, likely next summer, it is likely no congressional action will be taken until after the mid-term election. 

In the meantime, a petulant Sessions is determined to expend every ounce of his puny excuse of something in human form for “advancing” his racist agenda, particularly against Hispanic immigrants (his ICE man in Seattle, Marc J. Moore, looks like Heinrich Himmler's clone). I mean, this is a man who 170 law professors wrote in opposition to his confirmation as Attorney General because “We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States. Nothing in Senator Sessions’ public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge.” Another statement by a conglomeration of human rights groups noted that “Senator Sessions has a 30-year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law and hostility to the protection of civil rights that makes him unfit to serve as the attorney general of the United States.” 

This is the reality that Hispanics face in this country; if women were the object of this kind of hate, Sessions wouldn’t have had a prayer of being confirmed in the current gender-politicized climate. And it isn’t just about Hispanic immigrants, it is all Hispanics. Ann Coulter’s whole being these days seems consumed by her anti-Hispanic phobias, while the “mainstream” racist Pat Buchanan has fulminated “Hispanics are out to destroy America,” and he didn’t bother to distinguish between their legal status.  And there are many people who believe that as well, and some of them are successful, educated white women who still see themselves as “victims.” Even the most “obvious” examples of race hate, such as the “random” execution of three Hispanics by a white male at a Colorado Walmart, and last month’s “random” selection of two Hispanic males attending a co-worker’s party at a club in Seattle for cold-blooded murder by a black thug, are still not viewed for what they are: bigotry against Hispanics in white and black.

At last night’s Academy Awards ceremony, we saw this hypocrisy up close. According to The Guardian’s U.S. bureau take, the goings-on marked a “seismic change”: “a celebration and exhortation of representation and inclusion, after a year marked by seismic cultural change in Hollywood that rippled across the world…Frances McDormand who won the best actress award for playing a grieving, furious mother in Three Billboards, created one of the night’s most memorable tableaux by asking all the female nominees in the Dolby theatre to stand up. ‘Look around,’ she said. ‘We all have stories to tell and projects we need financing.’”

Of course, the “seismic change” that is being talked about here is further “empowering” women in Hollywood, in which the recent sexual crime allegations against many of Hollywood’s male “powerbrokers” has been the catalyst. The hypocrisy of white female Hollywood—which the inclusion of ‘me-too’ minority women simply ignores the reality—is that they have been significant “actors” in the film industry since the very beginning. I have a large trove of films on DVD dating from the silent era into the 1970s, and in many if not most it was the female actors who were the principle “attraction” for watching these films. I personally believe that in recent times the insistence on “personal” politics and juvenile revenge fantasies in the kind of films that McDormand believes needs “financing” does little but impress politically-correct critics, feed into the victim mythology of a limited audience, and alienate male viewers.

But McDormand’s—and that of gender advocates in general—hypocrisy is even more insidious than that. McDormand won her second best actress award last night, and this is “significant” for a reason that most people would not even be aware of. Her second award is one more than what all Hispanic actors and actresses combined have won in 90 years, with Jose Ferrer winning Best Actor for playing a Frenchman in Cyrano de Bergerac; although Ferrer often played "foreign" characters--he was a Nazi in Ship of Fools--he rarely played Hispanic characters (just to make things "fair" we'll throw in the number of Asian actors who have won either Best Actor or Actress; nope, McDormand still has won more than all combined). We are talking about 17 percent of the population with the spending power of $1.6 trillion, yet Hispanic actors have virtually no chance—particularly since they have had only 1.4 percent of the “lead” roles in the 150 top-grossing films since 2000.

Salma Hayek seems to think that aligning herself with “oppressed” white women will help her find “better” work, but nothing could be further from the truth. Her problem is that she isn’t “white” and she speaks with an obvious Spanish accent—and she is competing with white (and black) women for roles that call for “real Americans.” Who does she think is going to win the competition for jobs, especially when Hollywood thinks only in terms of money and the politics of pacification? Her problem isn’t enough roles for women—there are plenty of those—but almost no roles that cater to a Hispanic sensibility. Instead of fighting for Hispanics to have a larger role in Hollywood, she merely hurts the cause of Hispanics by “helping” white (and black) actresses who couldn’t give a rat’s ass if Hispanics like herself had a larger role or not, and this has been demonstrated time and again with all this “diversity” and “inclusion” talk that has led to nothing for Hispanic actors—just like there was a lot of nothing coming out of Congress about protecting “Dreamers.”

I am of the opinion, and I frankly think this is quite obvious, that this is about the egotism of one group of social “elites”—current and former white female acting “royalty”—and their hypocritical need to use a “social statement” to shame the powers-that-be to even further their "need" to elevate themselves above the common run; some, like Rose McGowan, have the nerve to claim that they are "one of you" when their real complaint is that they are has-beens without a job. While I agree that behavior by men who seek to take sexual advantage of their positions is a mistake in this gender-politicized climate, and in a few cases even criminal, I also believe this is being used as “leverage” to force personal politics into films few really want to have to sit through. I wouldn’t be surprised if under that scenario more films like 2015’s Return to Sender would be made, which critic Peter Sobczynski noted he rather do 6 billion other things than watch again. This female revenge fantasy film (scripted by a woman) starring a supposedly “A-list” British actress (Rosamund Pike) is “a sleazy exploitation film that is all the worse because it has somehow convinced itself it is thoughtful and profound” in a gender political way. The rape plot device was apparently just an excuse for an even more nauseating action turned-in by the “victim.”

Even Hayek is being reduced to making completely idiotic and nonsensical revenge films like Everly, in which she supposedly was a “sex slave” for some Japanese gangsters for years before she decided it was time to leave, and instead of actually leaving the building, she sits in a room, just so she can wipe-out hundreds of “assassins” sent to kill her. I guess this is supposed to be about female “empowerment,” or something; I thought it was just asinine. But then again, I think she is kind of full of it; Hayek complaint that "It was unimaginable for a Mexican actress to aspire to a place in Hollywood" is not entirely accurate; being a film buff I have not only heard of, but have seen movies featuring Mexican-born actresses who had successful Hollywood careers, such as Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez and Katy Jurado. But it was a different time--a time when Hollywood cast such actresses as del Rio and Velez because of their "exotic" presence, and during the 1950s when studios first stepped into race relations, Jurado appeared in such films as Man From Del Rio (with fellow Mexican-born actor Anthony Quinn, whose career was extended playing "ethnic" characters) and Trial, two films in which anti-Hispanic bigotry in America was a major part of the story line.

If the rules of the game are set by just another version of white, then Hispanic actors and actresses are once more the biggest losers. As I mentioned a few posts ago, Hollywood has done almost nothing to cultivate Hispanic talent into the film mainstream. Last December after the Oscar nominations came out, Carolina Moreno in the Huffington Post wrote that the whole focus of complaint about the all-white nominees concerned the lack of nominations for the black-oriented Selma, while “Few people brought up the issues of the snubbed Latino actors.” She noted that while Hispanic actors are barely represented in Oscar-nominated or top box office films, it isn’t much better in the generality of films, with less than 5 percent of roles, few of which were “lead” roles.

Roles for Hispanics also tend to be “subservient” to white characters. Felix Sanchez of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts noted that in the film Boyhood, a Hispanic yard worker is “advised” by the wife of the film’s main character (white, of course) to go back to school, and later when they meet up he “thanks” her for her advice. Besides being patronizing to Hispanics, Sanchez believes that Hollywood overall has done a horrible job in highlighting the Hispanic experience in America, especially since the feeble attempt in the 1956 film Giant:

“It’s appalling that in the 50 years between (Giant and Boyhood) we still haven’t understood who Latinos are,” Sanchez said. “‘Giant’ was almost more correct at talking about the Latino condition, because it showed all the biases that people had and the fears they had about intermarriage — but once there was a child, it melted away that anger and that inability to conceive what this would be like... And then you compare that to ‘Boyhood,’ and we’re still in this ‘we need a white character to save us’ mode.” Instead, 69 percent of “the most iconic TV and movie maids” in the last 20 years have been Hispanic, and nearly twenty percent of Hispanics are portrayed as criminals, gangsters or thugs.

And it gets worse, because Spaniards (like Javier Bardem) and other foreign-born Hispanics are used to “pad” the already low numbers for Hispanic representation in Hollywood. Only 12 of the 29 Hispanics nominated for Oscars in all acting categories were or are U.S.-born. Like Indians who come to this country, most non-U.S. born Hispanic actors and directors come from privileged socio-economic backgrounds, and have never faced the kind of prejudice Hispanics in this country face every day. This social class prejudice is painfully obvious when discussing Hollywood’s backslapping for awarding the best director Oscar to Mexican-born directors four times in the past five years, Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity, Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman and The Revenant, and this year Guillermo del Toro The Shape of Water. In none of those films was a Hispanic actor or actress cast. None of these directors has even attempted to leverage their success into making films about the Hispanic experience, because they belong to the Euro-elite social class that is as racist as any white person can be expected to be.

The bottom line here is that I have only contempt for this “seismic shift” that not only just favors women over minority representation, but favors white women almost wholly, using minority women in the usual cynical fashion. Underrepresented Hispanic actresses are fools to believe that aligning themselves with white actresses will improve their positions; they need to separate themselves from white female-led gender advocacy and fight the real battle, which is Hispanic representation and films that tell the Hispanic experience. From what I can see, the fight for white female privilege is fighting over the same territory already held by white male privilege, with no room for minorities, maybe even less. All this amounts to discrimination against non-whites—especially Hispanics who don’t yet even have the political voice of blacks to fight back. McDormand talked about stories to be told; Hispanics are still waiting for the opportunity to tell their story.

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