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June 1994


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"P. Feng" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 5 Jun 1994 23:49:33 -0500
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Denise Bryson said:
Strikes me the movie would have been embraced with open arms if the
protagonist had been someone other than who he was:  white, male, etc.
Can you imagine the "empowerment" rhetoric we would have had to deal
with had the protagonist been a person of color?  Even more, should
femaleness enter the picture.
Bryson may be right, but I doubt it.  (Look at the reception of Spike
Lee's films, or JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE IRT.)  But that misses an
important point: if the protagonist had been someone other than who he
was (white, male, presumably hetero, lower-middle class) -- it just
wouldn't have been the same film or the same issue, no?
The whole point is that the protagonist is a white male "everyman," he
who is symbolically the oppressor and who has supposedly felt
disenfranchised by affirmative action etc.  (Note: I'm NOT saying that
white straight males are "the oppressor," nor would I argue that only
whites can be racist -- to do so does not account for shifts in power
relationships.  I am merely saying that straight white males are often
constructed as if they were "the oppressor," and many of my swm friends
feel "put-upon.")  (Note 2: obviously I use the term "everyman"
ironically, to highlight the fact that he is not everyman but is foisted
upon the film audience as if he were.)
If we are really interested in talking about the bizarreness of whites
negotiating an increasingly diverse L.A., about wanting to go home, I
would suggest looking at the also bizarre GRAND CANYON, which deploys
race in an even more f**ked up way: i.e., Mary McDonnell encounters a
homeless man in an alley (why she's jogging in an alley is anyone's
guess) who she thinks tells her (channeling a message from God?) to
"adopt" (keep) a Latina baby for her very own, to fill the emptiness of
her bourgeois life...
Peter Feng