Monday, October 08, 2007

Word to Big Bird

Meaning, I agree with what is said below.

Wes Anderson: the ultimate heartbreaker, by Thea at Racialicious.

Have you ever woken up one morning and suddenly realised that an old and cherished friend doesn’t care about you or anything you represent, and actually either ignores or caricatures your existence?

Well, neither have I. But too many times I’ve realised that a director (or musician or writer or artist…) that I love like a friend actually creates art that exoticises, fetishises, or all out erases who I am.
I’ve managed to recover from the horror of finding that much of the music I used to like is grossly sexist, (see our little blurb about Jessica Hopper’s famous article on emo music here) but I’m still working on getting over my ex-friend Wes Anderson...

Characters of colour in Anderson’s films are always caricatures, hilariously exotic. Anderson uses “race as a novelty”, says, “suggesting an assertively white-kid view of the world.”

These characters are funny not because of their personalities or life situations - unlike Anderson’s white characters - but solely because they’re brown. It’s like Anderson is saying, “The pirates are Filipino! How hilarious is that??” Needless to say, I don’t get the joke...

Anderson’s beautifully filmed and bizarre characters, who somehow made madness, dysfunctional families and alienation seem not only manageable but funny, were like friends who reminded me that I wasn’t alone. There were many times that Anderson’s movies comforted me with the message that yes, everyone gets lonely, and yes, there are still reasons to live through it. It was like Wes really got me.

But here’s the thing about Wes Anderson: he positions himself as an outsider, and his protagonists are always outsiders, painfully awkward and deeply deficient in social skills but also desperately seeking love (and you will notice that his white characters are capable of longing for love in a much more profound way than his characters of colour will ever acheive). But at the end of the day, what is so outsider about Wes? He’s an extremely succesful, wealthy, white dude. That’s not to say that rich white dudes can’t ever feel alienated. But to position yourself as an outsider, while making art that ensures that people of colour are truly outside, is obscenely fake...

Also, Unbearable Whiteness by Jonah Weiner at Slate, via Racialicious.

...The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson's latest movie, showcases an obnoxious element of Anderson that is rarely discussed: the clumsy, discomfiting way he stages interactions between white protagonists—typically upper-class elites—and nonwhite foils—typically working class and poor. The plot concerns three brothers, Francis, Peter, and Jack Whitman (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman) who set out on a "spiritual journey" across India by rail...

...[For] a director as willfully idiosyncratic as Anderson, it's surprising how many white-doofuses-seeking-redemption-in-the-brown-skinned-world clichés Darjeeling Limited inhabits...

After a series of pratfalls, the brothers throw up their hands, deciding to go their separate ways. (What follows is no movie-ruining giveaway, but I should insert a SPOILER ALERT, just in case.) As they walk alongside a canal, they see three adolescent Indian brothers attempting to cross it on a raft attached to a system of ropes and pulleys. A pulley snaps, and the boys are flung into the raging currents. Francis, Peter, and Jack dive in—one set of flailing brothers trying to save another—but one of the adolescents is killed. They're invited to the child's rural village for his funeral (which Anderson cannot resist presenting in slow motion and setting to a Kinks song), where the Whitman clan realize that they need to stick together and see out the rest of their journey. Turns out that a dead Indian boy was all the brothers were missing.

This isn't just heavy-handed, it's offensive. In a grisly little bit of developing-world outsourcing, the child does the bothersome work of dying so that the American heroes won't have to die spiritually...

The comments that follow the Slate article are depressing, but not surprising. God forbid someone point out that racism isn't confined to nooses, burning crosses and pointy hats.


If you saw last week's episode of Gossip Girl, here's an article you might enjoy: At the elite colleges - dim white kids, by Peter Schmidt at The Boston Globe, via Racialicious. Emphases mine, for those of you who like to skim.

Surf the websites of [selective colleges] and you will find press releases boasting that they have increased their black and Hispanic enrollments, admitted bumper crops of National Merit scholars or became the destination of choice for hordes of high school valedictorians. Many are bragging about the large share of applicants they rejected, as a way of conveying to the world just how popular and selective they are.

What they almost never say is that many of the applicants who were rejected were far more qualified than those accepted. Moreover,
contrary to popular belief, it was not the black and Hispanic beneficiaries of affirmative action, but the rich white kids with cash and connections who elbowed most of the worthier applicants aside.

Researchers with access to closely guarded college admissions data have found that, on the whole, about 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America's highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions' minimum admissions standards...

Who are these mediocre white students getting into institutions such as Harvard, Wellesley, Notre Dame, Duke, and the University of Virginia? A sizable number are recruited athletes who, research has shown, will perform worse on average than other students with similar academic profiles, mainly as a result of the demands their coaches will place on them.

A larger share, however, are students who gained admission through their ties to people the institution wanted to keep happy, with alumni, donors, faculty members, administrators, and politicians topping the list.
Applicants who stood no chance of gaining admission without connections are only the most blatant beneficiaries of such admissions preferences. Except perhaps at the very summit of the applicant pile - that lofty place occupied by young people too brilliant for anyone in their right mind to turn down - colleges routinely favor those who have connections over those who don't. While some applicants gain admission by legitimately beating out their peers, many others get into exclusive colleges the same way people get into trendy night clubs, by knowing the management or flashing cash at the person manning the velvet rope.

Leaders at many selective colleges say they have no choice but to instruct their admissions offices to reward those who financially support their institutions, because keeping donors happy is the only way they can keep the place afloat. They also say that the money they take in through such admissions preferences helps them provide financial aid to students in need.

But many of the colleges granting such preferences are already well-financed, with huge endowments. And, in many cases, little of the money they take in goes toward serving the less-advantaged.

Did someone say Duke? Duke apologizes to lacrosse players, by Aaron Beard, AP, via The Buffalo News and Racialicious.

What a country!

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Don't forget to share w/ me your Rob Thomas story!