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3.01.2012

We Write Our Own Stories

Oscars night I wanted The Help to win. It was mostly because it was the only movie I saw out of everything. I wasn't too fond of the movie itself. While some might see it as realistic portrayal of racism in the United States, others are quick to point out that the movie (and book) is degrading to Blacks and the civil rights movement. (For a more insightful look, read Roxane Gay's essay). The franchise suffers from the "Mockingbird problem." Like To Kill A Mockingbird, The Help is a civil rights era novel about social justice; yet beyond the equality message is the condescension: "you (the minority) can only get help if an educated white person leads." Such works recast civil right leaders fighting for their own equality as only a small part of the majority's narrative. Surely, Martin Luther King, Jr. was given a chance by white people, right?

I guess part of my motivation for cheering for Viola Davis (who loss despite having to say something as stupid as "You is kind, you is smart, you is important.") and Octavia Spencer (who won) was that they were the only major nominees of color (they also did a great job in their movie and I've always loved Spencer's work). The lack of the diversity in the Oscars has always been noted. In a recent UCLA, it was found that:

All Best Actress winners since 2002 have been white.
No winner in any acting category during the last ten years has been Latino, Asian American, or Native American.
Oscar winners and nominees of color make fewer movies per year after their nominations than their white peers do.
Oscar winners and nominees of color are more likely than their white peers to work in television, which is considered lower-status work.
Oscar winners and nominees of color are less likely than their white peers to receive subsequent nominations.
The Best Supporting Actress category is the most diverse, with women of color constituting 32 percent of the nominees, according to the report.

Part of the problem is that you can't expect mainstream institutions to be friendly to minorities. It is also because Hollywood doesn't have roles for people who are nonwhite. Which got me thinking: part of the fight for racial equality is the fight for representation, visibility: thus part of the fight will be made by writers--specifically screenwriters who will write with people of color in mind and not as stereotypical roles. For example, this:



Additionally since many movies are adapted, nonwhite prose writers will also have a place--to write not only niche stories (the African-American story, the Asian story, etc), but also to be visible: We can write our own stories, we don't need you (*cough Ms. Stockett*).

Which somehow leads me to Jeremy Lin: apparently people didn't know Asians could be sexy. And American Idol: apparently Asians can sing too? Again: as minorities, if you don't write (or play basketball or compete in DFW-ish reality shows) people will write about you for you (or assume you can't write it, or play basketball or sing mediocre tunes on TV)

My excuse for a Jeremy Lin photo:

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