At the movies

On Sunday I went to see “Hugo,” which is getting hugely favorable reviews. It’s also hugely sexist. None of the female characters in the movie have any agency or creative power of their own. To a girl or woman, their role is to support the male protagonists. I was already angry when Kyle turned around at the credits (he was sitting in front of me, because the theater was packed) and informed me that several details had been changed from the original book to make Isabelle a much weaker character. Hey, I looked for a link but couldn’t find anything, because nobody seems to have noticed this.

Then this morning I was reading “Facing the Fear” (scroll down to click on the pdf), an article by Patti DeRosa about how white people respond to charges of racism, and I came across a list of knee-jerk reactions that seemed weirdly familiar. (I’m making this parallel because systemic oppressions are interrelated—not, I hope, with the effect of minimizing racism.)

It is often difficult for white people to listen, without judgment, when people of color share their stories and experiences. We rush to debate, rather than understand, the perspectives of people of color, and pay attention only to gather enough information for our rebuttal. Our responses all too often fall into predictable categories, of which I offer only a few:

  1. False parallels (“The same thing happened to me…”)
  2. Inverting the injustice (“By bringing this up, YOU have offended ME…!”)
  3. Outright dismissal (“Race had nothing to do with it…”)
  4. Minimization (“It really wasn’t so terrible…let bygones be bygones”)
  5. Righteousness (“I’m a good person so I can’t be racist”).
  6. Colorblindess (“People are people. I don’t see color.”)

Check it out:

  1. “You are humorless!”
  2. “Get over it.”
  3. “It’s just a movie.”
  4. “Scorsese is a great director.”

Ah, well.