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UNFAIR
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Movies CLICHÉ
ALERT

THE UNFAIR
RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT

RESPONSE PAGE 2006

As of November, 2004, I decided to start posting some of the responses I get from folks who read the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT.

MOVIES ARE DISCUSSED - SPOILERS REVEALED

"Other movies that get a pass are the entire series of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, PHANTASM, and HALLOWEEN: Sometimes all the minorities die, sometimes they don't - just like real life."
- E.C.McMullen Jr.

Feo Amante
Your Host
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Hey yall,

Welcome to the winter! I hope yall are ready for your holiday celebrations with family and friends. For those of you who, for whatever reason, have no one to celebrate with, know that there are a lot of people in your position and there are even organizations (not just churches) who will be sponsoring events in or near your community. If you don't go you've only yourself to blame.

Many of you who know and have made the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÈ ALERT popular on the web know that I only post those responses that have something fresh to say, and not just keep asking the same "I don't get it" stuff. I feel I've pretty much answered every question concerning why this section exists. I'm always interested in people who can offer actual evidence that refutes the URCA, but in over 6 years I've yet to have anyone do that.

Maybe if I offered a million dollars like the JREF, I'd get some refutation. Naw! It hasn't even worked for them, so what chance have I got?

Not everyone argues with me though, some folks agree with me. The following email comes from a person calling themself Christy Gluch

November 27, 2006

From Christy Gluch

hey! i stumbled upon this wonderful site in the midst of a search involving horror movies, and i've now been distracted on it for hours! At some point im going to have to force myself away. Anyway, i read through your entire Racial Clichè Alert section &, (as a huge fan of horror/thriller movies), I found myself trying to recall movies that i've also seen depicting the same indisputable flagrance (although, despite it's glaring existence, i see there are some still willing to dispute it on your site).

So before i give you the names of more possible "Cliche" offenders you could add, i wanted to address something that annoys me in some of the letters that attempt to debate this cliche. One of the more popular arguments, it seems, references how whites are the majority, & therefore since "75%" (i think someone laughibly wrote) of the people in this country are white, then why of course only the few blacks would die in movies. Um...not quite. In fact the opposite would be true. Think about it- let's pretend (as E.C. McMullen Jr. did in one of his responses) that 90% of this country is white. Ok, then sure, the odds of there being one black man in a movie, whereas the rest of the actors are white, is accurate. fine. HOWEVER, the odds that the sole black man, in a movie consisting of 23 actors (22 of which are white), is most definately killed off is very very slim. In other words, the ratio of white people to black people in the country could be consistant with there being 1 black & 22 whites in the movie (if we're still "pretending" that the U.S is 90% white), but that ratio doesn't then leap to say, "well then of course that means that the only black man dies." Sure, there would of course be more white survivors- hello? 22-1? isn't that obvious?- but that the only black is never a survivor? Not quite so accurate. Imagine a room (ok- this is the last i'll say on this- i promise. I know it feels extremely redundant and painfully simple, but as you've discovered- some people still just won't get it). In the room are 22 white people, and just one black man or woman. A masked gunman comes in & starts spraying bullets. What are the odds that, of all the people injured or shot, the black man is definately killed. Every single time. And ALL of this is of course, dependant upon movies being of CHANCE. As E.C McMullen reminds you- They are not. Bottom Line: even if, in this bland 90% white world, the statistics WERE in favor of the black man dying, the writers have the power to make him live.

Ok. Phew. As im sure you realize, that was addressed towards the letters disputing the cliche. And if you're still actually reading this email after that rant (sorry- couldnt help myself), then heres some more movies utilizing the Unfair...Cliche:

Scary Movie

-ARE YOU SCARED? it's a fairly new release (DVD). One black man- first to die.
-I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER ... you know, that sequel to I Know What You did Last Summer? im pretty sure it's called that. It's the one with Mekhai Pfieffer. Well he dies along with Brandy, who plays his, do i need to say it?, black girlfriend.
-SCREAM 3(?) you may consider it comedy/horror, but it's still scarier than say, Ghostbusters. Anyway- in the very beginning, Jada Pinkett & Omar Epps die at a movie theater. The first 2 deaths of the movie in fact (which also seems to be a pattern- Like ok, not only will we kill the only black characters in the movie, but we'll also kill them off first.)!
*also- the SCARY MOVIE paradys have, several times, joked about the Unfair Racial Clichès. I think that one of the Wayans brothers has a funny quote regarding it in Part 3(?)

Homecoming
-MASTERS OF HORROR - episode 15 ok, so this is technically a series on Showtime. But the episodes are an hour long & could possibly be considered short movies. But hey- apparently, even short movies are not exempt from this phenomenon! In this episode, 2 teens- one black, one white- end up like vampires. Of course, the black kid is bitten (and "killed") first. But here's the wierd part. So he was dead - at least his former self - but then becomes a vampire. Eventually, so does the white kid. And the only way the survive is by biting viciously into people & "feeding" (as it's called) on their blood. Thus either killing the victims completely, or turning them too, into vampires. The white kid just cannot do this. The black kid, on the other hand, does it easily, AND enjoys it. Pure, compassionate whitey therefore dies for refusing to "feed". Black teen continues feeding (therefore staying "alive" in vampire sense. But still dead in the human sense). I just wanted to note how the underlying message here could be percieved.

Anyway, that's all i'll do for now. I never intended for this email to be so long. I, quite obviously, have massive A.D.D. Thanks for your time, & keep up the good work on your site! Love, Christy


Hey Christy,

Thanks for writing.

The V Word

As you can see, even Horror Thriller movies that don't follow the cliche, often have a very creepy subcontext running, as you noticed in the Masters of Horror episode. That episode wasn't 15 - FAMILY (Directed by John Landis), but 16, THE V WORD.

THE V WORD was written by Mick Garris (Creator / producer of the show) and directed by Ernest R. Dickerson (THE DEMON KNIGHT, BONES). Ernest is mullato in appearance but clearly has a strong African Heritage. Hardly a Master of Horror, he has only directed two Horror Thrillers in his entire career up to this point. According to imdb.com, Ernest attended the historically black college, Howard University. He met Spike Lee at the New York University's film school and went on to become Spike's Cinematographer on many of the early films.

As part of the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÈ ALERT, I try to cut as much slack as possible. For example, directors John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Romero, Don Coscarelli, M. Night Shyamalan, and Paul W.S. Anderson movies - rarely get the URCA. Some of their movies do, some of their movies do not - just like real life. Overall, with these directors, you can never count on the URCA happening in the same way that you can with, say, every Sigourney Weaver ALIEN movie, every TERMINATOR movie, every JURASSIC PARK movie, or any Arnold Schwarzenegger Horror Thriller movie.

But in this case , I cut Ernest slack on THE V WORD for the main reason that the movie was specifically meant to make a comment about social racial issues with the "V" word taking the place of the "N" word. I would normally mention THE V WORD even if I also mentioned Dickerson's solid track record regarding the URCA. But like the SCARY MOVIE films, its pointless in this case since THE V WORD needs to follow this storyline to make it's comment regarding race - something that the usual UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÈ ALERT movies never do. In fact a horrible example of a director not getting the URCA can be found in another Masters of Horror movie, HOMECOMING. If you watch Joe Dante's career of Horror Thriller movies (he's made more than just Horror Thriller movies, but this is what we focus on here and this is why he is directing in MoH), you'll see that Joe has a long track record of never having minorities in any strong roles. As in Never Ever. The one time he did was with Homecoming where he promptly had the first minority freak out when he saw the dead come to life; get accidentally shot to death by his white fellow guard; have one of the zombies tell the white guard that what he just did was okay; have a dead black man bemoan the war; and then have a minority couple in the role of victimized helpless shopkeepers who give aid to a white zombie. It was the most minorities that Joe Dante has ever had in any of his Horror Thriller movies in his entire 30+ year career, and the only reason he did it at all was to make the point that Republicans - and not Dante - are the ones who are racist!

Ugh!

With THE V WORD, the way the plot played out was not lazy storytelling or an obvious Racial Clichè (for the same reason that the Racial Clichè doesn't apply to George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or Keenan I. Wayan's SCARY MOVIE - George killed off everybody and Keenan was specifically making a point). Other movies that get a pass are the entire series of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, PHANTASM, and HALLOWEEN: Sometimes all the minorities die, sometimes they don't - just like real life.

For THE V WORD, there is a conscious, legitimate reason why the story is told the way it is, which is why I give Mr. Dickerson a pass.

Thanks for writing! I hope you continue to enjoy the site!

Eddie

 

April 21, 2006

(The following is an email conversation I had with this FeoFan. Some additions are provided here)

From Christopher LaHaise,

Just wanted to add the new /King Kong/ to the list. One token black guy, and he dies. Annoyed me to all hell, I'd have hoped Peter Jackson would have known better.

Hey Chris,

Thanks for writing.
I felt the same way but, during the course of the movie, I didn't catch whether or not they had also killed off the violent islanders as well. And at the theaters, I didn't want to sit through half of a 3 hour freaking movie to find out!

Call me Kit :-)

A few got killed off, but they were minor-secondary characters anyway, with little impact on the story.  It wasn't genocidal, which I am glad for, but the fact that the 'token black guy' out of the main group died.  A friend said that the character fit the role of the 'Expert' -- a relatively recent role in movies (post 1960s), where one person has the knowledge of what's going on, and the courage to face it even though they'll die (which proves they're /right/).  I can accept such a role in a movie, but is it me, or do these tend to be black people?  (Deep Blue Sea had one, and his death was just /comical/...)

But now that it's on DVD, I'm going to rent that sucker and see how the Islanders fared. If they got whacked too, then, yeah - KING KONG gets the URCA.

(UPDATE - Peter Jackson's KING KONG did indeed deserve the URCA)

Some got whacked, but not all of them.
Actually, I noticed you tend to count bit roles for an URCA rating, I don't know if that's really appropriate. Seriously... if they're in a region where that race is predominant, it becomes nearly impossible to get the URCA rating, since there will nearly always be survivors. (Set the movie in Australia, wipe out a few hundred aborigines, and you're still okay, since they're still many more left...)
/Quigly Down Under/ is a good movie simply because it /doesn't/ fit this stereotype at all. The 'wise aborigine' is a subtle character, easy to miss, and makes the loudest statement in the film.

The Frighteners
But what is weird about all of this is, until Peter Jackson started making movies for the U.S. market, his movies never earned one. Only THE FRIGHTENERS and possibly KING KONG.

What's worse, THE LORD OF THE RINGS had ample opportunity for minorities, but the only ones we saw were some quick as a flash, bad guy sailors in the final one. Nobody spoke, and they were all basically crowd scenes.

To clear up the definition of the URCA here, I'm not making a statement about how many people live in a particular place. I comment only on the movie. So if a movie kills off all of it's minorities, leaving only white survivors, and takes place in New York City, it doesn't matter how many people still live in NYC or their ethnicity. The people who survived or died in the movie is what matters because that is what the movie was all about.

Quigly down Under doesn't enter into this theory since it wasn't Horror or Thriller.

With Lord of the Rings, however, the book was written by an Englishman, and they had a thing for British superiority. I don't think having an ethnic in the book would have even crossed his mind, and I don't think he really described the bad guys that much. That's the problem with period writing, I think.

I honestly can not comment on the mindset of J.R.R. Tolkien, since I'm ignorant of his mindset concerning "British Superiority". But even if that were the case, with all that was cut from the books and edited and re-written, why would that mindset, had it existed, be carried through?

You gotta wonder, What IS it about Hollywood?

Yeah, tell me about it. I was ranting about this in my LiveJournal recently, but it has been annoying me to all hell for quite some time.

Again, thanks for writing! I hope you continue to enjoy the site!

Eddie

Thanks a lot!  I still have a lot of exploring to do there.  :)

Kit



UNFAIR RACIAL RESPONSE 2005

URCA

MOVIES

Yeah, you can keep saying that racism and homophobia isn't the rule of business in Hollywood. Keep denying it despite all evidence to the contrary.
Does Hollywood hire based on race?
LA Daily News article.
Study: Whites Get Majority Of Acting Jobs
From The Independent in the UK
Gay Rights And Wrongs: Hollywood's Biggest Taboo.

 

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