In 1997, the illness was still beneath the surface enough for the joke to register. Fourteen years later, in 2011, is the joke still funny? We're in the future. We have a multi-cultural president. Beyoncé and Jay-Z are basically our royal family. But still too many movies are screwing this up. What the fuck are they thinking?
What follows is a partial list of the movies of 2011 which still dared to kill the black guys first (or only).
Some great movies qualified, unfortunately, but that's uncommon. Better movies usually know better. Since "killing off the black guy" is more normally the province of uncreative films and filmmakers, and since I tried to stick to the good stuff this year, I'm sure there are plenty of qualifying movies I haven't seen. Feel free to write in with any additions to the list.
In the meantime, mourn these characters. It should've been one of the white guys instead.
SOME SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY.
- Darwin (Edi Gathegi), X-Men: First Class. This movie was better than could be expected from the director of Kick-Ass, but it still had several problems, such as being way too long for a silly superhero movie, and oh yeah, killing off the only black character. In a film set in the 1960s and pretending to engage in the major social issues of the era, what message is this meant to send?
- Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), The Thing. Also possibly in The Killer Elite. The "prequel" to John Carpenter's The Thing is inferior to Carpenter's classic, and to so many other films, for plenty of reasons (outlined in depth here), but the alien's racial-profiling is the one I'm focusing on today. This bad new movie lamely imitated so much of what John Carpenter's movie did, yet somehow the one thing they decided to get original on was to get rid of the awesomeness of Keith David's character and replace him with one who gets nothing interesting to do.
- [You tell me who died], Transformers 3. There's no way I'll watch the second or third Transformers movie, seeing as how the first one was so ugly. If I'm wrong, I'm sure you'll tell me. Did they eventually rebuild the black Autobot? Are the human characters still fancy with stereotypically cartoonish behavior? Or did somebody finally convince Michael Bay to rein in his legendary flair for comedy, and stick to blowing shit up with dignity?
- Dennis (Franz Drameh) and Jerome (Leeon Jones), Attack The Block. As much as I adore this movie, the one thing that troubles me is that the surviving characters, with the exception of main hero Moses, are all white. Did we really need to keep that dopey pothead Brewis around until the end? Or Ron, for that matter, as much as we all dig Nick Frost? I would trade those guys for Dennis and Jerome in an instant. Although maybe that's the point... (That probably is the point. This movie is too smart to louse this up.)
- Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Every time one of these movies comes out, there's grumblings about the troubling subtext. Forget the subtext -- how about the fact that of the two cheer-worthy deaths in the film, one of them is this dapper gent? I'll tell you something quite honestly: One of the few cinematic stereotypes I happen to subscribe to is that all evil billionaire businessmen in expensive suits are always white guys.
- Jason (Brandon Jay McLaren), Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. This one is pretty mild, since he's one of about seventeen characters to bite it during the course of this bloody, bloody movie. But it still counts. With this genre, call it the sins of the father.
- Malik (Sinqua Walls), Shark Night 3D. The one brother in this entire movie didn't even make it through the trailer.
- Thundarian (Deobia Oparei), Your Highness. I know this is a comedy. Even still.
- Also probably The Minotaur, Your Highness.
- Mufasa (James Earl Jones), The Lion King 3D. If they're gonna re-release it, I'm gonna call them out on it again.
THE TALLY: 10. More or less.
Comparatively speaking, it was a light year for needlessly offing black characters in movies. However, if you were to expand the field to include other ethnicities, the competition grows more fierce...
Death Toll, Latin Division
- George (Luis Guzmán), The Caller.
- Zoe Saldana's entire family, Columbiana.
- Half the cast of Battle: Los Angeles.
- Amber (Jamie Chung), Sucker Punch. Which is especially egregious considering that all three blond girls make it to the end, and that all three of them put together don't look this good. Seriously dude, if you're going to make a shitty exploitation movie, at least know how to favor the hottest chick.
Native American Division
- Indian genocide, Cowboys & Aliens. There are Indians in this movie, not that you'd know it from the trailers or the posters or the official site or even if you saw the movie (it's all kind of forgettable.) But in the last third of the movie, our blond, blue-eyed movie star heroes do in fact team up with the red man. An entire tribe of Native braves attacks the alien fortress, getting blasted off like Ewoks during the Battle of Endor. This movie treats them like cannon fodder at best. But at least the unknown enemy brought frontiersmen and savages together just this once, right?
Special Achievement In [Hopefully] Unintentional Racism
T-Dog and Jacqui, The Walking Dead (Seasons 1-2).
One of the most embarassing things I've ever posted on the internet, in retrospect, was this rave review of the pilot episode of The Walking Dead on AMC.
The first episode of the series was promising for many reasons, one of which being the appearance of Morgan (Lennie James), a father trying to protect his son in a zombie-infested wasteland. Morgan also happened to be black, but that was just a detail, not an issue. That's the good news. The bad news: The show promptly deserted Morgan, and introduced T-Dog.
Besides the abominable name, there isn't much to T-Dog. It doesn't help that he's probably the most 'limited' actor on a show that, Michael Rooker aside, isn't being watched for the acting. There have been no attempts made by the writing staff of this show to broaden T-Dog's character. I'm pretty sure his biggest moment so far in season 2 was to accidentally slice open his arm on a car door, causing complications for his white friends. Also, may I remind you that, after the abhorrent Season 1 finale, T-Dog is the only black character on the show? (The only character of color, period, besides Glenn.) Should I run through the process that narrowed that number down to one?
Remember that scene in the underground bunker, when both Andrea (blond, conventionally pretty) and Jacqui (black, portrayed as average) decide to stay behind and die, and Dale (old white man, always wears lame hat) returns to save... only one of the two of them? Dale begs and begs Andrea to come with him, to not give up, while Jacqui stands around moping in the background, as indeed she had been for the entire season, completely ignored.
I'm not saying that this was intentionally racist. I don't actually think it was. But it's inept and ignorant. And I must assert that any show containing a scene like that one cannot POSSIBLY be as good as way too many otherwise-smart people so badly want to believe that it is. (Looking at you, everyone who's appeared on "Talking Dead.") I love the idea of an unrated zombie serial too. But the fact remains: It's a bad show. Started with a bang, and then it ate dirt.
Anyway, the special effects are awesome. There's always hope.
I hope you understand, I didn't put this list together for hate. The only thing I hate is racism. I undertook this exercise, as I try to do so many things, out of love. I pointed out all these troublesome instances so that people understand how these stereotypes are ingrained in all of us, and how, once we understand that, we can do better. This stuff matters to me. Movies matter to me. Genre movies matter to me. Humanity matters a whole lot to me.
I hope I don't have to make this list an annual thing. I hope at this time next year, I'll have to come up with all new conventions to complain about. Help me out with this one, Hollywood.
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