Thursday, December 5, 2013
What We Talk About When We Talk About Movies
We don't really post a lot of movie news at F This Movie!, because we made the decision a long time ago that we're just not interested in doing that. There are plenty of other sites you can go to for that sort of thing -- so many that it becomes white noise. At any given time, 3,000 film sites are all reporting on the same five stories. The information is not hard to come by, so we made a choice to stick more to talking about the movies themselves. Doesn't make us right, just hopefully makes us a little different.
But sometimes the world of MOVIE NEWS just kills me -- not so much in the reporting as in the reacting -- and today felt like the right time to talk about it.
Two big pieces of news were announced this week, and the online reaction to both is very telling about the current discourse when it comes to movies. Let's take them in order of importance.
First, director Zack Snyder revealed that Israeli-born model Gal Gadot will be playing Wonder Woman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman (or whichever of the 12 registered titles Warner Bros. ends up going with for this fucking thing). This is "big" news only in that it hadn't yet been confirmed that Wonder Woman would be appearing in the movie, meaning the studio is just trying to cram every big name hero DC has into one film and PRAY TO GOD people give a shit.
Don't sell yourselves short, Warner Bros. People give a shit. People give waaaay too much of a shit.
Seriously, though, quit while you're ahead. You already know everyone on the planet is going to see a Batman vs. Superman movie. You'll make your money. Whether or not anyone likes it is another story, and that's what you should be worried about right now. Stop trying to sell the sizzle. Make a good steak.
Fast & Furious series (we'll get to that in a minute). I like her just fine in those movies, because she was given a cool character to play and because she fit within that universe, which is very much about looking beautiful and celebrating diversity. Check and check. But cast her as a the single most famous female superhero in history and it's a whole different story. Like with most comic book movie casting announcements, everyone's an expert. Only in this case, everyone's an expert AND a sexist asshole.
The fan reaction began immediately, and while it's nowhere near as vitriolic as the response to Affleck's casting as Batman, at least that dumb fucking outrage claimed to be based on his body of work. The reaction to Gadot is based solely on her body.
I am not the first person to point out how ugly, hateful, angry and misogynistic the fanboy community can be, but there was something so goddamn depressing about watching it all unfold. The reaction is only to a casting announcement. No one has seen the movie. No one was even privy to Gal Gadot's screen tests, and yet everyone already knows whether or not she's right for the part.
Because what matters more than anything to these geek assholes (note that I do not mean all geeks are assholes, just the ones who are) is that the actress look like a drawing. "She's not right for Wonder Woman!" they wrote in the comments sections of countless web sites, despite the fact that Wonder Woman is not a real person and that there have been multiple iterations and interpretations of the character since she debuted in the early 1940s.
"Too skinny," many said. "She will have to pack on bulk/muscle" was a common sentiment. "Her tits are too small" was a comment I read somewhere else. One person just wrote "Jew." I WANT TO FUCKING KILL MYSELF. These people vote. These people got Shalene Woodley kicked off The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Some other commenters were angry that Gina Carano wasn't cast, to which the internet responded "Not pretty enough." Gina Carano. Not pretty enough.
Ok, maybe you don't think Gina Carano is pretty. Or maybe I don't. What difference does it make? We're not all going to agree on what is "pretty." It is not the single qualification for which an actress should be cast as a tertiary character in a misconceived movie. And yet that's what we reduce the character to. We pretend that we want a strong, empowered female superhero that young women can look up to, then scare off any and every young woman with hateful comments that boil that empowered character down to a cup size.
Surprise, boys. It's a drawing. No one looks like that.
Again, no one screamed that Ben Affleck couldn't play Batman because he doesn't look the part, but somehow that's all that matters when it comes to Gal Gadot. I guess it's because Bruce Wayne is a square-jawed white male, and so is Affleck. Disregard that Gadot is a 5'9 model/actress with real-life military training. She's too skinny, and the drawings in all my comic books have bigger boobs and different color hair.
Part of the reason I bring this up is because I'm guilty of it, too. When I read the announcement, my first thought was "That's not how I picture Wonder Woman." It wasn't anything hateful about Gadot's body or nationality (I must be having an off day), just surprise at the "type" with which the filmmakers went. But then I said to myself "Don't be an asshole" and remembered that I am an adult. I will wait until I see the movie to determine whether or not Gadot is bad casting, but by that point I can promise that there will be many other factors that might contribute to Wonder Woman being a bad character or even Gadot stumbling in the movie and all of them have fuck-all to do with what she looks like.
Repeat after me: see the movie, then decide. See the movie, then decide.
Everything is broken. And as long as we're arguing over whether or not Gal Gadot looks like the cartoon lady in the pictures, it's going to stay broken. Studios can continue to churn out expensive, shitty movies as long as they're based on existing source material that we can police instead of demanding innovation or originality.
You guys, Wonder Woman casting is the opiate of the masses.
The other big piece of news announced this week is that Universal has now delayed production on Fast & Furious 7 "indefinitely" in the wake of Paul Walker's tragic death this weekend. The discussion on these pieces is less tasteless, maybe because all the assholes got it out of their systems when Walker's death was first announced.
So this isn't going to be more of me yelling. This is me processing my feelings about the development, and hoping you will all join me.
Yes, I'm very sad because he had a daughter and friends and family and people who loved him, and because he died too young. Because he was, by all accounts, a good man who devoted much of his life to doing charity work and helping out people in terrible situations. These are all reasons to be sad when anyone dies, whether or not he is a Hollywood celebrity.
But I also have to be honest with myself and admit that part of my grief is selfish. I am sad that he will not be in any more Fast and Furious movies. It seems so trivial, right? It is the least of our problems. It's where I'm at, though. I have championed the franchise for several years on this site. It has come to mean a lot to me, as it has to many of us. Paul Walker was one of the main reasons for that. Not only has he been around since the beginning, but he's become one of the strongest pieces of the puzzle (Matt Singer at The Dissolve aptly described him as the heart of the series).
And it's not the least of Universal's problems, as they now are in meetings trying to figure out how to go ahead in a way that is respectful without giving up a series that makes them billions of dollars. They announced this week that they are shutting down production indefinitely. And again, if I'm being honest, I'm kind of happy about that.
Plus I was super excited for James Wan, who was getting his biggest showcase to date. He's been making good and successful horror movies for several years now, but I was looking forward to seeing him really step up onto the Hollywood stage and direct the shit out of a huge action movie like this one. This was his moment.
I say none of this to trivialize Paul Walker's death. The reason I'm glad that production has shut down for now is that I'm not interested in a Walker-less Fast and Furious movie -- at least, not any of the ones they would have come up with if they had charged ahead trying to make that July 2014 release date. It was again fascinating (and less horrifying) to read the comments in these news pieces from fans, all of whom have different things that they want to see happen. Some were suggesting that the existing footage be used and that the filmmakers find a way to kill off Walker's character as the best way to "honor" him. Others seemed fine with digitally placing Walker's face on a double's body and finishing the movie that way. Many (including myself) would rather see Brian O'Conner left just as he is at the end of Fast & Furious 6, happy with his lady and his new baby. Leave him with his family, they said.
I don't envy everyone involved with Fast and Furious 7. They have really big, difficult decisions that they're trying to make in the middle of grieving their friend and colleague. Once the shitstorm of internet snark died down, it has been good to see the wave of positive support and fandom that has surfaced. It seems like people are willing to patient with Universal as they attempt to sort things out and hopefully heal before getting back to work and figure out the next step. I'm glad to see that they've made that choice. Maybe they try to make something of the footage they have and work it into the story. Maybe they start over from the beginning. Maybe they walk away altogether. There's a lot of money they could possibly be leaving on the table, and while I don't think it's going to be left there permanently, it's good to see a decision not totally driven by commerce.
In both the Fast 7 and Batman vs. Superman stories, we're all talking about movies we haven't seen -- movies that haven't even been made yet. That's just how things are now. The internet has made it so that every development is reported on and scrutinized, and in many cases the online reaction ends up driving the story. At least in the case of Fast 7, the reactions are generally supportive. That's much less depressing than the Wonder Woman response, which is one of just "NO, WRONG."
Paul Walker is gone, internet. He leaves behind a teenage daughter. The best thing we can do for her is to stop being assholes and teach her that anyone can play Wonder Woman. Even a gorgeous supermodel.