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‘The Passion Of The Christ 2: Die Harder’ Is Going To Be A Thing

As you may recall, the first Passion of the Christ ends on a downer. Jesus Christ, the son of God, gets beaten, tortured, bloodied, and eventually, killed atop a hill.  But like any good story with an eye towards franchise, the Bible gives Jesus a way of continuing on after death. As the first film closes, we see a resurrected Jesus walk triumphantly out of his cave and – presumably – into the sweet embrace of Jerry Falwall waiting just off screen.

Enter: The Passion of the Christ 2. A thing that is happening.

Mel Gibson and writer Randall Wallace are working on a sequel to The Passion of the Christ that will tell the story of the resurrection of Jesus, Wallace tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Wallace, nominated for an Academy Award for scripting Gibson’s 1995 best picture Oscar winner Braveheart, on Thursday (reluctantly) confirmed rumors that he has begun to write a script for a story about the resurrection, telling THR that the project is becoming too difficult to keep under wraps.

It’s unclear just what exactly the filmmakers intend to tell with their sequel. The years immediately following Jesus’ execution aren’t exactly standouts in the Christian highlight reel. For the next few centuries, Jesus’s disciples and converts are systematically sniffed out and put to death by the Roman empire while at the same time the religion was tearing itself apart over its identity. Even Christianity’s triumphant rise is slightly anti-climatic. After years of persecution, the Roman emperor’s mom becomes a convert and with her power and Rome’s reach, the religion spreads to every corner of the Western world. A great argument for the way a strong central government can propagate an ideology through incentives and force? Sure. An empowering story for the masses? Not really.

Despite the question marks about plot, Hollywood’s true religion – money – makes this movie an inevitability. The first film made a truly staggering $612 million on a budget of $30 million and the new film’s backers insist a sequel could go bigger. They are probably right. The sheer cultural impact of the original will surely create a groundswell of interest in a follow-up. It may even serve as an opportunity for Mel Gibson to capture a bit of his lost luster, assuming he doesn’t go on yet another anti-Semitic drunken rant in the meantime. The Passion of the Christ 2 must be enticing for Gibson, who has been blacklisted by most of Hollywood and now is relegated to starring in low budget action flicks that cynically ruled that his star power outweighs his detestable personal failings.

Look for PotC2 to hit theaters sometime before the Rapture.

We Need To Talk About ‘Scream’, Television’s Most Outrageously Unethical Show

While One Million Moms (roughly, rounded up to the nearest million) were screaming about the dangers of satanic corruption at the hands of Lucifer, they should have been screaming about Scream. The MTV show based (loosely) on the film series of the same name follows the exploits of 20-something smokin’ hot actors playing high school teens as they have parties, fall in and out of love, and more than occasionally get sliced open by farm vehicles.

But while the show does an okay job of being this generation’s answer to The OC, the show is an ethical shitshow filled with collection of sociopaths who are both too independent and too immature to make good choices during these crucial years of their development. And unfortunately since all one million of our nation’s moms are busy boycotting Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and Fox shows about Satan, it’s left up to me to think of the children.

Let’s clear the table a bit. First of all, the grisly murders are gross, sure, but nothing a generation raised on Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead can’t handle. There are but a few on-screen murders, with the rest being meticulously set up and then left to the imagination. Often, we get reaction shots of the witnesses to the murders covered in blood to help us piece together what just happened. What does that say about us as a culture? Who knows? Who cares?

The real dangers of Scream are not in its violence, but its sexual politics. This is a show – ostensibly about high schoolers –  is made for an audience of preteens. How do I know? The way sex is handled in Scream is borderline cartoonish in all the ways one might expect for an audience that only abstractly knows about it, but desperately wants to learn more. Relationships are depicted as bafflingly mature (couples talk seriously over coffee, drive one another to and from school, meet in each other’s room for reasons other than to make out), while at the same time play out as blatantly superficial. Even the adults in the show bounce between relationships made to represent a teenage girl’s fantasy – smoldering romances mixed with devastating betrayals of trust.

Following the conventions of many horror films, sex is continuously used to signify virtue throughout the first season. Those who have too much of it are capital “B” Bad. Those who don’t have it are pure, innocent, and missing out. When a (girl) loses her virginity to a (more experienced guy), it’s a big deal and she’ll never be the same again. One guy comes close to having sex only to find the one girl who was interested has been cut down. Between exploring the profound loss of such a young life and the nightmarish implication that this poor guy’s one chance to “swipe his v card” has just evaporated (actual dialogue), guess which one Scream dwells on?

For its audience, the show is signalling a weird and shallow obsession with sex. Couples prove their love for one another by having it. Not getting it can either mean you are a loser or a naive angel who hasn’t quite figured out the ways of the world. And absolutely no virgins die, not that their are many by the end. Dying is for sluts.

The way the teens in the show spend their time is also hilariously troubling. Let’s consider just one scene.

Kieran, Scream‘s resident new kid and rugged hot guy, has a fight with his dad and heads to a bar to blow off steam. Sitting at the bar, looking forlornly into his third or fourth beer, he notices one of his classmates flirting with a middle aged man. Let’s unpack this.

An 18-year-old boy somehow got into a bar. Sure, fine. But his goal isn’t to party or get shitfaced or whatever kids normally do when experimenting with alcohol while they are underage, he wants to drink away the stress of a fight with his dad. Like he’s a fucking coal miner. Like he’s fucking Norm from Cheers. Meanwhile, his classmate – who is also 18 – is cruising for sex with wealthy middle aged men. Kieran is exhibiting signs of becoming a future alcoholic. Meanwhile, rich girl Nina is being exposed to a serious risk of sexual violence.

Neither of these disturbing facts are explored in the show. I kept expecting a moment for the other shoe to drop and it never came. This was just supposed to be normal behavior in the Scream universe. Troubled, brooding guys drink away their problems like Norm from Cheers. Prissy rich girls rebel by screwing Norm from Cheers. Big whoop.

The sexual identity stuff is even more troubling. To the show’s credit, it features a lesbian relationship. To the show’s discredit, one of the girls dies and the other one, Audrey, spends most of her scenes insisting she isn’t gay.

Again, there is a window there for the show to explore the way homosexuality is experienced in high school. For the LGBT kid, being “outed” can be a very real fear. A smarter show might harvest that for a contemplative look at what true fear really is. Instead, Scream screws it all up. The show “outs” Audrey with a leaked tape of her and her sort-of-girlfriend making out that goes “viral.” Her classmates are predictably ruthless. However, the show never bothers to sympathize with Audrey. Not one of her friends seems concerned over the fact that this situation is fucked. In fact, by show’s end, the plot seems to forget Audrey’s sexuality entirely, including the fact that her school is filled with pubescent homophobes. And this despite the fact that Audrey is hands down the most interesting character in the show.

And then there’s the teacher-student relationship which isn’t only condoned, but romanticized. The teacher (who is probably the same age as the actress playing the student tbf) never really gets in trouble for the fact that he’s most certainly committing something that is kissing cousins with what the law might consider statutory rape. He has read books and poetry and stuff and he really gets the girl. What’s not to love about their relationship, right? A question you might have: Is the girl portrayed as “an old soul” who is tired of immature guys in her class and has finally found her match? No, she’s a whiny immature teen with very little to offer the teacher beyond her body. On the flip side, the teacher’s motivation is left open ended and the implications are sad.

Empathy, or lack of it, is a major problem throughout. The sheer number of bodies piled up by first season finale would have most of these kids in weekly therapy for the rest of their lives. Thankfully, they let most of the violence fly over their heads while they were busy figuring out who to make out with next. Instead, we repeatedly have beloved characters die horrifically only to be forgotten roughly three days later. This apathy is applied unevenly. The very first victim, Nina of the bar, is obsessed over – despite being an awful person whom nobody actually liked. On the other hand Riley, the girl who almost got to swipe our intrepid nerd’s v card, is forgotten almost entirely within two episodes of her death. The police show similar levels of bias that tend to align with those of their children.

All of these issues amount to a staggering level of amoral chaos in the show’s message. Nobody expected MTV’s Scream to carry a Pixar message, but holy hell, the messages it does send are bad. Greed, lust, envy and homophobia are given so many free passes it begins to look like the show encourages them. While the show occupies itself with the (frankly lame) mystery of who the killer is, it never bothers to take a look in the mirror. The killer’s dumb identity and silly motivation revealed at the end just reinforces how similar she is to all of her victims. Nobody is blameless in a den of thieves.

Sorry Agent Carter, It’s Not Creepy For Steve Rogers To Hook Up With Your Niece

One of the 15 or so subplots Captain America: Civil War managed to squeeze into its run time revolved around the budding relationship between Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter. This was a bit controversial for a few reasons, but chief among them was the fact that Steve was already supposed to be in love with Sharon’s aunt, Peggy Carter – who, spoilers, had passed away of old age just around the time Rogers was working up the nerve to shag Sharon.

In other words, “It’s complicated” doesn’t even begin to do Rogers’s love triangle justice. He’s just a small town boy living in a lonely world (oh and also a pure-of-heart supersoldier who was fighting the Nazis (and Hydra) in the 1940s until he became frozen and only thawed out in the 21st Century.) His first love, Peggy, was also a fighter of Nazi and a Cold War secret agent working with Howard Stark, Ironman’s dad. His current girlfriend is a government agent who is technically supposed to be hunting Rogers down for the crime of loving freedom (particularly his own) just a bit too much.

Many people were not fans of this new development with Sharon. Chief among them, Agent Carter herself – or at least the actress who plays her. At the Dallas Comic Con Fan Expo, Hayley Atwell made it clear that she was not a Stevron shipper.

Well, first of all she’d be turning over in her grave. She’d be like “no.” And she’d inject herself with the blue serum and become a super villain. She’d break out of her coffin and ground [Sharon]. She’d ground her. Then she’d kick Steve’s ass as well.”

I just feel that, you know – I wouldn’t want to date my great aunt’s guy. It just feels like it crosses an incestuous boundary. And Peggy just died. That’s even more disrespectful, right? It’s like, “don’t touch that.” You can’t tap that!

But here’s the thing, Hayley Atwell is wrong.

For one thing, the idea of a person breaking things off with a person to date her decades-younger niece is a bit different when that person has been frozen in ice for a half century.  Whatever bond Steve and Peggy once shared has surely evolved in the subsequent years. And their relationship was never exactly rock solid to begin with. Steve, a scrawny kid from Brooklyn, only began dating Peggy during the war years and they were both kind of busy with Red Skull and Hitler to get down to business. It’s also extremely likely that Steve Rogers is a 90-year-old (ish) virgin. Describing his relationship with Sharon as “incestuous” is both semantically wrong and also technically so. Should the next Marvel movie feature a steamy hookup, it would quite likely be the first time a Rogers has bedded a Carter.

(Brief aside: The internet seems fascinated with the question of whether Rogers is a virgin. The consensus is that he is.)


Peggy also moved on. In the 1950s, she settled down with a husband (a soldier Rogers once saved during the war) and they had a few kids.

Likewise, Rogers appears to be moving on, but in a way that is in line with the MCU’s characterization of Captain America. As might be expected for a person who has quite literally no place in the modern world, Rogers tends to cling to the few things that still connect him to his past. It’s why he fights so hard for his friend Bucky (another thawed out supersolider), despite the nearly constant mayhem the Winter Soldier leaves in his wake. It’s also why he might find comfort in the familiarity of Carter’s niece. Peggy, long married and now dying, is a tragic reminder of a life unlived. Sharon represents a connection to that life but with a person he can build a future with.

What’s less clear is why Sharon falls for Rogers. Sure, he’s a hunky badass with a passing resemblance to movie star Chris Evans, but he’s also a metric ton of trouble. On the run from the very government she works for and in constant danger, the relationship between Sharon and Rogers seems to blossom at the least opportune moment. But the heart wants what the heart wants, I guess.

Everyone Is Ruining That ‘Happy Chewbacca’ Video

You’ve seen the video of the mom wearing the Chewbacca mask, right? Of course you have. In less than 24 hours the video had been seen approximately 70+ million times. You were one of them. So was I.

I enjoyed the video. I laughed at all the right parts and I totally agreed when Slate’s Jamelle Bouie tweeted that “this woman’s joy is one of the purest, most wonderful things I’ve seen in a long time. It legit made my day better.” I called my partner over and we watched the video together and I again laughed at all the right parts.

But within 24 hours it was clear that Lenny was in the process of squeezing the life out of yet another bunny. The “purest, most wonderful” joy we felt while watching a mom laugh about a Chewbacca mask had kicked a semi-autonomous machine into life and an ancient evil began to slowly slouch towards Bethlehem.

First, Kohl’s – the store at which Candace Payne had purchased the Chewbacca mask – rushed to her house to heap a “mountain” of toys on her family. The kids posed in the masks and Candace rocked a Star Wars shirt and everyone helped create an organic ad for Kohl’s that (as of this writing) has reached 31 million people. Cool.

The store also gave her $2,500 in gift cards and 10,000 reward points. Why? This family isn’t financially struggling. This isn’t one of those stories. They didn’t use their bottom dollar to buy the Chewbacca mask, bashfully holding out a nervous hand with assorted change and a few pieces of lint from their pockets as a kindly old shopkeeper told the miserable lot, “No, no that’s alright, why don’t you just have the mask.” Candace Payne just impulse bought a talking Chewbacca mask – she was fine with the Kylo Ren doll. (Also, where’s Rey?)

No doubt more is in store for the Payne family though. A windfall is surely coming as television spots and more gear pours in. Should she agree to appear on Ellen, expect the always generous host to provide Candace with a diamond-encrusted chalice with which to dip into a river of liquid gold while the audience applauds. America may fiercely debate the relative merits of providing free school lunches to poor kids, but we treat our viral stars well. A viral star will never go hungry for the duration of their 15 minutes. That’s America’s promise.

Next came the late shows. Second only to morning shows in serving as the graveyard of pop culture references, late shows have always mined genuine moments of joy to serve reheated and bland to a famished audience of Middle America bozos who are too stupid to know better. So Payne appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden to re-enact her original video but this time with Corden in the car. And of course, nothing, absolutely nothing, is funnier than watching a joke you’ve already seen played out again, only this time trying to hard.

None of this is Candace Payne’s fault. She’s merely a cog in this whole thing. Her original video, which was great, means absolutely nothing to any of the people who are now leveraging it for sales or ratings. Whether she wants to or not, she now has a role to play “Happiest Chewbacca lady” and her identity – surely too complex to bother exploring on a late show – is diminished to a two dimensional caricature. Which, naturally, makes it exactly the opposite of what we all found so refreshing about the original video. Not that anyone, especially a would be advertiser, gives a shit.

But while Payne’s function as a pulley to hoist up products and copy keeps her firmly in place as “Happiest Chewbacca Lady”, the real Payne is still a person, and the final stage of any viral supernova is the inevitable casting off of the outer shell and a rapid implosion. It begins like this:

“When I was 16, I had a vision and dream from the Lord about my future, being used for His glory. I didn’t understand the interpretation of it. I still, to this day, at 37 years old, try to figure that dream out. But that dream has never left my heart, nor my mind, nor the way that I walk and follow Jesus…

It doesn’t matter how talented, how anointed, how gifted, how passionate, or how willing you are, if you’re not fit to do the things that God has called you to do. And that is spiritually fit.”

Payne is a devote Christian and when not posing with Kohl’s sales managers in Star Wars gear, she’s appearing at televangelist megachurches to preach the gospel. Which is fine if that’s her bag, but will, inevitably make her controversial. Payne is about 12 to 24 hours from becoming politically divisive. It will be accelerated if a Buzzfeed intern finds she once tweeted in support of Kim Davis or the Confederate flag, or, alternatively, in favor of same-sex marriage and the new female Ghostbusters movie. Her social media posts – which didn’t matter four days ago – will suddenly help people decide what “side” she’s on. Who is “allowed” to like her.

And suddenly the video of a mom infectiously laughing in a Chewbacca mask will have baggage. The joy has been chopped down, harvested, used up and monetized. The sheer speed at which this happens would make the Onceler blush. It’s muscle memory now.

But don’t worry, just as soon as the Happiest Chewbacca lady fails to give you even a pang of emotion, the next thing will be here. So get your gift cards ready.

Trolls And Meninists Are Already Dogpiling The New ‘Ghostbusters’ Trailer

In less than three hours, the new Ghostbusters trailer has garnered close to 10,000 “thumbs down” on YouTube. In a few days, we’ll get to read an article on Slate or Buzzfeed about how the new trailer took the crown from the old trailer as the “most disliked trailer on YouTube.” A number of thinkpieces will argue the merits on either side of the “debate.” The circle of life will continue.

Like Donald Trump’s candidacy or the popularity of the “dat boi” meme, the reasons for the Ghostbusters backlash are both surprising and stupid. Despite the overwhelming hate for the new film (and its all female team of ghostbusters), there is just no good reason for this trailer or the previous one to be the most disliked thing on YouTube. In fact, the new trailer – admittedly unlike its predecessor – is actually pretty solid. There are a few laughs. The story itself seems more coherent. And it still managed to get a negative feedback at a ratio of 9-to-1.


It’s a certainty that many of the downvotes come from people who have absolutely no stake in the debate but want to feel connected to a larger movement. The silent generation had World War II, the Boomers had the 60s, and now users DatBoi69 and Skaterdude69 will get to tell their grandchildren of the time they dogpiled a Ghostbusters movie for vague reasons. On the other hand, there are also a strong showing of meninists and reactionary “anti-SJWs” flooding the trailer’s comment section with sexist nonsense.

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Ironically, the very fact that this film has been met with so much hate reinforces the idea that there is something inherently sexist about the backlash. This film may not wind up being the next Citizen Kane but it’s also not going to be the Worst Film In History. Making that is Adam Sandler’s job and he doesn’t get nearly as much hate. (For reference, Sandler’s last crime against humanityRidiculous 6, has three times as many upvotes as downvotes.)

So what is going on here?

If we allow ourselves to speculate just a bit, the order events could reasonably be as follows:

In the beginning there was culturally and spiritually-enforced patriarchy (this isn’t “PC bullshit”, this is a fact, so spare me the indignation in the comments). That lasted for thousands of years. Recently, a series of rapidly expanding rights and considerations towards women and other disenfranchised groups has meant major progress, but also left many people – particularly white men – feeling like things have gone too far. Enter Ghostbusters. For various reasons, the fact that a beloved (all male) cult classic was being redone with a lesser known group of (all female) stars served as a convenient symbol of that assumed “SJW” overreach. The internet allows for and actively encourages dogpiling. When negative feedback began pouring in from the new film, the outrage reached critical mass and uncontrollable fission began. The result was a massively disproportionate blowback, which continues to burn to this day. Having already decided the new Ghostbusters “proves” one’s belief about feminists, viewing the trailer through the lens of “this is going to suck” leads to strong confirmation bias and justifies the original feelings. The new trailer is therefore doomed before it is ever released, ensuring another cycle of “this is going to suck” which should take us through the release of the film itself.

How close am I?

Seth Rogen And Max Landis Are Fighting Over Why ‘Victor Frankenstein’ Sucked

Poor, tragic Victor Frankenstein is a movie with very few friends. Hated by critics, and a disaster at the box office, the movie has reached Fantastic Four levels of finger pointing and buck passing. Daniel Radcliffe, the film’s star, didn’t mind telling reporters that he thought a great deal of the blame rested with the scriptwriter, Max Landis.

“That’s the thing,” Radcliffe once said. “[In Landis’ original script] it felt like sort of film danger, where you always knew, ‘ah, they’re gonna be okay in the end.’ And actually like, you don’t want that. The threat has to feel very real from [Andrew Scott’s character Roderick] Turpin and from Danny Mays’ character [Barnaby] at the beginning. It can’t be funny, slapstick violence.”

Even Landis, has occasionally taken up the torch and pitchfork – albeit in a way to elicit maximum trolling, naturally.

Which makes it odd that when Seth Rogen happened to tweet that he watched Victor Frankenstein and thought the movie was “disastrous,” Landis jumped in to defend his besmirched honor.

Which led to a back-and-forth between the two.

Landis’ beef appears to be that Rogen was blaming him for the movie’s outcome. Landis has long said that his script was not only different, but better. (A point Daniel Radcliffe clearly disagrees with.) The bizarre part, however, is that Rogen never actually mentioned Landis. He just said the movie sucked – which most people, even Landis, agree that it did.

None of this is meant to knock Max Landis. As ever, he is one of the most fascinating people working in Hollywood precisely because he overshares on social media. For a process that can often seems obtuse and secretive to the average person, Landis continually checks in to tell the world how things are going. It’s not always pretty. And sometimes he gets things wrong. But it is refreshing to have a creative force in Hollywood that doesn’t seem beholden to the first rule of Fight Club. It allows us to peak, ever so slightly, behind the veil.

Why The Force Awakens Was Not Meant For Home Viewing

I love the cinematic experience, always will. But I still maintain that the real test of a film, as far as entering that sacred league of “favorites”, is the home viewing experience. After all, part of the charm of watching the original Star Wars trilogy is casually watching it at home. Much of us grew up watching them in that format. But can we hold Episode VII to that same standard?

After seeing a film so many times, I find it best to have it on in the background while I do other things. Once I’ve seen something enough, it starts to sync in my brain like a Dumb and Dumber dialogue reel. I can just quote things off-hand and tune in at the right moments. The classic trilogy lent itself to this tremendously well, mostly because of the pacing.

The great thing about The Force Awakens as a theater experience is also the worst thing when it comes to the home viewing experience: The breakneck pace. In 1977, a fast pace would be considered sluggish now, and we all know the chore JJ Abrams had in re-introducing this world of old and new. It was a lot to fit into a movie that’s just over 2 hours long and a great way to accomplish that was through pure speed. It covered up (most) plot holes and kept the suspense at a pulse-pounding level. But that unrelenting pace and constant movement feels exhausting when you’re folding laundry.

I understand this is all rather nit-picky. I still contend The Force Awakens is an achievement – one that couldn’t help but be at least somewhat divisive. But it’s also painfully dichotomous.

The first half, I’ve found, is ridiculously fast-moving, while the second half (even as the action kicks up) finds ways to take its time. Perhaps the first half isn’t so bad, as it allows the (much better) second half to click perfectly into place. But I still kind of wish they took their time more in the beginning; let some shots breathe a little; have that John Williams score fill our head space while we adjust to this universe again.

You really get the sense this movie couldn’t wait to get to the second half and catch us up on everything, but it just needs to relax a little. Think about the movement in the first events of the film – We land on Jakku, then leave, then escape back to Jakku, then escape from Jakku again, all in about 20 minutes.

There’s no Rey staring at a twin sunset while the score swells. In fact the nearest moment to this I can think of is when Rey comes back from Unkar Plutt’s, and playfully puts on an old X-Wing pilot helmet. It could’ve been a nice moment to allow us into the intimacy of the moment, but the film just kicks up again. It’s almost like JJ had some sort of cinematic metronome ticking in the editing room, keeping every plot beat, rise and fall, equally spaced apart. Again, it’s all so tiring at times. It’s also why I love the final swooping shot of the film – A complete summation of the movement of the thing. JJ put his stamp on it, for sure.

I love the characters, the plot twists, the reveals, the tragedy that is Kylo Ren, and the wind blowing across Luke’s face as it did in the very beginning, beckoning his return. This isn’t a condemnation, this movie just gets too much right. In fact, it’s the reason why Episode VIII is set up so well – a movie that can now afford to take its time a little more. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead while enjoying what we have, which is the point.

It will take many repeated viewings for me to really know where this ranks for me among Star Wars films, but right now this plays a lot like Jedi to me – “slow” starter, epic ender. The Force Awakens was always about the theater experience above all else and it plays that way on home video, for better or worse.

Max Landis Is Right And You Are Wrong About The ‘Ghost In The Shell’ Whitewashing

In the days since learning that Paramount got the digital wizards behind Benjamin Button to see if they could (ALLEGEDLY!) make Scarlett Johansson – the whitest actress on earth – appear more Asian for her upcoming film Ghost in the Shell, the world has stood united in condemning the idea and taking it a step further by condemning the very idea that Johnasson was cast, rather than an Asian actress, if the studio really wanted her to look Asian.

After the backlash surrounding Johansson’s role in the film, producers reportedly attempted to quell the controversy with an old standby Hollywood uses to fix a lot of problems: CGI.

According to multiple independent sources close to the project, Paramount and DreamWorks commissioned visual effects tests that would’ve altered Scarlett Johansson in post-production to “shift her ethnicity” and make the Caucasian actress appear more Asian in the film.

Fair enough. That shit is bonkers. But while every website bravely agreed that Johansson and Paramount were being Problematic and Racist, film director Max Landis took a more nuanced point of view – and was subsequently pilloried for it.

Here’s the headline you’re seeing: Scarlett Johansson Defended By Max Landis, or alternatively, Max Landis defends Scarlett Johansson in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ after whitewashing controversy.

However, despite the confidence on display in those headlines, Landis, the director of Chronicle and American Ultra, didn’t “defend” Scarlett Johansson so much as explain why being mad at her (or Paramount) is short-sided and unproductive in the first place. He’s right and the rest of us are wrong.


Landis’ point is essentially that the way the Hollywood system works is at fault here. It’s not Paramount (or not just Paramount) and it’s not Johansson. The profit-model of Hollywood is predicated on using big name A-listers to get people to the theaters and the number of celebrities capable of doing that is, well, like 15 people. One of them is ScarJo. With this in mind, the idea that Hollywood have ever greenlit a risky bet like Ghost in the Shell, based on a beloved-if-obscure Japanese anime film, without someone huge to star in it is silly. The film never would have got off the ground.

That doesn’t mean we should let Hollywood off the hook – and Landis doesn’t. The system is, as he says, broken. It’s based on business models that are either outdated or perhaps never real in the first place. The death of the “A-lister” presents an opportunity for studios to adapt. Instead, they’ve desperately clung to the few they have left.

His final point is especially dead on:

“When you ask why they didn’t cast one of thousands of Asian actors to play the lead in Ghost in the Shell, you shouldn’t be asking that. You should be asking ‘Why we don’t have any A-list Asian celebrities in America, right now?’ That’s the big question.

The answer is a mix of conventional wisdom, risk-avoidance psychology, a splash of plain ol’ racism, and a lot more shadowy forms of implicit bias that they don’t realize is happening. It’s not capital ‘R’ Racism, it’s a blend of interwoven bullshit that is going to take a lot more than hashtags and outrage to get past.

And not for nothing, we should remember that now more than ever, Hollywood is producing films for a non-white audience. No, sadly, Hollywood itself isn’t really diversifying, but international markets are driving the movie-making process more so than at any time in history. Did you happen to notice how Michael Bay managed to squeeze a contrived Beijing setpiece into the last Transformers film? No, he doesn’t just like blowing up cities. Every blockbuster is required to have a scene in China, because China is massive, increasingly middle class, and in love with Hollywood. And unlike America’s recent tradition of self-hatred (some of it deserved!), much of the rest of the world still loves American pop culture and adores its celebrities.

Let’s take one example: On any list of movies that shamefully thrusts a white guy into a role that could have been filled out with an Asian actor is The Last Samurai, where Tom Cruise is The Last Samurai. The last samurai is a white dude who discovered over the course of a few montages that he makes a better samurai than most samurai. In America, thinkpieces are routinely written about why this film is offensive. In Japan – the place whose honor we defend with said thinkpieces – it was a hit. They loved it. They loved Tom Cruise. They had no (okay, very little) problem with a white American being cast as a Japanese samurai. They found it fun.

Is that right? Is it wrong? Is it problematic? Whatever it is, it’s not so simple as recasting Scarlett Johansson with an Asian actress to solve racism. There are complex forces at play here and forcing them into black-and-white boxes derails any sort of progress we might get.

AMC Theatres’ Plan To Be The Cool Mom And Let Teens Text During Movies Goes Down In Flames

We have a couple of things for our “This Week In Bad Decisions” folder this week, but up first is AMC Theatres and their less-than-popular announcement to let teens stay on Snapchat while in a darkened movie theater. Needless to say, nobody (besides teens who missed the announcement because they were on Snapchat) was thrilled with the idea.

AMC’s logic was this: Movie theaters are slowly dying. Kids these days can’t spend two hours not staring at their phone screens even if it is to stare at a much bigger screen. Why not let kids text during movies?

The answers were: Movie theaters are dying – but not because of the no texting rule. Some kids can’t spend two hours not staring at their phones – but those kids are assholes.  Let’s not cater to that.

And just like that, the idea was dead.

AMC Theatres tweeted a lengthy statement that reaffirmed its commitment to Keeping Movie Theaters Dark. Saying, in part:

During the past few days, you may have heard reports about another idea AMC Theatres was considering, testing whether some movie goers might want texting allowed in a small selection of our theatres. Unlike the many AMC advancements that you have applauded, we have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want. In this age of social media, we get feedback from you almost instantaneously and as such, we are constantly listening. Accordingly, just as instantaneously, this is an idea that we have relegated to the cutting room floor.

With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theatres. Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.

Now, instead of being able to live-tweet The Jungle Book, I guess we’ll just have to watch it.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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