Saturday, February 06, 2016

Affirmative Action in Film

Spike Lee and other black actors are demanding more racial or ethnic “diversity” in film, especially in films that win Oscars, regardless of whether or not  anyone wants to see them or their films, or even if the films in which “minorities” appear deserve an Oscar or any kind of recognition.

What Lee and other claimants of entitlements want is much like anti-smokers demanding that all restaurants and bars be made smoke-free by law. That is, for the government to favor their voting bloc or pressure group and to “socialize” private property and private associations. To “socialize” private property and private associations, however, is to seize them. Or, compare that with Muslims demanding that supermarkets create a special section for halal food products.

What no one seems to understand is that affirmative action in film – which is what #OscarsSoWhite is demanding – will mean affirmative action in literature. Most films today are based on novels or on adaptations from novels (mostly bad adaptations, and a handful of decent ones). Or on film scripts. “Diversity” in employment has always been linked to political correctness in speech and even in imagery. One can see it in television and print advertisement. It also means “rationing” casting parts to blacks and other minorities. It means forced social associations.

It means the collectivization of artistic and moral values based on race, gender, and even disabilities.

There is a minor character in Ayn Rand’s prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged, which, among other things, chronicles the destruction of America at the hands of statists, egalitarians, career parasites (politicians and bureaucrats), and other looters-by-law. The character is Balph Eubank, a failed writer who nonetheless has political pull in Washington

Wikipedia has a special site for breaking down Atlas Shrugged by plot and character. Here is the section on Balph Eubank:

Called "the literary leader of the age", despite the fact that he is incapable of writing anything that people actually want to read. What people want to read, he says, is irrelevant. He complains that it is disgraceful that artists are treated as peddlers, and that there should be a law limiting the sales of books to ten thousand copies. He is a member of the Looters. Balph Eubank appears in section 161 (“The Non-Commercial”) (Italics mine)

And what does Balph Eubank write? Books that no one wants to read. Books that are eminently non-commercial. Unsalable. Ballast for the bookstores’ remainder and bargain tables. But Eubank (and his brain brothers in other realms) want to repeal the trader principle.

Eubank declares that suffering is the essence of life, and that free will, achievement, and happiness are laughable concepts of old literature. Plot, he says, is a primitive vulgarity in literature. Moreover, life is about suffering and frustration, that the only thing to live for is brotherly love. He later says that the machine age has destroyed man's humanity, observing that Dagny Taggart runs a railroad rather than practicing the beautiful art of the handloom and bearing children.

Maura Pennington, in her Forbes article of August 3rd, 2013, “Atlas Shrugged’s Balph Eubank Long ago, Predicted the Impoverished Future for Writers,” wrote:

In Atlas Shrugged, in the scene at the Reardens’ anniversary party, the satirical character with the bombastic name Balph Eubank proposes an “Equalization of Opportunity Bill” for literature, as had been suggested for industry earlier in Ayn Rand’s novel.  Applied to literature, it would stipulate that no author would be allowed to sell more than 10,000 copies of a book, opening up the field for more writers because people would be forced to read a wider variety instead of the same popular volumes.

Someone at the party wonders, wouldn’t that be tough on writers?  Balph Eubank responds haughtily, “So much the better.  Only those whose motive is not moneymaking should be allowed to write”…. 

Remember that Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, long, long before terms such as “diversity” and “equal opportunity” became part of the political and social lexicons and were embedded by fiat law in the nation’s “consciousness.” I am not the first to say that Rand’s novel is “prophetic”; columnists and pundits have said it countless times over the last decade. In the current context, however, it is prophetic in the general principles elucidated by Rand, principles that govern the Balkanization of a country into warring pressure groups and noisy, belligerent tribes, into a mosaic of separatist “communities,” a social and political disintegration driven by the abandonment of reason and a deeply-rooted hostility to reality, to individualism, and to objectivity.

But Rand could never have imagined the numerous ugly forms the phenomenon has taken. Racial and ethnic “diversity” in art in her time was not one of them, but if it went unchallenged, it was bound to rear its life-freezing Medusa head as it has today, with a dozen poisonous snakes wreathing on its head: homosexuality, transgenderism, feminism; pedophilia; mental and physical disabilities, and other abnormalcies whose advocates champion “rights.”

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite is a child of #BlackLivesMatter.  

President Barack Obama is a party to the disintegration; he is one of its chief vehicles. Even during his Baltimore mosque address on February 3rd, he touched on the absence of non-violent Muslims in TV:

….Many [Americans] only hear about Muslims and Islam from the news after an act of terrorism, or in distorted media portrayals in TV or film, all of which gives this hugely distorted impression….

Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security -- (applause) -- because -- it’s not that hard to do.  There was a time when there were no black people on television.  And you can tell good stories while still representing the reality of our communities.

Mickey Mouse was not cast in the Coen
Brothers' Hail, Caesar! Was he not black enough?
Or not white enough?

“There was a time when there were no black people on television.” When? In the late 1940’s? The early 1950’s? Beginning in the 1960’s, there were hundreds of black sitcoms on TV. Where was Obama when “The Jeffersons” was running? “Sanford and Son”? Bill Cosby’s several sitcoms, including an animated show, “Fat Albert”? And many more shows, some targeted to black viewers, others to the general viewing audience.

And on the Oscar “diversity” issue, the left-wing British Guardian, in its January 28th article, “Barack Obama on Oscars diversity: are we giving everyone a fair shot?” reported Obama’s nickel’s worth:

US president Barack Obama has spoken for the first time on Oscars diversity, suggesting that the issue comes down to basic fairness and challenging Hollywood to ask if people of all races are “getting a fair shot”.

Describing the furor over all-white lists of nominees for this year’s ceremony as “just an expression of this broader issue” Obama said the American film industry could benefit creatively by championing the creativity of those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“I think that California is an example of the incredible diversity of this country. That’s a strength,” he told reporters at the White House. “I think that when everyone’s story is told … that makes for better art.” Added Obama: “It makes for better entertainment; it makes everybody feel part of one American family, so I think as a whole the industry should do what every other industry should do which is to look for talent, provide opportunity to everybody. And I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue. Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?”
It seems that Hollywood has given especially blacks more than a “fair shot” in film. There are hundreds of films that feature blacks or that were made by blacks or that were targeted at black viewers. But TV and big screen movies made by American Indians? By Asians? By Hispanics? By the “disabled”?  By gays? By transgenders? By Pakistanis? By Muslims? Not so many of those stories have been told. Have I overlooked any “minorities”? The aged? The feminists? The autistic? The wheelchair-bound? The obese? The blind? The mute? The deaf?

So, one must ask oneself? Where have Spike Lee, Will Smith, Chris Rock, Barack Obama, and Ethan Hawke been all these years? In what alternate universe have they been living? What is their true complaint? Will Smith co-starred in two Men In Black films. What chip sits on his shoulder?

One reader wrote on Daniel Greenfield’s column of February 6th, "’Guam is Tipping Over’" Congressman Demands Black Oscar Quotas: Maybe they should change the hashtag to "#OscarsNotBlackEnough.”

And there’s the nub. The Doberman barks or bares its teeth; Hollywood jumps through hoops. Bridget Johnson in her PJ Media article of February 5th, “Lawmakers Hope Academy Works with Congress to Make Oscars Less White,” reported:

On Jan. 21, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved "sweeping" changes to membership rules, such as extending voting terms in regards to how long it's been since a member actively worked in Hollywood, and promised to recruit a more diverse voting membership.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

Greenfield put it simply and brutally: “The entire #Oscarissowhite whine is racist, entitled and stupid.”

The point man for the whole #OscarsSoWhite boycott movement is Spike Lee. Breitbart’s February 2nd column, “Spike Lee Calls Out ‘Progressive’ Hollywood: ‘Step up’ to Fight #OscarsSoWhite,” reported:

During a recent CNN interview with several “Hollywood heavyweights” about the lack of diversity among this year’s Academy Awards nominees, film director Spike Lee chided his “progressive” counterparts in the industry for not being “active” in this “movement.”

“Hollywood has many times in the past been active with progressive movements,” Lee said. “I would like to see more people step up because we’re going to be on the right side of history….We’re not going,” Lee said, referring to the calls to boycott this year’s Oscars ceremony. “Even with the changes the made, which I think are great, we’re still going to be at the Nicks game.”

What Spike Lee and others of his malevolent, no-talent ilk want are: Quotas. They want their 10,000 copies and the guaranteed income and prestige that come with the print run or with the box office.

And if a novelist is fortunate (unlucky enough) to have his work selected by a Hollywood studio for adaptation to film, will many of his characters be appropriated and transformed into black characters? Suppose he does pen a novel with many black or other “minority” characters, will the black casting be treated as “fair enough,” or “not enough”? Will the writer have any say in what happens to his characters? Not bloody likely.

There are many other unaddressed complications. If a film comes out with the “right” quota of white and black roles, should an Hispanic viewer care? Or if a film comes out with the “right” amount of white and Hispanic characters, should a black viewer care? An Asian? A Jew? A gay? A transgender? Will he feel “left out,” “under-represented,” or “snubbed”? Which ethnic, religious, or racial “community” will cry “discrimination”? And if the correct quota of Oscar winners is not of a specific ethnic, religious, gender, or racial class, will a flurry of new outraged, super-sensitive hashtags emerge on Twitter: #OscarsSoLatino? #OscarsTooHeterosexual?  #OscaesSoWhite/Black/LatinaChick? #OscarsSoBlack?

However, failing to get those guaranteed 10,000 film roles, blacks and other minorities who feel under-represented doubtless will accept direct or indirect government film production subsidies, which go by the various names of “tax breaks,” “tax credits,” and “movie production incentives.” There are many articles on the subject of state subsidies. Three of the leading series now on Netflix, “House of Cards” (shot largely in Baltimore), “Orange is the New Black” (shot largely in Rockland County, New York), and “The Walking Dead” (it’s never left Georgia, even though later seasons were set though not filmed in Alexandria, Virginia). They benefit from special tax breaks and other state government-granted advantages, such as the suspensions of state and local hotel/motel taxes, sales taxes, and other government levies while a company is filming on location in a state. Often segments of the series are shot free of charge on government property, saving the producers the cost of constructing sets.
Dexter,” a crime series (2006-2013), features one of the most “multi-racial,” “multi-ethnic,” and multi-location TV series on Netflix, shot largely in Miami, Florida and Long Beach, California.

Trigger Warning! There are few black characters in the Cyrus Skeen detective novel series, and none in Silver Screens.  This writer accepts no subsidies, and certainly no “incentives” to produce. He knows that if he did, that would be the end of his writing career.


Steve Jackson said...

One thing Rand couldn't see as clearly as we do now is how the demographic changes have acted as something of a "force multiplier" concerning all the bad things she did see in her time.

Edward Cline said...