Anghus Houvouras on Black Panther (or the unintended racism of ignorance)…
Political Correctness is a virus that infects well-intentioned people and turns their good-natured arguments into a laughable folly. We see this happen from time to time in the entertainment business when people talk about diversity in the Hollywood studio system. Hollywood is white. Real white. Especially those who sit in the director’s chair. Like painfully white. The 1957 Yale Graduating Class caught in a snowstorm white. The Osmonds covered in corn starch white. Taylor Swift trying to dance white. So whenever anyone says ‘why can’t we get more female/black/minority/LGBT directors working in the studios?’ I get it. It’s a valid argument that deserves serious consideration.
Unfortunately the internet is not a place for serious consideration.
The last few years have seen a slew of opinion pieces asking for a female led superhero film and more diversity among the spandex set. Finally fans are going to get characters like Wonder Woman and Black Panther on the silver screen. Within minutes the declarations began.
“Reginald Hudlin should direct Black Panther!”
“Warner Bros. looks for female director for Wonder Woman”
The logic behind having a black director helm Black Panther and a woman direct Wonder Woman is exactly the kind of knee jerk, unintended racism that makes America such a wonderfully ignorant place. If you ask ‘Why’ Black Panther should be directed by a black director, the only real answer is ‘Because Black Panther is black’. The same answer applies to why a woman should direct Wonder Woman.
“Duh, Anghus. Wonder Woman IS A WOMAN. It’s right there in the title”
How silly of me. I didn’t realize that having a vagina was a requirement to directing a movie about a hero with a vagina. Or that only black directors could properly bring Black Panther to screen. I suppose by that logic that someone would declare only a blind director could do Daredevil justice? And only someone whose parents had been brutally murdered should direct Batman movies? Or a completely useless person direct Aquaman?
Reginald Hudlin has experience with Black Panther having produced a mini-series about the character, so at least his name being brought up feels slightly appropriate for Black Panther. But why Reggie Hudlin? Because you love House Party so much? Because of the great characterization he brought to Boomerang? Hudlin’s been working in television for years. He’s hardly the person I immediately think of when picturing the sweeping Sci-Fi world of Wakanda. Then again, Marvel likes to hire ‘on the cheap’ directors with TV backgrounds so maybe there’s some traction here…
I get what you guys are trying to do. You’re trying to level the playing field. You are thumping your fist against the pulpit and demanding equality. Good for you. We need dissenting voices out there demanding Hollywood becomes more inclusive. But the idea of gender and race matching directing talent to films like a child’s color wheel is so ignorant it’s almost adorable.
Let’s get the right director for the movie. Find the right voice that works for the films being made. Saying that only black directors should direct Black Panther and that only a woman should direct Wonder Woman is actually the very definition of racism and sexism. It’s assigning labels based on specific criteria. Rather than looking for the best candidate, you are basically asserting that the only appropriate choice is one based on race and gender.
Let’s find more diverse voices in film, but let’s not turn these movies into some kind of pointless litmus test for just how poisoned we’ve all become by political correctness. Find the right talent. Black, White, Male, Female… whomever. Just don’t limit your choices based on a ridiculously limited criteria.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.