More Americans work in museums than work in coal
April 22, 2018 10:33 AM   Subscribe

You already know who. It’s white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing. The history of this country has been written as their story, and the news sometimes still tells it this way—one of the battles of our time is about who the story is about, who matters and who decides.
Rebecca Solnit talks about the myth of the real America and whose stories are treated with respect and whose are not.
posted by MartinWisse (21 comments total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
 


I feel like a lot of people are starting to get on board with the idea that not all fiction should feature white male protagonists. There’s pushback of course — GG and “Ghostbusters 2 retroactively ruined our childhoods” and so firth. But a lot of white dudes I know will now at least notice if the next movie in their favorite franchise features 95% white dudes and see why thats offputting to some people and recognize that it’s not a reflection of reality. I don’t think that was nearly as likely 5 years ago.

But a lot of those same people are basically blind to the fact that the same thing happens in nonfiction. That the same people are heroes and sympathized with in the news as in comic books. That, as white people and especially white men, they find a story somehow just not as interesting or enjoyable or important if the hero is a white woman or POC, whether its a comic book or news arc. People who will absolutely notice a lazily racist or sexist characterization in a movie are totally blind to it in the news, and in fact are blind to the idea that the news and culture at large has as many hacky racist and sexist tropes as any form of fiction.

This piece does a great job of pointing out a lot of that, I sincerely hope this stuff becomes more broadly recognized. Until then I despair of our chances of getting high level political representation that actually reflects the country’s demographics.
posted by mrmurbles at 11:48 AM on April 22, 2018 [42 favorites]


Thank you for sharing this post. Every time someone touts our economic recovery I ask myself, for whom is the economy recovering?

Since 2009 I have observed that retail outlets, large and small, keep making their aisles wider and shrinking their inventories. I have considered this to be something of an indicator that for many people, the economic recovery being touted is not reaching them. I am not sure how this applies to other sectors of the economy, however, it is not happening in isolation.
posted by Altomentis at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


Agree. Great post.
posted by Glinn at 11:54 AM on April 22, 2018


I read this earlier today, and I wanted to post it to Facebook, but I'm concerned it would be needlessly confrontational. It would be read as "fuck you, Iowan friends, who think you're more 'real American' than I am, than my family is, than the people I grew up with are." Which is what it would be. Which is kind of how I feel. Iowa is absolutely the "real America," but so is New York City, and Skokie, Illinois, and Riverside, California. White people aren't more "real American" than other people. People whose ancestors came from Sweden and Germany aren't more "real American" than people whose ancestors came from Italy, Mexico, China, or Jamaica. They sure as hell aren't more "real American" than the descendants of slaves or the descendants of people who lived here before 1492. Protestantism isn't more American than Buddhism. Small towns aren't more American than big cities. Your farmer ancestors were not better Americans than my great-grandparents who made their living building ships and sewing clothes.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2018 [83 favorites]


There have been too many stories about men feeling less comfortable, too few about how women might be feeling more secure in offices where harassing coworkers may have been removed or are at least a bit less sure about their right to grope and harass.

This. I would like every story in which someone like Mario Batali discusses how his life has changed and what options he has for a comeback to include check-ins with the victims to see how they're doing.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 12:04 PM on April 22, 2018 [35 favorites]


I like the article.

It seems to me that these generally WASPy, generally male, generally racist, generally sexist, generally homophobic people are struggling to make America their "safe space" again. A place built on not only domination, but a mythology about their uniquely supreme level of greatness in the world. It's absurdity from beginning to end, but this is the identity that many of these people feel in their bones. It's a place where they don't have to be confronted with their own mediocrity, failures, misdeeds. It's the comfort of a completely unexamined life, unexamined because there is no question of its need, no room for such complication. It's the folly of not even recognizing the value of such examination.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:28 PM on April 22, 2018 [33 favorites]


“not all fiction should feature white male protagonists”
Black Panther
Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $681,084,109 51.4%
+ Foreign: $642,900,000 48.6%
posted by Ideefixe at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


...I'm concerned it would be needlessly confrontational. It would be read as "fuck you, Iowan friends, who think you're more 'real American' than I am, than my family is, than the people I grew up with are."

That's why it is so important to have these conversations (in any medium) as "look know many more of us are being impacted" rather than as an us vs them thing. The more we fight each other, the worse this all gets because we can't unite and change things together.
posted by davejay at 3:31 PM on April 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Black Panther
Total Lifetime Grosses


Not sure what your point is here Ideefixe; part of the rapturous reception of the movie is that it's so anomalous in its casting and pretty much the first of its kind, which just demonstrates how underserved was the market for fans of non-white superheroes.
posted by jokeefe at 4:02 PM on April 22, 2018 [20 favorites]


The opening paragraph completely clarified my sense of "meh" when I started reading the reviews of "Phantom Thread". Given the efforts to produce the movie, I was bemused at my indifference. Now I understand that a romance between two pieces of furniture absolutely would engage me more than another tale of "suffering white male genius".

I was listening to an interview with Natasha Lester, and she has a book coming out, "The Paris Seamstress", which probably did not appeal to me initially, but as a contrast to and as a counter-examination of the "meh" factor, I will definitely now pursue.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:03 PM on April 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


I took Ideefixe's comment to mean that the success of Black Panther further supports the idea that non[white/male] protagonists are not box office poison; see also Wonder Woman: $413 million US+Canada, $409 million in the rest of the world.
posted by hangashore at 5:04 PM on April 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


My pointis that if you build it, they will come. If only white males were the only possible heroes of profitable movies, no one would have made Black Panther.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:40 PM on April 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


I wanted to post it to Facebook, but I'm concerned it would be needlessly confrontational. It would be read as "fuck you, Iowan friends, who think you're more 'real American' than I am

Southwest Iowa. Shared on my Facebook page. (Very few of my Facebook Friends actually live in Iowa, and the few that do are also liberal elitists, so yeah.. it really doesn't count. I've pretty much pruned out everyone that would be offended by this message already.)

Black Panther
Total Lifetime Grosses


$1.3 BILLION?!

[...] demonstrates how underserved was the market for fans of non-white superheroes

I think that makes the point. Someone finally bothered to make a serious effort at catering to this market that couldn't have existed until now, and they've been well rewarded for that serious effort. This is what the future looks like, in a microcosm: a tremendously popular thing that doesn't cater to the one slice of the population that's used to being catered to, and no one else even cares because Have You Seen That Thing? It's Great!
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 5:45 PM on April 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Even though Solnit and the woke Metafilter crowd are not the target audience, Tyler Perry’s films make a lot of money for him and for Lionsgate.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:50 PM on April 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


"...some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing." Yes, the danger of zero-sum American identity. Who lives, who dies, who tells your story, indeed.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:31 PM on April 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Tyler Perry's movies are seen as niche products: they are marketed to black people pretty much exclusively, and they have pretty low budgets, which means that they can make a lot of money without crossing over to the rest of the potential audience. They often aren't even shown in theaters in majority-white areas. Movies with white protagonists, on the other hand, are seen as universal. They're marketed to everyone. They're shown everywhere. So Tyler Perry doesn't challenge white men's belief in the centrality of their own perspective. White men constantly see media in which people like them are the protagonists. They rarely see media where they're asked to identify with anyone who isn't a white man. And that is not true of anyone else.

So yeah, Black Panther is huge, and it's being marketed to everyone. But that's a change, and it's part of a bigger change that some white people seem to be having a hard time coming to terms with.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:50 PM on April 22, 2018 [22 favorites]


And part of the change Black Panther brought included normalizing black women as figures of power and influence who were central to the plot. Part of my experience of Black Panther was that it was what I wished Wonder Woman could have been, and an enormous chunk of my enthusiasm for it had to do with how the women were included as equals even when the narrative center was around two men. The final resolution was that a woman was right before any of he plot got rolling, and that was powerful as well.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:50 AM on April 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


Funny, I just saw Phantom Thread this weekend, and I didn’t at all think it was the white male’s story—it was clearly Alma’s story, how she was pulled into the orbit of a toxic man, her struggle to maintain her sense of self, and her victory when she finally brings him to heel. She’s even the one telling the story in the framing device.
posted by ejs at 11:29 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Those movies being such "surprise" blockbusters, the awfulStarbucks incident -- both are examples of how the supposedly neutral invisible hand of the market often leaves plenty of money on the table as a sacrifice to white-male-centeredness. Libertarians love to pretend that the Civil Rights Act, as applied to private businesses, is unnecessary because discrimination is financially counterproductive. Yes, sometimes it can be (though not if it amounts to rent-seeking or self-dealing), but nonetheless, it happens. People simply do believe and behave in ways that are self-destructive, if the psychological reward is high enough. That's obvious.

Related to this, a good Twitter thread about who gets to be a "customer". Money quote: It's utterly paradoxical but I guarantee the same people who called the cops would, if the men gone directly to the counter and bought the most expensive drink, elicited an internal reaction of "I hope these guys hurry up and leave, they're slowing down the line for Customers."
posted by InTheYear2017 at 8:38 AM on April 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Libertarians love to pretend that the Civil Rights Act, as applied to private businesses, is unnecessary because discrimination is financially counterproductive. Yes, sometimes it can be (though not if it amounts to rent-seeking or self-dealing), but nonetheless, it happens. People simply do believe and behave in ways that are self-destructive, if the psychological reward is high enough. That's obvious.

The majority of folks beholden to the libertarian ethos consider there to be no right more supreme than that of the person who already got his possesses the capital to do whatever with it they like, no matter how pig-headed counter-productive anti-social and flat-out stupid that might be. It might seem hard to reconcile this with the other mad addiction to the market will fix it until you consider the (barely) subliminal racism that leads them to think that if some white dude with money wants to do it, obviously it must overall be The Right Thing. So sure, it looks racist and counter-productive to you but that's his right and most likely he's gonna make the right choice if you let him!

tl;dr - absolutists gonna absolute, you'd be better served trying to negotiate with the tides.
posted by phearlez at 9:01 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


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