As we return from the Labor Day weekend—the official end of the summer of 2014, I reflect on the movies Hollywood gave us. You can see the box-office tally of the Top Ten Biggest Summer Movies here: http://www.businessinsider.com/highest-grossing-summer-movies-2014-2014-8. Also, Guardians of the Galaxy is officially the highest grossest film domestically this year so far, surpassing Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier from this spring.
One topic has bubbled to the top of discussion in entertainment news and I’d like to put my spin on it:
Would You Care If Your Favorite Book or Movie Was Written By Shakespeare or a Multi-racial, Chain-smoking, Albino Midget?
Back in the eighties, I was a huge Marvel fan(atic) and comic book collector. Then as I got ready to “ship out” to the US Army I did the unthinkable—I stopped, just like that; and then sold my entire collection. I did keep maybe a few dozen collector items, but I sold everything else.
For a long time, the 1978 Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve (the original and as far as I’m concerned still the best Superman to this day, sorry Mr. Nolan, Man of Steel sucked!) was considered the gold-standard of superhero movies. Then, ignoring the false start of the Fantastic Four, the sky opened up in 2007 and down flew Kevin Feige as the new President of Marvel Studios, and the Golden Age of Marvel Studios movies began.
Based on one of the Marvel comic book series that most of us have never heard of (including me), Guardians of the Galaxy became the surprise break-out summer blockbuster this summer. I still consider the Avengers the best superhero movie of all time, but Guardians of the Galaxy is fighting for the number two slot with X Men: First Class in my mind. I’ll have to see both again to decide.
Diversity of Writers in Hollywood: Do You Really Care?
As the post-release Hollywood buzz machine continues in high-gear, two things have bubbled to the surface. One put a smile on my face, the other did not. The smile first. The reason Guardians of the Galaxy far surpassed expectations was not because of the great live actors (special praise for Chris Pratt) or the CGI ones (special praise for Rocket Raccoon, yes, I would never have foreseen this one either), or the awesome special effects. No! The real star was the screenplay, the writing, the writers. That’s where the conversation should have stayed, but now some have decided to take us into that tiresome universe known as “Diversity.”
Co-writer Nicole Perlman becomes the first woman to have her name on a Marvel script. Okay, whatever. I’ve personally never cared about the race, gender, height, weight, eye/hair color, singing ability, cat/dog person, zodiac sign, Marvel or DC person, Star Wars or Star Trek person, etc. of any writer before but it still seems to preoccupy some. I only care about great writing, period. On the show The Wrap, the host was Lucas Shaw and he asked Ms. Perlman, referring to Marvel movies, about the “lack of diversity” in terms of “the writing, directing, and in front of the camera” and ended the question with the following: “…every movie’s been directed by a White guy…probably between the age of 30 and 45.” See the clip here: http://www.thewrap.com/guardians-of-the-galaxy-co-writer-nicole-perlman-on-the-films-unique-twist-video/
I call them the “Bean-Counters.” They lurk in the shadows and seem to carry a secret clipboard, duct-taped to their forearm, wherein they mindlessly count the number of people of a certain race, gender, etc. wherever they go. I have always loathed these people even when I was a child back in the ‘70s. Here are my responses to Mr. Shaw:
1) Mr. Shaw, seventy percent of America is White! Yes, most of America is still White. However, unlike some who seem to view this ominously, I’m not sure why that is a bad thing. In Africa, most people are Black; in China, most people are Asian; in Italy, most people are Catholic; in Mexico most people are Hispanic. Yes, all very shocking. The “whiteness” of America means nothing; it’s like saying the sky is blue. This isn’t America during slavery or segregation. As a Black man myself, if this doesn’t bother me, why should it bother you? [There are lots of problems faced by urban and poor communities; none of them have to do with the skin color of the majority population. I’ll stop there because I could write a massive blog post (or book) on just that—some other time.]
2) Mr. Shaw, why are you diminishing Ms. Perlman? As I’ve already stated, she co-wrote a damn good script. I’m glad she (gently) pushed back on your comments and stated that any good writer, regardless of gender, could have written (and can write) the quality of the script of Guardians. The “bean-counter” people often act as if they are the “evolved” humans among us, but in reducing Ms. Perlman to “the woman writer” or when the writer is not a White male to “the Black guy,” “the Hispanic guy,” ad infinitum, they are revealing how “un-evolved” they truly are.
3) Psst. Mr. Shaw. No one really gives a damn. Do people really care about diversity? No, the average America doesn’t. The average “bean-counter” is obsessed with it. We’re talking about good writing, whether it’s books or television or movies. People are hungry for great writing. They know it when they see it and when they find it they will become avid fans of it. I mentioned that I still consider The Avengers to be best of the super hero movies ever made. It was written by Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, etc. Do I care that he’s a “White guy” or do I care that this person can WRITE! The BBC series Sherlock is another example of outstanding writing, don’t forget Breaking Bad, and what about Netflix’s original series, the House of Cards? We want good writers and we don’t care about the labels that “bean-counter” people preoccupy themselves with and (unsuccessfully) try to get us to care about too. Go away “bean-counter” people while we enjoy the talents of the great writers amongst us; go play in the traffic or jump in a lake somewhere!
4) If you really cared about diversity…? What all this “diversity” talk really means is that there aren’t enough Black people and Hispanics (Asians and Indians don’t count) in plain sight, as determined by the Great, Grand Rulers of the “bean-counter” people. That’s what they really mean. So to end on a serious note: you want to see more Blacks and Latinos as Hollywood writers, or anywhere else moving up the ranks of the free-market? There are two core problems: the corruption of our public school system and our urban communities! With urban schools with at least a fifty percent drop-out rate and young men and women, large numbers of both Black and Hispanic, graduating functionally illiterate (that’s French for “they can’t read”), there will be very, very few to join Ms. Perlman on the Hollywood writing stage or anywhere else since they do not have the necessary skills for the world of work or the world of high education. And sadly, we no longer have the caliber of leaders on the ground as we did a generation ago who are truly more interested in the people rather than the politics, fortune and fame. Fix those—we haven’t for the last 40 plus years—and there will be so much “diversity” that the “bean counter” people will then be running around in uncontrollable panic attacks asking “where did all these dark-skinned people come from?”
Great writers, regardless of race, gender, or labels, we love you. Keep up great work. I’ve already jumped into the future to get Scottie from the Enterprise to come back in time with me to beam all the “bean-counter” people to Ceti Alpha Five. Good riddance!
Austin Dragon is the author of over 30 books in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror. His works include the sci-fi detective LIQUID COOL series, the epic fantasy FABLED QUEST CHRONICLES, the international futuristic epic AFTER EDEN Series, the classic SLEEPY HOLLOW HORRORS, and new military sci-fi PLANET TAMERS series. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, ex-political junkie, movie buff, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, futurist, and dreamer.