Monday, May 4, 2009

This is exactly what I'm talking about

So some of you may know I was out of town for my cousin's wedding (which was awesome, and gave me some fun ideas for my own). Well, after a six hour drive home, this is the comment I see in my inbox in response to my Coraline post:

i loved coraline, (i saw it yesterday when it just came out, but i live in England and it takes ages to get over here) and i have to say i didnt notice wybies race at all, seeing as to me he just looked slightly tanned with wild curly hair (seeing as coraline has blue hair, i just thought it was the idea for eccentric hairstyles)(p.s i had those 3d glasses on so i everyone seemed too have the same skin tone.)i also dont see why it matters about the other mother being white and silencing the darker skinned kid. she would have done it to anybody no matter what, and it doesnt matter what his skin tone is, and isnt being racist. coraline probably just wants her mum to cook because her dad is rubbish at cooking. Also, this is a CHILDRENS film( even if it is dark and disturbing), so dont look too much into it. i think the ppl who made the film didnt want an all white cast.
Okay. I'll give it to you that you that the 3-D glasses may have interfered with the skin tones. I did not have the fun of the glasses (thanks to my cheap ass local theater), however it still astounds me that there are numbers of people still commenting on my analysis of the movie to point out that they didn't think he is black. What still gets to me is that people just thought he was a white kid with a tan.

What comments like this, and the similar comments on the thread (go ahead, scroll through) illustrate is an astounding resistance to in-depth thought. Rather than question presentations of race and gender (yes, even in children's movies), these commenters would rather accuse me of over-sensitivity, or the oh-so-familiar "looking too much into it."

It is very easy to hold onto racist or sexist thoughts because it requires absolutely no effort. Confronting our prejudices requires deep thinking, and sometimes we don't always like what we find there. But ignoring it achieves absolutely nothing. Change does not happen without effort.

As for the above comment, I will address the following:
  • Children's films are not exempt from presentations of gender or race. This point is especially important since they're predominantly viewed by children who are learning about the workings of society and the world. Seeing a non-white character silenced or portrayed as the perpetual bad guy still affects them and their development.
  • It matters that a white mother silenced a black character. Why? Because there's a history of white people silencing black people. It doesn't matter that she would have silenced him even if he was presented as a different race. What does matter is that she is white and he is black and the connotations attached to that relationship.
  • INTENT DOES NOT MATTER. Just because someone intends something to be taken one way will not guarantee that it will be received in the intended manner. In a perfect not-sexist post-racial world, I can accept that maybe Coraline's dad is a terrible cook and Wybie annoys her, so she asks Mom to cook, and the Other Mother shuts Wybie up--AWESOME! But looking at these very same instances, you have the daughter enforcing gender roles and a white woman silencing a black kid. Intent is inconsequential.
In one of the comments, someone assumed that I was non-white, and I can't help but wonder if others assumed the same, and if that is what is attributed to the astounding number of people calling me "sensitive." Fine. I AM A WHITE WOMAN. This does not mean that I cannot analyze a movie's presentation of race. Perhaps other white people get defensive about this movie because they think an "other" is attacking them. Even if I weren't white, I don't see how my opinion is any less valid, or how my whiteness suddenly merits criticism of whiteness. It's very frustrating trying to engage in a thoughtful conversation when all I get is resistance and ignorant accusations.

Go ahead. Tell me I'm a "disgrace to my race" or I'm too sensitive.


Quercki said...

If we can fix the children's programming, maybe that will help with the adults' actions.

And, yes, your race shouldn't matter. Science is supposed to be science. (This science is sociology.)

danae said...

I haven't seen Coraline, so I can't comment on that. But whenever I step out of my circle of friends, I am constantly told I am "looking too much into it", like if all directors/writers had no background whatsoever and were naively going through life.

They either know exactly what they're doing or are some morons who can't analyze their own work and change things in order to avoid misunderstandings. Of course, I usually think they know exactly what they are doing.