Here is where I have my differences with identity politics (and in this instance, a very dogmatic application of identity politics). Do white people really need to stop making movies like this? I think white people need to confront what they are a part of, and be transformed to side with oppressed humanity. I don’t think that is a “guilt story,” and frankly, if white people weren’t appalled by the history of slavery and genocide in the USA, wouldn’t that be more of a problem? Wouldn’t it be more of a problem if there was no internationalism, and we were all starting from our own individual identities?
Yes, it is a problem that there are not enough movies which are from the perspective of the oppressed themselves. But why does that mean there is no value to films like these? Is there really no value to the stories of John Brown? of Jews in Israel who side with and defend the Palestinians? Of Germans who refused to go along in Nazi Germany? I think there is great value to those stories, and that we should be able to unite with what is positive in them, even while we do need to point out the complete absence of the perspectives of the oppressed themselves in Hollywood.
I’m all about this. I find myself furrowing my brow when minority advocates get over-the-top huffy about representation in the media. I absolutely do not believe that it’s not worth anyone’s attention or that it isn’t an issue, but there comes a point where you just have to realize that one story is just one story. How could any storyteller possibly accurately describe an entire people with just one film? What is the effectiveness of being so critical of singular works depicting singular situations?
Believe me, I’ve suddenly become The White Man (so to speak) in Ethnic Studies classes because I dared to propose that it is the responsibility of the viewer (and the guardian of the younger viewer) to realize that what they’re seeing on screen is not meant to be all-encompassing. The idea that people who share stories have to be accurate to multitudes of backgrounds is so limiting. It’s self-defeating of any sort of identity politics because it bars someone from their interpretation. Also, it’s downright impossible.
Cultural advocates are all about identity. Artists are all about expression. Shouldn’t they meet in the middle? Oughtn’t they know that their movements are parallel and similar? In the end, it’s all about representation, and the point that we all should have learned by now is that we can really only fully represent ourselves. That we shouldn’t expect anybody else to do it for us. (But if they do, we should realize that they may not do it well.)
And let’s face it, most of the world is not immediately surrounded by diversity, and thus they have no concept of the damaged images they might be perpetuating to society. Sometimes we just have to take care of shit ourselves, people. Instead of haranguing on a past production, we should put forth a progressive one.