Friday 14 October 2016

Tim Burton- "Waythitht!"

One of my favourite film directors is Tim Burton. His blend of the fairytale, macabre and black humour has brought about such delights as Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd and the brilliant Mars Attacks! Obviously he has his critics who don't like his films; who doesn't? However the tone of his detractors has recently become more sinister, personal and spiteful. They point out that his films are afflicted by a "lack of diversity!" This is terminology that would sound very strange just a few years ago and even today those who use this term are reluctant to define it precisely. It is usually qualified by comments that most of his characters and cast are white; worse still, white heterosexual males. This is unfair for several reasons. Firstly, there are non-white people among his characters. How about Byron Williams in Mars Attacks!, played by Jim Brown? What's he, an albino? Secondly, I believe the demographics of Burton's on-screen worlds are a merely product of the setting and plot; in other words they're a sign of his literary professionalism. His latest film is called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and it's based on a 2014 novel of the same name by Ransom Biggs. The review of the film in Hitfix by Donna Dickens is one of the most juvenile and imperceptive pieces of movie criticism I've ever read. It's entitled: "Tim Burton offered a strange excuse for the lack of diversity in Miss Peregrine (Pinch bridge of nose, sigh heavily)". I can hardly believe that it is written by an adult woman. It doesn't go as far as to call Tim Burton a racist in as many words, but it definitely implies as much; and in this day and age, implication is all that is needed for a hate campaign and the destruction of a man's livelihood, see: Racism, according to the dictionary, means prejudicial hostility towards another person because they have a different skin colour. Accusing somebody of racism is a very serious matter. Under no circumstances must it be done without good cause. Tim Burton's motivation for having an entirely white cast for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is that the film is set in Wales in the year 1951. Very few black people lived in Wales in those days and it would be very unusual to encounter one. So an all-white cast in this case is perfectly justified for the sake of realism... But wait! Burton has cast a black actor in the movie; Samuel L Jackson plays the villain. Personally I'm delighted because Jackson is an excellent actor; in fact I even think he deserves a traditional Welsh nickname: "Sam the Stage"... However, that is not enough for the likes of Donna Dickens. There's a chilling and disturbing subtext to this situation.

When I posted news of this on social media I soon got into a debate with an online acquaintance of mine who, judging by her photo profile, is a black woman. Our dispute was polite and rational, but before long we found ourselves talking at cross purposes. I said that she was contradicting herself and I couldn't understand her; and she said the same about me. Our conversation ended after a couple of hours. I informed her of a similar story to the plight of Tim Burton; that of Brian True-May, the producer of the TV detective drama Midsomer Murders. True-May was sacked by the TV company that made it because he insisted that the series should have an all-white cast. His motivation was also realism. As its name suggests, the programme is set in the middle of Somerset where most people are white, that is simply a fact. Black people in Britain tend to be urban dwellers and few of them choose rural areas as homes, that is simply a fact. Yet True-May was treated almost as a heinous criminal for his stance. He even apologized if he'd caused any offence, but it was too late. He was branded EEEEEEEEEEvil! A monster! In my online debate I told my opponent that if I were writing a screenplay set in a location where most people were black, I would make all my characters black and would demand that only black people are cast to play them (I hope I could audition "Sam the Stage"). I asked her if she considered that racist. However, by that time our argument was in its endgame. I've noticed this kind of attitude only works in one direction; against white heterosexual males. This is why you never get anybody going up to a basketball team and saying: "Hey, you're all black! Don't you think you should sign up some white guys? Let's have some equality on this team!" As I explain in the background links below, I don't think this is because the powers-that-shouldn't-be particularly dislike white straight men. I think they hate us all equally; man or woman, black or white, gay or straight. These uproars are rather a manifestation of a psychological warfare agenda aimed at everybody. Who you are in terms of your race, sex or sexuality merely means it affects you differently. I do fear for Tim Burton because attacks like these can demolish a film maker's career, no matter how eminent he might be. A perfect example is an Oscar-winning actor and director who was one of the biggest names in Hollywood during the 1980's and 90's, but who is today virtually forgotten; Mel Gibson. Gibson was accused of racism and since then has not directed a single film nor stared in a single role. The accusation against him was completely false; even his black friend, the actress Whoopi Goldberg, publicly defended him, but who cares? As the so-called Canadian Human Rights Commission infamously put it: "The truth is no defence". I am furious by this smearing of the good name of a very talented, imaginative and creative film director. It is not only insulting to him; it is insulting to the readers' intelligence. Frankly, it is also patronizing to black people. I hope Tim Burton does not cave in to the pressure put upon him. Maybe enough people can see through this toxic nonsense to give him a sense of solidarity. It's time for armchair bitch-pundits like Donna Dickens to grow the fuck up, basically.

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