The Subtle-ish Racism of This Year's Oscar Season

The Subtle-ish Racism of This Year's Oscar Season

In real life, the major event at the end of Foxcatcher happened eight years after it happened in the movie.

The nurse Stephen Hawking falls for in The Theory of Everything was not necessarily the patient, doting woman she was portrayed to be.

 The Imitation Game made up some characters and played around with the chronology of events.

In American Sniper, Clint Eastwood ignored the (proven) lies Chris Kyle told in his autobiography.

But sure. Let's talk about how Lyndon B. Johnson was portrayed in Selma.

Whenever Selma has come up in the past few days (particularly, I'm going to say it, from people of my parents' generation, who grew up during the 1960s), the talk immediately goes to how the movie gets LBJ wrong. I don't really blame them. This is the conversation the media is spinning. It's everywhere -- Time's reporting it, The Washington Post, NPR, The New York Times.

(For comparison's sake, I didn't realize there were so many "inaccuracies" in the other films listed above. I had to turn to news outlets less traveled by the Baby Boomers -- like Slate, for example -- to find these.)

I guess the question is: Why this movie? Maybe it's because the other studios have launched an attack and the Selma folks were not prepared to handle it. Or maybe it's because, well, Selma looks a lot different than the other movies nominated this year. Maybe that's not it. But maybe it is. I think it's a legitimate point.

I don't think the conversation about the portrayal of LBJ is bad on the surface. I see why people bring it up. It's the one concrete thing everyone's heard about Selma. It's what the news has been squawking about for weeks. Most people haven't seen or won't see the majority of films nominated for the Academy Awards, and parroting back what they've heard in the news is their way of keeping up, contributing to the dialogue.

But I get the sense -- and, yeah, this is maybe just me projecting, and it's definitely my opinion -- that there's something else behind it. That story has gained traction for a reason. And I think it's this: People are looking for an excuse to avoid seeing Selma.

Saying outright that you don't want to see it seems racist, but picking on it for being "wrong" in such a minor way legitimizes your initial hesitance to see the movie without all the discomfort of having to come up with a reason for not wanting to see one of the best films of the year about one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

Since most of you who are talking ad nauseum about the injustice done to LBJ's character in this film, I'm going to put your fears to rest: He comes out okay. Now, I wasn't in the room with him and Martin Luther King, Jr. (neither were you), so I don't know personally what happened, but I do know that this movie is not an assault on his character. The LBJ in this film wants to further the civil rights cause, he just wants to do it on his terms, on his timeline. He's playing politics. And isn't that what he was -- a politician?

I'll also say that the movie I've been comparing this film to all season is Lincoln. You liked Lincoln, right? You weren't sitting around a few years ago coming up with a list of historical inaccuracies to keep us away from Lincoln, were you? The brilliance of these two movies is that they take a short period of the subjects' lives and tell them in great detail. There's tension. There are people trying to thwart the main characters' goals. These films are full-on MOVIES, entertaining and thoughtful. They're not your average biopic.

So I dare you this weekend, Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, go see Selma. Stop listening to the news reports. Stop hearing what you want to hear. Take a leap and see for yourself rather than take what the news has said at face value.

Aren't you the ones always questioning the liberal news media anyway? Why have you put so much faith in them this time?


Related: Our review of Selma
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Filed under: Movies, Uncategorized

Tags: Selma

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