Even though the Washington Post has turned into a daily display of guilt-drenched, virtue-signaling wokeness and political correctness, I was still gobsmacked to read the following in yesterday’s edition of its weekly feature “Common Sense Media.”
These reports’ raison d’etre is helping “families make smart media choices” for their kids when it comes to “movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites and books,” and its latest group of reviews included this warning about a new action flick called Plane:
“[T]here are troubling aspects to how the film’s non-White characters are represented. Darker-skinned, Southeast Asian-presenting actors are cast as criminals, while lighter, more East Asian-presenting actors are cast as “good guys.” And Black characters are coded as heroic but violent.”
Now I actually consider “Common Sense Media” to be a great idea in principle. Who can doubt that popular culture offerings today are saturated with material that’s disgusting, perverse, and wildly inappropriate and even dangerous for the intellectual, social, and ethical development of kids of various ages? (The impact on grown-ups surely isn’t very beneficial, either.) So everyone should be all for alerting parents to this garbage.
But common sense – not to mention minimal logic and coherence – really is imperative, and if you think about it for more than passing moment, that’s exactly what this comment is missing.
After all, what’s the message that this review is trying to send? That Plane is a film created by folks with some major racial and ethnic prejudices. But they’re obviously bizarre kind of racists and bigots at best.
They don’t like “darker skinned Southeast Asians.” But they do like “lighter…East Asians.” And they seem to like “Black characters” yet more – even though people of subsaharan African descent are almost always darker skinned than Southeast Asians.
There’s no law requiring prejudice to be logical, but the assumptions evidently underlying this passage surely deserved at least some scrutiny. Like maybe by editors?
Nor do the review’s shortcomings stop there. For example, in real life, how much skin color difference is there between many East and Southeast Asians, especially since the population of the latter region contains large numbers of individuals of Chinese ancestry?
Maybe the writer is referring to the “dangerous separatists in the Phillipines” who are the movie’s villains? Well, according to this academic article, the archipelago is quite the demographic melange, having been peopled by at least five major migrations from all over Australasia, Southeast Asia – and Taiwan (which is located between East Asia and Southeast Asia). So exactly which of these numerous groups is allegedly being slimed?
Moreover, “dangerous separatists in the Phillipines” aren’t figments of some white supremacist screenwriter’s imagination. As explained here by the Congressional Research Service, separatism has been a long-standing problem in that country, especially in the southern-most islands. And these movements have included an organization with impressive-looking ties to Al Qaeda. Since that’s the group that planned and carried out the September 11 attacks, it sounds pretty dangerous.
In principle, one could ask why the film-makers decided to zero in on this country and this group. But the obvious, common sense answer is “Why not?” Should Filipino separatists – or any non-white groups – be exempted from the list of villains permissable in America? If so, why?
Or is the reviewer implying that American popular culture doesn’t regularly, and never has regularly, produced works featuring white villains? Just posing the question should reveal its absurdity.
In this vein, I also found myself wondering about the need to mention that “Black characters” are “coded as …violent”? Were Plane‘s white characters not violent, too? If so, that would be weird for a movie that “Common Sense Media” tells us from the get-go is “an action film” with lots of “violence.” Do such movies typically include characters seeking to resolve their differences through dialogue or role-playing or compulsory arbitration?
That this material made it into a leading American newspaper without a single editor apparently batting an eye –and does so again and again – makes you wonder what new lows in progressive pearl-clutching and sanctimony are just around the corner. But “Common Sense Media” also offers one reason for modest optimism: It includes no bylines, indicating that its contributors feel some sense of shame – even if unwitting -about purveying such divisive drivel.