Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mixed signals

By design or by accident?

An eventually boring homoerotic film, Rag Tag, describes the relationship of two Nigerians born in London, their families, etc. I am sorry it was so slow moving and meandering because one blessing is that both of them are actual males and quite unfabulous, apparently uninitiated into the gay mysteries.

The mixed signals are about race. As anyone knows who knows any "people of color", disparaging remarks about and dim views of other races or ethnic groups within races are as common as air. Listen to Blacks talk about Asians, or Koreans about folks from Hong Kong. Etc. Anyone who thinks that "only whites can be racist" has anocranial syndrome.

So this flick reveals the inter-tribal tensions among Nigerians --Yoruba and Ibo are apparently unfriendly-- as well as the dim view of Nigerians by others of African descent. As well as of other non-white races. All seems perfectly believable to me. This is, after all, planet Earth, not a make-believe workshop in "anti-racism."

Included are honest, successful and hardworking folks in this ethnic group but there is also a fair level of criminality going on. Mostly theft and fencing. No attempt to hide or downplay it.

So when one of the characters, a young Black male in a track suit, hangs around outside a law office for over an hour, with no apparent reason for being there, the lawyers' security guy takes an interest. It turns out that the other main character was inside being interviewed for a job; he was waiting for his friend.

The interviewee takes umbrage at this. "Just because a young black male is hanging around, you think he is up to something?"

Well, duh. On the movies' own narrative premise, it's hardly unthinkable.

When the would-be lawyer is interviewed for a job with a family-law practice, he is asked point blank if he, as a black male, would be at all accepted or trusted by the practice's clients, most of whom are women who have been abandoned by black males. He answers forthrightly, but the question itself reflects yet another reality in the film.

So my question is this: is this conflict --Blacks doing their usual resentful thing at White attitudes while happily carrying on with their own version of it-- consciously included or are the filmmakers themselves blind to it? Don't know.

The same question arises for me in True Blood, where gay producer Alan Ball has the vampires ("coming out of the coffin") substitute the role of gays vs the intolerant angry bigoted Christians who oppose the bloodsuckers' civil rights. The Christians are always portrayed as idiots, thugs and/or hypocrites. But the truth is that they are absolutely right about the vampires.  In terms of the show's own narrative, the vamps are dangerous and deceitful and just playing the humans along with the PR of the oppressed minority group.

Does Ball know this? Is he aware of his mixed message? I really don't know.

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