Sometimes, I read an article which articulates something that I was struggling to frame in my own mind. In this case, it’s this article by Caroline Seide on the AV Club website, about feminist criticism. I advise you to go and read it, because it’s much better written than my blog ramblings; I’ll wait.
The thing it’s helped me to frame is that it’s okay to like things that have problems. Just as it is quite possible to recognise that a B-movie has poor production values, but still enjoy the enthusiasm and the performances, it is possible to look at a work and say ‘I am digging this,’ and still acknowledge that the film has problems, especially when those problems are endemic to the Hollywood business model.
It is okay to leave La-La Land humming ‘What a Waste of a Lovely Night’ and thinking ‘I could live with that best picture award, but damn Ryan Gosling is white for the saviour of trad jazz.’ It’s okay to be pumped after watching Ant-Man, even when you’re thinking ‘I really wish they’d let Hope have more of an active role.’ It’s even okay to love much of Doctor Strange while still wondering why they never asked an Asian or Asian-American writer to help them create a more sensitive and nuanced script partially set in Asia and featuring an Asian master sorcerer.
And this isn’t the same as giving those movies a pass. I still feel that Marvel is squandering the potential to be the game changer in the field of female representation in movies, and in superhero movies in particular. They’ve let DC steal a march on them in releasing the first female led superhero movie of the modern era, and that was seriously their game to lose. They’re still set to have the first black-led offering of the times (and are already pushing the envelope on TV, with a poor, disabled hero, a female hero, a black hero, a mentally ill hero and, soon, a rich, white hero who trained in Asia to… No, wait; that one’s a little less revolutionary,) but they could have done much, much more to lead the way.
They’ve acknowleged that Scarlet Witch is the most powerful of the Avengers, but haven’t given her the focus to match that (let alone her own movie.) The Black Widow movie is still in the wind. Doctor Strange could have blown our minds with an Ancient One and a… I keep wanting to say Nanda Parbat, but that’s the League of Assassins in DC, but that place, like we’d never imagined; something genuinely rooted in Asian (if not specifically Tibetan, because the Chinese market,) culture instead of Euro-American Orientalism. Can you imagine that? Probably not, since I’m pretty sure most of my readership is, like me, of the Western nerd tradition, and that’s kind of my point.
But although I’ve lapped back around to criticism, I don’t want it to come across like I don’t like these things because of their failures. I think that they ought to do better because I want to see great movies, fun movies, nerd movies and important movies leading the way together, rather than be presented with the occasional dull and worthy movie that makes a point of inclusion and then says ‘welp, that didn’t make any money’ as if having women or people of colour in leading roles were what sank it, rather than it having nothing else to offer. Inclusion, in conclusion, is not the burden of ‘inclusive movies’, but of all movies.