Say Whaaaa? Special Edition: A Few Things About the 50 Most Racist Movies
A new list making the media rounds compiles cinema's 50 most racist films, along with the massive qualifier in fine print: "That you didn't think were racist." While this is not unlike many other lists that purport to enumerate Things That Are Contrary to What Everyone Says They Are, there's really not that much contrary about it at all. In fact, if anything, it raises a few questions about what film history's most insensitive and/or flat-out racist filmmakers are still getting away with. Actually, it raises only one question -- again and again and again, from the outspoken Movieline staffers whose protest you know well: Say whaaaa?
I spent some time reading the list with the Say Whaaaa? Singers, whose dudgeon is high! To wit:
49. Bottle Rocket
So Luke Wilson's character sleeps with the Latina maid who doesn't speak English. Even the editors acknowledge it barely matters, but that "it's just that the movie is so violently white that you know something f***ed up is going on somewhere." Say whaaaa? It's set in Texas, for crying out loud -- where "Violently White" is just another brand of paint. Also: This seems to suggest that Wes Anderson's whole method makes him is the D.W. Griffith of his day, which totally explains The Darjeeling Limited. You know why we "didn't think" this is racist? Because it isn't.
43. Falling Down
Say whaaaa? The Joel Schumacher "thriller" features Michael Douglas's downsized angry white man rampaging through the streets of Los Angeles, tormented by his own inertia while the ethnic swarm around him gets ahead. But! The only guy he kills? [Spoiler alert!] A white supremacist whose beliefs he despises. If this list were called, "50 Hacky, Appallingly On-The-Nose Social Commentaries About Which Some Half-Assed Listmakers Completely Missed the Point," then I guess Falling Down probably would deserve inclusion.
42. White Dog
Come on, guys, do I really have to go through all of these? Say whaaaa? OK, fine. And I quote: "Despite filmmaker Samuel Fuller's best intentions, sewing in a complex anti-racism message about teaching hate, the sensational plot (which no doubt gave white supremacists peckerwoodies) got the public so pissed off that the studio refused to release it." OK, so: If a film about the incurability of racism is misunderstood by the intellectuals at Paramount Pictures and the KKK, then the director and his "best intentions" screwed up somewhere along the line? If only Fuller had quit challenging audiences and simply left that super-obvious "DON'T HATE BLACK PEOPLE" title card he'd wanted all along, then perhaps this whole thing could have been avoided.
39. Pulp Fiction
Say whaaaa? Of course I don't think Pulp Fiction is racist. I know it's racist. And it's hilarious. Not hilarious: John Mayer bragging about his "n***er pass." Hilarious: The bracing shock of "dead n***er storage." Not hilarious: Michael Richards screaming "There's a n****er!" at black comedy-club patrons. Hilarious: "I'm gonna call up a couple a hard, pipe-hittin' n***rs and go to work on the holmes here with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. You hear me talkin', hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'm gonna get medieval on your ass." At least the use of "hillbilly" must cancel something out here.
35. Gung Ho
If a lost, Japanese-skewering piece of '80s crap falls in the forest and the Say Whaaaa? Singers aren't around to hear it, can't we just assume it's forgotten?
34. Driving Miss Daisy
Say whaaaa? Patronizing, trite and thus celebrated in its time, but not malign or mean-spirited like a Hounddog or Mandingo (neither of which made the list).
1. Breakfast at Tiffany's
Say... OK, yeah, that's just racist.