I clearly hit “send” on my piece about white mediocrity too soon. I clearly underestimated the tour de force of “meh” that was Marvel’s Netflix series Iron Fist, or as the folks on FANBros podcast called him Copper Palms. The pacing, the casting, the story, the direction, the visuals… top to bottom this was a huge disappointment for those of us who have been supporting Marvel’s shows. Especially on the heels of Luke Cage, and you know how I felt about Luke Cage. That a white man with no martial arts experience and only a bit part in Game of Thrones was cast as Marvel’s greatest martial artist is, quite frankly, ridiculous, especially when the show had amazing people of color on the show who could have filled the role. Iron Fist is not a big enough character for a race (or gender) swap to have been that much of a controversy. Sad.
Speaking of sad, I was also pretty disappointed by Dave Chappelle’s recent comedy collection. I love Dave’s comedy, his show was a classic and his stand up is among the best out there. His recent outing on Saturday Night Live made me incredibly hopeful. I wanted to love these shows. I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I laughed. Mediocre Chappelle is still better than most comedians. I was just disappointed. In the first of the two shows, he went to the well on rape jokes a few times too many. Rape is one of those things that’s really hard to laugh about. Sometimes good comedians can find a way to make you laugh then cringe at the fact that you laughed. There was an element of that here, but there was also some laziness. Repeatedly going back there trivializes the trauma. The second special, the better of the two, Chappelle again got lazy with his over use of the word “tranny”. It came across as transphobic in a way that is unhelpful in our current political climate. At his best, Dave has been able to push us forward on conversations about race and society. There was no pushing forward in the new special, just reinforcement of mainstream discomforts. I guess I am specially offended having worked in Dave’s hometown of Yellow Springs for a couple of years. I know the ethos of the town, a progressive oasis in the middle of rural Ohio. I also know that Dave shares many of the village’s progressive values, even in the places where he may not fully understand them. Being in Yellow Springs pushed me forward in so many ways on social issues and I guess I want to see some of that in Dave’s comedy. He still has one more Netflix special coming. Here’s hoping…
Ya know what else I didn’t like? Logan. That’s right. I’m alone on this one. Everyone else seems to have loved it. Fine. I probably can’t say why I didn’t like it without spoilers, so this is your official warning: spoiler alert. There are two scenes that are intended to be emotionally heavy in the film that just absolutely fell flat for me. To see the iconic Charles Xavier killed in a bed by a clone of Wolverine was an absolute let down as was Logan’s being impaled by a tree. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the hugeness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but these are gigantic characters killed in ways that struck me as not nearly epic enough. I guess I just didn’t like the world of Logan. In it, mutants have just sort of stopped being born except in labs. The X-Men, at least some percentage, were killed by Xavier. All of this explained in dialogue. Meh. I think some people were just happy to have an R rated Wolverine who slashed people up, cut off limbs, and said “fuck” all the time. I wanted more banter between Xavier and Logan. These two characters have a history and their character dynamic at this point makes no sense. Logan is going out of his way to protect Xavier and yet Xavier keeps talking down to Logan as if the latter is some huge disappointment to him. Whaaaa? I don’t know. Maybe I missed something. People have said it’s the greatest comic film since The Dark Knight. I couldn’t disagree more.
I’m disappointed in the NFL. This time because Colin Kaepernick is unemployed this late into free agency. I can think of a dozen teams that would benefit from having him on their roster, on several of those he would be the starter. Kaepernick decided to protest police brutality and that has gotten him blacklisted. The hypocrisy is overwhelming. No one wants to deal with this “distraction” but they will tolerate alleged rapists, domestic abusers, and other known criminals if the player can produce on the field. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the NFL defends the systems that defend the status quo. The teams’ ownership and much of its fan base represents that status quo. Still, I remain disappointed that no courageous team has stood up to take a chance on a player who only a few years ago was playing in the Super Bowl and looked like the future of the league. Personally, I think he would look great in black and yellow, Mr. Rooney!
Something that didn’t disappoint me? Get Out. I finally made it to the theater to check it out and I can’t recommend it more highly. It is well made, funny and spooky in turns, finely acted, and socially relevant on so many levels. Without giving too much away, Get Out is a horror movie about being black in white spaces. It is about the self denial that we have to do to operate in those spaces. It is about the lack of safety that those spaces afford black bodies. And, most interestingly, it is about the ways that well meaning, progressive, white people advance their own agendas at the expense of black people. It’s a tight, well crafted film. I was surprised when it was over. A good film will leaving you wanting more (like Moonlight… so beautiful!). This is what entertainment can do. It can use story to examine our prejudices, biases, and blind spots in a way where the challenge is welcomed and we can choose what to do about it next. All of our choices for entertainment need not be divorced from our sense of values, but they also don’t have to beat us over the head with them. When things are done well, we embrace the challenge to question and to be better. And when things aren’t done so well… it’s disappointing.