I almost never get into talking politics, current issues, or something else controversial on my blogs. The reason for that is that even 10-20ish years ago (lordy, I’ve been at this a long time; I used to BBS in 1990, run boards on AOL and stuff later, I’m THAT much of a nerd) if you brought up your opinions on a hot-button issue, the pitchforks and flamethrowers were sure to show up quickly. But, it’s quiet here. Almost no one knows I’ve started writing again… so, maybe I can post this because the people who have commented so far are awesome people who, if they disagree, can do it in a constructive manner (because I’m always willing to listen, debate and learn.)
I’m sure you’ve heard about the upset (although, reportedly mostly fake , and troll-born) about the Little Mermaid remake and different casting choices. The truth is, whether the idea was kicked off by a troll or not, there are plenty of stupid people willing to step up to bat on the idea that Ariel should only be a white girl. Racists do so love an open opportunity. Mostly though, I’ve seen people be supportive of the new cast.
My daughter then called me this weekend talking about how she had heard they’re going to do a similar live-remake of Brave with casting changes (by the way, I cannot find ANY information on this – so I would imagine that this really is another troll-story and my daughter fell for it.) My daughter is all for the Little Mermaid change, but when it came to Brave and casting someone of different ethnicity for Merida, she was bothered. My daughter fearfully asked me if she was being racist (she never has been), because she felt this was wrong but she couldn’t pinpoint WHY she felt that way.
For myself, I was able to figure it out quickly. No, my daughter was not being racist, because the movie Brave was about a specific ethnicity, time period, etc. Replacing the main character, Merida, with someone who was of a different ethnicity and/or race would be the same as slapping a white girl into Mulan, or messing around with Pocahontas. It’s not just about the story, it’s about a real culture that is based in real history and it’s important to represent that correctly. Mermaids can look like anyone, but only a Native American should ever be cast as Pocahontas (who was a REAL person, as well.) The same stands for any other story based within a real culture. Hollywood has a long way to go, but I would think an easy step forward would be to keep the casting strict to the reality of the stories they are telling (you would think that would be a no-brainer, but that has clearly not been the case.)
It is also likely that the idea of a different Merida pricked a little harder for my daughter because it’s OUR culture. Kinda. We’re American, but we’re Scottish (and Irish, thanks mom! You’d think I’d be a better drinker.) On my father’s side, we have a clan crest – with a unicorn!!! Because unicorns are the best, people! – and tartan:
We’re descended from highlanders, and the clan is actually still active. I have stood in my ancestors’ castles, read their names on the wall of Edinburgh Castle (because they actually held it), and walked highland fields where battles happened… but to be fair; my branch hasn’t lived in Scotland in centuries (although, they certainly kept the flame alive over here. It was drilled into my head, it was so important to my grandfather. He would go on about how we messed up backing Mary, Queen of Scots, and if we just hadn’t we’d be sitting in a castle. Yeah, SURE we would have.) That means my more recent culture is… McDonald’s, cars and baseball. Woo. Still, it’s neat to have a connection to history, although sunburning in direct sunlight in under two minutes is a decidedly less awesome inheritance.
Back on track here, all of this got me thinking… In college, my favorite class above all the others was Fairytales and Mythology. We studied stories/folklore from all over the world. Sure, we covered Grimm and Perrault (and having my Disney illusions shattered was quite eye opening. If you read real Grimm stories to young kids, they’d probably charge you with child abuse. ) We went from Norse, to Inuit, Russian, Native American, African, Korean, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, etc… a lot of them were further broken down by regions, and some echoed stories from other places which is really pretty cool when you imagine how that must have happened (Cinderella in other cultures is flat-out fascinating! Although, why princes repeatedly couldn’t figure out who someone was until they fit in a specific shoe has me doubting either eyesight or intelligence.) My point is that, while I’m no expert, I still know that there are so many more stories out there than are being shared by the big studios. Amazing stories, that are so good that they carry on over the passage of time.
With so many quality stories coming from so many different cultures, why in the love of unicorns are the studios remaking ANY of the movies that have already come out? I know the reasoning we’re being given is that they have the ability to do the live-action CGI stuff now, and isn’t that cool? Well, yeah, but how about applying that to the stories just waiting to be told to a wider audience? (This doesn’t just go towards the animated class of movies. I’m over the remakes altogether. I feel like they’re deliberately closing the door on the existing stories that Hollywood was too blind or racist to share, or they’re closing out the new creatives with new stories to tell.)
So, not a huge controversy, but something that has stuck in my mind since my daughter called. Thoughts?