Logan (2017)

Went to the Inosanto Academy in Marina del Ray this morning, to work out.  It felt like going home.  I plan to do this once a month.

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Saw “Logan” last night, and it is an exceptional superhero movie, with more genuine emotional resonance than any other I can remember, as well as excellent acting, and action. Basically, Wolverine is long past his prime, his healing powers diminished, wracked with pain and addicted to pain-killers.  Professor Xavier is semi-senile, his occasional fits creating mental havoc for anyone within a city block.  The time of mutants has passed.  They live in a Mexican backwater, dreaming of escape to the sea.  Into their hopeless lives comes a woman who begs Logan to help her and her daughter escape to Canada. They are being pursue by deadly enemies, and hold important secrets.

 

That’s all you need to know.  Franchise-best performances from Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier, bringing a very real sense of weariness and honor, familial love and loss of faith, to a project that is really an exceptional film of its kind.  An “A”, without question.

 

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And now…SAMBO ALERT!

(SPOILERS)

 

LOGAN is another film that cannot be judged solely on its own.  It is the ninth in the series of X-Men movies, and as such, I feel very comfortable discussing the pattern I see.

 

It was clear from the first that the X-Men movies (and before them, the comic books) were playing with the Malcolm X/MLK split concerning race relations.  Should we assimilate peacefully?  Should we fight?   That was the earliest mutant metaphor, although later other threads of social tension were braided in.  That’s all good.

 

There was only one problem, one I noticed about four movies in.   And it is this: for movies of massive size, with huge casts, it was odd that there was not a single black male character of any note at all.  Out of more than a hundred characters in those first movies, set in America…not one, when statistics would have indicated about six.  O.K…are you saying black people wouldn’t mutate?  Or be represented among any of the “normal” human beings they encountered?  Well, clearly the white producers thought so, or didn’t care. And the white audiences didn’t care.   And if you think it unfair of me to be racially specific about the producers and audiences, then I doubt that, were you in my position, you’ be as polite about this as I tend to be.

 

As the movies rolled on, there was finally a black male mutant. He died protecting his white friends. Oh, and a black female mutant, who ended up as sexual chattel for the white head mutant.   All righty then.

 

What of Storm?  Oh, you mean the mutant with no human connections?  I can’t even remember her touching another person.  But yes, it was nice to see somebody black there…although still, no black males, even when the statistical unlikelihood of this (no one with a line of dialogue, no matter where they went, or what context they were in.)

 

The X-Men were not just comic book movies made by filmmakers. They had become WHITE comic book movies, made by WHITE filmmakers–in other words, there was a force of will, even if unconscious, pulling the casting in a very specific direction.  And there was no reason for it other than the ethnicity of those filmmakers and their target audience…who didn’t notice, and didn’t care.   Seven movies. Eight.  The exact, same situation just getting worse and worse.

 

I could go back and watch them all, look for someone, anyone I might have missed.  It’s irrelevant. Over eight movies, with hundreds of speaking parts, it shouldn’t be that difficult.

 

Then..LOGAN. I heard it was great. I also heard that Eric LaSalle was in it.  Someone over on “Aint It Cool News” said that in the matter of LeSalle’s family in LOGAN, a “courageous” choice had been made.    Ummmm. No.  Utterly cowardly choice. Predictable choice. A choice that fit right into the pattern established in eight previous films.

 

It wasn’t a complete wash-out.   There was a black major who spoke a couple of lines at one point. That was nice, even though he had no name, and was only there to establish a plot point.  The “Breeding Circle” thingie, that black men in SF/Horror movies were generally too old, too young, too obese, too gay, or too dead to be reproductive competition, was just barely violated, enough that I was able to enjoy the rest of the film. Yeah, there was a black mutant kid.  He had two out of five of the factors that kept him out of the Breeding Circle.  But that nameless major…that works.

 

That’s all I’ve got for watching a total of nine movies, eighteen or twenty hours of film, hundreds of characters with speaking parts.   No, I don’t think it is deliberate.  I think it is an unconscious expression of perceived value and worth on the part of the producers and directors, all of whom, so far as I’ve been able to determine, were white.

 

THIS is why it is critical to get diversity in the board rooms and behind the cameras.  This simply doesn’t’ happen when there are people who give  damn in control.

 

And it will continue to happen until that diversity exists.

 

Namaste,

Steve

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