Ryan Gill (montieth) wrote,
Ryan Gill

Inclusiveness and creativity....

There's a meme going around that lauds the new gender bending Ghost Buster's movie as something for little girls to look up to (for heroic inspiration) and that is not for white guys, because apparently they've had the original and 2 subsequent sequels. The takeaway is that little girls can't look at the original characters and find them something to look up to because they're men.

Seeing it, I asked if we were only allowed heroes that looked like ourselves. What I got was what I should have expected, a pointed observation that it was nice to have 'new' characters who were inspiring to people who weren't straight white men.

I find this whole pandering to race/gender/orientation thing odd, because I can think to a number of characters who I found interesting, inspiring and heroic as a child in the 70s and a teen in the 80s who were NOT like me at all. Their merits were because they were heroic characters and their similarity to or difference from me didn't enter into the reason why they were heroic at all. It was their actions as a character that made them so.

Simply flipping the bits (male/female, black/white/red/yellow, straight/gay) doesn't make for creation, at best it's marketing. At worst it's pandering.

To look to one of my all time favorite movies, the Seven Samurai, I can go on for hours about how I like that movie. I have always liked several of the main characters, but Kambei Shimada is and has always been my favorite. probably one of my all time favorites. Takashi Shimura's role as Kambei turned me onto his other films and he's still one of my all time favorite actors for those roles.

I'll admit, the Seven Samurai is long at 4 hours. It's an Akira Kurosawa film with directing, camera work, acting which is all first rate and a plot that is simple and yet elegant. You don't easily predict how things will go because it's really a quite unique film. Kurosawa's camera work and editing style has been studied and copied by numerous directors ( of high and low renown in the subsequent years ). As films go, film students all see it. Directors love it. It's a 10 out of 10 movie.

But, as I have to admit, it's a challenging film, best in Japanese with English subtitles and just not ideal for typical US audiences. Hence why we have the Magnificent Seven and other remakes. To date there have been 2 direct remakes of the Seven Samurai (with many more analogs and spin-offs). The Magnificent Seven (1960), which is decent as westerns go, but not top ten by any means. Given it's a remake of an extant film and does little to be any better and doesn't hold a candle to the original, is, not what I would call an example of creativity. It was, at best, marketing to US audiences. There's not much original about it. Taking something, sticking cowboy hats on it and putting some tall buttes in the background doesn't make it new.

Then there's this new version coming out as of this year, 2016. It's the same plot as before, with new actors, more action, more fancy gun fire, etc. And, I suspect, more marketing for the audiences that want action packed movies with nothing new to the table. I suppose one could comment on the mixed race of the cast, but then that seems to be going down the pandering line, but absent seeing the movie, I can't imagine how they work in the film. We'll see, I'm not hopeful though. Ultimately though, it's not an example I expect that will be that creative. Another cheap copy. Nothing new.

To look at another, Nausicaä, from Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. This is one of those films that's stood out as immensely entrancing to me as a child and still quite good to me as an adult. Miayazaki and his staff of artist at Studio Ghibli are I think, probably better than Disney at what they do. Far less material, but it's so much more interesting and original in concept. And, as I will note, the main character is a girl and a princess, both of which I never was. To me, as a kid, that didn't matter, she was a heroic character. Her actions in the movie were what to be inspired by.

Another that I know I still like is Natasha Yar from Star Trek the Next Generation. Smart, aggressive, precise, redoubtable, all very good military characteristics. She dies early on. She's a hero. Right up there with the Christopher Pike and Peter Prestons. The Tasha Yar Security Chief post, was, I believe a new construct for the Star Trek franchise. They cast the role properly because in an advanced society, brute strength doesn't make for that effective a space navy security officer. It's about weapons, planning and skill with your systems. She's a strong modern female character. Nothing unique in what I find interesting. (1).

All of these characters were original, not re-casts of an extant character. One need not flip bits to make a gender appropriate character. More so, I didn't need a remake with the same character cast as an boy, or as a man, or a US remake(s) of the Seven Samurai with the main characters re-cast as a westerners to find the characters heroic. They are heroic because of their actions, NOT because they did or did not look like me.

I would submit that one may find plenty of original heros in extant fiction, with out pandering to flipped bits on gender or what not.

More over, one can look at real history, real people and find inspiring examples. Just today, I learned about a facet of Martha Raye, a US entertainer. She spent a good deal of time in working for the USO in WWII, Korea and Vietnam entertaining troops. In Vietnam, she worked as nurse spending time taking care of soldiers, all as a volunteer. She's buried in the Fort Bragg Cemetery in Fayetteville, NC. She was never officially in the US armed forces but the her heroism as a civilian was more than sufficient to find her a special place in the cemetery where she was buried with military honors.

Big. Damn. Hero.

Just looking at Martha Raye, why do we need heroes that look like ourselves again, especially as kids? I just don't get that.

(1) Interestingly, I know from conversations with an author friend, John Ringo, that Denise Crosby is a fan of his. John (who is a fan of hers), interestingly, writes books that frequently have strong, heroic female characters. I'll bet that's because John, like myself probably didn't see race or gender as a factor for why you admire someone.

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