Dear Film Industry
The movies you’ve made over the last 3 generations have helped shaped our society. Your work has reflected our nation’s values, struggles, and ideologies. Movies were always on the cutting edge pushing the traditional boundaries of technology and culture. Sixteen years before Caitlyn Jenner made headlines on the cover of Vanity Fair, Boys Don’t Cry told the not so glamorous true story of Brandon Tina. Your industry was where the best of the best went to express themselves. The key word here is was. I am writing you this letter today as a wake up call. You’ve gotten lazy and if you’re not careful you will start to lose relevance.
Over the last couple of years the movies you’ve made have been bogged down by outdated formulas and an overall lack of creativity. We’ve seen all of these formulas before so we’re yearning for something new. There are a too many examples to list here so for the sake of time I’ll focus on casting. Despite constant backlash you continue to cast white, usually British actors as the main characters of stories about other cultures. You can’t seem to get away from the archaic movie trope that says you need a clean cut white central main that everyone can identify with. This trope also implies the idea that no one will ever identify with a non-white main character. It sound laughably outdated to everyone else but for some reason you won’t let it go. For example, let’s look at the upcoming movie God’s of Egypt. It has been the subject of constant ridicule due to the white washing of the cast. The main character is played by Gerard Butler and you guessed it… he’s from the UK. There are two major problems here. First, Egypt is a real place with real people and it’s not some fairy tale land that only exists in story books. Granted I’ll admit finding a genuine Egyptian actor to play the role might be difficult but you could’ve at least gotten a Latino or Middle Eastern actor. Actually anyone with a little more skin pigmentation would’ve been a step up. The second problem with this movie is that we’ve seen it too many times before. Audiences are starting to notice these casting choices more and more because the movies themselves have become so cookie cutter and predictable. If I want to watch a big budget movie about Egypt with an all white cast I’ll watch Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra or Brendan Fraser in The Mummy. We’ve seen it all before. If you’re going to be lazy with a trite concept at least spice it up with authentic casting. It should also be noted that if the actual movie was genuinely good enough people wouldn’t be paying as much attention to the cast.
There is one other factor that is making your creative slump that much more obvious. Television has had a rebirth and is entering into a modern Renaissance period. Premium and streaming services have opened the flood gates to an enormous influx of very talent creators. It seems as though many of the most creative people in your town have turned to television in order to find their voice. The best entertainment being produced right now is on the small screen not the big one. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None, Fresh Off the Boat, Empire, Transparent, and Game of Thrones are just a small fraction of the quality shows that exist. In fact I would say that the best television of 2015 was better than the best movies of 2015. With so many choices diverse in cast and category we as the audience expect the same if not more from our movies. Sadly movie folks, you’ve been dropping the ball.
I’ll wrap this up with some good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad news. You’re industry is one that moves very slowly. As you know movies are planned years in advance so even if you decide to change your ways right now the results will not show up for a while. Basically that means this creative wasteland you’ve found yourself in is only going to get worse before it gets better. I hate to rub salt in the wound but I don’t think anyone is going to be excited for another Mummy movie in 2017 starring Tom Cruise. But there’s good news. As I said television is seeing a resurgence in creativity and that is in some ways a reaction to how awful TV was only a couple years ago. The major networks had become so dependent on tired formulas that ratchet reality shows and forgettable dramas took over the airwaves. It got so bad that services like Netflix and Amazon were able to break through the glass ceiling. It’s sort of like how the ashes of a forest fire work as valuable fertilizer for fresh new growth afterward. So while you might be in a dry deserted forest right now it will get better. At some point a fire is going to come through and clear out all the old brush and make way for a fresh new growth of ideas.
The Gay Gasp