Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Are We Over Race?

I am dismayed to learn, via Caleb, of Annie Proulx's reaction to Brokeback Mountain's loss to Crash as Best Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards (she wrote the story from which the former was made.) She seems to think that racism is a rather quaint subject (presumably in comparison to homosexuality among white cowboys.)

Caleb is right: confining social problems (or the discussion thereof) to the past is a dangerous game in which certain causes are elevated above others, or entirely dismissed.

And yet race (and ethnicity) has returned in such a big way. The sudden death of Milosevic has delayed reckoning with genocide and the global community's role in preventing it. At least seventy thousand people (probably many more) have died in Darfur. The ethnic troubles in France have shown that societies discrimination can persist in societies that claim racial toleration.

The current issue of Nouvelles Questions Feministes shows the extent to which race has reasserted itself: the issue is dedicated to discussing the compatibility of anti-racism and anti-sexism. Christine Delphy discusses how feminist critiques were hijacked by policy makers to create discriminatory policies (related to the headscarf matter.)

I'll admit that I have no interest in seeing Brokeback Mountain: the problems of Marlboro Men don't intrigue me, and I think that there are already great films that deal with, even normalize, homosexuality (where the Oscar for Hedwig and the Angry Inch?.) Perhaps people should ask whether homosexuality made Academy voters uncomfortable. Dismissing racism, however, creates its own problems, especially when race and sexuality ought to be analyzed in terms of one another rather than in isolation.

4 Comments:

At 8:00 AM, Blogger chris bray said...

I read Annie Proulx's essay in the Guardian, and my impression is that she was dismissing Crash as a melodrama that was quaint and obtuse on the subject on racism -- rather than dismissing the significance of racism as a topic for discussion. I haven't seen Crash, but it produced vigorous eye-rolling among the Los Angeles grad students I know who did see it.

For whatever it's worth, Proulx's Accordion Crimes deals very nicely with race in American life.

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger Brdgt said...

Homophobia vs racism aside - Crash was just a horrible horrible film and didn't deserve an Oscar for THAT reason.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Caleb said...

I think Crash certainly can be faulted on some artistic fronts, and I didn't have any problem with Proulx saying that. But the paragraph that I cited in my original post seemed to veer in another direction and took issue with the topic of the film itself.

 
At 10:15 AM, Blogger Nathanael said...

I have nothing to say about the artistic merits of either film (or her original story, which I have at least thought about reading.) My problem with Proulx is that her comments (if not her works) support a single-issue approach to social problems. But perhaps would should ask her, what if a faithful film version of The Scarlet Letter wins Best Picture in the near future? Would it lack social merit? If that is to be a criteria for judging a film, The Scarlet Letter would still be a useful vehicle for discussing toleration, even in its melodrama, and even though it might not address more pressing social issue, it could still illuminate discussion both of racism and sexual identity. Moreover, I take at least a little offense, as someone born in Los Angeles, that despite living in the nation's most diverse cities, among one of the largest homosexual communities, that we would be completely oblivious to the world around us.

 

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