Monday, August 14, 2006


Okay, saw two movies with my son this weekend. About the second, Barnyard, well, I have nothing to say about the udders that I haven't seen in a dozen reviews already, so I will only say that it was both distracting and disturbing to see what were obviously female cows speaking in male voices and courting other cows - not that there's anything wrong with that! (Obligatory Seinfeld reference).

It was the other that stimulated some real thought, though: Zoom, the superhero/kid's movie Tim Allen vehicle. Overall, quite cute, although somewhat incoherent with regard to both the characters' motivations. Does Zoom want to help the kids? Wouldn't the best way to keep them from danger be to train them well from the beginning? The General really thinks it's a good idea to blast more kids with the same radiation that resulted in the main threat going bad? It's one thing to not care about the safety of six year olds, it's quite another to risk having a supercharged six year old menace to contend with in addition to the existing threat...
And is Chevy Chase's scientist character meant to be a good guy, or just a sniveling toady? We're never quite sure.

But the main thing that bugs me didn't occur to me until after we left the theatre - Zoom is yet another whitewashed movie. Okay, there are a few characters of color on screen, and some of the kids 'auditioning' for a place on the team are of varied ethnicities, but that last actually exacerbates the problem - all the kids of color get *rejected* because their powers are deemed not useful. The final team is all about as whitebread as you can get.

Actually, this bugs me worse than the nearly complete whitewashing of Metropolis in Superman Returns earlier this summer, as pointed out by Christopher Priest and others. At least there we're talking about already established characters with established ethnicities, and the absence of blacks in the crowd scenes, while odd, at least also means that no ethnic group is specifically being demeaned. In Zoom, they had to actually write and cast the scenes with various kids demonstrating their powers and vying to get onto a team, which means somebody had to actively choose to give all the cool powers to the white kids and stick the black kids with comic relief abilities like giant snot bubbles or rapid fire spitwads. I doubt that anybody was consciously trying to send a message other than, "look, funny useless powers", but it sure makes for a suspicious subtext.


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