“As a number of critics have already noted, Mad Max is a deeply feminist film. Though the title puts Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) front and center, it is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa who truly defines the film, with Max literally being taken along for the ride. Yet even though the film truly belongs to Furiosa—and honestly bears only the loosest resemblance to the original Mel Gibson trilogy–it is still (white, male) Max who serves as the anchor, receives top billing, and acts as the audience’s entry point into this world of women.
There’s nothing particularly new about the trope of “relatable” (read: white and male) characters serving as a bridge for stories that take audiences into less familiar terrain. Long before Mad Max: Fury Road, The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty was guiding audiences through the streets of predominantly black Baltimore.
Today we occupy an entertainment landscape in which shows like Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and Jane the Virgin have all found success. It’s been proven, time and again, that shows need not forefront a white male (or even just white) viewpoint in order to be “relatable.” So it’s troubling to see that the creators of shows about women and people of color still seem to believe they need a white male interpreter to keep audiences from getting disoriented.
But perhaps there’s a more optimistic way of looking at the issue. Perhaps we should see the Max Rockatanskys and Steven Universes of film and TV as the last vestiges of a fading era of white male dominance.”
3 thoughts on “Excerpt from: How is it possible that we’re still telling diverse stories through the white male lens?”
This is actually something I called myself on recently. I’m a white male writer and it’s tough not to just automatically make your character white and male…because I’m white and male. You see, it almost seems just as racist if I sit here and say “well I shouldn’t have a white person here, because I have no racial diversity in my show”. Then the “ethnic character” only becomes a gimmick, and the point is lost anyway. My best friends that I see pretty much everyday are predominantly white. One of them is an adopted Paraguayan girl, another half Cuban, and four of us are jewish, but we’re not very ethnically diverse. At all. That doesn’t mean we don’t like non-caucasian people, it’s just a product of our environment. There are a lot of white people in New Jersey. So I see both sides of the argument and I haven’t been able to come up with an appropriate answer myself. It’s tough. Of course I’m not saying that I think people should just stick to writing white people, but any solution to the situation just seems forced and again, the point would just be lost.
Well, if it’s forced then it’s definitely not authentic and will come off in your writing. However, if this is a “write what you know” kind of thing, you will always “know” more as you experience more, which takes deliberate attempts to learn and to move outside of what is familiar.
That’s definitely true. I’m only 21 so hopefully I’ll be able to have more experiences that broaden my horizons. I definitely plan to.
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