Theater Hopper - March 7: Your Best Face Forward
by Tom Brazelton
March 7, 2008
Theater Hopper is a webcomic about all things movies written and illustrated by Tom Brazelton. Starring Tom, his wife Cami, and friend Jared, Theater Hopper perfectly captures Tom's own feelings and reactions to recent and upcoming movies in a way that will easily have you laughing out loud. Updated every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and featuring a blog post written by Tom, this is the comic that every movie-lover out there won't want to miss. The latest comic and blog has been posted below.
Before I get into today's blog, I want to make sure everyone is on the same page first.
Be sure to read this article over at EntertainmentWeekly.com. It's the same article about Ben Stiller's new movie Tropic Thunder that's being referenced in the strip.
To save a little time, here's the photo that's causing the controversy:
In the movie, Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black play spoiled actors making a Vietnam war film. Downey Jr. plays a method actor so serious about his craft, he surgically alters himself to look African American when he finds out the role he was originally hired to portray was written with a black actor in mind. Stiller and Downey Jr. aren't making fun of African Americans. They ARE making fun of ridiculous actors. Personally, I think it sounds hilarious, especially if Downey Jr. plays it completely straight.
Of course, there are going to be some people out there who will reduce this down to it's bare element - a white man in black makeup - and be offended. These people are looking for something to offend them. If you can't see the potential for satire in this, you don't see very many movies.
That said, is it bad that when I saw that picture that I thought Robert Downey Jr. looked like Don Cheadle? While we're at it, I think Jack Black there in the background kind of looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman. If you kind of squint, Ben Stiller sort of looks like Tom Cruise.
Incidentally, I didn't mean to imply that The Wayan Brothers making White Chicks was in any way equal to the decades of minstrel shows that depicted African American's as lazy simpletons - reinforcing racist attitudes that still survive to this day. But rather it's meant to reflect that blackface or minstrelsy is all but a dead art form all but abolished except for use in satire by a society that has is trying to shed the casual racism of our predecessors. The fact that The Wayans Brothers are able to pitch and sell a movie featuring them as white women speaks directly to how far black America has come. I don't mean to assign to much importance to White Chicks (it was an awful movie, after all), but can you imagine a film like that being made 50 years ago? Even 30 years ago? Probably not.
Don't forget about actors like Eddie Murphy, who has portrayed white characters in films like Coming to America and on Saturday Night Live. There is a latitude to how race is portrayed and by whom that didn't exist before. Race baiting used to be a one way street. Look how much we've grown! ;-D
I don't want to get overtly political about it. But when it came down to trying to write a joke about College Road Trip and Tropic Thunder, I went for Tropic Thunder.
What do you guys think about this controversy. Is it that big of a deal? Does it have the potential to blow up in everyone's faces? Let me know!
Until then, I hope everyone has a great weekend. See you here on Monday!
If you're new to Theater Hopper, you can visit the archives to catch up on all of the past comics. New updates will run here on FS.net every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The official site for Theater Hopper is located at: theaterhopper.com.