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[personal profile] wilde_stallyn
I promise that I will post a personal update type entry sometime soon, but at the moment I'm too pissed not to say something about this.

I went to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with a friend this afternoon. I didn't really know much about the film going in, other than that Heath Ledger was working on it when he died and Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Farrel stepped in to finish it in his memory. It was an interesting film and visually stunning, but I really wish I hadn't spent money on it because there were some jaw-droppingly racist moments. I will definitely be taking a pass on anything Terry Gilliam directs in the future.

The most fucked up instance was the scene where Verne Troyer's character was RANDOMLY IN BLACKFACE. There was not even an attempt at a bullshit excuse for it. It's only purpose was so a wealthy older white woman could mistake him for a child and scream, "OMG, save the poor black child! Someone call social services!" only to be quickly charmed into forgetting all about it by Heath Ledger's character.

Somewhat less surprising, but still damn skeevy was the Asian cultural appropriation surrounding the main character. When I came home I started googling to see if I could find any mention of the movie's race!fail in any of the reviews or discussion. I couldn't, but I did find an interview with the script's co-writer where he described Doctor Parnassus as "a semi-eastern medicine man". Surely you can see where this is headed.

When the old white guy started his origin story with "Thousands of year ago I was a young monk," I expected he meant a European, Friar Tuck-style monk, but then the flashback happened and there he was in a mountain top monastery full of what appeared to be a mishmash of Buddhist, Taoist and other Asian imagery that followed him for the rest of the film (unfortunately I am not familiar enough with the cultures in question to properly place everything). Doctor Parnassus sat on a dais presiding over a group of Asian monks on magic carpets, who were the ONLY people of colour in the whole film. [ETA: Oh, wait, I forgot the presumed world leaders near the end who, unlike the president, were not important enough to actually get introduced.]

The film doesn't do too well on the sexism front either, what with the shallow, insipid, hysterical and strictly female audience members who are the Doctor's converts and Ledger's character's dupes, and the female lead whose biggest dream is a normal life with a picket fence and two point five children. She is repeatedly described as "the prize" and though it briefly seems like she is going to decide the fate of the plot by making a choice, ultimately her agency is rendered meaningless because, of course, "she's just the prize, she wasn't actually supposed to get to choose".
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February 2012

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