re: everything is Crash now
“What is the right way for shows or movies to try to address these things?”
A listener writes a thoughtful email in response to our hateful conversation about racial reconciliation (among other cringe) in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. He asks, “What is the right way for shows or movies to try to address these things?”
It feels like FAWS is doing it as a new form of tokenism. Simply because Anthony Mackie is black the show has to address that in the most direct and simple ways possible, but there's no nuance to it! And the idea that he essentially tells Bucky he's "one of the good ones" after they meet Isaiah Bradley is just ... really man? How do you know that? And why would Falcon need to say it??
It feels like there is an actual conversation to be had about how Falcon taking over for Cap and being treated unfairly due to systemic and culturally ingrained racism makes sense, but I feel like this show is going to swerve to him choosing to pick up the mantle eventually and we're gonna get some moustache-twirling villainous law enforcement/army/government guy who is all, "You can't have one of THEM be the Captain!" And then Bucky punches him out and says some shit like, "He's more American than you'll ever be."
Here I’ll tell you what I told him:
I hate that I can imagine The Falcon and the Winter Soldier staging this scene beat for beat.
I want to underscore the point about the fundamentals for some racial tension in the premise being sensible enough. That's the case, I think, for a lot of stories. But writers often collapse racism and its attendant antiracism into a sort of singular, monocultural tone set to a common volume. They then force that exact tone, at that exact volume, into a wide variety of genres and contexts. Imagine copying the guitar solo from "25 or 6 to 4" into every song on Spotify.
Remember the Titans is a sports movie, Crash is a character drama, Lovecraft Country is a horror anthology, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a superhero show — and yet each of these things could credibly feature the exact exchange which the listener wrote for Sam and Bucky. To my mind this monotony betrays some hesitation among a lot of writers. They’re only comfortable deploying rhetoric and ideas which they've seen developed and market-tested elsewhere — even if those things emerged from a markedly different context that couldn't be further from the context for the writer's own characters. The writer doesn't want to think too hard and risk being too original with such high risk, low reward provocations about race. But they do want to appropriate racial strife for dramatic tension. They just want the viewer, importing their own experience and convictions into the viewing experience, to do all the work. “If you hate racism, say ‘hell yeah’!” “Hell yeah!” It's exactly that corny.
The writer must ask, “Are these even my own ideas, words, and insights, and are they true to my characters and my story? Or does it all sound like an echo?”
Can you think of a scene that would work? I'm genuinely interested in what you would consider a good rendition.