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    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    In Honor of MLK Day Week ...

    I'd like to call attention to a few trailers I've seen recently in theaters. I have to say that I don't ever recall seeing such a lineup of blatantly, unapologetically racist trailers hitting theaters in my lifetime. Subtly racist, ignorant racist- maybe. Flat-out, no-holds-barred racism- not until now.

    The (sad to say) mildest offender is the #1 movie in America this week, Glory Road. It's the usual deal that comes out every few years. Tough white teacher/coach/principal/whatever shows up and whips a bunch of rowdy Negro kids into shape, thereby showing them that, if they straighten up, they can be almost as good as white folks. This teacher, of course, might even learn a little something from his/her students, to everyone's shock and awe. This is one of those pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, it's-not-racism-you're-just-lazy/violent morality plays. As usual, the film is "based on a true story" but generally ends up tweaking left and right to make white teacher come out oozing heroism. (Check out Faustian Bargains where real life LuAnne Johnson discusses her portrayal in Hollywood's Dangerous Minds.) And the poster always has tough teacher right in the middle of laying down the law. In this case, the poster has actor Josh Lucas looking like he's about to bitch-slap those crazy Negroes.

    Next, we have the unthinkable American Dreamz. Now, I adore Mandy Moore and Dennis Quaid, but they're really not desperate enough that they should be participating in this. The story seems to have something to do with an idiot POTUS and the need for an aspiring Arab pop star to grab the attention of American Idol-type show host, played by Hugh Grant. Naturally, the Arab is affiliated with terrorists. Now, I'm sure that the "beauty" of the film is that the aspiring Arab pop star decides that he doesn't want to be a terrorist after all and writer/director Paul Weitz (American Pie) feels like a good liberal.

    Don't forget a similarly appalling trailer for the new Albert Brooks (you're with me now) picture, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. I'm not even going to bother. Just watch the trailer.

    Speaking of looking for comedy, Mel Gibson brings us Apocalypto, which is described as:

    An action/adventure film set 600 years ago, prior to the 16th-century Spanish conquest of Mexico and Central America, where a man goes on a perilous journey to save his idyllic world.

    I would never have known what the hell it was about if I hadn't looked it up. All I'd know is that the trailer is native exoticism at its absolute worst/best. Everyone is wild-eyed and quite explicitly compared to animals on the attack. You also get the feeling that these people are going down, and they're going down because they're scary, primitive pagans. Also, there's something a little bit, I don't know, insensitive about portraying the resistance to conquest in the 16th century as action/adventure.

    Now, I have to give my usual disclaimer: I saw the preview for Kissing Jessica Stein once upon a time a few years back and thought it looked like the most disgusting homophobic, sexist, anti-Semetic piece of garbage, but it is now one of my favorite films. Trailers can be misleading. But the trailers themselves mentioned here are seriously dangerous.

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