I’m a film major, guys - I major in film.
Now, it might be a little unusual to hear that a particularly decent artist is going to school for film and not, y’know, art or even animation. A lot of my friends went to the Art Institute of Chicago, or MIAD, or AI - PX for 2D animation and illustration, and that’s cool. We all came from an art high school, so I get the career path—we’re artists, we know how to apply it and just need to master our trade, right?
I mean, needless to say, it was a pretty positive life choice to get into film while I could. I’m in classes where things aren’t so redundant, and I don’t have to sit and make my color wheel another 800 times for the sake of knowing where which color goes where. I get it. Color is infinite. I felt it would be a little ridiculous to have to go to art college and relearn the fundamentals. I didn’t really want to be an artist, in that sense, so I went into film.
I like it, to some extent. I just don’t like the fact that, y’know, “I want to kill every man in this room,” brainfunk likes to seep in. It’s hard being a girl in a “man’s industry”, as a lot of us will tell you. Film is probably the most sexist, racist, biased major in the world, and it’s like they don’t even know it.
So, on a day-to-day basis, I am not only struggling to keep myself from punching dudes out, but I am also struggling to get my voice heard. Apparently, we’re not all on the same frequency. I can’t geek over every vintage remake ever, so I’m not good enough.
Long story short, I seriously did not know what I was getting myself into. The fact that I am sometimes the only girl in the classroom, and that the men, even the instructors, have absolutely no consideration for what they say sometimes, or how offensive it can get, just really makes me wonder if this is really what it’s all about. My courses? They consist of molding our brains into thinking like people “in the industry” and mind, I am a Mexican-American. I don’t want to think like people “in the industry”, because as a screenwriter, I don’t want to have to default to a standard that portrays my people as thugs, murderers, rapists and everything else you can think of. I get called “being difficult” for objecting to that ideology. It’s offensive. It’s offensive because it’s supposed to be ‘okay’ and it really isn’t. To them, it’s about business… To me? It’s about integrity.
I like my integrity, guys.
Considering that half the people I communicate with in the school are POC, like myself, you can see how jacked up this is already. We did a 48-hour film festival this past quarter with an all-white cast + one African American playing Buddha with a love for strippers. Really? It’s not so much the casting as it is the implications in the context of the story that make it even worse. You would need to see it to really get the whole WTF factor, I’m sure.
Anyway, I’ve come to find that most of the intellectuals find themselves in the same humanities courses I’m in, and we all talk about how it isn’t about art anymore. There is no integrity in film—there is no respect for source material, except for on very rare occasion where the writer/director is funding his (and it’s usually a guy, unfortunately) own project… And for the life of me, there is absolutely no consideration for the types of roles being casted and who is portraying who.
SO… This is the part where I tell you the three (supposedly) superficial reasons that I went into film:
- I need to defeat James Cameron. He needs to go down.
- Slumdog Millionaire is a perfect example of what “artistic” means in film. I want to create more of this art form. I am an artist.
- I need to remake The Last Airbender, like crazy. There is no other “remake” in the world that I need to tackle more than this. You don’t even realize.
Yes, okay, if you’ve read this far, this is obviously my life story, TL;DR, stfu kid. I get it, I say that to people all the time… But seriously? There is something wrong with Hollywood, peepers, and it starts here. People wonder why I’m so angry in class, and it’s like… well why do you think? I just want to make something that isn’t completely typical, and have it not be categorized as an ‘Indie film’. You can have comprehensive narrative about a female Mexican American character, without it being culturally relevant and yet still have a solid gold storyline. You can make a movie about blue alien cats without the overdone ‘Pocahontas’ trope played on every line of dialogue for its 3-hour duration. You can adapt a cartoon without butchering the characters’ names or playing musical chairs with the cultural integrity of the source material. We’ll say this doesn’t even cover the amount of crap these films pull, but taste it, man. It’s STALE.
More than anything, I tell my classmates they CAN make something different. We don’t HAVE to conform—this is SCHOOL. What we learn here, what we create here, we can apply to our jobs later in life, and even that is marginally better than where we’re standing now
But y’know, I’m a girl in film school. In this world—this bubble, I should say—we’re not on the same frequency.
So help me, Tumblrpeeps. Reblog for us girl-type POC’s that are sick of sitting in class, listening to prejudice crap forever. Reblog for any film-type that doesn’t want to have to conform to that standard just so they can get a decent job. Reblog for any of it, or if nothing else, for Paramount—which needs to just let me take a crack at Airbender already, because I can’t possibly ruin it more than M. Night did.
Or, y’know, don’t reblog. (For your own reasons, or maybe just ‘cos I’ma crazy bitchho or whatever derogatory term people want to call me because of this.) /endrant
I think as a WoC in film, or in media in general, you learn pretty quickly that you’re going into an industry that -among other evils- marginalizes, erases, and stereotypes her people, and my people, and tons of others. It perpetuates sexism and racism and sizism and ableism and colorism and so many other points of inequality and -like Luck said- ultimately doesn’t see the harm in any of it, and often trivializes, or disregards, or seeks to assimilate those who do.
So let me say that I love this lady, I love what she has to say, and I think shaking up the status quo starts with people like her- people who refuse to abide by the status quo because there’s something systemically and intrinsically wrong with it.
This is institutional racism. This is the bullshit that cis-gender white males like me have to work to see. And I appreciate the fuck out of every time someone points this out to me. Why? Because I will be one crap-ass teacher if I don’t learn to see these things. I had an entire orientation-style class on this for my MA in Teaching. (May I here pause and recommend anyone who is teaching or wants to teach in an urban environment to consider the online MAT@USC program?) And then we focused on it in just about every class, even the learning-theories course, because it is always relevant to how well you can teach the students in the classroom. If you are “color-blind”, you’re actually just blind to the issues that PoC face.
Change your frame. Open your eyes. See the struggle. Be prepared to say something and support these students.
If you need help making a decent, non-faily version of live action Avatar: The Last Airbender. Feel free to give me a call!
A similarly jaded former film student.