The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is Poseiden (2006): Good news for our gay readers?


First, the review: Poseiden isn’t a disaster, but nor  is it on a par with the original  1972 film.  Eschewing that boring forty minutes of character development before the wave hits a giant cruise ship, director Wolfgang Peterson goes right for the throat with plenty CGI marvels, but ultimately, the actors might as well have been animated by computer as well.  We just don’t care about them, and this is a major, major misstep.  Yes, they try to introduce us to the band of survivors as, after the ship capsizes, they attempt to traverse a lethal obstacle course to escape through the propeller tubes. Who will live?  Who will die?  Well, they could have made that a bit harder to figure out, and this is where this review becomes a diatribe…

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I consider the content of popular film to reflect the taste of America.  Not any individual film, no…but patterns, especially patterns that have existed for decades, are, I think, excellent measures of what people really feel: Hollywood responds strongly to market forces.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in disaster, adventure, and horror movies, a strict hierarchy was observed, so reliable that you could make damned good money betting on it to someone unfamiliar with the rules.

Folks survived, in general, based upon their genetic usefulness to the tribe, or by their moral virtues. In other words, screw or smoke pot, and you’re dead.  Women and children first—you know the drill.

But there was a darker (pun deliberate) underbelly to all this.  You could also predict that non-whites would have the life expectancy of mayflies, and even more insultingly, would often die protecting white people (poor Paul Winfield made a career out of this.)

If you were fat, gay, old, black—in other words, not considered a breeder/warrior type for White America—you were disposable.  White children were the most precious.  White females of child-bearing age next.  Then came white males.  Non-white children were in there somewhere.  Everybody else came last.

In the last few years, there has been a concerted (and overdue) gay rights movement.  I always knew that, in terms of media images, gays would kick butt—after all, many of them are the very same white males who control so much of media and government.  Even more, almost every single white person in a power position has a gay brother, sister, uncle, aunt, son, or daughter.  Statistics just work that way.  So eventually, the pendulum would swing that way. 

And the last year has seen a couple of interesting indications.  Of huge importance is “Brokeback Mountain” which solidifies the fact that white males can have sex with anyone—even each other—and it is preferable to non-white males having sex with anything at all, even themselves. 

In “Poseiden” you have a gay archetect, played by Richard Dreyfus.  Seems a nice guy.  At once point an Hispanic ship employee gives Dreyfus a chance to “go first” in a time-critical situation.  Dreyfus rewards him by booting him in the face, kicking him off to certain doom.  Not the usual moral behavior rewarded in such films, but Dreyfus survives, while not a single person of color does. The black ship’s captain gives the most wrong-headed advice since the black guy in “Night Of The Living Dead” tells everyone to stay on the ground floor.

Everyone who listens to him dies.  What is there to learn from this?
1)     Be white
2)     Only listen to white men.
3)     Gay is fine now.
4)     It’s alright to kill brown people who have sacrificed to help you—that’s their appropriate station in life.
5)     If you’re a woman, be young or you’re not worth saving.

Poseidon isn’t doing well at the box office.  I wish I could attribute that to its racially retro attitudes, but I’m afraid that if it had been a good movie, folks would have been happy to overlook its unfortunate subliminal attitudes.

I’m gonna give it a C+ for some spectacular visuals, and a few good, gruesome scenes where white people died screaming.  Hey, I’ve got to flush my anger SOMEHOW…

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