The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, September 29, 2008

Why no one can remake "Night of the Living Dead"

Lots of Democrats upset that Bill Clinton is traveling the talk show circuits saying pleasant things about John McCain. I'm not certain...and I would like anyone out there with a longer political memory than mine to comment...but don't ex-Presidents try to stay above the fray in these things? I don't have a clear memory of an ex-President trashing a candidate, or campaigning for one, really. If I'm having a brain-fart here, please help.

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I'm still troubled by McCain not looking Obama in the eye during the debate. Fear? Rage? Rudeness? Whatever it was, that was hardly the behavior of a statesman. I've never seen anything like it, and find it disturbing as hell.

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If you are using a "Triangle Meditation" technique, and have been successful so far, try separating it out into three separate triangles, one at the "Belly Brain" (2nd-3rd Chakra) one at the heart, one at the forehead. In turn, visualize the body you want (and see it performing beautifully. See it cascading with pure white or golden light), the relationships you want to nurture (every morning, I visualize my sister Joyce, Jason, Nicki, and Tananarive), and the worldly success you want (find a visualization that works: a possession, an accomplishment, a flow of money, whatever). Then, if you have been successful with this, line up the three triangles in your mind, and see if you can get light flowing through all three at the same time: in other words, does your subconscious mind believe that you can have all three at the same time, that they don't conflict with each other, or your values and beliefs.

Sometimes, concentration will help them line up. Other times, you have to relax more, and more deeply. You will have to find this for yourself, and it is in discovering your own process through such "Complex Equivilencies" that your own individual Inner World is revealed.

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Anyone who wants to know what I mean by "sex scene" or "love scene" in movies in relation to racial imagery, watch James Bond movies. Every one of them has what I would call a love scene, even the PG movies. Bond and a woman are in privacy. They kiss or embrace, and sink to a bed or otherwise engage. Fade out. Fade in, and they are lounging about with their clothing in disarray. Or they are in bed together, draped with a towel or a blanket, kissing or cuddling. That's PG or PG-13 lovemaking conventions in film. R-rated scenes are more intense: more nudity, buttocks thrusts, oral sex simulations, and so forth. Black or Asian men don't get ANY of this.

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A recent conversation with a black director indicates the way that sex is removed from films. The executives, during development, will make promises, and glad-hand the director. Slowly, during filming or writing, sexual content is subtly disapproved of (in contrast, during development of white projects, sexual content is subtly encouraged). Unless the director has the "final cut" executives and producers will actually remove the "offending" material, citing a wide range of bullshit reasons. What's the real reason? That 33-47% percent negative perception among white Americans. That 10% disconnect I keep talking about. Even black people want to believe that it's "just Hollywood." But when we talk about it, and that protective curtain falls, I've seen the fear and depression in their eyes: the idea that they might actually be surrounded by people who think them slightly sub-human (on average) is beyond depressing. Better to think it's just a few executives.

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Democrats keep wanting Obama to "hit back harder." Please. He has to be Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. He cannot show anger or fear or any sharp emotion, and is walking a tight-rope unlike any other national politician in the history of this country, and is doing it better than I've ever seen it done. Those who are oblivious to the realities of the racial parochialism in the human psyche spout this nonsense. And people who use the "how could racism be so bad if he's doing so well" need to get together with the people who ask "why, with the administration so unpopular and the economy crashing, isn't he up by 20 points??" and split the difference.

This is our species, people. We are magnificent, and ignorant. Courageous, and fearful. And one of the things we do is create the concept of "exceptionalism"--that is, if we are forced to accept the positive qualities of a member of a group we dislike, instead of that raising the average assessment of that group, we do the "well, this guy/gal is just different from the others." It's a version of the thing I heard from Conservatives so often: "if they were all like you, Steve, there wouldn't be a problem!" "You're more like us than you are like them..." and so forth.

That's what we do. So people can be bigoted against blacks, or whites, and still vote for black or white people, either on the "lesser of two evils" basis, or the "this one is different" basis. I love the number of times I've heard the "why is he black? He's half-white!" argument...as if they are totally oblivious to the "One Drop" rule that white people rammed down our throats for hundreds of years. I've heard that more in the last two years than in the entire rest of my life, combined.

And ultimately, it's a good thing. We're changing. Some of my emotional parts are stuck in the 50's and 60's. Some of it still believes that the real horror of "Night of the Living Dead" wasn't the walking corpses, but the fact that a black man was calling the shots, at the same time that a civil rights upheaval was happening in America. Note that, in the end, the black man also got all the white people killed (he was wrong...they SHOULD have gone down to the basement!). The movie has been re-made about four times, and no one can come close to that original horror, because, I think the sub-text isn't understood.

How would you do it? Maybe have a gay woman take charge. Or a Muslim.

12 comments:

Josh Jasper said...

Democrats keep wanting Obama to "hit back harder." Please. He has to be Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. He cannot show anger or fear or any sharp emotion, and is walking a tight-rope unlike any other national politician in the history of this country, and is doing it better than I've ever seen it done.

Actually, hitting back was one of the things that has boosted his campaign. But that's more a measure of being assertive. I think Obama, as a person is actually the nice guy you see on TV. I'm not claiming to have an insight into the depths of his character, but the "nice guy" image is certainly, in public and in private.

Some criticism has come out that he's an opportunist, and that he's really working his connections. Which is sort of baffling. You never ever advance yourself to those levels of power without thinking about the action you're taking on multiple levels. It's like the criticism that he's "too brainy". That sort of criticism only appeals to people who liked to pick on "nerds" in grade school.

Mike Ralls said...

I think race does play a role, but again, no Democrat in the last 40 years has won 51% of the vote and they were all lily white guys.

For Obama to be up by 20 points would be unprecedented in recent political history.

Also, as bad as President Bush's approval rating are, the Democratic Congresses approval ratings are even worse. That has got to be factored in. Him not being up 20 points is not all race.

salina said...

A screenwriter/novelist friend from New York sent this, I thought it provocative enough to share...



OPEN 24 Hours:

How Racism Works

What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if
Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said 'I do' to? What if
Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up
to his standards?

What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers,
but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization? What if Cindy
McCain
graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama were a member of the Keating-5? What if McCain were a charismatic,
eloquent speaker?

If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers
would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive
qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when
there is a color difference.

You are The Boss... which team would you hire?

With America facing historic debt, 2 wars, stumbling health care, a weakened
dollar, all-time high prison population, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures,
etc.

Educational Background:

Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

vs.

McCain:

United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Palin:

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Now, which team are you going to hire ?

Christian M. Howell said...

Anyone who wants to know what I mean by "sex scene" or "love scene" in movies in relation to racial imagery, watch James Bond movies. Every one of them has what I would call a love scene, even the PG movies. Bond and a woman are in privacy. They kiss or embrace, and sink to a bed or otherwise engage. Fade out. Fade in, and they are lounging about with their clothing in disarray. Or they are in bed together, draped with a towel or a blanket, kissing or cuddling. That's PG or PG-13 lovemaking conventions in film. R-rated scenes are more intense: more nudity, buttocks thrusts, oral sex simulations, and so forth. Black or Asian men don't get ANY of this.


Again I don't see why you want that. I guess I just feel that the actresses in these scenes get the short end of the stick so I can't promote it at all.

Just because white men do it doesn't mean it's right. Besides one of the greatest film makers in history (Hitchcock) was quoted as saying that sex is not very cinematic because once you zoom in there's nothing else to it. Do you show the actual penetration? Do you try to show character (with an Oh face?).

For me I don't like sex scenes because if I'm in a movie theater I don't want to be aroused, I want to enjoy social interaction and maybe an explosion or two. I still only watch 300 for the nipples at the beginning. Somehow blood and guts pales in comparison.

The funny thing about that is that you NEVER hear either of the women's names and one was the leading lady.


Anyway, I think that Clinton is involved to show solidarity. Obama is in a difficult position as he doesn't want to appear either weak or centrist. I just want the best candidate and that happens to be Obama.

Though for some reason last night this race reminded me of the movie Remember the Titans and a line in particular where the school board member said to Will Patton "we had to give them something, all of the other coaches are white."

I mean hell the record companies did a good job of destroying the morals of young black men with "gangsta rap." Well not as much the rap as the rappers. Basically a bunch of tattoo-covered criminals.

Of course it all could be nipped in the bud at home but that would require work and too many black people convince themselves that they shouldn't even try.

THAT'S REAL BULLSHIT.

That's why I don't think racism is the problem as much as lack of individual responsibility and desire to succeed in the country we basically built.

I think now would be a good time to have a 2000s version of "Scared Straight." We could call it "Ridiculed by Nerds."

It's basically where successful back professionals go and tell really bad jokes about how broke these "thugs" will be and how they look like bottoms offering easy access (with their sagging pants) if you know what I mean.

So I guess they'll either figure it out or get left behind. This is a time for serious people. If you don't want to try LEAVE. And that includes every race.

mjholt said...

McCain can't look Obama in the eye because McCain knows that Obama is the better man in all ways.

I think this has to do with humiliation not race. McCain knows that he has scuttled all his beliefs, morals, and creeds. McCain knows that he is living a lie.

Christian M. Howell said...

I think this has to do with humiliation not race. McCain knows that he has scuttled all his beliefs, morals, and creeds. McCain knows that he is living a lie.

I said he looks like he speaks with forked-tongue. Obama seem ssmart enough to not go anywhere near race in this race. Being the President is about strength of will not what group you belong to.

It requires the utmost tact and discipline. You don't have to be loved but you must get respect.

The way to get it is to know what you're talking about and being able to articulate. People don't like the painful truth but they need it.

Steven Barnes said...

1) The Hitchcock quote is misleading. I just bought a collection of Hitchcock classics, and the last three movies I watched were "Frenzy", "Torn Curtain" and "Psycho", all of which have sexual content. Sorry.

2) The point isn't whether I want such scenes, the point is that it is telling that white actors want them and get them. Black actors want them and DON'T get them. I use this as a measure of negative racial feelings in human beings, reflected in cinematic images.

3) Actresses are "getting the short end of the stick"? I have no idea what this means. Human beings are sexual creatures, and I know plenty of women who love a good love scene. Others who don't. So don't see the movie. That has nothing to do with why members of group A get them, and not members of group B.

4) I don't mind getting aroused any more than I mind laughing or being frightened or thrilled. I have zero guilt about sex, am in a healthy relationship, love women, and like my own body. Most of the people I know who have these qualities enjoy a good love scene. Not all, but most. I have NO problem understanding why someone might not enjoy them. I am suspicious of people who don't understand why others do.

Steven Barnes said...

I know no one, not even the most radical black activist, who thinks that all problems are racial in nature. I talk about certain things that I see--especially the quantifiable nature of cinematic images--because no one else does, and because it amuses me.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

For me I don't like sex scenes because if I'm in a movie theater I don't want to be aroused

Ah, is that why you're more comfortable with porn than with sex scenes (R-rated ones, right? Not PG-13 ones like the one in Iron Man?)? I was wondering because I feel the reverse (am OK watching Hollywood sex scenes but avoid porn). And getting aroused in the movie theater never occurred to me as an issue. Partly because I watch all the R-rated scenes on rentals at home (for the few movies we see in the theater, we tend to pick action movies, and those sex scenes tend to be more PG), but also partly because I wouldn't care whether I got aroused in the theater - no one would know, and anything I'd do about being aroused would happen after my husband and I get back home.

Actresses are "getting the short end of the stick"? I have no idea what this means. Human beings are sexual creatures, and I know plenty of women who love a good love scene.

I do think women get the short end of the stick in movie sexuality, but for me that's not a matter of whether love scenes are present or not, per se, and some of the things I'd see as getting the short end of the stick can happen in movies without very explicit sex at all. Stuff that bothers me, as a woman:

1) The woman says no, no, no, but the man can magically read her mind and know that she really means yes. This one actually pops up a lot in old, chaste movies where you don't see much more on screen than a kiss, so it's definitely not about explicitness.

2) A man and a woman have sex and the plot violently punishes the woman.

3) A woman appears to be present just to be sexually available to the man, since she doesn't have a visible personality and wants of her own, other than being sexy.

4) The movie has lots of obvious fan service for people who are attracted to women, but not so much fan service geared at people who are attracted to men.

These are all pretty much orthogonal to whether black and Asian guys get laid (except for 2, since plot punishments can get triggered for one or the other partner if the black or Asian guy gets laid and the sex is interracial).

Steve Perry said...

And leave us not veer too far from the Blockbuster Effect here, re no nookie. Black guys still get laid in low budget movies, and women don't always get punished for it in those, either.

There is a audience for such things -- it's just not the summer seat-stuffers. Some of these movies earn out, even if they don't get the numbers that would show Great White Acceptance.

It's not all or nothing.

Anonymous said...

"How would you do it? Maybe have a gay woman take charge. Or a Muslim".

Ha. We'll see a Disney production of Nat Turner: The Real Story and directed by John Woo before the sub-text of Night Of The Living Dead is repeated as you suggest again.

Brother OMi said...

I love Night of the Living Dead for all of the subtle reasons. As a child, it was frightening. As I got older I started to actually ignore the living dead as I do in all Romero movies.

I always joke about how Romero was taking risks by allowing a black man to smack around a white man AND a white woman in one film.

In the end, however, the black man is killed because he is mistaken for being one of the living dead.

my thing is that I often hear white folks rant about how black folks are only voting for obama because he is black. I think they deserved that right since they have fully supported a bunch of white guys for decades with that idea of the "lesser of two evils..."


great post