Hollywood’s Ivory Dark Tower Falls
Welcome y’alls to Raygun’s Holler, where the discussion of film and tv is mean and lean with a lil’ bit of everything in between. I reckon here’s where you might sit back and find a bit of nuance and introspection pertaining to, say, the philosophical issues of the day, in accordance with what we discuss at this here site Film Goblin. By the by, that’s a fancy way of saying we’re gonna get into some shit and stir things up a tad. Philosophically speaking, of course.
Race To Change
Anywho, I find myself vexed by this current climate of inclusion and diversity and how it is now culturally popular, to surmise it to be a newfangled modern invention that’s been undiscovered until just now. As it pertains particularly to tv and film specifically, I was always under the impression, based on the information received from the windows to the soul nestled in my skull, that not all heroes of the screen big and small have always been white fellas.
Don´t Rush To Judge
Certainly you may be of a type to immediately think, reflexively even, as though the thought had gone unchallenged in your mind, and had become automatized as such, that what we got here is yet another bitter white or patriarchal cis male, as I understand I’m to be referred to in certain social circles for even noticing such a trend. And that a humble film fan, such as myself, can’t handle the long steady march of “social justice” towards the final goal of, some heretofore unseen in this great land, equality for all, and at worst, I would deign it necessary to oppose folks different than me for, well, somesuch reasons I guess.
Circling The Point
At this point you may be asking yourself what point I’m sonorously sauntering towards, and it is at this point I will mosey towards it. Had you been paying attention, and those that do are generally rewarded in kind with the hard-earned fruits of wisdom, you’d notice a recent Hollywood trend that’s picked up steam in the past few years. And that’s a one-way street of miscasting actors in the wrong roles for absolutely the wrong reasons. To make up for past instances of miscasting going the back the other way, perhaps? The word reason starts with an “R”, but there happens to be another popular slur word out there that begins with that very same letter and tends to get tossed about hither and yon with no real respect for whom it lands upon. Ridiculous, you say? Not by a stretch. If I may…
Tweet & Effect
Lotta fuss and fury was made over the above statement by Stephen King, the decorated author of such coke and booze-fueled child unfriendly fare such as The Shining (child terrorized by crazy dad), Carrie (child terrorized by puberty), Firestarter (child terrorized by government agents), Salem’s Lot (people terrorized by a child vampire), IT (children getting all kinds of terrorized by an interdimensional spider creature plus, y’know, all the terrible child sex stuff), The Stand (hell, everyone gets terrorized in that one by a main antagonist of the film adaptation we’re about to discuss) and creator of the main protagonist of the novels referred to in the above tweet, The Dark Tower.
Right off the bat, I’d have to say the first four Dark Tower books are my favorite fantasy/adventure novels. Hell, they might be my only ones since I haven’t read many others outside of those given that the otherworldly stuff tends to give me terrible fits of eye-rolling due to implausibility induced indigestion. However, they struck a chord with me because of the masterful storytelling with an Old West shoot ’em up theme prevalent throughout and especially the exceedingly detailed descriptions of the characters, which if you are a King fan you understand to be one of his strongest traits as a writer, arguably if not his strongest.
So you’ll pardon my French here if I ask what the merde they were thinking when they cast Idris Elba as a character who not only was defined in words, but in actual in-novel illustrations as being a hybrid of Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name and The Rifleman’s Chuck Connors? À quoi bon, mon frere? Again, sorry for the French. Must have picked it up from all the creole spoken down here in the Holler. See, those types of traits are noticeable to those that walk around with their ears and eyes open. Being perceptive ain’t necessarily a bad thing at all. How that information you perceive gets interpreted, however, well that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax now, isn’t it? Ah yes, back to the point I was making.
Bulk of the series, Dude. And yet this adaptation was made by dunces.
Going back to King’s tweet for a moment, why after all that time and mental effort to specifically describe and craft Roland in a particular way was it so recently easy to readily cast off critical aspects of character he painstakingly created in his Constant Reader’s mind’s eyes over decades? Certainly, it’s his work to do with as he pleases, but isn’t the importance of the concreteness of Roland’s attributes, indeed his fundamental nature, totally undermined and made to ultimately stand for nothing if the author himself doesn’t even care what his character looks like so long as the chec..pardon me, the actor is good? Perhaps there is an intention with King and Hollywood that we mere buyers of his books are not privy to? In the case of the former, money has always talked with him regardless of quality and in the case of the latter, well, they are the music makers and the dreamers of dreams. Or at the very least the arbiters of what music and dreams take prevalence over others, principles be damned.
A critical aspect, and even a bold storyline to tell in Year of Our Lord Whatever Year This Is Where It’s Important To Note The Year Things Should Or Should Not Be Happening In is the eventual meeting of Detta Walker/Odetta Holmes with Roland in 1964 in the Dark Tower series (yes that 1964) all with the very liberal (quite ironic when one takes into consideration King’s very vocal political persuasions) use of the word “nigger” peppered throughout, amongst other extremely colorful slurs and swears. And the richness of the of the friction and eventual resolution of Roland and Detta/Odetta’s relationship would be utterly watered down and its relevance and meaning to vast swaths of the storyline absolutely diminished with anyone other than a stoic, lilywhite actor playing the main role. Any alterations that drastic dim the bold storytelling and important themes discussed, especially when it comes to racism and particularly how it applies in Year of Our Lord Something Something.
And to get to the main figure in the woodpile, Idris Elba while dark of skin and long of talent, was absolutely not the right actor to play Roland Deschain, full stop. And that magic “R” word had nothing to do with it, nor did it have anything to do with the failure of the film at the box office. Elba, as brilliant as he is, was simply not the right fit for a character molded directly from the attitude and appearance of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name and Chuck Connor’s Rifleman characters that King grew up with and ultimately based them on.
Shoot, if anything, they almost could have reversed the casting of Roland and The Man In Black for the film and at least then they would have had a sturdier foundation to build upon. The Man In Black has always changed forms and has been established as a dynamic inter-dimensional presence across many King books. The Gunslinger, however, was always relatively white-toast static and unchanging. The ultimate straight man to the MIB’s cosmic evil comic. And given Matthew McConaughey’s performance in the film, I thought his Walter would be far more dangerous as a salesman moving inventory for Crimson King Lincoln Auto Sales. So SPOILERT! by the end of books he picks up the Horn of Eld when he does the journey all over again yet it somehow magically adds an overdose of melanin in the process? But everyone else remains unchanged except, of course, for his parents? The film was admitted to be a sequel to the book series after all. Mayhaps we weren’t supposed to notice this very important detail? And if fans like me did then perhaps we couldn’t see clearly for the hoods draped over our eyes?
According to Cinemablend:
I’m unbelievably proud of it as a collaborator on this enterprise and because I think that he’s a great actor and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he is likely to play a part… I understand that people who are thoughtful about the storytelling and the racial politics of the storytelling might want to understand how that informs that storytelling, and I respect that and I hear that, and those things are not things we didn’t think about or don’t think about. The racist assholes should go fuck themselves. – Akiva Goldsman
Thanks Goldy, noted Screenwriting Destroyer of Worlds, that absolutely warm and inclusive quote leads me to the case in point. As has been readily discussed on this site by Troll Prince The White HERE and TheSparkThatBled HERE, there’s another long-awaited adaptation that’s scheduled for release in February. Can’t imagine that specific month was deliberately picked for cynical reasons, but my overwhelming cynicism towards anything Hollywood-based leaves me suspicious to say the least. Black Panther looks and sounds like Marvel has yet another hit on their hands. From what I understand of the characters involved, the casting is spot on and fans and filmmakers alike are pleased as punch that a relatively faithful adaptation of the character is finally getting his own film outside of any team-up with the Avengers. But therein lies the rub I was alluding to with the Dark Tower casting that helped to bomb that film with fans. Though apparently it was PG-13’s fault.
In the instance of the casting of Roland Deschain, a character who’s been very specifically described since 1982, it was a case of never no mind how he was described in the books, just get a good actor for the role no matter who they are. In the spirit of true fairness and equality, and to mirror some of the sentiment supporting Elba’s casting as the fictional Roland, why was a black actor necessarily the right person to play the role of T’Challa, the Black Panther?
At this point I trust visions of the point have finally emerged in your mind’s eye and I do admire your tenacity in following me down this path to get here. To wit, culturally we seem to be entering a time again where including everyone simply for rational and principled reasons such as the content of their character or, in this case their actually fitting a given role, is traded out in favor of those that are of the “correct” or approved tribe or belief system. To all others, you just ain’t welcome. And make no mistake, the physiological makeup of the respective in and out crowds is surprisingly similar. But it is the philosophical and political persuasions of this special Woken tribe that gets you a seat at the table, a privileged “voice” like none that we mere ticket-buying mortals of all shapes, colors, and sizes have to reach the masses, and riches beyond the dreams of avarice.
Black or White / Wrong or Right
I am looking forward to seeing Black Panther with a strong black fella as the lead. Yes it’s a fictional place he hails from and no doubt the accents will be a comical mishmash of African dialects and accents that finally puts a film with black actors on par with, say, Aussies, Brits and other durned feriners attempting something approximating American accents in any given film with characters from a particular region in the U.S. However, I do lament the state of the culture that chastises those as racists that would prefer to see a character like the aforementioned Roland Deschain be played as he lies and not have people like the actual producer and screenwriter of the film directly state, as well as the creator of the character imply, racism and lash out at those who simply disagree at the direction they’re taking a beloved character. I wouldn’t want to see T’Challa played by anyone other than a black fella, in this case the highly talented Chadwick Boseman, because that’s the character root and branch.
Sure, melanin-deprived folk playing the roles of real-life or fictional characters have been A Thing for a while. In some rare cases if they disappear into the role, such as Max Von Sydow chewing scenery as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, then it’s certainly a no harm, no foul delight to behold. However, in the cases of someone like John Wayne of all people being cast as Ghengis Khan, well, they were different times back then to be sure, but nothing that should be repeated in today’s culture.
Okay, bad example pic, but the real point I’m getting at is wouldn’t it be a better business decision to cast to fan’s expectations, make as good a movie as the budget and talent would allow, and then let the marketplace of ideas decide if the decisions made were wise or not without screaming racism one way but not back the other when both situations are pretty much the same? Or is there actually a not-so-unspoken agenda afoot when it comes to who can say or do what in Hollywood these days? Another quick case-in-point before I mosey on down the trail was the interesting phenomenon of an actor actually stepping away from a role given that he didn’t think he fit the profile of the character he was to play.
Fair enough, but again back to the unseemly undercurrent of my whole article, why are decisions like these celebrated with fanfare and yet at the very same time concerns of miscasting of another beloved character are met with cries of, well, you know what. Also, and this may be a minor detail to quibble over, but Daniel Dae Kim is Korean. The character Ed Skrien stepped aside for him to play is Japanese. Now, I ain’t never been overseas but I do live in a major metropolitan area that many people from all over South and Central America call home. Were I to jokingly mistake, say, a Puerto Rican fella for a Cuban one, there’s a better than average chance I’d find my teeth Chicleted out all over the sidewalk. Perhaps it never occurred to Daniel that not all Asians look alike? Well, there I go digressing again…
Time To Mosey
Alright Pardners, I’ve taken up enough of your time but I hope I’ve given you a bit to ponder and chew on as you go forth and do good things in the world. Hopefully going forward you maybe think about the actual shape and size of the box you’ve actually created for yourself to live in and not just sit idly pondering what you wish or hope for it to be. And if you remember one thing from all this hoopla I’ve gotten y’all into, it’s that fairness ain’t always fair, but reason can win the day if you honestly and genuinely seek out and eliminate hypocrisy wherever you find it, especially in yourself. Promise I’ll do the same. See y’all ’round the bend.