Chadwick Boseman and these times

Happened to see the death notice of Chadwick Boseman on Facebook, age 43, colon cancer, but had to search right where I stood for outside reportage about it because the news did not seem real.  It was shocking enough when Black Panther dissolved in the Snap, but at least he came back in Endgame. . . only to die of cancer. I had respected Boseman’s performances especially in as James Brown and before that as Jackie Robinson in 42. Now he is gone at 43.

It may say something that my first (conscious) reaction is worry about how this will hurt the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And who will they get to be the new king of Wakanda ? But I had to shake this off as embarrassing preoccupation with something that might be childish.  Even though I respect anything that is well done. The MCU had added up to something in scope and execution.  There might be even less enthusiasm about the next planned phase of Marvel films, since they had peaked.  But Black Panther II and the next Spider-man were most likely sure things.

No doubt this is one more demoralizing event in the year 2020, following so much ongoing strain caused by the failure to root out racists from Police and the resulting murders most notably of George Floyd.  I know I have added a few Facebook friends over the past months but I rarely check the number.  I see that it is down by four from the last count.  I do remember one filmmaker and singer who I had gone to see perform a few years back and who had been editor of a magazine I wrote for; one day she posted as her status, “I am in a mood to unfriend.”  I think a few people commented and I said something like suggesting less time on-line.  I can only speculate over what would cause the deletion. It may have been that she was fed up with what seemed like empty virtue signalling, most notably the number of accounts – including mine – with a black screen for a day. But I can only fret over that so much.  If someone chooses to communicate ineffectively, there is nothing much to do about it. We can only ask just how valued was that friend and how much were we in turn valued that these nuances of social media make such a difference.  People throw each other away easily.

For someone to prove he or she is not being disingenuous, presumably they would have to donate their life savings to BLM. Few if any of us can or should be doing that.  The George Floyd murder by Officer Derek Chauvin is partly due to police reform plans of Obama being cancelled by his successor in the White House.  That compounds the significance of it. People who ignored or laughed off Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police violence in the form of kneeling instead of standing for the National Anthem can ask themselves whether the current forms of protest that resulted from inaction were worth it.  We might not fill our social media with darkness or avoid posting anything personal, but we might feel a more personal gut punch about the death of a celebrity.  I still have not made a point of watching the 8:46 video of Floyd’s death, because I already know what it is.  But I will continue watching the movies of Chadwick Boseman and reading the various tributes that circulate.

People can mostly react and there is little if any reaction to take.  The villain in this case was cancer.  Many of us have lost a loved one to cancer, so that is already personal, relatable, and not at all confined to discussions of race and intolerance.

 

Shorts and Trojan Horses

I’ll post a few shorts here every now and then.  Some touch on topics that are generally considered serious but are rendered silly.  In an episode of Fatman Beyond or whatever iteration of it on the Kevin Smith youtube channel Marc Bernardin (Castle Rock) was hosting and at about 1 hour and 49 minutes in the conversation got on my raw nerve. That podcast needs a voice from at least the middle of the political spectrum.  Tactics matter. Mr. Bernardin advocated what he calls “Trojan Horsing” an element that a target demographic would not like into something they do like.  A horse by any other name could be bait and switch.

He went on to use as an example the Solo iteration of young Lando Calrissian said to be “pansexual” as if that is a step forward. (Never-mind Billy Dee Williams more recently responding by saying “What the hell is gender fluid?” since his iteration of Lando is heterosexual (as are the depictions in three novels from the early eighties, a number of other books that include the character and comics where unusual  traits would have come up by now if anything other than the default of straight behaviors were part of his character.)  Ret-conning a character to pander to a perceived shift in social media or the whims of people who live on Twitter disrespects characters, especially those that have been around for a while.

Black Panther was used as an example of under-represented audiences coming out to support something they rarely see, but Black Panther was part of the juggernaut MCU, introduced in Captain America: Civil War, and had a decades long legacy as a comic book hero so there was nothing compromised or co-opted about the character.  He diminished nothing and replaced nothing and only added to the MCU. It was an example of doing right by a property.  The same director, Ryan Coogler, had previously provided another rare example of getting something right, the Rocky sequel Creed which respected its history and added new dimensions to the ongoing drama.

I don’t know about representation for the sake of representation.  I am not James Bond or Lando or Rocky Balboa.  If I buy ice cream I don’t want someone Trojan Horsing crushed cauliflower into it.