Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Despicable Me 2 [2013]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-I) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

I'd like to begin here by paying tribute to (arguably eulogize) the first Despicable Me [2010] movie.  I loved that film.  I saw it as part of a series of outstanding childrens' films including Finding Nemo [2003], The Incredibles [2004], Wall-E [2008], Up [2009], How to Train Your Dragon [2010] even Happy Feet [2006] (which I didn't particularly like but our teenage/Hispanic evening receptionist at the time just loved it along with her entire family).

Indeed, part of the reason why I started this blog in the fall of 2010 (in the months following the summer-time releases of the first Despicable Me [2010] and How to Train Your Dragon [2010]) was that I was expecting to be writing some very positive reviews about the children's movies that are coming out.  Let's face it, Catholics/religious folks are generally skeptical of Hollywood and so I was expecting to be writing: "Don't put Hollywood unnecessarily down, there's some very nice stuff and especially for kids being produced these days by our movie people."

Instead, I've found myself having created my blog AFTER THE END of that lovely and perhaps innocent era of recent children's animated films.  For today it's more or less obviously become another battleground of our "culture wars."  AND FOLKS, IT'S NOT PRETTY.  There has been an obvious, hammer-over-the-head NATIVISM / RACISM pervading MANY / MOST "children's films" made since 2010:

(1) "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series might as well be called "Diary of a WASPY Kid" because THE ONLY NON-WHITE kid in the entire series is a RICH INDIAN KID who all the other (WHITE) kids make fun of. (No Blacks, no Hispanics, no East Asians, just one Indian kid who it's "okay" to pick on ... I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP ...)

(2) The film Hop [2011], screenplay by "Cinco" Paul (though there is absolutely NOTHING Hispanic about him) has a Anglo-American "slacker" teenager from L.A. joining forces with English-accented "Easter Bunnies" to keep "uppity" HISPANIC accented "peeps"/"Easter chicks" led by HECTOR the "ringleader/foreman" of the "Easter chick proletariat" in their place.  Seriously again, I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP ...

(3) Hoodwinked Too [2011] - has an ALL Anglo/English Accented "Happy Ending Agency" (a fairy tale C.I.A. ...) keeping the fairy-tale world safe from A VERITABLE MOB of VARIOUSLY ACCENTED VILLANS (a Russian accented witch named Verushka, three Hispanic accented pigs bent on wreaking vengeance against an English accented "Big Bad Wolf" (since turned "good guy") for having "blown their house down."  Each time the three stage guerrilla style attacks on said "former-Big Bad Wolf" they cry out "Viva los Puercos!" (AGAIN, I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP ...) and even German accented "Hansel and Grettel" who turn out to be the true super-villains of the story ...

(4) In Cars 2 [2011], Larry the Cable Guy's pickup and Owen Wilson's American sports car (Lighting McQueen) join forces with Michael Caine's BRITISH SPORTS CAR (Finn McMissile) to fight a CRIME SINDICATE of ugly "loser" non-Anglo-American cars (Italian Fiats, Former East German Trabants and Former Yugoslav Yugos) that want to somehow undermine the proper status of things (AGAIN, I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP ...)

And now this film Despicable Me 2 [2013] (directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, screenplay by Ken Daurio and NON-HISPANIC with a Hispanic sounding name Cinco Paul) sequel to the beloved first movie only here in the NEW MOVIE the formerly-evil and still RUSSIAN ACCENTED Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) fights the STILL EVIL, STILL HISPANIC ACCENTED "El Macho" with "personal hygeine issues" (voiced by Benjamin Bratt.  Apparently Al Pacino who was originally slated to play Eduardo/El Macho's role walked away from the role ... Good for you Al Pacino!).

And who are the "good folks" in the current story?  YOU GUESSED IT, an ALL Anglo/American "Anti Villain League" with Anglo-American accented agent Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig) and its Kings-English accented head, Sir Ramsbottom (voiced by ).  To be fair, both the Minions and even Gru have fun with Sir Ramsbottom's name ... but the point is that ONCE AGAIN the all "Good Folks" are Anglo and all the "non-Good Folks" (even Russian Accented Gru himself) are non-Anglo ...

Then add that "El Macho's" very suave/debonair son Antonio (voiced by Moises Arias) first "woos" and then DUMPS Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove) oldest of the cute-as-a-button three little girls that Gru's taken care of since the first movie.  But then aren't ALL HISPANIC BOYS love 'em and leave 'em "Latin Lovers..."???

So how can I, who in my "day job" have worked since my Ordination in largely/predominantly HISPANIC parishes, possibly LET THIS KIND OF EVIL MESSAGING GO?

In my current parish, 75% of the kids attending our school are _cute as a button_ Hispanic kids.  In the CCD program, this rises to nearly 90% (AGAIN ALL GOOD KIDS!).  The Anglo kids are _also_ cute/good.  But look at the numbers.  How can I recommend a film like this that makes fun of the families of 75-90% of the kids in my parish?  How?

Then consider Hollywood's stupidity in all of this:  The majority of Americans under 17 years of age AREN'T EVEN WHITE ANYMORE.  By its OWN STUPID RACISM it's disqualifying itself from its own future audience!  And is a message of Anglo-American supremacy exactly helping it in markets outside of the U.S.?  It's all really, really dumb.

And it's sad, because OTHERWISE the film would be very, very cute.  The Minions are absolutely adorable and the addition of the Kristen Wiig character was great as well.

But why then throw all that CUTENESS away to deliver a STUPIDLY NATIVIST/RACIST MESSAGE.  Why? 

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  1. Racism seems to be creeping back into Hollywood at an alarming rate, particularly in comedies. The Hangover 3 and 21 & Over were full of disgusting Asian stereotyping. Then you have the despicable casting of Johnny Depp as a Native American in The Lone Ranger.

  2. Hi Waffler, thanks for your comment, but I would definitely disagree.

    At minimum, Johnny Depp did not intend his portrayal of Tonto in the recent Lone Ranger movie to be mean-spirited. Depp's portrayal of Tonto was INFINITELY BETTER than the 1950s version where Tonto was simply a stick-figure. In Depp's version the character was given depth, a serious back story, humor and made arguably the HERO of the story.

    In contrast, it's hard to understand the ridiculously hairy-chested "El Macho" with that chest hair 3/4 covering his chest-sized Mexican Flag tatoo as _anything_ but an attempt to portray him as an idiot with "personal hygiene issues."

    To draw an equivalence between Depp's Tonto and DM2's "El Macho" is to seek to excuse the more or less obviously _intended_ racism of DM2.

  3. Wow, great article. I don't watch all the kids movies so this completely slipped by me. I will say that Hollywood is being rewarded for this in box office returns both here and abroad, so don't expect it to stop anytime soon. They'll keep doing what works.


  4. Hi Trevor, thanks for your note. While I agree that Hollywood (like any business) will do whatever works, I don't think they're being "rewarded" here for their depictions of "El Macho" / Antonio. Instead, they're being rewarded for their depictions of the cute minions / 3 little girls that Gru is taking care of and perhaps even for their portrayal of Gru, who accented though he is turns out to be a pretty good guy.

    After the largely well deserved champagne bottles are all opened and drunk, my sense is that the folks who made and invested in the movie will make a thorough review of "what worked" and "what could have been better" and decide that though the film was obviously very successful, it didn't need to make its two villains a particular racial group (particularly one with a lot of kids/potential viewers), that this was, all things considered, probably a not altogether optimal decision.

    So I'd expect less problematic "villains" in this franchise in the future. Otherwise, the complaint will arise again and perhaps bite them harder next time (more people will be prepared for it).

  5. Some times the smallest things seem to be the biggest. The "Nativist"/racist perspective you have here, seems to be influenced by much more than was in the film. The alternative is to make the characters as blandly "white" as the leads are. That seems to suggest that once the main characters have been cast, no variation will be acceptable and that seems racist. The tempest in a teapot from "Aladdin" was more understandable to me.

  6. Richard, there are plenty of "alternatives" ... How about simply making some of the good people/heroes in these children's films NON-WHITE? Would it have been "impossible" to draw in a non-white/non-Anglo _friend_ to ANY ONE OF THE THREE (!) little Caucasian girls? This is not rocket science. It's simply a question of sensitivity and WILL. And it's both "good for business" _and_ THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

    In contrast, continuing to make 50's era "Boris Badinov" type cartoons is at best LAZY and at worst IDEOLOGICAL and arguably EVIL (how else to characterize an ideology that insists that people of color or with non-Anglo accents be cast only as villains?)