Daniel Radcliffe has undoubtedly been typecast as Harry Potter and he has worked hard to break out of the typecast since, with his roles in varied works like Equus, to his upcoming one in Imperium.
Imperium (2016) follows Radcliffe as a FBI agent who goes undercover to stop a group of white supremacists from carrying out a terrorist attack (yes, non-Muslims can be terrorists too).
The film got my attention and I went to IMDB eager to discuss Radcliffe’s latest attempt to escape his typecast. I have noticed that any film dealing with discrimination, such as holocaust or slavery films are always criticized for their depiction of racism. Far too many people see these films and get defensive, thinking that the films are accusing them of personally being racist. Or they think the film is trying to make them “feel guilty” and as a result, they argue that such films exacerbate racial tension and are the real cause of racism. Or they may even argue that racism would end if such films were no longer made. This ties into the colour-blind rhetoric that I have discussed previously, where people believe racism no longer impacts minorities. This leads to discussion of racism being viewed as unnecessary and an instigator for racial conflict. In terms of film, this mindset is very prevalent with Imperium.
I have stopped reading any online discussion since it is mostly one comment after another calling the film racist, because it explores racism or portrays white people in a bad light. These will be the same people to call you “politically correct” or a “social justice warrior” if you criticize negative portrayals of minorities in movies (which are far more common). This is the new order: arguing that negative portrayals of the dominant group (straight, white men) are part of an “agenda” while also arguing that negative portrayals of women and or minorities are meaningless. While whitewashing and one stereotypical minority character after another are cast aside as irrelevant, any negative depiction of white people makes the new colour-blind racist lash out.
“lisasmithandme” of IMDB explained it perfectly:
“Typical white racists who believe that only non-whites should be portrayed evilly. They do this type of complaining a lot in historical movies as well such as slavery and the holocaust. They think the media is ‘anti-white’ and is portraying them unfairly. Of course, when you complain about how blacks or other groups may be unfairly portrayed in the media, they start telling you to stop your “political correctness whining.” They are like reversed SJW except anything which isn’t positive about white males makes them go bonkers.
The other reason is that they secretly or subconsciously agree with white supremacy, so when you attempt to criticize it, they feel as if their ideals are being personally attacked and start to lash out and say incomprehensible things like: “I’m not a racist but this movie about white supremacist racists is…racist.”
On YouTube, you won’t see a bunch of Muslims invading the comment section of a video which speaks out against Islamic extremism. On the other hand, you will get a bunch of whites males attempting to justify white supremacy on any video which speaks out against white supremacy such as this movie. It doesn’t speak well for their character.
There’s really NOT much of a difference between a white supremacist and an Islamic extremist.
One will chop your head off for your RELIGION and believes you’re an infidel.
The other one would gas you for your RACE and believes you’re inferior. ”
Aside from the colour-blind racists, we have the full on apologists who seem genuinely hurt that skinheads are being portrayed as racist. They are only people trying to “protect their country, their heritage” etc. I know some people may be tempted to say all of these comments are the work of trolls, but it is highly unlikely that every single racist comment online is simply someone seeking attention or looking to start an online fight. If anyone is bothered to look it up, instead of living in a cocoon of denial, there is evidence that racism is still alive and well. Online discussions are just one place where we can see this at work.
Like my post on Jesse Williams, I am making this one to get some thoughts off my chest and attack some of the straw man arguments that have cropped up in the wake of the film’s trailer release.
1) This film is stupid since most racists aren’t even skinheads.
This argument is the equivalent of saying films about serial killers are stupid since most murderers aren’t serial killers.
This film explores a pocket or subgroup of racists, it is not meant to argue that all racists are skinheads. This is elementary level reasoning but it seems to elude people once their defensiveness gets in the way. When people hate something (because it makes them feel defensive), they will look for any reason to tear it down.
2) It’s films like this that divide us. Typical liberal Hollywood etc.
Racism exists. Exploring it, studying it, depicting it in fiction should not divide us. What really divides us are the colour-blind racists, the apologists and the people who are openly sympathetic to white supremacy. Whether it is because they believe everything is equal anyway, or because they believe whites are now oppressed, far too many people have a hard time facing this topic. While racist practices by Hollywood executives, employers, judges, cops etc. are either ignored or supported daily, these apologists and colour-blind racists think they are now victimized because a film about racists is being released.
Radical Islamic terrorism is an issue now as well, and avoiding the topic in the news, books and movies won’t make it go away. People confront very few problems with the mentality that if it is ignored or never discussed, it will go away. Racism isn’t a bully, it is a pervasive issue that affects everything from entertainment to housing and police brutality. We can’t simply ignore it.
Bringing up the terrorism analogy also brings me to the next straw man argument.
3) There are more important issues now, like Muslims, and this film wants to focus on skinheads.
This film doesn’t say skinheads are the world’s only threat. One film normally focuses on one issue or one set of issues. Have you ever seen a film try to address every single world issue in 2 hours? The stupidity of this argument is simply baffling.
Anyone who is not living under a rock knows that radical Islamic terrorism is an issue. There are movies and books on that too. People only use this argument for specific topics they don’t want to see on film. You won’t see people criticizing romantic comedies saying that “with all the issues in the world, these filmmakers decide to focus on romance?”. You know what, let’s not make movies on any topic that isn’t trending in the news.
Think I feel better now. Imperium looks very interesting and it will be my first time hearing Radcliffe perform with an American accent as well. With all the negative feedback it doesn’t look like it’ll be a box office hit, and it could possibly bomb. Either way, this is one that I am planning on seeing in theaters.