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By Paul Meekin
There’s a report about that Ron Paul biopic. It’s going to be written by Judd Apatow, Jon Stewart will star, and Michael Moore is Directing.
I’ll give you a moment to catch that shit you’re flipping.
How in the name of The Revolution: Manifesto can these people expect to make a compelling, balanced, fair, and ultimately entertaining and educational movie about liberty and conservatism?
Realistically? They probably can’t.
It’s also realistic to assume a 52 year old straight white guy might struggle at internalizing the nuances of a teenage female superhero who is suffering from PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and a delicious duality of identity as it pertains to how she and her transgender roommate relate to one another.
The teenage superhero is BatGirl. That white guy is Joss Whedon, creator and writer of the empowering Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It was widely reported Mr. Whedon would be directing the character’s stand alone film debut.
(And yes I understand Whedon is far more qualified for this movie than Michael Moore will ever be for a Ron Paul one.)
Of course, the internet was characteristically opportunistic. Some said Whedon is a perfect pick – with a long history of quality, human, female characters. Others said his handling of Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron was problematic – she was ‘damseled’ and thus Whedon shouldn’t be handed the reigns here.
For the record, Buffy, and his ‘Firefly’ featured women of considerable depth, desire, nuance, and quirk. They were humans modeled after Princess Leia, not Barbarella.
Regardless of his resume, there is a question of whether there’s an argument to be made for a female director helming BatGirl. And it all comes down to a question of the world’s most valuable currency. Authenticity.
If people believe in who you are, what you say, what you do, and what you stand for, you can do most anything. For example Ron Paul lives, sleeps, and breathes Libertarianism, so we when he speaks, we listen. Same with Austin Petersen, same with Jason Stapleton. Someone like Dave Rubin is authentic in his beliefs, sure – but if he were to speak to what the Libertarian platform ‘should’ be, there would be people who challenge his authority on the issue.
It’s really quite easy to see when someone is authentic in their beliefs – and in the entertainment world, their ability to internalize material, because it speaks to their world. This is why Tyler Perry is so popular – they’re bad movies, but the audience comes out in droves because it speaks to an element of black culture in a way, probably, a white filmmaker wouldn’t dare tackle.
Example: Stephen Spielberg’s ‘The Color Purple’ was an oddity. It’s a PG-13 rated movie about the brutal and continual assaults an African-American woman faced at the hands of a husband she no choice in marrying. It’s about the brutality of men, triumph of women, and omnipresent racism in 1930s Georgia. It is specific to a world and a time and a view that a rich, white, jewish guy probably couldn’t quite fully internalize.
And It’s obvious. Spielberg wasn’t willing to ‘go there’ regarding some of the darkest aspects of the book. It was sanitized – possibly because Spielberg was uncomfortable diving into the ugliness of the material for fear of being labeled a racist. An African American might have been able to get away with more due to, you guessed it, authenticity – but also possibly made a worse movie.
Interestingly enough, Spielberg ended up doing Schindler’s list because Martin Scorsese didn’t think he could the material justice because – you guessed it – he wasn’t Jewish.
As stated, Whedon has a better-than-most track record regarding ladies in his work – and I’m sure he’d make an excellent BatGirl movie. But he’s not a woman. And I do believe in this case, the ‘outrage’ regarding picking a dude to direct a movie about one of the few female superheroes that are bankable enough to have a movie made about them is…valid.
Now – I know what you’re going to say, and I’ve thought it. This is a slippery slope. Should only men should direct movies about men, women direct movies about women, gays direct movies about gays, Michael Moore direct movies Jabba The Hut? Of course not.
An outsider perspective can yield great results that someone ‘within’ culture may not tap. Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker.” F. Gary Gray’s “Set It Off”.
Hell, at the risk of stereotyping – it probably took a woman to turn the ribald and raunchy and X-rated story of “Howard Stern’s Private Parts” into an ultimately sweet film about a misunderstood nerd chasing his dreams and fighting for free speech.
There are just so few females directing big-budget, promoted, marketed action movies that in this specific case, I don’t think it’s nuts to at least understand the concerns.
And speaking of Kathryn Bigelow, she is a much better fit – her movies are gritty and technical and exciting (mostly). “Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Point Break,” “Strange Days,” are all excellent films about varying subjects – and fit in with what DC comics movies have been. More so than Joss Whedon’s more snarky / witty / silly / populist style – at least.
Regardless, here’s the thing – this will all come out in the wash because authenticity also pertains to geek cred and hollywood bankability. Joss Whedon is bankable and popular and talented and verse in comics, cinema, and female characters – but he doesn’t have the entirety of the female experience under his belt.
Ultimately if the movie is made, regardless of whomever makes it, we’ll know whether it’s good or bad. Whether it’s trash, triumph, politically irksome, or simply has a well-intentioned point of view – we’ll know, and vote with our wallets or voices – very likely both. That’s the free market for you.