I’m one of five people who has not read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” I haven’t seen the movie, either. Tom Hanks with long, greasy hair is about as appealing as Cuba Gooding, Jr. playing a mentally disabled man riding around in a shopping cart. It’s unpleasant business I want no part of.
The movie did a worldwide gross of over $700 million, but that isn’t too surprising when you think about the number of Brown’s books that have sold. Throw in Tom Hanks, of all people, and you almost have to try to lose money, and even then it may be near impossible.
With the movie came some milquetoast controversy. Religious pundits were decrying a work of fiction for being a work of fiction, and then things took a decidedly odd turn for the weird as an albino advocacy group called NOAH (National Organization of Albinism And Hypopigmentation) came out in protest, claiming that 67 films since 1960 have had albino villains. (I’m glad somebody was paying attention to that.) I gotta admit that I stopped caring about the controversy when NOAH surfaced. I can understand the group’s reasoning, seeing as the movie has an albino villain, but it really just seemed like an attention-getting grab by a group nobody had ever heard of before that day. Way to make a splash guys.
I’ll agree that certain groups of people of are often portrayed a certain way in Hollywood. In the ‘80s, every Middle Eastern guy was a bad guy. Gays are often played as deviants or for comedic relief. When it comes to playing villains, however, nobody wants their particular group getting too much camera time.
I find these groups’ complaints to be fairly ridiculous, though not without merit. Yeah, Middle Eastern males are more than bomb-wielding, plane hijacking foils for action heroes. And, yes, not all lesbians want to murder men. But at the same time, look at things this way: Protesting these movies ultimately brings attention to the fact that you are protesting a fiction, and that makes you look like an idiot and actually reinforces the idea that these clichŽs are worth writing.
When GLAAD targets a fictional film for its depiction of homosexuals, it creates a situation that only helps Hollywood and GLAAD, but hurts filmgoers. It gives GLAAD some attention, which enables the group to get its agenda heard, and it brings extra box office to the film. Filmgoers, however, continue to be saddled with clichŽd writing because a film utilizing that very thing brought in more money because of it. So we get more cookie cutter characters and more protests, and nothing ever changes.
Here are some stereotypical characters I hope to never again see in films. I’m sick of overweight black women who are either sassy or full of soulful wisdom. I hate gay characters who are the best friends of the female lead and who love to shop with her and offer advice on her boyfriend. Let’s get rid of the soda drinking, snack food devouring computer hack/geek, too. Serial killers who taunt police? Let’s axe them. And finally, we could really do without granny characters who “shock” us through their frank talk about sex or by rapping. That character has been done to death, and I hate it.
Here’s my challenge to screenwriters: Write characters we don’t expect. Make villains we haven’t seen before. Stop going with one-dimensional slop, and start putting some heart into it. Not every goth kid is weird. Not every jock loves beer. Not every teenage girl has to be a princess, a Lolita or angst-ridden. Stop it. Do something brave and unusual … and try not to piss off the albinos, okay?