Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Mea Culpa Media

In the Twitter age, filmmakers can be much more candid about their experiences, which can occasionally lead to PR trouble.  However, lately some prominent filmmakers have been downright harsh when evaluating their work.  Peter Jackson recently admitted in behind-the-scenes videos that he was rushed into the pre-production of the "Hobbit" films and "I didn't know what the hell I was doing" during shooting.  J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, have both acknowledged problems with the last "Star Trek" movie, especially involving the villain Khan.  And then there's the jawdropping admission from director Alex Proyas and studio Lionsgate that the upcoming "Gods of Egypt" has whitewashed casting that is insensitive and problematic.

Now, the cynical part of me wonders if this is all part of the marketing campaigns for the media in question.  Lionsgate's apology could be seen as very canny, getting ahead of the criticism that was inevitable going to surround "Gods of Egypt."  We've got a new "Star Trek" movie on the way soon that could benefit by distancing itself from the previous installment.  The "Hobbit" franchise is over for now, but Warner Bros. has been on the lookout for new franchises for a while, and Middle Earth could still yield a lot more material.  And there are the reputations of the filmmakers in question to consider too.  These directors and writers being able to admit their mistakes make them look better, and make them seem more relatable and appealing.  Filmmakers who can't admit their mistakes, like George Lucas, tend to be viewed with some disdain these days.

Then again, "Gods of Egypt" aside, none of these filmmakers really need the good PR.  Lindelof's comments were made in a Variety interview about his highly acclaimed HBO series, "The Leftovers."  J.J. Abrams was talking shop with Stephen Colbert at a film festival fundraiser, and is still in the midst of his "Star Wars" victory lap.  And, okay, some of the shine has worn off of Peter Jackson, but he was still able to cause quite a stir a few weeks ago when he announced that he'd be directing an episode of "Doctor Who" next season.  His comments were from a featurette included with the last "Hobbit" film's DVD release.  All three of these mea culpas appear to be from creators who are blowing off steam over big projects that are far enough in the past, that they don't have to worry about hurting the bottom line anymore.

This certainly isn't unheard of, but in the past filmmakers would wait a much longer time before addressing these subjects, and of course we didn't have the immediacy of the internet, which took all of these admissions completely out of context and blew them up into clickbaity headlines.  I doubt I would have known about any of them if it weren't for the increasingly rabid entertainment media - at least, not so quickly.  Directors and writers generally want to avoid their disagreements with studios being made public, as it can affect their working relationships - and clearly the studios' demands had a big impact on the "Hobbit" movies and "Star Trek: Into Darkness."  I expect we'll be hearing more of these minor self-flagellations in the future.  And hopefully at some point they'll stop being newsworthy.
So the "Gods of Egypt" apology stands out as a very unusual case.  Yes, it's part of the marketing, but it also rings true as a piece of genuine remorse that's being fully backed by the studio.  As the whitewashing issue has come up over and over these past few years, this definitely signifies that Hollywood recognizes that the practice is no longer acceptable.  I doubt that this means the end of insensitive casting, but at least it shows the studios care enough to do this kind of damage control.  It could be the beginning of the end, then, especially as television casting has seen dramatic improvements in diversity over the past few years.  Maybe it's not too much to hope that the movies will follow suit.

I can't help hoping that we'll see mea culpas from other filmmakers for recent bombs - Josh Trank's going to need to mend some fences after "Fantastic Four," and after Cameron Crowe's "Aloha," he's in serious need of some self-reflection at the very least.  But that's the irony, isn't it?  The filmmakers who need to apologize the most are the ones whose reputations may be the most in jeopardy if they actually do.


No comments:

Post a Comment