Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Racism of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' | New Republic

a film that deploys a casual racism, vilifies public health workers, and romanticizes poverty.
Loosely adapted from a one-act play by Lucy Alibar and directed by Benh Zeitlin,
his solemn duty to “prepare his daughter for an uncertain future,” as A. O. Scott puts it. 
the festival favorite has already earned its share of culturally pretentious awards, including something called the Humanitas Prize
comes to us as one of those movies “the industry can be proud of,” which the great bullshit detector Pauline Kael called out in her famous 1969 essay “Trash, Art and the Movies”—a film we feel honored to acclaim.
the pickaninny is always cute, always amusing, like a mischievous pet in a YouTube video. That’s her raison d’être. 

The Racism of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' | New Republic

the film tells us that we needn’t worry, that the poor just want to be left to fend for themselves. This is the film’s ugly operating assumption: if you are already poor (being black doesn’t hurt either), you are uniquely suited to thrive in squalor. It doesn’t matter how young or neglected you are; it doesn’t matter that your dad slaps you around when he’s angry and abandons you when he’s not; that your mom, it seems, is off working in some kind of floating whore house; that you’re not given a proper education or a bed to sleep in; and that you share your meals with hogs and dogs. That’s just your natural habitat. If you can catch catfish with your bare hands—if you can “beast it” in the film’s parlance—you’re going to be all right.

A far more honest and accurate depiction of the grim realities and dim hopes of the poor is Courtney Hunt’s 2008Frozen River, starring Melissa Leo as a struggling single mom trying to feed her children something more than popcorn and Tang. Frozen River had a good festival run, too, winning the usual Indie awards, but the film was not a box office hit, perhaps because it refused to pretend that squalor is anything to celebrate or that the people who live in it are especially attractive and colorful. 

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