Oh No, I’m a Racist Asshole!
The Dark Tower
I’ve just finished reading The Waste Lands, Stephen King’s third volume in his The Dark Tower series. So, I guess that will tell you I’m not all that into it. I am a fan of King, just not of this beloved fantasy series. I’ve somehow never gotten it, despite many attempts over the years.
Therefore the film adaptation shouldn’t really bother me all that much. Before I came across writer and producer Akiva Goldsman’s outburst of a while back, I would have probably checked it out, just as I do most fantasy movies.
Sure, I had thought that the casting of Idris Elba as Roland the Gunslinger was terrible – just terrible – but I was nearly going to go with the mumblings that this was a sequel and ‘reality’ itself had changed, allowing for different characterization. Let’s be honest though, we all knew that was a cop-out from the start.
From even the only three books that I’ve read, the Gunslinger is so clearly a white man that casting a black actor is just stupid. In fact, he is pretty much Clint Eastwood in his Man with No Name phase. You are almost beaten over the head with this fact by King. He even mentions in the introduction that the inspiration for the series came to him while he was in a cinema watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. For heaven’s sake, could he be more clear?
Yeah, well, several times over; including Jake thinking of Roland in the third outing, whilst looking at an Eastwood film image:
“…he paused a moment anyway, staring at the poster behind the dirty, cracked glass. Eastwood was wearing a Mexican serape back over his shoulder to free his gun. His eyes were a pale, faded blue. Bombardier’s eyes.
“It’s not him, Jake thought, but it’s almost him. It’s the eyes, mostly…the eyes are almost the same.”
You know the weird thing? Matthew McConaughey is playing the Man in Black here; and wouldn’t he have made a pretty good Gunslinger? Sure, first choice would be Daniel Day-Lewis (can you imagine the intensity he would have invested him with?) but McConaughey in True Detective had that gaunt, lean, haggard and hollow-eyed look that would have worked just great.
“The racist assholes can go fuck themselves…”
Sure, there are times when changing the colour of a character’s skin makes no difference in the world. And then there are times when it might be a tad bloody ridiculous…Oooh, for argument’s sake, having Martin Luther King played by a white guy comes to mind…and this is one of those times.
And please…don’t start throwing out that already-getting-old chestnut that Red in The Shawshank Redemption was originally a white guy until he metamorphosed into Morgan Freeman for the movie version. The original was a 100-page novelette with a very secondary character in the shape of Red. The film was a different – and far better – thing altogether.
Also, most people knew Shawshank the film before the short story; The Dark Tower is a series of seven books with an immensely loyal fan base. There is no comparison.
And you know something else? One of the four most important characters in the books is Susannah Dean, a black woman who often refers to Roland as ‘whitebread’ or ‘honky motherfucker’. Just what would have happened if we had cut those references and cast a white woman in the part?
Oh boy, you know the answer to that one: we would have heard the screams from here to the Tower itself.
Will Smith’s embarrassing missus would have been running around with RACIAL DISCRIMINATION tattooed onto her forehead; Black Lives Matter would have taken to the streets, yelling Police Brutality! whilst dragging along their token white, privileged supporters; and #oscarssowhite would have lost its collective mind, hashtagging and organizing pickets to beat the band.
Funny thing is, this time they would have had a point. Because Susannah is written as a black woman for reasons integral to the plot. And so is the Gunslinger.
I wish that King had spoken out against this instead of endorsing it. I guess that he isn’t the hungry young guy he was when he started on the journey to the Tower. Too much money takes away that hunger. And in any case, as we know from the execrable Maximum Overdrive, film isn’t his strong point.
Still, I wish that he had told them that this decision sucked.
Oh and while I’m at it, those shots of Elba in character: I had wanted to see a gaunt, beat-up guy walking out of the desert after his months and years of travel, looking as rough and trail-weary as anyone in a Sam Peckinpah western. Well, that’s not this fella, who looks as if he’s about to push back his manly shoulders and stroll on over into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Yet I was still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Until only this morning I came across this little pep-talk on the casting of Elba. It was said some time back and comes from the film’s co-writer and producer Akiva Goldsman:
“I’m unbelievably proud of it as a collaborator on this enterprise and because I think that he’s a great actor and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he is likely to play a part…I understand that people who are thoughtful about the storytelling and the racial politics of the storytelling might want to understand how that informs that storytelling, and I respect that and I hear that, and those things are not things we didn’t think about or don’t think about. The racist assholes should go fuck themselves.”
Yeah, clear as mud (although what else would I expect from the scriptwriter of The Da Vinci Code and Rings?); but it’s that last little temper tantrum that gets me.
“The racist assholes can go fuck themselves.”
Now, as I say, I’m not a Dark Tower fan; but having read some of the concerns of those who are, they are not being racialist; they just don’t think that Elba is the guy for the role.
It’s Goldsmith’s show of contempt for those fans that has decided me on giving his film a miss, not that it took much effort. And I kinda hope that the Tower enthusiasts whom he has insulted do the same. Maybe he can just go take his own advise.
I’m sick and tired of the damned Race Card being dragged into everything.
Oh, yeah; and if Elba is cast as the next James Bond, you can count me out of that one too. Bond is a white guy.