Time does awful things to the movies we love. What was okay then, perhaps isn’t okay now.
This might seem pretty obvious to you since media companies are constantly churning out new content for us to consume, and we often only focus on what’s new. But what is old, doesn’t just go away.
The internet has made it so that you can look back in time and cringe at yourself. So today I’m going to talk about movies, some of which I love, that clearly would not be accepted today.
I’m not saying these movies are bad. Perhaps they were made with the best intentions, it’s just the ideals they represent haven’t carried over to today very well. Even perhaps signalling change in general, movies can act as signposts of their time.
First piece of entertainment on the chopping block…
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
Let me just say that before I attack this movie that it was one of my favourites for many years while growing up. It features a master of physical comedy, Jim Carrey at the height of his talent.
Just in case this movie escaped you. Jim plays a detective, Ace Ventura, who specializes in retrieving lost or stolen animals, thus he’s a pet detective.
The film opens up with a scene where a raccoon slips through his grasp and falls to its death leading Ace to experience an existential crisis. He spends some time in a monastery in Nepal trying to find enlightenment when one day he is approached by someone representing an owner of a game reserve in Africa.
The reason they need Ace: a tribe’s sacred bat, Shikaka, has gone missing and without it their neighbouring tribe will incite war against them.
Ace heads to Africa, and (SPOILER) eventually returns the bat, but not after goofing around all over the countryside making friends, enemies, and adventure.
My favourite scene is when Ace becomes trapped in a robotic Rhino and escapes from the butthole to the shock of the American tourists nearby.
Sounds like a funny movie, and Jim Carrey’s performance puts him up at the top of the list of greatest funny men to focus on physical humour with the likes of Chris Farley and the three stooges.
But me of today sees something most foul about this movie. And that’s the depiction of life in Africa.
When he meets people from the first village, the one where Shikaka belongs, they run through a variety of tropes that attempt to embody the culture clash between Western civilization and life in the political south.
First, when they meet someone they like, they spit in their face as a sign of respect. I bet this doesn’t really happen. Ace hocks up a huge loogey to impress the tribesmen and they become his friends.
Second, there’s a scene where Ace disrespects their sacred ground by dancing really goofily on it. If there’s one thing society is trying to get right, it’s that we should respect each others sense of identity and attached belief systems. This however, is not that.
Further, the other tribe is depicted as vicious and war mongering. In comparison to the first tribe Ace meets, which is jovial in nature, they are flatly described as aggressive.
I have a problem with the polarizing of the tribes in that it doesn’t accurately portray life in Africa. People are not either all good, or all bad, there’s a lot of grey area.
I know what you are thinking. “But it’s a funny comedy! Why so serious?” Because until I was a certain age this was the only African themed film or content I had ever watched. And as the sole representation of an area that is actually very diverse it does a poor job of painting an accurate picture….but I get it, that’s not what this movie was about anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, I find the portrayal of the local African tribesmen to be a bit racist, but I still love this movie because of nostalgia. It just hasn’t aged that well.
Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
The third instalment of the Indiana Jones movies is perhaps it’s most racist. Which is funny/sad because the other ones were also quite racist.
Long story short, Indy and his crew, jump out of an airplane and end up in travelling down a river until they see someone on the river banks. One of the crew asks, where do you think we are, to which Indy glances up and sees the man, and goes “India!”
I really wish in that moment the man on the river bank shouted back, “I’m Pakistani asshole!” Because who the fuck can tell where someone is from just by looking at them. Oh forgive me, Indy is an archaeologist so he’d know I guess….
But anyway, the films depictions of Indians is terribly stereotypical, and not just the stereotype you are used to, the one the British have been pushing since the 1800’s.
Spirituality and religion are a big part of this movie, but instead of incorporating real Indian deities they invent a heart ripping cult that Indy has to out do to save the locals.
Their beliefs are boiled down to a mumbo jumbo style of hinduism where curses and black magic are the norm.
That’s not what Hinduisn is about guys! Come on Steven Spielberg (Director) you can do better.
I have to admit that I bought into the supposed awesomeness of Avatar as soon as I saw it.
Fucking blue people running around the trees, a substance called unobtanium, and evil mineral execs. My fragile 19 year old mind thought this was incredibly dope. Then someone pointed something out to me.
The story (an outsider being accepted and eventually falling in love with a tribe and helping them fight injustice) has been done over and over and over.
Essentially it is the story of Pocahontas. Or if you prefer, it is almost exactly the same plot line as Dances with Wolves, just tweaked in a few spots.
The reason this movie hasn’t aged well, is that the clear plagiarism that created it is now self evident. I bet there are a million stories almost exactly the same from all over the world telling the same narrative.
Shame on you James Cameron, Shame!
The very first James Bond Film is also my favourite. The unfortunate thing though is that it was made during a period (60’s) that was particularly unequal.
This film takes place in Jamaica where James has been sent to figure out the mystery behind the reclusive and evil Dr.No.
The opening scene, BAM, he hits a woman and chokes her out with her bikini top. Later on, he’s given an affable side kick who spooks easy. Anyway, there is a black character who is way less cool than James, and that was done on purpose.
I don’t have a whole much else to say about this movie because its clearly just of it’s era.
I didn’t like this movie, and I know a lot of people did.
The film is essentially this, Kevin Spacey’s character is in an unhappy marriage and stuck in a job he hates. The job comes to an end and he has a personal crisis about what he should be doing with his life. He goes back to what he liked when he was a teenager, and finds a somewhat sense of happiness in that. The whole movie culminates with him trying to have sex with the friend of his daughter…and it’s super creepy.
Due to recent events, it has come to light that Kevin Spacey is actually a creep. This movie makes me feel uneasy. The character is trying to take back his life, and he kind of just acts irresponsible and gross.
I guess it might be improper to say that this movie hasn’t aged well, and more apt to say it was never good in the first place.
A final note
I might seem overly sensitive, and maybe I am. But the reason we don’t see as much of these movies these days is probably because of their not aging well. Additionally, I fully admit to being a hypocrite in that I will watch these movies (except American Beauty) any day.
Movies like these are a good way to go back in time and see what life was like way back when. Oh how things they are a changing…