Hollywood Is Just As Progressive As Ernest Hemingway

A perpetual glass house.
A perpetual glass house. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Let’s not shilly-shally here, movies are made by dudes for dudes - and no, Atomic Blonde isn’t an exception, it's a loophole. The industry dictates that everyone has to play by the rules authored by men more than a century ago. That means a kickass female lead, is kickass in an aberant, it’s cool because “lady doing what dudes do” sort of way. If a female lead isn’t meant to be the obstacle or goal for the male lead, she’s either “funny” in a farty, fall-downy, bro sort of way, or shrill in an eggy, sucky womany sorta way. Sure, watching Angie Dickinson take an onscreen slap in the mouth from Ronald Reagan is a little jarring, especially by today’s standards but honestly, flat-underwritten-“your favorite kind of character but with a vagina” is a bootleg version of the same idea. You know what’s cooler than Keanu Reeves mercing a bunch of dudes in a dimly lit hallway? A pair of tits mercing a bunch of dudes in a dimly lit hallway. “Suck a turd Laura Mulveyan! You limey fraud!”

In either scenario- the woman being put in her place by the male subject driving the narrative forward, or the badass diversion from what we’ve come to expect from women at the narrative's center, are both byproducts of masculine desire and festishitic fancy. We’re getting a lot better at this sort of stuff but the point I’m making is that we’re “progressing” so quickly our ethical core is sort of capricious, so it's weird to take shots at the past as if we’ve reached some moral nirvana. I mean something as recent as Superbad, a one-time innocuous coming of age comedy is now a credible subject of social discussion.

This all holds a particular relevance to me at the present, as I’m currently enjoying another read through of The Sun Also Rises . Lately, any positive mention of the cerebral brawler seems to incite a degree of antipathy in modern liberals unrivaled compared to other equally “of their era” authors, and I can’t say that I quite grasp the reasoning. If I had a dollar for every time some prissy post grad punk admonished me for reading Hemingway I’d probably agree with them, as it stands I’m just aware enough to be bemused by the hypocrisy of it all. Hemingway has somehow become an emblem for our arrogant lack of self-reflection. One might be quick to offer the rapid pace at which our values are evolving, especially as portrayed in media, as a possible explanation. But can we so confidently proclaim the “art” of today so safe from moral scrutiny as to throw stones at the heedless artists that came before?.

Another huge area of contention regarding film and literature of the past is the treatment of race. Now I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, the time in which a work is released can’t help but be negatively informed by the corresponding socio political trends. On the other hand, have you seen Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat ? Jesus … it's rough. Regardless, I don’t know that our current treatment of race in entertainment, especially on film, is completely guiltless. We still feel the need to demarcate movies with all black casts as “black movies.” Steve McQueen made history as the first African-American producer to win best picture … four years ago.

There’s a whole controversy unraveling right now regarding the whitewashing of the upcoming Hellboy reboot. The Hollywood Reporter purports this to be the turning point in the trend, as they believe this scandal will see that the future of movies places an increased premium on equal opportunity casting. That’s all well and good in theory, but the execution of that sort of thing introduces a whole new plethora of problems.

Hiring marginalized groups for the sake of doing it is a little dishonest and counterproductive, don’t you think? As a member of a marginalized group I’m ambivalent, but that’s the point: equity is complicated. That was true back in 1926 when Hemingway published The Sun Also Rises and it’s true today, the year Autobots helped Harriet Tubman kick slavery’s ass. When it comes to ethics, time has proven to make a mockery of us all, and we can stand to be a little more empathetic in this regard. It’s important to remember that in a secular world, morality is a perpetual glass house. Before you go disparaging Hemingway for being unfair to women and blacks, take a look at what’s onscreen in front of you,you fucking fickle pots.

Join the Discussion
Top Stories