On my flight back from an absolutely amazing Python Canada 2013, I watched “42” (Jackie Robinson’s story) and about half of “Skyfall”. The former warmed my heart because the racial discrimination was so disturbing. You’re probably reading that twice and scratching your head, so let me explain: It’s heartwarming that we have made progress in fighting racism, and that things that were considered normal 70 years are truly disgusting today. While nauseating racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of othering still exist today, in Canada, at least, it is no longer considered normal. For example, last year, the NHL media was in uproar because of an alleged racial slur against PK Subban. Yes that slur should not have happened, but 60 years ago, it would have been encouraged.
Skyfall naturally reminded me of past decades of James Bond movies. Traditionally, the bad guy in a Bond film is a dude with an accent reflecting whatever country the American media (while Bond is British, the films are Hollywood) was hyperventilating about at the time. This “bad guy with an accent” portrayal is a form of xenophobia that Hollywood has been projecting for decades.
In Skyfall, as well as a majority of the very few other action movies I’ve seen in the past few years, the bad guy is not black like in the 70s, Russian like in the 80s, or middle Eastern like in the 90s. In movies such as Skyfall, Iron Man 2 and 3, all three Batman movies, and a super hero movie that I can’t remember the name of (citation required) the bad guy as a deranged local white man. Some of those insane white dudes have been phenomenal villains. Heath Ledger’s incredible portrayal of The Joker was particularly poignant.
Deranged local white men. These movies are silently teaching us, in the same way that movies of the 60s and 70s taught us that blacks are gangsters and women simper, that mentally ill people are dangerous, different, frightening. And you know what? We are! Even with the empathy I have developed from group therapy sessions and being hospitalized alongside seriously mentally ill individuals, I still get nervous when “crazy people” approach me on the street. I personally identified with The Joker, and my girlfriend at the time even commented that he reminded her of me.
The bad guy in a film normally has to be a little demented. I don’t want to live in a society where the desire to blow up entire cities of peace loving citizens is considered sane. I’m just here to remind people to encourage, rather than suspend, disbelief when watching all movies. Disbelieve the gender roles typified in Disney films. Disbelieve that people with accents are bad guys. Disbelieve that Asians can kill you with their pinky. Disbelieve that crazy men, men like me, are necessarily evil.