I was this close to having a day off writing completely, but I need to quickly get this thing out of my brain.
I’ve been looking forward to the Scott Pilgrim movie for months. The trailer looks awesome, Edgar Wright is brilliant, the reviews are all sounding great, and everything I’ve heard so far suggests it’s going to kick some serious ass.
Except a friend of mine today said that she was “blown away with how sexist, homophobic, and racist it actually was”.
Now, I haven’t seen this movie yet, so I’m staying clear of the spoilerific bulk of her full review for the time being. What follows is nothing more than uninformed speculation on my part, based on not having seen the movie and not having read any detailed reviews – but I think there’s a point worth considering even if I’m totally wrong.
I strongly suspect – though remember, uninformed speculation only here – that the Scott Pilgrim movie is not actually sexist, racist, or homophobic, in the sense of actively advancing or basing itself upon the notion that white heterosexual males are innately superior to other humans and possess rights exclusive to their demographic.
What it might do – for all I know – is fail to actively undercut certain clichés based on lazy assumptions that white hetero males might tend to make about non-males, non-whites, or non-heteros, and thus fall into some unimaginative stereotyping in its characterisation and character interactions.
It’s late, and I’m tired, and I may not be expressing the distinction clearly, but it’s not a new idea. It’s the well understood distinction between conscious bias and unconscious privilege. And what I’m wondering is: do we need new words for this?
It’s just… there are some really prejudiced fucks in the world. People who want to suppress women’s rights, who think gays are moral abominations, and who think that anyone a bit darker than them is probably a criminal who should leave our country alone. People are still getting murdered over all of these things, and none of these prejudices are trivial issues.
Which isn’t to say it’s not a problem if Hollywood doesn’t seem to have met many gay people, or fails to acknowledge women in anything other than specifically feminine roles, or thinks that black people are all either hip urban gangstas or wise old Morgan Freeman.
But is it the same problem as the one evident in a society where women are sentenced to be raped as a punishment? It just seems like “sexism” isn’t really a useful term any more, if it stretches so far as to cover both options equally.
Do we just need to be careful when distinguishing between “prejudice” and “privilege”? Or are there other words better suited to this that I can’t think of right now?