Is This Racist?

I’m loathe to risk helping to create controversy where there is none, because if you’ve read my nonsense for any length of time you know how I feel about that sort of thing. But there’s an interesting post over at Jeffrey Wells’s Hollywood Elsewhere site right now that simply points out a potential flashpoint for future social media outrage. It concerns both the trailers and, more specifically, the new poster for Captain Phillips, the big-budget Tom Hanks vehicle that hits theaters next month. The film is based on the true story of the highly publicized 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. You probably know what happened: The crew of the ship was taken hostage, with the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, eventually being transferred to a lifeboat where he remained for days trying to calm the pirates and keep himself alive; the ordeal finally ended with Navy SEAL snipers pulling off a remarkable simultaneous three-shot volley that killed all the hijackers on the lifeboat and saved Phillips.

The potential issue, according to Wells, is that the Somali pirates are all black and Tom Hanks’s Captain Phillips is of course white. Yes, it’s a true story — and one seemingly studio-willed into existence to be a turned into a Hollywood blockbuster — and I don’t personally see anything wrong with relating it to the public. But the question is whether there are some on the right who will predictably see it as a case of the noble average white guy “standing his ground” against the armed black savages. Actually, that’s the question Wells is asking. It’s certainly not a ludicrous one, but what I’d hate to see happen is a Salon-led torch and pitchfork “pre-lash” that attempts to challenge the movie before it’s even released. The thing is directed by Paul Greengrass; I have to imagine he’s going to be nuanced and won’t play it as American white-guy cheerleading. Most importantly is that, like me, most people haven’t yet seen the movie and therefore can’t offer any sort of informed opinion one way or the other.

Certainly, no one wants to feed the xenophobic prejudices of the Fox News crowd — but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to see another ridiculous controversy created on the left where none exists.

Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.