Friday, March 1, 2019

The Passage On Fox TV

I just watched the trailer for the Passage. Fox made a TV show out of the story. I love those books by Justin Cronin. Three long-ass novels, full of spectacular action and great characters. I was dreading the day when someone tried to squeeze it all into a video format. I was right to worry.

As I feared, it looks like an attempt to force a size 14 foot into a size 8 ½ shoe, where the effort has badly damaged both objects.

But it's early for a full critique. The show just started on the air in mid-January, 2019, and I won't lay eyes on it for a long while yet. Maybe Netflix will pick it up, who knows? For now I'm going to complain about casting. One specific bit of casting.

They took Amy, “the Girl from Nowhere, The One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years,” who “was just a little girl in Iowa,” and turned her from an obviously white girl into a black girl. Yes, I know that there are black girls in Iowa, but Amy's parents are described in considerable detail in the first book. (I'll bet that they changed the Iowa bit too. You know, something urban to go with the black character.)

How could they do that? We live in a world where you are severely criticized if you make a movie out of a book and change an Asian character in the book into a white character in the movie. Black to white, same deal, which is no deal. So, is it still okay to change white characters into anything that you think will help your product? Well, it looks like the answer is yes.

The books are full to the brim with good, solid black characters, and they get a lot of page-time. There was no need to look for a character to turn black to achieve some kind of balance. They went with the black Amy for commercial reasons, probably tinged with racism. The Amy character turns out to be tremendously powerful, and she does, indeed, live for 1,000 years. Maybe they thought a black girl would convey that power better. She's older, too. That really steps on the story line though, because the contrast between her looks and her abilities is part of the story. She's a poor, skinny little white girl from Nowheresville who saves the fucking world. What are people thinking? They probably tested it with audiences who cheered more for the black girl, or were confused about the innocent little white girl. I guess they paid for the rights fair and square, and I have no right to stop them from making whatever mess out of the story that they see fit.

The whole changing the race of characters kerfuffle breaks my heart. Shouldn't Asian actors think twice about opposing the very idea of a white girl playing an Asian girl in a movie or TV show? Certainly, there are more white or black or Hispanic characters than Asian characters in American video products. Shouldn't Asian actors be allowed to play any one of those characters? It seems unfair to play the race card only in one direction. In fact, it seems unconstitutional on Equal Protection grounds.

Let actors play characters, period. Many times the results are spectacular. Harry Belafonte, in the Bedford Incident, played a role that was written for a white character. He did a great job, and it made the movie a very important part of the incorporation of progressive racial ideas into naturalistic settings. It was remarkable in 1964 to see a strong black man being a hard-ass with the officers on a United States Navy destroyer, where the officers mess was still being served by Filipino stewards in starched livery. But no one knew that character before that movie. Same with Ripley in the Alien franchise. That part was written to be played by a man, and not a word of the script was changed. Sigorney Weaver hit it out of the park, but the character was hers to create, having never existed before. Amy exists. People know Amy, and they know the story.

Honestly, I don't think that it will make any difference, nor even rise to become part of the great debate about who can play whom. The Fox show looks awful, and from what I've seen in trailers they've thrown away the source material entirely, grafting some kind of vicious creatures onto a lame detective plot.

May I add that I am not demonstrating in favor of the rights of white actors to play Asians, or Othello, or any Goddamned thing. Let's just leave the small stuff alone, shall we? Can we let actors play characters without restriction while respecting that some characters are part of existing stories? Can you imagine Scout as a nice little black girl whose black father is a lawyer defending a black defendant? No, you cannot. It's all part of the story. That's exactly what is happening here with the Passage.

But like I say. It's probably crap anyway, so who cares?

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