Nov 14

“Loving” and the Interracial Couple of Today

In Jeff Nichols‘s new film Loving, the double-meaning-ed title also happens to be the last name of a real interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (actors Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) whose civil rights case led to a Supreme Court decision in 1967 that finally allowed mixed-race couples to marry.

What happened in brief is this: nine years earlier they’d gotten married one day in D.C., returned home to Virginia, and were arrested for breaking anti-miscegenation laws. Brian Tallerico,

With the assistance of a local attorney (Bill Camp), the Lovings were released under one condition: they had to leave the state of Virginia and not return for 25 years. They had to leave their families, their land, the home that they wanted to build, and the future they had seen for themselves. As the world changed with the rise of the civil rights movement, an opportunity arose to use the Lovings’ case to finally eliminate the racist laws still destroying lives in part of the country.

Selected reviews of Loving that attest to the film subject’s timeliness:

Stephanie Zacharek, Time: “…tells the Lovings’ story in a way that feels immediate and modern, and not just like a history lesson.”

Dana Stevens, Slate: “One thing that Loving gets right in a way that few civil rights dramas do: It insists on racial discrimination as a systemic problem, not merely an interpersonal one.”

See the Loving trailer below:

As pointed out by Zeba Blay, The Huffington Post, one thing we need to know, though, about interracial relationships in today’s society, about five decades later, is that it’s not just about black and white (or straight).

So much of the discourse surrounding interracial relationships seems to center on black and white couplings. These are the images we see most in the media — cis white men with black women, or cis black men with white women. But we should bear in mind that there are all kinds of couplings in the interracial dating world that aren’t acknowledged nearly as much, and that interracial can mean a black woman with an Asian man. Sometimes, interracial couples may not even ‘look’ like interracial couples — some multiracial people can read as ‘racially ambiguous,’ or be mistaken for a certain race or ethnicity that they don’t identify with.  All these kinds of pairings come with a wholly different context and meaning, as do interracial couplings between people who aren’t heterosexual or cis.

According to the Pew Research Center (Washington Post) about 12 percent of those who married in 2013 were mixed racially in some way, which is almost twice the number found in 1980.

The rise in incidence of interracial pairings, though, hasn’t produced enough change in certain attitudes that make things difficult for such couples. Kayla Welch, lists on Thought Catalog five issues that often arise:

  1. The mystery of the kids. “…(P)eople will wonder endlessly (and I mean endlessly) what your children will look like.” Even if kids are the last thing on your mind!
  2. Strangers, or even tasteless acquaintances, might make offensive assumptions. Such as assuming one of you is fetishizing a certain race or going through a phase.
  3. The expectation that it’s a big deal. Frequent questions about how one’s parents or others are dealing with it.
  4. When others play it so cool that they just make it weird. 
  5. You’ll become more self-aware and socially conscious. “…Watching how your partner is treated and how you’re treated together, in big and small ways, will illuminate many elements of life that are typically regulated to the background.”

As Loving‘s director has stated (NBC News) about what we can learn from the film, “Although Richard and Mildred don’t provide all the answers, they show us how to talk about it. They do that by showing us the humanity at the center of these things.”

May 15

“Gatsby” and Its Therapized Narrator Nick Carroway

The newest movie adaptation of classic novel The Great Gatsbyby director Baz Luhrmann and screenwriting partner Craig Pearce, has received decidedly mixed reviews. At least in part, some of the more unfavorable press stems from its unique presentation.

According to John Horn, Los Angeles Times, the following basics of the plot remain true to Fitzgerald’s story of that summer of 1922: “Bootlegger turned millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) is desperate to reconnect with former flame Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who is married to a philandering, polo-playing blue blood, Tom (Joel Edgerton).”

One of the interesting twists in this movie, though, is that the narrator, Nick Carroway (Tobey Maguire), Gatsby’s neighbor and a former college classmate of Tom’s, is now institutionalized in the “Perkins Sanatorium.” While getting help for “morbid alcoholism” as well as other issues, Nick is telling his Gatsby-focused story not to us but to his shrink, who’s played by Jack Thompson.

The preview below gives viewers a sense of the overall feel of the film, which is available in 3-D:

Maguire’s role as Nick isn’t actually garnering much attention, at least of the positive kind. Two of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve seen of his portrayal—and the script behind it—also happen to be among the worst:

Joe MorgensternWall Street Journal: “This dreadful film even derogates the artistry of Fitzgerald, who wrote ‘The Great Gatsby’ while living on Long Island and in Europe. In a deviation from the book that amounts to a calumny against literary history, Nick, the author’s surrogate, is discovered in a psychiatric hospital where, as an aging alcoholic, he struggles to comprehend the vanished figure at the center of the long-ago story, and finally completes his treatment by writing the novel. It’s literature as therapy, and Gatsby as Rosebud.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer:

As the new Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is hopeless, a little boy in his first After Six tuxedo. Worse still, he is no longer the centerpiece of the story, a task that falls into the incapable hands of the incompetent, miscast Tobey Maguire as Jay Gatsby’s friend, neighbor and all-seeing matchmaker and Daisy’s cousin, Nick Carraway. He might suffice as a callow Spider-Man, but as the film’s narrator, saying campy things like ‘They were careless, Tom and Daisy … they smash people and then retreat back into their vast world of money and carelessness …’ Even with these masterful lines from the book, he just sounds like he’s reading from a college yearbook. Mr. Maguire is supposed to be the camera through which the tragedy unfolds, but he is light years away from possessing the range, craftsmanship and experience required to play a Fitzgerald hero.