Thursday, August 6, 2015

And A White Boy Shall Lead Them: The Whitewashing of the Stonewall Movie

The other day, we saw the trailer for Roland Emmerich's Stonewall. Most people know the movement was instigated by LGBT people of color living in New York City. So, you would believe the movie would focus on them.

Well, not so much.

In this trailer, we are introduced to Danny, a young white boy with a dream.

He travels to New York City during the time of the revolution. Once he realizes what going on, he steps forward and leads the rebellion, and the rest is history. But here's the thing-- this isn't what happened at all. The people who were truly involved in the Stonewall riots (Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Storme DeLarverie) are now secondary characters to Danny.

It's almost insulting, but not surprising to see how Hollywood has basically whitewashed our history in this film. From this trailer alone, it seems that this fictional character is the Luke Skywalker/Captain America of LGBT of movement. Again, I am completely judging all of this from the trailer. But the purpose of a trailer is to sell the movie. Did they think by placing this white boy as the lead would make this film more appealing to the audience? Probably so, Hollywood has a deep track record of creating White saviors for films. I guess what makes this film any different, right?

The crapfest doesn't stop there. If you check out the IMDb page for Stonewall, you will find that two of the main people involved in the riots are not there. The person playing Marsha is near the end of the credits, while Sylvia are Storme are not even listed at all. However, the fictional characters are at the very top of the credits. When you stop and think about it you should be angry. Because what we're seeing is a complete and unabashed whitewashing of LGBT history. It seems that everything that went down and the people who were involved were cast aside to tell Danny's story. Was it so hard to tell Marsha P Johnson or Sylvia Rivera's stories? What about researching the other people involved in the movement? And since creating fictional characters is the thing to do, what adding more characters of color to tell the tale?

We may never know what was behind the creation of this movie and the story, but what we do know is this isn't the Stonewall we've appreciated and respected for over 40 years. The people who were truly a part of the movement are gone, and in their place, is a White Knight and the horse he rode on.


Bob Slatten said...

I know that sometimes in historical films, characters are lost or combined, to make the storytelling easier for simpleminded American audiences.
But this is an outright lie. And done solely because the producers want the movie to appeal to ALL audiences, and if the leads were people of color, well then, i guess they think only people of color would go see it.
That logic should have lead the producers of Selma to casting Daniel Day-Lewis as MLK.
Tell the story accurately; it's a great story to tell, but this film isn't that story.

Mark Greene said...

Welcome to entertainment. Unfortunately this society that we live in has always been built by and for one specific group of people. So its no surprise that The Great White Hope comes to save the day in this film.
We all want to be seen in a positive light and most of all we all want to see heroes that look like us. And since the majority of the population is White, that's what is going to be portrayed on the screen even if it is a matter of "bending the truth." Even if it is a matter of lying altogether and creating a totally different story and or character.

Its society's subliminal way of saying, "The only heroes in this world looks like us." For the most part, a large percentage of White people don't want to see a movie that don't portray their own as the good guy.

Classic example:

I told a White friend of mine I went to go see two great movies(When they were playing) American Sniper and Selma. I could see the contrast of enthusiasm when I explained the two. One reaction was that he was all elated and anxious to see it. The other got no response at all other than an uncomfortable squirm in his seat (guess which movie is which). As long as there is White guilt, the portrayal of people of color as heroes will be limited.

It's a good thing we have a strong White leader to save the day for us!


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AJ said...

Actually, white Marsha P. and other gender non-conforming people are considered to have been the vanguard of the riots, the riots themselves were mostly white homeless effiminate youth.

“My research for this history demonstrates that if we wish to name the group most responsible for the success of the riots, it is the young, homeless homosexuals, and, contrary to the usual characterizations of those on the rebellion’s front lines, most were Caucasian; few were Latino; almost none were transvestites or transsexuals; most were effeminate; and a fair number came from middle-class families.”

Excerpt From: David Carter. “Stonewall.”

You haven't seen the movie. Your claims of white-washing and cis-centricism are not founded.

Donald Trunk said...

It is such a hoot watching liberals fight it out for a gold medal in the Victimization Olympics.

macshaggy said...

Without watching the trailer I can tell this is cis-centric and white-washed. A) if you watch the Stonewall documentaries you will see mostly drag queens and people of color in the front of the riots. Not a white guy. Also, notice how in the first pic you don't see a single drag queen, and that all people of color are situated behind the two white boys. Look in the crowd and see only a few people of color and most of the people in the background are white.

Also, where are the lesbians. Stonewall was not just a gay bar, it was a bar and inn for the LGBT community and had lesbians. I have watched three documentaries and though there were white men being arrested there was more drag queens being arrested and people of color. I don't believe that Emmerich had even watched a documentary or read up on Stonewall history. It is important to have less fictional characters and more of the real people behind the riots. This is important.

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Viktor is a small town southern boy living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Twitter, writing about pop culture, politics, and comics. He’s the creator of the graphic novel StrangeLore and currently getting back into screenwriting.