Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Rango funny, racist

“Rango” is a funny movie, but it has too many stereotypes for me to endorse wholeheartedly. I agree with Roger Ebert, who called it an “animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical.” Gore Verbinski’s film has visual quotes from many movies (“Star Wars,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” etc.), which were delightful for the adults in the crowd.

However, there are several troubling stereotypes. Stephen Bridenstine notes, “Wounded Bird plays a bit part as the token town Indian. He’s quiet, mystical, and knows exactly how to track in the wilderness, just like the classic Hollywood Indian…[when] Rango refers to Wounded Bird’s ‘ingenuity’ only to say ‘no pun intended’ [it] put a bad taste in my mouth.”

Furthermore, the villain in the picture, the Mayor, is almost always seen in a wheelchair. Whether this is age-ism or able-ism, I cannot tell for sure, but it bothered me. My wife notes, “at least they’re depicting the person in the chair as powerful.” I thought it just served to make the character more creepy.

The band of Mexican owls and the wise old armadillo were also pretty stereotypical, although they were mostly shown in a positive light.

The final regrettable element is the usual western culture trope of a solitary hero. Even though it takes heroism from *many* characters (including several females), when they save the town, everyone calls Rango their hero, and he accepts all the credit.

It was the #1 film last weekend; it will probably be around a while. It does at least offer an opportunity to talk about racist/ageist/ableist depictions, and why the director chose to use such characterizations. Definitely ask your children, “do you think Rango should get all the credit, when so many other characters helped him?”

(full post, with links, available at So May We Be.


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