Over the weekend I went to see Miss Peregrine Home for Peculiar Children directed by Tim Burton because I’m a fan of Burton and the movie looked very interesting. I have not read the original novel written by Ransom Riggs so going into the movie I was new to it. I really enjoyed the film and felt that Burton was a perfect choice to direct the film.
On Sunday a blogger DeLa Doll wrote a story about how the film lacked diversity and then quoted an interview where Burton stated his feelings about diversity.
First read the FULL interview on the matter at Bustle from September 28th before the film opened on the 30th (HERE)
Then read DeLa Doll comments about the story (HERE)
Her story was picked up by The Huffington Post and spread like wildfire through the internet. I read her comments and felt that while it’s one thing to not like a film or even a director, the way that she went after Burton and felt betrayed by him was simply ludicrous.
First Burton doesn’t owe her or anyone else anything. You either choose to see his films or not. If you like it great if not oh well. While I can see how Burton’s comments can come off differently to each of us and I can see how some can take it as crass. Burton cast a film as he sees fit. Honestly most films from the major studios are predominately white. Is it wrong or simple economics? That is another debate for another time. He has his vision of the world and the general public seems to like the films that he has made over the years.
Second she only mentions the book at the top because she read it and enjoyed it. I found it odd that if by reading the book that she didn’t get the whole based in Wales in 1940. Considering the current demographics of Wales in 2014 the percentage of white is 95.6% with blacks totaling a whopping 0.6%. I’m guessing that it wasn’t that much different back in 1940. The other thing that is completely lost on her is that the majority of the cast is mostly from England and the surrounding area. Asa Butterfield: London England, Ella Purnell: London England, Finlay MacMillan: Glasgow Scotland, Lauren McCrostie: London England, Hayden Keeler-Stone: Essex England, Georgia Pemberton: Kingston Upon Thames, Milo Parker: British and the other children appear to also be from England.
By casting the majority of the roles with British actors Burton is being very faithful to the location that the novel takes place it. It’s very unlikely that writer Ransom Riggs intended it to come off in any other way.
She goes on to point out that Samuel L. Jackson is not only the single black actor in the film, but found it insulting that he was the villain. While on the surface this would a valid attack on Burton but a little thing call research put a huge hole in her “whitewashing” of him and the film. Jackson had previously played the villain in four other films where the cast is predominately white. Jumper (directed by Doug Liman), The Spirit (directed by Frank Miller), Unbreakable (directed by M. Night Shyamalan), and Kingsman: The Secret Service (directed by Matthew Vaughn). So if you use her logic here that all four of those directors are “”anti-PC” rich old white guy” because they choose to have Jackson play the villain in those films?
While I myself am a white male I am hardly far from being a rich old white guy. I can not comment on people of other ethnicity. I grew up in a small town in Ohio and there was only one black family that I knew of so does that make me a unable to understand diversity? I am all for diversity but when it comes to art (and that is what film is) it’s up to the individual artist or in this case director to make their choices on casting. Burton grew up in Burbank California in the 1960’s/1970’s that in 2012 was 72.07% white and 2.45% black. I imagine that it was lower back when Burton grew up there and I doubt that he had much interaction with diversity back then so that makes him very familiar with white suburbia because that’s what he grew up with.
Look at Edward Scissorhands that is a perfect example of how he sees suburbia. You wouldn’t expect F. Gary Gray who directed the powerful Straight Outta Compton do be able to capture the feel of white suburbia in Edward Scissorhands because he grew up in South Central L.A. and was able to use his life experiences to direct the film. Nor would Burton to direct Straight Outta Compton with his upbringing in Burbank would not understand how it was to grow up in Compton during the 1980’s
What bothers me the most from DeLa Dolls rant about Burton is that she feels betrayed by him. I simply don’t understand why because while I can see his comments in the Bustle interview rubbing people the wrong way, how could you think that any film that Burton has ever directed would be considered Politically Correct or ethnically diverse? Why do people today feel that everything needs to be Politically Correct especially in film and art. Now I’m not talking about diversity that I fully agree we need but I view diversity as not a skin color but as diversity in voices.
I do not see diversity as a black and white thing. To me diversity should be new and different thoughts, ideas, and stories. You should not make a character in a film or television show LGBT or ethnic because it’s Politically Correct, you should do it because the story need to have that part to it. If you just slap diversity into a story then it never comes off as genuine. I can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman but if you tell a good strong female character in a story then I can at least relate to the character on an emotional level that I can feel and understand.
We have sadly became too sensitive to things and sadly that is affecting art in many forms. We will never see films like Blazing Saddles or Song of the South because they will somehow offend someone.
It’s really simple if you don’t like a film, book, television, or any other art then simply don’t view or support it. If you don’t like what you see in films or other art then instead of complaining about it, do something yourself. Everything doesn’t have to be about you and the world does not revolve around you either. Do we need to strive to make more diverse and interesting stories, absolutely. But simply not everything or everyone is going to do that and actions speak louder than words. If you don’t see things that relate to your gender, ethnic or lifestyle then you need to go out and make it or support those who you feel speak to what you would like to see. Life is not handed to you and it doesn’t owe you anything.