Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Breakfast Club to Dead Zone and a rant about racism on tv

So I'm home last Friday, having my day-off flipping channels, and I come to The Dead Zone on USA Network.
Darned if there's Anthony Michael Hall, formerly known as the geek on The Breakfast Club. (A great movie for Coming of Age classes BTW, read the script here, and hear a sound clip of "the breakfast club letter" (it's the second clip down the page).

I LOVED The Breakfast Club.
And now I love it that Anthony Michael Hall has gone from a skinny geeky "brain" teenager to a large hunking handsome guy. He's another example for the late bloomers everywhere (Kevin Sorbo being another good one).

In case you haven't guessed, in the 1970's, I was a combination of the brainy geek and the basket case.

So anyway, this is an interesting episode. A prediction of sudent gun violence leads to school administration overreaction. I was all into the show, thinking that this is a cool premise, a guy who sees the future when he touches someone, and then tries to avert disaster. Just the kind of mindless binary entertainment I want on a Friday afternoon. Plus, Robert Iler is in it, and he's a great little hoodlum.

So I'm watching Hall's character stalk around a school full of mostly blond and brown haired white kids having visions of the future. He sees 25 (white) kids put on a play w/ Presidents with one or two African American kids in the background and an American flag in the foreground. He sees hallways of (white) kids running scared while another kid in baggy pants and a hoody walks around shooting at things/people. All of the speaking part characters in this episode appeared to be white.

At this point though while watching it, I thought of this school as maybe being in Colorado, it seemed like a predominantly white school, which I thought of, at that point, as just "a school" (which, honestly, from my socio-historical viewpoint usually means an automatic assumption of whiteness.)

Then comes the big conflict scene outside the school. Someone threw a bottle at the security guard who was attacking a kid. Suddenly it's a tense crowd-might-riot moment.

You can see a whole series of photos from the episode here.
I've posted two of them below.

As soon as this attack on a student by a security guard started, the camera panned the surrounding crowd in a circle for the kid that threw the bottle. All of a sudden the image is of a school full of kids of color with puffy coats and hands in pockets, and one making a gun with his fingers. African American kids, Hispanic kids, Asian kids and only a couple of white kids.

As soon as it's a "riot" scene, it's no longer an all white school.

It turns out, in the end...


... that the shooting was in the far future, and was a white kid trying to shoot the (white) pedophile music teacher. It was averted by (white) Anthony Michael Hall catching the (white) perv. Ultimately the (white) kid who threw the bottle was shot by the (white) security guards. But that wasn't the strongest image I was left with.

The most powerful image of the whole hour was the camera panning around in circles at the "scary" crowd, some one of which threw a bottle, then back to the security guard with the kid on the ground, and back to the "unruly" kids of color for more panning.

This rant isn't about who was identified as the perpetrators in this episode, but how the film makers constructed their pool of suspects at different points.


Chalicechick said...

The REALLY sad thing is that I probably wouldn't have noticed.


Cranky Cindy said...

This is why I'm a supporter of Affirmative Action. What we as white people automatically notice and automatically have a "blind spot" for doesn't create the kind of room for people of color that we intend to be creating. That's the insidiousness of racism. My intention, or your intention, to notice or not notice people of color isn't at issue. but we often have to decide to look.