Controversy on Michelle Williams’ Native American Photo

So I came across this, which refers to this, which is a post by a really pissed off and offended person named Ruth Hopkins.  She’s really mad that the actress Michelle Williams is on the cover of a British magazine dressed like a Native American (or maybe I should say American Indian, which is the term Ms. Hopkins uses).

All kinds of asses have had fires lit under them by this!  Mine remains normal temperature, though.  I don’t get it.  I’m a big believer in educating people on the history of minorities’ struggles especially in America where we sweep so much under the rug, and while some stereotypes are fairly harmless, many contribute to and cause real harm.  Racism is something we should all take very seriously, and…well, “pass the word”, so to speak.  When we learn something, pass it on.  That’s how we educate (schools certainly didn’t back in my day, I don’t know how well they’re doing these days).

the source of the brouhaha

the source of the brouhaha

So I think there is genuine education that Ms. Hopkins can bestow upon the masses (I recommend reading what she says about L. Frank Baum), and a tad bit is mentioned in the article.  Unfortunately, the focus is a raging rant about the photo, which makes sane people not want to read the entire thing – she goes so far as to call the photo “redface” and compares it with “blackface”, which IMO is pretty offensive to blacks and anyone else offended by blackface.  (I’m not using the term African American because that’s presumptuous – many blacks in America aren’t African Americans and don’t like being referred to as such.)  We have a well known history of how “blackface” was used in this country, and what it looks like.  No one knows what “redface” is, and I wonder if Ms. Hopkins coined the term for hyperbole.

Anyway, there’s the photo above, and you can decide for yourself.  Below is a comment I left on the blog (parts of which I could have written better to make my point; the part about Baum’s & Williams’ connection wasn’t meant to imply her intent, I was just trying to say that sort of information would be more…informative).  I’m not interested in going back to “discuss” because I know I’ll be skewered by the self-righteous blowhards who are so prevalent on the internet, who just like to yell, accuse, bully, name-call, finger-point, whatever, while proclaiming and trying to shove their own superiority down your throat.

But they always seem to forget to make a valid point, for some reason.  I have better things to do with my time.  Like writing my own post about my thoughts on the matter….

P.S.  I think Ms. Hopkins may be saying that The Wizard of Oz must be removed from Earth.  That is, if you extrapolate from the logic she’s using in terms of Michelle Williams and Baum’s work & racist history.

Meanwhile, does Ms. Hopkins, or any of the other people outraged over this photo, have documentation as to Michelle Williams’ ancestors?  Her DNA?  Her Ancestry.com site?  Anything?  For all we know, she could be 8/10 American Indian, and be celebrating her heritage.

le comment:

Firstly, I have no idea whether Williams is or isn’t aware of Baum’s history, but I certainly wasn’t, and I’d bet the vast majority of Americans aren’t.  Does this kind of history mean that no actor or other performer can ever partake in any works by any American historical person who had a racist history?  If so, then the arts in America had better come to a screeching halt.  All Fords must be set on fire and production stopped immediately.  We learn from the past but we can’t let it control our present or future, or it “wins”.  Your point would be much better made if you focused more on the educational aspects rather than a photo, which detracts from your very valid and important points about Baum & his history, and Williams’ connection.

I’m a member of a minority race, and wouldn’t be offended if a white person dressed up as a person of my heritage for a magazine photo, so long as the intention wasn’t to portray my race in a clearly negative or derogatory manner, such as engaging in offensively stereotypical behavior.   In that vein, I fail to see the justification for the correlation between ‘blackface’ and ‘redface’, and do not see how this photo constitutes ‘redface’.  Forgive my possible ignorance, but I do not understand why this photo is offensive.  I understand that many do, but I do not.  

Unless, that is, it’s because she’s white.  In that case, perhaps the perpetrator(s) of “racism” should be reconsidered.

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Mel – what have you done with my Max?

I’m cringing because tonight I’m breaking my ban on Jay Leno and watching his show, because Mel Gibson is scheduled to be a guest.

HOW CAN ANYONE WITH A TV MISS THAT??

Something about this latest rage-rant of his has been bumming me out.  (Do people still say that?  I do, so whatever…call me old – I am.)  Obviously the other scandalous rants were kinda horrifying, but I mean the bum-out has now gone to another level.  For decades I was a huge Mel fan – yes, my fellow female Mel-fan (okay, we were slightly obsessed) co-worker and I referred to him by his first name – for much of that time I had a ginormous crush on him.  I know, I know, what straight woman didn’t?  But I was breathless, watching his older movies.  I mean the ones from the 80’s, where he was unspeakably beautiful, and when the camera was on his face it was physically and psychologically impossible to look away (so sometimes I had little idea of whatever else was going on in the movies…good excuse to watch them again).

But what set him apart and what made him much more than just a pretty face was the vulnerability that his characters had… particularly those in his 80’s movies…that’s what made him so compelling for me.

(Confession:  I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face when there is a lot of complicated stuff going on behind it.  How can I spot it when it’s hidden behind the veil of a face?  I have no idea, but it’s an instinct…I even spot it in cats and dogs who have underlying illnesses that aren’t diagnosed until much later.  Go figure.)

I only saw a handful of his movies on the big screen at a theater, though.  I was always too poor to afford the movies when I was younger, and most of his early movies wouldn’t have been at the theaters in the small-ish town I lived in at the time.  I’m talking about Gallipoli, Tim, The Year of Living Dangerously, Mrs. Soffel, The River, and of course the first two Mad Max Movies.  I liked the first two more than Thunderdome, which went all Hollywood, and while it was good, the grit that made the first two movies so great, was gone.  (Although, I still go around my house calling water, “wawtehr” because of the way the kids chanted “Wawkehr” (they thought he was their savior, Walker).)

Road Warrior and Dog

The Road Warrior was in my top 5 all-time favorite movies from the early- or mid-80’s, up until the time Mel’s anti-semitic, racist rants became known.  I’ve seen the movie dozens of times…back in the day, my husband and I would go out to our favorite bar on the weekends and go home and watch either Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Song Remains the Same, or The Road Warrior.  (Hubby was much less of a fan of RW because he was a pacifist, whereas I…am so not.)  I had matted, framed photos of the Road Warrior hanging in my house for over 10 years.

Around the time Thunderdome came out, Mel did an interview – I think it was in Rolling Stone – in which he was surprisingly candid.  This was of course in the mid-80’s, long before actors or any celebrity for that matter, opened up about difficulties in their lives.  I was really struck by the interview because he was in a very dark frame of mind and talked about exhaustion from doing so many movies in a row, that he was getting ready to take a break and go home to his ranch in Australia and ride motorcycles.

He talked about being destructive – not just a little, but significantly destructive.  He said he’d had problems with drinking – it was bad, and he talked about having some rage issues, and it came down to him having to get his shit together or he’d lose his wife.

I’m pretty sure it’s either the 2nd or 3rd article here to the left.  I was going to quote the areas I’m talking about here, but I’m too cheap to pay the $20 for a subscription, but if you have one, you can access these.

Anyway, I thought about his sort of confessions at a lot, mostly because they came as such a surprise at the time – and the media was nothing like it is now, so no one picked up and ran with that “dirt”.  He was a shooting star, very quickly becoming The Star, and in those days I guess the media didn’t want to alienate celebrities, because of course there was no internet, no 24-hour news cycles, and all of the trappings that come with those things.

I don’t like scandals…I’m not into watching and reading about what celebrities are doing or not doing, and especially don’t like seeing the negative stuff about their personal lives, because I can’t understand why in the hell that’s any of my business.  So yeah, I’m kind of out touch in that sense.  But something about this latest rant unnerves me, and I kind of have the feeling he’s not long for this world.  I know what anger does to my body these days, and the level of rage he’s been displaying has got to be destroying his body.  The repercussions have got to be really damaging for him, psychologically.  The man was on such a high pedestal – put there by Hollywood and by us, the public – so he’s in the midst of such a long, long fall.  Everything in him may break when he hits the pavement…and that may be soon.

Listen, I know he’s a shithead, but a lot of us are shitheads, just maybe in different ways.  But the guy clearly has psychological problems and a serious drinking problem – I wish he could get help.  And I wonder about his ex-wife and kids, and how they tolerated whatever it was they had to endure.  And how are they dealing with all of this?  Surely they’ve got to be very, very concerned.

Something about this is now tragic…it isn’t just fodder for Mel-hating anymore.