Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.

BlacKkKlansman

blackkklansman_poster_2

 BlacKkKlansman

In an age of the absence of subtlety, BlacKkKlansman is arguably the perfect movie to tackle the issue of racism in America. It presents a black-and-white world of good versus evil, of racism and its opposite, in a clear-cut binary relationship. The cops – with one clear exception – are reasonable, anti-racist people, while the KKK are obnoxious and generally a little backward. Turning the tables perhaps on the now-infamous Birth of a Nation – the 1915 silent movie which both contributed to dehumanizing African Americans while revitalizing the KKK and their cross-burning motif – BlacKkKlansman is sufficiently a Manichean popcorn movie to leave no one in doubt that racism against people of colour is wrong.

In fairness to the movie, there are moments of ambiguity that serve as talking points – but only a few. Mainly, this involves African American cop and protagonist Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) and his relationship with Black activist Patrice (Laura Harrier); how he navigates this relationship with someone ideologically opposed to the institution he serves carries a tension. Yet not much tension: Stallworth gets around this complexity by simply not telling her his undercover-cop status. They talk, but we never see Stallworth agonising over loyalties, his loyalty to the police force remaining unfazed.

This superficial treatment of their relationship is indicative of the main flaw of the film for me, namely a weirdly simplistic depiction of let's-all-get-along. For one, the representation of the police as generally good eggs - evident in their office celebrations at the end - surely fails to represent the systemic targeting of African Americans by the police in the US – brilliant documentaries like 13th indicate the much greater scale of racism in the institutions of law enforcement. To cite some issues ignored by the film, the profit-making policies of mass incarceration in the U.S. appear designed to marginalize African Americans while filling U.S. prisons with profit-churning labour. Politically too, being tough on crime is the kind of electoral issue that Republicans and Democrats appear desperate to embrace, from Nixon to Clinton, and more broadly, law enforcement policies which implicitly target African American communities are what made the Republican Party the dominant power in the southern states of the U.S. Presenting the police as containing a few bad apples does nothing to address or represent this deeply embedded structural racism.

Of the KKK, meanwhile, I do also wonder at the value of showing racists in such two-dimensional terms. As a contrast, I felt Edward Norton's complex performance of a neo-nazi in American History X (1998) was both much more convincing and a better starting point for a discussion on racism and its relationship with power and violence, as well as economics. But then, perhaps times are different now: with Trump in the White House and Fox News and online media having contributed to the polarizing of political and racial discourses like never before, director Spike Lee may well be trying to reach out to a decent 'majority' for whom Manichean Marvel movies are the order of the day. Like a Marvel movie indeed, the film's main characters Ron Stallworth and his trusty white partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) emerge as a likeable duo with all the complexity of Captain America and his all-American shield. President Trump is bad, goes the message in the news footage at the end, and let's not allow a few bad apples – and the weird madness of racists holding torches – to spoil the party. It says much about our age that such a simplistic message carries its own weighty profundity, one that I found myself applauding with much of the audience as the credits rolled.
A Star Is Born
My Week in Netflix: Denial and The Stanford Prison...
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

June 14, 2021

An androgynous orgasm: Fashion Beast by Alan Moore

in Books

An androgynous orgasm: Fashion Beast by Alan Moore The images of this story become like memories of another life, maybe what's to come, Gina making do in a fascist state and looking good in spite of everything, a version of me, a cosmic cousin. Like the time I wrote about Cloud City in a film from my childhood, the cosmos conjures certain plac...
June 09, 2021

Retreating from gender-critical feminism: my reflections

Retreating from gender-critical feminism: my reflections Some months back, I reached out to the people who were meant to be my enemies: gender-critical feminists. I was worn down and had had enough of the media attacks and the hate, the JK Rowling furore and GRA reform, the weekly articles questioning our intentions and validity. I was worn down by...
May 02, 2021

When Renata Carvalho spoke at Edinburgh Transgender Intersectional/International (2019)

In 2019, I was part of a conference that invited the travesti actress and activist Renata Carvalho - star of Jo Clifford's 'The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven' on its touring production in Brazil - to come over from Brazil as our keynote speaker. We originally uploaded the speech on our conference website, but with that w...
December 22, 2020

Lacanian Icarus: when Gina flew too close to the sun?

On the recent experience of nearly being no-platformed There are two identities in one when it comes to being part of a disempowered minority. The first is for yourself: all your failings, your insecurities, your doubts, and connected to this, your curiosity and quirks. Let's be Lacanian analysts for a moment: what we're talking about is the transg...
November 17, 2020

Trans Hell-thcare

The picture accompanying this post is important to me. I took it yesterday, 16 November 2020, unsure what I'd find. It's been nearly eleven months since I came off oestrogen for reasons I'll get into in a moment. Undoubtedly this has had an effect on me, bodily and therefore psychologically, but the accompanying selfie gives me a reassura...
July 01, 2020

Silenced by The Scotsman

On 11 June 2020, The Scotsman published a deeply hostile article against transgender rights and activism in an opinion piece about the JK Rowling furore by its deputy political editor Gina Davidson. After much distress, I wrote a counter article which The Scotsman quietly ignored, after they had offered to pass it on to their Comment Editor. I expe...
May 11, 2020

The Book of Queer Prophets, curated by Ruth Hunt

in Books

  The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion The historically fraught relationship between Abrahamic religions and LGBT+ identities provides the backdrop to The Book of Queer Prophets , a collection of twenty-four meditations by public figures who identify as both religious and LGBT+. The book's curator, the for...
May 09, 2020

Queer/Transgender short film: Mesmeralda

Joshua Matteo's short film, Mesmeralda , merging horror with esoterica, is now out on youtube . As with his previous work Metanoia , we see youthful trans actors racing through the empty streets of a moonlit New York, haunted by symbols and stalked by a masked figure of violent intentions. Mesmeralda , as described by Matteo, is the companion ...
March 15, 2020

My 2020 Vision

My 2020 Vision I've been away for so long from these postings, don't be offended. I used to write three times a week, because I needed to, in the maelstrom of early transitioning. Now, things are calmer, my gender feels more normal, we've reached the point where it's all about finishing my PhD in Trans Female Representations in the Americas this su...