Rachel Simon for Bustle got to interview Tim Burton for his new movie, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. She asked him about diversity and this gem fell out of his mouth.
The mental gymnastics to get through this minefield of statements rivals Gabby Douglas. It’s not that “nowadays” people are speaking out about it more; people of color have always brought up this topic, but now with the internet, a (ideally) more egalitarian platform for this point of view can reach more people. You see, Hollywood cannot bullshit people of color anymore with a beautiful PowerPoint slide of how “progressive” its been during the last 100 years of cinema, or think its fixed its problem with racism by giving Chris Rock a gig during the Oscars. And for some people in the industry it’s already too much. Somehow we should all be satisfied and grateful that we even get that much representation.
At least that’s how I have to interpret what Tim Burton is saying here because, apparently, he couldn’t stand that The Brady Bunch was getting too politically correct – the inclusion of non-white characters was offending him. I understand that Hollywood has a history of tokenism, but God forbid that America’s beloved white family of the 70s suddenly attempts to show some diversity. If anything The Brady Bunch is miles ahead of Tim Burton’s backward statement.
And to top it off in his excuse that he watched Blaxploitation films, and that he never thought about the need for white people to encroach on this space. This is the same logic people love to throw out when they say “ Why isn’t there a White History Month?” or “Why aren’t there predominantly white colleges?” thinking that they’ve somehow just got the daily double in the “Racist” category on the Jeopardy game of racial politics. Blaxploitation films, black colleges, and black institutions exist because western society has been under the control of the white people who have a long history of excluding people of color for centuries. Tim Burton and people who think otherwise are simply in denial that white culture has had (and still continues to have) a monopoly on resources that allows it to dominate popular culture and other levels of establishment.
This denial leads to statements like this. At the heart of it, people like Tim Burton do not like to be called out for being racist. I can’t say I blame him. The label is associated with the segregation of blacks, lynchings, the Klu Klux Klan, and all kinds of visceral images of a time when racism was as clear as a sign on a restaurant declaring that only whites could eat there. But what Tim Burton doesn’t realize is that there are other kinds of more insidious types of racism that don’t carry a sign, don’t spray fire hoses, and don’t use pejoratives. His inability to see why it’s important to seek out diversity in Hollywood is what supports the exclusion of people of color and upholds white hegemony in popular culture.
So what do you think of this latest – and shocking – Tim Burton news? Are you planning to see his new movie? What do you think about diversity in film? Are you disappointed by his comments or feel otherwise? Comment below with your thoughts on the matter.