Can you a cancel a film that’s all but forgotten? I challenge you to name one character besides Sully (the protagonist, whom you’ve probably forgotten as well). Yet when the woke charge comes, it’ll take Avatar in its wake. After all, what is it but a colonial guilt fantasy with a white saviour character to save the day? The indigenous Na’vi people are losing their ancestral lands to an American corporation that wants to mine their planet’s materials, but only Sully, an employee of that very corporation can help save them.
Its dated forebear Dances With Wolves can go with it, as well as The Blind Side, where a poor black boy can only become a successful American football player through the help of a rich white woman. Top marks for Avatar’s fossil fuel-raped earth and anti-capitalist rhetoric though – we humans really are awful!
Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994)
‘Finkle is Einhorn. Einhorn is Finkle’. This is the famous revelation that Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura has when he realizes the film’s villain has had a sex change and has been under his nose all along (the head of the Miami Police Department with whom he’s been working). However, not only does Ace go on to ‘out’ the villainous Einhorn/Finkle, as well as asserting the intensely problematic need for a trans person to ‘pass’ for the sex to which they’ve changed, he then goes on to regret having kissed Einhorn. It’s nothing but a kick in the teeth to the trans community. See also: Silence of the Lambs and its demonization and othering of Buffalo Bill.
Zulu has been cancelled from the odd screening before now, but surely in the age of Black Lives Matter its days are numbered – not least because it’s a movie where black lives so obviously matter so little. Zulu glorifies imperialism and toxic masculinity (where – apart from the missionary’s token blonde daughter – are the women??), and makes us root for the colonial enforcers who are encroaching upon indigenous territory. It’s quite unfair to depict colonials as the goodies, and even worse to glorify the slaughter of the Zulus. South African politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who plays his own great-grandfather in the film, denounced the idea that the film is ‘racist’: does he know what he’s saying?
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984)
We took a family trip to India around ten years ago, and in all honesty, I was very disappointed to discover that – contra the impression given in this disgraceful Indiana Jones ‘classic’ – monkey brains and human sacrifice are not de rigueur. Yet the problematic portrayal of Asian people who consume disgusting foods as delicacies doesn’t stop there (the film was banned in India), and Indy’s sidekick Short Round is wont to offer strangely pronounced comic relief (‘hold onto your potatoes’).
I have a tendency to re-watch the Indiana Jones films at Christmas (to my delight I always forget what happens), but I can’t see this seasonal staple lasting much longer. The film even begins with the idea that the village’s only chance for rescue is Indiana Jones: what was I saying about white saviour narratives?
Love Actually (2003)
Now here’s a film I’m relishing being torn apart by the (un)Wokefinder generals. The king of the genre of film I call ‘Blairite Porno’ is rife with questionable scenes, from the fat-shaming of Natalie, to the stalkerish Mark (who attempts to break up a beautiful interracial marriage), to the abuse of the client-domestic relationship by Jamie (particularly as he was sixteen years older than his love interest).
The film even culminates in a boy breaching airport security to pursue a girl to whom he has barely spoken in what could, quite easily, violate #MeToo codes of best practice. Surely a re-evaluation of Love Actually’s problematic attitude to romance is long overdue?
Agrabah’s a place ‘where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face’ (a line later replaced, but see also: ‘it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home’), a fetishized Middle East where fire-eaters, pet tigers and scimitar-wielding thugs abound. Need I mention that only the villains have Arabic accents, while the heroes are culturally American?
Jasmine needs rescuing by Aladdin, while the ambiguous setting (Agrabah – take Agra and add ‘bah’ to make it more exotic-sounding) is a hodgepodge blend of Orientalist tropes. Now there’s a more politically palatable live-action remake, I guess we need not keep the animated version (social vision trumps cinematic excellence any day). Indeed it’s only so long until half the Disney back catalogue makes its solemn way onto the bonfire.
Dirty Harry (1971)
If ‘ACAB’ (‘All Cops Are Bastards’, a common anarcho-communist mantra oft-repeated at BLM protests), I’m not exactly sure what would be made of Harry Callahan, a ‘dirty’ cop who imposes his own version of rough justice, and who would probably view the mantra as a compliment undeserved by most cops.
He takes advantage of any excuse for deadly force (starting gunfights where there needn’t be one), tortures culprits for information (stepping on the bullet wound of a murderer to find out where a girl he kidnapped is), and despises the incompetency that plagues the bureaucratic police force. Might as well go the whole hog and cleanse cinematic history of anything involving Clint Eastwood (Mel Gibson as well): none of it is sanitary enough.