Letter from the Editor

Thursday, August 15, 2002

White Boy summer

In Hollywood, this season is being laughingly known as "The Summer of the White Boy."

From "Spider Man" to "XXX" to "Road to Perdition" to "Blood Work," it's male, it's caucasian and it's action.

And if you want something else, good luck.

Quick, name the stars of the summer flicks - Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Vin Diesel, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Paul Newman, the crocodile wrestling dude...

All male. All white.

Now quick, name a female actress over age 40 in a starring role this summer. (Insert the sound of crickets breaking the long stretch of silence here.)

Now quick, name the minority actors in leading roles in big pictures this summer. (It won't take long - there's only Will Smith as co-star of "Men in Black II," though Morgan Freeman did a nice job in a supporting role in "The Sum of All Fears.")

The Screen Actors Guild statistics show that men commanded 61 percent of all movie roles in 2001, and male actors worked almost twice as much as women in both movies and TV. Offhand, I can think of only "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" this summer with more big roles for women than men.

Did anyone notice that there were no female parts at all in "K-19," and in "Road to Perdition," there's only Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose character gets rubbed out after two minutes of screen time.

Parts for minority actors and actresses dropped to only 22 percent of the roles cast - and it's only that high because several Native Americans were seen in "Windtalkers."

Roles for women over 40 have become very scarce, while male actors like Newman, Eastwood, Ford, Gibson and our own one-time Storm Laker Gene Hackman will have to fight off the roles no matter how old they get.

Nothing wrong with movies about white guys. I have friends who are white guys. Heck, come to think of it, I am a white guy.

Nothing wrong either spending a lazy summer afternoon with an action flick that doesn't exactly require a lot of deep thought. ("XXX," "The Crocodile Hunter," "Spider Man," "Eight-Legged Freaks," "Men in Black II," "Enough," "Blue Crush," "Master of Disguise" and so on this summer can all be absorbed without even being fully awake, and don't amount to a single mental push-up for a brain cell.)

Hollywood isn't apologizing for pandering to the white male audience and its juvenile action fantasies or its taste for violence. Guess what - it's only making what audiences turn out to see.

Don't dare call the moviemakers sexist or racist, they are merely a reflection of the paying clientele's tastes of the moment.

So I'm not making a lecture here or getting on the soapbox for some big social commentary, just pointing out a trend at the old multiplexes, and wondering just what it says about us.

If the "Summer of the White Boy" fare isn't enough diversity to satisfy some, we may just have to rediscover the book store. Imagine that.

Briefly - I had to get a cynical sort of grin out of a letter from Duane Hunting on the Highway 20 Corridor Association web site. He noted that the DOT commission chairman had chastised the Highway 20 group for their impatience on getting the highway finished as a four-lane across western Iowa.

Perhaps it's time for a history lesson for the DOT, Hunting said.

He shared a statement from a highway commissioner to the Highway 20 Association saying, "Within 10 years one should be able to drive from Sioux City to New York City on four-lane Highway 20 without a stop sign or a traffic signal."

Sound familiar? Consider this - the promise was made to Hunting's father, who served on the board for many years... and it was made in the 1950s! Hunter also notes that some of the concrete in western Iowa's still-two-lane Highway 20 has been virtually untouched since the 1930s.

Impatience, huh? Sounds more like a promise to a lot of western Iowa communities that has been forgotten.