The time Roger Ebert got angry (video)

The video is only a minute long, but it’s an interesting side of Roger Ebert, who passed away a few days ago.

It’s an interesting video, and the audience reaction, and the reaction online to it, are interesting as well. People universally support Ebert.

But when I watched the video, I thought of gay Republicans. And black conservatives. And people who say, how dare we judge them, how dare we expect something of them politically because of their sexual orientation or their race. I’m curious what folks think, whether that’s the same thing as what happened in this video.

rober-ebert

First some background on the video, via Movies.com:

One of the more infamous post-screening outbursts to occur at Sundance came back in 2002 directly following the third screening of a film called Better Luck Tomorrow, which introduced the film world to a director named Justin Lin. The crime drama (partly based off the real-life murder of a teenager from Orange County) was certainly unique in that it featured an all Asian-American cast full of characters who were slick, smart, disillusioned and up to no good. This didn’t sit well with some who thought Lin’s portrayal of Asian-Americans was shallow and disrespectful. One guy took his concerns a step further by grilling Lin and his cast following the film’s Sundance screening, to the point where critic Roger Ebert stood up and defended the hell out of it in a moment that proves there’s nothing quite like a spirited and passionate discussion of a movie with the audience and filmmakers immediately after it screens.

And here’s some of the transcript:

Audience Member #1: I’m really depressed from the film. Because, one it looks very good. Two, the actors are very good. You know how to make a movie. But why would you, with the talent up there, and yourself, make a film that is so empty, amoral for Asian-Americans and for Americans. I mean this is a cliché. We’ve seen it too many times at Sundance. Why don’t you challenge yourself to really look inside and see what matters to you and the writers.

Roger Ebert: I was on a panel today with Chris Eyre, the Native-American director. And he said, that for a long time, his people, American Indians, had always had to play some kind of a function, like they were the source of spirituality, or the source of great wisdom and they spoke to the trees and the wind and so forth. And he wanted to make a movie that allowed Native Americans to be people. People in some cases who are alcoholics or who are vigilantes, or in prison (music interrupts) And what I find very offensive and condescending about your statement, is nobody would say to a bunch of white filmmakers, “How could you do this to your people?” This film has the right to be about these people and Asian-American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be. They do not have to “represent” their people.

I don’t know the film, so I don’t have a strong opinion about it or what this guy said. I can say that the argument sounds a lot like the argument gay Republicans use to justify harming our community – it’s also the argument that apathetic gay people, or any minority, uses to excuse not doing more to help their community.

And as for the argument as to white people and their community, that’s a red herring, IMHO. Of course no one asks white people about betraying “their community” because it would be racist of white people to push white pride. It’s not bigoted for a gay person to push gay pride.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • olandp

    I think it is a matter of balance. For decades gays were portrayed as sick evil people who ended up dead by the end of the movie. American Indians were the savages that attacked the good white people moving west. African Americans were maids and their shiftless men. Asians were drug dealing white slavers hiding in the shadows. Times have changed gays, Indians, African Americans, Asians are sometimes heroes in the movies sometimes the villains, just like in real life.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Concur absolutely. There’s much of Game of Thrones (which I mostly enjoy) I sometimes find trite, annoying, or tiresome. (I still watch because I enjoy the story.)

    But as far as I’m concerned, any scene with Dinklage is like a gourmet meal to be savored. He is simply brilliant.

  • AnitaMann

    Seeing In the Company of Men at a theater in LA, there were many audible gasps in the audience. It’s hard to get a jaded moviegoing crowd in LA to do that, but that film did it.

  • AnitaMann

    I’m totally with Ebert. Great little film. The fact that some people insist that a film about “Asians” or any other group has to be positive says a few things: that they don’t like challenging material, and that there aren’t enough films about Asians or other groups.

  • jabbadeus

    I did see the movie in its limited release (oddly enough, when I was living in Orange County), and it did announce Justin Lin as a director to watch. The movie is not for everyone, and does not follow the conventional three act structure with identifiable characters with a positive character growth arc, but that’s a good thing.

    The reaction at Sundance reminds me of when I saw Neil LaBute’s “In the Company of Men” at a film festival in Florida. I thought it was brilliant, but when the director took the stage afterwards for a Q&A, the audience ripped him apart. (The first question IIRC was, “What the hell were you thinking?”)

    People do not like to be challenged.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I’m with Ebert, generally. I think it depends on one’s assessment of a group’s progress in their fight for equality. I think that when you’re able to make artistic decisions in a film based solely on what would make a good story, rather than trying to make everyone in the film look good or heroic or representative of something, that has to say something good about that group’s progress. Interesting that Ebert mentioned Chris Eyre, whose film Smoke Signals was wonderful and conveyed reservation life without focusing narrowly on it, rather just telling the story of a couple of normal teenagers on a road trip.

    Makes me think of Peter Dinklage, who went from the very meta character in “Living in Oblivion” complaining about how little people in movies are confined to appearances in oddball dream sequences (“I don’t even dream about dwarves!”) to getting roles simply because he’s a phenomenal actor.

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