In my last post, I poked at the edges of the Extremely Big Topic of race + science fiction. To firm that up a bit (and nip it in around the waist), I’m interested in how science fiction/sci fi horror films use multiracial casts. What I didn’t say clearly last time was: I’m really, really interested in sci fi films that focus on non-white people, especially a non-white ensemble cast, doing things that have nothing to do with race. Escaping from giant anacondas, for instance, or restarting the sun.
Say what you will about scifi, it seems to me that it’s more likely you’ll see a largely non-white cast in a scifi film than in a mainstream film–unless the mainstream film is about race. So, for instance, there were a lot of non-white folks in Crash, but Crash was about race. When’s the last time you saw a lot of major POC parts in a mainstream film that wasn’t about race? Go ahead, think about it. I’ll wait.
It occurs to me that we should have a Bechdel Test for race: are there at least two POC in any given movie, and do they talk about or do something that has nothing to do with them being POC?
Anaconda (1997). Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stolz, big snake.
Holy cow, I forgot Owen Wilson was in this. And Danny Trejo! Also, according to IMDB, Frank Welker was engaged to provide the “Voice of Anaconda.” Jon Voight’s Spanish (?) accent is another nice special effect.
The cast is a mishmash on this one, and less notable for its own sake than for the sequel…
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004). Starring Johnny Messner, Nicholas Gonzalez, Eugene Byrd, Karl Yune, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Matthew Marsden, big snake.
What’s interesting here is that the sequel (seven years after the original movie) gives several more roles to POC. The ship’s captain is still a white guy, but then again, the soulless evil scientist villain is a white guy too. (English=can’t be trusted.)
So is the bottom line that sequels (cheaper, crappier) are more willing to give roles to POC? Or that movies set in the exotic & deadly Amazon are somehow seen as good fits for POC characters?
I’d like to suggest this: that sequels fly under the radar, aren’t subject to the same scrutiny as major releases, and that they therefore have more leeway to build a diverse cast.