Thursday, November 20, 2014

Talladega Representation

We all strive for equality, whether it is some as big equal government representation or something as small as equal chances of making a high school sports team. In 1920, the United States passed the law to allow women to vote and ever since then we have been striving to become more equal and representative as a nation. Society recognized that movies and the industry in Hollywood seem to be a big influence; in reaction to this the Representation Test was created. This test is a chart that determines how representative of all cultures and different types of people a movie is. I chose to analyze the movie Talladega Nights and put it against the Representation Test.

            After watching the film and reflecting, I determined that it earned two points on the test, earning the grade of a “D.” Talladega Nights earned a point for avoiding perpetuating an extreme and unhealthy body ideal for men and for including one or more LGBT characters who are not reduced to stereotypes. The first part is very simple. The protagonist is Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, and in no way is his body type an unhealthy ideal. He is neither skinny nor fat but his body type is much more of a “dad body” and it is not something that men strive for. For the point about having a member of the LGBT community not reduced to stereotypes is simple as well. The antagonist, the rival racer to Ricky Bobby, is European and gay. It is not common or stereotypical for a NASCAR driver to be gay, so portraying the antagonist in this way breaks stereotypes.

            Besides these two points, Talladega Nights is not representative at all. The main theme behind Ricky Bobby and the movie in general is he is a very “stereotypical America.” This means he has an accent, believes America is the best country ever, is very conservative in his beliefs, is not really open to ideas besides his own and loves money. Having a stereotype such as this for America is not ideal but I believe it is what other nations think we Americans are. Such stereotype eliminates the possibility for diverse representation since most people seem to believe that these stereotypical American’s are the ones who do not want equal representation. This may or may not be true, but this is how the movie is set up.

Going through the checklist, it is easy to see how some people may believe the stereotypical American movie is not representative. There are no other racial groups besides white other than Ricky Bobby’s crew chief who is a black male. This plays off the stereotype that only white males race in NASCAR. The women in the movie are not really portrayed well either. Ricky Bobby’s first wife is used as sex appeal throughout the movie because she is constantly wearing small, tight clothes. There are even a few scenes where she is shown flashing her breasts to woo men. The other main female character, Ricky Bobby’s second girlfriend (presumably they get married), was at first portrayed well. She was Ricky Bobby’s secretary and was a strong willed women; she was even shown yelling at Ricky Bobby to put him back in his place. However, she was immediately reduced to a sex object as she proceeded to get on a restaurant table and kiss Ricky Bobby seductively. She could not keep herself out of the breast flashing party either, as she was shown flashing a crowd to one up the ex-wife.  The men in the movie are also portrayed poorly. As stated earlier, Ricky Bobby is a money fanatic, but he also is a poor father and raises his kids to be disrespectful and to not respect elders. Ricky Bobby’s father is the stereotypical “bad dad,” as he abandoned his son at birth and when he returns he is always drinking or smoking.

It is clear to see that this movie is not equally representative of all types of people. I was not surprised about the low score on the test. I had never seen Talladega Nights but I knew the theme was about NASCAR and America, so I could have guessed it would score low. However, I do not believe this test is far. I am a huge believer in equality and I believe everybody should be treated as equal. However, it is not the duty of a director to incorporate all these different types of roles for actors into a movie. The main purpose behind the majority of movies is to make a profit and they will create the best script and character roles to fulfill this goal. Comparing a profit-driven process like a movie to the Representation Test is like taking a survey of a business to see how diverse the staff is. A company should not hire an employee because he or she is black, white, lesbian, gay, transgender, etc. A company should hire who they believe is the most qualified contender for the job since this person will help the company the most and the same goes for movies. If a director believes that having a diverse set of actors will help fill the character roles best, then he or she will hire those actors because those are the people who will hopefully generate the most profit. I can see where the creators of the Representation Test are coming from when they made it, but I do not believe we should judge movies based on it. Movies are created to make profit so we should let that be and enjoy them for their cinematic value. In regards to pickles, Talladega Nights barely earns one pickle for poorly representing all types of people. There was not a diverse enough cast to earn any more than one.

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