Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Kingsman and politics

Perhaps I was just in the right mood for it, but I loved the first Kingsman movie when I saw it recently. It's fast-paced, stylish*, and funny, a bit like what you might get if Quentin Tarantino directed a James Bond film. [Spoilers from now on.] About half a second later, though, I realized how, shall we say, alt right it is. Let me count the ways:
  1. the only major black character is also the major villain
  2. his sidekick is played by someone from Africa, and is also the only disabled person in the film
  3. the bad guys are extreme environmentalists
  4. the good guys are an organization of highly privileged, almost all male, and all white, British people
  5. when they realize that their lack of diversity is hurting them, they recruit a member of the white working class  
  6. he supports Millwall
  7. it ends with a sexist joke 
  8. there is almost certainly more that I'm forgetting
Thankfully the sequel, though spoiled by some unconvincing CGI, including the terrible idea of killer robot dogs, is much better from a political point of view. The villain is a woman drug-dealer, so once again just the kind of person that neo-Nazis would hate, the heroes include a good old boy or two from Kentucky, and the main hero is once again our white working class Englishman fighting for the otherwise completely posh British Kingsman organization. Also, the film is banned in Cambodia because of its disrespectful (but not physically damaging) treatment of temples there. And yet:
  1. the guy who repeatedly stops a black woman rising within the Kentuckian organization turns out to be a baddy
  2. the recreational use of drugs is presented as unwise but innocent
  3. a Donald Trump-style President tries, with support from at least one military officer, to "win the war on drugs" by letting the villain kill almost all users of illegal drugs worldwide, which is presented as unambiguously evil and leads to his arrest and removal from office
  4. Elton John features as a a comical but also somehow heroic figure (although there is also a questionable joke about him at the end too)  
  5. our hero has several close, black friends
  6. the woman who was before a prisoner he would not release unless she gave him a kiss (and who went on to offer her body as if it were an object for his pleasure) is now his girlfriend and seems free to decide what she wants to do    
There is some other dubiousness, e.g. Fox News features heavily, but mostly the film does not leave you picking swastikas out of your teeth after watching it. Which is a relief.  

Now they just need to find a way to combine the best of the two. I hope that's possible.

*It's not actually that stylish, but I've seen reviews describing it that way, and I suspect part of the reason I like it is that it looks (relatively) good.

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