Whitewashing Cinema: Lyndon B. Johnson fans and Stonewall

Oh, hollywood. A few days ago a trailer was released for an upcoming film about the Stonewall riots, appropriately named ‘Stonewall’. Whats not so appropriate, and moreso just recklessly offensive, is that the protagonist of the film is a cis white gay male. Here we go, again.

Hollywood and European cinema tends to whitewash history, and make it more masculine, heterosexual, and cis. I mean, most of the biopics we get are of white men, the overwhelming majority. And just to prove the point, out of 120 critically acclaimed biopics with high domestic gross value, 78 were white men, 21 white women, 18 men of color, and only 3 were of women of color. Reckless.

But what is so strange about the upcoming Stonewall film is how illogical it was to cast a cis white male as the lead, when we know that the person who threw the first stone and led the movement that was big bang for our modern day gay rights movement was Marsha P Jones (link to a documentary on her life). The leaders and individuals at the vanguard were LGTBQ people of color, not no white boy from some small town who got on a bus and acts like he just discovered NYC like Columbus and tries to kick it with the natives and then just lead them. Nope. This is literally as historically inaccurate as you can get. And there has been backlash and a call to boycott. 

And yet, while there is some outrage, there some folk who are being very quiet.

When Selma came out, there was a HUGE backlash (mainly from the right and white folk) about the historical accuracy of the film when it came to how director Ava DuVernay portrayed the relationship between Lyndon B. Johnson (LBD) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Article after article was written from the NYT to Salon to Voxx to the Huffington Post. Twitter was ablaze, Academy members criticized DuVernay, and I even had several confrontations with folk and had to show them the seats they needed to take. Point is, people were upset about LBJ in the film and called up historical accuracy as a defense.

The main argument was that Ava DuVernay and the film Selma distorted history, claiming that LBJ wasn’t the antagonist Selma made him out to be, rather, he was the real hero of the civil rights movement. These folk missed the point in that Selma focused on Black characters who led the movement and was not going to spend time constructing another white saviour – we have enough of those in cinema. But lets just concede for a moment and assume that these folk were really concerned about historical accuracy. Let us say, like some one told me when they argued with me, that film had to be fair and be historically accurate, this should be the case.

Son. I’d like to know something.

Where. Ya’ll. At. Now!?

Because if you’re going to get upset about LBJ being portrayed as he was, you best be damned furious that some white boy that was nowhere to be seen when Stonewall went down, is the lead in the new film. We know who threw the first stone. We know who led the movement. And it was not no white boy from bumbafuck-ville named Danny.

You have a week, and in social media time, that is essentially a year. And if I don’t see ya’ll throwing the same tantrum you did for LBJ. Then you better find a seat and stay seated for the rest of your life, because clearly it ain’t about historical accuracy, its about you wanting white folk to stay looking pearly in cinema.

Have a good day, and return to your basic Netflix watch list.

P.S. If you don’t understand the juxtaposition I make above with LBJ and Stonewall, think a bit harder.


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