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The “Eclipsing” of White Men in Cinema Is Stupid and Means Nothing

I, Tonya

Writing for Deadline Hollywood, in a piece titled “Make Way, Or Rather Don’t, For The Recessive Movie Male Of 2018,” Michael Cieply decided to invent the inane idea that the 2017 nominations at the Producers Guild were “cinematic eclipses” of white men. He’s particularly concerned that these men are being sidelined and outshined by a wider diversity of characters. What’s most head-scratching about this notion is that most of the films he listed had white men either behind the camera, behind the pen, or still acting as a main focal point of the story. Cieply writes:

But so far, this year’s pre-season tell-tales point toward an even more pronounced shift away from male dominance in films that are likely to score points on the prize circuit. (Never mind the narrow weekend box-office victory of The Equalizer 2 over Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.)

Oh dear me, a pronounced shift away from male dominance in high profile films! And let’s throw in a dig about a macho action movie trumping a chickflick musical at the box office for no discernable reason.

First, he used Lady Bird as an example. Which—Michael has a point. How dare a woman tell a story and direct it about growing up in Sacramento? While the movie has multiple storylines centered around Lady Bird’s attraction to white men and a beautiful storyline with her father (played by Tracy Letts) that shows the love between a father and daughter, the story is very much about Lady Bird. You know, as the title of the film would suggest.

Then Cieply brings up Get Out which is laughable, because he clearly feels oppressed for the first time in his life because the only white man is Bradley Whitford, and how could Cieply possibly relate to Whitford, a character who feels oppressed and creates the sunken place to trap and enslave people?

Don’t worry though! He also includes Eighth Grade, a movie about a girl in the eighth grade, because there aren’t enough coming of age movies for white boys, he wants more! Clearly Michael can’t go back and watch The Outsiders or The Goonies or Boyhood or even 20th Century Women that focuses on a newsflash white boy.

The example that truly made me see red was his inclusion of I, Tonya. Written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie, the film features a cast of Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Sebastian Stan. It tells the story of Tonya Harding’s fall in the public eye, and somehow, a movie that depicts the real-life events of 1994 and what Jeff Gillooly and Shawn Eckhardt did, is eclipsing to the white man.

Why, Michael? Because Gillooly and Shawn truly orchestrated this? Were they not central enough? Would you rather this movie show us the morning routine of Jeff Gillooly pampering his mustache and making sure that he slapped Tonya in the face with a carton of ice cream? Are you so sad that movies are being more inclusive that you have to bash something women see and want to create? Michael, answer me this, are you insinuating that Sebastian Stan should feel belittled by his role in this film? One that he continually praises and that got him recognition in a way he hadn’t received before? Why is I, Tonya included in a list of films that dare “put other demographics in the spotlight”? Could it be because there’s a girl’s name in the title?

Your take on the invisible white man “recessive eclipse” is a product of your own small-mindedness. If anything, I, Tonya, especially, focuses on the negative aspects of white man culture and what can be improved upon. Take it as a lesson rather than feeling sad about your non-existent ‘lack’ of representation.

I, Tonya is my favorite movie. This is a disclaimer because I want to express why this movie is important. It is the first time that I have ever been in a cinema and thought to myself “This is something I can create, something that is raw and real and shows a woman truly struggling in an ugly way.” We don’t get a lot of these narratives, Michael.

So often female protagonists are still beautiful and complete at the end of the day. I, Tonya doesn’t shy away from the fact that Jeff Gillooly (or Jeff Stone as he is now) is fine, happy, and has a family and a career. Tonya had her career taken away from her because of two white men.

Sorry these new movies point out the faults in our society, Michael! Maybe go watch Hell or High Water (another favorite of mine) and learn that white men, no matter how hard they perceive their lot in life, are better off than literally everyone else. Let me have my I, Tonyas. If you want to fight about its importance and why you’re wrong, I’m here. Sharing the spotlight with the people who have always taken up the most space, and telling other kinds of stories, is not the same as “eclipsing” the dominant group and pushing them into a “recessive” state. There should be room for everyone.

(image: LuckyChap Entertainment)

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Rachel is an I, Tonya stan who used to have a poster of Frank Sinatra on her wall as a kid. She loves superheroes, weird musicals, and wants Robert Downey Jr. to release a new album. She is Leslie Knope and she's okay with that. At least she gets to live in New York City though!