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We speak, Hollywood listens

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JULY 02, 2015

Between Supreme Court rulings that upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act and the legalization of gay marriage nationwide and the outcry against the Confederate flag’s presence in South Carolina, the past week has exemplified the best of progressive values.

Legislation, however, is not the only realm in which progressivism is turning the tides of American culture. In recent months, a number of films notable for either the progressive nature of their content or their reception by audiences have also been released.

Most of us have seen “Mad Max” and “Jurassic World” on the silver screen. Yet, if I’m being honest, the coolest thing that has passed before my eyes in recent months wasn’t one of these blockbuster hits. It was seeing how Hollywood has begun to respond to audience criticisms, and favorably at that.

Because the Internet has become a giant forum of critics, the rules have changed for even the biggest players in the entertainment game.

Now when we speak, Hollywood has greater incentive to listen.

Every major production group uses social media these days. Sony, Universal Studios, Disney — you name it.

When fans are displeased with the work put out by these entertainment giants, Twitter goes ablaze with scathing criticisms. On Facebook, you’ll likely find a petition to dismantle a project — even though the thing was released all of five minutes ago. Usually, after getting wind of the backlash, the production company at hand will then take action to regain the public’s favor.

Our voices are actually heard. Isn’t that refreshing?

Look at Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” for example. In “Aloha,” leading lady Emma Stone plays Allison Ng. Ng, a badass female aviator, is of mixed Hawaiian, Chinese and Swedish descent.

A man of good judgment, Crowe naturally decided that Stone — strawberry blonde, green eyed and pale as paper — was the perfect fit for a character who is ¼ Hawaiian and ¼ Chinese.

When the trailer for the film premiered, my first reaction was incredulous laughter. If Stone passes as biracial, then I pass as a unicorn with an unlimited supply of Taco Bell long into my afterlife.

My news feed wasted no time in filling with comment after outraged comment on the film’s blatant racism. Many Twitter comments mentioned Sony; many Facebook posts lambasted Crowe. Soon enough, art critics writing for a variety of publications — including NPR, Salon and Gawker Media — quickly echoed the public’s discontent.

And Crowe listened.

I mean, Sony didn’t pull the film or apologize for the director’s ignorant gaffe. Crowe merely offered an explanation in a note posted on his blog — nothing out of the ordinary.

What was, however, is this: According to IMDb, “Aloha” grossed just $9.6 million in its first weekend. As of June 19, the film had grossed just more than $20 million despite a reported budget of $37 million.

How has a film boasting a cast of Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray and, most memorably, Stone done so poorly?

We can thank ourselves for that.

“Mad Max,” possibly the year’s best film, has been hailed as a bastion of feminism. While I disagree — I find that the film clings to some anti-feminist tropes, though it remains a fantastic action movie — audiences’ outpouring of praise has been enormous.

Then there’s “Jurassic World,” complete with ice-cold, career-driven woman Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who falls in love with Owen (Chris Pratt) — a typical buff, dreamy man who persuades her to forgo her ambition for a life with him as they ride off on dinosaurs into the sunset.

In contrast to “Mad Max’s” promising depictions of female characters, “Jurassic World” has been widely criticized for its overused tropes and predictable narrative. Despite hope that director Colin Trevorrow would address these concerns, in an interview with the Daily Beast, he instead defended some of his questionable filmmaking decisions.

Progress — in Hollywood and beyond — might not come without a fight, but it’s a fight worth having.

Eda Yu writes the Thursday column on art in the modern age. Contact her at at [email protected].

JULY 04, 2015