Went to see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets today.
Beautiful and visually opulent as expected? Check.
Pretty white kids with a nice switchy rom-com dynamic? Check.
Lots of crazy surreal aliens and starships and guns and tech and space-opera-spy derring do? Check.
All the major characters connected to the plot are white?
Ten minutes of genuinely agonizing alien character design that looks like the old racist/ableist caricatures from Robert E. Crumb in the 1960’s?
And you LITERALLY have a black female-flagged character dying to forward the romantic relationship between two white characters?
People can bitch about critics being “over-sensitive” or “over-thinking” things all they like, but I honestly think that blatant racism spoils the fun in a genre like space opera. Especially space opera that’s otherwise suitable for people in their early teens.
Racist caricatures really ruined the Star Wars prequels for me from 1999-2005, to the degree that I couldn’t be bothered to continue watching them after the second one. This movie should not have had to repeat any portion of that mistake, since it’s already been made. Nearly 20 years ago.
On a personal note…yes, I know that nothing created by/for white people is likely to be perfect when it comes to representation. But really blatant, negative racial tropes are increasingly off-putting to a lot of us. Finding them in your space opera is like finding a roach on your wedding cake.
Yeah, I know, you’d just pick it off and eat it if you were hungry enough. Yes, I know that back in the old days, every wedding cake came with a roach, and if you wanted any cake you just removed them or crunched them up and that was that.
But in this modern, highly saturated market for science fiction….is anyone really hungry enough?
P.S. Personal suggestions to make this particular wedding cake more appetizing?
1. Have one of the two commanding officers in the film be any race but white. I don’t care which, the hero or the villain, but give a POC character a major role which is not in “Alien-Face”. Maybe switch the actors who played the Hero and the Hero Who Got Fridged? That would have been clever. Because literally two out of three black characters in a film being pointlessly murdered is kinda crappy.
2. When the race-marked cabaret performer finished her death scene, seemed to collapse into talcum powder, and our Brave and Noble White Adventurers turned away to go save the day…give me another 30 seconds of film to show that the shapeshifter had faked her death to ditch Valerian and the authorities, and be genuinely free. Subvert the trope. That’s all I need.
3. Ditch the awful character design of the cannibal aliens. Do not murder the cannibal alien emperor, even if he was planning to have White Girl Brains for dinner. And have your character designs reviewed by an adult, please?
P.P.S. The original comic actually billed both characters, didn’t it? Valerian and Laureline? Why couldn’t the film do the same, since she’s such a prominent character…? Ennnngh, fuck it, nevermind. Just not so much with the dead black women and Crumb aliens. Ok? Kthanxbye.