Independence Day: Reduction
I watched “Independence Day: Resurgence” the other day and something started to bother me as the movie went on, something that became more apparent as the film got closer to the climax of the movie. Specifically, I noticed erasure of the people of color and the film putting the women in the back seat again.
I started off pretty hopeful. “Independence Day: Resurgence” passed the Bechdel-Wallace test in the first 10 minutes. The president of the United States is a woman (played by Sela Ward). Vivica A. Fox is a doctor (not an exotic dancer like in the first movie), and it looks like Jessie T. Usher is going to be the hero of the film. He plays Dylan Hillar, the son of Will Smith’s character, Steven Hiller. He is, after all, the squadron leader of the Legacy Flight that was a big part of the opening act. Then, Hollywood blockbuster movie rules reared their ugly heads, and we get a formula film.
Liam Hemsworth gets to be the bad boy white guy that breaks all the rules with no consequences — who happens to be dating Patricia Whitmore, the daughter of former President Whitmore (played by Maika Monroe). She is the other woman in the Bechdel-Wallace moment, the one who gave up her career of being a military pilot to take care of her ailing father. We also see Angelababy (stage name for Angela Yeung Wing), another pilot from the Legacy Flight, almost immediately get turned into a sex object and trophy for a nerdy white pilot rather than be extolled for her skills as a pilot and astronaut.
As the movie progresses, at the first point when the president needs to make a tough decision, she is mocked for not being decisive and brow beaten by the male Secretary of Defense into taking an aggressive action. Later, that is shown to be the wrong decision, and she ends up getting killed in the invasion. Once the aliens show up, the film essentially turns into another white people save the world movie. Liam Hemsworth’s character, who serves no purpose other than to put Patricia Whitmore, the former president’s daughter, into a love interest box, ends up completely taking over the movie from Jessie T. Usher. Even when Patricia Whitmore gets a moment to shine at the end of the film, she is tossed aside in favor of the white male hero.
While the movie was a fun turn-off-your-brain popcorn film, it fails horribly by ignoring a diverse cast that could have been so much more. Sexualizing the only Asian woman, putting the women in the backseat behind the heroic men, turning the black hero into a sidekick, and putting a Dylan Hiller’s mother in the fridge, this movie hits each trope hard for maximum effect, and there is little to no regard for what this movie could have been. It could have been an international effort to save the Earth, but once again it’s America talking to the world through another white male president on shortwave radios and white people saving the world.
While the 1996 movie “Independence Day” wasn’t especially diverse, at least it let Will Smith be the hero, have all the great one liners, and do all the cool things that are normally given to the white actors to do. “Independence Day: Resurgence” gives us none of that. Minorities are sidekicks, Asian women are sex objects and trophies, and women leaders are indecisive and bullied by their male colleges. This movie could have been so much more than it was. Lazy writing ruined what could have been a multicultural hero story that more than just white dudes with power fantasies could have related to.
I can’t wait for Ghostbusters now.