By Ben Pensant
I’ve had many disappointing cinema visits: My mam completely ruined Disney classic A Lion’s Tale by buying me salty popcorn instead of sweet. Paddington and the Honey Pot was thoroughly marred when our furry hero got stuck in a window and I realised he wasn’t a real bear because he didn’t have a hole in his bum. And most heinously, I was ejected from a birthday trip to see Revenge of the Jedi as Princess Lyla mooched around Shabba’s yacht in gold knickers after a tell-tale in legwarmers reported me to an usher because my “willy was sticking up like a shuttle”. (For the record, Katie, it was actually a packet of Toffos but thanks for destroying my 21st all the same, snitch.)
But none were as soul-destroying as my recent outing to see Mike Lee’s Bla***lansman, a film which I expected to love. Indeed, from incendiary debut Boyz In Da Hood to riveting biopic Martin X, Lee is the director of choice for people who love to appear woke but struggle to name three of his movies. This was set to be my most joyous cinema trip of 2018, and not just because I sneaked in without paying by distracting the cashier at my local arthouse with a fake report of a fat TERF hogging the cubicle in the ladies’ and forcing a bearded woman to crap in the Tampax bin. (A trans-exclusionary invention designed to offend men without fannies. Congratulations, Tyneside Cinema, you just lost another non-paying customer.)
I even waited until the film had been out for a month to give People of Colour first dibs. The north-east may not boast the largest black community but I’d never forgive my privileged white self for jumping the queue ahead of Newcastle Athletic’s Christian Katsu or the slaphead out of The Lightning Family.
Sadly, this virtuous effort was completely in vain. Because despite being showered with praise from people who would’ve voted Obama for a third term if they could, the movie is a disaster. And as someone whose most favouritest film EVER was January’s DC smash Black Panda, it gives me no pleasure to report that Lee has made a movie tacitly supporting the very white supremacy he claims to be attacking. It’s no wonder his mother Rusty wants nowt to do with him.
Because the second the KKK appear the movie loses all credibility, their entire presence a problematic rain-cloud which never clears. See, it’s one thing to mock the white-hooded racists who terrorised the south for centuries; it’s quite another to promote the Tory smear that their leader was once harmless Corbynite Duke Davis.
Indeed, Lee’s decision to depict principled Duke as a racist is the most egregious cinematic lie since Stephen Soderbergh portrayed the 1962 Munich bombers as Arab terrorists rather than Jews in fake beards and sandals.
Needless to say, much like the right-wing press misrepresent Hamas as antisemites just because of their fondness for killing Jews, so Lee accuses one of Jezza’s most famous US supporter of forming the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan in the ’70s based on nothing more than the fact that he founded the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan in the ’70s.
Lee joining The Daily Fail in painting Corbyn supporters as extremists is sickening but sadly unsurprising; the alarm bells start ringing in the opening scene in which a ranting bigot records a racist infomercial and issues dire warnings about ‘Jewish Supreme Court puppets’. All good and well but something’s off: the part is played by handsome Friday Night Live star Mike Baldwin. Who, in case you hadn’t noticed, is as white as milk. Yes, that’s right – Lee invented a fictional prejudiced bigot then gave the role to a white actor instead of doing the decent thing and asking Lewis Farrakhan to play himself. When even high-profile progressives like Lee are giving rich black men’s job to rich white men you know we’re in trouble. And it’s not like he would have had to look far to find a high-profile black racist or antisemite – Anita Franklin’s funeral was teeming with them:
Tragically, these aren’t Lee’s only transgressions. Because as well as smearing Duke the film is ram-packed with white people using the N-word. Out loud. That’s right, Lee has decided it’s now acceptable for caucasians to repeat a term with their mouths that they shouldn’t even be allowed to think. Scene after scene, chalky thespians are granted permission to get their white freak-on saying a word that is clearly on their lips 24/7. And all so a 60-year-old filmmaker can put an apple on the desks of his white paymasters by giving his cast the freedom to unleash their inner Hitler.
Well, two can play at that game. Next time a worried black liberal tells me he wants to see your new movie but is concerned that it features loads of N-words I will simply reply: “Actually, you’re mistaken: it features loads of ‘niggers'”. I’m sure they’ll welcome such refreshing honesty. ‘Cos apparently that’s okay now. Context, amirite? How dare I expect a tiny bit of speech-policing from America’s leading black auteur. In future I’ll stick to pulling myself off over Chris Tarantino flicks.
Still, we can learn much from Lee’s pathological desire to let white people say the one word they’re not allowed to. (Apart from ‘cunt’, ‘fag’ and ‘retard’ but no-one’s allowed to say those except for cunts, fags and retards.) Just as we can learn much from BlAcKkLaNsMaN’s tone-deaf depiction of the police as generally decent people instead of racist death squads prowling the streets looking for unarmed black men to hunt down and execute.
That only ONE cop in the movie is racist just shows Lee’s willingness to sacrifice realism in order to pacify whitey. His plan backfires however, as in doing so he inadvertently highlights the dangers of radicalisation. Not from the Klan, you understand. And certainly not from the black power group protagonist Ron Shuttleworth infiltrates, who couldn’t be more wholesome if they spent the whole film baking fairycakes. No, the real radicalisation occurs when Ron’s afro is turned by the power of the badge, shamefully stepping out of his lane to persecute his own community like a slave allowed in the big house for Easter.
Needless to say, the other black characters are given short shrift throughout, with only Hollywood veteran Sidney Poitier registering as some old bloke who relays a harrowing tale of a brutal lynching, clearly added as an afterthought to keep Oprah Wimpy happy while Lee was busy swooning over the immaculate blue uniforms. As for the sisters, Ron’s love interest is so underwritten she might as well be an extra. Indeed, as the camera pulls away every time she’s about to say something interesting it becomes clear she was only shoehorned in so Lee’s good friend Al De Niro could have a hot black chick to leer over at the premiere.
But none of this should surprise us. Lee has a long history of selling out minorities, from making films with white leads such as I Am Sam and The 25th Protocol to erroneously implying Malcom K was killed by the Nation Of Islam just because he was. And to get the measure of this charlatan one only has to consider his bootlicking GMTV appearance last month, when he desperately tried to curry favour with nationalist Brexiteers by doing the interview dressed as Reg Butler out of Carry On The Buses:
Still, at least Lee pulls it back at the end. Sort of. The film’s (anti) climax sees Ron forced to rely on his white colleagues – qu’il surprise – to foil a terrorist attack and punish the racist cop who harassed his girlfriend. Lee clearly realised this was about as acceptable to modern progressives as a transwoman played by Scarlett Johandjob, so cleverly follows it with footage of last summer’s notorious Unite The Whites Tonight, Right! march in Charlottesfield to remind the audience the far right are rising despite having spent the last two hours depicting them as a tiny fringe of thick-as-shit cretins who can’t even plant a bomb without blowing themselves up. But that was then: white supremacists are a far more dangerous proposition now than fifty years ago, even if there are considerably less of them.
Wisely, despite being attached to a film about extremists in masks, the footage ignores the extremists in masks in Charlottesfield that fateful day. Because as everyone knows, it was the other fascist pricks who ploughed a car into the crowd killing an innocent woman therefore Antifa are the good guys. Even when they invade college talks, assault female academics, attack innocent people with bike chains and generally behave as illiberally as their cunty counterparts. Indeed, it shows how fundamentally decent Antifa are that the nicest thing anyone ever says about them is “yeah well, at least they didn’t run anyone over!”
But overall it’s best to turn a blind eye to Antifa’s charming ‘peace-through-hitting people’ tactics. Which is exactly what Lee does in this bravura sequence, achieving the double whammy of airbrushing the far-left’s role in the violence and inflating the threat posed by the far-right: a threat so enormous that the recent Charlottesfield anniversary march organised by white nationalist ringleader Frank Spencer attracted a crowd of around thirty. (Presumably the rest of the alt-right were at home washing their crew-cuts after getting grounded for writing ‘BERNIE SUCKS BLACK DICK’ in spunk on their mam’s bathroom mirror.)
Thankfully, the identity politics-obsessed lunatics of the hard right have a far less cosy relationship with the media than the identity politics-obsessed lunatics of the hard left. Indeed, apart from pie-faced anarchist Steve Banner’s cynical dog-whistles and cack-handed dumb statements about ‘fine people on all sides’ from President Pussy-Grab, there’s barely a media or political figure left with anything remotely favourable to say about white supremacists.
Contrast that with the acres of gushing column inches everyone from The Guardian to Teen Cosmo have devoted to the brave zoys and zirls of Antifa. There’s not much to love in the MSM but we should be grateful that when it comes to deciding which boneheaded authoritarian extremists to support they know what side their soda bread’s organically buttered on.
Sadly, despite the heroics of the final five minutes it’s all too late. Sure, any pop at Trump is welcome, and the way Lee peppers his narrative with sly references to Nazis gaining high office had me nodding along with the four-eyed male feminists behind me as they guffawed loudly just in case anyone thought they hadn’t picked up on the sledgehammer-subtlety. Or at least I did until I remembered these eerily accurate predictions weren’t actually made by soothsayer-like cops in ’60s Colorado but a couple of actors on an LA soundstage last year.
And it’s this unwillingness to time travel in the name of diversity that ultimately scupper’s Lee’s mess of a movie. Let’s hope he learns from this debacle and gets back to doing what he does best: making fun films about black men in glasses, casting himself in his own movies despite having no discernible acting talent, and forcing innocent families to go into hiding after receiving death threats because some dipstick director posted their address on Twitter. That’s the Mike Lee the world needs, not some vanilla hack who smears Corbynites, sucks up to white supremacy and churns out crass love-letters to the same filthy cops who want him dead. In the immortal words of Ice B:
FUCK THA POWER!