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Superpathology
The Obama Effect strikes twice in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Belle


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Jamie Foxx isn’t “poor” — he’s valued at $85 million according to celebritynetworth.com — but he is artistically impoverished. He resorts to portraying another stereotypical victim-villain in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That dubious casting choice briefly sparks this latest, uninspired comic-book-franchise movie, but most important, it plays into current Hollywood political sentiments.

As corporate nerd Max Dillon, Foxx falls into a tank with fuses and electric eels and acquires lethal electromagnetic powers. Post-shock, Dillon-now-Electro channels his envy of Spider-Man (insipid Andrew Garfield) into destroying Times Square, a routine sequence of Hollywood’s video-game-CGI excess only inspired by peculiar pathos: Fox repeats the same sorrowful black-male oddity he used in his portrayal of a maladjusted musical savant in the mawkish 2009 race-relations drama The Soloist.

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Electro’s menace and confused motives evoke still another black science-fiction miscreant, Samuel L. Jackson’s disturbed, merciless, outlandishly garbed comic-book villain in Unbreakable, which since 2000 has stereotyped the genre’s naive racial attitudes. Electro’s skin is tinted blue, like the Na’vi creatures in Avatar, but luminescent, as if teeming with SamJack anger. He cloaks his ferocity beneath a Trayvon Martin–style hoodie — a sly, fatuous political reference recalling Foxx’s awards-circuit appearances last year in a t-shirt emblazoned with Martin’s photo (commemorating the politically charged controversy surrounding the youth’s 2012 death). Foxx acts out Electro’s wounded ego to sneakily exploit the Martin case, but his role is disgraceful, silly in concept and shameless in performance.

I point this out to clarify how specious racial and political assumptions clog contemporary film culture; part of what mogul Harvey Weinstein praised as “The Obama Effect” among Hollywood elites.

Electro’s demeanor defines the limited, pathological range circumscribing Foxx, restricting his choices as with other black Oscar-rewarded actors. Some form of black pathology is always foremost in Hollywood’s current post-racial pretense, and this is what makes “The Obama Effect” so noxious. Even the action-based Spider-Man series ensnares a black character in sentimentality that allows Hollywood and the media to feel superior — a continuation of the self-righteous liberal fantasy that voting for Barack Obama vanquishes racism. All other blacks are patronized as, if not inferior to the Obama ideal, then, as Electro demonstrates, superpathetic. Outside the comic-book world, Electro would be seen as a freak. And freakishness — or Superpathology — defines Hollywood’s Obama-era view of black folk in Precious, The Help, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Captain Phillips, Blue Caprice, Django Unchained (Foxx again), last year’s 12 Years a Slave, and this year’s Belle.

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Belle is not a bleeding-heart horror show like 12 Years a Slave but a gentler, history-based costume drama about an 18th-century mixed-race girl in England. Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is raised by her great-uncle, Chief Justice Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson). Dido’s consciousness is stirred when she endures subtle, strict protocol that blocks her from full participation in the household’s routines, her activities segregated at public functions. She becomes intrigued by her uncle’s grudging deliberation regarding a legal case about the execution of human cargo on a slave ship, which tilts this biography toward an anti-slavery treatise.

Although Dido shares President Obama’s own mixed-race heritage, Belle brushes by “The Obama Effect.” It doesn’t exactly congratulate white electorate guilt — which may explain its indifferent reviews so soon after 12 Years a Slave hit the white-guilt jackpot. Director Amma Asante isn’t a fetishistic race-hustler like 12 Years’ Steve McQueen. Her fish-out-of-water formula takes on a romance-novel aspect: Dido falls in love with white activist lawyer and vicar’s son John Davinier (Sam Reid), an optimistic resolution that soothes her anxiety as both an outcast and female chattel.


The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The teenaged webslinger returns in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, opening in theaters May 2. Here’s a look at the new film, and a look back at the history of the character from the comic-book pages to his adventures in Hollywood.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 continues the saga of Peter Parker as he adjust to life with his strange super-powers, obtained from the bite of a genetically-altered spider. He tries to live out the admonition of his Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
English actor Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man.
Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, Parker’s girlfriend.
Jamie Foxx plays Max Dillon, an engineer at Oscorp Industries, where a terrifying industrial accident turns him into Electro, a man who can transform into electricity.
Dane DeHaan plays Harry Osborn, the scion of Oscorp Industries, who transforms into the villainous Green Golbin.
Paul Giamatti plays Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich, who will become the villain Rhino.
Sally Field plays Aunt Mary, who raised Peter Parker after his father’s death.
Spider-Man creator Stan Lee continues his streak of cameo appearances in the movies based on his comic-book characters.
Dillon gets a little too close to a vat of electric eels.
Electro shows off his glowing personality.
Electro gets a grip on things.
Spider-Man and Electro tangle amid the power transformers.
Harry/Green Goblin rides the Oscorp battle sled. Like the earlier Spider-Man films, the new entry treats the military-industrial complex as a source of inherent moral danger.
Green Goblin makes the case for regular dental check-ups.
Sytsevich powers up in the Rhino armor.
Rhino will definitely not be drinking any merlot.
Spidey is just trying’ to hang on.
Spider-Man meets a mini-me fan.
ORIGIN STORY: Spider-Man debuted in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August 1962 and has gone on to become one of the most successful and well-known comic-book superheroes ever created. He remains Marvel Comics’ flagship character.
Spider-Man was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, and captured the sense of alienation common in teen comic-book fans. Prior to his arrival, teenage characters had traditionally been sidekicks. Spider-Man also lacked an adult super-hero mentor, and had to find his own way.
THE SHOWBIZ WEB: Spider-Man has had a long, at times troubled, history in Hollywood. Peter Hammond played Spider-Man in the primetime TV series The Amazing Spider-Man from 1978 to 1979.
Spider-Man appeared on the 1970s childrens' educational program The Electric Company in a series of Spidey Super Stories skits. He never appeared as Peter Parker and communicated only through comic-book word balloons.
Takuya Yamashiro played Spider-Man in a short-lived Japanese series that also ran from 1978 to 1979. Though he wore the same outfit, the character’s origins and backstory were completely different from the American version.
Spider-Man has also had numerous animated incarnations in syndication and on the Saturday-morning programming blocks popular in the 1970s and 1980s.
MTV aired the short-lived computer-animated outing Spider-Man: The New Animated Series in 2003.
Tobey Maguire played Peter Parker in the 2002 feature film Spider-Man, directed by Sam Raimi. The film capped years of delays and failed attempts to bring the character to the big screen involving such filmmakers as James Cameron.
Maguire shared a famous upside-down kiss with Kirsten Dunst.
Maguire returned for two sequels, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. The three films were huge box-office successes and widely lauded by critics and audiences. The films introduced the villains Green Goblin, Doc Oc, Sandman, and Venom.
Demonstrating the enduring appeal of the character, amateur Spider-Man costumes are also a frequent site at comic-book conventions.
Female webslinger outfits are quite popular (especially with the male fans).
Updated: May. 02, 2014

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