An Open Letter to Tim Burton From a Black Fangirl
Dear Tim Burton,
As a fan, I feel like you just pissed in my cereal, man. I tried, for many years, to pretend that you weren’t just another out-of-touch, willfully ignorant Hollywood disappointment of a man with a boner for whiteness and eurocentrism. In fact, when I first heard that you’d be directing the big screen adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I was fucking stoked. I thought you’d be perfect for bringing the story and characters that I had come to adore to life.
The first time I read that book was over two years ago in a “wellness clinic” (psych ward) after a failed suicide attempt. I was terrified and lost, and happened to find that book on the tiny little bookshelf inside the clinic. It sounds cheesy, sure, but the story helped me a lot during a dark time in an unfamiliar place where I felt completely alone, sharing a room with three strangers and little to no security. It helped me to realize that there are other people like me out there, and that I do belong somewhere; it’s just up to me to embrace my uniqueness and live life in a way that draws in kindred spirits. If anyone got that, I thought it’d be you.
And then I saw the trailer. Mostly white except for the villain. I cringed, but who doesn’t love Samuel Jackson in literally anything? Not to mention the movie looks aesthetically fantastic, right down to some of the scenes looking exactly as I’d imagined them when I first read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
And then, Timmy, my guy, you had to go and cough on my food. Fart by my sleeping face. Why couldn’t you just… not say anything? Why did you have to go and pull the whole “anti-PC” bullshit that so many other disappointments and headaches use when they don’t want to confront their own prejudices and the reality of the world?
“Things either call for things, or they don’t. I remember back when I was a child watching ‘The Brady Bunch’ and they started to get all politically correct, like, Okay, let’s have an Asian child and a black – I used to get more offended by that than just – I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, ‘That’s great.’ I didn’t go like, ‘Okay, there should be more white people in these movies.’” â€• Tim Burton on the lack of racial diversity in his movies
You found the addition of black and Asian cast members to “The Brady Bunch” more offensive than the often wildly offensive portrayals of black people in blaxploitation flicks? Flicks that wouldn’t have even been made if Hollywood wasn’t so fucking racist and weird when it came to diversity and fairness in casting in the first place? Because you’re such a rebel for wanting to maintain a played out, racially homogenous status quo that doesn’t even reflect the diversity of movie audiences, right? That’s laughable, dude.
To add insult to injury, you claim that “things” (movies and other shows?) either call for “things” (diversity), or they don’t. Ok, whatever, I’ll bite. If that’s so, then why did the role of a villain call for a black man? It sends kind of a questionable message. This is the first time you’ve had a person of color in a major role in any of your movies, and according to you, things either call for diversity or they don’t, so you felt the role of a particularly awful villain (we’ve both read the book, I’m sure. That guy is just the fucking worst.) called for a black actor. The only time your films have called for any significant diversity so far has been when you needed someone to be the worst kind of evil? That’s not a good look, buddy. It leaves a horrible taste in my mouth about you that watching “Sweeney Todd” and “Edward Scissorhands” on loop just won’t wash out.
I love(d?) all your work because I always connected to it. To the focus on individuals who live on the fringe of society. Weirdos. Freaks. Outcasts. Who in this society is more outcasted than people of color? I thought you were someone who understood what it was like to feel as though you may never really belong or find your place, someone who saw the beauty in outcasts finally accepting themselves and finding love and true homes in the process. But you don’t really understand. You don’t get it at all.
In fact, I feel that you’re a fraud because nothing is more typical than a clueless white man who treats diversity like a chore. Nothing is more boring, more common, more bland and expected than an old white guy who acts like people wanting to see themselves reflected in media is an nuisance or a problem as a opposed to a pretty reasonable desire.
In fact, numerous studies and a fair amount of research indicate that media representation has a heavy impact on an individual’s self-image and sense of self-worth. So to treat something as important, and quite frankly, realistic and necessary as diversity, as some irritating aside that isn’t or should be something to consciously strive for is pretty fucking lame, dude. You may as well be any other old asshole who’s made uncomfortable by anything other than racial homogeneity and willful ignorance. An “anti-PC,” rich, old white guy? Typical. Laughable. Please hand in your weirdo card. Please give back the label of eccentricity and outlandishness that you’ve branded yourself with. You don’t deserve, it dude.
It’s odd to me that someone who has been quoted as saying, “I think a lot of kids feel alone and slightly isolated and in their own world,” doesn’t see the validity and importance of diversity in the media. How do you think I felt as a young black girl, and even now as a young adult, who hardly ever sees people like herself cast in her favorite movies and shows? Isolated and alone. Seeing more than just white character after white character with a few superfluous or negative black characters thrown in could have helped me feel less alone when I needed it. But, you know, “Things call for things or they don’t,” right?
I just wish you hadn’t said anything at all. At least then I could buy my movie ticket without feeling like some kind of sucker paying for a movie about outcasts finding their place, directed by a guy who thinks diversity is an optional pain in the ass (unless you need a super awful villain, because that calls for a black man, I guess). The irony.
~ DeLa Doll