The panel, called TOUGH ENOUGH: Asian American College Athletes, was created to give adults and aspiring young student athletes alike a glimpse of how race, culture, and discrimination often factors into the competitive lives of Asian American College Athletes.
I’m sure 42 The Jackie Robinson Story will be an inspirational movie to a lot of people. It’s even racked up a 75% fresh tomato critic’s rating at rottentomatoes.com, which is decent, except who is really going to pan the story of Jackie Robinson?
I won’t be watching the movie though, for two reasons. First, this recent trend of “historical dramas” using contemporary music like dubstep and hip hop in their trailers has to stop. Historical accuracy is hardly the point, it’s just fucking weird man. But it does serve me one purpose.
As soon as I see “based on a true story” set in the 1940s and hear Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn We Go Hard,” (and the dubstep version!) I know it’s not serious. I can pass. In New York, where a movie costs almost as much as a ball game, this is a service. Not that all movies have to be serious, but this is Jackie Robinson. He deserves better than this.
Jackie Robinson deserves the Michael Mann treatment, not Razzie award-winning director Brian Helgeland. Not the one recent song by Hov that happens to say, “Jackie Robinson.”
Not to hate. I bow to Hov like any other Brooklynite. And Helgeland was only the fourth person ever to actually accept a Razzie in person, so he’s got a sense of humor going for him. But man, the Sam Cooke intro montage to Ali is still one of the most incredible cinematic moments I’ve ever seen. It was an elegant balance of gravitas and soul.
Despite Warner Bros best efforts, there is nothing about the trailers for 42 that carry that kind of weight. This is fluff. And reason number two.
This is the Remember the Titans school of racialized historical sports drama. As a movie, I enjoy Titans every time it comes on TV, but the idea of a team musical number solving racism on a suddenly integrated high school football team is as laughable as the Brad Paisley, LL Cool J joint. In fact, I’d almost say, it’s what makes that kind of shit possible.
Racism isn’t cured by moments. It isn’t cured, but especially not by fictionalized moments posing as representations of truth. Just take this scene in 42 of the legendary moment when Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese embraces Jackie Robinson:
Thank you Jackie?
Dreck. Worse, it’s dishonest. The moment I heard the line in the trailer, “maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42,” I knew I couldn’t watch this movie. But, in the clip it finishes with, “that way they won’t tell us apart.” Come on, man.
There wasn’t a white man in the entire nation that would have said that to Jackie Robinson in 1947. Not to mention the questionable existence of the moment itself.
Brian Cronin of Sports Urban Legends Unvealed has a great post on ESPN Fandom that suggests the Pee Wee-Jackie moment may never have happened. And if it did, it more likely happened in 1948, which makes a lot more sense to anyone who actually reads through his research.
Whether or not it happened, though, does not diminish the significance of a friendship between Robinson and Reese in that time. Any actual story of their friendship is a movie unto itself and would no doubt be more nuanced and raw than some bullshit repartee that never fucking happened in the middle of a game.
They didn’t solve racism with a single moment. Racism was systematic and overwhelming. You didn’t overcome it, you survived it. Tangentially, that’s also why I could never fully buy in to Norman Jewison’s far more serious 1999 biopic, The Hurricane. But, that comes from a different direction, for a different post.
If you think I’m being too serious about a movie, read these quotes:
“I want to see the whole story and I know this is going to be a great education for me, and I think it’s going to be a great education for the players that play today and for our country,” — Kansas City Hall of Famer George Brett.
“I think they need to look at it as history, not just a baseball movie,” — Kansas Royals star Frank White.
“This film was historically accurate, inspiring and I hope you were all empowered,” — David Robinson (Jackie Robinson’s son).
This isn’t just some movie. Suddenly, it’s history.
If Brad Paisley and LL get the business for their Accidental Tourist nonsense, then conversely we should hold these so-called historical films accountable for their glammed-up moral platitudes and vapid revisions of an era more complex than this movie could possibly portray.
We shouldn’t let movies slide because they tell us what we want to hear. 42 wants to deal with racism. And, it wants to keep it clean and tidy with justice and comeuppance. There was nothing tidy about race relations in the 1940’s. There was no justice. This is ornate frosting on a turd.