by Yesenia Corona
During the summer before my senior year of High school, Moonrise Kingdom (2012) was released in theatres. It’s about two young misfits who make a plan to escape their small New England town. The movie reminds me of why I like Wes Anderson, he creates a world that’s slightly off-kilter but it captures the magic of childhood. Watching Moonrise Kingdom, I’m reminded of all the “adventures” I went on with my cousins, pretending the Southside of Milwaukee was actually a magical world that contained secret tunnels and dragons. However despite the brilliant world Anderson has created with its ‘70s color palettes and quirky characters, it’s very white.
The themes of Anderson’s films while varied are universal. He talks about growing up in Rushmore, acceptance and family in The Royal Tenenbaums and first love in Moonrise Kingdom. However none of those movies are about the experience of being white and yet Anderson’s films have a majority white cast except for a few BIPOC actors. I’m not suggesting Wes Anderson needs to create his own Friday (although I think it’d be hilarious to see Owen Wilson and Ice Cube in a movie together) but when movies like his are about the universal human experience, it’s problematic that these stories feature only white people.
Tim Burton, a previously loved director of mine, recently explained his casting choices for his movies. Burton who also directs quirky movies (in a much more muted color palette) explained:
“I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct, like OK, let’s have an Asian child and a Black child-I used to get more offended by that than just-I grew up watching Blaxploitation movies right? And I said great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.” - Tim Burton
I don’t think when the Brady Bunch decided to introduce more diverse characters they were aiming to be “politically correct.” However Burton’s strange attitude about featuring more diverse actors in his movies almost implies that there has to be an agenda for BIPOC actors to be casted in movies where their race isn’t relevant to the plot. Anderson has not given a clear statement on the casting of his movies but he doesn’t have to. As a viewer who is also Latinx I can relate to the subject of his films but I don’t see myself in them.
Anderson is good at details. Many of his films are personal in the way that they reflect Anderson’s personal style. The’60s-70s color palette, French pop music, Futura font and the distinct pattern of speech are all part of his unique style. However Anderson gets so caught up in his details that he forgets about the story and it’s characters.
It could be argued that as a white man from Texas, Wes Anderson is only creating a world that he knows. But it’s a tired excuse that I don’t want to give to Anderson. Darjeeling Limited is set in India but it’s fetishized as an “exotic” land for the white protagonists to run around in. Zero from the Grand Budapest Hotel and Pele from the Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou are all non-white examples of “diversity” in Anderson’s movies but that doesn’t mean his work is diverse. They exist as one of the many props in the background of his movies, never fully fleshed out in favor of the white protagonists.
Anderson is not the only one to blame for the lack of diversity in Hollywood. While there have been significant strides as of late, there is still work to be done when it comes to thoughtful representation in media. I’d like for a non-tokenized BIPOC character to appear in a Wes Anderson like film, dancing coolly to Francoise Hardy without being questioned.