So many movies, so many controversies. From blockbusters to highly-anticipated indies, it seemed like no movie was free from some form of debate in 2015. Whether if it was Fifty Shades of Grey who ruined kink for the masses or Hollywood still not understanding why whitewashing is so harmful, some movies inspired quite a few interesting rounds of debate. Others, like the fat shame-y vibes of Inside Out and the feminist agenda ruining men’s movies like Mad Max, earned their side-eye in the court of Twitter opinion.
Controversy doesn’t make a movie better or worse than it already is. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has proved that you can have all the controversy brew up before its release and still topple Avatar. Some of these #hottakes elevated the conversation and dug deeper into Hollywood’s systemic flaws. Others went viral for the lulz.
These are the 14 movies that launched a thousand thinkpieces, good and bad, in 2015:
10. Aloha/Pan/Stonewall/The Martian
Because #OscarsSoWhite didn’t just stop at award season, Hollywood had a string of incidents throughout the year that left many characters of color portrayed on-screen by white actors. The year’s first offender was the otherwise innocuous Cameron Crowe film Aloha, which starred the very white Emma Stone as a character whose name is Allison Ng. Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall created a composite character to serve as the audience’s surrogate but erased a number of queer activists of color from the picture. Pan, already a present-day problematic story, cast Rooney Mara as its Tiger Lily. The Martian also ruffled a few feathers upon release over the whitewashing of several Asian-American characters from the book.
9. Inside Out
No, not even cutesy Pixar family favorites are exempt from a little controversy here and there. One Huffington Post blogger took a very different approach against the critically-praised animated film Inside Out, calling out the movie’s subliminal fat shaming streak. She alleged that the character of Joy was meant to be svelte and thus desirable, while Sadness was bigger and frumpier, playing into negative stereotypes about overweight women.
However, it turned out to be a bit of a non-starter when she revealed she hadn’t seen the movie. Her screed against thin Joy and overweight Sadness was based on the trailer and poster alone. Let this be a new year’s resolution for 2016’s #hottakes: if you want to take down a movie, make sure to watch it.
Gaspar Noe is no stranger to controversy. In his film Irreversible, he flagrantly courted it with a 10-minute, one-take rape scene in which the victim was played by Italian superstar Monica Belluccci. Yet, his latest film, aptly titled Love, earned a lot of heat over its steamy, uncensored sex scenes (in 3D!).
In short, many viewers called it a porno, which brought up questions as to whether or not it should be released and if so, what kind of a release would it get. Banishment to smaller art houses may have created a more intimate setting, but it also could have contributed to the movie’s quick fizzle Stateside. That or strangers don’t like to attend theaters to watch pornos as much as they did in the ‘70s.
7. Mad Max: Fury Road
Men’s Rights Activists saw red even before George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road opened in theaters. Several disgruntled fans of the dystopian future series starring a heroic lone wolf (portrayed by Tom Hardy this time around ) took to social media and MRA blogs to decry the empowered character of Imperator Furiosa (played by a superb Charlize Theron) who had seemingly taken over the Mad Max franchise.
While audiences flocked to the summer action movie with an improbably high number of catchphrases, MRAs raged against the pro-matriarchal heroines, much to the amusement of everyone else. It’s a reminder that the terrible dystopian patriarchy depicted in Fury Road is alive and trolling the Internet.
6. The Danish Girl
After the hubbub over Dallas Buyer’s Club and the rise of transgender stars like Laverne Cox and Caitlin Jenner, you would think an Oscar contender wannabe might try the authentic route and cast a trans actress for a trans role, right? Well, you’d be wrong. Instead, Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne was chosen to portray one of the first trangender women to undergo sex reassignment surgery in the adaptation of her life story, The Danish Girl.
The casting announcement and subsequent news that the cast and crew would work with scholars was met with exasperated eye-rolls online. The finished product didn’t do itself many favors by diving into clichéd fetishization and turning Lili Elbe into a tragic trans stereotype.
5. Fantastic Four/Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Despite the dismal numbers of on-screen diversity (see: whitewashing), when sci-fi and comic book franchises decided to step up their inclusivity game, some white fanboys took this as an affront to integrity. Although studios should probably stop trying to make Fantastic Four happen in the first place, this 2015 reboot switched things up by casting the talented Michael B. Jordan as the group’s Johnny Storm. Racist fanboys vented on social media (did they really miss Chris Evans as Johnny Storm?), where some of them popped up again to whine about John Boyega’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens debut as a Stormtrooper.
It’s explained in the movie that the evil Empire-turned-First Order switched from using clones to kidnapping and coercing kids into their murderous service. How strangely plausible is this plot point in a movie featuring aliens and pew-pew-pew sounds in space?
4. The Ridiculous 6
Adam Sandler is not known for his cultural sensitivity, yet his first Netflix movie in a multi-film deal with the streaming company crossed a line even before it reached the public. A number of Native American actors were cast in the fuax-western The Ridiculous 6 alongside Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Taylor Lautner, Harvey Keitel, Nick Nolte, Danny Trejo, Jon Lovitz (not dead!), Vanilla Ice, and many, many others. What they weren’t told was that Sandler’s script made them the butt of several ugly jokes. An on-set cultural advisor went unheeded for so long, he walked off the set in protest. After enduring several jokes at their expense and their concerns ignored by the production, several extras walked out too.
3. Straight Outta Compton
No biopic is going to get everything right, but Straight Outta Compton omitted some very big details in hopes to bury the past. Although some writers expressed concerns about the movie’s treatment of women and its erasure of female rappers, it wasn’t until Dee Barnes’ damning testimony about Dr. Dre’s assault on her that people really started talking about the rewriting of history.
Back in 1991, the then-TV show host was thrown down a flight of stairs, kicked and had her head slammed against a wall by the famous N.W.A. front man. You don’t remember that scene in Compton because it doesn’t exist, and Barnes is nowhere to be mentioned, even though it was her interview with Ice Cube dissing his former N.W.A. mates that set Dr. Dre off. She told Gawker she didn’t think the scene should have made it to the movie either because “the truth is too ugly for a general audience.”
Spike Lee’s latest project, Chi-raq, takes audiences to a fictionalized Chicago torn apart by gang warfare. Tired of needless bloodshed, women from the warring factions boycott sex to teach their men a lesson in peaceful resistance. Yes, it’s based on the famous ancient Greek play of Lysistrata, but Lee’s updated version brought in a new set of problems with its treatment of black women.
Pieces about the movie pointed out that the heroines of this fable were reduced to hypersexualized caricatures, which is a trope black women in movies are often held to. This is before considering the very real rate of sexual violence against black women and the insinuation that violence and sex are correlated. For that lack of awareness, some viewers were calling foul.
1. fifty shades of grey
Just as we got past the awkward “everyone is reading this on their Kindle on the way to work” phase, the big screen adaptation of Twilight-fanfiction-gone-mainstream hit theaters everywhere. No one group was more disappointed than the kink community, who like their bondage safe and consensual. Several kink practitioners and sex writers spoke out against the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey story of the seduction of a young woman named Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) by a rich playboy who should really see a therapist more often, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).
Although the duo get somethings right (they both sign off before jumping into any acts), Grey’s manipulative and emotionally abusive behavior sent up red flags, and not the sexy kind.
Did we miss any other controversies this year? Let us know in the comments!
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