Who owns the past? A critical opinion.

Recently with all the protests about racism, there has been a lot of discussion about removing various statues, renaming monuments etc. I suppose it’s a natural progression in any political movement, but I have to wonder of the statues we are keeping, road names, etc… how many were perfect? Because unless I’m woefully mistaken, in fifty years’ time we will be left with Jesus and no one else. Only we won’t be allowed to have statues of Jesus because that’s exclusionary to someone and never mind whether he was real or not.

It’s a thorny subject because, obviously, we don’t want to celebrate bad people. But who gets to be the arbiter and judge of “good” and “bad”? People are being measured by modern standards, not the standards of the time they lived in. It’s utterly ridiculous accusing anyone living before the 1950s of homophobia, for example, based on words they said. Everyone was homophobic. Likewise, it would be silly to remove everyone who was anti-Semitic before the second world war. Everyone was antisemitic around the time of the first world war. Don’t believe me? Read The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. Full of anti-Semitic sentiment. A product of its times.

History isn’t about sanitizing the past to make it palatable to the people of today. Nor is archaeology. It is about showing what happened. Remembering. We need to see and know about the bad and good, and assess both, side-by-side. Removing the bad artificially makes us feel good about ourselves and lets us continue to believe we never had a problem with racism or other -isms. We remember bad things as a survival mechanism to avoid repeating situations which were detrimental.

It’s a bit of a childish world view to believe that in every conflict, one side is “good” and another is “bad”. Trying to find anyone in history who was all good is an exercise in futility. Churchill, for example, was known to fly into rages. But we should still celebrate him because he led the world to victory. If you aren’t sure whether his contribution to the second world war was valuable, imagine BoJo being in charge when Hitler invaded Poland. Now imagine that was Theresa May. On the other hand, Hitler was kind to some babies. That doesn’t in any way offset the great evils he committed.

It disturbs and disappoints me that, instead of looking critically at people’s actions and deeds, and in spite of the fact we all love a good redemption story when it’s not real, in the real world, our society is so facile and juvenile in its thinking that we believe there are “good guys” and “bad guys” out there.

Anyway, given the long history of systemic misogyny throughout every civilization in the world, in every time period, if we are just deleting the past based on the misdemeanours of its actors, we should basically throw away everything from every moment in time, including now, and declare petulantly that nothing at all was of any consequence because we still don’t have equal rights for women and we are still disempowered.

Case-in-point, JK Rowling. A woman holds one unpopular opinion out of thousands and she gets death threats, people burning her books, and people trying to “cancel” her. Contrast with Donald Trump. He holds thousands of unpopular (and outright nasty) opinions and gets voted president.  Or Jacob Rees-Mogg. Or Dominic Cummings, who didn’t even need anyone to vote for him. All repulsive human beings of the sort I wouldn’t want to step in on the pavement, yet they’re men so they get to hold huge amounts of power and tell us what to do. Whereas JK Rowling has contributed something profound and meaningful to our society and given joy and hope to millions, then she says ONE thing people don’t like hearing, and she gets trashed. Don’t tell me that’s not sexist because it really is.

If we’re erasing everything bad, we can pull down every statue of every man everywhere because they are men and men hurt women in a myriad ways all the time.

Oh, wait, this is one of those things where we topple the bad guys because they were bad and bad things are bad (except when they happen to women because that was her fault because excuse, excuse, excuse, blah, blah, excuse).

I’m starting to see a pattern, and I don’t like it.

People don’t seem capable of thinking critically anymore, all I’m seeing around the world are grown adults acting like six-year-olds in playground cliques. “You can’t play with us because you said something that wasn’t liberal enough.”

Not being liberal enough is the new “not being liberal” which is the new “being a fascist”. It’s not okay anymore to be against racism, to be pro-transgender people, to be pro-feminism, to be against Brexit, you have to do it in the exact right way as the groupthink or you get smashed on social media and all your friends passive-aggressively stop talking to you except that one angry crashing bore who tries to score points with the group by “calling you out”. Which famously alienates people rather than educating them, but it makes the person doing it feel good (we used to call “calling out” “bullying” but not any more) so people continue doing it and people too scared or too empty-headed to write any actual calling out words but who want to enable the bully can now paste screenshots of other people’s decontextualized witterings or they can click the like button. I’ve seen it a lot lately and I don’t like it.

Why can’t we all think for ourselves? Why do we need the nanny state to come and hide away the scary statues of the mean old Scout leaders of the world? Women have been walking through this world for thousands of years without such considerations given to us, and now because it’s affecting men, suddenly we’re worried about a statue because the man who founded Scouts was homophobic. Because the white liberal man has given minorities permission to be outraged, because the white liberal man is outraged on your behalf and his opinion is still the only one that matters. Baden-Powell died in 1941. Everyone was homophobic back then. Hell, everyone was homophobic in 2001.

We absolutely shouldn’t have statues of slavers, we should replace them with statues and road names for BAME individuals who did neat stuff in their locality or nationally, and I agreed about the man that got chucked in the Harbour in Bristol, but threatening Robert Baden-Powell is going too far. We can’t censor the past like this. Otherwise we are no better than Hitler when he got the Nazis to burn the books. And guess what? The ideas in those books didn’t go away and good prevailed over censorship.

And since I mentioned Nazis, I’m invoking Godwin’s law and ending this article here.

 

 

 

 

This is my opinion. We’re still allowed to have those, and we’re allowed to deviate from other people’s opinions.

Why Daisy Ridley shouldn’t play Lara Croft.

So I saw yesterday that apparently Daisy Ridley is in talks to play Lara Croft. Because, y’know, she’s got brown hair and has been filmed running around.

daisy ridley
Daisy Ridley will not make a good Lara Croft for another 10 years or so.

When are the people making Tomb Raider movies going to get it through their thick skulls that they are doing it wrong? They just keep repeating the same mistakes.  I’ve seen a lot of changes since I started following the Tomb Raider franchise in 1996, but this is utterly ridiculous.

Lara is English. She should be played by an English actress, they’ve got as far as working that out. However, there’s plenty of English actresses other than Daisy Ridley. They can run around and point guns at stuff just as well as American women, it’s not a “talent” that’s unique to Daisy. Not only that, but any English actress will be able to point out anachronisms in the script “we don’t usually eat that food, we don’t actually say that phrase” etc.

The main issue is that Lara is 29 in the first game. Twenty. Nine.  She gets older as time goes on.  Her official date of birth was February 14th, 1967 until the marketers stepped in and de-aged her.  Because, y’know, women aren’t allowed to age, we hit 25 then they rewind and rewrite the history and get a new actress to play the part, redesign the video game character, all that jazz.  But Lara started out as 29 and she aged 1 year in every subsequent game up to Tomb Raider Chronicles (Tomb Raider 5) where it gets a bit confused due to her being thought dead.  Of course, women stop ageing when they’re believed to be dead and it was implied (but never stated) that the clock rewound at some point because Angelina Jolie was too young when she played Lara.  Why make the same mistake again?

Hiring someone who is 23 but looks 16 isn’t going to make a great Tomb Raider movie. She needs some gravitas.  If you don’t understand this, think about an analogy – would you hire a 23 year old actor to play James Bond? It’s exactly the same.  The role of James Bond generally goes to someone aged in their very late thirties or early forties, and they play him through their forties and sometimes into their fifties.  Lara has life experience, she’s supposed to be laid back and a bit sassy, and (here’s the really important part) in her original bio, she was completely self made. She got disinherited and EARNED her money from writing travel books. You need time to establish that sort of money.

In order to win the all-important over-21 female audience, you are going to need to give them something inspirational, instead of sending the message out (yet again) that women’s lives are over at 25 and they’ve peaked.  The reason Lara did so well with the female demographic in the first place (in the video games, and she really did) is because it was the first time we’d had a character like that; older, smart, physically active, totally independent AND didn’t feel the need to look like a man to make it in the world (but wasn’t frilly and uber feminine either).  Give us Lara Croft at her actual age with someone who can really get inside the character, and I promise you, it’ll do MUCH better than whatever you’ve got planned.

Lara’s physical appearance is wrong for Daisy Ridley. Her hair is a medium brown (and in the original games she had a henna rinse). Angelina Jolie’s hair was nearly black. What’s the point in them making such a big fuss about the physical characteristics such as boobs and waist, and then consistently getting the hair wrong?

The marketing geniuses behind the Tomb Raider films seems to think that tokenistic Britishisms and the right costume are all they need, and that they should just throw it at some popular-today actress. They probably don’t understand why Cradle of Life flopped. Lena Headey would be the ideal Lara Croft in every way shape and form.  If they need more suggestions, Keira Knightley would be a MUCH better choice than Daisy Ridley; her face looks exactly right and she is a good age to play Lara convincingly, or how about Emilia Clarke (who also played Sarah Connor), these are fantastic English actresses who could really do the role some justice.  If they consider hiring an American actress (given my reservations outlined above), they should be looking in the direction of Angelina Goddamn Jolie. Really they need someone over 30 with enough life experience to actually make a credible Lara Croft, and maybe some experience in a similar role.  The only obvious reason I can think of for why they’re not considering Keira Knightley is boob size.  And that’s a disgraceful excuse.

Actress Knightley poses as she arrives for the European premiere of the film "The Imitation Game" at the BFI opening night gala at Leicester Square in London
Keira Knightley is the right age and she has the right appearance to play Lara Croft.
lena headey
Lena Headey would make a MUCH better Lara Croft than Daisy Ridley.

Lara Croft is Sarah Connor without kids. She’s not some petulant and 2-dimensional little girl who lives off daddy’s money and got into daddy’s gun cupboard. If you look at the original bio before it all got sanitized and changed to fit the films, the conflict between Lara and her parents (and getting disinherited) is what drives her to be so independent. Without it, you’ve just got an uber-wealthy spoilt brat running around third world countries damaging old stuff. Not only that, but she’s supposed to be tongue in cheek, like James Bond or Indiana Jones.  She has balls.

Characterization is where they went badly wrong with the first two films – they just didn’t understand the character when they wrote the script, turned her into some laughable idea of British Upper Class and, while the first film pulled through due to canny marketing and product deals, the second one flopped. Nobody even knew when it was out because all the advertising posters didn’t have the date on them.

They need to return to the original character concept – it worked for Batman, there you have a strong body of evidence that the modern audience wants authenticity, not some popular-culture influenced, re-styled version of the original idea. It doesn’t need to appeal to 14 year olds, it needs to appeal to twenty-and-thirty-somethings who own action figures, because the rest of the market will follow where they lead when it comes to things like this, and they will determine whether the film becomes a classic or is totally forgotten in a year’s time.  It all starts with hiring the right actress to play Lara Croft.

Marketers aren’t usually this stupid. They know how the audience thinks and they know how to market things. If they’re hiring Daisy Ridley for this, there’s something wider going on here – they want it to fail. Why? Because if they can’t reboot Tomb Raider then it’s proof positive that consumers don’t want female action heroes. Ghostbusters was a shockingly fake nod to “diversity” and following it up the next year with a terrible Tomb Raider movie will really turn public opinion against female action protagonists. Which means they can get back in the kitchen and bake cakes instead.

Edit: To reflect Lena Headey’s nationality, I have amended this article.  She really is the ultimate Lara Croft.

Want more about my Lara Croft obsession? Tutorial: Three classic Lara hairstyles.