Pretty rich white people surviving a tsunami: The Impossible

Based on the true life events of the 2004 tsunami that devastated South East Asia and killed over 200,000 people, Hollywood has decided to make a film called The Impossible that stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as wealthy European tourists caught in the disaster. If I can summarize this film in a nutshell, it would be: “A touching film starring white people who survive while seeing the poor dying brown people around them and realize how fragile life is.”

As usual, there is the trend that with white actors in leading roles about saving non-white people in disastrous situations, you have a guaranteed major distribution. However, if it’s from the perspective of the non-white folks that are afflicted, it is typically relegated to art house statuses and ethnic film festivals.

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21 thoughts on “Pretty rich white people surviving a tsunami: The Impossible

  1. This is not so much Hollywood as Hollywood reacting to a not too small demographic of the mainstream audience who believes that if a film doesn’t star a white person then it is a Black/Asian/Latin picture, and not universal.

  2. 1-The movie is not ‘Hollywood’, the whole production team is Spanish, director is Spanish, all the money came from Spanish companies. The actors are British & Australian. So no “rich Americans” involved here.

    2- It is based on a true story, The director met the real family (also Spanish) in Barcelona and decided to make the movie about them. They chose to film in English so more people would go watch it and hired English-speaking actors. The nationality of the famili is not stated anywhere in the movie. The original family is also white. You can see the real mother next to Naomi Watts here, http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Maria+Belon/Naomi+Watts/Impossible+Lo+Imposible+Madrid+Premiere/EwAqvQ0bPQX

    3- Bollywood makes movies about Indians, both in India and abroad, French make movies about French, Japanese make movies about Japanese. Thai makes movies about Thai. Whe have here a Spanish team making a movie about a real Spanish family… How exactly is that racist?

    • it is racist because the suffering of Asians on the tsunami disaster is ignored the white family is the centre stage. a typical white supremacist tactic of being the top dog when surrounded by non-whites in a non-white country. Bollywood is increasingly hiring white actors and actresses, China is following them in hiring white actors. the Japanese hire white people in their ads and in Both China and Japan white ESL teachers are preferred over non-white ESL teachers.

      • Yes, the white family is at the centre stage because it’s their real story the director wants to tell since he was personally interested in it. I don’t think there is anything racist about wanting to tell it. It seems to me you’re implying they didn’t have the right to tell their story because they’re white. Sorry I don’t see your point. I’m Spanish, maybe we’re not as race-sensitive as you.

        As for the suffering of the Asians, it is never ‘ignored’ as you put it. I watched the movie last week and and the Thai locals’ stories are also represented (among other examples, there’s a scene with actual survivors of the tsunami explaining what happened to them).

      • This isn’t a freedom of speech, this has nothing to do with rights. This is about the persistent racism in the entertainment industry and how immoral it is. This is about the value of brown lives and how it is constantly being placed below the value of white lives. This is a situation within the context of greater systemic oppression against people of color. Don’t white people have enough movies with white protagonists? Why was the director personally interested in the white families story but not any of the other families? Are whites really that incapable of watching a movie that portrays people of color as three-dimensional human beings? The white family had a real story in contrast to the other families who had fake stories?

        Don’t you fucking dare turn this around and accuse us of reverse-racism.Don’t you dare claim we are over-sensitive.I have suffered too much and for too long from white supremacy. I will break and when that happens REAL change will begin.

    • Thank you SO MUCH, Anabel. I’m so tired of hearing people complaining about this movie being racist. It in no way undermines the fact that the native people were suffering too. And plus, from a director’s perspective, when you’re putting together a cast, you want to choose the actors/actresses who can best portray the characters. If I find someone of the right race who can act, AWESOME. If I find someone who I think fit’s the part perfectly and uniquely, EVEN MORE AWESOME.

      • You know what im fucking tired of: im tired of living in a white supremacist world that has made my life a living hell. Im tired of seeing Asian men portrayed in the most degrading ways. Im tired of whites placing a higher value on white life than the lives of people of color. Im tired of whites making excuses for their racism. Do you guys really need another movie about whites? Do you really expect us to believe the entertainment industry is colorblind? Im tired of whites denying racism, then turning around and justifying inequality with what is obviously racism. “The fact that there aren’t many Asians in the media isn’t because of racism, it’s just because whites are superior actors and Asians are inferior actors.” That’s the textbook definition of white supremacy. And another thing, the fact that whites will not watch a movie with an Asian protagonist (that is not a stereotype) is not neutral. It is highly indicative of what goes on in the white mind.

        Talking to whites is useless. We must take forceful action against them if we wish to take back our souls.

      • If I find someone of the right race who can act, AWESOME. If I find someone who I think fit’s the part perfectly and uniquely, EVEN MORE AWESOME.”

        That argument is becoming more and more HYPOCRITICAL when Hollywood doesn’t even try to cast roles with ethnic actors even when the story is based on people who are not white. Hollywood executives have said in interview after interview how they don’t believe movies with ethnic actors do well overseas (NOT THAT THEY’VE EVER TRIED) with a truly good/universal film), and yet people still want to pretend that everything’s as fair as lottery and that any group that complains about their portrayal (or lack of representation) is just making things up.

    • You do happen to realize that Spanish production or not, the family in “The Impossible is not going to be confused with a “Spanish” family. In fact if you hadn’t told me they were Spanish, I wouldn’t have known it from the trailer, and that’s because the actually “Spanish” family was switched to a British family for the film. Why do you think that was? Why does any production feel that to appeal to a broader audience the protagonists of a film need to be white-washed?

      You point about French making movies about the french and Japan making movies about the Japanese is muddying the waters with an apples and oranges analogy since Japan is an island with an almost 90% population of Japanese citizens and even then I can point to other races being portrayed in Japanese films. Have you seen the film “Brother” by the Japanese film-maker Takashi Kitano? that has some of the best written Black characters I’ve seen in a film? Better than most films coming out of the U.S. America is not Japan. We are a nation of immigrants; different cultures different races. We’ve always been that way, but our movies don’t reflex that at all. In fact I have to question the thought processes of anyone who even tries to use that argument in a discussion such as this.

  3. This “Spanish” family is from white origin. The movie was about the tourists, NOT about the locals. That’s not racist at all, it’s just using a true story for a movie which happens ALL the time. That has NOTHING to do with race. It’s about the story, not about the people. Spanish people who can go on a holiday to Thailand, do you really think they’re poorer than a British family? I don’t think so. Any European who can afford to go to Asia is upper/medium class. That, once again, has nothing to do with race.

  4. @ Eco

    Thank you SO MUCH, Anabel. I’m so tired of hearing people complaining about this movie being racist. It in no way undermines the fact that the native people were suffering too. And plus, from a director’s perspective, when you’re putting together a cast, you want to choose the actors/actresses who can best portray the characters. If I find someone of the right race who can act, AWESOME. If I find someone who I think fit’s the part perfectly and uniquely, EVEN MORE AWESOME.

    The whole notion of choosing the “best actors” to portray a role is the excuse mainstream media gives to us to obfuscate their prejudices and bigotry.

    One egregious thing to me and a common practice is the hiring of abled actors to play the roles of disabled characters. The abled actors get to play pretend as they portray disabled characters and they portray disabled people as caricatures and stereotypes of real disabled people because they have no knowledge of what it is like to be disabled. They cannot portray the honest emotions of a disabled person in any sort of crisis; they don’t know how to move their bodies through space like a disabled person could; they don’t know the fear disabled people have of the abled as abled people are a huge threat to lives of disabled people, the abled are the primary attackers of disabled people and abusers, rapists, murderers; and the abled are the gate-keepers medicine and treatment, of economic mobility, and especially physical mobility.

    It’s no better if the actor is portraying a mental disability. The actor can’t get the behaviors and mannerisms of a mentally disabled character because they cannot think like a person with the mental disability they are trying to portray, and again portray their character as a caricature and stereotypes.

    The worst sin though of such media, films and televison, but also in books and comics, is that disabled characters are often used to make the abled feel good and uplifted about themselves, re-affirm and validate their beliefs and fantasies about the world through the suffering of, or more insidiously, the accomplishments the disabled characters portrayed in the medium as a means to inspire the abled audience.

    In The Impossible the people affected most by the disaster in reality, in horrible, humiliating, and fatal ways become just the vehicle by which this family’s ruined, escapable vacation, learn to find value in their shared lives and bonds with each other. This brings up old notions still in vogue today: that the suffering of “different people” exists to teach special snowflake whites something through the unnecessary pain and hardships faced by those most prominently affected by a horrible event or disaster.

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