Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

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Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by ray245 » 2018-03-25 11:53am

A Wrinkle in Time is an important moment for women of colour but the incessant fanfare undermines its significance


Ava DuVernay, director of A Wrinkle In Time, spoke on the red carpet at the London premiere about how important the film was because of the diversity of the cast and crew, because the main protagonist is female and because it is part of the desire to bring a more diverse range of storytellers to the fore. Mindy Kaling, who is in the film, described DuVernay as a “movement”, and Time magazine wrote about how the movie will change Hollywood.

Reviews suggest the film is dreadful. It has a 40% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Guardian’s Amy Nicholson gave it two stars, and one of those stars was purely for what Oprah did to her eyebrows. I can feel you getting annoyed with me. “What’s the matter, Romesh, are you against diversity? Are you delighted that the patriarchy has been reinforced by the failure of a film with a female protagonist?” Well, no.

Before A Wrinkle In Time came out, you would be hard pushed to find anybody to describe at length what it was about. All the press centred on how great it was to have a female director of colour, to have a female protagonist of colour and how DuVernay “wasn’t just casting actresses” but “leaders – icons”. I’m not suggesting any of this is bad, by the way. This is obviously long overdue. But why does everyone have to bang on about it so much?

Trumpeting diversity undermines what you are trying to achieve in the first place. It should happen without fanfare. There are people who are opposed to this sort of thing, and so when a film wears diversity on its sleeve, and then falls short, they throw up their hands and say things like: “This is what happens when you don’t do things based on merit” and, “Do you remember the good old days when black characters were played by white blokes?” Nobody wants these people to be happy. These people should be presented with diverse films and not told this is part of “a movement”. This is just how it is.


Maybe I’m being unfair. DuVernay probably did not want to focus on these aspects of the film, but that was all she was asked about. And there’s something distasteful about me ignoring all the struggles she will have had as a black female director in Hollywood as I focus on how the film is being promoted. But I do think we all have a responsibility to push the discussion of these sorts of films away from “a cause”.

A recent Kermode and Mayo podcast featured a listener who had written to say they had found Black Panther a bit boring, and hoped that its shortcomings did not remove Hollywood’s appetite for films with a black superhero at the fore. You what, mate? I remember being chased out of school by bullies throwing eggs. I ran to where my mum was waiting. She flipped out and started battering the bullies with her handbag. For two weeks, everyone called me Mummy’s boy and the girl I was going out with split up with me because she couldn’t take the embarrassment. That fortnight was more fun than watching Batman v Superman, but I don’t remember anyone saying that movie was going to undermine the future of films with white men saving the world.

Black Panther is a great film. It has the most compelling villain of any Marvel movie, and it deals admirably with the issue of diminishing jeopardy in a million superhero films where the world is going to end. It also has an almost completely black cast and some kick-ass female characters. It deserves to be judged on its own merits. We should not be talking about this film as a giant leap forward for movie-making; we should be talking about it as one of the most exciting Marvel films for a while. I would also argue that a film set in Africa having a lot of black characters in it should probably be a given, and also that Wesley Snipes must be bloody furious that everyone’s forgotten about Blade.

Ghostbusters is another example. After it was announced the ’Busters would all be women, breaking all stereotypical traditions from the original film except for the one with the underwritten one-dimensional black character (“You guys are really smart about this science stuff, but I know New York and can borrow a car from my uncle!”), the internet cracked under the pressure of a million fanboys expressing disdain from their mum’s basement. The director, Paul Feig, was forced to defend these decisions and the film became a cause, with some reviewers scared to criticise it. It underperformed at the box office and the unfortunate consequence is that a load of internet losers think they’ve been proved right. You can find them now campaigning for the destruction of every copy of The Last Jedi.

Announcing a diversity initiative, or making it a cause, exerts unwanted pressure. This is not restricted to movies. When the BBC’s then director of television, Danny Cohen, announced that it would put at least one woman on every panel show, this made the job of every woman on a panel show more difficult. All three of them were livid. In short, we should all be pushing to make more diverse films, TV shows and business opportunities. But we probably shouldn’t mention it.
https://amp.theguardian.com/film/2018/m ... ssion=true

Yeah, I think making a fanfare out of diversity is effectively turning it into nothing more than a marketing tool. It's commericalising the idea of diversity instead of a geninue attempt to increase diverse viewpoints in the Hollywood industry.

It feels a little empty, like an attempt of this generation to brag about how much more progress they are making compared to earlier generation.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Crazedwraith » 2018-03-25 12:06pm

Ironically you know what the solution was in the panel show case? More women. If you've got one women on the show they have to represent all women comics everywhere, when you've got many women comics, they all get to do their own thing and it's okay if you like some and not others. You can dislike one women's comedy without going 'and therefore women as a whole can't do comedy'

I do think the articles got about about hyping it up and then not being good is damaging. But that effect will happen regardless of how much or little you hype to womenness of it. Supergirl/Catwoman/Elektra killed superheroine movies for a while regardless of feminist hype.

Clumsy as it may be, I'd personally rank initiative like the panel show one as better than not doing anything at all. That there may be some blacklash doesn't meant that there should be a call for or promotion of diversity. Because we do need it.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by ray245 » 2018-03-25 12:17pm

Crazedwraith wrote:
2018-03-25 12:06pm
Ironically you know what the solution was in the panel show case? More women. If you've got one women on the show they have to represent all women comics everywhere, when you've got many women comics, they all get to do their own thing and it's okay if you like some and not others. You can dislike one women's comedy without going 'and therefore women as a whole can't do comedy'

I do think the articles got about about hyping it up and then not being good is damaging. But that effect will happen regardless of how much or little you hype to womenness of it. Supergirl/Catwoman/Elektra killed superheroine movies for a while regardless of feminist hype.

Clumsy as it may be, I'd personally rank initiative like the panel show one as better than not doing anything at all. That there may be some blacklash doesn't meant that there should be a call for or promotion of diversity. Because we do need it.
I agree. The point is to disentangle the idea of women directors or minority directors as some sort of hallmark or milestone for the studios execs to pat their own back and show how diverse they are as a group.

What matters is continuing to increase the diversity of gender and ethnicity even when it doesn't help to make massive profits. Because diversity shouldn't be measured by the amount of profit it is bringing in for companies.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-03-25 01:15pm

I've mentioned before how the most red-meat "White guy, age 18-35" demographic movie Predator had one of the most diverse casts of anything I would see for years (Had an actual Native American in it, RIP Mr. Landham). It does lose points for Ventura's incredibly homophobic remark, but it was a cornucopia of different ethnicities. Sure, the Hispanic female COULD have been part of the team, but she'd be a hard sell considering said Team, unlike Alice Braga years later in Predators. Arnold movies in general are pretty good for women IMHO. Yes, they are generally love interests, but those you find in movies like Running Man, Total Recall, Terminator: they are proactive. They have agency. They don't go around throwing haymakers, but they get shit done. Oh yea, and they tend to dress normally, not doing Girl-Fu in skin tight body suits and high heels.

And Blade easily could have been whitewashed in the time it came out. Aside from a few metaphors and Perlman's comments to Blade in Blade 2, there's no reason Blade needed to be black for the movie. But they went with it.

Most movies lived and died based on them being awesome or shit. You couldn't hide under this "Internet Trolls, who don't buy movie tickets because they pirate all their movies, killed our shitty movie." Hollywood these days seems to be saying "Hey look, there's enough good minority actors/actresses to fill out a cast with VERY FEW WHITE PEOPLE" and people aren't just saying "well, fucking DUH. You were the group of rich fucks who forgot this and sold us movies with nothing but good-looking white doods for 20 years." Blogging keyboard warriors are instead like "Yea, we won!" or something to that effect. Everyone else is just glad to see another good movie.

Customers have to buy what's being sold. In the past, they were more than willing to buy "diversity products." You stopped selling them, they continued to buy what was there as long as it was good. Nothing's fucking changed except the vigorous pats on the back Hollywood wants for realizing once again: audiences (the people who actually PAY to see movies, not just rant on the Internet) aren't actually racist/sexist. Or at least, they can put it aside to pay money to see a good movie no matter who is cast.

But "Diversity casting" cannot save a shitty movie. Just like Will Smith couldn't save After Earth. Bad example as, he is incredibly popular, he's black. Uh.... Tom Cruise couldn't save the later Mission Impossible movies. They are bad. Just casting Tom Cruise doesn't get your millions back except that a guy like Cruise would generally have the pull to say "This is shit, change it or I walk."

People are willing to "forgive" a diverse movie being bad. Or really, they aren't dumb enough to hold an entire gender/race resposible for a bad movie because they aren't fucking morons. They've proven this time and time again. HOLLYWOOD OTOH seems to do this and runs back to safe casting choices at the first sign they fucked up.

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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Q99 » 2018-03-25 02:13pm

IMO, this is a bad article. "It's not good enough to do something good, you need to do it without fanfare"... just isn't a solid point. People should be allowed to celebrate, and "It undermines the point," is a way of saying 'Ok, you can want something, but you can't talk about it.' It's someone who while willing to give vague support objects to people actually pushing for causes, which is... not how progress gets made. Never has been.

Saying it's empty or such is missing the point- there's no bonus points or penalty points for, "Oh, you got diversity, but you didn't do it the right way," rather that's gatekeeping and insisting people pushing for diversity have to clear additional hurdles that white actors and such... don't. Middle-of-the-road quick buck movies should be diverse too!


Also, I'll refer everyone to This thread, how a casting agency found that diversity increased box office opening across all budget levels by a very significant amount. Things need to be banged on and trumpeted because it's not really happening too fast despite major financial incentive to do so.

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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by ray245 » 2018-03-25 02:35pm

To make a fanfare out of it is not helping diversity in becoming normalised. Because it shift the focus towards big tentpole films while not really addressing the wider issues of diversity in Hollywood. It's a self-congratulatory gesture that make it easy for smaller productions to not make any major changes.

It's basically saying Will Smith being a major star does not mean the industry as a whole is diverse.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Bob the Gunslinger » 2018-03-25 02:59pm

Meanwhile, Pacific Rim Uprising is as diverse as anything and no one cares.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Rogue 9 » 2018-03-25 03:18pm

Q99 wrote:
2018-03-25 02:13pm
IMO, this is a bad article. "It's not good enough to do something good, you need to do it without fanfare"... just isn't a solid point.
That doesn't seem to be the point, though. What it's getting at, to my reading, is that trying to cover up a bad movie by trumpeting it as diverse will not forgive it being a bad movie, and trying to do so will tar diverse movies in the future.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-03-25 05:40pm

Rogue 9 wrote:
2018-03-25 03:18pm
That doesn't seem to be the point, though. What it's getting at, to my reading, is that trying to cover up a bad movie by trumpeting it as diverse will not forgive it being a bad movie, and trying to do so will tar diverse movies in the future.
I mean... you ain't wrong.

And how many Diversity Gold Stars can I give Marvel for making a movie in 2017 called Black Panther a mostly minority cast? They get the most for making the movie at all, after a lot of build-up.* That's when they'll let lose and hire a bunch of black actors and actresses? I mean, this movie would have been in jeopardy of being completely shut down by censors in and around the 70s for daring to portray African culture in a positive light without a whiteman lens. But since I've been alive? Not really.

That shit is not an issue today outside overt racist trolls. It's just not. Movie going audiences have shown time and time again they just do not fucking care, and will watch anything, as long as it is good. The kind of people who think "black people? TERRIBLE" just do not matter today in the context of making money off a movie.

And even when they did matter, racist whites STILL consumed the shit out of black culture and would pay money to do so even in the days where you couldn't show a man and wife sleeping in the same bed.

*Meanwhile, Blade came out of fucking nowhere. To be fair though, Wesley Snipes was basically born to play the role. The "Popular Black Actor who knows martial arts" list was (and probably still is) a damn short list.

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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-04-04 10:56am

TheFeniX wrote:
2018-03-25 01:15pm
People are willing to "forgive" a diverse movie being bad. Or really, they aren't dumb enough to hold an entire gender/race resposible for a bad movie because they aren't fucking morons. They've proven this time and time again. HOLLYWOOD OTOH seems to do this and runs back to safe casting choices at the first sign they fucked up.
A few months ago, Lindsay Ellis released a video talking about the drama surrounding the making of the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie that delved a lot into this mindset in Hollywood. The studios seem to have a mindset that whenever a movie fails, it's never because it's a bad movie. It's always because audiences don't want to see X, whether it's a specific actor, various minorities in prominent roles, specific genres or settings, etc.

Eisner was originally dead-set against green-lighting POTC, in large part because Disney had made some pretty costly blunders around that time, so he was feeling very risk-averse, and conventional Hollywood wisdom at the time was that pirate movies were a dead genre. It wasn't that the pirate movies they made were shitty, it was that audiences weren't interested in watching their great pirate movies.

The only things that really got him to acquiesce was the sudden success of a movie that was part of a genre that "died" around the same time as pirates (Gladiator), and the fact that Verbinski, et al, basically just went ahead and started making the movie anyway. Even then, the studio was pretty much opposed to every deviation from the stereotypical pirate movie (ie Depp channeling Keith Richards instead of Errol Flynn, making the evil pirates undead), when it was precisely that weirdness that made the original POTC unique and memorable.

I'm also seeing some of the same stuff coming up with Ellis's recent and still-ongoing autopsy of the Hobbit movies. Officially, the studios claim Guillermo Del Toro quit because he was impatient with how long pre-production was taking and wanted to move on to other projects, except the pre-production wasn't that long to begin with and the pre-production work Del Toro did was scrapped entirely and the movies went straight to filming with essentially no pre-production at all. Factor in Peter Jackson agreeing to direct the movies in spite of his repeated previous stated lack of interest in the job, and the story that makes more sense is that the studios did not like Del Toro's vision (two movies instead of three, with a more fairy tale-esque aesthetic than LOTR), so they pushed him out and delivered an ultimatum to Jackson that amounted to, "Start filming right now, and make it like Lord of the Rings, or we will find someone who will."

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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-04 01:11pm

Yeah, the big downside of the studio system is that they don't care about diversity, change, art, creativity, or talent. They only really care about maximizing profits. The main thing they provide these days is fancy special effects and financing; beyond that... if you care about these things, either you have to get big enough that you have enough pull to do what you want (not always possible-- see above example of Del Toro being frustrated on The Hobbit), or go indie, which has its own risks, primarily lack of release scope and funding.

That's why when something works, even if it's not what they necessarily wanted in the first place... they'll flog the hell out of it. That's why we got five (or is it *six* by now?) Pirates of the Caribbean movies. That's why indie movies rarely get sequels even if they're popular-- the studios will spite the hell out of the project if they can't buy the rights.

There's a bit of a grey area where some studios *do* try to be progressive-- see the MCU and Black Panther, albeit that was belated, and they still don't have a female-led superhero movie yet until Captain Marvel comes out-- and/or celebrities who are big enough to help prop up small studios help put some work through that wouldn't otherwise make the big time. Gaming the system is also possible--see Wes Anderson, why do you think he has so many famous people in his movies? Big names help pull down funding, even for weird projects. But that said, overall if you want to look for diversity, mainstream Hollywood is *not* the way to go. This has been a fact since the very beginning.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by houser2112 » 2018-04-06 07:39am

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-04 01:11pm
and they still don't have a female-led superhero movie yet until Captain Marvel comes out
Wonder Woman?

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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Crazedwraith » 2018-04-06 07:43am

houser2112 wrote:
2018-04-06 07:39am
Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-04 01:11pm
and they still don't have a female-led superhero movie yet until Captain Marvel comes out
Wonder Woman?
He was referring specifically the Marvel Studios there.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-06 11:30am

Crazedwraith wrote:
2018-04-06 07:43am
houser2112 wrote:
2018-04-06 07:39am
Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-04 01:11pm
and they still don't have a female-led superhero movie yet until Captain Marvel comes out
Wonder Woman?
He was referring specifically the Marvel Studios there.
Correct. DC actually managed to get one over on Marvel there, and the success of the WW movie should ensure that Hollywood is willing to explore this new avenue for profit. The fact that more female-led superhero/comic movies will diversify the genre is simply a bonus to them. There is a legitimate argument to be made that the lousy superheroine movies of the early 00s poisoned the subgenre-- see Catwoman and Elektra, specifically (why in the name of bog they thought giving a C-list anti-heroine a movie, particularly after the first one she appeared in crashed and burned, was a good idea I'll never understand). But that doesn't particularly justify not simply trying harder to make a GOOD super-heroine movie, which is precisely why WW succeeded.

That was a big part of the problem in the 90s and early 00s-- Hollywood wasn't *trying*. A few superhero movies made big money (like Blade), they seized on those and started cranking out sequels and copycats... to poor effect. It didn't help that the comic-book publishers weren't involved other than tangentially; it was Hollywood trying to make Hollywood versions of DC/Marvel/whatever books, not the publishers taking care of their own properties.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by ray245 » 2018-04-06 12:35pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-06 11:30am
Crazedwraith wrote:
2018-04-06 07:43am
houser2112 wrote:
2018-04-06 07:39am


Wonder Woman?
He was referring specifically the Marvel Studios there.
Correct. DC actually managed to get one over on Marvel there, and the success of the WW movie should ensure that Hollywood is willing to explore this new avenue for profit. The fact that more female-led superhero/comic movies will diversify the genre is simply a bonus to them. There is a legitimate argument to be made that the lousy superheroine movies of the early 00s poisoned the subgenre-- see Catwoman and Elektra, specifically (why in the name of bog they thought giving a C-list anti-heroine a movie, particularly after the first one she appeared in crashed and burned, was a good idea I'll never understand). But that doesn't particularly justify not simply trying harder to make a GOOD super-heroine movie, which is precisely why WW succeeded.

That was a big part of the problem in the 90s and early 00s-- Hollywood wasn't *trying*. A few superhero movies made big money (like Blade), they seized on those and started cranking out sequels and copycats... to poor effect. It didn't help that the comic-book publishers weren't involved other than tangentially; it was Hollywood trying to make Hollywood versions of DC/Marvel/whatever books, not the publishers taking care of their own properties.
That has always been Hollywood's culture and management in terms of dealing with success and failures. They are quite bad at identifying why a movie failed or why some movies succeeded.

What might be the problem will be Hollywood taking the assumption that diversity alone is enough to make a movie good and profitable as a result. If diversity is just a mere fad for Hollywood, then that's an issue to be worried about. It needs to be more than a fad, which isn't something Hollywood is good at doing.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-06 12:57pm

ray245 wrote:
2018-04-06 12:35pm
What might be the problem will be Hollywood taking the assumption that diversity alone is enough to make a movie good and profitable as a result. If diversity is just a mere fad for Hollywood, then that's an issue to be worried about. It needs to be more than a fad, which isn't something Hollywood is good at doing.
Agreed. It doesn't help that historically there has been a divide between traditionally 'black' movies and Hollywood movies. There are some big-studio majority-black movies, but they tend to be marketed towards black audiences rather than the *whole* audience. The same goes for say LGBT movies-- they may get a lot of positive (or not, depends, I guess) press in their own media, but outside of it, nobody really notices until awards season.

Diversity is good, but it needs to be implemented across the board, not pigeonholed.
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Re: Can we all just stop banging on about diversity in films?

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-04-06 04:54pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-06 11:30am
That was a big part of the problem in the 90s and early 00s-- Hollywood wasn't *trying*. A few superhero movies made big money (like Blade), they seized on those and started cranking out sequels and copycats... to poor effect. It didn't help that the comic-book publishers weren't involved other than tangentially; it was Hollywood trying to make Hollywood versions of DC/Marvel/whatever books, not the publishers taking care of their own properties.
Blade was a pretty weird case. It wasn't exactly a blockbuster IIRC, but it made solid money. It was originally supposed to be way more blaxploitation by the studio, but the writers convinced them otherwise and this was easier since it wasn't expected to be a big money maker. What followed was something a bit above Cult Classic with a dedicated following. I recall critics ravaging it, but it found more than enough fans.

By the time of Blade 3, there was a big push by the studio in the "executive meddling" area. The movie was supposed to be quite bleak, but they cut that in favor of Blade vs Dracula. Snipes was also going through some shit. A lot of this is third hand, but supposedly a romance between Blade and Whistler (Beil) was cut and he attributed it to racism. The "white guy takes over the show" WRT Ryan Reynolds taking over much of the /screen/dialog was because Snipes would barely leave his trailer. Had they not had Reynolds to lean on here, the movie would have been completely unsalvageable instead of just... mostly incredibly boring. Beil just has no screen presence.

The entire movie production was just a trainwreck. That said, it still made good money, but also the Blade series was going on before The Matrix and continued after that. Snipes is not a "The Matrix" style of fighter that supposedly all audiences were demanding (note: they did not) after said Matrix came out.

But what it boils down to is the same with a lot of things: executives just don't understand what makes things popular. Like Sony trying to constantly gut Deadpool (Rated R comic movies don't sell!) to make it shit and the people working on the movies (those that care) wouldn't let them. So they took things like "Sony cut all our money" into gags like "Shit, I forgot my gun bag" and "Why are there only two X-Men, we couldn't afford Stewart?"

That's a big part of the Hollywood lifecycle of a series/genre:
Hollwood "knows" something won't make money.
Someone convinces a studio to try anyway. The studio hopes for nothing but a tax write-off.
The movie hits big.
Then the suits care enough to push their noses into the production and turn it into shit.
And, though I could never prove this is what happens: the assholes upstairs ruin fucking everything and since they don't want to and don't have to take blame, they can instead say shit like "women don't sell" or "the genre is dead" to keep their self-esteem high or some shit. And no one is going to really say otherwise since those people want to continue to be hired by said studios.

This is, of course third hand, the kind of shit that happens when all the big wigs from EA, Actishit, etc get together for their little parties. They brag about "pushing units." That's all games are to them, units. The quality of whatever unit they are pushing doesn't matter, as long as they can convince suckers to buy as many as possible.

An example I always like to go back to, because they are usually top-notch in the long run, is how Nintendo handled Metroid's transition into the Gamecube after their Japanese teams failed miserably (mostly from a technical standpoint) to get Metroid onto the N64. Since Metroid was always the "Western" title of the Nintendo Trinity (+ Zelda and Mario, Metroid is massively more popular in the west than in the East), they were willing to take a huge risk letting Retro make most all the decision on it. We got the Prime series because Nintendo was near positive they didn't understand (note: more third party info) Western Audiences enough to determine why Metroid was so popular among them and that maybe people with a different view on what Metroid should be could come up with a solution. IIRC: the Nintendo Proper team working with the N64 never even considered making it a 1st person game because seeing the Power Suit was too big a seller for them.

Then they pulled development back East and really tried to force a narrative down our throats and Western audiences reacted poorly. And, to this day maybe, the leads on the team can't understand the almost visceral reaction to Other M WRT long-time western fans. This was in large part in trying to sell a long list of Japanese themes* when those themes don't play well in the West at all, even less so when the character is established as a mostly Lone Wolf. This is even ignoring the almost comical levels of sexism in the game.

*such as Samus being subservient to her superior in the chain of command when she is 100000% more competent and useful than he is. In the West, in those same circumstances, you have your "Dirty Harry" stereotype we love because they ignore dumb shit to get the job done. NOTE: This is all conjecture from me personally since this theme is widely prevalent in Japanese fiction.

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