Old ★★★★★

@Theowlblind Reposting the beautifully detailed explanation of blatant discrimination against Shyamalan.

The endless barrage of vitriol against M. Night Shyamalan from racist white critics for all these years has to be viewed in conjunction with how Indians have been portrayed as cretins by white writers in Hollywood, be it Gunga Din, Hrundi Bakshi, Mola Ram, Apu, Raj, Baljeet or Dopinder. These are the most popular caricatures that have largely contributed to the image of Indians in the American mainstream consciousness.

When around 90% of critics on rotten tomatoes and even on this website happen to be white, film criticism of Night's movies is just neo-colonialism. Also most white critics have an extremely condescending tone regarding the scripts and dialogues and it seems to me as if they are questioning "Let's see how well you have mastered the language imposed upon your ancestors (through 350 years of colonialization, indentured slavery and genocidal famines)?"

"Mainstream American pop culture definitely has a problem with Indians, and much of that can be seen in how Shyamalan has been made a target for hate and mockery in ways that other, similarly unpopular filmmakers, like Chris Columbus, Guy Ritchie, Zack Snyder, Raja Gosnell, Barry Sonnenfeld, Renny Harlin and others, generally haven't.

It's most obvious in the lazy "Shamalamadingdong" jokes that people make about his name (and other dismal attempts to spell or pronounce it correctly, even from respected, mainstream critics.) This is fairly unique, and I can't think of any other successful filmmaker that has been treated to such indignity.

Mockery of Indian culture is just ingrained at this point, as are the efforts of the largely white film culture to set and dominate the narrative of Shyamalan's career. He's often accused of being egotistical, or narcissistic. As a brown-skinned filmmaker in a white-dominated industry, Shyamalan probably has to walk a little taller than his peers. He has to paint himself as someone that studios and distributors not only WANT to work with, but NEED to work with. That's how you get a foot in the door.

The systemic barriers placed on non-white filmmakers are extraordinary, and yet Shyamalan was able to slip through the cracks and achieved success on his own terms. This irritates people. The resentment that many have for Shyamalan ("who keeps funding this guy's work"/"who keeps letting this guy make movies") comes from the fact that he wasn't given a seat at the table – he took it! The on-going perception is that his success is underserved and that his failure is something we can all celebrate.

But calling him egotistical or narcissistic is another way for the white film culture to say "know your place." He's not supposed to get above himself.

Another example of this same systemic gas-lighting is how Shyamalan's films are perceived as "unintentional comedies." The implication being that he just doesn't understand how comedy works. He couldn't possibly know that a man talking to a plastic plant and acknowledging the absurdity of it is a scene of deliberate comic relief (in a film and career absolutely full of scenes of intentional deadpan humor). No, he's just not that sophisticated! It must be unintentional. He's just stupid.

His appraoch to performance and dialog are not stylized because he wants to achieve a particular atmosphere or effect, like Bresson, Zulawski, Lynch or others, it's merely "bad" because he doesn't understand how normal people speak and behave. That must be it. Confirmation bias achieved.

These are macroaggressions that mostly white film critics have used to set the narrative on Shyamalan's work, painting his approach, his "voice", as incompetent rather than individual, refusing to see him as an eccentric with his own style and aesthetic, and instead seeing him as someone who fails at being Steven Spielberg.

We see this in our culture all the time – it's how straight white men have controlled the narrative for years. Painting women and people of color as "difficult", "irrational", "too sensitive", "too egotistical", "stupid", "ridiculous", "wrong", etc., etc., while praising the bad behavior, the racism, the sexism, the abuse, the false confidence and the recklessness of straight, white, male creatives as "misunderstood", "ground-breaking", "underrated", "ahead of their time", "provocative," and so on.

Combine this with a culture that frequently mocks, diminishes and "others" people from India and you have a recipe for disaster."

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