My surname is Hamilton and I live on the political left so I feel compelled to address the widespread criticism over Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” movie. It was criticized for being colorist and not casting darker-skinned hispanics in the lead roles. It was so bad that Lin-Manuel Miranda issued an apology. It’s quite ironic because while certainly the movie could have gone farther, it went much farther than most movies ever do on issues of racial justice. Where was this criticism for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” or “A Star is Born” or “The Orville”
All of those pieces featured non-disabled white actors and actresses for the lead roles and not a peep was heard about it yet when a movie has a diverse cast and falls short in a minor way, it gets lambasted. The reason is the same reason that “I Feel Pretty” by Amy Schummer was called out for not being body positive enough or even why “The Expanse” doesn’t have the internet.
Why doesn’t the scifi series “The Expanse” feature the internet? Why doesn’t any other space-based scifi show feature the internet either? The reason is because the writers think about space travel technology when writing fiction set in space. Rockets and spaceuits. Star Trek may have a website but there are no websites in Star Trek. They fight each other all the time with projectile weapons but when humanity actually has wars on Mars, they’ll use malware just as much as physical weapons.
The reason “In the Heights” is getting so much criticism for being racist when the far less diverse casts of most other shows in the entire entertainment industry don’t is because it makes people think about racism. No one thinks about racism when watching the movie “Happy Death Day”. It’s just absent from people’s minds because they’re not reminded of it. The director of the average Hallmark Christmas Prince movie doesn’t have to apologize for lacking a diverse cast. Lin-Manuel Miranda who did much more to include a diverse cast apparently does.
It’s a simple fact of psychology. It’s system one and system two from social psychology. Cognitive biases work, largely, because stimuli trigger one to think of related concepts. Instead of going through your entire library of memories in the hippocampus, your brain uses the shortcut of bundling memories and when a stimulus occurs, your brain sends all related ideas to the prefrontal cortex for short-term retrevial. So each stimulus results in thoughts related to that stimuli coming to the front of your mind. A movie about race will make you think of racism and a movie not about race, at all, will make you forget about racism.
People are attacking the best racial justice director this side of Spike Lee for minor things while ignoring the entire rest of Hollywood. Instead of saying “This was much better than most stuff and this is how we can further progress!”. They treated Lin-Manuel Miranda like he was D.W. Griffith while every suburban flick with no diversity got a pass. The stupidity and uncosciousness of human psychology is amazing. Unless it’s obvious, people don’t usually think about it. They only think about space technology in space fiction and they only think about racism in race pieces.