Green Book is the latest Hollywood movie challenging the status quo in its depiction of racial politics. In a clever subversion of stereotypes, Viggo Mortensen’s Tony Lip, a rough shrewd-talking Italian-American from NYC, is never heard yelling at somebody that he’s “walkin’ here”.
Instead, he is – and get this – drivin‘ here.
In this simple, shocking and radical upturning of expectations, Green Book asks its audience to question their own racial bias. Why do we always assume a character from New York has to be walkin’ over there? Why not drivin’? It’s a brilliant subversion and white audiences everywhere will get a lot out of it, if they’re brave enough to challenge their own prejudices.
We all know Hollywood has a long and proud history of challenging the status quo. Hollywood movies are known for being dangerous and radical, with execs never taking the easy way out or sugar-coating contentious issues just to be more palatable to the older, mostly white Academy voters.
Green Book can proudly join the likes of Crash and Three Billboards as fantastic Oscar-worthy movies made by good non-racist people that depict the bad racist people.
In contrast, this award season’s other films that deal with race are confusing and messy and I don’t like them. BlacKkKlansman has a bizarre section at the end linking the 1970s Klan to modern-day politics which is uncomfortable. Black Panther is good fun but brings up topics like white people’s inherited stolen wealth of colonisation and the generational trauma from slavery and I got a headache from those bits.
Green Book is the feel-good hit of the year, and I walking away from it I think audiences everywhere will agree that those racists down south were bad in the 1960s, and hopefully confront their own worldview enough to ask: does every New Yorker walk here?
Food for thought.