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David Thompson

Atticus's six-year old daughter, Scout

Who the hell names their kid "Scout"? That's like naming your kid "Aldron", or "Jeepster".

Apart from that, I've neither seen the movie nor read the book as I dislike that sort of treacly do-gooderism.

The Happy Feminist

I happen to adore treacly do-gooderism.

I believe Bruce Willis and Demi Moore have a daughter named Scout. And no I don't spend too much time reading about celebrities.

Clio Bluestocking

You have hit upon a problem with movies about the Civil Rights era. Most tend to follow the pattern that you have outlined for _To Kill a Mockingbird_: a white lawyer defending a black victim. The exceptions seem to be (and this is not the result of exhaustive study) Spike Lee's _Malcolm X_, _The Long Walk Home_ in which a white woman joins the Montgomery Bus Boycott without taking over it, and parts of _Ali_. (There must be a few more).

Obviously, these white-lawyer-as-savior movies are intended for a white audience, showing a white hero who ensures justice by working within the legal system. The white people can leave the theater feeling good about themselves for having identified with the white lawyer, but not threatened by organized and empowered black people. This betrays history. Black folks were the driving force behind Civil Rights reform, crossing Jim Crow color lines, fighting segregation in the courts, opposing lynching, and challenging white folks notions of race.

TangoMan

these white-lawyer-as-savior movies are intended for a white audience,

I think it's kind of sad that the window of opportunity for cultural change with regards to Black stories is now closing. The cultural change is now shifting to benefiting America's 2nd largest demographic, Hispanics and Blacks will become more marginalized vis a vis Hispanic interests and cultural messages.

To Kill a Mockingbird was obviously aimed at a white audience because that audience was larger than the Black audience, and people univerally identify more with their own culture and people than they do with those cultures that are different.

The Happy Feminist

I think that the marketing of movies primarily to white audiences was NOT simply a function of the free-market system. Clearly, African-Americans, while a minority, comprise a significant portion of the market and there would certainly be plenty of money to be made in films and other products targeted to that audience.

Other factors that have a significant impact in the historic lack of movies written from the perspective of African-Americans and other minorities was the sheer lack of opportunity for African-Americans to become involved in producing and writing movies. If most of my people are living in poverty, not getting an adequate education and contending with Jim Crow laws, it's going to be pretty tough for many of us to suddenly make it big in Hollywood. (I'm obviously speaking hypothetically since I am not black.) Also, white America was barely waking up to the fact that black people are human beings on a par with white people. Thus, it likely didn't occur to those who were in a position to make movies in 1962 to tell stories from the perspective of African-American characters.

Long story, short: You can't discount the effects of racism and its fall out for the historic dearth of movies focusing on African-American characters in 1962 and beyond.

TangoMan

So, what's the case today? Blacks have star power, they can get movies made if they will bring in an audience, they have TV networks focused on them, etc.

My point is reinforced by this article:

At a time when other TV audiences are shrinking, Hispanic TV is a media darling because its viewership just keeps on growing. So far this year, an average of 3.7 million viewers catch Spanish-language movies and south-of-the-border telenovelas (soap operas) on either Telemundo or Univision, according to Nielsen Media Research, an 8.7% jump over the year before. Those numbers helped the two networks record double-digit ad-sales growth for the coming season even as the slowing economy has slashed ad sales elsewhere in TV-land. The U.S. Hispanic population, now 33.6 million and the country's fastest-growing segment, is expected to top 43 million by 2010 . . .

Those kinds of multiples have driven up the price for Univision, which draws an average 1.7 million households a night, five times BET's audience.

The time when Black were America's 2nd largest ethnic group are gone. This is why we're going to see increasing cultural attention paid to Hispanics. The call for more positive Hispanic role models on TV will reduce the exposure of Black doctors on ER and Black judges on Law and Order in favor of Hispanic presence. I'm not a big TV watcher but even I've noticed some recent changes - on Freddie they have a grandmother that speaks only in Spanish and on Without A Trace they've added Puerto Rican accented Roselyn Sanchez. The producers are clearly reacting to the changing demographics of the US. I mean, really, what's the artistic rational for having a character that speaks only in Spanish for an English only audience?

h sofia

I do think To Kill a Mockingbird was a better story and movie than "A Time to Kill" which is kind of a similar set up - how a white lawyer struggles to defend a black man in an atmosphere of racism.

But it did not make Matthew McConaughey really really famous.

Anyways, yes ... this is a common point of discussion among my friends and families: how even when it's our stories being told, they are often told by white males. Things are changing, slowly, as to be expected. It's been hundreds of years that white men in America have had to acquire the power they have as a collective. It may take just as long for others to do the same.

David Thompson

"But it did not make Matthew McConaughey really really famous."

No, Dazed and Confused did that.

David Thompson

Also, white America was barely waking up to the fact that black people are human beings on a par with white people.

That's a rather careless misstatement.

Clio Bluestocking

I think what Happy is getting at in her post is that, while _Mockingbird_ was great for its time, films on the same subject today should have moved beyond its structure of the heroic white lawyer to focus on the other ways in which Civil Rights was won and to include greater black agency in that fight.

The thing that I find both curious and disturbing is the assumption (or reality) that a white audience could not identify with a black protagonist in the context of a Civil Rights film. If Hollywood is making that assumption, then the industry is doing a great disservice to the audience (but that NEVER happens, does it?). If it is the white audiences who feel that they cannot identify with a non-white character, they they do themselves a great disservice, which kind of exposes a deeper problem.

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