Damn, this one hurts.
When I in junior high, my favorite movie was Time Bandits. It was a darkly surreal (bordering on absurd) take on Time Travel Tropes. The hero/protagonist was a pensive boy, Kevin who was the child of two rather crass, materially-obsessed parents. Kevin meets a group of time-traveling little people. The boy and the troupe time-hop from the Napoleonic Wars to the Middle Ages to Ancient Greece to the Age of Legends, having adventures that mingle action, grotesquerie and humor in equal measure. It had a bleak, Roald Dahl-like undertone, unique in a movie ostensibly for kids. I saw the movie many times. I was obsessed. The kid who play Kevin was even name Craig (Warnock)!
I never got into the love for Brazil, but Gilliam’s expansion of La Jetée, 12 Monkeys, was a revelation. It was a taut horror film masquerading as a sci-fi political thriller, and convinced me that Brad Pitt was more than just a pretty face.
I wasn’t exactly a Gilliam fanboy, but his movies and his aesthetic opened up what speculative storytelling could be for me. It could be dark, brooding and stylish. Then, Gilliam began saying some problematic things. First, his statement on #MeToo was disturbing victim-blaming claptrap. And now, he has joined Lionel Shriver in pushing that hoary canard that encourage Diversity in art is somehow produces diminishes quality.
“Gilliam said: “It made me cry: the idea that … no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented… this is bullshit. I no longer want to be a white male, I don’t want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian… My name is Loretta and I’m a BLT, a black lesbian in transition.”“(From the Guardian)
There are many things wrong with this statement.
Once more, for those in the back, Diversity Initiatives seek to address past exclusions and give a seat at the table to under-represented populations. No-one seeking out incompetent or untalented people of marginalized communities and giving them a show/book contract. Being talented and competent is a pre-requisite. Quotas are a reactionary fiction/strawman. Expanding the field in no way, shape or form damages “white men from Oxbridge.” There’s no committee of comedians saying, “Wanda Sykes’ mere existence on the scene invalidates and unpersons Monty Python,” or “John Mulvaney is no longer funny now that Kate McKinnon is in town!”
Also, making “Black Lesbians in Transition” the punchline of a joke kind of underscores the importance of Diversity Initiatives. To Gilliam, black lesbians and transgender folk aren’t real people. They certainly aren’t passionate artists whose perspective and stories haven’t been told.
I doubt he could name even one black or trans lesbian artist. I doubt he imagines that a black gay boy loved Time Bandits. When people make statements like that, they are sending a message to their non-white, non-straight, and non-cis audiences. The message is, you don’t matter.