Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hancock: Boy

Just for a focus on the use of one word in one scene, I'm going to copy paste SMG's analysis of how Hancock uses the word "boy". Like most SMG critiques, it uses historical context and the tone used in the film, and it takes the form of arguing with forum trolls.

You can find the whole thread (if you have an SomethingAwful login and the archives upgrade) here.

I'm sure people noticed how he habitually calls people "boy" in a derogatory way. Why would the movie make a big deal out of Hancock unconsciously using an outdated racial slur? The point is he learned it from experience.


TetsuoTW posted:

As much as I think the race thing was an aspect of his character though, Jesus Christ you're reading way more into this movie than is actually there. Calling people "boy" isn't some obscure outdated racial slur, it's a common diminutive. The Superman thing's a massive stretch, in part because Hancock was a grown man in the 1930s. He didn't need "adopting". And the jokes aren't some comment on racial and sexual politics - they're just jokes. Do you think every time someone says "Dude, that is so fucking gay" they're really making a cutting and insightful comment on society's views on homosexuals? Bateman's character trying to send medicine to Africa and being called insane isn't some racial commentary, it's because the most needy people are in Africa and asking a major corporation to give away a massive money-earner would get you called insaneanywhere.
You're kind of wrong there on several points.

"Boy" actually did see common use in America as a racial slur. It is often used in a general sense, but historically it's been used specifically to demean black males.

I didn't invent the orphan metaphor. The movie says flat out: "what kind of bastard was I, that nobody was there to take me in?" (paraphrased) They emphasize his lack of family. Also Superman was an adult in the 1930s comics.

And if they're completely random jokes, how did they all end up being about the same basic topic? For that to happen purely by chance must be some sort of miracle, like flipping tails on a coin a hundred times in a row. Would you say that Dr. Strangelove accidentally has a lot of jokes about sex?


TetsuoTW posted:

Still stretching. It is often used in a general sense - you said it yourself.

No, they emphasize his lack of companionship and relationships, not family specifically. They never address whether or not he was a complete fuckhole prior, aside possibly from Mary's comment that people like him "break things", although that might be going a bit far.

So do you think Epic Movie was a cutting and insightful commentary on the disposable nature of popular culture today then? I mean, all the jokes in that were about disposable pop culture, so it stands to reason....
Using 'boy' in a derogatory way to order a subordinate around, as it was in the movie, specifically originated with plantation owners during slavery. 

The generalized sense is as a synonym for [the n-word] which is also obviously racially charged. I'm not sure what your point is, but it doesn't seem to come from an understanding of the word's cultural relevance. Here's the test: find a black person in your neighborhood and try saying something like "could you hold that door open for me, boy?" Record your results and post on youtube for comedy.

Epic Movie does follow a philosophy that all pop culture is meaningless shit, including itself. That's why it's a terrible movie for stupid people. The comedy here reflects a very different moral and aesthetic philosophy that's not comparable. It's a lot like my joke up there about wanting to see you get made the fool on youtube for being oblivious about race. The joke makes the clear moral point that ignorance about race is harmful and undesirable. Most jokes in Hancock serve the same basic purpose.

Also "lack of companionship and relationships" is the point. That's what makes him like superman. He was dropped off alone.


TetsuoTW posted:

Holy shit you're a crazy motherfucker who is wrong in so, so many ways SuperMechagodzilla. Your ignorance of language, context, and the world in general boggles my mind. I would be specific about what you're wrong about, but it's everything.
If 'boy' was meant in a totally neutral sense, then why did they show one of the main characters being justifiably offended? It's not enough to just say "you're crazy you don't understand" and expect me to be convinced through sheer force of your disdain. You may as well just say "nuh-uh" over and over.

Here's how language works in that short sequence:
Smith calls the kid "boy" in a brusque way. Theron gets offended and asks him to call him by his real name, and Smith doesn't realize why she's offended.

The basic point of the sequence is to show that Smith is casually rude. What he said was rude because he didn't address the kid by his first name, when it's more respectful to call a person by their name than to call them some sort of generic term like "boy". It also indicates possession, as it's often a shortened version of "my boy", and it puts emphasis on youth as opposed to adulthood.

This is why the term most famously saw use in the American south during slavery times. It was used to addressing someone perceived as an inferior, instead of something more appropriate like "sir" or "mister", or their actual name. The fact that the word has a famous association with slavery, makes it inevitably loaded with cultural meaning with regards to american culture and black culture in particular. It has become, whether you like it or not, similar to the word 'monkey'.

"Boy" has not lost its inappropriate meaning. Recently a controversy broke out when a Republican senator (Geoff Davis of Kentucky ) called Barack Obama "boy" during a speech calling him inept, when they are nearly the same age. If the word wasn't associated with race on some level, there would be no controversy. 

If it is meant in a neutral sense, just refering to youth and nothing more, it's a very odd word to use in everyday speech today. It sounds like something Foghorn Leghorn would say, when the point of Foghorn Leghorn is that he's a domineering asshole from the south. People speaking today would use "kid", which has very few negative connotations and several positive ones. 

That's what language is. It's a series of symbols that represent meaning, based on the culture that created them and the history of how they were used.
What part of this definition is based on ignorance exactly? I'm putting a lot of detail in this point just to pinpoint exactly where you disagree.


DivisionPost posted:

as long as you kinda realize how insane it is that you're grasping onto the smallest little thing to support an argument
I appreciate the constructive criticism, but your point boils down to me not being self-depreciating enough. 

Unless I put a big disclaimer on every point I make like "but I'm just joking, this stuff I'm saying is actually insane!" or "I'm looking too far into this and actually everything was unintentional and a giant accident!", then I'm a big pompous meanie? That's stupid as hell, sorry. 

I say things because I mean them, and if I didn't mean them, I wouldn't say them. If you disagree with what I say, then please, please disagree. I want people to disagree and give their own opinions. But don't just ignore what is being said and complain about how I'm saying it. That's all anyone ever does, and it's totally worthless. 

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