Furor Over the Matrix: Reloaded---Continued...

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New York Press

May 15th, 2003

For several years, Hollywood's preferred vision of a villain has leaned towards a white male-and, in cases of domestic abuse, preferably an affluent white male. Now, however, it seems a movie or TV villain can actually be too white.

This complaint is an assault on both artistic freedom and really cool imagery. The censors of NOAH simply have to accept that albino villains are a vital part of schlock filmmaking. In fact, albino villains have saved many lousy movies.

Dolph Lundgren's "I Come In Peace" would lose all entertainment value without Matthias Hues' pale alien presence. The only exciting moment in "Contact" was when crazed albino Jesus freak Jake Busey-in a role encapsulating two favorite Hollywood villains-sabotaged a space mission. What about the 1976 blaxploitation classic "Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde?" Bernie Casey looked superbad once he became an albino whoremonger.

And don't forget the late Dar Robinson, whose role as the bunny-eyed Moki makes "Stick" one of the few watchable Burt Reynolds movies of the 1980s. (The other one is "Sharky's Machine," where Henry Silva's psycho killer could have only been improved by him being an albino.)

Albinos can look suave, as in "The Matrix Reloaded." They can also look supremely creepy, as shown by Victor Varnado stealing scenes in films like "End of Days" and "The Adventures of Pluto Nash." So why are those busybodies at NOAH trying to screw up Varnado's career? Would theyprefer him starring in pedophile fantasies like "Powder?"

 

World Net Daily.com

May 15th, 2003

Matrix' makers blast charge of albino bias Warner Bros. says blockbuster sequel in no way demeans pigment-challenged

The movie studio releasing "The Matrix Reloaded" today is firing back at suggestions the science-fiction thriller somehow portrays albinos in a bad light. The $127 million sequel continues the story of mankind's struggle against machines which use artificial intelligence to enslave the human race in a dream world. And while Warner Bros. is optimistic the movie will generate plenty of green in terms of revenue, the film's white color scheme for villains has given carte blanche to some critics.

The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation has also reportedly written the film giant to express its concern. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is not taking the issue lightly. "They're not albinos!" a studio spokeswoman stressed to WorldNetDaily regarding the new villains. "They're not even human. They're vampires, 15th century vampires. ... These characters do not possess the qualities that albinos possess. They don't have red eyes. They become invisible. Clearly, they're not real people."

Reese documents movie portrayals of pigment-challenged characters on his own website. He says skin conditions have long been used to illustrate evil characters in movies, labeling scars, bald scalps and tattoos "visual shorthand for cinematic bad guys. Given budget constraints, albinism is an inexpensive condition to recreate: white makeup, an alabaster wig, some red contact lenses ­ and voila! Instant adversary," he says.

Ironically, another film released last year by DreamWorks and Warner Bros. features a pasty-skinned Jeremy Irons playing a subterranean villain in the remake of "The Time Machine." Reese claims Hollywood has some unwritten rules for characters with albinism, often depicting them as evil and violent, making excellent assassins. "Not only are they typically portrayed as remorseless, ruthless, and coldhearted, but they have great aim when it comes to doing in pathetic movie sidekicks," Reese says. "The irony is that many people with albinism have vision problems, so it is unlikely that these characters would make the best sharpshooters."

 

San Jose Mercury News

May 18th, 2003

By: Mark de la Vina

When Minneapolis doctor Jim Haefemeyer heard that ``The Matrix Reloaded'' would feature a nefarious pair of kung fu-ing twins with pale skin and white hair, he had a familiar gut reaction: "Here we go again."

Hollywood's habit of depicting freakish evildoers as people who appear to have albinism has run amok, says Haefemeyer, chairman of the advocacy committee of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH). Though only one in 17,000 people in this country has albinism -- a hereditary condition in which a person has little or no pigment in the skin, hair or eyes -- several action films of the last year have featured a villain exhibiting such characteristics.

 From the orc in ``Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'' (left) and the bald lowlife in ``Star Wars: Episode II -- The Attack of the Clones,'' to arch-villains in ``Star Trek: Nemesis'' and the James Bond movie ``Die Another Day,'' screenwriters, makeup artists and casting directors continue to mold an
increasingly common Hollywood character: the evil albino.

``It's just gotten to be such a stock device,'' says Haefemeyer, who specializes in geriatrics and family practice. ``It's a way to make somebody stand out on the basis of appearance. And in the mind of those who are writing the story, it's of no consequence. They don't see people with albinism as being real.''

According to the NOAH Web site (www.albinism.org), ``many feel it is dehumanizing to refer to a person in terms of a condition. Although slightly cumbersome, the terms `person with albinism' and `people with albinism' put the person first and the condition second.'' Rather than organizing a protest, members of NOAH are using last Thursday's release of ``The Matrix Reloaded'' to raise awareness of the trend, Haefemeyer says.

Film industry representatives argue that most of these big screen bad guys do not have albinism. A spokeswoman for Warner Bros., the studio that released ``The Matrix Reloaded,'' said that ``while we are sensitive to the response that people with albinism might have about the way that they are portrayed on the screen, we would like to make it very clear that the two characters in `The Matrix' are not albino. They are vampires.''


(Do these look like vampires to you??? --Dr. Reese)

However, most film reviewers have failed to make that distinction. Almost every article on the movie refers to characters played by Adrian and Neil Rayment as ``the albino twins.'' Advance photos of the pair caught the attention of Dr. Vail Reese last fall. ``The studios might suggest that these aren't actually people with albinism,'' Reese says, ``but that's exactly what the audience takes home with them after they see the evil things that these people do.''

Movies have a long tradition of featuring bad guys who appear to have albinism. In 1971's ``The Omega Man,'' Charlton Heston fends for himself in a post-apocalyptic world inundated with bacterially blanched baddies. (Character actor Anthony Zerbe, who donned white face and white contact lenses to play the brood leader, also appears in ``The Matrix Reloaded,'' sans the skin disorder.) A hit man in the 1978 comedy ``Foul Play,'' the Gary Busey character in 1987's ``Lethal Weapon'' and the cult leader in the ultra-violent 1976 B-movie ``Albino'' also display the pattern.

Michael C. Bowman, an actor with albinism who played Whitey in the 2000 Jim Carrey comedy ``Me, Myself & Irene,'' has seen that children equate albinism with evil. A teacher's aide who works with autistic children in a Boston high school, he also hears the responses of youngsters with albinism at NOAH conventions. ``The fact is that movies do affect people's perceptions,'' Bowman says. ``Kids all over this country are being affected in a very negative and harmful way because of the sloppiness and laziness of a writer in Hollywood.''

A few movies, such as ``Deliverance,'' ``Powder'' and ``Me, Myself & Irene,'' show characters with albinism who exhibit positive qualities. But they still are usually portrayed in a dehumanizing light, as little more than sideshow exhibits, supernatural beings, or the butt of jokes, Reese says.

Bowman somewhat regrets taking the role in the politically incorrect comedy by the Farrelly Brothers. Though Bowman's character saves Carrey and co-star Renée Zellweger by comically killing the bad guy with a dart, his character is a nebbish soul who says that although everyone calls him Whitey, his real name is Casper.

``When I first saw it on the screen, I began to wonder how people were going to take it,'' Bowman says. ``I worried that it was sending the wrong message, that it's all right to make fun of the albino, when it's not. If you're a little kid, you have to deal with being called `Whitey' or `Q-Tip' or a couple of the other phrases that Jim Carrey and Farrellys came up with.'' Bowman is concerned that ``The Matrix Reloaded'' will perpetuate the negative stereotypes, but he still plans to see the movie. ``Personally, I'm psyched,'' he says. ``I really hope to see the twins kick Keanu's ass.''

 

Summary from Dr. Reese (June 2003):

"I found the Warner's Brothers spokesperson's comments repeatedly misleading. In the movie, there is a comment made by the Oracle about programs run amuck that present themselves as werewolves, vampires, or aliens. No direct connection is made between this comment and the Twins. Though never directly said to have albinism, their appearance is albino. Without hearing the studio's spin, no filmgoer would look at these characters and conclude "dead" or "vampire" or "ghost." Numerous reviews and press about the film refer to evil albino twins, but not vampires or ghosts. Even the cheesy costumes being sold online of the Twins refers to them as "Albino." Check it out:

If the studio would return our calls, I would be curious how they would explain away this authorized corporate tie-in. Now that at least some in Hollywood are on notice that the rote depiction of characters with albinism may not be acceptable, it will be interesting to track the number and type of roles that appear to have albinism in the future..."


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