The Unbearable Whiteness of Wes
Anderson just loves pairing women of colour up with dorky white dudes, shortly after dorky white dudes have been dumped or rejected by white ladies. Even though Rushmore’s Margaret Yang is the fullest of all of Wes’ colour characters, she is still paired up with the loveable/hateable Max after Ms. Cross turns him down. It’s the same story with Inez, the lovely Latin American hotel cleaner in Bottle Rocket.
But here’s the thing about Wes Anderson: he positions himself as an outsider, and his protagonists are always outsiders, painfully awkward and deeply deficient in social skills but also desperately seeking love (and you will notice that his white characters are capable of longing for love in a much more profound way than his characters of colour will ever acheive). But at the end of the day, what is so outsider about Wes? He’s an extremely succesful, wealthy, white dude. That’s not to say that rich white dudes can’t ever feel alienated. But to position yourself as an outsider, while making art that ensures that people of colour are truly outside, is obscenely fake.
The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson’s latest movie, showcases an obnoxious element of Anderson that is rarely discussed: the clumsy, discomfiting way he stages interactions between white protagonists—typically upper-class elites—and nonwhite foils—typically working class and poor.
From the Beatles’ 1968 hang with the Maharishi to the recent “Imagine India” flower show at Macy’s, South Asia has long been a hotspot in the American and European orientalist imagination. But for a director as willfully idiosyncratic as Anderson, it’s surprising how many white-doofuses -seeking-redemption-in-the- brown-skinned -world clichés Darjeeling Limited inhabits.
They are zombies in fitted blazers, suffering quietly but profoundly from the same vague, paralyzing, leisure-class malaise that has plagued Anderson’s heroes ever since Luke Wilson checked himself into a mental hospital for “exhaustion” in Bottle Rocket.
Every single episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm this season has been about class, race, and age. Maybe we should just always leave shouldering the White Man’s Burden to the Jews.
Sasha Frere Jones hates White Music (via The New Yorker). In complimentary fashion, Nashville’s Rissi Palmer is breaking country music’s color barrier and may become its first black female star. We bet Charley Pride is proud.
Darjeeling Limited iTunes Playlists. Jason Schwartzman likes Harry Nilsson and Beat Happening, Adrien Brody likes trip-hop and rap from ten years ago, and Wes Anderson likes Devo and…Billy Joel? Jesus Wes, maybe we really are over you.
Molly Lambert is Senior Editor of This Recording, and a spendabler spieler for sure.