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Monday, October 5, 2015

Warner Bros. Approaching Man With No Experience to Direct THE FLASH, Because I Guess Everyone Else Was Busy?

Seth Grahame-Smith, writer of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and screenwriter of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is currently in negotiations to write and direct The Flash for Warner Bros. 2018 superhero flick. Previously, the position was held by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the guys behind the massive success of The Lego Movie and 21/22 Jump Street, but they were recently stolen by Disney to take over their young Han Solo film. Warner Bros. knows that they want to do The Flash as a comedy, and so they're approaching the man currently writing their 2017 Lego Batman movie. Sure, he has no experience as a feature film director and the movie will almost certainly have a budget approaching if not exceeding two-hundred million dollars, but... you know, I guess they enjoy working with him.

Last year, I wrote an article about Paramount's decision to hire Roberto Orci, a man with no experience whatsoever directing films, to direct the new $200,000,000 Star Trek film. There is a very strong temptation to simply reprint that article here but with "Star Trek" crossed out and replaced with "The Flash." But, what the hell, it's my lunch break and that'd probably be unprofessional of me.

That said, it bears repeating, again and again and again until the studios fucking get it: When they do shit like this, they are quite literally saying that a white man with little-to-no experience is more qualified than literally any woman or a person of color.

Now, I suppose you could say that this is slightly less egregious than the Orci hiring. Grahame-Smith has at least directed something, anything, before - in this instance, two 2011 episodes of The Hard Times of RJ Berger, an MTV show about a dorky teen who has such a big dick that he suddenly becomes popular, which is definitely how the world works, probably. And that's true! Very, very, very mild experience is better than 'literally no experience at all,' technically. But the fact is, a jump like this is comparable to going from "assembling bicycles" to "Vice President of Sales at Ford," in a single promotion. This typically only happens through nepotism, so you can understand if I'm a bit cynical here.

This is where I could, I suppose, offer up a host of experienced women or people of color who are more qualified. But I already wrote that article, because, surprise, this issue just keeps coming up (but never, ever suggest it's a pattern or else you're a social justice warrior; it's just a series of completely isolated incidents in which the same thing keeps happening over and over). Sure, I think that Gina Prince-Bythewood, to name just one, could do what Thor failed to do and craft a truly great superhero romance, a genre that fits the various family-focused Flashes fairly well (he's literally the guy who cured the Anti-Life Equation with his love for his wife, after all). But the point isn't, "My pick didn't make it." Rather, the point is, "My pick, along with a hundred other women or people of color, have actual experience doing the job for which Grahame-Smith is being courted, which is 'directing a feature film'."

Look, I'm not at all opposed to Grahame-Smith branching out into directing. I don't particularly share his sense of humor, but, hey, I don't need to in order to hope that he has some interesting things to say as a director. The point is not, "Seth Grahame-Smith should never work again," but rather, "Seth Grahame-Smith has done nothing to earn this job except be a white dude in relative proximity to one of the execs." If he'd built up a body of work behind him, I'd get it - re: Marvel hiring Taika Waititi to direct Thor: Ragnarok off the success of his supernatural comedy What We Do In The Shadows - but he hasn't. He has two sitcom episodes from half a decade ago and scripts for Tim Burton's Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

When it was Phil Lord and Chris Miller writing and directing, you'll notice I didn't complain. They were experienced, had worked with big budgets and big stars, and they had a reputation for being able to deal with tricky material, which The Flash will likely be given that by the time it comes out there will be 5 seasons of a TV show that has nothing to do with it competing for the public's attention. They had qualifications. I'm sure Grahame-Smith is a good guy, and his interviews make him seem like a fun, nerdy dude... but that is the one, vital thing he lacks.

Not, of course, that Warner Bros. seems to care. In some ways, this is the world's most predictable article. I wrote it last year about Paramount. I wrote it earlier this year about Marvel. A hundred other sites will make this point, and Warner Bros. will release a statement about Grahame-Smith's vision and being a team player, they'll wheel out Patty Jenkins because they've got their token woman and they even gave her the girl one, a month will pass, and I'll be writing this exact article about Universal or something. By the time 2017 hits, we'll all be getting excited by costume news, and there will be interviews about potential crossovers with the show or a brief appearance by Grant Gustin in the background. WB will announce that Wonder Woman will appear briefly in the film, stoking excitement further, and that Gorilla Grodd appearance is going to be hilarious. They'll approach the talented young Justin Simien for Cyborg, and everyone will politely applaud them for not giving that one film to a white dude with little-to-no experience. The Flash will come out, and it'll be fine; it'll look a little bland, sure - what blockbuster doesn't these days? - but the script will be funny and nerdy and a bit weird, and the Lord/Miller high-concept thing will catch some eyes. This article will lie forgotten with a thousand other overwritten #hottakes on the decision, and Grahame-Smith will be able to parlay the experience into another high budget thing, or into a profitable partnership with an exec that lets him make whatever he wants.

Score yet another one for the good ol' boys network.
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