06 November 2006

Leading men

Steven Barnes tells a story about what to expect in a movie.

In the late 1970s, I saw a science-fiction movie called Damnation Alley. In it, George Peppard, Jan-Michael Vincent and Paul Winfield travel across an atomic wasteland in a nuclear-powered Winnebago.

They approach the ruins of a shattered city, and out walks the last woman in the world. And she's white. I leaned across to my buddy and said, “They're going to kill Paul Winfield.”

Startled, he asked, “Why would you say that?”

“She's the last woman in the world,” I replied. “They're not going to pretend he's not interested, and they're not going to let him compete for her. All they can do is kill him.”

My friend looked at me with pity. “You are too young to be so cynical,” he said.

Five minutes later, Winfield got eaten by giant cockroaches.

Then he makes an intersting observation about how things have changed in race, sex, and American movies. There's still racism in action ... but in a tricky way that hadn't occurred to me.

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