Fox Expresses Solidarity With Wolf, Is Pronounced ‘Racist’
Over at Slate‘s Double X blog, Lauren Bans writes to let us know she has seen Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and calls it delightful. However, there is one Very Disturbing Problem with the movie: Racism! Bans writes about Mr. Fox’s “phobia of wolves” which “makes perfect sense strictly in the animal world” but which “takes on a blatantly racial tone when Mr. Fox actually confronts a wholly black-furred wolf” near the end of the movie:
The wolf looks on blankly, big and majestic at the top of a wooded hill. Then Mr. Fox raises his hand into the black power sign—arm straight, fist closed– and the wolf is finally responsive, raising his black arm into the black power sign in return. Then he runs off into the forest a wild creature, while a clothed Mr. Fox resumes his drive back to his furnished home euphoric after confronting his phobia. Hooray!
This sounds fucked-up, right? Why is Wes Anderson making his yuppy forest creatures give black power salutes? What an asshole this guy is.
Then I actually watched the movie.
To put this scene in context, throughout the movie Fox is portrayed of having a fear of wolves. Anderson also plays with a duality between Fox’s “wild animal” side (he wants to run around and raid chicken coops; he literally eats his food like a wild animal) and his “domesticated” side (he plays house with Meryl Streep). And so at the end of the film, Fox is riding back home from his latest exploit and he sees this wolf at the top of the hill. Anderson treats this as a moment of introspection and revelation for Mr. Fox: he is both afraid of his wild nature, as symbolized by the wolf, but he must also acknowledge the wild beast within. At this moment, this tension is resolved when Mr. Fox raises his hand to the wolf in the spirit of solidarity — he finds peace with the wild on his way back to domestic bliss. I can’t fucking believe I have to spell this out, but there you have it.
Yes, the goddamned wolf is black. But black as in the color, not the race — the wolf is literally just a black silhouette with two blazing yellow eyes, outlined against the majestic mountains. There is absolutely zero racial subtext here — the scene is simply a gentle pastiche of the majestic splendor of the wild or some such Thoreauvian shit. Unlike the latest Transformers movie, which featured two jive-talking robots, there isn’t any racial coding going on at all.
And since when is a raised fist automatically a “black power sign?” A quick trip to wikipedia will tell you that a raised fist is a symbol of solidarity that’s been co-opted by everyone from tea baggers to peace activists, including, yes, both black panthers and “white power” groups.
Look, I’m sure Lauren Bans is a great person who I’d like a lot if I actually met them in the real world. I don’t know if she was on an intentional feather-ruffling mission when she wrote her post or what, but it is quite possibly the dumbest liberal addition to the discourse on race since Crash.*
* But wait, what’s wrong with Crash? Well, for starters it’s easy to imagine a more nuanced take on American race relations — for instance, you could lock a black person, a white person and a Hispanic person in a room and have them all scream “RACIST” at one another for two straight hours.