There is a tribe of gay men that worship Audrey Hepburn, and I am not a member of that chapter. Oh, don't get me wrong, I never wished public torture or humiliation on the woman. I never wished she'd come to a bad end after a life of suffering. Why would I? She was a beautiful person who lived her life with grace and made a difference in the world. It's like I said, I had just never seen Breakfast at Tiffany's. Until last month.
So, my boyfriend, Scott has been hounding me for four years to see one of his top favorite movies. My cousin, Christy, once went through a period where she watched Breakfast at Tiffany's every Saturday morning for a year after divorcing her husband and eventually became a lesbian. My friend, Anne, loves the movie, but, apparently, not enough to take the movie poster she gifted Scott upon moving to New Zealand which now hangs in my bedroom, thank you very much. So anyway, still not convinced but wanting to take advantage of Netflix and make my boyfriend happy, I caved. I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's.
So, what did I think? And, more importantly, what in Hera's name does this have to do with Wonder Woman Wednesday? Well, I had the same problem with the movie as I do with reading old issues of Wonder Woman.
About 20 minutes into the film, I look at Scott completely bewildered and ask, "Is that Mickey Rooney playing her Asian neighbor?"
Scott: "Yeah, that's how things were then."
I almost had an out-of-body experience! How could I have not been aware of this? How is this okay? It sort of puts an ugly "yellow face" stain on one of Hollywood's classic and most beloved films.
And then, halfway through it, I looked at Scott bewildered once again and asked, "So, basically, she and George Peppard are hookers."
Scott: "That's right."
Wow! So not what I was expecting. But, I can see why people like it. It was highly entertaining. Comparatively, I remember reading an old Wonder Woman and being dismayed by the blatant racism towards Asians from Wonder Woman's own mouth nonetheless.
Wonder Woman has the advantage of growing with society and evolving as a character while Breakfast at Tiffany's is frozen in celluloid time to constantly remind us of the embarrassing racist prevalence of the times. But, then again, it's a good way to remind us of the embarrassing racial inequity of the time. With racial tensions in the rise, it's not exactly like that situation has gotten much better after all.
Not to be too hyper sensitive, but it took a lot of wherewithal to pull it together enough to watch the rest of the film. Perhaps if I had known in advance or grew up with it, I would have been less "Judge Judy" about the whole thing.
In Wonder Woman's defense, her racial slurs were tossed around in the '40s during World War 2 bigotry, so it's more understandable. Breakfast at Tiffany's came out in 1961 based on a novella by Truman Capote. You think they would have known better for Aphrodite's sake.
Hollywood has a notorious past and present with inequity arguably going back to Shakespearean times when males even played female roles. Men still get top billing and make more money. At least Asians play Asians and African Americans play African Americans and heterosexuals win Oscars for playing homosexuals . . . Oh crap, we were doing so well.
Ironically, Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part that was a bit grittier on the printed page. Legend has it Monroe passed, not wanting to tarnish her image by playing a street walker. I guess sleeping with the president holds higher prestige? While I think it would be a good role for her, I admit I fell in love with Hepburn's whitewashed Holly Golightly. I can see why it's such a career-defining role and the impetus for the precedent of party girls for years to come. There! Can I keep my gay card now?
At any rate, it looks like we are headed in the right direction. Wonder Woman is too busy officiating same-sex marriages to toss about racial slurs. And, if they made a remake of Breakfast at Tiffany's today, I'm sure the role of the Asian neighbor would go to an African American actor. Unless it went to Melissa McCarthy playing Mickey Rooney playing the Asian neighbor. Now that would be hilarious!