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Sexism and Alien Invasions: Why I Won’t Pay to See ‘Independence Day 2’

I am on the record in my support of the all-female Ghostbusters movie we’re getting next month.  Some of the reactions to it from fandom communities have been so annoying and offensive that I’ve never in my life wanted a film to be great just to silence its detractors.  Multiple blogger have taken to the internet in recent days to write essays in which they are swearing off seeing Ghostbusters, as if not seeing a movie is some kind of impressive gesture of defiance, because their beloved franchise is now being fronted by women.  They feel a righteous indignation that the Ghostbusters movie is being ruined, and they’re very vocal about boycotting it.

And now, it’s my turn.

I am refusing to pay money to see Independence Day: Resurgence, because destruction porn maestro Roland Emmerich’s at least 15 years too late sequel to his 1996 hit, Independence Day; however, I hope my boycott of the film and my refusal to participate in its box office take is based on slightly more noble grounds than the wildly misogynistic Ghostbusters crowd.  I refuse to see Independence Day: Resurgence in defense of a woman.

Mae Whitman bab

That woman is actress Mae Whitman, and let me first point out that I am very much aware that she probably doesn’t need me to defend her.  She’s doing better than okay without me.  Ms. Whitman was cast in the original Independence Day film.  She played the daughter of the President of the United States, played by Bill Pullman in the original movie.  In the ensuing years, Ms. Whitman has put together a pretty impressive career for herself.  She’s had some iconic TV roles, beginning with Anne, the girlfriend to George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development.  She then moved on to play Lauren Graham’s other TV daughter on Parenthood.  In between, she’s completed voice work on some beloved geek properties, most notably she voiced Katara on all three seasons of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see her on stage here in Los Angeles in Center Theatre Group’s production of Bathsheba Doran’s play, The Mystery of Love and Sex.  She was terrific.  I’m definitely a Mae Whitman fanboy.  If you’re inclined to, check out her IMDb page.  She’s a very in-demand actress and has been working very consistently since she was a kid. 

Except she wasn’t in demand when it came time to make the Independence Day sequel.  In fact, Ms Whitman wasn’t even on the list of actresses being looked at to reprise the role of the president’s daughter.  According to many sources, she wasn’t considered for the role she originated 20 years ago and the reason is appalling.  She wasn’t considered conventionally attractive enough for the part.  I was a big fan of Parenthood when it aired, and on that show actors like Kingdom’s Matt Lauria were hired to play her love interests.  At no point did she ever seem not attractive enough to be paired with those guys.  And what does “attractive” really mean anyway?  Isn’t that kind of an in-the-eye-of-the-beholder thing?  Her love interest in the new film would be the less charismatic Hemsworth brother, who in real life has been romantically linked to Miley Cyrus.  If nobody questions Ms. Cyrus as a romantic partner to Liam Hemsworth, why would they find pairing him with Ms. Whitman to be out of step? 

To be sure, Ms. Whitman clearly isn’t six feet tall and blond, which seems to be the direction Emmerich wanted to go.  But Emmerich is a B-movie guy whose resume is littered with such classics as The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and the 1998 Godzilla debacle.  His stab at the gay rights drama, Stonewall, last year was so poorly received and misguided that it barely got a theatrical release.  With Stonewall, Emmerich decided to deviate from telling the story of the real-life people of color who started the Stonewall riots to instead focusing on, you guessed it, another six-foot blond.  There seems to be a pattern here.

The really infuriating thing is that pretty much everybody else from the original film is back, with the exceptions of Will Smith, who doesn’t need to be in this, and Randy Quaid, who’s character died in the first movie .  Emmerich and the producers were fine with bringing back noted hotties Brent Spiner, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum.  He must think young ladies in the audience think of those three like they think of One Direction.  There’s obviously a different standard at play, and it seems to be the double standard.  If Mae Whitman was deemed too undesirable to be brought back, why not go ahead and replace those guys with Channing Tatum or Chris Pine or Ryan Gosling?  Methinks it might have something to do with them being men.

Look, I have no doubt that Mae Whitman’s career will survive this snub.  In fact, the new Independence Day looks so bad that it’s probably best that she not be anywhere near it.  She will continue to work as much or as little as she wants for as long as she wants.  But this whole thing stinks, and it sends a horrible message to young girls and women.  It says there’s only one kind of attractive, and that’s the tall, blonde stereotype.  That’s appalling, and they won’t get my money.

Chris Spicer, Fanbase Press Contributor



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