Stonewall: Film Analysis

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Even far before the release of Stonewall (2015) it was foreshadowed that the film could very well be a tremendous flop in the box office. Many critics at news websites have stated that Emmerich totally misses the point on what Stonewall’s history entails, most of the statements made judge Emmerich on the fact that he has changed a very diverse cast to a predominately white, cisgender male cast to target towards a more straight audience. If Emmerich tried to retell Stonewall’s history so that straight people would be educated on the struggles of young LGBTQ+ people during the 1960s, he surely did not research well enough, as Corin Walmsley of the Huffington Post says:
Replacing the real heroes of Stonewall with a cis, white, gay guy doesn’t
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Just like in terms of race, where the term “white washing” is often used when for example a white actor is casted playing an Asian role. An example of this is Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). The term “whitewashing” is not an established term in dictionaries, yet on the website Urban Dictionary the term is defined as: “A term that now has also come to refer to the entertainment industry's attempt at making ethnic characters more appealing to the white, money-spending masses by making exotic characters less ethnic and more "white””. (3) This means that people of colour are made white-passing or are changed into a Caucasian to presumably make the film more relatable to white viewers. But this is not historically accurate if we look at Stonewall. As I have discussed in the first paragraph on Stonewall’s history, most of the patrons of Stonewall Inn who were active in the riots were transsexual women of colour. To this, Emmerich reacted stating the following: "You have to understand one thing: I didn't make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people," (Emmerich qtd. in Ehrich Dowd, People Magazine) Even though it is understandable that Emmerich wanted to further his reach far beyond…show more content…
Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, would not mean anything. If we look at the two characters in the film; Sylvia Rivera seems absent from the film entirely – despite critics have claimed that the character of Ray would presumably resemble Rivera. Marsha B. Johnson is present in the narrative, but hardly takes the foreground and when the heat of the moment arrives she is only passive. In Emmerich’s perception it was a white gay male who made the raid explode into a full-blown riot. However, this is not the only insensitive factor of Stonewall, because a transsexual woman is played by a cisgender actor – who by no means cannot convey the struggles of the actual Marsha B. Johnson. One could say, however, Otoja Abit is merely acting out a script, yet then it would mean that in this case one could speak of “cis-washing” or trans erasure. Fortunately, series like Netflix’ Orange Is the New Black (2013- ), where black transsexual actress Laverne Cox plays a transsexual inmate, show that American popular culture is slowly catching up to contemporary social developments. As Hollywood steps up its efforts and attempts to represent the LGBTQ+ community in such a way that it does not discredit any type of person, they could come a long way into more accepting and inclusive
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