Meanwhile, over at Variety, Peter Debruge finds “The Mule”, Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “problematic”.
There’s a word for people like Earl Stone, and that’s “problematic.” Most white Americans have a relative like Earl, who’s old enough to remember a time when good old boys ran the country and everyone else was their inferior. You sort of tense up in their presence, never knowing what kind of politically incorrect garbage will come spewing out — in this case, when Earl refers to a gang of motorcycle-riding lesbians by the nickname they use for themselves…
Exhibit A, your Honor, is the established fact that Mr. Stone referred to a lesbian biker gang by the nickname they chose for themselves. We rest our case.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with presenting bigoted people on-screen, since heaven knows they exist in real life, but the trouble with “The Mule” is that it invites audiences to laugh along with Earl’s ignorance. From here, it’s no great stretch to imagine a movement — call it “Make Hollywood Great Again” — advocating for movies in which politically incorrect characters like the ones Eastwood has played for most of his career will be free to speak their minds again.
Therefore, we must kill politically incorrect humor.
The other [characters] are almost insultingly flat, which is most troubling when it comes to the Latino characters. A few of them actually have names, but most are little more than reductive stereotypes: generically menacing Mexicans who almost certainly have more nuanced reasons for doing what they do. If only the movie afforded them the same attention it lavishes on understanding where Earl is coming from.
I, for one, also think it’s a travesty we haven’t had a sympathetic portrayal of Cartel sicarios, one that seeks to understand how economic security caused them to decapitate rivals and stitch their carved-off faces onto soccer balls.
Anything less is problematic.