Thursday, May 11, 2006

Kane tries too hard on United 93

The Reddess traded e-mails with Gene Kane today over his blog post on the black pilot on United 93. Gene reported the "feelings" of many in the black community that the African-American pilot, LeRoy W. Homer, has not gotten enough attention and that "since many believe that the passengers and crew of United 93 are heroes" (but not, apparently, Gene Kane or at least not so much as he would say so) then Homer deserves as much credit as the rest.

I have no argument with that. But Gene couldn't understand why anyone would be upset with a blog suggesting that Homer was slighted. Kane says he hasn't seen United 93, but that "a friend told him" that Homer is portrayed by "a black actor who doesn't play a major role."

Here's the problem. He's working overtime to racialize something that simply won't bear it. I did see the movie. As Jessica McBride has pointed out, no character in United 93 - at least no one on the plane - has a "major role." The victims are portrayed as Everyman and Everywoman, much like you and I and everyone else who might see the movie. That is its point and its power.

It is true that the pilots are not depicted as heroically rushing the cockpit but that's because they were coldcocked - murdered before they had the opportunity to do so. Both the white and black pilots get about the same camera time (I'm not sure that they are ever in a scene separately) and are humanized in the same way. They chat. The white pilot is looking forward to taking his wife to London for their (I think) 25th anniversary. The black pilot is looking forward to getting home to his little baby and to a new assignment that will keep him closer to his family. I remember the Homer character's comments as particularly poignant. He has a two year old and we know that he's about to be butchered without a chance to defend himself. I don't know about you, but that p***es me off.

I do not share the right blogospher's dislike of Gene's columns. I think he can be pretty good even when he's very wrong and, God, do I know the pressure of the blog. But this was really a reach.

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