The other day, I watched the movie Bright, staring Will Smith. It is a remake of Alien Nation, except with Orcs and Elves, rather than space aliens. The Elves are the Jews of this imaginary world, as they are smart and run everything.The humans are the whites, keeping society running, while the Orcs are the blacks, occupying the underclass and subjected to discrimination. As you would expect, the Orcs are the victims of human bigotry and they are kept out of jobs, for no reason other than their phenotype.
While it is primarily an action movie, the not so subtle subtext is that normal prejudice is a bad thing. Will Smith is the bigoted human cop, who is forced to work with an Orc partner. He finally learns to trust and treat Orcs as an equals. They don’t over do it, but that is one of the subplots in the movie. The movie is three parts action flick, one part buddy-cop movie and one part sermon on the joys of diversity. There’s also the requisite race-mixing, as they give Will Smith a white wife. The future is Orcs, Elves and Mulattoes!
Again, it is mostly a really good action movie with some novel twists and turns that make it fun, despite the moralizing. I must admit, I winced when the humans were mean to the Orcs and I was happy when Smith overcame his Orcism. The people making movies get that white audiences want to feel bad at racism and feel good at inclusiveness. They know what sells and they are good at pushing the right buttons. Our rulers have been preaching civic nationalism for generations and it has infected all of us to some degree.
That’s probably one reason why audiences really liked the movie, while critics mostly thought it was stupid. It is not unusual for the opposite to be true, where critics love a movie, but audiences hate it. The movie review business is riddled with payola and pompous poseurs. Usually though, the critics will be right about a bad movie. I suspect the happy talk on overcoming prejudice works particularly well on whites, who are sick and tired of the endless griping about race. That and Will Smith is the model black guy.
The interesting thing about this movie, though, is they don’t present the multicultural future as a paradise of diversity. Instead, it is more like Brazil where the underclass is huge and the middle class is small and fragile. In this context, the Elves live in beautiful gated communities, away from everyone else. The humans and Orcs are mixed up in the squalor, with the humans having a marginally better existence. It is a future where diversity is tolerated out of necessity, but everyone dreams of their own ethnostate.
The other strangely realistic aspect is the gross inequality. The Elves live like royalty, as they are at the top of the social order. They are clean and white and orderly. Everyone else is dirty, dark and disorderly. The implication is that the Elves pit Orcs and humans against one another, in order to exploit them. The result is the world extreme diversity is a world of poverty, for all but the elite. Imagine if the whole country was like New York City, where the elite live in penthouses and everyone else in tiny apartments.
That’s the reality of multiculturalism. The hidden cost of maintaining order inevitably bankrupts the middle-class. The people at the top are always getting their beak wet first and they will do what they must to protect themselves and their position. That means the cost of maintaining order falls on the middle, which quickly disappears. University towns exist in idyllic diversity, because billions are hoovered out of the surrounding economies to support the paradise. The university town scales up to be Brazil.
The movie does not spend much time contemplating the Elf class. All we learn is they live apart, but control society, with the help of human assistants. They do give us a surprisingly frank portrayal of the Orcs. They are physically superior to humans and they have an affinity for hip-hop culture, but most are too dumb to do anything other than menial jobs. The Orcs are so obviously a deliberate analog to modern blacks that I’m shocked they get away with it. I guess having Will Smith as the star is the antidote.
The strange thing about Hollywood is the future they imagine is usually rather unimaginative. It’s either a hellish apocalyptic world, where order has broken down, or it is a soulless nirvana of glass and stainless steel. While the later may lack the grit and chaos of the former, it always has some malevolent force at its core. I can’t think of an example of a movie where Hollywood creates a future that is nicer than the present. The stuff might be nicer, but the people are always less happy. Hollywood is not a town of optimists.
I’m as intolerant as any normal man when it comes to Hollywood proselytizing, but I had no trouble looking past it and enjoying the movie. The basic concept is clever by the standards of modern movie making and it will surely turn into a franchise, given how well it has done with audiences. I don’t have NetFlix, but it is available on Kodi. I’m using Genesis Reborn, which is a great implementation. If you’re looking for a cheap couple hours of video entertainment, Bright is a good action movie.