The female star of the “Men in Black” reboot suggested Tuesday that the movie’s title is “antiquated” and could use a woke update.
Speaking to reporters at the New York City premier, Tessa Thompson acknowledged the brand value of “Men in Black, but she said she’s interested in changing the name to something less male-centric, i.e. sexist.
“We’ll see. I think maybe we can maybe change the name at some point,” she said.
Thompson said she had already pitched a number of alternatives, including “People in Black” and “Humans in Black.” However, she admitted that the resulting acronyms are bad. “PIB” “sounds like a sandwich” and “HIB” “sounds like something you don’t want to get,” she said.
Still, Thompson praised “Men in Black” for being anti-sexist enough to cast her to “topline” the latest movie.
“I hope we can get to the space where it’s not noteworthy when women topline these films, and I think a film like this helps us get there,” she said.
“Men in Black: International” is the fourth movie in the franchise, which debuted in 1997. Thompson and actor Chris Hemsworth, who both recently appeared in “Avengers: Endgame,” have taken over the leading roles from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
“LGBTQ+ in Black”?
Thompson pointed out that the movie is aware of its residual gender bias. She cited a line delivered by her costar British actress and LGBT activist Emma Thompson, no relation.
“Emma Thompson has a brilliant quip in the movie, where I say ‘Men in Black’ because I’m confused that that is the title of the organization, and she goes, ‘I know, I’ve had the conversation, it’s taking time,’” Emma Thompson said.
“And I think that what she speaks to, which is funny but true, is that change happens sometimes faster than we have language to describe what changed has occurred, in so far as we have certain institutions that have antiquated ways of working — Hollywood is certainly one of them — where we don’t have the infrastructure to support the change that is actually happening.”
According to Tessa Thompson – who has been an outspoken advocate of inclusion in Hollywood – movies should not just represent women, but all genders.
“The truth is, so many women have asked me — and men, too — have said, ‘What does it mean that a whole generation of young girls can see themselves in this film?'” she said.
“That’s significant … But I also think it’s important that young boys, folks that are gender queer, non-binary get to see me in this space because we just need more representation. It’s important to go into a cinema and to relate to a protagonist who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t have your particulars. I think that’s what movies are designed to do, is to make us more empathetic and compassionate towards the other, and we have never needed that more — certainly in American history, but I think in a global sphere. That’s always what I want to do on film.”
“Men in Black” and sexist Hollywood
Activists on the left have hailed the forward march of culture, noting that it can be lucrative, too. See the box office success of last year’s “Black Panther” and 2017’s “Wonder Woman.”
However, conservative critics have warned that freedoms of expression and thought are being sacrificed on the altar of social justice. In a rant on his podcast in January, “American Psycho” writer Bret Easton Ellis tore into his industry’s progressive posturing.
“Representation is so important to them. And with a huge fatuous inclusivity and diversity push. What the most flattering pose might be in the moment — as if inclusivity and diversity have anything to do with awarding a movie’s merits,” he said.
Box office projections have “Men in Black: International” grossing $40 million over the weekend, but the movie has a 29 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.