The Backlash Against "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri"

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A backlash happens every year to a film seemingly flourishing with awards love and destined for Oscar gold. It's just part of the game but now that the "woke" movement is in full-swing on social media, it's a little easier for a film to offend the timid-minded and be dealt a severe blow during awards season. This year, that film seems to be "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri," a well-made, darkly humorous film that was the toast of the Toronto International Film Festival, winning the audience award and making Frances McDormand the front-runner to win the best actress Oscar in March. Well, McDormand can kiss those hopes goodbye because people are clamoring on that the movie is "racist."

Yes, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri" is officially "racist" according to the "wokers." The gist of it is that Rockwell's character in the movie, Officer Dixon, hated black people, and didn't deserve the heroic treatment he received in the last third.




"Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), is introduced to us as a virulent racist who has taken a shine to brutalizing the black people in his town."
"The film tells us that Dixon is a “nigger-torturing” cop, but also that his great problem is that he’s angry, not racist. (It also chooses to tell us of his brutality, rather than show it, but more on that later.) He gets fired from his job – by one of the film’s three black characters, all of which are minor and incidental – not for being a racist, which everyone in his precinct knows about but shields from everyone, but for throwing someone out of a window. He’s an awful human being, but maybe it’s because his mother, whom he lives with, is awful, too."
"Not that those can’t be seeds from which racism grows, but the ways in which Three Billboards offers excuses for Dixon betrays the film-makers’ intentions. They are not trying to delve into how someone grows up this way; rather, those excuses are employed to give him a redemptive, almost heroic arc."
"The film never holds him to task for brutalizing black Americans in his care – something Three Billboards never portrays, probably because it would be so ugly an act the audience wouldn’t even entertain hopping aboard the redemption train. He imprisons a black woman for days, for no other reason than that she’s friends with Hayes, but the film lets him off the hook for that miscarriage of justice, just as it lets him off for everything else."
Yes, he's racist, but it is never really shown, it's only implied as his "reputation," and I do think that Dixon's redemptive arc at the end was a little too neatly-conceived, but McDonagh's screenplay does try to suggest that he's a changed man and willing to make amends for his bigoted past. It's all done in a quick and surprisingly unsubtle way, the film could have probably used a few more scenes to showcase the evolving nature of this change, and I do believe that is what's riling up the "wokers." They wanted Dixon to prove himself more before he could become the hero. Again, my saying that a few more scenes added in could have helped is important in this context. I do believe this was just clumsy screenwriting on McDonagh's part as he never fully fleshed Dixon enough for us to believe he's on a redemptive path.

So basically as backlashes go, this is supposed to be a non-starter but it won't be. As it stood a month ago, Three Billboards was the frontrunner in the Actress (McDormand), Screenplay category and could have possibly won Best Picture due to its parallels to Trump America. Mark my words: It isn't a contender anymore. Twitter has ruined McDonagh's movie. To which I say, at some point can we just enjoy movies again? Remember "La La Land" last year and how people thought it was "too white" and didn't know anything about Jazz? "Dunkirk" was also accused of not having enough women and minorities. Geez. People do realize WWII was a mostly white war, right?

All this to say, no, I don't think "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri" is one of the best films of 2017, coincidentally because of how rushed the last third of the film is, but the way it has been treated, just like "La La Land" last year, is very dangerous to the future of film criticism and how writers should think when assessing a particular film with militant political mindsets. 




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