I love a good pun, a capella performance, cover, and mashup as much as the next person (maybe puns a little more than average) but for whatever reason, it took me three times to watch the movie Pitch Perfect the whole way through. Now that I have (as of last night), I think I have a better understanding of why. While I do give the film props for having some pretty great musical performances and one-liners, I have to admit that I had a hard time enjoying the movie as a whole because I was too preoccupied with being uncomfortable from some of the plot’s undertones. Primarily those of sexuality, diversity, and privilege.
In the film, there is one female a capella singer who is suspected to be/is homosexual. From her introduction, Cynthia Rose is mistaken as a male and throughout the movie is ridiculed for cheap homophobic laughs that make me cringe. Once Fat Amy suspects that she may be lesbian at the beginning of the movie, she continually questions/validates Cynthia’s sexual orientation based on her actions and behaviors. Cynthia was confident in her sexuality and didn’t respond to other characters’ snide remarks, but that didn’t stop any of the teasing. Even when the Bellas are supposed to be bonding and sharing personal secrets like Cynthia’s gambling addiction, she gets shut down because what she said is overshadowed by the fact that she mentions breaking up with a girlfriend, made fun of by Amy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA16qR2tx6A).
What didn’t help was the writers’ portrayal of her lesbian character. Throughout the film her character perpetuates the homophobic stereotype that gay people are predatory and will do anything to cop a feel from anyone of their gender and regardless of orientation as she is seen groping and climbing on other female characters against their will (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYTjradbX_k). Just because someone is gay doesn’t mean that he/she is going to sexually harass/assault you or is even attracted to you for that matter.
There are only a few People of Color (PoC) roles in the film and they are all made to stand out in annoying stereotypical ways without any sort of real redemption. Cynthia (as discussed above), Beca’s roommate, Kimmy Jin, and Lilly Onakurama, another one of the Bellas. Both Beca’s roommate and Lilly are portrayed using Asian stereotypes. Kimmy is portrayed as as exclusive/an extremely rude Korean girl who only wants to hang out with others like herself while Lilly perpetuates the exaggerated shy Asian stereotype who is not only inaudible for most of the film but also happens to be a pyromaniac and comes off as psychotic/exceedingly eccentric. All three of these characters behaviors and dispositions isolate them from the rest of the movie’s cast who are primarily white, creating a xenophobic theme throughout the movie.
Finally, all of the aforementioned points cultivate under the umbrella that is white privilege and one of the reasons I have no sympathy for Beca, the main character. I get the motif of wanting to be your own person and following your dreams in nontraditional ways, but in the movie she acts like a complete brat who whines about having to go to college (FOR FREE by the way, not based on merit but her father’s job) and faces little to no consequences for her negative behaviors throughout the movie. Her one redeeming quality is her willingness to push boundaries and think outside the box, but even that is carried out without much tact.
I am in no way perfect and don’t expect others (especially Hollywood) to be. I also am not normally as quick to pick up on or point out such things, much less be this vocal about them. But when it’s something that is pretty popular amongst my friends, while it’s hard for me to say anything, it’s even harder for me not to. I appreciate the movie for what it was trying to be (girl-power, musical) but also don’t think that it was thoughtfully written or worth me trying to sit through again.