Olympus Has Fallen isn't exactly this year's finest film, or its most successful, or even the only disaster flick involving the destruction of the White House. But it might be the most controversial so far when it comes to crass remarks from moviegoers. Hollywood jingoism, it seems, has given way once again to social-media racism.
The pseudo-blockbuster fell from second to fourth place at the box office in its second weekend, bringing its estimated total gross to more than $50 million. But the reactions keep pouring in, and get ready for some outrage: The cultural mark of Olympus may not be its gross assassination attempts or its stereotypical North Korean potrayal so much as all the American viewers who walked out of theaters tweeting that they want to "kill Asians."
The gist of Olympus is simple: a group of traitorous guerrilla forces, led by a covert North Korean psychopath (played by the American-born Rick Yune, pictured at left), is bent on a plan of unifying the two Koreas by way of taking over the White House and attacking the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart, pictured with Yune above).
From that, apparently, some audience members arrived at conclusions like this:
And, again, via an illustrative if not voluminous compilation tweets on the Tumblr Public Shaming (which also compiled tweets from seeming rape apologists concerning the case in Steubenville, Ohio) comes this very nasty message:
Then there is the curious case of this tweet, which was actually favorited on Twitter by the verified account for the movie:
The distributor, FilmDistrict, has not commented on the many public comments regarding race in the film, although the Twitter favorite from the verified account is no longer attached to the tweet in question. And while this certainly isn't the first "patriotic" action movie with a stereotypical villain and a pro-American audience walking out with angry impressions, it's also not even the first time nasty anti-Asian rhetoric has surfaced on social media over a fictional series of events in the last six months. In November, the remake of Red Dawn was released with its North Korean villains, spurring audience members to tweet things like "I wish Red Dawn would happen in real life so I could shoot those chinks coming in by parachute," as The Wall Street Journal reported.
Let's keep in mind that, despite the actual non-stop rhetoric out of North Korea, these are very real reactions and real people saying really disgusting things based of fictional events they saw in a movie that isn't even based on reality. While we haven't bothered seeing the film, some critics were first to notice the racial stereotyping, and even the promo stills for Olympus Has Fallen can get pretty, well, Asian-guy-choking-a-white-lady:
The analysts over at Racebending, an advocacy group/website that seeks to promote fair representation of minorities in the media, wrote in a blog post last week: "There are no substantive or patriotic Asian American characters in the film, just the sneaky villains who posed like nice Asians but turned out to be evil." And, sadly, the very real North Korean talk about the U.S. mainland being as vulnerable as a "boiled pumpkin" may be heavy on the propaganda, but it may not do anything to convince these moviegoers otherwise.
Perhaps there's something else going on here, as New York's David Edelstein wrote in his Olympus review:
Obviously we face real threats, as individuals and a country. But to walk around waiting — and dreaming — of the assault (on our women, our homes, our flag) that will allow us to pull out our weapons and start blasting seems … maladaptive
"I know that these films don’t help us to understand and master our fears — they perpetuate those fears and then deliver surges of relief. They’ve helped create a class of men who wander around looking for a bloody fix."
That may have been prescient, but now, two weeks after the film's release, it appears that has metastasized into a class of men — and women, as the Public Shaming Tumblr is quick to point out — who aren't afraid to announce this bloody fix for the social-media world to see.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.