The movie studio releasing “The Matrix Reloaded” today is firing back at suggestions the science-fiction thriller somehow portrays albinos in a bad light.
The $127 million sequel continues the story of mankind’s struggle against machines which use artificial intelligence to enslave the human race in a dream world.
And while Warner Bros. is optimistic the movie will generate plenty of green in terms of revenue, the film’s white color scheme for villains has given carte blanche to some critics.
‘Matrix Reloaded’ with pale villains
Part two of the trilogy introduces two new enemies: twins with pale skin and light-colored hair.
“There are even dreadlocked albinos who look like a vanilla Milli Vanilli,” is the way movie critic Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer termed them.
“For the last 40 years filmmakers have used albino characters as villains, and they’re almost always vicious, inhuman characters, depicted as freaks,” dermatologist and self-proclaimed film buff Dr. Vail Reese told MSNBC’s Scoop column yesterday.
The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation has also reportedly written the film giant to express its concern.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is not taking the issue lightly.
“They’re not albinos!” a studio spokeswoman stressed to WorldNetDaily regarding the new villains. “They’re not even human. They’re vampires, 15th century vampires. … These characters do not possess the qualities that albinos possess. They don’t have red eyes. They become invisible. Clearly, they’re not real people.”
Reese documents movie portrayals of pigment-challenged characters on his own website.
He says skin conditions have long been used to illustrate evil characters in movies, labeling scars, bald scalps and tattoos “visual shorthand for cinematic bad guys.”
‘Time Machine’ villain (Dreamworks, Warner Bros.)
“Given budget constraints, albinism is an inexpensive condition to recreate: white makeup, an alabaster wig, some red contact lenses – and voila! Instant adversary,” he says.
Ironically, another film released last year by DreamWorks and Warner Bros. features a pasty-skinned Jeremy Irons playing a subterranean villain in the remake of “The Time Machine.”
Reese claims Hollywood has some unwritten rules for characters with albinism, often depicting them as evil and violent, making excellent assassins.
“Not only are they typically portrayed as remorseless, ruthless, and coldhearted, but they have great aim when it comes to doing in pathetic movie sidekicks,” Reese says. “The irony is that many people with albinism have vision problems, so it is unlikely that these characters would make the best sharpshooters.”
Carrie-Anne Moss, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne return in ‘Matrix Reloaded’
The “Matrix” films feature light and dark-skinned heroes – Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne – and other villains called “agents” portrayed by the likes of Australian actor Hugo Weaving, who looks like a typical agent of the U.S. Secret Service.
Warner Bros. explains the new antagonists have very white skin for good reason.
“They’re pale because they’re dead. They’re dead because they’re vampires.”
The spokeswoman says “there’s no linkage between [Reese's] cause and our movie,” and it’s not the company’s intent to portray any ethnic or social group as good or bad. “It’s like green people being victimized by the Incredible Hulk.”
Warner Bros. admits the dermatologist has whipped up a storm in the media and is riding his message on the back of “Matrix Reloaded,” but says it’s unfair and could be counterproductive.
“It’s almost as if he’s demonizing albinos,” the spokeswoman said. “I’m not sure I would want these [vampires] to be poster children.”
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