The Subtleties of Systemic Exclusion

4 Dec

Last weekend my partner and I went to see The Delivery Man (don’t judge me – new parent movie criteria includes close to home, not too late and a few good laughs. check, check, check).

In the movie, Vince Vaughn discovers he is the biological father to 533 kids because the sperm bank he donated to as a college student used his sperm exclusively for the better part of a year.

He proceeds to get to know some of the young adults whose profiles he has. He meets about 10 of them one on one, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the writers did an okay job of mixing things up a bit: one kid is nonverbal and in a wheelchair, one is biracial, one is gay, one is a drug addict, one is of larger body size. When we pan over the larger crowd of offspring, there are a few more kids of colour that are visible. A thoughtful mix for a fluffy movie. A nice surprise.

And a few “ughs” on my part:

– The kids with whom Vince has passing encounters (at a bar, at a grocery store) aren’t given names in the movie, but of course are listed in the credits in context-specific ways that we would recognize them: “young boozer” “bag boy”. In terms of plot, perhaps the way he met them “in passing” did not allow for him to use their names. Still, too bad.  

– The “young boozer” is a young man of larger body size who is stereotypically jovial. In this case, a happy drunk.

– All of the kids he actually meet in a meaningful way are thin.

– And one of the two females he meets is a hot mess and overdoses. Great. At least it wasn’t the biracial girl.

– The biracial girl works in a spa and Vince has a manicure and pedicure and so they chat over those. Seems she has her stuff together and doesn’t need help – nice change. But of the 6 kids or so whose names we DO get to see as he reads their profile and decides to track them down (usually at work) she is only one who doesn’t appear in the credits by name. She is simply “The African American Spa Girl”.  Sigh.

Picky? Maybe. But all of these are good example of systemic isms and how subtle they are at reducing worth. It’s my job to notice.

Oh, and the star basketball player was white. They cleverly dodged that stereotype. Interesting choice.

See more.

copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.



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