Two days ago a critic friend warned that First Man may come under fire “on the level of identity politics. It’s the portrait of a stalwart ’50s straight-arrow white man and his hand-wringing, stand-by-your-man wife. So therefore it must be hated. It will be interesting this week to see if critics carry the identity-politics ball on this, in which ‘too cold’ becomes a metaphor for ‘too much in the way of tight-ass straight white guy material.’”
Yesterday The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody walked right into this narrative in a piece called “Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong Biopic Is an Accidental Right-Wing Fetish Object“:
Significant passage: “Except for the protesters, First Man is whiter than a Fred-and-Ginger ballroom set.
“There are no Hidden Figures here; Neil, an engineer, does his own fancy calculations, thank you very much. The vast team effort to make the moon landing possible is reduced to background extras. The movie is centered on astronauts, who interact briefly with a handful of administrators and scientists; there are wives and children; and, otherwise, there are minions who line the corridor and cheer as Neil and his colleagues pass by on the way to the capsule. The moon mission was as much a matter of media as it was of science. The iconic moments of the moon landing are great television, and it took significant thought and labor on the part of NASA to figure out how to capture them.
“But Chazelle isn’t interested in process, or in how the facts were transformed into legend. Instead, he filters the legend to render it even more monumentally, unequivocally, inhumanly heroic.”