‘Independence Day 2’ Didn’t Bring Back Mae Whitman, and Some Men Think It’s All About Sexism
Yesterday, it was announced that It Follows star Maika Monroe will be taking the role of President Whitmore’s daughter in Independence Day 2, a role originated in the first film by a young Mae Whitman. Whitman has grown up to become a successful star in her own right, recently proving herself as a leading lady with recent teen comedy The DUFF. So why wasn’t she cast in Independence Day 2? There’s one answer many men are contenting (or discontenting) themselves with, and it kind of stinks.
I don’t want to speak unfairly to Whitman and presume I know anything about her feelings on the matter, just as I don’t want to presume anything about why she wasn’t cast in the film. But Whitman remained quiet about the casting of Monroe in Independence Day 2 — that was, until she retweeted an article speculating that she wasn’t cast due to her appearance, as if that hurtful possibility hadn’t even occurred to her until then.
The prevalent thinking I’m seeing from a lot of male writers on Twitter is that Whitman is not “conventionally attractive,” and therefore Fox went with someone who is. This thinking is offensive on various levels. First of all, comparing the attractiveness of two women, even in an attempt to rationalize a disagreeable situation such as this one, is awful and perpetuates a competitive culture in which women are forced to examine themselves through the lens of what men find attractive. That this was the first speculated narrative is unfortunate — and whether or not it’s true, it’s depressing to see men I respect insisting that a woman wasn’t hired because she’s just not pretty enough (and "pretty" is subjective, so this is doubly ridiculous). But this is the conclusion many have leaped to without so much as attempting to contact Fox or Whitman’s reps to confirm if Whitman was even considered for the part.
It’s already annoying enough when white men are outraged on behalf of minorities, propagating the antiquated notion that minorities are so disenfranchised that they need the white man to stand up for them — because it’s the white man who has all the respect and power. Similarly, it’s annoying when men feel the need to stand up and tell women what we should be offended by, effectively “mansplaining” sexism as if they’re rescuing us from some threat we haven’t yet perceived.
We watch men jump to grasp a straw before anyone else, as if they’re proving their feminism, but it reeks of white knighting — it’s well-meaning, sure, but no less offensive. I want men to be feminists, don’t get me wrong, of course I do, and I don’t expect for every feminist to have identical opinions because that’s just crazy talk and debate is productive. It is, however, offensive for a man — emphasis on man — to tell me that something is unfair to my gender, to insist that I be offended by an act they perceive as sexist, and to exhaustively explain to women why something is bad for us.
Fox will likely never explain their reasoning for choosing Maika Monroe over Mae Whitman. Some are arguing that Whitman is a proven bankable talent, and therefore a rational choice. But there are totally unoffensive reasons for why the studio went with Monroe — she’s a recent breakout and on the verge of becoming an “it” girl, the lead of modest horror indie It Follows, a film which awesomely exceeded box office expectations.
These arguments about why Whitman wasn’t cast are well-meaning on the surface, but some of the most annoying sexism comes from good, if misguided, intentions. Take, for instance, this Portlandia sketch, which is so perfect in its portrayal of white knight male feminists that it’s scary:
Men, you do not need to prove your feminism by anxiously searching for sexism in everything, figuratively walking ahead of us to try and protect women from danger. It is the equivalent of holding the door open for us and saying “you’re welcome” before we have the chance to thank you. There’s plenty of actual, proven sexism out there in the world that sucks, for which your outrage would not only be founded, but totally welcome.
To conjure sexism out of thin air with no basis beyond mere speculation is almost as offensive as if this Whitman casting narrative was actually verified as true. It is outrage engineering, created with good intentions, but founded on nothing but cynicism and a need to protect women — but this male urge to protect us (and minorities) runs counter to real equality. How can we feel equal when privileged white men constantly act outraged on our behalf and rush to valiantly defend us? Next time you consider doing this, please think of the message it sends: that minorities and women are defenseless and continue to exist as unequal to men.