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Loved Crazy Rich Asians? Here's 7 more films that changed Hollywood forever
Crazy Rich Asians is the first film to feature an all-Asian cast in 25 years. It is also a bonafide success, both financially and culturally. Inspired by its fanfare, Big Think looks at seven other films that shook American society.
From a pure numbers perspective, Crazy Rich Asians is a modest success story. Its filmmakers turned down a guaranteed Netflix payday for a risky theatrical release, and the gamble paid out a cool $34 million in the first five days (reported production budget $30 million). That lands it as the best debuted rom-com since Trainwreck (2015). A 93 percent “Certified Fresh” consensus on Rotten Tomatoes and good word of mouth will likely keep its box office streak alive for some time. Even so, it has a ways to go before challenging the rom-com champions of yesteryear.
But even if Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t do summer blockbuster numbers, it remains a triumph worth celebrating. It is the first studio film since The Joy Luck Club (1993) to feature an all-Asian cast. It represents strong Asian women in lead roles. It shows that Asian men shouldn’t be type-casted as comic relief or martial arts masters. They can be heartthrobs, too. While some have argued that the film erases the diversity of Singapore in favor of the privileged ethnic Chinese, others have countered that similar scrutiny is not placed on white-led rom-coms.
Crazy Rich Asians shook America awake by reinforcing the power of positive representation. To celebrate, let’s look at seven other films that shook America and forced us to reevaluate our cultural barriers.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
During the civil rights era, African Americans fought for social justice and an end to racial segregation. Many films from the ‘60s onward have tackled the social strain resulting from this restructuring of America’s social fabric, but I’m giving the nod to In the Heat of the Night.
Released just a few years after Birmingham Church Bombing, the movie opens with Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) suspecting a black man for the murder of a Mississippi businessman. The suspect turns out to be Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a well-respected homicide detective from Philadelphia. Tibbs joins Gillespie to hunt the killer but must navigate the racially dangerous environment of the deep South to find justice.
Poitier and Steiger deliver sterling performances, and the racial strain between Tibbs and the Mississippi residents ranges from subtle glances to overt proclamations. Looking back, the racial reconciliation may come a little too easy, but it’s all worth the final scene where Gillespie respectfully carries Tibbs’ bag through the train station.
The film won five Oscars, snagging Best Picture from such heavy hitters as The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Honorable mentions: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967); Do the Right Thing (1989); Malcolm X (1992); Selma (2014)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Released a few years after the fall of Saigon, The Deer Hunter vividly illustrated the horrors of the Vietnam War at a time when America was still coming to grips with the trauma suffered by its returning soldiers. In fact, it wasn’t until 1980 that post-traumatic stress disorder would be officially recognized as a mental health condition.
Small-town factory workers Mike Vronsky (Robert De Niro), Steven Pushkov (John Savage), and Nicky Chevotarvich (Christopher Walken) join the U.S. Army to fight in Vietnam. The three friends undergo many hardships until they are ultimately captured. At the POW camp, the mental and physical tortures intensify, culminating in Mike and Nicky being forced to play a game of Russian roulette against each other.
The Russian roulette scene, in particular, is one of the most intense, emotionally wrenching scenes in any movie and dramatically represents the ghosts America’s wounded warriors brought home. The film won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Honorable mentions: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930); Full Metal Jacket (1987); Paths of Glory (1957); Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Modern critics and audiences praise movies that break down cultural barriers—Birth of a Nation is not one of them. Made more than a century ago, this three-hour silent film still shakes America today and is included on this list as a sobering reminder of what should never be repeated.
The Birth of a Nation follows the lives of two families, the Stonemans, and the Camerons, through the Civil War and Reconstruction. It is best known today for its pioneering filmmaking techniques, as well as its disrespectful portrayal of African Americans. Played by white actors in blackface, they were displayed as brutish, subversive, feebleminded, and sexually forceful. In the film’s infamous climax, a militia of African Americans attack a white family in a hut, and the Ku Klux Klan, led by the protagonist, ride in like valiant knights to save the day. It’s unnerving, to say the least.
The NAACP staged protests and tried to get the film banned for its historical inaccuracies and maltreatment of black people. Their concerns fell on deaf ears, and audiences made the film a resounding success. One million people saw it in its first year, and it held the box office gross record until Gone with the Wind (1939).
In need of a historical chaser? The same period that celebrated The Birth of a Nation also gave us A Fool and His Money (1912) — the first film with an all African American cast and directed by Alice Guy-Blache, the first woman director. The film was among the era’s many “lost” films until a man named David Navone discovered an extant copy. Today, it is preserved by AFI’s National Center for Film.
(Dis)Honorable mentions: Intolerance (1916); Triumph of the Will (1935); South of the South(1946); Amos ‘n’ Andy
When AIDS first came to America, it was perceived as a “gay disease” — the initial term for the disease was GRID (gay-related immune deficiency). A potent combination of misinformation and fear led to devastating discrimination against LGBTQ communities, discouraging many from getting tested, which likely helped the spread of the disease.
Philadelphia was one of the first major films to tackle AIDS and America’s homophobic milieu. Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is fired from his job at a prestigious law firm. Believing his termination resulted from the partners discovering his infection, Beckett asks Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to represent him in a wrongful dismissal suit. Miller takes on the case, but must ultimately overcome his own prejudices to provide fair representation.
Many of Philadelphia’s scenes remain poignant today, such as the locker room talk or Miller’s disgust at being hit on by a gay man. Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his performance as Beckett. Do you think it was for the opera scene? Yeah, it was probably for the opera scene.
Honorable mentions: Silverlake Life: the View from Here (1993); Angels in America (2003); Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Even today, the transgender community faces a disproportionate amount of harassment and violence compared to mainstream society. One in four trans people have faced a bias-driven assault, and 22 percent of transgender people who have interacted with the police have experienced bias from law enforcement. As we saw with the AIDS crisis, the drivers for such discrimination are fear, hate, and misinformation. Representation of trans people in media can help curb such feelings, which is why films like Boys Don’t Cry are so necessary.
A young man named Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank) moves to Nebraska in an act of self-discovery. He makes friends, finds a girlfriend, and comes into himself. When his girlfriend discovers his secret — Brandon was born Teena — Brandon’s friends turn on him, while the local police turn a blind eye. After a brutal series of physical and sexual assaults, Brandon is hunted down and killed.
Boys Don’t Cry remains a difficult film to watch, and its visceral representation of fear in the face of relentless violence is made even more heart wrenching when you remember it is based on actual events.
Honorable mentions: Paris Is Burning (1991); The Crying Game (1992); M. Butterfly (1993); The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994)
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Documentaries can shake us awake by shining a light into corners of the world people rarely get to experience. Hoop Dreams portrayed the daunting burdens put on young men who desire to become professional basketball players. Jesus Camp showed the indoctrination of children in an evangelical Christian community. And The Act of Killing unveiled how a community can normalize even the most heinous of acts.
But I’m giving this spot to An Inconvenient Truth for its far-reaching impact on American culture. The film documents Al Gore’s lecture circuit to raise awareness of climate change and its future impacts.
On the one hand, it brought climate change into our public consciousness, informing people on the issue and prompting a slew of activism.
On the other hand, by focusing on Al Gore — the Democratic presidential candidate in 2000’s highly politicized election — the film may have had the unintended consequence of further polarizing the issue. With political parties dictating public opinion (rather than the other way around), An Inconvenient Truth’s success may have inadvertently damaged its own cause, strengthening the cultural barriers that needed to be pulled down for progress.
Honorable mentions: The Thin Blue Line (1988); Bowling for Columbine (2002); Super Size Me (2004); Blackfish (2013)
Black Panther (2018)
Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange. What do these characters have in common? They are all white, male, mostly middle-aged superheroes Marvel decided to give movies before headlining a minority or woman superhero. They even gave Ant-Man a movie! And be honest, how many of you cared at all about Ant-Man before he was also Paul Rudd?
To be fair to Marvel, Black Panther wasn’t their first black superhero. Children of the ‘90s will remember that Blade was a commercial success. But it wasn’t until 2018 that it felt like Marvel – or any studio really – went all in to combine a positive representation of African culture with a superhero structure. In the film, Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda to become its king, but after a failed attempt to capture international criminal Ulysses Klaue, he begins to doubt his worthiness as the Black Panther. When his lost cousin, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), comes to challenge T’Challa for the throne, it fractures the country into civil war.
Honorable mentions: Blade (1998); Get Out (2017); Wonder Woman (2017)
With the successes of Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and Crazy Rich Asians, hopefully, Hollywood learns its lesson to no longer play it safe. Representation is not the long-odds roll of the dice popular theory believes it is. Today’s audiences welcome it with open minds and, more importantly for Hollywood, open wallets.
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
It could lead to a massive uptake in those previously hesitant.
A financial shot in the arm could be just what is needed for Americans unsure about vaccination.
On May 12, 2021, the Republican governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, announced five US$1 million lottery prizes for those who are vaccinated. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, younger citizens are being enticed to get the shot with $100 savings bonds, and a state university in North Carolina is offering students who get vaccinated a chance to win the cost of housing. Many companies are paying vaccinated employees more money through bonuses or extra paid time off.
The push to get as many people vaccinated as possible is laudable and may well work. But leading behavioral scientists are worried that paying people to vaccinate could backfire if it makes people more skeptical of the shots. And ethicists have argued that it would be wrong, citing concerns over fairness and equity.
As a behavioral scientist and ethicist, I draw on an extensive body of research to help answer these questions. It suggests that incentives might work to save lives and, if properly structured, need not trample individual rights or be a huge expense for the government.
In the United States, incentives and disincentives are already used in health care. The U.S. system of privatized health insurance exposes patients to substantial deductibles and copays, not only to cover costs but to cut down on what could be deemed as wasteful health care – the thinking being that putting a cost to an emergency room visit, for example, might deter those who aren't really in need of that level of care.
In practice, this means patients are encouraged to decline both emergency and more routine care, since both are exposed to costs.
Paying for health behaviors
In the case of COVID-19, the vaccines are already free to consumers, which has undoubtedly encouraged people to be immunized. Studies have shown that reducing out-of-pocket costs can improve adherence to life-sustaining drugs, whether to prevent heart attacks or to manage diabetes.
A payment to take a drug goes one step further than simply reducing costs. And if properly designed, such incentives can change health behaviors.
And for vaccination in particular, payments have been successful for human papillomavirus (HPV) in England; hepatitis B in the United States and the United Kingdom; and tetanus toxoid in Nigeria. The effects can be substantial: For example, for one group in the HPV study, the vaccination rate more than doubled with an incentive.
For COVID-19, there are no field studies to date, but several survey experiments, including one my group conducted with 1,000 Americans, find that incentives are likely to work. In our case, the incentive of a tax break was enough to encourage those hesitant about vaccinations to say they would take the shot.
Even if incentives will save lives by increasing vaccinations, there are still other ethical considerations. A key concern is protecting the autonomous choices of people to decide what they put into their own bodies. This may be especially important for the COVID-19 vaccines, which – although authorized as likely safe and effective – are not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
But already people are often paid to participate in clinical trials for drugs that have not yet been approved by the FDA. Ethicists have worried that such payments may be “coercive" if the money is so attractive as to override a person's free choices or make them worse off overall.
One can quibble about whether the term “coercion" applies to offers of payment. But even if offers were coercive, payments may still be reasonable to save lives in a pandemic if they succeed in greater levels of immunization.
During the smallpox epidemic nearly 100 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the power of states to mandate vaccines. Compared with mandating vaccination, the incentives to encourage vaccines seem innocuous.
Exploitation and paternalism
Yet some still worry. Bioethicists Emily Largent and Franklin Miller wrote in a recent paper that a payment might “unfairly" exploit “those U.S. residents who have lost jobs … or slipped into poverty during the pandemic," which could leave them feeling as if they have “no choice but to be vaccinated for cash." Others have noted that vaccine hesitancy is higher in nonwhite communities, where incomes tend to be lower, as is trust in the medical establishment.
Ethicists and policymakers should indeed focus on the poorest members of our community and seek to minimize racial disparities in both health outcomes and wealth. But there is no evidence that offering money is actually detrimental to such populations. Receiving money is a good thing. To suggest that we have to protect adults by denying them offers of money may come across as paternalism.
Some ethicists also argue that the money is better spent elsewhere to increase participation. States could spend the money making sure vaccines are convenient to everyone, for example, by bringing them to community events and churches. Money could also support various efforts to fight misinformation and communicate the importance of getting the shot.
The cost of incentives
Financial incentives could be expensive as a policy solution. As in Ohio, lottery drawings are one way to cap the overall cost of incentives while giving millions of people an additional reason to get their shot.
The tax code could also allow for a no-cost incentive for vaccination. Tax deductions and credits are often designed to encourage behaviors, such as savings or home ownership. Some states now have big budget surpluses and are considering tax relief measures. If a state announced now that such payments would be conditional on being vaccinated, then each person declining the shot would save the government money.
Ultimately, a well-designed vaccination incentive can help save lives and need not keep the ethicists up at night.
Geologists discover a rhythm to major geologic events.
- It appears that Earth has a geologic "pulse," with clusters of major events occurring every 27.5 million years.
- Working with the most accurate dating methods available, the authors of the study constructed a new history of the last 260 million years.
- Exactly why these cycles occur remains unknown, but there are some interesting theories.
Our hearts beat at a resting rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute. Lots of other things pulse, too. The colors we see and the pitches we hear, for example, are due to the different wave frequencies ("pulses") of light and sound waves.
Now, a study in the journal Geoscience Frontiers finds that Earth itself has a pulse, with one "beat" every 27.5 million years. That's the rate at which major geological events have been occurring as far back as geologists can tell.
A planetary calendar has 10 dates in red
Credit: Jagoush / Adobe Stock
According to lead author and geologist Michael Rampino of New York University's Department of Biology, "Many geologists believe that geological events are random over time. But our study provides statistical evidence for a common cycle, suggesting that these geologic events are correlated and not random."
The new study is not the first time that there's been a suggestion of a planetary geologic cycle, but it's only with recent refinements in radioisotopic dating techniques that there's evidence supporting the theory. The authors of the study collected the latest, best dating for 89 known geologic events over the last 260 million years:
- 29 sea level fluctuations
- 12 marine extinctions
- 9 land-based extinctions
- 10 periods of low ocean oxygenation
- 13 gigantic flood basalt volcanic eruptions
- 8 changes in the rate of seafloor spread
- 8 times there were global pulsations in interplate magmatism
The dates provided the scientists a new timetable of Earth's geologic history.
Tick, tick, boom
Credit: New York University
Putting all the events together, the scientists performed a series of statistical analyses that revealed that events tend to cluster around 10 different dates, with peak activity occurring every 27.5 million years. Between the ten busy periods, the number of events dropped sharply, approaching zero.
Perhaps the most fascinating question that remains unanswered for now is exactly why this is happening. The authors of the study suggest two possibilities:
"The correlations and cyclicity seen in the geologic episodes may be entirely a function of global internal Earth dynamics affecting global tectonics and climate, but similar cycles in the Earth's orbit in the Solar System and in the Galaxy might be pacing these events. Whatever the origins of these cyclical episodes, their occurrences support the case for a largely periodic, coordinated, and intermittently catastrophic geologic record, which is quite different from the views held by most geologists."
Assuming the researchers' calculations are at least roughly correct — the authors note that different statistical formulas may result in further refinement of their conclusions — there's no need to worry that we're about to be thumped by another planetary heartbeat. The last occurred some seven million years ago, meaning the next won't happen for about another 20 million years.