Saturday, October 29, 2005

Franky G

Reggie H. sent me and Ryan this photo today (it originally was posted on MostProper, a blog that features lots of "phyne sights" in Reggie's words), letting us know that Franky G. (pictured at left) will be in Saw 2, which I gather is the sequel to Saw. I had to write back to let Reggie and Ryan know how out of it I must be, since I'd never heard of the initial film, which according to IMdB (the online encyclopedia of film information), appeared in 2004. A horror movie directed by James Wan (¿quién es él?), starring Danny Glover, Cary Elwes, and quite a few actors I've never heard of, it concerns a serial killer whose calling card is a circular saw, or something like that. The general viewer rating for Saw is 7.5 stars out of 10, which ranks higher than Hitchcock's superb Suspicion or Cassavetes's standard-setting Gloria. Yeah, right.

But anyways, who cares about Saw or Saw II, really? At my age I'm able to recognize quite clearly there's enough horror going on in the world around me that I don't wish for or need cinematic treatments of it anymore--the important issue is the man above. I know I'm not alone in thinking that the New York native Puerto Rican-American Franky G (for Gonzalez) is one of the more beautiful men in film and TV, am I? And the man is the same age as me, 40 years old! Sadly and unsurprisingly, Hollywood doesn't know what to do with this kind of (male) beauty, which has always fallen and continues to fall outside its "mainstream." In my alternative universe, Franky G, who does have some acting talent (though he's no Denzel Washington or Robert DeNiro, and that's OK!), would have regular roles, both in movies and on TV. And he'd have material suited to his talent and looks, not the sort of dreck that characterized Johnny Z, his late show on Fox, which brings me to another point.

As I stated in my second post on Noah's Arc, I intend to keep watching that show, despite how bad it is. Thinking of Johnny Z, I realized that in fact lack of quality is no bar to my watching a TV show, if it has other things going for it (humor, attractive stars, some catchy element). For much of my life I eagerly watched bad or retrograde TV (F Troop, My Three Sons, One Day at a Time, Good Times, Dallas, Eight Is Enough, Family, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Three Is Company, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Greatest American Hero, Cybill, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, Sister Sister, The Parkers, etc.) for a variety of reasons other than quality (which I think was and is one key element of, for example, Batman, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Schoolhouse Rock, Zoom, The Electric Company, Speed Racer, The Patty Duke Show, Get Smart, Monty Python, Maude, The Golden Girls, Frank's Place, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, SCTV, The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show Show, certain seasons of SNL, The Wire, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Comeback, etc.). 

As I age, though, I can't really take too much bad or retrograde TV anymore, especially shows that depict a world set anywhere but Iceland or Finland (or Wyoming, let's say) that's focused excessively on the very young and rich or economically privileged and devoid of any people of color. Just no. No. NO. My tolerance for minstrelsy also has shrunk to nil. I don't want to waste my time what's essentially a repurposed lost script for Amos n' Andy. Nevertheless, friend David M. and I caught the first episode of Franky G's Johnny Z and faithfully watched the really awful--dreadful, cringe-inducing, appallingly badly written--subsequent ones every week, until, mercifully, it was pulled. If you never saw the show, you missed little--except, of course, for Franky G.

He was the ONLY reason to watch it. The entire scenario--a Latino late-30s-something, with a kid and ex-wife, gets out of jail, is on parole in NYC, has to keep clean yet cannot help getting involved with criminals, etc.--started out with a mild stench. So much of it was utterly implausible: a British gangster in NYC...wait, let me repeat that. A British gangster--in New York City! Okay, there may be British gangsters in New York (New York has all kinds of people, and there certainly are quite a few in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, etc.) but seriously, and at the risk of political incorrectness, while I appreciate the writers' attempts at being...inventive?...wouldn't a Black or Latino or Italian or Irish or Russian or Albanian or Greek or Chinese crime boss be more believable...well, you get my drift. We're talking about New York City. Any student in an introductory fiction class would find every mention of this character in a story based on the initial premise of Johnny Z surrounded by circles and question marks. 

Then there was his sidekick, this endlessly babbling, unspeakably annoying, wannabe comic White nerdy guy who looked like a plucked chicken, and they shared a huge New York City...I kept wondering, why on earth wasn't this waste of space and dialogue shed during the development phase? David and I both concurred, of course, that the network probably thought that the show wouldn't succeed without a central White character. So why not instead give us a real New York type, a White tough, say from Queens or Brooklyn or Staten Island, or if you need to ramp up the comedy, New Jersey, who, far more conceivably, might have met Johnny Z on the inside and then caught up with him when they both got out? Instead, the quasi-Jerry Lewis-esque buffoon the show selected didn't work at all. And then they added an Australian bail bondswoman, who just happened to be a busty blonde bruiser, which satisfied some other show runner's or writer's fantasies, and...well, the show was off the airwaves not long thereafter.

So there is no chance anymore to watch horrible TV just to see Franky G every week. I doubt I'll go see Saw 2, so I'll have to miss Franky G's newest star turn. Which is a shame, because I relish any opportunities to see Franky G. onscreen. And not only Franky G, but any number of other actors that whose beauty lights up the screen, but whom Hollywood and the major networks in New York don't know what to do with. (Mekhi Phifer has kept his job on ER and there's the two guys, Eva Longoria's husband and Alfre Woodard's son on Desperate Housewives, a show I don't watch, but that's about it now that Taye Diggs, Keith Hamilton Cobb, Matthew St. Patrick, etc. are no longer on regularly airing shows.) But then things may change, as they already have in my lifetime, though slowly, slowly.... So cable TV stations, just so you know, Franky G could still be a contender....


  1. J:

    Thanks for taking this beyond a discussion of Franky's (stunning!) looks, and into one of how ill used men of color are by Hollywood (a discussion of women of color could be just as -- twice! -- as long). There's such a limited view of the possibilies of what we can be/are/what we can do. I know that we as a people have to believe, as Chip Delany put it, in the 'possiblity of possibilities', a wide range of paths for our own and our children's futures. But it makes it especially difficult if we never see those ranges reflected on the big or small screen.

    I remember how Wesley Snipes was considered 'not believeable' as a director of commercials who gets into a One Night Stand with a white woman in the movie of the same name. To me, he seemed completely comfortable in the role...but the notion of a successful black director (of anything?) seemed to my mind what galled critics. And the role was 'colorblind casting' i.e. it wasn't written to be a black character when Snipes got the part (they may have then changed it and had an African American woman play the wife he cheats on).

    I think about this a lot, the range of career and experience of the black, latino, and other people of color I know, and how that is seldom if ever reflected on film (or in much fiction for that matter). As you know, where I work or Director is an African American woman, there are a number of black top- and mid-level managers. Most of us in the Systems/Technology department is non-European (Af-Am, both Taiwanese and mainland Chinese, Indian...). Would we ever see this kind of diversity portayed in a movie when even in something 'minor' like this new horror show "Saw II" Hollywood can only think of having what looks like the only person of color, Franky, portraying (according to Ryan) a 'Latin Thug-type'?

    Are we 'complaining too much'? Or do these images 'mean' something beyond their value as 'only a movie'?

  2. Yes, I thank you, too, John. Am tempted to write about the problems I saw with One Night Stand, which I think was not "colorblind casting" at all, but rather a clumsy attempt at reversing the stereotypes. Clumsy, because, first of all, real people are not simply "opposites" of stereotypes, they are more complex than the stereotypes. Snipes was an opposite because he was a director and sensitive enough to cry (which black men aren't supposed to be), his wife was chatty & dominating (which Asian women aren't supposed to be), the woman he cheats with is "a rocket scientist" -- she literally defines herself in this way -- or smart (which blonde women are not supposed to be). But (not so interestingly) in bed, the black man is still oh so virile and the white woman is still oh so feminine. Ok, so this comment was not supposed to be about the problems of One Night Stand, and I have proven to be unable of resisting the temptation to engage. But I will say that these questions about what roles actors of color are supposed to play continue to intrigue.

  3. As I stated in my second post on "Noah's Arc," I intend to keep watching that show, despite how bad it is.

    I'm a big fan of the box, in part because it stills me, and there are times that I want to be still. Kinda extracritical, that.


  4. I totally agree with you. As a black female I found Frankgy G so physically beauitful yet I knew that he would continue to end up with roles that relegated him to either a prisoner, thug, hit-man for some crime boss or a drug-dealer. I want to see more directors of color making films that depict the real lifes of us more and our "real" behavior pattern instead of the stereotypes that are consistently feed through the white media. That is why I absolutely loved "Love Jones", and "Selena" . They both depicted approriately the lives of people of color with respect.

  5. A very incisive, thought-provoking entry on the struggles that actors of color still face. Franky G, who won critical acclaim in the movie Manito definitely deserves so much better than the thug roles he gets. However, I wonder how much of his typecasting is attributed to his oh-so-yummy powerful physique.