Continuing our trend of watching movies with ‘wild’ in the title, today we’re revisiting Wild Wild West! This movie came out in 1999 as a bit of a follow up to Men In Black. Will Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld teamed up again in hopes of capturing that MIB crowd looking for something a little different out of their action adventure movies.
Wil had seen this before and loved it. And it turns out that nostalgia was pretty strong as it still tickled him in all the right places. It’s a big, dumb movie with cheesy jokes and silly steam punk machinery all over the place. It worked in 1999 and if that was all it was it might work today. Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. For Kristin, who was watching for the first time, Wild Wild West is rife with sexism, racism, and extremely awkward language.
This movie takes place post-Civil War but only just. There’s lots of people still angry at the South’s loss, including Kenneth Branagh’s legless Dr. Arliss Loveless. Every interaction between him and Smith’s Jim West is really just one word away from going over the line. Sure their dynamic kind of calls for it, but is Wild Wild West really the movie that needs to be taking on systemic racism? I don’t think so. Furthermore, the sexism towards Salma Hayek’s Rita Escobar just seems like flat out sexism, not a commentary. In 2020 it comes across as simple objectification and on first viewing it is ugly.
So we had a nice debate about how well that stuff all works in the context of the movie and in the vacuum of 1999. Should nostalgia negate certain things that were “right” at the time but don’t work in the present? What do you think? Let us know over on Twitter! For now though, hop into our 8-story tall spider and strap in for today’s episode of So…I’m Watching This Show!