The XX Factor

A Racist Moment In Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s anti-fable is just as delightful as the critics say . Save for one part in which Wes Anderson’s oft-criticized “mishandling” of race peaks through . Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, is an upper middle class fox, pretty much anthropomorphized as a white baby boomer liberal (at one point, the villain insinuates Mrs. Fox was a slut in her day and Mr. Fox launches into a very Abbie Hoffman-esque defense of the free love decade.) Throughout the movie, Mr. Fox’s opossum sidekick won’t let up on Mr. Fox’s admitted phobia of wolves. The phobia of course makes perfect sense strictly in the animal world. Wolves are predators, foxes their prey. But it takes on a blatantly racial tone when Mr. Fox actually confronts a wholly black-furred wolf on his victorious drive home.

He pulls the motorcar over and yells to the wolf: “Do you speak English?” The wolf doesn’t. Mr. Fox tries French. That doesn’t work either. The wolf looks on blankly, big and majestic at the top of a wooded hill. Then Mr. Fox raises his hand into the black power sign-arm straight, fist closed– and the wolf is finally responsive, raising his black arm into the black power sign in return. Then he runs off into the forest a wild creature, while a clothed Mr. Fox resumes his drive back to his furnished home euphoric after confronting his phobia. Hooray! The wolves Mr. Fox has been so afraid of his entire life aren’t so scary after all-they’re just language-less beasts that can easily be outfoxed with a little black power arm raise.

Still from Fantastic Mr. Fox © 2009 Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.