The Men In Black franchise is getting a little more progressive. In the newest sequel within the MIB universe, Men In Black: International, not only is the organization of Earth's protectors going global (if you couldn’t tell by the name), but they hired a woman, Tessa Thompson, as one of the lead agents. However, despite the welcome move, the film (and its organization) is still sticking with the Men In Black moniker, one that now doesn’t reflect its stars correctly. Star Tessa Thompson explained why Men In Black is still the film’s title on Tuesday, June 11, at the film's premiere. But honestly, she shouldn’t have to.
On Tuesday, while walking the Men In Black: International premiere red carpet, Thompson was asked why the film had not changed its title despite her casting. In her explanation, the actor revealed she didn't completely mind the name remaining the same. “Well, I think first of all we wanted to make sure that people know that this is the franchise that they know and love, because it is,” she responded, as reported by Variety. “And my presence in it because I’m a woman shouldn’t diminish the fact that we’re making a movie very much in the same tone and style of the original films.”
The actor even revealed that there’s a jab about the outdated title in the actual film. “Emma Thompson has a brilliant quip in the movie, where I say, ‘Men in Black?’ because I’m confused that is the title of the organization, and she goes ‘I know. I’ve had the conversation. It’s taking time.’ I think what she speaks to which is funny, but true, is that change happens sometimes faster than we have language to describe what change has occurred.”
It’s hard to believe that the current Men In Black title wasn’t questioned by somebody when Thompson was cast in one of the lead roles, meaning that one of the men in black wasn’t actually all men. So the decision to stick with the famous title despite its inaccuracy speaks to the film industry and studio priorities, that, as Thompson suggested, had to hold up the franchise at the expense of accuracy.
“We have certain institutions that have antiquated ways of working," Thompson continued. "Hollywood is certainly one of them where we don’t have the infrastructure to support the change that is actually happening. I think what she is speaking to is there has always been representation in the organization [that] hasn’t always been reflected in the title."
Despite speaking nothing but truth in her response, Thompson shouldn't have to bear the responsibility for justifying why the Men In Black name remains unchanged. As an actor, she's not necessarily in charge of creative or marketing decisions, not like the director, producers, or film studio executives would be. Therefore, she definitely shouldn't take the heat of any criticism or questions about the film's title, since she's likely not in control of it in the first place.
While keeping the same title for familiarity's sake is understandable, it highlights the film industry's inability to change, and further signals that the goal is financial profit, not progression or accurate representation.
However, time can perhaps bring even more change, especially if there are more MIB sequels to come. “Maybe if we make more, maybe that will change, and certainly I think if Agent M sticks around the organization long enough, she will probably push some buttons to make it change and, frankly, that’s the only way that things change," she added. "People on the inside that have a real stake. Really calling the institutions out.”
Hey, if Thompson can do it, then the fans can too.