Race in Pop Culture

*I’m not an Amandla Sternberg fan, but my niece is, so I’ve been reluctantly paying attention to her career. I think the operative word in that sentence is “quietly” , because if people knew about her, on a large enough scale, I’m pretty sure she’d get a ton of racist backlash (if she hasn’t already.)

Amandla Stenberg is Quietly Making Movie History Right Now…

sleepynegress

She may be the first non-white teen actress who has gotten a run of starring roles in mainstream teen movies, that aren’t designated specifically for her racial category.

So, the trailer for Everything, Everything crossed my dash a while ago and it occurred to ancient me, that I have never seen a teen WOC actress (forget a black/biracial actress) have a run of teen movies where she starred that weren’t categorized as “black movies for black people” with hip-hop beats, dancing, gangs, angst about race, or buffoonery “black people comedy” in my lifetime.

We’ve never had a non-white Molly Ringwald, Winona Ryder, or even Shailene Woodley.

…We’ve never seen a non-white teen actor have a run of movies where the entirety of her story isn’t being the token black sidekick/bff encouraging the white girl to go be the hero and/or get the boy, or chose between the two hot boys.

And here, Amandla Stenberg has managed to do just that, with four teen movies within almost two years.

  • Everything, Everythingthat sick person coming of age romance genre that’s popular rn (think The Fault in Our Stars)
  • As You Are the rebellious indie feature where she’s “the girl” among the angsty problem boys (think River’s Edge)
  • When Hands Touch  the period teen movie that deals with star-crossed and/or morally challenging romance (think An Education)
  • The Darkest Minds  that special teen girl with gifts, skills, or powers no one else has who gets to save the world and get the boy (think The Hunger Games)

These are all roles that would have only gone to a Molly, Winona, Kate, Claire, or Shailene not long ago… Instead they were earned and rightly given to an Amandla (a Xhosa/Zulu word which means “power”).

I thought Keke Palmer or Zoe Kravitz would get there, but nope.  For both, it has been sidekick and “black” movie city.

I know that there is controversy (rightfully) about the movie dealing with WWII, but the bigger picture should not be overlooked here.  One can have valid criticisms and still acknowledge that a glass barrier is being broken by this actor.

…And this is a pretty big one.

Now, all she needs is her own snappy high school comedy, a’la Clueless or Mean Girls.

@

@

The website East Asians on Western Screen is celebrating AAPI Heritage month, by posting a series of short bios about Asian Americans in Hollywood. Its been very informative. I’d heard of quite a few of the actors mentioned but some were brand new to me. Check it out!

eastasiansonwesternscreen

There were also other pioneering [East and Southeast] Asian American actors like Benson Fong, Victor Sen Yung, Lotus Long, Suzanna Kim, Barbara Jean Wong, Fely Franquelli, Chester Gan, Honorable Wu, Kam Tong, Layne Tom Jr., Maurice Liu, Teru Shimada, Willie Fung and Wing Foo; all began their film careers in the 1930s and ‘40s.

With the relatively small percentage of actors that support themselves by acting, it was only logical that they should try to limit the available talent pool as much as possible. One way of doing this was by placing restrictions on minority actors, which, in the case of Asian actors, meant that they could usually only get roles as houseboys, cooks, laundrymen, and crazed war enemies, with the rare “white hero’s loyal sidekick” roles going to the big name actors. When the script called for a larger Asian role, it was almost inevitably given to a white actor. (A Brief History of Hollywood Yellowface)

@

@

*This was initially about that proposal scene between Rick and Michonne in The Walking Dead this season. It was such a beautiful episode ,and I really enjoyed this post. I will always stan for positive depictions of Black women onscreen, as love interests, and as vulnerable, fragile beings, capable of being in loving, respectful, relationships.

fangirl-utopia

As beautiful and iconic as the proposal was, the thing that stood out to me as it was unfolding, the thing that stayed with me the most when it was over, was the imagery and what it means outside of the show’s narrative. It was important. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important it was. Historically, Hollywood has not been kind to black women. When we’re fortunate enough to appear on screen at all, it’s usually in singular, familiar (read: comfortable) ways: strong, single, silent, sassy, unrealistically perfect, best friend to everyone while selflessly shouldering all of our burdens alone. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralizing. It’s tiresome. And it’s utter bullshit.

We don’t get love songs sung to us. We don’t get not one, but two romantic proposals in one season let alone at all. We don’t get to be the love of someone’s life. We rarely get to be vulnerable and unsure and carefree and overwhelmed and ecstatic and cry tears of joy within the narrative of a story in this way. It rarely happens. It’s not about “just being the love interest” as is so frequently the charge when a black woman is the love interest (which is still the exception and not the rule). And it’s certainly not about being validated by a white man or the white gaze. It’s about black women having been historically presented as not needing love, not being worthy of love, not being worthy of being cherished, not being worthy of being protected at the same time that we can do all those things for ourselves.

Little black girls needed to see this. Black women needed to see this. A society that constantly reiterates to the world every single day that black women aren’t beautiful, aren’t feminine, aren’t worthy and are “less than” needed to see this.Love, hate or feel nothing at all toward Westallen and Iris West, this was a big deal. It may not seem like it to some, but it was. Representation matters. But optics matter just as much.

***And to my fellow Richonners, what I said above also applies to the King and Queen of the apocalypse. Rick may not have said those four little words, but what he did say was basically a proposal. What happened between them in that abandoned school (and the rest of the episode) mattered, and it was just as important.

@

@

*YESSS!!!

I am very much geeking out about this. The current season is tight, but there’s still plenty of plot left over for a third season. I’m so happy this show is a success. Having it follow The Walking Dead, in the AMC lineup, has done wonders for its viewership. When I first started watching it, I lauded this show to as many people as I could reach, and I’m glad to finally start seeing gifs and images on my dashboard. The third season will be expanded to sixteen episodes, so this is me, right now: 

Image result for wooo gif

‘Into the Badlands’

AMC continues to grow with Into the Badlands.The hyper-stylized martial arts drama has been renewed for a third season, the cable network announced Tuesday.

Season three will consist of 16 episodes — up from six in season one and 10 in the current sophomore run. The series starring Daniel Wu will return in 2018. The pickup marks a swift renewal for the drama that first launched in 2015 and saw its second run delayed until this year.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/badlands-renewed-supersized-season-3-at-amc-997178

@

@

*As you can see, I’m still not over the whole Iron Fist thing. The problems with that show are myriad, and  cannot be laid out all in one post. So, I’m gonna have to link to  several.

I love this Buzzfeed article, that asks all those refrigerator questions, that occur to you a week after watching a show. I doubt a lot of people will be asking all 62 of these questions because that would require them to pay close attention to the show, and I discovered that even paying peripheral attention was a serious chore.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/62-things-about-iron-fist-that-literally-make-no-fucking?utm_term=.ciBY5ZE20J#.pyJ1oEGAYD

*And then there are those people who insist that Iron Fist is the greatest show since the invention of Wonder bread. I kinda feel like the only people saying that, though,  are White people who were mad at how well received the shows Luke Cage and Jessica Jones were. (Or White people who were seriously angry  about that #AAIron Fist thing. 

mikeymagee

I’m really gonna need ya’ll to stop using Luke Cage as an excuse for why Danny Rand couldn’t be Asian.

First, you act like there needs to be a white person in order to have a conversation about different cultures coming to an understanding, or to learn about antiblackness. Antiblackness is practiced by everyone. Worldwide. So, we could still have an interesting discussion about racism if Danny Rand were Asian/Asian American, and frankly, I find that more relevant to today because there are plenty of Non Black People of Color who believe they can’t be racist, and think they have the right to say “nigga” because they aren’t white, and then get upset when black people rightfully call them out on it.

And as for the “whitewashing”. People aren’t calling Iron Fist “whitewashed” because they thought Danny was Asian, they’re calling it “whitewashed” because Iron Fist (both the original comic, and the show) takes Asian aesthetics, cultures, religions, and practices, and makes them all about a white person. That’s what people are taking umbrage with. They’re whitewashing a culture. And the show doesn’t even respect the cultures it’s using. Danny’s supposed to be a Buddhist right? But it only comes up when the writers want to show how “strange” and “exotic” he is. It all just feels empty. Two Asian women did a podcast on The Learned Fangirl  of the whole show. And they go over this topic far better than I could (and yes, they watched the show, and have plenty to say about the production as a show meant for entertainment.)

Even outside of the racial politics of Iron Fist, the show is just bad. Really, really, bad. The fight choreography was terrible. You’d think a show about martial arts would have incredible fight choreography. Instead, we got this

There were 56 cuts in 35 seconds in one fight scene. It was choppy, uneven, and really difficult to follow.

The plot was clearly driving the characters instead of the other way around. None of the characters had any reasons for their actions. Danny’s actions didn’t even make sense. Why did he want his company back? Oh, he doesn’t know, he just wants it back. And when he gets it back, what does he do with it? Nothing. He gets his company back and he quickly forgets about it.

Why did Colleen start doing cage fighting? Who knows, she just does it. And then she stops for no reason.

Why did Colleen and Danny start going out? Because Danny needed a love interest, that’s why.

When Colleen was revealed to be a part of the Hand, did we get any flashbacks or backstory about what it was like being raised by The Hand? No. It’s obvious the writers only threw that in there to make Danny’s life harder, not because they thought it would give Colleen development.

Daredevil is not my favorite Marvel show (that would be Luke Cage) but at least the writing for DD was consistent. At least Matt’s objectives made sense. At least the relationships between the characters was consistent. Iron Fist didn’t have any of that.

Yes, each of the Marvel shows had issues, and problems and weaknesses. But they also had strengths. With Iron Fist, there wasn’t one aspect of that show that the previous Marvel/Netflix programs didn’t do better.

Daredevil had better fight scenes. Jessica Jones had a better handle on trauma. Luke Cage had a better respect for culture, AND LC did the “fish out of water” story line better. Just look at how Cottonmouth and Mariah branded Luke an outsider because he didn’t grow up in Harlem. Look at how Luke Cage integrates himself into the Harlem community despite being an outsider. Look at how Mariah turned the entire city against Luke due to the fact that he was a “super freak”. When it came to Iron Fist, the writing and story lines paled in comparison.

You could tell that each of the previous showrunners had love and respect for the properties they were adapting. Scott Buck did not. And I shudder to think of what he’s going to do the Inhumans (which could have been a very interesting concept.)

On the subject of Finn Jones, you may feel he’s being unjustly persecuted, but his behavior to the criticism certainly didn’t help matters.

Interviews like this where he says we should be fighting “real injustices”, or blames Donald Trump for people’s reluctance to embrace a white billionaire hero, or getting into that tiff on Twitter with  Asyiqin Haron.   Oh, or there was his interview about how people should stop talking about the racial politics of Iron Fist because the show was so “feminist” (even though it’s brand of “feminism” is simply women–mostly women of color–doing emotional labor for white men with out any reciprocity).

Even without the AAIronFist controversy, the show still would have been slaughtered, which is a shame because I’ve read the Power Man and Iron Fist comics, and I liked their relationship in those books.

But I honestly don’t want MCU’s Danny Rand anywhere near Luke Cage, or his show.

 

*And here are the Learned Fangirls, with their three part podcast review. They hit all the main plot points and unanswerable questions. 

http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/03/hold-the-martialartsmayo-a-review-of-netflixs-iron-fist-part-1-of-3/

*What’s come to my mind, is that the showrunner for Iron Fist, Scott Buck, simply doesn’t give a  fuck about any of the backstories of the characters, or  shows, he’s tasked with. This goes double for his work on The Inhumans show coming to TV later this year. It just looks cheap. The bad makeup, the awful wig, and the paper backdrop with creases in it, just makes this look it was done in Scott Buck’s backyard, with some buddies.

Image result for the inhumans cast

 @

@

*I just thought this was funny, and snarky, and very, very true. That last line is what got me tho’!

 

joshualunacreations: “Growing up as a Filipino kid in America who loved reading comic books, I didn’t see original, leading Asian (especially Filipino) superheroes in the mainstream. When you don’t see yourself or your experiences reflected in heroes...

joshualunacreations

Growing up as a Filipino kid in America who loved reading comic books, I didn’t see original, leading Asian (especially Filipino) superheroes in the mainstream. When you don’t see yourself or your experiences reflected in heroes in pop culture, it’s damaging. Now that I’m older and see that not much has changed, I realize how important it is to create narratives for the underrepresented, especially the next generation of kids who don’t feel like they belong. In honor of Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritage month, here is what I imagine a mainstream Filipino superhero in America might look like.

@

@

*I still have not found out who this poster was, but this was an epic rant against racist fandoms and I just:

Image result for cheering gifImage result for cheering gifImage result for cheering gif

proof i still don’t know how to stfu: exhibit #2332154

rakshaasa

as usual, I’m going to complain about racism in the RP comm (and media in general? idk) because it’s rampant and ugly and I’m not going to shut up about it until it’s dead and gone and you all stop being gross. Now, this was written about racism, but honestly, you can apply a lot of these to things like religion, sexuality, gender identity, etc too- they often intersect and manifest in similar ways– that said, I wanted to talk about race, so that’s what this post is going to focus on.

Things I Am Desperately Tired Of:

white being the default

You all always ask us to write you an entire doctoral thesis with an annotated bibliography and 400+ citations that has been peer-reviewed, edited, and replicated by multiple independent sources to justify us headcanoning characters as PoC so I want to turn the tables on you all.

In fantasy and mythology, in particular, since I guess that’s what I tend to side on: Why is your interpretation of some human-looking entity, like the spirit of a forest or something, white? Why is the pantheon-less god of time a white guy? Why is an angel OC white, why is a mermaid OC white? Canon characters too! Why is your interpretation of a character that wears a mask and has their skin completely covered all the time in canon a white person when they take that mask off? Why are you arguing that a character that is racially ambiguous is white? Why does your character HAVE to be white?

I’m serious. Why can their story only be told through a white lens, through a white experience? Why is whiteness the default you go to? Why is the White Experience™ the only experience you think is worth writing about?

Now, I’m not saying you can’t write white characters, or that white characters can’t be interesting. I’m not telling you that you have to feel bad about writing white characters. I’m not even telling you you need to write characters of color. What I’m asking you is to think about why “white’ is your default. I’m asking you to become aware of your (hopefully) unconscious biases and to critically think about them. Consider giving someone else representation, consider trying to learn something, to go outside your comfort zone. White is not the only valuable perspective. White is not the best perspective. White should not be the default.

white character, colorful mask

“Oh,” you say! “Then I’ll just change my faceclaim for this character and make them brown/black/asian/native/etc and call it good! That’s what you want, right?”

No. No, that is not what the fuck people mean when they say they want representation. Representation is not just skin color. Culture is not skin color. Ethnicity is not skin color. We are all the products of our upbringing, of the society and world we grew up in, and our daily experience  through said society and world. It is not enough to make a character with brown skin, curly hair, dark eyes, and a big nose that has the experience of someone that grew up white. A rich, educated black woman is not going to have had the same experience going through life as a white woman of comparable wealth and education. That’s just not how the world works- and people of color are very much aware of this! You can’t just change a color palette, alter some features, and say you’ve made a good character of color. That’s not representation, that’s not authentic. I’m not saying I’m not 100% for casting, say, an Asian actor for a role previously played by a white person. But that’s not good enough.

I want to look at a character in media and see myself in them, just like all you white people can. I want to have so many characters I can relate to like that that I don’t even count them anymore. I want there to be so many characters of color in books that they’re no longer confined to the “ethnic” section of the library or book store, that I don’t tell every single one of my friends when I find a book that has just one. I want to log on to my RP blog on tumblr dot com and see people enthusiastically writing characters of color, excited to thread with them. I want you all to see us as worth your goddamned time.

And that requires a lot more than appearances- and if you’re going to write a character from a race, culture or ethnicity you’re not a part of, you’re going to have to do a hell of a lot of work and research. It’s a different experience from yours and from anything you’re used to- you can’t half ass it.

And honestly, if you think it’s too much work to write a character that isn’t white, and you think we’re asking too much for you to break your defaults, your writing is crap. Like, straight up, I’ll say it. You’re a crap, lazy writer. I’m not saying you have to be perfect! You’re going to make mistakes, that doesn’t make you a bad writer. I’m also not saying you can’t have any white characters at all. I’m not saying that you’re a bad writer because you’ve never considered this until now. But I am saying that if you, as a writer, can’t muster up the effort to do research, try writing from a different perspective, and go outside your comfort zone, your material is shit. That is literally what writers have to do to write good stories- researching is a part of writing! Some of you have never stepped inside a laboratory a day in your fucking life and yet can write a realistic enough biologist. You may have never even changed the oil in your car, but you can write a damned good mechanic. You’re not a fifty year old man, but you can write a good wizened character. You’re not a fucking vampire, but you do a mean Dracula. Why the hell can’t you apply that effort, that time, that passion to writing a character that isn’t white? Why? Please, someone explain. What is it about people of color that you find so impossible to relate to that elves that live on a floating rock in outer space don’t present the same problem? Please, tell me, I’d love to know why the fuck my people are more bizarre and less human than aliens to you.

But point is, you can’t half ass it. And I love Oscar Isaac as much as anyone, but you don’t get off the hook because you cast him and then play him like he was a rich white man his whole life.

gross, ugly stereotypes & fetishizing

Stop it. Just fucking stop it. It’s ugly, it’s racist, it’s disgusting, and honestly, you can shove your entire fist up your own ass. It’s 2017 and if you’re a grown ass adult, you should know better- and let’s be fucking real, you do know better, we all know you do, stop playing the fucking victim. You’re an asshole, fuck you.

And if you really, genuinely don’t know (doubtful, but technically possible), when someone calls you out, shut your ignorant ass up and go fucking read up on it instead of crying because someone on the internet said you were a racist. Trust me, there are entire libraries worth of people of color calling you white folks out on your bullshit. Educate yourself and stop being so fucking gross.

whitewashing & cultural appropriation

This is both for graphics and characters. Here’s the thing: if your muse is a PoC, their FC, if they have one, better damned well be too. And if your muse’s FC is brown, don’t photoshop the hell out of your icons so no one can tell. Brown is not ugly. Black is not ugly. And yes, race and ethnicity are not skin color, I said that myself. But colorism is real and even besides that, why won’t you let brown characters be brown? It’s not technical ability- trust me, as someone that has used photoshop -3 times, it is not that hard to apply an edit that doesn’t wash out someone’s skin tone. And it’s not that hard to correct- you have an undo button!

As for characters, if I see any of you playing an Egyptian god’s FC as a skinny white boy one more time, a kistune cast as a blonde white girl, a spirit of a mountain range in Brazil played by Ian Somerhalder, a fucking demon from Indonesia as a redhaired freckled white guy, le juro a Dios, I will step out of this fucking screen and strangle you myself. Why!!! Why the fuck, how the fuck, why the fuck would that be their human FC? Why!!!!!

Even if they had all the power in the world and could change their appearance at will, WHY WOULD THEY CHOOSE TO BE WHITE IF THEY ARE FROM A NON-WHITE MAJORITY COUNTRY??? Just for real, answer that. If you can give me an answer that doesn’t sound like white supremacist bullshit, I’ll shut the fuck up for life. But stop trying to find excuses to make a character of color white. That’s gross, there’s absolutely no need, there is absolutely no need. 

not finding muses of color interesting

Look at your threads real quick. How many of them are with muses of color? How many of them are with white characters?

Notice a disparity? Yeah, we do too.

Now, I know!!! I know there are not a lot of us that play muses that aren’t white. Sad to say, but I think I probably follow most of them, and I know tumblr RP, even the fandomless indie OC world, is huge. But we are not impossible to find! We are not hiding! No, what I have seen happen is that muses of color are passed over and ignored, criticized much more harshly than white muses, and generally ostracized from everyone else. And it’s not our writing, it’s not that we all just happen to magically, as a group, lack talent (that’s racist, Becky)- it’s that your progressive values only extend as far as “protect (white) (cis) (conventially/eurocentrically attractive) female muses!!!!!!”. You don’t actually care about diversity, that’s what it comes down to, and it’s obvious.

Stop ignoring us! Stop this performative, fake ass white liberal bullshit and actually care about us and our characters as much as you do the 300 different versions of what’s his face edgy-white-boy from that one movie.

And don’t think you’re slick because you have a white writing partner that has one muse of color on their multi-muse blog that you write with sometimes: there’s a very interesting disparity in treatment between muses of color that are played by PoC and muses of color that are played by white people, and I’m sure you know which way it’s skewed. Amazingly, when PoC are played as stereotypes or fetishized (always by white people, let’s be honest), they get really popular really fast. But PoC writing their own stories well, with care and attention to detail and passion? Nah, we’re just not your style or you’re already busy with other threads or we/our muses just don’t happen to click with you/your muses, nothing personal, and you’re not a racist, it’s just, you know, it is what it is uwuwuwuwuwu

white people being afraid of the mean scary poc of color minorities

Why the fuck are you white people so afraid of us? You think we’ll beat you up? Say mean things? Block you? Talk about you to our friends? Ooh, terrifying.

Is it a fear of being called a racist? Here, I’ll make it easy:if you’re white, you’re racist. There, done, and look at that- you’re fine. You lived. No one touched a hair on your head, look at that!

Turns out, being told that something you did or said is racist is not the worst thing in the world! And you can do and say racist things without being a member of a hate group or without assaulting people on the streets! If you grow up in a racist society, you have to unlearn those racist ideologies that you unconsciously incorporated into your way of thinking and acting. There’s a lot you can read up on regarding how this happens, but know this: being the product of a racist society does not make you, by default, a bad person. What makes you a bad person is your inability to confront your implicit biases and prejudices and work to change them. What makes you a bad person is you putting your personal emotional comfort over the safety and well-being of millions of people that happen to be mentally, emotionally and physically affected by your inability to swallow your pride. What makes you a bad person is you caring more about me saying you’re racist than caring about the fact that your words and actions enforce a very real, very pervasive system of oppression founded on white supremacy.


There is so much more I could add, but this is already long and I’m tired.

TBH I’m just fucking tired. I am tired of white bullshit irl all the time, I am tired of it where my hobbies are, I am tired of it in the media and I am tired of so many of you so much like oh my god. But no rambling, no more, like I said, this is already long so:

tl;dr- White is not better than anything else. White should not be the default. PoC are human beings and just as interesting and deserving of consideration as your white fave. Racism is bad. Do better.

Nothing too controversial!!!!!!

That’s it, I’m done, tune in next week for more bitching- and please, again @ my fellow poc, feel free to add, of course.

And yes @ white people, you are v much encouraged to reblog this. No, you are not allowed to complain about how I’m mean and I should be nicer so you’re not racist or how racism is fake anyway or how me calling you white is as bad as you calling people *insert 10000 slurs here* or how I’m infringing on your free speech or how it’s “just my preference to be racist” blah blah bullshit. Consider this me expressly not asking for your bigoted, ignorant opinion or comments or input, thanks.

 

*Okay, that’s enough for now. Unless some brand new wtf*ery occurs in fandom, this is it for Fandom Racism for the month of May.

Maybe.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Race in Pop Culture

  1. “We don’t get love songs sung to us.”

    I know you don’t watch “The Flash” but Iris West is all that and more. This entire season was dedicated to:

    – the hero saving her life
    – an entire team of the most brilliant minds in the city saving her life
    – the villain, who’s an evil doppelganger of the hero trying to snatch her up because she’s the hero’s Achilles heel
    – and yes the hero totally sang her a love song to her, as a SECOND proposal, never mind he keeps chasing after her through timelines and parallel universes.

    It’s romance city over here and Barry Allen is obsessed with his Black girlfriend lmao!

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.