Blackness on TV
*I just want to crow for a minute about how incredibly groundbreaking Black Lightning is. Not because it’s about a Black superhero, but because its one of the most sex positive superhero shows on TV. In a genre where sex is barely mentioned (because comics are for kids) it’s the only show on TV where not only is sex actually mentioned, its discussed in a mature and open fashion.
It’s also the only superhero show on TV with an out, Black, lesbian as one of its heroes. Thunder, as she is known in the comic books, is the only Black Lesbian superhero to make it to this visual medium, along with her girlfriend Grace Choi, who is Asian American.
74/79, or 94% (an A). Explanation below…
1. Is the Main central character Black? 5 points +5
2. Is a Black character main supporting cast? 3 points +3
3. Are there more than 2 Black people? 5 points +5
4. Amount of time Black characters interact directly with each other = point value (max. 10 points) +10
5. Is there a prominently featured Black woman? Prominent here meaning has more than 10 lines and is on screen for 10 minutes or more. 5 points +5
6. Is there prominently featured Black LGBT individual? 5 points +5
7. Is Black character presented as a Powerful character (the bravest of warriors, the smartest of scientists, etc)? 5 points +5
8. Does Black character have well developed back story? 5 points. +5
9. Does Black character “save the day” or otherwise directly influence the story’s ending? 5 points. +5
10. Is Black character featured in all promos, advertisements, and merchandise which feature all main characters? 5 points +5
11. Can any of the above (except 5 and 6) be applied to a Black woman or LGBT individual? 2 points to each question to which it applies. Applies to questions 1-5, 7, 9-10; +16
12. Can any of the above be applied to a Black woman of darker complexion? 2 points to each question to which it applies. +0
1. Is Black person a Minstrel stereotype (here defined as a comedic relief individual characterized by stupidity, “loud” behavior, etc.)? -5 points -0
2. Is Black person a Magical Negro (here defined as a character whose sole purpose is to aid the development of a White character)? -5 points -0
3. Is Black Person a Thug (a street savvy individual whose “hard knock life” is used to entice pity from white characters and audience)? -5 points -0
4. Is Black person characterized as unnecessarily angry or violent (EX: Angry Black Woman)? -5 points -0
5. Is Black person ignored by White or non-Black PoC characters? -5 points. -0
6. Can the Black character be written out of the story and yet the plot is maintained? -5 points -0
7. Can the Black character be successfully whitewashed? -3 points. -0
8. Are Black characters hypersexualized? -5 points -0
9. Are Black characters hypermasculinized? -5 points -5
1. Was it written, produced, or directed by a White person? -5 points -0
2. Was it written, produced, or directed by a Black person? +15 points +15
An Ideal Black Sci-Fi movie or TV show should have 79 points.
So, yeah. I know some of you may be disappointed, especially since Black Panther just more than passed despite not having any LGBT rep. But that’s largely because Black Panther scored for having dark women, specifically. So while BP has no canon LGBT characters, Black Lightning has no dark skin women (or dark protags in general), and that’s one of the categories that hurts in the long run. Yes, his ex-wife is dark, but her presence in this episode…she wasn’t really a central figure, or even a figure that really influenced the plot. She didn’t really need to be in this episode and could be effectively written out.
Do I think Jefferson is hypermasculinized? Yes, but in a more subtle way than what we might be used to. He’s not 100% stoic, but the emotions he displays in the first episode don’t really challenge stereotypes, in my opinion. His conflict mostly comes from being unable to control everything and protect everyone, which is not only entirely typical for male heroes but for Black male protagonists in general. And I get why, I myself am an over-controlling Black dude, just ask my mom. But at the same time, if we want to get better, then we need to be presented with an alternative, and Black Lightning just doesn’t do that.
I want to remind everyone that this test was largely made for books and movies. Things can and likely will change as the show goes on. Maybe his ex-wife, Lynn, will be come more prevalent in upcoming episodes. Maybe we’ll get to see more male characters that directly challenge stereotypes and conventions surrounding Black masculinity. I’m seriously hoping we see a change soon.
Also, this is the only test I’ll make until the season finale, at which point I’ll make a post taking into account everything that the show has to offer.
*This post not only discusses race as an allegory in science fiction movies but offers a complete listing/analysis of movies with that basic theme:
Some commentary on the use of racism as an allegory in Scifi. White people can empathize with fictional allegories of racism but when it comes to the real life version…
Ya know… I feel like racism is a pretty common theme and metaphor in speculative fiction. You got the Elf/Dwarf thing in Tolkien, Muggles/Half-Bloods/Pure Bloods in Harry Potter, mutants in Marvel. I’m pretty sure there’s more. And its usually something like “fake made up race/ethnicity is oppressed” or “fake made up race number 1 hates fake made up race number 2”.
But then when someone says “this character should be played by a POC” or “I’d like to see more diversity in this series”. Or…. if they dare… “I enjoy this story but I see ways in which systemic racism still plays a role in the writing and feel like much can be improved upon “.
And suddenly it’s “How dare you speak ill of our savior, author mcwriter!” “Umm POC in a fantasy/sci-fi series? That doesn’t make any sense “ “Why do you hate white people?” “you’re a not a real fan”.
Newsflash for y’all. Getting upset over the oppression of fake people doesn’t make you not racist, especially if you don’t get upset over the real oppression of real races. In fact it makes you the worst kind of racist, the kind that doesn’t even acknowledge their racism and hides behind fake indignation and crocodile tears.
This. the fact that people understand and see racism as a thing in fictional works and empathize with fictional characters, yet they fail to do the same with actual people of color in their fandom is racist.
I’m sorry there’s not getting around it. You’re going to sit here and write bucket load fics of racism between different groups of elves, or elves vs. dwarves, or shit like that, but when someone in your fandom tries to tie it to their racism that they face as a fan of color, or just try to bring up racism in the fandom in general, you go tone deaf.
Like it just shows you don’t care about people of color, you’d rather sit here taking racism between elves and orcs more seriously, while being vile and ignorant about actual fandom racism.
And this doesn’t just happen in the Tolkien fandom, but others as well. You tagged it as X-men and the sad thing about people who miss the point with X-men is that it’s like…supposed to be an allusion to real life, it was intended to be so, yet you’re here missing the point. The mutants are an allusion to real life marginalized groups.
And the same happens with Star Wars too in regards to Thrawn. People understand the discrimination and racism Thrawn goes through in the Empire, but are tone deaf to the fandom racism that they often perputrate.
So it’s just a weird, fandom thing. It gives racist fans an excuse to not care about actual racism, because “they use fandom to escape” but its almost certain that the racism you see in your fave content will intersect with actual fandom racism, and you need to know that getting into a fandom that deals with “fake” racism.
And no you don’t have to be 100% woke but at least acknowledge the actual fandom racism that’s going on, because that’s what these allusions are here too.
If you are a fan and you only pay attention to the racism within a fake story, then you’ve missed the point completely.
—–What makes it worse — and weirder — is that writers can’t resist giving these marginalized groups some kind of superpowers, which in turn actually gives the fictional society a legitimate reason to fear them. The X-Men are clearly an allegory for one marginalized group or another — the harassment from authorities, vitriolic anti-mutant rhetoric by demagogues, the need to hide their true nature in public, the radicalized faction demanding change under threat of force, etc. Only the stories keep ending up in the awkward position in which the mutant-haters are right. If the government won’t allow us to buy bombs, they probably should keep an eye on the guy who can level a whole city block with his eyeballs. Professor X has a huge machine in his basement that gives him the kind of surveillance powers that would make the NSA feel weird inside. The public’s fears are totally legitimate!
In Defense of Suicide Squad:
This is actually one of my favorite movies. Its not that the movie doesn’t have issues, but after seeing it, and reading several really nasty reviews, I still liked it, and didn’t get what it was about this movie that made people hate it so much. Its not a great movie, but its not even half as bad as its critics would have everyone believe. And I started to get suspicions. The same suspicions I had for why people hated Ghostbusters, and Mad Max Fury Road. I think I’ll review this later this year.
In Defense of After Earth:
This movie starred two men of color, and was directed by another man of color. This movie was vilified as the worst movie ever created in the history of movies, and religion is the excuse that was used to vilify it.. It wasn’t even close to being as bad as critics made it out to be, and yeah, I had to wonder why it was so roundly hated, especially by White male critics, because they were the main ones who had their mouths open about it. This is another movie I’d like to do a review for.
The Importance of Cassian Andor’s Accent
I found this interesting. I enjoyed listening to Diego Luna in Rogue One, but didn’t quite understand why hearing his natural accent made me so happy. It also seemed ot make a lot of other people happy ,too.
You know what else I really love about the diversity in Rogue One? The presence and non-issue of Diego Luna’s accent. Prior to Cassian (at least in my memory) if a Star Wars character had an accent other than English/American then they were an alien or otherwise a foreign or aberrant being.
Not a single character in Rogue One signals that they can’t understand Cassian, or corrects his pronunciation, nor does anyone ever point it out or even justify his accent by saying he is from whatever planet. The film therefore implicitly takes place in a world where accents don’t mark someone’s otherness; accents aren’t a marker of un-education, illiteracy, or being an outsider. Granted the issue of nations and countries is a little loopy in Star Wars, but Rogue One presents to us a universe where some people just don’t speak the common tongue the way everyone else does and there’s no stigma attached to that, they are as much of a rebel as anyone else.
I’ve read time and time again, and experienced time and time again, that a foreign accent is everything in the way people perceive you. People are more likely to think you are stupid, untrustworthy, or just downright confusing. Even if an immigrant in the United States has been living here for 40 years, if they have an accent, everything is going to start working against them. That’s why so many immigrants fret over their English and go to accent reduction classes or avoid speaking in public too often. Because no matter who you are, as soon as you open your mouth, people think of you as a joke. No matter how smart, how patriotic, how hardworking you may be, your otherness is always spelt right there on your own tongue.
You’ve heard it a million times and here is a million and one: representation matters y’all. I was born in this country so I don’t have a Spanish accent, but my whole family does. My whole community does. I happen to live in an area heavy with Latinxs so here the stigma isn’t so obvious, but I’ve seen this kind of discrimination happen to Latinxs all over the country while I get to keep the privilege of the facade of whiteness because of my natural American accent. So I’m goddamn elated that Diego Luna performed Cassian in a unabashed Mexican Spanish accent in a mainstream film and it did not have a single repercussion on his character except for making millions of Latinx feel validates for they way they express themselves. My whole life, pronouncing Star Wars “Estar Wahrs” has been deemed the incorrect way. And now, it’s one of of many, equally valid ways. Amen to that.