White Men: The Pandering (Pt. Two)

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Most Americans know the rest of the world only through the media they consume, and unfortunately, most of them are content to leave it at that level,  never bothering  to question what we know of the world, how we know it, or who gave us the information, and why they gave it to us. (The corollary to this is the rest of the world learns about America through the media we create.)

The media, especially popular mainstream culture, shapes our American worldview, and that worldview springs from the minds of largely one group of people, so it’s very interesting when White male critics (and let’s be frank here, these critics are primarily White, straight, male, and we must not forget it when talking  about this issue), when they talk about how the media is “pandering” to the SJW’s. At the same time these same men say things like “This is our media, and those people are invading it.” There’s a reason why they think Pop culture belongs exclusively to them, and that statement  is  both a declaration of ownership, and a subsequent lack of control over what they claim to be theirs.

If there are two essential truths in today’s media and popular culture, it’s these: One, virtually the entirety of mass popular culture is geared towards pandering to the wants, needs, interests, and desires of male nerds. And two, those male nerds often fail to believe that they’ve been pandered to quite enough.

 

I can’t cover everything, so this is going to be a broad 101 of the topic. There are going to be some subjects I avoid as being too lengthy, and deserve posts of their own. Some topics I’m going to  avoid talking about in depth, because I’m not a member of the community in question. There were so many resources I wanted to add, so many videos, so many links, but I simply couldn’t cover everything. I used the terms White characters, White men, and White people, interchangeably, but they are not all the same thing.  For the purposes of this essay (which I have edited the hell out of, and I’m too tired to go back through it and change all the terms) we’ll use them interchangeably here. (And yes, I am including White women in those terms, since they have often aided and abetted cis-heteropatriarchy in movies, books ,and TV.)

White Men Control The Stories

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Let’s talk about what pandering is, how it gets done, and what it looks like in Pop culture. I’m primarily going to talk about the three biggest forms of media:  Music, Movies and TV and Gaming.

One of the reasons we tend to think of White men the way we do, is because our point of view has been aided and abetted by the vast amount of entertainment we’ve consumed, that privilege the White, straight, middle class, cis-gender, male viewpoint of themselves, and the rest of the world. Narratives that are created, controlled, and distributed by White men.

 

White men are  prioritized and normalized in the stories we read, watch, listen to,  and play. This is so ubiquitous that most people never notice it, until other stories start being told. Their presentation,  desires, wants, opinions (of themselves, and others, and their needs, are often placed front and center in many of the stories we’ve consumed, while those of women, gays, PoC, and other marginalized groups are de-centered, or placed in the stories to make them feel good and look heroic. Issues like erasure and whitewashing serve the same purpose, and while those may  have recently become household words, some of the prioritization of White men  are much more subtle, and often go unrecognized.

For example, movies may appear to present an issue, but that issue gets sidelined to focus on how the White characters think about the issue, rather than how that issue affects the people involved in it. In the movie Three Billboards over Ebbing Missouri, the movie presents issues of police brutality. But…there are only three Black characters in the entire movie, and we don’t get any idea how they feel about what the police have been doing to them. Instead, the focus  is on them sympathizing with the White male cops who have committed  the brutality. Not only is the audience encouraged to see the humanity of these corrupt  police officers, but the Black characters (written by two White men) show sympathy and empathy for them too, unwilling to be angry, or hold the police to account for what was done to them. Police brutality of Black people is presented as background scenery for the story of a White woman’s feud with a group of White men.

 

Normalization, Exceptionalism and  Universalism

In books, movies, and television shows, White men’s activities, no matter what they are,  are presented as a normal outgrowth of being a man, and is something that can, and should, be applied to all men. The understanding is that the White male view of the world is shared by all men. The activities in which they engage, and their reaction to events, is something shared by everyone. Paradoxically, White men want to be shown to be rugged individualists, who are exceptional, and don’t share any mundane qualities with other men.

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We see the “normal” nature of whiteness in film and television too, in which most main characters are white, and in the case where a show or film prominently features actors of color, it is considered a “Black” or “Hispanic” cultural product. Film and television that primarily features white people is “normal” film and television that is thought to appeal to the mainstream; those that feature actors of color in lead roles and casts composed predominantly of people of color are considered niche works that exist outside of that mainstream.

 

One of the more subtle ways that White men are depicted on screen is through sympathy and innocence. White men in movies and TV shows are often given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to criminal behavior, or sympathized with when they experience pain.

I mostly want to talk about this as a TV phenomenon, but pick a crime, any crime, and Western media has probably made a movie/TV series/play/etc. with a white person that romanticizes the criminal activity. No matter what, a white person can do whatever terrible crimes and still have a TV/movie fanbase that loves them. When you see black or brown people committing crimes on screen, you are to see them thugs and criminal masterminds and people to be beat down.

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Basically, every trope and stereotype present in film, and television, was invented, created, and reinforced through decades of use, by straight, White, middle class men, and the result is that White men end up looking heroic, commanding, smarter, mentally stable, and more powerful than everyone else. Their mistakes and transgressions are to be  forgiven or excused. Their abnormal circumstances and /or criminal behavior is meant to be sympathized with, and in some cases applauded as heroic. Even their most villainous behavior is meant to be understood, justified, and sometimes even romanticized. Witness the number of TV series and movies that romanticize White serial killers, for example. There are no shows and movies romanticizing the exploits of serial killers who happen to be men of color.

Some of this is obvious, some less so, but the end result is that White men are given a pass for their behavior, no matter how toxic, while  making themselves look sympathetic, in  television shows like Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Sons of Anarchy. There are few shows depicting men of color as mobsters and drug dealers in a sympathetic manner. Men of color who engage in criminal activity are painted as thugs, terrorists, and ne’er do wells. White men’s ideas about crime pervade popular media in the form of procedurals, reality shows, and action movies.

Simultaneously, White men  have also gotten to be the only representatives of law and order. Up until thirty or so years ago, men of color were not depicted as cops in TV shows, and rarely depicted as such in movies. There were no Asian cops in American police procedurals until the 90s, few Latinos, and no Muslims.  White men broke the law, but almost always as Anti- Heroes, and Likable Rogues, (unless of course they had accents, or were coded as Queer) who were justified in committing violent acts. They also happened to enforce the laws which made them look like heroes. The majority of the rhetoric one sees in online commentary about the police has been heavily influenced by decades of propaganda showing the police as society’s heroes, keeping, the usually Black and Brown criminals, in check.

The idealized image of the Los Angeles Police Department that the series portrayed, of a thoroughly modern agency dispassionately dispensing justice, is sharply at odds with the historical reality of an imperfect force beset by racism, brutality, and decades of scandals. 

 

 Thus these shows are also the closest we will ever get to putting on a metaphorical cape, defeating the villains, and saving the burning city from collapsing on itself. We are able to live out our criminal and heroic fantasies simultaneously through both the lawless perpetrator and the take-no-shit cop.

 

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Even in movies that are ostensibly about other people’s stories, it is White men who get to be the heroes. In the movie Hidden Figures, a movie about the lives and careers of three  Black women who worked at NASA in the early 60’s, Kevin Costner gets to be heroic when he destroys the segregationist bathroom signage, that he never noticed or paid any attention to, until of course, it was pointed out to him by one of the Black women in his employ. Needless to say, this isn’t something that ever happened in the real world. Costner was  added to the story as someone for  White audience members to identify with, and feel good about themselves for doing so.

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Prioritization

From: ‘Forced Diversity’ in Modern Media

The expression“pushing identity politics/representation” is just the beginnings of addressing racism in problematic cinema

by: Thaddeus Howze

White people are in almost every movie and paint themselves as the heroes of every event, no matter how great or small. The complete invisibility of people of color, even in our own stories has been part of the American experience since mass media began. Even after we began to appear, it was always in subservient roles, either taking care of Whites or subservient to them.

White media paint White characters as indomitable, unstoppable juggernauts overcoming any obstacle. From seaside Viking raids to intergalactic alien invasions, no matter where it happens, the perception is, only White people will be leading the way and will WIN, because of their <insert ability inherent to and uniquely held by White protagonist here.>

This failed perception, this false worldview, is both problematic and reductive. It makes White people seem to be the only problem-solvers in movies and the lack of participation by other groups is because they have nothing to offer. The world view which says Whites are the ultimate expression of knowledge, culture, significance, beauty and creativity is a lie and it has been promoted through mass media since the turn of the last century.

This perspective has become so ingrained, people of color from around the world are bleaching their skins and divesting themselves of their own culture to gain access to the White hegemony and its oppressive racially-intolerant culture. Online bleating by racist fans of <insert media genre here> would have you believe the nature of inserting people of color into any media, no matter how appropriate to the very job of acting is an affront to their whiteness and the integrity of the work.

 

White male consumers are taught in a million subtle, and unsubtle, ways that everyone/everything belongs to them, centers around them, or is meant to serve their happiness. The industries of gaming, movies, TV, publishing, and music have been the fuel of their entitlement, and have pandered to White male fantasies of power, sex, and money, for decades.

Not only are White men the center of their own universe, they are meant to be the center of everyone else’s. They believe this because American media has been telling them that since its inception.

White men believe these things because they have been pandered to by a raft of  stereotypes and tropes,  from Whitewashing, to White Savior, to Mighty Whitey, to Generic Male Leads, which all designed to prioritize them. Their motivations, feelings and identities get to be the center of the stories, and they are the sun around which every other character (often  the marginalized, who are acting as emotional support and sidekicks) revolve.

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White men have been the only characters available, (for everyone who is not them), to identify with in most  fictional narratives, even in stories that are not theirs, such as movies like Mississippi Burning, where the focus of the Civil Rights Movement is on the White FBI agents investigating the  deaths of  the Civil Rights workers, and  how that investigation emotionally affects them.

 

Despite a few outliers here and there, White men in TV continue to mostly tell stories that are only of importance to White men, (which accounts for the sheer numbers of White, male, coming of age stories so prevalent in books, movies, and sitcoms). White men love to tell the mundane stories of their childhood, many of which were unexceptional, but are always lauded by the White critics who identify with them.

“It’s important that Hollywood showrunners and writers recognize that many of the narratives they put out in the world and how they do business is not in the spirit of who they claim to be,” Hunt said. “White men dominate the major positions, and people of color and women have a long way to go to attain any type of equity.”

 

… that problem stems back to the underlying systemic racism in society. The publishing companies are run by White men who have decided what is able to be published, what people are willing to buy and base their latest books on projections that figure Whites are the primary purchasers and thus are the only audience worth catering to.

 

 In a 2015 study, novelist Nicola Griffith (Hild, Ammonite) looked at 15 years worth of data from a few top literary prizes. She found that fiction written by women about women won hardly any prizes, and fiction by women about men fared a little better. Books by men about men were miles ahead.

 

Prioritization doesn’t just happen in the making of media, it can happen within the story itself. Movies that would ostensibly be told from the point of view of the characters that the story is about, often get sidelined, in favor of telling the story from the point of view of  White men who have been added to the narrative. This particular form of prioritization (often called The Generic Male Lead) is a lot easier to spot than others, although it is so ubiquitous that it’s all but invisible to a lot of people. Not only are White men the centers of other people’s stories, their presence in the story seems to be of primary importance to all the other characters.

The Generic White Male Lead

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I already discussed in The Pandering (Part One),  how movies, games, and shows are  written  to star a generic White male lead, because White males, aged 16-35, was the key demographic that was of most interest to Hollywood and advertisers. This particular trope is sometimes  called The Average White Guy, The Everyman, or just The Generic Guy. Most often this trope is little more than a power fantasy for the average White male audience it is aimed at. They can imagine themselves having heroic adventures in space,  the past, the present,  or obtaining the love interest. They’re still an average, mediocre fellow, but they get to be heroic, and have adventures, in the meantime.

White men are who the story is about, with the cultural histories, homelands, and marginalized people used as a  backdrop for their heroic undertakings, character growth, emotional angst, love stories, or family dramas.  Sometimes famous (or infamous) men and women of color are sidelined in their own stories, because the White man’s story takes precedence. For examples see : The Last King of Scotland,  and Birth of the Dragon, in which famous men of color (Idi Amin and Bruce Lee) are sidelined in their own stories, their lives used as backdrops to tell the stories of generic White men feeling some type of way about their circumstances, or falling in love.

The 2015 movie, Stonewall, came under fire from the LGBTQ community for centering a White man in the middle of a story that was supposed to be about the uprising of a group of transgender people of color at the Stonewall Inn in the 60’s. The original “real life” Queer people of color who were present at the event, got sidelined in a story that should have been about them, their lives, and their activities leading up to the rebellion, but they were instead used as  background color to tell the  coming of age story of  a generic fictional White guy.

…a San Francisco-set coming-of-age story involving a rough and tumble young white man who matches the feuding fighting legends in the brawl as he pursues a Romeo and Juliet romance with a young Chinese immigrant [JingJing Qu] under the control of the Chinese mob.

Many of the tropes listed here often overlap, and sometimes all of them can appear in just one movie. Movies where a White Generic Lead is Chosen to be a White Savior to a group of natives being colonized, or killed, by people who look like him, because it is his Burden, as a White man, to civilize those people, while being better at their cultural traditions than they are, and falling in love.

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A perfect example of all these tropes meeting in just one film is The Legend of Tarzan, which was released in 2016, (although all the Tarzan books and movies suffer from this, because it’s  what they are based on). In this modern retelling, Lord Clayton is a scruffy White dude, who is also the Chosen One of the African tribe which has adopted him. He knows how to be a better African than the Africans in the movie, making him a Mighty Whitey, as he talks to the animals, who love and obey him. As a White Savior, he has a responsibility to save his adoptive tribe from some evil Dutch Colonists. Further examples of all these tropes appearing in one movie are: Avatar, Dances with Wolves, John Carter of Mars, A Man Called Horse, and The Last Samurai. All of these movies have the same basic plot.

Mainstream video games are almost exclusively the province of the scruffy White every man. It is well documented that  White male audiences are prioritized when it comes to mainstream gaming. Women, LGBTQ, and PoC are often pushed out of gaming, not just by a lack of representation, but by the heavy sexualization of female characters, the mockery of Queer characters, and the harassment and violence of White male gamers.

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The problem faced by woman and minority-starring video games
is largely the same as the problem facing traditionally underrepresented groups across all forms of representation: their failures are treated as definitive,and their successes are ignored. Dozens of white man-starring video games have underperformed, but their failures are treated as specific to that game.

 

The White Savior and the White Man’s Burden

To this day, some people still latently believe what imperialists such as Rudyard Kipling said, that colonialism was important for everyone: the conqueror and, most importantly, the conquered. That without the colonizers, the colonized had no hope of survival. And by constantly churning out movies with plots in which white people “save” people of color, Hollywood reinforces colonialist dictum.

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In movies, the White Male Savior (and there are also more than a few female characters that fall into this trap, but this is a genre that is written, controlled, and distributed by men, so I’m leaving those movies that star White women in this space) happens often in film and television. When it’s women, they show up as characters like Daenerys in Game of Thrones, Skeeter in The Help, and  Leigh Anne in The Blind Side, with some of the most frequent depictions of the White Savior trope occurring in classrooms, with movies like Dangerous Minds, Conrack, Up the Down Staircase, and Freedom Writers. (No. To Sir With Love  does not fit this trope. That’s a story about a Black man saving a group of disrespectful White students.)

The number of White Male Saviors in movies are fairly  numerous and cross all genres: Movies like Amistad, To Kill a Mockingbird, Radio, Avatar, Dances with Wolves, District 9, The Soloist, Hardball, Gran Torino, The Great Wall, Tarzan, and The Last Samurai.

Sometimes this trope overlaps with the Chosen One, The Mighty Whitey, or The Generic Male Lead. The White Man’s Burden is a reference to the colonialist idea that White men had a responsibility to civilize the rest of humanity who were not as evolved, and neatly dovetailed with the White Savior Trope. The White Savior often functions as an audience identifier, which allows White audiences to believe themselves to be “good” people  because they identify with him or her.)

The white savior is a cinematic trope in which a white character rescues people of color from their plight.[1] Certain critics have observed this narrative in an array of genres of films in American cinema, wherein a white protagonist is portrayed as a messianic figure who often learns something about him or herself in the course of rescuing characters of color.[1][2]

…In the praxis of cinematic narrative, the white savior usually is a man who is out of place within his own society, until he assumes the burden of racial leadership to rescue non-white foreigners and minorities from their plights. As such, white savior stories “are essentially grandiose, exhibitionistic, and narcissistic” fantasies of psychological compensation.[4]

 

The Chosen One

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The trope of the Chosen One isn’t always a White man, (occasionally women and men of color get in on it). It includes everyone from Harry Potter to Anakin  Skywalker. The Chosen One trope is old and tired,  but not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the trope itself is rather neutral. The problem begins when  the special Chosen one is paired with any of the above tropes, which it often is. The Chosen One trope is an Average White guy fantasy that he is secretly exceptional, with some grand destiny. The Fantasy genre relies on this trope far  too often.

 

The Mighty Whitey 

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This falls under the heading of  Exceptionalism, when it is only White men who get to be good at everything,  outdoing the people’s of the native cultures he has adopted (or who have usually kidnapped him.) We already discussed Tarzan, which helped to begin this trope in popular culture (although it existed before that), but The Last Samurai is also a near perfect  distillation of the Mighty Whitey trope. Tom Cruise goes to Japan as a colonizer, but gets kidnapped by a tribe of Samurai. In the space of a few months, however, he manages to befriend the leader of the tribe, Katsumoto, fall in love with the man’s sister, Taka, (despite having killed her husband), and master the use of the samurai sword after only a few months of lessons.

TV Tropes characterizes this trope as a typically noble Caucasian man who, due to often extenuating circumstances, comes to live with native tribesmen. He not only learns the ways of the native people, but surpasses their skill, becoming far better at being a member of the culture than those of the tribe, and naturally their greatest warrior or even their leader. The trope in some cases also involves a romantic story-line between the hero and the Chief’s daughter, who will often continue to love him despite the hero’s sometimes direct involvement with the death of a significant family member.

 

Many in the west clearly still believe we need an identical identifier on screen, if not a white savior than at least a proxy embedded into an exotic group. Someone apparently thought it necessary to have a white male lead in an early draft of Disney’s live-action Mulan remake. And a lot of people are still interested in seeing Tarzan as the superior white hero of Africa, given the global box office success of The Legend of Tarzan. Fortunately, discussions of the “Mighty Whitey” trope problem grow with every example.

 

Whitewashing

Roles that should rightly be played by  fat people,  people with disabilities, transgender,  gay, or people of color, will often be replaced by White men (and sometimes women) in a  story, but the term Whitewashing  itself, often specifically refers to the replacement of PoC with White people. Contrary to popular confusion, Whitewashing and Race Bending are not equivalent. Whitewashing also applies to more than just film and television roles, but across the whole of the entertainment industry.

The portrait is one of pervasive underrepresentation, no matter the media platform, from CEOs to minor characters. “Overall, the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed,” the study concludes.

 

“It is the height of white privilege to think a white person is better equipped to play an Asian character than an Asian person.”

 

Erasure

This means the  removal of gender, racial, and sexual diversity from Historical, Present, and Futuristic Narratives in movies, television, and gaming, especially when they should be present. The past was not as homogeneous as people like to argue and  I consider the question of homogeneity, at any point in  European history, to be a thoroughly moot point, if one has also added dragons, orcs, elves, wizards, and other fantastical creatures to the landscape.

To remove marginalized people from present and future narratives is to make a deliberate choice to not add them, which says something (none of  it good) about the creators of such stories. Sometimes, the White creators of these stories cannot imagine a future in which PoC, gay people, or people with disabilities contribute to the creation of the culture, or have adventures separate from White people. In many of the movies in which these marginalized groups do appear, the writers cannot imagine a future for them that is any different from their past, or their current level of  oppression. Poc of color are still secondary citizens, who live to serve the needs of the White characters in the story, homophobia still exists, no accommodations have been made for the disabled, and  White men are still the leaders of everything. For  example see : Ready Player One (book and movie), Bladerunner, and any movies about the future that were made before 1979.

The Past

The Present

The Future

 

What all of the historical erasure of non -Whites  has led to, is the popular mainstream belief that different groups of people contributed nothing to the historical record, which is then used as an excuse for excluding them from fantasy narratives, which is  then extended  into the future, or any form of speculative fiction.   The impression that is  given is that  the only worthwhile contributors to all of human culture are White people, specifically White men. This also  aids in the perpetuation of the belief that it was exceptional White men who created civilization.

 

Cultural Appropriation and Orientalism

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The most egregious purveyor of these two tropes are Science Fiction films, and most noticeable in films which feature an entirely Asian cast except for that White Savior, or   Mighty Whitey. It also includes appropriative narratives like The Handmaid’s Tale, which appropriates the oppressive histories of WoC, but  with a cast of White women, and just about any X-Men, comic book, or movie, where the histories of Black Americans, and LGBTQ people  are appropriated to tell the story of those oppressions happening to White straight, cis-gender characters.

Many of these examples are just allegories of oppression. The use of allegory and metaphor is a neutral act, and I don’t actually have a problem with allegories about oppression. I think the problem occurs when these stories are almost always told through the lens of straight, White victims. I discussed why in my reviews of A Handmaid’s Tale, and the series The Gifted.

 

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/06/28/533818685/cultural-appropriation-is-in-fact-indefensible

Cultural appropriation can feel hard to get a handle on, because boiling it down to a two-sentence dictionary definition does no one any favors. Writer Maisha Z. Johnson offers an excellent starting point by describing it not only as the act of an individual, but an individual working within a “power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”

The movies most notable for both cultural appropriation (and Orientalism) are the Bladerunner films, in which Asian (specifically Japanese) aesthetics are used as background settings for a story that uses the American version of slavery as an allegory, but which stars no prominent Black or Asian characters.

This doesn’t just happen with different Asian cultures, but with African American, and Gay subcultures, and in music and books. Cultural appropriation is a product of White Western thinking that finds the cultural artifacts of other nations to be nothing more than amusing or pretty trinkets.  There is rarely  any understanding of what’s being appropriated, and this is often coupled with a denigration of the people that produced whatever aesthetic was stolen. Often, it is only the cultural aesthetics that have any value. To the White people who do this, the people who produce what they’ve stolen have no value. There is also  the added side effect of centering White people in the middle of other people’s stories and culture.

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There is some confusion over just what constitutes cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to more shared activities like music, art ,and fashion, but sometimes there are clear cut cases where corporations have stolen design elements from Indigenous, or geographically exclusive cultures, and profited from the theft, without giving credit to the originators of those design. Cultural appropriation has been very well documented for several decades.

An example of an appropriation of a musical style was Disco, which was primarily created by Latinos, WoC, and LGBTQ creators, who were also primarily the audiences for the music. By the time Disco made it into mainstream culture, most of the elements that made it so appealing to those marginalized groups, had been stripped from it by White men seeking to make a profit. The faces of Disco became White, straight, and male in the form of Saturday Night Fever, Abba, and The Bee Gees.

Every musician has influences, that is very true. The issue, however, lies with the lack of proper credit to these influences, and more importantly, that these influences aren’t getting their due monetarily and popularity wise. Moreover, these black influences experience barriers in terms of industry gatekeepers, while the influenced white musician is skipping through an open gate. Lastly, the trend of showing off the negative stereotypes of black culture and disregarding the other parts that are involved, demonstrates a lack of understanding and respect for the music one is taking.

 

The film Saturday Night Fever, a fictional account of a hetero Italian-American disco fan, whitewashed the genre and sold it – very, very successfully – to mainstream America.

  • Appropriation of Indigenous Culture in the Fashion Industry

Appropriation is typically defined as taking an idea or reproducing an artifact for one’s own particular use, altering its original meaning, and doing so without the original producer’s consent. Cultural appropriation is often related to the exploitative and commercial use of traditional and customary elements of long-established cultures. 

Tokenism

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Tokenism is something that can be applied to every marginalized group. Often they are the only member of their group in the narrative and don’t actually get to be their authentic selves, because their words are written by writers who aren’t a member of their group. There’s often only one woman, or one gay character, or that one lonely Black man, who gets killed first. And then there is the burden of representation, where that lone character now has to be all things to all the members of their group, because they are the only one present.

Because characters of color are rare on screen, when they appear, they carry ” the burden of representation,” which means that they are a symbol or representation for an entire community,…”For white people, this is not a problem, because their roles are so varied and so numerous that audiences do not see them as representatives of the white community, but simply the individual characters,…”

Narratives that contain two or more  gay characters, women, or  PoC, are considered niche markets, that are only of appeal to the group in question, and subsequently don’t get marketed to a larger more mainstream audience, which is what happens when members of the dominant group control the means of distribution. (This is very slowly beginning to change with movies created for, by,  and about marginalized audiences seeing mainstream release.)

Why do Black people like White movies? The short answer here is that we don’t have much of a choice.

 

One example of tokenism  are most of the MCU films, although this is a trope that can be spotted anywhere. The MCU film, The Avengers, fell under scrutiny for the  Smurfette Trope, as the only female character to appear in the movie, with a speaking role, was Black Widow. When there is only one token character in the story, the writers don’t have to expend time and energy imagining what such a character could be thinking, and they  certainly don’t have to imagine what two or more of them would talk to each other about.

Another trope I’ve been noticing recently is when there is more than one person from a marginalized group in the narrative, they may actually have names, and  speak to one another, but their relationship is antagonistic. Once again the MCU comes under fire, for this. The movies have been slowly adding more men of color to the franchise. In Captain America Civil War there are two Black men, Rhodes and Sam, but their relationship is antagonistic. There are two White women in the cast, but they have only two lines to each other between them. The rest of the time they don’t interact. The Netflix show, The Defenders, did slightly better by featuring multiple women of different races, but none of  them are friends, and in some cases actively work against each other. The only  two WoC who interact, and are shown being friendly, are  Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing. Even in the series Jessica Jones, only two of the several women in the cast are shown to be actual friends. The rest are all antagonistic to each other, and the lead character.

It’s almost as if the writers cannot conceive  that women (and others) would have any conversations that are not about White men, or what subjects other people could possibly be talking about, when White men are not  present, or even that they might like each other. This is especially easy to point out in the Token PoC Trope, where men and women of color don’t have lives that are separate from the White characters and they don’t seem to have friends or family of their own. Their lives (and deaths) revolve around the White leads.

Even the deaths of such characters are there to serve White men. People of color will sacrifice their lives to save the White characters. Women’s deaths have whatever meaning is assigned to them by the White man they’re  related  to in the story.  In  comic books women are “fridged” to provide an emotional arc for the lead characters, but  there are countless movies based on White men going on killing sprees that have been spurred by the deaths of wives, daughters, lovers… so many that this plot point almost constitutes its own film genre, The Vigilante/Revenge Film.

The Presentation of Everyone Else

 

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In stories that are ostensibly about women, PoC, and Queer characters, White men still get the most speaking lines, get to portray the gay and transgender characters, and even non-White ones. According to White men, the past was all White, the present is almost as White, and the future is every bit as White as today. When it comes to fictionalized universes the  White  straight men who control these narratives,  are hard pressed to imagine any point in time in which they are not a priority.

Since the vast majority of Pop culture media is owned and controlled by White men, White men get to speak for, put words into the mouths of, and then give their opinions on, everyone that is not them. They have created all the labels, the identities, and the narratives of everyone who is not them, instead of allowing those groups to speak for themselves.

 

The Presentation of Gays and Lesbians

As chronicled in The Celluloid Closet, it was White men who got to decide what images of gays and lesbians were acceptable for TV and movies. There were gay men involved in the creation of gay characters on screen, but after the implementation of the censor codes in the fifties, they often had to hide, deflect, or depict gayness in a comedic or villainous way.

Hollywood accounted for the creation of some of the most egregious gay tropes, like the Sassy Gay Sidekick, Kill Your Gays, or the “It’s Just A Phase” lesbian. Hollywood often engages  in the erasure of gay characters, in movies like Alexander, and A Beautiful Mind. In the past, the only way that film studios could get gay characters past the censors was to present them as being laughably harmless, tragic, or associate them with crimes they could be punished for.

The Celluloid Closet is not available at this time for free streaming but it is available on Youtube, iTunes, and Vudu, for a fee. Since I’m not a part of the community in question, I don’t feel I should speak for them, but I can signal boost the voices of those who are.

 

Queercoding Villains

One of the ways Hollywood excuses violence against gay people is to cast them as villains, thereby associating gayness with crime, or evil activities in general. Sometimes though, a character’s homosexuality is only alluded to by gestures, and dialogue.

One of the most difficult things about approaching film and television’s use of queerness is that there will rarely be a single verdict on any given cultural product. With the exception of the most simplistically supportive or bigoted representations, there is room for much discussion and debate in determining a positive or negative LGBTQ presence. Because of this shift, seriously engaging with and thinking about the images we consume has become more important than ever.

Transgender Men and Women

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Transgender characters come under special scrutiny in Hollywood. They are almost always cast as tragic victims of their “lifestyles”, or villains. Needless to say, since none of the imagery we see of transgender men and women are actually created by them, their depictions have always been problematic. Then there is the mainstream obsession with transgender men and women’s genitals, and whether or not they have transitioned, are going to do so, or are doing so right now. This is leaving aside that transgender actors  rarely if ever get to star in their own stories.

 “Media has a history of telling the world a story that transgender people are always victims or villains, instead of true depictions that show the transgender community as citizens worthy of equality and respect. 

In the past, transgender characters have been the butt of jokes, and objects of disgust, with transgender women being the focus of the greatest amount of  attention. That type of transphobia is to be expected when White, Straight, men are intrigued by them, mistakenly believe that them to be men in drag, and are  homophobic, and misogynistic. The hyperfocus on transgender women, as objects of ridicule and disgust,  is called Transmisogyny. There is also the common trope of transgender women as being male deceivers of straight men.

 

Transgender villains are often a common trope in Horror movies, too and serves the dual purpose of showing the creators disdain of the community, and associating transgender men and women with evil, and crime. Often the characters are not transgender at all, they are merely men dressed as women, and the effect is that transgenderism becomes associated with the idea that gay men are trying to deceive straight men, by dressing up as women to fool them.

Some of the most famous depictions of transmisogyny are from the movies Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Silence of the Lambs, Psycho,  and  The Crying Game, in which a member of the IRA goes to London to visit the girlfriend of a man he killed, finds that she is transgender, and reacts with vomiting and panic. In fact, vomiting at the sight of trans women was a common trope in the 90s, usually as a form of comedy.

Obesity

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This is a topic of considerable interest to me. Consider for example, that all of the media stories that feature fat people as  characters,  almost all are entirely written by conventionally thin people. This has real world consequences, and accounts for the worst stereotypes believed about  fat people, especially fat women. They are most often seen as comedy relief to be mocked or laughed at, or undisciplined, unintelligent, ugly and desexualized slobs, whose lives are a dysfunctional mess.

In the movie Death Becomes Her , one of the lead characters is played by Goldie Hawn, a conventionally attractive White woman wearing a fat suit. There’s a scene where her life is shown as having spiraled out of control due to her jealousy of Meryl Streep’s character. She is shown at home,  in her pajamas, messily eating tubs of food with her fingers, in a roomful of cats, while watching TV. Her hair is a mess. She is late on her rent and about to be evicted.This is a  type of shorthand often engaged in by visual media. There is nothing sympathetic about this scene or her character. It is a derogatory image meant to symbolize how pathetic her life is. The screenplay was written by David Koepp and Martin Donovan.

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https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2018/08/10/insatiable-netflix-fat-women-television-chrissy-metz-dietland-nicole-byers/945835002/

This is, inevitably, just new packaging for offensive stereotypes about fat women on TV. The logic goes that the “good” fat women are the ones trying to lose weight or who already have (Monica on “Friends,” for instance), because staying fat means you are lazy and disgusting. As a result, the characters that stay fat have to be the villains or comic relief (see “Mike & Molly” or any number of jokes in shows like “How I Met Your Mother” or even “Jessica Jones”).

Another example is a scene in Jessica Jones, a show about a female superhero, that’s meant to be empowering for women. There’s a throwaway insult made by Jessica about a fat character, seen through a window on the street. Why was this scene added? It has no bearing on the rest of the plot, and that character is never seen again. If it was put there to showcase how much of an asshole Jessica is there are other ways that could’ve been conveyed to the audience that didn’t require throwing fat women under the bus, and since that scene was written by women, has the perhaps, unintended side effect of making the writers seem like assholes. It has also been pointed out, that a show about abuse survivors is telling us, not so subtly, that verbal abuse of fat women is okay. That idea (and its associated stereotypes and myths) has always had real world repercussions for fat men and women. (Yes, the show is written by  White women, but they  have often been complicit in White patriarchy.)

https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/drive-by-fat-shaming/

This is drive-by fat shaming. Just a quick reminder to everyone watching/listening that it’s hilarious and cool to make fun of fat people – even on a show that is supposed to be feminist. 

 

None of the derogatory images we see of fat people are written by people who know what it’s like to live life as a fat person. Women of color are often “mammified” for being fat, while men of any color are most often mocked, even in sympathetic portrayals. It is Popular culture that is responsible for disseminating most of the myths we believe about fat people.

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…the film industry has a long and varied history of producing movies that feature overweight characters. Some movies portray weight sensitively; others make a mockery of the subject; but few politely disregard the subject of weight altogether – perhaps mirroring our collective real-life inability to do so.

 

Poverty

Many of Americans most entrenched  ideas  about being poor have come from politicians demonizing them,, and decades of watching the depiction of poor people, in movies and television, that were written by middle class people (who are themselves steeped in myths about poor people), and who have been conditioned by politicians to think of the poor as lazy, ignorant, and deserving of their fate.

Did you notice that a lot of the stereotypes and myths about fat people, poor people, immigrants, and poc are similar in nature. All that is said about the poor are the same things said about anyone who is not White, thin, middle class, , mentally abled, or male, and meant to paint the picture that the creators of these stereotypes are the norm, and anything that deviates from it is “other”, abnormal, or dysfunctional.

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…with more than 43 million Americans living below the poverty line, the topic is surprisingly rare in Hollywood films. And yet many common misconceptions about what poverty looks like, and how people can overcome it, have been reinforced by movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Precious, The Pursuit of Happyness, and The Fisher King. 

One of the most common stereotypes is that homelessness is exclusive to men, and that all homeless suffer from mental illness. That is who we often picture when discussing the subject. We do not often consider the idea of women and children being homeless, or that homelessness itself would exacerbate any already held mental illness, or sometimes even cause it. When we picture the homeless, we picture them looking a certain type of way. There are homeless people who look indistinguishable from everyone else, some of them  work and many  live in rural areas. Those people are called the Invisible Homeless.

Homeless people in movies and TV shows, are usually played for comedy relief. When they are shown sympathetically, it is usually to serve some well meaning and often middle-class, White  character’s personal  growth. This also falls neatly into the White Savior trope.

While the rural homeless may not be sleeping on city sidewalks or in public places, they are not any less homeless than their urban counterparts. They may be sleeping in their car, a church, an abandoned building, or, most commonly, on the couch of a relative or friend. 

Part of the problem, as it is in most years, is that few movies about poor or homeless Americans were made in the first place. My previous researchfound that between 1902 and 2015, of all the films made in the US, only 299 of them were in some way significantly concerned with issues of poverty and homelessness.

 

 

 

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Disability

Characters with disabilities are almost all written and created by people without them. The characters themselves are often depicted by actors who lack the disability in question, and non-visible disabilities like chronic pain, or mental illness are  rarely depicted on screen, without attaching ideas of laziness or  violence to them. Why do we believe so much of what we believe about the different groups of people to which we don’t belong? We probably got those ideas  (and they were most certainly reinforced) from decades of television and movie viewing.

Not only are people with disabilities stereotyped, the full range of disabilities is not reflected in media portrayals. Lynne Roper of Stirling Media Research Institute, in her article “Disability in Media,” notes that “wheelchairs tend to predominate… since they are an iconic sign of disability. Most actors playing disabled characters are, however, not disabled. The wheelchair allows the character to be obviously disabled, whilst still looking ‘normal’, and does not therefore present any major challenges for audience identification.”

 

The media, however, especially the movies, portray schizophrenia in a different light than the actual disorder. Common misconceptions are that schizophrenics are violent, drink alcohol heavily or use narcotics, behave comically, or suffer from a non-curable disorder. Some believe that schizophrenia is punishment for acting immorally, or that contact with a schizophrenic can lead to mental disorder. Others believe schizophrenia is the result of poor parenting and that schizophrenics behave unpredictably, are loners and isolated from society, or manifest disruptive behavior.

 

On Race and Gender

White, straight, cis-gender, Middle class, non-fat men get to have their say about  everyone else. Narratives about fat people that aren’t written by fat people, stories about men and women living in  poverty, where not one poor person was actually consulted, stories about women’s lives written from a male point of view, along with stories about gay people, Blacks, Asians, Latinx, where the opinions of who they are as a group are given no priority over the White men in the story, or the White men who wrote the script, or directed the movie, or even critiqued it,  is what is meant when we talk about seeing the world  through a White male lens.

We only  get the White male  point of view, and that point of view, reinforced through decades of pandering to White male audiences, is that everyone else is less than.That people who are not like them do not deserve sympathy or the benefit of the doubt. That those people’s lives are unstable because those people are somehow dysfunctional. It is not that White men don’t get depicted in unflattering ways, it is the overwhelming sense that White men deserve sympathy and compassion when they’re lives are out of order, while everyone else deserves mockery, dismissal, or erased. Decades of television, and film consumption have made Americans less tolerant of the differences between them, which is a (sometimes)  unintended side effect of White men being in the dominant position of catering to their key demographic: other Straight, White men.

The White male lens on race and gender in movies and television is well documented. They have   crafted, over the past fifty to sixty years of television, many of the stereotypical images of race and gender seen on our screens. Many of these depictions have been the only ones fans have consumed, since many Americans simply don’t read very much. White supremacy, ignorance, a lack of imagination, and laziness help to perpetuate these depictions throughout mainstream media, and even into fandom. Once again we’re not talking about individual depictions of gender and race, or outliers from the stereotypes. We’re discussing the whole of cinematic and television history.

 

Here, Lindsey Ellis discusses the  “Male Gaze”, and also makes the point that the male gaze isn’t just about how women are depicted on screen. Its also about how White men are depicted. She uses the Transformers movies as an example of gender and race as seen through the male gaze.

 

The Presentation of Men of Color

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Just as media images of White men can make their centeredness and superiority seem normal and inevitable, the stereotypical depictions of other men in media can do the same to them. It  becomes natural to associate Black men with criminality, Middle Eastern men with  terrorism, Latinos with sexual promiscuity, and East Asian men with technology. These racial stereotypes were created by White  creators, and  used as justification for inequality, racism, and White supremacy, and have been helpfully maintained by lazy and incompetent creators ever since.

I keep mentioning the Whiteness of the the creators, because I want you to imagine  an American made film,  which features a Black, Latino, or Asian man’s anguish at, or revenge for, the loss of their wives, daughters, or lovers. or at least imagine such a narrative wherein he is not punished for doing so. Men of color don’t get cast in mainstream shows and  films like that, because the media doesn’t cater to their power, fame, or money fantasies. A man of color can only be an adjunct to  a White man’s goals, whether those goals are avenging a loved one, or getting the girl.

One of the things to keep in mind when reading these stereotypes of men of color is that they are essentially all the same stereotypes, with slight variations. The same racist narratives used against Middle Eastern men has also been said about both  Black and Asian men. All men of color are uncivilized, and barbaric. That they  are both oversexed and desexed are stereotypes lobbed at both Blacks (The Black Brute), Asians (The Horndog),  and Latinos (The Latin Lover), and that they are all obsessed with White women, who need to be saved from their attentions.

One of the ways White men in pop culture seek to maintain hegemony is to desexualize or emasculate certain characters, Whether men or women,  while hypersexualizing others, and presenting these qualities as somehow admirable, when really those qualities are being promoted to make White male characters look good by comparison.

 

Black Men

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Characters of color remain underrepresented in mainstream movies and TV shows, and those actors who land roles are often asked to play stereotypes—from maids and immigrants to thugs and prostitutes. This overview breaks down how blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Arab Americans and Asian Americans continue to face stereotypes on both the big and small screen.

 

…negative mass media portrayals were strongly linked with lower life expectations among black men. These portrayals, constantly reinforced in print media, on television, the internet, fiction shows, print advertising and video games, shape public views of and attitudes toward men of color. They not only help create barriers to advancement within our society, but also “make these positions seem natural and inevitable”.

 

There’s no shortage of black male actors playing drug dealers, pimps, con-artists and other forms of criminals in television shows and films such as “The Wire” and “Training Day.” The disproportionate amount of African Americans playing criminals in Hollywood fuels the racial stereotype that black men are dangerous and drawn to illicit activities. Often these films and television shows provide little social context for why more black men than others are likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

 

One of the more disturbing tropes I noticed in the MCU, but have since noticed in other media are White characters who are meant to be heroes, punishing and torturing Black and gay men. In Captain America The Winter Soldier, there’s the torture of a Black man for information. In the movie Magnum Force (1973), Harry guns down a fleeing transgender woman. In fact, Clint Eastwood made a career out of vigilante justice in films. In The Defenders, you have a group of White heroes torturing a Black villain for information (of note: they didn’t torture any of the other men of color).  Torture happens frequently in the shows 24, Iron Fist, and The Punisher. Americans have  been conditioned for decades, by movies, TV series, and comic books, to see torture and vigilante justice as a  heroic activity. : a heroic activity that is  engaged in primarily by White men.

American society has been conditioned through vigilante imagery, to the acceptance of the use of torture and violent punishment, and  one of the side effects of this is the idea that Blacks, Gays, Latinos, and even women, get  considered to be  “non-normative”, and deserve to be punished and  killed for their transgressions against White men. This has the effect of associating White men with  law, order, and stability.

Hollywood’s obsession with black torture porn: Why the genre’s not important.

The film industry has mastered this skill to a tee, feeding us skillfully written, romanticized versions of the black American plight and later showering us (i.e. in many cases, white producers and screenwriters) with the highest of film honors and nominations when award season rolls around. But it’s starting to fail.

 

Asian American  Men

Like Black women, Asian men are often shamed for being Asian, don’t get to be shown as being loved, or lovable. They are often emasculated, not seen as sexy, and are still the butt of nasty jokes involving their penis size. Asian men get to be stereotyped as a danger to White women, smart but unnattractive nerds, misogynists, and perpetual foreigners in their own country. They rarely get to star in their own stories. When they do they are often the sidekicks to White characters.

 

 

Middle Eastern Men and Orientalism

As for Middle Eastern Men, they are almost always depicted as villainous barbarians obsessed with sex, and the beauty of White women.  America has a vested monetary interest in subduing the Middle Eastern regions of the world, so the people of that region have become handy scapegoats to blame US problems on. Before these visual tropes existed though, the West engaged in what is known as Orientalism, where the East was exoticized and romanticized for its barbarity.

“Orientalism” is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.

 

Growing up, it was quite normal for us to see ourselves on the silver screen in two scenarios – firstly as a terrorist/evil character/backwards thinking individual/collateral damage, or secondly absolutely nowhere at all. It was fine growing up – we were used to it. Hollywood was a place that we were allowed to watch, but not allowed to be a part of. 

 

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When it comes to Hollywood, the White male creators of media there, have a keen interest in showing men of other cultures to be less than them, so as to make themselves look better by comparison. Men of other races have many stereotypes in common. They are often shown to be oversexed,  desexed, hypersexualized, uncivilized, barbaric, villainous , or unintelligent.

 

 

The Presentation of Women

I talked about the sexual exploitation of women in pornography and mentioned the same in mass media in another post.The exploitation of women in mass media is another entire post  by itself, and it too,  is very well documented.

https://documentarylovers.com/film/miss-representation/

Since most popular media is controlled by White men, and the women they are most interested in are White women,  they have crafted dozens of stereotypes and tropes in movies, books and TV shows, that while they can be applied to all women,  were specifically invented to condition  White women to accept White men’s behavior towards them, and show White women those qualities in a woman they consider to be most important. These tropes are so prevalent that they are all but invisible.

One of these tropes is the Born Sexy Yesterday trope, where White women are shown as childlike, fragile, and vulnerable, that you don’t actually have to listen to, because you won’t understand anyway. This trope appears in dozens of movies. It’s basically a form of wish fulfillment. This is what White male creators, and by extension, White male audiences, find appealing.

 

Tropes for White women include : The Final Girl, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, The Just One of the Guys Girl, The Disposable Object, The Sexy Floor Lamp, The Nagging Wife, and The Strong Female Character, who overlaps with The Final Girl. These tropes are not all wish fulfillment, or sexual fantasy, some of these are created to shame behaviors that White men find displeasing, or as a way to center a narrative around White male anguish.

How to think of White women  isn’t all that  audiences  are learning. White men are also shown by these narratives how they should perform masculinity, and the things they should care about as men. These narratives reinforce the status quo by showing men how to be men towards both men and women. Men are supposed to have an interest in women, technology, cars, computers, games, the hard sciences, and sports, or they somehow are not real men. When they don’t choose to engage in one or more of these interests, they are losers, pussies, faggots, bitches.

In other words, they are equated to women.

Men are taught that being seen as  feminine is the worst thing possible for a man, and it is how they insult men of other races, by accusing them, not just of being less than human, but being like women. Not only are men being taught how to be men, but it is these same stereotypes that reinforce to  men of color how to behave towards women. So you have Black, Asian, and Latin men, all trying to be men according to  rules of behavior that were created by middle class, straight, White men. (Misogyny/machismo is not the sole province of White men. Trust me, those two things are a global phenomenon. But mainstream American media has done nothing to challenge either.)

Narratives that are created by White men also teach women how to appeal to men. Decades of sexist narratives teach White women how they’re supposed to behave for the reward of White male approval, (and that WoC need to be as much like White women as possible, but will still  be inferior to White women who are behaving properly.) They  prioritize those qualities they find most important, like sexiness without awareness of it, youth, vulnerability, submissiveness , thinness, thoughtlessness,  helplessness, and fragility. Through these narrative decisions White men shame those behaviors in women they find distasteful and/or inconvenient to fulfilling their needs, qualities like  physical and emotional strength, intelligence, ambition, immodesty, and being old, or overweight.

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And yes, this applies to WoC too, who have gotten the message loud and clear. In the recent dustup over a cartoon image of Serena Williams, the White man who created it, called upon decades of Black female racial stereotyping. These were images invented by White men to demean and diminish Black women, to show why Black women were/are the least desirable of all women, while, at the same time,  the sexual assault and exploitation of Black women  by White men was occurring.

The legal and social double standard that allowed white men to commit sexual violence against black women with impunity, while the most baseless fear of sexual contact between a black man and white woman resulted in deadly violence, continued after emancipation. 

It is through entertainment culture created by White men,  that Black women learn that they are unloved, unlovable, and not capable of love. Latinas learn that they are desired for being passionate and sexy,  and that they will be rewarded with male attention for exhibiting such behavior, and Asian women will learn that they are the most desirable of all women, especially if they are as quiet and submissive as their stereotyping requires.The purpose of these stereotypes is to keep all groups of  women in their place, by teaching women that their purpose in the world is sex, that their priority should be procuring male sexual attention, and how that should be done.

 

Women who fail to gain the sexual attention of men (attract the male gaze) are denigrated, shamed, and/or erased. Women who reject male sexual attention (those women who are anywhere along the LGBTQ spectrum) are made to serve the narrative in other ways. They still need to be sexy and appealing to straight men, hence the creation of the stereotype of the “Just a Phase Lesbian”, who is only with women, until the right man comes along. Women in same sex relationships, must be made to seem desirable (and attainable) to straight men, otherwise they are of no use, and must be criminalized and punished.

Women are not worthy of male attention if they are  too old, too fat, too poor, or have a disability that cannot be classified as sexy, (for example, if you are a woman suffering from  certain types of mental illness, or depression, that kind of vulnerability can be made to seem sexy, fun or exciting, to a male audience.) The end result is that all women are taught that their highest priority is gaining the sexual attention of men, (without seeming to actually do so, because women who make it clear that they want that attention are also shamed for  that.)

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The most popular types of movies, even those prominently featuring PoC and women, often consist of  violent power fantasies, sexual fantasies,  and the use and misuse of technology. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and there are plenty of movies that are exceptions, but most of the top ten highest  grossing movies  consist of these topics.  (Most White men have plenty of  interests outside of  those topics, but this s not what you would know from watching visual media.)

The Presentation of Indigenous People

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It is very easy to make up stories about a group of people that everyone thinks are extinct, and White US Americans have been making up all kinds of stories about Native Americans since they arrived on these shores, stories that serve whatever purposes White people need them for.  When White people want to use and  exploit Native Americans, the women become sexy squaws, to be used and disposed of, the men become inspirations for sports teams. When White people  want to play White Savior, or steal elements of their culture, then the Indigenous communities  suddenly  become  proud, noble, downtrodden people to be saved, and the  theft of their culture, becomes elevation. They should feel honored.  Does a White man have a chip on his shoulder about his life? Well, then Indigenous people morph into a highly successful group who get free stuff, because they own casinos. When White people want to use their resources for their own ends, and Native Americans refuse to get out of the way? Well, then they are  transformed into a bunch of ignorant savages who need to be put down.

From fashion, to sports teams, to oil pipelines, Indigenous people in the US can be turned into whatever White people need them to be, and Pop culture (mainstream) media has aided, and abetted this exploitation, reinforcing whatever  stereotypes were needed for White America to accomplish their goals.

Most Americans know almost nothing about the lives of Modern Native Americans, as most of them have gotten all their information about them from TV shows and movies that are not created by them. When they get the opportunity to tell their own stories however, the depictions we get of Native American lives are significantly different from what is seen in mainstream media, which continues to erase their present existence, and get their past existences wrong.

 

It’s better to hear about their lives from their own lips:

 

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the western U.S. was exploding with colonialist ventures. For the U.S. government, their biggest obstacle was conquering Native Americans and establishing power and control over their land and their resources.

 

The murder and  exploitation of Indigenous women is ongoing.

 Native American women across the country are being murdered and sexually assaulted on reservations and nearby towns at far higher rates than other American women. Their assailants are often white and other non-Native American men outside the jurisdiction of tribal law enforcement.

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This is not an essay about exceptions to all of the above. This is an overview, of as much as I am able, to cover of the past 60 70 years, of how White men having temper tantrums over how the current Pop culture is pandering to groups of people that are not them, is an accusation that stinks of hypocrisy. White men have been pandered to for decades, and the fallout from that pandering has helped to  create a level of ignorance about American life and history that is unmatched by other Western nations.

There are some real world effects to all this pandering. All these stereotypical images of PoC,  LGBTQIA, and Transgender people have real world repercussions, and a part of those repercussions come from the effects that all this pop culture pandering has had on White men. But Hollywood, and television are paying attention and thinga are very slowly starting to change, or at least be questioned by new thoughts, new imagery, new types of plots and characters. Contrary to White men’s tears, this new attitude towards diversity is not pandering. I really do like to stay positive on here, so I’m not going to dwell anymore on what Pop culture has gotten wrong. In part three of The Pandering, I want to end on a happy note, and talk about how this can be fixed, and what pop culture media is getting right.

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The Devil Went Down To The Crossroads

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please”
Ooh, standin’ at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
Ooh-ee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by
Standin’ at the crossroad, baby, risin’ sun goin’ down
Standin’ at the crossroad, baby, eee-eee, risin’ sun goin’ down
I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin’ down
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
That I got the crossroad blues this mornin’, Lord, babe, I’m sinkin’ down
And I went to the crossroad, mama, I looked east and west
I went to the crossroad, baby, I looked East and West
Lord, I didn’t have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, in my distress
— Cossroad Blues – Robert Johnson

 

I was inspired to write this essay  by an episode of Supernatural, titled Crossroad Blues, which aired in season two, and is a direct reference to the above song. In the episode, Sam and Dean are investigating the deaths of two people who said they were being followed by Hellhounds, and chronicles their first meeting with a Crossroads demon, whose job it is to collect the souls of humanity by offering people their fondest wishes, for a limited span of time. When their time is up, (a year, or five, or ten), Hellhounds are sent to collect the hapless soul.

The  folklore about haunted crossroads comes from many cultures, but the folklore referenced in this particular episode of the series is sourced directly from  the part of the South in which my mother was born, the Mississippi Delta. This is the kind of music I grew up listening to, and my Mom was the one who tried to explain the concept of Hellhounds to me.

The idea of Hellhounds (Black Hounds, Black Shuck, or Fetches, as harbingers of death) isn’t unique to the South either, but all these ideas come together directly from a song by Robert Johnson, where he sings about a man named Willie Brown, meeting the devil at a crossroads, making a deal with him for fame, and naturally, because the Devil is the Devil, regretting the whole matter, when it was time to pay up, and having to deal with the Hellhounds now on his trail..

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Tales of bargains with The Devil are even older than that, with one of the most popular being the German  legend of Johann Faust, who makes a deal with The Devil/ Mephistopheles, for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. So many movies, operas, plays, and stories have come from this legend, (and the Greek legend that spawned it), that it has become its own genre, The Faustian Pact/Bargain, in which a greedy person makes unethical, or soul destroying choices to get fame and glory,and pays a nasty price, although these specific stories are more religious in theme and origin than Southern folklore.

There are also lots  of tales of The Devil traveling down South and losing bets, due to the cleverness, or skills, of a human opponent. Before The Devil Went Down to Georgia, he was sung about in Lonesome Fiddle Blues, a song later adapted by the Charlie Daniels Band in 1979. In the song, a boy named Johnny competes in a music contest with The Devil, for a golden fiddle, and wins. It’s an entirely appropriate song for the show Supernatural, containing elements of Rock music and Country/ Bluegrass folk songs,  and its David and Goliath theme of a little guy being underestimated, and triumphing, over a supposedly larger, stronger foe. Sounds like a couple of guys we know, huh?

 

Going down to a Crossroads, to make  Faustian bargains, is also a popular trope. In the 1986 movie Crossroads, which was inspired by the legend of Robert Johnson and featured the title song, Joe Seneca stars as Willie Brown, who must go to the crossroads, and make a deal with The Devil to get back the soul he bargained away decades ago.

Willie is accompanied in this soul quest by Ralph Macchio, as Eugene,  and Jamie Gertz, as Eugene’s scheming love interest, Frances. The movie culminates in a guitar showdown between Eugene and a famous Rock guitarist, named  Jack Butler, played by Steve Vai, a contest which directly echoes the fiddling contest in The Devil Went Down to Georgia, right down to referencing  two different genres of music. The Devil, also known as Legba, (from Voudon), and Scratch, (a very old Southern name), is gleefully played by Robert Judd. The very first time I ever heard that name for the Devil was from guess who!

The entire movie has a poetic resonance, because the music Eugene uses, in a desperate bid to win his contest against Jack Butler, is the same classical music style that he’d spent the first half of the movie treating  with some contempt.

 

The 1941 movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster, is another retelling of the Faust legend  in which a famous lawyer goes up against the devil in a courtroom, to save the soul of a wayward farmer. Its based on the short story by Stephen Benet. The original title was changed to  All That Money Can Buy.

 

In the 1987 Angelheart, The Devil, played by Robert Deniro, as Louis Cyphre, gets as far South as Louisiana in his search for a runaway soul housed in the body of Detective Harry Angel, played by Mickey Rourke. This movie was most famous for the sex scene depicted between  Rourke, and Lisa Bonet, who was fresh off her stint on the much more wholesome Cosby Show. It’s a gorgeous film, although somewhat gory. This doesn’t contain a musical contest, but more of a contest of wills between Harry and Louis.

My favorite scene is one of the more innocent looking ones, where Deniro offers Harry an egg. Within the context of the movie, and its version of Christian mythology, the peeling of the egg is highly symbolic:

In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, with further symbolism being found in the hard shell of the egg symbolizing the sealed Tomb of Christ — the cracking of which symbolized his resurrection from the dead.

In this instance the egg represents the soul, most specifically  the soul of Harry Angel as Louis Cyphre peels off the egg shell, which is symbolic of the plot of the film, as Harry peels back the layers of his life and memories, until he reaches the film’s tragic conclusion.

Angelheart is available on Hulu.

 

One of my personal favorites is this little nugget  called The Devil and Daniel Mouse, based on the above movie, and created as a Canadian Halloween special in the early 80s. It took me a really long time to find this again. Once again, we get echoes of The Devil Went Down to Georgia, as the lead character tries to bargain back her soul from the devil, and is aided by the mouse who loves her, who contests the Devil in a musical fight.

This is available on Youtube.

 

 

Another cartoon offshoot of the Faustian Bargain is an echo of the above story called Rock and Rule. This is another favorite of mine, as it introduced me to a lot of different artists I’d not heard of before like Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop. I was already a fan of Debbie Harry, though. Its a very surreal film, with lots of music, and well… no people, just these furry type citizens living as if they were people, and while the Devil isn’t going down South in this movie, it does contain  the Devil’s Bargain theme. My favorite character is of course Mok, voiced by Don Francks, and sung by Lou Reed. My favorite song from this movie is Debbie Harry’s Angel’s Song.

(The full movie is available on Youtube.)

 

 

Check out any of the above, and if you have any recs for more Faustian Bargain movies, let me know in the comments. I may or may not have seen them.

Other Faustian Bargain films to Watch for Halloween:

Rosemary’s Baby

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Ghost Rider

Spawn

Devil’s Advocate

The Witches of Eastwick

Constantine

 

Finally here, have some more Robert Johnson:

Captain Marvel Trailer

 

This is one of those characters that I don’t actually know a whole bunch about despite my reading about her in some of the comic books and being peripherally aware of some of her backstory. I know that in the comic books, Carol Danvers has a very complicated storyline, with personality  and memory loss, (some of that was a result of  Rogue, from the X-Men, interacting with her, and stealing some of her memories and powers) .and I’m wondering how the movie is going to handle that part of her story, or if it will handle it all.

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The Black woman in the movie, Maria Rambeu, has a daughter named Monica Rambeu, who is also a superhero named Captain Marvel. (In the comic books, Monica was the first Captain Marvel, and she later changed her name to Photon.)

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For more information about this movie, look for The Marvel Encyclopedia, which discusses this character’s past, how she chose her name, the Kree-Skrull War, which appears to be prominently featured in this movie, more on Ronan The Accuser, (from Guardians of the Galaxy),and some of Nick Fury’s backstory, too.

I’m still not absolutely enthused about this movie, but it looks cool enough, I guess. I’m going to wait to see more in the trailers, before I get het up, though. To be honest, I got more excitement from watching people’s reactions to this trailer, than I did the actual trailer. I was especially interested in women’s reactions, and OMG! this woman is so excited, and so cute!

 

I just like to see people get excited about movies.

 

White Men: The Pandering Pt. One – History

This is part one of my three part rant? essay? discussion? of racism in pop culture,  how for much of its existence, the demographic it was aimed at was middle class (sometimes Working class) White men between the ages of 17 and 40, and how this manifested in our entertainments. I can’t  cover everything, or even as much as I like, (for example Art and Sports I’m going to have leave out of this discussion. I’m not knowledgeable enough to speak on the Sports issue, and the Art issue is a separate topic of its own), but I’m going to try to cover as much as I can, in as  coherent a  manner as possible.
This first part will give a quick primer into how and why cultural tastes changed, and try to relate it to the culture  wars we’ve been witnessing in the last twenty years.
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White men have had a nice long run as the arbiters of this nation’s cultural tastes, in music, books, TV, and movies. I’m mostly going to talk about the last forty years of pop culture, although I do discuss the precedent for a lot of the bad behavior we’ve been seeing, throughout the history of popular culture.
Pop culture is something that impacts all our lives. It is the books we read, the music we hear, the TV shows we watch, and the movies we see. It is so ubiquitous as to be nearly invisible, and everyone participates in it, and is affected by it, (especially those who think they are not just because they got rid of their TVs.) And since its invention, it’s been entirely controlled by straight, White, middle-class, cis-gender (American) men.
When television  finally reached a mainstream audience in the 1950’s,  much of it was aimed at middle class, White audiences, the only people who could afford it, and it was largely family oriented. What wasn’t geared towards children, was geared towards middle aged men, (with a nod towards White women here and there) most of whom had just come back from the war, were entering the jobs market  again, and had families to support. This helped to create what we now call Primetime TV,  those two to three hours between getting home from work/commute, and going to bed at 11 or 12 at night. Most daytime television was actually geared towards women (and small children) who were being encouraged to leave the job market after the war,and  go back into and take care of the home. What we think of as the modern Soap Opera appeared around this time, and also show’s specifically geared towards small children like Howdy Doody, (which appeared in 1947), Lassie, and The Mickey Mouse Show.
During the 60’s though, many forms of media began to aim for teen audiences, but tastes were still led by the White middle class, and much of American  culture was aimed at appealing to them. Black artists, especially in movies and music, had their own venues and many of them did quite well, while appealing to Black audiences. Just like now, young white  people often appreciated and appropriated Black culture, and every time they did that, their parents hated it, forming counsels to suppress and demonize it. From Swing and Jazz in the 20’s and 40’s, to Comic books in the 50’s, to the beatniks in the 60s, to Rap music in the 80’s, every time young people latched onto some new pop culture interest, the powers that be (the White men that owned all of media) found a way to suppress that interest by casting it in a negative light, or appropriated it in order to mainstream it to a wider audience, to make money  for themselves.
In the 60’s, White adults lost the war against Rock music because Rock music was aimed at young Whites  who, by that time, were controlling the cultural tastes. Music was darker and edgier, with messages of social justice prevalent  in Folk music, and the topic of drugs and sex in Rock. These are the things young folk were interested in and the different media industries crafted product to appeal to the disposable income of straight, middle class, White teens and young adults.
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Television shows, while still consisting of largely sitcoms and Westerns, became edgier and darker, too. Many shows (such as Star Trek in 1963) began promoting messages of social justice and free love that was being espoused by young adults of all races at the time, and the Westerns and sitcoms of the 50’s, with their bland messages about moral authority, were joined  by  much darker police procedurals,  science fiction,  and detective shows. The plots and humor of these shows was more sophisticated and complex. Much of this darkness came about because of the violence against racial justice movements, coupled with a progression in technology. The handheld camera and the steady cam brought images of racial and social unrest directly into the home. Corruption in the White House, and the Korean and Vietnamese Wars brought images of wartime atrocity into the home as well.
By the 70’s, the battles against music, and (comic) books, and movies, had pretty much been lost. But new ones were beginning. There was the rise of Disco, a musical style that was created and promoted within social circles  frequented  by Black women and  Queer Poc, which arose out of the free love movement of the late 60’s, coupled with the Stonewall Uprising in 1969.
In the above article, Arthur Chu lays out a history of White male outrage, from the 1970’s, to now. What we’re seeing now, all the tantrums and harassment, and shitty behavior IS NOT NEW!  When White men don’t like the direction in which the pop culture is turning, they always go into a paroxysm of violent and antisocial behavior to correct that direction. It happened to Rock music in the 60’s, against Disco in the 70’s, against Lilith Fair in the 90’s, they tried (and failed) with Rock music again in the 80’s, and Rap music from the 90’s til now. Mainstream America hated beatnik poetry, comic books, and even tried to ban Harry Potter books, and they worked  hard to censor movies as well, until the studio system was overturned in the 60s, which ushered in a new wave of movies with social messages, sex, and violence, which they also roundly hated.
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It appears that every twenty years or so, we must all suffer through the existential angst of the next generation of entitled White males discovering they are not actually the arbiters of American tastes, as they begin to grow older,  and 20-25 years from now, we’ll probably  go through this all over again, over some new subject. Each successive generation of White men discovers, as they grow older, that corporations involved in Pop culture, that used to appeal to them,  are now  appealing and responding to younger, more progressive (and browner) audiences, and in each generation there is a backlash against that, that they ultimately end up losing, as they age out, and cease to be of relevance to corporate America.
We are also seeing a rise in generational resentment as Millenials come under fire for the destruction of industries previously appealed to by the Boomers and Generation X’ers of the 20th century, like the motorcycle and housing industries. This form of generational warfare is also not new. It happened in the 50’s, and the 60’s, with adults vilifying teenagers for liking Rock music, and again in the 80’s, when the generation that ushered in Rock music, hated the British New Wave, Punk, and Rap music flooding radio airwaves, along with their genderbending styles and fashions.
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In every generation, White men are exultant to win a handful of skirmishes in the culture wars, just as they were happy at their brief victory over Disco,  and their routing of the female led Indie Rock scene in the 90’s, (called Lilith Fair), but they always eventually lose these wars, (and they’re going to lose this one too, I suspect.) Disco survived to become Dance music in the 80’s. The destruction of  Lillith Fair resulted in a huge Indie music scene, led by marginalized people, thanks to things like digital music streaming, Vevo, and Youtube.
The progression of  pop culture goes hand in hand with the progression of technology, and the Internet  has thrown a monkey wrench into practicing their current  outrages, even as it has given them new ways to show it. Their “victims” can now push back in ways they couldn’t in the past, and can now also isolate themselves in “safe spaces”, away from their meddling. Ironically, those musical styles that didn’t receive quite as much cultural pushback, have faded into  obscurity, like Punk, and New Wave.
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White (male) prioritization existed before television and movies, but I want to talk about how Pop Culture and the various media have aided and abetted it. I’m going to talk about the history of White (male) Prioritization in Pop Culture, what it is, what it looks like, and how we all reached the point where White male fans are, once again, doing that thing that White men have always done, attempting to turn the culture in the direction that suits them, as they begin to age out, and their opinions become less relevant to the corporations that seek to ever appeal to younger and Blacker audiences.
This is an especially appropriate topic considering Nike’s new promotional stance behind Colin Kaepernick as their new spokesman. Nike knows which side of the  bread their butter is on, and they’re putting their money behind athletes like Kaepernick, Serena Williams, because they appeal to the younger, progressive, more inter-racial, and socially savvy Millenials whose dollar  Nike wants. It is Black and Brown people who are driving cultural tastes and have been for the last thirty years, (from the 60’s through to the early 80’s, it was primarily White teens. Probably in another twenty years the arbiters of cultural taste will be Latinos). Black has always been cool, but now there’s real monetary power behind that idea, and that shows in the way the country’s musical, literary, and visual tastes have changed since the 80’s.
Side Note: Violent White male cultural outrage  goes back much  further than Pop culture. It is well documented that during reconstruction, after the Civil War, White men went into a paroxysm of lynching and terrorizing of Black people, (the KKK was invented to do just that), and the same during/after the Civil Rights era, and after Brown vs. board of Education.  Every time PoC made any kind of social progress, Whites responded with violence. they reacted just as violently sometimes to changes in Pop culture, too. White men behaving badly, when society is not heading in the direction they want for  themselves, is as American as apple pie.
The move technically only affected South Carolina and Louisiana but symbolically gestured to the south that the north would no longer hold the former Confederacy to the promise of full citizenship for freed blacks, and the south jumped at the chance to renege on the pledge. The end of Reconstruction ushered in a widespread campaign of racial terror and oppression against newly freed black Americans, of which lynching was a cornerstone.
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White men (and not a few women) have spent a not insignificant amount of their time in this country finding (and making up excuses) to violently terrorize women and PoC. From lynchings, to the harassment of marginalized people in online spaces, to mass shootings, it all stems from the same mindset, the maintenance of White male entitlement and supremacy. But this maintenance of White supremacy has also taken many other forms over the decades. One of those methods is White Prioritization. White men have traditionally been the ones to define reality for themselves and everyone else. They got to create the narratives,  name the out-groups, and determine their life choices.
OPPRESSION
The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found:

  • the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others,
  • the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them),
  • genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and,
  • members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.

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The media (especially popular media) is often the  means of  disseminating this information throughout  the rest of society, (and the world) and one of the major ways this works is through:

White Prioritization:

To treat or consider as of greater importance than other matters.
The Entertainment Industry is entirely  owned and controlled by straight, White, cis-gender, middle-class men, from its creation, to its distribution, to advertising and consumption, and of course, men being men,  they would  prioritize their own interests, desires, and tastes, mainstreaming all the things they consider to be normal, while marginalizing everything and everyone  else.
*Stitch’s Media Mix outlines how White Prioritization is enacted in fandom:

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MaryAnn Johanson

about 3 years ago… “Did you honestly think that every poster showing a strong, handsome male lead holding a gun and getting ready to do some damage wasn’t designed to appeal to your need to feel and identify as powerful, and that making the lead actor white would make that connection easier?”

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*It is White men who get to decide what movies. songs, and TV shows will be a priority, and what everyone else will be watching and listening to, and the priority has always been for White men:
Casting Jordan over a white actor is pandering to black people and white guilt, as was casting Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor. Making Ms. Marvel Muslim in the latest comic series is pandering to tolerance. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn finally having their romantic relationship acknowledged as canon is pandering to the gay agenda. Michelle Gomez as a female Master in Doctor Who is pandering to feminists. So much pandering. Why must companies pander, oh why, screamed the straight white male whose only motivation is the unencumbered execution of art free from social issues and something something ethics in video-game journalism?
*It isWhite men who decide what roles will be played by whom, and in what movies:
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*It is primarily White men (with few exceptions) who decide whose stories are going to be told, who will be telling those stories, what gets said in those stories, as well as who is doing the saying, putting  words in the mouths of Blacks, Asians, women, and Queer people, or deciding if those characters will speak at all:
*These same men get to decide which movies will get made, receive critical acclaim, or win awards:
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*Publishing is not quite as bad although the situation is nowhere near parity, and there are still enough  White fan gatekeepers who will act foolish about various social issues:
*The music industry is almost as hopeless as the film industry. While there are increasing numbers of men of color calling the shots in this industry, so far all they’ve done is replicate the  intersectional version of sexism and patriarchy in the songs, performances, and music videos of the medium.
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*And as for the Gaming industry, White male Prioritization has been its watchword from the beginning;

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The Culture Wars

Basically, the culture wars we are witnessing today are not new. They have always been a part of American culture, and most often consist of Americans arguing among themselves over who gets to control cultural tastes, who gets to control the narrative and what is getting said. Whose voice takes precedence.

The ways in which these culture wars have been fought can manifest in different ways, but most often its through bullying, intimidation and violence from the dominant culture, after marginalized people begin speaking out about their representation (or in some cases, like with Disco, just enjoying themselves too much).  Sometimes this control is state sanctioned through censorship, banning of the items in question (like certain books), and even arrests, and lawsuits.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/08/03/culture-war/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ae4a595344c7

And since I’m an intersectional ranter, I don’t want White women to feel left out. Over  the many decades, there have been more than a few White women (and even WoC) willing, and eager, to jump on whatever cultural outrage bandwagon that White men were able to dream up, often in an effort to “protect the children” from certain music, books, and movies. We witnessed this during the ‘Gay recruitment of children’ phase in the 70’s, led by Anita Bryant; the ‘Rock music is corrupting the children’ hysteria during the 80’s, led by Tipper Gore; and the ‘Rap music is corrupting our children’ phase during the 90’s, which was, rather unusually, led by a Black woman named C. Dolores Tucker.

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Lately, it has been a common refrain from white male fans that diversity and inclusion is “being shoved down their throats”. (Why this particular euphemism is so prevalent is an ironic mystery, especially when used to refer to LGBTQ characters in movies, books, and games).  Every time some dust-up in Pop culture is caused by White men being angry about the inclusion of marginalized people, into spaces they have always thought of as theirs, I am reminded of Samuel R. Delaney’s essay about Racism in Science Fiction, which was written waay back in 1998, but is especially relevant today:

 As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.

And he was correct, because this has happened in every part of the entertainment industry that White men had claimed as their own.

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In Music:

Music that was already heavily influenced, or created, by Black innovation, experienced increasing degrees of demonization by the mainstream public, only to later be accepted by that same mainstream when the source material was  deliberately appropriated by White performers, and its initial audiences reached full adulthood. This has happened with every form of musical genre created by Black artists. Young White people love it so much, that they can only respect it by taking it and making it theirs. Unfortunately, their appreciation has a tendency to result in the devaluation and erasure of those who originally created the style, such as happened with Rock music. We’ve been watching this happen to Rap music for the last 20 years, but its happened with other genres:

Jazz/The 1920s

Disco isn’t the first musical style to win White people’s ire, because it was being performed by groups of people they didn’t like, (although some Whites were fascinated by these new cultural sounds), only to be appropriated, and made famous by White performers later:

https://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1069&context=constructing

White phonograph companies refused to record Negro jazz because of
the traditionalist opposition ~o jazz music in the general white population.
Traditionalists, usually Protestant middle-class Americans of Anglo-Saxon
ancestry, connected jazz to the Negro brothels, where it had first become popularin New Orleans. Milton Mezzrow, a jazz clarinetist, wrote that, in the twenties,Negro jazz “was called ‘nigger music’ and ‘whorehouse music’ and ‘nice’ people turned their noses up at it.”6 They refused to accept jazz because they believed it was immoral.

The Blues (1960s)

https://www.shmoop.com/blues-history/race.html

Phillips played an instrumental role early in the careers of the bluesmen Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, but he is best remembered for being the first to record Elvis. One of the most repeated quotes in the history of American popular music is Phillips’ fateful musing that if he could “find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, [he] could make a billion dollars.”16

That man, of course, turned out to be Elvis Presley.

Rock Music (1950s)

Often, White people treat other cultures as if they were the local Stop and Rob. The internet makes it so much easier for them to eavesdrop on other cultures, watching closely to see what cultural nuggets they can mine from marginalized peoples, from food, to hairstyles, to language, and they pounce the moment they think they’ve found something that can be White people’s newest hot take on…whatever. Incidentally White people never call any of this appropriation. They like to call it “sharing”.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2016/10/race_rock_and_the_rolling_stones_how_the_rock_and_roll_became_white.html

—Harper’s magazine published an essay by future Pulitzer Prize winner Margo Jefferson titled “Ripping Off Black Music.” The piece was partly a broad historical overview of white appropriations of black musical forms, from blackface minstrel pioneer T.D. Rice through the current day, and partly a more personal lament over what Jefferson, a black critic, had come to see as an endless cycle of cultural plunder. The article’s most striking moment arrived in its penultimate paragraph:

The night Jimi died I dreamed this was the latest step in a plot being designed to eliminate blacks from rock music so that it may be recorded in history as a creation of whites. Future generations, my dream ran, will be taught that while rock may have had its beginnings among blacks, it had its true flowering among whites. The best black artists will thus be studied as remarkable primitives who unconsciously foreshadowed future developments.

And that’s exactly what happened, as almost nobody remembers that Rock music was invented by Black artists.

Disco (1970s)

Another one of the forerunners to our current culture war was White male outrage at Disco Demolition Night in 1979. Disco was a music primarily engaged in, and created by, Hispanics, Blacks, and Women. Until this too was appropriated by groups like Abba and the Bee Gees, White men raged an all out assault against this music they felt didn’t speak to or represent them.

This resulted in a full-on riot at Comiskey Park in 1979.

https://aeon.co/ideas/the-night-when-straight-white-males-tried-to-kill-disco

http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2016/09/disco-demolition-introduction

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180403-why-disco-should-be-taken-seriously

Rap Music (The 80’s)

There was also a White backlash aimed at Rap music, when it was reaching popularity in the late 80’s, and there were many attempts to brand it as demonic, illegal, immoral, and therefore worthy of censorship :

https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-nwa-terrified-white-america

The Great Rap Censorship Scare of 1990 – Medium.Com

View story at Medium.com

In Gaming

This culture war began  with Anita Sarkeesian (2012), who only had to make the announcement that she wanted to critique gaming from a feminist perspective. This eventually morphed into Gamergate, which pulled in  more women who were involved in gaming (2014), and eventually this  formed the backbone of the Alt-Right. The culture that harassed Anita Sarkeesian in 2012,  is of the same 4Chan mindset that birthed  the current ongoing campaign of harassment of women of color, Queer people on social media.

https://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/internet/2012/06/dear-internet-why-you-cant-have-anything-nice

(There was a second article by this writer detailing some of the harassment that Sarkeesian endured, which I have not linked to, because it contained violent and pornographic images of her.)

https://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6111065/gamergate-explained-everybody-fighting

https://www.cnet.com/news/gamergate-donald-trump-american-nazis-how-video-game-culture-blew-everything-up/

In Movies/Fandom

Actor Harrasment

Since Hollywood has been listening to marginalized people, and begun the barebones acknowledgment of other audiences besides White men in their narratives, there has a been a concerted backlash against many of the actors involved in diverse, or  race and genderbent TV and movie productions, and characters, with Candace Patton from  the CW series The Flash, Kelly Marie Tran from The Last Jedi, and Leslie Jones from the all female  Ghostbusters of 2016, being the forefront. This has continued with Ana Diop, a Black actress who was cast as an alien named Starfire on the CW’s Titans TV series.

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/6/5/17429196/kelly-marie-tran-instagram-deleted-harassment-star-wars-rose-last-jedi

https://www.thecut.com/2016/08/a-timeline-of-leslie-joness-horrific-online-abuse.html

https://www.themarysue.com/candice-patton-asleigh-murray-racist-backlash/

https://www.vox.com/2018/7/27/17618954/teen-titans-starfire-racism-anna-diop

https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/12/27/black-women-are-besieged-on-social-media-and-white-apathy-damns-us-all/#7e22ea9e423e

In Publishing/Comics

The Rabid Puppies/Science Fiction

In the SciFi/Fantasy genre of publishing there has been a meltdown from writers who, just as Samuel R. Delaney stated, feel that there is TOO much diversity in the genre, that as straight White men they’ve been ignored, and that the genre has been taken over by SJWs, who are only giving awards to the like-minded. The less radical version of this group is called The Sad Puppies.

http://www.jimkelly.net/blog/2018/2/3/dont-read-the-comments

There has always been a certain level of diversity in comic books, but in the past five years Marvel and DC have made an all-out push for gay, transgender, Black, Asian, Muslim and other characters as the primaries in their own stories. A number of ” Legacy” characters have been replaced by women and PoC. Iron Man is now a Black woman named Riri, Thor, Wolverine and Hawkeye were replaced by women, Spiderman is now a young Black man named Miles Morales, Captain America has been replaced several times by Sam Wilson,  several DC characters, like Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, have come out of the closet, The Hulk’s new name is Amadeus Cho, the smartest person in the universe is a little Black girl named Lunella Lafayette, and one of Marvel’s biggest selling books features a Muslim girl in the role of Captain Marvel.

https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/the-culture-wars-come-to-comic-books/

High-profile writers of colour like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay joined Marvel’s roster of creators. In response, Marvel and those creators have faced online harassment. “They are legitimately frightened by harassers who threaten to come and find them at conventions, at stores, at their homes,” wrote comic legend Mark Waid in a Facebook post. “One was told she should be burned to death. Another was told that she should be put down like a dog. And those are examples of some of the less hateful attacks.”

https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/expertcomment/comicsgate-backlash-and-the-future-of-the-comics-industry/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/comicsgate-how-an-anti-diversity-harassment-campaign-in-comics-got-uglyand-profitable

Books and Magazines

Fireside Publishing has an entire series, titled The BlackSpecFic Report, which gathers the numbers on how  Black writers are being published less often than White writers, in speculative fiction, along with a series of articles by Black writers discussing how the problem manifests, and how it can be remedied.

https://firesidefiction.com/blackspecfic

https://firesidefiction.com/blackspecfic-2015

http://blacknerdproblems.com/fireside-and-fiyah-bringing-visibility-to-black-writers-in-speculative-fiction/

“Just admit your market’s discerning tastes skew colonial and that you’re fine with it, but stop insisting that apparently 100% of the stories you receive from Black writers just aren’t good enough.”

Comedy

Even Comedy has experienced a backlash from (primarily) White male comedians who have found that the version of comedy that may have launched their careers, has no place among today’s audiences. Thye complain that audiences have become too PC, and that not laughing at their old jokes is a form of censorship.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/gqm5wj/a-history-of-political-correctness-killing-comedy-615

https://franklycurious.com/wp/2015/06/18/whiny-comedians-are-just-growing-old/

https://www.laweekly.com/film/old-irrelevant-comedians-whine-about-censorship-in-can-we-take-a-joke-7169509

Some of these backlashes against cultural change are still ongoing, while some were lost long ago. I wanted to give short primer on the history of the Culture Wars, how it isn’t a new thing, and that this too shall pass, most likely to be replaced by some new one in about ten to twenty years. It is almost always generational in nature with the previous generation taking some crude stance against against a younger more Progressive generation. In this NY Times article the author compares two backlashes, from two different eras, and their similarities.

In the second part of this series, I’ll discuss how White Prioritization manifests itself within the narratives we consume, sometimes in ways that are invisible to the viewer.

Topics For Discussion (Weekend Edition)

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I don’t know if I’m a smart person. I’ve been told by various individuals that I am, (my brother would refer to me as a forgetful bobblehead), but I have spent my whole life trying to find out as much about the world as I can. To know as much as I can find out. So, to see the world descending into the real life version of the movie Idiocracy, is incredibly galling. I watched that movie a couple of years ago, thinking it would just be a stupid comedy, but I had a real emotional reaction to watching a movie about the decline of the human mind into… well, whatever that was in the movie, and I had to stop watching it, about halfway through. If you have never seen that movie, and your head contains brain cells that work, BY ALL THAT IS HOLY, DO NOT WATCH IT!!!! That will only end in tears.

Watching that movie will eliminate any and all faith that you had in humanity, and send you into a hell of depression and anger, as you recognize which version of the universe we are all now living in. People destroying property they have already bought, in protest of some corporate disfavor, is surely one of the signs of the apocalypse.

And don’t think this is just a problem of the Right. The Left has engaged in this sort of thing as well. Its the kind of behavior that people engage in when they have perhaps heard of protesting but aren’t quite sure how the process works.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/from-nike-to-keurig-conservatives-keep-blowing-up-things-they-bought-to-own-libs?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

The stunts aren’t really boycotts at all, but attempts to channel political impotence through consumption. One American can’t change much with a vote, but she can easily set fire to her sneakers, in accordance with her political leanings.

 

 

 

Actually this article was both terrifying and hilarious. Also, it really just cements the idea in my head that bigots are people who simply lack any real imagination. Such people cannot imagine the world in any other  way other than one where they aren’t masters of everyone else in it. The only dynamic they seem to be able to  understand is one in which they are dominated by some other group, (which utterly terrifies them), or they dominate everyone else (which largely consists of bullying, terrorizing, and murdering those others.)

Being an effective artist, (especially a writer), capable of expressing nuanced ideas, requires a level of self examination, and people-knowledge that such bigots are wholly ignorant of. It requires an understanding of complexity. Anything that comes out of their imagination can only be simplistic, often appropriated from elsewhere, or pulled from their truncated understanding of  how the world works. They don’t know enough about people to write them well. They don’t know enough about the world to be able to imagine it in any  way  outside of their terror of it. These stories are full of the authors imagining the worst for stand-up, straight, morally righteous, White people, like themselves, or the worst for everyone else.

 

 

If you visit the website, linked in the article, you will have to sit there for quite a while. The author says he managed to sit through 19 minutes of it and couldn’t fastforward, go back, or pause. If you leave the site, you will just have to start  at the beginning, watching you don’t know how many minutes of a montage of videos illustrating the White Savior narrative in movies. There’s a part of me that finds that deeply funny.

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https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/terence-nances-whitepeoplewontsaveyou-org-and-the-never-1828809698

The Blind Side is just one of many white-savior films Terence Nance skewers on his sublime WhitePeopleWontSaveYou.org—a website that just plays scenes from them on an endless loop while a chorus sings “White people won’t save you.” Also, the website doesn’t allow you to pause, rewind or fast forward. You just have to sit and watch and wonder when it ends. (I watched 19 minutes of it last night, so I know it’s at least that long.)

 

 

This article asks the age old question: Why don’t people ride bikes during or after the apocalypse? The answer is that’s something that only works in books, and looks a lot less cool than wearing BDSM gear on a motorcycle. We are so used to the Mad Max version of the the end of the world, I think we would have a hard time grasping the image  of people riding bikes during it.

We Westerners also  seem to think that that would be a global phenomenon, too. It just  occurred to me that huge parts of Asia would not be entirely up-heaved by the end of the world. People in Japan, India, and China already regularly use bicycles right now.

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https://www.thedailybeast.com/where-are-the-bicycles-in-post-apocalyptic-fiction

Bicycles don’t break their legs, they don’t need to be fed, and on a modern road, their gait is a lot smoother. The bicycle was a radical transportation breakthrough, especially when combined with the paved road, which is why millions and millions of people in poor countries still use them.

 

 

 

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This article discusses how science fiction gets racial allegories wrong. The writer points  out how the people being feared and despised by the populace  (mutants, aliens,  orcs), are almost always given enough power that  makes the fear of them entirely justified. Racial allegories written by White writers really just end up justifying real world racism. Basically saying, it’s okay to police the bodies of Black and Brown people because they really are dangerous to the dominant group. This was the major problem with the movie Bright.

http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-cringe-worthy-way-sci-fi-fantasy-deal-with-prejudice/

So, in the least-racist way you can, please imagine black people are hideous violent monsters who are physically stronger than humans and have large protruding fangs. Then understand in your kind human heart that we should accept these hideous monsters as equal to us normal, beautiful humans.

 

 

 

I thought this was especially interesting. One of the reasons I didn’t make any effort to watch Crazy Rich Asians is not just because I’m not a fan of romantic comedies, but because of the presence of Awkwafina, a female Asian rapper, who traffics in the usual tired appropriation of whatever African American tropes are floating around in her head.  She needs to find a way to express herself that does not involve stereotypes of Black culture.

I have met (and befriended) both Asian Americans, and White people, who grew up in Black culture. They lived in the ‘hood, went to school with Black kids, and all their friends were Black. They dressed, spoke, and acted just like the Black Americans around them. I do not think this is what’s happened in the case of Awkwafina. Is this some form of minstrelsy when engaged in by Asian Americans, and what does it say about them, as a group, that they  feel a need to choose between being Black or White?

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https://www.colorlines.com/articles/performing-blackness-wont-fill-our-asian-american-culture-deficit-op-ed

“If first-generation White European immigrants…could use minstrelsy…to not only ensure their status as White people, but also to distance themselves from Black people, can Asian Americans use hip hop (the music, clothing, language and gestures, sans charcoal makeup), and everything it signifies to also assert their dominance over Black bodies, rather than their allegiance to Black liberation?”

 

 

 

 

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The people fighting against diversity in publishing are fighting a lost battle, I think. The Hugo Awards are probably trolling the Alt- Right at this point.

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/21/17763260/n-k-jemisin-hugo-awards-broken-earth-sad-puppies

But as we’ve also seen, these pushes for social change have led to backlash tinged with racism and misogyny — most notably through Gamergate, the unfortunate 2014 movement that essentially underpinned the rise of the alt-right, codified harassment campaigns against women and people of color for years, and helped give rise to the ideological polarization of the internet.

 

 

I’m always fascinated by the ideological differences between Eastern and Western approaches to technology. This article reminds me that I’ve seen very few movies and TV shows out of the East that make robots the bad guys. I’m sure there are some, but none come to mind for me. Asians have a very different approach to thinking about technology, than Westerners do. For Asian people robots and AI are friends, or allies, or happy tools that perform specific purposes. For Westerners (i.e. White people) there’s a tendency to think of robots as rivals, or enemies.

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https://www.wired.com/story/ideas-joi-ito-robot-overlords/

Technology is now at a point where we need to start thinking about what, if any, rights robots deserve and how to codify and enforce those rights. Simply imagining that our relationships with robots will be like those of the human characters in Star Wars with C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8 is naive.

 

 

This article is about how music (and musical styles) have degraded over the years. I still say that the 20th century was the time of the Great Vocalists, and although there are people who are good vocalists today, that an unprecedented number of them were born in the last century, and we will probably not see something like that again, (unless its an era that repeats itself later this century).

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https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/tragic-decline-music-literacy-and-quality

Music electronics are another aspect of musical decline as the many untalented people we hear on the radio can’t live without autotune. Autotune artificially stretches or slurs sounds in order to get it closer to center pitch. Many of today’s pop musicians and rappers could not survive without autotune, which has become a sort of musical training wheels. But unlike a five-year-old riding a bike, they never take the training wheels off to mature into a better musician.

 

 

 

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An interesting article about what it’s like to navigate an environment in which your hair is a source of fascination and political rebellion. I started wearing my hair in its natural state about three, maybe four, years ago, not for political reasons, but because I got tired of trying to keep it straight. None of the White people I know has evinced an ounce of interest in my hair. So far they are keeping silent about their thoughts. Black people however are willing to ascribe all manner of political motivations to me wearing my hair the way it just grows out of my head.

Even in Africa, Black people are fighting battles about how and where they can wear their natural hair.

https://qz.com/africa/1215070/black-hair-myths-from-slavery-to-colonialism-school-rules-and-good-hair/

This is one of the first dilemmas that black people face: do I let people touch my hair and under what circumstances? The question, “can I touch it?” becomes one of the most awkward social moments and can break relationships before they even start.

 

 

This was the topic that got to me though. Mostly I was just intensely baffled by it. The very first image that came to my mind was a scene from the book World War Z. There’s a chapter where one of the interviewees describes something called “Quislings”. He says its a French word for turncoat or something like that. Well, anyway he says that certain types of people ,when confronted with some emotionally overwhelming horror, try to appease that horror by becoming it, and that’s what quislings were trying to do, by pretending to be zombies. Of course, the zombies know they’re not zombies and promptly ate them. He describes a scene where zombies ate a quisling, but the person was so wrapped up in the delusion of being a zombie, that they were eaten alive while not making a sound, still pretending to the end.

Make of that description what thou wilt.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-young-men-of-color-are-joining-white-supremacist-groups

Tarrio and other people of color at the far-right rallies claim institutional racism no longer exists in America. In their view, blacks are to blame for any lingering inequality because they are dependent on welfare, lack strong leadership, and believe Democrats who tell them “You’re always going to be broke. You’re not going to make it in society because of institutional racism,” as one mixed-race man put it.

The Afrofuturism of ’90s R&B videos — Dark Matters

Michael, Janet and other Black artists saw themselves in bold, brilliant futures

via The Afrofuturism of ’90s R&B videos — Dark Matters

And on another note, today marks the 60th birthday of Michael Jackson

This is so true! I loved those videos from the 90s, in which Black people imagined themselves living in bright and  shiny futures, or dark Mad Max style apocalypses. Afrofuturism has a nice long history, going at least as far back as the 60s, and well documented.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-broadnax-afrofuturism-black-panther_us_5a85f1b9e4b004fc31903b95

What makes Afrofuturism significantly different from standard science fiction is that it’s steeped in ancient African traditions and black identity. A narrative that simply features a black character in a futuristic world is not enough. To be Afrofuturism, it must be rooted in and unapologetically celebrate the uniqueness and innovation of black culture.

 

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/brown-girl-begins-sharon-lewis-discusses-her-afrofuturist-film-with-an-all-black-cast

browngirlbeginsposter.jpg

The reason I’m such a huge proponent of Afrofuturism is because it’s something that Black people can fully and completely claim as our own. Our traditions, our pasts, were stolen from us through enslavement and colonization, but the future is our own. Our future is ours.

” The future is not set.There’s no fate but what we make.”

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On another note, today is Michael Jackson Day and marks what would have been his 60th birthday. His sister gave a loving tribute to her brother and re- imagined the song Remember the Time in a comedic way. (This has always been one of my favorite songs. I got a whole bunch of those, btw.)

https://www.hotnewhiphop.com/janet-jackson-and-blameitonkway-re-imagine-michael-jacksons-remember-the-time-news.58467.html

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Also, this weekend was the AfroPunk festival in Brooklyn, although they have these all over the world. It’s sort of like The Burning Man Fashion Festival for Black people, without all the weed smoking, probably. One day, when I’m a little old lady perhaps, I might go there. It looks like fun. You dress in your wildest fashions, and listen to great music, and hobnob with your friends.

PHOTO: Attendees at AfroPunk 2018 in Brooklyns Commodore Barry Park, Aug. 24, 2018, share what the festival means to them.

PHOTO: Attendees at AfroPunk 2018 in Brooklyns Commodore Barry Park, Aug. 24, 2018, share what the festival means to them.

PHOTO: Attendees at AfroPunk 2018 in Brooklyns Commodore Barry Park, Aug. 24, 2018.

 

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Everyone at Afropunk looked like a damn dream

Everyone at Afropunk looked like a damn dream

 

http://afropunk.com/2018/08/afropunk-brooklyn-artists-repertoire/

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The trailer for the third season of True Detective dropped this weekend ,too. I’ve been a fan of the show since its first season and I’m really looking forward to this new one because it stars one of my favorite actors, Mahershala Ali, looking all serious and pensive. The third season airs in 2019 on HBO.

 

Talk Amongst Yourselves: Here’s A Topic

Here’s some reading for your weekend. Some of these articles are not new, but they were new to me when I read them, and I thought they were interesting enough to share:

 

 

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*For those of you outside the US, this topic may be puzzling to you. The reason there are so many stories about this recently is because of the progress of technology. We can now clearly document the racism that Black people (and other marginalized groups) are on the receiving end of in this country. (This article lists several.)

Sadly, the only takeaway that a lot of White people get from the widely publicized police shootings of unarmed Black men, is that they can call the police, who will then come and punish us, or remove us, and there is a very clear reason that  many of these incidents have been instigated by White women. In a few of these cases, it is made  clear by the participants, that the reason they’re calling the police, is that they hope we will be killed. 

The bottom line is that White supremacy is not the sole province of White men. White women are not innocent, and have been willing, sometimes eager, participants in its practice.

https://www.damemagazine.com/2018/07/30/white-women-arent-afraid-of-black-people-they-want-pretty-power/

There’s a long history of white women harassing Black people and getting cops to arrest them. The only danger they feel is of losing their place within the white patriarchy.

 

 

 

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*This is an analysis of the types of gender roles played in superhero movies:

https://adanewmedia.org/2016/10/issue10-miller-rauch-kaplan/

This study examined full-length superhero movies to determine if there are gender differences in characters’ roles, appearances, and violence.

 

 

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*A lot of Black superheroes are strictly small time. Its interesting that superheroes written by White men are only ever tasked with taking care of their immediate environment, which is almost always a crime- ridden neighborhood in the inner city. This is not to negate the existence of Cosmic and Planetary  superheroes, but that there are so many of them willing to forgo protecting the planet, or the galaxy, in favor of just hanging out in the ‘hood, is something I hadn’t noticed before.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/black-superheros/383042/

Traditionally, movies have done a curious thing with black heroes: Charge them not with saving the world, but rather with protecting their immediate, ethno-specific domains, or, in many cases, to put it bluntly, the ghetto.

 

 

 

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*This has been an issue since the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Before that, Asian people had largely been vilified in the media, and by politicians, as a menace, or as not really being American. After the passing of the CRA there was a concerted effort to use the achievements of certain ethnicity of Asian Americans to make backhanded slaps at Black people, in an attempt to negate the effects of White supremacist policies on both groups.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/04/19/524571669/model-minority-myth-again-used-as-a-racial-wedge-between-asians-and-blacks

Since the end of World War II, many white people have used Asian-Americans and their perceived collective success as a racial wedge. The effect? Minimizing the role racism plays in the persistent struggles of other racial/ethnic minority groups — especially black Americans.

 

 

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*I had a long rant ready about the whininess of comedians who claim political correctness has destroyed their careers, but this article states what I wanted to say clearly enough. What they are complaining about is simply what happens to older comedians who can’t adapt to the times.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0616-rabin-seinfeld-pc-20150616-story.html

Comedy increasingly is taking the form of a conversation rather than a one-way expression of ideas and information, and cranky older comedians who opt out of this dialogue risk becoming relics of an earlier era.

 

 

 

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*This made me think about a lot of the art created by marginalized groups in hte US ,and how so much of it is created to uplift the self- esteem of the group. What Gadsby says she was doing in her stand-up is the exact opposite of rap music, for example. There is no such thing as self- deprecating rap music. I thought of this because I had been listening to Django Jane ,and how that is an anthem for QPoC, and the things Janelle Monae says about herself in that song, are a celebration of her strength, and identity, and it makes me wonder if Gadsby’s approach to stand-up, has more to do with being Tanzanian rather than American. or if its just her own introverted personality at work.

 Here, you have two very different women, both of them somewhere along the LGBTQ spectrum, one White and Non- American, and the other American born, and you have two very different philosophical approaches to their performances. Gadsby claims her self- deprecation was the price she paid for speaking, as if she needed permission to talk about her life, and could only do so by making herself smaller. This does not seem to be the case with Janelle, who creates art that celebrates herself. Janelle doesn’t ask permission. She is  telling the listener how wonderful she is, which is  one of the major components of a form of music that was created by an often denigrated, and marginalized group of people. Such a form of humility may have served Gadsby in the environment that produced it,  but Black Americans can’t afford to be humble.

http://observer.com/2018/08/film-crit-hulk-hannah-gadsby-rejects-the-premise/

“Do you understand what self-depreciation means when it comes from someone who already exists in the margins?” She asks, “it’s not humility, it’s humiliation.” And Gadsby was done having her very identity being a source of tension. She was done cutting herself down. She was done humiliating herself.

 

 

 

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*I’ve watched a lot of Science Fiction and its interesting how many or how few  characters with disabilities are present, and how little accommodation is made for them. I cannot recall any stairs on Star Trek, but I also didn’t notice if other accommodations had been made for hearing, height, or sight disabilities. I’m going to have to re-watch a lot of my favorites, and make  notes.

http://www.scifipulse.net/turning-a-blind-eye-physical-disabilities-in-sci-fi-fantasy-entertainment/

https://io9.gizmodo.com/staircases-in-space-why-are-places-in-science-fiction-1827966642

Our real world is a remarkably inaccessible place. I haven’t made it to a movie theater on opening night in years without running into a plethora of issues, from broken captioning devices to nondisabled people sitting in seats for wheelchair users and their companions, to theaters that are physically inaccessible to me because of those dang steps and staircases.

 

 

*Thandie Newton, from Westworld, has a lot to say about diversity in SciFi:

 

Your character Maeve in HBO’s “Westworld” is an android or “host” in a theme park. What do you think it means to have characters of color in genre work? A lot of what’s in the mainstream doesn’t have people of color. What irritates me is that science fiction is the place where you could have us. Science fiction is a projection of a time that hasn’t even happened, so if you don’t populate that place with people of different skin tones, shame on you.

Weekend Reading: On History and Pop Culture

Appropriation of  History

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Discussions on the appropriation of Medievalist history by various pseudo- Nazi organizations throughout, and how historians are fighting back against their livelihoods being associated with it.

https://newrepublic.com/article/144320/racism-medievalism-white-supremacists-charlottesville

http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2017/08/teaching-medieval-studies-in-time-of.html

https://eidolon.pub/why-i-teach-about-race-and-ethnicity-in-the-classical-world-ade379722170

The Popularity of Vikings

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Discussions about the appropriation of Viking culture by neo Nazi groups, and how historians and the descendents of that culture  are fighting against it.

https://cjadrien.com/vikings-popular/

https://www.thelocal.se/20171006/we-cant-let-racists-re-define-viking-culture-far-right-runes-swedish

https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/column-white-supremacists-love-vikings-but-theyve-got-history-all-wrong/2325755

https://www.juancole.com/2017/10/supremacists-vikings-muslims.html

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ywqn3j/photos-of-modern-vikings-keeping-their-traditions-alive

Star Wars and Fandom

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I have a post coming soon about a version of gamergate, that happened in the seventies, against disco. Rock music, Gamergate, Star Wars, Ghostbusters…white straight men throwing this type of tantrum because of a changing media landscape is not new, and follows the same formula every time it happens.

This is often reactionary behavior. By the time White men (and it is almost always White men) start protesting something it’s too late to do anything about it.  When it happened in the past, especially when the internet didn’t exist,  whatever they were protesting against simply went underground and emerged in a new form. Gamergate didn’t stop companies from developing diverse games, The Disco Sucks movement did not destroy that particular musical style, protests against rap music didn’t stop it from mainstreaming, and these new ass showings around PoC in scifi/ fantasy movies, isnt going to stop movies from being diverse, and women and PoC are still on the internet. So far, all they’ve managed to accomplish is a handful of celebrities closing themselves off from their fans by limiting their social media accounts.  

So what really is the point of such things?

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/star-wars-last-jedi-gamergate/

The Beautiful, Ugly, and Possessive Hearts of Star Wars

Racism, Misogyny & Death Threats: How Star Wars Fans Turned to the Dark Side

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/star-wars-fandom-toxicity-problem

 

The latest victim of racist ass-showing is the star of the upcoming DC series Titans, Anna Diop, who closed down the comments on her Instagram page when they racist vitriol got to be a bit much. Of course she’d started to receive this commentary the moment her casting was announced, and issued this statement:

https://www.theroot.com/racist-comic-fans-run-titans-star-off-instagram-for-not-1827809010

 

https://www.themarysue.com/candice-patton-asleigh-murray-racist-backlash/

What is really upsetting to me about this is that both actresses were told to prepare themselves for this backlash, and when coming face-to-face with it, the advice they got was to ignore it. That they’re expected to just take it to lay down the foundation for other women of color, when there are so many women who have laid the down foundation for them already, is truly exhausting.

Thinking Critically

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This first article is about this writer’s long road to adjusting his attitude to current media, and learning how to feel and think about it critically, without engaging in racism, and homophobia, something I think a lot of people, who consider themselves fans, need to do.

https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/08/04/film-crit-hulk-smash-on-criticism-in-the-intersectional-age

 

For Huck magazine Anthony Lorenzo does not mince words about how Hollywood perpetuates racism both in front of and behind the camera:

https://www.huckmag.com/perspectives/need-talk-race-film-industry/

It isn’t difficult to imagine why white writers don’t want to tackle characters they probably wouldn’t get right and get flack for. How a character might talk, might walk, the music they’d listen to and where they’d head on a messy night out. There’s a subtlety to the art of creating a character that requires knowledge of a relevant culture to accurately depict their nuances. Getting this wrong forces characters into two dimensions, leaving the writer a failure. 

 

At some point, I need to do a post on how media audiences have changed over the decades. There was a time when the primary audience that most media aimed for was the family. Over time, that changed to teenagers with disposable income, which at some point, metastasized into White males, aged 18-34.

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/dear-straight-white-men-you-are-being-pandered-to-as-well-7652399

Random Movies

Image result for movies

Zombies, Race, and Gender

Dr Zuleyka Zevallos

I don’t entirely agree with this article, as it hasn’t been my experience of the fandom, who seem to all want to be Negan, but nevertheless, it was an interesting read.

https://www.wired.com/2013/06/world-war-z-zombie-messages/

That shift towards a lone-white-man-triumphing-against-the-hordes mentality goes against the dominant manifestations of zombie fandom, where often fans want to join zombie swarms rather than be lone-wolf heroes. As Lauro explains, the group mentality that has proven successful in the past is the one fans share.

 

Bladerunner 2049 and Race

The movie definitely has some racist and sexist issues:

http://colorwebmag.com/2018/03/27/the-racial-flaws-of-blade-runner-2049/

 

The Magnificent Seven: Racial History

On the erasure of PoC from the Western narrative:

<em>The Magnificent Seven</em> vs. The Historical Negationism of Westerns

 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One has several issues wrong with it but I think for me one of the biggest issues is outlined in the first article. In this movie there is almost no acknowledgment that Black culture is American culture:

http://www.okayplayer.com/originals/ready-player-one-black-culture-erasure-harmful-opinion.html

https://inews.co.uk/culture/film/ready-player-one-panders-to-a-lame-sexist-nerd-culture-that-needs-to-die/

 

Analyzing The Purge

An analysis of everything wrong with the plot of The Purge, and an analysis of how poverty would affect the outcome of such a plot.

http://www.plotpedant.com/the-purge/

https://filmschoolrejects.com/the-purge-and-politics-of-poverty-c23e94449e4/

The Purge — the event, not the film — is for white people, specifically rich white people. They are the beneficiaries, the ones who can afford the security systems to keep them safe, the ones wanting to thin the population for the sake of conserving resources, and the ones whose bloodlust is least in check. The victims are minorities, largely, and economically disadvantaged to the point some even resort to selling themselves to wealthy people on Purge Night in exchange for their surviving family’s financial security. That’s another idea that only a couple of weeks ago sounded like pure fiction, and now….well, not as much.

 

Snowpiercer and The White Savior

An analysis of the use of the White Savior trope in the movie Snowpiercer. This is one of my favorite movies. It has a lot of messages in it about the hierarchy of inequality, and stars Chris Evans. It also has an unconventional ending that makes the use of the trope a lot more complicated.

https://alanw2000.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/snowpiercer-analysis-bong-joon-hos-sci-fi-masterpiece-by-alan/

http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-decay-of-white-savior.html

 

Avatar: The White Savior Trope

https://io9.gizmodo.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar

 

Mad Max: Fury Road/Disability

https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2015/05/disability-in-the-dystopian-future-of-mad-max-fury-road/

https://www.inverse.com/article/15806-one-year-later-fury-road-resonates-on-disability-sexuality-and-the-end-of-days

 

Logan: On Violence, Death, and Dying

Logan: A Film Fighting With Itself

http://www.btchflcks.com/2017/03/logan-on-death-and-dying-and-mutants.html#.W1JVgjpKgnR

Straight Out The SDCC 2018

The San Diego Comic-Con started this weekend, and we already got a buttload of movie and TV trailers that I’m very excited about. (Picture me jitterbugging around my living room in my bunny slippers!) The Con lasts all week, so I’m going to publish some more trailers for Wednesday and even Friday if necessary. Later this month, or in August, its time to start my list of TV shows to watch for, and I’ll be working on that soon.

Let’s get started. First up:

Godzilla: King of All Monsters

I am so geeking out about this move, not because of Godzilla, mind you, although there is the iconic roar, but because of the presence of Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Dragon, and Mothra, basically a giant moth. I grew up watching Godzilla movies on those Saturday afternoons when my brothers and I couldn’t go outside. I watched Mothra a bunch of times when I was a kid, so I was excited to see something like it in the last movie, and now the full effect in this one. I’m probably not going to get Mom to see this, because she hates Godzilla, but I can introduce my nieces and nephew to it if nothing else.

 

 

Shazam

I’m not excited about this movie, but I’m not dismayed. I remember watching Shazam on TV as a kid. (I watched all the superhero TV shows.) In the TV series, Shazam was a teenager or probably an adult. I haven’t seen it in so long, I can barely remember it, beyond the iconic yelling of  “Shazam!” I don’t know what to think about this yet, probably because I wasn’t expecting it to be funny. And it did give me a few laughs. This trailer isn’t inspiring me to see it though, so I’ll wait until I see some more. Also, its DC and they’re not really good with funny.

 

Glass

Now this one, I’m really, really, excited about. (See, I used to “reallys”!) I’m a huge fan of Unbreakable. It’s just exciting to see David Dunn again. (I’m a little less a fan of the movie Split, although it has its merits, and The Beast is pants-shittingly frightening.) These are really just down to Earth versions of superhero movies, and I will always grok that.

 

 

Aquaman

This is another one I haven’t formulated an opinion on yet. I love that Momoa is Aquaman though, because it seems fitting that the King of the Oceans would be a Pacific Islander, and I never get tired of looking at him, and going, “It’s Kal Drogo! Under the sea!”. It also helps that he just looks fine as Hell!

 

 

Titans

Woo! The bitching and whining about what’s wrong with this trailer, and the miscasting of Ana Diop as Starfire, has already begun on Tumblr. I’m completely dismissing any criticism from ALL White men about her casting because here’s the thing: Starfire has always been nothing but wank material for them since she first starred in the comic books. Casting her as a Black woman seems to have put a crimp in their masturbatory fantasies for this show, I’m guessing, which is why so many of them are throwing nasty racist hissy fits.

Diop has already disabled the comments on her Instagram because of the vitriol she’s been receiving, and no! I’m not surprised by it. Sending racist messages to actors of color, and then claiming they’re doing it just to protect the show, or movie, or whatever,  is just White, male, fandom’s go-to move at this point. And it’s also all they have. They’re still gonna watch the show, they’re just gonna bitch about it the whole time, and I don’t really care at this point, as long as their eyeballs provide ratings.

What I have decided not to do is read any more whiny bullshit about TV shows before they air. I got my own whiny bullshit in mind, and ain’t adopting other people’s crap. I’ll wait to actually see the show before I form an opinion on whether it’s good or bad. Also, I’m a lot older than most of the complainers on Tumblr and have been reading Teen Titans since I was a child. I can decide for myself whether or not the show is any good.

For the record, I think the trailer looks okay, although most of it is too dark to see anything, and I’m satisfied with the depiction of Starfire, and Raven.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

I don’t know that I’ll see this in the theater because I got the same issues with it, that I had with the first. But I really enjoyed the first movie, I really liked all the characters a lot, and this is an incredibly gorgeous film, too. I’m less interested in the worldbuilding than I am with the people.

 

Patient Zero

This looks like an interesting take on vampire mythology and might turn out to be what the show The Strain should have been, so I’m gonna check into it. Plus, I’m always up for some vampire apocalypse stories.

 

 

The Passage

This series is based on one of my favorite books by Justin Cronin, a trilogy called The Passage. I’m very excited about this because they’ve changed the races of the characters, thereby giving the story a deeper subtext, especially when you remember that African Americans have been used before as subjects of medical experimentation.

http://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/henriettalacks/index.html

So you have scientists experimenting on Black convicts, and chasing after a little Black girl they want to use to save the human race, from an experiment they created, that went horribly wrong. This also closely parallels the events of the first  200 or so pages of the first book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was so well written, just without the racial angle. The series offers a changeup to the  “Black man bonding with and protecting,  a little White girl”, which we’ve seen more than enough of in the movies. There’s also Mark-paul Gosselaar , which is kinda neat.

 

Overlord

This looks a lot like Patient Zero, only set during WWI, and with a Black lead character, which is intriguing. It looks like it might be about medically created zombies. I dont have a lot of opinion on it yet.

 

The Walking Dead Season Nine

After the first few episodes, I skipped most of last season. I just lost interest. I still don’t care which is why I haven’t talked much about it. I’m going to watch season nine because I’m nosy, and there will be less of Negan chewing the scenery, which is something I got really, really, tired of. It’s rumored that this will be the last season for Rick. Personally, I would like to see the show headed by Michonne, but I don’t expect we will get that so I’m not getting too hopeful. At any rate, this season doesn’t look too bad, but then I thought that about last season’s trailer, too, and look what happened.

 

Star Trek Discovery Season Two

The second season for this show doesn’t air until January which I think is a horrible tease, but I can wait. It looks just as gorgeous as always. I’ve read that the series will be preceded by a series of character shorts in December, and that Spock will put in an appearance. I have been total trash for Spock since I was twelve years old, and will watch him in anything, so I’m very excited about the new season.

Can I also mention that the guy playing the tragic Captain Pike, is Anson Mount, the same guy who played Black Bolt in that deplorable Inhumans series, that only lasted a few episodes? (If you want to know what eventually happens to Captain Pike, in ten years, you need to watch the first episode of the original Star Trek, called The Menagerie.) He looks much better here than he did in the Inhumans. As a matter of fact, he is cocky, and foine as f***!

The show also looks like its adding a little more humor.  The showrunners say the focus for the new season will be “family”, so there’s going to be more character development of the bridge crew, I’m guessing. At the end of last season, Michael had gotten back her rank, and she looks a lot more comfortable in this trailer, and I’m looking forward to what she does in the role. Her character and storyline carried the entire first season, so I expect the writers to give her a little breathing room, and focus on some of the other characters this season, with Michael as the emotional center again.

 

Doctor Who Season 11

I’m not excited about this new Doctor, so much as deeply curious, about how the show will feel with a female Doctor. It looks intriguing and I’m definitely going to check it out. I have, in the past, claimed to not be a huge Doctor Who fan, but I’m enough of a fan to have favorite Doctors, Companions, villains, etc. I think this new one might become a favorite. We’ll see!

 

Random Conversations on Tumblr

 Just some of the conversations I’ve been reading, and sometimes participating in, on Tumblr. Incidentally, you should check out my Tumblr page. It’s a bit different from this one, in that I post more about politics, and social issues, along with more casual things like goofy animals, and silly discussions.

Robots and Race

* The TV Series Humans has just finished its third season, and quite a number of fans are unhappy. I watched the second season and noticed that race wasn’t much talked about, although since many of the robots featured depict different races, it should have.
The star character for some of the major plotlines was Gemma Chan’s, Mia. She was killed in the season finale, and fans felt some type of way about that. I didn’t watch the third season because I had gotten bored with the show.
But something in EAWS’s essay, about how Mia was treated on the show, and the third season’s approach to racial issues, prompted thoughts from me about how the subject of racism is depicted in science fiction/fantasy shows, especially when the writers are White. I’ve noticed that they are often not honest about White culpability in the invention of modern racism.
I’ve been noticing this trend, and I had some things to say about.
Related image

 

Humans is one of those shows that is racially diverse on the surface, but in reality is very safe, very white-centric (yes, even with having Mia and Max in the main cast).

“Äkta människor”, the original Swedish show had its own problems with writing the characters of color,  but it was always very clear that the in-universe “Real Humans” (”We are People”) movement was a direct parallel to the white supremacist, anti-immigrant alt right groups / political parties, and all their members were portrayed by the white actors.

Humans, however, while also pretending to be a sci fi allegory of real life racism and xenophobia, makes sure that for each bigoted white character there’s always a Bigoted Character of Color. Just a few examples –

  • a random Black man, a member of alt-right “We Are People” movement, in s1 holding an anti-synth banner and shouting anti-synth propaganda;
  • Thusitha Jayasundera’s Neha in s2 was leading a case against Niska, yes, she went through massive character development in s3, and became an active synth rights supporter, but in her own words, she changed her views mainly because of Laura (a white woman);
  • a xenophobic anti-synth cameo character played by Naoko Mori in s2;
  • Ed’s bigoted Black friend, who persuaded Ed to sell Mia (which in turn made it easier for the writers to redeem Ed in s3 – “Ed wasn’t a racist who dehumanized his girlfriend of color, he was just a weak man, who followed an advice from his Black friend, it’s the Black friend, who is the /real/ racist” – that’s the writers’ message here);
  • a Black woman police officer, who profiled Mia in s3;
  • a random Angry Black Woman on the street, that attacked Mia in s3;
  • a Brown Muslim politician on the Synth commission, that was presented more anti-synth, than a white guy, who lead the commission (s3);
  • an anti-synth Brown Head of the Police, member of the commission;
  • an unnamed Black man leading the human supremacist group against the synth compound, targeting Max and Mia (3×08).

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, third time is a pattern, as they say.

  Keep reading

What was the point in changing what was basically a white nationalist into a Black xenophobe? Intersectional bigotry exists, yes. But white writers of Äkta människor managed to show intersectional bigotry through white characters – they had xenophobic white gay character and a homophobic white hubot/synth, they even had a weeb. Brown writers of Cleverman showed intersectional bigotry through Koen (in s1) and Waruu West in s2. But when white writers prefer to show Black and Brown characters as the “real” racists (like Sense8the only reason for that is that the writers don’t want to touch the subject of white supremacy because it makes them uncomfortable. *

I love this, and I just want to piggyback a little bit off this post for a minute:

This is one of the major reasons why I dislike racism allegories written by White writers. They often, and very deliberately, get these allegories wrong by trying to equate racism and white nationalism, with “reverse racism” (which is not a thing, btw). They often do this by casting PoC as virulent racists against whatever out-group is the stand-in for a marginalized group in the narrative, whether its robots, supernatural creatures, or aliens.

I’ve seen this happen in a lot of fantasy, and sci-fi narratives written by White writers, who are attempting to lecture their audience on how bad racism is, all while trying never to acknowledge the elephant in the room: That our current model of racism, they are riffing on, was invented by White people.

They often make these virulently racist characters Black as well. In Heroes, the nasty racist, who wanted to kill all heroes, was a Black woman, who actually killed children. In District 9, the African characters were racist against the aliens, monetarily prostituting them, exploiting them, and even cannibalizing them, (which is a whole other nastily racist trope about people from the African continent, that I simply cannot believe no one caught.) In the X-Men/New Mutants TV Series, The Gifted, you have a Black man, as a member of the government, hunting down the mutants, to put them in concentration camps, and in Teen Wolf, you have a Black woman who wants to destroy all supernatural creatures, and yet again, advocates killing children to accomplish her goal.

It’s even worse when sometimes these are the only Black characters in the entire narrative, or worse yet, Black women.

There is already a dearth of Black women in fantasy and sci-fi media, so Black women being cast in these roles (of killing children) is an especially nasty trope, that needs to fucking die, especially when you consider that it is real life Black women, who know, above all else, what it is like to lose their children to violence, and are working hard right now to protect their children from things like gang violence and police brutality. Real life Black women work damn hard to counter the very narratives these characters are advocating in these shows. To then cast these (always dark-skinned, with natural hair, because its simply not enough that they be Black) women as the advocates and killers of children, in these shows, is an especially insulting slap in the face to Black fans, as Black women are some of the hardest fighters against racism and sexism, being so often on the receiving end of both, and to keep seeing them cast in these roles is more than a little enraging.

I know the point the writers are trying to make is that there’s racism on all sides and that anybody can be racist, but that message is more than a little self-serving, especially when you consider that it is only White writers who tout this message, in their allegories about bigotry. So, not only are they appropriating our stories of oppression (all things that have been done by Whites to everyone else) to use for non-human beings, but casting PoC in these roles as the oppressors, because they want to express the idea that that type of racism and bigotry is an equal opportunity position. By doing that, they thereby remove themselves from collusion with the issue and relieve their own guilt.

 

Source: 

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*And then there’s this problem, which is seen in every scifi/ fantasy racial allegory from True Blood, to Zootopia, to Bladerunner, to Bright, to The X-Men……… 
Yet it’s the kind of parable that turns up over and over again in science fiction and fantasy stories that are reportedly trying to convey a message of tolerance. “Look, we get that you’re having trouble seeing minorities as humans, so perhaps it would help if you imagined them as something that is A) objectively not human and B) inherently dangerous.”…
…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.

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Image result for robots and racism

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Science Fiction Genre and Race

 *White writers also have a tendency to be lacking when it comes to imagining futuristic depictions of race, often simply reproducing the same racial issues (and many of the same stereotypes) that exist right now. The situations of various PoC simply never changed. We’re still sassy sidekicks, living in poverty, model minorities, or just erased.

https://psmag.com/social-justice/welcome-to-the-post-racial-future-its-still-pretty-racist

Altered Carbon presents a world that looks post-racial, and in which humanity has escaped from identity, and identity politics, once and for all. But even when bodies are interchangeable commodities, certain bodies are treated as having more value than others. for the greater profit of rich people and white people, and especially of rich white people.

 

I’m surprised a film of this magnitude and of this scale decided to show one of the most regressive and most racially-charged images I’d seen in a while; replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), the replicant assistant to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto)  is shown getting her nails electronically altered by a small Asian man, whose hunched over, deep in his work.

The stereotype of the Asian nail salon tech has made its way into the future.

 

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/03/-em-star-wars-em-and-the-4-ways-science-fiction-handles-race/359507/

 Sci-fi likes to believe it can imagine anything, but, especially in its mainstream incarnations, it’s clearly a lot more comfortable imagining race in contexts where the topic is dealt with obliquely or simply not mentioned or foregrounded. In this area, Hollywood adventures are strikingly timid. 

 

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Black Feminism

*Discussion of Black women as love interests. By saying that Thor is only interested in Valkyrie, as a heroic figure, it  is akin to saying she’s a strong, independent, Black woman, who don’t need no man, and how this does not take into account intersectional femininity:

Image result for black women saviors
The Problem with Valkyrie Being Simply a “Hero” to Thor

So…I get not everyone is going to understand this, especially if someone is not a Black woman and doesn’t have our experiences, so I’m going to try to lay this out as nicely as possible and try not to come off too harsh.

I’m going to start off with a quote from Alice Walker:

“Black women are called, in the folklore that so aptly indentifies one’s status in society, ‘the mule of the world,’ because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else–everyone else–refused to carry. We have also been called ‘Matriarchs,’ ‘Superwomen,’ and ‘Mean and Evil Bitches.’ Not to mention ‘Castraters’ and ‘Sapphire’s Mama.’“

You see, Black women are expected to be the “hero” of someone else’s story. We’re expected to be “the help.” The “mystical hero.” The “sassy friend.” We’re always there to help out the lead, but we’re never the love interest.

Chris Hemsworth has said himself that Thor is “smitten” by Valkyrie…when you disregard that and say she’s simply his hero and that it’s refreshing that he’s not admiring her in a romantic way, you are confusing your experience as a non-Black woman with ours.

Black women have historically been masculinized and fetishized. We’re either seen as too unattractive for love or too sexual to be romanticized. So, when we are put on a pedestal as a hero, it’s not at all refreshing. It’s the same ol’ same ol’. Now, being adored and loved? That’s something Black women never get to see for themselves.

It’s something that has slowly been changing, but the more it changes, the more pushback is given in response. CW’s Iris West is nitpicked as a character for the silliest things while the fandom constantly ships Barry with Caitlin, a white character who has shown no interest in him or vice versa. Even the actress cannot escape the anger from fans who prefer the lead be paired with a white woman. She faces constant harassment on her social media on a regular basis.

So, while it might be revolutionary for white female leads and other non-Black female leads to be looked at like heroes rather than love interests, it’s not so much for Black women. So rarely are we given the message that we too can be worthy of love. Please tread carefully when you suggest that a Black woman being seen as a man’s hero rather than love interest is “refreshing.”

 

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Humorous Interlude

 

Related image

 

*The discussion, on the adoption and care of the Roomba, continues: 

 gaymilesedgeworth

after i move i really wanna get a used roomba

 

gaymilesedgeworth

biggest-gaudiest-patronuses

just remember they’re social animals and should always be kept in pairs, don’t get a roomba if you aren’t prepared for that responsibility

 

fireheartedkaratepup

That’s a common misconception. Roombas do perfectly fine on their own if you spend quality time with them! They group together in the wild for protection, but when they have no natural predators in the area they often choose to live alone.

 

biggest-gaudiest-patronuses

i didn’t know that! do you have any advice on roomba breeding and the problem with parent roombas’ tendency towards eating their young?

 

ironbite4

……..I’m nuking this entire hell planet from orbit.

 

biggest-gaudiest-patronuses

even the roombas?

 

ironbite4

The roombas are coming with me.  Can’t let them stay with you crazy people.

 

Source: gaymilesedgeworth

 

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Representation

*I loved this speech about the importance of representation and inclusion:

Rick Riordan won a Stonewall for 2017

rosetintmyworld84

 

Rick Riordan was awarded the Stonewall Book Award for his second Magnus Chase book, due to the inclusion of the character Alex Fierro who is gender fluid. This was the speech he gave, and it really distills why I love this author and his works so much, and why I will always recommend his works to anyone and everyone.

“Thank you for inviting me here today. As I told the Stonewall Award Committee, this is an honor both humbling and unexpected.

So, what is an old cis straight white male doing up here? Where did I get the nerve to write Alex Fierro, a transgender, gender fluid child of Loki in The Hammer of Thor, and why should I get cookies for that?

These are all fair and valid questions, which I have been asking myself a lot.

I think, to support young LGBTQ readers, the most important thing publishing can do is to publish and promote more stories by LGBTQ authors, authentic experiences by authentic voices. We have to keep pushing for this. The Stonewall committee’s work is a critical part of that effort. I can only accept the Stonewall Award in the sense that I accept a call to action – firstly, to do more myself to read and promote books by LGBTQ authors.

But also, it’s a call to do better in my own writing. As one of my genderqueer readers told me recently, “Hey, thanks for Alex. You didn’t do a terrible job!” I thought: Yes! Not doing a terrible job was my goal!

As important as it is to offer authentic voices and empower authors and role models from within LGBTQ community, it’s is also important that LGBTQ kids see themselves reflected and valued in the larger world of mass media, including my books. I know this because my non-heteronormative readers tell me so. They actively lobby to see characters like themselves in my books. They like the universe I’ve created. They want to be part of it. They deserve that opportunity. It’s important that I, as a mainstream author, say, “I see you. You matter. Your life experience may not be like mine, but it is no less valid and no less real. I will do whatever I can to understand and accurately include you in my stories, in my world. I will not erase you.”

People all over the political spectrum often ask me, “Why can’t you just stay silent on these issues? Just don’t include LGBTQ material and everybody will be happy.” This assumes that silence is the natural neutral position. But silence is not neutral. It’s an active choice. Silence is great when you are listening. Silence is not so great when you are using it to ignore or exclude.

But that’s all macro, ‘big picture’ stuff. Yes, I think the principles are important. Yes, in the abstract, I feel an obligation to write the world as I see it: beautiful because of its variations. Where I can’t draw on personal experience, I listen, I read a lot – in particular I want to credit Beyond Magenta and Gender Outlaws for helping me understand more about the perspective of my character Alex Fierro – and I trust that much of the human experience is universal. You can’t go too far wrong if you use empathy as your lens. But the reason I wrote Alex Fierro, or Nico di Angelo, or any of my characters, is much more personal.

I was a teacher for many years, in public and private school, California and Texas. During those years, I taught all kinds of kids. I want them all to know that I see them. They matter. I write characters to honor my students, and to make up for what I wished I could have done for them in the classroom.

I think about my former student Adrian (a pseudonym), back in the 90s in San Francisco. Adrian used the pronouns he and him, so I will call him that, but I suspect Adrian might have had more freedom and more options as to how he self-identified in school were he growing up today. His peers, his teachers, his family all understood that Adrian was female, despite his birth designation. Since kindergarten, he had self-selected to be among the girls – socially, athletically, academically. He was one of our girls. And although he got support and acceptance at the school, I don’t know that I helped him as much as I could, or that I tried to understand his needs and his journey. At that time in my life, I didn’t have the experience, the vocabulary, or frankly the emotional capacity to have that conversation. When we broke into social skills groups, for instance, boys apart from girls, he came into my group with the boys, I think because he felt it was required, but I feel like I missed the opportunity to sit with him and ask him what he wanted. And to assure him it was okay, whichever choice he made. I learned more from Adrian than I taught him. Twenty years later, Alex Fierro is for Adrian.

I think about Jane (pseudonym), another one of my students who was a straight cis-female with two fantastic moms. Again, for LGBTQ families, San Francisco was a pretty good place to live in the 90s, but as we know, prejudice has no geographical border. You cannot build a wall high enough to keep it out. I know Jane got flack about her family. I did what I could to support her, but I don’t think I did enough. I remember the day Jane’s drama class was happening in my classroom. The teacher was new – our first African American male teacher, which we were all really excited about – and this was only his third week. I was sitting at my desk, grading papers, while the teacher did a free association exercise. One of his examples was ‘fruit – gay.’ I think he did it because he thought it would be funny to middle schoolers. After the class, I asked to see the teacher one on one. I asked him to be aware of what he was saying and how that might be hurtful. I know. Me, a white guy, lecturing this Black teacher about hurtful words. He got defensive and quit because he said he could not promise to not use that language again. At the time, I felt like I needed to do something, to stand up especially for Jane and her family. But did I make things better handling it as I did? I think I missed an opportunity to open a dialogue about how different people experience hurtful labels. Emmie and Josephine and their daughter Georgina, the family I introduced in The Dark Prophecy, are for Jane.

I think about Amy, and Mark, and Nicholas … All former students who have come out as gay since I taught them in middle school. All have gone on to have successful careers and happy families. When I taught them, I knew they were different. Their struggles were greater, their perspectives more divergent than some of my other students. I tried to provide a safe space for them, to model respect, but in retrospect, I don’t think I supported them as well as I could have, or reached out as much as they might have needed. I was too busy preparing lessons on Shakespeare or adjectives, and not focusing enough on my students’ emotional health. Adjectives were a lot easier for me to reconcile than feelings. Would they have felt comfortable coming out earlier than college or high school if they had found more support in middle school? Would they have wanted to? I don’t know. But I don’t think they felt it was a safe option, which leaves me thinking that I did not do enough for them at that critical middle school time. I do not want any kid to feel alone, invisible, misunderstood. Nico di Angelo is for Amy, and Mark and Nicholas.

I am trying to do more. Percy Jackson started as a way to empower kids, in particular, my son, who had learning differences. As my platform grew, I felt obliged to use it to empower all kids who are struggling through middle school for whatever reason. I don’t always do enough. I don’t always get it right. Good intentions are wonderful things, but at the end of a manuscript, the text has to stand on its own. What I meant ceases to matter. Kids just see what I wrote. But I have to keep trying. My kids are counting on me.

So thank you, above all, to my former students who taught me. Alex Fierro is for you.

To you, I pledge myself to do better – to apologize when I screw up, to learn from my mistakes, to be there for LGBTQ youth and make sure they know that in my books, they are included. They matter. I am going to stop talking now, but I promise you I won’t stop listening.”

 

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Dinosaurs

Image result for mosasaur gif

*This entire review is basically the only reason people got to see these films. We’re certainly not watching them for the people in them.

Now, I’ve told you guys how much my Mom loves movies about people being eaten by things, so if she says something was a bad movie, take what she says as the truth. This woman will watch almost anything with giant creatures chasing and eating people, and she hated this movie!

I’m probably one of the few people that didn’t actually hate this movie, although I hated most of the people in it, and spent some amount of time rooting for my three favorite dinosaurs: the T-Rex(which I have named Sue), the velociraptor named Blue, and the mosasaur from the last movie, which I have, henceforth, named Molly.

 

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The Apocalypse

*I had to leave a response to this because the whole idea of the zombie apocalypse has now become nothing more than power a fantasy for White men, who all imagine they’re gonna be Negan, from The Walking Dead. 

I’m not watching any more shows, or reading any more zombie apocalypse novels, with White men in the center of the story. Most zombie novels and movies only feature White, middle-class people, and focus on their reactions to the loss of electricity, I guess.  Despite the existence of most of the world’s infrastructure, and the clear examples of what human beings would actually do when encountering catastrophe, in places like Puerto Rico and  Katrina, apparently one’s immediate reaction is to run amok in the streets, trying to kill each other for food.

I’m ready for some stories featuring unconventional heroes, in diverse environments. This is why I enjoyed World War Z (the book). How does the zombie apocalypse affect the plains of Africa or the mountains of Tibet? The slums of India? Or the favelas of Brazil?

Its also interesting to note that none of the pop culture we know, exists in any of these universe created by the zombie apocalypse. It’s always a surprise to the inhabitants of these stories as if they’d never heard of zombies. They always have to start from scratch. What if we just didn’t? I want to read a story (or watch a show) where all the Black, and Latinx people, in the ‘hood,  lived, because we’ve all been watching movies about the zombie apocalypse for decades, and we know all the rules and the tropes.

why is there no electricity after the apocalypse?

jumpingjacktrash

 

something people writing post-apocalyptic fiction always seem to forget is how extremely easy basic 20th century technology is to achieve if you have a high school education (or the equivalent books from an abandoned library), a few tools (of the type that take 20 years to rust away even if left out in the elements), and the kind of metal scrap you can strip out of a trashed building.

if you want an 18th century tech level, you really need to somehow explain the total failure of humanity as a whole to rebuild their basic tech infrastructure in the decade after your apocalypse event.

i am not a scientist or an engineer, i’m just a house husband with about the level of tech know-how it takes to troubleshoot a lawn mower engine, but i could set up a series of wind turbines and storage batteries for a survivor compound with a few weeks of trial and error out of the stuff my neighbors could loot from the wreckage of the menards out on highway 3. hell, chances are the menards has a couple roof turbines in stock right now. or you could retrofit some from ceiling fans; electric motors and electric generators are the same thing, basically.

radio is garage-tinkering level tech too. so are electric/mechanical medical devices like ventilators and blood pressure cuffs. internal combustion’s trickiest engineering challenge is maintaining your seals without a good source of replacement parts, so after a few years you’re going to be experimenting with o-rings cut out of hot water bottles, but fuel is nbd. you can use alcohol. you can make bio diesel in your back yard. you can use left-over cooking oil, ffs.

what i’m saying is, we really have to stop doing the thing where after the meteor/zombies/alien invasion/whatever everyone is suddenly doing ‘little house on the prairie’ cosplay. unless every bit of metal or every bit of knowlege is somehow erased, folks are going to get set back to 1950 at the most. and you need to account somehow for stopping them from rebuilding the modern world, because that’s going to be a lot of people’s main life goal from the moment the apocalypse lets them have a minute to breathe.

nobody who remembers flush toilets will ever be content with living the medieval life, is what i’m saying. let’s stop writing the No Tech World scenario.

 

lkeke35

As a corollary to the above:

I’ve been saying this about the Zombie apocalypse for years. What city dwellers do you know are gonna immediately drop everything, run out to the woods, and live at a subsistence level, just because dead people are walking around? People with disabilities, allergies, or elderly parents to care for, ain’t going to be doing any such thing. Why is the advice given to people, that they need a “bug out” plan just because the dead are walking? I’m not buying it.

I live in the hood. Do you know how many handymen we have in the hood? How many military personnel? Or even homebody engineers? Do you have any clue how resourceful and cooperative poor people are, and have to be, to survive even with electricity? And how many of us have been trained to expect the best, but plan for the worst case scenario. No, you don’t, because that idea of poverty is never represented in popular culture. Shit! A zombie apocalypse won’t even ruffle our fucking hair. We’ll come up with ways to kill the zombies while keeping it moving. Hell, my brother, all by himself, could have the electricity up and running, a defensive tower, a moat, schooling, and gardening, all in the space of two weeks, and entirely organized by my mother.

It’s also interesting to me that all zombie apocalypse narratives only seem to consist of middle-class, white, suburbanites trying to survive, with a handful of PoC thrown in like confetti. The most that White writers can imagine, for PoC, even during the apocalypse, is that we all die? Really! That seems to be their only scenario. They don’t take into account that poor Black people have been taking care of each other since the invention of poor people. The poor have never believed in an isolationist, go it alone, ruggedly individual attitude, when it comes to surviving, because we couldn’t afford that! That’s the kind of attitude that only people, with all of their basic needs met, could adopt as a life strategy. Poor people are not lazy, and of everyone, they would be the most likely to survive the apocalypse, because we have experience with surviving hardship and insecurity!

On the other hand, the middle-class white guys who invent these types of stories are obsessed with that attitude. They really think that as soon as the electricity stops, people are gonna lose their gotdamn minds, and start trying to kill their neighbors for fun and food, or planning a long journey to go find their wife, son, daughter, lost somewhere in the pre-tech Badlands! Not even taking into account that we have real-life scenarios right here, right now, that we can look at and figure out that most people aren’t gonna act like that. (*cough, ahem! Puerto Rico! Cough*).

I have long come to understand that apocalypse scenario are just wish fulfillment fantasies for middle-class white guys who think that the end of the world will make them the heroes they always wanted to be. As a result, I’m no longer interested in apocalypse scenarios with white men in the center of them as the heroes, and yes, I’m also talking about a certain TV show, too.

 

Source: jumpingjacktrash
Actually, I’ve noticed one staple of almost all apocalyptic fiction written by White people: In everything, from those Purge movies, to alien invasion, and zombie apocalypse movies, the White Western reaction seems to be “go out and kill each other”.
I’m mostly talking about the Purge films, where the premise is that all crime is free for 12 or 24 hours, but all people can think of to do is kill each other. Are you kidding me? Can we get an Oceans 11 version of The Purge, where someone has been planning the perfect heist, all year long? Actually,  I hate the Purge movies because the movies create more questions than they answer, and my super-villain brain keeps trying to organize the cultural, social, and legal implications of such an arrangement.
In a lot of American apocalyptic fiction, we never get any idea how the rest of the world is handling the destruction of the “civilized” world, or even if the rest of the world is experiencing it at all. For all we know, it’s only the Americans and Europeans who have lost their damn minds, and the Canadians are doing just fine! How do we know the Aussies haven’t just all gone punchy from the heat,  put on some fetish gear,  and decide to ride around in the desert?
When White men write about the apocalypse, they often seem to write about destroying whatever, and whoever is left.  Now contrast all that with how Women and PoC write about the apocalypse:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/olivia-cole/people-of-color-do-surviv_b_5126206.html
https://www.indiewire.com/2016/03/women-and-poc-survive-the-apocalypse-march-2016s-vod-and-web-series-picks-202649/

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Fandom

Image result for fandom gif

*Advice on how to NOT be a shitty fanfiction writer:

There IS such a thing as a bad premise. A story that relies on accepting racism, sexism, homophobia etc as valid or justifiable or not something that needs to be contested, like any story that can not exist or function as is if you take those elements out…is a fundamentally bad fucking premise.

Nobody questions the existence of good ideas. Why do some people fight so damn hard to deny that there is such a thing as a bad idea?

Every idea a person has ever had does not NEED to be put out there. Not every idea leads somewhere good.

And each and everyone of us is capable of evaluating whether an idea we have is good or not. If it’ll do harm or not. We each have the capacity to look at an idea we have and say…yeah that’s not really workable. And just….not share it.

This isn’t an imposition. This isn’t censorship. This is basic human awareness of the fact that ideas in our brain impact us and us alone. Ideas we make the choice to enact in the world in some fashion impact others as well as us.

So fucking many of you resort to crying censorship when all that’s being asked of you is applying some scrutiny to what ideas you decide to share, because you can’t seem to wrap your heads around the idea that someone else telling you what you can and can’t write isn’t the only conclusion to be made from conversations about creative responsibility.

Because you just can’t seem to fathom the concept that you could just decide for yourself…oh, huh, I don’t actually HAVE to do this thing I’m digging my heels in about. It’s not a binary equation. It’s not either I do this or I do nothing at all and I might as well just have no rights or freedoms whatsoever gawd.

It’s almost like it’s actually….hmmm when examining the endless array of possibilities that go into crafting ideas and honing them and all the variables that act as search filters to narrow down my selection process of what areas to focus on, what elements to include….what if ‘hey is this idea one that appropriates shit that’s outside my lane or perpetuates harmful and toxic tropes’ was just an added search filter used in that process?

 

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 Post-lude

moami

if you find bones in the forest, sit a bit and listen. they are old and have some good stories to tell. maybe they’ll teach you a spell or two, or explain where the water on our planet came from.

if you find bones by the ocean, run. don’t look back. run, faster, faster. the sea may love you but there are nights where she knows neither mercy nor science, and the bones warn you only once.

deseng

boi if you find bones call the police i hate this website so much

moami

this is a piece of creative writing, in case you couldn’t tell from the fact that real bones don’t usually go hey lil’ mama lemme whisper bony secrets in your ear or warn you of the incoming tides like a calcified weather frog.

Source: moami

Vampire Song  Videos

Hi!

Here, have a musical interlude. I don’t know if this is a fine Monday, but I hope it’s a good one.

Love Song For A Vampire by Annie Lennox (from Interview w/The Vampire)

I’ve been an Annie Lennox fan since her first song, Sweet Dreams Are made of This, waaay back in the 80s. Now couple that face, and voice, with the visuals of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992, which is very possibly one of the most gorgeous vampire movies ever made. It’s been a long time since I watched this video. I’d forgotten it’s as romantic, and overwrought, as the movie.

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus (from The Hunger)

This song was originally featured in the movie The Hunger from 1983. I would have been too young to see it when it was released, but I read the book when I was about 16 or 17, and it was the first time I’d ever encountered that whole lesbian vampire theme. Those of you who have not seen this movie will be very happy to know that, not only does the movie star David Bowie, but that it remains very faithful to the book, and takes its themes seriously.

 

Tear You Apart by She Wants Revenge (from American Horror  Story: Hotel)

This song heavily reminded me of Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi song, which is probably why I like it, and the fact that it played on one of my favorite shows, American Horror Story, makes me  a little biased.

 

Cry Little Sister (from the movie The Lost Boys)

I was seventeen when I saw this movie, the year it was released. I was total trash afterwards, (cuz I was just EXTRA  back then. I’m an older, slightly less EXTRA version, now.). I think I told some guy it was the greatest vampire movie ever made. In my defense, the movie is still pretty damn good, and  I had not yet been exposed to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or Interview with the Vampire, yet.

Of course, I bought (and still have) the soundtrack.

 

Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones (from Interview w/The Vampire) 

I am aware that the original song was done by The Rolling Stones, and that the movie version was sung by Guns N Roses, but I like Motorhead a lot, and I got really excited when I found they’d done a cover of this song, which has always been a favorite of mine.

 

 Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting

Sting specifically wrote this song about Louis after reading Interview with the Vampire. I remember at some point he was in talks to star as in the movie version of The Vampire Lestat, which is a movie that still needs to be made, even though Queen of the Damned pretended to be some version of it.

My favorite version of this song is the Club version, which I love to listen to on my commute to work.

Weekend Reading: Random Edition

Scarlett Johansson is at it again, signing up to play a transgender man, Dante Gill, in a movie called Rub and Tug, and directed by the same guy who fucked up the Ghost in the Shell movie. Apparently, these two  have not learned one damn thing about appropriating, and/or whitewashing, the stories of marginalized people. Why is this appropriation? Here, have an essay!

https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/07/scarlett-johansson-playing-a-trans-man-makes-no-sense.html

When Hollywood insists on casting across gender, it hurts trans people by reinforcing two ideas: First, that trans men are “really” women (and vice versa); and second, that trans people are always visibly trans. The idea that trans people are pretending to be something we’re not is at the root of most of the hatred we’re subjected to, hatred that sometimes leads to violence—

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I stumbled across this little post about the toll, that White people calling the police on random Black people, has on the police dispatch workers, who take these calls. I used to wonder what the hell the dispatchers were thinking when they received such calls, and it did indeed skip my mind, that a great many of them are Black, that they receive calls like this all day ,every day, (we only know about the ones that go viral) and they have no choice but to take the calls. She talks about what an emotionally draining job it is to be Black, and taking these types of calls, where the callers make no secret about WHY they are calling.

The woman who wrote this article clearly states that the reason these people are calling the police is they are racist bigots. The yare calling becasue they want Black people to be removed from spaces they think are theirs, or punished for being in that space. She also talks about how the police are required to answer every single call. They have no choice about it, and many of the cops she knows, are every bit as sick of these non-emergency calls, as the random Black people these calls affect, because they are a complete waste of their time.

https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/5/30/17406092/race-911-white-lady-calls-police-on-black-family-bbq-oakland

You swallow your cold oatmeal, you roll your eyes at your cubicle mate, and you enter the call for eventual dispatch even though you wish you could pretend you never got it. (If you don’t enter the call and something happens, you could lose your job for negligence.) Then you grab the next call.

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That said, it is time for ALL OF us to hold a special day for Black people, to  call the police, on any random White person, that wanders into our orbIt. Why? Because we are some petty muthafuckas, who are tired of this bullshit! Karen got on yoga pants in the office? Call ’em! Don  looking at you with pursed lips or a smirk?That’s just suspicious! Call’em! Suzan getting too loud with her mega grande, cafe latte, half mocha decaf order at the Starbucks? Call’em! cuz she can’t possibly drink that much coffee, without passing out!

https://www.theroot.com/10-wypipo-we-need-to-call-the-cops-on-1827294334

8. Lena Dunham and Post Malone

They just make me feel uncomfortable.

 

Image result for call the police on white people

Image result for call the police on white people

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I cannot stress enough how important it is to watch Nannette, by Hannah Gadsby, available on Netflix now. Its probably one of the finest standups I’ve ever  watched, and I’ve seen some of the great ones. She is up there with Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, when she was at the top of her career, and George Carlin. 

Hannah talks about being  transgender, and non-binary, while living in Tasmania, childhood bullying, the foundations of comedy, and the confluence of sexism and art.  It’s a really incredible piece of work, and although Gadsby  announced their retirement, from comedy, right in the middle of their special, I hope they change their mind, and continue to bring their insights to the rest of us.

https://newrepublic.com/article/149545/nanette-rewrites-history-art

 

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There’s a subset of men who hate women who call themselves MGTOWS (Men Going Their Own Way). Except there’s only one little problem. They don’t ever go their own way. What they do is sit on the internet harassing women, and spending endless hours fantasizing about the day women are going to need them.

Here’s an article about Women Going Their Own Way, and how they seem to actually be doing what their name suggests, which is going their own damn way, and not sitting around, obsessing about the men who won’t date them.

https://www.curbed.com/2018/6/20/17479740/living-alone-tips-women-advice

Solitude is often considered a privilege when we can afford to choose it and a punishment when it’s thrust upon us, and the same seems to extend to solo-living situations: Moving out to a place of one’s own for peace, quiet, and privacy is an occasion for congratulations, while living alone as a result of being abandoned or left behind is a much more pitiable affair. In other words, there’s an assertive, active image of living alone and there’s a sad, passive image of living alone.

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Just a little post about how the Greats of history became  great in the first place. They had servants to take care of their day to day shit, like washing things, and preparing food.

how the fuck did all of those renaissance dilettantes learn so much crap? Like they spoke 3 languages and were foremost in several branches of science, plus they wrote poetry, played the violin, and were master artists? And they still had time to be gay?

none of them ever did any laundry at all

The emotional and physical labor necessary to maintain the lifestyles of Renaissance and Enlightenment polymaths was shunted almost entirely to their uncredited servants, slaves, wives, and daughters.

Whenever we compare ourselves to the ‘genius men’ of the past, and wonder why we fall so short, remember this: their intellectual capacity, energy, and freedom was because there was someone else washing the damn dishes.

Source:

 

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We’ve all been there:

 

 

 

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We still feeling the effects of the Black Panther movie which was released months ago. Here Tiffany Haddish, from Girl’s Trip, spoofed one of the best fight scenes n the movie, when she hosted the BET Awards.

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You have to watch this whole video. I guarantee that you will not see where this video is going, and you will laugh your ass off. It’s a journey!

Here’s another of my favorite gang fight videos. If I had to see this then you have to see it!

 

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I am totally here for this EPIC Art feud between the artist, Stuart Semple, and his arch-nemesis, Anish Kapoor. Yes, you have to read the entire thing. This is a SAGA!

Alright sit down for some Art World Drama bcause this is what I live for.

So, sometime last year (?) science invented Vantablack, which is the darkest possible shade of black. Art world got incredibly excited. But as it needs to be very carefully made in a lab, it’s hard to get a hold of, and is extremely expensive. Enter Anish Kapoor, aka FuckFace McGee. Anish Kapoor buys the rights to Vantablack. He is the only human being on the planet that can legally use it, and he’s kind of a prick about it.

Art world is not thrilled with that.

Enter Stuart Semple.

Stuart Semple is an artist, and also makes pigments to sell in his free time. Stuart Semple is astoundingly pissed about this Vantablack nonsense, and Anish Kapoor’s dickery. Stuart Semple makes a new pigment, the brightest shade of pink ever, called Pinkest Pink, and puts it for sale on the internet. To be bought by everybody except Anish Kapoor. Literally, to purchase, you need to confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, do not associate with him, and will not sell or give the pigment to Anish Kapoor or his associates. Art world has a good laugh, everyone buys Pinkest Pink because it’s awesome, and damn it we deserve something.

Anish Kapoor however is a penis, and will not take this lying down, because HOW DARE he not have literally everything.

Anish Kapoor gets his London associates to buy him a thing of Pinkest Pink, and being such a classy human being, posts a picture to instagram of him with his middle finger covered in Pinkest Pink, captioned with “Up yours. #pink”

Everyone flips shit, because. Y’know. Fuck that guy. Especially Stuart Semple. For context here, Anish Kapoor is one of the richest artists on the planet, and has repeatedly been referred to as everything wrong with the art world, and the epitome of the art worlds elitism problem. He’s a giant douchebag. Meanwhile Stuart Semple makes pigments just to get them out there. He turns 0 profit from his now enourmously popular pigments.

Stuart Semple launches an investigation as to who the fuck leaked Pinkest Pink, and plans to strike back. He does so by releasing two new products. First is Diamond Dust, which is a glitter made from glass, so that a painting is still visible after it’s applied, but glitters like a mofo. It’s the most reflective glitter out there, and is available to everyone who isn’t Anish Kapoor. And it being made of glass, if you stick your finger in there, it’s going to hurt quite a bit, so that was Stuart Semple’s way of saying “shove your middle finger in this, asshole, see what happens”. Except without saying that, because he can get an insult across while still being fucking classy.

He also releases Black 2.0, created with the help of over a thousand artists worldwide.

Black 2.0 is the answer to Vantablack. Black 2.0 is a slightly less black black, but looks functionally the same to the human eye. It’s completely safe, smells like cherries, and costs four pounds. Vantablack is highly toxic, potentially explosive, needs to be applied in a special laboratory and sealed properly, can’t be moved across borders, can reach 300 degrees celsius if you’re not extremely careful, and costs thousands of dollars. Anish Kapoor is the only human being who can use Vantablack. He is the only human being who cannot use Black 2.0.

So I think we can guess who got the better deal.

And thus the feud ends, Kapoor defeated.

…But not quite.

Kapoor, in this entire afair, has made exactly two comments to the public. The first being his charming message about aquiring Pinkest Pink, the second being claiming to Buzzfeed that he and his small army of lawyers will be suing Semple, an extremely poor artist who cannot afford a lawyer.

No lawsuit has been made yet, fyi.

The point is, Kapoor is a prick, and doesn’t like talking to the lower classes. So one day in July 2017, he decides he needs another floor on his London studio apartment, and starts making arrangements to have it built. His neighbors are fucking pissed, because this will ruin the light of their apartments. They call to Semple to save them, or at the very least piss Kapoor off some more.

Semple answers to the call, and releases two new paints, Phaze and Shift, as always, banned to Kapoor. They change colours, Phaze with temperature, and Shift is just iridescent. Shift needs to be painted over Black 2.0 to work, and Phaze just works on its own.

So that’s been the art world for the last two years.

Basically, get fucked Anish Kapoor your bean sucks and so does your vantablack.

Stuart Semple is organising a bean-kissing event for Anish Kapoor’s birthday.

 

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We are probably not supposed to be talking about the link between the Dark Monster Below, (Bless His Forthcoming Eternal Reign), and his devoted disciples, the Bi-Sexuals! Question: Does being an LGBTQ ally make you complicit in the Dark Monster’s eventual takeover of Earth?

I’m just asking.

bistuffandthings Deactivated

“Bisexual women get energy from other women and then turn around and put that energy into working out their relationships with men”

Can anyone even explain what this means? What is this “energy”??

bistuffandthings Deactivated

Bi women perform seances to absorb the youth of past wlw which they use to appear more attractive to men

merengae Deactivated

A bi woman once absorbed all my energy and i couldnt help goku form a spirit bomb

But it’s a huge hassle, handling your Dark Bisexual Powers.  Especially when you’re new to it all.  Like, say you date five girls in a week.  That gets you at least ten (10) POWER ORBS.  You store them in your body and if you’re not careful they’re released whenever you come into contact with any man.

I’m just saying that when I was thirteen, I shook a guy’s hand and he exploded.

We should note- this only applies to bi women. Bisexual men on the other hand, drain the energy from literally everyone around them to feed to the Dark Monster Below, may his day of rising come soon.

I can neither confirm nor deny these facts, in the name of the Dark Monster Below, may His Calamity anoint us all.

I’m just gonna clarify that while bi woman don’t necessarily feed energy to the Dark Monster Below, we still Await Its Coming.

Everything you need to know about bisexuals!

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I was laughing about these photos for days. And yeah, I’d have a fucking heart attack, at the thought of my nieces and nephews playing on one of these contraptions. I mean, look at these things. They are massive constructs designed for children to play on. Parents really didn’t give a shit whether or not their kids lived or died back then, I guess. Talk about the literal “Survival of the Fittest”!

 

source: https://insh.world/history/playground-equipment-of-yesterday-that-would-give-todays-parents-cold-sweats/

 

For The Weekend: On Diversity

 

Criticism

Image result for film criticism

*This is an idea, that I spoke about some time ago, that is slowly starting to gain some traction, after it was widely dispersed that the vast majority of film critics are White men, and after the actresses of Oceans 8 spoke out on why they felt their movie received lukewarm reviews. I have been saying that we need more reviewers of color because more and more movies, books, and TV shows are being released that are not specifically created for White audiences, and I think it’s important that we hear from reviewers who are members of the audiences at which this type of media is aimed, not just White men.

https://variety.com/video/brie-larson-crystal-lucy-awards-critics/

 “[Audiences] are not allowed enough chances to read public discourse on these films by the people that the films were made for. I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about ‘[A] Wrinkle in Time.’ It wasn’t made for him. I want to know what it meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial.”

Black Mirror and Critical Diversity

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/black-mirror-and-critical-diversity/

The Problem with White Critics

https://wordpress.com/post/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/73012

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See I think A Wrinkle in Time just proves we need more female critics and more critics of color because…okay, let me see if I can explain this.

I saw the latest Blade Runner movie and I was bored to tears yet on the movies subreddit, everyone said I either didn’t get it or didn’t give the movie a chance. And when I gave my reasons as to why I didn’t like the movie, I was called close-minded. The movie wasn’t just dull but it had this creepy obsession with women yet didn’t respect women in any way and I found it ironic that a movie all about women and their rights to reproduce had the main character be a male. But obviously, I’m not smart enough to understand this movie.

Now with Wrinkle in Time, I enjoyed this movie and I do honestly feel like a lot of white, male critics are tearing the movie apart because they don’t get it or don’t try to get it. There is also a lot of callous talk concerning this movie.

“Oh, it’s too emotional! It’s too focused on self love!”

How…how are those bad things!?

Like I’m sorry but I am tired of every movie that is dark and gritty being hailed as something thought provoking and deep. Not every single piece of entertainment has to be depressing 24/7. I’ve also noticed that when it comes to movies that are dumb fun, if it doesn’t feature a man, it’s torn apart too. I liked Maleficent. It’s fun but if I like it, I’m an idiot apparently.

What I’m getting to is this. The job of the critic is to tell people if they would like a piece of media or if they would enjoy it. I’m able to see a movie and sometimes say, “This movie was not meant for me but someone else might like it.” I feel like a vast majority of today’s critics can’t do that and I think it’s important that critics be made up of more than just white dudes.

 

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Image result for film criticism/brie larson

*In some ways I agree with the following article. But my point is not that straight, white, 40 year old, men don’t have anything at all to say about films not aimed at them, like A Wrinkle In Time, (which is aimed at bi-racial teenage girls), but that they don’t have anything, of real authentic relevance, to say to any of the bi-racial teenage girls who are going to see the movie, or read the reviews. As a straight white man, there are certain aspects of authenticity, in a movie not aimed at him, that he’s simply not going  to see, and therefor speak about, and his viewpoint shouldn’t be the only one expressed about a film.

This isn’t about whether or not a movie is good or bad, or whether or not White men can  see a movie. Movies are meant to be seen, and are for whoever will go see them, but a bi-racial teenager may have specific insights into A Wrinkle In Time, which is directly aimed at her as its audience. What did she get out it? Did the movie accomplish its goal for her?

We need more diverse film critics because I do want to know what someone of Mexican descent thinks about Coco,  what women think about Wonder Woman, and what a Black person thinks of Black Panther and Luke Cage. Its not that white men have no insight about movies they are not the audience for, but that their insight might be somewhat limited, because they’re not part of the group, or culture.

At the same time I can also acknowledge there are plenty of movies that are aimed at straight, White guys, that they may have insight into, that I just don’t have, like Fight Club, and Taxi Driver. I’ve seen those movies, and can comment on them from a film school essay point of view, but I’m not a a part of the group those films are specifically aimed at. There are things about being a straight White guy that I just don’t know about. I can see the thematic aspects of those movies, but I can’t say a whole lot about their authenticity, and what messages I get from them may be completely different than what the creator intended, (although arguably, I can probably do a better job of it, than any white guy, on movies aimed at women, black people, and Latinx).

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-film-criticism-diversity-20180620-htmlstory.html

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Publishing:

Image result for diversity/publishing/penguin books

Last year, an author named Lionel Shriver went on a public rant about diversity in publishing. She has since doubled down on her views, which has prompted a scathing response form the author, Hanif Kureishi. And once again this backlash against diversity in publishing is entirely predictable, according to Samuel R. Delaney, (and can also be applied to many areas of media that seek to branch out to different audiences). I will reprint this link as many times as I have to to make my point:

http://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-science-fiction-.html

As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.

Penguin’s response:

:https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/penguin-publishers-diversity-inclusion-scheme-writers-queer-lgbtq-race-class-disability-women-a8393796.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/11/publisher-defends-diversity-drive-after-lionel-shrivers-attack

 

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Kureishi’s response:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/15/diversity-publishing-culture-minority-writers-penguin

The British creativity I grew up with – in pop, fashion, poetry, the visual arts and the novel – has almost always come from outside the mainstream: from clubs, gay subcultures, the working class and from the street. Many of the instigators may have been white, but they were not from the middle class – a class that lacks, in my experience, the imagination, fearlessness and talent to be truly subversive.

 

Movies

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*An article on how the current crop of horror movies  are a reflection of America’s greatest fears, and always have been. I spoke on this briefly, when I reviewed the Bodysnatchers movies, and how each iteration was a reflection of America’s greatest fears, during the time in which they were made. 

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/invasion-of-the-body-snatchers-1956-vs-all-the-rest/

https://www.vox.com/culture/2016/12/21/13737476/horror-movies-2016-invasion

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/04/why-sci-fi-keeps-imagining-the-enslavement-of-white-people/361173/

But it’s worth remembering that in sci-fi, the future actually isn’t safe or sterile at all. On the contrary, with its alien invasions, evil empires, authoritarian dystopia, and new lands discovered and pacified, the genre can look as much like the past as the future. In particular, sci-fi is often obsessed with colonialism and imperial adventure, the kind that made the British Empire an empire and that still sustains America’s might worldwide.

TV

Image result for brooklyn 99/propaganda

There was a long discussion, on Tumblr,  of what constitutes police propaganda, because some people were confused, and wanted to disregard Brooklyn 99 as propaganda, based solely on the idea that  the show was progressive and enjoyable. My argument, and the argument of many others was, this is exactly the reasons why the show is a form of  propaganda for law enforcement.  My argument was that it was the impact of the show, and not the writers intentions which make it propaganda.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/05/18/brooklyn_nine_nine_s_fantasy_world_doesn_t_stop_me_from_loving_it_video.html

 It’s a well-crafted fantasy, with hardly any discernible connection to current cultural attitudes about law enforcement. On the surface, the show is really not so different from that subway ad. Does the fact that I love one and feel displeasure for the other make me a hypocrite?

@adhighdefinition

I don’t want to be That Person ™ who adds meaningless noise to discourse, but…

Who in the world thinks that B99 is police propaganda?

Police propaganda is shows like SWAT (which I enjoy immensely, except for the preachiness) or Blue Bloods or NCIS LA, in which law enforcement is glorified and the main characters can do no harm.

B99 focuses on cops, yes, and addresses cop-related issues, yes. But it never portrays policing as anything other than a normal profession, or the characters as more moral than anyone else. You could change the setting to an amusement park or a college or a law firm and the basic setup would stay the same.

Recently in B99, Jake tells Captain Holt that he’s not ready to come back to work, because he has a “little voice in his head saying, ‘but what if [the suspect] innocent’.” And Holt tells him that the voice is a strength. Jake shouldn’t think lightly of throwing people behind bars or accusing them of crimes. It’s a serious matter. “I wish more cops thought that way,” says Holt.

HOW IS THAT PROPAGANDA????

 

Actually the argument you just made for why it isn’t propaganda is exactly why the show is propaganda The series does not show the Brooklyn 99 crew as just regular citizens. The main characters are glorified as being more progressive than the police actually are,  occasionally shown to do no wrong, and when they do wrong, they  correct their mistakes by the end of an episode.

So it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this show and all it’s characters, but that’s what makes it propaganda. Any cop show that is set up for you to think of the characters as likable, dutiful, and most importantly “good” is propaganda. I think the creators  intent is to be funny, with great characters, and tackle a couple of  social issues, but it is still propaganda, not because, not just because of their intent, but because of the effect of the series in this particular social landscape.

The “effect” is that you end up liking these very liberal, open minded, “woke” cops,  and in real life, cops are generally very conservative. Also, the police are employees of the state, so ANY show that makes us feel some type of way about them (good or bad) automatically makes the show (even unintentionally) political, making it propaganda.

So yes, as wonderful and lovable as the characters are, as nice as they are,   that is the reason that it qualifies as propaganda. Technically, even if all the cops on the show were evil and corrupt, it would still be propaganda, because the net “effect” is that you watch this show, and feel some type of way about the state-run, political entity of law enforcement.  The side effect is that the show makes the police look good, and makes you feel good about them.

Just because it’s a comedy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an effect on the net accumulation  of people’s thinking about the police. In the end ,it’s not about the “intention” of the creators. It’s about the “effect” the show has in the landscape of television, along with the 15-20 other cop shows airing at the time.

Brooklyn 99 qualifies.

 

Source:

Fandom

Image result for racism in fandom

Once again, we need to discuss the racism that has heavily infested the fandom. Why? Because its  merely a reflection of the everyday microaggressions and racism that White people practice on the daily. I’m also going to argue that this racism is informed by decades of television viewing in which White audiences were never given any alternative narratives about PoC, women, and gender, and sexual orientation.

https://fanlore.org/wiki/Race_and_Fandom#Racism_in_Slash_Fandom

Race and ethnicity has been an issue in the canons of fannish source texts for almost as long as fandom has been around. Because most entertainment is created and produced by white males, particularly in Hollywood, it tends to reflect the mindset and experiences of the majority of its creators.

 

http://www.blackenterprise.com/the-power-of-black-women-in-fandom/

As a black women who are fans of black female characters, we are constantly reminded how much hate there is for black women and how voraciously people in fandoms dig for reasons to justify it. Oftentimes white female characters are lauded for doing the same things that white fan bases hate black female characters for.

http://www.vulture.com/2018/06/kelly-marie-tran-star-wars-hollywood-enabled-toxicity.html

The lack of ethnic and gender diversity in the first three films is an original sin that allows toxic fans to point to the Original Trilogy the way gun nuts point to the Second Amendment. There’s no productive argument to be had when anti-inclusivity extremism is at play. These people want what they want, and they’re not disappearing.

 

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978): The Loss of Self

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 115 min – Horror | Sci-Fi

As a general rule, I like to avoid reviewing and analyzing  horror movies that are already heavily reviewed. My thinking is that there is little for me to add to the discussion, beyond what’s already been said. I think this year I may make an exception, and cover some of my favorites, and I can at least explain why it is I like them so much. Sometimes, in examining my tastes in visual media, I realize I have a type of film that I gravitate to, or find out what it is that is really scaring me, and such is the case with Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

 

In order to understand why this movie works so much better on me, than the others, I have to put things into historical context. America was just coming out of a period in the 60s, where people were greatly consumed by the idea of community. People had this idea that world peace could be brought about by a lessening of the concern for the individual, and more concern for those outside of oneself, something which  could only be achieved by living communally, also known as communitarianism. But this was a failure, and as a result, there were many  failed communities, with the most infamous being The Jonestown Massacre, in the late 70s, which marked the end of that particular era of thinking.

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/jonestown-massacre-what-you-should-know-about-cult-murder-suicide-w512052

The Jonestown Massacre took place in 1978, and really was the last gasp of the Hippie/Free Love Generation, cementing the idea that communitarianism was a complete failure. By the time of the massacre, most of the hippies had given up that lifestyle, and America was fully enmeshed in the Me Decade. I was old enough to understand what happened at Jonestown, and  have the distinct memory of watching the news stories about it. A few years later, I watched, with horrified fascination, the Made-for-TV movie, while my mother explained the details of it to me, in ways than I was more able to understand, than when I was 8.

Image result for narcissism gifs

In the Me Decade of the 70s, the focus was on the improvement of the individual self, the development of, and getting in touch with, one’s better nature. People took up esoteric hobbies like Chinese cooking, in order to better themselves, they went to see psychiatrists for fun, and they joined movements, like transcendentalism, to reach their higher mental self. Dr. Kibner, a psychiatrist played by Leonard Nimoy, is the embodiment of this idea. But you can see elements of it in Matthew Bennell’s lifestyle, as he darts around his kitchen, frying up dinner in a wok, and in the everyday life of the Bellicec’s, who run a mudbath/spa.

https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/culture-magazines/1970s-me-decade

Economic and political shifts help to explain much of the change. From the end of the World War II (1939–45) until the end of the 1960s, the American economy had enjoyed one of its longest extended periods of growth. That growth came screeching to a halt in the 1970s, and matters got worse as the decade continued. An Arab oil embargo halted shipments of oil to the United States, forcing gas prices to raise dramatically and forcing rationing. Another oil crisis in 1979 continued the economic shock…. Many Americans turned inward and focused their attention on their economic problems rather than on problems of politics or social justice.

This version of The Bodysnatchers sits squarely  in the center of the Me Decade, with its insular focus on the self, and captures all  the dread and fear  in losing that sense of individuality, which the aliens represent. This movie could not have happened in the 80s, in the same way,  as  self development had advanced into narcissistic self involvement, by that time, and was called the Me First Decade, or Decade of Greed.

Several times in the movie, characters state, that when a person is duplicated, all the person’s memories are left intact, but since the fibrous bodies of the pod people are not organic, in the same way that human bodies are, the chemical rush of emotional connections are missing. You’re still an individual, but lack any ability to care, and there is no emotional connection to anything, which  would have seemed nightmarish to people who had spent the past decade caring very, very, deeply about everything.

Image result for its me gifs/miss piggy

I have spent a lot of time and effort in developing who I am as a person. As a young girl, I decided there was a type of woman that I wanted to be, (a combination of Grace Jones, Nyota Uhura, a dash of Ellen Ripley, and my Mom), and pointed myself towards being that person, with varying degrees of success. So developing and understanding who I was, am, and meant to be, is of huge importance to me. My formative years were during the 70s and 80s, when self discovery and enlightenment was of primary importance in popular culture. It helps that I saw this movie during that ten year time period, when I was discovering  what qualities I considered important for being my best self. I definitely think all of that  informs my reaction to this movie.

I have lost track of how many times I’ve watched this movie, and it has never NOT been scary to me. Unlike the first movie, where the emphasis was on the fear of  sameness, and conformity, the primary theme, of this story, is the loss of the  self, a loss of the uniqueness of self. A subtle, but important difference, although both movies contain elements of both themes. The 1978 version is able to  capture this better than any of the other versions, because it’s so well situated in the center of  the ME Decade, in the original city of self love, San Francisco.

The opening credits are interesting. It’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, because its one of the more unique versions, depicted on screen, of an alien invasion. And also because later in the movie, Nancy Belicec acknowledges this, by asking, “Why do we always expect metal ships?” And she’s  right. There’s no reason to assume that aliens cannot transport themselves through the vacuum of space in some other manner. In this movie, it happens in the form of spores, that travel along solar winds.

https://www.space.com/5843-legged-space-survivor-panspermia-life.html

The revelation that tiny eight-legged animals survived exposure to the harsh environment of space on an Earth-orbiting mission is further support for the idea that simple life forms could travel between planets.

This idea, called panspermia, is not new. It holds that the seeds of life are everywhere, and that microbial life on Earth could have traveled here from Mars or even from another star system, and then evolved into the plethora of species seen today.

 

 

Image result for invasion of the body snatchers gifs

The Bodysnatchers is horrifying, not just because of the inevitability of the invasion, but because its horrifying to watch this happen to the funny, quirky, vibrant individuals in this movie. For as little screen time as we get to spend with Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Geoffrey, we still  get an idea of what a vibrant, and energetic, person he is. The actor, Art Hindle, imbues him with such an  amount of character, in such a short time, (he’s an asshole), that his change after his duplication, (into a completely different type of asshole), is as jarring for us, as it is for Elizabeth, and we start to identify with her through her anxiety over this change.

Elizabeth becomes increasingly suspicious that Geoffrey is not Geoffrey, as she follows him to his appointments, stalking him through the city. There’s a scene of her striding swiftly through the downtown streets of San Francisco, the swish of traffic, and the low rumble of human chatter, the only sounds, as the camera pans jerkily around, illustrating her wound up emotional state, her paranoia, and her disconnect from the rest of humanity. The first part of the movie is full of such scenes of chaotic city life, as the camera jitters and shakes. The city is energetic, and loud, and vibrant, and these scenes show the disconnection between people, that city life encourages. People don’t actually know each other in the city, the population is too transient, and no one is really close to anyone. Well, the duplication process,  simply amps this quality up to eleven. As a Pod Person, you aren’t just disconnected from others, you’re no longer connected to yourself either.

Matthew Bennell works for the city health department, and is very obviously in love with Elizabeth, although it is unclear if she is aware of his feelings, his friends are certainly aware of his feelings, (including Dr.  Kibner). Elizabeth is either unaware of what he feels, or unaware of her own feelings. One of the more tragic moments, for me is, after Kibner has been duplicated, he declares  love to be irrelevant, and Elizabeth’s immediate response is to turn to Matthew, look him in the eye, and matter of factly state that she loves him, because she knows  she’ll be incapable of saying so, after her duplication. She knows that not only will she not love him, she won’t be capable of loving him, and what’s more, she won’t even care. According to the Pod people, she will remember that she once loved him, but she won’t be capable of caring that they used to care about each other.

Image result for invasion of the body snatchers 1978

Part of the horror is watching these friends fight against their inevitable duplication, as they argue, and love, and laugh. Then, as they are duplicated, one by one, we can see that the duplication process is not as peaceful as the Bodysnatchers would have their victims believe. They are alive, in that they appear to be who they once were,  but that essential part of who they were, what made their life worth living, is all gone. (I think this is where the other movies fell flat for me. I was not invested in the characters, or what happened to them.)

The aliens keep emphasizing that the process is painless, and that all the memories are left intact, and you can tell by this statement, that they lack  any ability to understand why the  humans are defiant, or why they might be afraid of the process, attributing their fear to pain, or loss of memory. The aliens are often puzzled by the emotional defiance of the humans around them, and  incapable of  understanding  that memories, without any emotional context, are  meaningless, and are an erasure of the “self”. Kibner flatly states, “We don’t hate you.” None of this is a personal thing for the aliens, and they are often mildly baffled at the personal reactions of the humans, to being duplicated.

In the scene where Elizabeth first meets Kibner, they are at a party, and a woman is having an emotional breakdown, as she insists that her husband isn’t her husband. She knows this because he got his hair cut short. He has a scar on the back of his neck that he always used to cover up by growing his hair out, but now, he no longer cares about the scar. There’s no emotional context for a habit he kept up for, possibly, decades. He simply doesn’t care. He can’t. That is the tiny erasure of a personality quirk that his wife understood, and possibly found endearing,  and that itty-bitty erasure of self, is for her, the clearest indicator that he is not who he claims to be.

During this woman’s  breakdown, the other party goers look on with detachment, some of them with faint distaste. These are Pod people. They don’t know, care, or begin to understand this woman’s hysteria, and just want her to stop making a scene. Actually, the aliens do have emotions…of a sort, but they are very faint, and very far away, a distant  memory of what they used to be. They all  display a faint,  muted, (as if through a thick wad of cotton batting), contempt for humanity.

 

Ironically, contempt for other people is such a part of Kibner’s natural human state, that one can see little change in his behavior after his duplication.When Kibner first meets Elizabeth, he engages in the worst sort of psychiatric practices, telling her what she’s feeling and thinking, instead of listening to what she says. This entire scene is infuriating  to me, having been on the receiving end of more than a few armchair psychiatric diagnoses, of whatever pathology that someone decided to slap on me, because I was doing something unexpected.

Image result for bodysnatchers 1978/belicecs

When Kibner is  counseling Elizabeth, he interrupts her,  and doesn’t  listen to what she’s trying to tell him, as if he knows better than she does, what she’s feeling, and why. Instead of helping her to explore why she thinks what she thinks, he already has a theory handy, and applies it to her circumstances. He tells her  she wants to get out of her relationship with Geoffrey because she’s frightened of having one, and that what she’s saying about Geoffrey is just an excuse to do so. It’s  the  same advice he gives to the hysterical woman at the party,  diagnosing their problems as  societal ones, rather than  personal ones, based on his newest book.

The scene where Kibner is counseling Bennell’s  group of friends is fascinating, because you don’t realize Kibner has been duplicated. He comes across as just a more sedate version of the man we saw at he party the night before, and it is not until after he leaves the meeting, that we realize he is an alien. This makes  sense of how uniquely unhelpful he is to the Bellicecs during that scene. Calming them down is not his objective, because, as a Pod person, he can’t do that. He has no understanding of their emotions, so can’t possibly counsel them. He only causes them to become more upset, and he is, once again, mildly baffled by their hysteria. Afterwards, Kibner says to the Geoffrey duplicate, that the duplication of Bennell, and his friends, can’t happen soon enough, and says it in  a mildly disdainful way. Those messy emotional humans!

The Belicecs are my favorite characters in the film because they really do seem like a quirky, odd couple, who also happen to be deeply devoted to one another. After they thwart the duplication of their entire group at Bennell’s home, they are pursued into the streets by Pod people. It is Jack who uses himself as a distraction so that his wife and the others can escape the crowd. Nancy, however, is having none of that and, refusing to be parted from her husband, chases after him.

Image result for bodysnatchers 1978/nancy

Surprisingly, it is Nancy (played by a superb Veronica Cartwright) who turns out to be the most resourceful. Its surprising only because  you are not invited to think this way about her during certain scenes,  although in hindsight, all the signs of her pragmatism are there. She runs a successful business, and compassionately, but firmly interacts with the customers. As one of them pressures her to turn off the spa’s music, she resists, saying its good for the plants (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pods, I think). She may have a head full of fringe ideas, and her reactions are a bit extreme, but she knows how to take care of herself, and is the only one who figures out how to successfully trick the aliens into thinking she’s one of them.

We spend the rest of the movie with Matthew and Elizabeth, as they  attempt to outrun the invaders, getting caught and drugged by Kibner at one point. They escape Kibner, and a duplicated Jack Belicec, but the drug eventually kicks in. Elizabeth falls asleep, and  gets duplicated. The pointlessness of all that fighting and running, their defiance of the inevitable, is what fuels the horror, because everyone has to sleep, eventually. Matthew, in a fit of spite after Elizabeth’s death, manages to burn down a couple of warehouses full of pods, but that act is meaningless. The pods and their caregivers have had at least a couple of days to ship them everywhere. Eventually Matthew is himself captured, and duplicated.

The first time I saw this movie, I still held out hope that maybe Matthew had  managed to escape his fate. Part of the reason I got my hopes up, was at the end of the movie, he is seen walking aimlessly around the the areas he frequented when he was human, quietly observing the activity around him, engaging in his usual hobby of cutting up newspaper articles, or going to work, and I remember Nancy’s ability to fool the aliens. I hope that’s all Matthew is doing but how realistic is that?

Image result for bodysnatchers 1978/party

We can see what life is like in Pod-land, when Matthew goes to work. At the beginning of the film, he started his day with newspaper clipping, and he does so at the end of the movie as well. This is just a habit he remembers doing, and it makes me wonder if the articles he clips, when he is a pod-person, are different from the ones he clipped, when he was human, and it’s also sad, because without any emotional tie to what he’s doing, it’s just as pointless as his fight against being duplicated.  After all, whatever he’s clipping can have no emotional resonance for him. He wanders into Elizabeth’s department, and the two of them look at each other, through each other,  and don’t acknowledge each other’s presence. Elizabeth slowly reaches over and turns off a Bunsen burner, as if in dismissal of Matthew’s presence, and he slowly walks away, as if he’d forgotten why he stopped there. The  clicking of the burner, as it slows and stops, feels like an acknowledgment of the death of their relationship. There’s nothing to see here! Move along!

Ironically, Kibner’s theory about people moving in and out of relationships too fast, and searching for excuses to get out of them, has actually come to pass. Being duplicated is the ultimate relationship killer, and it also perfectly illustrates one of the movie’s premises about living in the city. People really are disconnected from each other now. Imagine the horror of  not being able to feel anything for your kids, although you certainly remember they’re your kids. Or your spouse. Or your parents. You remember that you have relationships with these people, but you don’t care. No one  acknowledges anyone else’s presence, as they all glide slowly through their routines, with the blank expressions of robots. A bell rings and everyone rises in unison for the exits. It’s time to go home, and do what? They are all just going through the motions of living.

This brings up a point that was well illustrated in a scene from the 2007 version of the movie. In that scene, several pod-people are having dinner, as  television news reports are heard of the Middle East Peace Agreements, and the de-nuclearization of other countries.  In such a world, everything that arises out of human emotions is meaningless. Jobs, money, bills, all of the usual anxieties of life are gone, but then so are all of life’s biggest issues. There are no wars, no pogroms, no rape, no domestic abuse, no violence of any kind. For what reason do people have to harm one another, in a world in which nobody feels anything for,or about, anyone? Kimberly says it best, it is a peaceful world, a world without strife or anxiety.

Recall what I said in my last review of these films, that the next remake of this movie should be done from the point of view of those right in the middle of some crisis, and not, yet again, from the  point of view of comfortable, middle-class, white Americans. What happens in an environment, (or to protagonists), who actually welcome the alien invasion, because it means an end to their suffering. The war has suddenly stopped. No more police brutality. No more racism. The prisoners have all  been freed. Your husband no longer hits you. Can you still make a horror movie out of such a theme? What if there’s world peace, and your personal crisis is over, but you don’t feel relief or happiness, because you  no longer care. What price to pay for this? This is part of the horror.  What if the revolution occurred and nobody cared?

Image result for invasion of the body snatchers gifs

 

 

*(Hey! You there! I love, love, love this movie, and writing this was a labor of love, so let me know if you loved it, too. Like it and leave a comment (if you’re not too shy!) let me know if I should keep doing these long form film essays. The topic for this series is The Foundations of Fear.)

Mini Reviews From Firestick TV

I got an Amazon FireStick for Christmas, and so far, I’m having good fun with it. I’ve been doing this thing, where I go to random apps, and try them, or just watch whatever movies or shows get recommended to me on Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu. I’ve watched movies on Terrarium TV, and and an app called Showbox, but I’m not gonna talk about those today. I’m sticking with Netflix, and Hulu, for now.

 

Kill Order

One of the  fun things to watching movies on the Firestick, is you get to watch low budget, never heard of, movies, and this is the case with Kill Order. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before watching it. Had never even heard of it. Although some elements of the plot are somewhat confusing (requiring you to pay close attention to some horrible acting), the plot is fairly straightforward.

The plot involves a superhuman teenager, David Lee, played by Chris  Mark, on the run from the shadowy scientific Organization that  experimented on him. David is prone to nightmares and anxiety attacks. When he’s attacked in his classroom and his home by assassins, and his adopted parent is killed, he has to outrun more of them,  sent after him by The Organization.

There’s shades of Logan in the plot, because David is an experiment, who was freed by one of the doctors working on the program. He’s been infused with some type of elemental energy from another  world, and when he becomes stressed, or concentrates hard enough, he can access this energy to be faster and stronger than human. Unfortunately, many of the assassins out to kill him are also successful experiments and can access this energy too.

I thought the acting was atrocious, but I loved the kinetic energy in this movie. I think it was worth watching, for the action scenes, although a couple of them lasted just a tad longer than they should have. The action is really fast, brutal, and bloody. My major complaint about that, was that so many of the fights took place in public spaces, well within view of spectators, who did not seem at all puzzled to see black garbed killers flailing swords around, at the park. I mean it is a fairly unusual sight in this world but I guess maybe not so much in David’s.

Kill Order is available on Hulu, and is not related to the Maze Runner series, by James Dashner, as far as I know.

 

Pose

I heard about this show on The Root, and thought I’d give it a try. It’s a new show, from the creator of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy, and is loosely based on the 1990 movie, Paris is Burning, about the gay Ballroom scene in 1980s New York. I enjoyed that movie, and have been fascinated with Ballroom culture ever since, and this show is an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle, that comes from a place of authenticity, as many of the actors are actually transgender.

I was a little put out by the opening of the movie, as I don’t particularly enjoy watching characters be mean and bitchy to one another, but apparently that was just  setting up the (loosely named) villains of the show, House Abundance, which is the rival to House Evangelista. There’s also a B plot involving the economic boom issues going on in NY at the time, involving the rise of  Donald Trump, (although he is not featured in the series).

House Abundance is run by Dominique, who was once the House mother for Blanca, who left her (becasue she wasn’t getting any respect), to start her own House, and we get to watch as the two Houses compete in various shows, how Blanca builds her own house, and the contrast between how the two houses are run. The show also tackles issues of teen/LGBTQ homelessness, as Blanca adopts a young man from the street, whose family abandoned him.

For those of you unfamiliar with all this, here’s are some  brief primers on  Ballroom culture and voguing. You’ll hear about the two Houses, La Beija, Xtravaganza, and Ninja, which were the focus of the movie, Paris is Burning, and some of the dance moves, like The Duck Walk, and the Death Drop. The New York Black and Latinx LGBTQ Ballroom culture is where the original meaning of “Shade” and “Reading” people came from. (None of this has anything to do with the dance form which was co-opted by Madonna in the 90s.)

I’ve only spent some time watching the various clips from this move, because it just hurts too much, to watch it, in its entirety, multiple times. The stories really move you. You start to root for certain characters, only to find out they were murdered in a hate crime, a few months later, or died of Aids. it can be hard to watch, but its worth it to glimpse a culture you may have never seen before. I try to be respectful, and keep in mind, that I’m not a part of this culture, and  a spectator to all it. I just admire it from afar.

 

Here is one of my favorite moments in Paris is Burning, about the philosophy behind voguing, realness, and authenticity:

 

I enjoyed the first episode a lot, and I made a promise to myself to catch some  more episodes, although I’m not yet devoted to it. But I do love the idea that this even managed to make its way to Primetime TV. I can actually see something like this being made in the 80s for  television, but not in the 90s, which was a lot more conservative. If you have been wishing for more LGBTQ content on TV then this is your show, this is your hour, this is you! The show discusses a lot of transgender issues, which makes this show absolutely groundbreaking!

This show wasn’t recommended to me from my Firestick, although I think you can watch it on Hulu, if you don’t have cable, or satellite TV.

 

The Outsider

I was prepared not to like this movie, which is newly available on Netflix. Netflix recommended I watch this, because I’d watched several Chinese Action movies (?), and put several more on my watchlist. So, even though I was dubious, because it starred Jared Leto, I took a chance, and gave it a try.

For the record,  I am, apparently,  one of the five people on the entire planet, who does not hate Jared Leto. I’m just occasionally wary of his presence in something, mostly  based on the stories I’ve heard about him, that I should, but I’ve always been contrary. I think he’s a perfectly okay actor, and I’ve liked him ever since he got his ass beat by Brad Pitt in Fight Club. I even liked him in this movie, although he turns in, what is for him, a rather subdued performance, which is also completely unnecessary to the plot of this movie.

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of historical movies, and books, about Westerners travelling, and living, in Japan. I will watch, or read, just about anything on that subject. That said, though, I have never understood Hollywood’s need to add White men to stories that do not actually require their presence. I don’t  object to  such things per se, but sometimes, I don’t feel like looking at White guys in Asian media. I’m told this is an economic choice, because White Americans are too stupid to watch movies without any White men in them. Personally, I think that’s a grave insult to the reasonably smart White people who actually watch foreign films, with nary a White guy in sight, (and if the American school system hadn’t spent so many decades turning its citizens brains into ignorant mush about the rest of the world, this would never have created a problem, that needed to be pandered to.)

This is an acceptable movie, and Jared Leto is fine in it, as an American criminal, imprisoned in Japan, just after WW2. While there, he meets, and saves the life of, a Yakuza member. When the two of them break out of prison, he goes to work for the man whose life he saved, the son of a Yakuza leader, and gets accepted as a low ranking member of the clan, despite the protestations of his friend’s brother, who is set to inherit the title of clan leader. He meets a girl, and gets involved in some drama, that results in the entire clan being killed, after which he’s exiled.

This story could just as easily have been told without him, because the politics and infighting of Yakuza clans is fascinating, all on its own. I don’t know if the director is Japanese, but I didn’t get much of a sense of Japan in this movie, beyond the usual surface signifiers, like Sumo scenes, neon city streets, and  dancing geisha. If you’re looking for some depth of setting, like a travelogue, this is not that movie. Leto looks distinctly out of place, but I guess that’s the point of putting him in this movie.

The setting felt more like the industrial wasteland of 80s Chicago, than 50s Japan, so there could’ve definitely been some more work done on the time setting. The trailer looks more Japanese than the actual movie, and I have no idea how a director manages to accomplish such a thing.  It’s a very dark film. It’s very gloomy. There’s a lot of sitting around in bars, gambling, and drinking, while giving people shifty looks, talking smack about the American, some macho grandstanding, and some short, brutal, fight scenes, which Leto performs satisfactorily, without ever seeming as if he is a dangerous person. I think it’s because he has this wide eyed innocent look, (he is exceptionally pretty), that works against what he’s trying to portray. He really needs to work on looking more shifty eyed, unless of course,  that was the point of his character.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a spectacular one either. I liked the visuals, but I like the visuals of any movie set in Japan, so that’s a very low bar. There’s nothing in it that stands out in particular, beyond the mood, and setting, and this one White guy, that the other characters keep saying doesn’t belong where he is. If you’ve got some time to spend on a Saturday evening, with nothing much to do, and you don’t mind watching Jared Leto, and some Japanese imagery, for 90 minutes or so, then it’s an engaging enough film, but if you choose not to watch it, don’t beat yourself up over that decision, too much.

 

 

Travels With My Dad

I have a pretty close relationship to my Mom, so I’m always fascinated by other peoples real life, adult, relationships with their parents. I actually really liked this show. It wasn’t recommended to me by Netflix, but eventually it would have, because I like travel shows, and I enjoyed watching the show, An Idiot Abroad.

Jack Whitehall is a British comedian that I know nothing about. I’ve never seen any of his performances, so I came into this completely clear of any expectations beyond the show’s premise. The show is about him taking his dad,Michael, along with him on a world tour. The two of them do some father/son bonding, and have some mildly amusing adventures, as Jack attempts to connect with his dad. I would say his objective is successful, and occasionally deeply amusing, as his dad is not the kind of man who minces words, makes it clear the things he will, and will not do, while still having a sense of whimsy, and being game enough to try new things.

In fact, I really loved the show, and I’m not sure what this says about me other than I’m older than Jack or American or a woman or something, but I kinda identified with Michael for most of the show. Like his dad, I was often exasperated at Jack’s attitudes about things. When they first get to somewhere in SE Asia, Jack wants to stay at a hostel, but Michael is having none of that shit, and I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t either. I would not travel halfway around the world, to live in a small room,with a bunch of strange White people, who look none too clean, or trustworthy. (Also, I have a phobia about falling asleep in the presence of White people, because apparently,  I’ve watched far too many bad comedies.) Like Jack’s dad, I’m gonna stay at a nice hotel, like a civilized human being. If I’m gonna be robbed, I want that shit done James Bond style, with class.

Michael and Jack visit a temple, and a house of dolls. Or is it the same thing? The idea behind the dollhouse is that people have these very realistic dolls made, that are supposed to House the souls of actual children. Well, they get a doll, and Michael carries this little doll around, for the rest of the show. The point is that you’re supposed to treat the doll like an actual child. I thought this was both creepy and cute. Jack just thought it was creepy. Michael named the doll, carried him openly everywhere, and doted on it, just like he was supposed to, but eventually lost the doll, when he gave it to another little boy to hold,when he went on a sort of train ride. That’s something you really have to see because it’s not actually a train, and is a deeply inefficient form of travel, that Michael absolutely hated.

But it was a very  fun show. I adored Jack’s parents. His mom has got a bit of salt in her too, which I liked. Michael would call her every evening, and they’d talk about what he’d done that day, and she would give him no nonsense advice on things to say and do with Jack. If you’ve got parents, (especially if you’re their primary caregiver), you should probably watch this show with them. I didn’t watch this with my mom, but I’m thinking about it.

 

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