Luke Cage Ep. 1: Moment of Truth

I’m not going to go too far into what Luke Cage means to me as a Black woman, but I grew up reading Power Man/Iron Fist, and I am a child of the seventies, so I remember the whole Blaxploitation era, on which Luke is based, and have a special fondness for him. He was the first Black superhero I ever read about. Before Storm, Red Falcon and Captain Marvel.

I’m not sure if people understand just how important it is for PoC to have power fantasies too, but I’ve mentioned this before. White men’s lives are full of such fantasies, in fact, almost the entire comic book/superhero industry is predicated on it, and PoC, most especially WoC, have precious few of these. So, if you can, imagine how emotional this must be for quite a few of us, especially in these turbulent racial times, to see a bulletproof Black man in a TV show, being heroic, or in some cases, just being.

I wasn’t going to do a play by play of each episode of the series but I’ve enjoyed what I’m seeing so much, that I just can’t help myself, and this is just the first episode. I enjoyed meeting all the different characters and watching them establish relationships with each other, but more importantly we get to understand Luke Cage’s relationship to his neighborhood, Harlem. Where he lives is fairly close knit. Everyone sort of knows each other. They’ve all seen each other around, even if they don’t know  each other’s names.

I grew up in a more rural Midwestern version of this environment, and its fascinating for me to see all the neighborhood nuances, speech, and body language, in a mainstream big budget TV show, that I see everyday. This show isn’t just Black because it has Black people in it. Its Black because it has BLACK people in it. Black people not filtered through a White creator’s lens.(Mostly)

Since the show’s creator is a Black man, there is a minimum of racist stereotypes in the plot. Only the usual stereotypes to be found in such an environment,  resentful fatherless teens, the barbershop banter, hanging out at the club, but done in such a way that the viewer doesn’t dwell on these things as stereotypes.

Luke, played by Mike Colter,  is one of those quiet, mystery people you always see around the ‘hood. They don’t make waves, and you don’t see them out and about too much. He just wants to live a quiet life with Pop, played by Frankie Faison. You might remember him as Barney, from Silence of the Lambs, but I remember him mostly from The Wire.

Luke works two jobs, can barely makes his rent, and is unwilling to get involved with women who give him their phone numbers, because he’s still mourning the death of his wife, which we saw in Jessica Jones. Earlier in the episode, a gorgeous, and smart, young sistah tries to invite him out for coffee, but he turns her down. Pop is the person who urges him to be more involved in living, to find a girlfriend, protect people, that sort of thing.

Eventually he does do these things. He meets Misty Knight in the Harlem Paradise, where he works part-time, as a cook or bartender. Its interesting watching the two of them flirt without giving anything away. These are two carefully guarded people trying to establish a connection, and feels almost antagonistic. Misty gives him a hard time, but he’s smart enough to keep up with her. Luke is persistent and  manages to make his interest in her evident, and she eventually responds. And yeah, this show  proves it is not PG-13, as there is a hot, sweaty love scene, between the two.

The next morning Misty lies to him about being a cop. (What is it with Luke Cage and duplicitous women?) I don’t know where the show creator is going to take this relationship but, in the comic books, Misty ends up with Iron Fist. I liked Misty, played by the lovely Simone Cook, who has just the right amount of snark ,so she doesn’t come across as the Angry Black Woman, or Sassy Black Sister.

The owner of the club (called Paradise) is similar to Daredevil’s Kingpin, only slightly less powerful, named Cottonmouth, and played by Mahershala Ali, who is every bit as badass as the snake after which he’s named. He’s so frightening that even his own female employees don’t like being alone with him. He’s engaged in some nebulous illegal activities, which I didn’t fully understand, even though I thought I was paying attention. Cottonmouth’s cousin is played by Alfre Woodard, aka Black Mariah. She’s a powerful woman in Harlem politics. In the comic books, she’s one of Luke Cage’s primary nemeses. So there are echoes of the Daredevil/Kingpin plot in this show.

Luke becomes more involved in Cottonmouth’s affairs after a young man he knows, who worked for Cottonmouth, dies when one of his co-workers steals several million dollars from his boss.  Now Cottonmouth is looking for the last remaining thief, after killing one of them. Misty, and her partner, Rafael Scarfe, (the only White guy I saw in this episode) are investigating the deaths of the two accomplices, and eyeing Luke as being involved, because he works at Cottonmouth’s club. All  of these characters are aimed right towards each other.

In the meantime, Luke gets in “game mode” by protecting his angry, loud Korean landlady, (another stereotype, which I understand why it was added, but did not appreciate in a show that’s about bucking stereotypes), from some neighborhood thugs. It’s heavily implied that Mariah has something to do with these guys little protection racket.

Its one of only three  action scenes the viewer gets in this episode, as Luke stops a bullet, fired point blank, with his hand. We often forget that Luke Cage is also prodigiously strong, as he easily tosses grown men around, like dolls. (In the comic books Luke is a direct descendant of the same Super Soldier experiments that created Captain America.)

Contrast that with the earlier scene where Luke’s friend gets shot by the thieves, which is horrifying, sad, and graphic. Luke’s scene is also very graphic, as we see bones breaking, and some small amount of gore. But the worst violence is when Cottonmouth beats a hostage to death with his bare fists,splattering blood over his own face and clothes. So yeah, this isn’t a show for young kids, really.

So, this first episode played kind of low-key for me. My minimal expectations that it be interesting were at least met and is  a typical MCU episodic formula, where the primary characters and their relationships are introduced. Its not a standout episode, nevertheless I enjoyed it very much, and I would like to go back and watch it again, catching all the cookies and eggs that I didn’t catch the first time, like Pop referring to Luke as Power Man, Raphael Saadiq singing in the club. (I love Saadiq’s music) and Cottonmouth’s painting of Biggie Smalls hanging in his office, but I need to get to the next episode.

There are comic book, and musical references, all over this episode, which can be a little distracting. I’ll discuss those in my next review.

*Edited for corrections.

He Never Died (2015)

Oh, did I mention I was a Henry Rollins fan, and that I liked him long before he starting showing up in some very interesting (and  occasionally pretty bad) films.  I’ve  been a fan since he was the lead singer in, naturally, The Rollins Band, and then he had a show called, naturally, the Henry Rollins show. He would say things I thought were pretty subversive for TV. Things that appealed to the young radical in me and I liked him for that.

You may remember him from bad movies like Jack Frost or Johnny Mnemonic. Some of his better roles were in movies like Bad Boys II, Feast, Lost Highway, and a minor role in Heat (with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.)

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But now he’s doing  slightly subversive movies like He Never Died (and Gotterdamerung with, of all people, Grace Jones and Iggy Pop). Some of you Hannibal fans will like this movie.  Its about a cannibal  whose been trying to suppress the impulse to feed on people, unlike Hannibal, Rollin’s character is the total opposite of Lecter. He’s not upper-crust at all. He’s not refined,  rich, or looking for love.

Actually, he’s a pretty unhappy, mopey person. I guess you would be too if you lived forever, and had a craving for human flesh. He plays a man named Jack who has a very regular routine of visiting the local diner, and playing Bingo, at the local church. Jack doesn’t wander too far from his lane. If he sticks to this rigid routine he can avoid giving in to his craving for people. But its not to last because Jack’s life is about to be up-heaved, in the form of his daughter, Andrea, and some amateur mobsters named Steve and Short, who are looking for his “blood-dealer”,  Jerry, a nurse who owes the mob some money. There’s also  a waitress named Cara, who has a crush on him, but so far he’s been able  to ignore her.

He finds Andrea at the behest of one of his ex-girlfriends, and the two of them do some light bonding. Jack is still a gloomy-gus, but starts to come out of his shell a bit more after interacting with her. She’s no Manic Pixie Girl, though, and I like her for that. She’s snarky and pragmatic, and just her presence alone makes Jack start deviating from his set routines. They both start seeing an old man in a hat, hanging around near Jack’s routine places, though, where previously only Jack could see this person.

Thanks to Jerry though, Steve and Short are now on his trail and  trying to kill him. During one attack, Andrea witnesses him kill Short and eat his flesh. They’re both horrified but for different reasons. He’s scared he will hurt her, because the craving is back full force, and she’s just squicked out by what he’s done. Jack kicks Andrea out of his apartment, but when her mother is killed, and she gets kidnapped by the neighborhood mob boss, named Alex, Jack has to go rescue her.

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After a series of adventures where he keeps trying to start fights  with people who turn out to be good guys, he stumbles across a small gang and kills and eats them when they attack. He also manages to enlist the aid of Cara, the waitress, to find Andrea, by offering her a million dollars. He and Cara manage to find and save Andrea. Alex confesses to having kidnapped her because he remembers that Jack is the same man who killed his father many years ago. Jack is about to kill Alex and eat him too, when he is interrupted by the old man in the hat, who reveals that Jack is actually the Biblical Cain, and that he’s been cursed to walk the world as a man-eating monster for having killed Abel.

 

Jack curses the old man out but ultimately decides not to kill Alex. Jack doesn’t tell Alex who the old man is ( or even that he’s there) but when he leaves with Cara and Andrea, the man in the hat approaches Alex with an offer, revealing himself to be Satan.(A good sequel would be if Alex made a deal with the devil to get revenge on Cain.)

I had some clear expectations when I saw the trailer for this movie. It looked fun and funny and I enjoy watching Rollins’ nonchalant style of acting, which goes a long way towards making the movie as funny as it is. The actors are pretty good at matching his style, especially  the two amateur gangsters, who act like they’re extras from Boyz in Tha Hood, and Alex, who thinks he’s in The Godfather.I knew going in that the movie would be about Cain because I’d heard the phrase  “he never died”, in reference to to his name before, and Rollins just looks like I picture Cain might actually appear, if he were a real person. I also thought it was going to be about vampires. It’s not, but I was close enough.

The plot is not excessively complicated, and most of the humor, like the movie “What We Do In The Shadows”, comes from the characters attitudes towards what’s happening, and not the actual plot. One of my favorite moments is when Andrea asks Jack what he does for fun and he takes her to Bingo session, and she seems to find it a pleasant activity. Another is when Steve and Short try to pick one of several fights with him, and he keeps warning them not to do that.

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I liked the depiction of the two women, who are at first incredulous, but then very matter-of- fact about Jack’s invulnerability, as they start to take it in stride. There’s a kidnapping, but no beatings or rapes. Yeah, sure the daughter is the damsel in distress, but she’s atypical just in general. In fact, the women are never treated as sexy floor lamps, even thought the movie isn’t about them. They’re just regular women caught up in something very, very weird. Henry Rollins is the star of the movie and he fills most of its screentime.

 

The movie is not especially gory or even very talky, as Jack has almost nothing to say to anyone and is out of practice at being sociable. There are lots of action scenes, which the creators managed to  make pretty funny, as Jack shrugs off various attacks on his person. What I especially liked is that the Biblical storyline wasn’t offensive to me. If you’re not a believer, you won’t be offended by the plot, as you are not asked to believe anything in it, and if you are, the plot isn’t asking you to believe anything that goes against your Christian tenets, which is a thin tightrope to walk.

On the other hand if you are offended by light gore and cussing, its best to miss this one.

 

ETA:

Correction, Andrea does get hurt pretty badly in the film. I remember she’s mostly unable to walk, by the end of it, as Cara helps her to their car. I can’t exactly remember how she gets hurt though, only that it happens after her kidnapping, so if watching characters hurt women is of especial concern for you, please exercise caution at that point in the movie. I know watching women get beaten can be triggering, or bothersome, for some people, so I wanted to give fair warning that the film may have such scenes.

He Never Died is now available on Netflix.

Geeking Out About: Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010)

This movie was a pleasant surprise, probably because the trailers for it were somewhat misleading, designed to make you NOT want to see the movie. In the interests of full disclosure,  I do not normally watch Slasher Films. (Except when I do.) Well, I don’t watch most of the new ones because of the cliches, and the abuse and torture of women.

Also, some of these movies have taken the idea of unlikable characters to the extreme. I’m getting tired of watching movies where the victims are so unlikable, that I just root for the killers to win. I prefer the Old-School Slashers with Freddie, Jason, Michael, and victims who were only slightly annoying, rather than headache-inducingly awful.

But any movie that understands all the tropes of a genre, and then proceeds to very deliberately turn them all upside down, will definitely get my support, and Tucker and Dale did that very nicely. I knew going in that it was meant to be a comedy but I didn’t expect it to be so funny or to enjoy  it so very much. And without all the guilt of liking problematic stuff, too.

With the understanding that it was a comedy, I watched this with my niece, hereinafter referred to as The Potato, who is very used to seeing Horror- Comedies (she loved Ash Vs. The Evil Dead,  btw.) However, I have to mention that  I didn’t expect it to be so gory. If you have sensitive kids, you may not want them to watch it. The Potato, on the other hand, loved it. Its one of her favorite movies and we occasionally mention plot points to each other that we are still giggling about.

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One of the reasons we enjoyed it so much is because we genuinely liked the characters. There is a serial killer in the movie, but its not who you think it is, and he is not the focus of the plot. The focus of the plot are the two ne’er-do-wells named Tucker and Dale. I call them ne’er -do-wells, not because they are bad men, but because they are two of the  absolutely most  charming men to ever star in a Slasher movie, for whom things keep going horribly wrong, through  absolutely no  fault of their own.

I think I might have fallen in love with Tyler Labine, who plays Dale. Dale is very possibly one of the nicest characters to ever appear in a horror movie. He is shy and bashful,  has a sweet and forgiving nature, and I would totally date that guy, overalls and all. I was already in love with Alan Tyduk, from the TV show Firefly,  who plays Tucker. He’s smarter than Dale, and a bit more cynical. He is a constant dispenser of advice that keeps turning out to  be the absolute wrongest responses to their situation. Nevertheless, he is always supportive of Dale, no matter what, and a great friend, who is always telling Dale that he deserves to be loved.

The two of them have grand plans for the weekend. Tucker has just bought what he’d like to think of as his new vacation home, but it’s a dump, sitting  smack-dab in the middle of  Deliverance-ville, Nowhere. Tucker wants to take a look around, see what they can do with the place, and fix it up. It looks almost exactly  like the cabin from the Evil Dead, hence the title of this movie, I’m guessing.

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At the same time, eight college students are going camping in the area. They immediately jump to all manner of negative conclusions about Tucker and Dale, when they meet them  at a local gas station, and Dale, encouraged by Tucker, tries unsuccessfully, to charm one of the lovely young ladies, named Allison.

Things go from bad to worse as Tucker and Dale try to clean up their new vacation home, but keep being interrupted by the college kids, who are inexplicably killing themselves, perhaps as some sort of suicide pact, as Dale ponders. The college kids, because they keep jumping to the wrong conclusions about Tucker and Dale’s intentions towards them, (they don’t actually have any), keep trying to kill them and having horrible accidents.

When the college students go skinny-dipping late at night, at the same time that T&D go fishing, hilarity ensues, as Allison falls into the water and gets a head injury. T&D rescue her and take her back to their cabin, where the other college students think she is being held hostage and/or being tortured. Believing they must kill the  dangerous hillbillies to rescue their friend, everything that can go wrong, does indeed, go wrong.

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The Potato and I are still laughing at such horribly gory incidents as the fool who falls into the wood chipper, while trying to kill Tucker, nearly giving him a heart attack in the bargain. But the  funniest moment for me, is when Tucker is attacked by bees while trying to start his chainsaw. Having caught sight of this crazed hillbilly running towards him with a chainsaw (trying to escape the bees) one of  the college students impales himself on a tree limb.This prompts a remorseful diatribe from Tucker, who has no idea these people were trying to kill him, and doesn’t understand why such young people would want to end it all. The college students, however, are now convinced that they are fighting for their very lives.

 

Allison decides to help T&D around the house, by helping them dig an outhouse, but her friends, witnessing this behavior, believe she is being made to dig her own grave. They try to save her and end up dying themselves, one of them in the aforementioned wood chipper. Allison gets knocked out again during their escape attempt and falls into the hole being dug for the outhouse.

Finally, the college students manage to reach the sheriff ,who doesn’t believe Tucker and Dale’s suicide pact story, but he ends up accidentally killing himself inside their cabin. The college student who goes inside to rescue the sheriff, has an accident with the sheriff’s gun, and dies. At no point during the course of the movie are we made to watch any of the women get naked, running and screaming through the woods, tortured, or raped. We do get to see Tucker get tortured though but not because he had sex with anyone. When Dale goes off to rescue Tucker from the college student torturing him, two students sneak into the cabin, in an attempt to rescue Allison.

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This entire business could be resolved by people sitting down and talking to each other, but the college students are set on the idea that Tucker and Dale mean them harm, and when Allison tries to explain the situation, they accuse her of having Stockholm Syndrome, because of course, one of them is working on a psychology degree.

After Tucker and Dale return to the cabin, you think the entire situation is about to be resolved, as Allison tries to lead a calm discussion of the facts, but the cabin catches fire and all but one of the college students dies. The lone student left alive, now insane and covered with burn scars, vows revenge on Tucker and Dale, his arch-nemesis. He kidnaps Allison, after Tucker’s car crashes, when  they try to get Tucker to a hospital.

Dale catches up to Allison and her kidnapper at the  local sawmill, where the killer has her strapped to an electric saw (because,yeah!). Dale frees Allison, defeating her kidnapper by throwing a box of chamomile tea at him, to which he has an allergic reaction, and falls out of the sawmill window. When the news media arrives, they announce that the many bodies scattered all over the woods, were the result of a suicide pact, but the kidnapper’s body isn’t found, suggesting he might still be alive.

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The movie turns expectations upside down because the college kids aren’t actually unlikable. They’re dumb and clueless but only one of them is  actually evil. You know they’re not all bad because Allison, the young lady that Dale is enamored with, says they are good people though, and actually tries to help them all understand that Tucker and Dale are the good guys.

Dale does get the girl in the end, but I like how this is  done, as its made clear that Allison is not his reward for DOING good. Allison chooses to be with Dale because he IS good.

Yes, this is the most ridiculous plot of a film, EVER! And yes! I laughed my ass off!

Despite the level of gore, my niece and I were able to suss out  several lessons we learned watching the movie, about making assumptions, being supportive of one’s friends, giving people  chances to be friends before jumping to conclusions, and issues of trust.

Tucker and Dale has become one of our all-time favorite comedies, and an excellent vehicle for teaching critical  thinking about  the media we all consume, which is especially important for budding young film critics, like my Potato.

 

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is available on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Virgin/Whore of Color (Part II)

For those of you who liked the first article, you may be interested in reading the follow-up on Daredevil and its problematic depiction of Women in the MCU (when any women in the MCU are depicted at all.) I think perhaps the only show that escapes this dynamic is Jessica Jones but only because WoC, are entirely erased from that particular narrative.

And that’s without getting  into the movies, with their lone woman narrative, that results in Black Widow having to be all things to all women. Seriously, I love Black Widow, but she needs some friends or something.

Most of these are related to WoC depictions in media:

Race and Romance in Daredevil Season Two

http://www.alternet.org/truth-behind-strong-black-woman-stereotype

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/09/AR2005060901729.html

http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ899418.pdf

 

And in my ongoing series of posts featuring issues of interest on Tumblr, here are some posts discussing media representation of sex workers:

 

 

 

blackfemalescientist:

lierdumoa:

Can we talk about how the Deadpool movie, which the media has largely referred to (in so many words) as a fuckboy’s wetdream, not only gives a female sex worker an empathetic role, but treats her and her work more respectfully than about 99% of so called feminist media?

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At no point does the movie imply that Vanessa is tainted because she is a sex worker. At no point does the movie imply that Vanessa is unworthy of love because she is a sex worker.

At no point is Vanessa portrayed as “broken.”

At no point does the movie imply that being a sex worker makes Vanessa a bad girlfriend. At no point does Deadpool ask or expect Vanessa to sacrifice her job for their relationship.

At no point is Vanessa slut-shamed for her job, by either protagonists or villains.

Think about that.

Denigrating sex workers is so taboo within the Deadpool movieverse that even the villains won’t do it.

We know that Vanessa experienced sexual abuse, and that it’s shaped the person she’s become and influenced the choices she’s made. The movie clearly acknowledges that sexual abuse is real, and that it is damaging, and that people who experience sexual abuse struggle to lead “normal” lives and get “normal” jobs.

But the movie never hands sexual abusers the mic.

There is no sexual abuse porn in this movie. There are no voyeuristic rape flashbacks. There are no misogynist monologues. The audience learns about Vanessa’s abusive past from Vanessa, on Vanessa’s terms, through Vanessa’s own words.

This seems like the bare minimum of dignity any female character should be granted, yet so much media fails to meet this extremely low bar.

The movie makes it very clear that Vanessa has a life outside of sex work. She does not live on a stripper pole. Sex work is something Vanessa does. Sex work is not who Vanessa is. She has an apartment. She wears pajamas. What other fictional universe can say the same? I can think of one tv show, but that’s about it, and that show’s viewership is nothing compared to Deadpool’s.

Now on the one hand, I’m not necessarily happy that Vanessa’s character arc revolves almost entirely around her romantic relationship with the lead male protagonist. But on the other hand, I find it very refreshing to see a sex worker in the media whose character arc does not revolve entirely around the fact that she is a sex worker. Hate to say it, but for sex workers in the media, being relegated to the role of love interest is actually a step up.

Most feminist media would rather pretend sex workers don’t exist than write storylines of any kind for them.

I also thought it was nice that she was a sex worker and a damsel in distress. Like, you don’t often see people going out of the way to save sex workers. If they are shown in danger (rather than as dead bodies for the main character to analyze) then no one is looking for them. Its only when the villain threatens the non sex worker that the main characters mobilize to stop whatever villain is threatening. Its nice and sadly refreshing for the rescue to center on someone who hasn’t “earned” it with her “purity”.

(via christel-thoughts)

 

More Scarlett Johansson stuff:

iterativeimprovement:

triplehamburgerjack:

lovemyths:

arkynn:

“nothing against scarlett”

why not? she the one who went out for the audition and is okay with actively participating in whitewashing. its not like she cant get work lol. why we gotta act like actors have no control over their contribution to racism??

I never understand why people say things like that. Like “no offense to *insert famous actor*”. The actor who accept the role that whitewashes is just as responsible as those who casted them. All of the blame cannot just be placed on the casting director because the actor actively accepted that role. They could’ve said no but the money that they will make is much more important than combatting racism. ScarJo could’ve said no to the role. This could be said for all the other actors who have accepted roles that have whitewashed. ScarJo isn’t scrambling for roles, she definitely isn’t have a hard time getting casted.

AND SHE NOT BROKE

I want to see an actor of Asian descent in that role as much as the next guy, but something tells me we wouldn’t be having this Outrage Of The Day conversation if Johannsen didn’t take that role. Because let’s be real, if she didn’t take the role, there’s a good chance the film wouldn’t have been greenlit at all, and we wouldn’t have anything to be mad about.

Or rather, we we wouldn’t have this particular thing to be mad about. There’s always something to get worked up over.

There’s an excellent chance the movie would have happened without Scarlet Johansson. It’s been kicking around for awhile & Rinko Kikiuchi certainly proved her chops in Pacific Rim & Kumiko. If anything the casting of ScarJo is going to ensure this movie flops. See Last Airbender, Gods Of Egypt & Exodus for recent examples of what whitewashing does for these properties.

 

And, while we’re at it, let’s bust Disney’s ass for their shit:

raptorific:

Seriously, it surprises me that people still don’t get that “whitewashing” doesn’t just mean “taking a character of color and turning them white,” but also applies to “focusing disproportionately on the stories of white people,” “glossing over or altering parts of a story to make it more palatable or make white people look better,” and “treating ‘white’ as the default race”

The fact that Disney churns out film after film after film after film about white people with a maximum of one film per ethnicity that showcases a group other than white people is whitewashing.

The fact that the story of “Pocahontas” (not her real name) has been substantially altered so that some of the white people in that story don’t look like such villains, with John Smith younger and Pocahontas significantly older, as well as recounting a popular myth of her saving John Smith from near-execution (a story John Smith made up to make himself look brave, the real Pocahontas told him to stop telling and hated him for using her to make himself look good, and he started to spread like wildfire after she died because she could no longer object) is whitewashing.

The fact that the characters on “How I Met Your Mother” are all white, and they supposedly live in New York City, but apparently associate exclusively with other white people (with the exception of Wayne Brady, who occasionally visits from out of town, and a recurring taxi driver) is whitewashing.

The fact that the Doctor has now been a white man a full twelve times in a row is whitewashing even though the character’s always been white, because the idea that there’s a character whose entire appearance can change in a matter of seconds, yet ends up white twelve times in a row by pure random chance, implies that white is a neutral default and other races are a deviation from that norm.

The fact that people get really angry at the suggestion that characters like Newt Scamander or Hermione Granger could beblack because the books never explicitly say “they are black” is whitewashing.

Because that’s the thing. People often assume that when someone’s race isn’t explicitly specified, they’re white. Peopleinsist that Katniss Everdeen must be white because it is possible for them to rationalize that idea in their head. People think of white as “raceless” and every other color or ethnicity as “raced,” and that’s what we call “eurocentrism.“

And that’s the thing about whitewashing. It’s this idea that a “person” is white, and a “person of color” is black or asian or arab or latin@ or whatever they might be.

It’s why people call John Stewart the “Black Green Lantern” but just call Hal Jordan the “Green Lantern.” It’s why Miles Morales is called “Black Spider-man” but Peter Parker is just “Spider-man.” If you want to throw gender into the mix, it’s why Jennifer Walters is the “She-Hulk” but Bruce Banner isn’t the “He-Hulk.”

People think “character” is white and “character + black” is black. There is no default race. Community did a whole episode about how a truly raceless character would look something like this monstrosity:

But there’s the tricky part: Once you stop thinking of white characters as “character” and start thinking of them as “character + white,” it becomes really overwhelming how many characters are white.

I mean, I know there’s a kerfuffle over Disney Princesses right now, so let’s look at the list of official Disney Princesses, shall we? That is, let’s look at the list and include everyone’s race, not just the princesses of color:

  • Snow White + White
  • Cinderella + White
  • Aurora + White
  • Ariel + White
  • Belle + White
  • Jasmine + Arab
  • Pocahontas + Native American
  • Mulan + Asian
  • Tiana + Black
  • Rapunzel + White
  • Merida + White
    Soon to be added:
  • Anna + White
  • Elsa + White

4 of those 13 women are women of color. All four of those women of color are different races than one another. At the moment, the number of white princesses is seven, but it’s about to go up to nine. All nine of those princesses are the same race as one another, despite a few of them being different nationalities, although most of them hail from Western Europe.

And a lot of people are saying “but they’re just accurately portraying the parts of the world those stories are set in!” First of all, the presence of a person of color has never been implausible in any part of the world, in any period of human history. Hell, a bunch of these movies were set after Shakespeare had born, lived, and died, but he still managed to write a play set centuries earlier featuring a black male lead in Italy.

Second, and most importantly, it’s not like they are being assigned a setting at random and have to accommodate it in their character designs. The people at Disney choose to set film after film after film in France and Germany and Denmark.

It’s not that those areas produce more or better fairy tales and folk tales than any of the other continents, it’s that the stories that come from those areas are the ones Disney considers universal.

In the eyes of Disney, there’s a Princess for Black little girls to look up to, a Princess for Native little girls to look up to, a Princess for Arab little girls to look up to, a Princess for Asian little girls to look up to, and nine princesses for all little girls to look up to. It’s no coincidence that in almost all promotional art featuring the “Princess Lineup,” Jasmine, Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas are all standing in the back, usually obscured by other whitePrincesses’ dresses, while the blonde lady brigade stands in the front.

And that is whitewashing.

(via christel-thoughts)