Tumblr Discussions on Race

Just putting these numbers out here. Actually, I think this is may be from 2014, but really, it doesn’t make much difference. Hollywood talks a good game but is really, really slow to change. I think it takes so long because Hollywood is this big unwieldy ocean liner, and most of the power players on it consider themselves to be above using social media, and interacting  with the public. I think most of them consider that to be the actor’s job, and disdain listening to the public themselves. I think if the ones calling the shots in Hollywood do hear about social issues regarding their movies, it’s probably  second hand/hearsay. (and the ones who do hear about it, just make excuses for their laziness.)

“You’ve just very bravely cast a white person in a role and people are being very critical of it. Here’s how to handle that backlash as poorly as possible.”

http://www.gq.com/story/the-whitewashing-playbook

I’ve noticed that the television creators are much more likely to interact with audiences at Cons, and on social media, than the film/casting directors, and money lenders of Hollywood. The creators of television are just much more intertwined with their audiences, and can know what their audiences think about their product, almost in real time.

For example, the creators of Arrow were on social media that first season, probably just gauging reactions to the show. But I noticed a marked change in the show from the beginning to the end of that first season. The show improved tremendously, and I think many of those improvements were based on the critiques they saw in social media. That’s how fast the creators were able to react to audience reactions. Unlike with movies, the creators for TV don’t have to wait until a show’s run is over before finding out what an audience thinks about it.

I’m not saying that television content creators don’t fuck up, (HBO we’re looking at you!) or that there isn’t an element of racism involved in Hollywood’s decision making process. Just that, in Hollywood, change takes a hell of a lot longer to be implemented because so many of these factors seem to work well enough together to delay progress. To the rest of us it just looks like a truculent inability to move forward.

From the Tumblr: 

Hollywood sticks to the script: Films aren’t more inclusive, despite a decade of advocacy 

The report “Inequality in 900 Popular Films,” released today, from Smith and the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC Annenberg, reveals how little top movies have changed when it comes to the on-screen prevalence and portrayal of females, underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, the LGBT community and individuals with disabilities.

“The deficits we see on screen are worse behind the camera,” said Smith. Out of the 1,006 directors hired on the 900 films studied, just 4.1% were females. Only 5.6% of the directors were Black or African American and 3% were Asian or Asian American. Three Black or African-American women and two Asian women worked as directors across the 900 movies. “When we look intersectionally at directors, that’s where we see just how exclusionary Hollywood is when it comes to the hiring process,” said Smith. “The image of a female director seems to be that of a White woman.”

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And riding on the point of that last essay, there’s this one,  in response to  another essay/rant that, basically, blames identity politics, and call-out- culture, for why certain TV shows fail.  Essentially, that person was trying to blame the fans of color for the failure of certain shows. Yeah, that’s not it!

This essay sure sounds like it’s making a lot of sense, but it’s predicated on a bunch of false presumptions.

I agree that hypercritical dogpiling call-out culture is bad. It makes fandom a toxic environment.

Here’s where I find fault in this argument:

Violent fandom backlash/hypercriticism/dogpiling does not actually get shows cancelled, nor does it discourage the creation of future diverse media.

Lord, sometimes I wish it got shows cancelled.

But in reality, when you run the numbers, angry scary fans have a negligible effect on the success or failure of a diverse show.

Shows with a ton of discourse are usually quite successful. Supernatural’s been embroiled in fandom backlash/outcry its entire run and I’ve lost count of how many seasons it has.

Okay but SPN’s not especially diverse, so let’s go to my next example. Speaking of shows I can’t believe are still on the air, Teen Wolf (a show with a non-white lead and numerous LGBT characters) is SIX MOTHERFUCKING SEASONS LONG and fans have been ranting and raving about how shitty and problematic it is since the beginning of season 3 (I myself was one of its loudest and most savage critics back in the day).

Sleepy Hollow was a diverse show that suffered a lot of fandom backlash prior to cancellation. I suppose one might argue that the cancellation was a result of the backlash.

But consider – Sleepy Hollow’s fridged it’s black female lead, Abbie Mills, at the end of its 2nd season, shortly after, The 100 fridged it’s wlw female lead’s primary love interest mid season 3.

There was a shitte tonne of *intense* fandom drama surrounding Lexa’s fridging in season 3 of The 100. Every vaguely liberal entertainment news outlet had something to say about “Hollywood’s dead lesbian problem.” A lot of wlw fans wrote scathing rants and swore off the show.

In comparison, fandom was downright quiet about Abby’s fridging. In fact, the very small handful of posts I read criticizing the writers of Sleepy Hollow made a point of also criticizing fandom’s white feminists for their ‘deafening silence’ with regard to Abbie’s death.

Consequently The 100 just got renewed for season 5. Meanwhile,  Sleepy Hollow is as dead as a doornail.

Seems to me that silence does a better job of killing shows than any amount of screaming and ranting.

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Here’s what actually causes diverse shows to fail:

1) Old white men in power.

@temporaldecay you want to talk revenue? Perhaps you’d be surprised to learn capitalism is not the be all/end all of a tv show/film’s success as people often assume.

For example, we know that movies with diverse casts are more lucrative, yet the industry continues to churn out all-white media. Why? Nepotism. White execs bring in white producers who find white directors to tell white stories and cast white actors.

They keep doing this, even though financially speaking, it’s self-sabotage.

Teen Titans was the most popular show on Cartoon Network when it was canceled because it appealed to an audience (of girls) that wasn’t the intended target audience (boys) and the marketing team didn’t like how this messed up their gendered merchandising strategy. You can read all the details [here]

Which brings me to the next item on the list:

2) Bad marketing (combined with the aforementioned institutionalized bigotry)

There’s a great essay called Shut The Fuck up Marvel that explains in detail the problematic economics of the comics industry – TL&DR, diverse comics are failing not because of fickle and hypercritical fans, but rather because Marvel’s entire marketing strategy is so flawed that fans don’t even find out about diverse comics until they’ve already been axed.

The same is true of a lot of diverse television.

Wonder Woman got hardly any marketing. I didn’t see trailers for the movie. It managed to go viral anyway through word of mouth, and through the inherent publicity of being the first big blockbuster superhero film revolving around a female lead, but it’s the exception that proves the rule.

Still Star-Crossed, a Shondaland period romance/drama based on pro-fanfiction for Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet was recently canceled due to low viewership. The show got next to no marketing. The few people who managed to hear about it from tumblr couldn’t even figure out when it was airing due to the network changing the time slot twice within the first 4 episodes.

Similarly, Sense8 season 2 was under-marketed, as was The Get Down. I must have seen about 8 million ads for that garbage suicide apologia show Netflix has been hawking.

Networks don’t want to market diverse shows. They assume diverse shows will magically sell themselves, and then blame fans when they don’t.

3) Appealing to too small of a niche – Novelty vs. Variety

Consider Agent Carter – this show catered to a niche within a niche within a niche – a period noir drama, that was also a science fiction. Lack of POC meant it had trouble attracting POC as audience members. Lack of LGBTQ rep (queerbaiting doesn’t count) meant it had trouble holding on to LGBTQ fans.

The only audience Agent Carter seemed to want to actively market itself to was ‘straight white feminist-identifying women who like retro noir sci-fi’ – that’s so specific. Too niche of an audience to attract the kind of audience a network like ABC expects for its prime time shows.

Compare that to How to Get Away With Murder – which has a little something for everyone. Ensemble cast, multiple sexual orientations, multiple cultural backgrounds and ethnicities, people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds – Shonda Rhimes knows how to cast a big net.

Or Brooklyn 99 – similar kinda deal.

Having a one member of a marginalized demographic in a lead role is a novelty. And novelty’s good for getting people to watch your pilot, but it wears off quickly. People come for novelty, but they stay for representation. I don’t mean representation as an abstract concept. I mean people continue watching a show when they find a character that they personally identify with and relate to. The more character variety, the greater the number of audience members who feel consistently well-represented.

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Discourse is not killing diversity.

This is a lie networks and showrunners tell fans to scare us into silence. They sabotage their own shows and then blame fans for being “too critical” or “too entitled.”

And we buy this bullshit. We buy it and we sell it to other fans. We write big long essays telling fellow fans to count their blessings and stfu.

Fuck that noise.

 

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This one is about how Blade began this whole superhero movie nonsense, that we all love so much. Yes, I blame Blade too. Frankly, even though I was a big Marvel Comic book reader, I had never even heard of this character before the movie was released, but I’m always gonna stan for that first movie, which still holds up very well to this day, and despite that Wesley Snipes is something of an asshole.

I personally consider Blade, and The Crow, to be two of the Blackest superhero movies of the 90s. (I will fight ‘chu!)

And that’s the real difference between Blade and the superhero franchises that have followed. Blade was never a big-name character in the first place. So there wasn’t a whole lot of retro-geek enthusiasm associated with the character. But more than that, Blade, the film, simply isn’t backwards-looking.

There’s none of the Greatest Generation boosterism that clings to the Captain America franchise, for example. Nor do we get from Blade the home front 50s stay-at-home mom-with-kids meme that pops up incongruously in Age of Ultron when we get to meet Hawkeye’s secret, perfect family.

Instead, Blade is deliberately, defiantly hip. Motherhood isn’t idealized; on the contrary, one of the queasier moments of the film involves Blade ruthlessly offing his feral, incestuously sexual, evil vampire mom. If there is nostalgia, it’s for blaxploitation’s up-to-the-minute cool.

The movie’s first grinding, sweaty, sex-and-blood drenched night club scene hasn’t dated at all. Nor has the Afrocentric incense store where Blade buys his formula fix, nor the black, brotherhood embrace between that store’s owner and the hero. There’s a notable lack of cell phones, of course, and the computer graphics prophesying the coming of the blood god look rather dated. But there’s little question that, as much as it’s able, the film is looking forward not back.

And part of the reason it’s looking forward, I think, is race. Blade—unlike most superhero films—is set in a meaningfully integrated world. That Afrocentric shop suggests, quietly but definitely, that Blade is part of a black community and that that community matters to him. One of his two crime-fighting companions Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright), is also black.

The diverse cast, and the acknowledgement of diverse communities, is part of why the film still feels and looks relevant. Here, after all, is a narrative that was fulfilling the call for more diverse superhero movies before superhero movies were even a thing.

But beyond that, Blade makes clear the extent to which nostalgia and whiteness are inextricably bound together in so much of the superhero genre. Retooling old, old pop-culture heroes[1] means, inevitably, dreaming about white saviors and about a time when white people were the only ones who were allowed to be heroes.

THE WHITE SUPERHERO FAD STARTED, CRAZY ENOUGH, WITH BLADE

[1]

A lot of us have talked a lot about how Blade started the current superhero domination in Hollywood and how current films forget that; and though it’s important to ask what kinds of behind-the-scenes decisions have caused that, I like this analysis about how Blade is fundamentally different from what we’re getting today and how that film is, in many ways, incompatible with today’s Ant-Men and Men of Steel.

 

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Another argument for why HBO’s new idea for a show, Confederate, (about an alternative world in which the South won the Civil War), is a truly bad idea:

blackfemalescientist

I’ve been thinking a lot about Confederate, the upcoming project by the creators of game of thrones. I’m not alone in actively hating the idea for this, but it took me a while to figure out why the idea for this show bothers me so much. Part of it is the current political climate, part of it is the idea being not nearly as new or interesting as the creators think it is (sci fi and fantasy is full of stories about chattel slavery in more modern/technologically advanced societies), and part of it is just me not trusting these two guys with this kind of story.

But what it really comes down to for me is this: even if I could buy that the south won the war, I do not buy that black people, in a majority black country, would be content to live in the only slave-holding society in the world for another 150 years. And the fact that the creators of this show can imagine that says a lot about how they feel about black people and their agency.

Like to put that idea in perspective, black people waged a successful national campaign to end jim crow in a majority white country and it didn’t take them 150 years. Haiti rebelled in 1804, and while we can talk current economic conditions (and how frace is primarily to blame for that), what you can’t say is that chattel slavery exists there now. Like what world are you living in where black people aren’t resourceful, smart or motivated enough to end chattel slavery 150 years after the entire world decided that maybe chattel slavery was doing too much.

The entire premise doesn’t work as alternative history because its not an alternate world, its a complete fantasy – a fantasy where black people are not only subjugated but incapable of taking steps to end that subjugation. And that leads to all the “who is this for” and “why would you do this” questions that smarter people than me have talked a lot about.

 

And here’s my man, Ta Nehisi Coates, laying it out, in his own very eloquent way, why the writers of Game of Thrones, and HBO, need to catch some hands:

HBO’s Confederate takes as its premise an ugly truth that black Americans are forced to live every day: What if the Confederacy wasn’t wholly defeated?

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/08/no-confederate/535512/

Of course, any time Black people hold discourse on a subject that directly affects our lives, you’ve got those white people crawling out from under the baseboards, to defend this wtf*ery, because for them Black life is  no more than an intellectual exercise, and we should  get over it, because it’s messing up their ability to be entertained by our misery.

 

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This is one of the most cogent arguments I’ve ever read against financial inequality. I also had no idea of the history of the game of Monopoly.

We played this game all the time in our house. My Mom was, naturally, the Banker, and we always played it Socialist style,  I guess, with everyone getting the same amount of money, and being treated the same, following the same rules. Of course she always won, up until we were teenagers, and started learning more about how to handle money,  like how to plan ahead, and how to delay gratification. 

Monopoly isn’t maybe the best way to learn about money, but it does teach you something about how financial systems work.

So let me get this straight, in Monopoly if you give one player more money to start out it’s “unfair” but if you do it in real life it’s “capitalism”?

 

You know what, I’m going to tell you guys a story.

In my Sociology class a few semesters ago, our prof had us break off into groups and, much to our naive joy, began distributing Monopoly boards! We had no idea what was going on but yay! Games! Of course, once our group, and a number of others, got the board we began to work at setting up and distributing the money…

until suddenly our prof told us to put the money down and pick up the dice.

“Roll the dice and sort yourselves from highest to lowest,” our teacher commanded.  “Now, the highest number is the upper class. The next one is upper middle class.  The next two or three are middle class. The last person is in poverty.“

Well, as the person who rolled a two this was startling and not wholly welcome news.

From that point the game changed entirely. We had to hand out the money so that the “upper class” had this fucking mountain, and then less for upper middle, even less for middle, and I didn’t get any triple digit bills. We would all collect different amounts from passing go as well.

The biggest change though? Going to jail. Upper class didn’t. Period. Upper middle class could go but they only had to stay for one turn or they could immediately pay their way out. Middle class had some pretty easy guidelines for when they could pay to get out. As lower class, it was really easy for me to wind up in jail and REALLY hard to get out. But since I was working with so little money when everyone else had so much I was in jail all the time because there was no “game over”.  If I couldn’t pay I had to go to jail for a certain period of time. I had to take out loans with interest I could never pay back just to get out only to wind up back in it again, rolling dice turn after turn hoping to be able to get out.

It was simultaneously the most enlightening and most awful game I had ever played. I was bored and frustrated and a little terrified about it all. And it wasn’t only me. I would never win, I sort of accepted this, but it was amazing how the middle classes reacted as well.  They were stressed. Because they were always that close to either being able to one-up the upper class or from crashing into poverty with me. They had to fight constantly just to stay in the middle.

(I should also mention that the upper class player in one group felt so bad for the lower income players that they ended up overhauling their entire game and creating a “socialist” society instead. I’m not sure how our teacher felt about that one.)

 

Worth stressing this is entirely in the spirit of the original designer’s aims for Monopoly.

Monopoly’s  original form of The Landlord Game which was explicitly designed to teach people about the unfairness of rent systems. To quote from the wikipedia entry, just as it’s the easiest source to hand…

Magie designed the game to be a “practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences”.[2]She based the game on the economic principles of Georgism, a system proposed byHenry George, with the object of demonstrating how rents enrich property owners and impoverish tenants. She knew that some people could find it hard to understand why this happened and what might be done about it, and she thought that if Georgist ideas were put into the concrete form of a game, they might be easier to demonstrate.

When the usual suspects start making “don’t bring politics into games” noises, I roll my eyes pretty hard. They have no idea of the history of the form.

 

 

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This final topic speaks to the idea of accurate Representation from a Historical perspective. One of my biggest pet peeves is the bigoted argument against diversity and inclusion, in Fantasy media, coupled with the erasure of PoC from  Historical narratives, and not just because such an argument is irrelevant to a discussion of Fantasy based world-building. 

As an amateur Historian, I’m sick and  tired of seeing the argument about Historical accuracy, from the mouths of lazy, sometimes bigoted, individuals, who have done no research, who have only ever gotten their ideas about what History was like, from various movies and TV shows, trying to uphold the pop culture status quo, by saying we don’t belong in Fantasy environments.

I have found that even the  most well intentioned people are deeply, deeply, ignorant of History, having gotten most of their ideas about it, from whitewashed movies, television shows, and History classes, in which the contributions (sometimes even the presence) of PoC  are erased. When you consider that the vast majority of the world is made up of PoC (Chinese, for example) and that those who are most definitely considered to be “White”  Europeans (whatever that may mean) made up only about 11% of the world’s population in 2010, and by 2060 are set to become less than 10% of the world’s population, I find it more than a little hinky that such  people would argue for Historical accuracy. 

And now we have the Alt-Right attempting to lay claim to this same argument  in an attempt to bolster their racist  beliefs that PoC contributed nothing to Historical narratives, and that all of the humanity’s  major contributions to Literature, Science, and Art, were only done by White men.

Part of the problem is that Historians need to make clear that PoC were History. We were everywhere, not just invented in certain eras, and trotted out when White men needed to conquer somebody. History is far more nuanced and complicated than most people know.

Medievalists, Recoiling From White Supremacy, Try to Diversify the Field

By J. Clara Chan

—-The criticisms of the conference’s diversity stems from problems in medieval studies for decades — that it is still too Eurocentric, male-dominated, and resistant to change. But as the medieval era has become increasingly prevalent in rhetoric used by white supremacists to advocate for a return to racial, ethnic, and religious purity, many nonwhite medievalists are feeling a new urgency to combat the stereotypes that accompany the field.

http://www.chronicle.com/article/Medievalists-Recoiling-From/240666/

 

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And on Historical Anti-Semitism in Art:

thegetty

Dialogue: Exposing the Rhetoric of Exclusion through Medieval Manuscripts

By Kristen Collins and Bryan Keene, originally published on the Getty Iris

We invite your thoughts on an exhibition-in-progress at the Getty that addresses the persistence of prejudice as seen through lingering stereotypes from the Middle Ages.

As curators in the Getty Museum’s department of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, we are interested in how books, and museum collections more broadly, can spark dialogues about inclusivity and diversity. Our manuscripts collection at the Getty consists primarily of objects from Western Europe, which can present challenges when trying to connect with a multicultural and increasingly international audience.

We are striving to make connections between the Middle Ages and the contemporary world—connections that may not be immediately evident, but are powerful nonetheless. Museums are inherently political organizations, in terms of the ways that collections are assembled, displayed, and interpreted. This year’s meeting of the Association of Art Museum Curators addressed how institutional narratives and implicit bias can skew ideas of history and culture in ways that exclude minorities and gloss over the shameful aspects of our past. Groups such as the Medievalists of Color, the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages, the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship, and the Society for the Study of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages, among others, are applying similar lines of inquiry, seeking to decolonize and diversify the field of medieval studies. We stand with these groups.

We were also inspired by Holland Cotter’s call to arms, as he exhorted museums to tell the truth about art, “about who made objects, and how they work in the world, and how they got to the museum, and what they mean, what values they advertise, good and bad. Go for truth (which, like the telling of history, is always changing), and connect art to life.”

Here is our description of the exhibition, still in draft form:

Medieval manuscripts preserve stories of romance, faith, and knowledge, but their luxurious illuminations can reveal more sinister narratives as well. Typically created for the privileged classes, such books nevertheless provide glimpses of the marginalized and powerless and reflect their tenuous places in society. Attitudes toward Jews and Muslims, the poor, those perceived as sexual or gender deviants, and the foreign peoples beyond European borders can be discerned through caricature and polemical imagery, as well as through marks of erasure and censorship.

As repositories of history and memory, museums reveal much about our shared past, but all too often the stories told from luxury art objects focus on the elite. Through case studies of objects in the Getty’s collection, this exhibition examines the “out groups” living within western Europe. Medieval society was far more diverse than is commonly understood, but diversity did not necessarily engender tolerance. Life contained significant obstacles for those who were not fully abled, wealthy, Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual, cisgendered males. For today’s viewer, the vivid images and pervasive narratives in illuminated manuscripts can serve as a stark reminder of the power of rhetoric and the danger of prejudice.

 

“If you don’t know you have a history, it can be hard to believe you have a future.” —-National Museum of Stockholm

James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” 

 

Tumblr Weekend Reading #210

I spend waaay too much time scrolling through Tumblr, but I just can’t help it. The things that come across my dash are a reflection of America in microcosm. Some of the most virulently anti-logic, and vapidly ignorant human beings, clashing with some of the smartest, articulate, and astute people on the internet. (There are people on the internet who are so dumb, it makes me wonder how they found the internet, and why whoever told them about it, didn’t receive a knock to the head, with a Lego block.)

But I digress. Some of the more recent interesting discussions are from Mikki Kendall, whose rebuke, to the Fireside Fiction Publishers and Readers, is about the lack of PoC being published in the Speculative Fiction Genre. This is her response to their response:

http://firesidefiction.com/a-note-from-the-editor-of-the-blackspecfic-responses

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Okay, I still don’t think people are realizing just how incredibly groundbreaking this is, not just for television, but for SciFi, in general. You have two…count ’em two, WoC, who are headlining a Science Fiction show, with one of them as the Captain of a Starship (White women had Janeway), and the other is the show’s lead character. The last time a Woc played a prominent character on a Star Trek show, (Voyager), was  B’elanna Torres, played by Roxanne Dawson who is Hispanic. The last time a Black woman played a prominent Star Trek character was Nichelle Nichols. (I don’t count Whoopi Goldberg because she was only a (semi)-recurring character, not a regular.)

This is very possibly one of the most diverse Star Trek casts ever assembled! And we just learned that the Medical Officer, for the ship Discovery, is Wilson Cruz who is from Puerto Rico. (I totally stan for Latinoooos in Spaaaaace!)

I’m also gratified to see Asians included in the cast, because outside of Sulu,  that’s also rare, although DS9 was very inclusive, too. Shazad Latif is from London and is English and Pakistani. Michelle Yeoh is of Malaysian descent. (Wooo! I’m excited for you guys, too!)

And let’s not forget:

Star Trek: Discovery’ Will Actually Have an Openly Gay Character

https://www.inverse.com/article/34758-star-trek-discovery-gay-beyond-anthony-rapp-stamets

 

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📷: Matthias Clamer for EW📷: Matthias Clamer for EW📷: Matthias Clamer for EW

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And all these images tie back to the idea of representation, most especially for little girls, as stated by 

You know what? I really wish people were as hyped about Sonequa Martin-Green being the first Black woman to lead in a Star Trek series as they are about the D*ctor Wh* casting. But then again, most feminists don’t care about non-White women so it’s to be expected that most of you guys don’t care about the fact that she’s making history too. And when you factor in Michelle Yeoh, you get it doubly so. Last time I checked, this is a pretty big deal for the sci-fi genre too.

What’s strange, to me, is people thinking that the D*ctor Wh* casting gives hope to all little girls when we know that’s not true. This issue is just so very layered and complex, but there is something particularly troubling about the fact that people think a White woman should be the symbol all little girls should look up to, regardless of their race. It’s so very arrogant to believe that little non-White girls will be represented by this woman that looks nothing like them. It’s very arrogant to think that little non-White girls should look up to the new Doctor as their new hero, especially knowing this casting is only a win for White women and White women only.

*Don’t get me wrong, Woc aren’t unhappy about Wonder Woman, or the new Doctor Who, but White women need to recognize that they are not universal. They don’t represent us or our view of hte world, and need to quit acting like they are. One ofhte biggest divides between White women, and Woc, is their complete disregard for the things that affect WoC.

Little girls of color may like and admire these characters, but they’re not going to look to them as role models. I know I didn’t when I was little. There were White actresses and characters I cared about and admired, like Linda Carter, and Ellen Ripley, but I didnt look to be like them. I did not use them as examples for how to live in the world as a woman, and certainly wasn’t looking to those women to teach me how to be a Black woman, even if I did like them. My role models were the handful of Black women, (and non-Black WoC), who made it into TV shows and movies, like Nichelle Nichols, Diane Carrol, Pam Grier, and yes, even Michelle Yeoh.

I plan on watching the new Doctor because I’m curious, I like the actress, (who  starred in Attack the Block, with John Boyega), and I liked Missy on the show this season. I’m not enthused about  the Wonder Woman movie, but I plan to watch it, at some point, and I’m looking forawrd to watching the Justice League.

Bt I’m a Black woman, and I wish White women would keep in mind that those women are not our idols, nor are they idols for other WoC. Even if we really like, and admire them, they don’t do anything to further our representation, but Sonequa, Michelle, Danai, and others  do. 

 

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In the new Star trek show we’ve heard that Sonequa’s character, Michael Burnham is Spock’s adopted sister. Now the timeline, assuming she and Spock are near the same age at ten years before the Enterprise, would mean that the two of them grew up together, and she lived with his family. She could also be a relative of Amanda’s as well, which is how she came to live with Sarek’s family.

 Now this has messed with a lot of people’s heads, because they claim that it messes with canon, which I can understand why someone would say that, but there’s a very good rebuttal I’ve seen to that argument, and that rebuttal is Spock himself, who was prone to dropping bombshells about his family’s  status, when given half an opportunity::

Adding to canon is not the same thing as

destroying canon

From the mind of : tomfooleryprime

At San Diego Comic Con, we learned that Sonequa Martin-Green’s character, Michael Burnham, is Sarek’s adoptive daughter. The second I heard the news, all I could think was, “Let the hate begin.” And boy, did it ever.

I understand the disappointment, particularly with fan fic writers who invested a lot of time and effort into crafting stories that fit neatly into canon. Amazing how one sound bite can bulldoze right through decades of widely accepted fanon, huh?

Let’s be real, those little behind the scenes moments are almost the entire point of fan fiction: some of us like something so much, we like to imagine all the things the writers didn’t tell us, but now Michael Burnham has come along like a square peg in a round hole, rendering countless stories AU that previously adhered perfectly to canon. Some of mine included.

But fanon isn’t canon. One might say, “How come we’re just hearing about this now?” Surely Spock would have mentioned having an adoptive sister? But would he? Would he though?

No one had any idea he was engaged to T’Pring until the Enterprise showed up to Vulcan on Spock’s impromptu wedding day in the TOS episode, “Amok Time.” What was it he said when Lieutenant Uhura asked who the lovely woman on the viewscreen was?

If you watch closely enough and get creative with your interpretation, I swear Christine Chapel mouths the word, “bullshit.”

And no one knew that Spock had a strained relationship with his father until that time dear old Sarek hopped on Enterprise for the Coridan admission debate in the TOS episode, “Journey to Babel.” Kirk urged Spock to go down to the planet and visit his family before they left orbit, and what was Spock’s reply?

I can’t think of a better example of where Spock made Kirk look like a total asshole.

And then there’s the fact that Kirk had known Spock for decadesbefore finding out he had a half-brother named Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

You would think Kirk would be used to Spock family bombshells by now.

So if anything, the idea that Spock had a secret adoptive sister actually feels more in keeping with canon than going against it. Given the weight of the evidence, I wouldn’t be all that shocked to discover he had three step mothers and a whole nest of secret love children drifting around out there.

The other thing is, as viewers, we tend to get into the habit of thinking that if a character doesn’t specifically address something on screen in front of other characters, other characters are in the dark along with the viewers. Like if a character didn’t explicitly announce some detail about their personal life to the world, not only did it never happen, it never could have happened. And that’s just silly. Think about this: Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew spent five years together on that mission, and we only got to view a little less than 66 hours of it. So imagine all the conversations in the mess hall we as viewers missed out on. Not only that, many of those details would be fairly trivial anyway.

Going back and adding to canon is not the same thing as destroying canon. Star Trek, particularly The Original Series, was always more focused on exploring the galaxy and meeting new civilizations – its primary purpose wasn’t to flesh out complicated life stories for each of the main characters. When you think about it, there’s so much we don’t know about Sarek, Amanda, or Spock’s upbringing. Almost everything we do know about this family comes from two episodes – “Journey to Babel” in The Original Series and “Yesteryear” in The Animated Series.

I think because we spent more than five decades without any concrete ideas of how Sarek and Amanda met, what Spock’s formative years were really like, or how their family dynamics worked, we just filled in the blanks for ourselves. But fifty years is a long time for the lines between canon and fanon to start getting blurred.

So I’m actually tickled pink at the thought that Spock had an adoptive sister, not furious that they’re corrupting more than fifty years of canon. It would be tampering with canon to claim that Starship Troopers is actually some kind of prequel to Kirk and the starship EnterpriseThat would be destroying canon, but writing in a sister for Spock where one previously didn’t exist isn’t quite the same thing.

Would you like to know more?

The writers of the show are just doing what we as fan fic writers do all the time – filling in the gaps. You’re definitely allowed to feel however you want to feel about it. And I do understand a lot of the dismay and shock. It really sucks to pour your heart and soul into something, polishing it for months or even years until it’s perfect, and then have Michael Burnham thrown into the mix and it almost feels like a bad Photoshop job over your favorite family portrait, ruining your origins fics for Sarek/Amanda or Spuhura or Spirk or Spones or Spotty? (Is that actually what the Spock/Scotty ship is called?). It’s perfectly acceptable to say that Michael Burnham’s existence has ruined your perception of canon, but I don’t think it should be confused with ruining actual canon.

During the Comic Con panel, producer Alex Kurtzman insisted they have a good canon explanation for why Spock never mentions Michael. He was quoted as saying, “We’re aware [of the situation]. You’ll see where it’s going, but we are staying consistent with canon.” So I’m inclined to keep an open mind and see where they take it before dismissing it outright for being “too ludicrous.” Weirder things have actually happened within the Trek universe, so try not to let this revelation get you down.

 

And from  alightinside

Considering the fact that Spock’s family has to be literally in the same room as him before he even mentions they existent, having adopted sibs he just never talked about is the most canon compliant thing they could have possibly added.

 

*I might also add that Buffy the Vampire Slayer managed to throw in a sister for Buffy, that destroyed four years of watching the show, until it was carefully explained to the viewers why she was there. We haven’t seen Discovery yet, so we don’t have any explanation for why Michael is Spock’s adopted sister, but the creators say there’s a perfectly good explanation for it, and one of those creators is Bryan Fuller, who never puts anything that big into any of his shows by accident. 

 

**

 

And While we’re here,  there’s been some discussion of the marked lack of excitement towards the new Star Trek, from  White feminists, who claim to be progressive, and want diversity. There’s been more excitement from them about the new Dr. Who , then there has been about the groundbreaking diversity on Discovery, with a Black female lead, and an Asian Captain. 

As I said before, I don’t have a problem with White women being excited about stuff that affects them. I’m happy they’re happy. I don’t even have a problem with them being more excited about Dr. Who then about Star Trek, but what  I do object to, is their insistence that white female characters, in leading science fiction roles, are somehow groundbreaking, and role models for little girls all over the world. 

I need them to keep some perspective, in their excitement,  and that perspective is that white women’s stories are not universal, and they are not often role models for little girls of color.

From the mind of  abigailmills: 

You know what? I really wish people were as hyped about Sonequa Martin-Green being the first Black woman to lead in a Star Trek series as they are about the D*ctor Wh* casting. But then again, most feminists don’t care about non-White women so it’s to be expected that most of you guys don’t care about the fact that she’s making history too. And when you factor in Michelle Yeoh, you get it doubly so. Last time I checked, this is a pretty big deal for the sci-fi genre too.

What’s strange, to me, is people thinking that the D*ctor Wh* casting gives hope to all little girls when we know that’s not true. This issue is just so very layered and complex, but there is something particularly troubling about the fact that people think a White woman should be the symbol all little girls should look up to, regardless of their race. It’s so very arrogant to believe that little non-White girls will be represented by this woman that looks nothing like them. It’s very arrogant to think that little non-White girls should look up to the new Doctor as their new hero, especially knowing this casting is only a win for White women and White women only.

 

And my response: lkeke35

I have noticed the chirping silence coming from that particular contingent!

I think that’s one of the biggest divides between White feminists and women of color, is White women’s complete and utter disregard for the fact that WoC  see the world differently than them. They really do think we’re supposed to look up to them as role models. That they are universal.

When I was a little girl, there was precous little diversity on TV, but what diversity there was, I gravitated to. As a young Black woman I never chose White women as my role models, even if I admired a few of them , like Linda Carter as Wonder Woman, or Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley.

I modeled who I wanted to be after women like Eartha Kiit,  Nichelle Nichols, Diane Carroll, and Pam Grier. They were smart, tough, beautiful, graceful women. And yes, I was a Michelle Yeoh fan, and I loved her because she was all those things I just listed (and she still is).

Its not that I didn’t like and admire White actresses. I did. But I also knew, on some level, that no matter how admirably I (or they) behaved,  that as a Black woman, I wasn’t ever going to be accorded the status of a White woman, so I did not use them as  my role models. I didn’t try to be like any of them, and didn’t want to be like them. (This was a lesson I learned very, very early.)

I think its an incredible era we are living in, that my 12 year old niece is growing up with so many role models to choose from, in Pop Culture. I’m going to watch Star Trek Discovery with her and explain the significance to her. I’m going to watch The Walking Dead, and talk about how important Michonne is, and I’m going to take her to see The Black Panther with its gorgeous, and badass women, and yeah, I’m going to go see Proud Mary with her (and my Mom), and we’re all gonna geek out about it afterwards.

I wish White women cared enough to care about, and talk about, WoC in Pop culture, (and think of us as women too) but I don’t need White women’s validation to find and love those characters.

 

And from diversehighfantasy

Nicely said.

I’m also really bothered by the relatively subdued positive reaction to Sonequa leading the new Trek vs Doctor Who. I realized how little it mattered even to white women who are into sci-fi and fantasy when that gifset was going around celebrating all these recent genre leading women (The Doctor, Wonder Woman, Rey etc) all white or perceived as white, and when people started asking where were the Black women/WOC, they added May from Agents of Shield. That’s how off the radar Sonequa leading the new Star Trek (STAR TREK!!) is even for a lot of fandom people.

Now I’m wondering if people on Tumblr even talked about it much outside the Walking Dead fandom. (I know a bunch of people on Twitter acted like ass about “forced diversity,” I mean Tumblr fandom people).

Anyway. Yeah, the difference is very noticeable. I mean, I get the big deal about Jodie, The Doctor has specifically always been a man while Sonequa is playing a new character, and, I guess, to white feminists the barrier was already broken by Janeway. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that if a white woman was leading ST Discovery, we’d be seeing Star Trek/Doctor Who edits everywhere.

 

**

Interlude:

Image result for furious knitting gif

 Just like you shouldn’t drive while angry, you should never knit while you’re mad! That’s just wrong.

**

 

Okay Here’s something I’d never given any thought to, as an able -minded Black woman. I don’t suffer from mental illness (now), although I’ve had bouts of it in the past, and I’ve never been on Schizoid-Spectrum. But what do you do when you are Black and suffer from many of the symptoms of schizophrenia, and some of the things you actually believe are true, but will forever be invalidated by the White people around you. The very White people who refuse to acknowledge the existence of the racism that makes some of your beliefs true.

I’m still going to urge any of my PoC readers to look for therapists who are also PoC, if at all possible,  as there are some  unique issues, when you are a person of color on the spectrum, or suffering from mental illness. This is not because White people are incompetent but because they are not aware of the many issues surrounding your circumstances, if you’re a PoC.

Their reluctance to address the existence of racism, in the day to day lives of their patients, and to accommodate for the stress of that, as well as the stress of mental illness, and the different dynamics that exist in communities of color regarding such illnesses, will end up ultimately being of no help to you.

 

From Tumblr User Questingqueer:

questingqueer

I was sitting in the group room at my intensive outpatient program. I had just finished recounting an incident where I believed a security officer had been following me, but the person with me at the time had disagreed and said we weren’t being followed.

The head psychologist said “Your goal this week should be letting in alternative theories to your paranoia. It isn’t likely anyone is following you.” I said “What do you mean? How can I trust someone else’s perspective over my own, especially when that someone is white?” Another person spoke up, suggested increasing my anti-psychotics.

I looked around the room at the other patients and the professionals in group with me. I was the only Black person there.

I’m mentally ill, and sometimes I’m paranoid, and sometimes I’m delusional.

I’m Black, and I’m more likely to be followed around by security, or have negative interactions with the police. The racism in this world is real, and it can affect me.

I’m mentally ill, and sometimes I have persecutory delusions, and there wasn’t any drugs in my orange juice or bugs living in my arms even though I was convinced there were.

I’m Black, and I’m mentally ill. And that intersection has never been acknowledged online or in therapy. That intersection makes us more vulnerable to abuse, domestic violence, and police brutality. 

Black schizo-spec people face challenges that others don’t. We are more likely to be be labeled as dangerous and violent and be disbelieved when we share about how racism has impacted our lives, among many other things. That makes it harder for me to trust others- not to mention that difficulty trusting others is a symptom.

Was I being followed that day? I wish I had an answer, but I don’t know. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. But that isn’t the point.

A simple search will tell you that schizophrenia is more readily diagnosed in Black patients than in white (source), and some say it is overdiagnosed.

But where are the positivity posts for Black people with stigmatizing disorders?

Where is the positivity for the Black schizo-spec people trying to figure out what level of fear and suspicion towards the police is reasonable and what is a symptom? Where is the positivity for Black schizo-spec people who have everything blamed on their diagnosis while their other mental health problems get ignored? Where’s the positivity for Black schizo-spec people who distrust the medical professionals they deal with, who have ugly symptoms, who are pigeonholed as dangerous?

We have died because we are Black and schizo-spec. Remember those of us who have been murdered or attacked.

And? Don’t forget to include us in your activism while we are living. 

**

 

In Canada, Target seems to have the same rep as Walmart does in America.

TARGET STORE GOTHIC:

strongermonster

it’s so weird hearing americans talk about Target© as some kind of semi-religious holy space of reasonably priced goods and services, bc in it’s short, fever-dream existence up here in the frozen north it was… Not Good.

in my experience with the three (3) i went to in the surrounding area it was. uh. you know when you step into a place and there’s nothing immediately noticeably wrong but you can just Feel that this is a Bad Space? like the kind of space where if you catch a glimpse of your mother walking down an aisle and turning a corner you know it’s a demonic trick and if you follow her it’ll lead you down a path to a dark space you can’t return from?

or you go in with your friend who’s right next to you but you get a text from them saying “hey i’m in the shoe aisle, you should come here” and you know it’s a trap from the devil? like other things:

  • only half of the dim, washed out, often flickering fluorescent lights were lit at any given time, usually only every-other set, leaving these valleys of darkness that made entire aisles inaccessible for fear of shadow people latching on to your soul like a dark passenger.
  • entire sections were just Empty. empty shelves with no product, never any employees filling them up, no boxes waiting to be unpacked, no signs saying what should be there.
  • no employees at all actually? wandering around the store even though the parking lots were full and you walked in with a group of 20 or so felt so lonely. you could walk the whole place and it was dead silent and the only other “people” around always were several aisles away with their back turned, unmoving. there was always only one cashier and there was never anyone in her line.
  • there was never any music on or announcements played? another place that does this are all the dollar trees in my area and it gives me anxiety. i feel like i’m being hunted, like i have to hold my breath and listen for the footsteps of beasts in other aisles.
  • the fitting rooms had a strange, dark energy to them. it felt like if you ever used them, whatever universe you closed the door on would not be the same one you stepped out into when you were done. the washrooms also contained this same dark energy.
  • passing the employees-only doors felt like wandering too close to a bears den. the glass windows never showed anything going on back there, no racks of product, no employees milling around. it was just pitch black, complete darkness. a hungry void.
  • leaving a target was the same disorienting feeling as leaving a dark theatre and exiting into the light. sound and colour and feeling rush back in. you feel like you can breathe again. a weight is lifted from your shoulders. you can’t remember any of the time you spent inside the target.

it is my sincere belief that the targets in canada never existed. the storefronts were put up, yes, but the stores themselves were vast empty caverns filled with dark dreams and sinister interlopers. passing through the automatic doors was meant to teleport us to the nearest american location, but something went wrong and we entered an unnatural zone halfway between the upside down and whatever it was that happened in the langoliers.

i believe the balls outside target are carefully crafted and powerfully attuned magical artifacts that keep up the illusion known as Target©, but were incorrectly spaced in canada due to a mixup between the metric and imperial systems of measurement, and that is why the brief twilight zone episode that was canadian target collapsed virtually overnight.

 

Source: strongermonster
**
From the Tumblr:  writingwithcolor
This is a nice, long essay on the trope of the color black representing evil, and the color white representing goodness:

Black and White Symbolism: A Look into the Trope

We’ve noticed a volume of questions on the topic of Black and White symbolism in works. Light and white symbolizes good and pure. Dark and black is bad and evil. It’s an age-old trope deeply engraved throughout Western society, language, and cultures.

She’s having a “black day.”  He’s the “Black sheep” in the family. The evils of “Black magic.”  They’re “Black as one is painted.”

On the other hand…

They told an innocent “white lie.” He’s “whiter than white.” Good ole “White-collar” jobs.

These were just a few phrases found in the dictionary. The most frequently used dictionaries were written by racist old white men, so most of the language has been shaped by them.

If you flip further back you find entries like these:

imageNow, this guide comes from a western particularly American lens of the view of Black and White and its connotations. We recognize that B&W color symbolism and meaning varies across cultures.

However, western society imports its racist views across the globe, strengthening the Black as Evil and Good as White association within its “conquest” of mass media.

The Trope Incorporated into our Media

This trope is so normalized in Western culture that it is often unconsciously used and incorporated throughout many aspects of culture. It can easily be found in media, such as our TV-series, movies and literature:

  • The black, darkly-dressed or featured characters are often the villains or antagonists,
  • The white or light-featured characters are often the heroes, dispelling the world of the dark Others.

Also note that usually when good guys wear black, they’re more anti-heroes than full-heroes.

image

Tolkien really let himself go with this trope in Lord of the Rings and has the pure white race of elves be ethereal, wise, super good and natural *angelic singing*. Then there’s the orcs on the other side who are barbaric, unintelligent, violent and disgustingly ugly. Their language is black speech by the way.

“The Black Speech, also known as the Dark Tongue of Mordor, was the official language of Mordor. Sauron created the Black Speech to be the unifying language of all the servants of Mordor, used along with different varieties of Orkish and other languages used by his servants.”

“It is notable that the letter “e” is totally absent from the Black Speech. It was omitted on purpose for being a favourite letter of the Elves, and for forming a smile when uttering it.”

“In real life, J. R. R. Tolkien created this language with the intention of making it harsh and ugly…” then later on in the same piece is written: “…the forces of good refuse to utter it.” and “Tolkien designed it to be unpleasant in his own mind…”

With these quotes you can see the link between calling it “Black speech” and the unpleasant, evil and anti-social aspects of the named. Quotes are taken from here.

Many epic fantasy writers mimic Tolkien in his use of fantasy races and themes and such, so they unconsciously also mimic this trope.

Game of Thrones also plays with the good vs evil but switches up the color code with the Kingsguard wearing white and the Night’s Watch wearing black. This posts speaks of the symbolism pertaining to the white cloaks of the Kingsguard.

Attracted to gray characters instead of orcs and angels, Martin regards the hero as the villain on the other side. The Wall’s Night’s Watch, whom Martin described as “criminal scum [who] are also heroes and they wear black”, was a deliberate twist on fantasy stereotypes. Furthermore, the use of black as the identifying colour for the essentially good Night’s Watch and the use of white for the much corrupted Kingsguard is another example of Martin subverting traditional fantasy which tends to link light colours with good and darker ones with evil. From here.

Then there’s Disney that’s notorious for their ingrained racism

This is easily seen in their visuals when portraying villains. When you look at the heroes vs villains, the villains are often portrayed as darker, more “ethnic” (see: Mother Gothel, Jafar) and sometimes queer-coded (like Ratcliff and Dr. Facilier).

Another example: the shadowy,dark huns in Disney’s Mulan. They have greyish, dark skin with strange eye coloring, and they all look the same.

imageOn the left: a hun as portrayed by Disney in Mulan. 

Furthermore, Disney typically depicts baddies as “less beautiful” with some exceptions of very beautiful and vain evil ladies (they have a trope with two types of beauty where one is pure and wholesome while the other is vain and egocentric. The second is also usually an older individual).

The Oz film was pretty visual, colorful, and magical until the evil witch and her black monkey minions come and then everything is dark suddenly. Oh, but there’s the “good” monkey, depicted in bright and lighter coloring.

image

Angels and Demons

There is also the trend where angels are always white and demons black/dark in fantasy. This doesn’t have to be and is a biased way to depict them, at least from a non-religious point of view, and as far as I know I never found a mention of white wings if wings at all when angels were mentioned. Exceptions go to the angels in higher orders, but still no white mentioned. Fallen angels suddenly have black wings, when they still have them.

The Harms of the Trope

Why is the B/W – Good vs Evil- trope harmful? Well, look at how the colors are associated. Dark as bad, evil. White as good, pure. But then you group a whole people as Dark + “Black” and the other as Light and “White” and you’ve set these people in opposition of each other.

There are Black people in the world. There are white people in the world. “Black” as a word is literally viewed as synonymous with darkness and evil. “White” is literally viewed as synonymous with goodness and purity. There’s an intentional pattern here.

Malcolm X’s discussion regarding how Black is used to describe a people adds clarify to this.

Read about it here.

Martin Luther King Jr. also discussed the association of Black to Evil and White to Good.

Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything Black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word Black. It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word White, it’s always something pure, high and clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight.

I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: ‘Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful!

Check out the clip from this speechhere.

Another notable example of the result of these engraved associations and aversion to Blackness is how racist fans reacted to the Rue character from the Hunger Games being (rightfully) portrayed as a Black girl in the movies.

A lot of these reactions can be found online. Like this one.

image

The trope is deeply ingrained into people’s minds and reinforced by the media that combined with systematic racism Black people and even Black children cannot be seen as pure and innocent. These traits incorporated in the Black and White Symbolism is enforced on Black people (and white people to some extent). The symbolism has been influenced further with racism and that is why it can be harmful.

What to do with the trope

Now, we don’t believe people should stop using Black and white in relation to people; running away from the word, even given its history, would only reinforce Black as a badge of shame when that’s simply a lie. We think the better solution is to built up a new dictionary. To stop using black to mean all things sinister and evil and white as all things blameless and good.

Black & White in our Writing

While it’d be difficult to deconstruct these associations overnight, it’s definitely not impossible to be more conscious of how one might be perpetuating the B&W trope within their works.

Pay attention to your writing and the color symbolism there.

  1. Where do you find Black & White imagery? How is it being used?
  2. Are you using shadows and night skies to foreshadow bad things to come?
  3. Morning light and white gowns to symbolize purity and hopefulness?

Now even these aren’t inherent pitfalls.

The following are some ways to make sure of that:

Defy the Trope

I was watching the first season of Sleepy Hollow, when there was an episode with a playful little girl running in the forest in a white dress. A little Black girl. While I don’t recall if she were meant to symbolize good or evil so neatly, but simply featuring this young child in white, both common emblems of “innocence” felt like a deviation from the typical white or pale girl to play such a part.

Even when using typically good and white symbolism, including Black and brown people to take part in these roles is a better option that shunning them out of such roles and thus the associated symbolism. How many dark-skinned angels do you see in media? How often are characters of color associated with beings that typically represent purity and goodness?

It’s like with heroes and villains. It’s more preferable to have a diverse mix of characters who play positive roles as opposed to making all your Characters of Color villains or antagonists.

Another example of deviating from the trope can be found with George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series as mentioned further up this post.

Subvert the Trope

Suppose Black represented good. Suppose Black represented life, innocence, and good things to come.

Now suppose White symbolized evil. Suppose White represented death, immorality and ominous things on the horizon.

Subverting the B&W trope is another way to handle it in your writing. If your story is one based on a non-western or even fantasy culture, it’d be easier to sell the idea that this is simply a world that doesn’t treat Black as evil but of neutral or good (and here’s how & why). Attempting to pass this off in a more westernized culture might get confusion or skepticism from readers, though.

One idea is to subtly apply the symbolism. Death always or often occurs under bright, white lighting or sky. The dark, black forest protects the character who is being pursued by evil. A Black cat brings hope and good news.

And before you say this is enforcing “reverse racism!” Nah. Just like if you felt like having all white villains, there is no engraved association with whiteness that exists today that could actually reverse society’s overarching association of white to good and black to bad.

Not All Evil

Say you do have some negative imagery in connection to darkness. First, evaluate how heavily you’re enforcing Black as bad and consider if a change would be good.

You could also avoid reinforcing the message of dark as only/always evil if you were to balance out your associations of darkness by also including positive or neutral connections to darkness.

New B&W Meanings

Black & White don’t have to mean good or evil at all, as in not the case in every society anyhow. There are other associations with the colors you could emphasize in your writing. Take some of these examples below:

Black Associated Meanings:

  • Beautiful
  • Bold
  • Calmness/Comfort
  • Elegant
  • Health/Fertility
  • Heat/Warmth
  • Hidden
  • Life
  • Magical*
  • Mysterious
  • Protection
  • Seduction
  • Strength/Power*
  • Wealth
  • Wholeness

*Additional Notes:

  • Avoid strong = Black people tropes
  • The term “Black magic” is rooted in racism. Read about this and for alternatives to “Black magic” here.
  • See here for more associations with Black

White Associated Meanings:

  • Cold
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Distance/aloofness
  • Emptiness/Absence
  • Fairness/Balance
  • Isolation
  • Opportunity
  • Order
  • Organized
  • Peace/Calm
  • Plain
  • Protection
  • Sterile

Additional Notes:

  • The point with the White list is to provide more symbolism besides the typical good – pure – innocent therefore some of the images are less neutral and positive than that of the Black list.
  • See here for more associations with white.

Construct New Images

  • Black & White aren’t the only colors that can oppose each other.
  • What about contrasting colors? Primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors? Earthy colors/oceanic colors?
  • You could even use bright and dimness as a means of symbolism, as discussed in this post.

There’s so much more you can do with the Black vs. White trope. Getting away from the Black/Evil – White/Good overarching symbolism can add something fresh to your writing.

We hope this inspires you to at least be more conscious of the color symbolism in your writing. More discussion on Black & White can be found in our color symbolism tag!

–Mods Colette and Alice

10 Worst 80’s Videos

There were a lot of really dumb videos in the 80s, and I watched plenty of them. There wasn’t a whole lot else to do on hose long nights of babysitting because there wasn’t any internet. There was however plenty of cable, and MTV

1. Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Of all the dumb videos released in that era, this is one of the absolute dumbest. Our opinions may vary on which video should be in the number one slot but I think we can all agree, that this particular one is deeply stupid, with images completely unrelated to the song, horrible acting and lip syncing, and even the song sucked. I think Safety Dance qualifies on all criteria  of stupid.

 

2. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco

The song is stupid, but at least kind of fun. The video is equally asinine, but also kind of fun. This makes number two, on the list, because this artist was a total one hit wonder and I kinda like the remixes. I never saw, or heard from this singer again, after this song completely took over the airwaves for one whole-ass Summer.

3. Rock Me Tonight – Billy Squier

Oh, boy! This video is bad, bad, bad. I mean laughably bad. You may not be able to sit through this, because I had to stop and catch my breath, about halfway through it. I’ve never been a Billy Squier fan, but this song isnt really all that bad, nevertheless, I’m glad I didn’t have to subject myself to this video beyond the first time I saw it, and this week. I make these big, mental, sacrifices, so I can bring you the quality entertainment, y’all are asking for…

 

4. 99 Luft Balloons – Nena

I just realized this heading looks like “Luft balloons for 4.99”, which  makes just about as much sense as this song. But at least balloons are in the video, I guess. No, it makes no sense,and is basically a bad concert video. Its also  possible it’s some type of German thing that doesn’t translate well to English, so it kinda gets a pass, but not too much, because I still hate it. I know it must be puzzling to millennials, the types of videos and songs, we were willing to sit through, in the 80s.

 

5. All Cried Out – Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam

I am one of those people who’s a sucker for a sad song, and the reason this is so far down on this list is because I actually like this one. The reason it’s on the list  is because the video is just as trite and maudlin as you could imagine, with all of the emotions carefully displayed for the viewer. I think the only thing the director left out was the singer pointing at the viewer, and then herself.

 

6. Wild Boys – Duran Duran

I am total trash for this Duran Duran, (and The Police), and I liked some of the other videos they made, like Rio, and Hungry Like the Wolf, but this one is both ugly and stupid. The song is alright, but whoever made this video needed to stop watching those Mad Max movies. Now that I think about it, every post-apocalyptic anything after Mad Max, was basically riffing off that movie.

 

7.Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

You may remember this as Dean Winchester’s favorite song, the one we saw him lip syncing to, at the end of the episode Yellow Fever. That particular scene is about a million times better than this video. I actually like this song, and love to sing it in my car especially, but  I just can’t, with this video.

 

 

8. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

I got no problem with the song, but this video is both creepy and stupid, and  is the fulfillment of every 80s music video (and movie) cliche ever invented. Creepy singing kids ? Check! Wind blowing everything? Check! Gauzy nightgowns?Check!  Running through the dark  in a gauzy, windblown, nightgown? Check! Whatever you do, do not listen to this song first thing in the morning, because it’s totally extra.

 

9. Come on Eileen  – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

This song was recently featured in an episode of Preacher, where both Tulip and Cassidy both admitedt that this song is deeply stupid. They are not wrong. I actually like the song, but this makes the list, because yeah, the song is stupid, and I hate the band name, and there is waay too much use of overalls in this video.

 

10. Cherry Pie – Warrant

Oh boy! I hate everything about this song, the video, the band, the lyrics…all of it. It’s a nasty, dumb video, and song, made by nasty, dumb men.

 

New TV Trailers (Fall 2017)

So Pilot reviewing season is here in a month, and its time for me to nimble up my fingers, as I type furiously to keep up with all the new genre shows coming this Fall. Some of them will not be watched, some of them won’t even get reviews. As we get closer to September, I’ll eventually whittle it down to the handful of pilots I’ll be reviewing, along with my regular reviews of returning shows, like Supernatural. 

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Midnight Texas

Tonight on July 24th Midnight Texas will be airing on NBC. It’s a show based on the Charlaine Harris trilogy of the same name and involves Supernatural creatures all living in some podunk town in the middle of nowhere Texas, who need to protect themselves from outside discovery. I’m looking forward to watching this.

 

 

Mr. Mercedes

This is coming to the DirecTV Network, called Audience, this fall. Some of you may not have access to this network, so I’ll watch the pilot and review the first episode, for when it eventually makes it to DVD. This is based on a Mystery trilogy by Stephen King, about a former detective who gets called back into action after a serial killer starts sending him taunting letters.  I don’t normally watch cop shows, but this is Stephen King. Yes, it does look a lot like the show Bates Motel, which I only partially watched, but I like Brendan Gleason, and feel like he’s a good choice for this character. In the novel, he has a Black teenage neighbor who helps him navigate technological stuff , and a neurodivergent  female assistant, that I hope gets cast for true. You do not need to have read the books to follow the show, but they are very good books, with a minimum of gore, and only the slightest touch of the supernatural, if that has you worried.

 

 

Star Trek Discovery

Okay here’s, the extended trailer for the new Star Trek Discovery. Remember guys this is, a Bryan Fuller Joint, the same showrunner who worked on Hannibal, and who just finished, the critically acclaimed, first season of American Gods. Fuller also has some Star Trek experience, as he used to be one of the writers on  Deep Space Nine. The show follows lead character Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green, who grew up on Vulcan, and was raised by Sarek, Spock’s father.

 

 

Teen Wolf

The final season of Teen Wolf will be airing this weekend, and I’m not real crazy about it, although I may watch it in support of Scott McCall. Over the years, the show has engaged in a great deal of whitewashing ,as it started out with a good amount of diversity, but has slowly been replacing all of the PoC each season, with new White characters, something which has dulled my enthusiasm for the show. The word “final” is in the title though, so I feel compelled to at least look at the pilot. I hope for a happy end to the series.

 

 

The Incredible Jessica James

If you liked Jessica James when she was snarking at the public on  The Colbert Show than check out her new show on Netflix, coming this Friday.  Remember, she was offered the job as the new host, and famously, turned it down, because she was looking at other plans. I will definitely check it out. I loved her comedy on the show, and I’m looking forward to see what she’s gotten up to here.

 

Bright

Here’s an extended trailer for Netflix’s new show starring Will Smith. I’m a big Will Smith fan, and I’ll be on vacation then, so yeah, BingeWatch! It doesnt look as funny as I’d expect from Smith, but its got some great imagery. We get to see Will Smith wielding a sword, and snarking at some Orcs. This wil lbe released on Dec. 22nd.

 

 

The Walking Dead

Yeah, this looks as harrowing and intense as the last season…so no change then? I’m already tired of Negan, and will be glad when he’s locked up, or whatever they’re gonna do to him, but at least things  look a little more energetic than the last season, which wasn’t one of my favorites, except in those few moments when it was.  I see that Carol “Terminator” Danvers is back with the gang, and Morgan and Jesus get to have a smackdown. Also there’s a lot more Ezekiel, which is okay for me.

 

 

Westworld Season 2

I really enjoyed the first season of this show, so I’m definitely here to watch the fallout of the robot’s rise to sentience, and how that affects things in the park.

 

 

The Defenders

I’m cautiously excited about this because Iron Fist  is in here,  and watching his show was traumatic. On the other hand, I like everyone else in the show and there’s this lady in here that’s uhm…C’MON, ITS FREAKIN’ SIGOURNEY WEAVER, PEOPLE!!!

Oh okay, I’m sorry for yelling but, yeah, I did mean to do that. Uhm, there’s some fightin’, explosions, and Luke Cage, and stuff, too.

 

 

Vikings

This is another one of those shows that I dont know why I watch it. It’s not a bad show, although its gone off the rails a bit since its beginning. I just like the characters, the accents are fascinating, and there’s some gore and swordfights. Its not as complicated as Game of Thrones because the characters seem to have much more prosaic concerns. This is the final season. Apparently, I can’t resist the word “final”, in any description of a show.

 

 

Marvel’s Inhumans

This trailer looks waay better than that first one which seemed created to make you mock the show before its airing. Yeah, Medusa’s hair still looks cheap, but at least they remembered PoC exist in that world.  I’ve always been a huge Black Bolt fan, but I don’t know how to feel about the actor playing him. Hopefully, he will change facial expressions, during one of the episodes. So far, none of these trailers for the show,  are garnering the enthusiasm that I feel The Inhumans deserve.

 

Krypton

Nope. I have no plans to watch this beyond the Pilot because, from the description, it sounds like Riverdale in Space, and I won’t watch that either.

 

 

The Crossing

I think this sounds intriguing. I dont know if I’ll watch it beyond the first episode, (probably not), but it looks like an interesting premise.

 

 

The Alienist

I’m far more likely to keep watching this, because I like period shows, and I have a soft spot for this particular actress, ever since she starred in Man on Fire, with Denzel Washington. The book, by Caleb Carr, was pretty good too,  and I’m interested to see what the creators do with it.

 

 

The Orville

Not sure I want t owatch a Star Trek parody, and I’m uncertain of the lead actors humor, but I did laugh a few times during this trailer, so I’ll at least give it a try.

 

 

Stranger Things Season 2

I didn’t see the first season of Stranger Things but I heard a lot about it. i thought maybe it was an “It” ripoff, but it turned out to be a little bit more than that. This trailer goes a long way towards making me want to see the second season, which is a feat, considering I found the first season not particularly interesting.

 

 

Next up :Part Two of the New Fall Releases, and Returning Shows

Hannibal Season Three: Antipasto

Hi!

This is me beginning season three of my Hannibal re-watch. For some reason, during the time of its airing, there was a huge drop off in critical analysis for this show, after season two. I was hard pressed to find anything on the third season. (If you got a rec’, holla at me.) For some reason, most reviews stopped at the Season Two finale, and I sort of understand why, but still, there’s a whole ‘nother season after that, that none of the reviewers seemed to care about. I actually liked season three, although I do have to (somewhat shamefully) confess to blowing off the first five, or six episodes, when they aired, and having to go back to watch them later. Where here’s where I make up for that

In season three, we begin the Hannibal and Red Dragon arc of the books. The first two seasons were Bryan Fuller’s version of a pre-quel to The Red dragon, when Will and Hannibal first met. Between the season two finale, and the Red Dragon half of the third season, Fuller managed to squeeze in the primary  plot of the book, Hannibal aka Mason Verger’s Revenge.
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There will be lots of call backs to specific dialogues in the books, and some Silence of the Lamb references, throughout the entire season. But since the DeLaurentis didn’t have the rights to Silence of the Lambs, (and the show got canceled), we never got a chance to meet Fuller’s version of Clarice Starling, Well the rights to Silence of the Lambs reverts back to the DeLaurentis this August, and Fuller, who is now the showrunner for American Gods, along with the Martha DeLaurentis, has been in talks with  Mads Mikkelson, and Hugh Dancy about returning for a fourth season. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this happens.

Hannibal Season 4 Needs to Happen: Here’s Why

At the end of season two, Hannibal took down everyone during what’s now called The Red Dinner, or for the more pretentious among us, Le Diner Rouge. Everyone who knew Hannibal, and converged on his home, left there in an ambulance. Will, Jack, Alana, Abigail… Of the four, its Abigail who dies from her injuries. The others make a comeback this season to try to recapture Hannibal.

Season three picks up with Hannibal, in black leather, riding through the streets of Paris on a motorbike, which is never how I pictured him from the first seasons. He is stalking a new victim, Roman Fell, a Library Curator from Italy, whose identity he plans to adopt as his own. There are flashbacks to the direct aftermath of The Red Dinner, we go with Hannibal to Florence, Italy, we get answers on how Bedelia and Hannibal ended up on that plane together, and about what hold he seemed to have over her.

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After leaving the House of Blood, Hannibal heads to Bedelia’s  home/office, to shower. Bedelia, who had just been called in by Jack Crawford to testify against Hannibal in preparation for his intended capture, assumes that its safe for her to drop in.  She discovers Hannibal in her shower, and in a classic pulpy, film noir, image, she holds a pistol on him when he steps out. He manages to talk her down, but really, she  could have done what no one else in the show seemed capable of doing, except she’s suffering from the same problem that WIll Graham seems to suffer from. Fascination. 

Every time Will  Graham had an opportunity to pop a cap in Hannibal’s ass, he hesitated, or wasn’t really serious about it, (to be fair, the first time it happened, Jack shot him), because there’s just something about Hannibal that made him not really want to. Bedelia does the same thing here, putting down her weapon and listening to whatever Lecter has to say. I  never completely understood why these people listened to Lecter, because I’m not impressed by the things he says. But then I’m immune to a lot of  things real-life evil people say to me, so I do struggle to understand the motivations behind why people in these narratives always listen to any  villain’s self-serving bullshit.

Bedelia, having gotten the Jedi treatment from Hannibal, flees with him to Europe. Now to be fair, one of the reasons he has such a hold over her, is just plain fear. A year or so ago, he sent a patient to her that she killed. It wasn’t entirely her fault, but Hannibal’s argument to her, was that it looked deliberate. Hannibal sent her a patient who was unstable, paranoid, and violent. When the patient (played by Zachary Quinto aka Spock) loss control, he had a seizure (it’s implied that this was something subliminally implanted in him by Hannibal, and is a direct callback to the scene in Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal makes “Multiple Miggs” eat his own tongue.) Bedelia, thinking she was helping him, tried to grab his tongue with her hand (something you are NOT supposed to do) and she killed him instead. Hannibal has been holding that death over her head for some time now.

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There’s also this: she was granted immunity by Jack Crawford in exchange for any testimony against Hannibal. Perhaps, since she believed since Jack was dead, that the  immunity he had granted wouldn’t be honored, and she’d still be held accountable. So she sort of owes Hannibal a debt for not telling on her. There’s fascination, and her own fear for her future, but there’s also plain ol’ fear of Hannibal. She is terrified of him the entire time she’s with him in Italy, but that terror doesn’t exactly spur her to leave him. (I’ll have more on this in a moment.) Perhaps there’s also the fear that he could easily track her down, and she’d never know when or where he’d be. It may be her idea of keeping her enemy close. And they are close. But I wouldn’t ever call them friends. Or even frenemies.

They are very, very close, though I don’t believe they have slept together. There are scenes of Hannibal helping her out of her clothes, and scenes where they’re half naked together, and even a scene where Hannibal washes her hair, but I never got the sense they were lovers. I think Bedelia is too terrified of Hannibal to be his lover, and Hannibal only really loves Will Graham, for which Bedelia is not a substitute. Although he greatly admires Bedelia, and is charmed by her intelligence and beauty, I believe he merely covets her, and you can see that he lacks the level of respect for her, that he’s displayed towards Will. I think it’s because of her lack of killer instinct.

Will can, and does, kill people, without hesitation when the mood takes him. There’s a deep well of darkness in him, that Hannibal has been trying to access, since he first saw Will in action waaay back in episode one, when Will took down Garrett Jacob Hobbes, without breaking a sweat. He greatly admires Will’s cool ability to kill without remorse, even with his empathy disorder, and Bedelia simply doesn’t have that in her. She lacks both Will’s levels of darkness and his, paradoxical, empathy.

She and Hannibal first travel to Paris where Hannibal stalks,  kills and eats Dr. Roman Fell, a curator for a Museum in Florence, and his wife. While staking out Dr. Fell, he encounters Anthony Dimmond who, I feel, is totally mackin’ on Hannibal, at this point. There’s no other way to see that scene except as a flirtation. I have no idea how Hannibal sees it. Anthony used to be a TA for Dr. Fell, and claims to  dislike him. Bedelia and Hannibal travel  to Florence, as Dr. Roman Fell, and his wife Lydia, where he assumes Dr. Fell’s position, as a guest lecturer on Dante, at the Library.

Dr. Fell’s name might be a reference to Bishop John Fell, who is  mentioned in The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, when one of the characters remarks that he doesn’t like Mr. Hyde. This same man is also the subject of a nursery rhyme of the same name called I Do Not Like Thee Dr. Fell. This is basically the theme of the first third of the episode as at least two people claim to dislike Dr. Roman (an anagram of Norman) Fell. (This is  an example of Fuller’s very dry literary humor.)

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/a32-i-do-not-like-thee-doctor-fell.htm

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Throughout all of this, we are treated to flashbacks of Abel Gideon (The Man Who Would Liked To Have  Been The Chesapeake Ripper) being forced to eat himself, as Hannibal slowly takes him apart, limb from limb. In an especially horrific touch, he feeds Gideon snails, acorns and wine, then feeds parts of Gideon’s body to more  snails, to make the snails  taste like Gideon, and then makes him eat those. How snails take on the flavor of whatever they eat is a recurring theme in the first three episodes. Gideon snarks at Hannibal about his future, and warns that Hannibal will soon become a hunted man. He  refers to Hannibal as  the personification of the Devil, paralleling the discussion about Dante that appears afterward.

At a party in Florence, Hannibal and Bedelia dance, and Hannibal is accosted by one of the one of the library’s professors, Professor Sogliato, who hates Dr. Fell because he is a foreigner, and who questions his knowledge of medieval Italian history. Lecter, who loves to play to a crowd whenever possible, dazzles everyone with his ability to speak fluent Italian,  by quoting Dante’s first sonnet. Dante’s first sonnet by the way is the basis of La Vita Nuova (The New Life), which is also the basis of the operetta by Patrick Cassidy, called Vide Cor Meum, which is the central musical theme in the movie Hannibal. Bedelia tries to distract Sogliato by requesting a dance, but that man has already signed his own death warrant, by questioning  Hannibal’s credentials in a public place. We learned from his reactions to  Alana and Chilton, in season two,  that Hannibal dislikes having his credentials second-guessed.

After the party, Bedelia dreams she is drowning in her bath. People being submerged in water is a recurring theme throughout the entire series. Whenever a character is feeling overwhelmed, or trapped, they often dream of being submerged in water, while unable to move, or help themselves. Both Will and Alana have had this recurring dream. In the first season, Will was struggling to hold on to his sanity, as he also suffered from encephalitis.  In season two, he struggled to hold on to his sense of who he was, as he got closer  to capturing Hannibal. Alana experienced this same sensation when she entered a romantic relationship with Hannibal and began to realize he was not who he seemed. That Bedelia is having this dream now, means  she is losing herself in Hannibal’s world, and is struggling not to be overwhelmed. Hannibal just seems to have this effect on people.

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       – Drowning in a dream is  about struggling to survive as a person, so it applies to your identity as it is dealing with relationship with other people, but also with your own internal world of instincts, body activities and needs. This is about being or feeling overwhelmed by something.

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Bedelia is in the habit of shopping at Vera Dal, and making the exact same purchase, once a week. There has been a lot of speculation about her actions in Florence, but I think the consensus that was reached, is that she knows people are looking for Lecter, and maybe her, and is trying to be found. At one point, she goes to a train station, not to escape, but to be seen on the station’s camera, just in case anyone is looking for her. I believe she’s trying, to be rescued. Notice how her Vera Dal bag is carefully turned towards the camera above her, and she makes sure to turn her face up to it. She has to be subtle about this, because she knows Hannibal is planning to eat her and if she is too blatant, in her attempts to leave,  he will kill her that much sooner. She escaped his intentions before by fleeing, but knows he won’t let her get away with that a second time.

I just want to point out that while in Florence, Bedelia’s hair, makeup, and outfits are on point. She was always a well-dressed woman, but in all her scenes, her costuming is absolutely superb.

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Lecter encounters Anthony Dimmond again, and invites him to dinner with him, and his wife. He doesn’t tell Dimmond who he’s impersonating, but invites him to one of Dr. Fell’s lectures, as well. At dinner, we find that Hannibal has been treating Bedelia to some very specific foods, much as he did with Abel Gideon. Lots of Oysters, snails, and other types of invertebrates, as Bedelia sadly jokes, that she’s trying not to eat anything with a central nervous system, because her husband wants her to taste a certain way. So yeah, they both know he was planning to kill and eat her, at some, unspecified,  point. Dimmond mentions that the Romans used to do the same thing to the animals they would eat, but  thinks Bedelia is flirting with him, perhaps suggesting a three-way. Meanwhile, Hannibal watches all this, with a great deal of amusement.

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Until this season, we’ve gotten only glimpses of Hannibal’s sense of humor. We know he has a very dry one because of the things he’s said in preceding seasons, but we rarely got a look at him actively making jokes, or reacting with happiness or glee. This season we get to see a Hannibal that is much freer in his display of emotions. He tells Bedelia that he has removed his person suit. Especially after he gets captured midway through the season, when he just has a very  “I Really Don’t Give A Fuck” attitude about the entire situation. This season Mads Mikkelsen appears to be having a great time all season.

After discovering that Hannibal is posing as Dr. Fell, Dimmond tries to blackmail Hannibal. Its an interesting discussion, as Lecter asks if  Dimmond is trying to fold him into some new shape. We never learn what their deal is because Lecter kills him in the apartment, in front of Bedelia. Bedelia was already terrified for Dimmond when he had dinner with them. When Dimmond shows up at Hannibal’s lecture, she runs back to the apartment, packs a suitcase, and attempts to escape, but Lecter and Dimmond show up before she can get out the door. This is the first time we’ve really seen Bedelia lose her carefully designed composure since making the decision to accompany Lecter to Europe. What it shows is a woman in the grip of extreme terror. Earlier, Lecter walked past her and touched her on the shoulder, when Dimmond walked into the lecture hall and that seemed to galvanize her. She is ready to run.

Lecter bashes Dimmond’s over the head as Bedelia watches. Before he breaks Dimmond’s neck,  Lecter asks if she is observing or participating, and reaches the conclusion, based on the fact that she knew what was coming, yet did nothing to prevent it, (including warning Dimmond to stay away) that what she is doing is participation. After this we see Bedelia in tears as she contemplates that this is her possible future. This is why she is not Will Graham’s substitute. She makes no pretense of her ability to handle watching Hannibal do this. In Hannibal’s mind she has no instinct to kill, despite her big talk to Will about it, later in the season. Will would not have tried to run. Will would’ve tried to kill Hannibal, or just taken it in stride, as he did when he watched Hannibal make Mason Verger cut off his own face.

Later, we find that Lecter has folded Dimmond into an interesting new shape, (just as he joked to him earlier) as he travels by train to the  Norman Cathedral in Palermo. During his trip, he folds a paper image of Michaelangelo’s Vitruvian Man into the shape of a heart, while thinking about Will Graham. ( I spoke about this in a previous post on how Will is Hannibal’s perfect man.) Will is very much in Hannibal’s thoughts after Dimmond’s death. He wonders if Will is still alive, and is in a pensive mood while on the train to Palermo.

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He places Dimmond’s body on display in the middle of the Norman Chapel over the image of death that is inscribed in the floor. He has folded Dimmond’s body into the shape of a heart, and pierced it with three upraised swords, like the Three of Swords from the tarot.

The Three of Swords represents rejection, sadness, loneliness, heartbreak, betrayal, separation and grief. Such events feel so painful because they are unexpected. However, the Three of Swords often serves as a warning sign to show when one or more of these are possible. By preparing for this difficult event, the emotional blow can be minimised or even prevented entirely.

https://www.biddytarot.com/tarot-card-meanings/minor-arcana/suit-of-swords/three-of-swords/

I don’t know if he knows that Will is alive. I think he suspects it, but  Hannibal often does things just to see what will happen, or just to artistically express himself, and this could be one of those times. If the display is meant for Will, then it’s Hannibal’s psychotic version of an apology to him, saying that he forgives Will for hurting him, and misses him.

 

 

So, this episode was entirely from Lecter’s point of view. The next episode will be about what happened  directly after the “Diner Rouge”, from Will Graham’s  point of view.

Note:

Since the airing of American gods, I’m hoping these reviews of Hannibal helps people to look more deeply into the meanings and expressions in that American Gods. As I said, in my reviews of that show, Fuller loves to put meaning into everything you will see on the screen, and that almost  nothing you see is accidental. Every image, name, and line of dialogue is, at the very least, some type of in-joke, if not foreshadowing for some later event, or an illustration of the episode’s theme. So if you are a literary student, or history major, you will find all manner of easter eggs in his work.

American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon

 

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                   SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS

 

 

I’m  going to maybe do a little spoiling ,so if you didn’t read the book….best check out now, although just because it’s in the book, doesn’t  mean it will play out on the show. However, the show is following the spirit of the book, and some of the major plot points  of the book have been struck.

At the end of this first season, it’s difficult to say where we are in the book because the series is showing events out of order. A significant middle portion of the book is taken up with Shadow, alone in a small town, waiting for Wednesday to contact him, as he goes about gathering together the various gods.

One of the major changes from the book is Shadow is with Wednesday, as he attempts to round up the various gods for his war. The end result of this decision by the show’s writers,  is that the focus is now on Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday. Their relationship was not something that was elaborated upon in the book, so by focusing on the closeness of Shadow’s friendship with Wednesday, we can better understand  at least one of the key decisions that Shadow will make in the next season.

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In the Bone Orchard, we’re introduced to Shadow while he’s in prison. The way we see him there, is how we’ll see him for most of the season, reacting to something that’s being done to him. He essentially moves from one kind of prison to another, where he is not in control of any of the events that are happening to him, from his wife’s death, to his early release from prison, to his meeting with Wednesday, and he spends almost all of his time being fought over by various gods, and  reacting, or not reacting, to someone, or something. From the disrespectful airport lady, to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Wednesday roping him into his deal as a bodyguard, to fighting with Mad Sweeney., Shadow spends the entire season reacting to things others are doing to him. (The most decisive things he did all season was to accept Wednesday’s job offer, and Believe.)

How Shadow reacts to the world around him in those first 30 minutes is key to realizing how shaken he is by the events of this season, and what a huge turnaround it is for him to say those words to Wednesday in the season finale. From his early reactions, we understand that Shadow is not a stupid man. He thinks about what’s happening to him, and how he should feel, or respond to it.

For example the airport scene where he thinks back on Lowkey’s warning not to piss off airport ladies, despite that woman’s blatant disrespect of him. He understands that the survival behavior he developed in prison is not going to work outside of it, and adapts his behavior accordingly. You can almost see the exact moment when he backs down from going off on the woman, realizing that more than a few ex-cons ended up right back in jail because they were unable to adapt their prison behavior to their new situations. It is his intelligence and adaptability that will stand him in good stead on his journey into the realm of the gods.

When Sweeney tries to provoke him in the bar, Shadow tries to stand down, because he wants to learn Sweeney’s coin trick, but after a moment, he figures out that Wednesday is testing him, and steps up. When Technical Boy threatens him, he remains calm and  unruffled by TB’s threats, mouthing off to TB as he would to any other convict who tried to scare him. Once again reading the situation correctly, and then adapting his behavior to suit it.

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I said in an earlier post that Shadow Moon is the show’s Everyman. Every fantastic, supernatural show, must have one. They function as a lens through which the fantastic is experienced by the audience. We’re meant to identify, and empathize with this character. Shadow is  remarkable  because the vast majority of such characters are often Average White Guys. It’s  extraordinary for us that a Black man has been cast in such a role because the audience is supposed to project themselves onto his character, and identify with him, and the decisions he makes.

This is only the first season, so much of our time has been spent establishing the world that Shadow has joined. A a result,  Shadow is often a passive, rather than a dynamic character, which I know sometimes frustrated some viewers, but this is quite common.  He’s done very little to move the plot forward, which is in keeping within the tenets of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Think of Luke Skywalker, who starts off Star Wars as a somewhat passive character, who is mostly reacting to things being done to him.

This season has been a journey to get Shadow to do one thing. Make one big decision of his own volition. Believe! After this, much like Luke, in The Empire Strikes Back, Shadow should become a much more active participant in the proceedings, and Bryan Fuller promises that he will.

Like Luke Skywalker, Shadow receives the call to adventure (from Wednesday). As soon as he agrees to it, he’s given supernatural aid, in the form of a magical coin by Sweeney, after his first challenge, which is besting Sweeney in a fight. (Giving the coin away is what actually aids him, at the end of The Bone Orchard. Had that coin never resurrected Laura, Shadow would have died on the tree.)

His second challenge is his checkers game with Czernobog, which he loses. He is then given a second gift in the form of a silver coin, that helps him best Czernobog, when he challenges him to another game. Technical Boy is the Guardian of the first threshold. Shadow has  fully committed to the adventure by the time they meet.  His lynching is his entrance into the Belly of the Whale. He couldn’t back out of the adventure now, even if he wanted to, because the new gods are aware of his presence. Shadow has to keep moving forward now, just like Luke had no choice but to keep moving forward after his first encounter with Darth Vader. Once you become known to the major players, its impossible to back out of  events, as they will keep drawing you back into the game, by coercion, or force, if necessary.

As Shadow moves forward, he is beset by  temptations and challenges, which occur in threes. The first temptation is in the cemetery with Audrey, while one of the challenges is his game of checkers with Czernobog.   Along the way, there are two other temptations: Laura’s return, and Media’s seduction to the dark side, both of which Shadow successfully withstands. Another of his three challenges is the  bank heist, which is successful, and Mr World makes, yet another, offering to him, of flesh and blood,  in the form of Technical Boy’s teeth. So Shadow withstands three temptations, overcomes three challenges, and receives three gifts. Along the way, he is aided by his assistant (Helper), Laura, and mentored by Wednesday.

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Shadow is also shown to have gifts of his own, an ability to prophecy, control of the weather, the ability to do coin tricks, to heal quickly, and to See. One of the  first things we know about Shadow is that he has prophetic/mystical dreams. He dreams about Laura’s death, telling her on the phone, and in his dream that he has a feeling of dread, that something bad is about to happen. The Bone Orchard is his dream about impending danger, of being attacked by Technical Boy’s white clad droogs, in a meadow, next to a tree. In the dream, Shadow stands in a blood covered orchard with bones, while he is attacked by white, bone-like hands reaching out of the trees. Shadow doesn’t know it, but the Bone Orchard represents the deaths of TB’s drones, at Laura’s hands. Later, he dreams about the same Buffalo God that denied entry into America to Nunyunnini, the forgotten god of Lemon Scented You. In his dreams this  god tells Shadow to “Believe.”

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During the scenes where Laura visited her family, Wednesday asks Shadow if he can see her, and Shadow, through glowing  eyelids, perfectly describes Laura, looking through her family’s front window, and deciding that she can’t join them. . So far, he has been shown as having the powers of many of the beings he has seen or met. His ability to prophesy mimics the Zorya Sisters powers. The coin tricks mimic Sweeney’s abilities with coins. Laura’s one heartbeat, when he kisses her, implies he has the powers of Anubis, or Easter, to resurrect the dead. (It is definitely Shadow who resurrects her because the power of  Sweeney’s  coin does not entail resurrection. )The trick with the snow is an echo of the powers of a certain storm god we all know, but who has, conspicuously,  never been mentioned.

We’ve also seen that Shadow is able to heal very quickly. When he was attacked by TB’s henchmen he suffered a stab wound in his side that needed to be stapled shut, but by the time we see Wednesday healing him in Murder of Gods, he only has the tree wound, which is healed by the time of Come to Jesus. Shadow doesn’t act, or move as if he’s in pain, or wounded, shortly after these events.

Not only do we know Shadow through his actions, but we also know him through his emotions. Ricky Whittle gives a beautiful performance  of a man who is hanging on to his sanity by his fingernails. Whittle’s portrayal is remarkable for the depth and breadth of emotions he brings to his character. He’s allowed to be tough and snarky, just like your typical hero character, but he’s also allowed to express vulnerability, without coming across as weak.

Not only is Shadow allowed to be tired, upset, angry, happy, hopeful, and even fearful, he is allowed to express these emotions without censure from the other characters. And even when he’s not openly expressing his emotions, in some of the first episodes we have some idea of what he’s feeling through the weather around him. Whenever we see Shadow trying to keep control of his emotions, the scene transitions indicate his inner turmoil, with shots of heavy clouds and storms. This is also indicated by followup shots that move from Shadows facial expressions to shots of the sky just above him.

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In one of the first scenes in The Bone Orchard, Shadow gives full vent to his emotions on a hilltop, which is followed by a shot of clouds clearing from a blue sky. When he vents, skies tend to be clear. When he tries to suppress or control his emotions, the weather is often an indicator of his inner turmoil. When he first meets Wednesday, their plane is flying through a storm, as he deals with the aftermath of Laura’s death, and this annoying stranger he’s trying not to snap at.

In Secret of the Spoons, we see clouds form, and a storm occurs, just after he is kissed by The Midnight Star, from a sky that was  clear a moment before. He must be feeling a great deal of fear, dread, and grief and guilt, after his wife dies, being threatened by Czernobog and his bleeding hammer, and having some strange girl kiss him. And there are other scenes where we are meant to directly attach the weather conditions to whatever Shadow is feeling at that moment.

In A Murder of Gods,  and The Bone Orchard, we get to see Shadow be scared, and apprehensive. We get to see him react in a realistic manner to the craziness, and potential danger around him. This is a man who, while always acutely aware of his Blackness, doesn’t let that define him, or limit his actions. Shadow is secure in who he is as a Black man, and doesn’t seem to care to engage in fake posturing, or in trying to convince everyone that he’s not weak. This is a man who simply knows he can handle himself. He is not at all intimidated by TB’s bluster, or Sweeney’s rants, and it’s that self-assurance that makes his vulnerable moments all the more touching.

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From  his guarded response to Czernobog’s questioning of his race in Secret of the Spoons, to his naked fear at being in a town with so many White people fondling guns, in A Murder of Gods, he doesn’t hold back from showing what he really feels when in Wednesday’s company. This emotional openness is part of the reason Wednesday likes him. Wednesday is almost never perturbed by Shadow’s feelings about anything. He often steps back and just lets Shadow handle his own business.

One of the highlights, and a subject of some concern to the fans, is Shadow’s relationship to Wednesday. I really want to like it. Actually, I do like it, sort of, but I also  keep in mind the Wednesday is a con man. A user, who is grooming Shadow for some dark purpose. Nevertheless, you can see the genuine affection he has towards Shadow. You know Shadow needs to separate himself from this man who orchestrated, not just his sojourn in a prison cell, but the deaths of his entire family while he was away. It’s easy to forget that when watching the two of them together though. I have to keep in mind that Wednesday thinks like a god,  and is not held to  human morality. He did what gods have always done, which is manipulating humans to suit their needs. I dislike Wednesday because he’s a manipulative narcissist.  He cares about Shadow because it’s in his best interests to care, and yet all of that doesn’t make me actually hate him, probably because there is  a genuine liking for Shadow in his demeanor.

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Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday is complicated. He knows what kind of person he’s with, which is the reason he’s so often angry with him. He knows Wednesday is a con man, a liar, a thief, and a user, but seems unable, or unwilling, to pull himself from Wednesday’s orbit. This isn’t because Shadow is stupid. It’s the opposite. It’s because Shadow is curious about the larger, weirder world, he’s been glimpsing over Wednesday’s shoulder, and he’s drawn to it, even if he resists believing in it. How many of us, if given a glimpse of such a world, could resist becoming a part of it? Of wanting to?

It’s the reason people worship gods in the first place, for a glimpse of something bigger than themselves. Shadow was mostly godless before he met Wednesday. The closest thing to a god he believed in was Laura, and that was smashed by learning of her infidelity. (See how Wednesday needed to squash that belief before recruiting Shadow to his cause? And how Wednesday warns Shadow about getting close too close to Ostara? He is a jealous god, who does not want Shadow setting any other gods before him.)

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Now for some speculation.

My speculations are entirely based on the book, and are subject to total reinterpretation next season. So this will contain spoilers from the book, and maybe, or maybe not, spoilers for the future of the show.

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One of the reasons Wednesday needs Shadow to believe is Shadow agreed to perform Wednesday’s Vigil should anything happen to him. Its part of the bargain Wednesday quietly slips  in,  at the beginning of Shadow’s employment, in The Bone Orchard. A Vigil, at least in Norse culture, is done over the body of a  dead relative. And yes, Shadow is Wednesday’s son.

I have speculated if the writers will make Bilquis Shadow’s mother, as we keep being given subtle hints that the she may well be. That Disco scene in the finale with Bilquis, with the huge Afro, morphing out of a lunar eclipse (which is another term for a shadow moon) is one such hint, and Wednesday speculating about Shadows mother having an Afro, in The Bone Orchard, is another. And having a son is something that could have happened to Bilquis during her fall from power, in the late eighties/early nineties, which would put Shadow at just the right age to be her son. But this is just me speculating. (If this is so, Shadow would be a true-God, not a Demi-god.)


Fuller has promised that Bilquis has an important part to play in the narrative, so everything we’ve seen of her so far, is all setup for a later reveal. Notice how women are instantly sexually attracted to Shadow (outside of Shadow looking like the extremely hot Ricky Whittle). I think this is  deliberate on the part of the writers. From the waitress at the Crocodile Bar who openly flirts with him,  to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Ostara being instantly smitten with him, and Laura’s new obsession ( Is the reason she sees him as an eclipse a sign of his godhood?) women have had strong sexual reactions to him, which could be a sing of Bilquis’ influence, as she is a Love Goddess.

Let me be more specific here: white women all have strong sexual reactions to him, as he hasn’t had any interactions with WoC, yet. If Bilquis is his mother that would explain much of the behavior we’ve seen, and could also be a deliberate statement on the  white supremacy which sees Black men as hypersexual stereotypes. We’ll see!

In the book, Wednesday is killed by the new gods,  to be used by Loki as a martyr, to help facilitate their war. Shadow is the one who performs this Vigil, by being hung on a tree for nine days, just like in Odin’s mythological backstory. Odin hung on the World Tree, for nine days, to receive wisdom, and the price paid, was the loss of his eye.

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In the book, Shadow hangs on an Ash tree for nine days. During that time, he receives wisdom about who and what he is, while traveling through the underworld. Shadow dies, but is resurrected by Ostara, and her fondness for Shadow, in Come to Jesus, is a nice setup for why she would decide to do that.

This also ties into the lynching imagery throughout the series, because that is foreshadowing for when Shadow will choose to hang on a tree for Wednesday, despite the naked fear we see in him. This lynching imagery is used throughout the series as a dreadful reminder of Shadows future. It is literally hanging over his head in his scenes in the jail courtyard, and Vulcan’s front yard. You are meant to be afraid for him. He is being manipulated to sacrifice himself for Wednesday, and cannot do so, if he doesn’t fully understand who Wednesday is, which is why Wednesday’s reveal, and Shadows statement are so awful. Wednesday is that much closer to realizing his plans for Shadow.


All season long Shadow has been admonished to Believe. So yes, even though believing is his downfall, it’s also the only way he can be saved. He has to believe in something, not necessarily Wednesday, but something, or he will never get through any of this intact.

Through the efforts of the other gods, Shadow survives the Vigil. Earlier in the series, Wednesday mentioned that there’s no King of America, which is why the philosophical discussions that happen between Wednesday and Shadow need to be attended closely. They offer clues to Shadows future. Shadow ends the book as a kind of Demi-god, a new King of America, who can see lies, and expose the truth. And this  is also the reason Shadow had to be a Black man. It’s a statement on how Black men are one of the few marginalized groups that have most often spoken truth to power. A black man who can see Truth is just keeping it real.

In the next few seasons we may or may not get to see the war, (in the book, there’s no war), but I’m not very concerned about that, because I don’t think that’s really the series end game either. I’m speculating that Shadow’s  birth as a kind of God of all gods, (sort of like Odin) is what’s at stake on the show. At least that’s where I’d like to see the future of this series turn.

Into the Badlands Season Two: Series Review

Plot:


The plot this season was much more intricate, with multiple characters, arcs, intentions, and designs. There was a lot to fit into eight episodes, and that the show managed to keep so many plot lines coherent, while tying up several from last season, is a testament to the skills of the writers. As outlined in the character reviews, everyone got to have a plot. The overriding theme seemed to be everyone seeking power, in the vacuum left behind by Baron Quinn’s rumored death.

The overriding character arcs were the Widow’s corrupt rise to power, Sunny’s search for his wife, MK’s escape, and Baron Quinn’s last hurrah. The writers juggled these four plots with a number of subs, managing to keep most of them untangled, and comprehensible, while still throwing  in a number of unpredictable twists and turns, which I enjoyed. The betrayals were flying fast and furious at one point, and if you blinked you’d miss who was aligning with who.

My biggest complaint is the treatment of the black characters, Edgar, Silver Moon, Veil, an unnamed black teenager at the monastery, and an unnamed butterfly, who were all brutally killed. Of them, only Silver, and Veil, had backstories. The show can do better than that.  I don’t think the show wants to get embroiled in a discussion of anti-blackness, but it will, if it keeps killing off  all its black characters like that.

Plus, it gives us one of the worst types of  character trope, in the show’s finale, with the fridging of Sunny’s love interest, a black woman who sacrifices herself, to save her man. It seems no matter how progressive white male writers believe themselves to be, they simply cannot seem to avoid the trope of the Sacrificial Negro.

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That said, my favorite character this season was Silver Moon. I loved this character but I don’t know why. Probably because he reminds me of the character from the RZA’s Martial Arts movie, The Man with the Iron Fists. I also think it’s very interesting that Sunny, even after he had his own sword returned to him, kept using the one he took from Silver, giving his old sword to Lydia. This character had lines and a backstory. They tried really hard to flesh him out, and that’s to be applauded.

Complaints aside, I am glad that the show remembers there are Black people in the future, and in a fantasy setting, just walking around in the background scenes. The show does need to add more Asian characters though, and Baron Chau is a good start. I loved watching her kick some ass, and liked that she lives to see the next season. She’s played by actress Eleanor Matsuuras, who is from Hertfordshire by way of Tokyo, and has mostly starred in British productions.

 

Worldbuilding:



We didn’t get to see much architecture and landscapes in the last season, and what there was, seemed more of an afterthought, but with the show’s bigger budget this season, we got some very ambitious, sometimes epic, background scenery. From the shot of the huge walls that cut off the badlands from the rest of the world, to the  intricate and lush gardens surrounding the Widow’s home, we got treated to some tremendous worldbuilding. And the details of this world are simply incredible, as seen in the Widow’s study, and the map of the Badlands above, that’s only glimpsed in a brief moment in a single episode, which outlines where this takes place in the US, and marks the different baronies.

I remember that first season, I had some major questions about food and textile production, and we get a partial answer, in learning that not everyone grows poppies. There are oil fields, and if that is the case, then there are also textile mills somewhere as well. These things aren’t knowledge that would be lost, since creating fabrics is one of the most basic human skills. Certainly the working and tooling of leather hasn’t been lost, or car repair either, it seems. We got such a small glimpse of the world in the first season, that we were left with a ton of questions, but the show has really built on that in a way that makes sense for the Badlands. This world is set to become even bigger in the third season after Bajie’s Morse code message is received.

We’re also given some startling glimpses into what type of world we’ve joined. Apparently this world is set about a hundred or so years from now, (how far into the future is unclear, so I could be wrong), but it’s long after some sort of soft apocalypse, that left lots of infrastructure, and fewer people. In one of the episodes, MK and Ava visit a long abandoned mall/dept store, that still has Christmas lights and decorations. It can’t be too far into the future because the lights still work. There’s electricity in some places. There’s little literacy, but some knowledge of medicines and machines ( like X-rays) is still available in the Badlands. And then there’s this unseen city (Astra) that everyone keeps talking about.

And it’s not just the landscapes, but all the tiny details inside the homes of various characters, like Baron Chau’s all white interiors, and grand wall paintings, the dark, old-world, furnishings of the Widows home, the dark majesty of Quinn’s home in exile, in an abandoned metro station. We may have started the show traveling through the classic Mad Max dystopia of the mines, but not all of the Badlands looks that way, and it was very exciting to get these glimpses into a broken past.

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Costumes:

The series had some stunning costume work this season, with rich colors, and beautiful, very sexy, outlines. This is very probably one of the sexiest martial arts shows I’ve ever watched, as usually the costumes for this type of genre can be somewhat pragmatic.You can see there’s real intent  to create a feeling of lost majesty/ bygone luster.

And every  character (even the most minor of them) gets the luxury treatment. From Silver Moon’s  old and tattered Clipper outfit, to Tilda’s pragmatic, newly minted Regent uniform,  from Baron Chau’s sumptuous furs and glittery dresses, to Quinn’s scuffed and grubby finery. These details really bring home the kind of lifestyles of the Baron’s, as the Cogs are dressed in the simplest colors and practical, easily cared for, fabrics.

Everything, and everyone, is given gorgeous detail, from hair, to  shoes, to makeup, furniture, and housing. From Baron Chau’s pearl jewelry and on-point makeup, to the Widow’s more action oriented look, with everyone receiving more elaborate hairstyles, including MK. Even Waldo gets some scrumptious blue velvet to wear.

Each Barony has its own color scheme. Quinn’s was dried blood red, but now that it’s been taken over by Jade and Ryder, it’s a fresher, magenta red color. Baron Chau’s color scheme is white. Another Baron’s color is green. The Widow’s colors are a deep royal blue. The monks and MK are wearing various shades of purples, and oranges. After he escapes the monastery, MK is seeing wearing a gorgeous green surplus, that I wanted for myself, along with some more gentle earthtones.

 

Even the lowest, most minor characters, got the full costume treatment. Look at the detail on this Junkyard King, in his darkened purple, and mother of pearl buttons. Contrast that with the  fresher and more vibrant purple of MKs monk’s robes. I love the matching color schemes in these two photos.

The duplicitous and conniving Jade. Her hair and makeup also reflect her character. Contrast that with her more innocent look in the first season.

Veil is often associated with soft natural colors, and earth tones, in keeping with her honest, down to earth, nature.

The details this season are incredible. Check out Waldo’s pince nez glasses, the little crossed cufflinks, and the chair handle ornaments! I also liked MK’s more elaborate hairstyle, with its tiny twists. Most of these things you’re never going to notice during the series, except for a quick second, but the set designers and prop masters went the full one hundred, anyway. This is the first time I really noticed Waldo’s knuckle tattoos, from his time as a Clipper.


I have since learned that the painting in Baron Chau’s home is called “Leonidas at Thermopylae”, and is a reference to Sunny making a commitment to a fight he knows he won’t survive. It’s by a Neo-Classical French painter of the 19th century, named Jacques Louis-David. Sunny’s and Chau’s postures imitate the formal poses in the painting. This was a hallmark of the Classical style in which grand Mythological and Historical themes were painted in a clean, formal manner.

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Contrast Chau’s white minimalist environment, and  the marble columns, with Minerva’s home which is  very Old- World traditional, with lots of greenery, velvet, and hard-wood.  Chau’s home, and costumes are also a reflection of her character, which is just as cool and calculating, as Minerva’s is cool,yet determined.
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I love the details here as one of the girls wears a matching blue ballerina skirt under her coat.Just a touch of whimsy for a little girl Clipper. I also like the natural hairstyles on the black girls. I’m glad this show remembered black women exist, even if they’re not treated especially well.
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Baron Quinn is like the Badlands version of Darth Vader. Everyone is afraid of this grim creature, come back from the dead, to destroy all their lives. Check out the tiny details like the little glimpses of red in his new outfit, a callback to when he used to be a Baron, and the tiny rivets on his  belts. The rough, nubby, texture of his coat is in keeping with his new rugged lifestyle, and gives the viewer some idea of his rough character, and disturbed mindset. Except for his voice, he’s just rough all over.

Contrast Quinn’s look with Jade’s smoothly streamlined look,  since moving into a more comfortable position of power with Ryder, below. There’s more than a touch of the Antebellum South in Ryder’s suit coat, which is a deliberate choice on the part of the costume dept.
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Ryder Welcomes His Guests - Into the Badlands Season 2 Episode 3

 

Cinematography: 

Everything this season was given an upgrade, including the lighting and  cinematography. No detail has been spared. There’s a rich three dimensional feel to the environment, which allows the viewer to see every detail of a character, or event, and totally immerse themselves in the show. It’s equal parts dream and nightmare.

There’s some gorgeous lighting happening here, in the final scene of the series, as Sunny walks off into this frosty looking sunset with Baby Henry.

The monastery is full of candle light, giving its inhabitants a deceptively soft appearance. The irony is that these are some of the most lethal beings in the Badlands.



Sunny is fighting the monks in an old, worn, Nativity scene, at an abandoned dept. store. No one knows the meaning of any of the decorations, but check out the penguin with the Christmas wreath around his neck! The old religion has been supplanted by an even older one, that involves dark Chi, and superpowers.

 

I think it’s  really cute that they chose a baby that looks Black and Asian.

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Whenever possible, the creators tried to use natural lighting on all the sets, so we get some wonderfully lit scenes, like Veil with Henry, above, and Sunny’s fight with Silver Moon, below. Veil is often given the Madonna treatment with her  lighting.


Action:

The show has also upped the ante on the fight choreography this season, with much more elaborate stuntwork, and ambitious fight scenes involving multiple highly trained characters. The show also added some explosives work, which is something most shows don’t have a good sized budget for, but the larger budget shows how much confidence the network has in the success of this series. Whereas last season I struggled to get the word out about this show, its popularity has really soared this season because of its move to Netflix, and basic word of mouth. There are also more than a few websites dedicated to the show, on Tumblr.



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Bottom line: 

All of this adds up to one of the most visually stunning action series on television, and I’m so happy to be alive during its airing. I cannot wait for whatever new visual treats we’ll get next season.

 

 

 

American Gods/Hannibal Crossover

*Since the airing of American Gods, there has been a lot of speculation about the “FULLERVERSE”,  since the showrunner of both Hannibal the Series and American Gods, is one and the same, Bryan Fuller.
As a result there have been quite a few mashups of these two. Here from Tumblr Fannibal  is one of my favorites fanfictions:
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An American Gods/Hannibal mashup for Fuller Fest. (Eventually going to post on ao3)


“The next one we’re going to is out in the sticks,” Wednesday said. “This time of year, they’ll be at their summer home in Montana. When it gets colder, they head for the warmer climes. The Florida Keys. Too bad its not winter.”

Shadow said nothing. They were going there for business, not a vacation.

“This man we are going to see…It could go either way,” Wednesday continued. “He’s a mixture of old and new; born out of brimstone, but suckled at the teat of Media. He could be an important ally.”

“If you can get him,” Shadow said.

Wednesday raised an eyebrow.

“I mean if he suckled at Media’s…teat..or whatever, will he want to turn against her? Isn’t she like his mother?”

Wednesday chuckled. “Relationships between parents and children can be fraught with conflict. I hope to agitate those feelings.”

“Stirring the shit as usual?”

“Stirring the shit,” Wednesday agreed. “Seeing what floats to the top.”

The last stretch of road was little more than a footpath through the trees. Shadow thought they would have to get out and walk at any moment, but somehow the large car kept finding a way between the trees until they finally came to a small cabin sitting in a clearing. Half a dozen dogs came from around the back, barking and rushing the car.

“Shit!” said Shadow and barely pulled his door closed in time as a husky mix jumped up and braced his front paws against the driver’s side window.

A sharp whistle from the cabin called the dogs away from the car. A dark-haired man stood on the porch, hands in pockets, watching sternly as the pack ran up the stairs to join him. However, for all his serious expression and scarred face, he didn’t look like a child of brimstone.

“You can come out,” the man on the porch said. Shadow opened his door slowly, waiting for the dogs to rush them once more, but they stayed seated at the man’s feet.

“Thanks for calling off the hounds,” Wednesday said as they mounted the porch.

The man eyed the wooden box Shadow was carrying and, still unsmiling, said. “He’s waiting for you inside.”

The cabin was small and the front door opened directly into the main room. There was a fireplace on the far wall, and although it was a warm day there was a fire roaring in it. A man sat in front of the fire, but slightly to the side, so he was half in shadow and half illuminated by the flames. The firelight played over the severe planes of the figure’s face and the knife-sharp pleat in his trousers.

“Come in,” the man said, his voice resonant with a strange accent Shadow couldn’t place. He leaned over and turned on a lamp and Shadow could see him better. The severe bone structure was still there, but with the full light on him, he was softened somewhat and  looked like a normal, if fastidious man. He was wearing navy blue slacks, dress shoes, and a smoothly-ironed electric blue shirt that lost none of its formality by having the top button left undone.

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“I brought a gift for the host.” Wednesday motioned for Shadow to hand over the tributes: a single white truffle, sealed tight in a glass jar with a cork and red wax seal, and a bottle of wine still in the wooden crate they transported it in. On the way here, they had swaddled it like a baby so the ride wouldn’t shake up the sediment.

Their host stood to receive it.

“It’s a good vintage,” he said, using his thumb to wipe dust from the label. “Just barely. Its teetering on the edge of being overblown. We should drink this soon. Maybe tonight.”

“It needs to settle,” Wednesday said. “From the trip.”

“Would you at least stay for dinner? Will and I don’t often have guests.”

“Absolutely not,” Wednesday said with a smile. Curiously, the other man did not seem to take offense to that. “Unfortunately, we are in a bit of a time crunch.”

“I heard,” their host sat and indicated a chair next to his for Wednesday to sit in. “I don’t have another chair. How rude of me. Should I have my consort bring you one?”

“I like to stand,” Shadow said.

Their host nodded deferentially then turned to Wednesday. “Are you here to ask for my help? I’ve heard you’ve been supplicating all over the country and finally you find your way to me. I don’t know why I should consider helping you. Would you even want my help? I’m so far down on your list.”

“That’s more a function of geography than lack of respect,” Wednesday said. “Of course I respect you. You are the newest old deity I know. An old soul in a glossy new package. You could play an integral part in the war that is coming, the fight for the hearts and minds of this land. Let’s face it, you could only exist here, in this country, with a 24-hour news cycle and tabloid journalists scrabbling for profundity. But they have the depth of a wading pool and the attention span of a mayfly.” Wednesdays voice got low. “They are already forgetting about you. Last week there was a man in Florida who bit his girlfriend’s tongue off while they were fucking because he wanted to know what it would taste like.”

“Chewy, I would guess.” the man looked up at Shadow with a ghost of a smile on his lips. “At least they usually are, in my experience.”  Shadow felt a chill in the overheated room.

“They are already forgetting about The Ripper,” Wednesday said.

“They will never fully forget about me,” he said. “I will be feared in nightmares and taught in classrooms–”

“In a few years you will be on internet listicles with names like ‘Ten Shocking Killers You’ve Never Heard Of.’”

Shadow saw the anger flare up in the man’s eyes, although he remained perfectly still and otherwise expressionless.

“Such meager offerings,” Wednesday said. “Not what you deserve.”

“I have all the worshipers I need,” the man said. “I have my consort who is totally devoted to me.”

“One person? I think you are losing sight of the big picture here.”

“I have a foot in both camps, Wednesday,” he said. “So I have carved out a space for Will and myself that is in neither camp.”

“You make running from the cops sound like a utopia of your choosing.”

“I don’t believe discretion and prudence are the same as cowardice.”

Wednesday leaned forward. “What about the blood sacrifice? What about the meat that is passed through the fire?”

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“I told you, my consort is very devoted,” he said. “When I want meat, I have it. Do I want a million people to have a vague idea of who they think i am or one person who knows me totally and would do anything, sacrifice anything to me and for me, up to and including his very life?” Again, the man, this Ripper, looked up at Shadow. Shadow couldn’t understand how brown eyes could look so heat-fired and yet so cold. “I took Will’s child and still he loves me. I spilled his blood and still he loves me. I stripped everything from him, and he is still with me.”

The Ripper turned back to Wednesday. “ You cannot offer me that sort of devotion if I help you, but I may lose it if you fail. So, no, I will not help you. The outcome of this war does not affect me.”

“Even if it means you become yesterday’s news?”

“Even so,” The Ripper said. “I have created an entire universe for my consort and I to rule.”

“Rule? Rule what? You only have one worshiper.”

“And one is all I need.”

With that, the Ripper stood and showed them to the door.

Will was still out on the porch when they left, seated now in a rocking chair, with the dogs clustered around him.

“He’s not going to help you, is he?” he said.

Shadow paused, but Wednesday kept walking to the car.

“No,” Shadow said. “He..uh..declined that opportunity.”

Some of the dogs raised their heads, but Will made a sound through his teeth and they settled back down.

“I’m a lot like you, you know. Or I was,” Will said. “I was just a person, not even a particularly religious person at that. I didn’t know what I was getting into. When I finally figured it out, it was too late.” Will leaned down to scratch the ear of the nearest dog. “Tell me, Shadow, have you ever looked the devil in the face?”

Remembering The Ripper’s eyes, Shadow said, “I may have.”

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“What if you liked what you saw?”

Shadow didn’t answer. He couldn’t imagine what Will must have gone through to get to this point, if he really was “just a person” to start with.

“You can still go back,” Shadow said.

“Here’s where myth and reality divide,” Will said. His eyes were the same blue as a cloudless summer sky. “No on wants me back.”

“That can’t be true.”

“Everyone is either dead or glad to see me gone,” he said. “Besides, I keep him away.” He nodded toward the cabin. “I keep the beast sated.”

“Can’t someone else do it?”

“No,” he said. He smiled, looking happy about that. “They tried and they’ve died. And here is where myth and reality converge again: I wouldn’t want to go back even if I could. I’m not bound to his underworld because I ate his food. I eat his food and live in his world because I am bound to him. Nothing else matters.”

“Are you trying to warn me or something?” Shadow asked.  He didn’t want to talk to this man any more. He could feel the fanatical devotion coming off of him in waves.

“Worship whatever gods you want, Shadow. But when you find one who worships you back? Run.”

 

*I hope she doesn’t mind my posting this here, and possibly blowing up her Tumblr stats. Please visit her blog, for lots of gifs, info, and some excellent reviews of the TV show, Hannibal.

So When Are We Gonna Stop Letting Joss Whedon Coast on 20-Year-Old White Feminism? — Sublime Zoo

If you were on these rough Internet streets a week-and-a-half ago, you probably caught wind of the Joss Whedon’s age-old Wonder Woman script. You know, that thing that bounced around in production hell briefly, nearly attached to the likes of Charisma Carpenter and Lucy Lawless. It had been rumored for years. Over a decade. And […]

via So When Are We Gonna Stop Letting Joss Whedon Coast on 20-Year-Old White Feminism? — Sublime Zoo

“What if a white guy played Black Panther?: The Fake Concern of Fake Geek Guys — Stitch’s Media Mix

Whenever I talk about racebending as a concept when it comes to comics and comics-related properties, smartasses always show up to say something snarky like “what if Black Panther or some other Black hero were a white guy”. They crowd into my mentions or any comment field they can get a hold of, trying to […]

via “What if a white guy played Black Panther?: The Fake Concern of Fake Geek Guys — Stitch’s Media Mix

 

**And for further reading, the distinction is that Whitewashing is bad and Racebending is okay, and here is why:

Dear Comic Fans: We Get it. You’re racist and racebending scares you.

The Incomparable Differences between Whitewashing and Racebending

Whitewashing vs. Racebending: Yes, There is a Difference

https://moviepilot.com/p/how-whitewashing-does-and-doesnt-affect-movies/4112605

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/whitewashing-racebending

 

**And further readings on Race and Media for the weekend include a description of harassment in the Art world,  for speaking the truth, which is important to me because I’m an artist.

This ties into America’s general belief that History was all White, and that PoC played no part in European History at all. As Dr. Who said, “History has been whitewashed!” And yes, I blame Hollywood, and America’s  general historical ignorance. It’s this ignorance of the part PoC played throughout every era of human history that leads to cries of “Historical Accuracy” every time a Black person wanders into the orbit of, not just historical films, but any Fantasy films that have a foundation in European folklore.

https://hyperallergic.com/383776/why-we-need-to-start-seeing-the-classical-world-in-color/

https://www.artforum.com/news/id=68963

 

**And on Race and Fandom Wankery…Stop It! Fandom is every bit as racist as non-geek culture, but Klandom thinks it’s better at disguising it. There has also been some confusion about patterns of implicit racism vs calling individuals racist.

Thinking that you are personally being called out on your racism is basically the Racism 101 approach to this topic,  because we’re not talking about individual people, although individuals may be used as examples of what were drawing attention to.

The discussion that PoC and LGBT people are having is from the 401 Class, and seems to be over quite a few people’s heads. We’re discussing patterns of behavior across multiple platforms. We’re not talking about a handful of bigots, writing stories we don’t like, but  about hundreds of people across fandom engaging in the same behavior, and then making the exact same excuses for their behavior, over and over again.

We are supposed to be the most progressive and transformative community in pop-culture.

nyxelestia

We who…

  • Hyper-focus on white, male characters
  • Contort these male characters into heteronormativity
  • Marginalize and erase characters of color
  • Write out women and replace them with men, especially in shipping
  • Attack women for “getting in the way” of our preferred ships
  • Hold female characters to higher standards than male characters
  • Hold characters of color to higher standards than white characters
  • Latch onto any single excuse to marginalize female characters
  • Utilize any single excuse to demonize characters of color
  • Put women on pedestals and act as if we’re doing them a favor
  • Justify white and male abuses or dismiss them as “mistakes”
  • Use actual mistakes to denigrate female and non-white characters
  • Romanticize white, male pain and mental illness
  • Expect female characters to perform all the emotional labor
  • Expect characters of color to be perfectly mentally healthy forever
  • Expect everyone to subsume their own mental health for the white males’
  • Dismiss the traumas and experiences of characters of color
  • Minimize the achievements of female characters

And then we wonder why mainstream media is so regressive, especially compared to us. We all talk as if mainstream media creators are behind the times.

They’re not.

Fandom likes to imagine itself as being progressive because of all the slash – a mechanism of progress which conveniently boils down to extra attention on overwhelmingly male (and overwhelmingly white) characters. This form of progress is one which takes a minor deviation from the social norm (homosexuality), only to end up ultimately supporting or even amplifying the status quo, by virtue of over-focusing on male characters (and over-representing white ones in the process).

Strip back that gay window dressing, though, and you’ll see that at best, fandom is just as socially stagnant as mainstream media and mainstream culture – or even worse, by virtue of engaging in media that overwhelmingly sidelines several other marginalized groups in order to prop up one.

Professional women have long known the old adage, “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought of half as good.” What no one seems to realize is that fandom is still doing exactly the same thing.

We expect female characters to be twice as good for half the acclaim, we expect characters of color to be three times as good for a third of the acclaim, and we let white, male characters be only a quarter as good for four times the acclaim.

Mainstream media is keeping up with the times and with social progress just fine, it’s us who’ve deluded ourselves into believing that we, as a community, are more progressive than we actually are.

 

 

And Danae Guriria lays it out:


**And on Hollywood Erasure. This topic is especially interesting to me becasue I know there were Black cowboys. When Slavery ended, a lot of Black people fled West, rather than North, which is how and why there are so many black people in places like Minnesota, Oklahoma, California and a huge Black population in Texas. I know there were Black Cowboys (and many many Mexican ones) but this is something most Americans don’t no about due once again to Hollywood Whitewashing. The remake of the Magnificent Seven is a lot more historically  accurate than the original.

Although the reception of that movie proves one more thing to me, that Denzel Washington can make whatever the Hell movie he wants, and no one will criticize him for historical accuracy. Apparently, he belongs in any era he wants.

 

black-to-the-bones

The LIT History Series is for the Legends, Innovators and Trailblazers that have shaped our culture.

It is widely believed that the “Lone Ranger”, the famous cowboy of the TV show and the movie, was inspired by a Black man named Bass Reeves.

Reeves was born a slave, but he escaped to the West where he eventually became a Deputy U.S. Marshal, an expert marksman, and a master of disguise with his Native American sidekick. Blacks were a huge part of the Western frontier despite what’s told to us in pop culture or taught to us in the classroom. “The kids who are learning history in our schools are not being told the truth about the way the West was,” says Jim Austin, founder of the National Multicultural Heritage Museum. “I bet you nine out of 10 people in this country think that cowboys were all white – as I did.” (x)

Cherokee Bill, born Crawford Goldsby, was a notorious outlaw whose father was a Buffalo Soldier. His reputation and career as an outlaw rivals the reputation of Billy the Kid. Bill Picket was a “famous” Black cowboy who toured the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, and England, and he was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame 40 years after his death. (x)

And black cowboys are still here, they do exist.

That’s a huge part of history that was also erased from the history of America. We need to bring attention to this, because it’s unfair that black people along with other people of color have been erased from this narrative.

Source

 

American Gods Season One : Come to Jesus (Part One)

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This  took some time to write because so many delicious things happened in the finale. I’ve been pretty busy and tired this week, but I’m determined to get this post out, doggonit! I’m also  going to have to do this in installments, because its already long enough. The next post is about the series as a whole, including its future incarnations, and an entire post devoted to speculation about the show’s lead, Shadow Moon, and his relationship with Wednesday.

Fuller and Green pulled out every stop in Come to Jesus. This episode was funny, cute, and awesome, in ways I wasn’t expecting. And that ending? Wow! This episode was also just gorgeous. The cinematography was  incredible, from Bilquis backstory, to the final scenes featuring Ostara,  tonight’s episode belonged to the women.

We open with Shadow and Wednesday, looking bored, while Nancy crafts new suits for them from spider silk, of course. Why am I not even surprised that he’s a tailor? It’s Easter holiday, and the two men plan to visit the goddess for which the holiday is named. For that, they need to look presentable. Nancy’s  house is an arachnophobic nightmare, though. All of his tailoring scenes, and even the clothing, is crawling with tiny spiders. (I think the spider’s are making the fabric, and there’s a giant loom in the background. How do I know this? I used to have  that kind of loom when I was a child.) I was a little squicked out by the spiders, though. If you have severe anxiety about spiders, then skip this scene. What’s interesting is that all of these gods have animals associated with them, and that they communicate with. Wednesday has his ravens, and the wolf we saw in A Murder of Gods, Nancy has his spiders, Ostara has bunnies.

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Afterward, we get another gorgeous scene of Nancy telling a story, despite Wednesday’s protestations, and Nancy’s  signature catchphrase, “Angry gets shit done!” is aimed, this time, at Shadow, who is pissed at Wednesday for killing Vulcan. This episode has so many favorite moments, this is simply the best episode of the season. Mr. Nancy generating his own spotlight is hilarious! (I just love this character!) At first I thought Nancy was going to tell the story he told in the book, about how the monkey got the lion’s balls, but no, he tells Bilquis’ tragic backstory, which is a very neat way to tie her to the other characters we’ve met this season, and tie her presence in this episode to Easter. How he knows her backstory is anyone’s guess, unless he’s making it up (in the book, he and Bilquis never meet) but it’s fitting that he be the one to tell her story here. I think Nancy is probably a little in love with her too, and it makes sense, in this series universe, they would’ve met.

Note: Once again, only the barest bones of this comes from the book. This series follows the foundation, and spirit, of the books, but is very heavily embellished with lots of extra stuff.

http://nerdist.com/american-gods-history-primer-bilquis-a-k-a-queen-of-sheba/

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Bilquis  is a very, very old Queen, (Sheba) with her own temple, and congregation. We’re talking about 3,000 years ago, in ancient Iran, where she was incredibly powerful, and openly worshiped. Of course, you could visit her temple, and worship her if you wanted, but you would very probably be eaten. It’s a beautiful, sensual scene that doesn’t feel gratuitous. Fuller has an unerring talent for crafting sex scenes that are titillating, without being raunchy. Bilquis was so powerful then, like a spider, she just liquefied her companions (whole groups of people), before sucking them into her vagina. Where, according to Technical Boy, they spend an eternity worshiping her in the Vagina Nebula, as she feeds off their energy.

Nancy narrates how various patriarchies went out of their way to destroy her, and failed. That handsome young man with the crown, I believe just represents royalty in general, and no God in particular. At the height of her powers, she devoured kings too. Later, as men became more and more desperate to control and contain her and her followers, out of fear and hatred, they resorted to violence, which seemed to work. As the centuries passed she fell on harder and harder times and, like Nunyunnini, was slowly forgotten, even by herself. Unlike him, she was still potent enough to be revived. As long as people wanted what she had to give she could still take sustenance. Bilquis’ story is a perfect metaphor  of the suppression of female sexual agency and  power by patriarchy, which is why it was important to Fuller that she be a  dark skinned Black woman. In the history of America, Black women have had little sexual agency, they’re bodies often exploited by men for labor and reproductive purposes. We’ve all been taught that woman’s sexuality needs to be carefully harnessed, and are only just now moving away from this concept in the US.

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Also, women who look like the gorgeous Yetide Badaki, are rarely shown as sexual icons in  media, or  as women who own their sexuality, serving no one but themselves. Women  who use their sexuality for their own ends, often have their sexuality heavily policed by men and women of all races. Witness how black women like Beyoncé, and Serena Williams have been vilified by social media for expressing themselves, slut shamed by respectability politics, and made to seem less than white women who have engaged in the exact same behavior, but are considered empowered when they do it. The true irony,  in this scenario, are white women who think the freedom to express their sexuality is something only reserved for them, and who seek to suppress and castigate WoC for expressing theirs.  Bilquis story is all the more tragic because, as Bilquis’ power diminishes, she comes to accept this shame and self hatred, along with her lowly status. She isn’t just forgotten by the world. She forgets her power.

The  passing eras, and her rise to power again, are beautifully rendered by the changes in costume and makeup. We see her in her original jewelry, at the temple. There’s a scene of her in a disco, with a huge Afro,  reminding me of Wednesday’s first statements to Shadow about his mother. (I do wonder if the show will go that route with her. It would be a nice touch, and explain a number of odd things about Shadow, who we still have no backstory for.) She even takes another WoC ,as her lover and I’m sure there are fans who loved this representation of WoC pansexuality. In 1979, during the Iranian Revolt,  she is exiled from her homeland, along with many of her followers, and years later, watches in despair, as ISIL destroys her last temple. Later, she finds her lover again, but she is dying from AIDS, which has been seen a punishment for people  who are considered too free with their sexuality.

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Bilquis is, once again, visiting her display at the museum. She is so ancient, that almost no one now alive knows what any of the  objects representing her were for. She is visited by Technical Boy, (who is wearing yet another shitty, ridiculous hairstyle) to whom she owes a huge favor, as he was the one who found her when she was at her absolute lowest ebb, homeless, and sleeping in the gutter. He offers her tribute in the form of a modern dating app, which is where we find her in episode one. What he has tasked her to do, we’re not sure, but she’s meant to meet everyone at the House on the Rock, a place of major importance in the book.

Nancy says Bilquis is reluctantly on the side of the new gods, and that Wednesday needs to collect another ancient goddess as her counterpoint.  During all Bilquis’ scenes, we get some idea of what her powers are, and while she’s not at her height, she possesses the ability to charm, beguile, or seduce any human being. Who she is meant to turn this power to at House on the Rock, is unclear. Wednesday, or Shadow? Nevertheless, it’s clear she’s not entirely willing to do Technical Boy’s bidding, and there is hope for her breaking her deal with TB, because we notice she is not carrying her phone, or using her app, when she seduces one of her travel companions.

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On the way to Easter, Shadow dreams about climbing a mountain of skulls. This is his prophecy about the war, hanging  over his subconscious like Wednesday’s storms. On some level, he knows and believes in what’s happening, but refuses to commit, and Wednesday calls him out on this. No matter how angry he gets at Wednesday, or pretends to, he still likes the old con, and I think Wednesday is counting on that fondness to keep him by his side.  Shadow also sees the White Buffalo again, and the World tree, Yggdrasil, which is also a representation of the War of the Gods (Ragnarok) spoken of in Norse mythology.

**Ragnarok (Old Norse Ragnarök, “The Doom of the Gods”) is the name the pre-Christian Norse gave to the end of their mythical cycle, during which the cosmos is destroyed and is subsequently re-created.

—– http://norse-mythology.org/tales/ragnarok/

When Shadow wakes up, he finds that he and Wednesday are being chased by bunnies. It turns out that the bunny that overturned Laura’s truck was not sent by Easter, although it is her animal to call, and they report to her. I thought that was one of the cutest things ever. The bunnies try to stop Wednesday  from reaching his destination too, but unlike Laura, he is unimpressed. He just runs them over, which makes Shadow give him the side eye. So the bunny’s job seems to be stopping uninvited  people from reaching Easter’s home, I guess.

Obstructionist Bunnies!

Easter is, naturally, celebrating Easter, but she’s celebrating it with all the various Jesuses, which I thought was hilarious. This is notable because Jesus is treated just like any of the other gods in the narrative, and most of the current versions are present at the party. The whole damn thing was just deeply, deeply funny to me, including the scenes where, whenever any of the Jesuses got near a light source, a halo would appear, and Shadow’s meeting with Jeremy Davis’ regular white guy Jesus, AKA Jesus Prime, for some reason. I did see Hippie Jesus, Black Jesus, and even a baby Jesus. Some of the Jesuses I couldn’t pinpoint, although I am told Mexican Jesus managed to resurrect long enough to show up.

Your basic guide to Jesus:

 

What do you call them? A flock? A gaggle? A Halo of Jesi?  But it’s the details that really fetched me up, and made me laugh out loud. From the flock of sheep that follow Ostara in all her outdoor background shots, to the tiny halo on the infant Jesus, being nursed by a woman dressed like old-school Mary, to  the jellybean stigmata of the Russian Orthodox Jesus, and the bunnies that poop jellybeans, it’s an incredibly rich, and thoroughly charming backdrop. And if I was a bit dubious about Ostara, at first, I was totally in love with her by the end of the episode.

 

On Ostara:

https://www.thoughtco.com/eostre-spring-goddess-or-neopagan-fancy-2562488

https://www.themonastery.org/blog/2013/03/easter-and-ostara-converging-traditions/

Easter receives several uninvited guests, along with Shadow and Wednesday. Laura and Mad Sweeney, Media and Technical Boy also arrive. The meeting of Shadow and Easter is just cute in the books but they’re shown here as being much more smitten with each other, which is a good foundation for Easter’s actions towards Shadow later in the series. In the book, she is delighted to meet Shadow and flirts shamelessly, in that way that only Southern Belles can get away with. The two of them are just the most darling thing I’ve ever seen on this show. Shadow blushes like a shy teenager with his first crush, and while she offensively refers to him as pink chocolate! she gets a pass, because I wholeheartedly agree.

That boy is foine!

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Kristen Chenoweth is wonderful in this role. I was prepared to be annoyed by her because of the trailer, (and because Chenoweth has a sordid past as a Broadway singer),  but she turned out to be a delightful character who, like a lot of southern women, is warm, gracious, and mushy, on the surface, but has a backbone of pure steel underneath. Easter is not happy that Wednesday is crashing her party, and upsetting the Jesuses, who are very nice men.

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Laura and Sweeney also arrive, but unfortunately, Easter is unable to resurrect Laura, as Sweeney requests. Looking deeply into Laura’s eyes, Ostara sees the shadow of a raven, and the face of Mad Sweeney, and determines  that Laura was killed by a god. Since Laura was killed through Wednesday’s machinations, Ostara cannot interfere in  another god’s plans. Laura figures that Sweeney knows more than he’s been telling her and tortures the truth out of him. It turns out, Wednesday isn’t just responsible for Laura’s death, but just as I suspected, is also responsible for that perfect casino heist that went horribly wrong, that landed Shadow in prison, being guarded over by Loki. You need to ask yourself why Wednesday would go through so much trouble, to procure a nobody, from nowhere. Easter also admits that the other gods have been talking about Shadow too, speculating who he is, and why he’s with Wednesday.

I like how they’ve kept Laura’s decomposition consistent. She’s definitely getting to the liquid stage, as her eyes have become milky, and she coughs up maggots. She can’t even begin to hide her smell now, (in the books she covered it up with perfume), and she has her own halo of flies. In the meantime, Shadow has a conversation with one of the Jesuses about the nature of belief. I laughed too hard at Jesus setting his drink down, and losing it in the pool he was floating on top of,  because Drunk Jesus!

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One of Easter’s bunnies whispers in her ear that Media has arrived, also without  invitation. Before I start gushing about Gillian Anderson in this role, I need to give some backstory. Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade was released in 1948, and starred Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. The plot involves an older veteran dancer, who replaces his older partner with a young dancer, he hopes to mold in his image, until he finds himself falling in love with her. The faceless drone we see Media dancing with, is dressed in a replica of his suit, from the movie, and Gillian is wearing a pink replica of Judy Garland’s dress from the movie’s title scene, at the end. The drones are even attempting to dance like Astaire. Media mostly speaks in quotes from the movie. From her opening statement about Easter’s heart beating faster, to the mention of their date, these are all quotes from the movie. Guess how I know this!😊😊😊

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Unlike Wednesday, Easter didn’t turn down Media’s offer of aid, although she never asked for it either. In exchange for making certain that Easter traditions remain popular (eggs and chocolate), Easter has gotten a significant boost in her reputation, and followers, even if she has to share her holiday with the Jesuses. In exchange, Media requests her loyalty. When Wednesday approaches, he is confronted by Media and Technical Boy, but he upsets their plans, winning Easter’s loyalty with a combination of lies and tribute. He tells  her the Shadow-unapproved story, that Vulcan was killed by the New Gods, for taking his side in the coming war, and making him a sword. He also offers her a sacrifice.

Here, we see Odin for the first time this season. In an awesome display of power,Wednesday shows Shadow his true face, and speaks his many names.

 

 Odin’s backstory:

http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/odin/

Now once again we come back to the idea of sacrifice. By offering Easter the  deaths of his enemies, he gives her enough power to free her from the bargain she made with Media. Throughout the series, he has outlined the basic idea of godhood, and how it works. Give a little, and get a little in return, whether it be worship, tribute, prayer, or sacrifice. It’s fairly simple. Quid pro quo! If you dedicate something precious to a god, you will receive something in return, although not necessarily what you asked for. Media, Technical Boy, and the other new gods, have corrupted this arrangement, and think this makes them more powerful than the old ones. They have never seen the old gods powers fully unleashed, and have nothing but disdain for creatures they see as old and weak, the way so many young people view the elderly.

It’s not that Media and Technology don’t affect the world in some way, but they can’t control the seasons, rainfall, or lightning. They cannot truly control anything on the physical plane, and are not grounded in the real world of human physical sensation. Bilquis can compel people to love her and eats them, Wednesday can control the weather and destroy them, Vulcan can make weapons that kill them. As I said in an earlier post, the old gods are physical in a way the the new gods are not. The new gods are virtual, ephemeral. They promise dreams and fantasies, but give little or nothing  in return, for all the attention humans give them. Or rather, what they give in return for human attention is just as ephemeral, shallow, and unreal as they are.

And this is Wednesday’s key to his argument with Easter. Media can’t really give her power. She can influence humanity and she can tug on their bargain to procure Easter’s loyalty, but with the influx of direct power from Wednesday’s sacrifice, she no longer needs Media. The new gods can aid and abet, cajole, promise and seduce, but they can’t really offer her a sacrifice. It’s not just about human attention. Power comes from being offered tribute.We saw this with Bilquis and Technical Boy earlier. If it weren’t for the bargain she made with him, she would be capable of devouring him too. He doesn’t have nearly as much control over Bilquis as he thinks he does, and he is too shallow, and ignorant, of who she is, to know what he has awakened. The same way he underestimated Wednesday,  in A Murder of Gods, Media has underestimated the degree of power she is dealing with regarding Easter.

But I also said that neither side in this war is  good or bad. There’s no right or wrong from a human perspective. Gods have their own concerns and most are only concerned with what humans  can give them. This mindset (and Wednesday’s actions towards Easter) is the key to understanding why Wednesday wants this war, and why he’s willing to kill Laura to procure Shadow for himself, and is also willing to unleash untold misery on humanity, by encouraging Easter to take away the harvest season.

Wednesday did the same thing to Shadow that TB did to Bilquis. He found her at her lowest point and offered her a chance to regain power. Wednesday orchestrates the complete destruction  of Shadow’s life, and at his lowest point, when Shadow has nothing and no one, he steps in, and offers him a way out, winning his loyalty. If you want a clue as to who Shadow is, think about why Wednesday would want to collect him, and why he needs Shadow to believe.

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We see an awesome display of power, and some truly gorgeous cinematography, as Easter, high on the sacrifices given to her by Wednesday, unleashes the full meaning of her name, as Goddess of the Dawn, and kills off all the plant life in a several mile radius of her home. Humanity can have Spring back when they pray to her for it.

 

My  favorite moments were all the wonderful details like:

Mr. Nancy’s interjections in his scenes with Shadow.

Media’s presence this entire season, which is in keeping with the fact that Fuller is an out gay man, has been a showcase of gay icons. Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, David Bowie, and Judy Garland, are all extremely popular gay icons, from the forties through the sixties.

The Security Rabbits jobs are to stop traffic on the road to Easter’s home, so they can see who is in the vehicle, and then report the occupants back to Easter. I suspect this is what the rabbit that caused Laura’s accident was trying to do. No one approaches her home without her knowing about it , except in the case where Wednesday killed them all.

The deviled eggs at Easters party. It was a tradition in our house to eat those every Spring.

Easter’s tiny halo.

The tiny polka dots on Shadow’s suit.

That poor waiter who was wearing an egg shaped helmet.

The tiny cookies shaped like hands with red centers representing the stigmata.

Wednesday connecting Spring Break raunchiness to the worship of Easter.

The diversity of Easter’s party guests.

Those ridiculous striped silk robes Nancy made Shadow and Wednesday wear while awaiting their new outfits.

Easters slightly tattered finery. If you look closely enough, the flower in her hat has just a bit of rough edging.

When Media’s hat blows off during the storm, that’s also a scene from  a Judy Garland movie.

Shadow disapproves of Wednesday’s buunycidal behavior.

*In part two, I’ll discuss my thoughts about Shadow Moon, and in part three I’ll talk about the costumes, cinematography, and visual aesthetics.

 

A Prayer For Mad Sweeney

This episode is Mad Sweeney’s elegy. He is also one of the more unlikable characters in the show., but it turns out he’s not actually a bad man, and has heart of gold. In the real world, someone like Sweeney would get their ass kicked on a regular basis, (actually he does in the show, too) but he is a great character.

Normally, I like fictionalized assholes as much as I like real world ones, which is to say not at all, but from time to time I get captured by a great depiction, and Sweeney is one of those. Pablo Schreiber plays the hell outta this guy, and I have to give him some props, especially when I had no idea who he was before this show.

One small dislike for me  is that this is another filler episode, that distracts from the greater narrative revolving around Shadow and Wednesday. I didn’t dislike this episode, it’s just that I’m less interested in what Laura and Sweeney are up to. But tonight’s episode was devastating in its implications about the relationship between Laura and Sweeney, deepening it, and explaining a lot of the dynamic between the two of them.

The episode begins at the Anubis funeral home, where Mr Ibis and Mr. Jaquel not only lay out corpses for burial, but can even predict when corpses will arrive. I thought it was interesting getting a glimpse into their relationship. Are they a couple? Are they brothers? Just friends? They’re always considerate and polite to each other, and know each other too well.  Mr. Ibis tells Sweeney’s story through the eyes of an Irish girl named Essie, who looks suspiciously like Emily Browning. Laura is not the reincarnation of Essie, though. Its  that Laura reminds Sweeney of Essie, and I think he’s starting to like her.

The episode is split between Laura’s and Sweeney’s  modern day road trip, and Sweeney’s past, when he knew Essie. This  follows the book pretty closely. Essie has a very colorful life, as a thief, an indentured servant, then a  wife and mother, and finally grandmother, where she often traded on her looks to get ahead, aided by her gifts to, and stories, about “The Good Folk”. Notice that whenever Essie stops giving to the good folk, they stop giving to her.

There’s  a scene where Essie is in Newgate prison, after having not made an offering for a time, and Mad Sweeney is in the next cell, and she tells him stories. She tells him about her wish for a good life, quiet and settled, a tree, some children. She makes an offering to the Good People using the only food she has available, a piece of rotten bread. Eventually she gets out of Newgate and gets sent back to America where her wish comes true, because she made an offering of her last bite of food.

Eventually she has to stop telling her stories about the Fair Folk, realizing that there’s no place in her current world for belief in such things. But she never stops believing, and upon her death, it is Sweeney who comes to collect her soul.

The term Good Folk is a reference to the Fay, or any Fairy creatures of Celtic folklore. The general idea in most people’s minds are the tiny, butterfly beings that frequent rings in meadows, or Tinkerbell, but the term encompasses a greater variety of creatures than just those, (some of which are pretty horrific, deadly, and not at all tiny. See any book by the painter/illustrator, Brian Froud.)  Irish folklore is pretty complicated  though,  and you could spend your entire life studying the subject.

 

*For background on Faery lore, and myth:

http://www.medbherenn.com/faerie-lore.html

http://www.medbherenn.com/faerie-lore.html

 

*And for background on the real mythology behind Mad Sweeney:

http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/history-heritage/folklore-of-ireland/carlow-folklore/the-story-of-mad-sweeney/

Sweeney, Salim, and Laura stop at the site of the White Buffalo statue.The legend of the White Buffalo is somewhere around 2,000 years old, and was originally a tradition of the Lakota Sioux, a Plains Tribe. This particular scene, like all the modern day scenes, which involve Laura and Sweeney, don’t happen in the book.

http://lightningmedicinecloud.com/legend.html

For those of you concerned that there haven’t been any Native gods depicted, I think Shadow’s dreams count. In the book, they don’t play a pivotal role until much much later, and are responsible for interfering in the war, coming in on Shadow’s behalf. I expect we may not see them until well into second season. Although I do agree they should be introduced in some greater form beyond the forgotten Nunyunnini.

 

While at their rest, Sweeney is visited by one of Odin’s birds, who he harshly chastises. He mistakenly lets Laura know that all the gods are meeting at a tourist attraction/resort called House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Now that she knows where Shadow is going, Laura decides to release Salim from his bargain to take her to a resurrectionist friend of Sweeny. She tells Salim to go get his Jinn. He happily leaves, but not without (hilariously) informing Sweeney of what a vile creature he is. (Yes, he is, but Sweeney also has a lot of secrets.)

That morning, Laura talked with Salim, asking him if he loved God, or was “in love’ with God. He answered in the affirmative. I think Laura is seeking an answer to her own questions of how she feels about Shadow. She may not have loved Shadow when she was alive, but I think she is certainly loves him now, (or is obsessed or something) and part of that may be the supernatural connection that exists between them, because I dont tihnk she is “in love” with him.

Laura hasn’t looked at peace since she was resurrected, so I just want to point out, during this episode, we often see her quietly smiling to herself when contemplating Shadow. I think she is finally at peace in a way she never  was in life. She has a goal and a purpose now, that was missing, when she was alive. Shadow is her purpose. He’s her god, now. He is literally her reason for living and not only has she realized that, she’s okay with it. She even seems happy about it. Yeah, she is stalking Shadow, but if you’ve ever read John Campbell’s Hero’s Journey books, then there’s a purpose to it.

While driving, Sweeney gives Laura some more background. He tells her about his hoard of gold, that he used to be a king in Ireland, that he was once a bird, and then a saint according to the prevailing beliefs of whatever time period in which he lived. He ran away from so long ago war in which he knew he would die. He gave up his sword and vowed not to get involved again, but he owes Wednesday a war, which explains his objections to Wednesday’s warmongering between the old and new gods, but also  his refusal to leave.

Keep in mind, Sweeney is a leprechaun, which  is a kind of  Celtic deity. Although Laura is more powerful than him, he is not without power of his own, as illustrated by him easily stomping a park bench, without breaking a sweat. His speech to Laura is a reference for how diminished the gods have become as people’s belief in them changed, and leprechauns have been demoted to cute cartoon characters on cereal boxes, something which bears almost no relation to what he actually is, or even looks like.

One of the rules of being a Fey is one can only take what’s freely given, so when we see Sweeney throw the coins out if the vehicle, its becasue he took the ice cream out of the freezer, and the owner wasn’t there. When he and Laura stole the truck, Laura gave the owner of the truck all of his money, so he doesn’t object to that. He didn’t have to leave anything behind in return for stealing Salim’s taxi because he was interrupted before he could finish.

One of the questions that is confusing to a lot of people about American Gods is if these gods can die. If all it takes is a belief in them, then can they really be killed. Vulcan is is killed in the last episode. But he is definitely a god, people actually believed in a version of him. Does that mean some other version of him will take his place? Does Wednesday’s curse prevent this from happening? Just as there are different versions of Jesus, there are different versions of ods like Wednesday and Sweeney, wherever they are believed.

 

For example, in one of the last scenes from the book, Shadow meets a more authentic version of Wednesday in his home country. He is a more original form in his country of origin, and acknowledges Wednesday as an offshoot of him. I don’t think the gods can travel to anyplace where they are not believed in. Wednesday can’t leave America, and hasn’t done so, as he says to Shadow in one of their earlier discussions. When the new gods offer to make a missile in his name, over North Korea, Wednesday refers to it as a form of exile, and it would only be that way if belief in him were transferred, from America, to the missile system over North Korea.

Another treat we get in this episode is the white rabbit. The white rabbit is a sign of the goddess Easter,  or Ostara, a pagan fertility goddess. She is also the goddess of Spring and renewal. Her imagery often involves hares and rabbits. We will meet Ostara in the season finale. When a White rabbit hops into the middle of the road, Laura swerves to avoid it, crashing their vehicle. She flies out the windshield, and loses the coin, after which there is another revelation, as Sweeney contemplates her dead body.

 

Sweeney was the one who caused Laura’s first death in a car crash, and he feels some kind of way about that. Incidentally the words he’s screaming, after the truck crash, are in Old Irish, not Gaelic. Something along the lines of, “Why is this shit happening to me? Haven’t I suffered enough? And I’m not an evil man!” Which is ironic after being told by Salim that he is an unpleasant creature.
Wednesday has been trying really hard to keep Laura and Shadow apart, and was the orchestrator of her death. He was responsible for hiring Sweeney to kill her the first time, and I’m certain he’s responsible for hiring Ostara to crash their vehicle this time, since the rabbit which caused it, is her symbol. Laura is meant to die again and she does, when the coin, that Sweeney has  made clear that’s all he’s interested in, pops out of her open chest cavity.  Sweeney retrieves his coin and he could walk away, but flashing back to the night he first killed her, he changes his mind and places the coin back in her chest. He immediately regrets it, of course, when Laura punches him out, for touching her. The two of them continue their journey.

I also want to mention the music in this episode is so  spot on, it’s hilarious. During the scene where Essie absconds with her latest husband’s money to become a market thief, the theme is Runaround Sue by Dion. Daddy’s Home by Shep and the Limelights, is the song that plays the first time she offers bread to the Good Folk in America, an unknowingly summoning Sweeney.

Next week is the season finale, titled Come to Jesus, so I guess there will be some Jesus involved.  The show has already been picked up for a second season, and if we’re lucky it will continue for many more beyond the story of the book.

 

 

Superheroes on TV

So, just as Superheroes have taken over the movie theaters for the next few years, they’re also coming to a television near you. Here’s a partial list of most, if not all, of the superhero, and  superhero adjacent, shows coming to TV this Summer and Fall.

I’ve read most of the comic books associated with these titles, so those I’m looking forward to. I will probably watch the pilots for at least half of these, but as to whether or not I’ll make them a regular viewing habit, I can’t say.

Shows In Development 

The Inhumans (9/1)

I was never a fan of the books, but many of these characters have been featured in other works, so I know about Black Bolt and Medusa. I like Black Bolt but I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about this show because it looks seriously cheap, and the show runner is the same lack-skill that worked on Iron Fist, Scott Buck. I have a special level of contempt for him, so you must forgive me if I decide to skip this.

 

The Gifted (Fall)

I was under the impression that this is based on The New Mutants comic books. I’ve always been a  huge fan of that comic, but I’m thoroughly incurious about this show. I’m not interested in watching earnest looking teens with superpowers.

 

Bright

This is the new Will Smith D&D movie airing on Netflix. I’ll watch Will in pretty much anything.

 

Black Lightning (2017)

Yeah, I’m gonna actually try to watch this. I’ve only read a single one of the comic books, so I’m walking into this one with no preconceptions, and no knowledge outside of: he’s got some daughters, and they got superpowers.

 

The Punisher (November – Netflix)

I’ve never been a Punisher fan. I’ve always thought of him as boring, and unimaginative, but I know a lot about him because he kept starring in every other character’s book. Marvel loves crossovers. I was pretty impressed with Jon Bernthal’s portrayal in Daredevil though, so I’m looking forward to the show.

 

The Tick

I’m not a Tick fan. I know something about this character because I have a friend who loves him, and insists on telling me about him, but I’m not feeling any particular way about it. I hope its as funny as my friend says it will be.

 

Krypton (Fall)

Image result for krypton comic

I’m not particularly interested in this but I’ll give it a look-see. I don’t find life on Krypton to be especially interesting, and I was not clamoring for this, but I’m curious as to what the show will be like, so I’ll take a look.

 

Cloak and Dagger (2018)

I read the comic books like a religious duty, so I’m a huge fan of the characters, but the show doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to the books. I hope that’s a good thing because the books did have some issues. I will take a look at the pilot and  hope its some good.

 

Jessica Jones 2

I was disappointed in the first season of this show because of its lack of intersectional feminism, and its shabby treatment of PoC, so I’m not on board for the remake. I hope it’s better than season one because I can get PoC abuse and erasure in a much better show than this.

 

Iron Fist 2

*Sigh* I’ll watch this if it has a different show runner attached. Scott Bucked really fucked this up, and I have no confidence in him, so if he’s still attached to the second season, then I’m out.

 

In 2018:

Runaways 

Titans

New Warriors

 

To Be Announced:

Scarlet

Image result for scarlet  comic character

I actually like this character. She always reminded me of Xena Warrior Princess though, for some reason. Anyway, if this gets made, I’ll take a look at it. So far, I’ve only heard that its in development.

 

Hellfire Club

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I had mo interest in the comic book version, and have no interest in this, so it will probably turn out to be an awesome show that will be canceled because I was the only person watching it.

 

Umbrella Academy

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I enjoyed the book version, but I think its a series that’s hard to film and get the flavor of it right. I’m really curious about who will star in it, and what  it will be like, though. So far, its just in development.

 

Concrete

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I’ve never read the books, but I have friends who love this. For their sake, I hope it gets made, and that its as good as they say the books are.

 

Static Shock

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All I know about this character, I learned from the cartoon. This is only in development though. There are no names attached and I don’t even know if it will be live action. If you know more, let me know.

 

Rasl

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I liked this book, but I didn’t continue to read beyond the first collection. The book was kind of confusing but I loved the artwork.

 

 

Y: The last Man

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Didn’t care for the book. Hope the show is some good.

 

Enormous

Image result for enormous comic

I just bought this on Comixology, and enjoyed it. Its mostly about strange giant creatures taking over the Earth, and wiping out humanity, which sounds awesome. With a good budget, and some care, this could be like a Kaiju version of The Walking Dead.

 

I’m familiar with these three comics but I haven’t actually read them.

Happy

Scalped

Locke and Key

American Gods Season One: A Murder of Gods

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This episode is a big fuck you to American politics, and its Ra-Ra Americana, Gun Loving, Make America Great Again, America is for White people aesthetic. That it puts a Black man right in the middle of all this is no accident. Outside of Mr. Nancy’s speech in episode three, this is one of the more politically blatant episodes this season, as Fuller usually tries to keep his social sensibilities clear, but a little more subtle.

In the opening scene, we meet the Mexican version of Jesus, as he shepherds a group of Mexican immigrants across the border. I thought this was a respectful depiction, even though I’m not a believer. Nevertheless, I know that these beliefs are important to someone, and should be treated with a certain amount of respect. One of the immigrants doesn’t know how to swim, nearly drowning while crossing a river, but is saved by Jesus. Even I had to admit to feeling a tiny bit of a thrill with the walking on water scene. That was kinda cool.

Everyone makes it to shore but they are fired upon by a group of White men wearing badges with the word Vulcan on them. This is Fuller’s open political statement of how immigrants who came here earlier like to set themselves against the immigrants who come after them. This was the primary theme of the movie Gangs of New York, with gangs of White people calling themselves Natives, fighting with the more recent Irish immigrants. The irony in this episode is that the Mexicans are the real Natives, as they were living in this country before White people got here.

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The very nature of Jesus is sacrifice, and is illustrated in this scene of him protecting his followers with his life.  Here you have two  old gods who are diametrically opposed to each other. One of them is symbolized by fire and violence, and the other by peace and water, but both of them are willing to make sacrifices. One of them does so for the benefit of others,  and the other does it only for himself. The followers of Vulcan are  older immigrants than the ones they’re killing that night, but nevertheless feel that they have staked a claim to American soil and don’t want to share it with any others, who came here later than them. They’re devoted to the idea of America, only their version bears no resemblance to what America actually is. The Mexican immigrants have a much clearer idea of what America is but their god isn’t as powerful as the one who has decided to profit from racism,  and xenophobia, and has a lot of guns. There is a reason Vulcan has to die at the end of this episode. He has been complicit in corruption the very nature of sacrifice.

Shadow and Wednesday are walking back to the motel, to retrieve their car, after their escape from the police station. Wednesday still has not noticed that Shadow is injured, as they discuss what happened at the station. Wednesday still refuses to tell Shadow what to think, insisting that Shadow make up his own mind about what’s happening. He insists that Shadow has to believe to understand,  but Shadow doesn’t want to go there. It’s just too much. Gods are actual real beings, and Wednesday is one of them!

Note that most of the events in tonight’s episode are made up of whole cloth by the writers. With the exception of some verbatim conversations and dialogue, none of the events, from Wednesday’s healing  session with Shadow, to the return of Salim, to Laura’s road trip with Sweeney, to Wednesday’s meeting with Vulcan, is in the book. Fuller’s general method, regarding adaptations, is to expand on the source material in ways that enhance and deepen the story. In the original narrative, almost the entire book is from Shadow’s point of view, but Fuller has changed things here to make the show, an ensemble piece, where we get to see different points of view.

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Shadow and Wednesday make it back to the motel, where Shadow confesses that he was visited by Laura. Wednesday claims to be surprised, but still gives no set answer to Shadow about her resurrection. He eventually pressures Shadow into leaving with him. When Wednesday looks in the rearview mirror, he can see Laura chasing after their car, and turns up the volume on the stereo, so Shadow can’t hear her. He is determined that the two of them stay far away from each other. Either he’s concerned that Lara would be a distraction from him, and he does not want to share Shadow’s attention, or he thinks that Laura is working for his enemies and trying to seduce Shadow to their side.

Notice that up to now, there has been no emphasis on weather phenomena during this episode. No transitioning from sky to sky, or shots of storm clouds, as in previous episodes. Instead we often get shots of sun and clear blue skies, along Laura’s road trip, and in Vulcan. I can’t help but think that must be on purpose. Whenever Shadow is holding his emotions in we often get shots of turbulent weather, but when he’s openly expressing what he’s feeling, the skies are often very calm and clear.

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Shadow isn’t your typical hyper masculine asshole, with a stiff upper lip. Nor is he weak. He won’t allow himself to be preyed upon, but fights only when he absolutely has to. I like that the show allows him to not only have feelings, but openly expresses them, and that this is never sided as a weakness. When he’s afraid, he’s allowed to say so. When he’s overwhelmed, we get to see it. We’ve spent the past two episodes watching him hanging on to reality by his fingernails, and that’s kind of refreshing. Shadow isn’t trying to be “Shaft of the Supernatural”, and I like that. He’s just some guy, thrown into extraordinary circumstances, trying to make sense of it all.

While we’re on the subject I want to address some concerns some people have shown about Shadow not interacting with any PoC in the show. I had the impression that Shadow’s lack of interaction with any other black people is meant to parallel his lack of interaction with normalcy, since he signed on to work with Wednesday.

Before Shadow met Wednesday he often operated in all white environments, so he  is used to navigating racial dynamics, while holding on to his sense of self. That’s not a problem for him. Shadow is always acutely aware of who he is,  and where his place is in American society.  Here,  he’s thrown into an environment,  where he’s the only regular human being. He has to renegotiate reality now, to encompass the idea that gods exist, the television will personally talk to you, dead people can walk, and trees can come to life, plus this entire ordeal has been incredibly violent towards him, as he has been attacked multiple times. So while he is very used  to navigating racial politics, navigating the world of gods is some brand new shit he’s got no experience with, and he’s barely holding onto what is real.

Image result for american gods gif

Often in situations where black people are in a minority of two or three, you’ll see us touch base with each other, to reassure ourselves of our reality, to help each other emotionally navigate an all white environment. As an example of this, see the movie Get Out. Chris regularly touches base with his friend Rod, while trying to navigate an all white environment where he is questioning what’s happening to him, and his doubts are being dismissed by the White people around him, and the black people are not reliable either. Shadow is a player in two separate environments, one of them is whiteness, and the other is the supernatural. He is alone in both spheres, as there are no normal human beings for him to interact with, just as there are no PoC for him to touch base with.  I’d like to see him interact with some people of color, but Shadow doesn’t actually need to do that. He knows how to navigate the color line. He’s got that part down. It’s the world of the gods he’s having trouble with.

The only assurance he has of the reality he’s experiencing, is coming from beings he can’t trust, because none of them are human. Notice that Wednesday behaves exactly the same way about Shadow’s reactions to the supernatural as he does to all of the racial things Shadow has mentioned.  You could substitute just about any discussion they’ve had about the supernatural, with discussions that many blacks have had with whites about race. Wednesday uses deflection, derailment, defensiveness, obtuseness, and gas lighting,  to not tell Shadow what’s happening to him. Laura also does this in their brief conversation in the last episode.

Notice how the gods in Shadow’s presence all speak to one another. It’s obvious that none of them think themselves human, but absolutely none of them come right out and say to Shadow, “Hey! I’m the God of Media! Or I’m the God of Commerce! I’m the God of War!” Nobody speaks directly to him about a state of being, that they consider to be obvious. Except for Wednesday everyone makes the assumption that Shadow knows what’s going on. Its like one of those conversations where everyone knows everyone but you, and they keep referencing events you were never a part of, in  short hand, as if you had been there.

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And there are other parallels too. When Vulcan makes his remarks about the hanging,  Wednesday narcissistically makes Shadow’s pain and suffering about himself. White people will often make the pain and suffering of PoC about themselves. (Well okay, in this case, it’s actually true. Most of Shadow’s suffering is a direct consequence of knowing Wednesday, or is used to insult him.) Nevertheless,  this makes Wednesday an unreliable indicator of whether or not he is insane.

Without any normal humans to touch base with, to confirm what he’s been experiencing, Shadow begins to doubt reality, which is something that can  happen to PoC in all white environments, where there’s not another marginalized person to keep them grounded, or affirm something they just experienced. That Shadow has not interacted with any black people may be something that’s just as on purpose as his not interacting with regular humans. I think we’re supposed to see that Shadow is twice a fish out of water, navigating two, separate environments, only one of which he has mastered.

 

On the drive to their next assignment, Wednesday finally notices Shadow is bleeding profusely, and stops the car to check his wounds. It turns out that the creature that attacked Shadow at the police station is some type of forest god, named Mr. Wood, who used to be the spirit of the woods, but sacrificed his trees for greater power. Once again we have a story about a god sacrificing a part of himself for greater power, and a parallel of Vulcan’s story.  Mr. Wood  injected a tree root into Shadow’s wound when it attacked him, and Wednesday pulls it out. This scene is so touching and funny. I can’t have any idea what Wednesday is thinking in this scene, as he kisses Shadow on his forehead, and shushes him, like an indulgent uncle, but Shadow’s level of trust in him is interesting.
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Laura returns to the motel to find her car, but encounters Sweeney again. He makes all kinds of promises this evening. He tells her he knows someone who can resurrect her,  while name dropping Jesus Christ. While trying to steal an old taxi, with a toilet for a backseat, they are interrupted by Salim. I was really glad to see him again as this meeting between the three of them doesn’t happen anywhere in the book. Salim, overhearing that Sweeney is a leprechaun, asks if he knows where to find the Jinn who left him his taxi. Salim has been searching for him ever since, and Sweeny promises that he will tell Salim where to find the Jinn, if Salim drives  the three of them to Kentucky. Salim agrees, but doesn’t go to Kentucky.

 

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Meanwhile at the Vulcan weapons manufacturing plant one of the employees falls to his death in a vat of molten metal, to the incongruous tune of C’mon Get Happy, by The Partridge Family. They were like a white version of The Jackson Five, only with worse outfits. I know this because  I watched this show, religiously, when I was about 8. To say that I enjoyed it, would be too strong an expression. Most likely it was the only thing on TV in that time slot. Anyway this is a singularly horrific death, especially once you realize the guy has just been baked into the factory product: bullets.

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When Shadow and Wednesday reach Vulcan West Virginia (Yes, this is an actual place! I checked.) they find the townsfolk having a memorial for their fallen co-worker. Shadow becomes acutely aware that he is a man out-of-place, as the entire town is covered in flags, and everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest grandparent is carrying a gun. It’s so over the top ridiculous that it’s almost funny, except this is how some Americans actually believe we should all be living. I was uncomfortable on Shadow’s behalf, because this very much reminded me of Sundown Towns:

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At the memorial, which is really a celebration of the sacrifice to Vulcan, there’s a gun salute and Wednesday warns Shadow to stay in the vehicle. At first I thought he was warning Shadow to stay hidden, but unlike me, Shadow remembers what goes up, must come down, and he decides to sit it out, as Vulcan and Wednesday greet each other in the middle of the street. There’s a hailstorm of bullets, none of which ever touch either of the two gods.

On their road trip, Sweeney, Laura and Salim get to know each other. Salim figures out that Laura is dead, and takes it in stride. After all, he met a Jinn. I think Salim is very lonely, as  he never stops talking the whole time, while Sweeney snarks at the two of them from the back seat. Sweeney ending up in the back, when he insisted that Laura would be the one, is deeply hilarious to me, for some reason.

Salim proves to be a precious cinnamon roll of sweetness, while Sweeney is the exact opposite of all decency. Yes, I would love it if Laura ripped his lips off, whether he uses the “C” word or not, but we need Sweeney to be the “truth teller”. Every Bryan Fuller show has at least one of these, a character who tells the blunt-faced, unbridled truth to the other characters, no matter how much pain it causes, or who it hurts. Salim and Laura bond over their belief that their past is gone, and so are the family members  who were a part of it. When Laura has a chance to visit her family, she changes her mind. She and Salim both agree that they can, “Fuck those assholes!”

The three of them end up at the Crocodile Bar where Sweeney lost his coin. It’s like a horrible joke. A leprechaun, a zombie, and a Muslim walk into a bar…

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Wednesday and Shadow go  Vulcan’s home, where Vulcan keeps assuring Shadow that he’s safe, but Shadow ain’t buying it. He knows badness when he feels it, and insists that the two of them leave. His instincts are correct because things are not as they seem, especially when Vulcan alludes to events to which he was never a witness, like Shadow’s lynching. That was number one. Number two is when Vulcan refuses to drink the Soma that Wednesday brought as a gift, substituting his own instead. Notice that Wednesday tells Shadow that Soma is not  the drink for him. Soma is a drink only for gods.

 

Soma was a fermented juice drink which was believed to have been consumed by the Hindu gods and their ancient priests, the brahmanas, during rituals. Thought to be an elixir its consumption not only healed illness but also brought great riches. Soma is personified by the god of the same name who is also the god of sacrifices and who may, in some texts, be associated with the Moon.

Not only drunk by priests for its sacred nature it was also credited with uplifting qualities, giving the drinker a boost in energy and alertness. These effects meant that the drink has been considered divine since ancient times; a beverage which brought humans closer to the divine.

——-     http://www.ancient.eu/Soma/

Soma is also another word for “body” and may represent the physical body of humans, in a pagan parallel of the Christian Communion ritual.  Vulcan can’t drink the Soma that Wednesday brought, even though he promises to support Wednesday in his war. Vulcan  already made a deal with the new gods, who have set up this system of worship for him, in the town of the same name. He claims that every bullet fired from one of his weapons, is a sacrifice to him.

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Wednesday tasks Vulcan to make a sword for him that can kill a god, and he does so. It’s a gorgeous specimen, and I want one. (Never mind what I’d do with it! Smite my enemies! What else?) After Vulcan confesses that he betrayed Wednesday to the new gods, Wednesday, in one lightning swift move, cuts Vulcan’s  throat and tosses his body into  one of the vats. Shadow freaks the fuck out, which is an entirely appropriate response. We’ve seen Shadow unhinged from the first episode, but this is really the first time we’ve seen him totally lose his shit. It will be interesting to see how he behaves in the next two episodes.

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Wednesday expresses his complete contempt for not just Vulcan’s actions, but an entire setup that’s basically a shiny, automated, bloodless form of sacrifice, that gives nothing back to the people who worship him. Wednesday said this to Vulcan earlier, that the new gods take, and promise,  but do not give anything in return, and that the old gods at least did something for their worshipers, which makes them less corrupt.

Wednesday curses the entire enterprise by pissing into the vat. This is probably a pretty good idea of Bryan Fulelr’s sentiments, too.

Laura, Salim, and Sweeney are still heading West. They stop to see the sunrise as Salim says his morning prayers.

 

 On guns:

https://www.bustle.com/p/american-gods-statement-on-americas-gun-obsession-takes-no-prisoners-61502

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/06/157569/american-gods-vulcan-gun-culture-season-1-episode-6

http://io9.gizmodo.com/american-gods-vulcan-is-everything-that-scares-me-abou-1795761610

 

Why I’m Watching Still Star Crossed

I’ve always loved period films. From Downton Abbey, to The Remains of the Day, to The Three Musketeers, I love the costumes, and dialogue, and plots. I try to make some effort to seek out those films with prominent characters of color, like anything set in pre-reformation  Japan, or the movie Belle. So I’m cautiously excited by the airing of Shonda’s new Joint, Still Star Crossed. I’m cautious because I know there are forces working really hard to discredit this show, so I don’t know how long it will last.

This is the new show on ABC by Shonda Rimes based on the Shakespearean play, Romeo and Juliet, and the book by Melinda Taub. The show picks up right at the end of Romeo and Juliet, after the two teens are dead, after their forbidden affair, and to keep the peace, so that a feud doesn’t break out between the Montagues and the Capulets, Rosaline and Benvolio are forced to marry each other by their families. Neither of them wants to be married and they don’t even like each other.

Just in case some viewers are confused, because they’re not fans or readers of Shakespearean history, this is what completely colorblind casting looks like, and this is often traditional with Shakespearean plays. Both families are made up of different races of people, and so are most of the officials and citizens of Verona. So it’s perfectly normal for people to have white and black children, or parents, or East Asian cousins. As is the case nowadays, anytime women, or PoC, wander into the orbit of a genre show, you’re going to get some white people expressing dismay at the idea that the narrative isn’t centered around them, or cries about historical accuracy,  by people who don’t know a damn thing about actual history, except what they’ve seen on whitewashed television shows.

This show has nothing to do with historical accuracy. Its set in an Italian city, written by an Englishman,who never visited Italy. It’s a fictional story, there were never any Montagues and Capulets. Verona is an actual city, but it’s a port city where people from many different cultures would have mingled, and the history of Moorish colonization would have been know there. I’ve seen some people very upset that there were black people in this show, citing Historical accuracy while not complaining about any of the white English speaking, and Australian, members of the cast. Hell one member of the cast is East Asian and no one complained about her. Make of this information what thou wilt!

This is particularly galling coming from white women in fandom. Apparently, the princess narrative is meant to be the sole province of white women, and WoC who get to wear beautiful period costumes, go to the ball, fall in love with the prince, and live happily ever after, do not belong in it. There are several shows on TV with this particular type of fairy tale historical setting: Reign on the CW; Outlander on Starz; and The White Princess on, again, Starz. Whenever WoC have been prominently featured on these types of shows like Merlin for example, even though these shows are not realistic, and bear only the most shallow resemblance to actual lived historic events (and in some cases no relation to actual historic events because they’re fairy tales)  they receive pushback in the form white people arguing for historical accuracy.

The professional  critics (who are just as draped in unexamined racism as any casual viewer), are panning the series based on this one episode, criticizing it for following various fictional tropes,  tropes  that are also on prominent display in the above named shows. I personally didn’t see anything particularly wrong except for the show being rather busy, as there was a lot to digest in the pilot. Hopefully the show will slow its pace just a bit the rest of the season.

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So once again, just like with Luke Cage, and Get Out,  I’m going to ignore any reviews from white reviewers because there’s little they have to say that would be relevant to me, a Black woman. I recognize how groundbreaking this particular show is, and they can only be uncomfortable with it. It is exceptionally rare that a dark-skinned black woman gets to be featured in such a story, without being little more than an accessory to the white characters. Black women rarely get to be Shakespearean damsels, who get to fall in love with,  and  be loved by, the hero. The idea of the strong black woman who “don’t need no man” is a  black female stereotype that has made its way into countless films and TV shows. It’s a stereotype that masculinizes and de-sexualizes, black women, and is often used as a excuse to deny black female characters fragility, vulnerability, and love, which in American culture is also coded as the definition of White  womanhood. The irony is that White women have  been fighting against that particular stereotype of themselves, for over two decades now, but some of them are willing to embrace it, if it means keeping black women away from it.

White American reviewers are just as unused to seeing prominent black characters in such narratives as I am, and most of their reviews will only reflect their discomfort with it. But for WoC, its empowering to see PoC in these beautiful period costumes, speaking in such lofty language, who are more than  servants and maids. They are princesses, and rulers, and statesmen. It’s as empowering for us as it might seem to be disempowering for white women. This is the very nature of intersectional feminism, recognizing that different kinds of women are treated differently, in the narratives we’ve watched over the years.

During the show, race is not mentioned, and is largely unimportant to the narrative. Certainly we are going to view the show through the lens of race, but the actual characters do not, and race is not the motivation behind much of the character’s behavior. For example there’s the temptation to view Lady Capulet as a racist because she is mean to her nieces, but it’s not because they are black. It’s because she was jealous of their mother, who managed to marry the man she wanted for herself. She seeks to punish these very young and beautiful women, with their entire futures ahead of them, who should never, in her mind, have been born.

There are shades of Cinderella in the narrative with Rosaline, and her sister. But the most prominent reference is the singer, Brandy’s, 90s version of the fairytale Cinderella, with its color blind casting, where Whoopie Goldberg has a white husband, and an Asian American son, and Cinderella’s stepsisters are white.

Still Star Crossed is mostly based on the book of the same name by Melinda Taub. While it is a sequel to the original play, the show is  not going to strictly adhere to the events of the play, and the plot, I’m told, will be very wide ranging and include events from other Shakespearean plays. I’m not going to talk about the plot so much as I will my impression of the actors and characters.

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Rosaline Capulet is the lead female character. She is the niece of Lord and Lady Capulet, which is why they took her and her sister in after their parents died. She is interesting because she at first fits all the stereotypes of the strong black woman who doesn’t need a man, which is later turned on its head. She claims to not need a man, but this is merely a cover for her true love, Prince Escalus, with whom she is having a  forbidden affair. Their affair is forbidden, not because of race, or because he is married,  but because he is the prince of the realm, she is below his social station and he has just married her to Benvolio.

Rosaline and her sister are in a precarious situation because their evil stepmother has them working in  her house as servants, since their parents died. They have no set status, and are at the mercy of others who will decide their future.

Livia Capulet is one of my favorite characters. She’s a delightful mix of optimism and genuine bright eyed happiness, and reminds me of one of my little sisters.  She seems the opposite of her older sister, who is more likely to challenge the status quo. Rosaline wants to escape their predicament, but Livia loves Verona, and her dreams are more traditional. She wants to stay in Verona, get married to a handsome husband, live in a palace, and be a mother.

Livia later falls in love with Count Paris, who is injured in the city-wide fighting between the Montagues and the Capulets.

Benvolio Montague, along with Rosaline, were the only two witnesses to the forbidden marriage between Romeo and Juliet, aided by Friar Lawrence. The two of them have some obvious chemistry, and I’m kind of rooting for Rosaline to like him, although she has made it clear she has no use for him. Benvolio, on the other hand, seems intrigued by her, and seems to want to be friends.

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Prince Escalus inherited the role of leadership over Verona even though its his sister, Princess Isabella, who is more suited to governing the city. The city of Verona is beset  by other city-states that seek to conquer it, but if he doesn’t stop the near constant fighting between the Montagues and Capulets, Verona will be destroyed from within. To that end, he decides the best way to end the fighting, is to bring the two families together by marrying Benvolio, and Rosaline.

Lord Capulet is played by Buffy alum, Anthony Stewart Head. He is possibly the only Englishman in the  cast, although there might be more. Lord Capulet, and his wife Lady Giuliana, decided to take in their nieces Rosaline and Livia after their parents death. But Lady Capulet hates the two girls, referring to their mother as a Jade, and she treats the girls like house servants. When Rosaline confronts her about her attitude, she adds physical abuse to her repertoire of shitty behavior.

Incidentally, after this fight, and the Lady’s threats to make her life even more miserable, this is the only time we ever see Rosaline cry, and although I didn’t take pleasure in seeing it, its still remarkable because, up to that point, we’ve only ever seen Rosaline as the strong and invincible stereotype.

So yeah,  I’m going to keep watching the show as long as it remains on the air, although I might not always review it.  I liked the action, and the characters, although the plot, as I said is a bit much, and I hope it slows down a little. I have no confidence in the ABC network, though, and there are forces working really hard to kill it and/or make ABC believe that no one cares about the show or supports it. Of course, ABC might decide to cancel the show just on a whim and I’m ready for it to get yanked off the air,  or just not return for a second season.

Why Historical Accuracy Is A Shitty Cover For Your Racism

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This just in.  We have now taken a break from posturing over “racist Americans” to complain about black people being portrayed as fictional Italians. Not the other non-white members of the cast who aren’t black, no just the black people.   You know, we never actually fight to represent black Italians and have a terrible reputation on how we treat black people in general, but this backlash is totally in good faith.  It is totally racebending, which only works in America because there’s such a booming black population that’s respected and represented and…oh wait, there isn’t any of that.

We could go back to watching the majority of all media (in Italy OR America, even though the show isn’t filmed in Italy and wasn’t formed for an Italian audience) where white people are the majority and all Italian representation has pretty much been white (no matter what the ethnicity of the actor actually is)  We won’t complain about white Italians taking roles from PoC but we take issue with colorblind casting for a Shakespeare play because the very implication that we have *black people* in our culture would be culturally insensitive.  .

Black people weren’t invented till the 1960s.  You can’t adapt Shakespearean works with black people in the main cast unless they’re servants or something because black people didn’t exist in fictionalized Verona.  Clearly adapting it with white people is fine though, no matter where they come from.  Black Italians don’t exist and have never existed, we’re all light skinned until its time to justify whitewashing.  And even though this is a fictionalized story written by someone who has never lived in Italy and was never meant to be historically accurate, we now must all be armchair historians because black people are on screen.

Oh, apparently Othello was a white man all along. And don’t bring up those prominent black and mixed race Italians (because accuracy is only accurate if its supporting racism), because they don’t count anyways and just because we had black Italians doesn’t mean we had black Italians (logic!).   Please don’t steal this *valuable* representation from people who never once cared about Shakespeare as representation of any ethnic group *any* other time.

Oh this isn’t backlash against a show showing black people in prominent positions in a European fantasy, no its totally about historical accuracy (where we erase most of actual history because that’s the only way we can pretend there were were no black people where black people were…)

Its just culturally insensitive to cast black people in Still Star-Crossed.

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The Stars of Shonda Rhimes’ ‘Still Star-Crossed’ Know They’re on TV’s Most Diverse Show—But It’s Complicated

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*Speaking of fact, here’s the truth about historical accuracy: Mainstream history, for the most part, was written by old white men who only chronicled their points of view. So while conservative viewers (read: racists) might balk at a Persian princess and a black prince, guess what? Verona was a port town with plenty of diversity. Portraying everyone as white is inaccurate, not to mention irresponsible. Continue reading “Why I’m Watching Still Star Crossed”

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