What Fandom Racism Looks Like – When White Characters (Somehow) Aren’t White

Let’s keep this short and salty: did y’all know that there are people – thankfully a minority in their respective fandoms – that will claim a white male character or actor isn’t white for some reason or another. Well, if you didn’t know before reading that sentence, I’m willing to be that you’ve figured out […]

via What Fandom Racism Looks Like – When White Characters (Somehow) Aren’t White — Stitch’s Media Mix

Stitch is considered something of an expert on the subject of fandom racism dynamics, since this is something she has intensely studied. I never argue with her findings, but I am constantly surprised by the ways in which fandom seeks to revert to a certain status quo. What I’d  like to do  is build on this by  tying fandom racism back to how its been learned from the source material,  and fan’s understanding of how racism works, through the material they’ve been consuming, because their performance of  these forms of racism  don’t exist in a vacuum. White people (all races really) have been unconsciously inundated with decades of racist messaging in American films, books, and TV,   and  fandom often becomes nothing more than  the act of regurgitating what was consumed, especially if these things have never been critically examined.

I don’t think we can fight against how fandom racism is performed without acknowledgment, or understanding, of how its performance is tied to the decades old, racist narratives in Popular media.

There’s also a new angle to this as well. Since the source material being consumed has become more diverse and inclusive than ever, what I’ve been witnessing, is  fans trying to  bend these narratives to fit their world view – worldviews that have been informed by years of racist narratives. This is just as much an attempt to keep things the way they’ve always been, and they are no less different, from  the harassment campaigns against PoC actors, in an attempt to center Whiteness in Geek media, and reassert the status quo of PoC, and other marginalized groups, on the fringe of narratives that center White characters. This is what such fans are used to, and this is what they twist these stories to reflect. This particular form of fandom racism is often engaged in (but not necessarily exclusive to) White women in fandom, while the more public and aggressive forms of racism are usually engaged in by White men.

I’m going to reiterate that the reason fandom acts this way is that fandom isn’t the slightest bit progressive or woke. In fact, its fairly conservative, and quite a lot of them are thoroughly unimaginative, as well, as the participants do nothing but reproduce the same narratives they’ve seen over, and over, and over, from the  source material (and sometimes other parts of fandom, which accounts for the sheer numbers of coffee shop AUs in fanfiction), – narratives that have been overwhelmingly written, and helmed, by straight white men, who themselves have only the most rudimentary idea of what its like to be a member of a marginalized group.

That’s another reason I’m against racial allegories in fiction, especially the ones referenced above by Stitch. Such narratives do nothing to further dialogue, or deepen understanding of racial issues, because the writers of these narratives do not live, or understand, race in any personal capacity.  All fans get out of these stories is a foundational understanding that “racism is bad”. The Handmaid’s Tale, Zootopia, The Gifted, Teen Wolf, and Bright, are bad racial allegories because they get the depiction of racism wrong, have suspect intentions, borrow the oppression of Poc, while not including them, or  take little to no account of the systemic and institutionalized nature of racism, often showing it as a problem of individuals simply not liking some people.

Contrast those stories to Jordan Peel’s discussion of racism in the movie Get Out, or the music video, This Is America, by Childish Gambino, or the discussions surrounding the movie Black Panther. The understanding of racism is  different when written by those who have  actual knowledge of the subject, something which most fans of the media listed above,  do not have, so all they can do is reproduce the media they’ve been given, and can only  approach these subjects in their meta and fictions with  the performative wokeness  that they are engaging in now.

For The Weekend: On Diversity

 

Criticism

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

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

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

Black Mirror and Critical Diversity

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

The Problem with White Critics

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

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

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

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

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

How…how are those bad things!?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Publishing:

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

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

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

Penguin’s response:

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

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

 

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Kureishi’s response:

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

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

 

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

@adhighdefinition

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

Who in the world thinks that B99 is police propaganda?

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

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

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

HOW IS THAT PROPAGANDA????

 

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

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

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

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

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

Brooklyn 99 qualifies.

 

Source:

Fandom

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

The Problem with White Critics

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I think I began several different iterations of this post, but finally settled on making this as positive as possible, rather than making it just a rant, because what I want to do is encourage people to do something that’s helpful to everyone, including themselves.

We don’t have enough critics of popular media who are people of color ,and we desperately need more.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/does-racism-impact-the-way-reviewers-rate-tv-shows/

The  problem I have with so many white critics is that they don’t see color. No really, they just don’t see it. We’re experiencing a time where PoC are being increasingly cast in roles, or sometimes have their own vehicles, and most white critics either don’t know enough about other cultures to adequately critique that media, or who have such a deep seated discomfort with acknowledging other cultures, that they simply ignore characters of color in the media. They really just don’t see them, they erase them, forget they’re there, diminish their importance in the narrative, and there are some cases where I would consider certain reviews to be overt micro-aggressions, themselves, like the review of Hidden Figures, and Moonlight, by the racially tone-deaf, British critic, Camilla Long.

“The received wisdom on Moonlight, a film about gay love in the black ghetto, is that it is ‘necessary’ and ‘important’. It is an ‘urgent’ and ‘relevant’ examination of forbidden attraction in a world, ‘the streets’, that is largely hostile to gay men.

Only, relevant to whom? Certainly not the audience. Most will be straight, white, middle class. Nor is it particularly ‘urgent’: the story has been told countless times, against countless backdrops.”

https://www.themarysue.com/tone-deaf-moonlight-hidden-figures-reviews/

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In Westworld, there are two major threads of robot cognition occurring on the show, between Dolores, a White coded woman , and Maeve, a Black coded character. I found it impossible to find critiques of Maeve’s storyline, especially from an intersectional feminist perspective. Most White critics ignored her entirely, focusing all of their attention on the character they felt was the show’s star, Dolores.

Critics  of color, have long pointed out White Prioritization in media narratives, but this prioritization also extends to fandom and critics as well, where, if there is a single White person in narratives that involve PoC, fans and critics will focus entirely on that character, neglecting, erasing, and sometimes  even re-writing the contributions of the characters of color in the story.

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We’ve directly witnessed fandom engaging in this with Finn from Star Wars, and  Nick Fury from the MCU, with fans often re-writing the narrative to villainize or  erase their contribution to the story. But this was notably illustrated on the show Sleepy Hollow, when, during the second and third seasons, the show’s Black female lead, Abbie Mills, was often sidelined in favor of the more marginal, White character’s storylines.

Maeve had nearly the same character arc as  Dolores, but no one was writing about her, and the people who did write about her didn’t take her race into consideration for how she was treated as a character, or how her race impacted her storyline vs. Dolores. Either White critics just didn’t see it, or they just didn’t care. Pick one!

I couldn’t find any posts on the topic of White female stereotypes vs Black female stereotypes in media, so I had to research it, and make my own. Ten minutes after that post was published, I was contacted by a young woman who said she’d just been searching the Internet, looking for exactly that type of post for her intersectional feminism paper, and citing that post  on a similar topic. Since then, that post has become one of my most popular, getting at least a couple of hits every day. (For the record, I’m not an  academic. I work in the Social Science and Research Dept. of a major library.)

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When Luke Cage, and Beyonce’s Lemonade were released, I stated that I was specifically seeking critiques from Black critic perspectives, because no white critique would have been able to capture the nuances of either. Not being a part of Black American  culture, White critics would be unlikely to catch all of the Easter eggs, and details that made this media so important to us. Some things you just have to be a part of the culture to understand.

I’ve watched many, many, movies from other cultures and critiqued many of them, but have always kept in the back of my thoughts, that I’m not a member of that culture, and I’m unlikely to understand many details, so am able only to speak to a certain depth on films with primarily Latinx, or Asian casts. I would entirely understand if people from any of those cultures dismissed my reviews.

http://splinternews.com/theres-a-huge-divide-between-how-black-and-white-critic-1797478105

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This is the same problem that’s found in the movies of White directors of Black culture. Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit suffers from a lack of nuance. It’s two hours of Black pain, with no  depiction of the regular everyday life of the Black people in the city of Detroit. Their personal lives are lacking or given short shrift, and it lacks any depictions of the roles Black women played in the resistance to their oppression. I’m not arguing that Bigelow is a racist, but she is recreating a Black story through a White woman’s lens, so no matter how awake she may be as a person, her perspective on the issue is going to be limited, as she does not come from the environment she is portraying. I don’t object to Bigelow directing the film as she’s an excellent filmmaker. I’m just wondering if the film would’ve been better served by having a director from the same culture as depicted in the film.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/detroit-and-the-problem-with-watching-black-pain-through-a-white-lens_us_597f8907e4b08e143004bbf1

One of my favorite genres is the martial arts film. Jet Li is one of my favorite actors, and one of his early movies is Once Upon a Time in China. I watched this film in the nineties when my brother gifted me with the entire boxed set for Christmas. I really enjoyed them. They also came with a commentary from famed martial arts writer Bey Logan, who taught me exactly what I was missing when I was watching those films, many of which also have Easter eggs, like the names of streets signs, character names, and character fighting styles. Bey Logan is not Asian, but he does know more about the topic than I ever will, so I defer to him. (Ideally, I would read Asian writers writing about movies depicting them, which is what I did for Ghost in the Shell.)

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Logan gave backstory on  characters that it didn’t occur  to me to ask, and answered a few questions that had been bubbling in the back of my mind regarding cultural issues, such as why you almost never see Chinese couples kissing in movies. These are all things I would never have known (or sometimes noticed) because I’m not Chinese, or a member of that diaspora.  I can enjoy the films only to a certain depth, but Bey Logan did teach me a lot about what to look for, and what to critique in such films.

I’m not saying White people can’t critique movies and TV shows that are primarily about people of color, just that their perspective isn’t going to carry the same weight as that of a person who is from the culture being depicted, and there are some critics, like Ms. Long mentioned above, who seem actively hostile.

My aim is to follow in Bey Logan’s footsteps, and  deepen understanding of characters and culture, by critiquing the media from my perspective, through my own lens, as a Black woman. I don’t just want to point out what White owned media, and fandom gets wrong about their depictions of characters of color, but to point out how, and why, it’s wrong, and teach viewers what to look for when watching events like Luke Cage, Lemonade, and Jessica Jones,  and movies like Detroit, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures. So from now on, when I write reviews on these types of productions, I intend to add more cultural and historical information, as I did when reviewing American Gods.

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I’m standing in a very different spot than White men (and women) when viewing pop culture, and when it comes to media involving Black American culture specifically, my perspective is that of someone fully immersed in that culture. White male is certainly one perspective, and it has its merits but, once again, a lot of  nuance and history will probably be missed.

Right now, I’m following a White critic who regularly dismisses or erases Black characters, (he simply doesn’t mention them, and when he does, is often clueless as to their impact and importance in the narrative) although he is otherwise a perfectly decent reviewer. I don’t think he knows he’s doing it, but the cumulative effect of forgetting to mention certain characters, or not remembering their names, is one of dismissal of characters of color. He is a perfectly acceptable reviewer though, and we agree on a great many issues, but he is simply unwilling (or what is much more likely), incapable of seeing what I see in even the shows and movies we both like.

He’s standing where he’s standing, and I’m standing where I’m standing, and he can’t imagine what I’m seeing from over here. I don’t really expect of him, to be honest.

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Before Iron Fist, and Ghost in the Shell were  released, I deferred to the opinions of Asian Americans, and boosted their voices on topics of concern, as much as possible. I can’t speak for them, although I do try to notice if they’re being treated fairly in a narrative. They are the only ones who really KNOW the issues that are of paramount concern to them, as part of the culture being shown onscreen, and whenever possible I prefer to let people of their own culture speak for themselves.

So here’s my encouragement and a challenge: If you’re a person of color, who is interested in TV and film, and you know anything about history, or social justice,  or just care about those issues, you can be a reviewer. It’s easiest to start with television shows since those are much more accessible, but there’s no academic credentials, or specialized knowledge required to blog about it. All you have to do is be a person of color, who loves movies and TV, and have something to say about it.

Pick one show you especially enjoy, and write an essay on how it makes you feel (this is an example of Meta). Pick a movie you liked and talk about its themes or ideas that captured you. Pick a character that speaks to you, with whom you identify and talk about that. It doesn’t have to be like the newspaper reviews. It doesn’t have to be an academic treatise. It also doesn’t have to be negative. Saying how much you love something, and why, is still a review.

Is it a rant? Is it something you hate that movies keep doing? Is it something you love and want to encourage? Go for it! Do you actually have some specialized knowledge on a topic movies keep getting wrong? Let us know!

Trust me, you will find an audience. Its slow going, at first, but I promise to signal boost you. I will give you a platform. If you are a person of color with a movie and TV review blog, let me know, and I’ll reblog your stuff.  Got some meta on Tumblr? Just send me a link and I’ll post it.

We need more critics of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://howlround.com/the-need-for-cultivating-theatre-critics-of-color

 

 

 

Summer of 2017 TBR Pile

Currently Reading

This basically means I am well into the book (at least 20%) and dedicated to finishing it. I often have multiple books going at once, and switch out according to mood and whether or not the book needs to be returned to the library soon.

Kill Society – Richard Kadrey

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I love this entire series, which really needs to be made into a movie starring Vin Diesel, because that’s who I picture, and whose voice I hear, as Sandman Slim. The plot, for this newest book, is a total ripoff of Fury Road, but I’m here for it.

 

Rupert Wong: Cannibal Chef – Kassandra Khaw

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These books are really gory, but also unexpectedly funny. I wasn’t sure what I expected when I picked these up, but the title is basically what the book is about. Rupert Wong is paying off some kind of debt  by acting as a chef in demonic restaurants. Yes, they eat people. This is a distinctly Asian setting, and it’s also funny as, well..Hell. It’s on sale at Amazon for less than four bucks.

 

Phantom Pains – Mishell Baker

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The first book in this series titled Borderline, is very probably the best fantasy novel written last year. That book made my top ten list, and this sequel is looking to make it on there for this year. Its also on sale at Amazon for 2 bucks. Grab it!

 

Aliens: Bug Hunt Anthology

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I haven’t got very far into this book beyond the first story, which was all kinds of fun, so  I’m looking forward to reading the other stories. This book is on sale at Amazon for 2 dollars, but I don’t know how long that’s going to last, so  grab it up,now.

 

To Be Read

Which basically means I’ve gotten about 10% of the way into these books before continuing with the books I’m already in the middle of reading. I often read multiple books at once, switching to a different book according to my mood, or  whatever is near to hand. This means that finishing a book can take a while, as I make incremental progress across several books.

The Change (1-3) Guy Adams

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I’ve read the first book in this short series, and its genuinely scary. Its about an alien invasion of Earth that killed off most of the human race outright when it occurred, but for the survivors, the world has gone hideously, horribly, wrong. I think these are based on his first book, The Change Orbital, which is also pretty terrifying.

 

The Witch Who Came in From the Cold – Malcolm Gladstone

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I like the ideas of spies who do magic, and I like some of Gladstone’s writing, so I wanted to try this one. The opening chapter is very exciting. The book consists of a bunch of nested, shared-world stories, by different authors, sort of like G.R.R.M.’s Wild Cards Series.

 

Strange Practice – Vivian Shaw

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I haven’t read much of this one but the description is adorable. A woman physician in Victorian London, who is related to Van Helsing,  gets caught up in taking care of the illnesses of various supernatural creatures like werewolves, vampires, and mummies, and has to save their existences from some murderous monks.

 

Urban Enemies Anthology

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Famous Urban Fantasy authors put the spotlight on some of their more villainous characters from their popular series.

 

Magicians Impossible – Brad Abraham

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I have no idea what this is about as I’ve only read the first chapter. What I did read was very exciting , and I’m eager to keep going.

 

Graveyard Shift – Michael Haspil

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I was really looking forward to this book, the moment I read the first blurb. This is an interesting story, that’s not unlike the Rivers of London series by Aaronovitch. The lead character is an ancient Egyptian demi-god, working as a kind of supernatural cop, in a world of vampires, and werewolves, who have just come out of the closet. I’m working on it.

 

Books To Recommend 

I have so many recommendations to give you, but I’m going to stop at these few.Most of these are Dark Fantasy and Horror. There are no monster romances in any of these books, nobody talking about their favorite pair of boots, or what clothes the hot guy is wearing, because that kind of stuff just puts me right to sleep. The darker and more unusual the Fantasy, the more I’ll like it, especially if it takes place in the modern world.

The  Barker & Lewelyn Series by Will Thomas

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This is the only mystery on the list. I’ve become obsessed with Hard Victorian mysteries, and Will Thomas has one of the best. The lead character is totally a Sherlock Holmes clone, but I don’t care. I will read about Holme’s clones, all day, every day. There’s a difference between a hard mystery, vs a soft mystery. A hard mystery is more a police procedural. Its darker and grittier,  and I especially like mysteries that take place before modern forensics.

 

The Rivers of London Series

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I’ve written about this series before. Its hella fun. I like to think of it as a calmer, British version of the Harry Dresden series. Peter grant is a Black cop who gets involved in magical events in London.

 

King Rat – China Mieville

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This was the very first book I ever read by this author. I didn’t know what to expect but the description sounded vaguely intriguing. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was unlike any Fantasy I’d eve read. I’ve read nearly every one of Mieville’s books since then, and have never been disappointed.

 

The Iskryne Series – Elizabeth Bear

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I love it when writers take fantasy tropes and  turn them upside down. Bear takes the concept of bonded animal companions all the way to its limit, and that includes how sexuality is handled. Bear’s writing partner for the series is Sarah Monette. There’s not a lot of human women in the books but it more than makes up for that with the ideas that are introduced, and the setting.

 

Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse Series – Ben Templesmith

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This is the funniest comic book zombie series ever written. At least part of the reason for that are Ben Templesmith’s ridiculous illustrations. Wormwood is not the name of the zombie, mind you, but the name of the tiny, snarky, worm that’s possessing the corpse, who fights various lovecraftian horrors from outer space.

 

The Works of Brom

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Just about any one of Brom’s books is a gem. They’re not comic books but they do contain some beautifully dark illustrations, and cover such topics as: damnation, Peter Pan, toys, and a motorcycling demon. His latest book is called Lost Gods and is about a young man trying to find his way through Hell, to save his endangered wife back on Earth. If you have a taste for weird, then Brom is the writer for you.

 

God’s Demon – Wayne Barlowe

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This is the only prose book written by Barlowe although he has written/illustrated other boos about fantasy figures, science fiction, and aliens. In this story, the war in Heaven continues into Hell, as one of the Fallen, Sargatanas, tries to redeem himself, and win back God’s favor. The novel is based on a series of illustrations Barlowe did for his book, Barlowe’s Inferno, which is a guided tour through Hell.

 

The Skyscraper Throne Series – Tom Pollock

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I love fantasies based on cities, especially when the city is a real character in the book. Such s the case with The City’s Son series. If you liked China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun, then you’ll love this YA series.

 

The Matthew Swift Series – Kate Griffin aka Catherine Webb

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Once again you have a fantasy series where the city is a separate character in the book. The city of London  holds all the magic, and people who are attuned  can access it. This series has a number of Asian and Black characters that I thought were interesting, including a Black female sorceress, who is an apprentice to the lead character, who isn’t, quite, human.

 

Bone Street Rumba Series – Daniel Jose Older

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Daniel Older does for diversity in New York what Ben Aaronovitch does for the city of London. The main character is Carlos Delacruz, a half-ghost,dealing with supernatural events in his working class, Latinx/Hispanic, neighborhood. If you’re looking for diversity, and strong women characters, check it out.

The Eric Carter Series – Stephen Blackmoore

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Much of this series is based on South American mythology. Eric Carter is a modern day necromancer, who gets involved with an Aztec goddess, after the death of his sister. Lots of action, but still less bombast, and more diversity than the Harry Dresden books.

 

The SNAFU Series

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This is an entire series of military horror books, where human beings fight aliens, werewolves, vampires, and various monsters that defy description. If you like military horror then check these out, along with books like:

World War Cthulhu

 

Operation Arcana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon (Come To Jesus – Pt. 2)

 

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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.

American Gods Season One: Lemon Scented You

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In tonight’s episode the New Gods and Old Gods meet for the first time in the narrative. This episode is a lot less confusing for some people in that it’s pretty straightforward. (Okay, except for that crawling tree-thing in the police station. ) Anyway since the plot was actually understandable, I can focus on the characters. Namely, the gods who are the four main players in both the book, and the series. They will be joined by others later, like Anansi and Easter, who both have  big parts to play, but for now, the major characters are Technical Boy, Media, Mr. World, Wednesday, and I’m including Shadow.

While we were not confused by the plot, Shadow spent most of the episode reeling and coping with the strangenesses around him. Til now he’s been a real trooper, handling all this batshitness like a boss, but I think this episode knocked him for a loop, because the hits just kept coming. He’s visited by his dead wife, and it’s not a dream; he’s arrested by the police after trusting Wednesday; the man who tried to lynch him apologizes for it; Marilyn Monroe is floating into his jail cell; there’s spiders running around; all the police are massacred; he gets attacked by a giant crawling tree. It’s not that weird stuff hasn’t happened before it just didn’t happen all at once. There was time to digest.

That was all a bit much for one night!

The episode isn’t frantic, or fast paced, but there is a lot to understand. There’s no plot movement but Fuller and Green are very aware that, at this point, the viewers need a breather, so some shit can get spelled out for us, we can take a minute to absorb, see where everybody is standing, and get some idea of the layout.

For four episodes now we’ve had Wednesday telling us of how frightened he is of being forgotten. Remember, the gods don’t die like humans do, there is no afterlife for them. When humans have forgotten about their existence they become nothing, which speaks to their non-corporeal existence. They come from nothing, are only what we make them out to be, and go back to nothing. And we witness this in the prologue of tonight’s episode, in a scene taken directly from the book.

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Nunyunnini (NUN – you – nini) was worshiped by the first people to cross the land bridge to what is now America. Notice the ritual where the priestess calls on the god to inhabit her and how it involves smoke. Remember what I said, in an earlier post, about smoke/and smoking being a part of many summoning rituals, and how when we’re introduced to a lot of these gods and goddesses, on the show,  there is smoking involved.

After facing many hardships, including the death of their priestess by the Buffalo god ( in the book he’s called a spirit of the land) N’s worshipers are offered a new god by the people already living there, in exchange for survival. Eventually, it is never remembered that N was worshiped at all, and  his name is forgotten. This is what Wednesday is afraid of, and this is important because he wants to be relevant again, and his war is one way  to accomplish that. The choice to make this scene animated was a deliberate choice on the part of the creators. Using live action would’ve given a modernity and immediacy to Nunyunnini’s story that would not have reflected its great age.

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Shadow walks into his motel room to see his dead wife and takes it rather well, I think. He seems more focused on her having cheated on him, than the how and why of her return. Shadow is the protagonist of the show, but he’s also our stand-in. Our Everyman character we’re meant to identify with, and through whose mind we’re meant to process the craziness happening on the show. Til now, no one has bothered to explain what’s going on to him. If you’ve read the book, you know more than Shadow, which changes the dynamic of your relationship to the character, than if you didn’t read the book.

Laura is unable to manipulate Shadow the way she has in the past. He stays focused and blunt with her, insisting she answer for having cheated on him with his best friend.. At one point she asks for cigarettes, and after smoking one, (she doesn’t exhale any smoke, which is a nice detail), she kisses Shadow, and her heart beats. Once. (Many viewers found it remarkable that cigarette machines still exist in that world, along with pay phones that still work, but Shadow seems okay with it.) When he goes back to his room you’ll notice the number 55 is prominently displayed. I’m told that if you go to page 55 of the author’s preferred version of the book, you’ll be at the exact scene in the show, where Laura and Shadow meet. Later, in his convo with Laura, Shadow tells her he is no longer her puppy. I know a bunch of people stood and applauded this moment, since they see Laura as a manipulative user, who didn’t love him. I personally don’t care what she was, as long as she’s on his side right now.

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Technoboy is having a meeting with Media, and this is one of my favorite scenes from this episode because I’m a huge Bowie fan. Gillian Anderson turns in a wonderful performance as David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, imparting to TB that he fucked up (when he tried to lynch Shadow), while using nothing but David Bowie song cues, which I thought was pretty clever. Mr. World is mentioned for the first time, requiring that TB apologize to Shadow for what he’s done. Even TB has a master, it seems.

Wednesday’s raven spy knocks on his door, and either snitches to him that Shadow has company, or that the motel is under surveillance. I prefer the former because it just tickles me to think that. If the raven is telling him about Laura, than Wednesday was attempting to get Shadow out of the room and away from her, which is how I initially interpreted that scene. But if the raven was telling him about the police, then he was trying to get Shadow to escape with him before they got caught. It doesn’t work anyway.  They are both promptly arrested and taken to the little podunk police station.

They’re interrogated and Wednesday puts on his forgetful old man act, while at the same time, he completely explains what’s happening, knowing the officer won’t believe him. Shadow refuses to speak at first,  but is finally convinced, by the detective questioning him, that Wednesday has some pretty huge enemies, because they were tipped off to their whereabouts by satellite surveillance photos, and GPS coordinates of their location. Of course not everything in the episode makes sense. Why don’t the police search Shadows motel room if they though he’d stolen money? They didn’t even bother to go inside his room until much later.

While Shadow and Wednesday are being detained, Sweeney finally catches up with Laura, and demands his coin back. One of the funniest moments for me is Laura throwing Sweeney across the room by popping her finger at him. She’s got some idea of her strength now, and no, Laura is not a nice person. She taunts Sweeney about the coin and he tries to choke her in the bathtub. It is then that he is interrupted by the police, who naturally think he’s insane for trying  to choke a dead woman, in a tub full of water. Why the police show up at that particular moment is still a mystery. Is that just more of Sweeney’s bad luck?

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Back at the station, Wednesday is frantic to leave before company arrives. He’s helped by a tiny friend of Compe Anansi,who unlocks his cuffs. But it’s too late. There’s the sounds of fighting and screams from the rest of the station, and Media arrives in the form of Marilyn Monroe, dressed like her character from Some Like It Hot, and while I admire and applaud Gillian Anderson’s mimicry, I have never been impressed by Marilyn. (Personally, I prefer Eartha Kitt.) I think she broke Shadow, because he nearly loses his shit at the sight of I Love Lucy literally floating into the interrogation room. Apparently, Marilyn was the last straw, after his dead wife. Shadow doesn’t regain his equilibrium for the rest of the episode.

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We finally meet Mr World who walks in on glowing floor tiles like Michael Jackson in Billie Jean. It’s a lovely entrance, (☺️) but not as impressive as Anansi’s. World and Media explain to Wednesday that they don’t want a war, and offer him a merger in the form of a missile named after him. But their charms don’t work on him or Shadow. Mr World calls TB who offers an insincere apology to Shadow for lynching him. World offers Shadow the opportunity to knock out a couple of TBs teeth, and Shadow looks appalled, but when TB disrespects Mr. Wednesday, like the little shit that he is, Mr. World gives him the business end of his tongue, then has Media knock those same teeth out with a blown kiss. Shadow gets his offering anyway. The three new gods exit the station.

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Shadow and Wednesday try to escape, but the police show up with Sweeney before they can get out the front door. They head to the back door, but before they reach it,  Shadow is stabbed in the same spot in his side as his earlier wound , by a giant tree creature, that grew out of one of the desks in the station. They escape via the back door into a thick ground fog, that I suspect was conjured, like the snow in the episode Head Full of Snow, by Shadow.

The police who are dropping off Sweeney are alarmed by the silence at the station. They abandon their suspect, and charge into the station,  guns ablazing. Sweeney escapes the patrol car and runs off into the night, determined to get his coin back. Laura has been taken to the local morgue, where she accidentally kills the nightman when she breaks out of one of the drawers. She gets dressed  but not before examining herself in a mirror. A nice little detail is Laura trying to breathe on the mirror, but there’s no moisture, or warmth, in her to create any condensation, so the mirror doesn’t fog. She walks out into the night. She and Sweeney are on another collision course.

Note:

To those of you who haven’t read the book, how is it going? Was this episode at all helpful? I mean I read the book, and have some frame of reference, and  sometimes even  I’m confused, so I can’t imagine what y’all must be thinking if you have no context . Oh, and it turns out that the tree-thing, that attacked Shadow, might have been Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil is an Ash tree that connecting the nine worlds of Norse mythology, the nine worlds consisting of the various heavens, earth, hells, and the  tributaries of knowledge referenced in The Prose Edda. If the tree thing is Yggdrasil then there’s great significance in its attack on Shadow.

 

New Gods vs. Old Gods

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Mr. World is the god of global capitalism, which is the master of media and the internet, which makes him Media’s and Technoboy’s boss. He knows everything. Just by touching Shadow, he knew everything Shadow liked, loved, hated, how many men his momma slept with, and what he looks like when he masturbates. He’s also a world class shapeshifter. Those of you who’ve read the book already know his real name. Crispin Glover is known for playing eccentric characters and he’s perfect here, smooth, polished, charming, and just a little bit unhinged..

Media and Technical Boy are the new gods everyone is worshiping without knowing they’re doing it. As media says, all she requires is time and attention. She’s the god of television, and movies, which is why she keeps showing up as iconic characters, or people who have used the media to great effect. What better person to chastise Technical Boy over his image problem than the master of his own image, David Bowie. Btw, the songs referenced in Media’s conversation with TB are: Starman, Under Pressure, Cat People, Rebel Rebel, Life on Mars, Space Oddity, and Oh, You Pretty Things.

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The New Gods are not corporeal in the same sense as the old gods. The old gods feed off more material things, like blood and flesh, and as Wednesday says, grant boons and wishes to their supplicants. The new gods give nothing back and take the energy and attention of their worshipers. Notice how the old gods are so physical. Lusty, hungry, angry, dirty, sarcastic, violent, in ways the new gods aren’t. The old gods are sensationalist creatures who are messy, emotional, love blood, sex, a good cigar, and  liquor. They enjoy interacting on the physical plane with their subjects. More human than human. Which is entirely in keeping with the eras in which they were created, when humans had more concrete, basic concerns.

The new gods are cool dispassionate creatures. Technical Boy likes to do his dirty in a virtual, bloodless realm of his own control. Media has no real face of her own, and is a consummate shapeshifter herself. They’re not physical the way the old gods are physical. They’re clean, polished, bloodless, and pretty beings, who do not require physical sacrifices, as they feed on far more intangible things, like time sacrificed to them. But, and here is what they have in common with the old ones, they are just as much grifters and con artists. Especially Media. They both promise all manner of things, power, money, sex, but the problem is they don’t actually deliver those things. The old gods, when they are sacrificed to, give back something physical in return for their worship. Bilquis gives unending orgasmic bliss, Odin will help you out of a tight spot, Anansi will tell you the truth. Even the Zorya sisters tell fortunes. Sure, it’s a con, but it’s a real one. The new gods seduce, cajole, and charm,they promise much, but largely give back nothing in exchange. Some of the other new gods like commerce, or the stock market are even less tangible. Those gods don’t exist on the physical plane at all.

Next week we get to meet one of my favorite old gods: Hephaestus, the Roman version of the god of weaponry, Vulcan.

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American Gods Season One: The Secret of Spoons

Shadow’s savior from the last episode is nowhere to be found, and Wednesday  was holed up in a hotel, putting his thing down. Shadow gets himself patched up, (note the wound in his side), and he confronts Wednesday about what happened to him, and although Wednesday tells him he is angry about it, he is otherwise non-committal. The funeral over, Shadow still alive, they continue their road trip. Next stop: Chicago.

 

Thoth

 Ibis -Demore Barnes

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The first god we see is Ibis, in every episode, also known as Thoth. In Egyptian mythology he was the scribe of the gods. In most traditional depictions he has the head of an ibis bird, with a long curved beak. This Ibis has a human head and round, rimless glasses. When the show opens, he’s writing a history of Odin, the All-Father of Norse mythology, god of war, wisdom, and poetry, among a host of  other things. In the second episode he’s writing how Anansi came to America, on what else? A slave ship!

You may remember Demore Barnes as one of the serial killers, in the series, Hannibal. We’ll get to see more of Ibis, later in the series,  when Shadow finally meets him.

 

Odin
Mr. Wednesday- Ian McShane

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On Odin: http://www.uppsalaonline.com/odin.htm

According to legend, Odin sacrificed his left eye in exchange for a drink from the Well of Wisdom (which we may be encountering in a later episode.) And yes, Mr. Wednesday has a glass eye. Odin is also a god of war, so that’s part of the reason he’s traveling around, trying to get all these other gods to commit to a war with the noobs.

When we meet Odin, he looks like he’s  fallen on hard times, but he’s a con man, and we’ll get to see more of this in the third episode, in one of the book’s best scenes, the Bank Heist. We already saw him con his way into a first class ticket on the plane where he met Shadow. According to Mr. Wednesday conning people is: “… all about getting people to believe in you. It’s not the cash, it’s the faith.” Bilquis does something like this too, so pay close attention to the various ways the old gods get people to believe in them vs how the new gods get people’s belief. As far as I can tell the new gods of media and technology seem to rely on hype-men, while the old ones have to do it all by themselves.

Pay attention to the use of transition scenes. They’re usually done by pointing the camera skyward, before moving to the next destination in the narrative. In particular, pay close attention to weather phenomena as it relates to Shadow’s presence, or when transitioning from a scene in which he was just speaking.

In this episode, we learn that Wednesday hates telephones and highways. I get why he’d hate telephones, as that’s a direct connection to Technical Boy, and he can’t have that. I do wonder about the real reason he won’t use highways. Is there a highway god? It makes sense that in America there would be car gods and highway gods.

Since Wednesday can’t call to make his plans, he has to meet everyone face to face. He sends Shadow off to buy gifts  for Czernobog and Zorya Sisters, and while he’sshopping, Shadow meets Media, played by Gillian Anderson.

God name: Bilquis – Yetide Badaki

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Bilquis, the woman in red, is what’s left of the Queen of Sheba, not technically a goddess, but worshiped for her beauty and power. In this episode, we witness a montage of her consumption of  various men and women. The way its shown, she appears to be ravenous. We don’t know how long her vigor lasts after she eats, but we’re given the idea that these events happen over the course of several hours or days.

We also get to see what’s inside her magical va-jay-jay. I won’t tell you what, but it is pretty awesome, and you understand why her partners are so ecstatic about  what’s happening to them. I thought this was hilarious but I have weird humor. This show is Bryan Fuller completely unleashed. There is full frontal in this episode, along with  dick pics. If you have delicate  sensibilities, you may want toskip this series.

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Later, we see Bilquis visiting the  display at a museum, of a fertility statue, supposedly of her, and she has  enough power to rearrange a display of gemstones, thought to be representative of her, with her telekinetic powers, (this isn’t something from the book), and I wonder if that was what all her extra feeding was about, just so she could have the power to do that. At any rate, we get a glimpse of how powerful she is, in that scene.

Loki

 Low Key Lyesmith- Jonathan Tucker (from episode one)

Mr. World – Crispin Glover

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Once you start looking for them,  most of the people Shadow encounters are actually ancient gods. His friend in prison, played by Jonathan Tucker, goes by the name Low Key Lyesmith. We saw him in the first episode when Shadow was in prison. I said initially that Mr. World was Loki, and he is. Low Key is just who he was, when he was  in prison with Shadow.

In prison, Lyesmith is preoccupied by the lack of hangings in America, “no gallows dirt, no gallows deals.” This doesn’t make much sense to Shadow, but it makes more sense if you consider that  he’s Odin’s blood brother. Odin is the gallows god, too. He  sacrificed himself by swinging from a noose tied to a branch of Yggdrasil, the great World Tree of Norse legend, which sneaks into Shadow’s dreams, and is represented by the tree on which Shadow was lynched, at the end of episode one. In exchange for nine days and nights in the noose, Odin received some of the greatest secrets of existence. Shadow hung on the tree briefly, but is about to be privy to a great revelation; the existence of gods.

Jonathan Tucker is also an alumnus of Hannibal. He played another serial killer,who tried to hang Hannibal, and was shot by Jack Crawford.


Buffalo Man
Voiced by: Ian McShane

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In addition to the great tree, Shadow keeps having visions of a talking Buffalo, with flames spurting out of his eyes.  The Buffalo isn’t a god. He’s the land, (or so he tells Shadow toward the end of the book). But he’s god enough to need the same thing all the rest of them need: Faith. He has one piece of advice for the dreaming Shadow: Believe.

I initially thought this vision was one of the Plains Indians Buffalo legends.

http://www.native-languages.org/legends-buffalo.htm


Anansi
 Mr. Nancy- Orlando Jones

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In one of the greatest introductions of any character in a Bryan Fuller Joint, we get to see another Coming to America story. Anansi is a trickster god who originated with the Ashanti people, from what is now Ghana. He’s often depicted as a spider; here, in 1697, crossing the Atlantic in the belly of a slave ship, he’s dressed in a loud plaid suit and depicted as a messenger from the future. He’s the god of all stories, and he’s got an important tale to tell this group of men: “Once upon a time, a man got fucked,” he begins.“That’s the story of black people in America.” He then launches into a rousing speech , and I totally smell an Emmy nom in Orlando Jones’ future.

*Every once in a while, a monologue comes along that seems destined to be recited by theater students and auditioning actors until the sun burns out. Tonight, Starz’s Neil Gaiman adaptation American Gods granted the world such a monologue and put it in the mouth of Orlando Jones. As Mr. Nancy, the well-dressed, anthropomorphization of African trickster spider-god Anansi, he delivers a blistering soliloquy to a ship full of slaves on their way to colonial America and it seems writ by fire, torching the lies we tell ourselves about the ways black people are treated in the U.S. Continue reading “American Gods Season One: The Secret of Spoons”

Why I’m Not Watching The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu Series)

For personal reasons, I won’t be watching this series, which airs on Hulu this month. I have developed  a thing about dystopias. I’m largely no longer interested in any of them. The only one I’m currently watching is The Walking Dead. I haven’t added  any more to my roster of shows.  (I’m not sure if Into the Badlands counts.)

The current argument from most PoC, even those who are fans of dystopian narratives, is that some of us have always lived in one. Certainly, the past is one huge dystopia for Black (Jim Crow), Latinx (Zoot Suit Riots), and Asian Internment camps), and Gay, and Transgender people, in this country. It’s been said that White people can  look forward and see  dystopian futures. Marginalized people have only to look at history.

Here in the US, it’s the 25th anniversary of the 1992 LA riots. The riots resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage, with over 50 people dead, and nearly 2,000 people injured. I remember I was in college at the time. I watched the beating of Rodney King when it occurred months earlier, listened to the announcement of the acquittal, and sat there watching the entire riot, appalled at what I was seeing. I remember feeling terrified (even though what was happening wasn’t anywhere near me). It felt like the end of the world, when it was happening. And I was angry, because I’m a person who knows  some history, and I understood why these people were mad as Hell. Unlike most White people, I had been paying attention to what came before the riots, and what had been happening in that environment, for years.

Last night, National Geographic aired a three  hour documentary of the LA riots, and I wanted to watch part of it. I was a bit nervous because I know that the documentary was made by White people, specifically White men, and not only  have they a long history of only telling news stories from their own perspective, I expected a certain amount of cluelessness and  bias in favor of the police. I expected the documentary to focus only on the actual rioting and violence, and mention none of what led up to that violence, (because White Americans have mastered the art of ignoring the things Black people say they are actually mad about, in favor of just making shit up.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the most of the doc was well done. Not exactly blalnced but not as bad as I thought it would be. There could have been a little more emphasis on the fact that it wasn’t just Black people involved, and why  the Korean shopkeepers got caught in the crossfire, but the parts I did see weren’t actually awful. I didn’t finish the show because I don’t actually need to watch a documentary about something I  witnessed, (and American Gods was on.)

Remember, the LA riots wasn’t like Ferguson, or any of the riots that have happened in the time of social media. We didn’t have social media back then. There were no reports from people, in the thick of things, tweeting about what was happening, in real time. The only way the rest of the world knew what was happening was through mainstream news reports by the talking heads who were witnesses. I have never trusted the mainstream media because it has historically aided and abetted the violent  stereotypes of PoC. Its the news media’s reliance on spectacle, that has  lead to the depiction of Black people as violent savages, that has given  impetus to racist beliefs that Black people are animals, and coverage during the riots, without any focus on the cause, just gave more fuel to those beliefs.

Note: I have lived in Black neighborhoods my entire life and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually witnessed a violent act. I have never committed an act of violence myself, or had one committed against me. This may be higher for  Black people in other parts of the country, or lower, but the bottom line is, unless you’ve lived in our neighborhoods and been part of our culture, you have no fucking idea what being Black in America is like, and the only information you could possibly have about us, are  biased news reports, from a media that benefits monetarily from telling White people horror stories about Black misery. I live in the Midwest. Its not a utopia, by any means, but its no more, or less, hellish than any other part of the US. and certainly nothing like the slice of hell the media would have everyone believe. (Nor is it the privileged party-fest that bigots would have you believe either.)

I’ll give you an example: I grew up in Cleveland Ohio, at the height of the Crips/ Bloods/Crack era that was happening on the East and West coasts, in the late eighties. We heard about it, but it was distant. It didn’t affect our everyday lives. We believed it was happening though, not because of what the mainstream news reported, but because we had an entire genre of rap songs chronicling the shit that was happening in those cities. Rap music was like news reports telling what happened to Black people in other parts of the country.

I watched the mainstream news with my Mom, and I noticed the news media was always trying to play up Cleveland’s gang problem. So desperate were White people in  Cleveland  to be seen as being as cosmopolitan as NY and LA, they were willing to invent problems Cleveland didn’t actually have.

Remember, I was a teenager during all of this, and I lived, worked, and played around the same neighborhoods they were pointing their fingers at, and  saw no evidence that there were gangs. Sure, there were young men who hung out together on street corners, and front stoops. I knew those guys, said hello to them all the time, got catcalled by them (as I was a PYT back then). They weren’t gang members. Were there guys who hung around and got into trouble together? Sure. I wouldn’t have classified them as a gang. (They didn’t have colors, insignia and personal graffiti, although sometimes they named themselves, and had parties.) Were there guys who wished they were a gang? Sure. Were there guys who got together to sell some drugs? Yep. Was there crack in our neighborhoods. Probably! Although I’ve never witnessed, nor encountered, a “crackhead”, and I’ve lived near the “projects” my whole life, and had friends who lived in them. None of these people were gangbangers. I met a gangbanger once. I worked with him during one of my Summer jobs. He seemed like a nice enough fellow. We talked about politics a lot. He didn’t seem inordinately angry about  the various issues of the day.

And yet, “violent”  is all some people think they know, or need to know, about our lives, trotting out that hoary old trope of “Black on Black crime”  at every opportunity, as some kind of gotcha, in conversations about racial politics.

Okay, I’m getting off point. My point was that I’m off  dystopian futures, for the most part, because  I like to maintain hope for the future. I’ve seen what happens when people lose that hope (and I’ve been there myself). I’ve seen those studies discussing the rise of drug use, and suicide among White men. Some people have theorized that part of the reason the death rate has risen, for that particular group of men, is because they have lost hope for a future in which being a White male is no longer the easiest player setting in the game of life.

Another reason I won’t be watching A Handmaids Tale is because Black people have actually experienced a dystopian past, but the  movies and books  lack PoC. White writers are willing to mine their sordid past, only to cast White people in the roles of the oppressed, when historically, its always been everyone else on the receiving end of that oppression. The Handmaid’s Tale is basically dystopian fiction which casts White women in the roles that Black women used to inhabit. So many of White people’s nightmares about the future seem to involve being treated the way they have  treated others.

In the original story by Margaret Atwood, America has been taken over by a religious sect of men. Due to environmental pollution, most women have become infertile. Instead of fixing the problem though, their solution is to enslave all the fertile White women, and force them to have  children. Women who are not considered fertile are killed or enslaved, they can no longer have jobs, read books, or go out in public without blinders. In the book, almost no mention is made of Black people, who are called the Children of Ham, except to mention their relocation elsewhere. Homosexuality is outlawed and punishable by death, women who refuse to adapt to their assigned roles are also executed. There’s even a kind of “underground railroad” to spirit women away into Canada.

I’ve seen people trying, unsuccessfully, to compare this to Sharia Law, when there’s no need for that, because we have examples right here. This is not a new story. America has already done these things to Black women. (See: 12 Years A Slave).  Atwood’s story entirely leaves out this angle of the narrative. (The streaming series is doing something different, but almost as traumatic, by including Black women, but  not mentioning race at all.)

I won’t be watching A Handmaid’s Tale because the trauma of what happens in that show is already real for Black people. We’ve already lived through it. It was only about fifty or so years ago that Mississippi had one of the highest rates of lynching in the US. My mother was born in Miss. in 1950. She had six brothers. Ours was one of the lucky families that managed to emigrate to the North, when she was about ten years old. My grandmother did that because she wanted all her children to grow up, and they had a far less chance of doing so in Mississippi, at that time. My family’s move to the North is a direct result of racist activities, during the Jim Crow era, in my mother’s lifetime.

My grandmother had spent much her life under Jim Crow, and would have spent the rest of her life in Miss., had she not been afraid for her children’s lives. I was too  young and scared to ask her for stories about the things she’d seen, and experienced. You see, my grandmother had already lived through the dystopian fictions that White people find so entertaining to cast themselves in now.

I’m no longer watching movies that are about Black misery, and consequently I refuse to watch any more movies, and shows, about Black misery that only feature White people.

Okay, that’s enough rambling from me.

Here! Have some links!

*These are specifically about the intersection of race and sexism in A Handmaid’s Tale

Now, the TV series makes a point of adding a woman of color to the story, in the character of Moira. In the book, Moira is a lesbian, who opts to become a Handmaiden, rather than be sent to The Colonies.

In the books, Moira is openly rebellious, and after several escape attempts, is sent to a life of enslaved prostitution. In the series, she is played by Samira Wiley, who is most famous for playing the character Poussey, a lesbian convict, in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Her character was unceremoniously killed off that show, which raised some controversy, as it fell into the trope of  Kill All Your Gays. If the show follows the books, then no! I have no urge to see yet another Black woman be degraded to a life of sexual servitude.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2008/07/31/the-handmaids-tales-race-ethnicity-and-sexual-orientation-gilead-is-a-society-of-isms/

http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2015/01/the-handmaids-tale-and-bad-slavery-comparisons/

http://www.fouronesixlit.com/2016/03/26/living-in-the-gaps-between-the-stories-race-at-the-margins-of-the-handmaids-tale/

https://nursingclio.org/2017/04/26/a-post-racial-gilead-race-and-reproduction-in-hulus-the-handmaids-tale/

<I>Handmaid's Tale</i> Series EP Explains Removal of White Supremacy Element

 

This particular essay, in the Atlantic, is an excellent summation of something I touched on in the post above. White people keep looking to the past for a utopia, and to the future for their more nightmarish scenarios. Dystopia seems to be a matter of perspective.

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

https://www.modernghana.com/news/756213/parable-of-the-sower-not-1984-is-the-dystopia-for-our-a.html


A series of articles on the Whiteness, and heteronormativity of  Dystopian futures

https://ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/the-100-and-the-privileged-dystopia/

http://powderroom.kinja.com/on-the-erasure-of-people-of-colour-from-dystopian-ficti-1565047386

http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/05/07/where-are-the-people-of-color-in-dystopias/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/the-topics-dystopian-films-wont-touch/382509/

https://beyoungandshutup.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/who-run-the-dystopian-world-white-girls-racial-diversity-in-dystopian-ya/

Racism in Pop Culture

And here’s my monthly series of articles discussing  the intersection of race and pop culture.

First up, an essay about Westworld from the point of view of a Black man. I touched on some issues earlier with the depiction of Black and White women in Westworld’s dynamic, and its been one of my most popular essays,  but this article is a  discussion of the real world racial dynamics of Westworld, most specifically between Arnold/Bernard, and Robert Ford.

Race. Power. Westworld.

HBO’s sci-fi drama Westworld was a psychological mind f*ck of a show revolving around issues of control, power, violence and love. But there wasn’t a single moment in the show that focused on race despite the fact there are a multitude of racial politics in play. I don’t know if this is because the script was written without race in mind and the casting choices informed the racial dynamics or not. But I came away from the show a bit disappointed that the writers never chose to tackle racial motivations as the show evolved. The interaction between Arnold/Bernard and Ford is ripe with implications of power and race while the park itself seems to be no more than a #MAGA fever dream.

https://stillcrew.com/race-power-westworld-fd97c8a2a6b4


In this article, Zoe Kravitz, the daughter of Lenny Kravitz, and Lisa Bonet, brings the fire, about the roles available for Black women in Hollywood. The irony is that this article came from a British newspaper. 

Zoë Kravitz: ‘Why do stories happen to white people and everyone else is a punchline?’

  • August 20th, 2015

The actor has been stranded on the edges of blockbusters such as Mad Max: Fury Road and the Divergent series, but ahead of new film Dope she’s taking on Hollywood’s stereotypes and making a name for herself

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/aug/20/zoe-kravitz-why-do-stories-happen-to-white-people-and-everyone-else-is-a-punchline


This is a very interesting article about how Hunger Games fans ignored the descriptions of race in the books, while being racist towards the characters in the movies.  Although, I am inclined to believe that a certain section of the Hunger Games fandom never  read the books, saw some racism on display, and decided they wanted to jump on that lovely bandwagon. I have found there’s a subset of White people that will take any and every opportunity to bash a black person, whether they know anything about the situation, or not.

Warning: There’s some seriously nasty shit on display in this article. If you don’t feel like dealing with this level of White nonsense today, or just don’t want to get your blood pressure up, my suggestion is to skip it. Come back to it after you’ve maybe had some weed, or a good strong drink. (I recommend some Henny.)

Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed


These articles area set. They’re  discussions of how social justice crusades on social media has changed the way critics do their jobs. There are certain words that have just become part of mainstream dialogue about movies, and I think we owe that to the critics and fans on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

The American media has no idea how to talk about race on-screen

But they’re (slowly) learning, thanks to social media campaigns that are forcing difficult conversations

http://www.salon.com/2013/12/05/the_american_media_has_no_idea_how_to_talk_about_race_on_screen/

Hot takes and “problematic faves”: the rise of socially conscious criticism

Modern criticism’s affinity for discussing social issues has changed pop culture, for creators and audiences alike.

https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/4/20/15179232/socially-conscious-criticism

For example, the term whitewashing has entered everyday language. Ten years ago, no one was saying this, or critiquing movies with this word. Hell, three years ago the mainstream media wasn’t even socially conscious enough to  be able to spot it, when it happened. But thanks to “woke” fans of Pop Culture, putting it out there, along with other terms like racebending,  appropriation, and erasure, it’s almost impossible for a movie starring white actors (in lieu of actors of color) to not mention any of these terms. 

I do have to thank the Internet for this. If it wasn’t for people like us, arguing vociferously in the comment sections,  and writing our own reviews, meta, and articles about the shows we love and hate, the mainstream media wouldn’t  be aware of these things as problems.

Whitewashing Hollywood movies isn’t just offensive—it’s also bad business

Apparently, ScarJo and Tilda Swinton  have not had enough of getting their edges snatched, all  across social media, by Asian- Americans. They are now starring in a movie together, titled Isle of Dogs, and people are not pleased.

@tsengputterman @ubeempress We get not ONE actress who’s proven her skills at playing Asians, but TWO! Ain’t we lucky! I feel so fucking blessed.

@FilmFatale_NYC New Wes Anderson film set in Japan starring ScarJo and Tilda Swinton. We’re getting trolled.

They really placed Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton in Isle of Dogs to reaffirm their Asian ethnicity? Hollywood killin Asians… STILL!


And finally, more articles about the movie Get Out, which blew up the movie theaters two months ago. February is turning out to be the ” Absolute!Shit” month for African Americans.  Beyonce’s Lemonade dropped in February of last year, and this year we got the unexpected pleasure of Get Out. Next year, it’s the much anticipated arrival of Black Panther, due in (when else?) February.
In the meantime Get out has been one of the most written about movies in the past year. This includes a comparison between Get Out and The Handmaids Tale.  (Later I’ll do a post on the racial implications behind the news show, and the book.)



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These two misplaced fellows below are about Whitewashing. (Bear with me here, it’s morning, and I’m on a tablet!)


And this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that reprehensible Heineken ad, that gave me goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s as cringe-worthy as the Pepsi ad that aired earlier this month. Once again, you’ve got a corporation trying to get those Millennial dollars, and getting shit wrong. And here’s why its wrong, as DiDi Delgado perfectly articulates:

The Heineken Ad Is Worse Than The Pepsi Ad, You’re Just Too Stupid To Know It

(On Medium. com. You have to sign in to Medium to view the article. Follow DiDi, if you liked this particular article, and want to read all her stuff.)

View at Medium.com

ETA: The Links for the Get Out articles have been added. I’ll have a part two of this post later this week, after my review of American Gods.

American Gods

As y’all should be well aware, tomorrow night is the premiere episode of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. TV ads have been hyping the Hell out of this, so I predict that this is going to be cable’s next big hit, and my newest obsession, following close on the heels of Westworld.

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Peter Stormare as Czernobog

 

There are a whole bunch of reason why I know I’m going to love this show. I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman, and have read most, if not all, of his books. I’m also a Bryan Fuller fan. A better marriage between director and writer I couldn’t even make up. The lead character is a Black man named, of all things, Shadow Moon. How cool a name is that? And it features a truly astonishing cast: Ian Mcshane who I fell in love with in Deadwood, is the embodiment of Mr. Wednesday; Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy is absolutely perfect; Crispin Glover is Mr. World (AKA Loki); Gillian Anderson is Media,; and Fuller didn’t forget the sisters, either , as he cast the actress  Yetide Badaki as Bilquist, a fertility goddess.

 

 

I still haven’t finished the book but that’s okay. I’m 3/4 of the way  through the book and will be finished before the second episode airs. For those of you not into the book experience, who haven’t read it, there’s always the audiobook option, or if you’re really pressed for a primer, Wikipedia gives a complete rundown of the book’s plot, which I can attest is accurate.

In anticipation of the premiere, here! Have some links:

Why You Should Read the American Gods Novel Before Watching the TV Show


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Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday (Odin)

American Gods may have finally nailed the modern-fantasy formula on TV

Come for Ian McShane; stay for a faithful, 16-years-later retelling of Gaiman’s classic.


‘I Thought I Understood America’: Talking With Neil Gaiman About ‘American Gods’

As Starz launches its adaptation of the sprawling Gaiman novel, the show’s creators address its new and unexpected meanings in the Trump era.

By David M. Perry

https://psmag.com/i-thought-i-understood-america-talking-with-neil-gaiman-about-american-gods-5f892dab8711


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Crispin Glover as Mr. World (Loki)

American Gods Is a Gorgeous Mess

The new Starz show, adapted from the 2001 book by Neil Gaiman, is extravagantly ambitious and frequently absurd.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/04/american-gods-starz-neil-gaiman-bryan-fuller/524742/


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Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon)

American Gods Star Ricky Whittle on Becoming a Neil Gaiman Fan and on the Non-Book Season Finale


American Gods: Exclusive First Look at Mr. Nancy as Orlando Jones Talks Anansi BoysSpin-Off

Inside the mind of the African trickster god.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/03/american-gods-mr-nancy-anansi-orlando-jones-anansi-boys-spin-off

 


Image result for american gods photosTV Review: ‘American Gods’ on Starz

TV Review: ‘American Gods’ on Starz


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Yetide Badaki as Bilquist

Neil Gaiman’s obsession with identifying the metaphor, in one Americans Gods passage

http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/4/27/15436034/neil-gaiman-american-gods-metaphor


We’ve Seen Your New Favorite Show, and It’s American Gods

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Gillian Anderson as Media

The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman

The beloved author’s American Gods — now a TV show — is more politically relevant than ever. And that scares him.

By

 

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Fight Club and Media Consumption

*I’m going to put this entire discussion here about why it is so important to critically question the media we consume. 

I have a niece who just turned eleven. She and I watch TV together pretty often, and sometimes we watch movies others would consider questionable for an eleven year old. But my attitude is like this, I will treat her the same way my Mother treated me at her age. She let me watch whatever I wanted, as long as I understood it, and we discussed it. If I was confused about anything, I could ask her, and she would tell me as much of the truth as she thought I could handle, at whatever age.

I never let my niece watch anything without asking questions about what she’s viewing, what’s happening on the screen, how she feels and thinks about what she’s viewing. These are never deep questions, because what I want her to do is just get into the habit of asking questions. What did we just watch? What did she like about it? Why does she like certain things? Why didn’t she like about the story, the characters, the images? Why didn’t she like those things?

I also don’t believe in giving her answers, or telling her what to think about a show or movie, either. I want to listen to her answers, understand her responses, as she learns to articulate her thoughts,  let her know I’m interested in what she thinks, and let her know that what she thinks is important to me. Sometimes we disagree and that’s good too, because that teaches her to stand by what she thinks, and articulate her arguments for, or against, something.

I do understand that every parent doesn’t have the time or effort to do this with their children. I know her Mother doesn’t, but she is fortunate to have someone like me, and my Mother, in her life, who are teaching her to think critically, and have informed opinions, about the world around her.

I don’t want her to grow up as one of those people who unquestioningly accepts whatever they’re told by the TV.

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Hold up – you mean there are people who watch Fight Club anddon’t realise that Tyler Durden is meant to be full of shit?

I mean, his doctrine of radical individualism is a sham that ultimately reduces his followers to faceless conformity. This isn’t deep metatextual wankery – it’s the literal text of the film.

How do you see the film and not get that?

My ex didn’t get this. He loves Tyler durden. I’ve never seen fight club so I DIDN’T KNOW.

Yeah, in the film he’s a total con-man. His grand speeches sound good if you don’t think about them too deeply, but they’re not meant to be insightful – they’re meant to be a snake-oil salesman’s patter, calculated to bamboozle dumb, angry young men into doing his bidding.

Trouble is, they’re sufficiently well-written that apparently they work on the dumb, angry young men in the audience, too.

I’ve actually written about this academically! There’s a really specific genre I call bro cinema that includes fight club, all of kubricks work, some Scorsese, and Tarantino (all of which I love TBH.) These directors don’t explicitly condemn toxic masculinity and instead trust the audience to have COMMON SENSE and realize that Alex from A Clockwork Orange or Tyler Durden or Travis Bickle are horrific misogynists. But without the film telling the audience how to feel about these characters, men misinterpret the objectivity as glorification. Fight Club is about how shitty masculinity is, but it’s been warped by men grasping for justification for their misogyny

The real issue here, I think, is the passive consumption of media, and moreover, creators and critical viewers underestimating just how passive the average audience member is in their consumption of media.

In the book Nurture Shock, which is a child psychology book that identifies common parenting mistakes, the author spends a chapter on children’s television. The author specifically talks about how media designed to teach morals often backfires – children who watch morality lessons express *more* behavior problems and become *more* cruel.

Now the author says it’s because of how these programs are structured. First they depict bad behavior, and then they explain why the behavior is bad, showing consequences, and tying up the program with a moral.

Small children aren’t smart enough to understand the moral. Small children learn by emulating behavior they see. They see a bad behavior and they learn the bad behavior. Just exposing children to bad behavior is enough to make them internalize that the behavior is something lots of people do, and therefore something acceptable for people to do to do.

If you try to explain to them after the fact that the behavior is harmful and to be avoided, that message is too complicated and goes right over their heads. You can’t tell little kids “do as I say, not as I do.”

Now the author of this book says “small children aren’t old enough to understand the moral.”

But honestly? Adults have the exact same problem.

Tyler Durden loses in the end. That’s the moral of the movie. Unfortunately that moral is too complicated for the vast majority of the audience. The typical adult audience member does not think critically enough about film media to process this moral.

A critical viewer thinks – the point is that Tyler is wrong! The point is that Tyler is doomed by his own hubris! HOW CAN AUDIENCES HAVE MISSED THE ENTIRE POINT IF THE MOVIE?!?!?

Easily, considering the movie only really devotes 5% of its screen time to explicitly denouncing Tyler’s behavior, and that explicit denouncement only arrives at the very end of the film.

The other 95% of the screen time is spent watching Tyler Durden jerk off.

Look – you can’t film two hours of bareback sex followed by a five minute tutorial on how to correctly use a condom and a 30 second montage of miserable teen parents changing diapers, then call your film a safe sex PSA.

You did not make a safe sex PSA.

You made a porno.

You can try to argue that the bareback sex is an ironic subversive metaphor, and that the “real point” of your film is proper condom usage and an anti-teen pregnancy message, but the fact is, the majority of your audience is going to change the channel the moment the cumshot finishes.

Audiences, outside of our special little corner of fandom discourse, are by and large just straight up lazy. They can’t be bothered to think that hard about the media they consume.

via @sarcastrophesam  #THIS IS WHAT I WAS TRYING SO DESPERATELY TO PIN DOWN IN MY ESSAY ON EX MACHINA #AND HOW THE DIRECTOR HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY TO CLEARLY SPELL OUT TO THE AUDIENCE#THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUPPORTING A CERTAIN BEHAVIOR BY DEPICTING IT#AND CRITICIZING IT BY DEPICTING IT #BECAUSE USUALLY THE AUDIENCE DOES NOT PICK UP ON SUBTLE CRITICISM OR MORALES AT ALL

This is why I loved Fury Road so much, and also what I felt was so profoundly revolutionary about the movie. Fury Road is a movie about women escaping violent misogynists. Yet editor Margaret Sixel had the SHEER BRILLIANCE and AUDACITY to cut all the footage of misogynist violence out of the movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road proved that it is possible to denounce misogynist violence without depicting it.

Mad Max: Fury Road showed that refusal to depict misogynist violence is in and of itself a denouncement of misogynist violence.

We don’t need to show what victims went through to make victims sympathetic. In fact, voyeuristically depicting acts of cruelty only further objectifies victims. George Miller and Margaret Sixel understand this.

Similarly, George Miller made a point of using telling his videographers to use camera angels that focused on the action of the scene, instead of voyeristically zooming in the female castmember’s breasts/asses/legs  – because he understood that when the camera ogles the female characters in an objectifying manner, the audience, who views the movie through the camera’s lens, is forced to ogle and objectify. George understood that sexist camera work creates a sexist perspective, and a sexist perspective tells a sexist narrative.

The thing is that the narrator is always sympathetic. Intimacy and familiarity breed sympathy. The audience is primed  to feel sympathy for the narrator simply because they are speaking more than any other individual character.

No matter how unreliable, or morally dubious you make the narrator, they are still the hero or the story. Every villain is the hero of their own story. And when the villain is the narrator, the audience is hearing the version of the story in which the villain is the hero, and the audience is moved by that perspective.

We can give Fight Club the benefit of the doubt and look at Fight Club as an intellectual experiment to see whether or not it’s possible to tell a story from the villain’s perspective and still denounce the villain’s actions.

But the fact is, the experiment didn’t work. It was a statistical failure. The vast majority of the audience did not recognize the film as a criticism of toxic masculinity, but rather, a romanticization of it.

Perhaps the author’s goal was for Tyler Durden’s death to be interpreted as a cautionary tale, but the author failed in that goal. He failed. Because by the time Tyler Durden dies in the movie, he has already been painted a hero in the eyes of the majority of the audience, and heroes don’t become cautionary tales when they die; they become martyrs.

A further layer of this issue: Fight Club was made in a different era (as well as with a different sensibility) from, say, Mad Max: Fury Road. ‘The real issue here … is the passive consumption of media’ – yes, exactly. But also, Fincher made Fight Club at a cultural moment when postmodern moral ‘blankness’ and ironisation ruled – a moment which also ‘happened’ to coincide with the rise of (‘old enough to know better, but we don’t care’) lad culture and the (lad-related) knowingly uncritical celebration of ‘bro cinema’.

Rather than spelling out an ‘unfashionably’ direct critique, or moral lessons, to their male audience, the cool moral detachment of films like Fight Club requires a critical, thinking, supposedly sophisticated, viewer – the viewer who knows ‘The point is that Tyler is wrong!’ – while playing a double game. The cool mode enables bro cinema to have its cake and eat it, commercially speaking: it can simultaneously profit from (A) the ‘majority of the [male] audience’ who don’t want to have their misogyny challenged and even celebrate misogyny, while gaining acclaim for (B) its subtle, yet meant-to-be-understood-as-critical, depictions of toxic masculinity…

The esteem for bro cinema then gets boosted higher and higher by male critics who pay lip-service to (A), while in many cases enjoying the films because (B).

Question: can someone discuss the role that race plays in all this? Most of the movies being discussed here are really, really white.

For a lot of white men, the idea of why something is wrong is an intellectual exercise – when you’re not actually the one constantly victimized, it becomes a matter of ideas and not survival.  For them, depicting horrific things is cool and edgy because it’s not “real” for them, which is why the morals hang so weakly in the media.

Also, to the comment about 95% celebration vs. 5% “morals”, it’s really about what you show in terms of character reaction and consequences immediately that tells the audience whether this is good, or bad.

When a character does something and other characters are repulsed and react immediately (or the same character realizes they’ve messed up and you can see them regret it right away), no one sees this as something to enjoy or celebrate.  When it goes without comment or is treated as good, you can’t later get to the moral and say “Actually it’s wrong” and expect it to sink in.

This is even true of villains – they may see nothing wrong with what they’re doing, but the characters whose emotions you center and frame are the ones that paint events as right or wrong.

Tying these two points together – if you never center or frame the feelings of certain groups of people (marginalized people), then the harm exists as an idea but not as a narrative reality.  It’s not “don’t do x because it hurts y people” it’s “Don’t do x because this other white guy said so”… which fundamentally teaches “do what the white guy says” not “respect people’s boundaries”

I say this a lot – the way media teaches violence is less about the specific violent behavior but rather the expected social hierarchy – when you some people’s boundaries, feelings, and existence do not matter, even if the narrative doesn’t show violence, you still end up with audiences who act violently towards those people because they’ve been taught those people aren’t people, and often should be punished for trying to put themselves on equal footing as “people”.

 

Media and the Real World – Addendum

This is from a previous post, elaborating on the idea of Utilitarianism in the Media. I’ve stated these ideas many times, but they do need to be repeated and kept in mind, because vigilance against reproducing the dominant narrative is the key to undermining it, not just awareness.

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the idea of people having to be ‘useful’ is just so gross, like people do not exist to be used

having to produce something and have a use is a capitalist ideal and not an intrinsic part of humanity

just by being alive you are human and you are worth something and you can never be useless

this applies to animals as well

“Having to like DO THINGS is SO OPPRESSIVE. No one had to like DO THINGS before evil capitalism. In ancient times food, water, and shelter just existed and everything was taken care of for me”

Guess what happened to people who didn’t do things before capitalism? They died. Cause if you weren’t hunting, gathering, or useful in some aspect of nature. You were killed, died or starvation, dehydration, or exposure.

Being useful is literally part of our biology. Fucking moron. You pull some idea out of your ass because you literally don’t want to get off your ass.

I’m not saying nobody should ever do things ever, I’m saying people don;t have to produce to an arbitrary standard in order to prove their right to live

And if you really think disabled people deserve to die if we can’t ‘contribute’ or be useful in a way you approve of then congrats youre a fucking monster

actually there’s significant evidence in terms of Neolithic burials that disabled people who would not have been able to hunt for themselves (the archaeological evidence mostly shows mobility disabilities because it’s visible in the bone record) were well fed and cared for by their communities

so the “people like you would have been left to die” argument isn’t just cruel and violently ableist, it’s extremely historically inaccurate and based off of projecting modern prejudice on prehistoric cultures

sources because I’m on my laptop now!

note: in the neolithic era, a person in their 40s or 50s would be considered elderly

12,000-year-old burial of a woman about 45 with mobility disabilities both congenital and acquired

burial of a 40-50 year old Neanderthal man who had survived to old age with a deformed right arm and a long-healed head injury that would have made him blind in one eye

neolithic burial of a man in his 50s who lost the use of his left arm in adolescence

neolithic burial of a man in his 40s with evidence of a significant mobility disability caused by an injured hip and leg, some time in adulthood but long before his death

neolithic Asian burial of a man in his 20s with a congenital disorder which would have made him a quadriplegic around age 14. He survived for 10-15 years after that.

5th century burial of child with Down Syndrome

i read somewhere that you can measure the worth of a society by how it treats it’s helpless, elderly and sick and i think that’s totally on to something. this also ties in with the whole “survival of the fittest” garbage that people (mostly violent machismo men) spew without knowing what it actually means.

the inherent idea of productivity = worth IS a product of a culture based off of industrialization and capitalism, anyone who says otherwise is blinded by bias and needs to read some anthropology.

Animals do this, too. There’s a ten year old orca named Tumbo with severe scoliosis. He’s slower than the rest of his pod, but his mother and brother stay with him and help him hunt. He’s a transient, too, which means he travels great distances daily with his pod, and hunts dangerous prey like seals and sharks. Yet despite his disability, his pod takes care of him, and his pod thrives, even with the care they show him.

As someone said above me, a society can be judged by how it treats the sick, elderly and disabled. If animals can show such compassion, what’s a human’s excuse for lacking the same compassion for a fellow human being?

Source: silversarcasm
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*To elaborate on my contribution to this post: and tie all these posts together. Trust me! There is a theme here and that is “utilitarianism”. The usefulness of other human beings to the narrative. Fandom is nothing more than an extension of ideas given (to them) by Hollywood. Fanfiction, for example, is nothing more than fantasies being written about fantasies, and as a result, all that most Fandom can do, is reiterate the specific dynamics they’ve been taught by Hollywood films, for the past seventy plus years.

The only narratives (and justifications) Hollywood has given the public for having any marginalized person in a movie, is if that person is useful to the white lead characters. This goes for everyone who is not white, straight, cis, and male. For decades most white women could only be in movies unless they served the purposes of the male protagonist.  We even have special words for it: Women in Refrigerators, The Sexy Floor Lamp, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Their purpose in a movie is not to affect the plot, but to affect the men, who affect the plot.

The same is true for people with disabilities, most often used as “inspiration porn”, to  make the protagonist of the story, or sometimes even the audience, feel good about themselves. Almost the only time you see people with disabilities get cast at all, is in horror movies, as the monsters, or to inspire the main characters and audience to live better lives.

 The same is true for LGBTQ people, which is how we got the term, “the Gay Best Friend”. Usually, they only exist in the plot to give support, and sympathy to the straight characters, or prop up their love lives somehow. In thrillers and horror movies, they exist to be killed, so as to alert the protagonist that the villains are getting close, or to indicate to the protagonist that they are in a Horror movie.

And PoC, serve all these purposes, The Black Best Friend, The Caddie, The Maid, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, The Black Guy Dies First. The only narrative that most white people have seen PoC perform for the past seventy years is that of being useful to the main characters, who are white. Yes, there are movies that exist outside that dynamic but most white people don’t, or won’t go see those films.

It’s the reason why fandom can’t see PoC in fantasy narratives that include fantastical creatures like elves and orcs, and why Finn, from Star Wars can never be seen as anything other than Rey’s friend, rather than a possible  love interest. Its the reason people speculate that Michonne should die at Negan’s hands next season, to illustrate Rick’s whitemanpain. It’s the reason white Fandom doesn’t know what to do with T’Challa, other than make him Bucky’s Sugar Daddy,  and the Dore Milaje who challenged their white fave, Black Widow, gets vilified for being a big ol’ meaniepants, when she was merely doing her job of protecting her possible future husband. And its the reason why Nick Fury gets vilified, and Tony Stark gets woobified in fanfiction, for committing much the same types of behavior.

The only narratives most white people have to work from are marginalized people as servants and slaves, counselors, helpers, and  mentors to the white protagonist. And when not cast in  helping roles, then they are infantilized, or erased from their own narratives, so that the White Saviors can look good taking care of whatever problems they can’t solve for themselves.

Hollywood  has insisted on reproducing these  dynamics in film, after film, after film, since its inception. We should not be at all surprised at all the racism and bigotry we have seen  in the Fandom. Is it any wonder that there is a dearth of imagination, and a complete inability to see marginalized people outside of the boxes  in which Hollywood has kept us. They are merely reproducing the only kind of  stories they’ve been given. The fault isn’t entirely on the fandom. A large part of the fault lies with Hollywood.

This also ties into my earlier posts about how insidious racism and bigotry are. You have to remain vigilant and constantly examine what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, if you don’t want to end up simply reproducing the racist, ableist, homophobic,  and sexist narratives we’ve all been ingesting since we were children. Its even worse when you  reproduce the mainstream narratives, while believing that you’re being progressive.

 

 

Media and the Real World

I originally added this little essay as an addendum to  the last Tumblr discussion, but it just kept getting longer the more I thought about it. I’d been thinking of writing something like this for a while , and the Tumblr discussion, and its reception by my readers, spurred me to elaborate on the issue.
I’m a person who is always seeing connections between what others would consider unrelated events, and that’s how my mind works when it comes to people. I see connections between certain types of behaviors and attitudes.

I’m an avid consumer of media. As a Geekgirl, I love media, but I’m not in love with it.  I don’t consume it unquestioningly. I’m perfectly capable of indicting the media I love so much for its bad behavior. Why? Because it can be better. I’m also a Black American Woman, so I can’t really afford to be blind when it comes to such things.

Even when I was very young, I was critical of the media I watched, and read, and listened to. The first real memory I have of this: I was about twelve, sitting in my kitchen with my Mother in the background, doing whatever Moms do. I was watching television and although  I forget what show it was,  I know it was  Science Fiction, because I turned to my mother and asked “Mom, how come there ain’t  any Black people in the future? What happened to us?” And without missing a beat in whatever she was doing, she glanced at me and said, “Maybe we left.”

First, a little background on my Mother. She was a child of the sixties, and a member of the Black Panthers.* She very much believed in community service, and always spoke to me and my siblings about being Black Americans, and the things that should be important to us because of the way the world might treat us. So this answer from her is entirely in keeping with her general aesthetic. This is just the kind of thing she would regularly say.

This idea was such an intriguing concept for me, though,  that I have never forgotten this conversation. Where did Black people go? Why did we leave? It wasn’t until I was older that some answers started to come to me.

I talk about these subjects, such as racism in media, because for PoC, these stereotypes have real world repercussions, and a lot of White people, (and PoC too), who believe themselves to be very Progressive and liberal, reproduce the attitudes they see in the media, without even realizing that’s what they’re doing.

What’s the first thing you think of when I say the word “Paris”? The Eiffel Tower, Baguettes, the French language, Romance. Chances are, you got these ideas, and images, about Paris from TV and movies, not from actually visiting the city. If this influence works with foreign locales, then it most certainly works with lives and people, influencing your thoughts about places (Russia, Japan) and people (with tattoos, Muslims), and events (weddings, Proms) you may have never encountered.

For example, the idea that marginalized people need to be of use to White straight people is one that’s pervasive in every form of media from movies to TV, to books. This culminates in White people who treat PoC, gay people, and others as if these (other) people are actors in a movie which stars themselves.

I’ve encountered this myself, with men telling me to smile because they believe my purpose on earth is to make them feel comfortable and do their emotional labor. Or White people who get angry when I don’t please them by laughing at their jokes or being as friendly as they would like me to be, once again making them comfortable or doing their emotional labor.

Why? Because I have to be useful to them. I have to be a sidekick, a friend, a mammy, or a love interest in their personal movie of which they are the star.

Both of  these attitudes stem from the same  foundation, however,  of not thinking of other people as separate people from themselves, who have their own agendas, separate from whatever makes them happy. PoC and other marginalized people have their own lives, and sometimes their desires, goals, wants and needs are not going to align with with someone else’s.

This is a an attitude that is prevalent not just in everyday life but in every strata of  American society, from people who are  angry about people on welfare, to the idea that other human beings must be PRODUCTIVE to be worth life and respect, or to receive food, clothes, or housing. This attitude promotes lack of compassion for others and their circumstances.

This same lack of compassion leads others to dismiss the claims, by marginalized people, of their discrimination, and the same lack of compassion in excusing the police shootings of Black people (because  Black people are not  considered USEFUL to the world.)

When you believe that other people are the sidekicks of your life, it is that much easier to consider their lives expendable or, like Immortan Joe, (Yeah, that’s what you’re acting like!)  to use them for your own ends. How much easier is it then, to believe that person’s life is worth nothing when it has no obvious use for yours?

What happens in the media affects the real world in ways people don’t often consider. Most of our values, ideas and thoughts about the rest of the world is influenced as much by television and movies, as the people who surround us. Television and movies teach us how the word works, what to expect of our lives at certain ages, how to fall in love, how to behave at a wedding or Prom, how to behave at 25, 45 ,and 65 years old, and how to think about people who may be wildly different from us.

The constant message  that everyone (this includes me) receives from the media is that White Stories Matter more than all others (The Sidekick Effect), that their lives are the only stories that are  worth being told (Erasure, Whitewashing), and that marginalized people don’t have stories of their own (The White Savior Trope), that are separate from making White people feel good about themselves (The Manic Pixie Dream Girl), or fixing their love lives (Ghost, Hitch), or maximizing their happiness (The Legend of Bagger Vance).

People of Color, and other marginalized people, do not have to be USEFUL, to be treated with respect, compassion, or be worthy of being loved.

 

*And yeah, all these lies being spread around about what the Black Panthers actually stood for, is incredibly infuriating to me because of my connection to them through my mother, and uncles, who were directly involved in the local chapter.

**Yes, there will be a part two about Black Lives Matter vs. the  Mainstream Media

White Virgin/Whore of Color (Part II)

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

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

Most of these are related to WoC depictions in media:

Race and Romance in Daredevil Season Two

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

blackfemalescientist:

lierdumoa:

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

.

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

At no point is Vanessa portrayed as “broken.”

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

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

Think about that.

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

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

But the movie never hands sexual abusers the mic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(via christel-thoughts)

 

More Scarlett Johansson stuff:

iterativeimprovement:

triplehamburgerjack:

lovemyths:

arkynn:

“nothing against scarlett”

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

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

AND SHE NOT BROKE

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

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

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

 

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

raptorific:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is whitewashing.

(via christel-thoughts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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