Accents in Movies: Depicting Class

In the 1991 Jonathan Demme film, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter, in one of the film’s most cringeworthy scenes,  properly deduces that Clarice Starling is “poor white trash”. Working from his own collection of  stereotypes, the observation of her good bag, cheap shoes, and Appalachian mountains accent, he correctly guesses that she’s not more than one generation out of the coal mines. Clarice’s accent, as much as her womanhood, marks her as “other”.

Everything about her, from the opening running scene, in which she is ogled by a pair of classmates, to the elevator scene where the height differential between herself and her classmates makes her stand out, to the soft Southern accent, with which she replies to her supervisor, it is shown that Clarice does not belong there. Although later, Clarice uses her accent to gain the trust and compliance of a roomful of rural professionals, who are suspicious of her presence, as a woman in an all male environment, and as a member of the Federal government. She uses her accent to show that she is actually one of them, from the culture in which the idea of the Wise (or Conjure) Woman is important, and respected.

When you watch that scene again, take note of the strength of the accent, and her use of words. She says to the men, “We’ll take care of her. Just go on now. We’ll take care of her.” And they unquestioningly obey her request, much as they would, if their mothers, or grandmothers had said it. She has successfully conveyed to the men, that she is one of them, a member of their social class, who knows how these things are done.

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Clarice is a pretender to social class, which is a nice parallel to the film’s antagonist, Jame Gumb, who pretends at being a transgender woman. The only person who is not fooled by Clarice’s  pretense at urban sophistication, is  Lecter, who has a distinct, upper class, European accent, reminiscent of the Lithuanian nobility, from which he came. To  less discerning characters, like Chilton, or the room full of cops that she orders around, Clarice can pass as a member of the middle class. The moment she speaks, people assume she isn’t, but to someone like Lecter, her lack of breeding is clearly evident. Both her, and Gumb’s, (his is Southern Californian), accents mark them as outside the mainstream. Except for the three primary characters, Lecter, Gumb, and Starling, all of the other characters in the film, including Clarice’s Black roommate, played by Kasi Lemmons, all have the  Standard American accent.

The American Standard is the king of American accents, it is the default, so common it goes unnoticed, and the most well favored. It’s also called the Central Midwestern accent, used in places like Northeastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan to the far north, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and is the accent most often heard from news anchors, public announcers, and even AI programs like Siri, and Alexa. There are other accents in those regions, that coexist along side it, but the American Standard is the one which is preferred.

 

https://www.stagemilk.com/american-accent-guide/

It is also somewhat of a constructed concept. What I mean by that is that nobody grew up in Standard America. The sound we’re talking about is what is called a prestige dialect. Most countries (and most languages) have a prestige dialect which is exactly what it sounds like: the speech sounds most commonly identified with status within a given society. Linguistically it’s not simply status but also clarity, intelligence, socioeconomic influence and general power. 

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Unlike Clarice, I have this privilege. I call this Accent Privilege, in the sense that my regular speaking voice doesn’t have an accent that is noticeably different from that of the mainstream, Midwestern accent. This happened by sheer luck. I just happened to be born into one of the regions where this is the most prevalent accent. People often judge others on how they speak, and if you have no noticeable accent,  that judgment is favorable most of the time. My accent marks me to others as being intelligent, educated, and/or middle class. My words are treated with either trust or suspicion, based on who I’m talking to. White people consider me “safe”, and are reassured by my ability to be clear and articulate, but I was often asked by my Black classmates, why I spoke like a white person, as the Midwestern accent is heavily associated with Whiteness. I did not grow up as a member of the middle class. Like Clarice Starling, I’m pretending to a social class I was not born into, but which people assumed I did, and my accent helped to sell it, because, like her, I’m barely one generation away from the cotton fields.

But I do also engage in what is known as “Code Switching”, where people from other cultures, or just different regions of the country, speak differently, in different spaces, often “switching” back and forth, between their normal speaking voice, and American Standard.  Why? Because many people are often uncomfortable with, and disrespectful, and suspicious of other languages, and vernacular English, like AAVE (African American Vernacular English). When I’m in my home, I speak the way my family speaks, and since the majority of them are from rural Mississippi, we speak AAVE, but I don’t speak at work that way. For one thing, my job involves answering phones, and a certain mode of professional speaking is required for that type of job. It would be considered “unprofessional”, and in the minds of some people, low class, for me to answer the business phone, as if I were at home. I don’t talk to my supervisors, the way I talk to my mother, for example, (and neither do most people, regardless of whether or not they have accents.

Now, when I’m talking about accents, for the purposes of this post, I mean the entirety of a person’s manner of speaking, including word usage, because only certain types of accents are associated with the use of certain types of words, for example, the use of the word, “y’all”.

 The mainstream Midwestern accent is the default accent used in almost all of American television, and movies. Having a Midwestern accent means a person gets treated as trustworthy, their words are given more weight,  given the benefit of the doubt,  assumed to be educated,  to have a good job,  and to be non-violent. In America, sounding like an American, means having  “no accent”, but that wasn’t always the case.

In the early part of the 20th century, the Mid-Atlantic accent was what was used, until it fell out of favor, in the fifties, for a more “natural” sounding speech pattern.

 

Of course this is an accent, too, in the same way that “White” is a race, but this “lack” of accent (just like whiteness) is so ubiquitous, that most people don’t  notice it.

The way someone pronounces their words, is used in movies and shows, not just to reinforce stereotypes, but as a  form of shorthand, to show a person’s character, and social class. Filmmakers use accents to show audiences that a character is good,  evil,  smart, gullible, suspicious, or trustworthy.  Turn on any American TV show, watch any movie, and chances are, those with Midwestern accents will be the majority of the characters, and probably  will be  the protagonists, heroes, or in positions of authority. They will also almost always be White.

You will not find  a lot of characters in mainstream media with deep Southern accents, Western twangs,  Texas Drawls, Valley Girl speech, Arabic, Southeast Indian, or Caribbean  accents, unless they are also shown as poor, incompetent, corrupt, or played for comic relief. In other words, characters never just have accents. There is always a reason for the accent, and some  point about that person is being made.

For example, the accent, in mainstream media, is used to indicate if someone is considered an American citizen. For the past twenty plus years, the Simpsons,  has had the running gag of an immigrant named Apu, a stereotypical character from India, who has  a strong accent,  is the father of a small multitude of babies, and runs a convenience store. This character is meant to be funny because of how he speaks, not necessarily because of anything he does, as his very existence in Springfield, (the setting of The Simpsons), is meant to be comedic. His accent also paints him as a perpetual foreigner. Asian Americans are especially susceptible to this stereotype, as no matter how many generations they’ve lived in America, they are often still assumed to be from somewhere else. And if they have an accent then doubly so.

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

The perpetual foreigner stereotype is a racialized form of nativist xenophobia in which naturalized and even native-born citizens (including families which have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as foreign because they belong to minority groups.

I spoke, in an earlier post, about the use of accents in the movies of the Coen Brothers, where everyone’s speech patterns and accents are used as indicators of people’s socio-economic status, the status they aspire to be, or simply framed as comedic.  In The Ladykillers, Tom Hanks broad Southern  accent is associated with television conmen, corrupt religious authority, and the Antebellum era of Georgia.  His accent gives the audience ideas about the  type of man he is. The audience doesn’t know he is a grifter and conman by his deeds. We know this by the long association, that has been made in mainstream media, between his accent, and untrustworthiness. All we  need is to hear is his caricature of a Southern accent, to understand that he is unreliable, and also that  the movie is meant to be a comedy.

 

In Raising Arizona, Hi, a criminal recidivist,  his two  best  friends, both prison escapees, and a murderous biker, all talk in what I call “downspeak”, where they talk as if they were  college educated, but with the Southern twang that is meant to indicate their social class, and criminal status. This is what I meant by the association of word use and accent. The humor comes from the incongruity of Hi, and his companions, using words not normally associated with their accents. Not only that, but Hi’s word use can also be seen as aspirational. He talks the way he wishes to be seen by others, which is smart, educated, middle-class, and therefore a reliable narrator, but we  laugh at the way Hi speaks, because his accent marks him as a member of the trailer park class, no matter what words he uses.

Accents are especially interesting  when it comes to Black characters. Blackness, throughout most of film history, has been  almost always associated with buffoonery, poverty, criminality, and a lack of education.  So  it is interesting that even though the largest population of Black people in the US, live in the South, Black people in Popular media, rarely have Southern, Californian, or even Texan accents, and those times when they have  a Southern accent, it represents childlike helplessness, that they have wisdom above their station, or in the case of Black women, that they are deeply religious.

In the 1986 movie, Crossroads, starring Ralph Macchio, and Joe Seneca, we can contrast Willie Brown’s poor, Mississippi Delta accent, with Eugene Martone’s middle-class, New York accent, something which Willie never lets Eugene forget throughout the film. They’re both musicians who specialize in playing the guitar, but one of them was born into poverty and plays the Blues, a style of music that is dismissed as “primitive” by Eugene’s music teachers, and the other was born in one of world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and plays Western European Classical music, which is sneered at by Willie, as not being “real music, that comes from the heart”. In this movie, it is Eugene who is out of place, as his accent is commented on by the other characters in the film, and marks him as being from a different socio-economic class.

The Northern Blaccent, where a person speaks AAVE, but speaks it with a Midwestern accent, is often representative of  the “thug”, or gang banger stereotype, and appears to be a universal Black accent,  not closely associated  with any particular region of the US, which means that no matter where the movie or show is set, the accents of Black characters in Popular media, tend to remain consistently Midwestern. Once again, this is not a hard and fast rule, as exceptions can be found, but it is a pattern, and the idea that Blackness alone, is so associated with criminality, violence, and unreliability, to such a degree, that none of those qualities need be further indicated by a strong accent, is disturbing.

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When a Black character speaks SAE (Standard American English) onscreen, without an accent, then it connotes all the same qualities that it does in the real world, respectability, and safety. A decade after the demise of the Mid-Atlantic accent, used by White actors, Black characters were still using it. The use of AAVE in movies and shows, did not reach full use by Black characters until the mid seventies, after which it became associated with Black youth culture, and the Blacksploitation movies of that era. The use of AAVE, in mainstream media, came about as a result of the resurgence in Black Pride, when young Black people dismissed respectability politics, in favor of more natural manners of speaking.

Actors like Sidney Poitier, and other actors during, and after, the Civil rights Era, had a distinct, clipped, educated,  Mid-Atlantic accent, which was meant to show that he was a fine, upstanding Black man, to be respected. The purpose of this manner of speaking was meant to counteract the “Coon” manner of speaking that had been heard in most mainstream films, featuring Black characters. His tone, and speech, are meant to convey authority. This was a man who could be liked and trusted, and  this was illustrated in the 1967 movie, In the Heat of the Night, in which a Black Philadelphia cop, Virgil Tibbs, is sent to a small town in Mississippi,  and works with the town sheriff to solve a murder.

Poitier’s voice is deep, firm, and commanding, because sometimes, the tone and timbre of a person’s voice are important, as well. In this scene, notice the difference in his voice, compared to that of the white sheriff, whose voice is of a higher register, and a more casual tone. The Sheriff’s accent is a soft Southern drawl, his tone holds just a touch of ambiguity, because while he is assured of his own authority, he is uncertain of Tibbs, but like the plot of every cop film of the 80s,  the two men begin  to respect each other, as they are forced to work together.

 

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In Hollywood films, the accent that receives the most negative depictions, outside of the Northern Blaccent, is the  Southern Twang. White people with Southern twangs from places  like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Appalachians, are often depicted in films as toothless, criminal, incestuous,  “rednecks”, “trailer trash”, and “hillbillies”. They are often shown as uneducated, overly religious, violent, poor, and gullible members of the lower classes, (they often populate Horror movies set in rural America, like The Texas Chainsaw massacre, and Deliverance, which is something I’ll be speaking about in a later post.) We are meant to laugh at them, disdain them, be afraid of them, or disgusted by them. The audience is almost never meant to think of such individuals as their equals. Contrast this attitude with that of earlier in the twentieth century, before television, when such people were often held up as admirable examples of Americans, who were the “salt of the Earth”. They weren’t respected, but at least were not blatantly denigrated in most media depictions of them. They were shown as ignorant, but level headed, uneducated, but sensible. Over time, with the advent of television, which was aimed at a middle class audience, the depiction of white poverty became almost entirely negative.

Also on The Simpsons, there is another recurring character named Cletus, The Slack Jawed Yokel, and his theme song and  vignettes are every stereotype of rural poverty, which pretty much sums up how this character is meant to be seen, but because this is a white character, no one thinks of it as being especially mean-spirited, despite the fact that the people writing the show, don’t share the socio-economic background of the character. We are meant to laugh at him, and his antics, not sympathize with him. (TBH, many of The Simpson’s recurring characters are  collections of various tropes.)

We can more clearly see this stereotyping at work, in the 1993 movie, Kalifornia, between  two couples who share almost nothing in common, beyond having white skin. The don’t share income levels, background, or education. Early and his girlfriend, Adele, both speak with a Twang which, outside of their dress and demeanor, indicates their low social and economic status, compared to Brian and Carrie, who speak with the “accentless” accents of the Midwest. Brian and Carrie are both urbane, educated, middle class, and look down on, and mock Adele and Early as “poor white trash”. When the two couples meet,  Carrie expresses reservations about Early and Adele, and finds them funny. Throughout the movie, she regularly expresses disgust, and embarrassment, for the couple’s mannerisms, speech, and lack of boundaries.

Early is a murderer, with a long criminal background, and  on parole, while he and Adele inhabit a trailer, they cannot afford. Adele, while sweet, and good-natured, is also  dimwitted,  gullible, and easily manipulated by Early, who is physically abusive towards her. Adele is  more open with her sexuality. She isn’t slut-shamed in the film, but her manner and dress is distinctly different from the cool, modestly dressed, and sexually aloof Carrie, who Early covets as being beyond his ability to acquire. Carrie’s hair, makeup, and clothing, all indicate that she is a member of the middle class, while Adele’s childlike hairstyles, and lack of makeup, indicate her lack of sophistication. This is actually pretty typical of Hollywood versions of White people with strong Southern accents, but there are at least two exceptions to this, as well.

 

The Texas Drawl, for example, which is commonly given to hyper-masculine, and  heroic White men, like John Wayne, and the Southern Belle, a white woman of at least middle class status, who is  depicted as either  a simpering, or  fiery, damsel in distress, like Scarlett O’Hara.

In genre movies that take place in Fantasy and Science Fiction settings, the Midwestern accent is still dominant, even if there is no reason why a story set in Medieval England, or Outer Space is filled with Midwestern American speaking people, outside of being the actors hired for those roles. Most of the lead characters in Game of Thrones have either staunch Midwestern, or upper class British accents, when there is no reason for such a class station to be alluded to at all, in such a setting. If the characters in a world based on Medieval European history, can have modern British and Midwestern accents, and not be argued as historically inaccurate, than why not any of the many twangs, drawls, Indigenous, Asian, or even Eastern European accents? Why are posh British accents always used to denote the upper classes and nobility even in fantasy settings?

In the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, Viggo Mortensen is a multilingual actor, of Danish heritage, who speaks with a pronounced American accent in the movie. Of all the accents he could have chosen to use, why use that one? The Hobbits all use a variety of English, and Midwestern accents, that are meant to sound casual, but are still “low class” English, or Midwestern standard (and sometimes both in the same character). Although the movies are shot in New Zealand, none of the primary actors have Kiwi accents, which for the Hobbits would be just as valid as the English and Midwestern accents they’re using.

All of the members of the nobility, for example, including the fantasy creatures, regardless of the region of Middle-Earth, or the culture they’re from, like the elves, and dwarves, have English accents. Now I do understand that many of these accents are the natural voices of the actors hired for the roles, but what is never taken into account by audiences is that, that too, is a choice the creators made. The creators of the movies took the time to have the actors speak invented languages, and they could have easily taken the time to make up accents, but chose not to, which probably means, just like the audience, they didn’t hear it either. They could have taken the time to use different accents, for different cultures, or regions of Middle Earth, but didn’t.

Contrast that decision with the accents used in the movie Black Panther. Yes, the accents are all over the place, but according to some of the countries referenced by dress and custom in the movie, the actors accents are not the real accents of any particular region, or tribe, and as a result, many Africans found the accents funny. The Wakandans do speak something like the real language called Xhosa. The bottom line is someone thought about how the characters should sound, and made a deliberate choice that all the members of the fictional nation of Wakanda, would have a certain accent, while it seems no particular thought was given to the accents of the characters from Lord of the Rings. The actors just all used their natural voices there.

When The TV series The Witcher was announced, there was a great deal of argument about adding people of color to the cast, saying that they didn’t belong in a story based in  Polish folklore, because that would not be “Historically Accurate”. This is an argument I’m getting especially tired of hearing,for stories set in Fantasy settings, that involve elves, dragons, and magic, especially since none of those same  people complained about any of the characters lack of Medieval Polish accents, or the lack of any of the languages of Poland. It’s not accurate for any of the characters to have either American or British accents, but no one complained about them. No one complained, because they are not meant to notice that the  “accentless” accent, of Midwestern America, is actually a very specific, and just as contrived,  accent, aimed at a specific audience the films.

Would we take any of these films as seriously as we do, if all the characters spoke like Cletus, from The Simpsons?

In Star Wars, most of the characters (even robots) have either British or Midwestern accents, as well, and there is no particular reason why no one has a Blaccent, or speaks like they’re from Georgia, Pakistan, or Indonesia, although in Science Fiction, this is changing, as in some of the films, most notably in Rogue One, the actors of color all kept their original accents, from places like Mexico (Diego Luna), and China (Donnie Yen).  At least part of the reason we don’t often hear other types of accents in genre films is those types of actors are rarely chosen for those roles,  the disrespect and mockery of accents outside of the Midwestern standard, and  the fact that British accents are the only accents that generally don’t receive mockery in American culture, (although men with such accents are sometimes coded as villainous gays.)

Asian accents on television and in movies are often subject to ridicule and satire. Starting with Mr. Yunioshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Long Duk Dong, in Sixteen Candles, Hollywood has a long, and sordid, history of mocking Asian accents, often using White actors. Asian characters may be stereotyped as  smart, or  “model minorities” in comparison to Black characters, but they are still shown as being less American, through depictions of broken English, ignorance of American culture, and mock languages, like the sing-song noises directed at Asian Americans, even if they were born in America.

Any non-American accents will receive mockery though, no matter what the the race or culture. I’ve caught myself mocking the Australian accent of Steve Irwin, Michael Caine’s Cockney accent, or laughing at fake Irish and Scottish accents. All accents that are considered by mainstream media to be comedic, or just of the “lower classes”.

All this means is that all accents are unworthy, and that the only one that should be respected (or just never noticed at all) is the accentless accent of the Midwest. And let’s be absolutely honest, not even all Midwestern accents are considered equal. The Northern Midwest has its own distinct sound, and is often used in movies as a form of comedy relief.

Here, Amy Walker talks about some of the more common American regional accents.

 

Essentially, the Midwestern accent  is as  ubiquitous, and invisible as whiteness. It is an accent without an accent, it is everywhere, and because its so pervasive, no one can hear it.

Hi Everyone!

I am currently, like a lot of people, in a lockdown city, here in the US, due to the C- 19 pandemic, and I’m not working. Unfortunately, now is also the wrong fucking time to have either the flu, or allergies, both of which are currently kicking my ass, but I am otherwise okay. I live in a predominantly Black neighborhood and although we rarely panic about anything, yes, people are buying lots of toilet paper.

My Mom and I went shopping this weekend, and while there was a very mild air of excitement, kinda like what’s felt before a National holiday, most people were quite calm, and polite. I saw only one woman wearing a face mask, and one guy with rubber gloves. The handful of white People I saw had amassed lots of toilet paper, while the Black customers seemed like they were just buying food for their unexpectedly early, out of school children. Schools will be closed here to the end of the school year, but the kids are still going to be fed, because otherwise the school lunches, that were bought in advance would go to waste, so that’s good. Voting has been postponed til Summer, movie theaters are closed, and I have no idea when I’ll be back to work, although thankfully, I’m one of those people with fully paid leave.

I’m thinking of donating to people without paid leave, so if anyone knows any organizations that will do that, then please hit me up on Tumblr with the details.

I have no intention of talking about the pandemic on this blog, mostly because reliable information can be found everywhere else, and I really don’t have strong feelings about what’s happening. It is what it is, I’m gonna roll with whatever happens, and my white noise about it isn’t going to be helpful. I’m going to continue to post what’s in my queue, talk about movies and shows, and try to be entertaining, with an occasional deep thought.

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 sixpenceee

“A house I pass on the way to work has this sculpture in its yard. Its about 8 feet tall.”

 

 geostatonary

“HELLO NEIGHBOR STEVE, I WOULD LIKE TO INVITE YOU TO BARBEQUE ON THE EVE OF THE BLOOD MOON.  I FEEL WE GOT OFF TO A BAD START.”

“NEIGHBOR STEVE, DO YOU NOT WISH TO PARTAKE OF THE UNCLEAN FLESH-MEATS OF PIGS AND THE POLLUTED ESSENCES OF TOMATO?  PERHAPS YOU ARE A CAROLINA STYLE MAN, NEIGHBOR STEVE?”

“PUT THE GUN AWAY NEIGHBOR STEVE, YOU KNOW I SHALL ONLY RISE AGAIN WITH THE DAWNING OF THE MOON.  WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS MANY TIMES.”

“LOOK AT THIS PICTURE MY SON DREW OF YOU AND CHILD TIMMY, YOUR SON.  ARE THEY NOT THE PICTURE OF PACT-MATES?  THIS COULD BE YOU AND ME, NEIGHBOR STEVE.”

“YOU MISSED THE UNHOLY NEXUS OF POWER THAT IS THE KEY TO MY CORPOREAL FORM, NEIGHBOR STEVE.  YOU WILL NEED TO RELOAD NOW, SO I WILL GO INSIDE TO MY HELL-WIFE AND PUT YOU DOWN AS A SOLID ‘MAYBE’.“

 erinnightwalker

I have the feeling that the families get along great except for Steve. Like, the wives are baking (questionable) brownies together, the kids are playing together, Antler Guy occasionally takes Son and Timmy to school (no car, just carries them in huge swinging strides through a nexus of ungoldly sights in a swirling netherworld shortcut. Sometimes they stop for McDonalds). Hell-wife gave them a potted Audrey Jr., Steve’s wife (who I now christen Sharon) gave them a begonia.

One time Steve tries throwing holy water but all Antler Guy does is thank him, saying that no, Antler Guy isn’t Catholic but it’s the thought that counts, he is so kind to water his creeping deathshade vines regardless.

For Christmas Antler Guy gives Steve a case of ammunition. To be funny/sarcastically mean Steve gets Antler Guy the world’s most hideous Christmas sweater, singing light-up reindeer included. He immediately regrets it because not only does Antler Guy love it and wears it for several months, it will never need batteries because Antler Guy powers it with his own eldritch aura.

When they come back from a holiday to Hawaii, Steve is horrified to find out Sharon bought them matching Hawaiian shirts. He is even more horrified that his wife means it that if he doesn’t wear it he will forever sleep on the couch.

 erinnightwalker

I want to expand on this, since I see it’s still passing around and the ideas have grown in my brainmeats.

What drives Steve up the wall and down the other side is how… normal… everyone treats the Abominations. (Yes, that is their last name. No, it is not a joke. Son was asked his last name for the standardized testing at school, had a quick conference with Timmy, and decided that Son Abomination sounded good, “Since my dad calls your dad the Abomination anyway and we can paint it on your mailbox just like the Henderson’s did theirs!”. Antler Guy agreed and did a lovely rendition of it for the mailbox, with only a few glyphs of soul-rending terror added to keep up to snuff.)

The Great Plant Exchange went beautifully, though the Audrey Jr. (named Aubergine for the lovely shade of purple poison that drips from her fangs) is on a diet at the moment. She was in cahoots with the cat and the dog to get into the good people food and ate two frozen turkeys all herself. Now she’s restricted to the hallway table to answer the phone and the door. (Steve actually likes her, and keeps slipping her hotdogs when Sharon isn’t looking. Their door-to-door salesman rates have dropped dramatically since she changed abodes.) Hell-wife has almost gotten the begonia to bloom and say it’s first words.

The homeowner’s association just loves the Abominations. All paperwork stamped and dotted, in on time and in triplicate. Antler Guy likes filing, says it reminds him of his old job. There is a resident who spent 20 years as a lawyer and they have long, animated conversations about all sorts of things that make Steve swear to never need legal counsel.

Hell-wife joined the PTA and spearheaded a committee to fundraise in the fall with a haunted house. It was a county-wide hit, though the claims that a particularly rowdy group had been deliberately lost in a timeslip to the Outer Doors Of Chaos was firmly rebuffed. Most young people nowadays, it was agreed, just couldn’t appreciate flute music.

Antler Guy really does try to connect with Steve. The surprise birthday party was perhaps a bit much, given that most participants do not have the ability to suddenly materialize in front of the guest of honor to give them a hug. Sharon assured them that Steve normally screams on his birthday, and the remains of the cake were heartily enjoyed by all. (A plate was saved for Steve once he came down from the treehouse.)

After the Hawaii trip (which was a present for his birthday) and the Matching Shirt Ultimatum (which was Sharon’s attempt at patching things up with Antler Guy, he really was sad about the birthday screaming), Steve finally grabs his courage in both hands (plus the shotgun, which let’s face it is about as useful as a teddybear at the moment but it does comfort him) and confronts Antler Guy, about why such a group of……Abominations could possibly come to his quiet slice of suburban bliss.

“……BUT NEIGHBOR STEVE, WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE.”

“No no no, I read it in a book! Don’t you have to be invited or something?!”

“WELL YES, TO THE HUMAN WORLD. BUT THIS IS NOT THE HUMAN WORLD AS YOUR THREE-DIMENSIONAL BRAIN PERCEIVES IT.”

“What the hell does that mean?!!”

“DID YOU NOT KNOW, NEIGHBOR STEVE? LEGALLY SPEAKING, ALL OF THE VASTNESS OF HUMAN SUBURBIA IS, IN FACT, A PART OF HELL.”

“……..”

“THE FLAMINGOES ARE THE BOUNDARY MARKERS. IT WAS DECIDED THAT THE FLAMING SKULLS WERE TOO KITSCHY FOR MODERN TIMES.”

 acaffeinejunkie

Reblogging cause I kind of want more of this….

 erinnightwalker

Since you asked nicely ^_^Antler Guy, as one may have noticed, is a calm sort of fellow. In the face of human atrocities he displays a curious Zen sort of state of mind. Timmy asks Son if he’d ever seen his dad angry, and Son hasn’t. (When asked, Timmy says that yeah his dad gets mad, but it’s like the Fitz-Simmon’s chihuahua down the street- mostly high-pitched noise and occasionally TV remote chewing. Sharon replaces the poor thing every 3 months or so.) When pressed (gently, at the monthly book club, and with many cups of tea and at least one daiquiri), Hellwife admits that this comes from serving many years at his old job.

After the revelation of the nature of his neighborhood, Steve has not been overtly mean to Antler Guy. Not yet in the realm of friends, but vastly better than before. No more holy water, no more shotgun blasts. (Still the occasional jumpscare, but Antler Guy really can’t help that part.) They even occasionally share news over the fence as Antler Guy trains the creeping deathshade vines in proper oral hygiene, and Steve waters his lawn (and occasionally slips a goldfish cracker to a deathshade vine that looks particularly adorable. Aubergine has trained him well.)

Which is how Antler Guy learns about the peeping tom that’s been plaguing the adjacent streets. Apparently the pervert has been getting bolder, and rattling doors. He almost broke into one apartment, whose occupants were a single mother and her daughter, Mildred. Millie, a shy girl who is a great horror fan and firm friends with Timmy and Son, had missed school because of it.

Steve knew because Sharon had told him, on her way to deliver a tuna casserole and a double batch of brownies to the pair. (Sharon has been dubbed the unoffical mob boss of the Mother’s Mafia. She is quite pleased with this title.) He tells her to wait, confers briefly with Aubergine, and sends her along with, “Only as a loan, you know, but Auby wants to stretch her roots and she’d probably like getting all ribboned and curled anyway. Little girls still do that, right?” She has strict orders to bite anyone that makes Millie or her mother cry. (Steve is dubbed the official neighborhood marshmallow for this. The bookclub buys him a jar of marshmallow fluff in commemoration.)

He turns to look at Antler Guy, and freezes, much as a chihuahua will when faced with a hungry hellhound.

“You….you alright there buddy?”

“Ň̵̴̫̫̙͙̻̞͈̫̥̪̱͈͈̯̍̀̀͆ͫ̒̿̄͗͘͡͝ͅO̊͑̑͒̎͑̃ͬͭͮ̅̔̆̃̉ͯ̇͗̀҉̵̻̜̞͉̟͙͚̻̪̼̖̀͟ͅ.̵͈̣͈̙̣̜̻̭̩̝̠̞͗ͤͥ̓͗ͬ̓̄͊̓̅̐ͩͮͧͤ̽̐ “

“Uh, yeah, I guess not. Did you, uh, know you’re kinda fuzzing at the edges, there?”

“Ň̵̴̫̫̙͙̻̞͈̫̥̪̱͈͈̯̍̀̀͆ͫ̒̿̄͗͘͡͝ͅO̊͑̑͒̎͑̃ͬͭͮ̅̔̆̃̉ͯ̇͗̀҉̵̻̜̞͉̟͙͚̻̪̼̖̀͟ͅ.̵͈̣͈̙̣̜̻̭̩̝̠̞͗ͤͥ̓͗ͬ̓̄͊̓̅̐ͩͮͧͤ̽̐ “

“Right. Um. Well.”

Steven makes a very ungraceful exit when space starts bending around Antler Guy’s still, unmoving form.

When Steve sees a shadowy form in his back yard when he gets up to pee that night, there’s no hesitation. He grabs the shotgun from the cabinet and peeks out the back door window.

Just in time to see a nebulous form of soul-wrenching terror engulf the man reaching for the door handle. A sliver of moonlight reveals a very familiar eyesocket. After a moment (and a sincere prayer of thanks that he had already peed, cause otherwise he’d have done it then and there) Steve opens the door. The nebulous form freezes, reality bending around the edges.

“Nice night for it, huh?”

“…..Y̮̮͍͔͇͙͙̟̐͌͛̓̏͞͡Eͩͭͮ̓̍ͯ̀ͧ͏̵̴̛̺̠̱͕̕ͅS͈̹̮̟̳̪̩̘͍̤̲̻͈̱̳̽̋́ͩ̃͋̎ͩ̈͆̀͘͢͢͟ͅ.̧̢͈̭̝̥̦͚͍̇ͫ̃̓͆̿̇ͪ͊ͧ̃͛͌͜͢ “

“Guy won’t scare anymore litttle girls, will he?”

“Ň̵̴̫̫̙͙̻̞͈̫̥̪̱͈͈̯̍̀̀͆ͫ̒̿̄͗͘͡͝ͅO̊͑̑͒̎͑̃ͬͭͮ̅̔̆̃̉ͯ̇͗̀҉̵̻̜̞͉̟͙͚̻̪̼̖̀͟ͅ.̵͈̣͈̙̣̜̻̭̩̝̠̞͗ͤͥ̓͗ͬ̓̄͊̓̅̐ͩͮͧͤ̽̐ “

“Good. G’night then. Oh, and if Hellwife has an extra Audrey Jr. that needs a home, let me know. Millie likes Aubergine a lot but Augy’s just too big for the apartment. Dunno if they come in miniatures though.”

“ I̴̛̟̭͉̮̜̩̬̮̣̘̰͚̩͙̟̳͔̜̙͑̂̆̆͗͒̀ ͖̖̰͉̥͖͔̙̤̺͍̳͈̹͙̣̞̇̇ͤ͒̅̈́͆̽ͧ́̚̚̕͘W̶̶̱͈̞͖̼̟̣̮̌͂͒̈́͑͌͒͋̍ͮ͗̈ͣ̓ͤ͘͟I̴̶̞̥̩͇̔ͩͦ̇̉̾ͣͬ̀̀̒͒ͧ͛͌͛͆̚͘͢ͅͅL̠̟͕̠̟̪̰̻ͯ͂͊ͥ̍̏͋̐ͬ̉̆̈̀͠L̸̞̭͔̮ͦ͑̉ͮͩ́ͬͨͣ͘͜.̴͈͎̮͇͓͖̱̻̣͊͊ͤͩ͊̑͗͞ ̸̡̩̖̞̩̻̩̪̭͙̳͚͇̟̺͖̑͊ͫ̀͆ͨ̉̔̓̂̓̋T̷̷̟͉̟̻̻̪̞̰̯̻͈̣̰̬̻̾͐́ͭ̓̅́͡H͇̬̪̩̬̝̣͍͈͇ͯ͛̏͌ͮͧͭͦ͟͜A̴̴̤͕͈̤̮̞̱̯͔͕̙͔͖̰̬̰͈̠ͥ̏ͥ̍̽ͧ̀͝N͗̓͋̃̈̑̀̅ͣ̽̒̂̄ͯͩͤ͏̢͢͏͈̯͎̪͇̟̠͔̯͓͓̰̠̱̠̳͕̳͝K̢̓ͧ͛͛ͣ̄̓̓ͯ̍̈̈́̌͂̔͟҉̛̘̥̖̤̦̻̳͙͟ ̢̢̻̥̹̣̞͉̘͇͚͍̖̯̘͚͔̗̩͓͐ͮ͂͂̀̚͘͠Y̜̞͇̳̗̬͎̰̙̜̩̪͎̞̙̠̔͂̌̃́̀O͇̺̲͙͍̬̳̘͈̱̜̝͔̖̊ͥ̿ͫͤͫͫͩ͋̓̃ͦ̈̄͢͟Ū̢͖̲̦̠̤͎̙͉̦͖̖͓͍̺̺ͪͯ͐͆͆ͭͯ͗ͦ̄̅̌̈̃̾ͭ̋ͧ͢͢͠͡.̶̸̞͓̞̹̗̻̣͈͕̠̬̦ͫ̆ͤͬͨͦ͒͂ͨ̿ͩͪ͘͞.ͧ͛̒̂̂͗ͨ̌͆ͥͭ͒̉͘͜͏̙͖̰̝̙̲͓̙͕͍̥̳̩́͠.̶̷̮͎̱̼̬͖̰͎͚͙̥̓͋͋ͦ̓̓ͯ͆͛̏ͫ̅ͯ.̨̧̙̤̳̮̺̙͖̞͔̗͎͍̑̆ͮ͐ͩͦ̌̽̾̏͘͠.̹̖͕̮͕̞̰͍͚͖̌ͪ̃̐̐̌̌̅̉͑ͧͪͪͬ̓͐́͛̿͘͞ ….NEIGHBOR STEVE.”

“Anytime.”

There are no more peeping reports. Millie brings back Aubergine and spends an entire afternoon teaching Steve the particulars of Augy’s new “hairstyle” (a gravity-defying mass of teased tendrils, ribbons, and barrettes) in between games of tag and hide-and-seek with Timmy and Son.

When Antler Guy and Hellwife present her and her mother Beatrice with a tiny Audrey Jr. (”pOOr ThinG Is a ruNT And wOn’T geT MorE Than A FooT taLL, BEa, aNd NeeDS a New FRiEnD”, assures Hellwife), both mother and child burst out crying. Millie names it Bella, after Bella Lugosi, and shows it to the excited group of boys (Steve and Augy included).

 ripped-up-jeans-and-glitter

IT GOT SO MUCH BETTER!!!!

 erinnightwalker
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Life in a subdivision partly populated with eldritch and possibly magical (officially classified as “extra-dimensional”, for even when faced with the physics-defying nature of their new co-habitating citizens the government cannot bring itself to acknowledge them as “magic wielding hell-beasts”, as some high-ranking staff members initially suggested) goes on fairly normally.

Sure, there are a few hiccoughs. The creeping deathshade vines get a stern talking to about appropriate afternoon snacks (”NOT the Fitz-Simmon’s chihuahua, I don’t care how much he has it coming or what he excreted where, now spit it out!”), Aubergine sheds all her leaves at once and snowballs the house (but does helps sweep up afterwards), and moonrise is a good time to watch the night-gaunts fly by (but on moondark it’s best to stay inside, no matter how prettily they glow. They’re somewhat similar to fireflies, and don’t always check to see if their partner glows as well. It wouldn’t be as much of a problem if they didn’t dive mid-coitus and drop just above the ground.)

While the neighborhood in general is accepting of the Abominations, when things get to be a bit much they tend to come to Steve. Since meeting Beatrice and Millie (and the formation of the Terrifying Triad known as Millie, Son, and Timmy) Steve is the adult human male most comfortable dealing with Antler Guy on the whole street. (Sharon as U.M.B. is widely held to have, well, steel-whatever-the-hell-she-wants, and Timmy is known to run over to Antler Guy and ask for rides through “that wobbly grey place, you know, the one with the REALLY BIG alligators?”. Still, the courtesies must be observed.)

So when a writhing sparking ball of snarling terror and teeth takes up residence in the Manzo’s tool-shed, and when Animal Control refuses to come (the street is banned due to a run-in with the deathshade vines), Steve is called. Having heard the description, Steve brings Antler Guy.

When they get there, Mr. Manzo is forcibly holding the door shut. Unholy yowling is coming from inside. At a gesture from Antler Guy, Mr. Manzo leaps away, and the doors blast open.

A 150 pound ball of whimpering, flaming something hits Steve and knocks him on his ass. The whimpering, flaming something proceeds to slobber all over Steve, his shirt, his pants, and a decent portion of grass in between distressed yelps.

“GACK!”

“NEIGHBOR STEVE, ARE YOU IN DISTRESS?”

“GAAACKLEARGHSPLUH- DOWN boy, HEEL, that’s a good- Antler Guy, what is this?!”

“I BELIEVE IT IS A HELLHOUND, NEIGHBOR STEVE.”

“Good grief, I didn’t know they came this big and…..and….. Guy?”

“YES NEIGHBOR STEVE?”

“Is he supposed to be…..skinless?”

“YES NEIGHBOR STEVE. THIS VARIETY WAS BRED TO BE LAP DOGS. THEIR FLAME IS MOSTLY WITHOUT HEAT, AND THEY HAVE NO SKIN FOR THOSE WHO ARE ALLERGIC.”

“…….laPDOG?!”

“YES NEIGHBOR STEVE.” Antler Guy lays a hand on the hellhound, who tries to burrow further into Steve with little success. “HE APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN RECENTLY WEANED. IT WILL TAKE TIME FOR HIM TO GROW TO HIS FULL SIZE.”

“……”

“THE SMALL BREEDS GROW MORE SLOWLY.”

A vile hissing emanates from the shed. (Mr. Manzo has long since fled for the safety of his kitchen.) As Steve attempts to calm the frantic hell-puppy, Antler Guy investigates. He reaches one long hand in behind the riding lawnmower and….. winces.

“NEIGHBOR STEVE?”

“Yeah- I’m right here, uh, doggie, not going anywhere- Guy?”

“I APPEAR TO HAVE AN…. ATTACHMENT.”

Steve is awed at the tiny ball of white fluff attached to one long, thin finger. He didn’t know that Antler Guy’s fingers COULD be bitten, much less by a tiny kitten.

Which is how Steve and Sharon got Clifford (”Aww c’mon Sharon, how could I pass that one up?”), and Antler Guy and Hellwife get Fluffy (”NEIGHBOR STEVE ASSURES ME IT IS A TRADITIONAL TITLE.”)

 

*****

Earlier this year, Bill Maher, the comedian talk show host had a whole lot to say about people who read comic books, and like superhero movies. I’ve enjoyed comic books my whole life, and yes, it’s a way of keeping the wonder of my childhood with me always, but I never shirked any of my adult responsibilities to do so. So Miss Valente had to set his ass straight:

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*****

Here’s a thread I found very necessary, about how people who treat fat people like shit, aren’t interested in them losing weight, no matter how much they claim to give a fuck about their health. If they gave a damn about the health of fat people, then that person’s mental and emotional health would also be a factor, and I don’t see how traumatizing, bullying them, and causing emotional distress, is somehow supposed to help them. Miss Allison correctly states that fat-phobia is mostly helpful to making them feel good about themselves, at the expense of others.

Actually this is a truism across all power dynamics, and marginalized groups of people. The people vilifying marginalized people want to punish them, and make them suffer. They are not interested in people being equals or becoming treated in a less marginalized manner.

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This tiny history on the creation of “Race”.

The racial categories that we’re familiar with developed only 200 years ago, primarily by England and Spain. Otherwise cut off from the rest of the world, England kept on invading Ireland, labeling the people as savages — in fact, the cruel saying “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” first circulated in England as “the only good Irishman is a dead Irishman.”

A little less than 2,000 miles away from England, Spain, loyal to the Catholic Church, was offering the Jewish and Muslim people under their rule three choices: “leave, convert, or die.” While many Jews and Muslims converted to Catholicism to escape persecution, church leaders questioned their sincerity, leading to the 1478 Spanish Inquisition, during which “interest in religious purity morphed into an obsession with blood purity,” as Matthew Desmond and Mustafa Emirbayer write in Racial Domination, Racial Progress.

In both England and Spain during this time, nationalism and capitalism began to rise. To satisfy Europe’s growing sense of nationalism and hunger for capitalism, the Age of Discovery began — “or, from the standpoint of the indigenous people of Africa and the Americas, the ‘Age of Terrorism,’” write Desmond and Emirbayer. When Christopher Columbus “discovered America” — aka happened upon an island in the Bahamas that was already inhabited — the Americas were populated by approximately 50 million to 100 million indigenous people.

With Christopher Columbus’ lead, the Spanish colonized the Americas; the English followed a century later. From 1600 to 1900, 90 to 99 percent of America’s indigenous peoples died as a direct result of European colonization.

With the rise of nationalism, capitalism, and European discovery of the “New World” — which, again, was only “new” from a European perspective — a different worldview was desired to make sense of it all. Through colonialism, “race” became a key element of that worldview.

Whiteness remains the dominant category today — other races are compared and contrasted relative to it.

To further their capitalist interests in the “New World,” the English needed a labor force. So, indentured servitude started. Indentured servants were often kidnapped. They included Irish, impoverished English, indigenous, and African people. (Note how the English and Irish are identified as people from two separate nations, whereas indigenous and African people, all from different nations, are considered as two monoliths.)

Indentured servitude evolved into chattel slavery. Among all other indentured servants, why were Black people singled out to be enslaved? It couldn’t be Native Americans, because their numbers were reducing rapidly, they could escape their captors more easily since they were familiar with the land, and they were already relied upon as trappers in the lucrative fur trade business. It couldn’t be the “savage Irish” because, upon escaping, Irish slaves could “blend in” with their English captors.

Africans, however, could not blend in. Furthermore, Africans were not accustomed to the American landscape, making escape from captivity more difficult; they were also immune to Old World diseases, unlike Natives, and many were already farmers. Africans soon came to be seen as “the perfect slaves” and originally not strictly because of their Blackness.

Thus, Whiteness and Blackness were born: “twins birthed from the same womb, that of slavery,” write Desmond and Emirbayer. The White race began to be formed “out of a heterogeneous and motley collection of Europeans who had never before perceived that they had anything in common.”

Whiteness remains the dominant category today — other races are compared and contrasted relative to it. Whiteness positions itself against ideas of, among others, Blackness, Indigenousness, Asianness, and Hispanic-ness. This is why people of color, rather than White people, will frequently be identified by their race. Whiteness has become the norm.

 

Source:

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Yeah, this was my reasoning behind why w should give the more disingenuous bigots exactly what they ask for and teach a  White History month, because I get tired of people asking this question every year in February, during Black History Month,, and then conveniently forgetting all  about it, come March.

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Dr. Who said it himself: History has been Whitewashed!

Literally the only reason people think the past was all white is racism in Hollywood. All the images of the past that you think are accurate from TV shows & movies produced during Jim Crow are actually fictional representations of what racists wanted the world to be like instead of their reality.

That’s why you have people arguing that Egypt isn’t in Africa and that Cleopatra looked like Liz Taylor. That’s why you have period pieces set in London with none of the Black Victorians, Chinese sailors in Limehouse, or Jewish communities. That’s why you don’t see the drag balls that were common in New York, Chicago etc. You don’t even see the diversity of Roman citizens or the Moorish Empire. Next to nothing about women of color at any point in history, despite them being inventors, pioneers, and artists who changed the world.

Gee, it’s like media representation has an impact across time. Like, maybe producing media that isn’t inclusive contributes to ignorance, erasure, and perpetuating racist, sexist, homophobic propaganda. If you’re still producing these bland historically  inaccurate shows in 2015 that’s not about historical accuracy, that’s about your internalized bigotry. .

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This tweet can be summed up as :

“The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of whom will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.”

 

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Sitcoms Have Always Been Political

 

This essay was inspired by a conversation on Tumblr, where an anonymous poster opined that sitcoms were too political these days, and that he wanted to watch them without politics.  I found this declaration to be not just deeply funny, but  disgracefully ignorant of the history of sitcoms. There are plenty of sitcoms that have existed, and air today, that have no political message to them, but many sitcoms have always had political components, and social messages and comedy have always been good bedfellows, from Saturday Night Live, to In Living Color, to Key & Peele.

There are those shows where not every episode deals with social issues, but plenty of sitcoms addressed specific issues during their run, and some of them were political, not because they discussed social issues, but because their very existence was a political act.

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The most famous political sitcom, that didn’t appear to be about politics, also had a somewhat disingenuous title.  All In The Family aired from 1971 to 1979. It starred Carrol O’ Connor, as Archie Bunker, a close-minded and racist bigot who liked to wax nostalgic about the good ol’ days, with his sweet tempered wife Edith, his more emotionally evolved daughter, Gloria, and her counterculture husband, Michael Stivic, who often butted heads with Archie’s ignorance.

While the show didn’t appear to be a political or social justice show, it managed to  disseminate a lot of social concepts through Michael and Gloria’s arguments with Archie. Archie gave voice to a lot of the status quo bigotry of the time, and Gloria and Michael’s job on the show was to refute his ignorant statements about gays, blacks, and women.  The show often put Archie in situations with gays, Blacks, and women, that would require him to question his long held beliefs, or realize the falsity of them. Over the course of the series eight year run, Archie slowly begins to change his views on a lot of issues. But this is not a show about redemption. The point was to show how people evolve in their thinking over time, and to provide counter arguments to a lot of the types of discussions that were actually happening in people’s homes at the time. All in the family gave birth to several spinoffs, including the openly feminist show, Maude, which starred Bea Arthur, of Golden Girls fame. Maude discussed every social issue of the time, from homosexuality, to women’s rights, as Maude spent the bulk of the show butting heads with her apathetic husband, and openly bigoted neighbor.

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SOAP aired for three years, from 1977 to 1981, and included in one of its many storylines, the  life of one Jodi Dallas, an openly gay man, played by Billy Crystal. The show was groundbreaking because this was one of the first times a gay character had been prominently featured in a sitcom, where the humor wasn’t centered around making fun of his sexuality. In fact, Jodi’s “gayness” was handled very sensitively. His character was treated with a certain amount of respect by the writers, and while some of the characters disrespected Jodi, the other marginalized character in the show, a butler named Benson, always treated Jodi with respect. The bullying of any of the other characters was always met with disapproval, and Jodi knew how to defend himself, thereby getting the best lines, and often, the last word.

The show Benson was a spinoff starring the butler of SOAP, played by Robert Guillaume. While not, specifically, a Black show, there was no doubt Guillaume was the star of the show, which declared its liberal status by showcasing Guillaume’s great comedic timing, with Bensons’ sarcastic remarks to his clueless employers.

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The Mary Tyler Moore Show came right on the tail end of the first feminist movement,  and the cusp of the second, and aired from 1970 to 1977. Mary Tyler Moore, fresh off her fame on the Dick Van Dyke show, starred as herself, while navigating life as a single working girl in Minneapolis. The show was groundbreaking in showing an unmarried, woman without children, who was focused on her career.  The show tackled such issues as pre-marital sex, homosexuality, women’s working conditions, sexual harassment, and low wages , and did so while being realistically down to earth, and very funny.

It produced two spinoffs, Rhoda, about Mary’s upstairs neighbor, and Lou Grant, Mary’s boss. It also paved the way for other feminist shows about women tackling life in the big city, like Golden Girls, Designing Women, Maude, Laverne and Shirley, and Murphy Brown, all shows that had political components, and tackled many of the same issues that had been discussed on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Few of the shows relied  on wacky situations for their humor, but on realistic situations, while putting wacky, and irreverent characters together to see how they’d interact. Sitcoms aimed  at and about only women became a staple of the genre, and the creators would take full advantage of that to discuss the pressing issues of the day.

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If The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about a young single girl in the city, Golden Girls looked at the opposite end of the spectrum, with four retired, single senior citizens sharing a house together in Miami. The show  lasted from 1985 to 1992, and tackled such topics as homosexuality, aging, and living and loving as a senior citizen. It won several awards including a number of  Emmys, Golden Globes, and People’s Choice awards. Not every show was about being old, but the show was political just by existing, since it was a rarity at the time to have female senior citizens as stars in their own  shows then.

The list of feminist shows was not limited to White women. There were plenty of shows that had feminist messages which starred women of color. Shows like Living Single, about a group of Black women living single in the city, which was the template for Friends, and the forerunner to Sex and the City, Moesha which starred Pop singer Brandy, A Different World, a spinoff of the Cosby Show, about the eldest daughter’s adventures at a well known HBCU, and even shows for teenage girls, like Disney’s That’s So Raven.  These are shows that would have been considered political without the feminist messages, as they were about Black women’s lived experiences as Black women.

No list of politics in sitcoms would be complete without mentioning  M.A.S.H., based on the 1970 movie of the same name, (about the Vietnam War), the series was set during the Korean War, and understood by both the audience, and its creators, that all of its ideology was about Vietnam, and war in general. The series aired from 1972 to 1983. One of the creators of the series, Alan Alda was an out liberal, and made that clear in his character, Hawkeye, who often disparaged the war, and occasionally spoke on issues of feminism, race, anti-semitism, and religion, and was not above being called out on his own prejudices, like sexism. The show was nominated for over 100 awards during its run, and is still, decades after its final episode, one of the most beloved sitcoms in American television.

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By their very nature, just about any show that has a cast of color will be a show about politics, or contain social messages. Not all of the episodes on the show are political, but sometimes, just showing people of color going about their daily lives, living, loving, laughing, and working, will show that the personal is sometimes the political. For people of color, and other marginalized identities, our very existence can become a social justice issue. Shows like The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire, and Living Single, were groundbreaking in the 80s and 90s because of their rarity. How rare? Julia, starring Diahanne Carroll, first aired in 1968, and was notable for having a Black actress, as the lead, in a non-stereotypical role. She played a nurse, who was a single Mom,  two years before The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and like a lot of other shows starring people of color, it was appropriated to be consumed by White audiences, since it was believed that White audiences didn’t want to watch shows with an all PoC cast, even though the popularity of The Jeffersons, a spinoff of The Archie Bunker Show, and The Cosby Show, during the 80s, made that belief to be false.

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In fact, almost all shows which starred PoC as the leads in the cast, tackled social justice issues, at one time or another, and managed to do so, while being fun and funny,  without becoming too heavy handed about it, although they did occasionally get a little preachy. In the 80s, The Jeffersons, which was a spinoff of All In The Family, the theme was  the upward mobility of the Black Middle Class, which was a turnabout on the theme of Black poverty in the shows Good Times and Sanford and Sons, in the 70s, which later evolved into  the working class themes of Whats Happening. All of these set the stage for the comfortable, Middle Class respectability of The Cosby Show. Surprisingly, a lot of these early show were written by a White man, Norman Lear.

The Cosby family didn’t sit around talking about the important issues of the day, but just showed their lives, as the family lived it. They were  fully immersed in Black culture, often discussing books, music, and movies, that were of interest to their Black audience,  thereby giving the White people who watched the show little glimpses into what the ordinary life of a Black family might be like, while dealing with universal issues like navigating the family/work dynamic, and sending the kids to college. In fact, the Cosby Show was a kind of corollary to Roeseanne, which addressed a lot of the same issues, but from the point of view of a working class White family, a viewpoint which is also a rarity in sitcoms.

There are also all the shows that may not seem as if they are political, but because they star people of color, they become political by association with some current issue, such as Brooklyn 99, which has tackled the issue of bisexuality by having one of its lead characters come out on the show, stars a gay Black cop and his White partner, and even addressed police profiling; One Day At A Time, about the life and loves of a Latina single mother, her lesbian daughter, and the daughter’s non-binary love interest; Fresh Of the Boat, which deals with issues in the Asian immigrant community; and Insecure, a callback to the original Julia, about the love life of an awkward Black woman living in the big city. There is Black*ish, Grown*ish, Speechless, Dear White People, She’s Gotta have It, based on Spike Lee’s movie of the same name, and Bob’s Burgers, all shows told from a different viewpoint than the usual.

For someone to complain that sitcoms never used to be political is evidence of a profound lack of knowledge about the history of the genre. Sitcoms have always addressed the politics of the times in which they were created. To be sure there are plenty of sitcoms that have nothing to do with politics, which are quite popular, and there’s nothing wrong with liking them. There’s a sitcom out there for everyone, from the deeply political Veep, to the blatantly silly Archer.

But some of us enjoy the politics, which is why so many of  these sitcoms are incredibly popular.

Weekend Introvert Reading

I’ve noticed that the topic of Introversion is one of my most popular topics on this blog. Well, here are the links to all the posts on Introversion, most especially being Black and an Introvert. 

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/black-male-intj/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/intj-the-mastermind/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/how-to-spot-the-intj-female-intj-bytes/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/black-female-intj/

http://personalityjunkie.com/07/infj-infp-intj-intp-types-modern-life-part-2/

https://writingsofsm.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/the-intj-female/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/introvert-linkage/

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Being Black and and introvert comes with its own set of rules and/or difficulties, like the idea that Black people cannot be introverted at all:

https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/hesaid-black-male-and-introverted/

https://afropunk.com/2016/11/confessions-of-a-black-introvert-yes-were-black-enough/

https://www.quietrev.com/introverted-black-girl/

http://www.curlynikki.com/2017/09/what-it-means-to-be-black-female.html

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/confessions-self-proclaimed-black

Black and Introverted: 5 Tips To Attract Women – Quietly

The Struggle of Being an Introverted Black Girl

 

 

There’s also a couple of newbie links too:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-real-reason-introverts-dread-small-talk_n_56854922e4b06fa688823798

Why introverts feel like outsiders

How To Understand an Introvert You’re in a Relationship With

https://www.fastcompany.com/90331732/these-are-the-myths-about-introverts-and-extroverts

Why Is Socializing Exhausting for Introverts? Here’s the Science

 

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And from Medium.com:

The Life of the Black Introvert

 

 

The Dilemma of The Quiet Black Girl

How to train your extrovert, the essential guide for introverts

The modern introvert’s essential guide to navigating people who think out loud, invite you to weekend parties, and interrupt your leisure reading just when it’s getting good.

Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

Black history is Black horror. – Tananarive Due One of Tananrive Due’s comments early on in the Shudder’s Horror Noire documentary will live on in my mind forever because of how it gets right to the meat of the relationship between Blackness and the horror genre. I love learning things and I spend a […]

via Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

If you are at all interested in the history of Horror, and Eli Roth’s History of Horror documentary just didn’t work for you, (and it didn’t for me because it erased almost the entire history of Black people’s relationship to the genre), then you have to watch this doc called Horror Noire. It has interviews and clips from every important Black Horror film star and director from the past 60 -70 years, what those movies meant to Black people, and how we participated in the making if this genre. You have to watch it just for the interview with Jordan Peele, whose new movie, US, is set to debut in March,looks scary as shit, and which I am very, very, excited about.

Its especially enlightening for the review of a classic vampire movie titled Ganja and Hess, which seems to have been remade by Spike Lee, which he titled Taste Da Blood Of Jesus. Ganja and Hess is also available on the Firestick app called Tubi. There are also interviews of the stars of Dawn of the Dead, Blacula, and Candyman. Basically everytrinhg that should have been covered in Eli Roth’s series, but wasn’t.

Essential viewing:

King Kong

Creature From the Black Lagoon

Get Out

Night of the Living Dead

Candyman

The People Under the Stairs

Blacula

Ganja and Hess

Blade

The Girl with All the Gifts – A must see

Weekend Reading: The Fandoms Ain’t Alright

This has definitely caught me in my feels this week as I learned that Kelly Marie Tran was, very possibly, driven from the only social media site she has engaged with, Instagram, since being cast as Rose Tico in the latest Star Wars film. She received so much racist and sexist hate, that she deleted all her posts, and shut down her page. I’m saddened by this, because I was really enjoying following   her actor’s journey on Tumblr, and she seemed incredibly happy to be a part of the franchise. Joining the Star Wars franchise, as a principle player, was supposed to be a happy, and momentous, occasion for her, and a bunch of assholes spoiled it! She seemed like such a positive person, so bubbly, and pleasant,and she just wanted to share some of her happiness. I was interested in her journey to stardom, and planned to follow her career.

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https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-persecution-of-kelly-marie-tran-how-star-wars-fandom-became-overrun-by-alt-right-trolls

So how did a breakout role in an incredibly influential film end in fear and self-censorship? For anyone who’s been following recent trends within the Star Wars fandom, this outcome would actually be fairly predictable; in fact, given the racism, misogyny, and general toxicity that’s built up around the franchise, it’s impressive that Tran was able to last this long. Like so many other assholes, bigoted Star Wars fans have recently become emboldened, emerging from the chrysalises of racist Reddit threads as ubiquitous, bullshit-spouting butterflies. 

And now, like Leslie Jones, and Daisy Ridley before her, she’s decided she has simply had enough of the constant racist abuse, and  the Star Wars fandom is just too toxic for her. This is what “fandom “has come to, people harassing and abusing the creators of the content they claim to love. This goes against the very definition of what “fandom” is.

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

Fandom is a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates “fannish” (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest.

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This isn’t just about criticizing Star Wars, or disliking her character. No matter how much certain media sites try to play it down by mentioning that other Star Wars actors have been harassed out of acting altogether (Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen ), they must acknowledge that her harassment included the triple vectors of  racism, sexism, and fat shaming. This wasn’t about calling her being a bad actress and is  the  the exact same thing that happened to Leslie Jones for daring to appear in a movie.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/why-was-leslie-jones-targeted-trolls-n638291

And no, this isn’t just the Star Wars fandom. This is a much larger issue than Kelly Marie Tran and its about time the mainstream media looked closely at it. Every type of fandom has this same toxic element within, from books (check out the Goodreads bullies from the early 2000’s, and the SadPuppy Brigade in Science fiction), movies (Leslie Jones’ retreat from Twitter, and the  attempted tanking of Black Panther on Rotten Tomatoes), games (see Gamergate, and the term “Swatting”, which has already cost the life of one man), and television (see the racist harassment of Candace Patton of The Flash,  the erasure of characters of color, in media in which they are the primary characters, like Teen Wolf, and there was The Rick and Morty Schezuan Sauce Debacle last year).

The common denominator of all this toxicity is primarily straight, White, and male. White male geeks are showing their whole ass, in every sphere of geekdom, as they always have, but now this news has finally made its way into mainstream media, which has long ignored what goes on in fandom circles. How did things go so terribly wrong? Did this happen because being a geek has gone mainstream and attracted unsavory elements? Was geekdom always like this? And if not, what caused the behavior change? People are   thinking about this now  because this is a larger issue beyond Kelly Marie Tran, and The Guardian pulls no punches when it comes to naming exactly what this issue is:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jun/07/kelly-marie-tran-rose-why-are-some-star-wars-fans-so-toxic

These males – and it is males – feel they have ownership over a piece of entertainment: that geekdom is their safe space, theirs alone, and the newfound mass popularity of the genre is bringing a lot of casuals into their hitherto predominantly straight, white, male dojo. Diversity isn’t what some of them want. Which is bizarre, considering the benefits of diversity are what quite a lot of sci-fi is actually about. But it’s not what these people believe they paid for, and therefore see themselves of having part-ownership of. The sense of entitlement is staggering.

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I can’t even say its just White fanboys who are responsible because there is just as significant a contingent of White women, who are as toxic, “misogynoiristic”, racist, and  delusional in their fandom, as the White fanboys, who insist that these creations are ruining their childhoods, by being inclusive of gender and race. For example, check out the ‘shipping behavior surrounding Reylo, JohnLock, and Destiel.

White female fans have  attacked Candace Patton, the women of the MCU, the actress wives of the stars of Supernatural and Sherlock. Why? Because they believe these real life women stand in the way of their OTP (One true pairing.) These are the same women who think they’re being progressive because they ‘ship two White male characters, while ignoring the half dozen actually canon, gay characters of color, in movies like Moonlight, and TV shows like Teen Wolf, and Shadowhunters.

Female fans were so incensed at the character, Sharon, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that they harassed, and attacked the actress, and started a Twitter campaign insisting that Captain America have a boyfriend. (Never mind that Steve Rogers has NEVER  even been hinted at as being gay, anywhere in the comics, or the MCU.) (For the record, I’m not against gay characters. I  don’t want canon straight characters being changed to gay in the source material, although I will headcanon them as gay in fanfiction. I would prefer creating media with actual  gay characters, of which there are plenty, that I’d love to see in movies.)

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White male fanboys have even attacked Star Trek, for having too much  diversity, and social justice messages! They claim that is not what they’ve watched the show for and  I have to question whether they’ve EVER watched the show, because diversity, and social issues was the entire foundation around which the franchise was created. What the Hell have they been watching?!!!

I’ve tried to figure why these fandoms have become more toxic, and there are several articles that point to things like, the anonymity of the internet, and the feelings of entitlement that fans may have towards the source material, the actors, and characters. All of that is true, but those are just a couple of  elements in  the toxic stew that so many fandoms have become.

Not all toxic fandom has a racial component, because those fandoms without a significant portion of marginalized members can be just as toxic as the ones that do. But it cannot be denied that when there’s a significant number of PoC, and women, in the source material, there’s also a definite racial component to the backlash. I fear this will only get worse, as people who were previously marginalized as creators, actors, and fans, keep making significant inroads into Pop culture. I see that I’m going to have to pull out Samuel R. Delany’s essay again:

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.                                                           ——Samuel R. Delaney

And I believe that this is what’s happening here. White fanboys are having a full on meltdown, as the Pop culture they use to claim entirely for themselves, has begun  broadening  its fanbase, by appealing to women and minorities. Not only that, but a significant portion of fandom has been infiltrated by people who are not actually fans at all. The loose coalition of the Alt-Right, and White Nationalists, for example, who see all this as yet another opportunity to harass women, and PoC, are simply jumping on the bandwagon.

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And yes, I think this behavior in fandom is directly tied to the behavior of White men behaving badly in the rest of the culture, from mass shootings, to car attacks, to violent marches. They have caused controversy in every field, including the fields of  History, and Science, as they attempt to change historical, and scientific narratives to fit their White racial agenda. There is an all out attack on every part of American culture.

https://www.publicmedievalist.com/race-racism-middle-ages-toc/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-rising-anxiety-white-america/

But I generally believe there is more racism in fandom, not because there are more racists in fandom, but because there are more races in fandom. Not because the business of entertainment cares so much about these groups, but because we have all been exceptionally clear about letting them know we will no longer be giving them our money for products that refuse to include us, (and they’ve also seen they can make serious  bank by appealing to us, i.e. Black Panther,  The Fast and The Furious, Star Wars.) Even some White fans have claimed to be tired of only seeing White men onscreen, and have been clamoring for more diversity.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/fantasy-writer-n-k-jemisin-explains-why-theres-more-ra-1586220859

She begins by explaining that racism has become a bigger issue in fandom lately, partly because people of color are becoming more powerful as creators in the publishing industry. And that means the backlash is going to be stronger.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many temper tantrums, and meltdowns White men have, though. Once “fans” start reacting this badly, they’ve already lost whatever war they think they are a part of. The business of entertainment has made so much money from appealing to people like me, that I don’t think they have any plans to go back to the way things once were, of only appealing to the demographic of: White men ages 18-35. (There’s also the side effect of fans and creators watching this behavior, and doubling down in their fight against racism, homophobia, and sexism, as they don’t want to be associated with such rabid behavior.)

Further Reading:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doctor-who-backlash-exposed-the-irony-of-men-who-dont-want-women-in-fandom_us_596f642ce4b0000eb1978720

http://minervamag.com/2016/01/when-fandom-goes-wrong/

https://splinternews.com/fandom-isn-t-broken-it-s-just-not-only-for-white-dudes-1793857254

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

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/2/16840170/swatting-death-call-duty-toxic-fandom

https://filmschoolrejects.com/star-wars-fandom-is-broken/

http://talynnkel.com/blog/2017/10/9/your-fandom-is-racist

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

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

https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2016/05/30/fandom-is-broken

http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/star-wars-has-a-white-male-fandom-problem

https://www.inverse.com/article/31867-star-trek-discovery-racism-sexism-reddit-youtube-trailer

*Twitter Reactions

It seems I wasn’t the only person who felt some type of way about what happened to Kelly. A lot of people came out in support of her, including her co-stars and the director.

 

*And yeah, I’m not leaving White women out of this either. There are a ton of white women writing fanfiction, and meta essays, that seek to erase, and diminish, characters of color  from their own narratives.

 

*And Finally

When it comes to WoC in fandom:

(link to twitter thread)

https://newrepublic.com/article/137489/women-color-price-fandom-can-high

 If you’ve been involved in the dedicated fandoms of comics, science fiction, and fantasy as a black woman for any length of time you’ve undoubtedly had to face a degree of racism and sexism that such tweets are rooted in. It doesn’t matter if you’re an actress or a journalist, a screenwriter or a director, the price of visibility for black women in geek properties feels too high.

Siren: Season One Review

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Siren is an interesting show, but its not necessarily a great one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about this show, and parts of it are very compelling, but it does have a couple of  issues, that become  obvious over time.

When I first saw the trailers for the show, I had the idea that it would be a typically cheesy series. Maybe a little darkness. A little horror. I wasn’t sure what the lead actress was trying to convey in the ads. Without any context, it just looks like bad acting. It turns out there’s a reason the actress looks the way she does, and a lot of that has to do with the attitude of the character she’s trying to depict, and can mostly only show through her body language, which is very distinctive. Rynn is a predator, and her behavior reflects  the catlike, prickly, attitude of a creature you don’t want to mess, with because it has no qualms about hurting you, as one poor human predator learns when he tries to molest Rynn, after picking her up on the road.

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Eline Powell plays Rynn, who comes to land in search of her sister Donna, who has been captured by the US military and is being experimented on, (for Gob knows what reasons), by a man named Decker. During Rynn’s  search for Donna, she meets Ben and Maddie,  oceanographic researchers at some small local institute.

Ben  is the eldest son of one of the founding families of the town, whose foundation was built on  the slaughter of some mermaids in the 1800s, something that will come back to haunt its inhabitants. Maddie is the girlfriend Ben’s mother disapproves of, and the adopted daughter of the town sheriff, Dale Bishop. Ben has three close friends (Xander, Calvin, Chris, and Xander’s father), who work on a fishing trawler, a goody- two- shoes brother, and  a mother who was hurt in some kind of accident, and uses a wheelchair.

One night, the trawler captures Donna but she is stolen away them by the Navy, along with Ben’s  friend and co-worker Chris, who was scratched or bitten by Donna. He and Donna eventually escape imprisonment but not before Donna is horribly traumatized, and has a chance to bespell Decker with her siren song.

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Rynn’s presence in the town of Bristol Cove opens up a history’s worth of secrets, most of these secrets are smugly alluded to by a local shop owner named Helen. She has secrets. The town has secrets. Everybody’s got secrets. Its just secrets all the way down. Later, we find out that Helen used to be one of the mermaids, but gave up her life in the sea, to become human.

Donna is understandably angry at being mistreated by humans, and wants to destroy as many of them as possible. She is eventually aided in this endeavor, not by Rynn, who is fascinated with humans, but by two other mermaids, who are angry at humans for over fishing their cove, while the mermaids starve. Eventually tensions reach a high, and a mini-war begins, between the mermaids who have been so traumatized by humans that they want them all dead, and the humans who are suffering losses because of the mermaid’s retaliations.

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The show has some well done action scenes, with some nice stunt work, and the cinematography is well done. There are times when people’s actions, and motivations are unclear, and as I said earlier, some of the acting is not the best, especially the actress who plays Maddie, but that might be because, in the first episodes, she isn’t given very much to do, beyond  looking  pleasant or worried.

We watch  Rynn’s English get better, and she starts to act more human, but still retains just enough of her natural mermaid behavior, to seem thoroughly alien. You can tell the creators put some real thought into how a water based, highly intelligent, predatory being would behave if it found itself in human culture. Pay close attention to the mermaid’s body language, not just when interacting with humans, but with each other as well.

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But this show may be  most well  known for its sheer diversity in front of the cameras. Almost every culture is represented by at least one character, along with several characters of mixed race, like Xander. Helen is played by Rena Owen who is of Maori descent. So it seems fitting she’d play a mermaid. There are Black mermaids, like Donna, which is a first in a network TV show, and the show’s creators manage to make her look thoroughly convincing.

It is not until you see Donna in her natural form that you remember that most fantasy creatures are depicted by White people, unless the plot calls for them to be villains, and despite the fact the Europe isn’t the only place in the world where the mythology of mermaids exist.  Donna does some questionable things (so does Rynn) but the writers are careful never to code her as bad or evil. She is traumatized, and justifiably angry, and the writers allow her to express this without apology, refusing to give in to the stereotype of making her an irrationally angry Black woman, and it is clear that the writers took some time to research the African legends of Mami-Wata, which is what they seemed to have based her character on.

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http://blog.swaliafrica.com/mami-wata-the-mermaids-in-african-mythology/

There’s an Asian mermaid, a Black merman, an Indigenous sheriff, and numerous individuals of various races randomly dropped into the background.

A lot of these actors are not well known, (Rena Owen is the only one  know) and a few of them are first timers, and it shows in the degree of their acting skills. Its not quite as bad as the “schmacting” in some of the  CW shows, but every now and then, you get taken out of the story by someone hitting a wrong note. But that’s okay because the show makes up for it, with its depiction of the mermaids and their culture. If you’re expecting Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid then this ain’t the show for you.

And yes, the mermaids do sing, but not in a recognizably human way. The creators seemed to have put some thought into that as well. The mermaid’s singing sounds like a low, deep-throated humming sound ,with no especially discernible melody, and no rhythm, and actually does  sound like something you’d hear under water. At any rate ,it seems very compelling to the characters who are subjected to it.

Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov

Despite all of the diversity on display, the characters don’t pay much attention to it. At first, I was concerned that Ben’s mother simply didn’t want Ben in a relationship with a Black girlfriend, but the real tension seems to  be something personal between her and Maddie, that Ben knows about, but has nothing to do with. We witness Maddie, and Ben’s mother, tiptoeing around each other, before reaching some type of accord.

The mermaids don’t pay any attention to the different skin tones, either. I’m mot inclined to refer to them as different races, because from my point of view, the mermaids are all one race, and have a very distinctive culture. I do occasionally cringe because the mermaids are coded as very animalistic, they sometimes get called animals by the humans around them (including Ben) and so many of them are portrayed by PoC. This cringiness is slightly offset by Rynn calling Ben out on his descriptions of her people, and shaming him for it.

The mermaids are the real intrigue on this show, although there is plenty of drama and mystery. They are shown as being  predators who will kill humans when given the opportunity to do so, (if you come into the water with them, for example). They are capable of coming out of the water, shedding their tails, and putting on a human disguise. The society they come from is matriarchal, and Rynn eventually becomes the alpha female of the particular group that resides in Bristol Cove.

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One of the more interesting things is Rynn’s relationship to Maddie. Because the mermaid’s talk more with their bodies, than their voices, we get a lot of scenes of Rynn standing unnervingly close to people, unexpectedly touching people in an intimate manner, and a general lack of boundaries from her, and this includes Maddie, as well. Ben is sort of compelled to be near her because of the singing, but not Maddie, who hasn’t heard her siren song, but seems just as gobsmacked by Rynn’s  presence as Ben does.

Rynn is starting to think of Ben and Maddie as a kind of family, (possibly as her mates, or something similar), and in her roundabout way, has told Maddie that she loves her (since English is not Rynn’s first language, I suspect something got lost in the translation). She clearly does not think of Maddie as a sister. She has a sister,  and doesn’t treat Maddie anything at all the way she treats Donna, to whom she is, at times, deferential, sisterly, angry, or devoted. To give you some idea: Rynn spends the night at Ben and Maddie’s apartment. They settle her on the sofa with a blanket, and go to their bed. Rynn, unhappy with this arrangement, gets in their bed, and contentedly falls asleep between the two of them.

It’s not a bad show. I’m going to give it a nice, solid, B/B+, but it does need just a bit more polish, and  I am cautiously intrigued by it, despite its  misses. I do wish the acting was a little bit  better, and I do hope we get to see other supernatural beings on the show, as has been hinted at by Maddie. I will be back for a second season if it gets renewed. And you should probably check it out, at least once,  for the novelty of seeing a Black merman.

“Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning

The CW’s Black Lighting represents the split between Black respectability and radical politics in a singular figure.

via “Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning — The Middle Spaces

 

This is an absolutely gorgeous analysis of Black Lightning. I haven’t written much about the show, not because I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, but because  of the density of the text. This series is every bit as rich with meaning as Black Lightning and Luke Cage, and is pertinent to many of the discussions Black Americans are having about social justice, existing, as it does, in a space somewhere between those two sources.

The show isn’t perfect, of course. It certainly has its issues in pacing, dialogue, and occasionally the acting, but these problems are not consistent enough to make me dislike the show, and it gets more right, than it does wrong.  This review, and analysis, contains a lot of what I was thinking about, when it was on the air.

Later, after I’ve re-watched a few episodes i might do a post squeeing about everything I thought the show got right, and the handful of things that annoyed me.

Black Lightning is currently available on Netflix, and has already been renewed, for a second season on the CW, this Fall.

 

Weekend Reading: Pop Culture Edition

On Gender:

Image result for ghostbusters remake  gif

I still have not gotten over how the Ghostbusters was so badly treated by the public, and how we will now never get a sequel. The “feminists ” who are forever talking about how they love these types of movies, where women get treated like people, totally slept on this one. To be fair, the trailer did suck, but a trailer is not a movie, and I’m still a firm believer that most trailers are designed to make you hate a movie before its release. Some of them are successful at that, some less so.

http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/movies/analyzing-10-common-criticisms-of-ghostbusters-2016/140340

http://www.indiewire.com/2016/07/ghostbusters-reboot-backlash-1201705555/

 

My biggest criticism of the movie was this though:

https://www.polygon.com/2016/7/21/12239704/ghostbusters-is-still-haunted-by-negative-racial-tropes

https://www.salon.com/2016/03/04/the_new_ghostbusters_and_race_why_it_matters_that_leslie_jones_isnt_playing_one_of_the_scientists/

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But despite my strong misgivings, I did like the movie, and  Leslie Jones, who endured so much abuse about her character, Patty Tolan, has a great defense for the criticism of her character. MTA workers apparently get paid more than college scientists, and she’s a regular person who helps save the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/07/ghostbusters-leslie-jones-defends-remake-racial-stereotyping-criticis

Incidentally the scene above is one of my favorite one-liners in the entire movie. Patty gets some of the best lines in the movie, despite the fact that the trailer made it seem like she got the worst ones. in the director’s cut Holtzman answers that by calling her mouthy, and I’m really glad they left that line out of the movie.

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I thought this was an interesting read about how the  Coen Brothers movie, Fargo, is really a discussion about toxic masculinity:

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/how-fargo-captures-sad-realities-toxic-masculinity

 

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I liked this article about how WoC never get to have happy endings, as the friends and sidekicks of their White co-stars. It seems like we always have to suffer (I’m looking at you Handmaid’s Tale.)

1201705555/https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a12022020/how-women-of-color-portrayed-tv-film/

 

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I skipped the second season of Jessica Jones, because I hated the first season so much, I couldn’t even finish it. To give you some indication of how important that is, I watched all of Iron Fist, after I talked a lot of shit about that show.  That I’ve said almost nothing at all about Jessica Jones, says a lot about my attitude towards the show.

http://www.anathemamag.com/jessica-jones-doesnt-care-about-men-of-colour/

 

On Dystopia:

For some reason dystopias where regular, middle-class,  pretty, White people get treated the way they’ve always historically treated marginalized people, seems to be a popular sci fi trope. So popular in fact that even MadTV had a skit related to it:

 

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When I was a teenager, I used to theorize that White people liked to sit around watching a problem fully and completely develop, and then, instead of fixing the problem,  fix the blame. This also brings the to mind the idea that Black people don’t envision dystopia as an exciting future, because we’ve already been there. We have nowhere to go but forward, and nothing to have but hope. Dystopia is a White people thing.

http://blackyouthproject.com/white-liberals-stay-predicting-dystopias-caused-by-whiteness-without-doing-anything-about-it/

In a recent discussion, my friend Preston Anderston posited that white people “can understand the destruction of the planet before the destruction of the white world,” and perhaps nothing exemplifies this better than their dystopian imaginings. To them, there is no world without whiteness, so even if they acknowledge the hell whiteness necessarily brings, there is no other future possible than that hell.

 

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I found this post by the writer, Cory Doctorow, really interesting. Why does there need to be a dystopia at all? We’ve seen plenty of instances where crises  didn’t end in some kind of Mad Max free for all, and we need more stories that reinforce the idea that we can get through a disaster with our humanity still intact.

https://www.wired.com/2017/04/cory-doctorow-walkaway/

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 On Disability:

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I found a series of articles about how Hollywood approaches the topic of disability in film and TV. 

https://byrslf.co/its-time-for-hollywood-to-rethink-disability-e1dfc4142c9b

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https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/tv/at-the-heart-of-hannibal-respectful-treatment-of-mental-illness/

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http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2015/05/28/disability-in-the-dystopian-future-of-mad-max-fury-road/

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

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https://serfbazaar.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/furiosa-disability-representation-and-empowerment/

 

On Fandom:

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The discussion of Fandom misbehavior continues tonight on:  Tumblr Calls Shit Out

There a a lot of fans who change, misrepresent, or just straight lie about the source material to justify White prioritization of the characters. As I’ve said before, most White audiences have no other template, and in many cases will do these things to  reproduce a dynamic with which they’ve always been  comfortable: Poc as side narratives that support the White character’s primary story.

princeescaluswords answered:

Because the disregard or misrepresentation of canon is frequently used as a foundation of fandom racism.  We live in a time of change, where Hollywood is oh-so-slowly beginning to understand that primary stories and primary characters don’t always have to be entitled white males.  This stands contrary to seventy years of television history, which has taught the audience that the only thing that matters are the emotions and interests of those same white males.   Unfortunately, the viewing audience has learned the old lesson well and so expects the canon to support their predisposition.  When it doesn’t meet their expectations, when the emotions and interests of characters of color are given priority, their need to see white men on top can be met by getting rid of the canon.

Take the most popular ship in my fandom (This is not an attack against shipping. Shipping does not have to be inherently racist or inherently demeaning.   Early in my fandom days, I thought so, but I do not any more).  This ship and its fandom which put together two white males whose purpose on the show was to serve as the main character of color’s foils. The ship itself is not in question for me.  What is in question is the way that the fandom demanded that this ship become the center point of the show, and when it became clear that no matter how many nods that the powers that be were going to give to the ship, the show wasn’t going to make it canon, canon was discarded in the most hostile and negative way imaginable.   This wasn’t just in my (or others’) imaginations.  When the star of the show and the executive producer have to comment on the impact of this canon erasure, it’s pretty serious.

Canon misrepresentation doesn’t stop with just shipping.  Attacks on the importance of characters of color and their role in the show are frequently aided by simply pretending parts of canon don’t exist. For example, in my fandom, Scott is frequently vilified for a single act of perceived hostility towards Derek (the famous Gerard-neck-grab-bite), and it is used as a way to delegitimize him as a main character, ignoring the fact that not only was it a necessary evil to save Derek and those he cared about by disabling the enemy, it was a direct parallel to the very actions that Derek took against Scott previously. For fandom, those actions are dismissed as “yeah, Derek was an asshole, but it was for Scott’s own good” but that same excuse is not sufficient. Or, when the idea that Scott ditched Stiles for Allison continually is used to delegitimize the central relationship of the show, when ditching never happened in the show, but is treated by fandom as if it did.    If you ignore or manipulate canon in order to keep a character of color from being the focus of the show, why shouldn’t I add the tag?

People get rid of canon as a way of dealing with the fact that their white characters are not the center of the story, even though their favorites have important roles.  It’s easier to just get rid of canon rather than let a character of color share the spotlight.  It’s easier to dismiss writing as a ‘trainwreck’ even when that writing gives you the characters you enjoy, and thus delegitimize the whole story because that focuses on a character of color.

I must admit that I have considered that maybe this is all my own perception. Maybe Teen Wolf’s canon is so bad that they have every right to ignore the parts that don’t favor their white faves.

But then, I take a look at other fandoms.  I look at the Star Wars fandom, where the canon has been Death Star-ed as hard as Alderaan in order to celebrate genocidal white fascist man-children.  I look at the Shadowhunters fandom.  I look at the Flash fandom.  I look at the Supergirl fandom.  And another fandom. And another fandom.   And another fandom.

In the words of my favorite show, “three times is a pattern.”  What do you call too many times to count?

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I feel like I have to specify that when I say I hate Reylo I don’t mean people shouldn’t be able to ship whatever the hell they want, because I honestly could not care less. When I say that I hate Reylo what I mean is that there is an extremely vocal and offputting majority in the Reylo fandom that consistently puts forward meta-analysis of Star Wars–and more succinctly, Kylo Ren–that I find abhorrent, disgusting, delusional, and at worst regressive. I also mean, when I say I hate Reylo, that I hate the idea of Reylo being canon, because it would be shitty, stupid, regressive writing if it does.

Ship whatever you want and anyone who’s on you for it probably needs to get a life. But if you start openly advocating for abusive actions to be considered “romantic,” handwaving real critique of the source material, and posting “meta analysis” that’s deeply problematic you should probably be prepared for some backlash.

I do not care what you ship. Go, be free, write your beautiful fic and draw your beautiful fanart. But you can’t tell me not to care about toxicity in fandom and regressive writing in canon.

 

It’s also a sector of fandom that mimics one of the worst traits that fandom can have – the “big name” Reylo bloggers are the arbiters of all info that gets through to their followers about Star Wars, to the point where the Reylo fandom en masse believe things are canon that were literally just made-up fanon, but the BNFs who made it up dig in their heels because admitting that they aren’t all-knowing, or that their “analysis” of SW is insanely biased, would give their followers cause to doubt them and start thinking for themselves, looking at and listening to outside sources.

Reylo, like some other toxic ship fandoms – many of which aren’t even about ships that are themselves toxic! Reylo is, but like, there are toxic ship fandoms based on perfectly benign ships, too – is more about the shippers being venerated than the characters they claim to love. (Their complete disregard for Rey as a human person and protagonist is p much proof of that, but that’s not even the point here.) It isn’t a coincidence that almost every Bad Reylo Meta either was OP by, or based on a meta by, a handful of “in crowd” bloggers, and it DEFINITELY is not a coincidence that Reylos are obsessed with the idea of Being Right and the idea of Casting Out the Other, more than they are about actual fucking Star Wars.

There is a huge aspect of Reylo fandom that, like their OTP, is based on manipulation and gaslighting more than anything to do with actual content, and that’s 100% wrong and also deserves to be called out whenever it’s seen. 

Like, part of why combating Bad Reylo Meta is a thing that needs to be done is not for the characters’ sake, but for the sake of younger and/or more vulnerable fangirls who worship the Big Reylo Bloggers and think that they’re genuinely smarter/more enlightened/“the only ones who really understand.” It’s absolutely fine to make up fanon about your ship. It’s absolutely normal when ships have cliques. I can even understand the normalcy of ship wars, even if I think they’re dumb as soup. But the way that Big Name Reylos rewrite the entire schema of the franchise and twist both SW canon and actual reality wrt the behavior of Kylo Ren – an INTENTIONALLY WRITTEN NEO-NAZI METAPHOR WHOSE FIRST INTERACTION WITH REY WAS STATED BY THE DIRECTOR TO BE A RAPE METAPHOR – is not normal.

It is not normal to care more about “Proving Antis Wrong” than just liking the thing you like. It’s not normal to be so virulently fearful and aggressive towards people who just don’t agree with your fave blogger’s bad meta made up based on nothing. And it’s not normal for a handful of bloggers to have such a stranglehold on not only their followers, but public discussion of the entire fandom.

Almost none of the SWST has actually unfolded, in canon, the way a handful of Big Name Reylos told their fans it did, but their version has spread like flat earth theory. And that’s not a coincidence, either. Batshit conspiracy theory and charismatic leaders who willfully mislead their followers go hand-in-hand.

Make that your Shitty Snoke Theory™. (Who, by the fucking by, DID NOT BRAINWASH KYLE FROM THE WOMB. THAT’S FANON.)

 

Yup. All it took was a couple BNF reylos to say that TLJ made the ship canon (contradicting the movie and everyone else who had seen the movie, even those who thought the force skype stuff was “sexy”), and a disturbingly large number of fans carved it into stone. There are fan spaces not meant to be dedicated reylo shippers spaces where you can not even have a conversation about Star Wars that isn’t centered on Reylo, because so many fans are 100% convinced that the entire trilogy is Kylo’s story and Kylo’s story ONLY, with Rey as an object belonging to him, whose purpose is to redeem him and fuck him. They 100% believe this is how it’s written, and any conversation about the ST that isn’t about Kylo/reylo or anything that can be used to prop it up is irrelevant and off-topic. Which is why talking about Rey’s relationship with Finn is seen as irrelevant to the story (contradicting the canon), but so is talking about Finn as an individual, developed character or speculating about his story independent of Rey.

More to the point, the fandom hyperfocuses on Kylo because he’s the one they can empathize with, even though he’s awful and has done shitty thing after shitty thing to Rey. The intensity of that empathy only spotlights their blatant lack of empathy for Finn, who the fandom by and large aggressively believes is only in the series as a comic relief (not true, even in TLJ, where the clear comic relief was Hux) and general buffoon. That empathy gap is a facet of systemic racism, so I don’t know why fans often hesitate to criticize Kylo Ren’s disproportionate popularity, not as a villain, but as the “real protagonist.”

It’s not only harmful, it drains a lot of the fun of the SW movie fandom, which was never about one character. Fans used to talk about every creature in the Cantina and Jabba’s Palace, every member of the Jedi Council. You could go on about Kit Fisto (a personal favorite from the prequels), and no one would get pissed that you weren’t paying attention to Anakin and Obi-Wan. This isn’t nostalgia, it’s noting the difference in the fandom’s behavior when the films were predominantly white and there was no need to aggressively insist that a white guy was at the center.

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Honestly? i’m pretty sure nazis have infiltrated this fandom. Just straight up.
given all the behaviours and the way they line up I feel this goes way, WAY beyond white prioritization, as disgusting as that behaviour alone is.

 

Nazis haven’t infiltrated the fandom. These are very mainstream attitudes that can be found in every fandom, as well as in irl communities, businesses  and schools. It lets too many people off the hook to imply otherwise.

 

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In my last post on forthcoming films, I forgot to add Crazy Rich Asians. I’m almost as excited about this film as I was about Black Panther because I know how much Asian Americans have been looking forward to this. This is notable because its a  film with a primarily Asian cast,that isn’t about the martial arts, or nerds.

 It looks really cute, but the plot isn’t something to my taste, as I generally dislike romantic comedies, but I probably will watch this at some later date. Ultimately this film  isn’t aimed at me, but I hope everyone likes it. if it does well, we may get more of this type of movie.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Reading (On Gender And Race)

Here’s a roundup of some of the articles I’ve been  reading about gender related issues regarding Race and Intersectionality. 

*The first one is about how oppressed people are required to do the emotional labor of teaching their oppressors what oppression is, and  how not to do that.

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https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a19480416/women-changing-mens-minds-feminism-steven-crowder/

Audre Lorde perhaps put this best when she wrote, “Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.”

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*On how movies about Black pain are only viewed by White audiences as a substitute for the actual work of eliminating White Supremacy, and how Black lives would be better served, if we stopped using up all our energy on appealing to White people to actually care about their fellow human beings.

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http://blackyouthproject.com/the-stories-of-our-struggles-are-not-for-white-people-to-consume-in-an-effort-to-do-better/

Think of all the possibilities that exist should we invest in one another and divest entirely from the practice of curating white “empathy”

-@arielle_newton

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  *Feminism is not about liking other women, and supporting  their bullshit, no matter what. That’s not the definition. If you call yourself a feminist and you hold some shitty non-intersectional views, or are just a moron, you’re going to get called on it.
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Because feminism does not dictate that you are required to like every stupid woman you encounter. Feminism isn’t a hot air balloon designed to lift already privileged ladies to new joyful heights. Those women are thinking of “girl power” or “bootyliciousness” or “domestic feminism”—some other term that was intended to act as a milquetoast substitute for actual feminism.

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*In this review of Get Out, the author discuses Black people’s reactions to  danger in movies, vs White people’s reactions to the danger.

 

Well, Too Bad We Can’t Stay

As I write this review, it has been five years since the horrific and cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin. When a car ominously pulls up alongside André and stops, we — people of color and horror fans — collectively hold our breath because we recognize the signal for danger. But for white audiences, that frisson is the delicious fear of the unknown. For POC, it’s precisely the opposite — the threat we see is all too well-known. It’s for that reason that Andre’s abrupt turnaround with a “No. Not today. You know how they be doing motherfuckers out here!” is so satisfying.

 

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*Til this point, I have largely been ignoring The Purge films ,because the first movie was such a poorly executed idea, that I couldn’t get past that. But now, the movies are starting to explicitly address the gender, class, and racial issues that I found dis-satisfyingly absent from that first movie.

In The First Purge we are given the racialialized backstory of the first three movies. The Purge movies turn out to be  not so much about purging society’s urge to commit evil, as it is about rich White people purging society of  marginalized  people.

Here, in this review of The Purge Anarchy, some of the details of this world are fleshed out a bit more, and they are, quite frankly, horrifying.

http://efbresearch.blogspot.com/2014/08/race-and-class-in-purge-anarchy.html

Both of these scenes highlight for me the interrelationship between class and race and the exploitative powers of a system that only reifies the lasting order and undervalues the lives of poor and minority bodies. In this film, both the rich and the government specifically target and kill blacks, the homeless, deviants, and youth in an attempt to eradicate and “purge” the society of perceived evils. This movie asks us all to reflect on who is in power, what oppressive acts are they committing, and who does society really serve. Both the murderers and the white families who can afford to lock up and hide are complicit in the exploitation and eradication of people deemed unworthy of life… Who gets to define who is worthy of life? Who gets to define how punishment is laid out? Who is in control of our streets, our livelihoods, our identities as targets or as civilians?

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  *The abuse of Asian women in popular media continues. I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy 2 , a lot, but what I couldn’t get behind, was the treatment of Mantis. It was just wrong. I know the writers thought it was funny, but that’s how I know there were no Asian people in the writing room, because they would have pointed out what the constant abuse, of this stereotypically submissive Asian woman, looked like. for the record,  I loved the character, because she’s just really sweet, but her treatment by the other characters made me very, very, uncomfortable.  
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 There are also other issues with how Asians are portrayed in media. First, if seen at all, Asian characters are almost either Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Indian. There are forty-eight different countries in Asia, so it is unfair and inaccurate to assume that all Asians are east Asians or Indian. Next, as Thai-American actor Pun Bandhu stated about Asian characters portrayed, “We’re the information givers. We’re the geeks. We’re the prostitutes. We’re so sick and tired of seeing ourselves in those roles.” Asians are associated with certain roles, so as a result, it is very hard to see change in the roles Asians play.
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There is no nuanced relationship between Ego and Mantis — just a master who demands his servant ease his pain of loneliness by helping him fall asleep. She dutifully does as she’s asked, because she does not know that there is another way of life.
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Mantis’s journey to joining the Guardians can be credited mostly to her “friendship” with a character who takes advantage of her innocence. Although Drax protects her from physical harm and Mantis helps Drax to access his buried pain about his lost wife and children, it isn’t enough to lessen the impact of his verbal abuse. Mantis’s past is a blank slate: She is an orphan, possibly the last survivor of her race, trained to be the companion and servant of Ego…Ego’s evil “expansion” plan is imperialistic, only adding to the subtext that Mantis is a colonized figure and one of his first casualties. She is educated by him, molded into, as she puts it, “a flea with a purpose.” Much of her character in the film is centered around her subordination; even though part of her storyline is breaking free from Ego’s control, that her friendship with Drax—the relationship that incites her rebellion against Ego—is built upon him insulting her isn’t much healthier.

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*Another invisible thing in movies, is how different types of characters talk, and what they talk about, based on race. I thought this article was fascinating, and I’m surprised that someone tracked this, because it never occurred to me that characters of different races talk about different things, and that what they talk about adheres so closely to stereotypes about that race!

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They found that the language used by female characters tended to be more positive, emotional and related to family values, while the language used by male characters was more closely linked to achievement. African-American characters were more likely to use swear words, and Latino characters were more apt to use words related to sexuality. Older characters, meanwhile, were more likely to discuss religion.

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*I’m a little dubious about reading this book because I don’t know if WoC will be characters, and how they’ll be treated. Since this book is written by a White woman, I’m  pretty sure that the treatment of men of color, by White women, who now have the power to harm them, is not going to be addressed, and for some reason that makes me very nervous about reading it.

White authors have a very long history of not addressing White racial resentment, or including it as a factor, in  fantasy and science fiction narratives. White feminists generally never mention it at all. This book references male oppression but White feminism refuse to acknowledge that men of color are not the ones oppressing White women, and in fact it is White women who already hold the power in that dynamic. I’m also certain that the point of view of Black women (who actually are oppressed by men of color) won’t be addressed either.

From the many reviews I’ve read, the book does address power imbalances, and how the women who are now in potions of power, simply replicate the old power dynamics that men created, bullying, torturing, and killing others. It is not mentioned if the women fight among themselves, since women are not a monolith, and even now, there are women who will fight to uphold  patriarchal systems. I do not know if transgender women, (or people who identify as non-binary) are taken into account in the story.

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/02/26/imagining-violence-the-power-of-feminist-fantasy/

Rage and the desire for revenge against male oppressors, however, has emerged in women’s dystopian writing during periods of feminist protest and uprising. We can see it during the first wave of the suffrage movement. Inez Haynes Gillmore, an American writer and suffragist, wrote, “When the first militant in England threw the first brick my heart flew with it. Thereafter I was a firm believer in militant tactics.” In principle, Gillmore believed, militant women should use the actions that had always worked for men: “rebellion and violence.” Yet she was also thinking about suicide as a suffragist tactic in practice:

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http://blackyouthproject.com/feminist-triumph-action-thrillers-always-white-women/

Here we are now, in the wake of Wonder Woman, and we find ourselves amidst these familiar conversations once again, and once again we are reminded that feminist realizations in major U.S. action films thus far have largely been for and about white women…

…And the ease with which Wonder Woman fans are able to ignore healthy critiques of the film and its star reflects how mainstream feminism and feminist solidarity have always been for and about white women.

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*I’m a big fan of Kim Coles, both as an actress and a comedian, and it was a lot of fun to read this interview, so many years after her star turn in the show Living Single.

https://theundefeated.com/features/90s-token-black-actors-phil-morris-bianca-lawson-kim-coles/

… in the 1990s, the wealth of black representation on television could lull you into thinking (if you turned the channel from Rodney King taking more than 50 blows from Los Angeles Police Department batons) that black lives actually did matter. But almost all of these shows were, in varying ways, an extension of segregated America. It’s there in the memories of the stars below: There were “black shows” and there were “white shows.” If you were a black actor appearing on a white show, you were usually alone.

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https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a12022020/how-women-of-color-portrayed-tv-film/

A diverse writers’ rooms matter as much as the show’s cast. It is imperative that we continue to critique both the shows and movies we love until they properly reflect the world we are living in—and the people who live in this world. The fictional characters I love shouldn’t have to eclipse their sun to shine.

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*The styles of oppression and stereotype faced by White and Black women are just different. so we require different ways of addressing them.

https://thenerdsofcolor.org/2016/09/26/why-it-matters-when-women-of-color-play-love-interests/

Women of color have emphatically not been flooded with images of being treated as princesses and beloved love interests. The emotionally resilient, invulnerable, no-nonsense woman is all we are often allowed to be in media. We’re used to seeing roles where the women of color are expected to stare death and torment in the face with nary a single tear shed. We’re used to being expected to shoulder some great burden with no complaint. We often see ourselves play stoic bodyguards, hardened leaders, and calculating assassins who will do whatever it takes to survive. Rarely do women of color — particularly Black women — get to see themselves portrayed as precious, beautiful, and in need of protection. Rarely do we see films where we aren’t automatically expected to save ourselves.

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*Michael Burnham, of Star Trek Discovery, has become my new favorite hero.

https://mediadiversified.org/2018/03/06/normalising-black-women-as-heroes-star-trek-discovery-as-groundbreaking/

Discovery normalizes a black female hero in space. Evading the extremes of paragon and pariah, the show gives us a nuanced figure and places her at the very centre of the story. Few SF shows have ever tried to do this. The only example that comes to mind is the short-lived Extant, which also aired on CBS. But Extant was never really a space show and it never gained traction with audiences. So until Discovery came along, the primary model for black women in space (even empowered black women) was a sidekick. Shows like Doctor Who, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica include wonderful black female characters but always as secondary players. By casting a black woman as the lead, Discovery is unprecedented in the Star Trek franchise and extraordinary for SF television.

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*An interview with the Author of Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before, discussing how WoC are treated in science fiction media.

As an associate professor of English at Denison University, Diana Adesola Mafe makes her stride in the resistance where she teaches courses in postcolonial, gender, and Black studies. Her newest published endeavor is described to include “in-depth explorations of six contemporary American and British films and shows, this pioneering volume spotlights Black female characters who play central, subversive roles in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.” We were able to steal her away for a moment from her busy schedule where she is currently teaching a few classes to pick her brain about Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before and how it came to be.

Black Nerd Problems: Diana, thank you so much for making time in your busy schedule for us! First things first, presentation is everything. I love the book cover art and the title! The cover features a Black woman in a sci-fi type setting, centered in the middle of it all. I’m a visual learner so this image speaks to me before I even read a single page. Centering a Black woman is a very deliberate step in analyzing different collective portrayals of Black women especially when we are subjected to not being a leading lady in many mainstream projects. And it doesn’t go over my head that she’s a beautiful dark skinned Black woman, as European beauty standards have really amped up colorism. What input did you have on your cover and why was imperative to have imagery that aligns with who you are and your book’s content?

Diana Mafe: I’m so glad you mention the book cover! Despite the old adage about not judging books by their covers, book covers are an entry point to a text (much like titles) and they can send a powerful message even before you flip to the first page. I’m pleased to say that I had considerable input on the cover, which speaks to the flexibility of the University of Texas Press. I chose the image and filled out a questionnaire that allowed me to weigh in on things like design and color.

I remember spending several afternoons and evenings combing through online images in an attempt to find something that captured the spirit of the book. This meant doing keyword searches by combining terms like “Black women,” “science fiction,” “space,” “superhero,” “Afrofuturism,” and so on. Eventually, I happened upon a photograph of a black female Iron Man as portrayed by the Liberian model Deddeh Howard. As soon as I saw it, I thought, that’s it—that’s the cover. Having a Black woman literally front and center is important because that, in many ways, is the point of the book. To do otherwise would (ironically) perpetuate the very erasure of black women that I’m trying to interrogate.

BNP: I’m also very much in my fangirl feels because I’m assuming your title, “Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before” is a nod to Star Trek’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Granted your introduction is titled, “To Boldly Go” and you mention Nichelle Nichol’s pioneering Lt. Uhura as one of few early gateway representations of Black women.

I think this is totally appropriate as stunningly revolutionary as her presence was (and how rightfully she is an icon), I love how you also dig in deeper critically and mention the shortcomings of Star Trek to her character. In your final chapter, you dutifully return to Uhura’s more recent portrayal in the rebooted Star Trekfilms. I really like how you come back to speaking about the male gaze regarding Uhura, especially in her newer portrayal. How do you think this critique can serve as food for thought for Uhura’s next portrayal in the future whenever that happens?

 

DM: Your assumption about the title is correct—a definite nod to Star Trek. The same goes for subtitles like “To Boldly Go” and “Final Frontiers.” Because Nichelle Nichols’s Uhura is such a pioneering figure, the first Black female science fiction icon, it was appropriate to begin and end the book with her character. And since she has been rebooted in the new millennium, her character offers some insight into how far we have come in terms of black female representation onscreen.

But as I discuss in the book’s conclusion, the “new” Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is not especially radical. The Eurocentrism and phallocentrism of the original show carries over into the reboots. Of course, there are understandable limits to rebooting classic science fiction television and cinema—if you change the original too much, it becomes unrecognizable and thus defeats the point. So along with returning to and revamping classic narratives that we love, we also need to continue imagining entirely new narratives in which old molds are not merely stretched but broken.

For Uhura, that means more screen time, more dialogue, and more agency. The key is to preserve this beloved Black female character without also preserving her constraints. At the same time, it’s vital that shows like Star Trek create fresh characters. Here, the franchise has made a “giant leap for Black womankind” (I couldn’t resist one last space cliché) by debuting Star Trek: Discovery, which gives us Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the first Black female lead in Star Trek history.

Read on here[x]

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And just because these are hella cute! Shuri would definitely be Bubbles, while Okoye would be Buttercup.

The Girl with All The Gifts (2016)

This is the first of my five posts reviewing horror movies where the stars are Black women, all part of the Graveyard Shift Sisters posts on 31 Black Women of Horror, for the month of October.

Okay, despite the fact that I read the book, I still didn’t know what to expect from the movie. I should have because the movie is mostly very faithful to the source material. It had not occurred to me that the filmmakers would do the thing, and make Melanie a little Black girl. I loved the character’s voice in the book and was looking forward to whoever they would cast as she would be carrying the movie, and I’m glad the director made that decision.

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When the writer, M.R. Carey was asked about the development of the movie he stated:

‘We went a slightly different way in the movie, especially when it came to point of view. Where the novel moves between the five main characters and lets us see what’s going on in all of their heads, the movie sticks with Melanie all the way. And there are no Junkers in the movie. The base falls to a hungry attack. But it’s a case of two different paths through the same narrative space. The ending is absolutely faithful to the book.’

— M.R. Carey, in an interview with Mom Advice[7]

The plot of the movie is very faithful to the source, so if you’ve read the book, you know the ending. Most of humanity has succumbed to fungal spores and become what are known as “Hungries”. ( Basically they’re zombies. They attack and eat people. (This is not  unprecedented in nature, as there are actually fungal spores that infect hosts, and force the hosts to  propagate itself.)  Some of the zombies are intelligent, and Melanie is one of the smartest ones.

Melanie, and a group of like children, all of whom were infected in utero, are being taught, studied, and experimented on, at a specially guarded facility, by Dr. Caldwell, played by Glen Close. She is attempting to find a cure for the fungal infection by vivisecting  the children’s brains, and Melanie is her star pupil. One of Melanie’s teachers is Ms. Justineau with whom Melanie develops a close  relationship.

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Melanie is played by the unknown Sennia Nanua, and she is absolutely perfect. She doesn’t try to play Melanie as sinister, or evil. She’s just like any other regular little girl, smiling, curious about the world , and happy, until her hunger is triggered. Those scenes are shocking in their viciousness. We watch Melanie attack and bite people, and at one point she captures and eats a cat. Although the movie has kids in it, it is not for children. Her behavior isn’t sugar-coated  or glossed over, and the soldiers are correct to be afraid of Melanie, as her Hunger appears to be something she seems to control. Gemma Arterton is great as Justineau, and I enjoyed seeing her relationship with Melanie.

Justineau doesn’t try to control, or change Melanie, seems to accept Melanie just as she is, and unlike the soldiers, seems unafraid of her. She doesn’t seem to want Melanie for what Melanie can provide for her like Caldwell. Seeming to genuinely love and care for her, worrying about her safety when she’s not around. The two of them seemed to have formed a real and loving bond, and that bond between them, goes a long way towards the audience accepting Melanie for who and what she is, too.

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Justineau was constantly cautioned against attaching herself to the children she is teaching, but  she seems unable (or unwilling) to do so with Melanie. There are several scenes of the soldiers being verbally abusive to the children in their care, in order to teach Justineau to avoid them, but Justineau always behaves towards them with dignity and respect.

 

When the facility is overrun by Hungries, Melanie and Justineau escape inside a mobile lab, with some other soldiers. Caldwell, who has been bitten by one of the Hungries has developed sepsis, but still continues her experiments. The soldiers are wary that Melanie will turn on them so they make her wear a muzzle ala Hannibal Lecter.

Image result for girl with all the gifts movie

 

They soldiers fear her but Melanie is useful because she can walk among the infected with impunity. In their travels, they use Melanie to lure the Hungries away from them so that they can more successfully forage for supplies. Melanie uses that time as an opportunity to feed. During her explorations she encounters a group of feral infected children who have formed a gang to hunt  any wayward humans.

In one of the movie’s most exhilarating moments Melanie challenges and kills the gang’s leader, and commands the gang afterward, keeping them in line with the threat of her strength and ruthlessness. I’m not sure how to feel about these scenes. On the one hand, I applaud Melanie’s ability to survive and be a leader. On the other hand, I’m witnessing children committing shocking acts of violence, which is something I’m just not used to seeing. I generally avoid movies where children are killing each other. Melanie’s leadership of this gang is something that will come into play at the end of the movie.

I have to admit I felt some type of way about watching this little Black girl kicking ass, and being so vicious, because that actress looks so sweet and innocent, when she’s not doing those things. I can only guess that’s why this particular actress was chosen. There’s also the stereotype of the vicious Black brute, who is uncivilized and must be controlled, restrained, and made useful, which is illustrated in Melanie having to wear a plastic muzzle for at least half the film. All of Melanie’s captors are White, and with the exception of Ms. Justineau, they are all deeply frightened of her, which gives this movie a  disturbing racial angle, that it would not  have otherwise had, if Melanie had been cast as a little White girl. Her Blackness gives the end of this movie  a wholly different meaning, which I’ll have to discuss in another post.

There’s very little wasted space in this film, which is less than two hours, but feels   longer because the director takes time to have quiet moments to explore Melanie’s world from her point of view. She is in nearly every frame, she is the one around which the other characters revolve, and she moves the plot forward with the decisions she makes, especially the last one.

I considered giving away the ending of the movie, because I wanted to discuss how groundbreaking this is, but if you’ve read the book you already know it, and if you haven’t, I really don’t want to rob you of your feelings (and you will have some) when you see it for yourself, as everything that happens in 90 minutes of the movie is what leads up to Melanie’s final decision.

This is an excellent movie to watch on Halloween night along with, 28 Days Later, and Train to Busan, two other films that have WoC dealing with a zombie apocalypse.

28 Days Later will be my next review.

ETA: The Website featuring this list is available at the Graveyard Shift Sisters.

http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com/2017/09/watch-31-horror-movies-starring-black.html

 

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

 

 

 

Racial Discussion Linkage

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 TPM Special Series: Race, Racism and the Middle Ages

https://www.publicmedievalist.com/race-racism-middle-ages-toc/

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

CHARLOTTESVILLE SYLLABUS: READINGS ON THE HISTORY OF HATE IN AMERICA

https://daily.jstor.org/charlottesville-syllabi-history-hate-america/

 

Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston

http://citizenshipandsocialjustice.com/2015/07/10/curriculum-for-white-americans-to-educate-themselves-on-race-and-racism/

 


 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/08/unlearning-the-myth-of-american-innocence

http://www.notsorryfeminism.com/2017/08/a-guide-to-different-levels-of-white-supremacist.html

https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/mens-rights-activism-is-the-gateway-drug-for-the-alt-right.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/dahlia_lithwick_on_the_nazis_in_charlottesville.html

http://reallifemag.com/the-authoritarian-surround/

http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/08/baked-alaska-charlottesville-and-the-end-of-ironic-nazi.html

https://www.gq.com/story/dylann-roof-making-of-an-american-terrorist

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/after-charlottesville-end-the-denial-about-trump/2017/08/13/05adbc6e-804a-11e7-b359-15a3617c767b_story.html?utm_term=.7fe1abeca686

http://splinternews.com/charlottesville-was-a-preview-of-the-future-of-the-repu-1797988745

 

Tumblr Discussions on Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Tumblr: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where I find fault in this argument:

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

Lord, sometimes I wish it got shows cancelled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

Here’s what actually causes diverse shows to fail:

1) Old white men in power.

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to the next item on the list:

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

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

The same is true of a lot of diverse television.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or Brooklyn 99 – similar kinda deal.

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

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Discourse is not killing diversity.

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

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

Fuck that noise.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WHITE SUPERHERO FAD STARTED, CRAZY ENOUGH, WITH BLADE

[1]

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

 

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

blackfemalescientist

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

By J. Clara Chan

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

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

 

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And on Historical Anti-Semitism in Art:

thegetty

Dialogue: Exposing the Rhetoric of Exclusion through Medieval Manuscripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Get Out: The Importance of Black Friendship

Over the years, its been a thing for White people to ask, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the lunchroom?” A question that’s almost as famous as “Why is there no White history month?” When I was asked that first question, in my youth, I had no answer. I knew there was a reason for it, and I tried to articulate why, but in the early 90s, words like micro-aggressions, and implicit bias, had  either not been  invented yet, or were not widely known to the public.

Image result for black friends

 

An analogy: In my last post about American Gods, I addressed the issue of why we’re never seen Shadow Moon interacting with other PoC, or human beings, and I connected that to how “marginalized people”  need each other to touch base with, and ground them in their sense of reality, as they navigate spaces that are not considered to be theirs. An excellent illustration of this is Shadow believing he is slowly losing his mind in the presence of the supernatural creatures he is surrounded by.  Shadow isn’t only isolated from a racial standpoint, he is isolated from a human standpoint.

However, as a Black man, Shadow has had many years of practice  navigating White spaces, and no experience, at all, navigating supernatural ones, as a human being, and as a result, believes he’s losing his grasp on sanity. Without other humans present to acknowledge the events he’s been experiencing, he can only rely on his own shaky understanding of reality, which is not strong enough to keep him from believing that he’s losing his sanity. He cannot hold onto his sense of self. He can  adopt the prevailing attitudes of the supernatural creatures surrounding him, (just give in and accept it, which he has done by the end of the season), or he can declare that none of what he has experienced is real, and that he is actually insane, or he can find some human beings to ground him, and shore up the  assurance of his own humanity.

And this is not unlike the kind of choices that PoC make when we have no option but to navigate White spaces. (By White spaces, I mean public places, primarily populated and run by White people, like school and work, where close contact between Whites, and PoC is encouraged.) Do we adopt the prevailing attitude of the people around us, even if it’s detrimental to our sense of self, and well being, or do we retreat to more comfortable spaces with other members of our specific ethnicity (i.e. run away).

Image result for get out 2017 gifs

 

This is one of the choices that Chris has to make in the movie Get Out.  A choice between an assimilation that will destroy his sense of self, or flight. During the course of the film, Chris wavers between these two impulses, but it’s his relationship with his best friend Rod, rather than his romantic relationship with Rose, that prompts him to not only deeply question what is happening to him, but to make the choice to flee (almost too late.)

One of the reasons that movie has such a resonance for Black people is that  we recognize, not just ourselves in much the same situations, but our “ride or die” friends, who we often commiserate with, after being in such spaces. Our friends help us  confirm our reality,  and criticize, and fight back, against our experiences, when we’ve been pressured to conform, or accept, that what’s happening to us is normal.

In the movie Get Out, Chris has such  a “ride or die” friend in TSA worker, Rod, played by actor/comedian LilRel, who also functions as the movies comic relief, and another version of the Everyman, with which we’re meant to identify. Rod is the character who explicitly states what the Black audience is thinking, and you could also argue that  Rod is  the hero of the movie.  Chris, alone in the wilds of White suburbia, often calls  on Rod, to touch base, to check facts, to affirm his experiences, and to confirm his sense that he is not the one who is crazy. It is everyone else.

Chris calls Rod after every questionable event, and Rod makes an effort to assure Chris that not only are his experiences are real, they are not normal, thereby confirming for Chris that his feelings are valid.  If you watch carefully, Rose does not do this. Chris calls Rod after his first meeting with Rose’s family, and Rod warns him against being hypnotized, elucidating all the things that could go wrong. Although Rod’s suppositions are comical, his distrust of someone hypnotizing Chris is spot on. Rose, however,  considers hypnotism harmless, and makes no effort to talk Chris out of  his misgivings. Instead, she deflects their discussion of how he feels, to how embarrassed SHE is  about her family, thereby derailing the discussion onto her feelings..

Image result for get out movie gifs

Chris also calls Rod after he meets the other Black people there, because their behavior is unusual, and Rod assures him that his feelings are correct. Their behavior is wrong. Rose, while agreeing that the behavior is unusual, makes excuses for why it happened.

It is Rod who first warns Chris that he needs to leave, after he does a basic search on one of the Black people Chris met that weekend. Rod also confronts Rose about Chris whereabouts, when he can no longer contact him, and tries to trick her into giving herself away. He researches the other people Chris has met, and goes to the police with his concerns. When the police don’t respond, he takes it upon himself to find and rescue his friend, if that’s what’s necessary.

Shadow Moon, in American Gods, has no such friend. There’s no one to turn to to confirm the weirdness he just saw, and there’s no one to rescue him from an environment that is emotionally, and physically, dangerous to him.  Mr. Wednesday acts very much the way Rose does. He deflects , glosses over, and occasionally outright lies to Shadow, to keep him from fleeing the situation. Shadow eventually chooses to believe what’s happening to him. He assimilates. You can see the parallels to the victims who came before Chris,  but thanks to Rod,  he gets saved.

Image result for get out movie rod gifs

 

Chris is in an environment where he is pressured to keep silent about his misgivings because he doesn’t want to make a scene, or upset Rose. Whenever he expresses doubts or misgivings, they’re rationalized away, not acknowledged, or dismissed as not being real.

Chris’ feelings are invalidated by the White people around him, with every one of the tactics used to discredit PoC feelings, in racial discussions with White people. The Black men and women  who are present, may look like him, but have been fully assimilated into that environment, and cannot be trusted. Chris needs Rod’s distance from the event,  emotional grounding, encouragement, and support, if he is to get out of the situation with his “self” intact. Shadow’s friends were killed (by Mr. Wednesday for the express purpose of isolating him from other humans), so Shadow has no touchstone, and the result  is Shadow BELIEVES, thereby ensuring his eventual downfall.

This is no different from Rose choosing her family’s victims based on how isolated they are from other Black people. The people she chooses don’t have close ties to their own family, or community. She chooses people that won’t be missed, that no one will look for. In Chris, she made a mistake in thinking him isolated. He has Rod, and she did not appreciate how far Rod would go for his friend. Rose’s brother isn’t so discerning. Lacking the ability to cajole, or seduce Black people, into being friends with him, he randomly ambushes isolated individuals. That was a mistake, because it’s his lack of discernment, that allows Rod to research his last victim. His family was looking for him.

Image result for get out movie gifs

 

The movie resonates with Black people, in particular, because any one of us, who has been in such a situation, can identify with Chris , but we can also identify with Rod.There have been times when we’ve had to be that comic relief for a friend, the anchor that grounds their emotions, and lifts their spirits. Or we have had to be the touchstone that acknowledges that what happened to them that day, was actually real, and wrong. We have had to affirm a friend’s sense of normalcy, after a long day of working in a White corporate environment, where they are pressured to not speak out against the micro-aggressions lobbed in their direction.

It feels good to vent to friends about the insanity, and frustrations, of the job. It’s those Black friends who will  confirm that:

“Well, yeah, Becky was wrong to tell you to go get her coffee when you’re the only Black Executive Sales Manager, and she never makes that request of anyone else with your job description. ” (Confirmation of micro-aggressions)

“Yes, it is  horribly wrong for Coby, from Accounting, to keep calling you LaQuetta, when your name is Felicia. LaQuetta is the Secretary five cubicles down from you, is five inches shorter, three shades lighter, and has a French accent!”

Related image

In the movie Hidden Figures, the women have not only a strong sense of their inner selves, Kathryn, Dorothy, and Mary, also have a strong bond with each other. There’s a scene of the three women drinking and dancing at home. Their friendship (something rarely shown of Black women in films) uplifts them, and confirms their humanity, in an environment that does nothing but try to undermine it. Many of us work in such environments, and its our friendships with members of our own race, that make such circumstances bearable.

For those who are absent a strong sense of self, or are unused to navigating White spaces, a lack of Black friends would have you thinking that sort of treatment was perfectly okay. It might have you joining in, instead of questioning, whether or not it’s a good idea to rub soup in your hair,  before your next date.

Black people have kept each other sane, supported each other, and confirmed our reality for each other, since our beginnings in this country, and it has helped us to survive tremendous hardship. Black friendship doesn’t just save one’s sanity, but in the movies, as in real life Black friendship can often save a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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