I have been busy and tired about it, but I have gotten a bunch out so far for September over at Teen Vogue. All of it, so far, has been centered around Rings of Power. I’m also about to talk about the series on my newsletter – which I’m a little behind on as well because life keeps happening – so stay tuned for that and also my She-Hulk hate (because wow I do not like that show).
September has been… a lot. I’m putting this together at the halfway point of the month and I just… want to take a nap. I want to rest. But I already got a bunch of content consumption down for the month so I felt I could pop this in the schedule and keep it moving. Cool? Cool.
How Do We Criticize Our Own? (Also, Stop Calling Lizzo a Mammy)
I love Princess Weekes. I adore her insight, the nuance and brightness she brings to tough topics, and her really great POV on fandom. This is no exception.
Criticism is something I feel very strongly about. I cut my teeth on cultural and social criticism (which overlaps often) by Said, Baldwin, and hooks to say nothing of critics in the present. Criticism is like… opinion backed up by facts and explanation. You don’t have to agree all the time – and I know the joy of going full Mariah “Sorry I Don’t Know Her” Carey when I see criticism I dislike or disagree with. It’s valid. You’re valid.
But people can’t quite understand how you criticize media made by your community – or that we can. Criticizing Wynonna Earp or Lost Girls for their very beige queer representation (and fridged Black male characters) doesn’t mean the shows are bad. It just means that they can’t be 100% what I need as a fan. Talking about what a show like Killjoys – which Princess mentions and has queer characters of color in main, supporting, and villainous roles, as a show you wish people liked more… isn’t hating on either Emily Andras production (she was creator of WE and producer/showrunner of LG at one point).
We get to critique things on our own time and on our own dime. What’s important is making sure we’re creating and consuming criticism in good faith and for the right reasons. If I got into a show for spite just to write about it and piss off the fandom… that’s not a good reason. My critique would be bad and biased in a way that’s not helpful. If you engage with criticism, knowing you can’t stand having your worldview challenged or your interests criticized, whatever response you have in a heated media fan moment? It’s unlikely to be good… or in good faith.
It’s always so hard to pare down my links to a manageable amount rather than pouring out the entirety of my bookmarks for the month. But between last time and now, I have read some incredible things! Here’s a sampling with the usual added commentary.
She finishes her brief segment on her Twilight Apologia grievance by doing a classic “see I’m a liberal ally to the brown folks” move straight out of a JK Rowling’s tweet: adding the link to the Quileute tribe’s fundraiser to prove that she’s not racist, she cares about ACTUAL problems that the Quileute folks face. Not something as trivial as representation in Twilight but REAL problems. Clearly she cares more about indigenous issues than the indigenous people she’s arguing with.
In any case, you don’t need to be native to know there isn’t much sincerity to someone who dedicates two hours to taking shots of whiskey for every “apology” they have to make. Quite frankly it would’ve saved her time to just upload a five second Youtube video of her telling us to eat shit. The same message would’ve been delivered expeditiously.
A lot of people think that ignoring a problem like racism in media – here anti-Native racism in Twilight and Pocahontas… and Ellis’ coverage of both after the fact – will just make it go away. Add in a heaping helping of Ellis weaponizing her white womanhood and lumping in real Natives trying to educate her in with the very legitimate harassment she does get… And you’ve got a disastrous approach in one.
I thought this piece by Ali Nahdee was brilliant, insightful, and is a must-read for people who genuinely care about representation in media, fighting anti-Native racism, and holding ourselves and our favorite content creators accountable. In this country, Indigenous communities are mistreated and misrepresented as the norm. Media is one of the biggest ways that their cultures are repackaged – often being boiled down to a single experience set up to serve for the whole – and it’s important to recognize when we and our favorite/popular cultural critics drop the ball on recognizing that.
Elizabeth A. Allen and Jonah Akos got together recently to geek out about one of their favorite additions to Doctor Who: Ruth Clayton, a.k.a. the Fugitive Doctor. Played by Jo Martin, “Ruth Doctor” became the first Black Doctor in the show’s history. She appeared in two episodes of Season 12, “Fugitive of the Judoon” and “The Timeless Children,” generating polarized responses from viewers. Elizabeth and Jonah talked about Ruth Doctor’s characterization, her significance to the show and fandom, and her possible future.
Elizabeth is a white, queer, nonbinary writer and editor. Jonah is a Black, nonbinary trans man. Their identities shape their experiences with Doctor Who and with Ruth Doctor in particular.
Jonah: Let’s start with what we enjoyed about her.
Elizabeth: Yeah, let’s! I really love how Ruth Doctor was so quickly and deftly characterized.
Jonah: I think that was a great way to start — focusing on her POV for quite a bit of time. It helps you feel like she truly exists in the world. Even before knowing who she was, I liked her because she felt empathetic, but also confident in herself.
Elizabeth: Her happiness with her husband and the people she said “hi” to really grounded her. They also gave a perfect illustration of one of the Doctor’s best traits: At the best, the Doctor really CONNECTS with people. They CARE. They make friends.
Jonah: I also liked that she got to have a love interest. Allowing an older, dark-skinned Black woman to have love at all is rare. To show them as able and worthy of it.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I’m glad that she had some romance too! The snippets of domestic life and normalcy make Ruth a much more approachable Doctor than any other I’ve encountered.
Somehow this is both short (only like 5 links this month) and very long (because I had a lot to say about them), but I will return for a BTS + Butter focused one before the end of the month so there will be more links… and more thoughts on them!
If we are asked to determine whether the Austen family was pro-slavery or anti-slavery, then the best answer to that question is both. We can’t take up one half of the facts and ignore the other. We ought to continue to engage directly with these matters as they arise in her writings and to investigate them further in the cataclysmic times in which she wrote. To respond to today’s conversations about Austen and race with dead silence is to join the rest of the Bertram cousins. Scrutinizing the past in these ways ought to prompt a reckoning in fandoms and readerships, as well as better museum labels.
My friend Amanda-Rae Prescott wrote an article about Sanditon that was… not necessarily well received by the Totally Not Racist (But Actually Deeply Racist) Fandom Karens there. I bring that up because the repeat complaints to her article claimed that she was playing the race card, trying to insert political correctness into everything, and that she was actually demanding historical inaccuracy from the future seasons of Sanditon. The thing about historical accuracy though, is that history is written first and foremost by the people who survived it.
I found my own Trinidadian upbringing confusing. On one hand, I was made to believe that race mattered very little, echoing sentiments of postraciality that surfaced after President Barack Obama was elected. My schoolbooks emphasized that Trinidad and Tobago was a rainbow utopia, evident by the shoehorning of as many creeds and races as could possibly fit into small, grayscale pictorial representations. I’d look at my face in the mirror—my light but definitely brown skin, my broad nose—clocking my features against the fact that my last name was confusingly Chinese (my great-grandfather on my dad’s side came from there) and wondering what the hell I was.
In the Caribbean, there are so many complex relationships with our Blackness, what Blackness could look like and who got to be Black in the first dang place. In islands like Trinidad where you have a more visible history of non-Black people of color (primarily Indian and Chinese) marrying and loving Black people, Blackness is complicated. And so is your understanding of where white supremacy fits in to the conversation. Because the people in power in Trinidad, in the Virgin Islands, in Jamaica… aren’t actually or typically white people. And yet, white supremacy thrives in these places to the point of harming people of color who live there.
“certain bodies could be read as blank slates not already overdetermined by race” – a partial quote from page 17 of Melanie E. S. Kohnen’s Screening the Closet: Queer Representation, Visibility, and Race in American Film and Television.
Some of fandom’s favorite characters are “blank slates”.
Beige blank slates, that is.
General Armitage Hux from the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Arthur and Eames from Inception.
Q from Skyfall and Spectre.
Clint and Phil Coulson in the first Thor movie.
Various minor white male characters in a show or film that somehow became one of/the most popular characters in their source media or fandom.
In this installment of “What Fandom Racism Looks Like”, we’ll be looking at the idea of the “blank slate” primarily in Western media-focused slash fandom spaces.
We’ll be asking what a blank slate looks like, what these fans and fandoms get out of these characters, what characters will never be considered blank enough to be loved, and how, while the claim that fandom prefers “blank slate characters” might well be true and there are many instances where the Beige Blank Slate provides necessary representation within fandom, the preference that prioritizes white male characters above all others kind of messes up something that has the potential to be great.Read More »
This post contains spoilers for Orange is the New Black season 4, Wynonna Earp season 3, Elementary season 6, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5, and a bunch of other stuff that’s been off the air or out of theaters for years.
And, every time a person of color dies so the Winchester brothers can live, I wonder why I even kept the show around as an afternoon marathon session.
Heck, not only did I think I’d have to say some pretty sharp words to Rian Johnson during the climax of The Last Jedi where he had Finn set up to kill himself in order to (possibly) save the dregs of the resistance, but to this day I block everyone I see on social media that wishes for Finn’s death by redemption arc – or suggest that his death would have somehow “saved” his character from being boring.
And now, Wynonna Earp has followed in the footsteps of these shows by killing off the main Black character Xavier Dolls (played by Shamier Anderson) in the third season’s second episode (“When You Call My Name”) and the fandom and crew alike don’t seem to get why that’s such a big problem.Read More »
Now it’s 2017 and I’ve got at least four different posts on racebending under my belt because nerds still don’t know how to behave.
This is an ongoing project looking at the continuing state of fandom’s reaction to racebending following my first piece on how badly comic fans respond to racebending in the works that they love and three years in, people are still cutting up about racebending while claiming not to be racist.
They’re not racist, they claim in comment sections across the internet, but the idea of Black women being cast as aliens, goddesses, and the iconic love interest of the Fastest Man Alive, still sends them into literal conniptions. They assume that racebending is Social Justice Gone Wild, not the best actor/actress being chosen for the role. At multiple points, I’ve seen them claim that white redheads are being erased from popular culture.
Of course, these same people screaming about authenticity and sticking to the source material stay silent in the face of whitewashing (as in the case of Deadpool actor Ed Skrein initially being tapped to play a Japanese character in the upcoming Hellboy remake).Read More »
Every time I talk about J. K. Rowling’s current and continuing diversity fails, someone always has to show up to remind me how she “couldn’t write diversely because it was 1997”.
Without fail, people are more invested in protecting Rowling from criticism she will never see or care about than in acknowledging the way that her writing has continued to erase marginalized people while allegorizing their struggles in order to pad her plot and make her characters more interesting.
Even if I knew (or cared) more about the realities of publishing when I was seven years old, the fact of the matter is that JKR managed to put a ton of atypical things in her “kids’ series”. She wrote about the violent effects of racism and blood supremacy as well as child abuse and children coming of age in a war torn world.
And yet, she “couldn’t” include more than eight characters of color or any queer characters who made It to the end of the series alive or who were queer onscreen?
The “it was 1997” excuse for Rowling’s diversity fails only holds a scant bit of water when it comes to looking at the body of her work. Other writers wrote queer characters into their works, other authors managed to have diverse children’s books during the same period that Rowling was publishing her books.Read More »
In 2010, Black people from across the diaspora made up just over 32% of Chicago’s population.
But I bet you couldn’t tell that from reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series where there are zero main characters who are Black and few recurring characters who are explicitly “of color” in the respective series.Read More »
No matter what, I am going to see Crimson Peak next month.
I decided this back when the cast was first announced and then when we got those set photos of what looked like a funeral. I love Tom Hiddleston. Love him like I love naps, it’s that intense. And I of course enjoy Guillermo del Toro’s work. He’s a freaking master of horror and tension and his movies always leave me feeling kind of uncomfortable but in a good way.
But here’s the thing about my intense love of del Toro and Hiddleston coming together to put on the Gothic nightmare of my heart: it’s so not diverse in terms of race and I’m not okay with that.Read More »
Today, I woke up to two interesting things going on in comics. Both things revolved around women and girls in comics. I have thoughts on both but I’m a wee bit grumpy about them weirdly enough (thankfully, some commentary from and about my nieces helps soften that a bit I think).Read More »
While short, this review does contain spoilers for Fast & Furious 7 both in the text and in the video accompanying it. If you haven’t seen it yet, this isn’t the review for you.
I loved the original premise for the F&F franchise. Dom, Lettie, and Brian up against the world was my thing. I liked the idea that the characters existed in this morally gray area where they were on the run from the government as well as the actual bad guy in the films.
The shift from car thieve/drag racer centered franchise was a bit unexpected but okay, it works. It really works. And in Furious 7, there’s a really good blend of the dynamics where you have the whole “these guys are doing illegal shit” but they’re also the good guys. I loved how we did get some racing scenes in (the beginning with Lettie was fabulous both because she was back behind the wheel and because we saw her dealing with the trauma caused by her injuries and having flashbacks). I also loved how this starts setting up the stage for the crew to do bigger things and to interact with crime/criminals on this larger scale.