Month: July 2016

Rebecca Sugar On Why “Steven Universe” Matters

I can admit that I’m not a regular watcher of Steven Universe. But I know its impact has been a tremendous one, particularly on the generation after mine, the one growing up now amid tons of turmoil as well as a lot of positive changes. One of those positive changes is the cultural shift surrounding LGBT acceptance. I’d say Steven Universe is a large part of that continuing shift, particularly in how it gives younger LGBT audience members a voice the generation before them didn’t have in the media.

The creator of Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar, hasn’t suggested Steven Universe‘s LGBT themes by accident; as she stated at San Diego Comic Con, the characters and their personal relationships as well as their relationships to gender itself are something that speak directly to her life.

“In large part it’s based on my experience as a bisexual woman,” she said in response to an audience member’s question (as reported by the L.A. Times). “…These themes have so much to do with who you are. There is an idea that these are themes that should not be shared with kids but everyone shares stories about love and attraction with kids. So many stories for kids are about love. It really makes a difference to hear stories about how someone like you can be loved. And if you don’t hear those stories, it will change who you are.”

She stated that it was very important to her to talk to kids about consent and identity. “…I want to feel like I exist and I want everyone else who wants to feel that way to feel that way too.”

Steven Univershas certainly made many of its viewers feel like they belong by acknowledging same-sex relationships, the sexuality and gender spectrum, and self-acceptance. Despite having faced censorship, the show continues its commitment to Sugar’s message of inclusion. The show should be commended for that.

What do you think of Steven Universe? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

DC vs. Marvel: Which Movie Franchise Represents Its Audience More?

With the culmination of the San Diego Comic-Con, we’ve been getting a lot of DC Comics movie franchise news. Some of which includes the new footage of the Justice League movie, featuring Batman (Ben Affleck), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Superman (Henry Cavill).

With the introduction of DC’s superhero team, I started wondering—which movie franchise represents its diverse audience more?

Let’s take a look at some stats. According to the MPAA, the movie-going year of 2015 saw 23 percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of African-Americans going to the movie theaters, even though Hispanics only made up 17 percent of the population and African-Americans made up 12 percent. Similarly, Asian Americans and Americans of other ethnicities were 9 percent of the movie-going population, even though they only made up 8 percent of the total population. Even though white Americans go to the movies a lot, too–56 percent of them made up movie audiences last year–they go much less than non-whites, since they are 62 percent of the total population. With all of this said, it’s clear that if you’re non-white, more than likely you’re in a movie theater at some given point in time. This also means that a disproportionate percentage of the money generated by movies is from non-white pockets. Therefore, movie theaters should start catering to those dollars more than they already do.

MPAA-2015-ethnicity

In the movies department, it’s pretty clear that DC is about to school Marvel on using diversity as its opening act. Batman v. Superman‘s trailer had a frustrating scene for me–the scene in which a ton of extras with Westernized Dia de los Muertos-esque skeleton face paint revering Superman as a god. It looked a lot like the scene from Game of Thrones, with a ton of brown people exalting Khaleesi as their savior. In short, I didn’t like it. And to be fair, not many people liked the movie in its entirety. But, it appears that DC will still have the Marvel beat when it comes to catering to a wider majority of its audience.

Enter the footage for the Justice League. 

Already, we have an overlapping group of a woman and three people of color (I’m including Gal Gadot in this group, hence the use of the word “overlapping”), and even though he’s not playing a gay character in the films, the Flash is played by Miller, who is gay in real life. Already, that’s a heck of a lot more inclusion than Marvel’s Avengers, which is majority white male (the only actual member of color is the Falcon, and the only woman is Black Widow).

DC also has Marvel beat when it comes to treating female characters like actual characters. People have been begging Marvel for years now to create a Black Widow movie, but cries had been falling on deaf ears until very recently, when Marvel finally announced that a Black Panther film and Black Widow film were going to be made. We have finally been getting tons of news about Black Panther, but a Black Widow film is still missing in action. However, the third movie in DC’s official movie franchise is Wonder Woman.

You can read my full thoughts here, but the short of it is that seeing a female superhero do her thing on the big screen is going to instill pride and hope in a lot of girls and women out there. It would behoove Marvel to do the same.

The diversity quotient is also high with Suicide Squad, which features women (in general) in various roles, but the film also prominently features people of color as the heroes (including Will Smith, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuouye-Agbaje, and Common).

Of course, someone could say, “Well, it’s cruelly ironic that the heroes of Suicide Squad are the evil guys, and that over half of the evil guys are people of color.” Yeah, it is cruelly ironic. But let’s contrast this to Ant-Man, which was also about bad guys becoming the good guys. Except with Ant-Man, Paul Rudd was the genius who actually acted like a genius a good portion of the time. Ant-Man’s friends, played by T.I., Michael Peña, and David Dastmalchian, were supposed to be geniuses, too, but they frequently acted like racially-charged buffoons, characters who seemed to be the brainchild of someone who believed non-white people actually act like stereotypes in real life. It was clear the Rudd’s character was the cool, calm, and collected leader, even though they were all supposed to be on the same level of intelligence. Sure, a lot of non-white people are the bad guys in Suicide Squad, but at least they all seem to be written to exist on the same level. They seem to all have their own individuality. There’s also the case of Smith’s character Deadshot in the leadership position, a change of pace from Marvel’s status quo. Also great is that Davis is the one in charge of all of them.

Marvel’s films are also failing in another area: proper representation of race. Marvel is quick to tout it’s “diversity” in terms of how many black people they hire for films. They’re especially doing that now, what with Black Panther and the Netflix show Luke Cage. But it took ages for Marvel to finally commit to Black Panther, and before they finally committed, bogus statements had been put out regarding their indecision, such as how supposedly hard it would be to create a realistic Wakanda, even though Marvel had already made Thor, which featured another non-existent locale, Asgard.

Second, it’s not like Marvel has ever had a character of color lead a film until Black Panther; the Marvel universe has had enough longevity to be able to put out several movies with characters of color as the leads, but instead, they’ve constantly resorted to the “goofy, yet smart white male” lead, which makes almost every movie in the latter half of Phase 2 feel like the same movie, just retold with varying degrees of success.

Third, the characters of color the films do have are always in secondary positions. The Falcon has since become Captain America in the comics, but in the films, Falcon is relegated to Captain America’s buddy; I dare say he was relegated to mere “sidekick” in Captain America: Civil War, because Sam all-too-readily agrees to follow Cap into the sunset, even without fully hearing Cap’s plan or questioning Cap’s decision to become a fugitive. Rhodey is a great character, but even still, he’s Iron Man’s buddy. Nick Fury is the most powerful man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but sometimes even he is treated like an outside force, a character that is “important,” but is merely a guise to lure audiences into believing that the black characters in the Marvel Universe are treated better than they actually are. Heimdall is also powerful, but as some have said online, they felt Heimdall was nothing more than a glorified doorman, not the all-mighty keeper of the universe and its alternate dimensions.

Marvel also lets down audience members in general by asserting the reductive conclusion that black people equal “diversity,” when there are a lot of people Marvel are leaving out of the conversation. Case in point: Doctor Strange. If you read my online roundtable discussion about Doctor Strange, you’ll find that quite a few people are upset by the lack of foresight given when casting the title character and the Ancient One as white people. Also lacking in foresight was the decision to “add diversity” by casting Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong as Doctor Strange’s…I don’t know…helpers. Again, Marvel assumes the hierarchy of characters should be that people of color fall back as sidekicks or magical helpers, while white characters assume the “default hero” character role. Marvel has also failed when it comes to representing Latinos, people of the Middle East, South and East Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and black women. I’m sure I’m missing some other groups as well.

If the only other non-white, non-black Marvel character is Michael Peña’s character from Ant-Man, then it’s clear Marvel’s doing something wrong when it comes to fully representing fleshed-out versions of all Americans. The kicker is that they have representations of fleshed-out characters of color in their comics right now. Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man are two such examples. When are we going to see live-action projects featuring them? How many more white dudes with powers are we going to have to see on the big screen? Black Panther can’t be the only time we see a majority non-white cast in a Marvel film.

DC might have gotten their act together slowly, but they are coming out of the gate swinging with possibilities. We’ve already got Wonder Woman coming, and AquamanThe Flash, and Cyborg films have already been scheduled for 2018 and 2020. In building a franchise, it would appear DC has been studying Marvel’s failures as well as Marvel’s successes, and it seems like the franchise is planning on welcoming more people to the table.

However, Marvel seems to be slowly getting the message, since they have already cast Brie Larson as Captain Marvel for her own standalone movie:

And the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming has been surprisingly multicultural (the film includes Donald Glover—who had campaigned to play Peter Parker years ago—Zendaya, Hannibal Buress, Tony Revolori, Garcelle Beauvais, Bokeem Woodbine, Abraham Attah, Kenneth Choi, Tiffany Espensen, Laura Harrier, and is rumored to also feature Selenis Leyva). The film has already had to face its share of whitewashing accusations when it comes to the casting of Michael Barbieri as an original character based on Ganke Lee, who, in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, is Miles Morales’ Korean-American best friend. But have they revamped that decision, based on this picture of the cast?

Despite their flubs, Marvel is working on rectifying their current lack of focus when it comes to representing their huge audience, baby step by stuttering baby step,. If Marvel starts getting serious about showcasing LGBT characters too, then I’d be absolutely convinced Marvel has learned its lesson from past mistakes.

What’s fascinating is that while Marvel has a ton of issues to get out of its system when it comes to the movie franchise, the same can’t be said of its TV and Netflix offerings. Such as Luke Cage, which offers up the politically-charged image of, as showrunner Cheo Coker told Vanity Fair, “a bulletproof black man.” Whatever is going on in Marvel’s TV department needs to filter into the movies department. But I’ll write more on the TV side of both the DC and Marvel universes in another post.

If you have thoughts about the movie and/or TV branches of either universe, feel free to discuss in the comments section!

3 Points Sulu’s Sexuality Raises for “Star Trek” & Mainstream LGBT Representation

Star Trek Beyond is in theaters now, so the fervor of the movie might have made some people forget this bit of news that came out just before the film came out, but even though writer Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty in the Star Trek reboot series) and director Justin Lin decided to make Sulu gay, married, and a father in this newest film, the original Sulu—George Takei—is against it.

Takei told The Hollywood Reporter that he felt making Sulu gay went against what Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, wanted for Sulu. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character…Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” As Takei states, Roddenberry had always imagined Sulu as straight. When Takei was told of Sulu’s homosexuality by John Cho (who plays Sulu in the films), Takei said he hoped the cast and crew would create an entirely new character instead of meddle with the original characters.

“I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as closeted,” he said.

However, Takei did tell The Hollywood Reporter that he had a conversation with Roddenberry during the show’s run, stating that he asked if gay equality could become a part of the show’s storyline. But Roddenberry felt like he was skirting the line as it was. “He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality…But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope–and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air,” Takei said. What Takei didn’t ask for, though, was for his character to be the one the show focus on in case the show did tackle gay equality.

Pegg and Lin’s decision to make Sulu gay was supposed to be in honor of Takei, who has been a staunch LGBT activist. Pegg released a statement to The Guardian defending his decision to reveal (or change) Sulu’s sexuality, stating:

“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humour are an inspiration…However with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him. …He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character,’ rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?

…Justin Lin, Doug Jung [Star Trek Beyond co-screenwriter who also plays Sulu’s husband in the film] and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic. Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before.”

The last part of that statement is a direct response to Takei’s feeling that revealing Sulu as gay would mean that Sulu was closeted the whole time. As Takei told The Hollywood Reporter, someone living in the 23rd century would have never had to be in the closet.

Cho also had reservations about the idea of Sulu’s homosexuality, but for different reasons than Takei. As he told Vulture, Cho was worried that Sulu’s homosexuality would assert that sexuality was something that could be controlled or changed, specifically since the current Star Trek series is in an alternate timeline from the original.

“…[W]we’re in an alternate universe but I’m assuming that Sulu is the same genetic Sulu in both timelines, and I thought we might be implying that sexual orientation was a choice,” he said. He also worried about how Takei would feel about their Sulu borrowing from his life. “My primary concern was that I was wondering how George [Takei] would feel, because he’s a gay actor that played a straight part ad crafted a straight character. I didn’t want him to feel that we had reduced him to his sexuality by sort of borrowing this bit, if you will, from his life.”

Ultimately, Cho came around to the idea of Sulu being gay and felt that the decision humanized Sulu beyond just being a bridge crew member. Cho even fought to have his on-screen husband be of Asian heritage (hence Jung’s role in the film), as a nod to some of his childhood friends who were gay. “…I always felt the Asian gay men that I knew had much heavier cultural-shame issues…I felt like those guys didn’t date Asian men because of that cultural shame,” he said. “So I wanted it to seem really normal in the future…that there was zero shame in the future.”

But what makes the whole “Sulu’s sexuality” issue the most convoluted for me is that, despite the insistence on creating an inclusive world in Star Trek Beyond, the film still has an important, defining scene on the cutting room floor; a kissing scene between Sulu and his husband.

“It wasn’t like a make-out session,” Cho told Vulture. “We’re at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss,” he said.

The decision to cut the scene is a strange and antithetical to the desire to make Sulu gay in the first place. In fact, this decision raises several issues at the same time:

1. Having a gay character in Star Trek makes sense. I think everyone involved agrees that a Star Trek that doesn’t acknowledge LGBT characters is a Star Trek that isn’t complete. With the franchise’s promise of inclusivity, it makes sense as to why the screenwriters felt this would be a prime moment to right a wrong.

2. Sulu as gay actually breaks sci-fi ground; Sulu is, at least for me, the first gay character in a mainstream blockbuster movie franchise. Whether all involved like it or not, Sulu and Paramount have set a precedent for other studios to live up to. There has now been a gay character in a blockbuster film and the world didn’t end and international movie markets didn’t collapse; it’s now time for other studios to step their game up and represent an unrepresented part of their demographic.

3. The editing room’s decision to cut Sulu’s kissing scene flies in the face of the progress Sulu represents. By cutting Sulu’s kiss, it once again gives shadows of other portrayals of gay men as being asexual. Even though Sulu has a family, by not allowing audiences to see Sulu as a sexual creature, the same way we see Spock and Uhura, true humanization is being robbed from the character. It leaves audiences, particularly those starved to see positive images of themselves on the big screen, between a rock and a hard place; there’s representation of a gay man of color, but the full scope of his relationship is still closeted to the world. In that aspect, Takei’s fears of a closeted gay man in the 23rd century have come true after all.

What do you feel about Sulu in Star Trek Beyond? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

The “Wonder Woman” Trailer Finally Gives Us the Superhero We’ve Been Looking For

I’ll be the first to admit I had my share of reservations about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, not to mention Zack Snyder was going to have his influence on the film. But I can eat crow, and I say that after watching the Wonder Woman San Diego Comic-Con trailer, I am fully onboard with this film.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet:

Now, here’s why I’m onboard. Wonder Woman was the first mainstream female superhero in comics, and she’s making history again as the first female superhero to helm her very own film. Seeing Wonder Woman in action soothes an ache I didn’t know I had within. Seeing a woman take on Man’s World—and owning it—is something so refreshing and, in a petty way, I’m glad it’s going to threaten some male viewers out there. It’s about time some of those folks realize that women deserve to showcase their might, both on the screen and in real life.

Seeing Wonder Woman do her thing on screen also hits home with how I was raised. Without getting into the nitty gritty, I was raised to believe that I was just as powerful as a man, if not more so. I was raised to believe in myself and not to count myself out just because a man might be in a position I want or have more resources than me. But just because I was raised like that doesn’t mean that other girls were raised like that. A film like Wonder Woman matters because for many girls out there, Wonder Woman will be the first person to let them know that they are somebody in this world, that they can be just as powerful as their father, uncles, and brothers. Wonder Woman will be that voice that tells them they should honor the Amazon spirit within them and fight for themselves and their self-worth. Wonder Woman will tell them that they belong in this world.

So congrats to DC Comics with this trailer. Looks like Wonder Woman is going to be fantastic. What do you think of the trailer? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Monique Talks “Tyrant” Deaths on Entertainment Weekly Community Blog

THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE, SO BE CAREFUL. 

There were a LOT of deaths in just the first three episodes of Season 3 of Tyrant, right? So many that many fans are wondering if they were even necessary. The fandom has taken the death of Season 2 insta-fave Rami particularly hard, since Rami seemed like a great candidate for President, and he’s just a good guy who came from humble beginnings. I was bummed like the rest of the fans, but I’ve also talked with Keon Alexander, who played Rami, for the Entertainment Weekly community, and we discussed in-depth his process for getting into Rami’s head. It seemed he really enjoyed playing Rami, and because there was so much that could be mined from the character, I expected Rami to be around for several seasons, not just one season and two episodes of the next. SIGH.

Here’s what I wrote about Rami in this week’s Tyrant catch-up article, “‘Tyrant’ season 3 recap: Three episodes, four bombshell moments”:

“…Rami — poor, noble, kind-hearted Rami — had no one crying over him. POURQUOI??? WHY DID RAMI HAVE TO DIE?

I was still waiting on Rami to magically appear, laid up in a hospital with the outside world believing he was dead when he was only badly wounded, but such a scene never came. Instead, after Rami sacrificed himself to save Molly and Emma from the Caliphate ambush, we get one scene with the head of the military telling Bassam that Emma is kidnapped and Rami has died — and that’s it, really. No finding his body, no honorable burial, no nothing! I’m not the only one who’s upset; the Internet has been ablaze with fans and critics alike trying to figure out why Rami was killed. For what reason? What added stakes did it provide? Couldn’t Rami be a superhero and escape certain death just like Bassam? Rami’s certainly more honorable than Bassam! As Peach the starfish said in Finding Nemo, “Isn’t there another way? He’s just a boy!”

SIGH. I’ll be pouring some out for you, Rami. Rest in peace. Or better yet, maybe you’re alive in an alternate dimension, as the benevolent President of Abbudin.”

Tyrant-S3-Rami

I was also particularly bummed about Nusrat. I realized after I had my latest Entertainment Weekly Community post published that I didn’t write enough on why I felt Nusrat’s death wasn’t warranted at all. First of all, Nusrat should be hailed as a hero for saving Abbudin from a despot. Rami told her the folks outside the palace did see her as such. So why kill her off, writers? Is it because she could have been Daliyah’s rival for the “Mother of the Revolution” title? Did Sibylla Deen simply want to leave, and there wasn’t a cleaner way to remove her character from the show? I want answers, and currently, I feel like Kanye West on Sway’s radio show.

giphy (38)

giphy (39)

Nusrat has been the most abused person on this show, starting with the very first episode. It seems especially cruel that she would be killed after everything she’s endured. Did her life mean nothing? I mean, I get a show is supposed to have tragedy, but is everything bad supposed to happen exclusively to one character? I think Nusrat should have gotten a break for once in her life. Like, after leaving the mental institution Bassam had ordered her to, she could have come out and continued to plan her revenge on the Al-Fayeed family. She would have become a great character due to her mission to avenge her family and unborn child. In a way, Nusrat’s death reminds me of Abbie’s death in that it didn’t really serve the story except to get rid of a character.

The next gut-wrenching  moment for me was when dear Emma got killed. I was hoping for something to come of Emma’s character this season, because I wrote last season how she has been the most neglected character, despite being the one of the few characters who actually utilizes their common sense on a day-to-day basis. Emma’s desires are simple, but always ignored: She wants to live a normal life in California like she used to. Instead, her parents, her dad in particular, got her killed. I write in this week’s post that Emma’s death is on Bassam’s hands.

Tyrant-S3-Emma

I forgot that there was another, more intimate reason as to why Bassam’s actions led to his daughter’s death. The only reason Ihab Rashid is trying to bring Bassam down right now is because Bassam killed Samira. Ihab wants to make Bassam pay. Which leads to the biggest question I have in these few episodes: WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU RELEASE A MAN WHO WANTS TO DESTROY YOU?! Look, I get Bassam’s “forgiveness commission” in theory. But seriously, Bassam, you’re ruling an unstable land with tons of people who want the title of President. You’re going to start being soft-bellied now that you’re at the top?! Don’t be foolish, Bassam. Be ruthless like you’ve been in the past.

Anyways, you can read my full thoughts on these three episodes at the Entertainment Weekly Community!

Fall TV: Analyzing the Odds of 5 of the 2016-2017 Shows

We have a lot of shows coming our way, and a lot of racially-diverse shows at that. I thought it would be cool to take a gander at some of the shows I’m interested in this fall season and guess at what their chances are at garnering a second season. I know these shows haven’t even premiered yet. But we’ve already seen the trailers for the fall season, right? We already have our opinions anyway. So let me start off the opinion-giving by providing my thoughts.

(I must say that even though there are racially-diverse shows this fall-winter season, the shows featured in this particular list showcase shows featuring black leads.)

Luke Cage (Netflix)

I dare say that it’s already a given that Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage will be a smash hit. Mike Colter, who will be playing the title character, has already amassed a cult following from playing the character on Netflix’s second Marvel endeavor, Jessica Jones. And, let’s not discount Marvel’s wide and powerful reach; nowadays, almost everything Marvel touches turns to gold. So chances are Luke Cage will be here for a long time.

Lethal Weapon (FOX)

I will be honest; this show seems to have whiffs of Rush Hour all over it. Not the film, mind you, but the CBS TV adaptation of Rush Hour. That show had the diversity quota going for it; just like in the film, the buddy-cop duo was comprised of a black man and an Asian man (with Vine star Justin Hires and British actor Jon Foo taking reins of the Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan roles). But the writing was just too terrible and lackluster for the two leads to carry it. Let’s be clear; just because a show has a diverse cast doesn’t mean it’ll automatically succeed. The writing still has to be good.

Lethal Weapon seems like we could be going down another Rush Hour path. Not only does it look like it’ll be potentially unfunny, but just how relevant is Lethal Weapon these days? A similar question was posed about the Rush Hour TV series; the story is so of its time that it doesn’t resonate with younger TV viewers. But we’ll see how Lethal Weapon does; it is starring Damon Wayans, so the show does have that going for it.

Still Starcrossed (ABC)

First of all, Still Starcrossed is a Shonda Rhimes show. So you can assume success is already in the bag. But secondly, and most importantly, it’s a show that many people, particularly women of color, have been wanting since the dawn of television; a period show featuring people of color who aren’t slaves. Instead, Still Starcrossed, which takes place after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, showcases a rich, affluent black family in Verona, Italy, who are just as powerful and viable as any other family. That alone will attract viewers who are excited to see a different and much-needed portrayal of the black family in ancient times. Look for several seasons of Still Starcrossed.

24: Legacy (FOX)

As well as the original 24 did, what with it being steeped in post 9/11 paranoia, 24: Legacy will probably do just as well, since politics has gotten even worse since 9/11. However, the fact that politics have become more divisive and stereotype-laden makes me question whether it’s even responsible to bring any iteration of 24 back. As popular as 24 was with its audience, it also was plagued by stereotypes of Middle Eastern Muslims as terrorists. What makes 24: Legacy even more troubling is that there’s the distinct possibility that these same terrorist stereotypes will be juxtaposed against the new hero, Eric Carter (played by Corey Hawkins). If there is an uplifting of one marginalized group at the expense of another marginalized group, then the entire exercise of the show is a problem. Regardless, 24: Legacy would still garner a sizable audience, so it could remain for another season or two.

Pitch (FOX)

Pitch will be a game-changer when it premieres. The show, about a young woman who becomes the first woman signed to a Major League Baseball team, will advance the cause of women in sports by showing that women can play any sport they want to, with the same passion and ability as men. The show has also cast Kylie Bunbury as the lead, which is fantastic; if this show were made just a few years ago, a woman like Bunbury wouldn’t even be considered.

I’m intrigued to see what Pitch will do once it premieres. If it plays its cards right, it could last for a while. It could become the Empire of baseball shows, I think.

What do you think of these shows? Give me your opinions in the comments section below!

#RepresentYourStory: The Unicorn Effect: Finding Self-Love and Acceptance as a Disabled Black Woman

By Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

I am Black.

I am physically disabled.

I am a woman.

It has taken me almost 30 years to embrace all of my identities at the same time.

Growing up, I never felt fully included within any of the three groups.  Being in a wheelchair made me stand out in the Black community like a sore thumb – people were friendly, but never knew how to approach the “little disabled Black girl in the chair.”  In school, I was in mainstream classes, & was dubbed “the smart disabled girl.”  This meant that I was separated from the other disabled children in my schools because I wasn’t “like” them; I was treated as a super cripple – cute, sweet, well-mannered kid who was incredibly smart despite being in the chair.  And as a girl, the boys didn’t date me – they didn’t want a disabled girlfriend, but thought that my crushes on them were funny.

Within each identity, I had battling roles to overcome:  felt outcasted as black and disabled; to those able-bodied I was the “right” kind of disabled that allowed me to not be seen as “useless;” and I wasn’t deemed attractive or dateable by the boys I liked.  However, there were dynamic moments and connections that reshaped how I viewed these identities, & how I grew to love the woman I saw in the mirror.

The first was the fact that I was incredibly fortunate to have been raised by a Grandmother who acted as a buffer for me against the ignorance – my Grandmother loved me unconditionally, and I knew this with every fiber of my being at a young age.  She was my carer, my advocate, and I was (and still is) the apple of her eye.  The bond was further strengthened by the fact that I had part of her name, which is something she adamantly wanted that my mother obliged.  That connection, plus her love for me, showed me that I was loveable, special, and valued, even in a society that tried to say otherwise.  It was her example that taught me what being a Black woman was about, and as I grew into my own womanhood, I used her as a model for what I could become, but as a disabled version.

In addition to having my Grandmother’s unwavering love, I learned what I was good at:  excelling in my classes, and writing.  The praise I received as a honor roll student soothed the exclusion pain I felt in school – I was “good” at something someone my age was expected to be, and I liked the attention I received from the adults, and enjoyed watching my able-bodied peers get envious that the “girl in the chair” was better than them.  In a twisted sense, these strengths laid sturdier bricks onto the foundation for my self-esteem and confidence as I navigated an ableist, ignorant world.

Though those bricks solidified the foundation, they also made me feel like a unicorn:  there were not a lot of disabled people of color around me in my classes.  The attention I received for doing well in my classes was positive, but it also created pressure for me to be “perfect.”  I knew that I was representing two main groups of my identities, being disabled and black.  Because there were not many of us in these settings, I knew that I couldn’t “mess up” or misbehave as other students (plus I knew what would happen to me at home if I did… Grandmother did not play when it comes to acting up in school).  I have always felt a sense of weight from the identities I carried; I never thought of it as a burden, but having eyes on me and knowing the opinions of others about my existence was the burdensome I felt.

It was when I ventured off to college that I began to meet other disabled people who understood my plight, and who also carried the unicorn weight I held up.  Those friendships allowed me to see that my life mattered greatly, and so did my voice.  Though I enjoyed my friendships, I noticed one thing:  I had not befriended many disabled people of color, or women of color with disabilities like myself.  Not having individuals who understood the unique challenges of being of color and disabled left a gaping hole that needed to desperately be filled.

It was not until 2013 when I created my self-advocacy organization that I finally began connecting with disabled people of color, and finally, disabled women of color.  Being of color is a huge part of who I am, that exceptionally grew in definition when I undertook African American Studies (AAMS) in college to learn more about my history as a Black American.  It is only fitting that connecting with disabled Black women, and other minorities, would make me feel complete in this experience.  What I found from meeting and befriending these women was that we were all desiring to meet each other, and struggled to find women who looked like us in the disabled community, in our schools, and in our communities.  They shared similar issues with feeling accepted in the racial group they were members of, struggled with embracing their sexuality and femininity, and worried about finding a partner who would love them – basically all of the matters I had been concerned about all of my life.  Connecting with each other had a powerful effect on validating our struggles and achievements.  These are my disabled Sistas – no other friendships come close to what I experience when I reach out to them.  They “get” me, and have closed the hole that previously existed.  I finally felt accepted for who I was as an African American disabled woman because I saw other women who looked just like me – I no longer felt like a unicorn, or an outcast.

The triple jeopardy hand I have been dealt with in life has not been easy by any means, but quite frankly, I would not change it either.  I am proud of the reflection that stares back at me in the mirror; I am fearless, I am strong, and most importantly, I am perfectly imperfect.  The experiences I endured along the journey to embracing my three identities greatly shaped how I view and interact with the world around me – I would not hold the strong levels of compassion, understanding, and empathy I possess if I was not born the way I am.  My differences are my strengths, not weaknesses, and at almost 30, I understand that to be fervently true.  I am strong enough to live this life because it is who I am meant to be.

When I go out into the world, I hold my head up high because I have no reason to doubt my worth – I am fearlessly and unapologetically me.

About Vilissa Thompson

Vilissa Thompson is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) from Winnsboro, SC. Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization focused on promoting self-advocacy and strengthening empowerment among people with disabilities. Being a Disability Rights Consultant, Writer, & Advocate affords Vilissa the opportunity to become a prominent leader and expert in addressing and educating the public and political figures about the plight of people with disabilities, especially women of color with disabilities. Being a disabled woman of color herself, sharing her life experiences, and tales from the women she has encountered during her advocacy work, has empowered her immensely because it validated the struggles and successes she endured in her young life.

Ways to connect with Vilissa:

Website:  http://rampyourvoice.com

Email:  Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com

Facebook:  /RampYourVoice

Twitter:  @VilissaThompson & @RampYourVoice

Do you want to participate in #RepresentYourStory? Share your story of self-acceptance at monique@colorwebmag.com, or fill out the #RepresentYourStory questionnaire! Read more about #RepresentYourStory here

 

New Trailer for “Loving” Released, Film to Open in Select Cities

Loving looks like it’s going to be a film that will not only tug at the heartstrings, but will also tug at the Academy’s strings as well. It truly looks like Loving is going to be that film that blows everyone away, especially in these hate-filled times. It’d the nice to be reminded about how simple and pure love is and that we should utilize more of it when we interact with each other.

The new trailer for Loving has been released, and if you’re like me and already love this movie, check the trailer out below, as well as the new trailer. Here’s more about the movie.

From acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols, Loving celebrates the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (portrayed by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who married and then spent the next nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry – and their love story has become an inspiration to couples ever since.

Loving will open in theaters in select cities on November 4, and will expand across the country later in November.

You can follow Loving on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and at its website. What do you think about Loving? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Loving-Poster

#RepresentYourStory: A New Initiative By JUST ADD COLOR

JUST ADD COLOR is known as a place that discusses representation in entertainment. But let’s be honest; there are a lot of sites and online personalities that discuss representation in entertainment. And even though my biggest interest is in how entertainment highlights Americans of all backgrounds, I’m even more interested in how those of us that aren’t always represented still manage to find ourselves and our voices, despite society telling us we shouldn’t even bother.

If I may be a little transparent here, I have to say that I’m surprised other sites who do focus on representation, particularly race, in entertainment haven’t focused on cultivating self-worth just as fiercely. It’s one thing to talk about what’s wrong with representation, and it’s another to discuss that as well as give examples and tips on how to combat the depression and isolation that comes with being weighed down by stereotypes. I wish there was a site that helped me overcome my issues growing up, so with that in mind, I’d like to provide that kind of a site to others. Thus, the introduction to a new permanent part of my site, #RepresentYourStory.

I’ll start off the #RepresentYourStory initiative with myself. I am a black woman who has had to face her share of colorism, hair politics, and general odd treatment growing up. As I’ve told Shaun from the “No, Totally” podcast, I might not be the lightest person in the world, but I’ve still felt like I’ve been given “light-skinned privileges” for other reasons beyond my skin color.

The stereotypical image of a black girl is one that unfortunately still seems to relate back to the “pickaninny”, a stereotype that vilifies black children, especially those with darker skin and coarser hair. I, on the other hand, was born with long, thick, medium-grade hair, and I’ve had to field questions of “Is that your real hair?” to people literally praising me solely because of my hair. Some folks even thought I wasn’t black because I had long, loose (and at that time, permed straight) hair. People have wanted to separate me from my African-American heritage because of my hair, declaring me to be French, Caribbean, Indian and so forth. That kind of attention made me feel really strange growing up, like I was a freak. I don’t like being made to feel like I’m somehow better just because of how I look, since anyone, regardless of their skin color or hair texture, can be beautiful. Top it off with the fact that, apparently, I am a highly sensitive person, something I don’t think many teachers expected from a child in general, much less a black child. I have always dealt with being the odd person out in many different scenarios.

In short, I’ve grown up often feeling like a token, especially in my mostly-white high school (the first time I’d been in a mostly-white environment); because I didn’t act in accordance to people’s narrow definitions of black behavior, I was automatically given other privileges and allocations and, in many ways, placed closer to whiteness. Meanwhile, other black kids in high school would look at me strange, as if I’d done something wrong, when I’d never asked for the treatment I was given. The irony is that I’m one of the most black-focused people there are, with a love for my blackness instilled in me by my mother. You can listen to me talk about my life on Shaun’s podcast here:

I resented being thought of as a token then, and I especially resent it now, since social media is, in many ways, like another big high school. There are many gatekeepers to what it means to “be black” on the internet, and I often don’t fit the bill for what their version of “blackness” entails. Having come up against that type of thinking on the internet in a very personal way, I have little patience for black folks telling other black folks how they should or shouldn’t think in order to be accepted as “black.”

It was only until a few years ago, particularly when I started my journey into owning a website, that I began to find myself and my voice. I realized that I didn’t have to feel weird because of my sensitivity, my hair, or how people viewed me. The baggage folks were placing on me wasn’t a reflection of me; it was a reflection of their own insecurities with themselves as well as their own narrow view of what blackness can be. I’ve always been a person who didn’t follow the crowd, but now I know there is a true strength in not being part of the flock of society. Being different is not a weakness. Being different is a strength if you can value the insight there is in being different, and if you have the internal fortitude it takes to own that difference. I admit that I didn’t always have that kind of fortitude. To be honest, there are days when I’m still not up to snuff 100 percent. But I’d rather be myself, be different, and own my self-worth than try to portray everything to everyone else.

So now that I’ve given my story, I want to read yours. How do you represent your story? What affected you growing up or later in life? What advice do you have for others who might need the same advice you needed years ago? Tell me about it! You can either submit a short article to me at monique@colorwebmag.com, or if you need help getting started, you can fill out my #RepresentYourStory questionnaire, and I’ll write an article based on your responses. If you love the #RepresentYourStory initiative, share it with everyone you know!

Either way, we can all help each other heal our wounds society has given us if we have the courage to be transparent, honest, and empathetic. Regardless of how we portray ourselves on social media, we all aren’t perfect; we’ve all had hills to climb in life. But we can all show each other the way by saying, “I’ve been there, too.”

“Tyrant”: Why Do People Love That “Sex” Article So Much?

It’s Tyrant season again! I’m already having to play catch-up (for those waiting on my Entertainment Weekly Community Blog recaps…just give me a second), but I thought that until I give my opinion the Season 3 opener, I’d jot some quick thoughts down about something that’s troubled me a long time; the popularity of one of my Tyrant articles, “Tyrant Season Two Quick Thoughts: Sex Scenes + an Ahmed Shout-Out.”

"Tyrant" Season Two Quick Thoughts: Sex Scenes + an Ahmed Shout-Out

The article itself isn’t the problem. In the article, I use a quote from my EW Community recap for one of the Season 2 episodes. The quote focuses on how uncomfortable I was with the show giving us a sex scene between Leila and Jamal, a scene which seemed to be misogynistic and exoticizing at the same time.

Did we need to see the sex scene, though? I know I’m a prude about some things, but did that [sex] scene really illuminate any kind of character beats? Or was it another way to objectify Middle Eastern women (particularly since we mostly see Leila’s face, not both of their faces)? I leave that as an open-ended question, since having sex really had nothing to do with the conversation they had about Bassam’s death later on. It’s strange pillow talk, at any rate.

This article is consistently one of the top articles on my site. Usually, I’d be glad about an article doing well. But in this case, I’m a bit disturbed. Why, out of all of the articles I’ve written about Tyrant, and out of all of the articles I’ve written in general, is this the one that becomes popular?

You could say I’m over-thinking this and am blowing things out of proportion, but I’m of the mindset that this article is popular just because it’s about a Middle Eastern woman having sex on-screen.

The fetishizing of non-white women, in this case Middle Eastern women, is nothing new. It’s been used in movies and television over and over again. Increasingly, such fetishizing is being used in basic news narratives, particularly when it comes to hijabis; there’s usually a narrative of how “restrained” they are and how they need “saving,” so to speak, which is usually a Western and/or white feminist code for losing identity and becoming a product for someone else’s enjoyment, whether that means adhering to white feminist rhetoric or taking on some other, more sexual mantle. It would appear the same thing happens in Tyrant from time to time.

The scene I wrote about had camera angles that were specifically showing a male voyeristic view of Leila’s part in the sexual episode. It focuses primarily on her and her body, not Jamal’s. The blatant objectification of Leila in the throes of sex leaves me feeling uneasy. Here we have a character who is already saddled with the pressures of being an object for a monster of a man, a man she doesn’t love. We already focus heavily on how her expensive wardrobe is an extension of her glamourous prison of a palace. Is it then necessary to then show Leila a prisoner to the camera as well? Hasn’t Leila been exploited enough?

To that end, I’m not exactly sure who is reading the aforementioned article, and why they are reading it. Most of the traffic for that article comes from people specifically looking up “Tyrant” and “sex scene.” As to why someone would want to watch a sex scene between a prisoner (because that’s basically what Leila is) and a rapist (because that’s definitely what Jamal is) is beyond me. Thus, the only reason I can come up with is that there must be some fetishizers out there. I know I’m baiting the folks who look up “Tyrant” and “sex” by writing this article, since some of the same tags will be used to define this article. But hopefully, this article gives me back some of the ownership over the Tyrant conversation as it relates to sex and fetish. I felt like I needed to interrupt the cycle.

But, my view of why the article is popular could be absolutely wrong. What do you think about this? Give your opinions in the comments section below.