Month: December 2016

Universal Fan Con: A Safe Space For ALL of Us

Jamie Broadnax

(originally posted at Black Girl Nerds)

The Black Geeks and Black Girl Nerds have partnered to host Universal Fan Con (UFC), with the mission of taking on the lack of representation in the geek community. The convention is set to take place in Baltimore, MD on April 27, 2018, at the Baltimore Convention Center and focusing on gaming, anime, TV shows, and Movies.  “We are excited to present the very first large scale multi-fandom convention dedicated to inclusion,”  announced the official Twitter of Universal Fan Con.

The core team bringing the con together consists of The Black Geeks, a multimedia company that serves as a source for “edgy and probing original commentary” on sci-fi, fantasy, and other entertainment coverage, and Black Girl Nerds, an online community promoting nerdiness among Black women & people of color. After many years of attending conventions, Robert Butler – CEO of The Black Geeks, and Black Girl Nerds creator, Jamie Broadnax, noticed a lack of diversity in the world of Cons.

“UFC hopes to fill the void of Diversity and give fans the chance to see the geek community through a diverse set of eyes,” said Butler.  UFC aims to be a 24-hour convention; meaning that all day and night there will be a panel or event running. “We felt that the only way to ensure that as many groups as possible were represented, we have to keep it going, ” said Butler.

The UFC team is currently spending hours developing and planning innovative ideas to implement at the upcoming fan conference. One idea being explored includes using geofencing technologies that could lead to shorter waits in line and a seamless check-in process. “The team and I are always looking for ways to incorporate technology into UFC. We want to employ new technology that will make long lines a thing of the past,” said Butler.

Butler, also a disabled Marine vet, hopes to incorporate more tools for geeks with disabilities. UFC expects attendees from every walk of life to leave feeling represented. “It’s incredibly important to the Black Geeks and Black Girl Nerds that everyone, and I mean everyone, feels as though they have a place at this Con,” said Butler.

“We’re redefining what diversity is, and hope you will join us in 2018,” Broadnax expressed.

With over 900 Twitter followers, the buzz around UFC has already begun to explode on Twitter. Many users have shown their support for the convention via the social media site. “This is going to be amazing. I can feel it in my bones,” said one UFC Twitter follower.

In less than 24 hours of the initial Kickstarter launch, UFC raised $2,500 from 55 backers. “Honestly, we did not expect to gain popularity so fast,” said Broadnax. The UFC team hopes to raise $25,000 to assist with some of the costs associated with making UFC the best experience ever for the fans. The UFC Kickstarter offers a variety of levels so that any backer can earn benefits for supporting the convention.

To help support UFC’s Kickstarter visit  And for more information about UFC, follow @UniversalFanCon on Twitter.

About The Black Geeks

The Black Geeks are a community of people who share a love for geek culture, be it tech, movies, video games, or comics. Our members engage in lively debates and substantive discourse rooted in the fan experience. The Black Geeks provide a space for independent content and in-depth discussion that highlights the good, while simultaneously providing constructive critiques and potential solutions for the bad. For us, nothing is off limits. That means debating the finer points of the MCU one minute and engaging in presidential politics the next.

Our mission is to push boundaries, redefine stereotypes, and move diversity to the frontlines. The Black Geeks are a representation of Geek culture rarely heard from or seen in pop-culture. Our opinions and views are important, and we’re challenging the status quo to engage us and make our voices part of the larger discussion. Geek is a dish best served with many ingredients.

At The Black Geeks we celebrate the unique experiences of people of color, but please don’t let the name fool you, our content is for everyone! So if you’re a geek, and you love everything from comics and movies, to politics and science, we have a place for you at our table, and if you’re feeling both geeky and expressive, we would love to hear from you. There’s always a place for someone like you on our team.

Feel free to write a review, add a comment, create a blog post, share something you like, or just enjoy reading the thoughts of our members and contributors. Whatever you choose, just remember to have fun, share your love of the genre with those who love it too, and let your geek flag fly proudly!

About Black Girl Nerds

Black Girl Nerds is a place for women of color with various eccentricities to express themselves freely and embrace who they are.  This is not a site exclusively for Black women.  It’s for ALL women who are just as nerdy as we are and the men who love and appreciate us.  I named this site Black Girl Nerds because the concept of Black women as geeky-dorky beings is somewhat of an anomaly.  It’s against the order of things in the “Black Girl” world.  We represent a wide array of diverse women who embrace all cultures and refuse to conform to the status quo.

This community does not have an exclusionary purpose.  The term “Black Girl Nerd” is not intended to be derogatory nor is it racially biased.  It is a term of endearment to all women like me who have been attached to a stigma that is not an accurate representation of my personality or my idiosyncratic behaviors.

This is a website for every nerdy girl that can finally come out of the closet and tell the world that they are PROUD to be who they are—no matter what anyone says, does, or thinks.  This is a place where you can truly be yourself and not be judged by others.  This site welcomes girls of all races, but it was called Black Girl Nerds because it is a term that is so unique and extraordinary, that even Google couldn’t find a crawl for the phrase and its imprint in the world of cyberspace.  The mission is to put an end to that and know that many Black Girl Nerds exist on this planet.

This community encourages other bloggers, web creators, and the like to create niche sites such as this one to spread to the world that being a nerd is a lovely thing.  In fact, being a nerd is a gift and should be highly revered.  It is not often that you will find an unsuccessful nerd.  Therefore be nice to your fellow nerds—you never know, you may be working for them one day.

For more information go to or follow us on Facebook or @UniversalFanCon on Twitter and Instagram.

“Rogue One:” A satisfying, sad chapter in the “Star Wars” franchise [SPOILERS]



Synopsis (Lucasfilm): From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Monique’s review: What a film.

Maybe it’s that time of the month and I’m being hormonal, or maybe the film was just that sad. But it’s about 48 hours after having seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and I’m still reeling from the ending. AUGH! MY HEART!

The opening crawl to Episode 4: A New Hope states that rebel spies steal the Death Star plans, but it doesn’t say that they die! I haven’t gotten over it yet.

It also doesn’t help that the princess of all space, Carrie Fisher has died. Can 2016 give us a break yet?!

The good:

What I loved about the film is that we got to see what Star Wars is like outside of the confines of the traditional crawl, so to speak. I, for one, liked that the film decided to forgo the crawl and throw us right into the movie. It makes sense, since this is the first story that that kickstarts the entire franchise, but it’s also a bold move that takes the franchise further into the future. We’re in the 21st century with Star Wars now; it needs to go beyond what the older fans expect. Now that we’ve got younger fans, the franchise has to use the 21st century modernization to enthrall and keep them. Also, the lack of a crawl added a freshness that a new fan like me appreciated. It made me feel like I was watching a sci-fi action film that didn’t chastise me for not having grown up with the Star Wars franchise.

Let’s talk about the cast. Overall, the cast is 8/15 POC (or should I say MOC), which is hefty for a blockbuster film, especially since they are all main characters. This number, I should say, is if you count the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (the actual figure of Darth Vader, as usual, is played by another actor, this time Spencer Wilding) There are only five main characters who are women, and one of them, Jyn’s mother Lyra (Valene Kane), gets killed early in the film and the other, young Princess Leia, is portrayed by a body double (Ingvild Deila) with a CGI’d face. Aside from Jyn, the most prominent woman in the film is Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), a senator from A New Hope who is mostly used in this film to give gravitas with her face and clothes, but not much more. If anything, she seemed to act as a loose replacement for Leia in the majority of this film, almost as if she were a preliminary sketch for the actual Leia character, down to her white robes.

(Interesting fashion note: It appears that this film is setting up the idea that style trends are a thing in the Star Wars universe–White is a color that seems to have been popular up until the construction and usage of the Death Star. Perhaps the lack of white after A New Hope suggests that the innocence of the galaxy before the Death Star had been lost.)

Why is counting the amount of non-white people and women important? Because in Star Wars films of the past, the cast has been mostly white, with only a few POC actors as minor rebel pilots who quickly get killed. Having people of all racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds gives Star Wars the legitimacy it needs as both a contemporary film in a multicultural world and as a space opera itself; why does science fiction/fantasy just have be a place for white people, when we all would like to live in a galaxy far, far away?


The character portrayals themselves are great despite being a little truncated. Was it because the screenwriter knew we’d only be seeing these characters in one film? At any rate, the characters’ collective fates make their performances even more riveting and haunting. Felicity Jones held down the movie as Jyn Erso, further establishing the notion that women can successfully helm “boys’ movies” and bring in the big bucks. I also thought Diego Luna played Cassian Andor convincingly, but I must point out that like Mon Mothma, his character seemed like a sketch of an early Han Solo, what with his own “who shot first” moment early in the movie (although they don’t show a close-up on Cassian’s hand pulling the trigger, we know he’s the guy who shot his informant in cold blood).

Cassian, though, provides one of the most satisfying character arguments I’ve seen in film in a long time. Surprisingly, the film delves into privilege when discussing Jyn’s sudden turn to the resistance after years of not caring about who’s in power. Jyn’s turn comes after her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) dies. Even though Galen dies due to his involvement with the Empire—he was the chief architect of the Death Star, who defected, then later came back to work on the project in order to place a well-hidden weak spot—Jyn blames Cassian, who was ordered by the resistance to kill Galen. It’s when Jyn offends Cassian’s honor as it relates to fighting for the resistance that Cassian decides to tell her the ugly truth about herself. Jyn, he said, was picking and choosing when she wanted to fight for the resistance, whereas he had been fighting for it since he was a small child. While Jyn found it easy to take up the resistance mantle after years of running, Cassian and others like him had devoted their entire lives to the cause. Jyn had no right to assert she automatically knew more about fighting the good fight than someone like him, who had sacrificed everything to get to that point.

On the surface, it reads like a standard argument about who has more to lose and who has the most to learn. But when it’s played out, the optics—a white woman “Damonsplaining” resistance fighting to a Latino man whose been in the trenches long before she had no choice but to care—took the scene up a level to near discomfort for some in the audience, I’m sure. If put in today’s context, the scene was basically a man of color telling a “well meaning,” but insensitive and selfish white woman that she can’t co-opt the fight for social justice and chastise someone else’s part in the fight just because she realized she should have been fighting long ago. The distillation of Cassian’s message was that Jyn should be reckoning with herself as to why she found it so easy not to fight the good fight, considering all she had at stake. It shouldn’t have taken Galen’s death to spur her into action. Similarly, a lot of Jyn Ersos in the audience should ask themselves why it’s taken them so long to join the social justice fight a lot of marginalized people have already been a part of and, indeed, have sacrificed a lot for.

Other standouts include Donnie Yen as the blind devotee to the Force, Chirrut Îmwe, and his friend? life partner? Baze Malbus, played by Wen Jiang.

I went into the film aware of the strong reaction these two had garnered online, with many believing that these two could be Star Wars‘ first gay couple. I say that’s great if it’s true, but if it is, then it’d be nice for Lucasfilm and Disney to actually confirm that. 

Rogue One director Gareth Edwards told Yahoo! Movies that he doesn’t mind people reading a relationship into the characters. “I think that’s all good” he said. “Who knows? You’d have to speak to them.”

“Them” being the characters. Come on now, Edwards. Quit being coy.

The coyness is what kills me, honestly. I’ll get to this in “the bad” section of this review, but seriously, the cutesy answers like this from directors need to stop. People don’t like having their emotions played with, and LGBT viewers are a demographic who have had their hopes dangled in front of them like carrots by the entertainment industry for far too long. Queerbaiting isn’t a good business practice for any entertainment studio, especially not in today’s time.

With that said, the evidence for Chirrut and Baze being that couple that’s been together so long that you can’t understand what they still see in each other (no pun intended) is strong from the beginning. They’re a package deal from the first time we meet them, with Baze hovering protectively over Chirrut, who is very much capable of being on his own. But even though we come to know that Baze is entirely aware of Chirrut’s independence (I mean, Chirrut can beat up hordes of stormtroopers in minutes), he still watches over him, and Chirrut lets him. Perhaps a better word to use is that Chirrut allows it.

Second, we have when the gang is on some rainy planet (the same planet Galen and Jyn have their sad reunion) and Chirrut decides to go trudging after Jyn, Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) and Cassian. If memory serves, Baze taunts him a bit, saying Chirrut would have to be lucky out on his own to survive. Chirrut says, “I don’t need luck; I have you.” At the very extreme, this could be excused away as just banter between really good friends. Sure, Chirrut and Baze are best friends, but movies don’t usually portray friendship in this fashion. This moment was basically the “You complete me” line from Jerry Maguire. Except that in movies, men and women are instantly coded as being in a relationship, while same-sex couples are nearly almost instantly coded as being “just friends.” If one of these characters was a woman, you’d have people vehemently arguing against any idea that their relationship was merely platonic friendship.

Also, this moment, as explained by Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan, is something that seals the deal, if you were in doubt after the “I have you” statement:

“He spends his final moments in Baze’s lap, and as his friend stares down at him, devastated, Chirrut raises his hand as if to caress Baze’s cheek. It’s the simplest gesture, but it packs a potent, more-than-platonic current, and as Chirrut expires, it’s clear that Baze does not want to live in a world without this man. He charges almost suicidally into battle, firing at Stormtroopers while repeating Chirrut’s mantra over and over–finally, at the end of his life, paying tribute to his partner’s guiding philosophy–until he, too, is felled. And while there are still plenty of big moments yet to come as Rogue One completes its story and links up with the familiar opening minutes of A New Hope, I couldn’t stop thiking about that near caress and what it might mean. After the movie was over, I asked other audience members if they thought Baze and Chirrut could have been in a relationship, and I was surprised by how many people had been picking up on the same signal.”

I must also add that as Baze faces his death, he looks back at Chirrut’s body, as if he was mentally telling himself and Chirrut that he’d be reunited with him soon. Comfortable friendship is one thing, but showing an all-encompassing love to where you don’t want to live without the other is a completely different kettle of fish, and Rogue One toys with that kettle a lot. If you read their relationship another way, you’re basically sticking your head in the sand.

Another point: Yen did an interview with GT, formerly known as Gay Times Magazine. Movie stars who are playing gay characters do interviews with gay outlets, for instance, Moonlight‘s Trevante Rhodes doing an interview with OUT Magazine. So that kinda cements it as far as I’m concerned.

Chirrut and Baze as two people in a same-sex relationship remind me of what John Cho said about the invisibility of gay Asian men in movies. Cho said that for Star Trek Beyond, he took his character Sulu’s sexuality as a way to pay homage to some of his friends:

“…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.”

In this vein, Chirrut and Baze are even more important; not only are they providing a much-needed outlet for LGBT viewers, but they are also providing an outlet for gay Asian men, who are marginalized along racial lines and within the mainstream LGBT community as a whole.


I mentioned Riz Ahmed above; his character Bodhi is super important because it finally breaks with Hollywood tradition of casting brown actors as “the terrorist” or “the taxi driver.” Finally, an actor like Ahmed, of Pakistani heritage, can be the hero of a film.

Silicon Valley‘s Kumail Nanjiani explained it best with his Twitter thread:

It was also cool to see Tyrant‘s Fares Fares in a role as well. The racial and ethnic diversity abounds in this film, and I’m glad for it.

The bad

I liked Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. The trailers make you think you’re going to spend the majority of the movie with him, but we don’t. I wish we had more time with him.

Saw raised Jyn after was forced to separate from her parents, so you’d think we would have gotten to see more of their relationship after their reunion. It seemed like a waste to just have Whitaker around for a couple of scenes, only for him to die nobly minutes later. Whitaker gave his scenes his all, though; you can’t say he didn’t chew scenery.

K2SO, played by Alan Tudyk, was…interesting. This might be the first droid I’m lukewarm on. I get that he’s supposed to have a personality—all of the droids do—but maybe the personality went a little overboard with this one. He (since the droid is coded as such) sounded a little too human to be a realistic, more crudely made droid, and it took me out of the film a little bit each time he spoke. He did grow on me, but it took a while.

I wish there were more women of color in this film. I address this at length in this article, but just to reiterate, it’d be nice for me, as a black woman, to see more black women and women of color in general do things in this franchise.

Also, it kinda seems like Jyn still co-opts the resistance and becomes a de facto leader, even though she hasn’t done much to earn the role. Meanwhile everyone else who has given much has to follow her, as if they’ve never come up with a bright idea before. That bugged me. Again, the optics—white savior leading POC soldiers towards victory—painted the picture.

Chirrut is awesome, but does his characterization bleed into the “Hero” stereotype of disabled characters? It definitely could.

Much emphasis is on how accomplished and independent he is in spite of his disability, as if his disability is something that would make him weak otherwise. What’s actually true is that he’s strong because of his disability; it’s because of his adversity that he’s found the strength to channel the Force. On the other hand, though, the fact that he uses the Force to see has its roots in the ableism of the script, which posits that with “sight,” Chirrut is closer to being an able-bodied person. However, Chirrut doesn’t struggle against his disability, which is something that is seemingly inherent in the “Hero” stereotype. He seems to embrace it as a part of himself, which is encouraging. In short, Chirrut’s characterization teeters on both edges of the disability stereotype spectrum.


I already mentioned it above, but just to reiterate: It’s not cool when franchises bait the audience. If Chirrut and Baze are together, everyone in the film should be of one accord and say that to the press. Edwards’ maddeningly cutesy answer flies in the face of those who don’t feel Chirrut and Baze’s relationship is a joke to piddle around with. Of course, I’m sure Edwards is a fine person; he, like most of the people under the Bad Robot helm, is all about diversity. I also don’t think he means to turn Chirrut and Baze into a joke. But to say that we should ask the characters takes all of the onus off of him as the director, who has the unique ability of deciding who gets to be what in the movie. He made it a point to have a diverse cast, right? Why not make it a point to say definitively if Chirrut and Baze are in love? What’s the difference? (I know, “money,” but seriously, though, what’s the difference?)

Finally, I didn’t like the idea of reviving characters with CGI at all.

I understand the minds behind the film feeling that Tarkin and Leia were crucial to tying this film into A New Hope. But I just didn’t care for it at all. It was way too creepy and jarring to me. However, Leia looked a lot more convincing than Governor Tarkin (who we know as Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope). Like Leia, Tarkin had a body double (Guy Henry), but whereas Leia’s transplanted face looked like it could be sustained relatively easily throughout a film (because of Leia’s Disney Princess like features, which are probably easier to animate), Tarkin’s wasn’t realistic enough. To me, this was a case of the animation needing to be as close to the uncanny valley as possible, if not all the way in it.

For me, Tarkin’s face had too many Pixarisms to make me believe it was a real person. Yes, I know the CGI was by Industrial Light and Magic, but I’m sure there was some crossover at some point since this is a Disney movie after all. The eyes seemed too big, the nose seemed to long, and he ended up coming off as a more realistic version of the old man from Pixar short Geri’s Game.

This video explains what I’m talking about (after much fanboy-ing):

If O’Reilly could play Mon Mothma, who looks just like the original Mon Mothma, Caroline Blakiston, how come Guy Henry, who looks and sounds similar to Peter Cushing, couldn’t play Tarkin without the CGI?

Final verdict

I liked the film a lot. It’s a bit of a mood-killer, since all of our heroes die. But I don’t think we were ever promised they’d survive. The subversive aspect of a genre film like this one injecting some realism is quite jarring; we’re used to the heroes surviving no matter what. Even when Han Solo was supposedly dead from carbonite, he still survived. The fact that everyone dies and not just one singular character ups the stakes for the entire fight for the galaxy. It’s no longer child’s play; it’s hardcore. We’re not just following fun characters on an adventure; we’re following people who will give up their lives for a cause. Things are serious, and it’s fascinating that such a serious tone would inject itself in these films at this point in time. As many have said, this film has a serious social message embedded within it (again, something the film’s team coyly deny). If anything, the film warns us to jealously guard our own freedoms; don’t wait until it’s too late to stand up for what’s right.

Resist Trump’s agenda with these 15 steps

Elvert Barnes/Flickr Creative Commons

You’ve been reading the news, imagining what America under a President Donald Trump would be like, and the thought of it makes you want to do something. But what?

If Trump’s presidential win has fired you up and you’re ready to go, but you need some direction, check out this list of 15 steps you can take. You can use all or just some of these steps as a jumping off point, but on the whole, these steps will help you find a manageable way to dive into the world of social activism.

1. Don’t get sucked into the propaganda

As a journalist, I can tell you firsthand that the profession has started to decay from the inside out. It’s started years ago, but the rot is only just beginning to show. Now, I’m not saying that every journalist out there is bad and every journalism outlet is now on Trump’s payroll. But what I am saying is that the rise of the 24/7 news cycle and the “news-for-ratings” mentality has led too many news outlets to rush to be the first on a particular storyline without actually investigating it.

For instance, we’ve heard a lot about the “alt-right,” Trump’s Cabinet picks, Trump’s bad presidential policy (before he even gets in office) and there’s a very real danger of Trump possibly using the media to his advantage once (or if) he gets in office. But we haven’t really felt outrage from the media about any of these stories. Instead, they report the news, give a little emotion behind it, and then wait for the next story. Waiting to be fed like birds isn’t what the journalism industry is supposed to be. We as the Fourth Estate are supposed to be forcing those in office to hold higher standards, not wait until they feed us lies for us to regurgitate as “reporting.”

This is a bit of a rant, but what I’m saying to you is to keep your online bookmarks stocked with sites you can trust. Nowadays, a lot of the news you can use is coming from alternative sources, like Teen VogueFusionVice, The Young Turks and some staples like Al Jazeera. For the most part, The Associated Press is good to use, despite some of their previous hiccups when reporting on the alt-right. Also, I just refer to them out of habit since all journalists have had to depend on The Associated PressOther newspaper sites, like The Los Angeles Times and online news sites like Politico are also good places to find news that hasn’t yet catered to Trump’s wishes. However, if you still want to stay on top of the standards, Reading The New York Times and USA Today don’t hurt.

My list doesn’t have to be your list, though; find what fills your news void and stick with it and when choosing your news to partake, stay mindful of the story’s headline. If it tries to portray Nazis as something akin to gentle hipsters, or Trump’s antics as traditional presidential behavior, then keep that story moving and find something else to read.

2. Figure how where your activism strengths lie

Not all of us can be on the frontlines of a march, and frankly, not all of us have to be. We all aren’t one-size-fits-all, so if you don’t think you can’t handle being in the middle of a march, then don’t think of yourself as a failure. What you can do, though, is find out how to best utilize your strengths in an activist capacity.

Are you good at art? Spread your message with your paints, pens, pencils and brushes! Are you a skilled dancer? Create a moving piece based on your personal feelings about America. Are you good at poetry? Do like my sister Ashley and write a book of poems about how you want to see the world become a better place. Do you love singing and songwriting? Perform your own original song, full of your message. Like writing in general? Do like me and start a website to get your message out there. If your strengths to lie more on the side of extroversion and you want to get out there and you want to protest as loud as you can, go do that.

We need voices of all types of voices willing to use their gifts to better our society. People learn in all sorts of ways, so we need all kinds of teachers willing to put themselves out there to teach and inspire. Just because you might not be on the battlefield, as it were, doesn’t mean you can’t contribute.

3. Act on those strengths! Don’t rest your laurels!

Once you figure out what your strengths are, utilize your gifts to their maximum potential. On the one hand, you’ll be surprised where your gifts can take you. But on the other hand, if you use your talents at their max, you’ll be apt to reach that many more people. Don’t think that there’s not an audience for your gift (because we’re all hurting out here right now).

4. But do rest your laurels. 

With that said, please take some time to actually take a chill pill. If there’s one misconception about activism, it’s that the activist is always on. Activists are people too, and people like eating, going to the movies, walking in the park, and sleeping in late. Do take the time to rest yourself.

5. Take some time to actually forget about what’s going on, for the sake of your brain. 

When things get overwhelming (and they will) try to just block out the world for a couple of hours. The world will not collapse because you aren’t doing something every second of the day. What will collapse is you if you don’t take care of your mental computer. What I often do is watch cake, nail art, and DIY videos on YouTube. Find what helps you turn your brain off.

6. Speak out against bad acts if you see them happening. 

When you see someone behaving badly, such as harassing a hijab-clad woman on the street or saying something derogatory to a Latinx family in the store, do something about it. Whether that’s confronting the person outright or calling the manager to get the offender escorted from the store, find some way to help those who need your help at that moment.

7.  Block people online (and maybe in life) who only mean you harm. 

Muting, blocking, and/or reporting people online is a definite must-do for folks writing or talking about activism. There will always be those who try to refute your opinion with their racist “facts,” or try to demean you. Clearly, you don’t want to waste your energy on those trolls.

However, for some of you reading this, you might have to drop some folks in your day-to-day life. Maybe the person you thought was your friend is actually more prejudiced than you realize. Maybe you’re faced with checking your neighbors one day. These folks just might have to be left to the curb as you go on in your journey.

8. Educate those you can reach in your inner circle

Sometimes, though, the bigots in your life just might be your parents or siblings. In that case, it’s a lot harder (and way more emotional) to just excommunicate them from your life. If you feel you can reach them, try to make them understand your message. Sometimes our elders just don’t know better and just need to be shown the way; just because they’re older doesn’t mean they’re always wiser.

9. If you have friends of the same gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, etc, befriend someone of another race/culture/sexual orientation/etc.

You won’t grow your worldly perspective if you don’t actually interact with the world. The real hurdle some have to jump is if they can take their activism from the theoretical to the practical. For instance, it’s one thing to say you believe black lives matter when you’re speaking from an egocentric, “I want to be seen as the good person” view, but it’s another to say that and still harbor discriminatory thoughts that block you from not only making friends with black people, but from not seeing black people as potential threats.

Communicate with those you want to be in allyship with. Get to know them and empathize with them. Friendships with those not like you are the most potent ways of overcoming bad habits and seeing others as humans, not theories or objects.

You must have intersectionality for activism to work. This is my personal view; in today’s times, we’re more interconnected than ever, and activist groups have to work together to get major things done. Yes, people fighting for the causes of one race in particular is great, but they still need alliances with other activist groups. At the end of the day, marginalized people are all fighting for the same thing: recognition of our humanity and dignity. With our common goals, it only makes sense that we come together.

10. If you’re white and want to stay accountable, order yourself a Safety Pin Box subscription. 

If you love subscription boxes, I know of no other subscription box to help you on your journey towards activism greatness than the Safety Pin Box. The subscription, created by activist/organizers Leslie Mac and Marissa Jenae Johnson, Safety Pin Box makes white allies actually accountable in their allyship in measurable ways. The box, riffing on the idea of folks using the safety pin as a sign of solidarity, puts the actual work in allyship (whereas just wearing a pin is too easy of an out).

The monthly subscription also helps financially support black femme freedom fighters. Also, black women and black femme activists can receive a one-time financial gift from the Safety Pin Box’s Black Women Being monthly drawing.

11. Do your research. 

Part of the greatness of the Safety Pin Box is that it forces those who want to walk in the path of allyship to actually do the work necessary. This leads to my next point: everyone who wants to help marginalized people should do their own research. This includes other marginalized people researching the issues that affect other marginalized people. There’s a base understanding of white discrimination against people of color in general, but how often do we face POC discrimination of other POC head on? How often do we face marginalized people discriminating against LGBTQ people of color? Again, intersectionality is the key here. Learn about your fellow humans.

12. Donate

As millennials, sometimes money is tight; the job market still isn’t everything it could be. But if you see an organization that needs financial support and you’ve got the means, donate some of your money. It can only help strengthen the organization, which in turn can help strengthen the rest of us in the fight for equality. Some organizations include the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, The National Council of La Raza, Council on American-Islamic Relations, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, The National Congress of American Indians, the NAACP, GLSEN, Southern Poverty Law CenterRace Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, and many others not listed here.

13. Cultivate a group of friends (in the real world or online) who will support you in your activism journey. 

Earlier, I wrote that you might have to let some people lie where they are as you continue on in your journey. Whether that happens to be the case for you or not, it never hurts to cultivate a strong support group, either in “real life” or online. Together, you can keep each other uplifted and upbeat during the tough times, and you can have someone to celebrate with during the victories.

14. Develop a self-care regimen

I alluded to this above, but I need to stay it outright; it’s important to take care of yourself as you go on a selfless journey like this. This is also advice to myself, because I often neglect certain basics of self care. But for me, self care includes remembering the goals I want to achieve in life–not just when it comes to social justice, but my career goals, relationship goals, fashion goals, etc. Remembering your goals helps you remember who you are as a human being.

Remembering what you love doing also keeps you present. Indulge in your hobbies and talents to take you out of this world and into your own personal space.

Also, remembering the loved ones in your life will keep everything in perspective. The people who love you will have your back whether the world crumbles around our feet or not. It’s their love that serves as a reminder that we are not just specks of insignificance on this planet; they remind us that we do matter, especially if we might forget that fact ourselves.

15. Remember why you’re on an activist’s journey

Things generally get tough before they get easier, and some of the most important goals in life are often the hardest to achieve. We often get fed the idea that Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, heck even Jesus, had it easy in their life’s journey. Clearly, they didn’t. Throughout their lives of service, they faced their own doubts, setbacks, and hopelessness. Can you imagine going up against injustice in the tougher political and social climates they had to face? In comparison, we have it a little easier, but not by much.

The fact is that the majority of us now facing our own “piss or get off the pot” moments when it comes to activism and we, unlike our parents and grandparents, didn’t grow up in a time in which the civil liberties we enjoy now were secure. Because of our relative softness, we might wonder if we have the heartiness to withstand the pressure that’s facing us.

This is the point in which all of us have to steel ourselves and rely on each other. We must nurture the belief we can handle the storm and prevail. Alone, we have power, but together, we have even more. We also must remember the end goal, which isn’t actually about us; right now, we’re fighting so the next generation won’t have to put up with the same BS we’re dealing with right now. We’re fighting for their futures just as much as we’re fighting for our own. That’s why the activist path is so important; if you’re willing to do what you can to make the next generation’s lives better and much closer to that ideal of “a more perfect union,” then you’re already on the way towards success.

BONUS: Want more ways to resist bigotry and make a change in America? A website called “Weekly Actions to Resist Trump” provide actionable tasks to take each week in terms of contacting government officials and donating to organinzations. Rolling Stone‘s article “5 Ways People Are Resisting President-Elect Trump” provides some of the tips given in this list, as well as more information on volnteering, contacting your representatives in government, and more. A citizen’s guide to strategic resistance called Indivisible: A Practical Guide for For Resisting the Trump Agenda,” was created by former U.S. Congressional staffers and shared as a Google doc. Ironically, it is inspired by the same tactics used by the Tea Party.

What steps do you have to offer to the list? Provide them in the comments section below!

Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron ham it up in “Baywatch” trailer

Paramount Pictures

Hot off his Sexiest Man Alive recognition and his success with Moana, Dwayne Johnson is heading back to the movie theater next year with Baywatch. The film, also starring Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario, pokes gentle fun at the original Baywatch TV show, complete with slow-motion running, over-the-top rescues, and the show’s overt focus on flopping boobs.

The premise of the movie is shaping up to be yet another buddy-cop type comedy, with the old school, seasoned vet (Johnson) begrudgingly taking on a young hotshot who is reckless, but still has the skills needed for the job (Efron). It’s a formula we’ve seen before. It’s also a formula that would be even more tired than it is now, but with Johnson’s charisma and charm, the film still manages to wring out some life from the genre.

There are also some surprises in store with this trailer, like a quick look at Priyanka Chopra’s HBIC-looking character, and a sly joke about racial privileges.

Check out the trailer below and see what you think! Baywatch comes to theaters May 2017.

4 reasons why the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” trailer rocks

Marvel Studios

Marvel has had a time with inclusiveness in their films. For most of their first two phases, they have failed at it, to be honest. The beginning of their third phase has gotten off to a rocky start with Doctor Strange. However, Marvel seems to be swiftly making up for their errors; first, we had Netflix’s Luke Cage (which has been greenlit for a second season, so hopefully we can get more #ShadyMariah action). We’ve also seen the amazing cast for 2018’s Black Panther. Now, we’ve got the trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, and boy does it look refreshing.

Let me count the ways in which Spider-Man: Homecoming might be the turning point for Marvel’s films.

1. It actually looks like the real world. Let’s face it; New York City doesn’t look like Sex and the City. I’d say Law and OrderNew York: Undercover and Living Single are the closest things to what New York actually looks and feels like. It’s a high-class town, and it’s also one of the grimiest towns. It’s also full of people of color.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, unlike other Marvel films, actually portrays New York as the diverse melting pot it is. The film also goes one step further and imbues a freshness to the city. Maybe it’s because the film is also in a high school setting and the majority of the cast are young. But this version of New York matches the vibe of the city—fast-paced and full of life.

2. A black girl is the love interest. Laura Harrier’s Liz Allan is “the new top,” (which is what Peter calls her, I think), and I couldn’t be happier. Now, if I’m being honest, we can talk about colorism issues, since there’s no black or biracial girl who’s darker than a paper bag in this movie. But that doesn’t negate the fact that Harrier is the first black love interest in a Marvel movie. That’s both a legendary title (for Harrier) and a shameful one (for Marvel).

Marvel Studios

How Peter, who seems way out of her league, gets her as his girl is something I’m dying to figure out, because I’m not seeing how Liz would give Peter the time of day. And maybe Zendaya’s character (who is or isn’t Mary Jane) is the one Peter’s actually supposed to be with (a la Clueless). If that’s the case, I hope the racists are extra mad, since either way, Peter ends up with a non-white girlfriend.

3. Marvel finally showcases positive multicultural representation. Jacob Batalon’s character Ned Leeds is a Filipino-American actor hitting the scene in a big way, and what better way to kick off your Hollywood career than in a splashy Marvel movie. The film also showcases the talents of Kenneth Choi, Orange is the New Black‘s Selenis Leyva (shown in the trailer), Hannibal Burress, Garcelle Beauvais, Tony Revolori, Abraham Attah, Donald Glover and many, many others. This is the most diverse cast in Marvel Studios history, which is damning praise, but praise nonetheless.

Jacob Batalon and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming. (Marvel Studios)

4. It looks like the Spider-Man movie we’ve always been promised. When the original Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire came out, we were happy with it; it seemed cool and the comic book movie genre was still in its infancy. But now, after so many iterations of Spider-Man’s origin story, the film franchise was in danger of dying out just because we were all sick of seeing Uncle Ben die. Thankfully, Marvel had the sense to skip all of that drudgery this time around. Uncle Ben is already dead, Aunt May isn’t a grandma, and we’re following Peter (who actually looks like he should be in high school—sorry, Tobey) as he finds his place within the Avengers, aka The Grown Adults Club. Also, we get some extra Iron Man appearances for our trouble. The film is ready to immerse us in the rest of the stories Spider-Man has for us.

Check out the trailer below and write what you think in the comments section. Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters July 7, 2017.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” trailer pits apes against white folks

20th Century Fox/screencap

As a Planet of the Apes superfan, I am excited beyond a doubt to see the trailer for the next installment in the modern Planet of the Apes series, War for the Planet of the Apes. I’m happy to say I’ve loved what I’ve seen.

Take a look at the trailer for yourself:

First, it’s super exciting to see Caesar back in rare form. Rarest form, I should say, since Caesar (and the other apes I’m sure) is showing much more human-like motion and much broader range with the English language. All he needs to start doing now is wearing the classic green chimpanzee suit.

Second, I’m curious about the girl. Why is she so important, and why does Caesar constantly cape for humans? I mean, I get it; I’m joking just a little. But seriously, though, why? Koba went off the rails, sure, but it’s not like he was completely wrong as to why he thought humans had no place in his ape world. I’m just saying.

(Yes, if push comes to shove in the human apocalypse at the hands of apes, I will be a traitor to my species.)

Third, Woody Harrelson looks intimidating as humanity’s last hope for survival, the unnamed colonel. Of course, Harrelson will crush this role. But this also brings me up to a gripe I have with sci-fi: the lack of prominent roles for actors of color.

Now, it’s not that I want to be at the center of an apocalyptic fight anyway, but how come humanity is still being represented as just one race? To be fair, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we had Frieda Pinto and David Oyelowo. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, there was a smattering of POC extras with lines in the movie and in the main cast, there was Kirk Acavedo and Jon Eyez (as humans) and Laramie Doc Shaw and Andy Serkis (as apes)—of course, Serkis has played Caesar in all of the recent Apes films, but he’s also a POC actor covered in CGI. It’s the human casts that always bug me a little, and the human cast for War of the Planet of the Apes seems just as lacking as the previous two, if not moreso. Granted, we don’t know how important East Los High star Gabriel Chavarria’s character Preacher will be in the film, or Mercedes de la Zerda’s Lang, or Emmanuel Amadeo Badal’s soldier character. But in any event, the fight for humanity still seems like a white event with all three films featuring white male leaders (or, in James Franco’s case, the ultimate villain to humanity by creating the fateful vaccine that would facilitate the end of our world).

I write this to bring up a larger point; it would be nice if we could have a person of color be cast as the leader of humanity for once in these doggone movies. What do we have to do to get that position?

To switch gears back to the main plot of the film, it’s clear that this is the film that will act as the bridge to the original ’60s movies. Director Matt Reeves, a self-proclaimed Planet of the Apes superfan, has said in previous interviews that his plan for the films going forward is for them to link back up to the originals, and it seems like the progression will happen much more seamless than I ever thought possible. Case in point: Caesar’s second son. I figured he would be baby Cornelius, and now we have confirmation via IMDB; stunt actreess Devyn Dalton is listed as playing Cornelius.

This also makes me wonder if this just might be the last time we see Caesar. I hope not, but soon, the series will have to start following Cornelius if we’re ever to get to Taylor finding himself held captive on Earth.

Write your thoughts about War for the Planet of the Apes in the comments section after viewing the trailer. What do you think about the franchise as a whole? Give me your thoughts.


How Standing Rock revealed America’s true potential

The Young Turks/YouTube

The protests at Standing Rock did what few believed it could; it stopped the Dakota Access Pipeline from being drilled on Lakota land.

As the Los Angeles Times wrote, the move by the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the pipeline to continue construction came as a “surprise move,” even though the fight still isn’t over (the pipeline’s fate rests with the corps’ environmental impact statement, yet to come).

However, the victory for the protesters and water protectors wasn’t the only miraculous thing that happened. Many veterans who had volunteered to act as human barricades for the protesters met with the Standing Rock Sioux elders and leaders in a reservation casino auditorium.

Wesley Clark Jr., one of the organizers of Veterans Stand with Standing Rock, wore the uniform of 7th Calvary of the 1800s, as if to symbolically forth the spirit of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, one of the many army generals who fought the Native Americans for their land on behalf of the U.S. Government. (The event also happened on birthday of Custer, another way to tie Custer’s spirit to the event.)

Clark knelt along with several other veterans to ask for forgiveness for their ancestors past crimes.

To quote Clark (via Indian Country Today):

“Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. Then we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, that the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you. We polluted your Earth. We’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service an we beg for your forgiveness.”

For me, this is a powerful moment and it represents a powerful shift in America’s own spiritual awakening. I’ll try not to get too woo-woo in this post, but if it happens it happens, since I’m writing about some metaphysical stuff.

I’ve always felt like there would come a time when America would have to wake up to its atrocities and go through the lengths necessary to fix them. Consciously, I didn’t think Americans would ever have the guts to get dirty and actually come to terms with the unrest that has afflicted them.

It’s now a scientific fact that trauma and other extreme emotional states can be passed down through generations. It makes a lot of sense for Clark to spiritually embody the role of Custer in this ceremony; while it may not be his line specifically, Clark’s culture has a generational weight of guilt that it has yet to fully process. That generational state must contend with the generational traumas of the first Americans as well as every other non-white group in America. With so much guilt piled up, it’s understandable to not want to face it.

However, when it is faced head on, marvelous and miraculous things like this ceremony can happen. This is where true healing begins.

This ceremony shows just how much America could achieve if it works to erase its original sins. If there could be more moments like this in our country, we will actually be doing the work of making this country great.

I believe there are more moments like this around the corner. With all of the stuff this election has stirred up, there are bound to be more moments when white Americans will ask for the forgiveness of those they’ve wronged. If and when these moments happen, America’s future will look much brighter.

What do you think about this moment? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Sophie Okonedo and Hugh Bonneville shine in “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” Part 1


I’m a sucker for an English period drama, and I’m especially a sucker for English period drama featuring people of color, so I was definitely going to watch The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses. The four-part drama on PBS follows the original The Hollow Crown series; in the follow-up we see how King Henry IV and King Richard III rose to power and eventually fell amid the court’s battle for the crown.

All of this is based on the plays of William Shakespeare, so I’ll say upfront that I’m not well versed in Shakespeare outside of Macbeth, Hamlet and Othello. Also, I haven’t seen the first The Hollow Crown, so I’m not sure if this sequel seemed like it was going to fast or if it was just because I’d missed the first part. However, I’ll say that if you love scenery-chewing performances, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses is for you.

Two of the best performances from Part 1 include Sophie Okonedo as Queen Margaret and Hugh Bonneville as Henry’s uncle and protector, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Both of them keep you glued to the screen, hanging on their every word. On the one hand, you recognize Okonedo’s portrayal of Margaret as someone who is not just duplicitous, but also a woman vying for her own power, disgusted by having to be married to a man unfit for the crown as a means to keep herself and her father from prison. On the other hand, you have Bonneville’s Gloucester doing his best to keep his nephew safe and keep his late brother’s dynasty secure.

One of the best moments of the night include when Margaret, fed up with Gloucester’s wife Eleanor (who is also trying to put a hex on Margaret with a voodoo doll), tries to shame Eleanor by telling her to pick up her fan. What happens afterwards is amazing.

Another is Humphrey’s speech after realizing he’s being boxed out of his job as Royal Protector. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video of this online, which is a shame, because it’s one of the finest moments of the two-hour night.

Overall, Part 1 sets us up for the introduction of Richard, the son of Plantagenet, Duke of York. It’s in Part 2 when things start getting really spicy.

What did you think of Part 1 of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

5 lessons from Jennifer Lawrence on why white feminism isn’t cute

Jennifer Lawrence on The Graham Norton Show. BBC/screencap

You’ve heard a lot about white feminism and why many people of color, women of color in particular, can’t stand it. It’s not that we can’t feminism; in fact, we love feminism. It’s just that we can’t stand when something that’s supposed to accept us is just used as yet another tool to marginalize us and keep power centralized on whiteness. Case in point: Jennifer Lawrence.

“So what did Jennifer Lawrence do this week that we should be concerned about?” you might be asking. Well, first, you’re right in asking what she did this week. There’s never a week that goes by that we don’t hear something about Lawrence, whether it’s in the form of a gushing fashion post, a gushing celebrity news post about what she ate for lunch or how she’s best gal pals with other problematic white feminist Amy Schumer, or in some clickbait headline. Many of us are tired of hearing about the manufactured admiration for this woman.

Lawrence’s tide with Hollywood started shifting months ago at the Golden Globe Awards, when she rudely shut down a Spanish-speaking journalist for looking at his phone while asking her a question (something which a lot of journalists do nowadays, since we can record interviews, look at our notes, and take pictures with our smart phones). The tide is continuing to shift with Lawrence’s latest foot-in-mouth instance—talking about sacred Hawaiian sites in the form of crude jokes.

On a recent episode of The Graham Norton Show to promote her and Chris Pratt’s upcoming film Passengers, Lawrence joked that while in Hawaii filming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, she used one of the state’s ancient stones to scratch her butt.

“These were sacred rocks …and you’re not supposed to sit on them because you’re not supposed to expose your genitalia to them. …They were so good for butt itching! …One rock that I was butt-scratching on ended up coming loose. And it was a giant boulder and it rolled down this mountain and it almost killed our sound guy! It was this huge dramatic deal and all the Hawaiians were like, ‘It’s the curse!’ And I’m over in the corner going, ‘I’m your curse. I wedged it loose with my ass.'”

Here’s a question: Why couldn’t she scratch her backside how most people do—WITH HER FINGERNAILS? Did she really need to find a rock to do this?

Let’s also discuss that she nearly killed someone just because of her butt.

The incident caused immediate pushback from Hawaiians for her flippant manner when addressing the stones in the interview (she said the stones reflected “the ancestors…or  whatever”), her stereotypical way of addressing the people who were angry at her, and for disrespecting their culture.

The so-called “rocks” she thought were so good for butt-scratching are part of a larger burial site. As in, for Lawrence to understand, a site where people’s remains are. As in: a place to show some doggone respect. 

To quote PEOPLE:

” ‘It was an archeological site,’ says Hawaiian cultural expert Kahokule’a Haiku, who advised the Hunger Games production team. Haiku has been featured in the New York Times for his work in the Waimea Valley. ‘It’s an ancient Hawaiian living site and there are several hundred burial caves right in the area. The caves contain the bones of our ancestors–but not just any ancestors. They are called Kahuna. These were the astronomers, navigators, and doctors of the time. They were the Einsteins and Marconis of Hawaiian culture. And they were filming just a few yards away.”

After facing a firestorm of anger, Lawrence has apologized via Facebook:

But many are still unhappy with her and her seeming lack of understanding as to what she scratched her butt on. The many comments on her Facebook post show people from many backgrounds taking her to task for acting like, in keeping with this post’s theme, a butt.

So what does this have to do with white feminism? Because white feminism operates from a very narrow, very racist viewpoint. For this post, I’ll quote BattyMamzelle, who has the best, most succinct definition of white feminism I can find.

I see “white feminism” as a specific set of single-issue, non-intersectional, superficial feminist practices. It is the feminism we understand as mainstream; the feminism obsessed with body hair, high heels and makeup, and changing your married name. It is the feminism you probably first learned. “White feminism” is the feminism that doesn’t understand western privilege or cultural context. It is the feminism that doesn’t consider race as a factor in the struggle for equality.

White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is “one size fits all” feminism, where middle class women are the mould that others must fit. it is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual white feminist, everywhere, always.”

(I highly recommend reading her full post on white feminism if you want to learn more about it.)

So, if you are white reading this, and you are worried about being perceived as a Jennifer Lawrence-esque white feminist, here are some things you can do to not get this label attached to your name and social media legacy:

1. DON’T SCRATCH YOUR BUTT ON SACRED SITES. That’s first and foremost. There’s a deeper point here though; respect the cultures of others outside of your own. Just because something looks innocuous to you doesn’t mean it is to someone else. A great way to show how misunderstanding a culture can actually make you look foolish: The slave owners of the American south didn’t realize that the songs, dances, and other artistic modes of expression used by slaves were either about passing along their African heritage, giving each other instruction on how to escape or making fun of the masters, usually in front of their faces. Instead of figuring this out, the slave masters just wrote it off as “negroes being negroes.”

2. Think of people as people, regardless of their race. If there’s one thing (among many) that irritates the bejesus out of me when it comes to white feminism is that some white women will say to other women of color, “I understand your struggle because I struggle as a woman to gain acceptance.” I’ve had this happen to me. To that, I say what feminist icon Sojourner Truth said—“Ain’t I a woman?” Do we have to keep saying what should be a basic fact for some of y’all out there to get it? Women of color aren’t objects for ridicule, fascination, obsession, or sexualization. We are women just like you, and we deserve every privilege you white women get.

3. Reach out to other women with intersectionality in your heart. As I’ve said many times on this site now, we’re in Trump’s America now, and if I’m being honest, white ladies, a lot of white women helped put us in this predicament. The supposed superiority of whiteness is connected to white male dominance, and a lot of white women apparently would rather have the security of male-based white supremacy than a white woman entering the White House as President. That’s messed up. However, to the rest of you white women out there wanting to staunch the bleeding and help protect the nation from fascism by creating lasting bridges with America’s non-white communities, you need to come with no agenda. Don’t come wanting to be a savior or wanting to get your “Good White Person” badge, because we don’t have time for that. Instead, come with an open mind and open heart, wanting to learn and be a conscientious woman of the world. Come wanting to do good for the sake of everyone, not just for yourself and to appease your white guilt. America needs everyone at the table to actually make America great, so we need you to come correct.

4. Do your own research. It would have been great if Lawrence had taken the time out to actually learn from Haiku since his services were available on site. She would have learned why she shouldn’t scratch her butt on things. Too many times, whiteness lulls white people into thinking they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whatever they want without repercussions. It’s part of the “Manifest Destiny” idea; I am lord (or lady) of all things, so I can do as I please without learning outside of my personal bubble. This ignorance is all over how Lawrence told her story, from flippantly describing the site to making fun of Hawaiians themselves by portraying them as superstitious. Lawrence should know better. If you don’t want to be like Lawrence, it would behoove you to learn about other cultures whenever you can, but especially if you’re visiting a place in which your culture is the minority. Don’t embarrass yourself.

5. Don’t follow Lawrence, Schumer, and Taylor Swift‘s examples. Shooting off at the mouth isn’t cute, y’all. There are some things you say and some things you keep to yourself. Being a feminist doesn’t mean thinking everything you say and do is some revolutionary thing. It’s definitely not revolutionary if a woman of color said or did the same thing and no one bats an eye at it or, worse, demeans the woman of color for saying or doing anything. If what you think is amazing is actually mediocre or offensive, then do yourself and the rest of us a favor and KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Your ability to mouth off and have people praise you for it is actually a level of racial privilege, and it’s annoying.

I think I’ve wrung just about everything I can out of Lawrence’s debacle. What are your takes on it and how do you feel about white privilege? Comment below!


“Doctor Strange” puts Mordo on the villain’s path for no reason

Marvel Studios

With Thanksgiving comes Thanksgiving trips to the movie theater, and on one such trip, I was treated to a showing of Doctor Strange. As you well know if you’re a constant reader of this site, Doctor Strange isn’t well liked around these parts, and for good reason—whitewashing and using a pan-Asian cultural motif as a backdrop for non-Asian characters.

Doctor Strange is a confounding movie, partly because if it weren’t for the outstanding cultural criticisms and controversy, it actually has the bones of a decent film.  We’re only one movie-deep into Marvel’s Phase Three (Captain America: Civil War was the first one), but Doctor Strange showed the confident and daring direction Marvel plans on taking its films in the future. Now that we’ve introduced Marvel’s version of a Time Lord, we’re going to see much more boldness and boundary-pushing from the franchise. Overall, it’s great to see Marvel so confident with their chosen direction.

Also, Doctor Strange‘s score is by Michael Giacchino, who has quickly become a favorite for me. Due to The Lion King, I’ve always been a fan of Hans Zimmer’s brass-heavy scores, and because John Williams is so ingrained in movie culture—he even did the soundtrack for Home Alone, for goodness’ sake!—I respect his lengthy body of work, despite his composing style sometimes leaving too much of a light, airy atmosphere for my liking. However Giacchino is like the wonderful compromise between Zimmer’s boldness and punch and Williams’ cerebral qualities. In short, Giacchino creates scores that are fun, uplifting (see: Star Trek Beyond‘s “Night on the Yorktown”), tongue-in-cheek, yet dark, mysterious, and sometimes even sexy (perfect example of sexy Giacchino—The Incredibles‘ “Off to Work” and “Lava in the Afternoon”).

However, that is where my compliments for the movie stop. I have quite a lot of gripes with the film, and it’s time I let them out, in my favorite form—a bulleted list.

• The whitewashing is more egregious in person: After having analyzed the film for several weeks, I already knew the biggest issue in the film was Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. That issue was compounded by C. Robert Cargill, the co-writer of the film, sticking in his ill-advised two cents about Tibetan-Chinese politics as the reasoning for a white Ancient One.

But it’s one thing to write about the whitewashing and it’s another to actually see it with your own eyes. The problems in this film abound. First, you have Swinton. Not only is she The Ancient One, but she’s effectively a spiritual ruler of Nepal. An old Celtic woman is the spiritual ruler of a non-Celtic, non-white people. Fascinating.

Let’s also talk about what Nepal looks like. The film portrayed Nepal as some mystical place without roads or modern transportation. Everyone looked like they were mere seconds away from getting on their knees to pray. Religion might be a huge part of a country, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the country have to look like devotees. The film shows a side of Nepal that looks like this:

Kathmandu, Nepal--Asan Tole Market by Juan Antonio F. Segal (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Kathmandu, Nepal–Asan Tole Market by Juan Antonio F. Segal (Flickr/Creative Commons)

This picture looks similar to the types of crowds Stephen Strange came upon as he was looking for The Ancient One. But Nepal also looks like this:

Shiddha Pokhari by Dhilung Kirat "This centuries old pond is situated at Dudhpati-17 the entrance of the ancient city Bhaktapur. This 275m×92m pond was built in the early fifteenth century during the reign of King Yakshya Malla. It is considered as the most ancient pond in Bhaktapur which is known to have many myths associated to it. Nowadays, the pond of both religious and archeological importance has been one of the popular hangout and dating destinations in Kathmandu valley." (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Shiddha Pokhari by Dhilung Kirat
“This centuries old pond is situated at Dudhpati-17 the entrance of the ancient city Bhaktapur. This 275m×92m pond was built in the early fifteenth century during the reign of King Yakshya Malla. It is considered as the most ancient pond in Bhaktapur which is known to have many myths associated to it. Nowadays, the pond of both religious and archeological importance has been one of the popular hangout and dating destinations in Kathmandu valley.”
(Flickr/Creative Commons)


Kathmandu Valley Sunset by Mike Behnken (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Kathmandu Valley Sunset by Mike Behnken (Flickr/Creative Commons)


Kathmandu , Nepal,Himalayas,Everest by ilkerender (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Kathmandu , Nepal,Himalayas,Everest by ilkerender (Flickr/Creative Commons)


Boats at Lake Phewa in Pokhara, Nepal by Mario Micklisch (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Boats at Lake Phewa in Pokhara, Nepal by Mario Micklisch (Flickr/Creative Commons)


Nepal, Kathmandu, Boudhanath by SCILLA KIM (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Nepal, Kathmandu, Boudhanath by SCILLA KIM (Flickr/Creative Commons)

The point is there’s a lot more to Nepal, to just Kathmandu, than the film suggests. Is there time to visit every locale in Nepal? Of course not. But there was enough time to not give Nepal the “noble savage” treatment, which means, according to Wikipedia:

A noble savage is a literary stock character who embodies the concept of an idealized indigene, outsider, or “other” who has not been “corrupted” by civilization, and therefore symbolizes humanity’s innate goodness. In English, the phrase first appeared in the 17th century in John Dryden‘s heroic play The Conquest of Granada (1672), wherein it was used in reference to newly created man. “Savage” at that time could mean “wild beast” as well as “wild man”.[2] The phrase later became identified with the idealized picture of “nature’s gentleman”, which was an aspect of 18th-century sentimentalism. The noble savage achieved prominence as an oxymoronic rhetorical device after 1851, when used sarcastically as the title for a satirical essay by English novelist Charles Dickens, whom some believe may have wished to disassociate himself from what he viewed as the “feminine” sentimentality of 18th and early 19th-century romantic primitivism.[a] 

Even though the film didn’t have any of the extras speak, it clearly showcased Kathmandu as an idealistically mystical, Othered space, with closeups on holy men and temples. The extras also weren’t wearing Western clothes, something that further separated them from actual depictions of 21st century Nepalese people. Western exports have made their way all around the globe, including Nepal, and as you can see in the above pictures, folks are wearing leather jackets, hoodies, polo shirts, slacks and jeans. Even the woman with the shawl on in the first picture is wearing Westernized sandals, a long-sleeved red shirt and some green pants, and one of the men buying her wares, the guy with the leather jacket, has an iPod. If you took a shot of the extras in the Kathmandu sequence and put it in black and white, it could act as a shot from a film about Nepal in the 1800s, not the 21st century. This is not to say that portraying Nepalese people wearing traditional clothing is anachronistic; what I am saying is that painting a picture of the Nepalese as a people who haven’t been affected by world commerce and capitalism is a false picture.

The “noble savage” idea wasn’t explicit, but it was very subtly implied in order to make Kathmandu seem like a perfect place for The Ancient One and to act as further contrast to Stephen’s New York sensibilities and, indeed, his whiteness.

•The Ancient One is full of crock. Let’s get back to The Ancient One. She’s full of shit.

Sorry to be so blunt and for cursing, but she really is. She was using the dark magic that she forbade her disciples from using to lengthen her own life. She would say she was doing it to protect the earth, but she was actually doing it because of her fear of death. In essence, this makes the big bad, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), actually right about her. So, yes, he’s evil for invoking the intergalactic demon Dormammu in an attempt to take over the world, but just because he’s evil doesn’t mean he’s an idiot. What it does mean is The Ancient One’s hypocrisy is what turned him, a devoted disciple, into a disillusioned mess. Can we talk about how he was crying crocodile tears while spreading the “gospel” about the demon to Stephen while chained up in that suit-harness-thing? To me, it evoked scenes from Thor, in which Loki is crying while hating Thor for being the chosen one; Loki might be the “evil one,” but Loki is also psychologically damaged, simply looking for unconditional love from the Odin, the man whose supposed to be his father. Doesn’t that sound a little like Kaecilius’ dilemma?


Marvel Studios

Kaecilius might have gone to the dark side, but, like Loki, he was a conflicted soul who was looking for answers after the person he idolized failed him. If there was a way The Ancient One could have reeled him back in, she should have done it, especially since she already knew how powerful and skilled he was. But the thing that could have possibly swayed him—her giving up her Dormammu powers—was something she wasn’t going to part with. So Kaecilius probably figured, “If she’s going to use them, then why shouldn’t I?” Basically, this whole movie’s plot (minus Stephen’s accident) is her fault.

Also, The Ancient One was just giving out powers willy nilly. She gave Benjamin Bratt’s character Jonathan Pangborn the ability to walk again after a paralyzing accident. She was giving Stephen powers to use his hands again. She herself was bending time to stay alive. She made it seem like she was a benevolent master, but she was just as reckless with her powers as she claimed Stephen was and as Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo warned against. Just like Strange, she was using her powers outside the natural order of things.

The Ancient One with the mark of Dormammu on her forehead. (Marvel Studios)

•Mordo is the only one who makes sense, and yet they’re building him up as the villain. How in the heck is Mordo supposed to be the villain, when Mordo is the only one who is keeping the world from being torn apart by Strange’s time meddling?

The Ancient One seemed to suggest that Mordo as a stickler for the rules was something that kept him from being great, or even being a master. I vehemently disagree. It’s Mordo’s insistence to stick by the natural order that made him supremely capable of being the master of the New York Sanctum. Mordo is right 100 percent that the laws of nature shouldn’t be tampered with, and yet it’s the hotshot white guy with a sarcastic mouth who gets to be the new Master. Are you kidding me?

Marvel Studios

Look, Stephen knew how to pick up magic fast. But isn’t Mordo owed something for being The Ancient One’s right hand for so many years? Had he not proven himself? To me, all this smacks of is the person of color being more qualified for a role that ends up going to the white guy who just got to the office a month ago. It smacks of the favoritism and tribalism that exists in society today. It’s why black people often tell their kids they have to be twice as good as their white counterparts in order to get half of the reward. It also smacks of a very white American, imperialistic view point of “We do what we want and get rewarded for it because we’re rebels!” Rebels don’t always need to be applauded. Just take a look at the Confederates.

If the next films present Mordo as the bad guy, I’ll be squarely on Mordo’s side. I know the argument is going to be, “But Doctor Strange helped save the world with his time-bending!” Sure. But Mordo was ready to save the world with his plan. He had his own way of saving the world, and it didn’t involve standing on the razor’s edge of an infinite loop of time, shredding the time-space continuum indefinitely. It involved fighting honestly and bravely and finding a solution that, as Spock would say, didn’t destroy the Prime Directive, and isn’t that how heroes are supposed to fight?

The end of the film sets up a very alarming status quo, something that also comes from real life. Just as the model minority myth wants to put Asian people at the feet of white supremacy and opposed to blackness, Doctor Strange sees Stephen and Wong (played by Benedict Wong) together, fighting evil on Stephen’s own terms, while Mordo decides to cast himself out, pitting himself against Stephen’s way of doing things. Doctor Strange‘s message seems to unconsciously be, “If only Mordo would do things Stephen’s way, just like Wong! Things would be so much easier.” Similarly, it’s like some people in real life thinking, “If only black people would do things our way, just like those industrious Asian people! Things would be so much easier!”

Marvel Studios

• The women in this film are strangely lacking: As the internet has said, it would have been better, much better, if someone like Michelle Yeoh was cast as The Ancient One. Making The Ancient One Celtic in a roundabout way to not create an Asian cariacature only complicated matters; all that was needed was to not create an Asian cariacture. If Yeoh played The Ancient One just as the character was written for Swinton, everything would have been fine; there wouldn’t have been any cariacture lines crossed.

With that said, it seems like this role as a whole would have been a waste of talents for Yeoh anyways. For all of the hooplah about The Ancient One being a “strong female character,” she barely did anything, at least not as much as the hype suggested. She participated in two battles with Kaecilius, and in the second one she was graphically fatally wounded. But we don’t see her do much else outside of instruct Strange, and even then, Mordo picks up where The Ancient One would sometimes leave off. In the end, The Ancient One was yet another woman in the comic book movie universe that has to die for the man’s journey to be fulfilled, so how progressive was her role, really?

Similarly, Rachel McAdams’s Christine is just another love interest, and somehow, she’s even less written than Rachel in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films or Natalie Portman’s Jane in the Thor movies. All Christine is there for is to be a battering ram for Strange’s emotional outbursts and as the soft, mothering angel he can come to after he’s changed his ways. McAdams did the best she could with such a thin character, but Christine was barely a character to begin with.

Marvel Studios

Lessons learned:  At the end of the day, it seems like Doctor Strange has proven to be a learning ground for the parties involved, or at the very least, for the director, Scott Derrickson. In a very honest interview with The Daily Beast‘s Jen Yamato, he gave an apology for his version of sidestepping the Asian caricature issue, a version which ended up being just as damaging if not more so. He said that he can’t be mad at those who are opposed to viewing the film.

“I don’t feel [the film’s opponents] are wrong. I was very aware of the racial issues that I was dealing with. But I didn’t really understand the level of pain that’s out there, for people who grew up with movies like I did but didn’t see their own faces up there.”

Seeing how he said he was already aware of the issue of Asian caricature, this was a case of someone believing they had all the knowledge necessary to solve a problem simply because they were “aware” of the issues. This film is a prime example of why creators need to reach out to people of color when making media that squarely affects a particular racial group. Maybe he should have contacted an Asian writer, producer, or actor in the industry for advice. Maybe he and Cargill could have asked Marvel to sign off on an Asian writer to share the co-billing with them; an Asian writer’s perspective could have only helped the film and made the film more respectful to the audiences they were trying not to offend. Hindsight offers a lot of solutions.

But along with Derrickson, if anyone needs to take stock in those solutions, it’s Marvel. Already, Iron Fist has caused a lot of pain with the main character, a character that could be race-bent to give Asian American audiences much needed visibility. Instead, the Asian visibility is coming from the villain and secondary characters, with Iron Fist set up to be yet another white male character who learns “ancient” and “mystical” ways from an Asian teacher.

Thankfully, we have Spider-Man: Homecoming coming up, which is providing Filipino-American and Chinese-American visibility as well as black female visibility. Hopefully Spider-Man, Black Panther, with it’s all-black main cast, and Thor: Ragnarok, which is directed by Indigenous director Taika Waititi, will be the jumping-off point for Marvel films with more representation and more sensitivity to its subject matter and audience demographics.