Month: March 2017

Dear Hollywood: Cast Gina Rodriguez as America Chavez and Lisbeth Salander

Baldur Bragason/Columbia TriStar, CW, Marvel

Gina Rodriguez wants to play all of your favorite characters, and that’s fine by us.

The first bit of Rodriguez herself via Twitter. She was reacting to an Entertainment Weekly article featuring remarks from Fede Álvarez, the director of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo sequel, The Girl In The Spider’s Web. When answering a fan question about the decision to go away from the first film’s cast, including Rooney Mara, who played Lisbeth Salander, Álvarez replied on Twitter:

Entertainment Weekly has confirmed that names like Alicia Vikander, Scarlett Johansson, and Natalie Portman were being suggested as possible Lisbeth Salanders. But Rodriguez has decided to throw her own name in the ring.

To which Twitter happily responded:

https://twitter.com/TheRyanMacLean/status/841845158320594944

The other character we’re hoping Rodriguez plays is Marvel’s America Chavez. After the SXSW “Hacking the Script: Disrupt Diversity in Hollywood” panel, which featured Rodriguez and Yara Shahidi among others, Geeks Of Color’s Avram Vargas asked Rodriguez about America. She was immediately excited, saying that she’s a fan of the character and if Marvel ever adapts America for the big screen, her manager already knows to get her booked for an audition ASAP.

How would you react if Rodriguez were cast for any one of these roles (or both)? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Netflix is 3% Closer, but Still Fighting White Supremacy Saviors

Netflix

Eric S.B.

Originally published on Nerds of Color

At this point, it’s damn near impossible to keep up with the onslaught of Netflix original programming. Along with all of the film and series content, the tentacles of the entertainment Kraken inevitably started reaching out for more international collaborations. Around Thanksgiving we were treated to the Brazilian series 3%. In terms of originality, it doesn’t score high: another variation on the theme of a future world where young adults do what they have to do to survive.

It does have its points of deviation though from say The Hunger Games and Divergent with a touch of Elysium. Brazil has had a long and appalling history of income inequality, which I’m sure is where the idea of the tagline came from: “In a dystopian future there is a clear divide between the rich and poor, but when a person turns 20, they have the opportunity to cross the divide.” As implied, by free will all the candidates get to try to make it from the miserable mainland to the utopian island Mar Alto; that looks kind of like Recife to Fernando de Noronha on the map. The tests they undergo are less physical and more psychological until they are whittled down to the fabled 3%. The setting, albeit futuristic, feels closer to present as we undergo our own survival in the collapse.

 

The cast is stellar. Like a small Brazilian microcosm, the ethnic roots of the world are all on screen. Lovely diverse faces. And yet, this is where my principal criticisms also lie. Within all of the inclusiveness, two things happen. Firstly, for audiences both in and out of Brazil, I worry it could perpetuate the Brazilian myth of the “racial democracy.” I have attached a short appendix with a quick break down of Brazilian history and race relations from points I remember studying. And yelling at people in debates. The point is this and let me be clear: Brazil is racist as fuck.

Allow me to do a quick, sloppy, and profane history of Brazilian history and race relations through an anti-fascist lens breaking down some of the sub-myths that make up the larger “racial democracy” myth.

Myth #1: “The Portuguese were far nicer and more benevolent to Native peoples compared to the Spanish and other Europeans. Look at all the tribes that have survived comparatively.”

The Portuguese were mercantilist, imperialist, racist, genocidal terrorists. They not only employed the literal sword, but — certainly different than their English Puritan counter parts — were masters of the metaphorical sword raping who-knows-how-many indigenous women and forcing their children into Jesuit churches to be reprogrammed until their language and culture was lost and gone forever. So add misogynist to the above list.

As for the second part, this is mostly because of the sheer size and terrain of the country; specifically, in the Amazon. There are some tribes still being encountered. Hide comrades, hide! My native ancestors that were once all over had their population drastically decreased and relegated to what is now Paraguay (a Guarani word meaning “born of water”). Good on Paraguay too to keep the language alive and recognize Guarani as an official language, though you can’t travel anywhere in Brazil without seeing Guarani names for places and natural features. Yes, Uruguay is also a Guarani word (“bird river/waters”).

Myth #2: “Slavery wasn’t as bad in Brazil as it was in the Southern U.S. or the Caribbean. The master-slave relation was better and more eqaul.”

waiting

If you ever hear this; please, please, head-butt the person. Zidane style; right in the damn nose. This nonsense stems from Freyre’s famous Casa Grande e Senzala work that every student reads at some time and forms the basis for the racial democracy propaganda campaign. If this were the case, millions of Africans would not have been brutalized and countless murdered under the system. If this were the case, there would have been no reason for the centuries of African resistance revolving around the Quilombos and the legendary revolutionary leader Zumbi dos Palmares. If this were true, any of you that practice capoeira would have no capoeira to practice.

If this were true, the idea of branqueamento along with the absurd amount of ethnic identities that exist in Brazil to keep the multi-ethnic populace confused, divided by identity and dependent on nationalism to unify and bow to the flag, would not exist. If this were true, all of the racism and inequities that all people of African descent must navigate anywhere in the Americas, would not be present in Brazil. If you call police violence against black folk in the U.S. genocide, then it breaks my heart to say, but it’s some kind of hyper-genocide in Brazil. Slavery was hell, because of course it was. Nobody gets to use “better” and “slavery” in the same sentence. Slavery was fucking slavery. Period.

Myth #3: “Brazil is far more religiously tolerant than the rest of the Americas.”

This one falls apart quickly with the disappearance of numerous indigenous people’s beliefs with genocide and forced Christian conversions. Slaves had to create syncretic religions like Candomblé to fake out masters to keep their beliefs and traditions alive. Judaism and Islam arrived with the first Portuguese foot prints on the sand, because of the simple fact there was and is no such thing as an ethnically pure Portuguese.

Most were recently converted poor Sephardic Jews and Moors looking to get rich quick or die trying to better themselves back home. Ironically, the early Portuguese that barely understood Christianity would harass and attack those who held on to their original religions. The first synagogue in the Americas was founded in Pernambuco, under less attentive Dutch colonial rule in the 17th century, and Jews and Muslims played key roles in the quilombo’s resistance. Kind of like an earlier version of the underground railroad hiding and protecting run-away slaves until they were safe in the quilombo. Today, following corporate media hysteria from the north, Islamophobia is on the rise from Brazilian media even though a large percentage of the populous has ties to the Islamic world via Portuguese roots or more recent immigration.

Myth #4: “Brazil has always been welcoming to immigrants.”

3

On the surface, this is true. But you don’t have to scratch hard to peel back the sinister underbelly. Outside of the home lands, there are more people of Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, and other nationalities I’m forgetting in Brazil. Former president Dilma is the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant and current illegitimate coup leader Temer is of Lebanese descent. Refugees welcome. Sort of. That white elite — to tie it in let’s call them “the 3%” — whose families a few generations prior were slave owners eventually found themselves in political and economic power. As the 3% looked around and realized that there were far more people of color than them, they needed to take action. Open borders; especially to Europeans.

Back to branqueamento; but a different tactic on the whitening of Brazil. German immigration began in the 19th century for the same reasons many came to the U.S. While not as large in numbers compared to the U.S., after Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese descendants, Germans are fifth largest at present. The big difference with the U.S. was the isolation of the German communities in the Southern Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paraná. They did not assimilate and held strong to language and culture. You can easily hear German on the streets of Blumenau today. Fast forward to Hitler’s rise, and the world ended up with large numbers of Nazi sympathizers in Brazil and the Southern Cone.

As racists and fascists themselves, the white political elite had no problems with the Axis and tried to play both sides and stay neutral in WWII. After they started letting the U.S. set up bases, U-Boats began sinking Brazilian ships and forced Brazil’s hand to join the Allies. At the same time, there were Brazilian born Germans fighting with the Reich. The war declaration and more attention to assimilation only heightened tensions with the South. In the aftermath, the Southern states sought a sort of revenge to protect their kin.

There are pieces of truth in the fictional Boys from Brazil story, and thousands of Nazis ended up in hiding in Brazil and the Southern Cone. Almost out of the pages of a second Man in the High Castle book, Hitler was well aware of his South American support and planned a “re-colonization” effort of the Southern Cone. I know of two friends of family in Santa Catarina that learned after their reclusive grandfathers died that one was a former SS officer and the other fought in the underground Jewish resistance in Germany. And they lived on the same block.

The three Southern states tried to secede on more than one occasion, mainly because: racism. Oh and by the way, the movement is still active at present. Finally, while it may sound impossible, when you take all of this into account, it really isn’t too surprising that there is a city in Brazil where the U.S. Confederacy lives on. Yep. Shit is ugly, but the future is ours. A luta continua.

Without even knowing Brazil’s complicated history, all you have to do is walk a few blocks out of your comfort zone in a city like São Paulo, Rio, or a small town like Quirinópolis, and talk to people. If you dropped any white college kid and a black college kid, say, from Minneapolis, in the same city anywhere in Brazil and checked on them a few months later, you’d likely hear stories as though they were on two different planets. Not unlike such a reverse experiment in the U.S. With the brown skin I’m in from my Mediterranean/indigenous roots, I’ve even felt that discomfort in Southern Brazil a few times. While I’d agree there are differences in the dynamics in race relations between the U.S. and Brazil, the racial democracy angle is still a clever tool of white supremacy and ultra-nationalist bullshit.

The topic of race in Brazil is super deep, and I’ve got to get to the show. Google it and you won’t run out of books to read. Borrow some of mine, if you’d like. All of the issues people of color deal with in the U.S. exist there and the rest of the Americas with our common ties to a past of colonialism, imperialism, genocide, slavery, capitalism, and neo-liberalism into the fascist butterflies all coming out of their cocoons. The latter may be something new to many in the U.S. (it shouldn’t be), but it’s just a new wave in the case of Brazil and Latin America. At this point in socio-political history, the countries have more in common with one another than ever before. Yikes. On the positive side, it has been interesting to see how the Black Lives Matter movement has influenced the Afro-Brazilian movements of the same nature.

Next, even with Brazilians of African, Native, Asian, and MENA/Mediterranean descent cast in the show, the triangle between Michele, Ezequiel, and Rafael always seems to come into focus. There’s a reason for that, no spoilers. But the whiteness. Although not as blatant as Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Matt Damon’s new thing (come on, Zhang Yimou!), or any of the many other examples, we have the subtle arm of the white savior complex a foot here in the 3% exam world.

Whiteness has been the theme in Brazilian media since, well, shit, forever. There’s a famous quote, to whom I wish I could give credit, that goes something like: “If you only watched TV and never left your hotel room in Brazil, you would think you were in Switzerland.” Or Sweden is it? Either works and having traveled elsewhere in the Americas, it changes little. Actually you don’t have to go anywhere; turn on Univision. For diplomats and businessman, this is, as it turns out, closer to their own bubbled realities while they are there.

It was certainly like this when I was younger, and has improved some to be sure, but the racist ties in Brazilian media seem endless. I disclaim that I haven’t watched TV Globo in years, I’ll check with my mom or feel free to correct me, but Netflix coming after them and making these kind of casting and writing choices is definitely going to apply pressure. Then there’s the reach. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this one Brazilian Netflix show in Portuguese will be watched by more people worldwide than the last half century of Brazilian television programming. Boom.

If we briefly look at history, we can add a few extra layers of media revulsion; because racism isn’t bad enough. Ah how the road to fascist dictatorship doth need media collaborators at the wheel. This may sound familiar. The largest media conglomerate in all of Latin America, Globo, aided in disinformation (then as print media, just beginning TV) during the Operation Condor U.S. sponsored coup d’etat in the ’60s that led to decades of dictatorship and utter terror for millions of Brazilians. Some very close to me. In fact, the opening scene in the final episode shows a, let’s call it a “hard scene to watch,” with ties to the School of the Americas in the U.S. that was then perfected by the Brazilian Military Police of that time. Globo was, unsurprisingly, the dictators’ megaphone. Alternative fucking facts.

More recently, history repeated itself as TV Globo acted like Fox News on nitro during the “Car Wash” political scandal that rocked the country last year. But now imagine Fox News ate and took the reach and power of all the other networks combined and became super powered propaganda. TV Globo led the charge against former president Dilma and played the key role in swaying public opinion for her impeachment. Not that she was innocent, but the aftermath at present has been much worse. Familiar, right? Whenever capitalism and democracy pollinate, the fruit is rotten. Glenn Greenwald may be a polarizing figure, but he was badass in exposing all of Globo’s bullshit; to the point he started the Brazilian wing of The Intercept (Greenwald lives in Rio).

elenco
Gomes in the lead as Fernando

Okay, well, the world is fucked. But you know this, so here are some reasons to give 3% a try for a little escapism. I mentioned it before, but the cast. The cast! The ensemble is tight. What the production team lacks in funds, they make up with talented young and older actors. The youngsters get their own Lost-like backstory vignettes letting us in on where they’re coming from and what makes them tick. Michele (Bianca Comparato) is fire and on a mission and her relationship with Fernando (Michel Gomes) is lovely. Fernando is the heart and inspiring force of the ensemble.

Did I mention he’s a POC in a wheelchair? Rafael (Rodolfo Valente) is annoyingly good for the POS you want to punch every time he says something.

Ezequiel (João Miguel) is a captivating complicated mess, and Aline (Viviane Porto) is powerful and also one of the most beautiful humans on Earth.

aline
Porto as Aline

I can’t talk about Marco (Rafael Lozano) without spoiling, but holy shit, his episode is… it brings a certain kids book to mind that gave me nightmares. Zézé Motta (Nair) is a living legend and the queen of Afro-Brazilian cinema. Dandara! Last, but definitely not least, is the true star of this whole thing for me: Vaneza Oliveira as Joana.

star
Oliveira as Joana rules

She is incredible. Steals every scene. I kept thinking; “where have I seen her before?” And the answer is: nowhere. 3% IS HER DEBUT! What a casting gem. Remarkable.

Behind the cameras, there is also some good news. 3% started out as a film project turned web series from Pedro Aguilera. He had three directors on his team, one guy and two ladies, and made the good decision to keep the team together as they made the jump into Netflixlandia. While they added César Charlone (City of God) as the principal director with their heftier budget (still tiny compared to other Netflix shows), Daina Giannecchini and Dani Libardi get to tag in for directing responsibilities.

Trying to remain spoiler free, but one thing I will say is that the way the first season ends, it leaves the strong possibility that the white savior complex may be resolved. Which is awesome. And which is why I’m in for the second season and which is why you should swim through the sea of Netflix programing to find it and give it a shot. Take a little of my messy Brazilian history with you, turn on the Netflix, and know that what you’re about to watch may not be perfect, but it may also be the best Brazilian show ever filmed.

When your feminism isn’t intersectional: Raquel Willis on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent “trans women” comments

Channel 4 Twitter/YouTube

The internet is full of faves, but it’s always the moment that they’re put on a pedestal that your faves end up disappointing you. Partly because they are human and humans will disppoint you, but also because you realize that sometimes, your faves still need schooling on certain areas of life and social politics. Case in point: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Adichie was on Channel 4 News recently, being asked about feminism and women’s issues. Then, she unwisely said that “trans women are trans women,” alluding to her opinion that trans women don’t belong under the same “woman” banner as folks who were born as ciswomen.

Here’s what she said:

Okay, let’s pump the brakes for just a second. As you know, Adichie came to full pop culture power when she was featured on Beyonce’s Flawless. She became lauded for her viewpoints on feminism, particularly where black feminism fits in within the entire “feminism” conversation. Her book sales skyrocketed and she became an overnight “fave” of the Beyhive and laypeople alike.

It’s unfortunate that Adichie has this viewpoint about who does and doesn’t belong under the umbrella of “womanhood,” because trans women are women, full stop. In fact, how she said it and what she said is eerily similar to how black women have to fight against white feminism all the time.

However, you don’t have to take my word for it. Raquel Willis, an advocate, activist, and member of the Transgender Law Center, wrote an important Twitter thread about her experiences as a trans woman and how Adichie’s comments are just a continuation of the kind of oppression trans women face on the daily from ciswomen.

Adichie also wrote an article for The Root, called “Trans Women Are Women. This Isn’t a Debate.”

Some key points of the article:

“I was inspired by seeing another black women so unapologetically claim the feminist label and be willing to discuss it publicly. However, I should have known that her [Adichie’s] analysis on womanhood would exclude transgender women. Plenty of other mainstream feminists have shared their own transmisogynistic (anti-trans-women) views with a conflation of gender, sex and socialization in their core beliefs about equality.”

“…She began by gaslighting transgender people. On one hand, she wanted to give the appearance of inclusion and understanding, but on the other, she stripped trans women of their womanhood. By not being able to simply say, ‘Trans women are women,’ Adichie is categorizing trans women as an ‘other’ from womanhood.

Trans women are a type of woman, just as women of color, disabled women and Christian women are types of women. Just as you would be bigoted to deny these women their womanhood, so would you be to deny trans women of theirs.

Then Adichie invalidates trans women for not having a certain set of experiences. When cisgender women do this, it reminds me of how white women in the United States were initially viewed as a more valid type of woman than black women. In her iconic 1851 ‘Ain’t I aWoman’ speech, Sojourner Truth spelled out how inaccurate and privileged it is for us to use these limitations in public discourse.

…Just as it was wrong for womanhood to be narrowly defined within the hegemonic white woman’s experience, so, too, is it wrong for womanhood to be defined as the hegemonic cisgender woman’s experience. Cis women may be the majority, but that hardly means their experience the only valid one.”

In short, to quote Willis’ article, trans women are women; this isn’t up for debate. Also, if you are in the public eye like Adichie, make sure to talk about stuff you know; don’t make assumptions about stuff you have no clue about.

Another point: Inclusion is key if we’re all going to get somewhere, and that means including and recognizing the humanity of all womanhood, which includes trans women. I’ll let Willis’ speech from the Women’s March be the last word.

What do you think of Adichie’s comments and Willis’ rebuttal? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Disney/Pixar’s “Coco” trailer is here, and some are already comparing it to “The Book of Life”?

Disney/Pixar

Disney/Pixar’s Coco is a film many of us have been waiting on for a while, and the trailer is finally out! Check it out for yourself.

Now that you’ve seen the trailer, let’s get into some discussion. First, this film is making Disney/Pixar history as being the first film the joint companies have made about Mexican culture. But while the trailer looks magical, as all Disney trailers tend to do, some potential audience members are calling foul on some aspects, particularly the fact that the film is yet another piece of media centralizing Mexican culture around Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos is probably one of the most gentrified, appropriated holidays in recent memory, with too many Americans wrongly assuming the holiday is “Mexican Halloween.” There are way too many folks appropriating the sugar skull look just for aesthetic reasons.

There’s another reason some folks are already irritated with Coco; there are some shots that look very similar to  Jorge R. Gutiérrez’s The Book of Life. For instance, there’s a skull woman in the trailer, kinda similar to La Muerte and Manolo’s dead twin relatives Ardelita and Scardelita Sanchez:

Disney/Pixar (screengrab)
Twentieth Century Fox Animation (screengrab)

And the city of the dead looks really similar.

Disney/Pixar (screengrab)
Twentieth Century Fox Animation (screengrab)

Of course, the stories are different, aside from the Dia de los Muertos aspect. But still, the similarities have been noticed by many who have watched the Coco trailer and have seen The Book of Life. However, there are plenty of fans who are psyched for the film, including Jorge R. Gutiérrez himself, who tweeted that he’s “looking forward to seeing the film!”

What do you think about Coco? Are you going to see it when it premieres November 22? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

One journalist’s take on Rachel Maddow’s #TrumpTaxReturns Reveal

MSNBC

Tuesday night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow took her loyal fans and a whole host of newly-interested viewers on a journey about what could be in Donald Trump’s tax returns. She laid out a whole host of smoking guns that could be (and just might be, if we’re going by her journalism) in Trump’s taxes, with money ranging from Russian oligarchs to mobsters to Azerbaijan and Russian state-sanctioned criminals. As she tweeted a few hours before her broadcast:

So, naturally, we were all excited and maybe a little nervous to see what was going to go down. Even though it was later revealed that these were Trump’s 2005 tax returns, Maddow’s MSNBC-mate Lawrence O’Donnell backed up Maddow’s claims of “seriously” having Trump’s tax returns by tweeting this:

Again, we were waiting with bated breath to see how Maddow was going to single-handedly bring down Trump. What we should have guessed was that nothing was going to happen, since Trump and the White House hadn’t tweeted out anything to divert us from the episode.

My family and I watched it, and, in all honesty, not many of us are big Maddow fans to begin with. I could get into reasons why, but what’s important is the fact that we watched, waiting on her to get to the meat of the story, which is revealing those doggone tax returns. After her huge set-up (which was very well informed and researched, to be fair), she revealed what we were all waiting for…or not—all she ended up revealing were the first two pages from Trump’s 2005 returns.

Check out the beginning of the broadcast (18 minutes):

And here’s the reveal:

There were plenty of reaction from all across the internet after the reveal, including mine:

As well as tons of celebs and talking heads, who were both for and against Maddow’s delivery.

This Twitter moment gives a great overview of working journalists’ range of emotions over this story, featuring irritation, aggravation, and hand-wringing.

A surprising thread, directed at Maddow, comes from famous voice actor and Toonami legend Steve Blum. (Surprising to me not because of Blum’s liberal politics, but because his thread was the first in response to Maddow’s tweet teasing the tax returns.)

Okay, so now you know everyone’s angle on this. Now what’s my point of view? I’m kinda in the middle, but mostly on the side of folks saying Maddow did a Fonzie-esque shark jump. This might be contentious, so let me explain.

First, I’m a journalist. I might be on the entertainment side of things, but I also work in the “hard news” sector of journalism as well (just not on this site), so I have quite a bit of experience with journalism. I also watch the news as a viewer; I’m not always watching TV saying, “those are my colleagues!” No. I have a lot of feelings about the 24/7 news cycle and how they often hype stuff to get people to tune in. I count this as one of those times.

Maddow could have revealed these two pages in a regular news story; she didn’t have to make a big deal of it since, for all intents and purposes, it’s not a big deal. Does it reveal that he still paid less than he should have on his taxes due to some kind of alternative tax rebate for the rich? Sure. Is that something worth investigating? Of course. Did all of Maddow’s linked instances of Trump’s Russian ties make me think and refocus myself on wanting to know just what’s in Trump’s taxes? Sure. But the point, for me, isn’t that Maddow’s an intelligent woman telling us to be aware and alert. Of course she’s intelligent, and of course we should be aware and alert. For me, it’s all about how she advertised it, and at the end of the day, she engaged in false advertising.

She had to have known that her initial vague tweet about having Trump’s taxes would make us, the viewing public, think that she had all of the taxes from recent times, not from about 10 years ago. Even if it was just 2005, we still thought that there must be something in all of the 2005 tax returns that would link her inferences to actual numbers. But all she left us with were more questions and an unsatisfied feeling in our stomachs. There’s a reason Geraldo Rivera started trending last night, and it’s because it felt just like how audiences must have felt (or did feel, if you are old enough to have watched it live) to see a two-hour build-up only to wind up with an empty cave.

Overall, I get that these tax returns would have been aired on the news anyway. If it wasn’t going to be Maddow, it would have been someone else on CNN or some other network. But I wish these returns were treated as the ploy they are to get us to stop questioning Trump about his taxes. The fact that these returns randomly showed up in David Cay Johnston’s mailbox, and that Johnston states that Trump has leaked stuff out in the past to put himself in a positive light, coupled with the fact that the White House nor Trump made big deal about this, shows that the possibility that Trump leaked these tax pages is leaning more towards a probability. The real leak would be if someone revealed all of the pages of Trump’s taxes, including every itemized piece of income that could be parsed through. For me, the tax “reveal” seemed more about ratings and wanting to be first instead of waiting until something more substantial came along.

What do you think, though? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Who could host next year’s Academy Awards?

Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Oscars, but who’s gonna host next year’s shindig? (ABC/Jeff Lipsky)

The Academy Awards have come and gone, but for the producers of the show, it’s already time to figure out who’s going to host the next Oscars.

This year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, did okay…but people had some issues with some of his jokes; mainly, what folks had problems with was Kimmel’s penchant for making fun of people’s names, including Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali and one of the members of the surprise tourist group who were led into the theater for a laugh. He didn’t really need to make fun of their names, because it gave many people, particularly people of color, flashbacks to when their names were made fun of growing up.

So, who could host next year? There’s a good chance it could go to Kevin Spacey, since he’s a triple-threat of an actor—he can act, dance, and sing. But how will #OscarsSoWhite play into things? Perhaps the Oscars are trying to keep their PR trend of seeming more inclusive going. (I’m sounding very cynical about the Oscars; they’re genuinely trying to be more inclusive, but in Hollywood, you better believe there’s some PR politics at play as well).

Maybe they’ll tap one of this year’s Academy winners or nominees, like two-time Oscar-nominated Taraji P. Henson, to host. Henson would make a great host; she has already hosted several variety Empire-themed variety shows for FOX, and she’s also multitalented as well; as we found out in Hustle & Flow, Henson has a great singing voice. Also, she’s naturally funny and charming, so she’ll certainly make the Oscars entertaining.

At this point, the race is wide open for the coveted position of Oscar host. Who do you think will secure the hosting duties for next year? Give your comments below!

Let’s focus on the positives of “Iron Fist,” Rosario Dawson, Jessica Henwick and Lewis Tan

Marvel Entertainment, Lewis Tan IMDB

We could talk all day about Finn Jones and the albatross around his neck that is Iron Fist.

Starting out the gate, Marvel’s Iron Fist, which will premiere on Netflix March 17,  has a 14 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Marvel fanboys might be in a tizzy about this, but this is really a blessing in disguise. Everything remained at a semi-standstill as everyone waited for the first reviews of Iron Fist to roll out. Now that they have, the show is officially Marvel’s first Netflix blemish and, hopefully, the show finally teaches the lesson Marvel failed to learn with Doctor Strange, which also exploited Asian themes while whitewashing the Ancient One.

Iron Fist has been a problem from the get-go, with fans urging Marvel to make Danny Rand, originally a white comic book character existing in an intensely problematic and stereotype-filled Asian world, an Asian man. That way, at least some of the story could seem a little more pleasing to the 21st century palette (of course, it would have also helped if the story was updated as well).

But, Marvel, wanting to please who they think are their core audience—white males—decided to forego any attempt to update the series and cast Finn Jones as Danny Rand. The show only sunk from there.

Here’s what the critics thought of Iron Fist.

“For viewers who’ve grown accustomed to the genre-defying tales of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Iron Fist feels like a paint-by- numbers project, trying to check the right boxes in time for The Defenders. And that’s just not good enough, not anymore.”—Trent Moore, Paste Magazine

Marvel’s Iron Fist isn’t just the wimpiest punch ever thrown by the world’s mightiest superhero factory. The new Netflix binge swings and misses so bad that it spins itself around and slaps itself silly with a weirdly flaccid hand.—Jeff Hensen, Entertainment Weekly

It may have seemed fine to crank out another Marvel Netflix show that feels like the brand’s past outings, but the critical drubbing that Iron Fist has received is in no small part due to the fact that it’s so stale and unoriginal.—Abraham Riesman, Vulture

What’s also great is that many of the articles have stated how the show’s whitewashing hurt the show as much as the staleness of the story.

“[L]et me be clear: Iron Fist’s problems with its portrayal of Asian cultures and Asian-Americans are embedded throughout every episode. It’s just that its problems with delivering exposition, crafting consistent characters, and even basic dialogue writing run right alongside.

Sure, this is a show where a white male character explains how to punch to an Asian-American, female head of her own dojo, in her own dojo — wait, let me be painfully specific. A white male character explains his martial art — which was made up by white men in the 1970s as a nonspecifically Asian but definitionally more powerful technique than those invented by actual Asian cultures — to an Asian-American, female expert in actual martial arts developed by actual Asian cultures.” —Susana Polo, Polygon

Jones also isn’t doing himself any favors with some of what he’s saying to the press after the blow-up of Iron Fist.

Here’s just a smattering of some of Jones’ various comments:

“I think the world has changed a lot since we were filming that television show,’ he said. ‘I’m playing a white American billionaire superhero, at a time when the white American billionaire archetype is public enemy number one, especially in the U.S. …We filmed the show way before Trump’s election, and I think it’s very interesting to see how that perception, now that Trump’s in power, how it makes it very difficult to root for someone coming from white privilege, when that archetype is public enemy number one.” —Jones at RadioTimes

“Well, I think there’s multiple factors. What I will say is these shows are not made for critics, they are first and foremost made for the fans. I also think some of the reviews we saw were seeing the show through a very specific lens, and I think when the fans of the Marvel Netflix world and fans of the comic books view the show through the lens of just wanting to enjoy a superhero show, then they will really enjoy what they see. I think it’s a fantastic show which is really fun and I think it stands up there with the other Defenders’ shows without a doubt.”—Jones at Metro UK

You can read tons more stuff at Pajiba, where they’ve packaged everything in an article aptly titled “How to Handle Criticism of Your Acting Role Without Being a Sh*t Weasel.”

Let’s also not forget how Jones ran away from Twitter after Geeks of Color’s Asyiqin Haron tweeted him about his ironic retweet of Riz Ahmed’s talk about diversity and representation in media.

Haron told MCU Exchange:

“I just thought it was ironic. Finn never directly talked about #AAIronFist and when he tweeted that, it didn’t sit well with me. I never expected a reply from him. Maybe a reply from some of his fans but not from him. It was unexpected. He’s a famous actor. He could’ve easily ignored my comment. Most famous people do that with criticism. I was doing my own thing until someone told me he replied to my comment. …I was trying to get him to understand why an Asian Iron Fist is so important to us. He talks about being progressive but throughout the conversation it felt like he was deflecting the points I was trying to make. I have no hostility towards him. I was being respectful and calm about it. I just feel upset that he just deactivated his account after saying this:
[The tweet: “…I appreciate you reaching out, to bridge these gaps in our society, communication is and understanding is the key.”]

…which he deleted from his Twitter.”

Again, like I said, we could talk all day about poor Finn Jones. (I mean “poor” relatively; I know he’s not hurting for money and I also know he’s bringing a lot of this on himself; I just feel bad when people put themselves out there when they don’t need to.)

But let’s focus on the positive aspects of the show, Marvel newcomers Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen Wing, and Lewis Tan, who plays Zhou Cheng, Iron Fist’s ultimate nemesis.

Marvel Entertainment

So far, Henwick and Dawson have been one of the critics’ favorites, despite the horrors of the rest of the show.

“…[I]f it were a series without these two women [Henwick and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple], to riff off this International Women’s Day, Iron Fist wouldn’t pack much of a punch. It is all Henwick and Dawson’s dynamic –individually and together–as ‘Daughter of the Dragon’ dojo-running Colleen Wing and ex-nurse Claire Temple, respectively, that pumps the irregular heart of the 13-episode first season from showrunner Scott Buck.”—Dominic Patten, Deadline

In fact, most people are only watching Iron Fist to support these two women.

Marvel Entertainment

The other person many folks are watching it for: Lewis Tan. He’s told the Black Girl Nerds podcast about how he actually auditioned for the Danny Rand role and got close to the end until they did a switcheroo on him and gave the role to Jones, who can’t fight (unlike Tan, who has been fighting all his life thanks to his dad, who also did stuntwork and acting roles in Hollywood films).

Lewis Tan training with a katana (IMDB)

He’s also been an outspoken voice for AAPI equality in entertainment, as well as a staunch supporter of intersectionality. Because of his work on and off-screen he’s got legions of fans.

Lewis Tan and Rosario Dawson on the set of “Iron Fist.” IMDB

So while the temptation to miss Iron Fist might be great, perhaps you’ll support the man and women who need your support the most? Who knows–perhaps if we show Marvel just how much we love these characters, they’ll give us the spin-offs of our dreams. (Folks already want a “Daughters of the Dragon” spin-off featuring Wing and Misty Knight.)

What do you think about Iron Fist? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Yara Shahidi already wins at college by having Michelle Obama to write her college recommendation letter

Yara Shahidi Instagram

How great would it be to have former First Lady Michelle Obama to write your college recommendation letter? Black-ish star Yara Shahidi had that happen for her. Talk about getting your choice of colleges after such a seal of approval!

Shahidi told W Magazine that the former First Lady not only wrote her recommendation letter, but also “gave her a ‘go get ‘em tiger’ back-rub before Shahidi took her AP exams.”

“She is a very amazing and such a supporter, which is something very surreal to say,” she said.

Shahidi’s college ambitions include double-majoring in African American studies and sociology. Before she hits the books, though, she plans on taking a gap year.

Shahidi’s college life might coincide with the college years of her black-ish character Zoey; black-ish creator Kenya Barris has stated his interest in making a spin-off focusing on Zoey’s adventures in college. If black-ish is analogous to a more relevant version of The Cosby Show, the spin-off sounds like it could be the second coming of A Different World that we’ve been waiting on.

What would you give or do to have Michelle Obama write your college recommendation? Write about it in the comments section below!

Representation count: What “Rough Night” and “Girls Trip” mean for you

Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures

The upcoming film Rough Night is being marketed as the next feel-good comedy for raunchy feminist women looking for a film that portrays women as “women.” Starring Scarlett Johansson (who is currently taking an L for Ghost in the Shell), Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Demi Moore, Colton Haynes, Jillian Bell, Ty Burrell, Dean Winters, Ilana Glazer, and Karan Soni, the film follows a group of best friends who meet in Miami Beach to celebrate one of their own’s wedding, only to somehow kill a male stripper. The film will be in theaters June 16.

Here’s the red band trailer for you see the film for yourself:

Are you on the fence about seeing this movie? If you need help getting your mind together, here are some things we can glean from the trailer and Twitter chatter that might help.

The racial representation is low: Kravitz and Soni are the only people of color in the main cast (I guess, if you want to be technical about, you can include Ty Burrell since he did find out he has black ancestry…but he’s as black as I am East Asian. We’ll still welcome him in the Racial Draft, though.) It’s a shame that, as much as Kravitz has talked openly about racism in the casting office, she’s still relegated to being “the black friend” in a movie. There’s no telling what Soni’s character “Raviv” does. But one can assume he’s not a major character.

Not mentioned in this rundown is Enrique Murciano. He could very well be a part of the main cast, but as of this post, his character hasn’t been named on IMDB, which points in the direction of him being a minor character. However, we’ll have to see once the film is released to theaters.

The fat jokes are many, just in the trailer: So, the trailer spoils for us that Jillian Bell’s character Alice is the one who kills the stripper by basically jumping on his lap, but actually landing on his neck, with the brute force propelling the poor guy on his back, where his head hits the hard tile floor, causing a fatal brain (and possibly neck) injury. Quite gruesome. But what’s also gruesome is that the death is played as the punchline to the age-old joke of the plus-size woman being somehow grotesque, foolish, and less-than the other skinnier women she’s surrounded by. It’s no mistake that the one getting married is Johansson, not Bell.

You can tell who’s the lead woman in charge, can’t you? Everyone else has some minor or major “difference” with them.

Minor gay representation in the cast, no word on their characters’ sexualities: We do have out actors Haynes and McKinnon as a part of this film, but their characters are probably straight, if we go by Hollywood history.

The fact that the film’s jokey premise rests on a male stripper being brutally killed while doing his job: The real victim of this story aren’t the women at the bachelorette party; it’s the dude who was doing his job that night. I know the film is trying to pull a Weekend at Bernie’s thing, but I don’t think storylines like that are going to fly nowadays, especially since the guy at the center of this story is an innocent guy just trying to make a living. At least Bernie was in with the mob! He knew the risks! (Not that his being a criminal precludes he should die, but you get what I’m saying.)

Look, strippers have lives too, and his life should be given some sort of acknowledgement instead of just using him as a prop to advance the story.

Twitter isn’t really feeling this film for that reason:

https://twitter.com/etherealbabyy/status/840008636600524802

Refinery 29 has more on why folks are upset.

“First thing’s first: Strippers are people, and sex workers unfortunately have to tirelessly remind people of this over and over. ‘Sex workers are very marginalized groups of people who don’t have the same workplace safety and rights as other workers—and we get murdered a lot,’” says Arabelle Raphael, a porn performer and sex worker in Los Angeles. ‘Our lives are seen as disposable.’ A long-term mortality study on sex workers found that active sex workers have a mortality rate of 459 per 100,000 people—to put that in perspective, the general public mortality rate is around 1.9 per every 100,000 people.”

In short, this film just might become another L Johansson will have to live with. She certainly is getting red on her film ledger, indeed.

As if to act as a counter, Girls Trip will be hitting theaters July 21. The film, starring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Kofi Siriboe and Larenz Tate, features a group of girlfriends who go on a road trip to the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans. Along the way, they rediscover their friendship while getting into all kinds of romantic and wild misadventures. Also: no male strippers get killed.

Here’s the red band trailer for Girls Trip:

So what’s in this film for you?

An all-black main cast: We don’t have to worry about diversity counts in this cast. Us black people are covered. And, if you’re an ally looking to support a black cast, you can’t find a better one. Not only do you have OGs like Queen Latifah, Pinkett Smith, Hall, and Tate in the cast, but you also have relatively new faces like Haddish (who has been around for a while, but is still in the up-and-coming set) and Siriboe, who has made waves on the OWN hit show, Queen Sugar. Also, as the trailer shows, Morris Chestnut is also in the mix. There’s plenty for everyone!

No word on LGBT representation: We’ll have to see when the movie comes out.

The film is co-written by Kenya Barris: We love his writing on black-ish, and his funny writing is all over this film. Which means:

The trailer is laugh-out-loud funny: If just the trailer can make me laugh, then I’m sold. I didn’t laugh once in Rough Night’s trailer, and that’s not just because I was already side-eyeing the film. If there were some actually funny moments, I would have laughed; if something’s funny, I can’t not laugh. But I didn’t So, here we are.

It actually feels like a good time: This feels like a movie you want to go with your good girlfriends to see and make a night of it. This is definitely one of those films you go watch, go to dinner afterwards, then possibly go back to one of your friends’ house and drink wine and gossip (I write as if I drink wine…I’m just going off of what the Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder commercials tell me). In any event, it looks like great fun for the adult set, whether you take your friends, your significant other, or your adult siblings.

This looks they’re genuinely having a good time, right? I want to be a part of this friend group. (More than likely, I’d be Jada Pinkett Smith’s character.)

What do you think about Rough Night? Give your opinions below!

It’s Day 2 and Cosmopolitan Magazine still hasn’t apologized for that racist “most beautiful women according to science” article

Twitter

So, Cosmopolitan Magazine really thought they’d be able to post a near-Eugenics-style post and get away with it. They also think that they’ll be able to get away without an apology, either. It’s now Day 2 and we have yet to hear anything from Cosmopolitan.

Earlier Sunday morning, Cosmopolitan posted “The 10 Most Beautiful Women in the World, According to Science.” Just so happens, all of the women save for three happen to be white.

Clearly, the article is racist. But, science, right? Here’s what the article states when it comes to what makes people genetically pleasing:

“It all comes down to an ancient Greek philosophy called the Phi ratio, which Julian De Silva, MD, of the Centre for Advanced Facial Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery used along with computer facial mapping to determine which famous women have the ideal face ratio and symmetry.”

Riiiiggghhhttt.

So, here’s the list of the most beautiful people in the world:

Amber Heard

Kim Kardashian

Kate Moss

Emily Ratajkowski

Kendall Jenner

Helen Mirren

Scarlett Johansson

Selena Gomez

Marilyn Monroe

Jennifer Lawrence

Notice what’s found to be aesthetically pleasing across the board with these women: white or light skin, straight hair, Eurocentric features, and slim bodies (of course, we can argue over Kim K’s body, which is both surgically enhanced beyond belief and looks to be around a size 14 or 16 despite her penchant for fitting into ill-fitting, smaller clothes).

Notice what’s not considered aesthetically pleasing: darker skin, curly or kinky hair, more ethnically diverse features (such as broader noses, bigger lips, bigger butts—not counting Kim K’s fake butt), diversity in body type/shape. Basically, 2/3 of the planet are considered not-pretty, while folks who fall in line with the actresses or models listed above are. Fascinating.

Of course, Twitter took Cosmopolitan to task for this:

Check out more Twitter responses at Bossip.

Ultimately, Cosmopolitan deleted their post from Twitter and from their site, but never gave an apology.

Furthermore, they moved the article to their overseas properties; for instance, I was able to read the article from Cosmopolitan Middle East, which is just as cruel, since once again, the article is being marketed towards a readership that includes non-white readers (especially in a majority non-white population like the UAE). Hopefully, those in the UAE are as opposed to this article as we in the States are.

How much did you hate Cosmo’s article? Give your opinions in the comments section below!