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“Ghost in the Shell” roundup: First negative review, meme-gate & Aoki remix flop

Paramount

There are several Ghost in the Shell things to catch up on, so let’s get into it.

Last thing to discuss: Paramount has invested in some viral marketing to make Ghost in the Shell a hit with the social media crowd. Their meme website allows anyone to create memes of themselves illustrating why they’re unique. Folks who are upset with this film, like writer Valerie Complex, have used it to showcase their frustration with this film, as well as other pieces of media that use Asian themes without Asian faces, like Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, and others.

She inspired many more to make memes of their own:

Ghost in the Shell’s first 12 minutes premiered for critics, and while several critics are giving the film the thumbs-up, Valerie Complex wrote a different tune for Nerds of Color.

First, here’s what some of the reviewers said about the first 12 minutes:

“It’s hard to tell from these twelve minutes how faithful (or not) this new live-action Ghost in the Shell will be to the manga, anime or animated feature(s). But it does appear to be exploring the same themes of individuality, consciousness, and the intersection between the two. If the rest of the movie is anything like these twelve minutes, Ghost in the Shell may well be the deepest and strangest big budget film of its ilk in quite some time. I, for one, can’t wait.” –Tommy Cook, Collider

“Visually speaking there is much to be impressed by. Sure twelve minutes can’t tell you a whole lot, but it appears that the filmmakers have really tried to do justice to the franchise. From The Major’s appearance to the hustle and bustle of the futuristic city, there is much to admire in the look of the film. When she comes crashing through a window and the shards of glass explode around her, there isa definite energy that is on-screen.”—JimmyO, JoBlo.com

Now, here’s what Valerie wrote for Nerds of Color. This is the take you’ll want to grab a seat for.

“The plot of this movie is nothing like anything in the original Ghost in The Shell films or shows. Don’t let a few of the philosophical conversations in the trailers fool you. It’s a hodge-podge of familiar elements from different parts of the series, but the philosophy and exploration of existentialism seem to be missing. Even the trailers denote this adaptation is nothing more than a revenge story. Nothing about the original Ghost in the Shell has been about revenge. Revenge is never a prime theme here.”

As Valerie writes, the film is worse than just Scarlett Johansson playing “The Major,” which is bad enough.

“From the sneak [peek] footage I saw, it looks [like] the Major is originally Japanese. Let me explain. It appears that the character is in a nearly fatal accident. This accident causes her body to be rendered useless, but her brain is the only thing that can be salvaged. So this Japanese woman whose brain is recovered is transferred into a body, or Shell, that just happens to be Scarlett Johansson’s new body. Now her name is ‘Mira.’

This is horrifying.”

We’ll see what the full reviews will be like once the film comes out March 31.

What I will say is that any attempt for anybody to say that the film isn’t aware of its source material’s Japanese roots and that it isn’t whitewashing hasn’t seen this trailer, which literally has Kenji Kawai’s theme for 1995’s animated Ghost in the Shell, “Utai I Making of Cyborg” in it, remixed by Steve Aoki (yet another instance of this film using an Asian face to try to allay fears of whitewashing without actually fixing the root of the problem).

Here’s the real version of that song:

The lyrics from that song, as IMDB states, are written in Old Japanese (like Olde English for us Westerners), steeping it even more in Japanese history and culture. The lyrics are also confusing at first:

When you are dancing, a beautiful lady becomes drunken.

When you are dancing, a shining moon rings.

 

A god descends for a wedding,

And dawn approaches while the night bird sings.

 

When you are dancing, a beautiful lady becomes drunken.

When you are dancing, a shining moon rings.

 

A god descends for a wedding,

And dawn approaches while the night bird sings. (Lyrics Wikia)

But after thinking over what the 1995 film is about and pairing it with what I know about “The Ballad of Puppets” from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, I’m going to venture a guess that not only are the lyrics referencing something ominous that happen in the film (Spoiler alert: Major Motoko Kusanagi unwillingly merges with the villain of the film, The Puppet Master, hence the line about a “wedding”), but also reference the overpowering might of technology in the Ghost in the Shell world, the technology being referenced as a “God,” and life before technology as the person dancing so beautifully they can make people drunk and make the moon ring. Like “Ballad of Puppets,” the song is sung in an exclusively Japanese folk style called min’yō.

Sidebar: you can read my whole dissertation on the meaning of “Ballad of Puppets” in relation to Japanese history and Ghost in the Shell at Nerds of Color, in which I posit that the song deals with exclusively Japanese themes that subtly relate back to Japan’s existential war with technology invading its memory of the past as well as how it affects Japan’s future.

This point is not even bringing up the fact that the film is flooded with Japanese imagery and Japanese actors playing secondary roles. Secondary roles in their own story. What’s that about?!

What do you think about Ghost in the Shell? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: Let’s talk about Jughead’s sexuality

How do we feel about Jughead and Betty as an item? (CW)

Riverdale Episode 6 | “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” | Aired March 2, 2017

As I wrote before, love was in the air on the latest episode of Riverdale, Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” and maybe it’s just me, but one of my early criticisms of the show thus far is that it is trying wildly hard to impress as the new pulpy, soapy teen show on TV, so much so that it overshoots its mark on several occasions. The first two were involving Chuck and Ms. Grundy, the third being how ridiculously evil the parents of Riverdale are towards their kids (as explained by Black Girl Nerds’ Chelsea A. Hensley). The fourth mark against the show is how Jughead’s sexuality has been treated.

For those of us in the know (which includes a lot more kids and teens than I gave Archie Comics credit for despite being a fan of the comic when I myself was a preteen, which means its rebranding as a fresh new comic book franchise has paid off in dividends), Jughead has been officially canonized as asexual. We don’t have to speculate over his sexuality anymore (although, I have to admit that creating your own headcanon for Jughead was kinda fun–there was one point early in my Archie Comics fandom that I would swear that Jughead and Betty would hook up, then I felt like Jughead and Veronica could make a good opposites attract pairing that clearly wouldn’t last long but would have huge fireworks, then when Kevin came along, I would swear that Jughead and Kevin would be together through their shared love of burgers and competitive eating.)

In any event, Jughead being clearly defined as asexual (and maybe, in an unspoken fashion, also canonized as aromantic seeing how he hates the idea of relationships outside the realm of close friendship) put a lot of Jughead’s behavior and preferences into focus. It all made sense. Why wouldn’t Jughead be asexual? In fact, he’s always been asexual, even though the 1940s didn’t have a name for it yet. What’s even better about the current run of “Jughead” though–aside from the sharp wit and seriously laugh-out-loud moments, is that Jughead is portrayed as a confident, imaginative, semi self-absorbed teenager whose priorities include loafing, playing video games, eating, and hanging out with his best friend Archie. Everything and everyone else can kick rocks, especially Reggie, Jughead’s historic nemesis-now-turned-frenemy. In short, Jughead has become even more Jughead-like, and part of that is due to cementing his sexuality.

Now, though, that positive step towards representation and sexual diversity has been shortchanged by “Riverdale” making Jughead kiss Betty, thereby starting a romantic, sexually-implied relationship. Now, of course, there are various types of asexuality, which does include kissing, but as a character, Jughead has never shown an inkling towards liking kissing, let alone willingly engage in it. This TV characterization of Jughead goes too far—it has begun erasing the core of what made Jughead great.

I wrote a little bit about my feelings about Jughead and Betty’s moment as a Twitter moment:

Of course, as I say in my Twitter thread, I am not asexual so while what I have to say may be well-intentioned, it certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all of opinions. Enter Jordan Crucchiola, who wrote “An Asexual’s Defense of Jughead Kissing Betty on Riverdale” for Vulture. She writes that Jughead is allowed to be a character who is still discovering his own sexuality.

An important thing to consider is that Jughead’s preferences are being reduced to whether or not he is asexual, which takes away from the nuance of the asexual spectrum, which is wide and varied. Some of the better articles discussing Jughead’s orientation point out that he might not necessarily be aromantic, even if he is asexual. I, for example, identify as a pan-romantic gray asexual. That means I’m capable of having nonsexual crushes on anyone, regardless of gender or sex, and that my asexuality isn’t written in stone. There’s that “gray” area where I’m philosophically flexible. I am not motivated by sexual desire, and have never had any sexual partners, but I do experience deep love through my friendships and have experienced many instances of “crushing” on people I take a strong liking to.

I am also a very affectionate person, and many asexual individuals appreciate, enjoy, and seek out physical feedback from others, just like gay, straight, or bi individuals do. The ultimate end game just looks different than we’ve been taught to expect in health class, on TV, and in the movies. It’s about setting the correct boundaries with people in your life who are comfortable sharing such closeness without it leading to a sexual relationship. It takes some searching for the right people, but it can be done.

Again, I’m not asexual and I highly respect Jordan’s view on this subject. With that said, though, let me just say this: Jordan states at the end of her article that she hopes that the writers are going in the direction of eventually making Jughead understand and realize his sexual orientation, and I certainly hope so as well. But the one thing that irks me the most is that while Jughead might be given the “let him find his way” scenario, Kevin, who is also in a similar boat as far as sexual representation goes, is never portrayed in that way. Kevin, on the other hand, gets the straight-up (no pun intended) confident gay teen storyline, a storyline that would have been the “let him find his way” storyline just 10 years ago or less. The fact that Kevin being gay is played as passe while Jughead’s canonical sexuality seems, at least on the surface, is ignored, is a sticking point.

Some of this is addressed in a thread by Twitter user TheShrinkette, who states in her Twitter profile that she identifies as gray aromantic asexual.

Cole Sprouse, who portrays Jughead in the series, gave his his opinion on the controversy, showing his in-depth Jughead knowledge in the process. First, according to Bleeding Cool:

I think, first and foremost, this conversation deserves more time than something that we can quickly do here. There are two forms of representation Jughead has received over time. In [Chip] Zdarsky’s Jughead, he’s asexual. That’s the only Jughead where he is asexual. He’s aromantic in the digests, which is a different thing but deserves attention as well.

But what I found when I was really diving in — because once we started putting Jughead and Betty together, I started doing research to see if that was a narrative that even existed in the digests, and it turns out it is. It’s a narrative that’s existed for a long time. There are a handful of digests in which Jughead would say things like, ‘Oh, Betty, if I did like women, I guarantee you would be the one I would marry outright. You are the best person around.’ He would say these things that are really romantic and cute with an appreciation for Betty and I think it’s become clear to me now that Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] has taken off with that trend.

While I think that representation is needed, this Jughead is not that Jughead. This Jughead is not Zdarsky’s Jughead and this Jughead is not the aromantic Jughead,” he said. “This Jughead is a person who is looking for a kind of deeper companionship with a person like Betty and Betty ends up being this super nurturing, caring, care-taking person that with Jughead’s screwed-up past they end up diving into each other and it ends up being a beautiful thing.

How are people going to respond? Truthfully, they’re probably going to be quite incendiary about it at first. Do I think that’s ill-placed? No. Do I think they should give it a shot? Yeah, I do, because I think now — after filming thirteen episodes — it makes sense to me and, if it makes sense to me as the person who’s dumping so much time and especially so much argumentation into trying to represent Jughead correctly, if it makes sense to me, it will make sense to other people as well.

Also, here’s what he said to Glamour before the show in February:

So, the day I was cast was actually the same day he was announced as canonically asexual. It wasn’t in the digest—it was in Zadarsky’s universe, so it was in one of the newer comics that was written. But Jughead’s always been a romantic in a way that he, in the earlier comics, stayed away from girls and put his attention toward his food fetishism. So he’s always kind of had this narrative, but when I started doing my research into Jughead’s sexuality specifically there’s always been little areas where he got close enough to potentially suggest that he might like either Betty or Ethel, or even some comics where he gets kissed by Veronica. I don’t think it was really cemented in the digest too much what stance Jughead took.

I think, in this show, he’s not a romantic and not asexual. I argued in the beginning, creatively, that he should be both, but in this show, he’s kind of a tortured youth that ends up finding a comfort and a resonance with another person who’s going through a lot of trauma. They end up forming this kind of beautiful, honest union, and I think that, to me, is a narrative that works with this universe of Jughead. But I think that kind of asexual and a-romantic representation is really important. If it ends up finding a place in Riverdale and in future seasons, then hopefully we’ll do it with tact and in a way that respects what it is and how it resonates.

It should also be noted that Sprouse did fight for Jughead to be asexual and, as far as I believe—and from what his quotes suggest—is still fighting for Jughead to be asexual.

With all of this said, what do you think? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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!

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!

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!

 

“Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood” challenges Hollywood’s Native American stereotyping

Twitter
Twitter

Hollywood’s still growing in its discussions about diversity in entertainment, and one area the industry is lacking is multifaceted, unique, and contemporary portrayals of Native Americans. Indigenous multimedia documentarian Pamela Peters is aiming to push the conversation into overdrive with her photography exhibit, “Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood.”

The exhibit, which ran this August at These Days gallery in Los Angeles, featured Native actors and writers dressed as ’50s and ’60s star icons like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face and Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde.

To quote from the exhibit’s page:

REAL NDNZ RE-TAKE HOLLYWOOD showcases photographs from Diné photographer and filmmaker Pamela J. Peters, whose work seeks to disrupt and decolonize clichéd portrayals of Native Americans. This series “re-takes” and recreates classic, iconic portraits of movie stars of yesteryear by replacing those past film icons with contemporary Native American actors. Photographing “Real NDNZ” in the elegant clothes and iconic poses of James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, and others from the classic period of Hollywood film—rather than in the buckskin, feathers, and painted faces featured in most Hollywood films—deconstructs time-worn, demeaning representations and opens up new possibilities for seeing Indigenous peoples as contemporary, creative people.

Peters told AJ+ that her project was aimed squarely at disintegrating society’s stereotype of the Native American.

“For so long, the image of Native Americans has always been the relic of the past, with stereotypes–buckskin, feathers, leather,” she said. “…I really want to dispel that ugly stereotype that many people perceive when they think of Native American.”

Learn more about Peters and her work at her website and on Twitter.

Being Asian in Hollywood: Actors, directors, and creators talk representation

(Top row, from left) Sinakhone Keodara, Jodi Long, Asia Jackson, Kesav Wable. (Bottom row from left) Quentin Lee, Mandeep Sethi, Kunjue Li, Chris Tashima. (Photos: IMDB, Twitter, Kesavmwable.com)
(Top row, from left) Sinakhone Keodara, Jodi Long, Asia Jackson, Kesav Wable. (Bottom row from left) Quentin Lee, Mandeep Sethi, Kunjue Li, Chris Tashima. (Photos: IMDB, Twitter, Kesavmwable.com)

Representation in Hollywood is an issue by itself, but Asian representation in Hollywood is near non-existent. With the state of Hollywood being that black equates to “diversity” (despite there being more types of diversity out there than just being black) and Asian characters are still overrun with stereotypes or whitewashing, Asian actors and actresses have had a tough uphill battle in breaking through the glass ceiling.

JUST ADD COLOR is all about exploring how all types of diversity are showcased in Hollywood, so I thought it would be fantastic to have an ongoing series called POC in Hollywood. First up, the Asian American experience in Hollywood. In this longform piece, we’ll take a closer look at some of the issues and biases plaguing Asian creatives in Hollywood.

This is a longform, so if you’d like to jump to specific parts, here’s the table of contents:

Whiteness as the default

IMDB
IMDB

Historically, Hollywood has used Asian locales and people as props, while white characters are given layered characteristics. In short, white characters have been treated as humans, while everyone and everything else are only developed in stereotypes.

The most recent examples of this include The Birth of the Dragon, in which a white character is used to frame Bruce Lee’s biopic, Doctor Strange, which sees Tilda Swinton playing an Asian role and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, which is a white character used to exploit a stereotypical Asian mysticism, Ghost in the Shell, which uses Japanese culture to frame Scarlett Johansson as The Major and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel series, which features India as a backdrop for white characters and Dev Patel playing a stereotypical Indian character.

“What’s particularly silly about The Birth of the Dragon is that they invented a fictional white character thinking that that would be what North American audience would want,” wrote Quentin Lee, The Unbidden director and founder of Margin Films in an email interview. “The filmmakers obviously fell flat on their faces. Not only it wasn’t historically accurate for the story, the film ended up insulting Bruce Lee and the audience who would support it. It was a creative misfire.”

Chris Tashima, an Academy-winning director for the 1998 short film Visas and Virtue and co-founder of Cedar Grove Productions, wrote that while he hasn’t seen The Birth of the Dragon yet, he found the basis of the film “ridiculous.”

“It’s understandable, why this has been the practice—being that traditionally, decision makers have been white males, and like anyone else, will want to see stories about themselves, and that audiences have traditionally been thought of as young, white males,” he wrote. “However, all of that is changing. It has been changing for a while, and it’s easy to see where it’s going: towards a diverse world. That’s an old practice and you’d think Hollywood would want to project, and put themselves on the cutting edge, and be more inclusive. It’s old, and tired, and more and more, I think audiences will want to see something different, something more truthful.”

“I think the overarching theme that runs through how Hollywood/the West represents POCs has to do with the ease with which they are able to strip POCs of agency over their own stories,” wrote Kesav Wable, Brooklyn-based actor, writer, 2011 HBO American Black Film Festival finalist for his short film, For Flow and Sundance lab short-listed screenwriter for a script about a Pakistani boxer wrongfully accused of planning a terror attack.

“This may come across as a bit exaggerated or radical, but I do believe that there is a link between white imperialist concepts such as ‘manifest destiny’ and ‘white man’s burden,’ which validated a lot of the literal takings from POCs that happened throughout earlier periods in civilized history, and now, in a media-hungry world where information, content, and stories are the most valuable currencies, there is an analogous “taking” of the narratives that POCs have lived through. By depicting POC characters through the lens of a white character, it enables white audiences to keep POCs’ stories at arm’s length, and to not completely empathize with those characters because they are not given the complete human dignity and complexity that is afforded the white character.”

“Perhaps, this, in a way, damps down the guilt that white audiences may feel if the POCs stories/circumstances have to do with the literal takings that were exacted by their ancestors. Or it’s just good for a cheap laugh. The truly insidious effect of POCs being usurped from their own narratives is that, even many of us POCs begin to start viewing things through a white lens and stop questioning whether these stories truly represent who we are because of how pervasive white-controlled media is.”

Wable used the upcoming film Happy End, which is about a bourgeois European family living amid the current refugee crisis. “Granted, I haven’t seen the film, so it’d be presumptive of me to conclude that refugees are not conferred with dignity/complexity as characters, but the very thought that French filmmakers think that shining a light on a bourgeois family with the refugee crisis as a ‘backdrop’ can be instructive about their world, speaks volumes about what it is white people are most interested in; themselves,” he wrote. “In this case, apparently, the context is a rueful rumination on their own blindness to the refugees’ plight. Somehow the irony of the very film’s existence as a manifestation of that blindness seems to be lost on them.”

Mandeep Sethi, filmmaker and emcee, also discussed about Hollywood’s tendencies to erase non-white people from their own stories. “I think centralizing POC stories around white characters is Hollywood’s way of taking a black or brown story and making it about white people,” he said. “Our culture is full of amazing stories and histories and Hollywood loves to cherry pick what they like but leave out the real nitty gritty including the people who created, interacted, and setup that story.”

Dev Patel in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. (Twentieth Century Fox/IMDB)
Dev Patel in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. (Twentieth Century Fox/IMDB)

Sinakhone Keodara, founder CEO of Asian Entertainment Television and host of Asian Entertainment Tonight, wrote that Hollywood’s penchant for using whiteness as a default is “a heinous tradition that is long overdue for a change.”

“Rather than trying to normalize Asian presence on screen to a wide American audience, Hollywood often goes the tired, well-worn and ‘safe’ route of using a white character in an attempt to more easily relate the character to a majority white American audience.  It’s cheap and unnecessary, because the proper and more effective way of relating a character to an audience is writing a character with emotional depth,” he said. “Ethnicity informs and colors our individual and community experiences, but emotion transcends ethnic boundaries.  With political correctness aside, Hollywood needs to stop engaging in a form of neo-emotional and neo-psychological colonialism against people of color, especially Asians by injecting whiteness into our stories.”

“I think that centralizing PoC stories around white characters is always going to happen as long as the people telling these stories are white,” wrote Asia Jackson, an actress, model and content creator. “What Hollywood needs is not only diversity on-camera, but to also make greater efforts to allow filmmakers of color to tell their own stories.”

Jodi Long, an actress who was a castmember of the first Asian American TV sitcom All-American Girl and member of the actors branch of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, wrote that while whiteness as the default is the reality in Hollywood, a study shows a much needed change in film. “I just saw a new study The Inclusion Quotient done by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media where the reality in terms of box office is changing, where women and diverse actors in lead roles are now performing extremely well,” she wrote. “Money talks in Hollywood but we still have to get beyond the implicit (unconscious) bias that factors into which projects get greenlit based on outmoded ways of thinking.”

Scarlett Johansson as The Major (Major Kusanagi) in Ghost in the Shell. (Paramount)
Scarlett Johansson as The Major (Major Kusanagi) in Ghost in the Shell. (Paramount)

Kunjue Li, Ripper Street actress and founder of China Dolls Productions Ltd., also addressed how money rules Hollywood, despite Hollywood not making the audience demand actually work for them financially. “I don’t think [whitewashing] is the right thing to do, and second of all, I don’t think it’s very commercial,” she said. “…[I]f they want to sell to Chinese audiences, which is the second biggest film market, then they need to tell a Chinese story…I think you have to tell a Chinese story [with] a Chinese cast.”

“If the film [was] an an American-Chinese co-production, [it would] actually help with the film itself because then it doesn’t have to go through the quota system…which means that only 30 percent of foreign films are allowed to show in China markets every year. If they do it as a co-production, then they get 1/3 of Chinese funding, but they have to have 1/3 of a Chinese [cast]. They’ll have one-third of Chinese funding, they’ll have domestic showings, they don’t have to go through the quota system, it’s much more feasible. Commercially, [whitewashing] doesn’t even work. I don’t understand why people keep doing that.”

Next: The pain of exoticism

Fusion asks women of color for self-care tips to combat Trump’s election

"Gathering the 'Fourth' by Sodanie Chea (Flickr/Creative Commons)
“Gathering the ‘Fourth’ by Sodanie Chea (Flickr/Creative Commons)

We’re all trying to survive the news of a Trump presidency the best we can. I’m sure if you’re anything like me, you’re flailing about, trying remember what self-care looks like in the face of adversity. I say it like that because for too long, self-care gets treated as a luxury instead of the necessity that it actually is. If there’s any time to learn that lesson, it’s right now.

Fusion’s Collier Meyerson asked women of color what their self-care looked like in a Trump world, and the answers varied from listening to music, to asking folks for space, to body treatments. Some of the answers are as follows:

“When I feel hopeless like this—because of my humanity, because of what’s inside of me—I like to watch YouTube clips of black women winning awards. Ha! It’s weird. I like to pull Halle Berry winning her Oscar or Lupita [Nyong’o]. It is such a balm to see us WIN, even though now, it seems like those moments are now much fewer and far between. But for a fleeting moment, yo—I watch women, black women, my women, win and cheer and cry and stand on top of the world—and I feel like there’s room for me.”
– Jazmine Hughes, editor

“Scheduled acupuncture appointments at a low cost ($45) at Pacific College of Medicine [in New York City], playing gospel, drinking water, and giving myself gentle touch. That’s about all I can do right now.”
Lucille Songhai, community affairs director for the Manhattan Borough President

“I did not watch any media coverage of the election last night; that felt like self-care to me. It just feels like a soap opera. Today, I woke up and I’m doing a 40-day meditation practice called the ‘Oneness of Heart,’ and it’s a meditation to connect with my heart on a deep level. With all the chaos and dismay around the world, to value my heart and all connections available and around in all this division, is important. Also, taking time to breathe and to cuddle.
– Shirley Johnson, psychotherapist and yoga teacher

Take a look at Fusion’s full list of self-care tips here.

I would like to say I have some self-care tips to add to this list, but unfortunately, I’m new to the self-care practice. One thing I have suffered from, like a lot of black women and women in general, is feeling like I have to be strong at all times. So my first step towards self-care is realizing that it’s not a weakness to feel less-than-superwoman. In fact, it’s human. So maybe my tip to anyone reading this that is new to the world taking care of yourself is to just remember to take things one step at a time and to be patient with yourself; unlearning bad habits won’t happen overnight, even if you wish they would. It also helps to watch calming things on YouTube. I usually watch a ton of baking videos to help me de-stress.

What are some self-care tips you utilize all the time? Write them down in the comments section below!

Need help fighting back against racist taunts? Turn to #ChangeWithWords

changewithwords

We’re now living in Trump’s America, which means we’re going to be subject to folks who think they can say racist ish and get away with it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to have a good comeback when you’re stunned into silence, shocked someone would even say something racist to you for just walking down the street. But the Asian Social Network has created a hashtag called #ChangeWithWords to help us already have some good comebacks locked in our mental banks.

The hashtag was specifically created with young kids in mind. Kids today have no reference point to a time in which people willingly said racist stuff, and these kids need help the most in dealing with these uncertain times.#ChangeWithWords was designed to give people a way to defend themselves as well as give the bully something to think about and, maybe, change their mind about how they interact with people in the future.

Here are some that have already been shared online:

If you’ve got some good comebacks you want to share, leave your comments below or, better yet, supply them directly online with the hashtag #ChangeWithWords. You never know who might need your witticisms to help them get through the day.