Tag Archives: media

Rogue One smacks of Star Wars‘ obsession with aggressive appropriation

As you might have read from my Rogue One review, I enjoyed it very much. But with the good comes the bad, and I had some gripes with it. One gripe I forgot to mention in my review was the uber-aggressive Arab world coding they were doing in it. It had gotten so aggressive on Jedha that I was literally taken out of the movie at points and was like, “Where’d they film this?!”

I was reminded of my distaste for these films when I saw Twitter user Dina’s thread on the subject. Key takeaways:

So key questions to ask here are 1) Why did the film get this aggressive with its coding, 2) How hurtful is it to the average American’s international knowledge, and 3) How can Hollywood wean themselves away from projecting the same stereotypes on foreign places?

1: Why did the film get this aggressive with its coding?

Star Wars has a history of being slightly aggressive with coding planets with real world analogs. Tatooine is basically the Sahara Desert, but was actually filmed in Tunisia and America’s Death Valley. Yavin 4 is a lush jungle planet, which was represented by Guatemala’s Tikal ruins and the forests the ruins reside in. For every planet, there’s a real world place. But beyond just the filming locations, other parts of the planets crib from real life as well. For instance, George Lucas got the name “Tatooine” from the real Tunisian city Tataouine. Similarly, as Dina points out, The planet Jedha gets its name from Jeddah, a city in Saudi Arabia.

Of course, seeing how this film is made by terrestrial humans who have never been to space, much less to other galaxies and off-world terrains, it’s understandable why the planets (which, if we’re being honest, act more like moons than actual planets with different continents and climates) feel familiar to us. It’s because they, in many ways, are familiar. They’re a collection of earth’s coolest/most awe-inspiring places, launched into a space opera.

However, using a desert for a desert planet is benign. When you start cribbing parts of cultures while layering stereotypical imagery onto planet’s people, then we have a problem.

Let’s get into what makes Jedha troublesome.

Jedha as Mecca: The official description of Jedha is that it’s a holy city for those who are disciples of the Force. Rogue One director Gareth Edwards has described it, quite literally, as Mecca. To quote him (via MTV News):

“If A New Hope is kind of like the story of Jesus, there must be a whole religion beyond that,” he said. “We felt like, for 1,000 generations, the Jedi were kind of these leaders of the spiritual belief system. It’s got to be like a Mecca or a Jerusalem, but in the Star Wars world.”

In the story of Star Wars, it makes sense that there should be a holy city. But does it have to be quite literally a city that takes all of the stereotypes of the Arab world and mash them together? Take a look at these pictures, culled from various press junkets and collections of official Star Wars images and screenshots:

Do these images seem familiar? Well, you might have seen some of their other brothers in Raiders of the Lost Ark:

and The Phantom Menace.

There are other tropes like this found throughout film and television. Dina notes Homeland, which is a great example, as well as Season 4 of Sherlock:

And Lawrence of Arabia:

And many more.

Hollywood’s fascination with what I’m calling “the bazaar aesthetic” is something that’s throughout film, and sure, bazaars exist throughout the Middle East and India, as shown below. But even then, there’s varying difference between bazaars; they don’t all look the same.

Hyderabad bazaar
near Charminar, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. (Ryan/Flickr Creative Commons)

 

Grand Bazaar in Kapali Carsi, Istanbul, Istanbul (Antti T. Nissinen/Flickr Creative Commons)

But that’s not all to the Middle East. Take for instance Jordan, where some of the Jedha desert scenes were filmed. What Rogue One used were Jordan’s deserts for the outskirts of Jedha. That’s cool. But let’s also look at what else Jordan has to offer in the real world aside from its deserts:

Jordan Trip (Christian Heilmann/Flickr Creative Commons)

 

Amman, Jordan (Alicia Bramlett/Flickr Creative Commons)

 

Jordan Trip (Christian Heilmann/Flickr Creative Commons)

 

Aqaba Street, Jordan
The main street along the sea front in the centre of Aqaba, Jordan. (Rob/Flickr Creative Commons/www.bbmexplorer.com)

Of course, the main Jedha scenes were shot at Pinewood Studios in London, but I’m using these images of modern Jordan because the tropes of Jedha reflect on the Middle East as a whole. Hollywood would have you believe that the Middle East is all desert and open-air markets, but surprise! The Middle East is just like the rest of the world; full of paved roads, cars, and buildings.

Seriously aggressive sartorial references to the Middle East: It’s worth pointing out that the headscarves and ceremonial robes found in Jedha reference today’s headscarves, hijabs, niqabs, and burkas worn in various parts of the Middle East. Not that there wouldn’t be an outer space city that might have a cultural tie to head coverings, but it’s especially noteworthy that a place designed to be Space Mecca also has clothing with such overt references to Islam. Did the allegory have to be taken this far in Star Wars, to the point that we forget a little that we’re watching a film about distant planets?

Also, the act of using Islamic sartorial choices goes along with Star Wars‘ other practice of cribbing cultural and ethnic styles and arranging them in a mish-mash to “create” something otherworldly. This practice goes all the way back to Princess Leia’s “cinnamon buns,” the style stemming from Lucas supposedly using Revolutionary-era Mexican women freedom fighters, or soldaderas, as inspiration. However, there’s been contention with that statement, and some now link Leia’s hairstyle to the hairstyles worn by the women of the Hopi tribe. But the appropriation-as-inspiration practice was at its height during the years of the Star Wars prequels, in which Padme/Queen Amidala had styles ranging from Japanese geisha to ancient Mongolian elite, to African updo to actual Hopi hair buns.

Inspiration: Geisha

Inspiration: Mongolian headdress

Inspiration: Geisha

Inspiration: Hopi hairstyle

Inspiration: The hairstyles of the Mangbetu women of the Congo

I get that these styles are “cool,” but they aren’t just cool for cool’s sake; there’s are complete cultures these styles are attached to, and to rob them of their actual context by putting them in a “cultureless” space opera whitewashes these styles to a certain degree.

2: How hurtful is it to the average American’s international knowledge?

The answer is simple: Americans already believe in too many stereotypes as it is. Due to what the media tells us about foreign locales, we believe that cities that aren’t in the Western world are behind the times or haven’t been affected (for better or worse) by westernization and capitalism.

Another example of a modern movie casting a “noble savage” light on a foreign place: Doctor Strange. As I wrote in my review of the film, the film posits Nepal as a place that still hasn’t been touched by the effects of the 21st century.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

When movies decide to portray places in a stereotypical fashion, it’s too easy for the stereotype to be accepted as the truth. It’s even more dangerous to use stereotypes in science fiction; when a place can look like anything and be anything, why rely on stereotypes? But when stereotypes get used in science fiction or fantasy, they’re usually couched in the excuse of “Well, it’s not real anyway! It can look however the creator wants it to look.” But when we’re limiting what’s possible in the imagination, we’re also dulling our senses to what actually exists in reality.

3: How can Hollywood wean themselves away from projecting the same stereotypes on foreign places?

The quickest answer is for Hollywood to start using a bit more imagination when coming up with a look for a futuristic place. Too often, science fiction relies on stereotypes or cultures-as-backdrop to do much of the heavy lifting in a scene. For instance, Blade Runner, in which an aggressive Japanese undercurrent can be seen in futuristic San Francisco.

Actress Alexis Rhee portrays the geisha depicted in Blade Runner. (Warner Bros.)

Of course, it can be explained away that San Francisco has a high Japanese population, so perhaps San Francisco would embrace more of Japan the more futuristic it gets. However, there’s hardly an Asian person in Blade Runner–Alexis Rhee, who is the billboard geisha, and James Hong as Hannibal Chew, round out the film’s Asian population. So the whole effect comes off as a cynical costume for a huge audience payoff.

Currently, we have Ghost in the Shell coming in where the original Blade Runner left off, using Japan itself as a costume for a film lacking in Japanese characters.

It literally uses the same billboard idea from Blade Runner. (Paramount Pictures)

Hollywood has got to stop relying on tired tropes like these. It only helps keep America in the dark about its neighbors, and it keeps movies themselves from having an even greater impact than they could have.

Star Wars images: Lucasfilm/Disney

Universal Fan Con: A Safe Space For ALL of Us

Jamie Broadnax

(originally posted at Black Girl Nerds)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To help support UFC’s Kickstarter visit http://kck.st/2hM163Y.  And for more information about UFC, follow @UniversalFanCon on Twitter.

About The Black Geeks

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

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

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

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

About Black Girl Nerds

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

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

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

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

For more information go to http://universalfancon.com or follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/UniversalFanCon or @UniversalFanCon on Twitter and Instagram.

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

Lucasfilm/Disney

SPOILERS ABOUND!

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

Monique’s review: What a film.

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

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

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

The good:

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

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

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

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

Lucasfilm/Disney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…I always felt the Asian gay men that I knew had much heavier cultural-shame issues…I felt like those guys didn’t date Asian men because of that cultural shame,” he said. “So I wanted it to seem really normal in the future…that there was zero shame in the future.”

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

Lucasfilm/Disney

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

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

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

The bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucasfilm/Disney

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final verdict

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

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

Marvel Studios

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

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

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

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

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

Marvel Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

20th Century Fox/screencap

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

Take a look at the trailer for yourself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAILER

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

Marvel Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Marvel Studios

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

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

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

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

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

Marvel Studios

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

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

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

Marvel Studios

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

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

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

Marvel Studios

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

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

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

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

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

3 reasons to support the #SupportPOCpods movement

We’re in Trump’s America now. Whether we like it or not (probably the latter), we are now subject to the twisty-turny lies and propaganda that will emanate from either the White House or Trump Tower. As far as politics go, it might get worse before it gets better.

But when it comes to creative and informative output from podcasters? That’s a totally different story. From where I’m sitting, 2017 is shaping up to possibly be the most explosive, creative time for entertainment and media, and that feeling is no different for the podcasting arena, especially where podcasters of color are concerned.

Podcasters of color are in the unique and fortunate position to provide their listeners with points of view intrinsic to the issues facing marginalized communities in America. These podcasters report on various topics, from movies, comics, current news, and more, but these creators also give their audiences lessons in how to think outside of their current perspectives and how to understand issues intrinsic to the marginalized American experience. These podcasters don’t set out to hold their audience’s hand, but regardless, listeners intent on learning come away from these podcasts better, more supportive allies and friends.

A collective of podcasters of color have collaborated to create #SupportPOCpods, an initiative to raise awareness and visibility of podcasters of color. A #SupportPOCpods live Twitter Q&A moderated by Shaun Lau of No, Totally! will take place Friday, Dec. 9 at 12 p.m. EST.

But I’ve buried the lede enough: You want to know the exact three reasons you need to support podcasters of color. It’s pretty simple.

1. Who knows what the journalism pedigree will be like in 2017. We’ll need some facts. We’re already facing malaise from having to refute or fact-check the upcoming Trump administration’s foolishness. Imagine what it’s going to be like in 2017. With newsrooms floundering to get around the learning curve that is Donald Trump, plus 24-7 news stations looking for ways to capitalize on Trump’s antics at the expense of actual muckraking, we’ll need someone out there willing to provide a counterbalance. That’s where podcasters of color come in.

Now, it shouldn’t be left up just to the podcasters to do the work journalists are supposed to be doing; the journalism industry shouldn’t be shirking its responsibilities for a quick buck. But when it comes to you wanting to retain your sanity and knowledge that yes, someone out there sees the emperor has no clothes on, then you’d be wise to turn to podcasters of color for the real truth.

2. These voices are part of the mainstream, whether the mainstream would like to believe it. There are a lot of great podcasts out there. But how many podcasts by people of color (outside of a select few) have you seen acknowledged by the mainstream? However, these voices are some of the main ones providing platforms for and education on various social justice and cultural initiatives, such as #WhitewashedOUT and #OscarsSoWhite. These voices are the ones that are driving the conversations, so it’s ridiculous that the mainstream media routinely boxes out all but a few marginalized creators.

3. It’s just good podcasting. Look, at the end of the day, we all want to be entertained, informed, what have you. These podcasters all excel at what they do, so if you’re just a shallow listener and want something fun to listen to (no shame in that), then why not listen to the Black Girl Nerds crew interview popular movie and TV stars? Why not check out Hard N.O.C. Life to learn about the latest in geekery? What about movie criticism/humor from No, Totally!? What about some fandom talk with Nerds of Prey? The list goes on and on and on.

As LeVar Burton so famously said, “You don’t have to take my word for it”: If you don’t want to hear this from me, how about reading about #SupportPOCpods straight from the podcasters’ themselves? Check out their open letter:


#SupportPOCpods: An Open Letter From Podcasters of Color

In the aftermath of the United States’ 2016 presidential election, many white Americans are asking how a candidate so inexorably tied to white supremacy was able to secure a seat as the leader of the free world.

People of color in the United States, however, are somewhat less surprised. We’ve seen, felt, and suffered under white supremacy as long as we’ve been alive.

Discussions examining the conditions resulting in the President-elect’s ascension have largely been variations on a limited set of themes, and are often confined to the world of political machinery. Was it the relative political weakness of his opponent? The failure of mainstream media to do its job?

At a human level, however, the story is intimately familiar to marginalized people: we are the “other,” and our position within society’s hierarchy breeds condescension, derision, and hate. Regardless of other factors, it’s no surprise to us that a candidate promising to return the country to “real Americans” could appeal widely enough to become its leader.

Traditional entertainment media has played a shameful role in normalizing the passive white supremacy successfully mobilized by our President-elect. From television news to television dramas; from independent film to Hollywood blockbusters, talented people of color face nearly impossible odds when charting career paths in the industries that shape American culture.

Even if we overcome these odds and break into mainstream entertainment, we are often unheard, unseen, or poorly represented. The vast majority of our roles are written, directed, or mediated by white people. Erasure and poor representation reinforce harmful stereotypes, robbing people of color of our individual humanity, and bigotry thrives in an environment where “others” are not humanized.

Podcasting, as a medium, can provide a powerful remedy for these ills. Unlike other forms of mass media, its low cost of entry means that podcasting isn’t intrinsically prohibitive to the historically disadvantaged in this country. Podcasting provides people of color with the opportunity to circumvent existing content creation and distribution systems that privilege whiteness.

As podcasts continue to carve space in mainstream consumption habits, however, the industry’s infrastructure seems to be perpetuating, rather than resisting, the original sins of the white-favoring context of mainstream American culture.

Consider the iTunes charts, where white-dominated public radio reigns supreme, represented by shows like This American Life, TED Radio Hour, and Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. When the top spots aren’t held by public radio, they’re often occupied by the white male-dominated comedy industry, in the form of Joe Rogan, Bill Maher, Mike Rowe, or Chris Hardwick.

Consider the challenges people of color face after crossing the aforementioned low barrier of entry into podcasting. Creating a platform is easy and inexpensive, but sustainability via profitability and increased reach is often predicated on the ability to make further investment, both financially and in terms of time. People of color in America, however, are paid less and have fewer free hours than their white counterparts.

Advertisers have become a tried and true option for podcasters to monetize their content, but listenership thresholds placed on advertising consideration exacerbate this divide. Even the methods used to gather reliable listenership data are in danger of exclusionary stratification.

Podtrac, which has been around since the early days of podcasting, provides listenership metrics for free. By contrast, however, Slate’s Megaphone platform, billed as a next-generation solution for data collection as well as publishing, is restricted to networks and podcasts with average downloads of 20,000 or more per episode. For context, in September of 2015, the median number of downloads per podcast episode was around 160. Only the top 10% of podcasts reached 5,000 downloads per episode1.

The digital divide, which describes the difficulty of vulnerable people to obtain internet access, is in danger of being replicated in the world of new media. In a culture that favors whiteness, simply applying business as usual to a revolutionary, naturally inclusive medium will result in a podcasting landscape that places undue downward financial pressure on podcasters of color.

When people ask, “how could we have stopped a bigot from reaching the White House?” one answer is that we need to love each other. To love each other, we must know each other. Podcasts provide people of color with a direct, unmediated line to fellow Americans who may never hear us otherwise.

We request that podcast advertisers and curators begin making counterbalancing efforts to provide creators of color an equal chance to succeed.

To iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, and all other podcast discovery and distribution platforms, we ask that you:

  1. Create a top-level genre for independent podcasters of color, increasing ease of discovery for those looking to engage directly with people of color. This genre should coexist with, rather than replace, current genre assignments; in other words, a sports podcast by people of color should be found in both the “Sports” and “Podcasters of Color” sections.
  2. Include at least one independent podcast produced by a person or people of color at all times in highly visible promotional areas, such as the iTunes Store podcast section front page.

To any media organization creating “must-listen” podcast lists or writing stories about podcasting, we ask that you:

  1. Aggressively seek out and recognize independent podcasters of color. True to our nature as podcasters, we can be found on all social media platforms promoting our work.
  2. Recognize that podcasters of color are not a monolith, and that we exist in all genres beyond our ethnicities. If you are writing a story about a “race-neutral” podcast genre, recognize that race-neutral prioritizes a white perspective and fight this by finding a podcaster of color in that genre. People of color podcast on all subjects, including, but not limited to, our race.

To listeners, we ask that you:

  1. Help us overcome the limitations of systems that prioritize white podcasters by doing what those systems often don’t: share and promote the content you love by people of color.
  2. Keep a watchful eye on podcasting platforms and media organizations. Call them out when their content gives the impression that only white podcasters are eligible for success.

Independent podcasters of color have made, and continue to make, inroads declaring our worth via the quality, thoughtfulness, and humanity of our content. We believe that we are major contributors to a culture that can resist the normalization of overt scapegoating and bigotry. We ask the aforementioned organizations to take these actions in the hope that all of us may reverse the tide of hate by awakening empathy.

Please join us.

Signed,

Shaun Lau, Host of No, Totally!

Jamie Broadnax, Founder of Black Girl Nerds and Host of the BGNPodcast

Shannon Miller, Founder and Co-Host of Nerds of Prey

Melissa Perez, Co-Host of Nerds of Prey

Lauren Warren, Co-Host of Nerds of Prey

Cameron Glover, Co-Host of Nerds of Prey

Stephanie Williams, Curator and Host of The Lemonade Show

Keith Chow, Founder of The Nerds of Color and Host of Hard N.O.C. Life and DC TV Classics

Britney Monae, Co-Host of DC TV Classics

Karis Watie, Founder and Co-Host of Vocal Vixens

Melissa Powers, Asian Oscar Bait and True Crime Asia

Matthew Eng, Asian Oscar Bait

Dap, Host of REELYDOPE Radio

Tonja Renée Stidhum, Co-Host of Cinema Bun Podcast

Berook Alemayehu, Co-Host of Cinema Bun Podcast

Alycia Snow, Founder and Host of Hiroja Shibe’s Space Odyssey Network

Keane Roberson, Host of #AllpodcastsMatter

Esta Fiesta, Host of Poised n Polished

Kaitlyn Rose, Co-Host of Fireside Friends

Ryan Persaud, Co-Host of Fireside Friends

Allen Ibrahim, Co-Host of Fireside Friends

Berry, Founder of PodcastsInColor.com

Leonardo Faierman, writer/co-creator of Snow Daze, co-host of #BlackComicsChat

Christine “Xine” Yao, PhD, Co-Host and Founder of PhDivas Podcast

Liz Wayne, PhD, Co-Host and Founder of PhDivas Podcast

Tolu Olowofoyeku, Co-Founder of Kugali Media, Co-Host of The Kugali Podcast


You gotta support #SupportPOCpods. Your podcasting queue—and your sanity—depends on it.

Want a handy infographic to share? Spread this with the hashtag #SupportPOCpods!

 

 

Unsung heroes: Cisco Ramon

cisco-ramon

Ife

(Originally published on Geeks of Color)

Hello guys, Ife here with an article about an Unsung Hero of color, Cisco Ramon aka Vibe . I want to talk about this dude in all of his bad assery. From his origin to his live action adaptation in the CW TV show “The Flash”.

Cisco Ramon took the alias of Vibe when Aquaman disbanded the Justice League. Then he heard speculation of a new League was coming together in his hometown of Detroit. He decided to quit his position as a street gang leader to become a member of the new League. Ramon’s League qualifying ability was that he was a metahuman able to emit vibratory shock waves. His younger brother ended up developing similar powers. He went under the alias of Reverb and was associated with Booster Gold’s team The Conglomerate.

Vibe has the most unique set of powers in the DC Comic Universe in my opinion. He omits shock wave that can shatter concrete of steel. He has an above average agility, He even has the ability to stop the speed force. I know what you guys are already asking yourself, and yes this makes him a HUGE threat to The Flash, or anyone who harbors the speed force. Amanda Waller says that “Cisco Ramon might be one of the most powerful super-humans on the planet. He wields vibrational powers that could in theory shake the Earth apart. And he’s the only person we know of who can find and track inter-dimensional breaches.” Fun Fact: Vibe can’t be detected by security cameras.

flash-season-2

Now, in The Flash TV show Cisco Ramon is a mechanical engineer at S.T.A.R. Labs and he was one of the people that helped build the particle accelerator that malfunctioned and turned people through out Central city into metahumans.including him and Barry Allen. He figured out his powers later on in the series his powers are the same but different from the comics. He gets visions when he touches certain things. For example when he hugged Kendra Saunders a.k.a Hawkgirl and saw her when she was emerged but she didn’t know of her powers in that lifetime. Or when he touched Jay Garrick a.k.a Zoom of Earth-2’s helmet. And figured out that the person that was trying to help them was actually the villain. When he went to Earth-2 he saw his doppelganger which would turn out to be Reverb. Reverb then revealed to him that he was wielding a very crucial power which was the vibrational waves. His doppelganger then displayed it by hitting The Flash with his sonic waves. Vibe actually did it once on Earth-1 when he was trying to stop Caitlin Snow’s doppelganger ‘Killer Frost’ he attempted to do it again but then failed. But it became regular for him to have special made glasses that helped him Vibe and he was able to open the breach between Earth-1 and Earth-2. He is very intelligent and he is an above average hacker.obviously not at the skills of Felicity Smoak but he gets the job done.

I wanted to touch on this character cause he is a hero of Hispanic heritage and a very underrated hero who does a lot of things on the Flash tv show. I think the actor Carlos Valdes does a very great job portraying his character. The writers and creators of the show did an excellent job of giving him the perfect sense of humor. He is one of my favorite characters in the DCTV universe. He has known to be a bit of ladies man on some occasions. I believe his character will developed extremely well. Also there are some people who don’t know who he is, but now they know. Thank you for reading this, you can read many more by me and other GOC writers on this website. Thank you and Keep it Frosty.🙂

How “Star Wars” forgot about black women

I love the new direction Star Wars is taking with The Force Awakens and now Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I even support the fact that Rogue One is rumored to be the first Star Wars film to not begin with the classic Star Wars preamble crawl. Rogue One is also running with the diverse platform The Force Awakens started, featuring a woman as the main character (Felicity Jones) and a main ensemble cast featuring Forrest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Fares Fares, Jimmy Smits, James Earl Jones (as the voice of Darth Vader, of course), and Genevieve O’Reilly.

But for the most part, Star Wars has only been killing it when it comes to white women and men of color. Once again, it’s time to ask the age-old question: What about the black women?

In the latest Rogue One trailer, this lovely lady makes an appearance:

star-wars-rogue-one-black-woman
Lucasfilm/screengrab

But do we get to learn more about her? I’m already wanting to know the rest of her story and who she is in the resistance.

What’s the worst part of this erasure is that it’s not like Star Wars hasn’t prominently featured black women before. It’s just that the women are usually in the written tales of the franchise. For instance, Imperial naval officer Rae Sloane, who appears in various Star Wars books, her first appearance being A New Dawn.

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm

And Sana Starros, Han Solo’s self-proclaimed former wife, is featured in the Marvel’s Star Wars comics, first appearing in Star Wars 4: Skywalker Strikes, Part IV.

But Disney and Lucasfilm might have not taken a prime opportunity to actually cast Sana or any other woman of color as Han Solo’s opposite in the upcoming Han Solo spinoff film. Emilia Clarke is set to play a prominent role in the Han Solo film, a role that Tessa Thompson, Zoe Kravitz, and Adria Arjona (Guatemalan/Puerto Rican) might have auditioned for. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s currently unclear if Clarke’s role is the same role the other actresses tried out for, if the film will feature multiple women. As it stands right now, though, Clarke’s is the only name we’ve heard since the news of Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover landing the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian roles, respectively. That doesn’t bode well for black female Star Wars fans who have been waiting to see themselves represented in a big way in what’s supposed to be a highly diverse intergalactic universe.

Also something that’s annoyed many a black woman fan—the fact that the one black woman we do have in the new Star Wars universe, Lupita Nyong’o, is playing Maz Kanata, a character that is completely CGI. (A similar annoyance with black men in sci-fi can be read about in this companion article concerning Idris Elba’s role in Star Trek Beyond.)

lupita-nyongo-maz-kanata
A.M.P.A.S./Lucasfilm

Another strike against Lucasfilm and the Star Wars universe is how often black women and other women of color are often cast as Twi’leks, whose women are often enslaved as sex objects. To quote Wookipedia:

“Since female Twi’leks were regarded as graceful and beautiful beings, many of them were forced into a life of slavery at the hands of the galaxy’s wealthy and powerful.”

It’s more than a little disturbing that while women of color are all but absent in the Star Wars universe, they are readily cast as women who are sold into a sexual slavery.

twileks-lyn-me-oola
Lucasfilm

It’s even more disturbing that Oola, the only sex slave coded as a black woman due to the actress, gets killed moments after we see her on screen in Return of the Jedi. There could have been a better outcome for her instead of just being used as disposable eye-candy.

oola-main-image
Lucasfilm

Meanwhile, the Star Wars universe is proliferated with brunette white female protagonists:

star-wars-brunettes
Lucasfilm

This isn’t to disparage against these actresses, since I like all of them. But I’m trying to prove a point. Star Wars has a predilection, a tradition, in fact, of casting brunettes, when brunettes don’t signify all of woman-kind. If Star Wars is really going to be the franchise that puts women first, it’s got to put all women first. Black women and women of color in general have been historically forced to identify with women who do not look like us or experience life like us. You’d think that in a galaxy far far away, it’d be all too easy to find women of color, and not just women of color who happen to be sex slaves. In a way, Star Wars reiterates a fact of life that has been apparent to many women of color; we’re usually more palatable heard and not seen, and if we are seen, then we have to be as vampy and erotic as possible in order to matter. That’s not the kind of message Star Wars needs to bring into something as uplifting and inspiring as a sci-fi space opera that preaches equality for all people.

Am I still going to see Rogue One? Of course. Supporting it means I’m supporting the actors of color who are prominently featured. But my dollars will hopefully act as a means for Star Wars to increase their focus on diversity. Hopefully, this will mean that someday soon, we’ll finally have a sistah in space.

“Being Asian in Hollywood” is now a free e-book!

being-asian-in-hollywood

Recently I posted my longform article “Being Asian in Hollywood,” featuring several members of the Hollywood community. I’ve now compiled the article into a free e-book, just for JUST ADD COLOR readers.

The design of this e-book was inspired by the beauty and talent of Anna May Wong, and photography featuring her decorate the pages of this book in homage to her. Wong is someone who wasn’t featured prominently in this article, but it’s due to her sacrifice, and the sacrifices of other Asian actors in old Hollywood, who paved the way for today’s current crop of stars.

Here’s a look at some of the pages that you’ll see inside:

Download Being Asian in Hollywood here or click the cover in the site’s sidebar!