I can’t wait to see Ryan Murphy’s Pose! The new show is breaking ground for trans actors by employing the largest cast of trans actors ever on a scripted show.
Pose is set in the mid-1980s in New York City. According to Variety, the series examines “the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society in Manhattan: the emergence of tthe luxury Trummp-era universe, the ball culture world, and downtown social and literary scene.”
Along with Murphy, Pose is co-executive produced by trans activist and director Silas Howard, and will have scripts written by Janet Mock and Our Lady J. The show will also with with Murphy’s Half initiative, which will mentor trans directors.
Rodriguez is probably best known to Marvel fans for her non-speaking role as Sister Boy in Luke Cage. She has also appeared in The Carrie Diaries and Nurse Jackie. One of Rodriguez’s latest roles is as Ebony in the film Saturday Church, which focuses on a young teen boy who escapes to fantasy to deal with his struggles with religion and gender identity. The church opened at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Moore also stars in Saturday Church as Dijon. Before film, Moore made her name as a model and recently walked in New York Fashion Week. (You can read more about her in an interview she gave with NBC Out.)
Jackson has been modeling for over 20 years and has appeared in fashion magazines such as Vogue España. Jackson has published her autobiography, The Transsexual from Tobago, and is also an LGBT and human rights activist.
Sahar is best known as Adriana in Transparent. Before that, Sahar played The Lady of The Night in Mr. Robot. Sahar is also a recording artist and was called one of Hollywood’s rising talents in OUT Magazine. She has also been crowned Miss L.A. Pride and Queen U.S.A.
Lately, Ross has been seen on TNT’s summer hit show Claws. She’s also appeared on Transparent and lends her voice to an Amazon Original animated series Danger & Eggs. She has also starred in the TV show Her Story, which follows trans and queer women and the ups and downs of their dating lives.
Pose begins filming in New York City this November!
The Academy has taken a huge step forward with rectifying their “white old man” look by adding a new freshman class of 774 actors and directors, including Gal Gadot, Leslie Jones, Jordan Peele, Nazanin Boniadi, Grace Lee (whom I’ve interviewed before), Zoë Kravitz, Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Betty White (why hadn’t she been added yet???), B.D. Wong, Donnie Yen, Leslie Jones, Riz Ahmed and Dwayne Johnson.
(For the full list of new members from all branches, visit Oscars.org.)
According to the Oscars’ stats, the new members hail from 57 countries and are 39 percent female, with seven of the branches inviting more women than men. Thirty percent of the new members are also people of color.
This is a vast improvement for the Academy, especially taking in where the organization was about a year and a half ago, with threatened boycotts and outrage over the lack of minority-led Oscar nominated films. Fans had utilized April Reign’s hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to voice their anger, and the Academy has taken meaningful steps to respond, first by adding more members from various backgrounds last year, and now this new batch of members this year.
Of course, even though these numbers are huge steps in the right direction, there are some gaps that need to be filled. Such as there aren’t many listed who are also disabled. I say “many” because there could be people with invisible disabilities, such as mental illness, that are listed. As of my review, I only see one actor with a physical disability, Warwick Davis. The focus for the Academy right now is purely on gender and race demographics, but it’d be great to see the organization focus on disability demographics as well, since it might spur the organization to recognize films that feature actual disabled actors.
Also, there aren’t any Native actors listed and there’s very little Latinx and LGBT representation as well. Bigger gains could be made on these fronts. But on the whole, this fleshed-out Academy voting board will benefit both the Academy itself and movie goers, despite the opinion of one Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter.
Usually, I refrain from jumping on fellow movie critics and analysts, since oftentimes, we are getting paid for our opinion, and an opinion is something that you can either agree with and support or disagree with and turn the other way. However, for Feinberg’s analysis about the new batch of voters, I have to make an exception for.
Feinberg’s initial point—that jamming the voting board with more actors might seem more like a vapid political move to avoid bad PR—is rather innocuous by itself. You can either take it or leave (and even as an innocuous point, I would leave it because of the positive impact any move, including ones that could be seen as vapid and political, could have on the poor state of representation in Hollywood today). But what gets more intolerable is how aggressive Feinberg becomes in discrediting the actors who got the invite.
I hate to single anyone out, but I don’t even think the people who I am going to reference would argue that they have had the sort of film career that already merits an invitation to the film Academy. Let’s start with this year’s invitees to the acting branch, whose names are the most familiar to the general public. Wanda Sykes? Zoe Kravitz? Terry Crews? Really? Some have made only one big-screen contribution of any note, such as Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot. And many are predominately known for their work on the small screen: The Night Of‘s Riz Ahmed, Atlanta‘s Donald Glover, Underground‘s Aldis Hodge, Saturday Night Live‘s Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, The Cosby Show‘s Phylicia Rashad, The Golden Girls‘ Betty White and Mr. Robot‘s B.D. Wong (I have similar reservations about several white male invitees, as well, such as Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm and ex-bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno.)
…None of this is intended to insult the talent and/or doubt the future potential of any of these individuals, but rather to examine and question what the Academy is trying to do here. I believe that the Academy’s intentions are admirable, but that its tactics are foolhardy. The bottom line is that the Academy cannot fix the industry’s diversity problems any more than a tail can wag a dog. This is not a problem that can be reverse-engineered.
Feinberg might write that he’s not trying to insult these newly-minted Academy members by rejecting their entire body of work as a reason to be invited into the Academy, but that’s exactly what he’s doing. First of all, he’s acting like none of the people he’s listed have ever been in movies–they all have film credits to their name along with television credits. I mean, how many Jurassic Park films does B.D. Wong have to be in to be recognized as an actor in a film franchise, not to mention the voice of Mulan’s (bisexual) partner, Shang? Before Mr. Robot, Rami Malek was a film actor, having been part of the Night at the Museum and Twilight franchises. Heck, he just finished a movie, Buster’s Mal Heart. Doesn’t Rogue One count as a good reason for Riz Ahmed to be a part of the Academy? Also, are you really going to go as far as s**t on someone as respected and beloved as Betty White?
The bottom line is you can’t be invited to the Academy unless you’ve been in the movies or work in the film industry in some way (along with some other qualifiers such as sponsorship, etc.). For Feinberg to say that because these actors in particular have made their mark in TV as well is needlessly splitting hairs. Secondly, why not add them to the Academy?? What’s the big deal? With as long as these folks have been in the game, and with as many hours as they’ve dedicated to their craft, they deserve to give their say on what they feel are the best films of the year. It’s not like they don’t know what makes a good story, and that’s all a film is–a story. It would seem the only problem is that the Academy has proven that they aren’t just inviting people for good PR; they’re inviting people to double down on the promise it made to its members and audiences alike–to create an organization that actually reflects the movie-going public.
Feinberg is poking a bear by singling out majority POC actors whilst adding parenthetically that he has some gripes with two white male members, as if that makes his poking okay (and tell me why Hamm and Ferrigno can’t sound off on films?). This is not the hill to die on, especially if your argument is created from something as baseless as “they’ve been on TV, therefore the films they’ve been in don’t count towards Academy membership.”
Feinberg does write in an earlier post about the new members that “there is a refreshing presence of other highly accomplished minorities throughout the list” and that many among the new members, particularly the new members of the directing branch, should have been invited long ago. However, he takes such a disturbing tone in his later analysis, with the excuse for it being the argument that adding more people of color to the Academy won’t stop racism from happening in Hollywood at large. But you can’t be both for and against more representation in Hollywood, unless you’re a champion at doublethink. Besides, arguing that the Academy can’t solve racism is like not seeing the forest for the trees.
The gag is that everyone knows the Academy can’t solve industry racism by itself. The Academy, and its viewpoints up until the past year or so, is a product of a society that is still grappling with the realities of race, the sexual spectrum, mental illness, and how to deal with all of it in a respectful manner. There’s a lot more that has to happen inside of Hollywood to truly change the industry culture, sure. There’s also a lot that has to happen outside of Hollywood before it begins to trickle into Hollywood en masse. Like the Academy, Hollywood’s ills are only a product of America’s ills.
But that’s not to say the trickle isn’t already happening. We’ve seen more filmmakers bolstered by the many avenues now available to producing their visions, and we’ve seen more and more actors of color and marginalized communities speak out against terrible treatment in the industry. We’ve also seen the online community of movie fans—the audience members themselves—voice their frustration with the industry on social media, their message finding a place where it can be amplified and heard by The Powers That Be.
All of this led up to many watershed moments of representation in the past year, but none that inhabit the whole purpose of expanding the Academy more than Moonlight, an indie film showcasing a story about black gay men, winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Only two years ago, a film like that wouldn’t have made it to the nomination rounds. But, because of an Academy that had more minority members, Moonlight got the organization’s attention and became the Best Picture Winner, beating out a movie that couldn’t be more Status Quo if it tried, La La Land.
Also, the fact that more people from underrepresented communities will now have a chance to give other creators from underrepresented communities Oscar nods, it’ll give those creators the same clout and marketability their white counterparts have been enjoying for years. It’ll also give films featuring minority casts the same monetary and critical opportunities white films have never been without. In short, it’ll open up more possibilities in Hollywood for directors and actors, which will lead to more films being made, more awards given, and so on and so forth. The expansion of the Academy has the potential to have a snowball effect in Hollywood, and it can only be for the positive.
So, I, as a fellow entertainment analyst and critic myself, can’t abide the rhetoric that moves like these don’t change anything. It’s like telling the members of SNCC back in the ‘60s that their sit-ins at lunch counters wouldn’t amount to anything. Since we can now take for granted the concept of sitting at a booth in a restaurant, it would seem their sit-ins did make a world of difference. You can’t throw out progress just because it is slow and not immediately all-encompassing. That’s ridiculous.
I suggest for readers to take a look at Flavorwire’s article “THR Doesn’t Think All Those Women and POC ‘Merit’ Academy Inclusion'” by Jason Bailey, since he goes more in on Feinberg’s hitpiece-as-analysis way more than I did. But what Bailey writes at the end is particularly important:
It’s one thing for Academy members, terrified of their own obsolescence, to voice these thoughts in private (and, as writer Charles Bramesco notes, in the Reporter‘s loathsome annual tradition of ‘Anonymous Oscar ballots’). But it’s reprehensible for an industry publication like THR to hand Feinberg the bandwidth to mouthpiece it for them, with all the conviction of a country-club president who assures us that it means nothing that their membership is all-white. It’s just how things are done around here.
To end this on a positive note, I’m excited that so many actors, many of whom should have been a part of the Academy in the first place, have now been added to this illustrious roster. I’m sure they’ll serve the organization well, and I can’t wait to see what films they nominate for 2018.
The first trailer for Star Trek:Discovery is out, and it’s everything I’d hoped it would be and more!
Long-time sci-fi fans who also happen to be women of color know just how rare it is to see a woman of color in the Captain’s Chair. With Star Trek, the closest we’ve gotten is Lt. Nyota Uhura, who manned the communications for the Enterprise. She wasn’t a captain (until much, much later in the Star Trek canon), but she was on the bridge, showing young girls that they too could shoot for the stars (even if you’d only end up hitting the clouds).
This go round, we have female captain and a female first officer in Star Trek: Discovery. Michelle Yeoh plays Captain Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green plays Commander Michael Burnham. Here’s more about the show from ExtremeTech:
“Star Trek: Discovery is set ten years before the events of the original series and takes place in the original timeline, not the alternate future the Romulan Nero created when he traveled back in time, killed George Kirk, and later destroyed Vulcan. Its lead character is Commander Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Unlike previous Star Trek shows, Discovery won’t deliberately focus on the captain (or space station commander) as its protagonist. Her nickname, “Number One,” is a delibarate homage to the character of the same name from the Star Trek pilott “The Cage,” as played by Majel Barrettt. Burnham is human, but was raised on Vulcan by Vulcans, which explains some of the setting of this trailer.”
What I love about this first look and synopsis, aside from it just being Star Trek, is that it seems like there will be (or there is the potential for there is to be) a nuanced look at race, culture, and the push and pull of the two. All of this seems to be embodied in Martin-Green’s character. Of course, in the future, everyone’s post-racial to a degree. But Since we’re in 2017, I like how Burnham is a black woman who is 1) not defined by an American stereotype of “blackness,” and 2) has a struggle between her humanness and her cultural upbringing on Vulcan. I think this type of character could appeal to many audience members who have grown up wrestling with parts of their identity that society wants to put at odds with each other; maybe the most analogous situation is a trans-racial adoptee who recognizes that they are not the same race as their parents, but have grown up in their parents’ culture instead of the culture everyone expects from them.
On the whole, though, it’s just fun to see two women running the show. Both actors have proven themselves time and again (Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon among her other films, Martin-Green’s character Sasha on The Walking Dead), and it’s so rewarding to see two women of color hold down the fort in a genre that is still dominated by white men. I can’t wait to see them in action.
What do you think about Star Trek: Discovery? Give your opinions in the comments section below! Star Trek: Discovery debuts with a two-part season premiere this fall on CBS, with the full season airing on CBS All Access.
So, Cosmopolitan Magazine really thought they’d be able to post a near-Eugenics-style post and get away with it. They also think that they’ll be able to get away without an apology, either. It’s now Day 2 and we have yet to hear anything from Cosmopolitan.
Earlier Sunday morning, Cosmopolitan posted “The 10 Most Beautiful Women in the World, According to Science.” Just so happens, all of the women save for three happen to be white.
Clearly, the article is racist. But, science, right? Here’s what the article states when it comes to what makes people genetically pleasing:
“It all comes down to an ancient Greek philosophy called the Phi ratio, which Julian De Silva, MD, of the Centre for Advanced Facial Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery used along with computer facial mapping to determine which famous women have the ideal face ratio and symmetry.”
So, here’s the list of the most beautiful people in the world:
Notice what’s found to be aesthetically pleasing across the board with these women: white or light skin, straight hair, Eurocentric features, and slim bodies (of course, we can argue over Kim K’s body, which is both surgically enhanced beyond belief and looks to be around a size 14 or 16 despite her penchant for fitting into ill-fitting, smaller clothes).
Notice what’s not considered aesthetically pleasing: darker skin, curly or kinky hair, more ethnically diverse features (such as broader noses, bigger lips, bigger butts—not counting Kim K’s fake butt), diversity in body type/shape. Basically, 2/3 of the planet are considered not-pretty, while folks who fall in line with the actresses or models listed above are. Fascinating.
Of course, Twitter took Cosmopolitan to task for this:
And fuck what @Cosmopolitan is talking about. Black women are beautiful too.
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) March 12, 2017
THEYRE ALL WHITE pic.twitter.com/HGVV2ZEvcY
— j*selle (@midnightdrivin) March 11, 2017
— Anthony P. McGlaun (@AMTenor) March 12, 2017
So now can we talk about how magazines like @Cosmopolitan normalize the wildly racist notion that only white women are beautiful?
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) March 12, 2017
First of all, any most beautiful list WITHOUT Angela Bassett is invalid. Cosmo should slap themselves for not making the adjustment. pic.twitter.com/vBhXVBZf7b
— lauren warren™️ (@iamlaurenp) March 12, 2017
Check out more Twitter responses at Bossip.
Ultimately, Cosmopolitan deleted their post from Twitter and from their site, but never gave an apology.
— Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) March 12, 2017
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) March 12, 2017
Furthermore, they moved the article to their overseas properties; for instance, I was able to read the article from Cosmopolitan Middle East, which is just as cruel, since once again, the article is being marketed towards a readership that includes non-white readers (especially in a majority non-white population like the UAE). Hopefully, those in the UAE are as opposed to this article as we in the States are.
How much did you hate Cosmo’s article? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
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:
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.
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.
PUT SANA STARROS IN THE HAN SOLO MOVIE pic.twitter.com/CwL3epeiOH
— Viktor T. (@wondermann5) November 27, 2016
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.)
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.
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.
Meanwhile, the Star Wars universe is proliferated with brunette white female protagonists:
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.
The New York Fashion Week would have been business as usual if it wasn’t for Christian Siriano. The designer, already known for embracing various body shapes through his Lane Bryant partnership (the fall line is coming out they day of this post) and through dressing actresses like Leslie Jones as well as First Lady Michelle Obama, has taken his commitment to body inclusion to the next level. This time, for his Spring/Summer 2017 runway show, he cast five plus-size models to the catwalk.
Check out the social media buzz (and the full show!) for yourself:
⚡️ “Christian Siriano celebrates plus size women at NYFW”https://t.co/GSJPDYDeMV
— Christian Siriano (@CSiriano) September 11, 2016
— Coco Rocha (@cocorocha) September 10, 2016
— Vanessa Friedman (@VVFriedman) September 10, 2016
— Christian Siriano (@CSiriano) September 11, 2016
Simply put, this kind of fashion show is life-affirming. No hyperbole; as a plus-size woman myself, it truly is life-affirming. For too long, fashion has been in the narrow “must be stick-skinny” box, when 1) women have never only been one size and 2) the majority of women are now within the 16-18 size range. The fact that fashion designers, on the whole, have dedicated themselves to this narrow definition of beauty is mind-boggling, especially when some of the women in their lives, I’m sure, aren’t size 0.
Tim Gunn, design educator, author, and personality from Project Runway, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post during NYFW. He took the fashion industry to task for “turn[ing] its back on plus-size women.”
I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women. It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American women now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers—dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk—still refuse to make close for them.
Gunn also calls certain designers out by name who have said, in so many words, that they didn’t want plus-size women wearing their clothes because they felt plus-size women were ugly.
Enter designers like Siriano, who has taken the opportunity of dressing an underserved market head-on.
When ELLE Magazine asked Siriano as to why more designers don’t make plus-size clothes, Siriano’s comments seemed to echo Gunn, seeming to allude to the fact that some designers just might not want to put in the time commitments to dress women who aren’t sample size
We know the importance of creating inclusive collections. So why can’t more designers make great plus-size clothes?
I think they can. I just think it’s a lot of time and a lot of work. The thing is, if you’re a designer, then you want to constantly push yourself and your designs. When we make a new collection, we’re changing shapes, we’re changing patterns. We get a dress on a model, and it’s our first time seeing what the dress really looks like a woman’s body. And even with traditional fashion models, where it’s their job to be a certain size and a certain proportion, you have to make adjustments once you see your clothes on a real live person. Now imagine doing that with more sizes, more proportions. You really have to play with every piece. So timing is a big part of it. You have to make the time. But having said all that, we made it work. We found the time and we put in the effort because being a label that different women can wear is really important to us.
So the trick is having the time?
Honestly, I think the “trick” is you have to really want to do it. You’re embracing more of the world. Which is great. We’re all in this together, you know? And the models in the show who are “plus size,” they’re not in a special place, they’re now wearing differently styled outfits. They’re just beautiful girls who are in the show, like normal. Everything’s normal. That’s how it should be!
(From my point of view, it sounds like he’s simply saying they’re lazy.)
Gunn is right; there’s a lot of money to be made here, and Siriano, the most successful Project Runway alum because of his business acumen, certainly has his business sense attuned to this void and is using it to differentiate himself and endear himself to a larger part of the market.
But that doesn’t mean his shrewdness is something to balk at. There is still a thoughtfulness to Siriano’s decision to cater to a wider selection of body types. As he’s said himself, he likes dressing women of all sizes and wants every woman to look and feel beautiful. If he just wanted to make money, he could do like Target and make plus-size sacks. But he’s actually giving women choices, style, and a voice in the fashion world. Siriano is allowing plus-size women to feel like they do matter in fashion and that they do deserve to feel beautiful. Simultaneously, he’s giving his fellow fashion designers the middle finger, daring them to what he’s doing for plus-size women. It’s a challenge that I hope more fashion designers take up. As Gunn says in his op-ed, “Designers, make it work.”
What do you think of Siriano’s NYFW showing? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
The Olympics is like the Super Bowl in that lots of big properties reveal their big trailers. Three such trailers were released during the Rio Olympics: Luke Cage, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Hidden Figures. Let’s take a look at each.
First of all, it looks incredible. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never tuned into a Marvel Netflix production, either because I didn’t know the lore or, quite frankly, I just didn’t care. But the updated ’70s blaxploitation take on Luke Cage is both reminiscent of past awesome crime fighters like Shaft and extremely timely to what’s going on today.
Everyone has mentioned the imagery of the unkillable black man in a shot-up hoodie providing both commentary and relief from the constant deluge of black men and boys being killed by police or overzealous, racist men. But seeing that imagery in motion, just in the trailer, says so much without Luke Cage every saying a word. Also, the story itself seems to be told in such a way that someone like me, who has a hot-cold relationship with keeping up with all comics except for Archie Comics, can come into it fresh. It engages the audience whether you know about Luke Cage from the comics or not. That kind of treatment of comic book lore is gold, since you can’t always assume your audience knows everything about every character, especially if that character hasn’t become part of the collective consciousness in the same way Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man have.
Overall, this is a WIN for me. I’ll check out the series once it drops, despite my own squeamishness of hearing/seeing broken bones.
As Marv Albert would say, “Yes!”—this is ticking all of the boxes for me. I think from now on, I’ll lessen my usage of “diversity” and starting using the word “inclusion” more, because the rebooted Star Wars series (yes, rebooted—let’s just admit that the prequels are out of canon now) is showing other movie franchises how inclusion is done. You don’t just hire actors of color to be sidekicks, MARVEL MOVIES. You hire actors of color for substantial roles and treat them just like any white actor. You create characters that actually represent and empower your audience, not just appease them with some paltry offerings. Somehow, Marvel seems to do better at inclusion with their television shows and Netflix series than they do with the actual movies. Even stranger is that Marvel and Lucasfilm are now under the same Disney umbrella, so you’d think some cross-pollination with casting tactics would have happened already. Marvel needs to take some notes from J. J. Abrams, stat.
Anyways, we’ve got talented actors doing talented things in this film. Even cooler is that the central character is a woman. Also cool is that Darth Vader finally looks cool again (once again, proof that this is a completely rebooted series). We also have some disability representation with Donnie Yen’s blind Jedi or Jedi-adjacent character. But will Yen’s character dip too far into the “mystical Asian kung-fu master” trope? Because if there’s one potential issue I see, it’s that. We just have to wait until the movie comes out. The other potential issue: Forrest Whitaker’s odd accent. But on the whole, Rogue One looks like it’ll proudly carry on the awesome legacy that began with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The film looks like it’s going to be one along the lines of 42 and Race in the sense that it’s going to be a feel-good film that also manages to teach the audience a historical lesson about overcoming discrimination to achieve excellence. But this film is also a reversal in practice for Hollywood, an industry that has ignored a story like this until now.
This role is something Taraji P. Henson should have played long before now, and its these types of roles Hollywood should have cast her in. What I’m saying is that usually, this type of “feel-good” role featuring a female character from the 1960s usually goes to a white woman, because in the ’60s as in today’s time, whiteness allows a certain privilege, meaning the character won’t have to deal with any sticky issues like race.
However, turning attention away from the history makers and achievers of the time only keeps black movie narratives stuck to the Civil Rights Movement. While that part of the ’60s is wildly important, there is more to the black experience than just misery. We didn’t exist just in the south; we existed all over the country, doing all kinds of things, including sending a man to the moon. Stories like this should have been lauded decades before now, not just now that Hollywood is slowly waking up to what many call in jaded tones the “diversity trend.”
On a much more shallower note: much like Whitaker, I’m unsure of Janelle Monaé’s accent in this film. I’m assuming she’s portraying a southerner; as a southerner, I’m always…disturbed by bad southern accents in films. There is an art to the southern accent not many non-southern actors have mastered. They always want to take it to that Scarlett O’Hara level, and not all southern accents are remotely like that. (I hated writing this paragraph, because I’m a loyal member of Electro Phi Beta…but I can’t lie about the accent.)
What do you think of these trailers? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
Guest post by Lauren Davis
As Marvel continues to expand its cinematic universe, it’s becoming clear that the studio has an eye on more characters and a somewhat-more inclusive casting philosophy.
In particular, fans who have been calling for a more diverse range of characters have been pleased with the news coming out about 2018’s Black Panther. We reported a few years ago that Chadwick Boseman was taking up the role, and the rising actor had a wonderful debut in this past spring’s Captain America: Civil War. It was also revealed that Ryan Coogler (responsible for Fruitvale Station and Creed) was co-writing and directing the project. And more recently, we learned that Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o will have roles as well. There’s not too much known about their parts at this point, though it’s being speculated that they’ll both be villains. Regardless, Marvel is clearly attempting to correct its past issue of racial diversity (or a lack thereof).
The studio is also taking steps to include more women in prominent roles moving forward. There’s increasing talk about Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) being the subject of a solo film, and other leading roles for women have already come out or been confirmed. Krysten Ritter starred as Jessica Jones in her own Netflix show, and just recently it was confirmed by reliable sources that Brie Larson (who just won an Oscar for her performance in Room) will be playing Captain Marvel. These developments have largely silenced critics of Marvel’s gender equality for now, even if DC more or less prodded them into it by introducing Wonder Woman.
What may be most interesting for those hoping to see a deeper embrace of different genders and ethnicities is the fact that Marvel has also shown a desire to rope in more major characters. In addition to Black Panther, they brought Spider-Man into the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, and there are those who believe Wolverine could be next. That may seem unlikely given that 20th Century Fox owns the character, but Hugh Jackman himself has encouraged the idea. There’s also the little fact that Wolverine and Spider-Man both appeared alongside the Avengers in a roulette game featured amongst similar options online. It’s just one game, and ultimately a themed roulette table with superhero icons “helping you win big money,” but games have in the past hinted at cinematic activity. And if nothing else, it’s a sign that Marvel still very much considers Wolverine to be part of its own entertainment empire, and not Fox’s. Meanwhile, there have also been whispers about everyone from Moon Knight to Adam Warlock being injected into the MCU.
Naturally, when you consider the slow but sure movement toward more inclusive casting in conjunction with the idea of adding more comic book characters, the question becomes clear: will Marvel look to add even more non-white and female characters? Or will Black Panther prove to be a lone indulgence and Captain Marvel an aberration?
There’s no shortage of options. Characters like Doctor Voodoo (a sorcerer who really should appear in this summer’s Doctor Strange) and Bishop could command solo films as strong African-American leading parts; and the likes of Falcon (Sam Wilson) or Luke Cage (Mike Colter) could be given larger roles in the MCU. For women, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) could assume her “Rescue” identity, or someone like Tigra or She-Hulk could be introduced. And these are only a few of the possibilities.
For now, it starts with Black Panther and Captain Marvel. We’ll just have to see if films like these signify a new trend or exist to quiet down the criticism.
Lauren Davis is a pop culture and entertainment writer. She contributes in a freelance capacity to numerous sites and blogs, and hopes to become a TV writer one day.
Wednesday, Aug. 3., was a fantastic day; I was finally able to reveal a secret I’d been carrying since late last year. I was consulting with Magic: The Gathering to bring a new Planeswalker character to life! Kaya, Ghost Assassin is now a member of the Planeswalker cast of characters.
Kaya is the brainchild of Magic: The Gathering creative writer Kelly Digges, and I’d say that if it’s allowable to call Kelly Kaya’s proverbial father, I’m like Kaya’s proverbial mother. Together, we helped develop Kaya into the character she is today, and like parents, we couldn’t be more proud of her and the reception she received online.
Yesterday, during the release of the character, I was flooded with congratulations and questions. Some of which I’ve compiled in this article that folks can come back and reference.
1. Who am I?
In case you are a new Twitter follower or new to my site because of Kaya, I’m Monique Jones, an entertainment journalist who’s written for several outlets, most notably Entertainment Weekly’s Community blog. I’ve also written for culture/entertainment sites like Black Girl Nerds, Nerds of Color, Racialicious, and The Tempest (then known as Coming of Faith). Technically, my journalism beat is “entertainment,” specifically TV, but my main focus is covering how representation occurs in entertainment. My focus on representation is something that helped me a lot when conferring with Kelly about Kaya.
2. How was I chosen to contribute to Kaya’s characterization?
It’s all thanks to my relationship with Black Girl Nerds as a contributor and to Black Girl Nerds’ creator, Jamie, who helps us writers find opportunities when they arise. This was one of those moments.
3. Who is Kaya?
Kaya is awesome, first of all. She’s a ghost assassin, which is quite cool because people think ghosts can’t die because they’re already dead. I could go on, but I’ll quote Magic: The Gathering’s official bio for Kaya.
A confident, roguish duelist with a mysterious past, Kaya has the ability to become partially incorporeal—allowing her to slip through solid items and physically interact with ghosts and the spirit world.
Kaya is a firm believer that life is for the living. The living should make the most of their lives and pursue what they want while they’ve still got time, and find their own peace before death. If you die with unfinished business, well, that’s probably your fault. And if it’s not…perhaps she could help you…for a price.
In Paliano, she accepted a contract from Marchesa to assassinate the city’s previous sovereign, King Brago. Her actions catapulted Marchesa to power and caused the current chaos in the city—but also opened the way for others to make their claims to their throne and shake up the Paliano’s ancient political order.
4. I’ve already read the introduction story and I love it! Tell me everything there is to know about Kaya!
Sorry, I can’t. You’ll learn more about Kaya at Wizards of the Coast’s discretion.
5. What did you talk about when creating Kaya’s character?
We talked about a lot, much of which is confidential. What I can tell you though is that we discussed Kaya’s origin story, her home plane, her family, and possible future appearances. We also nailed down that swaggy, snarky personality she has. I can also say that we discussed how to make sure Kaya was a fully rounded character, not just a token character. There were lots of aspects of the black experience that went into creating Kaya, one of which—the process of hair styling— was alluded to in Kaya’s introduction story, “Laid to Rest”:
Kaya lit a candle, yawned, and splashed her face with water from a basin. She rolled out the building plans and studied them one last time, humming an old ballad and unwinding the knots she’d put her hair in to sleep.
6. How do you feel about Kaya?
I love Kaya. I knew she had the potential to be a knockout character, and according to the humongous reaction I received the other day, my hunch was right. Kaya is a character in her own right, first of all. But in the macro view, Kaya gives black women and girls who love Magic: The Gathering a character they can identify with and see themselves in. The Magic: The Gathering crew has been working hard to create an inclusive world, and Kaya’s part of that. Despite the current cast of Planeswalkers including humans and alien types of all sorts, including master monk Narset and time-altering sorcerer Teferi, there weren’t any representations of black women. With Kaya being the first, not only is she a very welcome addition to the cast of characters, but she’s history-making. For me to be a part of that is very humbling and I’m honored to have helped bring Kaya to life.
So now I turn it over to you. What do you like about Kaya? Give your opinions in the comments section below!