I need to reblog this again to point out just why I love this particular picture so. That thing he’s holding? Yeah that’s a roll of packing tape in a plastic holder. That’s a thoroughly mundane, inarguably ‘modern’ artifact. Let me tell you why that’s important.
Many of the most famous and ‘iconic’ vintage photos of NDNs are from the body of work of Edward Curtis. You probably recognize some of them:
Curtis documented some aspects of the customs and lifestyles of American Indians of the trans-Mississippi West. The publication of Curtis’s work, highly romanticized and most craftily staged, exerted a major influence on the image of Indians in popular culture. Curtis is reported to have retouched some of the photographs in order to remove modern objects, adding to the popular illusion of Native Americans as a primitive people.
Yeah, see how that second photo is deliberately sepia-toned and how the clock between the two individuals has been removed because it’s ‘too modern’? Fuck that shit.
Charles Tan describes how he attempts to compensate for hidden bias while curating science fiction links.
…As of mid-April of this year (if you examine the archive of SF Signal Tidbits, you can identify the trend), there was a conscious decision (arbitrary just means unconscious bias) on which author interview was at the top of the Tidbits.
I’ll be frank. There’s a lot of causes that need championing: World SF. People of Color. LGBT. Women. Gender. YA. If it were up to me, I’d post a book cover of a World SF book every day. But that’s not possible on a consistent basis (either there’s not enough interviews going around or their book isn’t listed on Amazon); it’s probably a valid criticism that I’m probably not looking hard enough. So I went with a criteria that’s broad enough: women.
Admittedly, there are days when I can’t find interviews with women in the field, but that’s the exception rather than the norm (if you want stats, just look at the archives of Tidbits starting mid-April that’s attributed to me; or better yet, compare it when I wasn’t deliberate in my selection). Failing that, I try my other criteria, such as World SF, people of color, LGBT authors, etc…
And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do here (though I haven’t had a lot of time for Tumblr lately)—filtering through geek stuff for POC authors or fans or characters, especially for things related to race issues in fandom. I have to admit, when I started this blog I thought it was going to be hard finding things to post, I guess because generally geeky sites tend to be overwhelmingly white. But there’s actually more stuff than I can keep up with!
I don’t think it’s so much that there’s more POC sf stuff now—though there are a lot of up-and-coming authors lately, like N. K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Charles Yu, Malinda Lo, Saladin Ahmed, etc.—as that I have biases like everyone else, and I just had to start actively working to notice things I unconsciously would overlook.
Also I totally didn’t notice Charles Tan’s putting women authors first until he mentioned it, but you better believe I see it now when looking through the links.
“I expect most actors would admit to a touch of jealousy, or healthy envy, if they see fellow actors in an excellent piece of work on TV or in the theatre. But the green-eyed monster is further fed when you are a black actor and see all the costume dramas this country is so masterful at producing, and realise that neither you nor any of your black contemporaries have been on such an exalted cast list. Why can I not get seen for parts in Emma, Great Expectations, or Downton Abbey? Is it because I’m not “the right kind of actor”? Or just the wrong colour of actor?
The black presence in our British history has sometimes wilfully, sometimes neglectfully, been whitewashed out of our national tale. This is not only deeply hurtful and enraging, but also foolish in the extreme. Who wants to only know half the story of their nation; who would be content to know only half the truth of their country’s journey from pre-Christian warriors to sophisticated world leaders in diplomacy, commerce, fashion, music and the arts? And the black presence has been a part of all of those achievements; sometimes negatively if we think of slavery, and sometimes positively when we consider figures like Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho.
Not only is it essential that we as British people tell our story, it is vital that we tell the whole story. If not, we risk increasing those feelings of alienation and temporariness that effect our youth so violently.”
I’ve only ever seen him in ‘Green Wing’, which I think he did because it basically took apart, explicitly and implicitly, the Scary Black Man trope. He was incredibly lovely in it. Of course, he was essentially not just the Token Black Man but the Token POC in the ENTIRE SERIES aaargh but. But.
Anyway, from the actual article:
“Gretchen Gerzina’s book Black England was my starting point. Here was rich fare for many a costume epic: the black centurion on Hadrian’s Wall shouting abuse and defiance at the marauding Picts below; Queen Bess riding through London in her carriage and, seeing so many black faces cluttering up the place, chartering a boat to ship them all off to Spain and Portugal to be sold as slaves. (On the day of departure not one black person showed up, so the plan was shelved.)”
How about instead of complaining that there aren’t movies for white people, we do something about it? It’s hard to imagine Hollywood ignoring white people if there were more white people writing scripts, more white people directing movies, more white people ponying up the cash to finance the sorts of pictures that they want to see.
Take Die Hard. Okay, yes, it’s a classic in its own right and it’s hard to do anything that might be perceived as being messing with a classic, but is there any particular reason why Die Hard wouldn’t work with a white character? Or try to imagine Erin Brokovich with a white woman in the lead role. Could it work? Maybe. If not, it would just be a matter of making it work. I’m sure that with the right writer and actress, we could figure out a way to put a “white spin” on the story of an attractive and determined woman who is popular and successful at what she does.
Or look at Ghostbusters. Can you imagine what that movie would be like if most of the main cast were white, except for maybe one token character? And it’s hard to imagine a show like Friends being greenlit with an all-white cast, but there has to be room in an ensemble like that for some white characters.
Of course, it would be really great if we could just have movies that happen to have white people in them in major roles and not have them automatically be shoehorned into some category like “white interest” or “white films”, like being white is a genre or interest or something, but realistically we can’t just expect that the struggles and adventures of white people to hold much general interest with the audience at large. We have to get people used to seeing characters like a “White Batman” or a “White Alice In Wonderland” first, and then maybe one day a white man can play a iconic role like James Bond and it will just be that James Bond happens to be white.
We aren’t there yet, but we won’t ever be there if we don’t get out there and make it happen.
When you go out to the movies, don’t just patronize the giant 24-screen cineplexes that show nothing but foreign films and films by people of color. Look for the little local indie hole-in-the-wall theaters that have movies by (and starring) white, English-speaking American actors.
When you go to the rental place or the video store, ask if they carry films about white people and when they say no, ask them why not. Probably they think that there wouldn’t be enough interest to justify keeping them in stock, but we can prove them wrong.
Above all, don’t get discouraged. There are signs of progress out there. Did you know that in the Thor movie that came out this year, some of the characters were played by white actors? It’s true!
Look, I’m sorry…I know I’m being “politically incorrect” but I just can’t see, say, the Doctor, or James Bond, or Princess Leia as white characters. Besides, directors cast the best actor for the job, and is it their fault if the best actor happens to be Asian or Native or Black?
Besides, it’s not like there aren’t important white people in media—I mean, look at George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, or Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep. And Steven Spielberg has made some good movies (though they only show them in the bad part of town). I don’t see why people are clamouring for more. We’re already positively outnumbered by white people!
And, no offense, but why the fuck was Loki white? That’s like cinematic affirmative action in my opinion. Which is racist.
After my Dances with Wolves post, I held an informal poll over on the Native Appropriations Facebook page (are you a fan? you should be!) of the best Native films. I think the resulting list is a nice mix of documentary, comedy, and drama, and brings in some international perspectives as well. Let me know what you think. Here, in no particular order, are the films recommended by Facebook readers, with links, director, and year!
“I did a film called The Debut years ago, and the [thing] that was great was we brought a bunch of stars from the Philippines to play our parents and our grandparents. What I learned from that is, because I’m American and I didn’t grow up with these actors, right? When you’re acting with someone who has been a star in their country for twenty or thirty years, the weight that they hold onscreen is real weight. The problem with not having ethnic actors, there’s a very few of us, a handful of us, who have worked for decades. So it’s not just that skill of what you’re doing, you need to be on the set for hours, you need to put thousands of hours on the set, in front of the camera, to really get that weight. And not only for you to possess it, but for other audiences to give that do you.”
-Danté Basco in response to the lack of poc on Hollywood’s A-list (x)
In case your memory needs jarring young Danté was Rufio in Spielberg’s Hook
“It is alternately frustrating & enraging to read fiction that erases you, or treats you as nothing more than a convenient plot device. And yet, I still love SF/F even when I find myself critiquing it regularly. Growing up, I wanted to see a future that included people who weren’t white if only to know that we had a place in the future at all. SF/F is the genre that’s about making our dreams real, or as real as possible. Well, what happens when you’re erased from those dreams, or trapped in the same roles that already exist? When you’re oppressed even in fiction what message does that send?”
Avery Brooks tells William Shatner why he had to be the Captain on Deep Space 9.
I think this is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the show. I rarely talk about race on Tumblr. I’m very comfortable with my “blackness” and as I’ve gotten older, I don’t feel the need to jump up and down about it. It’s there. I’m here. Take it or leave it. I don’t need to raise the proverbial “black power fist”. I am the fist.
As a “black woman” (FYI I put social constructs in quotations. Race and gender are social constructs) it felt good to watch this brown man, this leader, this human raise his brown son. It’s not something that we get to see on television very often.
Star Trek has always been progressive. But after Uhura, I think there were very few representations of blackness on Trek. From what I have seen there are very few references to the “black” experience in human history according to Trek. And by “black” I mean from Africa, to America, to the Caribbean. Of course there was TNG’s “Code of Honor” which I found to incredibly racist and just bad. I couldn’t even bring myself to re-watch the episode as an “African woman.” (My family is from Ghana)
If there are anymore installments of Trek, there are rumors, I would like to see them explore humanity as more than Eurocentric with the occasional sprinkling of other “races.”
I did appreciate the Benny Russell episodes on oh so many levels. But there is more to “black” in the human experience than the struggles of the Civil Rights era in America.
Hell, I would’ve been happy if they named one of the ships the Anansi or the Ashanti or something. I’m not even asking for an episode, well I am but damn it give me a ship.
Give me something that speaks to how humans were able to move past all of the isms. And I want a gay couple damn it. Whenever we see same sex couplings it’s always attractive eurocentric women i.e. the reassociation episode with Jadzia.
I have my complaints about the franchise. Yes I love it but because I love it, I’ll criticize whenever I see fit.
This is just a random rant. Expect more commentary on isms in the Trek universe. Also expect them to be thought out and cohesive. I’m procrastinating at the moment and rambling. I’m a decent writer. I promise.
I feel like none of the Trek series move past tokenism—except for DS9 with Sisko. It’s kinda messed up that they get black actors to play Klingons more often than humans (it seems…) Much more to say on this but I have to do laundry…
although, not that anyone cares, i’m not bothered by stereotypes of canadians the same way i am bothered by, say, stereotypes of asians. the former is amusing — and occasionally annoying — to me, while the latter is anywhere from aggravating to painful (or both!). plus, there’s something about being stereotyped as canadian that pleases my assimilated self. :/
otoh, having googled booster gold and confirmed that he is a white dude (what a surprise), something that does bother me is the notion & representation of canadians as a country of white people. like anytime there’s a guest character on a USian tv show who happens to be canadian, they’re nearly always white (well, to my recollection there’s no ‘nearly’ about it, but someone can probably think of a few examples who weren’t). not to mention canadian shows that tend in that direction as well.
Rodney from Stargate: Atlantis, the Canadian guy, was supposed to be black but they picked the best actor for the role :(