‘Sleepy Hallow’–they lost me at Thomas Jefferson

So I avoided and swore off Fox Network’s Sleepy Hallow, starring Nicole Beharie. Why? Because her co-star is a white man from a time period where Black women are enslaved. Nothing good can come out of that.

Then I watched Sleepy Hollow this week anyway to see if I was right to avoid it. Yes, I gave it a chance.

Tim Mison’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane has similar characterization to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the character in Tim Burton’s 1999 film, which I appreciated and thought was adorable. Awkward, clever, and well-mannered.

Other than that, its occult themes, and the fact that there is a Black woman as a main character, I am not feeling the show and stopped watching at Episode 7 “The Midnight Ride”.

Why?

The show includes an assortment of actual historical figures such as U.S. presidents rendered in its fictionalized occultist story line. Which is probably the problem. Most of American history is an especially messed up time for First Peoples, Black people, other non-whites, and women. Whenever white writers (and their friends) in a white dominated media get some deluded idea in their head and want to jump in the literary DeLorean or TARDIS and present the world with some “clever” re-write of American history that includes vampires, demons, zombies, and aliens, that oppressive, violent history is still the same messed up history for everyone who isn’t white or white and male. It can’t be rewritten, revised, or dusted off. It remains the same for me as a Black woman and a Black writer. What was a fun or romanticized time in history for whites was not the same for us, it is a trauma and a scar on the face of our race.

This is where Sleepy Hollow lost me instantly: They started talking about Sally Hemings. Casually, too.

I refuse to entertain a romance with a (white) slave owner in an era where Black women were enslaved. And that’s most of American history where Black people were in chains and treated like a lesser life form by whites and those who shared their views, traded, and allied with them. I refuse to entertain the idea that it was “love” between a slaver owner and a Black woman who had no rights and no freedom in this country. I WILL NOT romanticize the situation. I don’t care even if there was some way to know that Hemings loved Jefferson even in such a twisted reality under those circumstances. I DO NOT accept revisionist or apologist versions of history, fictional or otherwise.

In Episode 6 “The Sin Eater”, there’s an entire scene that reeks of Ichabod Crane being absolved of sins against freed slave, Arthur Bernard. Because we all need to take a moment to make white people feel better for helping enslave and oppress people who aren’t white. Bernard wasn’t just being detained, beaten, and interrogated because the British suspected he was Cicero. Just being Black in those days was enough for whites to somehow uphold practices of extreme violence and cruelty and even murder.

Let’s not forget Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) spouting all that American melting pot bullshit over baseball. Behind her badge and inflated, totally contrived sense of American patriotism, Abigail Mills is a white-washed, white-owned, white-inspired character parading around in brown skin. End of story.

And that’s why I told myself never to watch Sleepy Hollow. I saw it coming. That’s American television for you.

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Cathartic Reflections: On Beverly Diehl

I hate it when I run into white folks who seem like they’re all about equality and totally get where you’re coming from, despite being white, but who then turn out just to be smooth talkers like car salesmen and those cell phone people at kiosks in the mall with scripts like a teleprompter?

I admit, Beverly Diehl almost had me won over, because I’m gullible like that. But something just kept asking me every time I e-mailed with her at the back of my head, “What’s she really doing here?”

I met Beverly Diehl through the Romantic Friday Writers, a weekly blog fest that I participate in. I was alarmed at her well-crafted but still rather racist excerpt from a book she’s working on. We both commented about it on her blog a little, I even consented to reading a chapter from the book she wants to publish and gave up time to offering her my personal thoughts on it—the one about the same interracial couple she posted for the weekly blog fest group. I tried to enter an acquaintance with her on a positive, helpful, and constructive note though cautiously.

I thought, “I’ve had some bad experience and she doesn’t seem THAT bad. Give her a chance”. With this allowance on my part, Beverly Diehl and I corresponded then planned to do interviews concerning racism in writing and the so-called “post-racial” America and cross-post them on our respective blogs.

But after the e-mailing with her a few times, I realized the whole thing might have been benefitting her more than me, especially when her answers to questions of mine started reading a little bit like “I don’t think we really live in a post-racial society but in my mind we do and I’d like to write books based on the fact that we don’t”. Eventually I got frustrated, so she suggested we take a little break from interviewing. I knew it was over and wasn’t going to e-mail her back except to tell her it wasn’t going to work and to thank her for her time.

This is my read of Beverly Diehl after interacting with her:

  1. Yet another white woman/person looking for lessons on how not to be a racist [writer] from a mammy (that would be me in this case).
  2. One of those white folks who says, “I totally understand where you’re coming from, Black person”, who all the while really wants to say and is probably thinking, “Why can’t Black people get over it, so I can watch and read ‘The Help’ and publish my multiculturalist, Blaxploitation erotica in peace—OMG, GOSH!”. I’ve seen it before and this was eerily similar, only milder and thought to be more well-intentioned than usual.
  3. “Let me tell what you should be doing, as a Black person with half-a-brain, to improve your community because I know your situation better than you do, naturally.” Politely offered yet condescending unsolicited advice is truly one of my pet peeves.
  4. Skill as a writer trumps racist writing and other forms of bigotry—the good old argument of bigots and bigots alike over the centuries.

My friend, who is white and understood that while she might have been well-intentioned she was testing my patience, pretty much told me to leave Beverly Diehl alone from the beginning. Then…her response to my expression of frustration with the very concept of a published work like ‘The Help’ at Ms. Queenly’s Blog was about it for me. She and only one other person dropped by and/or e-mailed to convey displeased opinions about what I had to say about it (the other being Tosh Fomby from totsymae.com, who I had another negative run-in with previously at SheWrites). My friend back home in GA suggested I write about it, after asking me what happened with the whole thing, knowing that I have a tendecy to blame myself for the shortcomings of others. And here I am, a cathartic reflection.

I’ll probably edit this post later to include some of our correspondence, but right now I’m just trying to put the weight of yet another experience with polite bigotry behind me and focus on the here and now of another strenuous chapter in my life.

evermore,

MsQ

Black Butler [Kuroshitsuji], the anime–Final Comments

I went ahead and finished watching the Black Butler anime. These are my final comments.

  1. I won’t lie, I kind of enjoyed the stuck up, overdone British European style of dress, dining, manner, and decor if only for aesthetic purposes.
  2. I think Ciel is a lazy but strong-willed brat who can’t physically really do anything on his own, mostly because he thinks his shit, unlike everybody else’s, smells like roses.
  3. Underneath its appearance of sentimentality, Black Butler is really an anime that is about the arbitrariness of contracts, agreements, and deals. In keeping with its theme of existentialist notions, it presents logic as just as arbitrary as people’s emotions. Which is a good and a bad thing.
  4. I enjoyed the relationship between Ciel and Sebastian and Claude and Alois, Alois and Hannah to a lesser extent. I’m not into forced subservience and I also find myself frustrated with subservient characters sometimes, but the whole butler thing is at times appealing to me, probably because I can think of many ways in which this kind of relationship can be fun in a roleplaying kind of way, haha ^_^! This is where you slap my shoulder and call me a pervert, whatever.
  5. Hannah: a brown woman with two little white kids in her stomach because she’s a demon who ate their souls after they contracted with her…?
  6. Alois…that was so tragic. He was a little jerk until the end of it. I was disgusted to my stomach at his behavior towards Hannah, him having put out her eye with his finger, beat and hit her regularly, and forcing her to take off her clothes. His history helped explain how he became that way, but he’s completely unforgivable.
  7. As much as I dislike Alois Trancey, I find it very it horrible that he is presented as being of less worth than Ciel because of his class status and oppressions in life. As if a soul can be measured by western European notions of wealth and aristocratic values. No angels came to “purify” or “save” Alois from his “uncleanliness”, that honor and sense of care (twisted though it may be) seems to be reserved for queens and earls.
  8. The presentation of the divine and damed is very interesting, as well as the categorizing and separation of demons from death gods (“soul reapers”) and death gods from angels.
  9. Personally, I could understand how Ciel and how Alois must have felt about what happened to him after he was sold into slavery though it was only hinted at (in Alois’ case, being born poor and sold into sexual slavery). My ancestors have endured it for centuries. Honestly because of their European whiteness, I felt a fraction of a degree less sympathetic towards them, especially Ciel considering that he comes from money and went back to money after being taken.
  10. Sometimes I got frustrated with Ciel’s depressing attitude and the consistent tone of misery, melancholy, existentialism, and apathy in the anime. Must be a white, European thing.
  11. Ciel just left the “servants” in the mansion behind, which I thought was just disturbing and deplorable, given how much they cared about him and how much he meant to them. He just left them so he could be with Sebastian–how selfish.
  12. These books are only recommended for mature audiences because they are both erotic romance novels, but Alois and Ciel remind me a lot of Robin Schone’s Michael and Gabriel (except they are friends who went into prostitution together in France and England rather than virtual strangers) from her books The Lover and Gabriel’s Woman, in some ways.
  13. The opening and closing animation and music is beautiful and poignant (hate that word, but I use it anyway), particularly “Monochrome Kiss” by SID and “Shiver” by GazettE.
  14. The presence of misogyny is evident in the anime, as there were few female characters really worth mentioning, just a lot of eye-candy, villains, and goofiness. Why do even female artists choose to portray female characters poorly in the interest of boy’s love and fraternity in this type of anime/manga? Can’t we have a healthy anime/manga that centers around guy-guy love and fraternity without female-hating?
  15. **SPOILER**: What was the point of going to a place where demons and humans are equal at the end of the anime if Ciel is no longer human himself?
  16. Did anybody else find it weird that Ciel and Sebastion’s relationship was latently sexual and at times openly intimate but Sebastion took on a form that greatly resembled Ciel’s dead father?
  17. At times I felt Ciel was just being pretentious. I really don’t like pretentious young people.
  18. At the same time that I found Ciel to be pretentious, I also like seeing animes where children are presented as competent and in positions where they prove that they have half-a-brain.
  19. At times I wondered if Ciel’s soul was supposed to be so delicious because he’s a little blue-eyed pasty white boy.
  20. Sebastian’s boots were really hot in his full demon form though we never get to see the rest of him. I loved that he stayed with Ciel, logically because he had no choice but really we know its because he has come to love him. Or at least that’s what I choose to believe.

Response to “Jay-Z ‘Can’t Believe’ Some of the Lyrics He’s Written” (via Yahoo Music Blogs)*

Originally posted and cross-posted @ Ms. Queenly’s. What I would like to do for this blog is look at some of Jay-Z lyrics, but I don’t have the patience for that sh*t right now…

Initial thoughts

I’ve been meaning to write this for a couple of months now. I read this article about Jay-Z  a while back and every time I think about it I get pissed off. Now that he’s a millionaire, money made off all that trash he spouted, he’s saying he regrets the lyrics of songs like “Big Pimpin'”–urggggggggghhhhhhhhh! PISSES ME OFF! He gets rich off degrading women and promoting materialism in the fucked up capitalist American economy and pushing the agenda of a” street mentality” lifestyle that he himself doesn’t lead and he ‘can’t believe’ some of the shit he’s said and rapped about?!

Jay-Z says, “Some [lyrics] become really profound when you see them in writing. Not ‘Big Pimpin’. That’s the exception”. Well, my “brotha”, if you look really hard you’ll see that it’s really messed up that this is how you made your fortune.

You can blame the people who bought his music in the first place. But you can’t deny the origin: Jay-Z himself and the record label that produced him and the society that supports and allows the record label’s existence.

You can’t talk about Jay-Z without talking about Beyoncé.

A match made in heaven: She’s a hoochie and he’s a (supposedly) recovering misogynist. These are two of the richest and most prominent Black people in the United States and maybe even the world. There is some question as to why that it. I’ll tell why it is in part: it’s because we live in a society that is permeated with ignorance and white dominance. The only way Black people can have anything in this country is by selling out their own people.

Another view–on the positive side, (if there even is one)

You could say Jay-Z has grown for the better. Better late than never. As for Beyoncé, there are people, women in particular, who dance like that. More power to them. It can be sexy, empowering, self-expressing when it’s not raunchy, tasteless, and/or underaged. It’s hard to say because all you see is her hip rolling, scantily clad, booty popping everything and everywhere. If not that, then she’s advertising something, or singing about her man and how she likes being a trophy bitch and finds that empowering.

I’m not gone lie, I’ve got a few Beyoncé songs on my iPod and at least one censored Jay-Z song (as if it makes a difference). I still listen to some of that shit. “Crazy in Love”, “Baby Boy”, “Me, Myself, and I”, “Diva”, even “Put a Ring on It” because of that catchy hook. Because I’m ashamed, I won’t say which Jay-Z song, though I will say that it isn’t the worst. Did I pay for any of them? NO WAY!

Positivity aside–reality

So Jay-Z has had an epiphany. Great….but too late. The damage has been done, the idiot. Beyoncé–that’s whole other discussion for a whole different day coming sometime in the future.

At the end of the day, they gone do what they do and I’mma think what I think about what they do as Black  public icons.

Forever real,

Ms. Queenly

Recent Bookstore Trip

So I stopped by the Borders and the Barnes & Noble in search of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Flirt. Didn’t find it. Not in stock. My mom did me a favor and ordered it for me, even offered to buy it. I decided I would wait until it came out in paperback. I’m not sure I want to give Hamilton anymore of my money.

Its nothing against her as a person. Its just that I’m tired of people hailing [presumably] white female writers like they are the first people in history on the face of the planet to ever have written something that is considered feminist or revolutionary. I’m tired of supporting a market that promotes that kind legacy. As far as I’m concerned Black women are the original badass heroines have and always will top out Anita Blake and all her copycats and predecessors. And that’s real in real life for ya.

What really ticked me off about the situation is that I changed my mind about wanting Hamilton’s Flirt and tried to gift exchange it in my request for Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Women in American Culture and Life by Sheri Parks.

My mama wouldn’t get me this book instead; she went ahead and ordered the Hamilton–saying the Parks was more expensive. I couldn’t help but see the situation as metaphor for something deeper and more complicated. Can’t read about real Black women written about by a Black woman but she would pay for me to read about fake mixed race women invented by a [presumably] white woman.

DISCLAIMER: Quite frankly I don’t think most of them are worth it. What are Black writers and entertainers telling their communities? I’m embarrassed and pissed off as hell because it doesn’t seem to be anything helpful and conducive to lasting change and growth. Still I have not read any of these books cover to cover. I still trust my own judgment even if its only at a glance.

+Book Jacket Reflections+

Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Women in American Culture and Life by Sheri Parks

A book about Black women and the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype. I have no problem with being “strong” but I do have a problem with being labeled as being able to endure anything so I was interested in what she had to say. I hope its not preachy or Third Wave feminist deconstructionist.

Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and Police Power After Slavery by Bryan Wagner

Looks interesting and worth it….

Stop Being Niggardly: And Nine Things Black People Need to Stop Doing

Initial reaction: And I want you to call me “niggardly” on the cover of a book for what reason, Mrs. Karen Hunter? That’s too close to the N-word for me. Take it to someone who cares!

I generally tend not to act like most of the Black people that I know so most of the advice that I tend to get from Black folks giving the garden variety Black folk advice does not apply. I am a complicated person and cannot be covered in right or nine steps.

Black people need “tough love” and firmness sometimes–I admit that. But after being subjected to a public that humiliates, devalues, and tortures them psychologically at every turn, they need to be reconditioned to a certain degree of humane care and acknowledgment. The damage that has been done to the Black community can never completely be undone but telling them to stop being “niggardly” and to not take brush aside highly publicized racism like Don Imus and his “nappy headed hos” comment and (Hunter would probably say this is “words will never hurt me” to) the Dr. Laura situation. The harmful ways in which whites treat and address Black peoples is not less important than anything else.

Reading snippets from Hunter’s book gave me the message that she blames Black people for their troubles and I’m totally not interested in that narrow explanation. (Although I do agree that Black people tend to mostly purchase things that make other people rich outside of their communities.)

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love Relationships Intimacy & Commitment by Steve Harvey

Second time I’ve seen this book. Pisses me off every time I see it. Only 92 so far people on Amazon.com gave this book the review it deserves. Why do I want a Black man to tell me how to think like a man when I don’t like how men think anyway for the most part? Steve Harvey–like so many men, you need to stop trying to play Black women by giving them your version of advice. STOP TRYING TO CONTROL BLACK WOMEN!!! BLACK WOMEN–STOP LETTING THEM!!! And that’s for real.

Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny by Hill Harper

I don’t know. I’m skeptical. I tend to think that men are NOT female. They are socialized differently and anything that is not typically masculine does not survive that socialization. A book that is geared towards young women and offering advice to them should be very political and almost militantly written and edited and contributed to women and knowledgeable politically feminist males and the like.

Interracial Couples in Literature & Pop Media

Elia's Diamonds

To put it broadly, the interracial couple has always been a controversial figure in American society. During slavery white men had access to the sexual privilege that allowed them to more times than not rape Black and African women or coerce them into sexual relationships by using their position of power over the women or by threatening them and the people they loved with violence. These are my earliest memories in life of examples of what scholars have termed “interracial intimacies” .

This being the truth, I myself have always found the white-Black interracial couple questionable. As a child, I thought of it a fetish kind of thing, what is called “jungle fever” to be outright insulting, not PC, and put it bluntly. Still then and even now, I write about the Black-white interracial couple as well as other kinds of interracial couples with social commentary laden intentions with the hope that I can portray them as people who are genuinely in love and care for another. They are not characters who exist on this cloud of racial “colored blindness”, usually in my stories race and class and other social issues is something they have to face and I try to make it as realistic and nuanced as possible.

What is the hype around interracial couples in America with regards to the entrance of Barack Obama as president?

Without getting too much into the geneology, I’ll say this: Barack Obama’s father is Kenyan and his mother is white. He grew up in Hawaii with his white grandparents. That said, its interesting that people, especially white people, put so much emphasis on his “mixedness”, his whiteness, even though he himself has openly said that he identifies as Black. Many people in this country have treated President Obama as if he is Jesus Christ and is bringing the Second Coming, as if he, though his “mixedness”, has become a bridge for white and Black people to meet each other in the middle.

Uh-unh.

I don’t think so.

As a matter of fact, I think having a President who identifies as Black but actually has a white parent has further complicated white Americans’ ideas of the Black-white interracial couple. Consider the following:

  1. What kinds of interracial couples are in the media (commecials, ads, movies, television, magazines, etc.)?
  2. When you see a interracial couple, is one of the people involved white by any chance?
  3. What has the white-Black interracial couple come to symbolize?
  4. What has this emphasis of white people on the white-Black interracial couple done to the image of the Black family and to the idea of other kinds of interracial couples?

In some cases and definitely in the media, I think that the Black-white interracial couple has become a means for white people to ease their white guilt and further integrate themselves into and appropriate Black culture and social life.  Most of the time in images of the media, you never see a interracial couple without a white person somewhere close by to be involved in it, “approve” of it, or sanction it in some way; it is a constant reminder that white people are here and their privilege gives them the right to be a part of your “little ‘colored’ life”. Since the President Obama entered office, I think more so than ever that through the media, more specially literature, the Black-white interracial couple has become yet another symbol and means for white colonization and devaluation of the Black family and other families of color.

Plenty of erotica, erotic romance, and romance writers trepass into the territory of interracial relationships–namely the Black-white interracial couple. They elevate this “interracial intimacy” to a level of fetishdom that is disgusting; one scholar says this is because they view the relationship between master and slave during slavery (think Sally and former white ass President Thomas Jefferson who owned over 257 slaves by the way) as tragically romantic and misunderstood and warped by an oppressive society. White writers in these genres in particular, regardless of the fact that most Black and African slave women were raped or coerced into sexual relations with white men (and with Black men too because they were expected to increase the white master’s slave population) are obsessed with this “interracial intimacy” because they have the privilege of stupidly (sorry, that’s me being pissed off) imagining it as romantic through “artistic license” and willful “creativity”.

The interracial couple has become a fetish and a commodity for writers in particular. There are many fans begging “urban fantasy” (arguable)/paranormal romance writer J.R. Ward to pretty-please-on-their-knees put a “ethnic female character” in her white dominated Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Even if she did, at this point, this woman would be a minority along with Trez and iAm (“the Moors”, obviously Black males who are bouncers and nurses for a drug-dealing, substance-abusing, club-owning, white male pimp vampire). Then J.R. Ward would have a whole other load of an issue in her books to add to my list: 1) appropriation of Black culture and rap and rap culture, 2) ONE ethnic female minority, 3) stereotyping Black males, 4) promoting consumer culture in our crazy ass capitalist nation, etc, etc…. She excuses the lack of people of color by saying, loosely quoted, that she “writes what the Brothers tell her to”; when asked if there will be a ethnic female character, her answer is “you’ll never know who might pop up in the Brothers’ world”. And more than likely, should she even appear, this imagined woman of color, this “ethnic female character, would mostly likely be with a white male vampire. Which leads me right back to interracial couples in writing and media in general.

What these white writers in particular fail to realize is that–despite what white European history and thought, scientific racism, and American culture through ads and commercials and academic and non-academic writing like the afore mentioned genres tell us–there is nothing sexy or loving or romantic about slavery, rape and coercion, oppression, white sexual privilege, and the dehumanization of people of color through systems of oppression. No matter how much they’d like to believe that there is.

I’d like to end this by saying 1) this is in no way an attack on healthy BDSM relationships, 2) I have faith in the potential of interracial relationships of all kinds to be genuine…but I believe in questioning the ones that are created and propagated for the purpose of easing white guilt and normalizing and integrating whiteness into the lives and culture of people of color in the past, the present Age of Obama, and the future.

Why Historical Fiction?

Elia's Diamonds

There are many American writers who make a conscious choice to write historical fiction. My area of expertise or experience is historical romance so I can’t really speak to all genres. But the question remains.

Why is that? Why do they choose to do this?

It is just so interesting to me how some artists wish to remain confined to antiquity. In the worlds that these writers build, I would ask who is excluded, alienated, and marginalized by them? For example, who is backdrop scenery in romance novels that take place on plantations? Usually, its the Black and African and Afro-Caribbean peoples. My ancestors are the backdrop, the trim, the exotic locale of some European-descended person’s romance and happily ever after or drama. You too often in many circumstances see the same thing with many minorities or marginalized peoples.

This dates back to early writings in America and before it was even America, with European explorers like Christopher Columbus and John Smith, both of whom were responsible for countless atrocities against the humanity of Native peoples.

One reader’s literary escape is another reader’s marginalized hell. I’m sure that the Native peoples did not view “America” as the “New World”. They were already here, living their lives with their own sets of cultural ways.

So much of what we know about history is distorted. So much of what we do know about history is written by the victors of wars fought to instate and maintain oppression and commit genocide and to promote the agendas of the few in power.

What is this obsession with the socially alienating past? Why aren’t there more writers trying to write about these things but with a more focused social commentary?

Why is it that historical romance writers choose to write about women in patriarchal societies? Why is it that they choose to write about women who are practically, by their own societal laws, under men’s feet? Why is that they choose to write about women who were often coerced into sexual relations with their husbands and sometimes men who weren’t their husbands? Furthermore, why would they choose to make it sensual? What is sexy about that? Why is it that they choose to write about a time when women were considered property in their societies? Why do they choose to glamorize the institution of marriage? Why is it that they choose over and over and over again to continue to support a market built on the backs of oppressed women? Who would choose to give something like this to the world of the arts?

Is the past just safer and easier to write about, for white writers in particular?

The Black “Gurrlfriend” Character

You’ve seen her before. You know who she is. Read what I think about this stereotype of Black women in pop media and literature.

Queenly

You know who she is.

You’ve seen her before.

She’s in movies with a mostly white cast or books chocked full of white characters. She is normally married to a white man or is the best friend of a white girl or running in a clique of white and/or wealthy girls (she may even be a snob herself). And even when she’s married to, dating, or in some type of relationship with another Black person or person of color they are the only “colored” people around.

She’s loud. She wears hoop earrings, braids (or heaven forbid unnaturally straight hair or weave usually dyed blond or some shade of blond), some form of typical/atypical ethnic hairstyle, tight pants, short skirts, and low cut, belly-exposing tops. Animal print something is near her (handbag, purse, nails, blankets, sheets, cell phone, earrings, jacket/coat) or there’s an actual live “exotic” animal near her. She dances, sings, cooks, does hair, chauffeurs, is a nanny maid (usually has a close master-slave family relationship with her non-Black employer), and/or makes crass jokes. She is portrayed as wild and exotic, an African mistress, a full-figured fertility goddess abundant in love, maternity, and bosom. She’s a hypersexual animal–rwarrr! She’s a professional dressed in a two-piece suit, middleclass, college educated, frigid bitch with no knowledge of her people’s past–classy not ghetto. Increasingly, she’s Black but she’s mixed with white or something else–the best of both worlds. She’s a prostitute, a mistress, a fast food worker she’s a victim to be used as an example for the author, director, or artist’s white main characters. She’s the only Black woman in the horror movie and she usually dies–very quickly so no one cares or very violently (sometimes like all the other losers in the film or worse than them). She is sometimes promiscuous and/or flirtatious and most likely has children–sometimes several children. If she’s in a comic, manga, cartoon, or anime she’s scantily clad, showing her breasts, legs ass, hips, and thighs and anything else she can put on display; she has big oftentimes glossy lips lots of jewelry and she has music notes inside of speech bubbles. Oftentimes, she is portrayed as violent or plain “gung ho” in the best or worst of situations.

She is the “friend” who says something soulful and inspirational right when her white or “Asian” [term used both cautiously and sarcastically] friend needs it most. But, most of all, she is NEVER the main character. She may only have one or two lines but she always says what her non-Black friend needs to hear most because she is bumbumbum–THE BLACK GIRLFRIEND CHARACTER!!!

Sistas, beware! This stereotype is dangerous. It appears in many different forms and all types of media especially now that America has a “Black president” . White America is now increasingly interested once again in the existence of Black peoples and how the Black folks operate. Books, ads, commercials, movies, daily television, music videos, porn, radio–you name it, she’s probably there. The Black Girlfriend Character or archetype never sleeps.

There was once a time when I would have given anything to see a Black female character in the mainstream but now I’m not so sure I like what I see. Black women are at the bottom of “racial heap” at no fault really of their own but because of a history that continuously and systemically tries to destroy everything that we are through our bodies and the bodies of the women and children around them. We are so much more than stereotypes allow us to be, especially when those stereotypes are being perpetuated outside of ourselves and our communities.

Can we even hope for a better tomorrow?

Though I do try not to be aware of it, but I both hope and expect. More to come on the topic….

*snap* Gurrlfriend!

Ms. Queenly

[Originally posted to Ms. Queenly’s Blog here.]

II. Bitch Feminism and Anita Blake, #1 Bitch?

More sharp but wistful criticism for Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series.

I got through Hamilton’s Bullet, Anita Blake Vampire Hunter 18. I was surprised by a lot of what I read, particularly the scenes involving Richard–I too never thought that that would ever happen.  However, Anita is the one I’m kind of disappointed with.

Why?

There are very few people of color in the Anita Blake series who take center stage from her point of view and the ones that are there are often villains ,so evil that she has to kill them, or victims that Anita leaves behind and/or has to go back and save. Like Vivian for example. Vivian is described as technically African-African but practically white in the Irish way with straight hair and gray eyes, characteristics few Black people can lay claim to. She is violently raped and beaten by a Vampire Council member, the Master of Beasts, and his son. And…Anita leaves her behind initially to be abused some more.

In Bullet, Vivian’s posture is visibly huddled, she’s saying she wants to have a baby with her white boyfriend, and she’s obviously still recovering from the abuse. Forever concerned with appearing weak or showing any kind of emotion like worry, vulnerability, or stress (which I totally understand but still), Anita adjusts her body posture while standing with Micah and says she doesn’t want to “huddle like Vivian”. Micah gallantly and lovingly reminds Anita that she will “never huddle like Vivian” (p. 34 of Bullet). Never mind that Vivian is a survivor of sexual violence and physical abuse at the hands of masters and other weres–Anita’s gotta be strong! Everybody outta the gotdamn way! Big-Balls-All-Go-No-Quit Anita Blake is coming through!

I actually kind of liked her as a character until I realized something: No one can be on her little express train to dominance except the people under her. Does she get an ego boost out of being Ms. #1 Bitch & Protector I wonder? Why is she portrayed this way?

I’ve thought a lot about it and I’m still struggling with my understanding of her. Its always changing as the series goes on and I understand that every position she finds herself in requires her in some way to be the way that she is, but as a fictional person constructed by another person I find it hard to accept that everyone around her (maybe except Edward, or, that is, “Ted”) is submissive to a degree to her personality. Sociopathic, half-white, half-Mexican, presumably (upper) middleclass, necromancer-federal marshal-vampire executioner-Nimir Ra-Regina-multi little queen-lupa badass with almost a dozen lover/boyfriends and sex partners. She’s a powerhouse and there is no equal sadly.

Being somewhat of that strong independent nature myself, I wish there was a different way to portray the so-called strong female character. I rationalize Anita’s lack of strong female friends by telling myself that there can never be more than one bitch in the room. But why does she have to stand alone be so individualistic in terms of female companionship? She has all these guys around her but no solid consistently reappearing female friends except Ronnie and Claudia. Is Anita Blake a post-feminist bitch feminist archetype?

In my initial issues with Hamilton’s series, I point out my purely selfish need to see a woman of color stand toe to toe and side by side with big bad Blake. That hasn’t changed and I guess that’s why I’m taking the villainizing, victimization of, and the on and off again appearances of women and people of color in the series so hard.

The closest we really get to people of color regularly in this series is Richard’s eroticized exoticized tan and Hamilton/Blake hinting at his “darker” ancestry which I take to mean that he has indigenous ancestry. Heaven forbid he have some Black in his white, middleclass blood.