‘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.

‘Doctor Who’, the Ultimate Superhero Trope

I started watching Doctor Who from the Ninth Doctor (2005), after considering it with great skepticism as a production originating from the racist capital of the whole planet.

Its strange to be tentatively writing here that I actually enjoy many aspects of it. Its a nice bit of whimsy and adventure. Other criticism withheld here for now, there are even brown people on the show (even if whiteness remains central), that’s half a step up from American television shows. I’ve even written down the things I see that I like the most in terms of sentient life forms encountered.

With that said, the biggest issue I have with the show is the Doctor himself. As important as his friends/companions/allies/lovers are made out to be, the whole of the entire universe, beginning and end, is still centered around him. Sounds like yet another huge ego boast for every guy out there that’s vicariously imagining himself to be the last Time Lord from Gallifrey.

I once pointed out how a pretty cool female character like Ryuuzetsu just had died for Naruto in Blood Prison, the fifth Naruto movie. My friend’s response was

“The show is about Naruto, not who doesn’t die for Naruto.”

And the same can be said of the Doctor. Through his companions and encounters with other sentient life forms, an effort is made to decentralize him but it seems the creators of Doctor Who always revert back to plots drenched in the mindless rhetorical worship of the Doctor as more interesting. It’s like the writers sat down and came up with the greatest white patriarchal-superhero-god complex fantasy gone completely insane that they could possibly think of. Yes, I said white–this is still true, even tho he’s from another planet.

If you think race isn’t an issue in Doctor Who, then ask yourself: How invisible would a Black Time Lord be in the white-dominated Western societies at any point in the recorded history visited in the show?

Let’s look at the entirety of Martha Jones’ time with the Doctor as his companion, especially compared to Rose Tyler.

Or ask why the Transatlantic Slave Trade and other crimes against humanity wasn’t prevented by the Doctor, who spends an annoying amount of time lecturing humans about how they need to be “better” (without ever being a little time lord faerie to the people who are victims of times when they weren’t) and championing any time period he fancies and comes across except the ones too problematic and incriminating for Britain and America to fess up to. The worst and most logical answer would be that the enslavement of Black peoples by white Europeans, is a “fixed point” in time–meaning that it was something that was “supposed” to happen. So the Doctor can save the Oods from humans but not save humans from themselves? This show is chocked full of deceptive post-racial propaganda!

All this is to say that tho The Doctor is often presented as a sentimental character, his entire existence is about power, the power he has over those around him.

In its title character, Doctor Who presents me with what I will dub the “renaissance man” superhero trope (The Ultimate Polymath Trope).  Contrary to all this white savior worship and idealism, I’d prefer to see the Doctor, as Donna Noble so aptly said to the Tenth Doctor, as “a long streak of nothing, y’know, alien nothing!“.

Did Mystique really just say, ‘I don’t answer to my slave name’

Now let me tell you all the things that are wrong with this.

  1. Conflating Black civil rights movements with fictional white characters (Mystique is played by a white woman, her parents were probably white)
  2. Mutants don’t have “slave names”, people taken from Africa and enslaved by whites, however, were forced and brutalized into taking Christian/white European names, language, “culture”, and religion
  3. Mutants may prefer not to be addressed by their given names, but they, again, do not have “slave names”
  4. Slavery and Black justice movements and cultural consciousness should never be conflated with fictional white characters created by white writers
  5. Mystique is being used as a metaphor because of the literal color of her skin and appearance…and it would be compelling and acceptable if she was actually Black and not a fictional blue character in a comic book series

I understand what they were going for and this is why its just unacceptable.

Charmed, Season 8, Episode 8, “Battle of the Hexes”

This episode is probably the most hated episode for me, excluding two or three episodes that I intentionally didn’t watch.

It’s completely racist (Paige gets to be the white savior, champion of the Black male delinquent; using a corrupt legal system to get a PoC to get his life together; two white people making a bet on Black persyn’s life–great). Then on top of that, its completely sexist, relying on the Greek myth of Hippolyta’s belt.

If a woman is too powerful and too radical, then she must be a angry vicious murderer and separatist that wants to kill all men, regardless of what they’ve done.

This reminds me of when Chris’s future self killed three Amazons to get their amulets so the charmed ones could go to the Amazons’ island and save Leo and Piper. And was never punished, because Leo let him off the hook.

And I never really thought about how heterosexist the show is.

Is this what they think balance is?

Of all the directions they could have taken Hippolyta’s belt, they chose this one.

Now, I already don’t like Billie–dislike her even more than I dislike Paige. Couldn’t stand Paige because she replaced Pru. You have all these silly hos panting after dick and chasing dreams of babies and happy white middleclass domestic situations (its the way its presented, not the fact that they want to have children or enjoy men). The fact that Piper didn’t have a girl as this supreme magical being and Wyatt is treated like a Christ-like figure in terms of his birth and magical abilities. The good/evil dichotomy. Cultural appropriation everywhere. The othering of different magic traditions. Add this up with all the inherent racism and that deplorable episode where Phoebe is narrating like the show is fucking Sex in the City…

Charmed is just not charming anymore.

I’m just watching until the end to say I saw the whole thing (if I even do that).