My Pre-Beef with ‘Black Panther’

The Marvel Black Panther film looks nice. Black people are beautiful, what do you want me to say? Black is ever so beautiful. But…that’s the way Marvel wants it to look. Like anything the media flashes in your face.

Recently, I was asked about my thoughts on the upcoming movie. It was pointless to have this conversation with a passive, sleep-walking through life kind of person but I answered the question honestly. As usual, this sister let her silence speak. Either having nothing to say or treating me like a militant, angry Black woman without a real and actual cause. Don’t ask if you don’t really want to know. Most people don’t. They are not woke. I did not elicit an excited, simple answer so this person turned their brain off.

No offense to all these fine, upstanding, not-white actors, but how am I supposed to support a film wholeheartedly when I know Black people do not control the images and characters that I’m seeing and expected to endorse? Aren’t Black people’s bodies, culture, and voices in the media just used as avatars for whites to manifest their destiny, their perceptions, onto to the masses? White people have been manipulating images and perception across continents and lining their pockets with their exploitations for hundreds of years. Should I, should you, view the Black Panther film as any different?

I have written before about Marvel’s X-Men co-opting and appropriating from the Black Power Movement and the Black struggle. It seems we will allow anyone to represent us regardless of who they are and how they’re doing it as long as we’re not invisible. But that isn’t enough anymore. Not to me.

Some Black viewers and Black Marvel fans may be a little too obsessed with representation. Obsessed to the point that they no longer care where it comes from.

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Oh Teal’c

As a kid, I loved Stargate SG-1. I rewatch it every now and again. Like right now. Even with it’s passable points, it’s totally racist and colonialist.

Because anything that doesn’t gel with the white man’s sense of rationality, scientific imperialism, and civilization is chalked up to megalomaniacal, parasitic aliens posing as Egyptian gods and other mythological figures.

Yet I still love the idea of the Stargate and how it represents exploration (hopefully peaceful) across the galaxies.

The character of Teal’c, played by the handsome Christopher Judge, is for the most part utterly majestic, even in his stoicism. At the same time, Teal’c is yet another example of a non-white character who is written as utterly subservient (down for the white man’s cause) or irrepressibly hostile (the exotic extraterrestrial savage that doesn’t know how to follow the rules).

I don’t know what kind of person Christopher Judge is or what he thought/thinks about his role as Teal’c. But I wonder if he sees how the character of Teal’c is used as a prop for the white imagination to project racist microaggressions and tropes onto, especially given that his co-stars are white while for all who see him, Teal’c/Judge is a big Black guy.

Stargate Atlantis gets a little closer to the issue of the Stargate franchise’s portrayal of its non-white characters/actors with characters like Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex.

Honestly, I could watch Stargate from the beginning and write god knows how many posts ONLY about Teal’c and race. Buuutttt, I don’t have the spirit or the patience for that right now.

‘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.

Tarantino, NO; Zack Ward, how do you do

So the mother got Restoration, The Hateful, and Regression from Redbox and wanted someone to watch them with her.

I didn’t want to watch any of them honestly. I flat out refuse to watch any known Quentin Tarantino movie, because, ya know, he’s a racist and makes no attempts to disguise it. Kill Bill has a great soundtrack but Tarantino lost me at From Dusk Till Dawn after that Django bullshit and him claiming that he’s the reason people are talking about slavery.

My sister loves The Others, which is done by the same guy who did the second movie on the table, Regression. Looked it up, and the movie is about someone who accuses her father of sexually abused her as a kid. Not interested in seeing a film about that.

The last film put in front of me is Restoration, and the person responsible for this is Zack Ward. I was interested after reading that snippet that every website trots out about it. Little dead white girls haunting houses are a staple in American horror films but I hoped that her demise wasn’t super graphic so I could watch the film and decide if I thought it was any good. However, not willing to take the chance that the movie was a waste of time, I read several reviews trying to see if anyone wrote about the plot. No reviewer detailed the plot and there’s not a Wiki about it either, so off and on for a couple of hours I mulled over whether I wanted to give Restoration a chance.

In the end, I decided to watch it. For some reason, I don’t feel like telling the plot either so I won’t. Restoration had its moments. I wouldn’t say it was super bad and I wouldn’t say it was extraordinary either. It was good, I guess, maybe it was the acting. The potentially problematic presentation of the Black nurse (nurses? were there two who only appeared briefly?) was unfortunate and the ending itself was unfortunate in nature but not unexpected. Also written by white people, it had a The Skeleton Key element to it that nobody talks about in their reviews though Restoration‘s explanation could be clearer. I knew something was wrong with the protagonists’ overly friendly neighbors when the husband put the words “ancestor” and “East India Trading Company” in the same sentence. Racist, raping, genocidal bitches. So it was immediately confirmed to me that the neighbors were the problem after these words were said. In front of a fancy display cabinet full of treasured relics from the whites’ most beloved age of colonialism, delusions of supremacy, and willful destruction and maiming of the lives of other races.

My final thoughts as I walked away from the movie: Hmph. That is very disturbing.

Why I Hate Weiss Schnee

In the episodes “The Stray” and “Black and White”, Weiss makes overtly racist remarks against Faunus. Yet somehow in the end Blake is made to be the one apologizing for being a member of a group that at first PEACEFULLY protested violent racism and injustice against their entire species by humans and the Schnee company.

Go Team RWBY? I don’t think so, boo.

Weiss would be the kind of white girl who wants to touch your hair and be all “gurrlfriend!” to your face while calling you racist slurs behind your back. There is no innocent version of a character like Weiss. Nice try, RWBY producers. Not.

Every time she opens her mouth, it irks me off. The rest of Team RWBY was passive in the face of Weiss’ unjustified hate of all Faunus and initially her hate of Blake too after she learned Blake was a Faunus. No one ever calls her out except for Blake who then apologizes for doing what she thought was right at the beginning of the White Fang. Meanwhile, Weiss is all “Thankies, teammate, for making me feel safe and justified in my hate by apologizing and reassuring me you’re not like the other dirty Faunus. I accept you now!”.

The best Blake can hope for is lukewarm acceptance from privileged, pasty Weiss. She might as well apologize for being a Faunus too while she’s at it.

Race-naming in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’

I was talking with my friend over the phone about how weird it is that in Tolkien’s world that it is totally legit to address people by their race. Weird because, in reality, outside those pages, people don’t commonly do that–

And with good reason.

A lot of people fail to understand why its not okay to address a people (and by this I mean primarily POC,who don’t even really exist in the LOTR universe–a telling sign) by a racial identifier (whether its a slur or what appears to be a simple “race name”), particularly one that they themselves or individually have not given you permission to address them by.

In The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, its completely commonplace to address somebody as “my dear hobbit” or “Master Dwarf”. Usually, race-naming is used in only one of a few different ways:

  1. to refer to the great accomplishments, blessings/abilities, and skills  known of that race (es. Elves are “fair”, immortal, and wise or Dwarves are great craftspeople and miners).
  2. to point out a characteristic that seems to be shared among many members of a race (ex. Dwarves are stubborn or hearty or Hobbits appear as children to the eyes of Men because of their size),
  3. and, most of all,  it seems that race and race-naming is specifically built into the entire cosmology of Tolkien’s universe, the way things turn out.

I am not a Tolkien scholar, I have not read all of his work, but I find race-naming in his writing and its effects on generations of fiction/fantasy writers to be bad news. That’s almost a different post though.

I just don’t live in that world, or society rather, where race-naming between races is usually positive. I don’t want a Japanese person calling me “nigga”,  someone Spanish-speaking to call me “the [insert adjective] negro“, or white people to address me as anything other than what I give them permission to call me (they can even manage to turn that into a disaster). With the amount of ignorance and hate hanging around, its detrimental that race should be treated as a practiced way of labeling peoples, whether its because they are known for their negative characteristics, deepest failures, or their greatest accomplishments. Homogenizing races and cultures is…a touchy business. In my society, I don’t think its possible to address somebody by their race and have it be a simple thing because social interactions and history are so much more complicated than in this fictional world.

When have the Elves ever enslaved the Dwarves? When do ents go around sneaking into the Shire and murdering Hobbits because they’re shorter? My point is that race and racism does not manifest itself  in Tolkien’s world in such a way that it does any real justice to how racism and oppression operates in reality, much like Rowling’s Harry Potter. And that is why race-naming and racial homogeneity is presented as commonplace and usually presented as harmless or unoffensive.

Its the same problem I have with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: there is no one “Enemy” to unite against as there is these stories. In my understanding and lived experience, the problems between races lies in their shared violent and oppressive history, not at the root of some common enemy. We are not the Free People” of Middle Earth, we are the constantly divided peoples of Earth.

just shaking my head

Since there’s nothing else to watch while I work that’s of any substantial depths or length to keep my mind occupied while I work, I turned to something familiar–

Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I’ve never watched the any of the series that predates my birth, like this one (I’ll be 26 this year), but I’ve seen the movies related to them. I guess its Patrick Stewart but I like Captain Jean-Luc Picard (probably the cadence of his voice :-), haha).

Oooohhhhh, its sooooo racist!

And there’s nothing better or worse than a good story that has racist-sexist-eurocentric-colonialist-white supremacist bumps all along the way. Its amazing how white writers and producers can take the most amazing ideas with the greatest potential, carry them so far, then stick their heads up their asses–taking the whole beautiful idea with them.

tsunade lol

My mom is pretty much a trekker and I see why, the fact still remains. What else should I expect though. The nature of this crap isn’t going to change dramatically in my lifetime. Its just going to turn on that flash and glitter then change its ugly face just a little bit to make most people think they’re looking at something new.

How I Read Stuff [Permanent Sticky/Guide for Almost Everything You Will Read on This Blog]

I am quite weary of living in a society where the erasure, commodification, caricaturization, absence, and general dehumanization of my race is a normal thing. Being aware of it is hard to live with because once you know, you can never unknow.

One of the chief reasons I am unhappy and critical with most of what I see in the media is because of how my race is continuously reduced to fodder for white supremacy/white hero worship and the agenda of anti-Blackness, even by members of my own race itself. I want to see and read more work where this is not the case.

I am not a sponge, just indiscriminately soaking up any liquid I come into contact with.

I concern myself particularly with the portrayals and conditions of Black women and characters, or female/genderqueer characters of Color or non-white characters.

As I watch things or read things, I am constantly considering what I think and feel about it. That’s just how I am. When evaluating my issues or non-issues, ratio of love/hate, and like or dislike of many forms of media and entertainment, my mind searches for the answers to these questions:

  • What is the position of Black women? Are there even any present?

  • Are Black women main characters or side characters?

  • Are Black women three dimensional or poorly constructed caricatures, mammies to whiteness/oppressors, and antagonists?

  • How many racist cliches/stereotypes are tacked onto her?

  • Are there white people there? Why? What role do they play? What do they have to do with the sista (who should be the main character)?

  • Again, vital, what role do the whites play and what is their relationship to the Black characters? Are they in a position of power over them?

  • Is the Black female character reliant on or worshiping in any way shape or form a white, male, or non-Black character? Does her character hold up without these others or is her existence made to dependent upon them?

  • What is the Black woman’s characterization? How is she portrayed? Who is she? What kind of person is she? What role is she playing?

  • What type of people are around her? What type of decisions does she make? What is her background?

  • Does her situation seem realistic to me from the root of my subjectivities?

  • Is this Black woman character’s story only about the struggle?

  • Is the story restricted to stereotypical genres like urban fiction, slavery, and chick lit?

  • How does her story end? How does she grow? Does she achieve her goals or desires?

–Queens

To All Whovians

I don’t really count myself as a Whovian. I’ve seen it, I like stuff about it, but my criticism of it transcends my need to praise it.

If you ONLY want to hear what I like about Doctor Who, you are on the WRONG blog. I have exactly one post about what I like about Doctor Who and its not published or finished yet. It speaks in lovely butterfly volumes, compared to the usual kind of criticism I do of white-dominated media.

Doctor Who is an okay bit of fiction but it is by no means beyond criticism.  I understand why its so popular, I even watched it myself.

But it is a perfect example of what is wrong with white people like most of what they produce and appear to imagine.

The Doctor is supposedly pacifist and is supposed to be anti-racist, believing in hope and blah-blah-yadda-yadda of mankind.

I get the message and I question who is sending the message and why, since it contradicts my reality, wreaks havoc with my ability to suspend my belief, and presents people worshiping a white male alien (time lord fairy, as I call him).  A choice of poisons.

Please put down your prime time television crack, you sound like a bunch of addicts in denial. Doctor Who is okay, its brilliant in some aspects, but it is not above reproach, especially for a Black woman such as myself who can see through a bunch of scientifically imperialist, colorblind, neo-liberal bullshit from a mile away.