Spy…

Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy…

I can’t believe I’m saying this.

I think I kind of…liked it.

Arguably, the writing of Spy was more true to satire (than, for example, a show like Family Guy which I am not a fan of). I read Spy initially as the kind of fiction that isn’t necessary meant to degrade fat women but more draw attention to fat stereotypes and machismo. It shows a fat woman being tough, capable, confident, calling out b.s. to an extent, and getting over a guy she’s attached to who obviously sees her in a not flattering light romantically.

There was a joke about Black people in there that pissed me off but I even thought that was handled in a way that I could deal with at the moment when McCarthy’s character says, “That’s not appropriate” and it was over.

Not to sing the film praises or those of Melissa McCarthy or anything. I never wanted to see the movie because of that trailer they played to death on television  around its release date of McCarthy getting that that motorcycle stuck in the wet cement. I assumed it was just another two-hour, thinly veiled attack on fat women using a desperate fat woman to do it. I would stare at McCarthy on that freaking scooter stuck in that concrete with absolute woe and burning contempt.

But even I laughed when I gave Spy a chance. I was glad to just be able to see a comedy, starring a fat woman, and for once just fucking laugh.

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After reviewing ‘X-Men: First Class’,

I don’t care too much for Charles Xavier.

Xavier has probably the most suspicious and dangerous power, yet is portrayed as the least dangerous because

  1. he’s white
  2. he’s British—> “cultured” —> arrogant/cajoling/deceptively charming
  3. pacifist

To top it all off, he relies on the same Eurocentric ideologies that were used to enslave Africans/Black peoples, and to this day label us as inferior.

And through Xavier, Britain is again centered as the source of knowledge, safety, wisdom, intelligence, civilization, wealth, power, and, most importantly, goodness.

Other thoughts about X-Men: First Class have been posted to my Tumblr, which I usually would not link here, but here goes. There’s not much more to be said…

“Darwin”, X-Men: First Class, a whole post to itself

What really got me is this meaningful moment where Kevin Bacon’s character, Sebastian Shaw, looks at “Darwin”, played by Edi Gathegi (Kenyan?), and makes a clear reference to slavery, the “enslavement” of mutants. [This after we’ve seen this fuckery of two white d00des (known as Magneto and Xavier) lounging in front of the Lincoln Memorial playing chess, talking about freedom; after witnessing a mixed raced (Angel/Zoe Kravitz) woman being asked “How would like to have a job where you get to keep your clothes on?” by a white wealthy British man.]

Now, what really, REALLY gets me is that Darwin’s ability is “adapt to survive”. Of course, within the first official demonstration of his abilities, they would script/plot an attack that he CANNOT ADAPT TO! A regurgitated attack from a white mutant, one of his fellows, that kills him.

“Jesus, man, you are killin’ me!” Darwin says to Havoc moments before Havoc’s own powers are used by another white character, the villain, to do just that.

What does this teach us? White villains offering freedom are not your friends and neither are white allies. Even when they aren’t trying, they’re dangerous to our survival.

And we end things the way we started them: with white characters as the good guys. White people are the ones to go stop the war and be the heroes, divided yet heroes.

It teaches us that once a white man decides you’re going to die, other white people are used against you and you will, indeed, die, even if your power is to “adapt to survive”.

Let’s not even discuss how his nickname is “Darwin”, and he is named for Charles Darwin, with that survival of the fittest bullshit and other ideologies used to further racism.

Darwin is a sympathetic yet cruel mix between what I call the three archetypes:

  1. The Dead Weight: a character who must die in order for the plot/story to go on
  2. The Sacrificial Lamb: a character who is dispensable and his death or life makes no difference to the plot
  3. The Catalyst: a character who is usually killed to inspire the heroes to fight on (Phil in The Avengers is a recent example but he was white.)

For Darwin, his death being excused as a Catalyst falls flat, as he is never mentioned again after the X-Men mobilizes with any importance. So it only stands to reason that he falls most securely in the categories of Dead Weight in the interest of white heroes even after his Blackness is used as a foothold for references and allusions to slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Co-opting and appropriation abound, as long as a token is present.

Darwin’s ability is to “adapt to survive”, yet he doesn’t adapt, ends up dead without a scrap to even bury. He is made invisible and erased from the film, while we chalk up yet another Black character for the Hollywood Film’s “Killed Off/Killed Off First” List.

Even in fiction, its still a white man’s game. Real power lies in the ability to manipulate and influence people’s dreams, imaginations, and fantasies. They can say your power is to adapt to survive and in the same breath kill you by writing the story so that you can’t adapt if they say you can’t.

But I guess you can’t expect anything from the people who enslaved and continue to oppress you, who have always used you for profit and entertainment.

Brown People = Sex: The Matrix Reloaded & Hypersexualizing Brownness

Brown People = Sex: The Matrix Reloaded & Hypersexualizing Brownness

I’m pretty sure that I’m not the first person to say this. When I first saw The Matrix, it became the standard of film and story for me. I thought it was awesome, like so many other fans of the film. I could deal with the fact that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) or Captain Naomi (Jada Pinkett Smith) are technically just supporting character instead of The One himself/herself. To this day I still have a problem with the fact that Morpheus, in particular, had the potential to be The One and got pushed to the left for Neo (Keanu Reeves). But overall, I thought it

Once I saw The Matrix Reloaded, the second film in the trilogy, my perspective shifted a little bit. Even today, I cannot watch the movie from beginning to end and do not own it in my movie collection. The reason is because of that big orgy scene in the movie when Neo and Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss) are having sex.

There is this stereotypically tribal-like music drummed out during the scene. Neo and Trinity are off in their own private space and there are cuts between them having sex and the crazy party where everyone else is grinding on each other, jumping into the air, dancing, maybe even having sex, and just plain carrying on in this crowded, sweaty, semi-dark torch lit cave. A lot of the people in the cave seem to be brown skinned.

As an erotic romance writer, I do feel as if it is kind of contradictory for me to be saying this in a way, but even when I write and in real life, I have standards of intimacy that I uphold. So I wonder, is this scene in The Matrix Reloaded a celebration of life, intimacy, and “unity”, or just a reaffirmation of how white dominated society—film, music video, and all “departments” of Hollywood itself in particular—hypersexualize Black people/Brown folks as the epitome of savagery and primordial sexuality?

Is this just another demonstration of how white people, white filmmakers and photographers, pathologize Black people/Brown people or brownness as the earthy, animalistic, unrestrained, wild, and sexual?

Bear with me until the end, the language is about to get a little high and academic, please excuse me.

It reminds me of why many white people tan: to them it’s not just about “getting a little color”. White people tan because they have pathologized brownness to such a level that they don’t even think about it anymore, particularly Blackness—meaning that in their own heads, Black/brown skinnededness equals savage, dark sexuality. But by being people that only have tan/”browned” skin temporarily in most cases, they maintain their position as dominant whites  dressed in browned/tanned skin, “trying on Blackness/brownness” to be fad and hypersexualized for the moment. It’s the closest to being Black that they can get in reality in the absence of the option of temporarily becoming Black and they enjoy and are thrilled that they can momentarily be what they believe simultaneously to be the lowest or most base sexuality and the height of the sexually primordial in popular media—brown.

In Reloaded, Neo and Trinity don’t have to tan or become Black somehow. The “orgy scene” inside of the cave which is revealed in a montage of cuts and flashes while Neo and Trinity are having sex symbolizes a degree of savage “brown” sexuality that their white skin cannot completely embody by itself. It doesn’t matter that the people inside of the cave aren’t actually having sex. The fact they are in a separate area away from the “party” and at the same time Neo and Trinity having sex is still put next to the sexualized action of the brown people in the cave only makes it more clear that—again—savage, sensuous, primordially base sexuality in the movie is embodied in brown-skinned people and not in the white skinned heroes of the movies.

Point in case again (if this makes it any simpler):

The sexuality of the two “white-skinned” people (Keanu Reeves is Hawaiian/Chinese–generally multiracial-part white) engaging in sex is further personified by flashes to a cave full of brown people (though not exclusively brown) grinding and slithering sensuously on each other and acting wild to the beat of drums. Both main characters in the film, Neo and Trinity go on to be the “white-skinned” heroes in action, their repressed/latent sexuality contained in their fitted black clothes while at the same time it still remains that you see the most Black/brown people out of the whole damn film and the whole damn trilogy jammed in that cave engaged in sexualized action.

Personally, I’m offended by it and somewhat disappointed and uncomfortable but not surprised.

I’m done!

Ms. Queenly

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.]