Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not! Percy Jackson

Percy & The Olympians; The Lightening Thief

I am feeling some serious Recognition Rejection here. And it all seems so pointless. As if Hollywood is so married to particular formats it will Dr. Frankenstein any good story; any story already told and already liked (enough that a movie seems profitable), must be cut and resewn to fit their idea of what works.

Whether this has to do with a movie's advocates and producers (those who supply the money) I do not know. I just note that the LOTR Movie Trilogy does not seem to suffer this.

But even things that are not LOTR deserve respect in their adaptations. I'm not inclined at all to watch the destruction, from the very beginning of this AU universe (from book to movie) of the Percy Jackson myths.

Possible Spoilers for The Movie (And book).











Percy Jackson is already a loving son of a strong, independent single mother. But he's the quiet introverted type, the inner strength type. Annabelle is bookish and reserved, a grand thinker. Grover is a dreamer, loyal friend and a touch of the idealist.

The movie shows us a cocky quipping Percy Jackson, one with apparently no survival skills for dealing with an abusive adult male asshole even though he'd been living with one for a while now. How does he not end up instigating said asshole's rage all the time, thus endangering himself and his mother? There's no point to having that cockiness except that it fits the accepted Recognition Glee of cocky white American teenage male hero.

The movie then proceeds to disappear Percy's mother. Considering the sequels she can't be killed off at this point. But rather than have her as the rock of his foundation, who's safe back at home, and waiting on him to complete his quest while she sorts out their future living arrangements - she's now a damsel in distress.

Patchworking in beside her in this macabre 'this is what a hero's journey movie is about' is Movie!Annabelle, who's apparently been merged with Clarisse (daughter of Ares). The moment I realized that she was the girl Percy meets by seeing her sword fighting with others (and what other girl would have Athena's grey eyes?), was the moment I knew that there'd been no attempt to show Annabelle as the complicated individual she is. Instead we get cardboard kick-ass. You know, bad ass in leather, yet has her hair loose with it getting into her eyes.

Gone is the bookish, quiet, intellectual who's not afraid to show steel when the situation merits it. Gone is the tactician. Annabelle says she's the daughter of a tactician but then proceeds to behave like Clarisse, taunting Percy in a sword fight and celebrating before the proceedings are fully over.

And speaking of those proceedings - the mystery of who Percy's father is and how that plays into not only his acceptance and his relationship with others at Camp Halfblood, but into the politics and struggles of the 12 Olympians is gone. The beautiful revelation scene is replaced with a brawny macho 'use the force' moment - that's plainly empty and pathetic. And he's not even in the water!

And then we come to Grover. My memories could be wrong, but I distinctly remember Grover as a faun, not a satyr. And the differences are clear if you have mental images for the two, with fauns as quiet forest musicians, and satyrs as girl crazy, boisterous pranksters. Even if I'm wrong, however, this is still not Grover. Where is the spiritual idealist? The seeker? Grover is being played by a black actor. So he's now a satyr and he's wild about Aphrodite's daughters (chasing the white women) instead of strange and/or unpopular due to his focus on finding Pan. Not to mention that he's now a white character's protector instead of him having used the opportunity to watch over Percy to have the chance to fulfill his own cultural/spiritual quest.

That's five characters that have been seriously changed in order to fit a pre-existing set of molds. It makes it unsurprising to learn that one review called it: "standard Hollywood product... unadventurous and uninteresting." After all part of fitting into the mold is the removal of any inner life a character might have.

On the other hand, there's plenty they've set up for Recognition Glee, which in my case makes the Recognition Rejection all the stronger ; the pen sword, the harpy/fury, Chiron, the importance of the Empire State Building, the asshole's stench, the minotaur, capture the flag.

That's where I stopped, however, when there apparently can't be more than one female character in the series, and when it was obvious they skipped the bonding of being raised by single mothers/the bonding of not knowing who one's father is, with macho sword play and cliches about combat.

I'm glad Rick Riordan got the money from selling his film rights - these days everyone needs as much cash flow as possible. But I won't be adding my dollars to the pot. This is yet another case of Hollywood changing the fundamentals of what made a property popular in the first place and replacing it with generic stand-ins to give the audience what they think the audience wants (with a dual dose of sexism and a side order of racism).

Additional Aside: Also by removing the concept of 'The Mist' they've fundamentally changed the plot as well.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Signal Boost: Writers To Watch For

I keep reading how N.K. Jemison's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is bloody brilliant.

Excuse me while I wrestle some free floating general anxiety and a truckload of jealousy. There's nothing like breathing words but currently being unable to think the way you'd like, to set off admiration and sadness and fear and a bunch of the other emotions that encompass jealousy at someone else's accomplishment. Especially when it's someone you already respect.

Jealousy or not though, I still suggest you buy and consume the book. The first three chapters are here (top of the page) - to get you going. I've only read chapter 1 (jealousy & free floating anxiety, remember) but it made a definite positive impression on me.

Also when you finish that, I suggest you grab some Y.A and read Karen Healy's Guradian of the Dead, coming this spring, in April. I've had way more time to deal with the jealousy there. And am solidly in the write more now! phase.

Friday, February 19, 2010

SignalBoost Re: Evelyn Evelyn


Text: I SUPPORT FWD. With image of pink wheelchair user


I support FWD: Feminists With Disabilities over Amanda Palmer (& Fans).


*Because I can't draw worth anything but I can photoshop:
Disability Access Symbol originally produced and updated by the Graphic Artist Guild and the National Endowment for the Arts. Downloadable & available @ Graphic Artist Guild.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This Is A Bitchy Rant

My current understanding of American Superhero Comics, particularly the Big Two.

Writer: I get the character, ok. This is why I get to write them. This is why I'm glad we tapped THIS ARTIST. Cause this artist gets the character! It was MEANT TO BE. I totally get them. I am totally going to make them rock with my interpretation of how much I get them. Other talk. Talk talk talk. Blah blah blah blah.

Writer Action: *.... crickets chirp - incredibly out of character actions - messed up circumstances - more crickets ...*

In other words, I have seen the cover of the new Dazzler one shot that's supposed to be for May 2010. I've read the blah blah about Lois London and whatever the eff Necrosha is, blah blah.

I loved Alison moving on in New Excalibur and I've loathed that Marvel rebooted her right back to wanting a singing career etc, and now someone's going to come along and supposedly make her shine - but do that while claiming she should be all 'Unholy Crap! How did I ever take these villains on on my own before!'. And the truth is, she didn't all of the time, she had help, whether it was Spiderman or Black Bolt or the Xmen. And when she didn't had help, she was just incredibly resourceful and kick ass.

But now she's going to be thinking of herself as having been endangered and reckless? And this is an improvement?

Oh yeah, and someone finally perhaps considering what it means to produce light is going to be giving her a new ability for her power set so watch out world?

I... yeah, it takes near endless optimism to be involved in American Superhero Comics. Optimism and endless piss and vinegar for all the times the characters, plots, concepts get screwed up so someone can try and 'make their mark' or TPTB can roll out an event to try and boost falling sales.

It's much, much easier for me to love the Dazzler in my head that no one else can touch. Along with the Scott Summers in my head, the Cloak and Dagger in my head, the Mystique, Beast and Nightcrawler in my head, and also Polaris, Gambit and Magneto.

I believe it was Bankuei who said something along the lines that the big two have yet to realize the possibilities in one writer per collectible finite arc vs the chopped up mess of multiple writers on multiple characters jumping on and off as whims and popularity decrees all trying to tie into editorial fiats. He was much clearer. He was also comparing manga (and manga plots) to American Superhero Crappola.

I sum it up as: The Characters I Love Are Safer In My Head.

Because really that's what it is. I fall in love with them all over again, but that love is never safe because you never know what ignorant is going to be allowed to paw with greasy hands, change what they want, retcon what they want, diminish what they want. And even when I love what a writer might be doing, I'll more than likely be loathing that the artist seems to think the heroine's power shots should be all ass shots.

So if anyone was wondering why comics fell by the way side on this blog... I think you can guess why now. American Superhero Comics = simmering anger, outrage, disappointment, disgust, offense, sadness and that's not even touching the racism. And in those descriptions I'm not just describing the big two.


I liked short, pink haired, at peace with herself, her abilities and her status as a trained hero Alison Blaire. I don't think she needs a nemesis and that said unneeded nemesis should be her sister. It's just another - women's relationships as not real, and are always competitive, even when they're family - and is but so much bullshit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

PoC Won't Be Getting Recognition Glee

And speaking about who is acceptable to be seen as black/non white/poc; who fits that role in society....

Alexandre Dumas, of Haitian descent - to be played by a white man, specifically Gérard Depardieu.

Yes, Dumas was multi-racial, but he was also the grandson of a former slave and he referred to himself as un nègre. But it is apparently entirely NOT racist to have him portrayed in high yellow blackface (darkened skin, curly wig).

The movie is already made. There's nothing to be done about the casting. There's just awareness rising left.

And this thought; in a decade or so, when a movie about President Obama is made - what excuse will they give to have the first black president of the US be played by a white man? His white grandparents?

Or will people think it's impossible for him not to be dark skinned because 'where is the birth certificate' will still be making the rounds?

ETA: Of course the Dumas movie is all about how his best works were written by a real frenchman, a white man. Of. effing. course. Erase his blackness and his genius both at once.

ETA2: Ah, apparently Dumas was known (and admitted) to having ghost writers. But I still dislike the combination of circumstances.

Recognition, Codes & Box Office Draw

In a review for the book,Queen of the Orcs by Morgan Howell , first in a series and disappointingly the only book in the series I found palatable, I wrote this:

These reviews leave me thinking that people are recognizing patterns in their reading and thinking that the ability to recognize a pattern is actual analysis and not merely the first step in comprehension. Like some blogger I read said about the recent batch of spoof movies; they have no substance and don't actually parody anything, the audience is just laughing because they recognize the pop-culture reference; a Pavlovian reaction?

The concept of recognition has been nibbling at me again since I saw the latest The Last Airbender trailer. That sentence right there, by the way, is warning enough to scroll past if you're tired of hearing people be disappointed at rampant appropriation and whitewashing.

The Last Airbender trailers, and the movie itself, has a lot for fans of the tv series to recognize.

* Siblings in the snow = Sokka and Katara.
* A tattoo extending over a boy's forehead = Aang
* The manipulation of fire, air, water and earth = bending
* Particular names
* Particular phrases
* Particular places
* Appa

It is exciting to recognize something, to know what something is supposed to be, even when it's in a new form, a new medium; even when it is a new interpretation. A lot of my own enjoyment of Batman Begins, for example, was in recognizing batarangs and other devices, as well as recognizing characters. There's an insider's kind of glee to see the new interpretation but know what the original looked and sounded like. There's a bit of that involved in fanfiction as well, reading it and writing it both; though in writing it the fun is in coming up with a new interpretation whether you're writing an AU or a 'missed scene' or a set of continuing adventures.

That Recognition Glee is what's counted on when Hollywood takes inspiration from somewhere else and brings a book, tv series, comic/graphic novel to life. That's part of why they bother to do it in the first place; because those who liked/loved it once, will WANT to see a new spin on things. Assuming the movie isn't meant to round off a series that never properly ended, that is. Still, taking from somewhere else and bringing it to the silver screen is a unique relationship, with hesitances, false starts, supposedly good natured intentions...

The Batman franchise is not the only franchise I've done this not quite a love affair dance with. There is also Star Trek; largely the movies of The Next Generation cast. Some I loathed, some I loved and in both there were things I adored beyond reason. To me, Nemesis has nothing to recommend it, and yet seeing that Riker and Troi do indeed marry was such a big thing. It is as if I've separated that scene from the rest of the movie, suspended it in amber in my head because as a fan of both characters it was so important and so wanted and so wonderful to see realized.

Recognition (Glee) can go hand in hand with analysis, but that is not at all an automatic pairing. And in all honesty it doesn't have to be.

It isn't granted that a franchise's adult fans will bring more critical depth to a viewing than the younger fans. And when the franchise has primarily younger fans to start with, when that's the core...

A:TLA has adult fans , that's a fact. I am one of them. But there is also this, there are very different skills involved in creating a two hour movie that either entertains adults, or entertains children while hopefully not completely boring the pants off adults and the skills of getting children involved and intrigued in a storyline for season after season, show after show. In the latter doing the job well seems to be all that's necessary to also draw in adults.

I mention this because Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko created and midwifed the birth of something amazing with multiple layers. Avatar: The Last Airbender, the animated series has been nominated for and won awards because of that brilliance, dedication, care and respect (for their inspiration sources and their audiences).

The Live Action Movie, only has to build on that; it was already several rungs up to possible success before anything started. M. Night Shylaman only has to infer to those layers, throw a few reference points around and invoke a large enough upswell of Recognition Glee to skate by. The rest can be held aloft by CGI and effects.

I didn't like Star Trek: Nemesis. But the wedding in the beginning carried me through the movie. I didn't walk out. (Nevermind I like to think my sitting there was partly stunned disbelief)

How far will a little Recognition Glee take this film? How many butts will stay in the seats? How many seats will be filled due to the urge to have that experience; that excitement at seeing something beloved come to life in a new way? Can M. Night Shylaman temper the lack of a round, silver haired Iroh with a few bits of jasmine tea dialogue? Can he skate past a Dragon Ball Evolution to an Eragon (just under breaking even) because of Appa?

I want to believe that the lack of Asian culture will be noticed. I want to further believe that viewers of the series who go to see the movie will find themselves admitting something is missing. I'm just not sure I quite dare hope they'll recognize what that something is, and realize the loss of it detracts from the Avatar:TLA experience; and that protesters involved with Racebending.Com ARE NOT just bunch of haters.

And here is why.

Recognition Glee is pretty powerful. I'm currently watching a break down of what's been wrong with the TNG franchise films; it's a quite sarcastic set of reviews by RedLetterMedia. It was actually a shock to have it pointed out that perhaps the reason I hadn't enjoyed so many is because they'd become action films instead of adventure/exploration and were hardly tightly scripted. Even after just watching scenes pointed out, my memories, for example, of Insurrection are of my joy at seeing favourite characters being happy or involved in aspects of their careers they like, or exploring particular aspects of their personalities.

I cannot imagine Avatar:TLA having any less strong a pull of Recognition Glee. And when I add white privilege to that...Will those A:TLA fans be able to see how whitewashing diminishes?

When you put Recognition Glee beside a white privilege that sees everyone as white to start with; white with a prominent nose & curly hair, white with a tan & different hair, white with different eyes...; it becomes, a lot harder I think for people to catch a clue. How things look; how they look as someone always imagined them, or how they look even cooler; how the story matches parts they already know; how there are places and things they can remember and smile about and nod to; that's powerful. Recognition is one of the first skills human beings learn; it's how we learn to speak, how we learn the dog in the book means something in relation to the dog walking by on the leash.

It's possible their response to the Live Action Movie will reveal them to have fallen for a completely different show than the one the rest of us saw. The characters might have the same names, but the universe might be very different. If they see generic martial arts fantasy that's just using certain names, and some Asian and Inuit props will they stay in those seats, happily, as the box office inches up? Will it be A:TLA to them?

And if they don't see A:TLA in the movie what will they see?

Right now, what seems crushingly more likely to me, is that the movie will sink at the box office for poor production values, dismal dialogue and general malaise of BLANDESS and take the matter of the whitewashing beneath the waves of fail with it. The trailer shows fake rocks after all. FAKE ROCKS! Fake rocks are for theatre productions and a completely different type of suspension of disbelief. Fake rocks also look ridiculous juxtaposed against the backdrop a few scenes earlier of Greenland's icy majesty.

Fake rocks and cgi fire making the movie somehow not Avatar:TLA is not at all like realizing Kataara isn't Kataara, because she's been modified for a 'general audience' and that modification erased who she is. Take the Inuit out of Kataara and you don't have Kataara anymore. Take the China out of the Fire Nation, and you don't have the Fire Nation. It's like erasing memories - remove someone's memory of an experience and you remove how it shaped them, which means you change them. Erase a memory and you erase a piece of them. Ethnicity and culture are one lengthy string of memories that build upon memories that build upon memories; internalized, life experience, recognition glee.

Whatever term they have for it, Hollywood knows all about Recognition Glee & Recognition Rejection. And they've been pointing at Recognition Rejection for years when it comes to heroes and leads of colour - except the place they point to keeps changing. First it was 'The South Won't Show This & We Will Lose Money' and now it's 'Middle America Likes To See Itself And It Is White Or We Will Lose Money'.

"Well we don't want to upset people, and well, the coloureds should just be glad we're risking putting them on screen in the first place. Look, we know what we're doing. We're putting coloureds in roles we know regular people can expect them in - roles that fit them, fit their place in society. That'll get people used to seeing them up on the screen. A Chinese person as the hero? With Chinese culture everywhere?! We'd never make movies again! You can't bring change that quickly,! People just won't accept it! Hold your horses! Patience is the key here. Patience and calm."

Now it's the 21st century and we still have the Mammy/Sassy Confident, The Inscrutable Servant or Villain, The Hot Spicy Cha Cha and all those other stereotypes that 'fit their place in society'; those stereotypes that bring their own Recognition Glee - for white viewers and Recognition Rejection, for PoC sick and tired of narrowed and negative associations.

Hollywood might be a place with individual struggling artists. But the people in power aren't poor struggling producers/movie studio moguls/directors/investors. No. What they are, is soaking in greed and cowardice and have been for so long as an industry they barely know anything different. They're the ones who created the concepts of the 'general audience', and 'relatability' as a sugar coat for racism and white superiority. They're the ones who have the movie industry set up so that equal time equals segregation (black movies, kung fu imports, foreign stuff, foreign brown stuff).

And then, every time Recognition Glee does happen with an audience for a lead/hero of colour, they're the ones calling the phenomena a one off and an exception.

The next time someone dares to spit out the ridiculous 'But Hollywood wouldn't do that - they want to make money! And everyone's money is green!' I shall be violent. We've got history proving that PoC money isn't as green as the money from States that once threatened to ban Hollywood altogether.

We've got HISTORY showing what acceptabilities were codeified, and thus became tropes and visual cliches and thus became how movie makers see the world when they visualize. And as much as other things have changed and aspects of the code have been challenged and dropped; Hollywood's still running scared, cowardly and tight fisting the dollar when it comes to race.

Monster's Ball and Precious are both of the 'fit their place in society' type movies. Academy Nominations and wins don't mean a thing other than they're very good 'fit their place in society' type movies with good 'fit their place in society' type roles.

Meanwhile something like Avatar: The Last Airbender comes along and Hollywood totally misses that its popularity is about Recognition Glee, because it has conditioned itself to ignore non-white Recognition Glee. That's how Hollywood, Paramount, various executives, investors and even M.Night Shylaman missed that Avatar: The Last Airbender's popularity had as much to do with Hanbok's and Jian's; Guru's, Chakras & Yogis; and MesoAmerican Sun Dials; as story, characters and plot.

I'm convinced they don't recognize and realize that PoC word of mouth spread. And that the extra eyeballs for their overflowing demographics and other measuring came from PoC excitement.

"Mommy! Mommy! There's this boy on tv! And he's the hero! And he looks like me!"

I'm sure they can't see the reason so many PoC absolutely adore Avatar: The Last Airbender, is because of how it felt for them, for us, to recognize things on screen. White American audiences (and many white creators) aren't familiar with people besides them, experiencing Recognition Glee. That's how they missed how much it meant for PoC fans to recognize their lives; history, culture and heritage; on screen.

Which is why as obvious as it seems to me that a production crew who removed the cultures of the universe, couldn't then create that universe well via props, script etc... I am scared those fans will sit down in those seats and be convinced they're watching exactly what they've always seen. And worse, be convinced the only reason their Recognition Glee didn't kick in, is because someone didn't CGI Appa fluffy enough.

You've seen the trailer. What do you think?

[Usual Comment Rules Apply]
ETA: To add emphasis.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Short Open Letter

Dear M. Night Shyamalan,

Zuko, Prince of the Fire Nation, is. not. Sith.

You seem to have missed a memo.

Willow, {A Fan Of The True Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Animatedverse Rules!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It Ain't All Class

So a friend pointed out that this bit in a prior post, felt a bit like light sandpapering.

NB: No, WS, racism won't disappear if classism disappears. Racism took on a life of its own beyond being a new form of classism, more than 500 years ago. It's not going back in the box.

And in discussing it with them, I realized that while I remain extremely aware of how whiteness was cultivated as a higher status, a new and privileged class in opposition to dark skinned indentured servants and slaves - which has grown, festered and fermented into the racism of today; slavery & colorism, colonialism & imperialism, genocide & deforestation, appropriation, co-option & exploitation....; I didn't think anyone would ever think/say getting rid of classism would get rid of sexism, heteroism, cisism or ablism.

But as I thought about it, I realized some ignorant could. After all, once upon a time women (and children) were considered property. From that stand point women were a sub-class. And seeing them as a sub-class, having that as subtext in the formation and evolution of society could be seen as birthing sexism, obviously, but also heteroism, cicism and ablism.

In fact, the sub-class of being female can be seen as birthing all of them; Misogyny as an earlier branch off classism that went on to bear it's own fruit.

1. To be a woman is to be sub-class

2. To reject joining one self to a man for increased status and power is to be defective & sub-class [lesbians]

3. To be entered or penetrated or ever on one's knees before another male, is to be like a woman -> is to be defective & sub-class [gay men]

4. To be less than physically and mentally whole (according to society's dictates) is to be in need of Mothering (care/nurture/concern/ assistance); therefore to need Mothering as an adult is to be defective & sub-class; possibly twice over for need and for being like a woman (weak, in need of concern & forethought, etc). [pwd]

5. To want to be a woman, when one is currently seen as having the status & power of being male, is to be defective & sub-class. To do things to accomplish that goal is to accept the sub-class status. To want to be a man when one is currently seen as a woman, is to reach beyond station into delusion , thus defective & sub-class. To insist, act, believe that the sub-class status does not exist; that women and men are equal class, is to be defective & subclass. [trans individuals]

Class transgression; the insistence that that original sub-class is not immortal truth, does not need to exist, and in fact held fallacies. Action just by existing and holding on to even the smallest of triumphs; transgression via breath.

And yet somehow I doubt if sexism were annihilated or conquered tomorrow and misogyny was no more, homophobia, transphobia and ablism would just disappear with it; and it's not just because they've taken on lives of their own. It's because they've become so divorced from misogyny; and the movement to end misogyny does not hold to intersectionality, doesn't see the fruit from the branch.

Class is not a disease, far less one disease with many varied symptoms. There is no magic pill; movement, philosophy; that will suddenly have all human beings looking upon one another, each and everyone as complete and total equals, different but no more special for their uniqueness. Intelligence, beauty, athletic ability, fertility, artistic ability, green thumb, beliefs, spirituality - were the Crusades not a struggle of status?

Class isn't even one strain of dis-ease that split and mutated into different types.

Fear of lack due perceived finite resources - if someone has then someone else has not. If someone else has not then someone has more. If someone has more, then someone else will want it.

I think I need to study Marx at this point. The thought's just dangling there, but I can't quite weave it. Still, I think I can say while class may be a root/seed/spore, this is one heck of a big, multi-limbed, epoch/epic spanning...thing.

*_____ * _____ *

Aside: Dis-ease, disease, mutated, multi-limbed; suddenly isms seem an indescribable writhing [Lovecraftian] beast, always hungry and growing and budding.

Aside 2: Wanted this for a title, but it ended up seeming esoteric & then some - For Want Of A Nail.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TLA: Live Action Hot Mess - Random Thought

How does Zuko's Angi Kai with Zhao work if the 'basics' Iroh taught and stressed to him, aren't the basic moves that generate fire?

How does an Angi Kai work in a universe where Fire Benders cannot create fire? Skipping the Angi Kai would seem to be the only option, the way they've skipped several other bits of world building from the animated series. At least that bit won't be specifically erasure of Asian cultures.

I guess they're likely to skip Boiling Rock, if heaven closes its eyes and they make sequels. Because what is Zuko to do then for 'Breath of Fire'? Inhale some flames from a torch and hope no one sees him do it?

Different Day. Same Sh*t

Toys of The Last AirRacebender; The Live Action Movie

Via: Oh No. They Didn't

1. Katara is white with no hair loopies

2. Zuko has no topknot & his scar is a splash of dramatic makeup. (He's also WHITE, so much for basing it on the actors/Dev Patel).

3. Aang's eyes are either 'closed' or chinky (in the video clip of the toy).

4. His Airbender tattoos are BROWN and apparently only BLUE in 'Avatar State' (according to vid clip).

5. Sokka is white (with long pony tail).

Original MTV Page & Vid Here

Just what the world needed, Heroes of Colour immortalized in toy plastic - as WHITE.

ETA: There's so much more, so much worse. Click and go see for yourself. I don't even know where to begin with The Blue Spirit. Zuko killed the Cowardly Lion & taxidermied the head atrociously or something. Y'know, anything to erase more of the Asian cultures.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What Is Value?

On the internet, distracting myself and I come across a page with this header:

Why Do Africans Scar Themselves: Self Hate?

We will ignore the over-arching term 'Africans', treating the continent as a single nation with a single people and no divergent lands, nations, tribes, clans, religions, etc.. And we will also ignore the fact that I was looking up black skin body art & modification and not anything slanted negative.

I found myself thinking, a few minutes before I saw that page, and that header, that there is something noteworthy that scarification on black and brown bodies is a sign of primitivism - the kind synonymous with deprivation, lack of western education and generally seen as bad. But Scarification on white bodies is a sign of reclaiming the primitive, where primitivism is about listening to one's instincts, being true(er) to oneself, a purposeful rejection of fitting western society's expectations of what is civilized - it's the good kind. It's independent and counter-culture in a way that actually fits, mosaic-like into the over-arching culture.

When it's on white bodies, rejection of western civilization's expectations is empowering, unique and strong. When it's on black and brown bodies, rejection of western civilization's expectations and understandings is misguided, illogical and one of many green lights that it is ok for whites to treat these black and brown bodies, adult bodies, as if they belonged to perpetual children.

This all isn't new though. Grow your own food? It's poverty and lack of infrastructure in one case, and reclaiming the pioneering spirit and being health and environmentally conscious in another.

The intersection of class throbs red and raw here; like the difference between $20 dollar worn jeans with fuzzing cloth rips and $120 dollar jeans, pre-washed, pre-broken, pre-artfully applied rips. Those fashion shows 'inspired' by the homeless. The moment those entrenched in power, controlling the institutions of the land do something, it levels up. Again nothing new, crack vs powdered cocaine and jail time - for example. But it does all make me think of that ' everything up for grabs' attitude and how a thing is suddenly shiny and new because it's been birthed into a higher class, in the eyes of/among an institutionally favoured group.

It kind of explains anti-equal marriage from that perspective too - marriage as a once protected class for those institutionally favoured being downgraded. I realize now when people say 'it devalues my traditional marriage' they aren't at all using the wrong words or making a ridiculous claim, in their minds. And to many of them it was devalued once before, when interracial marriage was legalized.

Femininity as a downgrade from masculinity. I'm just repeating previously stated facts now, aren't I. Homosexuality as somehow, also a downgrade from masculinity. Trans issues going 'Equal Value' blowing up minds.

Micro-brewery, specialty beer bringing the working man's drink up a level.

Teenagers worrying about going up a level with one brand, and hoping not to go down a level with another; brands as class and institutions.

My confusion that Paris Hilton (and other celebutante blonde women) could get famous and richer for being ghetto; tits out, no panty flashing, boyfriend fighting in public, pulling out hair and weave, being drunk in public, needing jail, covered in bling (brand tags & jewelry), sexually compromising images - still a celebutante, not seen as 'just trash'.

Even The Last Airbender's whitewashing becomes people complaining about something they liked being 'bumped up a class' from tv to movies, from Heroes of Colour to White Heroes.

It all takes me right back to that header. Black and brown bodies - self hate? Someone wonders. White body, independence and self love as understood.

NB: No, WS, racism won't disappear if classism disappears. Racism took on a life of its own beyond being a new form of classism, more than 500 years ago. It's not going back in the box.

ETA: edited for typos

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Last Airbender Trailer - And Other Thoughts

The live action The Last Airbender apparently had a commercial during the Superbowl. Last night I was furious when I found it online. I'm still furious, truthfully, but am able to think on multiple levels again.

The Last Airbender has spent a lot of money on effects; they ended up spending money on a body double for Aang despite the fact that the untested child actor got the part of Aang supposedly for his martial arts skills - he was supposed to be the BEST POSSIBLE CHOICE.

As in there was no Best Possible Choice that could have been a skilled Asian child who kicked butt in Martial Arts and spoke English.

Last night the Superbowl Commercial; showed a dark film (there was more light in the LOTR movie trilogy) with rock music. The voice-over talks about A World Consumed By Darkness and the film trailer makes sure to show us dark colours, dark sky, bad guys as dark shadowy figures - oh yes it does.

Impressions are incredibly important things and so it doesn't matter that said rock music in the trailer might never show up anywhere near the movie's score or soundtrack. What matters is generic sounding rock music and a trailer cut to the beats of said rock music; showing bad guys in Asian (Japanese mostly to me) inspired costumes and silhouettes, doing bad guy things.

There was also a flash of non-white individuals fighting each other (Y'know, the way non-white people apparently like to do, being somehow incapable of peace /snark/).

It's not just the Generic Mystic Asian Fantasy With White Hero/Savior that's disgusting and upsetting - it's all the other isms right there in the trailer as promotional material.

There's no sign of Katara water-bending or even doing anything other than cuddling to Sokka like a frightened female. Katara who we initially meet in the animated series, berating her brother and holding her own; Katara whose raw power in her exasperation with her brother brings up the Ice Globe holding Aang.

Katara, who brown and black skinned girls have been cos-playing for years; because she's meant to be more than a worthy heroine for them; caring and family oriented yes, but also intelligent, opinionated, quick thinking, and able to kick butt like no one's business.

The sad thing is I have no doubt there are those who've thought Racebending.Com is so much nonsense - who are exhilarated and thrilled about that trailer. They come from personal history/personal awareness of pop culture that is all about the Movie Make Of The Book. And perhaps that's all that's needed to get them excited.

Meanwhile, Racebending.Com has been pointing out since the beginning, that by setting up the casting as Caucasian or any other - that was the sign right there that the world of the Aangatars would not be respected;

The world where Katara and Toph are fearsome warriors, where Aang is a hopeful peace-loving but determined child, where Sokka is both goofy and a serious tactician and where all four are Heroes of Colour.

This trailer is Kung Fu Redux with a Baby!Carradine (and I'm not the first to use that analogy by far).

I can't help thinking about a somewhat recent Book To Movie enterprise; all the characters in the source were already white, but the movie producers felt the need to make the switch from it being a British YA Fantasy Tale, to making everyone and the setting American.

"The Seeker" - They ended up dropping the title association of 'The Dark Is Rising', in my mind a good thing. The title didn't fit, because that's how far they'd strayed from the source. In the end, when the movie came out, keynote characters were missing, it was a pathetic plot with a lackluster script and pure flop.

And the first change was to make the characters all more relatable to an American audience. Changing characters from British to American is not quite the same as changing them from Asian to White - but it comes from similar hubris and imperialism; a special kind of selfishness that says "All my tales are my tales and all your tales are my tales."

And I will add to that; "Because all the world's white, and the rest of you merely live in it. Because the US and USian people are ON TOP and your culture is nothing. Because all the world's just like the USA, but with little extra quirks and curiosities. Because anything not like the White American Experience is just dressing; quaint and out dated, good for vacations and set pieces and if everyone would just be people then there wouldn't be all this PC complaining about diversity.

Huh - What white people lose to be white. I didn't foresee that coming up in this post. But maybe it is important. Maybe, because there are various white people feeling so bereft of their family's ancestral ethnicity that they can't handle the guilt that would hit if they let themselves be aware of diversity. Maybe to respect diversity would mean paying attention and that would be painful both personally and politically as they recognized themselves as joining the oppressors to make everyone the same regardless of history and experience.

It's probably much easier to claim to be culture and colour and history blind and claim nirvana comes from giving all that up. And once you do give it all up, then everyone will be free to pick whatever 'dressing' they feel like; for the moment, or long term. Become free by becoming a blank, white, slate.

Huh. No wonder then, that people bringing up racism and appropriation are somehow racist. From that perspective, pointing out institutionalized wrongs and stealing is preventing the world from reaching that blank experience where culture, heritage, customs and history are up for grabs by ANYONE.

And so it wouldn't matter if a movie had nothing but white people, living in an Asian dressed world.

Hmm. Now for me to ponder how maleness being gender neutral and the accepted blank slate, somehow also frees womeneveryone.