Tuesday, February 16, 2010

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.


  1. This. This. This.

    The self fulfilling prophecy of media reinforcing roles for us- they follow the very rules they themselves made and shrug their shoulders as if it were natural consequence - yet when pressed, they have excuses but no real reasons- "couldn't find any actors" yet if the role is sex dragon or kung fu extra, we can find thousands.

    I haven't watched the trailer because I refuse to put anymore energy into a foregone conclusion. The racists will play it both ways- if it does well, "See, asian people don't matter" and if it bombs, "See, no one wants to watch movies about OTHER cultures- we even put white people in and it bombed!"

    In either case, confirmation bias rules, and another "proof" has been made.

  2. @bankuei

    Confirmation Bias. I hadn't heard that term before, I think. But it does fit very nicely. "Something is because it is, because it is, because we say it is."

    I found myself thinking the same's been done with female leads as well, of course. But cohesive social justice would require seeing equal misrepresentation (based on those self made rules) and not failure of white women to measure up to white men.

    It's beginning to scare me (though I'm not quite sure why I'm scared) that I keep thinking of desegregation as a failure. And actually being from a predominately non-white nation and culture is only helping that idea of failure along.

    Of course A:TLA might never have been made & become so cross dynamically popular in an officially segregated US.

  3. THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS. You should submit this to racebending and racialicious if you have the sporks. Linked you on Angry black woman as well.

  4. This is an amazing post; and right at the moment when I didn't think I could get anymore understanding/new insights into how Hollywood works and thinks.

    Thank you for that! I linked and quoted it over on the racebending LJ comm.

  5. I like the name for it, "Recognition Glee." Though I am against the cast, I found myself having this same glee as I watched the new trailer. It really bites.

    Great post overall! Hollywood is so blinded by the popularity of the show that they can't see *why* the show is popular.

  6. I hadn't considered it in terms of recognition but that does fit a lot of the comments I've heard from people who are excited about the film. Even when I've pointed out the racial problems with the casting, they've tended to remain interested in seeing the film, because of those elements.

    Unfortunately, I don't even think it's just Recognition Glee for the TV series. I've seen many people comment that the trailer makes it feel epic in an LotR or Star Wars manner. So it's not even necessarily tied to being a fan of the TV series, just a series of tropes that people are familiar with in films.

    I also had the odd question of someone asking if the "racial problems" were because of the Indian casting for the Fire Nation peeps, which is kinda a weird inverted way to look at it, like they're assuming some people won't see the film as a white enough change. Really disheartening.

  7. @Wysteria

    I was reading a few people having the same kind of glee reaction, and feeling confused and/or embarassed by it. At first I was pissed myself because I am so angry about all that's happened. I even found myself thinking 'they have to be white'.

    But I got a moment of checking myself when I came upon those Star Trek: TNG reviews I mentioned above and realized it's not just the procasters who'll be feeling emotion with every trailer and poster. Those are our (Racebending.Com) epic A:TLA moments too - twisted and mangled as they may be. Those who can still feel some glee there, despite all the ick, and no, and OMG!Fail - that's the original love for the show.

  8. @unusualmusic

    I tend to avoid being linked at Racialicious, because they tend to focus on Racism 101 (or at least they did when I asked to not be linked there anymore) and I'm not going to treat people coming over with any sort of kid gloves.

  9. @glockgal

    I'm glad you got something out of it. And yay for being linked at Racebending@LJ.


    I hadn't thought about Recognition Glee in terms of genre tropes and cliches, but it makes perfect sense in terms of how one creates genre in the first place.

  10. I keep thinking of desegregation as a failure.

    Well, it got done the same way as the Reconstruction- sabotaged the whole way, then pointed to as proof of the impossibility of equality and our agency.

    For them, being able to eat our foods or let (not "too many" of us) work in select fields = their benevolent open mindedness and "equality" as far as they can see it.

    And then outrage that we demand more, that fractions of equality isn't equality still.

  11. @bankeui

    For them, being able to eat our foods or let (not "too many" of us) work in select fields = their benevolent open mindedness and "equality" as far as they can see it.

    So they're no longer called a __-lover for their Orientalist leanings and accquisitions and tastes or they're no longer called a ____-lover for liking soul food and jazz and the blues therefore equality must be here, pass the salsa.

    I'm so sad that you're so right.

    It especially explains all the surprise that raping non-white women is seen as rape these days too. But killing them is still ok - no one's going to be fussing too much to look for one of (them) their bodies, so there's a way around it.

  12. It's like explaining fandom and racism in fandom IN ONE BLOW, down to the infantilization supported by keeping the old racist movie pulp tropes intact because the genre started out that way, and we haven't grown up enough as a culture to tease out the remnant bits outside of the No!Blackface! rule.

  13. @damienroc and @Avalon's Willow, YES. (I mean, in general YES about this whole post, because as usual it is right and true.) But specifically YES about this being how you create genre and how Recognition Glee isn't just about the good stuff. Epic fantasy means white damsels in swooshy dresses, white muscular heroes wielding scary swords, dark villain hordes, and this way the A:tLA producers (think they can) have their cake and eat it too. They'll get the Recognition Glee for the show off the costumes and the sets, but to get it for the genre, of course they need some white good guys and some dark, scary bad guys.

    Or so they think. I wish I thought they were wrong about the audience at large. Even if they are, it'll be added to the body of epic fantasy movies, and it'll just reinforce the tropes. Uggggh.

  14. Wow. Very good analysis! So much word.

  15. I'm having a hard time imagining any Airbender fans having "Recognition Glee" from watching the trailers...Because I don't recognize ANY of those people! I kept finding myself thinking, "Who is that girl that keeps cringing and clinging to Sokka? It can't be Katara, because not ONCE in the trailer is she seen Waterbending." (Not necessarily meaning she won't in the film, but, since the "action girls" were such an important part of the cartoon, you'd think they'd show that Katara is still an "action girl.") I also thought things like, "Who is that trim man with the dreadlocks? Wasn't the whole point of Iroh, initially, the fact that he DOESN'T look badass? I don't understand who any of these people are supposed to be!" I

  16. @Mana G

    It is likely that for you Recognition Rejection is going on a lot stronger than Recognition Glee. Which is something I also experienced. But as I said above: those characters are 'our' characters too. Our as in fans of the original series; our as in the hopes of fans of the original series to see them on the big screen.

    I know who the individual with the Jata is supposed to be. (Note: Even though they look more twirled and curly than locked or matted. And even though they are NOT dreadlocks which is a very specific term).

    I know the person with the reddish skin wound on one side of his face is supposed to be Zuko. I also know the bald headed child is supposed to be Aang.

    I Recognize them enough to Reject them. Which is something I've seen others say they now can do since reading the essay and being able to put a name to their feelings.

    But I understand a whole lot better now at how someone's unconscious mind could be tapped just by knowing who everyone in the trailers is supposed to be. That is the power of Recognition.

    I fully admit, however, that the power of Recognition has also NOT worked a lot with some fans;  fans who did not keep up with up-to-date news about behind the scenes goings on with the Live Action Movie. In comments at Racebending@LJ for example, there were a few series' fans who had NO IDEA who some individuals in the trailers were to even feel any Rejection, or disappointment, because they couldn't recognize them AT ALL.

    [[[ "That was supposed to be Zhao? That was supposed to be Yue?" ]]]

    That has to be a definite downside in trying to play the odds with Recognition and try to spin a pre-created universe into your own thing, ala Shylaman's writing/directing/producing.

  17. PS: @Mana G

    Also am I to understand that locks = badass? Because I do not think the Live Action Iroh looks particularly badass cast and costumed as he is.

    And I wonder at the possible racist underpinnings that would suggest that locks = bad assness. Which is not me calling you racist. But me wondering at what you've been exposed to that reinforced the idea that individuals with locked hair are the bad ass or big heavies in a movie / of a group, etc...

    It never occurred to me at all that that was why Iroh had been given possible Jata. I thought it was to suggest him as a holy man; more enlightened.

    Are you also referring to the inherent agism and (would ablism be the right term - even though being heavy is treated as a disability in American society, it isn't one) in Iroh's original presentation as older, seasoned but past his prime? Whereas the movie version looks much younger than animated Iroh?

    Because further racism in the imagery being presented in the Live Action Movie: The Last Airbender is even more stomach churningly disgusting and disappointing.

  18. Correction: Mana G

    The inherent agism being invoked with Iroh's animated appearance - from which we as viewers are then schooled in not having prejudgements?

  19. @ Avalon's Willow

    Thank you! The Recognition Rejection is totally what I was experiencing when I saw the trailer! Enough elements to get who people were (for the most part), but those same elements made things seem even more out of place. I showed it to my mom who hasn't really seen the show other then some stills of the animated characters and she thought that the "white people in the parkas look rather odd." She couldn't connect animate Iroh to live action Iroh and the over all differences just made the two things seem totally disconnected.

    And I must admit, I miss seeing an older, heavier Iroh. The wonderful thing about him was that he was so slick about it. He played up being the doddering old man, but when he needed to be the force he could be, it was just awesome. It's why he became my favorite character early on.

  20. Sorry, I should have looked up what the hair actually WAS, instead of just calling it "dreadlocks." (Although, I'm not sure I'd even give the people involved in this film the benefit of the doubt that they actually knew/cared about there being a difference.) I think my mind was calling back to characters like Ronon from Stargate: Atlantis, (racism, ahoy!), and other such characters with hair that was at least similar to dreadlocks or Jata when I saw this Iroh. (Again, I must admit that I refuse to believe most people in Hollywood actually think that hard about the cultural meanings of the hairstyles they choose for a character, and only want them to have "weird" "ethnic" or "cool-looking" hair, as they see it.) Generally, these characters seem to be the "heavies." (Though there does certainly seem to be the occasional "wise man" thrown in.) Therefore, I did assume that his hair was meant to be Hollywood shorthand for "badass." That, and the fact the actor appears to be younger and trimmer.
    I do think the creators of the animated series were trying to invoke, (and play with), ageism and, possibly, also size-ism, (is that what they call it?), in having Iroh as this fat, old man. Lots of shows will have the silly/fat old grandfather character suddenly display unexpected wisdom and physical strength, but it's generally meant to be something of a gag or a surprise twist. I thought Airbender was different in this regard, in that, as you said, they invoke the trope, and then use it to teach the audience not to prejudge the character. The difference, to me, is that Iroh, while occasionally able to be very silly, was always presented as a man with intelligence and dignity, whereas the other "silly fat grandpa" characters are not. Again, in other shows, the audience is meant to sympathize with the younger, stronger character that rolls his eyes at his "crazy, fat, old grandpa" figure, but I never got that impression in Airbender.I always got the impression that we were supposed to find Zuko's first season treatment of Iroh to be often deplorably disrespectful and unkind, but perhaps that's just the way I read into it.
    Anyway, what I was trying to say is that, the film, by taking away the fat, older, tea-loving Iroh, and giving the audience this younger, trimmer, probably-going-to-have-little-to-no-sense-of-humor, Iroh, they have taken away that lesson. Even more than the fact that I don't even physically recognize the characters, I think I'm feeling "Recognition Rejection" because I can't seem to recognize these characters by their personalities, either. I know it was just a trailer, but so far the whole damn thing has just reminded me so much of "The Ember Island Players." (Especially Katara. Note M. Night Shamaylan: That episode was meant to be a JOKE. Not a guideline.)

  21. @ Mana G

    My basis for thinking the Live Action Movie! Iroh had Jata is/was purely based on the fact that M. Night Shylaman has South Asian heritage and he tends to exert control over even the costuming of his movies as important details and the fact he's been describing his version of Aang's universe, The Last Airbender , as a chance for him to do his version of Star Wars (or something similarly epic) but involving obvious Asian spiritual overtones.

    I didn't consider the American (with heavy racial overtones) pov; that is, exactly what an American would Recognize. And yes, with Ronon Dex and Tyr Anasazi in recent pop culture memory then white Recognotion Glee likely would be connecting dots to 'bad ass heavy'.

    And I do not doubt you're right and the lesson about agism and size-ism (thank you for the term! It is the one I was looking for!) won't even peek in the Live Action Movie. Worse, Ronon Dex and Tyr Anasazi were wild man stereotypes in the end. Iroh as the wild man type is so absolutely the opposite of the caring father figure (whom Zuko rejected at first before realizing his folly).

  22. I must admit, that when I was thinking about the whole thing with Live Action Iroh's hair, I wasn't thinking about M. Night Shamaylan's "Star Wars with Asian spiritual overtones." I was thinking about the, "If you're Korean, wear a kimono, not a hanbok, whatever it's all Asian" casting call. I assumed that someone in costuming, or a producer, or even Shamaylan himself, thought that giving Iroh Jata would be shorthand for "badass," at least to white, American audiences. I have heard, time and again, (from studies that don't have too much basis in reality), that Hollywood movies "do best" whenever they cater to a white, American, male perspective. I will admit that I assumed that that was the perspective the costume choice was speaking to, and from that perspective, Iroh's hair would most certainly mean "badass."
    However, I shouldn't have made that assumption, because, as you pointed out, it's shorthand for the "wild man" stereotypes, as well, and I really don't believe they'd end up making Iroh into a "wild man." I obviously should have considered M Night Shamaylan's heritage, but I guess I just wasn't holding out that much hope for a film that turns the writing that was initially Chinese characters into gibberish and whitewashes the cast.

  23. @ Mana G

    Looking up something else I came across my c/p of an interview with Shylaman and it clicked with thoughts I've been having since the extended trailer that Shylaman's movie may be called the THE LAST AIRBENDER, but his focus is all on Zuko bringing balance, ala Luke and Anakin with the Force in Star Wars.

    I strongly believe General Iroh is meant to be Zuko's Obi-wan and not a wild man. But if I hear the wild man bad ass does happen, then it really will confirm that Shylaman did not read any of Bryke's notes, or the A:TLA Series Bible or watch much episodes at all.

  24. Ah. That's my sigh of relief. I'm SO glad that I clumsily stumbled across this post, albeit so late. The whole post is wonderfully argued but my favourite part is this:

    "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."

    Exactly. They know *exactly* what it is but they've come to the conclusion that 'some' people's desire - or as they see it "right" to experience Recognition Glee trumps anyone else's. At one stage I used to think that they failed to acknowledge, let alone permit anyone else's desire/need or pleasure in Recognition Glee because they had yet to figure out that they weren't the only people who were audiences to books, films, games, comics etc., or perhaps didn't actually realise that PoC were people in the first place.

    But now I see that attributing it to blindness/cluelessness was to flatter them. After all, White Recognition Glee is deliciously tangled up with, is inextricable from and is utterly dependent upon PoCs Recognition Rejection, the latter of which is usually voiced or internalised in the form of: "Not this tired stereotype/shit again." "I can't bear to read/watch this any longer" "This is embarrassing/insulting/enraging/heartbreaking" "WTF?" "Is this some kind of joke?/Tell me this is a deliberate or at least ill-conceived satire" "Is this what we're supposed to be/who we are?" "Hell no!" and so on.

    And yet the very things that provoke this reaction seem to be a source of white pleasure and reassure.

    It seems that what pains and embarrasses us isn't merely an incidental, coincidental or unfortunate 'side-effect' of their narratives but is actually the fundamental pillar to their pleasure, is an necessary part of their indulgent identity construction exercises on-screen that masquerade as 'stories'; what injures us, actually enables and bolsters their precious 'Recognition Glee'.

    As a result, Hollywood films have to remain a site of white Recognition Glee - not because of dollars and cents (as the old lie goes) but because of all the important cultural work that these films perform in egregiously fostering and bolstering white notions of self. (All those safe white havens, and all white universes; all that sparkling white personhood and humanity that lies in stark contrast to non-white, non-human human props and backdrops; all of that solipsistic, self-involved white angst and drama that never sees anything or anyONE beyond itself.)

    Without it, they wouldn't know who (or where) they were. Wouldn't know what to do without it or how to enjoy themselves in its absence. And since this is your space I'm not even going to get started on how insulting I find the concept of 'relatability' where readers/viewers bleat on about "identifying with the protagonist" all the time - all of which is a thin veil for yet more white privilege.

    But... Excellent, thought-provoking post and a great analysis.