Spock is Kind of a Magical Black Dude Without Actually Being Black

I've been watching the original Star Trek with William Shatner, Deforest Kelly and Leonard Nimoy and I've spent a lot of time wondering why is Bones such a dick to Spock, because he is. I think for him it kind of amounts to Bones being racist - or speciest - against all non-humans. But seeing how Spock is treated by the other characters, he gets more shit for being part Vulcan than Uhura gets for being black. The way the character talk about Spock is reminiscent of how mixed race black/white people would be referred to. 

Spock refers to himself more often as being Vulcan and and how he was raised like a Vulcan. Other characters react to his Vulcan-ness as a negative. Vulcans are critical of his humanity, which isn't visible and seems to be known to everyone everywhere. The humans on the Enterprise refer to his Vulcanity as a horrible negative, except for Kirk but bros. It makes me think of how in at least America if not other western cultures, if a white person and non-white person have a child the resulting mixed race child seems to more often being referred as being a member of the race that 'sullied' the white race. It's up there with the need to call black people 'black American' or 'African-American' and that white Americans are rarely defined as being anything other than American. It's not English-American or French-American, just American. Spock is often referred to as being just half Vulcan and half human and there's often a coda added if anyone says he may be just one. 

In this fashion It's easy to see him as being a "black dude" because what he is has to be known. It can't just be accepted that he exists and has some of each. Also, if he's ever insulted by humans they say 'Vulcan' as if it's a bad thing. Multiple episodes bring up how 'devil-like' his ears are and how evil he is or seems. Other aliens including the Vulcans, Romulans, and Klingons have brought up his human side as being the negative more often, but those species generally have a thing about disliking humans. 

But what makes him magical? The Vulcan talents. Mind-reading, mind-meld and the trained nerve-pinch. Spock has been able to survive toxins and has a moderately different biological make up but conveniently looks like a white dude. I personally add him to the magical-black-character trope because while he's not black he is often treated in a similar fashion to regular MBDs. He's wise even though he's young, he has a special way with animals (sometimes) but the regulated normal human characters treat him as an Other while relying on him to save them time and time again. Spock is relegated as a valuable character because of the services he can perform for the other characters (namely Kirk, McCoy and Scotty) unlike Uhura, Chekov and Sulu who are just accepted as 'normal' and their racial differences are never brought up as a negative. Chekov has Russia-pride up the wazu, but the other characters don't turn to him to figure something out because he's Russian. What he is isn't used as the basis to his function, unlike the MBD who is useful by existing in the narrative. 

And this brings me back to Bones being racist, because in EVERY situation that's emotional he tries to crack wise about Spock not being affected by is because he's Vulcan. Bones seeks to cut and hack at Spock at every opportunity, to dismiss him and then fight him decide that his 'emotionless' Vulcaness will lead to the collective team's downfall. Time and time again Spock calmly reminds them that he's part-human and ought to be treated like the rest, but also that he cares he just doens't express it. Spock takes shit and has the presence to dismiss it, forgive it and be the better character. He doggedly follows and chases Kirk, is fiercely loyal to him, and puts up with everything McCoy says with passive disinterest.

Sometimes it just seems like Spock was written as being subservient to everyone else just because he's different. But in the Star Trek universe, class is made up on levels of humanity (especially Caucasoid humanity in The Original Series), then through humanoid life forms and non-humanoid lifeforms (which there are minimal). It's like the black character being written into a movie and they're great at dancing, was possibly a thug as a youth, and is a star athlete (if they're male), but they have experience and wisdom to help the white character succeed. And he's the token character, he's the only alien consistently in the show.

I might be stretching this a little, but there are parallels to how Spock is treated and with how black characters in media are (but especially were) often treated. I did mention Uhura and Sulu, and it's interesting that they're the only consistent non-white humans, and once Chekov was added he went off on more expeditions than Sulu had or Uhura had and he was the newest crew addition. But in terms of being discriminated against, with Sulu and Uhura it's never because of their race, with Spock it's always because of his race.

Is it fair for me to be this critical of old media, in a way yes. I know there are more seasons and newer Star Treks that have greater racial diversity and less black-face, but seeing how a character is singled out as being Other because of their species can still happen. I've seen the two new movies and I did wonder why there were so few other aliens presented. I think I wrote somewhere that with Into Darkness, it's Spock, we see one Klingon for a moment, the dude that hangs out with Scotty, a tribble and I think there were one or two shoved into the background.  If this is supposed to be about and take place in a species-integrated future, where are the varieties, other than painting white chicks green? (Not really counting Khan because he's a race of super-humans from how ST:TOS described him - and he was just another white dude.) Tokenism can still happen and it happening with species and not race doesn't make it better.

TV Series Talk: Arrested Development Season 4

Author's Note: incomplete because. 

Have we gotten this format settled yet, what with the spoilers there will be and all that fun stuff? It's inherent in the nature of my talking about some form of media that I will spoil the plot.  

Okay, we good? Good.

Am I some other asshole here to talk about the new episodes of Arrested Development?  Yes. Will I mention things others haven't, probably not. Have I read what a lot of other people have had to say? Not really. I mean, I have read some, but not too extensively. Let's get to it!   

It's interesting reading different critiques of the show is that people are kind of forgetting in what their writing that this 'season' wasn't the real intention. Mitch Hurwitz didn't want to just jump into the Six Years Later for the movie or possible proper season, he wanted to explain what all the characters were doing between the end of season 3 and now. I like that each episode tried to focus on the individual characters, giving us the chance to spend more than a scene in any given elaborate narrative. I mean, in six years each character - person - would have had a lot of experiences, and these people aren't the type to just sit down and listen to one another. By just tracking back and showing what they went through in their one or two episodes we were able to focus on how they ended up back together, kind of, on Cinco de Mayo. 

It does break from the faster pace that the series had before, but I think it does it's main job better. It's not jumping into their turmoil, it's seeing them dig their holes deeper. I think some of the cross cutting through time, sentences and events was a bit jarring and some jokes went on too long (like Michael and George Michael being at the Ealing Club and talking about an imaginary car accident).  

The immediate narrative; After Lucille is arrested everyone disappears then slowly comes back and tries to make it on their own before returning to someone in the family for help. These people are all so codependent that they can't survive without interacting with someone else in the family at some point.The show ends with their meddling having brought everyone back to Orange County and having both directly and indirectly screwed over at least one other family member.

I was thinking about this when they got to Maeby's episode: there are a lot of Apple products for people that always talk about having no money. I also didn't notice this until later, but I liked the small changes they made to the intro song for each character to reflect them. Not just the shift from it being described from Michael's point of view and labeling the family members and Blank's-aunt and Blank's-mother but the instrumentation and the mix of the song is a bit different for each character. A subtle and kind of nice change, especially to emphasize the individual focus for each character.

I look forward to someone writing out the full chronologic narrative of the show and how things overlapped. That would especially be beneficial I think for the events prior to Cinco de Cuatro, and on the actual Fifth. The narrative is so circular that at times it was a bit difficult to see how it all linked to each other.

A few things I didn't like over the course of the 'season': I didn't like Ron Howard appearing as a character and the narrator. It was a cute cameo at the end of the third season, but here it felt too much, and during one scene I got confused if he were the Narrator or the Character talking, his face wasn't on screen. It also puts the series into a weird meta-world because Michael's trying to get a movie based on their life made, and the show has narration but he ripped up all the release forms - except Buster's, it's kind of weird. I also feel after a while there were far too many cameos and supporting characters. The characters were mostly important to the narrative and the scene, and the plot, but there were just a lot of famous faces some times. The returning cameos were great, like Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder, but his character became too important after a while. Kind of similar with Andy Richter and this 'brothers', there was just enough of that tomfoolery going on that I didn't feel like it was too much. Maria Bamford was around a lot as Debrie, Terry Crews was there just enough for me to not get tired of him. The micro-cameo that George Watsky had was perfect, he was in the background of one episode then gone without having a major plot around his presence. But there were a lot of cameos, it just felt overwhelming that there were so many disparate famous faces everywhere. Maybe it depends on how famous the face, but they did a lot and outside of the Bluth family, it felt like a lot of people after a while.

-- 

Someone else's thing on Arrested Development that I read

Adam Warrock's Arrested Development Season 4 'Rap' Up

 

Webseries Talk: EastSiders (2012-2013)

Spoilers, blah blah blah - EastSiders is also ongoing, but I have seen the first 6 episodes (everything that's been released so far) -- All episodes on LogoTV - sorry but I think it's location locked. 

EastSiders is about morality, emotions, relationships and is a fantastic drama. I'd call it a soap opera, but it's big, expansive and over played, it's small and about emotional hurt and pain. Gay couple Cal and Thom start having trouble after Cal learns that Thom has been cheating on him. Cal's best female friend Kathy is in a relationship with Ian and they’re having rocky times because Cathy seems to be reticent to depend on Ian, but Ian seems to be the type to lasso the moon for her.

The show starts the morning after an End of the World party that friends of Cal and Thom were throwing December 2012.  Cal has learned that Thom had been cheating and confronted him about it. As an audience we're dropped right into drama as Cal and Thom decide to stay together after Thom's deception has been found out and he breaks it off with Jeremy, his piece on the side. 

At first, you're rooting for Cal who is the one who was wronged in this relationship, but it becomes more than that as the show progresses and these characters become more than Cheater/Cheated-on/Cheated-With. Little is known as of episode 6 of Jeremy other than he can't give up either Cal or Thom.

But wait, Cal was cheated on by Thom with Jeremy but they now know one another. When deciding to meet the man he hates, Cal ends up drinking with Jeremy as they discuss Thom and while inebriated they fool around together. This makes things more complex then Cal being the wronged party, he has not wronged Thom and admits to hating himself and Jeremy.

Cal is conflicted, he’s now not a victim of cheating, but now a cheater with the same man he was his lover cheated on him with. Cal wants to see himself as being the morally correct party and holds himself to that standard of the hurt party in the relationship. Cal wants to stay with Thom out of spite, they’ve both been wrong and wronged so he feels justified that he and Thom ought to stay together with their personal injuries. Not too long later, while at work in an art space, while having a celebratory drink with his boss, Cal kisses him which leads to them sleeping together. This is after Cal has expressed immense joy over someone buying one of his prints and exclaiming “Someone on the Internet likes me.” This shows how little Cal likes himself as he seeks out men other than his boyfriend for validation. He’s conflicted and he falls from being a ‘good person’ to being a more complex and wrong person as the series progresses. He seems to sleep with people then push them out of his mind, as if thinking that if they don’t acknowledge what happened then it didn’t happen and there’s nothing to be responsible for.  After sleeping with Jeremy instead of addressing the ramifications of his actions, Cal runs away. After sleeping with his boss, who Cal only just learns is married, Cal runs away instead of facing the reality that he cheated on Thom again. Cal seems to have issues with engaging and actively fixing problems that are his fault. When Thom is the one who is wrong Cal is very gung-ho about making Thom feel bad about cheating on him, and feeling bad about his place in life. When Cal is the one who wrongs Thom he does what he can to avoid addressing the problems either by drinking or helping Kathy with her problems. Cal seems to be open to cheating on Thom when drinking, but also seems embarrassed and likes to pretend he's done nothing wrong. He's already expressed a dislike of himself, so maybe he's just trying to feel like someone wants, or needs him. As Cal explores and questions Thom’s commitment to their relationship, Kathy, Cal's best friend plays out long dramas in her head, reaching conclusions without all the facts and doesn't take her boyfriend's feelings to heart as much as she should.

The night of the End of the World party is near Kathy and Ian’s anniversary, he tries to be a good boyfriend by giving her a gift, which happens to be a ring. In Cathy’s inebriation she believes he’s proposing to her and spends the next day (or so) thinking she’s engaged to be married. She plays out the drama, the risks and rewards of being married in her head and to Cal instead of talking to Ian and getting a straight answer. This is cleared up and not long later Kathy realizes she’s pregnant and does the same thing of going to Cal instead of Ian to discuss her future plans. Ian as far as he’s be characterized, is a good guy. He seems to be kind, compassionate, a good friend, he tries to be a good boyfriend, so it’s difficult to see why Cathy is to reticent to go to him when she has a problem.

I’m thinking Kathy is afraid of a lot more than they ever lets on to, at least to Ian if not all of her friends. She expresses fear about she can’t be getting married and why she shouldn’t be having a baby, but she never seems to discuss this with Ian. I think she’s afraid of losing him so she wants to keep him at a steady distance, either to keep from getting to attached so she can cut and run, or she’s afraid he’s going to break it off and she’ll be subjected to more pain. What she does makes me feel really bad for Ian, he hasn’t been shown to be anything other than devoted and honest, so her dishonesty and how she jumps to conclusions in her fear is really unfair. Kathy decides to abort the baby she would have had with Ian and never tells him, he finds out in the worst way they he could have been a father, but the joy he expressed for a hot minute at this thought seems to crash that much harder after he learns that there was never a discussion with him. She might have still come to the same conclusion, but at least he could have known.

 I think her choice to get an abortion is handled in a respectful manner. She's reticent before the procedure and unlike her cavalier to introspective emotional arc when she's drinking and making the decision with Cal, then she's despondent after the procedure. Seeing another woman say she's keeping her baby, Kathy seems like she regrets the decision, and this is something I like about the show. I like how the show plays out how the decision weighs on Kathy and her uncertainty after it's all over. It's not an easy decision and I'm sure many women think long and hard about it, either way after getting one and if they decide not to get one. It's not played as if after the procedure that Kathy feels at peace with everything and confident, she's still uncertain and afraid of the adult world facing her. She's afraid of seeing Ian and then telling him what she decided to so.  She acts like she's always confident and competent, but she's afraid. This by no means makes her a weak character, but it shows how conflicted she is and how difficult life is. She dives head first into her mistakes then fearfully addressing the problems of her actions while recovering after (literally in this instance).

With Cal having started kind of morally as a protagonist in the show not much is currently known about Thom. He's a bartender, he cheated on Cal but regrets it. He's called a bad guy and characterized in the series by mutual acquaintances as a 'bad guy' but so far he's tried to be upstanding. After breaking things off with Jeremy he avoids his calls and texts, spending more time at work or with Cal to prove that he's a changed man. Jeremy is still acting very much the interloper, by going to both Cal and Jeremy's workplaces to try to maintain contact with two people who have decided they want nothing to do with him. Jeremy seems to be obsessed with this, maybe because they were his most recent partners, or their life drama is that alluring that Jeremy can't quit them, he keeps trying to make a place in their story. I'm not sure what Jeremy's MO is, he has expressed enjoyment of both Cal and Thom, when talking with a friend about it Jeremy doesn't know what he wants or what he expects by attempting to continue any sort of relationship with either. 

I look forward to the new episodes every Tuesday, posted at 3pm EST. I like that I can't really predict how the characters are going to act, I can kind of guess what's going to happen but it doesn't feel like I  can see the dots ahead while connecting them to get to the conclusion. I have a few possible conclusions, but nothing feels set in stone, I look forward to seeing how everything either comes together or falls apart. The entire show is about shifting morality and how characters actions change who they are and what their worth is. I don't know what I want to have happen, I don't know who I want to end up happy in the end and who deserves to get their comeuppance.

 I like how realistic things are being handled, that these stories are plausible, have probably happened (maybe not all at once in the same friend circle), but I like how the connections and how people interact is the important thing. How and why people hurt each other, it's greater than sexuality. This is a story about people and failure, and possibly redemption, it depends on how open ended it is. 

Correction: I spelled 'Kathy' incorrectly and have fixed it

Elementary/Sherlock

I have been a fan of Sherlock since I saw episode 1. I really fell in love with Elementary somewhere during episode 2. I have always had a thing for mystery shows and narratives even if I’ve had issues with reading Doyle, sometimes the flavor of the age of writing impedes my desire to really read even if I know I’m going to enjoy the story.

Sherlock has been a fun modernization of the original stories. Shaping them to fit into a contemporary mold and updating the little things so it wouldn’t feel too far anachronistic. There are passes for the sillier aspects of the idea compared to modern tech but the functionality and use of modern tech, such as cell phones, Google/internet search databases; entertainment and the modern war setting, plus the travails of modern life – like self checkout lines and credit cards – work to sink it into some type of a recognizable reality for the little things while the larger aspects of the stories stay the same. The basis for the stories is still there, the clues and facts and methodology are there but the world building has advanced 100 some odd years.

Elementary feels more like watching House in taking the character of Sherlock Holmes and his ridiculous name and putting it into a modern setting. I’m not entirely sure how much I like Watson as his rehab guide but shifting that knowledge from war to general modern medicine with a focus on surgery is nice. This show follows the tried and true, albeit a bit boring, 3 act formula where the first 2 suspects are wrong, character development happens and the plot jumps forward by leaps and bounds, the third suspect is proven along with any other accessories or details revealed to the audience and the final petit denouement of character building is revealed. I enjoy trying to actually solve the case and then guessing what the big thing for the story will be and how the case relates to the character development. I don’t know if that’s the writer in me or my obsessive watching of movies and following story. Major clues are looked over until later evidence reveals why it’s so important.

So I really do love both shows but I do like how human Sherlock is in Elementary. He threw a temper tantrum in the first episode, it showed how he’s a flawed human being, not just in his inability to connect with people on the usual levels in human interaction but it was simply a nice character moment - which destruction existed to be destruction – which I’d like to see that loss of control again. There’s also the small ways he shows how he cares about Watson and whatever she’s dealing with. Not just in helping whatever her small B-story is but in the editing when the camera holds on him for a moment after she does something or how petulant he is during episodes 8-11 when Watson’s trying to find a sober sponsor for him and his not helping at all. He doesn’t want her to leave, they were well with one another, she butts heads with him and he respects her for it. She’s not swoony over his deduction and he’s not super-human in it, he’s patient and in a way more autistic in his ability to focus. This concept seems to be going around in media to have a highly functioning autistic character and if this is over stepping bounds, I’m sorry. His mechanisms or interaction are odd without the macabre of the original character but with an abandon as if he doesn’t know general social cues. I’m sure I’m far from the first to diagnose a Sherlock Holms character/clone as a being autistic and I won’t be the last.

Sherlock from BBC’s Sherlock is more robotic and seems to fit more of the check boxes of a Doyle Sherlock Holmes. I really do mean to read the stories to get a better handle on Watson and not just follow interpretations and Wikipedia articles I read years ago. Sherlock still has his addictions and his metered violent tendencies and John is infatuated with his deducting reasoning and how Sherlock sees the world. He is more of a fan as he follows and works to solve the cases even with his periodic ventures into having a life outside of Sherlock he is drawn back it feels for reasons other than being a friend. Sherlock’s saving John and reactions to him are immediately warmer and at the same time it’s a different sort of calculating. There isn’t the butting of heads as often, John can hold his own with Sherlock but in a way doesn’t seem as capable on his own when compared to the CBS Watson.

As for a romantic relationship between Sherlock and Watson it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever happen in Elementary so it’ll be fun to see that dynamic of other characters interacting and shaking up the duo. Sherlock has expressed an interest in Watson but so far every female companionship he’s had on the show other than Watson has been purely physical. There is something said that he considers her attractive but it would just be for a physical release and the endorphins and not a real relationship. With the BBC Sherlock and Watson maybe it’s the latent yaoi fan girl or the tumblr obsession with guys fucking and seeing Sherlock/John passing on my dash – whether I want to see it or not – but there are moments in the BBC Sherlock that feed the fan response. In season 1 there were the winks to the audience about how scandalous 2 bachelors living together looked and the mentions that characters thought they were an item, even though both protested but the way the BBC Sherlock is written he has a much softer spot in his heart of John than the CBS Sherlock has for Watson.

Both Sherlocks are robotic but the Sherlock on Elementary feels more human and more like a real character than the BBC Sherlock because they did make him more human in some ways. That little bit of temper that shows up and the slight devilishness in going behind Watson’s back to know who Watson knows and the fact that he keeps an eye on them is interesting. He’s loyal and feels guilt and shame even if the character seems to avoid it until someone confronts him with his flaws. The character has changed in the 11 episodes, possibly more than the BBC Sherlock changed in his 6. I’d say the same about Elementary’s first 6 and BBC’s first 6, different interpretations of the source material and character.  I really do like both shows quite a bit and they both strive to do something different. I look forward to seeing what each does in their respective worlds with their outlandish, over thought murders and how they develop the character interactions.

 I do kind of wish that Elementary had a season long case, something to make audiences return every episode. The character development is subtle but I kind of feel like I could almost miss an episode or two and not lose anything. Conversely with the BBC Sherlock so much happens in every episode that also doesn’t always directly reflect on the next one but there seems to be ruminations and machinations for other links and possibly returning characters. 

Dear Blank

Dear Hollywood (Television and Movies)

Give me a black person who speaks like a normal fucking human fucking being. Give me black people who aren't there as the magical black person, who doesn't do voodoo and doesn't speak English like they're from a fucking island. Give me black people who aren't from the 'hood' who don't speak like they're uneducated and don't have a real vocabulary. Give me black people who aren't characterized by the non-american aspects of their nationality. Give me black people who look and speak like normal black people. Maybe give them a bit of Africa and cultural pride. Maybe give them distant family members who were poorly educated and don't speak English right. Maybe give them a weave, afro or short cropped hair (if they're female) or dreads. 

Just stop making all black people either mystics, god fearing baptists, creole speaking witch doctors, illiterate, illegal gun having, illegal drug crazed, sexual beasts or well hung med. 

Just take all of the characteristics of a white dude and cast someone with more melanin. Want to know why Troy isn't the most annoying black dude even though he's not the smartest person in the study group? Outside of having been a football jock and therefore falling into that stereotype, he's a a developed and rounded individual. And Shirley, could have just been Christian sweetness and vengeance but she has other attributes that could be applied to any other race. Are they perfect and do they completely break out of racially constructed bounds? No. But what they are does not include being a laundry list of hokey stereotypes of accent and tomfoolery.

Hell, look at John Luther from Luther. He's not great because he can be a big scary black man, he's great because he's a fucking genius who thinks differently to solve cases and happens to be black which is virtually never mentioned as a derogatory for his character. 

Black characters can be written and understood without painting them black with bright pink lips and the whitest of white eyes and teeth. Black character can be people without being tinted with the hate and misunderstanding of the past. Black characters can be written as having aspirations and being successful and you don't have to be black to write them well. 

I'm ready to see black people coming from the suburb who didn't have problems in school, were well liked and well educated and have high hopes. We have fantastic people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson who show that black people are that smart, have the drive and potential to do the things that change the world for the better and our media needs to reflect that more often. So a homogeneous mixed race group of friends who don't fall into historically hurtful stereotypes, mix up people's strengths and flaws. Have a lead who's not a 'perfect' white dude and work to reflect more of the real America. Not the weirs country, southern conservative version of America where everyone's xenophobic, but an America that's growing and working on it's problems with Others. We need to work to a world where it's not an 'us' and 'them' mentality, just an 'us' and we understand that everyone's the same no matter what their skin color, sexuality, orientation, gender, occupation is. People desire to love, succeed, many reproduce, leave a legacy and enjoy our blip of existence as starstuff. 

In thinking about it that way, it's wholly possible to write characters of different races as being strong capable individuals without falling on old, unintelligent habits that work to only hurt.