It's Okay You Haven't Experienced that Book, TV Show, Comic, Movie, etc

Over the weekend I told my co-workers about watching Silence of the Lambs for the first time and one 43 yo coworker kind of scoffed at my having never seen it and it reminded me how I'm going to stop questioning why people haven't seen a thing I love. It's not fair to them or to me. 

This one coworker seems to vacillate between being impressed with me then being a little bit snide about the fact that I haven't seen things he's seen. Not all of it has been within my realm of interest, hence my having not seen it. 

But, you know, instead of questioning the quality of someone's life for having not watched that movie, or having not seen that show, why not take pleasure in sharing it with them? I mean, I showed my friend Little Shop of Horrors and I was excited the entire time to share the movie with her. I wanted to see her reactions and I just plain had fun. I might have asked why she hadn't seen it, I hope I didn't. 

For every movie, book, comic, TV show, whatever I haven't experienced that someone else has, I've probably experienced an equal number of different movies, books, comics, TV shows and a whole other whatever. I'm trying to be less dismissal of what other people like when they talk about a show or something I don't care about. I mean, I love love love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I love sharing it with people. A lot of people have told me they've heard of it but never seen it, or never seen it all the way through and I just want to be there to show them the entire thing. 

I'd rather rake joy in someone else experiencing something I love for the first time than harshly criticize why thy haven't experienced something. There's a lot of media out there and it's hard enough to experience and enjoy things without someone judging whether or not you've seen it then judging your opinion after. I'm trying hard not to ask why, I'm sure I'll keep failing, but I'm going to try to start asking "would you like to..." and then share the book, movie, tv show whatever if I have it to share. 

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

 

Black Actors and the Academy Awards

Incomplete, but i don't feel the passion i generally need to really finish this and I'm not in the place I need to be for it to have the energy it deserves. i lost that while writing and I hoped it would return, it never did. I feel I made some good arguments and mentioned some valid points on American culture and society with entertainment media, I just never wrapped up either that i thought the problem was or how to fix it. A real writer wouldn't post this. Thank the god I don't believe in ii'm not a real writer and I can post whatever the fuck I want on my website. 

----

I unashamedly and unapologetically love  much of what JF Sargent writes, I tend to agree with his opinions and I enjoy how he discusses race and gender issues in media and pop culture. I appreciate that someone is talking about this and it's not just the social justice posters on tumblr, it's not written from rage and hate, these articles are written from a point of view of 'this is what's going on and we as a society need to acknowledge and change this'. That said, I was right there when I read a recent Film School Rejects  article on the Academy Awards having issues with slavery and awarding black actors for their performances in these types of period pieces. 

I think there is a deeper underlying issue to address in conjunction to his statements on how rare black actors are awarded for their performances as slaves, I think we need to look at the types of roles that black actors are nominated and awarded for to begin with. I'll be honest, I'm using wikipedia for this information, I haven't seen many of these movies but I do believe that there have been respectable actors and performances that have been overlooked because of unacknowledged racism in the judging of these films and their performances. I have been critical of the parts that black actors have in movies, they're often terrible stereotypes that do nothing to improve the public opinion and status of black people in this country. 

Sidney Poitier, one of the greatest black actors from film history who worked in a hateful system and did the best he could to present a respectable black man in every part. He has been criticized for being 'castrated' and never really having a sexuality in his films. He happened to be black and that was the basis for many of the problems in his movies where he still delivered fantastic performances. He played educated men in many films, delivered fantastic performances and ended up winning one award fro his performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963 as an unpaid worker for some nuns and it's religious. His only other Oscar was an honorary life time achievement award. 

The next black man to with an Oscar was Denzel Washington for Training Day in 2001 in  a part that I sometimes consider questionable given his character was a crazy drug addict.  

There have been 4 black actors to win the Academy for best male actor, and Denzel is up again, I never saw Flight so I can't compare his nomination to Foxx's for Django, but this is another character of ill rebuke. Most of the best actor nominations have been for negative portrayals of black people, I feel this says a lot of the parts presented to black actors in American movies that they're so often nominated for being successful negative characters.

Looking at black women for best actress in a leading role Halle Barry is the only one to win, for Monster's Ball, a dark dramatic performance. The other performances that black women have been nominated for vary in the respectability of the characters but still seems to run dark and with negative depictions of black characters. 

There are 4 wins as best supporting actor. 5 for best supporting actress, one win for short documentary, 2 for original score, 5 for original song, 4 for sound mixing split between two men, one for best original screen play then a few special awards. 

The low number of wins and in conjunction low number of nominations stem from different causes and unconscious racism cannot be the only cause of this. Looking at how black culture considers the arts and types of arts that are acceptable for their children and what they encourage is someone that needs to be taken into consideration. But looking at the nominations, 16 for best male lead and 15 for best female lead since 1959 when the first black actors were first nominated in pitiful. How often were black performances looked over because they were by black actors? How often was the race of the character important to the narrative? It feels wrong to nominated and award black actors so often for performances where the crux of the narrative is on them being a black person. 

I'm not arguing or discounting what Sargent presents and his argument in how uncomfortable the Academy is with slavery but I'm also looking at the types of roles that black actors so often are presented with and how they reflect on so larger a part of American culture. The same considerations and criticism can be discussed with the television portrayal of black characters.

The Black Male As A Sex Symbol

Q: How does it feel to be a sex symbol? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?

A) I always get asked this question and I never have a real satisfactory answer. I don't know what it feels like to be a sex symbol, I woke up in the morning and I see the same face. But I will say this, and I've said this in the press, back men, we're never called 'sexy' you know what I mean? We're  not called "sexy", we're called "athletic" we're called "intense" we're described as being the "strong type" the "silent type" we're never really described as the sexy, you know what I mean?

Q) You think so?

A) In general. there's a real generalization to what I'm saying. Sexy doesn't apply to black men in a script. They'll never say "a sexy black man" it'll say "a muscular black man", "an intense black guy" or "good looking". In that case the word has been thrown at me a few times and i'll own it. If it gives me and other black men another definition, all right. 

Transcribed from this interview with Idris Elba

This is an important statement on the subject of race in modern media, that writers continue to write around calling a black man 'sexy', that black men are not seen as sex symbols that often in modern society is a disservice to society and changing the impression of black men everywhere. Time and time again, thieves and thugs are portrayed as black men. Or writers go the complete opposite and make them into police and detectives but as a statement of what the black man represents, it's not as often the leading hero who's supposed to be seen as an object of desire. 

This is possible a hold over from early American culture when white people were afraid that the 'black stallion' of a man was going to take his white woman. This is something that needs to be changed in modern media, that the black male (and female to be honest) isn't just a sexual deviance, that the black male is just to prove a white character isn't racist, but the black male needs to be seen as a sexual being and as a sexual object. 

I recently started watching Sidney Poitier movies and there is the criticism of him in movies being seen as a non-sexual being, he's a castrated black man and it's true. His characters were rarely given a romantic drive or interest. Even in Guess Who his character was fairly chaste in his affections to his  girlfriend/fiance (I've forgotten which). I believe it's time that the black male be given the opportunity to be a sex symbol. The black man is attractive and not in the weird fetishized fashion that he seems to exist in where he's the dangerous or faring romantic option. He needs to be sexy for his brain, for his body, for existing. 

I have a tag on my tumblr called 'Black Man Appreciation Post' (or BMAP) which I've reblogged attractive men, either because of the clothes they're wearing (I appreciate the well dressed man) or look at their bodies. I find the same things attractive across different races, but I wanted black men to stand out, it they're so rarely featured in model sets and I think some of what Idris said is part of it. The black man needs to be seen as sexual being in and of himself and not because of how 'exotic' he is to non black audiences. 

Perception needs to change and how attraction is accepted needs to be changed. You can find a body attractive and it doesn't have to change your sexuality. You can appreciate a body and it doesn't have to affect your sexuality or your interests. Being open to understanding that just because someone doesn't fit what you think you should be attracted to but you appreciate aspects of them doesn't reflect poorly on you is a good step to make. I like men, I pretty much explicitly like men, but I accept there are female body types that I can appreciate. Does it change my appreciation and attraction to men? No in the least and fuck that 'all women are bisexual' bullshit. All people fall somewhere on the continuum between homosexuality and heterosexuality, the difference is acceptance of where you fall and what you accept about yourself. But this isn't about sexuality, this is about races being seen as sexual objects and not just a deviance from 'the norm'.