Skip to content

To the Bat Fax IV: posting about Black Lives Matter VT

To the Bat Fax IV: posting about Black Lives Matter VT published on No Comments on To the Bat Fax IV: posting about Black Lives Matter VT

Posted on Facebook and Tumblr about Black Lives Matter Vermont and tagged some locals on Facebook.


The fledgling Black Lives Matter Vermont group has hit an obstacle. They have spent recent months renovating their space, coordinating actions, recruiting and training volunteers, obtaining merchandise, etc., and now they have unfortunately reached the extent of their resources.
BLMVT needs our support more than ever now. Vermont is one of the whitest states in the nation, so BLMVT might seem irrelevant to some folks, but that’s not true. We absolutely need a diversity of social justice groups like BLMVT if we are going to make this state respectful of human rights and dignity for ALL people.
You can empower BLMVT to continue the important work for which they have built a foundation. The best way is to head on over to BLMVT’s Web site and become a sustaining member for $23.00 a month: That way, we can guarantee the financial stability that BLMVT needs to flourish.
If you cannot give monthly, you can make one-off donations here: Every little bit helps!
There are other ways to get involved as well. Check out BLMVT’s Volunteer page:
Here’s the Events calendar:
And here’s the store:

Thanks in advance!

Women’s March on Washington DC ignites “contentious dialogue” — a.k.a. “white people whining”

Women’s March on Washington DC ignites “contentious dialogue” — a.k.a. “white people whining” published on No Comments on Women’s March on Washington DC ignites “contentious dialogue” — a.k.a. “white people whining”

The New York Times misses the story yet again. In a piece about the Women’s March on Washington movement, Farah Stockman focuses on white women whining about having to deal with the intersectional feminism propounded by women of other races. The white women become upset when the women of other races tell them that their racial privilege inures them to trials that women of other races face, so they take their toys and go home. God forbid they take the opportunity to learn anything about their privilege, how to acknowledge it, how to speak and think about it, and how to use their unearned powers for good. No, their individual hurt feelings matter more than the systemic, programmatic, societal, wholesale oppression of entire colors of people.

I don’t care about the whiny white women. I want to hear the story of this event developing from a narrowly focused, exclusive event, to a more intersectional one, with a broader base. The white feminists should not be the focus of coverage. The women of other races should.

On a personal level, I’m not sure how I feel about this event. Participation on some level would certainly bring me together with other people who feel similarly impassioned and wish to change the world, as I do. But it’s still a Women’s March, and I don’t care how inclusive their principles say they are, because it still looks to me that it privileges people who are white, and/or non-disabled, and and/or women over people who aren’t one or several of these things.

To the Bat Fax IV: Haranguing Big Chief Studios on racist name and logo

To the Bat Fax IV: Haranguing Big Chief Studios on racist name and logo published on No Comments on To the Bat Fax IV: Haranguing Big Chief Studios on racist name and logo

As I noted about 4 years ago, Big Chief Studios makes some really cool 1:6 scale Dr. Who action figures, but their name and logo are a racist pile of crap, which is why I’ll never buy anything from them. I was discussing this sorry state of affairs with Nataluna, a dedicated Whovian with many BCS figs. She eventually got so disturbed by BCS’ stereotypes that she wrote to them on the subject. She mentioned that she knew people [i.e., me, I suppose] who wouldn’t buy from them on account of their imagery, so I decided that my first-person testimony might be slightly helpful. That way they’ll have at least two people to ignore instead of one.

This is what I wrote:


Dear BCS,

I’ve been following your work since your first acquisition of the Dr. Who licenses. I love your sculpts. As much as I love your stuff, though, I’m sadly unable to buy any of it because I have a problem with your company name and logo.

The name Big Chief Studios rubs me the wrong way. The logo’s red dot, which I presume is supposed to be an Indian’s head, is a literal depiction of the term “redskin,” which has been a derogatory insult to American Indians for centuries. While you may not have intended it this way, your logo contributes to a long history of objectifying Indians.

I understand that, for you, BCS is just a name and a graphic, but please consider that there are at least 3 million people in the United States who are American Indian. They struggle for civil rights and self-determination every day. A company name and a logo that turn them into stereotypical symbols, rather than real human beings, worthy of respect, just make it that much harder for them to be seen as people.

Please consider changing at least your logo to something that doesn’t dehumanize a whole group of living, breathing people.

“Thank you for not being racist” and the distressing anomaly of decency

“Thank you for not being racist” and the distressing anomaly of decency published on No Comments on “Thank you for not being racist” and the distressing anomaly of decency

Marketing for digital models at Daz, Renderosity, Renderotica, and the ilk trades heavily in stereotypes. For example, there are the stereotypes of empty, objectified, conventional white cis femininity. There’s also the perennial portrayal of WOC as primitive and bestial, as well as the broken English that appears along with ads for Asian characters. And there’s the sexism, racism, ableism, and transphobia built into the programs we use to make our art. In conclusion, it’s pretty racist out there.

That’s why FeralFey’s products attract my attention. This vendor specializes in realistic poses for figures and regularly does packages associated with particular cultures/ethnicities. To see what’s so refreshing and respectful about FeralFey’s stuff, check out their V4 and V5 Voodoo Magic Poses; compare and contrast this package with Capsces Digital Ink’s  Madame Mojo Poses for Monique 6. Both sets are linked to WOC characters, V4 Mama Brijit for the Voodoo Magic, G2F Monique 6 for the Madame Mojo, but they each treat their subjects differently.

  • FeralFey’s promo shots depict a WOC as active, confident, and powerful, while Capsces’ promo shots depict a WOC as dehumanized, lacking in power, and pointlessly sexualized. FeralFey’s product promos have Maman Brijit dancing, invoking, drawing, and tipping her top hat in dramatic, full-body poses reminiscent of dancing. Her intense gaze and the strong angles of her posture demonstrate strength; even in poses named Entranced and Enthralled, her stances remain solid, balanced, and compelling. By contrast, Capsces’ promo shots show Monique pretty much naked, with goofy body paint. The near nudity combines with the character’s arched back and high-heel foot poses to place her in the pinup category. More subtly, Capsces’ decision to roll Monique’s eyes back in her head and open her mouth for many of these poses connotes an altered state of consciousness that may or may not be orgasmic. Plus there’s a snake or two in there for some reason. In other words, with unintentional double entendres like “parent snake[s] to Monique’s hip before applying pose,” Capsces’ promos show the tired old conjunction between a WOC and a transgressive, excessive, bestial sexuality.
  • FeralFey’s product shows the results of accurate research, while Capsces’ does not. FeralFey’s promo text uses the correct vocabulary of Voodoo, and the product even includes accurate veves [diagrams] used to summon various loas [interceding spirits between people and deities]. Meanwhile, Capsces’ product bills itself as “voodoo and witch doctor inspired,” which is code for “based on imaginary stereotypes.”
  • Finally, FeralFey’s promo text describes Voodoo differently than Capsces’. Capsces’ text settles for evocation of a stereotype, with “Monique…cast[ing] some dark mojo,” blah blah blah “voodoo,” blah blah blah “witch doctor inspired,” blah blah blah. Note the equation of Voodoo with “dark mojo,” which most consumers will probably translate as “incomprehensible black magic,” and “witch doctors,” most readily translatable as “evil wizards.” Basically Capsces says that Voodoo = evil magic. By contrast, FeralFey says only that “…the magic of voodoo enthralls the curious and ensnares the imagination.” There’s a distinction made between Voodoo itself and how outsiders perceive it. It might seem like puzzling sorcery to the clueless, but the information in FeralFey’s promo text reveals that Voodoo contains, in part, rituals to call on intercessors and/or deities so that people can gain advice and help. In other words, practitioners of Voodoo do what many other people in many other religions do. In implicit rebuke to Capsces’ exoticizing portrayal, FeralFey’s text insists that Voodoo is a religion like any other. Sure, it’s not perfect; FeralFey does use the adjective “visceral” in the description, which is code for “primitive,” but, overall, FeralFey’s Voodoo Magic Poses demonstrate respect and realism in opposition to Capsces’ stereotyped, demeaning cliches.

I was so overjoyed when I noticed the distinction between FeralFey’s stuff and everyone else’s that I sent a thank you note to them, saying much of what I noted above. In a sea of lazy, sloppy, unresearched, and racist characterizations, their [much more] respectful illustrations stand out as an example of what people should be doing. I get so sick of calling out racist bullshit that I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to congratulate someone for respect and inclusivity. I can tell that FeralFey works meticulously on all aspects of their creations, carefully crafting them for realism and respectful portrayal. I wanted to let them know that I recognized and encouraged their efforts. They wrote back and thanked me, which made me happy.

At the same time, I have the same sort of meta-reaction toward FeralFey’s poses as I do toward Dead or Alive’s gender-unmarked love songs or Queen’s respect for women. In all of these cases, the respect and decency of the artists toward their characters is really rather basic. And yet, because we live in a societal cesspit of racism, heteronormativity, and misogyny in which people are denied basic humanity because of their race, sexuality, and/or femininity, a modicum of authorial respect is mind-blowing. I don’t want to be surprised by Dead or Alive’s gender-free love songs. I don’t want to go into raptures over the love and equality in Killer Queen. I don’t want to write a thank you note to a digital artist for treating WOC like people. I want gender neutrality and equality of the sexes and respect between the races to be the standard, not the exception. And yet they aren’t, so my momentary happiness is outweighed by a greater structural disappointment.

“Quick! To the Bat Fax!” or, Haranguing Government Officials on…Steve Bannon

“Quick! To the Bat Fax!” or, Haranguing Government Officials on…Steve Bannon published on No Comments on “Quick! To the Bat Fax!” or, Haranguing Government Officials on…Steve Bannon

Like many things in life, my perspective on letter writing as a form of activism has been deeply informed by Calvin & Hobbes, the seminal comic strip of my childhood, by Bill Watterson — namely, the particular strip from which the title of this entry is pulled. However, I have decided to employ this tactic regularly, given the cesspool of which the incoming President seems determined to make of the national government. This week’s Bat Fax, addressed to Representative Pat Leahy [D-VT], Senator Bernie Sanders [I-VT], and Representative Peter Welch [R-VT], concerns the future President’s appointment of Steve Bannon to position of White House Racist in Chief. Text below.Continue reading “Quick! To the Bat Fax!” or, Haranguing Government Officials on…Steve Bannon

Missed opportunities in Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck

Missed opportunities in Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck published on No Comments on Missed opportunities in Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck

This year, Adam Cohen came out with Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Buck, a white, working-class Virginian, was raped by the nephew of the Dobbses, the bourgeois couple in whose house she was working. The Dobbses thus had her categorized as “feebleminded” and institutionalized in the Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded. There she attracted the attention of various assholes [Albert Priddy, director of the Colony, Aubrey Strode, the lawyer who drafted the Virginia law, and Harry Laughlin, veritable Nazi who served as expert witness for the prosecution] who wanted to use her as a test case to secure the constitutionality of Virginia’s recently passed eugenics law.

Like many other states at the time, Virginia was caught up in the burgeoning enthusiasm over eugenics. Ostensibly about improving the human race through selective breeding, eugenics was actually about breeding more straight, white, cis, able-bodied, rich, smart virtuous WASPs like us and keeping those defective, vicious, disabled, vacuous, non-white people out. Anyway, Virginia’s law allowed state-sponsored sterilization of people with various “mental defects.” Despite the evidence being made up entirely of unscientific, sexist, racist, ableist, classist lies, the Amherst County Supreme Court upheld it.

The assholes, however, wanted their law to be ratified by even higher authorities. Buck’s “defense” lawyer, who was so in cahoots with the opposing counsel that his picture appears in the dictionary under the definition of moral bankruptcy, appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The higher court upheld the appeal in 1925, and still the assholes carried bravely on. In 1927, Buck v. Bell went before the United States Supreme Court. The highest court in the land ruled in favor of state-sponsored rape, with a ringing endorsement coming from Chief Justice Asshole Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Three generations of imbeciles [Buck’s mother, also institutionalized at the same colony, and Buck’s daughter included, though no one had really tested Buck’s daughter’s mental abilities] are enough!”

Buck was re-institutionalized, given a nonconsensual salpingectomy, and not at all informed about the consequences of the operation. She was also deprived of the chance to form a relationship with her kid, who, for some reason, was being raised by the Dobbses, who institutionalized Buck in the first place. She was eventually released from the institution; she then worked intermittently as a household cleaner and seasonal orchard picker, married twice, apparently loved her husbands, and, when she heard about what the salpingectomy had done to her, always grieved her inability to have kids.

Laws such as the one tested in Buck v. Bell gained popularity, peaking in the late 1920s. The stock market crash of 1929 drew attention away from “mental defectives” and toward a horrendously tanking economy. It also didn’t help that the guy who served as eugenics expert witness in Buck v. Bell, Harry Laughlin, enthusiastically sucked up to the rising Nazi regime. Despite these factors and the expose of eugenics as junk science, legal eugenic sterilization persisted in the United States till at least 1983, when Oregon finally dissolved its Board of Institutionalized Bigotry Social Protection. In fact, Buck v. Bell remains “good law,” according to Cohen, and courts continue to cite it, even in this millennium, as justification for sterilization of disabled people. Indeed, the current fetishization of the genome and the rising popularity of genetic testing for disease markers both raise the unsettling possibility that the eugenics movement will pop up again.

Anyway, not only is reproductive rights a timely topic, but Buck’s story is a dramatic one, so Cohen has potent, pertinent material here. In measured, well-documented prose, he tells the story of Buck v. Bell with two chapters each on Priddy, Laughlin, Strode, and Holmes, bookended on either side by a chapter on Buck. He applies keen analysis to some aspects of the story, but totally misses other significant opportunities. Thus it’s an uneven book.

Cohen excels at his treatment of socioeconomic class, his analysis of Strode, and his takedown of Holmes. In terms of class, he is always attentive to the ways in which class pressures and expectations shape the players’ lives. He observes that the Dobbses’ push for middle-class respectability required the disposal of their working-class servant in a “colony” for the “feebleminded” when she had the audacity to be raped by the Dobbses’ nephew. He also demonstrates the influence of class in Holmes’ life; born among the socially conservative, neo-Puritan snobs of the Boston Brahmin class, he owed every single advancement in his life to the behind-the-scenes connections fostered by this good ol’ boys’ club. With details like these, Cohen ably proves that Buck v. Bell exemplified contemporary concerns about social class — in particular, the nasty poor people, with all their vices and feeble minds, becoming too numerous and steamrolling the awesome rich people, who were naturally smart and good.

Also particularly strong is Cohen’s portrayal of Strode, the lawyer who drafted the original Virginia bill and followed it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Scion of one of Virginia’s elite families and avowed Confederate sympathizer, Strode might at first glance seem to be a garden variety Southern bigot, especially with his hand in having nonconsensual sterilization enshrined as the law of the land. However, Cohen shows Strode as a complex figure, progressive in the areas of women’s rights and higher education, who probably didn’t even support eugenics at all. He purposely drafted the initial law to be as narrow and restrictive as possible, and, unlike Holmes, who wouldn’t shut up about his magnificent majority opinion, barely mentioned the whole subject of eugenics in his life afterward. Cohen makes these points not to garner sympathy for Strode, since Strode clearly chose to draft the bill and serve as prosecutor for the case, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Instead, Cohen’s portrayal of Strode’s ambivalence neatly encapsulates the country’s own ambivalence on the subject of eugenics.

Finally, Cohen does a masterful job of replacing the saintly ideal of Holmes with a more accurate picture of the man’s full character and motivations. While Holmes may be remembered for his aphorisms on free speech, Cohen argues that his upbringing as a member of the hierarchical, ancestry-obsessed, self-important Boston Brahmins largely shaped his political views. He was actually more of a pro-business, anti-civil rights conservative who regularly struck down or dissented on cases of reducing work hours for laborers or improving working conditions. He had an essentially passive, reactive view of the law, which was basically that it shouldn’t be socially activist in a way that changed policy, but that it should just execute whatever was passed until someone stepped forward to challenge it. This passive, socially disengaged perspective extended throughout his life; for example, he bragged about never reading newspapers and seemed to make a virtue of being clueless to events and trends occurring beyond the tip of his nose [except for eugenics]. Enamored with his self-concept as a brilliant, eloquent, accomplished genius, he chose to ignore the fact that his brilliance was completely untempered by compassion and social consciousness, his eloquence called into service for arrogant, venomous, mean-spirited opinions attacks, and his accomplishments largely the result of the socioeconomic class in which he was born. Cohen uses both close analysis of Holmes’ opinions and a close reading of Holmes’ private letters to effectively puncture the myth of Holmes as practically perfect. It’s very satisfying.

All this said, Cohen only tells part of the story. He fails to include material that would make his book even stronger and more convincing. His treatment of Buck, disability, and race are ultimately unsatisfying. In terms of Buck, though she has two chapters, just like all other major players, they are ultimately scant. For example, though Cohen refers to Buck’s elementary school report cards as evidence of her average mental capacity, he quotes them only once. Even more egregiously, when he has the chance to use Buck’s own words, he doesn’t take it. He uses the most direct quotes in the final chapter, describing Buck’s later years, including her efforts to have her mom de-institutionalized. Yet he also refers to Buck’s letters in general, commenting on the neat penmanship and only sporadic grammar mistakes. This leaves the impression that Buck produced a lot of firsthand documentation of her post-trial years that Cohen omitted, except for a superficial comment on Buck’s ability to hold a pen. For someone so insistent that Buck’s voice was never heard at all in these cases [beyond her statement at the initial trial “that her people” would “take care” of her, which suggests that she had no clue what was going on], Cohen certainly devalues Buck and her experiences.

My close reading of Cohen himself reveals telling details about why he silences Buck. He wants to depict her as a pathetic, innocent victim who did nothing wrong whatsoever and was totally betrayed by mean, rich men. To this end, he is obsessed with the adjective “helpless,” one of his most-used descriptors for Buck. Indeed, Buck was helpless before the straight, white, rich, cis, WASPy men who used their privilege to rape her, but she also had agency in other areas of her life. I understand that this book focuses more narrowly on the Buck v. Bell case, but Cohen’s exaggeration of Buck’s supposed helplessness turns her into a bit player in her own life.

Cohen not only fails Buck personally, but he also fails in his portrayal of eugenics in general by inadequately addressing the ableism and racism at work in its rise. Yes, I am aware that Cohen is telling the story of a white woman, Buck, who has no intellectual or physical disabilities. That doesn’t excuse, however, his omission of the ableist and racist implications of eugenics, as well as the ableist and racist purposes to which the United States put eugenics laws.

Beyond being a way for rich people to try to literally cut poor people out of existence, sterilization — and indeed the whole eugenics movement — was also against people with mental and physical disabilities. Cohen gestures toward this when he follows the history of sterilization laws, in which blind, deaf, and or “crippled” people were sometimes included as eligible populations. For the most part, though, he strenuously avoids a disability rights analysis. For example, his preoccupation with arguing that Buck wasn’t “feebleminded” seems particularly wrong-headed. Her mental capacity is important insofar as all the pro-eugenics people flat out lied in their claims that she, her mom, and her daughter had intellectual disabilities. But even if Buck and her family members were intellectually disabled, re-raping her via salpingectomy would be morally repugnant as a breach of her right to bodily integrity. Again, Cohen alludes to such ableist violations when quoting some anti-eugenics rulings, but he doesn’t face the infantilization and objectification of disabled people head-on. He seems more interested in stoking reader outrage by harping on Buck’s average intelligence, the implication being that institutionalization and forced sterilization of a person without disabilities is worse than the same fate for a disabled person. I smell ableism — and not just in the historical record, but in the historiography itself.

Finally, the whole concept of eugenics is a racist fallacy, pitting white/Anglo-Saxon/Aryan proponents against people of other colors with other racial identities. Cohen illustrates this well in his discussion of Laughlin’s sucking up to the Nazis, who, inspired by eugenics work in the United States, expanded the racism to genocidal proportions. Strangely enough, however, Cohen leaves out the racist practices fostered by Buck v. Bell that occurred in the U.S. As Nancy Gallagher capably shows in Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State, eugenics/sterilization laws disproportionately burdened not just poor people and/or people with [real or imagined] disabilities, but also people who weren’t white. In Vermont, the Abenaki Indians were seen as the racial undesireables and so particularly pursued for sterilization, but, in other states, other populations were victimized. Lack of attention to the racial minorities in the U.S. who were persecuted gives the unfounded impression that eugenic racism only happened over there in Germany, with those evil Nazis. No, it happened here too, and it’s vital to emphasize that it happened in the U.S. — indeed, pretty much started in the U.S. — because part of Cohen’s conclusion warns that the currents of eugenics may be at an ebb right now, but could easily swell again.

P.S. Cohen’s title, Imbeciles, also really rankled me. As I mentioned earlier, Buck was never categorized as an “imbecile,” but as a “moron,” both of which were official categories back then referring to putative mental age and ability. I assume that Cohen’s title derives from Holmes’ “three generations of imbeciles” bullshit and also the fact that “morons” just doesn’t flow off the tongue like the slightly longer “imbeciles.” Still, it’s a rhetorical flourish that’s factually incorrect. Furthermore, the placement of “the Supreme Court,” a group of individuals, right after the colon transfers connotations of “imbecility,” along with contempt and negative judgment, to the justices. Thus Cohen uses the tired ableist tactic of turning a term of intellectual disability, albeit outmoded, into an insult. In conjunction with Cohen’s problematic treatment of Buck’s intelligence and his general omission of eugenics’ ableist consequences, the title exemplifies Cohen’s own problematic perspective on disability.

Straight white cis dude writes sexist, racist, classist, ageist jeremaid.

Straight white cis dude writes sexist, racist, classist, ageist jeremaid. published on No Comments on Straight white cis dude writes sexist, racist, classist, ageist jeremaid.

“Do teens read seriously anymore?” asks the title of David Denby’s New Yorker screed. Of course not! answers the author, blaming “most of all, screens (TV, Internet, games, texting, Instagramming).” “Screens” have killed teens’ interest in self-development through “serious” reading, turning them into superficial shlubs with no attention span. I’m dying to know how Denby deduced this, since he’s so out of touch with the under-21 set that he refers to them as “teen-agers.” Why should anyone listen to this irrelevant person?

I also can’t help but notice that Denby’s idea of “serious reading” is gendered, racialized, and classed. He cites “Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Poe, Hawthorne, Twain, Stevenson, Orwell, Vonnegut” as exemplars of the genres that today’s “teen-agers” putatively avoid. Elsewhere in his word vomit, J.D. Salinger, Charlotte Bronte, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Joseph Heller, and Allen Ginsburg appear as sadly neglected greats. “Wilde, Nabokov, Updike, Vidal” also garner mentions as “sophisticated” author-critics of the 20th century.

Of these 18 authors, all are from the United States or Great Britain, and 16 are white cis dudes, 2 white cis women. There are 2 gay dudes [whoop de fucking doo] and 0 queer women. There are no non-honkies or people of color. All of this “literature” issues from the privileged socioeconomic classes. By contrast, the fantasy, dystopian, vampire romance, and graphic novel genres that he shits on feature a much larger representation of women and/or POC and/or various socioeconomic classes and/or national origins. And Denby hates it.

Shorter Denby: “Waaaaah, my straight cis white dude privilege is being threatened!”

Oh shut up and go hang out with Simon Doonan, another rich old cis white dude master of ageist, sexist, racist vituperation.

Hat tip to Katy Waldman for her criticism of Denby’s crap on Slate.

Lupita Nyong’o, embodiment, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Lupita Nyong’o, embodiment, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens published on No Comments on Lupita Nyong’o, embodiment, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I recently held forward at length about the frustrating representations of women and/or people of colors other than pasty in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. One of my criticisms discussed Lupita Nyong’o’s character, the mocapped Maz Kanata. I interpreted it as a literal erasure of a Mexican-Kenyan woman and thus a very problematic maneuver with imperialist, colonialist overtones.

A December 13th, 2015, Buzzfeed interview with Nyong’o complicates my interpretation. Nyong’o explains her choice of the mocapped Force Awakens role as a calculated assertion of agency in a racially charged environment. Having recently won an Oscar for her performance as the enslaved [and much abused] woman Patsy in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o made the following remark:

“12 Years a Slave was a film that was so much about my body, and Star Wars is not at all. There was a liberation in being able to play in a medium where my body was not the thing in question,” Nyong’o told BuzzFeed News. “The acting challenge I was looking for was completely different, a complete departure from 12 Years a Slave.”

Let’s break her comment down a bit. 12 Years a Slave film centralizes the brutal violence to which black bodies are subjected in the form of kidnapping, rape, assault, and other kinds of torture. Thus Nyong’o’s performance as Patsey contains a crapload of racialized and sexualized suffering that the character experiences precisely because she is poor, black, and female. Patsey’s characterization thus becomes hyperfocused on her body, especially when she is hurt and violated. Nyong’o’s comment that it’s freeing to play a character like Maz Kanata where “my body was not the thing in question” implies that her body was “the thing in question” in 12 Years a Slave. Notice how she talks about her body as a “thing,” rather than part of herself. This leads me to suspect that she found her performance as Patsey objectifying to some degree, thus exhausting and disturbing. I think “acting challenge” underestimates the significant physical and emotional difficulties Nyong’o experienced in 12 Years a Slave.

Nyong’o’s description of the role of Maz as a “liberation” suggests that she found it a respite from the role of Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. Patsey is an enslaved woman who experiences physical, mental, and emotional abuse, all with the ultimate effect of making her blackness, femaleness, and enslavement the most salient things about her. In contrast, Maz Kanata is neither black, nor enslaved, nor a victim of onscreen abuse. As an old, wise character and owner of a popular intergalactic watering hole, she has a certain agency and independence denied to Patsey. Nyong’o acknowledges an “acting challenge” in doing a mocap performance for the first time, but I’d hazard a guess that, absent the history of degradation and mistreatment weighing down the role of Patsey, the role of Maz was less emotionally and physically taxing.


Nyong’o obviously does not see her portrayal of Maz Kanata as a racist effacement of a woman of color. In fact, she sees it as an escape from and alternative to the race-obsessed, body-obsessed, and emotionally exhausting work she did for the role of Patsey. So who am I, a white person, to insist that there’s racism and sexism at play here?

Well, there is. Nyong’o, as a woman of color, experiences a double bind created explicitly by the confluence of racism, sexism, classism, etc., in the movie industry. She can play a role like that of Patsey, which foregrounds her blackness, femaleness, and enslavement, and win awards, but suffer emotional and physical aftershocks. When she seeks to avoid physical and mental stress by playing a role like that of Maz Kanata, which is much less strongly determined by race, sex, and even physicality, then people go, “What the hell? Black erasure!” While Patsey and Maz do not represent all the roles available to Nyong’o, they do represent the ways in which racism, sexism, and classism limit her options. Cultural expectations of women of color reward highly sexualized, racialized, classed roles like that of Patsey and look down on less sexualized, racialized, classed roles like that of Maz. The variety of roles available to women of color may be slightly larger than it was 75 years ago, but the racism, sexism, and classism of the movie industry still literally reward them for playing poor, abused, enslaved victims of violence.

Wait…that was supposed to be a smart sci-fi film? or, Ex Machina and Smug White People Feminism

Wait…that was supposed to be a smart sci-fi film? or, Ex Machina and Smug White People Feminism published on No Comments on Wait…that was supposed to be a smart sci-fi film? or, Ex Machina and Smug White People Feminism

I have no idea where all the reviewers of Ex Machina get off, thinking that it’s some novel, philosophical, highly intelligent piece of sci-fi movie making. It’s not. The first two thirds contain the insufferable misogynist bloviation of two straight cis dudes, objectifying all the female characters in the most blatant, unoriginal, and uninteresting ways possible. I mean, seriously — one of the robots, Kiyoko, is so objectified that she has no language, thus making her the ultimate silent, submissive, docile Asian woman stereotype. The last third of the movie contains the supposedly narratively inevitable consequences of their assholery, in which the women become scary and murder the dudes. Then all the women of color either die or sacrifice themselves so that the white woman can escape to her dreams of white-collar big-city life, and it’s all so tedious and sludgy and dull…except for the hotel where it was filmed. That was pretty. But aesthetically pleasing scenery cannot compensate for raging misogyny and racism.

This enraged critique of Ex Machina owes much to Sharon Chang’s incisive analysis, which goes into much more depth.

EDIT: And here’s a perfect example of someone analyzing queer subtexts in Ex Machina and completely failing to call out the racism and sexism. Sorry, Jeffrey Bloomer. I really don’t think that a white woman reconstituting herself from the bodies of women of color is merely a moment of queer transformation that should be celebrated. It’s also a reification of an ongoing colonialist project that should be acknowledged and critiqued.

Robert Dear, domestic terrorist and “gentle loner”

Robert Dear, domestic terrorist and “gentle loner” published on No Comments on Robert Dear, domestic terrorist and “gentle loner”

I’m really late to the party here, but I see that a New York Times article described Planned Parenthood terrorist Robert Dear as “a gentle loner who occasionally unleashed violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.” After criticism online from numerous sources pointing out that this was basically white straight cis male apologism [especially when black male victims of white male violence receive vilification when described posthumously — hat tip to Chaedria LaBouvier], the NYT made some cosmetic changes to the article, but, to date, has made no direct acknowledgment of the multiple levels of bullshit involved in its portrayal of Dear. This reminds me of the 2012 coverage of the death of Lorena Escalera, trans woman of color, wherein the NYT’s confluence of racism, sexism, classism, and transmisogyny led me to cancel my subscription.

I think I’m going to start writing like the NYT.  In fact, I’m now going to characterize the paper itself as “an objective, trustworthy, fair-minded, egalitarian news source that occasionally unleashes bigotry toward anyone who’s not a straight white cis bourgeois male.” That’s accurate, right? :p

Just in case the article isn’t enough of a cesspool already, two other threads in it piss me off. First, there’s the strong assumption that anyone who lives by themselves, doesn’t socialize much with the locals, and keeps mostly to themselves is automatically up to no good. They must be like that because they’re hiding skeletons in their closet.

Second, there’s the strong implication that Dear’s interest in bdsm correlates to his recent murders. In the sixth paragraph of the profile, the topic sentence discusses “sporadic brushes with the law, neighbors, and relatives,” while the last sentence notes that Dear looked for bdsm partners online. The position of the sentence about Dear’s online profile thus groups it in with “brushes with the law,” suggesting that kinky sex and domestic terrorism are on a continuum. Apparently the slippery slope argument is alive and well in supposedly reputable news sources.


I’m really surprised that there’s nothing in this profile proposing that Dear is mentally ill and that his mental illness correlates to his criminality.



In case I needed another reason to find Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf objectionable…

In case I needed another reason to find Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf objectionable… published on No Comments on In case I needed another reason to find Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf objectionable…

…I just saw the music video for the first time, and it’s one of the purest, most horrible depictions I’ve seen of Brown People As Props On Great White Hunter’s [Misogynist, Racist, Objectifying] Journey. The singer, who’s not only white, but also dressed in white, just in case we forgot he’s white, mouths the lyrics while plowing through crowds of subcontinental Indians. He grows increasingly irritated as people keep him from shoving his way through the crowd. I like to imagine that all the extras aren’t following the direction to obstruct the singer, but instead are pretending to go about their daily business, unimpressed by some white dude who thinks that the world should clear a path for his penis. Quick cuts reveal that he’s chasing after an African woman, who inexplicably has pointless designs painted on her brows and cheeks. The end up in the leaves of a swampy forest, rolling around. I think they’re supposed to be contending, but the slow motion just makes it seem like they’re doing some sort of badly coordinated tumbling routine. Brilliant.


On a purely cinematographical level, this video also fails miserably because it’s filmed during the daytime. However, the first lines of the song — “Dark in the city / Night is a wire / Steam in the subway / Alleys afire” — describe an evocative setting in which the exhalations from the underground mirror the singer’s panting, while the fire in the dead ends links into his energy and urgency. Also I would like to point out that this song happens at night, which heightens the whole singer=wolf metaphor by connoting wolves baying at the moon. The nocturnal setting is essential to the song, but the video discards it in favor of daylight for no apparent reason. Why? They couldn’t wait a few hours? They didn’t have enough spotlights? Who knows? This music video stinks all around.

Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant published on No Comments on Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

Please note that this discussion of Joanna Wiebe’s Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant contains critical examination of huge spoilers. Don’t read further if you want to maintain the mystery. Read further if you want detail on how this otherwise promising debut fails disappointingly.Continue reading Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

Amandla Stenberg talks cultural appropriation…

Amandla Stenberg talks cultural appropriation… published on No Comments on Amandla Stenberg talks cultural appropriation…

…in the context of dreads, grills, and other items coopted by white haute couture. She explains the process of cultural appropriation: Black people active in the hip-hop scene start wearing dreads, and the white mainstream culture contemns them. Then white people start wearing dreads, for which they receive universal accolades as super cool trendsetters. So basically cultural appropriation occurs when a cultural group that’s looked down upon at large does something, which is then deracinated from its origin, decontextualized, and celebrated in the dominant culture without serious reference to its source.


With this in mind, I’m thinking that cultural appropriation necessitates hegemonic contempt and steamrolling for the marginalized group that is being imitated. Thus people of color straightening their hair in the U.S. does not constitute cultural appropriation, even though some ill-informed commenters on Stenberg’s video think it is. That’s because the hair straightening is not motivated by disgust and a desire for decontextualized absorption. Hair straightening, rather, is a way in which marginalized POC are negotiating the beauty standards of dominant white culture, in which straight, controlled, smooth hair is valued. Hair straightening by POC is born of an acute knowledge of the hegemonic beauty standards and the value placed thereon, while dreads on famous white people represent a fantasy of ahistorical, ameoboid cultural engulfment.

Have you ever seen something so beautiful you want to weep?

Have you ever seen something so beautiful you want to weep? published on No Comments on Have you ever seen something so beautiful you want to weep?

I have, and it’s this model by 3D-GHDesign, Fara Hair, an exuberant fountain of dreadlocks for G2F. It’s very hard to set aside the distracting bullshit exoticism of the promo pictures [because of course a WOC needs an outfit adorned with leopard print and claw accessories :p ], which makes me want to weep out of frustration, but I am also very impressed by the sheer loft achieved by these amazing digital dreads. The inclusion of a head wrap, usable by itself, improves Fara a thousandfold. I feel a sudden urge to remove the hair model from the stinky promo pictures and use it on some digital people who could demonstrate its awesomeness without resorting to stereotypes.

Drag queen compares and contrasts blackface and drag

Drag queen compares and contrasts blackface and drag published on No Comments on Drag queen compares and contrasts blackface and drag

Taking as a springboard Mary Cheney’s comparison between drag and blackface, Miz Cracker posts on Slate’s Outward Bound with a discussion of the two subjects. Miz Cracker notes that, at base, Cheney objected to drag because she saw it as a mockery of an oppressed group [women] created by a powerful group [men] for degrading purposes. Miz Cracker wonders if drag is inherently misogynist.

Miz Cracker basically argues that drag is not like blackface because blackface is inherently racist, while drag is not inherently misogynist. The comparison between blackface and drag breaks down because blackface and minstrelsy used to be ubiquitous idioms with great cultural influence, but drag has never achieved such a pervasive high profile. That’s because blackface was performed by the oppressors in positions of power, whereas drag has been performed by oppressed people in positions of marginalization. I’m not sure how this is relevant to the presence or absence of misogyny in drag.

In fact, I think Miz Cracker’s contrast between blackface and drag breaks down because it does not recognize multiple axes of oppression. When she argues that drag has been performed by oppressed people who are marginalized, she’s referring to gay/queer men marginalized by their sexuality. However, though gay men may be marginalized on the axis of sexuality, they do have the privilege of being men in a misogynist society. Therefore, when men do drag, no matter what their sexual orientations, they may also be seen as performers in positions of power [as men] compared to the people that they are portraying [women]. Miz Cracker’s insistence that it’s just a few individually misogynist queens who mess up the whole art form entirely ignores the complex structure of drag and its location at the intersection of mutiple axes of power and oppression.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Sleepy Hollow’s back!

Sleepy Hollow’s back! published on No Comments on Sleepy Hollow’s back!

I finally got to watch the first ep of season 2 this morning. Overall I feel a sense of relief that all significant characters introduced in the previous season remain in action.

Nicole Beharie as Abby and Tom Mison as Ichabod re-establish their easy, sympathetic chemistry. Their characters each have equal opportunity to rescue and be rescued by each other, a refreshing change from other male/female TV pairs in which the man does all the rescuing of the woman.

Jenny, Abby’s sister, has survived so far, giving Lyndie Greenwood a chance to play an important auxiliary to Abby and Ichabod. Even more unflinching and martial than Abby, Jenny contributes a satisfying level of physical ass-kicking, as well as great affection for Abby. Grounded by her relationship with her sister, Abby escapes the Exceptional Woman trope/trap.

John Cho and John Noble return to bolster the main characters with some stellar supporting performances. Cho’s sniveling, pathetic Andy, who alternates between helping and betraying Abby, decides to do the former in this episode. I hope he recurs, as I find his status as regretful servant of evil, who nevertheless performs good acts, interesting. Noble’s Horseman of War, also Ichabod and Katrina’s son [?!], lurks ominously, threatening people in the plummy tones of a classically trained actor, while picking scenery from between his teeth. I’m having a very, very hard time dissociating Noble from his 5 seasons as Walter in Fringe.

All that said, I do have some reservations. First of all, where was Captain Irving?!?!?!?! How dare you deprive us of Orlando Jones for an episode, especially right after he gave himself up to law enforcement? He’d better show up soon, along with his family too. Sleepy Hollow can’t just not show a whole third of the characters of color like that!

I particularly want to see Irving’s daughter Macey return and get some development. As a wheelchair user since getting into a car crash with her dad and then as a temporary vessel for some demon, she smacked a little too much of the Tragic Tabula Rasa Cripple last season. However, I think her brush with demonic possession could provide a chance for some character development. Maybe she could link up to the demon realm and give Abby and Ichabod some guidance therefrom? Of course, this will probably not happen.

Second of all, Katia Winter as Katrina, Ichabod’s wife, just gets the raw end of things. Despite billing Katrina as a main character, the show grievously underwrites her. For example, her fascinating past as a powerful witch who joined a coven dedicated to protecting the town — this aspect of her character dwindles over the first season as her status as pawn in the struggle between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman grows. Furthermore, where a person with more acting skills, like Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood or, heck, even Amandla Stenberg [who plays Macey], might add something to the role, Winter can’t even muster that. The stereotyped nature of her character just shows up how untalented she is. 

I eagerly await further episodes, however!

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Front Porch Forum is fascinating.

Front Porch Forum is fascinating. published on No Comments on Front Porch Forum is fascinating.

Around these parts, we have Front Porch Forum, a uniquely Vermont Internet development, which provides E-mail lists for every town in the state [sometimes for several neighborhoods within towns, if the towns are large enough]. Like most E-mail lists, it contains classifieds, notices from town government and local services, requests to borrow things, thank you notes and loads of rants. I belong to the Winooski one and one for the neighborhood in Burlington where I work.

A few days ago, someone posted on the Winooski FPF that she didn’t like a sign that Sneakers [restaurant] put up in a little garden in an island near our horrible traffic rotary. It said "Sneakers — Yield to Bacon," which she, as a member of a Muslim household, found insensitive. She added that it was a safety hazard, impeding visibility for drivers and pedestrians, and wished that it was removed.

As Seven Days, our local newsweekly reports, poo flinging ensued. An inevitable backlash of posters castigated the original poster as a coward, a terrorist and the epitome of what was wrong with today’s "politically correct" society. Soon a representative from Sneakers posted, apologizing for upsetting people, explaining the joke behind the sign and adding that the sign would be taken down. The inevitable backlash then apparently subsumed the restaurant in its bitter wash; Seven Days reports that Sneakers has received so much bile on its Facebook page that it took said page down.

For the record, I recognize that the sign was offensive to the original poster, even though it wasn’t intended to be. I disagree with her particular targeting of the Sneakers sign as a danger, however, since other local businesses put up little signs in the sponsored gardens on the rotary islands, and she didn’t seem to have a problem with them. I thought that her original complaint was a reasonable statement and justification of her opinion, and I also appreciate the restaurant’s respectful response. They did include the "Well, we didn’t mean it!" line in their apology for offense, but they did apologize sincerely, and they took down the sign as a gesture of good faith. If only more institutions acted with such sincerity and sensitivity…

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Just in case you doubted the racism and sexism driving the world of 3D content…

Just in case you doubted the racism and sexism driving the world of 3D content… published on No Comments on Just in case you doubted the racism and sexism driving the world of 3D content…

…check out the E-mail that landed in my box yesterday. For context, Daz produces digital models and ancillary content; one of their most popular characters is Aiko, a model with manga-inspired proportions and appearance [who, I might add, grows less manga-like and more realistic with each iteration 🙁 ]. The latest version, Aiko 6, debuted recently, and so has new content for her. Daz also recently released Lee 6, "an Asian-inspired character for Genesis 2 Male(s)" [their words, not mine], so content for this character has been appearing as well.

Continue reading Just in case you doubted the racism and sexism driving the world of 3D content…

Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5.

Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5. published on No Comments on Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5.

This truncated set of 6 eps provided no particular closure, no interesting character development and nothing particularly interesting. The overall flaccidity of the 6 eps just highlighted the show’s problematic aspects even more excruciatingly.

In no particular order, the problems were:

  • Steve. The show never did this character justice. He had great potential, especially as someone with the power of discerning whether people were telling the truth, but the show never really knew what to do with him. Without a tortured past full of secrets like the other agents [or at least not enough of the past for a multi-ep exploration], Steve had no grounding, no motivation, no hook. He also never really had anything to do except for to be Claudia’s best friend, to die, to be resurrected and to keep the home fires burning while everyone else ran away on adventures. He was a thoroughly dull and objectified damsel in distress type. I feel like the writers identified him by a cluster of traits — former ATF agent, Buddhist, gay, human lie detector — and just had him mention those identities occasionally in lieu of developing an actual personality.
  • While we’re on the subject again, let’s bring up homophobia, one of the show’s perennial failings. In 6.4, Savage Seduction, Claudia and Steve investigate a frat where the brothers are using an artifact to split themselves into two parts: studiers and partiers. Claudia and Steve’s quest started promisingly with Claudia grumbling about "kids these days" [even though she was the age of the students] and Steve’s revelation that he had been part of a nerd fraternity with "book group and holiday a cappella." Then Steve got a hold of the artifact and turned into two Steves, one of which was usual Steve and the other of which was a painfully swishy stereotype. Where did that come from? Steve had never shown any indication of harboring painfully swishy stereotypes. It could have been interesting if those were his long-buried fears about what he might have to be when he found out he was gay, but nah — the show just played swishy Steve for laughs. Claudia also made a passing remark that she liked swishy Steve "a little bit more" than usual Steve, which was indicative of the show’s whole treatment of Steve’s sexuality: it was only ever developed jokingly, with reference to stereotypes, even if Steve was bringing them up to say that he differed from them. The show could not take him as a gay guy seriously and invested way too much prurient energy into his sexuality.
  • Speaking of sexuality, the show also capitulated to cultural pressures of heteronormativity. After five seasons of him being annoyed at her exactitude and her being annoyed at his immaturity, Pete and Myka realized that they loved each other. Well, that was pretty obvious. But why did they have to end up as a romantic couple? They may have loved each other and worked well together, but they were not characterologically compatible, so why did the show hook them up? Boring, boring, boring.
  • Furthermore, racism featured prominently in Warehouse 13’s final season. It was like they crammed all the racism that they hadn’t gotten to into a single truncated set of 6 eps. There were the gratuitous "g***y" references with the fortune tellers in the Ren Faire ep. There was the trash heap of "fiery Latino" stereotypes in the telenovela ep. Then, in the last ep, Leena, who was bumped off for no reason at the end of season 4, was given a flashback scene in which she foresaw her own death in the Warehouse and then, when Mrs. Frederic said that she would try to prevent it, said to her, "But it’s okay." No, you stinkin’ show — do not try to retroactively sell me on the useless death of one of the show’s two main characters of color. I won’t buy it.


This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

I really like the Life in the Dreamhouse Web series…

I really like the Life in the Dreamhouse Web series… published on No Comments on I really like the Life in the Dreamhouse Web series…

…with Barbie and all her friends because, for the most part, it manages to balance light humor at no one’s expense with slapstick and clever in-jokes. Midge as snorting, safety-obsessed introvert who talks like the 1950s also cracks me up — and she’s so cute when she appears in Smidge of Midge in greyscale!

I also really like Ken, who ultimately ends up being portrayed as just another character who happens to be Barbie’s boyfriend, rather than the major plot motor and deus ex machina of the series. He’s goofy and utterly devoted to Barbie [“Barbie sense…tingling…”] and supremely confident enough in his masculinity to invent a super-sophisticated closet for all his girlfriend’s clothes. In other words, rather than having gay panic over activities often coded as queer, Ken does IT, back-end programming for the Super Style Squad [actually saying, “Beep boop bop,” with Skipper as they hit buttons ^_^ ]. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see a cartoon where all the characters, male and female, take fashion, style, clothing, etc., etc., etc., seriously, and no one shits on it for being trivially feminine. That’s actually kind of revolutionary.

Life in the Dreamhouse would be even better if it ditched its racism and ableism. For example:

  • The cast needs more POC in significant speaking roles besides Nikki.
  • While we’re discussing Nikki, she needs to develop a modicum of personality beyond Sassy Black Friend. For God’s sake, she even does the head jerks and vocal fry so routinely associated with this stereotype. Everyone else has some interest or trait to differentiate them [Teresa’s monkey, Midge’s macrame, Summer’s high energy, Skipper’s use of gadgets, Ryan’s really bad songs], but Nikki has nothing.
  • Furthermore, the show needs to stop using Afros as a visual shorthand for disastrous hairdos. When all characters have shiny, sleek, straight hair and curly, kinky, gravity-defying clouds of natural locks are depicted as the ridiculous punchlines to jokes, people with such curly, kinky hair are derided by extension.
  • The ableism needs to go too. Any use of “lame” as an adjective meaning “bad quality, boring, uninteresting, etc.” should be scratched from the script pronto. Ditto for any appearance of “crazy” for “wild, unusual, strange, exciting” or “cray cray” for same. Just cut it out.
  • In terms of additions, I think that Life in the Dreamhouse would be greatly improved by the appearance of Becky, a photographer friend of Barbie who uses a wheelchair. I mean, c’mon — if they can devote the air time to a running gag on the inadequate single elevator in the Dreamhouse, surely they can devote an episode to its upgrade and Barbie and Becky’s happiness when Becky can finally get to the second floor to see her super-awesome closet, right?

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

How not to write, part seven zillion and two in an infinitely extensible series

How not to write, part seven zillion and two in an infinitely extensible series published on No Comments on How not to write, part seven zillion and two in an infinitely extensible series

Today we’re examining The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. I picked this up because it looked to be in a similar vein as Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, a silly but agreeably diverting series with occasional intelligent grace notes. In fact, Harkness endorsed Barker’s debut novel as "a marvelous plot [with] clever dialogue [and] complex characters…a perfect escape from humdrum reality." I mentally translated this as "fun, shallow escapism" and settled in for some entertainment.

I have not been entertained. Instead, Barker has been providing object lessons in how not to write, here presented for your delectation in no particular order:

1) Spend a significant portion of the book having the protagonist raped and brainwashed, and then forget about it. Nora, a 30-year-old unhappy grad student in English literature, somehow accidentally pierces from this world into the realm of Ye Olde Standarde Faeries: that is, supernatural assholes who appear like beautiful humans but really look disgusting and who enjoy kidnapping humans and messing with their minds. The first 80 pages of the novel detail her transformation into a thoughtless automaton, coerced into a muzzy-headed state of permanent compliance. She is essentially drugged, threatened, gaslighted, forcibly married to Raclin, a draconic fairy prince, raped by Raclin, beaten by Raclin and, finally, terrorized by Raclin’s mom Ilissa until she miscarries. By this point, the reader just wants the torture to end, but no such luck. Aruendiel, a human, male magician, rescues Nora, and we still have about four-fifths of the book left to go.

The remainder of the book, however, doesn’t adequately address the aftermath of Nora’s ordeal. Barker discusses Nora’s physical healing from Raclin’s assault, as well as the disconcerting experience of having a huge amount of fairy glamour lifted from her. We also get a little bit of ambivalence from Nora about having a miscarriage, but that’s about it. We don’t, for example, see Nora angry or ashamed at her seduction, regretful that she has left behind the lap of luxury for a hardscrabble life with Aruendiel, proud that she managed to get out or even frightened that the fairies might come after her. She does not appear to have been emotionally affected by her torture at all. For God’s sake, she shows more impassioned feeling in her discussion with Aruendiel of his language’s sexist deployment of gendered conjugations and declensions than she does about her repeated mental and physical violation at the hands of the fairies.

2) Fail to establish credible antagonists. Of course, the fairies do indeed come after Nora once Aruendiel rescues her; Raclin, in the form of a dragon, chases her on a few separate occasions, but is thwarted when Aruendiel a) pop-flies him into the stratosphere, b) leaves him with a much larger and very pissy lake monster and c) turns him into a rock. Aruendiel’s casual [and silly — seriously, pop-flying him into the stratosphere?] dispatches of Raclin make the prince seem less like a truly threatening abuser and more like an annoying bug. Because Nora and Aruendiel always repulse the fairies, the fairies fail come across as creakingly obvious devices with which to move the plot [such as there is] forward.

3) Use ableist and racist stereotypes in place of character development. In the ableism department, Aruendiel represents one of the most tedious types, the Aloof And Commanding Cripple With A Broken Body, But A Restless Mind, Whose Rudeness And Grimness May Be Excused By His Secret Tragic Past [But It Wasn’t His Fault]. In Aruendiel’s case, he killed his wife because [somehow] he thought this would free her from an enchantment that Ilissa had put on her. Then he was fighting in some war with Ilissa, and he fell out of the sky, broke lots of bones and died, but his friends brought him back to life. He does not, however, think that he was worth reviving. Why are the Tragic Cripples always so whiny and self-pitying?

In the racism department, one of the most interesting characters unfortunately ends up being the most exoticized. Hirizjahkinis, Aruendiel’s friend, is the only female magician in a book where the main culture’s characters think of female magicians as highly improbable, if not impossible. Hirizjahkinis skirts the sexist restrictions of Aruendiel’s society by being a foreigner from some hot, jungle-covered, southerly place [lazy Africa equivalent] with a tradition of female witches. Physically, she is dark-skinned — the only non-white character in the entire book [a fact noted by the white characters] — with her black hair in cornrows. When Nora first meets her, Hirizjahkinis is so exotic and foreign that she wears both a kimono-like robe and a leopard skin over her shoulders. Yes, folks, a leopard skin: the stereotypical sign of a comic-book "jungle girl" or "savage!" Oh yeah, and she’s bisexual — the only non-hetero person in the entire book [also noted by the characters]. Even though she is warm, friendly, patient, competent, unflappable, sexy, badass and clearly the most lively and engaging character in the whole book, Hirizjahkinis suffers from intersectional objectification because, for some reason, Barker thought it acceptable to turn her into an egregious token, the embodiment of all that is different from the straight, white majority in the book.

4) Focus on a vacuous protagonist. I have no idea why Harkness thinks that this book involves "complex characters." They are the least complex I have come across in a long time. The protagonist Nora has no personality whatsoever, and the structure of the book, in which events happen to Nora through no agency of her own, certainly doesn’t help matters. Nora is stalled in her dissertation by her advisor, dumped by her boyfriend, accidentally sucked into another world, abducted and raped by fairies, rescued and healed by Aruendiel, etc., etc., etc., shuttling from one event to another like a pinball being smacked by paddles of plot. It is possible to write a fascinating story about a protagonist who experiences dramatic changes in her life that are outside her control, but this is not that story. Said hypothetical fascinating story requires a protagonist with an interesting inner life whose interpretation of events offers counterpoint and/or insight into the whole structure of the plot. Nora, who apparently has no phenomenological experience whatsoever [see her lack of reaction to her rape], is not that protagonist.

Barker does Nora no favors on the development front by depriving her of a history. Sure, she’s got an ex-boyfriend and a female friend, but we quickly breeze past these people so that Nora may be brainwashed and raped by the fairies. Quick summaries of Nora’s relationship with her ex or an explanation of her friend’s personality provide no revealing details about Nora as a person.

And what about Nora’s family?  Heck, it’s not until two-thirds of the way through the book, when she visits her 10-year-old sister through a two-way scrying spell, that we see that her sister has a shrine to their dead brother and that it now includes a photo of presumed-dead Nora as well. Why didn’t we hear about her little sister and dead brother earlier? Why does Barker pass up a chance to forge significant relationships and thus a bit of individuality for her main character? Why does she withhold such important information about Nora’s dead brother until practically the end of the book, when the reader is so stultified by the pointless plotlessness that they have no energy left to give a shit? The poignant conversation between Nora and her sister, who thinks she might be a ghost, contains more emotional heft than all the pages before it, but apparently leaves no lasting effect. In conclusion, Nora, a character apparently impervious to the effects of life, bores the poop out of me.

4) Tell the wrong story. Barker spends most of her time on a) Nora’s torture in fairyland, b) Nora’s physical recovery from her assault, during which she does a large amount of chores with Aruendiel’s housekeeper, c) Nora’s failed attempts to learn magic and d) her increasing, inexplicable infatuation with Aruendiel. To this, Barker tosses in interminable discussions of human/fairy politics that never seem to impinge upon the plot, scads of silly made-up names ["Hirgus Ext" being a typical example] with no logic behind them [she seems to think that telling the name of everything constitutes convincing worldcraft] and Nora’s continual frustration over the sexism in Aruendiel’s society. If there’s a plot or anything of consequence going on in there, I missed it in the wash of extraneous details.

Meanwhile, there’s a much more interesting thread running through the story: that of the conjunction between magic and death, fairyland and the afterlife. Nora enters fairyland through an abandoned cemetery, and it’s mentioned that she has always liked old graveyards [a fact that’s never enlarged upon]. When she determines how much time has passed in the magic world, she figures that her family must think that she is dead. In her adventures with Aruendiel, she encourages him to bring back to life a young girl. Her interest in life and death takes on new significance when she converses with her little sister and sees herself in the same category as her dead brother: enshrined in absence. Nora has a cautious, curious, mournful relationship with death, which is probably the only interesting thing about her.

Aruendiel does his own dance with death. As a magician, he has used magic enough so that his life has been extended to a few centuries, time enough to see generations of friends and family grow old and die. He has killed a bunch of people, including his own wife, which seems to affect him less than his own death and revivification. Part of him kind of wishes his friends had just let him stay dead, but part of him clearly wishes to keep on living. 

I’d like to hear that story — the tale of how two people so personally invested in death navigate the trials of life — but no. Instead we get the housekeeper teaching Nora how to chop up apples. I stayed up way too late last night, reading this book, waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever did.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Oh, Sleepy Hollow. You are so stupid.

Oh, Sleepy Hollow. You are so stupid. published on 1 Comment on Oh, Sleepy Hollow. You are so stupid.

Just watched the pilot for Fox’s new Sleepy Hollow, which involves Ichabod Crane pulling a Rip Van Winkle, sleeping for 250 years, then teaming up with a WOC police lieutenant, Abby Mills, to stop the Headless Horseman, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. [Previous comments on the trailer here.]

I don’t know where to start on the stupidity, so I’ll just make a list of things that pissed me off, in no particular order:

  • When discussing slavery with Abby, Ichabod gets all huffy and says that he was an early abolitionist. Abby says that slavery has been abolished for 150 years, and Ichabod remarks, “Yet here I am in shackles [= handcuffs].” His defensive comment about his progressive abolitionism and his turning of the entire history of enslaved Africans into a comment on his momentarily restrained state both serve as a perfect example of privileged white people appropriating the marginalization of oppressed people for their own whiny rhetorical purposes.
  • No one seems particularly fussed about Ichabod’s claim that he was alive during the Revolutionary War. The dude giving Ichabod the polygraph test [hi there, Nestor Serrano — nice to see you!] listens to Ichabod’s comments about “the American colonies,” “the Revolution” and “General Washington” and, noting that none of these trigger the polygraph, therefore instantly concludes that Ichabod is from 250 years in the past. Or, you know, he could be a) drugged, b) delusional, c) lying, d) several of the above. A, B, C and D represent much more logical conclusions than a 250-year sleep, but this show clearly demonstrates that it has no use for logic.
  • Ichabod’s wife, Katrina, was burnt at the stake as a witch shortly after the Revolution. This inaccurate bit of backstory, along with the egregiously stupid detail that witches were burnt in Sleepy Hollow up through the 1830s, makes me want to throw things at the TV. Nobody was killed for witchcraft around here after the Salem Witchcraft Trials in 1692, and no one was ever burned at the stake for witchcraft in this country. I can’t stand it when ignorant people try to drag witchcraft trials into centuries where they don’t belong.
  • Abby, like most female protagonists in police procedurals, is an Exceptional Woman with no family, no friends, no colleagues and no support system. Her mentor, Sheriff I-Forget-His-Name, is decapitated within the first third of the pilot. Apparently she grew up in Sleepy Hollow, as she mentions a supernatural experience she had in town with her sister in high school, but we never hear about any family or friends she might have in the area. Characterized as a mentally ill failure who bounces in and out of institutions, Abby’s sister is dismissed by the plot as a useless, unreliable failure. The story thus sets Abby up as isolated and in a perfect position to become dependent on Ichabod, the only person who believes her. I bet they’re going to pair off and fall in love VOMIT VOMIT VOMIT.
  • On a related note, Sleepy Hollow is apparently a single-sex town. The only woman besides Abby with more than two lines is Katrina, a dead damsel in distress who needs Ichabod’s help to be liberated from a dreamland where the antagonists have imprisoned her.
  • As the pilot starts, Abby plans to leave her Sleepy Hollow job for the FBI in a week. She really wants to go, and she claims that she does not want to mess up this opportunity. Her actions, however, tell a different story. Throughout the pilot, she defies her captain’s orders: interrogating Ichabod, bringing him to a crime scene, releasing him from the mental institution under false pretenses, snooping in the sheriff’s office, etc., etc., etc. The captain responds by talking tough and then doing absolutely nothing about Abby’s infractions. At first, I hoped that his de facto leniency would lead to a rare instance in which a police department actually supports a TV character’s investigation of supernatural phenomena, but nah. It’s just sloppy writing, in yet another pointless sacrifice of logic.
  • Could the show have picked a more boring villain? The Four Horsemen are a fine choice, but the show really hampers itself with the decision to amputate the head of one of them. The Headless Horseman literally has no expression, which means he just stomps around, either axing things or shooting things. If the showrunners wanted to show a modicum of inventiveness, they could have employed body language to communicate personality: a raised fist when victory seems imminent, a jaunty twirl of the axe after a successful kill, even an alteration of the gait depending on the circumstances. But no, the Headless Horseman just plods around, hacking things. Booooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiing.
  • The show commits the unforgivable crime of bringing in John Cho to play one of Abby’s fellow officers and a secret agent on the side of the Horseman…and then killing him off at the end of the pilot. This is a multipart offense, consisting of a) gratuitous bumping off of a POC, b) lost opportunity for a cool storyline in which Abby and Ichabod’s efforts are thwarted internally by pro-Horseman forces on the force and c) horrible waste of a talented actor.

So there you go…racism, historical inaccuracy, illogical plot holes, lazy sexist characterization, dull antagonists and more racism. Awesome!

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

SyFy continues its campaign against WOC…

SyFy continues its campaign against WOC… published on No Comments on SyFy continues its campaign against WOC…

…by writing all two regular WOC out of Warehouse 13 in season 4. In 4.10, Artie murders Leena, proprietor of the B&B where Warehouse agents stay. In 4.20, the season finale, Claudia severs the connection between the Warehouse and Mrs. Frederic, the erstwhile caretaker of the Warehouse. Now a normal human being without superpowers, Mrs. Frederic has no plot function, which means that she will not appear in the truncated and final fifth season. Goodbye, token attempts at diversity. Been nice knowin’ ya.

I notice that both black women in Warehouse 13 a) were defined largely by their roles as glorified housekeepers [Mammy alert! Mammy alert!] and b) deprived of their power by white people. I can’t believe that no one involved with the show said, "Hey, why are we deleting all the WOC? What’s wrong with us? Let’s examine our show for some fucking racism!"

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Warehouse 13 continues to hate characters of color.

Warehouse 13 continues to hate characters of color. published on No Comments on Warehouse 13 continues to hate characters of color.

In The Ones You Love, Artie, while split into Good and Evil Artie, kills Leena, a WOC and series regular who, though having been around for 3.5 seasons, has yet to receive a last name or any other characterization beyond "B&B owner" and "tool of McPherson." 

Two episodes later, in The Living and the Dead, despite the existence of multiple artifacts that can bring people back to life, Leena is still dead. However, no one gives a shit, except insofar as her death causes angst to a white man [Artie]. In fact, she appears in Artie’s subconscious as an essentially vacuous prop to demonstrate the painful reality from which he’s shielding himself. Claudia and Steve exercise themselves mightily over drawing Artie out from his subconscious, paying no attention to Leena except as a tragic figment of his imagination. Who cares about the black woman?

In the next episode, Parks and Rehabilitation, Artie stands on tribunal in front of the Regents, who decide to reinstate him as head of Warehouse 13 because Saul Rubinek has an ongoing contract with the SyFy network the plot must go on. The head Regent explains that Artie was kind of possessed by an evil version of himself, so he’s morally blameless. He also says that "Leena was a valued member of the team" and that "she knew the risks." 

I buy neither statement. First, Evil Artie was in fact Artie, just a concentrated version of those thoughts and feelings that he censors in his attempt to be a good, kind person. As a part of Artie, Evil Artie is indeed under Artie’s jurisdiction and part of his responsibility. No matter what the show wants me to believe, Artie willingly, knowingly and with malice aforethought murdered Leena.

Second, if Leena was such a "valued member of the team," why the hell do we never see her doing anything but being victimized and keeping house in the background? And why the hell couldn’t the Regents refer to her by her full name?

Oh right, it’s because she’s a cardboard Mammy. :[

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

In case you didn’t suspect…

In case you didn’t suspect… published on No Comments on In case you didn’t suspect…

…Poorly Dressed is racist. Also classist and sexist. It’s a site on the Cheezburger network that mocks “seriously questionable style moments.” They derive a lot of their mockery from the fantastic things that women of color do with their hair.

In a textbook example, a WOC who sculpted an Easter basket out of her hair + weave got trashed. She [or her hairdresser] demonstrated amazing creativity and ingenuity to create an eye-catching work of art that then got shit on by the Intertubez, where commenters characterized her as a cheap, tacky, “ghetto” person with no sense of style. Basically she was vilified for being a WOC whose hairstyle [e.g., using a weave] is associated with poor and working class women.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Sy Fy: exterminating all characters of color

Sy Fy: exterminating all characters of color published on No Comments on Sy Fy: exterminating all characters of color

Last year, I observed that Sy Fy hates women of color. I would like to extend this observation by saying that the network is clearly involved in an eliminationist campaign against all characters of color in its shows.

I say this because I recently watched the season 3 finale of Haven, who follows the adventures of Audrey Parker, whose reincarnations are somehow tied to the waxing and waning of the supernatural Troubles in Haven, Maine. The season follows Audrey, Nathan [love interest] and Duke [fifth wheel] as they track the serial killer du jour and learn more about Audrey’s past lives. Wheeee.

Season 3 blatantly demonstrates the show’s structural racism in its disposal of men of color. A black man, Tommy Bowen, appears early on as a detective from Boston with a personal interest in catching the Bolt Gun Killer [BGC — serial killer du jour]. He hangs around, making skeptical quips about the Troubles and generally not doing anything, until about halfway through the season. At that point, it is revealed that he is the BGC, or, more accurately, the shapeshifting BGC killed him several weeks before this discovery and has been pretending to be him for a while. So basically the showrunners went to all that trouble of developing a character of color, giving him a name, backstory, arc and significance…solely for the purpose of killing him off. Since the same thing happened to Evie Crocker in season 2 and since there are practically no other named, recurring, developed characters of color on the show [with one exception — see below], it’s very clear that the show runners hate people of color.

My worst fears about Sy Fy’s eliminationist program were confirmed in the season 3 finale of Haven. Another man of color, Agent Howard, reappears after an extended absence. Originally introduced as Audrey’s supervising agent, he is the person who originally sends her to Haven in the pilot. He is apparently orchestrating events behind the scenes with his mysterious magical powers, as we see him occasionally in the ensuing few seasons, but we know very little about him.

Anyway, in the finale, we finally learn [SPOILERS!!!!!] that he functions as the ageless guardian of the Barn, a magical recharging station into which Audrey is supposed to disappear every 27 years so that the Troubles may temporarily stop. Audrey, Nathan and Duke try to get explanations from him, but Agent Howard remains firm that Audrey has to go into the Barn to stop the Troubles; there’s no other way. Well, unless Audrey wants to kill the person she loves [Nathan], which would end the troubles forever.

Audrey doesn’t wish to do that, so she enters the Barn anyway to at least give Haven a 27-year respite from supernatural hell. Nathan, upset, reacts by shooting Howard [part of an incredibly stupid gunfight], bringing the total of significant secondaries who die during this episode to four. And the Black Guy Bites It, disappearing into shards of light along with the Barn. Audrey spends so much time trying to combat the Troubles, but she never notices the most deleterious one of all: the racist vortices of death that inevitably suck in all characters of color who come to Haven.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

The problem with the Beautiful Creatures series summarized in one vignette

The problem with the Beautiful Creatures series summarized in one vignette published on No Comments on The problem with the Beautiful Creatures series summarized in one vignette

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have collaborated on an exhaustive quaternary of YA Southern Gothic romances, the Beautiful Creatures trilogy. There was some interesting stuff going on in the first book [although I’m still not sure what happened during the climax], as well as a vivid, if rather stereotypical, setting, so I kept reading.

Recently I plowed through the last installment, Beautiful Redemption, which had significantly less plot, character development and complexity than the previous three episodes. I’ve been detecting all along Garcia and Stohl’s strangely uncomplicated and idealized portrait of the southern US, but one moment in Beautiful Redemption encapsulated all that was problematic about the series.

Toward the end of the novel, [white] protagonist Ethan has come back from limbo and reunited with his [white] angstball girlfriend Lena and his other supporters. Ethan asks his [white] friend Link what Amma [a literal Magic Negro + Mammy twofer who acts as Ethan’s maternal figure, then ultimately sacrifices her life for his] was talking about when she mentioned that she caught Link doing something shameful in the cellar when he was young.  Link explains that Amma caught him dressing up in a Civil War uniform. The uniform did not belong to the Confederate ancestors of which his family was so proud, but to some acquaintance’s Union ancestors.

Garcia and Stohl write [pp. 440-441]:

I burst out laughing, and within seconds so did Link. No one else at the table understood the sin in a Southern boy — with a father who led the Confederate Cavalry in the Reenactment of the Battle of Honey Hill, and a mother who was a proud member of the Sisters of the Confederacy — trying on a Civil War uniform for the opposing side. You had to be from Gatlin.

It was one of those unspoken truths, like you don’t make a pie for the Wates because it won’t be better than Amma’s; you don’t sit in front of Sissy Honeycutt in church because she talks the whole time right along with the preacher; and you don’t choose the paint color for your house without consulting Mrs. Lincoln, not unless your name happens to be Lila Evers Wate.

Gatlin was like that.

It was family, all of it and all of them — the good parts and the bad.

Right there the authors trivialize an entire history of racism, slavery, sexism, cruelty and oppression by equating support of it to talking in church or painting one’s home without talking to one’s neighbors first. It’s just a harmless peculiarity, a peccadillo, that causes Ethan to feel uncritically jubilant and nostalgic about his hometown. While he does acknowledge "the good parts and the bad" at the end of this quote, his laughter demonstrates that, while he may struggle with the made-up Southern history of mortals vs. magicians, the ominous real Southern history of torture, war and suffering bothers him very little.

Way to go, Garcia and Stohl. Thanks so much for, among other bilge, perpetuating the myth that the United States is a "post-racial society."

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

“Do they know it’s Christmas?”: how about “Do you know you’re racist?”

“Do they know it’s Christmas?”: how about “Do you know you’re racist?” published on No Comments on “Do they know it’s Christmas?”: how about “Do you know you’re racist?”

This Band Aid stinker is the most colonialist, objectifying, racist, condescending piece of shit ever. I mean, seriously. African people experiencing hunger, starvation and food insecurity are even explicitly referred to as "the other ones," thus distanced and separated from the ostensible audience of the song, which is privileged [non-African] listeners from colonizing countries who have enough to eat. I understand that the song is trying to contrast the want of some people with the plenty of others, but the words that the lyricists use make the people in need sound practically subhuman.

I also really love how an entire continent is portrayed as a miserable monolith. No one’s ever happy — "…the only water flowing / Is a bitter sting of tears" — in part because the weather’s rotten ["that burning sun"] all the time. The entire landmass is apparently omitted from the water cycle, as there are no rivers there…or any precipitation, for that matter. Most tragically of all, everyone on the continent has no idea what date it is because they suffer a grievous calendar shortage.

Of course, the song portrays the solution to this dire lack of date tracking as colonialism: "Let them know it’s Christmas time and / Feed the world." Yeah, have a sudden attack of white guilt and throw food at those ignorant people down there…or at least throw money. Your donations will magically function as a civilizing process that will turn them into devout Christians who can tell time and appropriately worship Our Lord and Savior the Son of God Capitalism.

Holy shit, that’s a wretched song.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

I blame the Knights of Columbus.

I blame the Knights of Columbus. published on No Comments on I blame the Knights of Columbus.

The elevator in the office building is not working. The elevator company can't fix it until the close of business today or the start of business tomorrow.


This is all the Knights of Columbus' fault. They're the assholes who pestered FDR to make Kill Indigenous Peoples Day a federal holiday in 1934, which is why the elevator company was off today in the first place.

The world is pissing me off today.

Followup on Tiger Lily’s death toll

Followup on Tiger Lily’s death toll published on No Comments on Followup on Tiger Lily’s death toll

When I first wrote about Jodi Anderson's tedious slog of a novel Tiger Lily, I predicted that Pine Sap, Disabled Stereotype Extraordinaire, was going to die.

Now, having finished the book [give me a medal for endurance], I would like to apologize. I'm sorry. I was wrong. Pine Sap does not die. Instead, he becomes Tiger Lily's Consolation Prize Husband after Peter leaves Neverland to grow up in the UK as Wendy's husband. [I'm not gonna even go into how narratively wrong that is.] Pine Sap's status as Permanent Runner-up is not at all an improvement over my assumption that he would be the Tragic Dead Guy. He's still portrayed as inherently pathetic and not as awesome as Peter because of his disability.

So guess who dies? Tik Tok. Yes, Tiger Lily's adoptive dad bites it. On insistence from a shipwrecked "Englander," the Sky Eaters force Tik Tok to change his gender presentation and wear men's clothes. He loses his spirit and commits suicide as an instructive object lesson to Tiger Lily about what happens when you try to deny your true self.

Really, Anderson? You're gonna go with the Tragic Dead Queer trope? You realize it's a fucking evil stereotype, right?

…No, apparently you don't. Boy, you really do have shit for brains.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: offensive AND boring

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: offensive AND boring published on 1 Comment on Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: offensive AND boring

Peter Pan was published in 1911 by the British author J.M. Barrie, based on a 1904 play called Peter and Wendy. It’s the story about three British kids, Wendy, John and Michael, who go to the Neverland of their imaginations. There they have adventures with pirates, mermaids, wild animals, lost boys and, of course, the boy who wouldn’t grow up: Peter Pan.

The concept of Peter Pan and the crude outlines of the story have exerted a fascination over US and British readers for more than a century. Thanks to Disney’s 1953 animated adaptation, most US fans have rather superficial ideas about Peter Pan, chiefly involving flying, fairy dust, pirates and maybe a crocodile. Naturally, the play and the novel are much messier and more interesting than our cliched ideas about them.

Having read Peter Pan many, many times, I could provide you with rants on everything from the authorial interruptions to the treatment of female characters, but right now I am focusing on the Indians. Yeah, there are Indians in Neverland. They are members of the Pickaninny tribe, referred to by that narrator as “red men,” and they scalp people. I am not making this up; Barrie specifically writes that the name of the Indians’ group is a racist term for African-American people. Furthermore, the Indians have silly nature-related names like “Great Big Little Panther.” They also talk like stereotypical Japanese people who can’t pronounce their Rs. In short, the Indians are a horrible farrago of Edwardian racist stereotypes, which kind of makes sense, if you figure that Neverland is populated by Wendy, Michael and John’s ideas of Indians gleaned from idealized and disparaging media they have consumed.

The only Indian in Peter Pan to develop something like an individual personality is Tiger Lily. Described as the trite Ice Maiden who “staves off the altar with a hatchet,” she is beautiful, imperious and aloof to all potential suitors. For some reason, though, she has a rather pathetic crush on Peter, declaring, “Me his velly nice friend.” [See what I mean about the stereotypical broken English?] Her major scene occurs when Smee and Starkey kidnap her, but untie her at Peter’s orders, as they think he is Captain Hook. Tiger Lily does the smart thing and immediately jumps off Smee and Starkey’s boat and swims away to freedom. Other than that, though, she’s a barely personalized bit of scenery.

One hundred years after Barrie published the original novel, Jodi Lynn Anderson decided to vomit forth her revisionist response entitled Tiger Lily. In this version, narrated by an observant but mostly uninvolved Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily is merely referred to as a “native,” a member of the Sky Eater tribe. A teenager, she lives with her adoptive father, the cross-dressing shaman Tik Tok, and excels at “masculine” pursuits and suppressing her emotions. She meets Peter Pan and falls in love with him, an experience that, of course, feminizes and gentles her. [I fucking hate that trope.] Her impending marriage to a cruel lout, as well as the arrival of Wendy, John and Michael, messes everything up. Angst ensues. As far as I can tell, this is a cheap attempt to capitalize on the paranormal romance subgenre by employing, for no discernible reason, the trappings of a previous author’s universe.

As soon as I heard about Anderson’s book, I began to cringe. Why is she so interested in rehabilitating stereotyped Indians? What makes her think she has the authority to tell Tiger Lily’s story? Why do we need yet another white author with no native connections treating the Indians of Peter Pan like shit? [I’m serious. In all sequels and adaptations of the story that I’ve read or read about, the Indians fare extremely poorly. Please check Debbie Reese’s “Peter Pan” and “Peter Pan in Scarlet” tags on American Indians in Children’s Literature for details. Reese is an author and activist tribally enrolled in Nambe Pueblo (New Mexico), and she knows what she’s talking about.] The answer to these three questions appears to be 1) no idea, 2) absolutely nothing and 3) we don’t. Yet Anderson forges ahead.

I decided to give Tiger Lily a chance, though. I was right – it is cringeworthy and terrible. The persistently clueless portrayal of the Sky Eaters combines with the talentless writing to create a literary disaster.

This book is so bad that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start, for want of a better place, with the subject of consistency. All of the “native” tribes of Neverland appear to be named after their location – the Bog Dwellers and the Cliff Dwellers, for example – except for Tiger Lily’s tribe, the Sky Eaters. Why aren’t they named after their location as the Forest Dwellers? What’s this irrelevant business about the sky and eating it? Here’s just one clue of many that Anderson hasn’t thought her world through.

The Sky Eaters behave like a loose collection of Native American stereotypes. They live in huts; they have a medicine man, Tik Tok, even though he is called a shaman, who heals people and works magic; they wear deerskin clothes; they have long black hair and high cheekbones; many of their names follow the stereotype of Literally Translated Natural Phenomenon; they worship many gods or spirits…argle bargle bargle. Despite this, they don’t seem to have any culture. Anderson will often add asides about the Sky Eaters’ marriage customs, religious beliefs or bathing habits, but we never see these things affecting the characters’ actions or the development of the plot. Tiger Lily’s little village, populated by the Loving Adoptive Dad, the Disabled Kid With a Crush on Her, the Teen Exemplar of Femininity, the Evil Suitor, the Evil Suitor’s Mom and Various Uncomprehending and Gossipy Tertiaries, could appear in any other setting without a problem. It’s a thoroughly generic story and a thoroughly generic setting, which Anderson only gestures at making specific. And, unfortunately, her idea of making the Sky Eaters specific involves tossing them into a pit of Indian stereotypes.

Even though I’m only halfway through, I’m dogged by the sense that Anderson is telling the wrong story. As I mentioned, the depiction of Tiger Lily and the other Sky Eaters is so vacuous as to deter sympathy, identification and investment in Tiger Lily’s experiences. Furthermore, Tiger Lily and Peter Pan have a tediously formulaic Forbidden and Doomed Love piece of crap going on, which is also boring. I’m much more interested in…well, basically anyone except them. For instance, what’s Tik Tok’s history? How does Pine Sap [Disabled Kid with a Crush on Tiger Lily] feel about being a sensitive, thoughtful butt of tribal jokes? What’s the relationship between Smee and Hook? Why does Tink have a crush on Peter? Where the hell are all the other faeries anyway? Where’s the magic?

Neverland holds such a grip on our imaginations because it’s a problematic, messy, dangerous, powerful place. Anderson commits a crime against fiction by sticking it somewhere in the Atlantic, leaching out the magic and populating it with racist and sexist cliches that wouldn’t grow up.

P.S. I just know that Pine Sap is going to die. The disabled character always bites it in this kind of ableist tripe.

I am deeply disappointed, Warehouse 13.

I am deeply disappointed, Warehouse 13. published on No Comments on I am deeply disappointed, Warehouse 13.

I enjoy Warehouse 13 as an entertaining time-passer with engaging interplay between the main characters. I do not enjoy irrelevant racism in my escapist fare.

For some reason, ep 4.5, No Pain, No Gain, kicked off with Myka and Claudia in yellowface geisha drag over in Japan, where two stereotypes were seated at a kotatsu. The Japanese stereotype invoked Ancient Oriental Mythology and spoke broken English like, well, a Japanese stereotype. The Middle Eastern stereotype forked over the proverbial briefcase of cash for a magical artifact, but, interestingly enough, he was unable to speak. Myka and Claudia nabbed the artifact and returned home with heads full of Japanese stereotypes. Why do people do this lazy shit? Do they think it’s funny? It’s so contemptible.

Are you kidding me?

Are you kidding me? published on No Comments on Are you kidding me?

[Thanks to Sparky at Racialicious.]

This “reverse discrimination” bullshit got funded?! WHY?

Re plot summary: SNORE. Also…saddest song, smallest violin.

P.S. I’ve started swearing in my LJ again. There’s too much bullshit in the world that needs calling out as such.

EDIT: Wow, it gets worse. First off, the author says that she wrote this bullshit because anti-gay bigots need to “to feel, through the love story of Chris and Carmen, the wrenching horror of being denied the person you love.” Yeah, somehow, reading about a persecuted straight couple will make anti-gay bigots more sympathetic to queers. Given that many anti-gay bigots believe that they are personally being persecuted right here and now by the “homosexual agenda,” I doubt that a book making queers the majority will promote empathy in said anti-gay bigots. They’d read it as a cautionary tale of what will happen to this civilization if we let those evil queers have their so-called “rights.” No, Preble, your book does not challenge anti-gay bigotry. It supports anti-gay bigotry.

Second of all, she thinks she’s some sort of fearless crusader with a message from “the Universe” to “[l]ive your truth.” Hey, Preble…your truth is that you’re full of heteronormative privilege. Also self-aggrandizing bullshit.

Third, she’s laboring under the misconception that her book is “LGBT fiction.” News flash for the clueless — in order to be classified as “LGBT fiction,” your book has to feature some lesbian and/or gay and/or bisexual and/or trans characters as sympathetically portrayed individuals whose experiences are worth sharing. You can’t just write a story  with some lesbian and/or gay and/or bi and/or trans characters who function not as characters, but as poorly wielded anvils to hammer home the Important Theme [tm] that Anti-Gay Bigotry Is Wrong. “LGBT” fiction requires valuing, promoting and centering various varieties of “LGBT” experiences, which Preble obviously can’t do.

Fourth and most disgustingly, Preble feeds us some argle-bargle about writing this book in support of her gay son. Jesus Christ, if she really wished to support her son, why didn’t she help to organize her local city’s Pride celebration, join PFLAG, staff the fundraising phones at a marriage equality organization [since that’s one of her pet causes]? At least do something directly related to queers. As mind-blowing as it may be to hear this, Preble, writing about straight people does not further the cause of queer civil rights. In fact, it just reinforces the broad societal assumption that the only stories worth telling are heteronormative ones. Get it? You’re not helping. Shut up; bug off, and stop colonizing my subgenre. We don’t want you here.

I can’t expect Preble to get it, though. Her brain is so stuffed with straight privilege that there’s no room for any critical thought. I mean, look — she apparently doesn’t think queers exist. She addresses her blog audience [and putative readership] as follows: “If the way you are, ie, attracted to people of the opposite sex, was criminalized, how would you feel?”

Three things, Preble: 1) You appear to be operating under the strange and old-fashioned notion that sexes have “opposites,” a concept that is both factually incorrect and incoherent. What do you even mean here?

2) I AIN’T STRAIGHT. I am not attracted to people of the “opposite” sex. Amazing, huh? Not everyone in the world is just like you.

3) It ain’t a conditional for me. The way I am is criminalized in some places, maybe not where I live, but elsewhere. Though I might have certain freedoms that people in more restricted places do not, we all suffer from the same societal biases. Don’t tell me and others like me that our lives are speculative fiction. You don’t get to dictate my reality.

Oh wait…I have a fourth thing. 4) I read your sample chapter of this book, and you can’t write for shit.

Big Chief Studios does 1:6 Doctor Who characters!

Big Chief Studios does 1:6 Doctor Who characters! published on 8 Comments on Big Chief Studios does 1:6 Doctor Who characters!

Big Chief Studios currently has Eleven out, with Amy Pond coming and Ten waiting for approval. As much as I'd love to get a 1:6 scale Ten, two things stop me. 1) The prototype is a great likeness of David Tennant as Ten, but he looks like he's been hit with a surprise bout of the runs. He should be smirking confidently, not looking as if something ambushed him. Nothing surprises the Doctor! 2) The company's very name and logo [a red dot wearing a stylized "Plains headdress"] reek of racism. I can't support that bigotry. Pity, as they have decent-looking dolls.

Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism!

Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism! published on 1 Comment on Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism!

Grimm is back for a second season, and it's still incredibly stupid. The latest episode, Bad Moon Rising, follows our protagonist, police detective Nick, as he chases a gang of coyote Wesen [= therianthropes]. The gang leader kidnaps his teenaged niece, Carlie, who, along with her parents, left the pack when she was very young. The gang leader plans to rape Carlie, as is apparently customary for coyote Wesen to increase the numbers of their pack.

Continue reading Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism!

Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]…

Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]… published on 2 Comments on Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]…

The default shading colors for its 3-D digital human models make the people look Caucasian. Like this:

Continue reading Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]…

Let’s play a game.

Let’s play a game. published on No Comments on Let’s play a game.

I’ll say a phrase, and you tell me the first words that come to your mind.

Okay? Ready? Here we go:

“Lesbian vampire erotica.”

Continue reading Let’s play a game.

Update on the NYT’s anti-trans, anti-WOC poo-flinging

Update on the NYT’s anti-trans, anti-WOC poo-flinging published on 1 Comment on Update on the NYT’s anti-trans, anti-WOC poo-flinging

I couldn't use the NYT's form to send a message directly to the reporter who wrote that horrible article about trans women of color on Christopher Street, so I E-mailed the public editor, the executive editor and the president with the following:

I’m writing to express my disgust with Sarah Nir’s July 24th article about trans women of color on Christopher Street: “For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage.”

This article is just as revolting as the NYT's coverage of Lorena Escalera's death.

Do you seriously think it's acceptable to refer to the trans women of color in the article as "exotic…parakeets?" The term "exotic" is just a racist dogwhistle for "different and, therefore, unacceptable." Meanwhile, comparing women to birds dehumanizes them in a dismissive, sexist way. Thanks a lot for perpetuating the oppression and bigotry aimed at trans people and/or people of color, especially women!

I urge you to write about trans women and/or women of color with respect, treating them as equal human beings. Given the NYT's track record, though, I doubt this will occur.

EDIT: I just alerted GLAAD's Aaron McQuade, Director of News and Field Media, about the NYT's poo-flinging. I did this because he was the one who wrote on GLAAD's site about the NYT's poo-flinging at Lorena Escalera. Also going to submit an incident report on GLAAD's site.

Ready to read!!

Ready to read!! published on No Comments on Ready to read!!

I’m ready to read Nalo Hopkinson’s entire oeuvre! Partly because Midnight Robber sounds awesome [and has a cover apparently drawn by my favorite illustrators, Leo and Diane Dillon] and partly because I need an antidote to all those stories that treat Voudun like a lazy trashcan stereotype for “primitive evil magic.” [I’m looking at you, Chasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber, for just one of innumerable examples.]

The local library even has some of her books available for borrowing. Very surprising, given that Vermont is like the second whitest state in the nation.

EDIT: Oh no, Leo Dillon is dead! No more beautiful collaborations.

Racism and dehumanization in a biography of Millie and Christine McKoy

Racism and dehumanization in a biography of Millie and Christine McKoy published on No Comments on Racism and dehumanization in a biography of Millie and Christine McKoy

I've been reading Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: The Remarkable Journey of Siamese [sic] Twins from Slavery to the Courts of Europe, by Joanne Martell. It's a biography of conjoined twins Millie and Christine McKoy, who were born into slavery in North Carolina in 1851. Owned/Managed by a variety of people during their lifetimes, they toured with sideshows in both the U.S. and Great Britain as singers and dancers. They died in 1912.

Continue reading Racism and dehumanization in a biography of Millie and Christine McKoy

NYT digs its own grave on coverage of Lorena Escalera

NYT digs its own grave on coverage of Lorena Escalera published on No Comments on NYT digs its own grave on coverage of Lorena Escalera

Earlier this week, I fired off an enraged letter to one of the authors of a NYT article about the death by suspicious fire of Lorena Escalera, a trans woman of color. The article was a vile cesspit of sexism, transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, bias against sex workers, stereotypes, objectification, dehumanization, othering and probably many other forms of bigotry that I am not currently picking up on.

The NYT responded to the criticism with vacuous, unsympathetic justifications that positively reeked of unexamined privilege. GLAAD analyzed the paper's response, accurately describing many of its shortcomings. I should note that the GLAAD critique does not, however, recognize the NYT's bias against sex workers in the article about Escalera.

If the NYT really wanted to, as it claimed, "capture the personal [story]" of Escalera, why didn't it do what most writers of articles about dead people do and incorporate information from people who actually knew her? Some people among her social circle of friends, family members and fellow performers at the House of Xtravaganza would have provided comments on what they remembered her for and how much they missed her. Instead of interviewing the neighborhood ignoramuses who had no respect for Escalera as a woman or as a person, the NYT should have sought out quotes from people who saw her as she was: a fellow individual deserving respect. But no…the paper merely perpetuated multiple axes of oppression by selecting a narrative of dehumanization.

Transmisogyny in the New York Times

Transmisogyny in the New York Times published on No Comments on Transmisogyny in the New York Times

Wow, the NYT is the gift that keeps on giving.

Lorena Escalera, 25, died in a suspicious fire in Brooklyn, NY, last weekend, and the NYT was much more interested in her body, her clothing, how sexy her neighbors thought she was, her trans identity, her occupation as a sex worker and her participation in the House of Xtravaganza performing troupe and other details not directly relevant to the case.

Pam's House Blend pointed out just a few of the problems in the coverage here.

I sent a form E-mail to one of the article's authors, Al Baker, containing the following:

Your coverage of this story is sexist, transmisogynist and generally disgusting. Your inclusion of Escalera's trans identity is irrelevant to the tragedy of her death by suspicious fire. You add insult to injury by quoting a neighbor who misgenders her. Furthermore, the details about Escalera's appearance and sex life add nothing to the story, except to reinforce the stereotype of trans women as objectified prostittutes. The dehumanization exemplified in this coverage directly contributes to the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of trans and gender-variant people every year. We deserve better.

Racism towards Nepalese pedicurists in New York City

Racism towards Nepalese pedicurists in New York City published on 1 Comment on Racism towards Nepalese pedicurists in New York City

The NYT writes about Nepalese pedicurists practicing in New York City. These people, almost all women, face challenges if they move to the US. Some Nepalese women decide to go into the salon industry because licensure is affordable and relatively quick. When it comes to pedicures, however, some newly minted Nepalese salon workers balk:

Women in Nepal, especially Hindus, touch only their husbands’ or parents’ feet as a sign of respect, said Tara Niraula, an advocate of immigrants’ rights and a former administrator at the New School who was born in Nepal and is considered an expert on Nepalis in New York. To touch strangers’ feet is to show deference they have not earned, Dr. Niraula said, and to label oneself as low-class, or at least lower than the person whose feet are being handled.

A pedicure customer reacts to this cultural aversion with surprise and the following response: “You would think she was born to do this.”

Wow, how insulting. The customer's comment dismisses the salon employee's choices and hard work, not to mention the cultural differences and bigotry she endures. Instead, the economically privileged customer naturalizes a brown woman genuflecting in servitude before her by saying that the salon employee's skills seem innate. It's a subtle form of objectification that takes part of the same racist assumption that people of certain colors are just meant to be enslaved.

Appropriation of POC’s experience in Grimm

Appropriation of POC’s experience in Grimm published on No Comments on Appropriation of POC’s experience in Grimm

In the most recent ep of Grimm, Big Feet, a Wesen, or human that can change into a therianthropic form, has been killing people. Monroe, a Blutbad Vesen and friend of Nick [who is a police detective and protagonist of the show], harbors Larry, the killer Wesen, in his house. Larry is injured, but Monroe does not wish to take him to the hospital because then people will recognize him as a semi-human creature and persecute him. "I don't want crosses burning on my yard," Monroe explains to Nick.

No! Grimm does not get to appropriate the real-life terrorism experienced by African-Americans and apply it to fictional bestial characters, especially when the fictional characters are played by straight white men. The show might think that it's being clever by giving a historical resonance to the treatment of Wesen, but it's not. It's using the lived experience of thousands of people as a rhetorical gesture, a shorthand for persecution. That disrespects the violence and suffering that African-Americans have endured in real life and implicitly dismisses their lives as figments of imagination.

Thanks for Fangs for the Fantasy for alerting me to this phenomenon, which is a continuing problem for the series.

Yo, is this racist?

Yo, is this racist? published on No Comments on Yo, is this racist?

I just looked up impetus on to verify that the plural is impetuses. [It is.] For a quote that used the word in a sentence, the dictionary provided this shining gem by the horrendous bilgewhacker D.H. Lawrence:

"While the white man keeps the impetus of his own proud, onward march, the dark races will yield and serve, perforce. But let the white man once have a misgiving about his own leadership, and the dark races will at once attack him, to pull him down into the old gulfs."

Apparently this comes from a 1920s novel by Lawrence entitled The Plumed Serpent. Stupid condescending crap from the main character Kate.

Maybe the quote generator should exclude bigoted tripe, huh?

P.S. The title of this entry comes from Yo, Is this Racist?, a hilarious [and ableist] Q&A blog.

Victim blaming in the Robert Bales serial killing case

Victim blaming in the Robert Bales serial killing case published on 1 Comment on Victim blaming in the Robert Bales serial killing case

So Sergeant Robert Bale killed 16 Afghan civilians when he was on tour in Afghanistan. And apparently his associates can’t believe it. They’re so sad for him.

In a New York Times article, At Home, Asking How “Our Bobby” Became War Crime Suspect, they’re truly shocked — I mean SHOCKED!!

Michelle Caddell, 48, who knew Sergeant Bales when he was growing up, watched a video clip of the news over and over and over again, mesmerized by disbelief. “I wanted to see, maybe, a different face,” she said, fighting back tears. “Because that’s not our Bobby. Something horrible, horrible had to happen to him.”

The article delves into Bale’s past, decribing his promising beginnings, glossing over a civilian assault, addressing Bale’s family’s financial problems and wondering about post-combat PTSD. Portraying Bale as a sad victim of external pressures, the article pities him. Poor white, cis, hetero guy! Look at what was done to him!

The narratives of shock and disbelief prevent the article from showing Bale as someone who committed  a horrible crime. They prevent his white, cis, hetero, military male privilege from being interrogated and criticized. They stir up the old fallacies driven into our heads by this rape culture of ours: “He’s such a nice guy; he couldn’t do something like that. Maybe the so-called victims somehow deserved it.”

Our culture needs to get over the “nice [straight, white] guy” myth. It’s getting in the way of important discussions about and changes that need to occur regarding the ills of hegemonic US masculinity, the mental health of military personnel, just what the hell we’re doing over there in Afghanistan anyway and how justice will be served for the 16 people that Bales murdered!

Johnny Depp as Tonto in the upcoming Lone Ranger movie

Johnny Depp as Tonto in the upcoming Lone Ranger movie published on No Comments on Johnny Depp as Tonto in the upcoming Lone Ranger movie

Native Appropriations says it better than I can. Johnny Depp as Tonto in the 2013 Lone Ranger film gets his look straight from a non-Native artist, Kirby Sattler, who basically admits to going for stereotypes and stuff he pulled out of his ass because he was a lazy person full of unexamined prejudice. [Sattler: "…I attempt to give the paintings an authentic appearance, provoke interest, satisfy my audience’s sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy." Shorter Sattler: "Stereotypes are easier than research. They look better too!"] Yet another opportunity to cast a Native actor or create an interesting, nuanced portrayal of a Native character goes down the toilet in a swirl of racism.

Work It is a racist turd.

Work It is a racist turd. published on 2 Comments on Work It is a racist turd.

Besides being horrible for reasons I enumerated previously in my first two entries about Work It [1, 2], ABC's comedy about two men impersonating women to get sales jobs, the show is also racist as heck. Arturo of Racialicious discusses the show's racist crack about Puerto Ricans automatically being good at selling drugs, how this line has stirred criticism around the country and how the star who said the line has not responded at all. ABC, cancel this rotten mess!

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit. published on No Comments on Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I’ve collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order…here they are…
Continue reading Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

I hate Lifetime Xmas movies.

I hate Lifetime Xmas movies. published on No Comments on I hate Lifetime Xmas movies.

They all contain female protagonists who are over the hill at my age >:( [Eve’s Xmas] and who learn the true, fulfilling value of heterosexual marriage through the intervention of unrealistic “meet cutes” [His and Hers Xmas] or Magical Wise Negro fairy godfathers. Vomit vomit vomit. They’re sort of fascinating in a stomach-churning sort of way.

If you’re racist when angry, you’re a racist all the time!

If you’re racist when angry, you’re a racist all the time! published on 1 Comment on If you’re racist when angry, you’re a racist all the time!

Tami says it succinctly and well on Racialicious. Some people, including those that I’ve been friends with, seem to think that racism or any other prejudice that comes out in anger represents a deviation from their normal character. However, I agree with Tami that pressure shows what a person is truly made of. If racism comes out of you when you are angry, you have shown yourself to be a true racist. No ifs, ands or protestations.

Mick Jagger in yellowface

Mick Jagger in yellowface published on 1 Comment on Mick Jagger in yellowface

As part of the 1982 program Faerie Tale Theater, Mick Jagger [yes, that Mick Jagger] starred in an episode entitled The Nightingale, in which he donned fingernail extensions, a fake ponytail, heavy eyeshadow and general yellowface in order to play "the emperor of all Cathay." Ever since I heard of its existence at least 20 years ago, I’ve been wanting to see this ep just because the conjunction of Mick Jagger + Faerie Tale Theater seems incongruously silly. After 10 minutes of viewing, I can report that Mick Jagger as the emperor is indeed incongruously silly, and the whole setting comes across as a load of exoticized, racist, pseudo-Chinese, stereotypical shit. My curiosity of over 20 years has been satisfied, and I’m disappointed.

“Voodoo is evil…or silly…or both.”

“Voodoo is evil…or silly…or both.” published on 1 Comment on “Voodoo is evil…or silly…or both.”

Disney’s upcoming animated pile of bull hooey, The Princess and the Frog, apparently takes my subject line as a thesis.

The film concerns two characters, Tiana and Naveen, who are turned into frogs by the powers of one Dr. Facilier, described by Naveen as “a dastardly witch doctor.” We can tell he’s evil because he wears skull makeup and also because he’s drawn in the pointy, angular tradition of Jafar, the elongated and sharp villain from Aladdin. He even has the same pencil mustache, so you KNOW he’s up to no good.

To revert to their human form, Tiana and Naveen must seek the help of Mama Odi, one of those stupid fat bouncy stereotypes who needs an Jive-to-English translator and apparently lives in a swamp with dancing alligators. Or maybe she is a a dancing alligator. The trailers are unclear on this point.

So, on the one hand, we have Dr. Facilier, who’s just a cheap version of the Haitian Voodoo loa Baron Samedi. Anyone who bothers to investigate Baron Samedi a bit will discover that he’s a lecherous, tricksy boozehound with a dapper flair and powers of life, death, rebirth and sex. In other words, he’s a classic Trickster, which means that he’s unreliable and somewhat scary in his unpredictability + great power, but he’s not evil. Anyone who thinks so is just subscribing to the following lyrics from The Mob Song in another one of Disney’s animated adaptations, Beauty and the Beast:

We don't like
What we don't understand
In fact it scares us
And this monster is mysterious at least

Thanks, Disney, for using your great ignorance to reduce a powerful figure from a non-Christian religion to a smarmy villain. You certainly reinforce the popular U.S. concept that Voodoo is some strange, inherently sinister system of magic when it’s actually a religion.

The other representative of the bastardized crap that Disney tries to pass for Voodoo is Mama Odi. As I’ve pointed out above, she’s fat, and, like all fat characters in Disney animated films, that means she’s cheerful, bubbly, somewhat vacuous and not at all to be taken seriously. Hooray! So now we have one Voodoo practitioner who’s a power-abusing wizard who’s automatically evil because he has death-associated powers, and our other Voodoo practitioner is a trivialized and brainless moron. So, in this movie, Voodoo is either eeeeeeeeevil or stoooooooopid. God forbid Disney proffer a nuanced portrayal of anything, much less a religion that’s already so miscomprehended in the American public’s mind that many will just accept Facilier and Odi uncritically as representations consonant with what they “know” already about the strange, primitive, unholy practices of Voodoo.

And I’m not even going to get in to the disturbing prominence in the trailer of the highly suspect dancing scenes with Naveen, some kid and a street orchestra, scenes that look like they could have been lifted from one of those mid-20th century films where all the black people just suddenly bubble over with joy and start lindy-hopping.

In response to…

In response to… published on No Comments on In response to…

RaceFail 2009 [in which white sf/f writers are called out as racist by POC readers, and waaaaah, the white writers' feeeeewings are hurt, so they throw insults and won't listen to POC's reasoned, increasingly exhausted arguments, la la la la la WE CAN'T HEAR YOU], the correct response is not to pick up your toys and go home. [RaceFail '09 threads compiled by rydra_wrong. Pout'n'exit executed by davidlevine and deconstructed by multiple people, including tacky_tramp.]  A more productive response is to:

1. Acknowledge one's racism.
2. Educate oneself through reading, listening and paying attention to POC and their experience. Coffeeandink has a collection of links to start with here. So does zvi_likes_tv.
3. Don't stop with baby steps. Actually change your life and perspective.
4. Continue creating art and learning from your mistakes.

Spike stole Nikki’s coat.

Spike stole Nikki’s coat. published on 1 Comment on Spike stole Nikki’s coat.

This fan-made BTVS/Angel vid, Origin Stories by  [info]giandujakiss,  argues that the ID of Spike with the Black Leather Coat of Bad-Assness glosses over the fact that he stole it from Nikki the Slayer, one of his kills. The connection of Spike and the BLCB-A runs over the story of Nikki and her son, Robin, who saw her die and ends up helping Buffy and co. fight Uruk-Hai uber-vamps in season 7. Even when Spike dies out of BTVS and reincarnates in Angel, he still gets the damn BLCB-A, a deeply problematic privileging of the pouty Romantic WHITE monster anti-hero at the expense of the interesting and complex characters of color. untrue_accounts  writes in words what the video shows in pictures, for those of you who are more verbally oriented.

I find these complementary commentaries deeply incisive and deeply disturbing, especially as they portray the actions of a fan favorite character to be the worst form of appropriation. It’s an especially bad form of appropriation because the show is constructed such that the audience is supposed to suck it up because a) Spike is so awesome!!; b) Buffy defends Spike, thus throwing her support behind his usurpations; c) did we mention that Spike is awesome?!!  We’re not supposed to criticize the characters everyone likes, even if they are doing morally wretched things, because the popular characters are Good Guys, thus inured to criticism.

Why yes, I am late to the party. What else can you except from someone who just discovered Men Without Hats at the end of last year?

Depictions of Native Americans in pop culture

Depictions of Native Americans in pop culture published on No Comments on Depictions of Native Americans in pop culture

Collected at Newspaper Rock.

Native Americans in Children’s Literature covers that subject critically and thoroughly. Beverly Slapin has an especially accurate and trenchant essay about the stupidities perpetrated by ignorant non-Native authors trying to write YA novels with Native American characters.

MORE Pirates of the Caribbean? And MORE Princess and the Frog dipshittery.

MORE Pirates of the Caribbean? And MORE Princess and the Frog dipshittery. published on No Comments on MORE Pirates of the Caribbean? And MORE Princess and the Frog dipshittery.

Johnny Depp signs on to do Pirates 4. Stop beating a dead horse to death, Disney.

Also, we get a preview of Disney’s horrid Princess and the Frog [previously discussed here], with a princess of color, and ohhhhhh…it’s sick. Why in the squackity squack is the firefly missing teeth and talking like Jiminy Cricket in blackface? Also, "Tiana’s" very stretchy face and wide mouth make her a knock-off of Ariel. It makes me want to PUKE kick my heels up and PUKE throw my hands up and PUKE throw my head back and PUKE… [Apologies to the Temptations.]

Note to “values voters”: racism AIN’T political satire

Note to “values voters”: racism AIN’T political satire published on No Comments on Note to “values voters”: racism AIN’T political satire

At the recent Value Voters Summit, 2 grade A nimrods sold souvenir boxes of Obama Waffles, linking Obama with Aunt Jemima, Muslim myths ["Point box toward Mecca for better waffles!"], stereotypes about rap [bilge on side of box] and generations of pop-eyed African-American mascots with smiles bigger than their heads. See this video for details of Obama waffles packaging and the disingenuous justifications of the nimrods for spreading their hatred.

When confronted directly with this train wreck of sexism, racism, exoticism and general stupidity, said nimrods protested that they "didn't even think of" the Aunt Jemima comparisons. They insisted that their product was "political satire." No, it's not. They're just bigots trying to fit into satirists' clothing. What dipsticks!

Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia published on No Comments on Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

This Web site contains overviews of stereotypes working against black men and women. It will help me whenever I write that illustrated essay about Aunt Jemima ads, which the site puts into context with the essay about the Mammy stereotype. For modern pertinence, I particularly recommend the essay about the Sapphire stereotype [rude, bossy, critical black woman] and current attempts to squish Michelle Obama into said little box.

Late to the game about the racist New Yorker cover

Late to the game about the racist New Yorker cover published on No Comments on Late to the game about the racist New Yorker cover

This is what I have to say about the racist, sexist New Yorker cover portraying Barack and Michelle Obama as militant Islamic [?] terrorists: 

1. It’s only satire if it’s obvious to intelligent, discerning viewers that it’s satire. Intelligent, discerning viewers at Feministing and Michelle Obama Watch [and other blogs rounded up by MOW] do not, at the very least, think it’s obvious. If it’s satire, then it’s bad satire. It hits the rim of the SATIRE basket and falls into the trash heap.

2. Privileged people hardly ever make innocent fun of people who do not have a certain privilege. Whatever its actual editorial make-up, the New Yorker represents dead white male power; so the cover represents dead white male power making fun of African-American people. Since dead white male power and all those who support it have a long, sordid history of making fun of African-American people, this cover joins that tradition of sexist, racist bigotry.

I E-mailed the New Yorker and the cartoonist [Barry Blitt] with the above message, which will do exactly shit.

EDIT: HAH! Blitt’s mailbox is full. Looks like he’s being roundly criticized [and probably praised from some quarters] by many others.

Ambivalence toward Nazi dolls

Ambivalence toward Nazi dolls published on No Comments on Ambivalence toward Nazi dolls

While poking around online, looking for more information about DiD’s Hitler Youth figs [one of which, Timo Ducca, will be supplying Davry’s head], I found another Hitler Youth fig [Hermann Weber] sold at a site called PzG. Billed as “Your Third Reich Nazi Adolf Hitler HQ!,” this site promises products “void of distracting propaganda and politically correct distortions.” What does that mean? Uh, that means you can get reproductions of anti-Semitic posters put out by the Nazi regime, mouse pads with Hitler portraits, costumes for reenactors and 1:6 figs of WWII German soldiers.

Why yes — it’s an Internet storefront run by white supremacists, a fact reinforced by the photos of satisfied customers giving straight-armed salutes. The militant, defensive, unreasoning hatred oozing from this site — even though it pretends to be reasonable and balanced — makes me feel queasy. I am distressed that some weirdo extremists want to glorify and relive what other people find interesting for historical, admonitory or just military reasons.

Michelle Obama Sexism Watch keeps an eye on the bigots crawling out of the woodwork.

Michelle Obama Sexism Watch keeps an eye on the bigots crawling out of the woodwork. published on No Comments on Michelle Obama Sexism Watch keeps an eye on the bigots crawling out of the woodwork.

With Barack Obama cinching the Democratic nomination for President, he and his family now suffer even more scrutiny and bullshit from those who can’t bear the thought of a black guy in the world’s most powerful office. Michelle Obama Watch, a newly instituted blog, stays on top of one form of prejudice in particular: those attacks directed at Michelle Obama and the “wee Michelles” :D, Sasha and Malia. Stay on top of the poo-flinging from all quarters with this rapidly [and tragically] expanding Web site.

P.S. Ever since developing a minor obsession with the notoriously shielded Chelsea Clinton, who moved into the White House when she was a teenager just a few years younger than me, I’ve been particularly vigilant about the mainstream media’s use of Presidential or possibly Presidential kids. I supported the Clintons’ decision to privatize Chelsea as much as possible, and I continually applaud Chelsea’s opacity and reserve in the face of the press constantly asking her stupid prying questions. I think that her parents’ attempts to create a Poo-Flinging-Free Zone around Chelsea in her childhood allowed her to develop into the tough character that she is today. Now that she is an adult and the anti-poo shields are down, she clearly has a force field of determination and composure that allows her to resist the intrusive idiocy of the mainstream media.

I see the Obamas creating the same Poo-Free Zone for Sasha and Malia. While Sasha and Malia appear with their parents at campaign events and while their dad refers to them in interviews, both Sasha’s mom and dad protect them from direct interrogation. They also do not exploit their girls as campaign symbols. I have hope that they will keep such vigilant protection around Sasha and Malia for as long as the Obamas remain in the political arena, not because the wee Michelles 😀 are delicate feminine flowers that can be shattered easily by animosity, but because they are kids who deserve a healthy environment in which to grow up. A healthy environment means one in which they can build realistic self-concepts without people constantly questioning and criticizing them.

All of this is to say that one of the recent entries in the Michelle Obama Watch especially unnerves me. It’s the entry about an artist whose exhibit, The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama, included a picture of Sasha and Malia labeled “nappy-headed hos.” It’s bigoted and stupid and racist and objectionable to launch such nasty aspersions at any member of the Obama family, but it’s especially bigoted, stupid, racist and objectionable to use these terms to describe the Obama daughters, who, as children under the age of all marks of adulthood [voting, driving, drinking, consenting], are minors without power or recourse to defend themselves from such stupidity. The artist’s statement that he wanted to “raise dialog” about “substantive things” misses the point that name-calling people who are littler than you actually kills the opportunity for civil discourse, even if you think you’re doing it ironically. Inflammatory language like “nappy-headed hos” makes you look like an insensitive douchebag who’s so out of touch with reality that he doesn’t realize the punishing power of language, especially when wielded by the powerful over the powerless.

I’m trying to think of a tag for entries that discuss “race,” ethnic background, skin color and related stereotypes, bigotry, beliefs, etc.

The farting goat gyroscope ride and other curiosities

The farting goat gyroscope ride and other curiosities published on No Comments on The farting goat gyroscope ride and other curiosities

Phoenixmasonry, a Web site for and about U.S. Freemasons, contains scans of a fascinating catalog, DeMoulin Bros. Fraternal Supply Catalog No. 439. Published in 1930, this pamphlet contains elaborate, expensive gag devices designed to trick and entertain people at Masonic gatherings.

Many of the pages feature items containing goats, such as the Ferris Wheel Coaster Goat, which combines a blindfolded rider, a toy goat, bleating sound effects and a starter’s pistol, all in some gyroscope-like device, for maximum disorientation sadism larfs results.

What kind of results? A testimonial on the product page for the Human Centipede claims, “We are very well-pleased with the paraphernailia we are using, and it is the only thing to keep up the attendance.” Because shocking people is hilarious. Please note how disturbed the men on the “centipede” appear to be by the electrical lines emanating from their asses.

I’m particularly interested in the Electric Branding Iron, which uses a heated “bluff” iron to which is attached a chamber of fake smoke, to create the illusion that the candidate is actually being branded. This is not just some cheap, quick trick. This is highly involved pageantry [see illustration with two guys holding down the candidate] with real functional props. In fact, it’s a performance as much for the audience as for the candidate.

Mason 1: “Come on down to the Lodge tonight. We’re gonna pretend  to brand Jenkins. It’ll be a scream!!”

Mason 2: “I’ll bring the popcorn.”

Mason 3: “Can I dress up as the Devil?”

I find this rather disturbing… The gags remind me of the punishment spectacles referred to in Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, in which, for example, criminals were hanged publicly, events that the attendees treated as festival days. The extreme violence of such penal displays, in which someone could be hung, then drawn [dragged by a horse] and then quartered [chopped into pieces], seems reflected in the extremity of the gags here, in which someone is not just blindfolded, but also stuck on a fake goat AND turned upside-down AND frightened by a blank going off. These pranks represent spectacular overkill. I’m sure it’s enthralling to watch the recipients get pranked, but the overkill makes me think that some of these pranks were motivated less by good fun and more by Schadenfreude.

Look…items that would not be out of place in a BDSM dungeon: the Bird Cage and Dog Show Stunt!

Also…blackface is inherently funny.

The “savages” have an oral tradition!!

The “savages” have an oral tradition!! published on No Comments on The “savages” have an oral tradition!!

In my effort to reacquaint myself with Abenaki stories, I found The Algonquian Legends of New England by Charles Leland on Google Books. Copyright 1884, this public domain work is now available for readers everywhere to marvel at two things which are stupendous for entirely opposite reasons. The stories are stupendously GOOD. They display world-wide scope, thrilling adventure, thoughtful moral guidance, a very dry sort of humor and the inexhaustible layers of dense symbolism and imagery that any mythos provides. In other words, stupendous stuff.

The second reason for which this book is stupendous is the egregious, stupendously BAD self-insertion of the narrator. Leland wants to portray himself as a learned authority on the "red man," so he goes to laughable lengths to trot out his intellectual achievements. His "achievements," such as they are, consist basically in very strained comparisons between the Abenaki mythos and either the Norse mythos or the Finnish mythos.  I'm all for investigating the influence of certain myths on others and the spread of certain story tropes and what this might say about the modes of thinking common to all cultures [we've all got dragons, vampires, half-human, half-fish water creatures, were-animals, etc., etc., etc.]. However, Leland is less interested in universal mythic themes than he is in proving the Abenaki mythos a poor derivative of the great European traditions. We see Leland's Angoclentric bias most clearly in his comment about Glooskap, a kind of Trickster/Creator/demi-god/buffoon/cultural hero:

Glooskap…is by far the grandest and most Aryan-like character ever evolved from a savage mind and…is more congenial to a reader of Shakespeare and Rabelais than any deity ever imagined out of Europe… (p. 2 of the introduction)

Leland clearly assumes that the Abenaki people are "savages," that is, mentally deficient and unable to attain the literary heights represented by Shakespeare and Rabelais. The supposedly primitive corpus of Abenaki stories produces only one character that measures up to "Aryan-like" standards of grandeur. All the other characters are pathetic stereotypes. It's screamingly obvious from Leland's comment that the observer cannot be separated from the perspective, i.e., that his basis for comparison is Shakespeare and Rabelais because that's all he knows. It is possible to try to look at a mythos on its own terms, i.e., how it talks to itself, to the people, to the world around it, but Leland only wants to use the Abenaki stories to learn about himself. The Abenaki stories serve his preconceived conclusion that the "Aryan" culture [= white western European] is the most civilized, advanced and intelligent ever and everyone else is just a shoddy knock-off.

Heck, Leland even admits that he went into this story-collecting project with expectations of finding inferior stories. He says in the preface (p. 1):

When I began, in the summer of 1882, to collect among the Passamaquoddy Indians at Campobello, New Brunswick, their traditions and folklore, I expected to find very little indeed. These Indians, few in number, surrounded by white people and thoroughly converted to Roman Catholicism, promised but scanty remains of heathenism. What was my amazement, however, at discovering, day by day, that there existed among them, entirely by oral tradition, a far grander mythology than that which has been made known to us either by the Chippewa or the Iriquois Hiawatha legends, and that this was illustrated by an incredible number of tales.

In other words, he thought that the Passamaquoddy community had had all their native blood bleached and beaten out of them, taking the stories with them as it spilled into the earth. Upon "discovering" that the Passamaquoddy perpetuated their culture, tradition, religion and stories, Leland was as stupefied as he would have been if someone had told him that women should be allowed to go to college. Despite his realization, enumerated in the title of this entry, he could not comprehend that the Passamaquoddy were people just like him and therefore continued to "prove" their inferiority by showing the degeneracy of their cultural traditions as compared to the glorious Aryan originals.

And you know — this complete blindness to one's prejudices is still be practiced right this very instant on Native Americans and anyone else dead white males think is uninteresting or unworthy of note.

Blood Quantum, or, How Native American are you?

Blood Quantum, or, How Native American are you? published on 2 Comments on Blood Quantum, or, How Native American are you?

So I’ve been poking around for some superficial information about Abenakis in New England, since Absinthe, an LHF character, has Abenaki ancestry [her great-grandfather]. While looking around the Web site of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki [the band with which Absinthe associates], I came across the following comment about the existence and visibility of Native Americans:

Any other ethnic or religious group in the world need only declare their existence. Only the American Indian is required to document genealogy to the beginning of time and blood quantum to show how much real "Indian" they are.

Intrigued by the concept of "blood quantum," I did further investigation, and I learned something new.

Continue reading Blood Quantum, or, How Native American are you?

Coloreria Italiana ad for fabric dye

Coloreria Italiana ad for fabric dye published on 2 Comments on Coloreria Italiana ad for fabric dye

When I saw this ad linked over at Feministing, my brain crunched, stopped and blew a few circuits of sheer incredulity that such sexist, racist, ageist bigotry could actually make it to the screen. 

Basically it concerns a young Caucasian woman doing laundry in the basement of her home. She is approached by a hairy, mid-40s [?] Caucasian guy in briefs and tube socks [hahahah] who approaches her with leering confidence. He obviously thinks he is sexy, but she does not because she shoves him head-first in the laundry machine [!]. In case it’s not shocking enough that she assaults him, she sits on the shaking washing, pinning him inside, despite his cries of pain. 

When the washer stops shaking, the woman opens the lid. Out comes a hairless, mid-20s [?] African man. Both the man and the woman look at each other in stupefied mutual admiration. The man flexes his arm muscles as the legend appears on the screen: “Coloreria Italiana. Coloured is better.” 

WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA, HUH? I don’t know about you, but if I’m approached by a leering man when I’m doing laundry in my residential building, I’m bound to panic, assuming that I’m about to be raped by an intruding pervert. [EDIT: It has come to my attention that the man could be interpreted as the woman’s husband.]

Well, dropping the literal interpretation, the leering man in his skivvies is obviously a concretized metaphor for undyed clothing. The man thinks he’s hot shit, but his extremely geeky underwear [knee socks, hah hah, the only funny thing about this spot], his excessive chest hair and his male pattern baldness say otherwise. Furthermore, the woman doing the laundry clearly ain’t impressed with him. Okay, fine, I can partly buy the symbolism of nerdy guy = undyed cloth.

The metaphorical significance falls apart, however, by the sheer violence of the assault in the next portion of the clip. You could say the woman throwing the man into the washer is so absurd that it just highlights the metaphorical freight of the commercial [into the washer goes the undyed fabric]. However, the commercial undercuts its metaphor by using highly non-metaphorical sounds of struggle and cries of pain from the man inside the washer. It is impossible for me to think that the woman threw undyed CLOTHES in the washer because the supposed symbol for the CLOTHES is acting in the way that any HUMAN BEING would if he had been pitched into a tumbling device and tortured. Yes, tortured. The obviously HUMAN sounds of struggle and pain override the equivalence between man and undyed clothes and make him a HUMAN BEING undergoing ASSAULT, which completely derails my attention.

As if the graphic violence weren’t enough, the end results are just as disturbing. Why is the black guy smiling so peacefully after having just bounced around in a machine that caused the white guy obvious physical distress? Why is the black guy about 20 years younger than the white guy who went in the washer? Why is he black in the first place? Why is he so desirable [as connoted by the white woman’s lustful glances] in contrast to the white guy? WHAT THE HELL?

So, to recap, a young, white, generically attractive woman shoves an older, white, supposedly unattractive man in a washer. Out comes a young, black, generically attractive man. How many biases can one cram into a single commercial? You’ve got sexism in the assumption that laundry is women’s work. You’ve also got sexism in the portrayal of guys as objects you can toss into the laundry and simply “clean up” to fit your fantasy of what they should be like. You’ve got ageism in the assumption that the older guy is undesireable. You’ve got heterosexism in the fact that the clothes are symbolized by various types of guys whose ultimate goal is to gain the woman’s desire. And you’ve got that old chestnut of racism in which the white male is seen as unfashionable, undesirable, deluded, weak and probably impotent, while the black male is seen as sexy, strong, highly desirable and full of “raw animal magnetism.” As a comment on  Feministing noted, it’s a “rare trifecta” of racism, sexism and xenophobia.

There’s another commercial in the same series that makes the bias even more apparent. In this commercial, the older white guy from the first commercial is reading a porno about busty black young women jumping out of washers. A non-busty young white woman, connoted as homely, comes down to do her laundry. She and the man share looks of disgust. She confiscates his magazine. He glances at the magazine, lying on the floor so that you can clearly see a busty black woman jumping out of a washer, and then he throws the young non-busty non-black woman into the washer.

As the man sits on the washer, waiting, the non-busty non-black woman struggles, cries and bangs around inside the washer. Her protests diminish, however. The man on the washer rubs his hands together in anticipation of a young busty black woman. When he opens the washer, the same young hairless black guy from the first commercial comes out. He and the white man look at each other with puzzlement. The commercial ends by saying “Coloreria Italiana: What Women Want.” Racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia ensue.

This is an ad that ran in Italy for an Italian product. I understand that there are different levels of what’s acceptable in the media in different cultures, but this series of commercials is blowing my mind for ANY country.

“Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.”

“Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.” published on No Comments on “Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.”

At the end of one of the Pink Panther movies, Inspector Clouseau is dining at a Japanese restaurant when the server hands him something on a tray. It is a fortune cookie, which contains the following message: “Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie.” Being completely oblivious, he takes a while to realize that he should have paid attention to the very person who gave him the fortune cookie. Meanwhile, the “Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie” turns out to be Clouseau’s assistant, Cato, who takes every opportunity to ambush Clouseau to keep his self-defense techniques up to snuff. Cato attacks Clouseau. A melee ensues. And…curtain.

Beyond the stock comedic elements of drag, slapstick and food fights, this scene also depends on the viewer’s familiarity with fortune cookies. As presented in this country, fortune cookies are a phenomenon strictly associated with Chinese restaurants. Your average American probably thinks of fortune cookies as a Chinese invention, rather than a Japanese one, which is why “Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie” is incongruous and therefore funny.

However, fortune cookies really are Japanese in origin, argues researcher Yasuko Nakamachi. Years of painstaking research into the fortune cookie trail have convinced her that the ubiquitous dessert of American Chinese takeout restaurants actually first began in shrine-side Japanese bakeries, where the wafers were hand-cooked over open coals. Reports of these Japanese fortune-cookie ancestors date back almost 200 years in literature and illustrations. Go read the article for speculation about how Japanese temple wafers hopped the ocean to California and somehow developed into a quintessentially American institution that was firmly associated with Chinese cuisine. 

And don’t tell me you didn’t learn anything today.

“What made the red man red?”

“What made the red man red?” published on 4 Comments on “What made the red man red?”

In her comment on my previous entry, katranna notes that Disney actively avoids black characters. This is true, but they used to be a little less avoidant. For example, the original version of the animated Fantasia had a little black centaur girl in the Beethoven’s Pastoral section. The little black centaur girl, Sunflower, was being a sycophantic slave to the white centaur girls. Sunflower has since been cropped out, denied and otherwise suppressed during Fantasia theatrical and DVD re-releases. See here for a still of Sunflower and even a clip! The rest of the article [about Disney’s most racist characters] is worth reading as well. 

The subject line comes from the #3 most racist characters, the Indians in Disney’s Peter Pan [admittedly based on J.M. Barrie’s stereotyped Pickanninny tribe, which, in a confusing stew of racism, are named after a derogatory term for African-Americans]. They sing a song with that title.

P.S . The list at forgot Stromboli, the fat yelling Italian stereotype in Pinnochio, as well as the eeeeevil slanty-eyed suck-uppy Siamese cats in The Lady and the Tramp who don’t speak grammatically [“Now we looking over our new domicile / If we like, we stay for maybe quite a while”].

Primary Sidebar