Friday, January 13, 2012

How Dare We (Also, Trailers!)

It's difficult to find entertainment that features non-white people in English-language media, you know? BET was created to feature black people specifically, because otherwise, they wouldn't get any lead roles on white-dominant TV (which is pretty much all other US TV).

Last year, I read about Danny Glover's troubles in finding a financier for his upcoming biopic on Toussaint L'ouverture, the leader of the Haitian revolution. Why wouldn't it be funded? I mean, it's a great story: slave uprisings, people taking the French Revolution to its logical end, people coming into their own and realizing they, too, deserve rights, and will fight and die for it. Toussaint L'Ouverture wasn't really part of my consciousness until I read Nora Jemisin's The Effluent Engine, whose protagonist is a daughter of this legendary hero. 

Meanwhile, in France, a TV movie of this hero is being made, starring Jimmy Jean-Louis. Jean-Louis is Haitian-born himself, which is also incredibly rare (Glover's vision will star Wesley Snipes), so it's pretty awesome! I found this trailer while googling for "Steampunk Toussaint L'ouverture" (which got me no steampunk results, predictably). Have a trailer, in French with no subtitles:

"Toussaint L'Ouverture" Trailer from Tambay Obenson on Vimeo.

The more we talk about these issues, the clearer it becomes that Hollywood (and many mainstream media producers) simply does not care about non-white stories. There are lots of really great English-language movies which simply fall to the side. Why?

Because they're not about white heroes.

Producers won't finance a movie with no white heroes because they're not sure such a movie will make any money. (Glover finally found a Venezuelan financier.) (But seriously, it shouldn't have taken him that long. And seriously, he shouldn't have received that weak-ass "but it got no white heroes!" malarkey in the first place.) (What kind of reasoning is that.)

George Lucas recently went on the Daily Show to talk about this: it took him 23 years to fund Red Tails, which is, in his words, the "first all-black action movie" to come out of a big name Hollywood producer like himself. And when all he asked was for marketing, Hollywood said no, because they don't know how to market a movie like this.

Red Tails is a movie about the Tuskagee Airmen, a squadron of all-black pilots, who, due to racist discrimination in the U.S. Army, were disallowed from fighting in the front lines. Black people can't fly, can't fight. Black people aren't real American soldiers, amirite? Red Tails shows them being given a chance to prove themselves, and prove themselves they do. And simply because George Lucas repeats what he's been told, over and over, that Hollywood does not know how to market non-white films, he's called racist, and he's whiny, and he's discriminating, and he made an anti-white movie.

Go to the comments and count the number of hateful ones this trailer gets if you feel up to it. Because this movie points out the anti-black racism of the white supremacist U.S. Army of the time, it is an anti-white movie, which is just as bad as anti-black racism.... yes, let's totally ignore the long history of slavery, Jim Crow, the fact that the Civil Rights era was even lived in the first place, and the fact that black people continue to face discrimination today.

How dare we celebrate these unsung heroes who fought for the very country that made clear that they were not wanted in it. Pointing out this little fact, how anti-white!

If we make a story that is not about white people, it is "reverse racism," and it is "anti-white hatred." Somehow, people can write stories that erase non-white peoples, and that's not racist, that's just "the way art works," that's just how the artists were inspired, and what they produced, and how dare we get offended because we're not in it!

How dare we get offended when Disney's Tangled features floating lanterns, a common cultural way of celebrating various festivals, and not feature non-white people! This despite the fact that the inspiration came from John Lasseter's honeymoon in Tahiti. Our cultural signifiers, our customs, they are really adorable, and well worth adorning white people's lives with. If you google "Tangled lantern" you will find NOTHING about the long cultural history of sky lanterns--people genuinely believe it comes from Tangled itself, a cool original idea.

How dare we get offended when The Last Airbender from Paramount starred only white people, at the expense of non-white people's dignity. How dare we discriminate against white actors so!

How dare we get offended when people point out there's no way black people could have existed in King Arthur's time (hey, Merlin fandom!).

How dare we get offended when Harry Potter fans erase Blaise Zabini's race despite in-text citations that Blaise is, indeed, a dark-skinned boy.

(Shit, is the word "offended" even applicable now? I'm not even offended anymore, just fucking pissed off. Is that better? Will that make you take me more seriously? If I don't have a reaction, maybe I'm not offended, just resigned to the fact that you will always be racist. Is that better, you always being racist and me expecting you to be racist? What kind of standards for "basic decency" are we operating with here, now?)

(FYI, just because I expect it, doesn't mean I accept it.)

How dare we point out that the superstructures we live in within the United States and Canada are white-supremacist when they are such wonderful countries and how dare we ask for role models that we can see ourselves growing up to become. How dare we ask that our histories be explored in our school education system.

How dare we get angry when white people patronizingly try to raise our children without actually knowing the challenges of being a racialized parent in a racist world. It's not like non-white children are ever stolen by the system anyway, then and now.

How dare we talk about our experiences and expect white people to sit back and take the anti-whiteness.

How dare I declare my desire to have as many of ya'll to go watch Red Tails on its opening weekend, Jan 20, to prove that such a movie deserves as wide an audience as possible? How dare I declare my desire to return to Canada Feb 4, and watch this movie over and over again in theatres?

Like this:

Ya'll-- if you are a supporter of this blog, and of all non-white steampunk, or non-white entertainment in general, or even of the idea of racial equality in any abstract manner, totally go check out Red Tails, which opens Jan 20th. Totally prove that an all-black action movie can and will pull in dollars, and that white people won't be alienated by it, but actually enjoy it. Prove that ya'll can handle seeing black men in the lead roles, in which they are not subordinate to white men, or hypersexualized, or demonized, but instead are heroes doing what's right for the country they serve.

I'm gonna be away from the Internet for the next 48 hours. When I come back, I'm reading comments. If I see any racist bullshit going down hating on non-whites, crying "reverse discrimination" or "reverse racism" or anything of the like, I'm deleting it. No mercy. You've been warned. Take your racism elsewhere.


  1. Yes! Thank you! Exactly!
    Sorry, I realize that was totally and completely incoherent. But: Yes! Thank you! Exactly!
    For those who can't speak french, by the way, the trailer for Toussaint L'Ouverture looks amazing. I will have to get my hands on the mini-series somehow.
    And the Red Tails trailer just made me so happy. Admittedly, I have not seen the movie, and I'm sure there will be problems, but the fact that it's not a story about the heroic white commander of the black troops who put it all on the line so his boys could fly is so refreshing.
    And how sad is it that that's refreshing at all? Why should I get so excited about entertainment that isn't white-centric? Shouldn't that just be part of the norm?
    In hopes that one day, it will be part of the norm, and in hopes that one day, I won't have to traipse out of an action movie ranting about how the ONE non-white character was killed off in the first hour - I will be buying a ticket to Red Tails as soon as it comes out in my city. And encouraging everyone I know to do the same.

  2. If I may suggest two films: the Brazilian "Quilombo", about the slave revolution that led to an independent state in Brazil, and "Burn!" (original release in Brazil as "Queimada") about a slave revolt on a Caribbean sugar plantation island. The protagonist in the former is the Afro-Brazilian leader of the revolt, and the protagonist of the latter is Marlin Brando, who plays a William Walker-esque filibusterer. Both films represent the first wave of Third World Cinema in the late 60s/early 70s. The latter is a Marxist classic by the film-maker of the "Battle of Algiers".

  3. Small correction: Quilombo was released in1986, so it is a second wave film.

  4. Red Tales...the first time I heard about this movie was on a forum thread entitled "How bout another nice ol' cup of WHITE GUILT!" Followed by people whining about how the film is "too black" and how "Any movie that attempts to lecture me for the 100th time about racism and tolerance gets the giant flaming middle finger." Because it's just so awful to have a film made about the Tuskegee Airmen, apparently.

    I saw another French television production focusing on Haiti, starring many of the same actors as Toussaint L'ouverture (this gleaned just by watching the trailer) on my last trip to Poland, because it was on Polish TV at the time. It went under the title "Tropical Heat" over there, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the French title and I haven't been able to uncover any information about it while in Canada.

    And Battle for Algiers is a haunting film. Simply brilliant.

  5. Definitely on my "To-Do" list next weekend...

  6. People should see it because it looks like an amazing movie period! Gripping premise, amazing CG fight scenes, all it needs is solid acting to pull it off.