It was perhaps inevitable that Sebastian del Amo’s Cantinflas would fit Charlie Chaplin into the proceedings. Much like Richard Attenborough before him, del Amo finds himself needing to make room for not just a performer, but a singular persona.
And there are moments when it feels like a more introspective film wants to burst through amid the usual hagiography. But a few choices do make this take on Mario Moreno and his life’s work more interesting than the trailer would have you believe.
Aside from addressing many of the questions posed in last year’s finale, Scandal‘s season premiere focused on two more: Who is Olivia Pope without her Associates? And does she even want to be Olivia Pope anymore?
Like most of my friends in elementary school, I was obsessed with The American Girl dolls and books The dolls lacked comprehensive diversity back then, in that they had one single doll of colour until 1997. I owned Felicity Merriman, a white girl who lived in colonial Williamsburg, but received Addy Walker, a former slave who escapes from the South into Philadelphia, soon after she debuted in 1993. As per my mother’s rule, I read all six of Addy’s books before being gifted the doll. But unlike Felicity’s, I didn’t often revisit them for pleasure. In my constant search for American historical fiction with protagonists of colour written for young readers, I often come across the same problem I did when I was younger: it’s all really depressing.
Addy Walker’s story begins in Meet Addy while she’s still enslaved, and I have vivid memories of one paragraph where her overseer forces her to eat tobacco leaf worms. If you had asked me, when I was younger, to state a fact about Harriet Tubman I would have told you about the time her mistress threw a porcelain sugar bowl at her head. Meanwhile, Felicity’s biggest worry in life in Meet Felicity was saving a horse. My favourite young adult historical fiction author, Ann Rinaldi, wrote stories that spanned across races, but her romantic stories about southern belles and women of the revolutionary war were always more fun to read than her sanitised retellings of the Jeffersons and the Hemmings or Sioux boarding schools.
In pre-Mattel age when the American Girl Doll franchise was still owned and partially run by Pleasant Rowland and her Pleasant Company, I devoured their 90 page novels about young girls scattered throughout various points of American history. Back then they were a genuinely decent source of early education and introduction into various facets of American history for an 8 year old girl. I credit the dolls and their books for the love of middle and young adult historical-fiction I took into my adult life, but that doesn’t mean they were all fun.
Maybe I fixated on strange things when I was younger, but it was always the worst elements of these books, American Girls and others, that stuck with me, and I get the feeling that’s not the experience for the little girls with a wider variety of characters who look like them to choose from.
White characters not only get a wider variety of books to choose from, but books in a wider variety of settings. Characters of colour in American hist-fic tend to exist strictly within certain boundaries of time or not at all. African-Americans exist within the boundaries of slavery, the Jim Crow South, or the Civil Rights movement. Native Americans exist in the mythical west until about 1870 or so, Asian-Americans exist during World War 2, only in the west (and only from Eastern countries), and I had to reach out to our followers to fill in the gaps my childhood reading material left when it came to Latin@s.
These stories need to be told, of course. Diverse literature for young readers is extremely important. The world needs YA literature about Japanese Internment during the Second World War, but they shouldn’t be the only books Japanese-American children get to see themselves reflected in. This isn’t to encourage the erasure or minimalisation of the realities that people of colour have historically faced, but rather a desire for authors and publishers to realise that all of us existed in America outside the times of our most publicised oppressions. And that, even during the most difficult times, we still had lives that didn’t necessarily completely revolve around the overhead political themes of the day.
With that in mind, and because I’m 26 year old woman who still reads almost exclusively YA and middle grade fiction, I’ve compiled a list (that is by no means complete) of historical fiction with POC characters that might allow young and middle adult readers to have a little more fun with their reading escapism.
Guernica, the magazine of arts and culture, dedicated their latest special issue to the class divide. But, as most of us reading this blog know, race and class are not so easily separated. And in spite people online and in activist circles arguing that the social issue of our time is no longer race, only looking at one issue in a vacuum means that our proposed solutions to societal ills will always feel incomplete.
Viewing relations of domination for Black women for any given sociohistorical context as being structured via a system of interlocking race, class, and gender oppression expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect. Assuming that each system needs the others in order to function creates a distinct theoretical stance that stimulates the rethinking of basic social science concepts.
We thought of ourselves as the Third Race, poised between the masses of Negroes and all classes of Caucasians. Like the Third Eye, the Third Race possessed a wisdom, intuition, and enlightened knowledge the other two races lacked. Its members had education, ambition, sophistication, and standardized verbal dexterity.
—If, as was said, too many of us ached, longed, strove to be be be be White White White White WHITE;
—If (as was said) many us boasted overmuch of the blood des blancs which for centuries had found blatant or surreptitious ways to flow, course, and trickle tepidly through our veins;
—If we placed too high a value on the looks, manners, and morals of the Anglo-Saxon…
…White people did too. They wanted to believe they were the best any civilization could produce. They wanted to be white just as much as we did. They worked just as hard at it. They failed just as often. But they could pass so no one objected.
I am 99.9% sure, looking through completely objective and non-nostalgia tinted lenses (she says, unconvincingly), that the Birds of Prey pilot from 2002 was better than the pilot FOX served up last night. Unlike my beloved BoP, the Jim-Gordon-cum-Gotham-City origin story is about two white men and thus Gotham will most likely get more than 13 episodes to try and be great.
“Try” being the key word.
Normally I would attempt to find some beacon of hope mired deep in the muck of a pilot, but Gotham is a show that sounds like its using a comic book script for its dialogue –and no, it’s not a Greg Rucka script– and looks like at least 30 minutes of it was shot through a sepia tinted instagram filter. While envisioning characters’ dialogue appearing in speech bubbles above their heads, trying to be obligatorily impressed when familiar face appeared every ten minutes(“Hey, look, Poison Ivy! ”/ “Cool, it’s the Riddler!” / “Oh boy, Penguin!”), and watching the woman playing Jim Gordon’s fiancee ‘act’, I realised I’m not convinced that this show is ever going to be good.
Instead of grasping at straws to call this a win, lets just quickly list the great things Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) did last night: