Photo from Wonder Woman Day in Portland, OR, via ITVS.org
Last week a panel featuring Susana Polo (Founder/Editor of The Mary Sue), Karen Boykin-Towns (Vice President, Worldwide Policy at Pfizer), Dr. Jonathan Gray, (Assistant Professor of English with John Jay College), feminist activist/speaker Shelby Knox, and So-Chung Shinn (co-host of The Portfolio TV) convened to discuss the new PBS documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan). The hour-long panel following the screening was more diverse and did more issue unpacking than the hour-long film.
Some of that may have been for reasons of accessibility. The film is aimed at fans of all ages, and focuses more on Wonder Woman’s inspirational value to women and young girls than it does Serious Issues of Feminism. It’s a look at the comic and television origins of the character, (some of) the heroines that debuted in her wake, and some of the social change that occurred at different points during the highs and lows of her popularity. At an hour long it doesn’t necessarily have the time to fully dive into some of the issues brought up–that was left to the panel.
You can watch the entire film here, and the entire panel below when you have a spare hour, but for now few highlights from the guest speakers:
Let’s start with the debut of the Season Six trailer of Racialicious fave, True Blood. There are times when I can’t remember whether or not I actually genuinely like this show anymore, but this does a pretty good job of getting me hyped for the new season (and the new roundtable) which airs on HBO, June 16th.
If you haven’t seen Iron Man 3 yet and you remain blissfully unspoiled where it comes to the movie’s main villain, turn back now for there are major spoilers ahead. Unlike the marketing teams for certain other summer flicks (hi, Star Trek) Marvel and Disney did a good a job of hiding The Mandarin’s origins and plot line for you to ruin it for yourself now.
Born circa 1920, the future Mandarin was raised by his embittered aunt following his parents’ deaths, and as an adult he used his brilliance and family wealth to attain prominence in the Kuomintang Party’s reign over China. The Communist Revolution of 1949 cost him his position and power, although the population he had once commanded still regarded him with nigh-mystic awe. After years of seeking some means of regaining greatness, he ventured into the mysterious Valley of Spirits, where he discovered the millennia-old wreckage of a starship of the reptilian Kakaranatharian, or Makluan, extraterrestrial race, and the ten mighty rings which had powered the vessel
…Iron Man visited China to investigate the Mandarin for the U.S. government. Using the rings and his own combat skills, the Mandarin nearly defeated Iron Man, who nonetheless outwitted him and escaped. Soon after, the pair again clashed when the Mandarin pulled Stark surveillance missiles from the sky to use for his own purposes, then manipulated the Chinese government into test-firing a missile which, unknown to them, was intended to trigger world war, but Iron Man defeated him both times.
It’s your standard superhero/super-villain dichotomy after that. The Mandarin is to Iron Man as Lex Luthor is to Superman. China has always been an important part of his back story as his original base of power, and the Mandarin had always been portrayed as Chinese. So when it was announced that Ben Kingsley would be playing The Mandarin we were all, by rights, slightly perturbed to say the least. But after seeing the finished product, Arturo and I differed on how we watched it all play out.
Over the years, people of color have had the hardest time breaking into the ‘biz’ or just simply being recognized for the work that they have done on the silver screen.
It was in 1939 that the first African American person–Hattie McDaniel–won an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone With the Wind. It took 30 years for another African American person to win again: Sidney Poitier won Best Actor in a leading role for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, a film that tackles racial divides and interracial dating at the onslaught of integration. But how much have we integrated since then?
In their 2011 New York Times article, “Hollywood’s Whiteout,” staff film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott wrote, “[Race] in American cinema has rarely been a matter of simple step-by-step progress. It has more often proceeded in fits and starts, with backlashes coming on the heels of breakthroughs, and periods of intense argument followed by uncomfortable silence.” Their article came out in response to the 2010 Academy Awards where zero African Americans were nominated, which struck many as peculiar within this Obama Era where ideals around post-racism circulated from sea to shining sea.
The lack of people of color at the Academy Awards was a stark reminder that Hollywood was still very much divided. Let’s play a game: Can you name a prominent black actor under 30? Someone that, if you walked up to a random person on the street, they would know who you are talking about? Didn’t think so.
As I said in my recap last week, “Seven Fifty-Two” is all about Huck–as much as Fitz wanted to weasel his way into the story…and Olivia’s life. Of course, Olivia wasn’t having it, and neither was Mellie. Loss was the thread that wove the disparate stories last week.
After the jump. Jordan St. John, Loree Lamour, and T.F. Charlton join me to break down another engaging episode of Scandal. Continue reading →
In a review, published in In These Times, about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, Racialicious senior editor, Tamara Winfrey Harris, writes:
Whether Sandberg, from her perch at the pinnacle of a tech behemoth, is the right person to lead a revolution for less-privileged women has been the topic of much debate. But bits of the author’s wisdom may “click” for particular readers in unexpected ways. Sandberg’s message about choosing supportive partners made me blink, because it stands in stark contrast to advice directed toward a particular segment of professional women. Thanks to concerns about low marriage rates among African Americans, professional black women are bombarded with warnings about careerism and success. A burgeoning genre of advice books instructs straight black women to, in effect, “lean back” in order to attract men.
In Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, (the basis for the film Think Like a Man), author Steve Harvey admonishes: “If you’ve got your own money, your own car, your own house, a Brinks alarm system, a pistol and a guard dog, and you’re practically shouting from the rooftops that you don’t need a man to provide for you or protect you, then we will see no need to keep coming around.” Elsewhere, Harvey warns women that if they travel for business, their left-behind husbands might understandably stray.
Black women, especially highly successful ones, are expected to sacrifice achievement for the alleged greater good of traditional marriage. And they are encouraged to think more about being chosen than choosing—making themselves attractive to men by conforming to an outdated template of femininity rather than, as Sandberg suggests, selecting a supportive mate interested in a 50/50 partnership.
Sandberg counsels that choosing a mate is one of the most important decisions a working woman will make. If that is true, lack of support, in addition to systemic sexism and racism, may explain why black women fare worse than their white counterparts in the halls of power. All women of color make up just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats and 5 percent of congressional seats. Snagging unsupportive life partners isn’t likely to improve these statistics (or the personal lives of women).
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
This is the first time a current athlete in any US major sport has come out of the closet. If you remember, former professional soccer player Robbie Rogers came out, but only after he retired abruptly earlier this year. And across the pond, a professional rugby player, Gareth Thomas, came out in 2009. It’s about time the States followed suit.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World