by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual
I’m assisting a lecture tomorrow on the adult entertainment industry for a course at Penn, so I thought I’d write a quick blog. Note: most links NSFW.
Sean Cody, the king (or among the kings) of amateur gay, and gay-for-pay, video online, has recently included a couple of black men on his site. Sean Cody is infamous for his almost religious devotion to featuring only white performers, though he’s not the only one. Bloggers from Unzipped, Fleshbot, to Men of Color Blog were understandably flabbergasted — and delighted — at the recent shift.
I wonder: Does the change have anything to do with Sean Cody’s possibly declining numbers?
First, disclaimers: 1) I’m speculating. I have no access to Sean Cody’s traffic or subscription numbers; 2) Sean Cody makes it money from subscriptions, not advertising, so while traffic might suggest lower subscriptions, it doesn’t necessarily; 3) the sites I’m using are as unreliable, though perhaps more so, than the other ratings agencies.
Yes, Byron Balasco and Timothy J. Lea are listed as the writers for “Queen Sacrifice,” but the mind-numbing absurdity of Keiko’s subplot in the episode stank of Heroes-level caricature. Here’s the recap:
So, newly-arrived Keiko is looking for a job around L.A. when she happens upon an auto shop. As she ventures in, we see several people dancing to generic “hip-hop” like rejects from a Kid Frost video and cars randomly going all LowRider Magazine. That’s the opening image. From there, Keiko – who has never shown either professional or personal interest in cars – talks herself into a job at the shop. After speaking to my ex-mechanic flatmate, I’m thinking this is also wonky; her degree doesn’t exactly translate into this career path. Later, Customs raids the place and busts seemingly everybody for being undocumented workers. Well of course they do. Gang, anything I missed?
The ratings make it increasingly likely that “Brave New World” was Heroes’ last stand. Though there’s still “hope” for a Dollhouse-like reprieve, pulling 13 million less viewers than Two And A Half Men doesn’t bode well for the show. But first, let’s catch up a bit. As they say on tv, Previously On Heroes:
My friends at Fantastic Fangirls turned me on to the Chromatic Comics meme that went around LiveJournal, Dreamwidth and similar blog sites. Simply put: a number of bloggers re-cast various fandoms with all-POC casts. Below are a few notable examples with links attached.
What’s the bigger piece of sci-fi: that everybody on the planet can be knocked the you-know-what out at once, or that an imprecise recitation of Schroedinger’s Cat can work as a pick-up line?…
… No, really, let me know. If the latter is even close to plausible, I’ve still got the monologue on my DVR so I can transcribe it. Meantime, let’s see what the Table thought of “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.”
SUPER CHO + JETT JACKSON TEAM-UP HOUR! Demetri is like Midas on this show. But it already looks like he’s starting to burn out, no?
Mahsino: Like I said in our first roundtable for this: Demetri’s back must be tired from all this show carrying he’s doing. Yeah Stan and Al are lightening the load, but still… I’m just hoping his “murder file” was just a cover up for witness protection and he’s in a short coma during April 29. Yeah, it would be really convenient, but I’ll take it. Diana: I like the Demetri/Jett Jackson pairing much better than Demetri/Shakespeare. Mahsino, I’m with you. I’m hoping his lack of a flashforward and his murder can be explained by something else. jen*: Great to see them together, and any pairing with Fiennes is gonna suck in comparison to one with Jett Jackson – from jump. I liked the ~Blue Hand~ exposition without our British buddy, but I’d love for Cho to get a revelation of his own – maybe some way to change his “destiny”? Continue reading →
When I went to college at the University of Utah, there was no box for me to check. There was no “Middle Eastern” and there was definitely no “bi- or multi-racial.” I’d like to think that the U of U has since updated their ethnicity data, but I can’t be sure.
When I applied to graduate school, I practically wet my pants when I saw “Middle Eastern” on the online application. I was overjoyed to think that my regional ethnicity was included. I happily checked “Middle Eastern”, ignoring the line for “Other,” where I could have specified “bi-racial.”
Currently, if you fill out an application on the Oregon State University’s website, there is a drop-down box of ethnicities, with an almost exhaustive list. They divided “Middle Eastern” and “North African” to make sure all ethnicities within these groups were covered, and the lists were fairly inclusive. Hazaras, Maronites, Baluchis, and other under-represented Middle Easterners were under “Middle Eastern.”
However, there is still no option for multi- or bi-racial.
Last March, several Middle Eastern UCLA student groups began a lobby to expand the University of California application ethnicity check boxes to include ethnicities such as Arab, Persian, Afghan, etc. It’s mind-boggling that the UC system would still not have up-to-date ethnicity representation on its applications, especially since California has high concentrations of West Asian diasporas in California (they don’t call it “Tehrangeles” for nothing).
The University of California system updated its ethnicity check boxes in 2007, when the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) started the “Count Me In!” campaign, intended to break down the different groups pushed together under the category “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The campaign successfully put 23 new ethnicities on the application, including Samoan, Pakistani, and Hmong, and aims to improve census and research data on these specific groups’ college attendance patterns, financial aid packages, and student representation.
The first thing I thought when I read about the previous campaign was, “Lots of West Asian ethnicities are technically Asian because regionally they are on Asian continent. Why weren’t any of them included in this campaign?” Erin Pangilinan, a member of the APC campaign, stated that the campaign’s ethnicity representations were based off California Assembly Bill 295 (which included a call for “state entities that currently collect demographic data regarding the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to also make a separate category and tabulation for specified Asian and Chamorro, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan”) and the 2000 U.S. Census, which stated that the aforementioned specific ethnicities have the largest populations in the United States. She stated that the campaign “was not intended to be exclusive, instead it is starting point to have a more inclusive and comprehensive admissions policy.”
The second issue that arose was that many of the “ethnicities” on the list were not actually ethnicities, but nationalities (Pakistani, Taiwanese, etc). Pangilinan explained that the campaign focused on ethnicities provided by the Census, which brings up more questions about ethnic representation in governmental processes. Constructing nationalities as synonymous with ethnicities creates troubling deficiencies in ethnic representation within nations, erringly homogenizing the ethnic populace.
This led me to question the inclusivity and strategy of the current campaign. I spoke with Faisal Attrache from UCLA’s United Arab Society. He said that the campaign is not aiming for a “Middle Eastern” designation: “We are attempting to gain representation of Middle Eastern minorities, but we do not want it to be under the heading of ‘Middle Eastern’ for many reasons. It is a term with an unclear meaning and sometimes excludes several groups that we would like to include in the campaign. Ideally, we would like all the categories to standalone and not be grouped under ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Near Eastern’, because after all, the region we represent stretches from Central Asia to Western Africa.”
The campaign’s aim at a designation other than “Middle Eastern” is a relief: “Middle Eastern” is a term that’s left over from the colonial period, and is fairly misleading ethnically. “West Asian” includes much of the Middle East, including Arabs, but leaves out North Africa, a region which is heavily ethnically Arab. But I do have a fair skepticism at the stand-alone designations: if every other group has overarching categories, these ethnicities will most likely have one, too.
While I’m overjoyed that we (meaning underrepresented West Asian groups) might finally be included on the applications, I still worry about all those who aren’t being represented, and won’t be unless they lobby (or someone lobbies for them). Attrache mentioned that student groups at UCLA representing these ethnicities coordinate the campaign, and so Arab, Persian, Afghan, Armenian, and Assyrian students will be included. But no conclusive list has been agreed upon at this time, and so it’s difficult to say whether ethnicities that don’t have a large student presence on campus will be represented accurately or at all, especially if they are a significant minority in their home region. Because of the numerous and varied ethnicities in these regions, it’s almost certain that someone will get left out, which feels wrong in the current “We’re here, we’re [insert ethnicity], get used to us!” climate.
There’s also the fact that the box system itself is flawed, not just because of any possible lacks in representation, but because it historically leaves out bi- and multi-racial individuals. While the bi- or multi-racial designation could appear with a line for clarification, universities that use a drop-down box format have no way of collecting data about bi- or multi-racial students because the students cannot specify their racial makeup.
A blank line would illustrate better how people define themselves through their ethnicities and would be less likely to pigeonhole respondents into a group they don’t feel they identify with. It would also be welcoming for bi- or multi-racial students (much better than check all that apply).
The difficult logistics aside, this is an important campaign, just like it was two years ago. Not only will it give university statisticians and financial aid operators a better idea of the population indicators, but it can help the community at large gauge where it is on the local university scale in terms of representation, participation, and inclusion. It may also lead to an overall overhaul of the ethnicity system, recognizing differences among ethnicities under other categories previously bunched together (“Hispanic”, anyone?) and inaccurately represented.
Actually, this is the perfect time to revisit Heroes, since Monday marked the efforts of Fens Of Color United, an effort to bring to light sci-fi’s continuing struggle with positive POC characters. (Props to Roundtable member Erica for the tip.) Here’s more about it from The Angry Black Woman:
As RaceFail 09[*] continues, it has become clear that there are those who are hellbent on marginalizing and silencing people of color. In the past few months, minorities have been denigrated by bigoted authors and publishers who have also asserted that Fen of Color are rare and pratically non-existent. Despite numerous discussions and attempts to enlighten on the fact that POCs are fans, writers, artists and just as integral to this genre as our white counterparts, we are continuously dismissed.
On Monday May 18, 2009, we are asking anyone who identifies as a POC/non-white to post this banner, their speculative short stories, artwork, poetry or simply write a post on their favorite fandom on their blogs as an act of protest to show we will not be silent or invisible. The day of protest is entitled Fen Of Color United or more aptly, FOC_U.
White allies can also show solidarity for this event by posting this banner and expressing the need for diversity and speaking out against the bigotry in the genre, through posts and/or their creative work as well.
With that in mind, we join our Friendly Neighbourhood Roundtable’s season-ending chat, already in progress …
Diana: Oooh, I hate the stanky leg Andrea: speaking of stanky … shall we talk Heroes? erica: nice tie-in arturo: brilliant segue! jen*: sho nuff Diana: ok mahsino: if we must Andrea: i try, y’all. i try.
arturo: Well, let’s start at the beginning: what’d everybody think of the ep? erica: bleah Diana: C- Andrea: zzzzzzzz. erica: D+ mahsino: i’ve become so acclimated to the bad, i just don’t know anymore jen*: i’m just mad about fake Nate. arturo: how come? Andrea: i feel you, jen. Go first. erica: I was mad that they got my hopes up by actually stabbing him dead … and then couldn’t leave him dead for more than five minutes. mahsino: that was frustrating jen*: I hoped so long. It was my great wish for the finale. arturo: but Nate *is* dead mahsino: called it arturo: yes you did
erica: The logic for resurrecting Sylar into Nathan was pretty weak. Diana: That was a weird story twist. Does that mean we won’t see Quinto anymore? arturo: depends; when does Star Trek 2 start filming? ha erica: it hasn’t started filming yet? Andrea: well, according to Entertainment Weekly he’s in the franchise for 2 more films. mahsino: and yet they had the foresight to plan for his replacement jen*: yes – but bewitching Sy for this – eh. It’s so obviously his Trek-out. arturo: actually, E! reported that we *will* see Sylar next year — kind of a Fight Club thing, if you saw that flick Diana: He can do both. Really he’s one of the few I like to see. Andrea: I have to disagree, Diana. He bores me. Diana: So they are going to do a dual personality thingy? arturo: I imagine so — Sylar struggling to reclaim dominance and such. mahsino: They’ve overworked Sylar erica: I like to see Sylar in moderation. Andrea: And Sylar’s gonna ooze out of Nathan. Already the man’s changing clocks. Diana: I like it when he is really bad. They wasted time changing his personality. arturo: Erica, I must say, I bought Noah’s rationale — if Sylar became a news story, metahumans would definitely be in the crosshairs. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World