Tag Archives: fantasy

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The ‘N’ Word Through The Ages: The ‘Madness’ Of HP Lovecraft

By Guest Contributor Phenderson Djeli Clark, cross-posted from Media Diversified UK

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N*gger.

– H.P. Lovecraft, On the Creation of N*ggers (1912)

Author H.P. Lovecraft

I had come to believe that by now the racism of H.P. Lovecraft, the celebrated author of horror and fantasy, was a settled matter — like declaring Wrath of Khan the best film in the Star Trek franchise. Arguing against such a thing should be absurd. I certainly thought so after the matter was thrust into the spotlight in December 2011, when author Nnedi Okorafor won the esteemed World Fantasy Award — whose statuette is none other than H.P. Lovecraft’s disembodied head. Okorafor had been unaware of the depths of Lovecraft’s “issues,” until a friend sent her his 1912 poem,On the Creation of N*ggers, where blacks are fashioned by the gods as “a beast … in semi-human figure.”

This was no one-off, some “misspeak” by the author. Lovecraft’s racial biases ran deep and strong, as evidenced by his stories–from exotic locales with tropic natives lacerating themselves before mad gods in acts of “negro fetishism” (Call of Cthulhu), to descriptions of a black man as “gorilla-like” and one of the world’s “many ugly things” (Herbert West — Re-animator). This was no abstract part of Lovecraft’s creative process, where he was trying to imbue his work with some hint of realism. Rather, these were expressions of his foremost thoughts, a key part of his personal beliefs, most notably his virulent xenophobia towards an increasingly diverse American society emerging outside of his Anglo-Saxon New England.
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45 Women of Color in Science-Fiction/Fantasy Movies

By Guest Contributor Karishma; originally published at Persephone Magazine

This isn’t a definitive list of women of color in film. This isn’t a “best of” list, or a list of the most complicated or progressive characters in science-fiction or fantasy. This is simply a list of women of color in science-fiction and fantasy films. I tried to make it as full as possible, but ultimately had to decide on some parameters. These are women who are either secondary leads (because there are almost no women of color leads) or supporting characters. To better see how small the visual representation is, we have to be willing to look at all of the characters, in spite of their flaws, or limited screentime, or problematic nature. It helps paint a more accurate picture of the women we do see, and helps us understand why characters like the girls of Attack the Block never seem to break out into fan favorites, or why perceptions of Mako Mori becomes such a hot button topic in the weeks after the release of Pacific Rim.

Looking my previous post on the topic, after asking for suggestions, the answers didn’t really surprise me. Doctor Who’s Martha Jones, and Star Trek’s Uhura were repeat suggestions, but again, they were primarily TV-based suggestions. (I should clarify that even the Uhura suggestion pointed more at the TV-iteration of the character over the current Hollywood portrayal). In searching for a more complete list, what I found, unsurprisingly, is that most of the women of color on film are mostly background players, filling highly stereotyped and exoticized roles. I reached out to sci-fi and fantasy fans on tumblr, and pored through cast lists of the “100 Best Science Fiction Movies,” “Top 100 Science-Fiction & Fantasy Movies,” and “50 Greatest Fantasy Films.” Again, many people were stumped by the question, or reluctant to pick favorites, as women of color served to fulfill stereotypical roles, i.e. meek Asian woman or Magical Negro mystic, that furthered the white, male heterosexual narrative.

Fans often have to isolate the parts of the narrative they find compelling within these problematic portrayals, or be willing to look past the negative aspects of the narrow characterization to find something to relate to. Even in worlds where crime can be predicted before it happens, and lightning can be bottled and sold, women of color still cannot be protagonists, or have complicated and compelling backstories. It’s frustrating when I look at the casts of some of my favorite films and wonder what about the role seems to require a white actress (or actor). As much as I love Stardust, I’m not quite sure why Yvaine had to be played by Claire Danes, or why there weren’t any people of color in the fantastical candy-colored world of Edward Scissorhands, besides Officer Allen. We are slowly moving towards more visibility for women of color, as crowd-sourced films and more venues for the fan conversation call for better characters and more visibility. Just look at the conversation around this summer’s Pacific Rim, led to the creation of an alternative Bechdel test, the Mako Mori test.

Mako Mori in Pacific Rim

Mako Mori being great.

Without further ado, here are 45* women of color in science-fiction and fantasy films. Again, this role isn’t exhaustive or anywhere near complete, but serve to illustrate the types of roles that women of color get in these genre films. All of these women and characters should have greater visibility as we continue this conversation about women of color in Hollywood. (*Two women on the list, Mary Alice and Gloria Foster, share a character, so they have been grouped together, only because I think 45 sounds better than 46.) It should also be noted that superhero/comic-book movies have also been grouped in with the overall sci-fi and fantasy category, if anyone wants to get nitpicky about it.

  •  Aaliyah as Queen Akasha in Queen of the Damned
  •  Alfre Woodard as Lily Sloane in Star Trek: First Contact
  •  Alice Braga (who I’ve mentioned before) with multiple roles in Elysium, Predators, Blindness and I Am Legend
  •  Amandla Stenberg as Rue in The Hunger Games
  •  Angela Bassett as Det. Rita Veder in Vampire in Brooklyn and Mace in Strange Days
  •  Aubrey Plaza as Darius in Safety Not Guaranteed (character isn’t obviously a woman of color, but is played by a biracial actress)

Audrey Plaza in Safety Not Guaranteed

  •  Charlotte Lewis as Kee Nang in The Golden Child
  •  Clare-Hope Ashitey as Kee in Children of Men

Clare Hope Ashitey in Children of Men

  •  Danielle Vitalis as Tia in Attack the Block
  •  Doona Bae as multiple characters in Cloud Atlas and Park Nam-Joo in The Host
  •  Eva Mendez as Sand Saref in The Spirit and Roxanne Simpson in Ghost Rider
  •  Frieda Pinto as Carolina Aranha in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  •  Gina Antwi as Dionne in Attack the Block
  •  Gina Torres as Zoe Washburne in Serenity and Cas in the Matrix movies
  • Gina Torres in Serenity
  •  Gloria Foster and Mary Alice share the role of The Oracle in the Matrix movies
  •  Grace Jones as Zula in Conan the Barbarian

Grace Jones as Zula

  •  Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men films, Catwoman in Catwoman, and multiple characters in Cloud Atlas
  •  J.L. Reate as The Golden Child in The Golden Child
  •  Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe in the Matrix movies
  •  Jennifer Lopez as Catharine Deane in The Cell
  •  Katie Leung as Cho Chang in the Harry Potter Movies
  •  Maya Rudolph as Rita in Idiocracy

Maya Rudolph in Idiocracy

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The Walking Dead Recap 3.9: “The Suicide King”

by Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour

TWD_TR_309_0810_0447

The Walking Dead has returned! Huzzah! It takes quite a fan base for a TV show to come back in awards season. Competing with The Grammys, I made a night of channel flipping between my live-tweeting duties and undead counter programming: Bruno Mars crooning to zombies groaning; watching Rick’s sanity slip a little more to Jennifer Lopez’s slipping taste; witnessing Andrea’s desire for normalcy result in a huge case of denial (willfully ignoring fish tanks full of zombie heads?) to… nope. There’s really nothing like Andrea’s thought process.

Note: The Walking Dead Roundtable will be slightly different from now on: If you’ve read our Scandal roundtables, you’ll be familiar with the setup: each week, a Racialicious denizen will provide an episode summary the day after the newest episode airs. For The Walking Dead, that day will be Mondays. Then, on Friday a longer roundtable discussion of the episode is posted hosted by moi, Joe, accompanied by a circle of insightful fans.

So, now there will be two Walking Dead posts, or 2x the zombie fun.

Recap for The Walking Dead Episode 3.9: “The Suicide King” appears under the cut!

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The Walking Dead Roundtable 3.6: “Hounded”

Hosted By Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour

In this week’s Walking Dead, we see Michonne proving why she’s so badass, yet again; we are reminded why Merle is oh so creepy; and we are shown, yet again, that Andrea is not thinking clearly enough in a world where people drag around dead bodies on leashes, keep their decaying loved ones in barns, and men shoot their best friends in the face to protect them from everyone. Carly Mitchell, Kiki Smith, and Jeannie Chan join me to analyze the whos, whats, and whys of this zombie world we see this week.

*I’ll let River Song say what we don’t want in the comments this time:

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Steampunk POC: Nivi Hicks (African-American, Spanish, Lebanese)

Nivi Hicks of SLC, Utah. All images courtesy of Nivi Hicks.

By Guest Contributor Jaymee Goh, cross-posted from Silver Goggles

It’s the first Friday of the month, all over again! Time for another steampunk POC interview, and today, Nivi Hicks of Salt Lake City, UT, claims the spotlight! Nivi’s been seen in her Bombay steampunk outfit, and her style threads influences from South Asia and the Middle East. She’s also one of the organizers of SaltCity Steamfest. Without further ado, Nivi Hicks!

How do you do steampunk? Or how do you steampunk or how do you participate in steampunk? Or what steampunk media do you do (lit, fashion, events)?
I’m a steampunk enthusiast and supporter within my community here in Utah. Events, fashions, icons–you name it, I try to support it. I’ve even taken up the reigns with a group of fellow steampunkians to create Utah’s first ever Steampunk Convention, SaltCity Steamfest. Eventually, I would like to expand into fashion as a model more.

When asked “what is steampunk?!” what do *you* say? 
My escape that lets me dress pretty without having to live to a cookie-cutter expectation (like cosplay can do). It’s what happens when you take the industrial revolution, lengthen it, add steroids, a more exciting history and technical output, some lace, and fantasy–va-la!
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HBO Eyeing Neil Gaiman’s American Gods; Will a Casting Race Fail Soon Follow?

by Latoya Peterson

American Gods Cover

My, my, my. HBO is going all in with their fantasy acquisitions these days. First Game of Thrones and now Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. According to Deadline Hollywood:

The project was brought to HBO by Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and it was brought to them by Robert Richardson. The plan is for Richardson and Gaiman to write the pilot together. [...]

American Gods, the 2002 book that won both the Stoker and Hugo Award among other prizes, lays out a battle between two sets of gods. One consists of the traditional gods and mythological creatures who got their power because people throughout history believed in them. They are losing steam as people’s beliefs wane and are in danger of being supplanted by a new set of gods who reflect America’s preoccupation with technological advancements and obsessions with media, celebrity, technology and drugs. The protagonist is an ex-con who becomes the traveling partner of a conman who turns out to be one of the older gods trying to recruit troops to battle the upstart deities.

The main character of American Gods is Shadow, a wandering ex-convict who finds himself in a battle of mythology – the older Gods of folklore, brought to America by waves of immigration and kept alive by their devotees are set to face off against the newer Gods like the internet and the media. But what is most compelling to me isn’t just the story line – it’s that once again, Gaiman has been explicit about which of his characters are nonwhite by design. Gaiman, writing on the WELL message boards, explains his thoughts around Shadow:

[I]n my head at least he’s one of those people whose race doesn’t read easily — in the celebrity world, Vin Deisel’s an example of the same kind of look. But it seemed appropriate in a book about America that the hero was of mixed race.

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Quoted: Annalee Newitz on Race Fantasies in Sci-Fi

Whether Avatar is racist is a matter for debate. Regardless of where you come down on that question, it’s undeniable that the film – like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year – is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it’s a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity? [...]

These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color – their cultures, their habitats, and their populations. The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the “alien” cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become “race traitors,” and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed. This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.

Think of it this way. Avatar is a fantasy about ceasing to be white, giving up the old human meatsack to join the blue people, but never losing white privilege. Jake never really knows what it’s like to be a Na’vi because he always has the option to switch back into human mode. Interestingly, Wikus in District 9 learns a very different lesson. He’s becoming alien and he can’t go back. He has no other choice but to live in the slums and eat catfood. And guess what? He really hates it. He helps his alien buddy to escape Earth solely because he’s hoping the guy will come back in a few years with a “cure” for his alienness. When whites fantasize about becoming other races, it’s only fun if they can blithely ignore the fundamental experience of being an oppressed racial group. Which is that you are oppressed, and nobody will let you be a leader of anything.

—From “When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar?” Annalee Newitz, io9.

Read the whole piece at io9.com