How do you imagine a life you could never live? Though not really a theme, this problem is at the heart of Netflix’s new original series Sense8, created by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski, and heavily influenced by Tom Tykwer. Like many fantastical or science fictional premises, Sense8’s premise is a wish fulfillment: not — as is typical of this genre and the Wachowskis’ earlier work — the wish fulfillment of the disempowered middle school nerd stuffed into a locker, but rather the Mary Sue desire of a mature, white American writer/auteur who has discovered that an entire world is “out there,” one that the maker doesn’t know how to imagine. Continue reading →
Nina Simone fans who are leery of the Zoe Saldana biopic Nina take heart: Netflix quietly posted the trailer for What Happened, Miss Simone?, a documentary that has the support of the singer’s estate and features her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.
“People think that when she went out on stage, she became Nina Simone,” Kelly says. “My mother was Nina Simone 24-7. And that’s where it became a problem.”
Directed by Oscar nominee Liz Garbus, the film — which is coming off an appearance at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — promises to feature rare and never-before-seen footage and tapes as part of a comprehensive look at not only Simone’s professional life, but her activism.
“I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself,” Simone says, amid chillingly-timely footage of police brutality and Black activists marching. “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
Earlier this week we covered the burgeoning campaign against Adam Sandler, Netflix, and their Ridiculous 6 project.
During our coverage, we caught up to Megan Red-Shirt Shaw, who devised the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag in the wake of the mass walkout by a group of Native American performers, and talked about how the tag came together, how she feels about the defense of the film as “satire,” and where the campaign goes from here.
Let’s start at the beginning: describe, if you would, the moments when you first heard about the actors walking off the Sandler set. How did you go from there to getting the tag together?
Megan Red-Shirt Shaw: I was definitely upset, but also empowered by their decision to take a stand. It’s really difficult to hear that people within our communities are being dishonored – especially in ways that seem like “vintage” issues — the old Western and “Cowboys and Indians” films we’ve come to know really well. I went on Twitter to see what different voices were talking about and realized there wasn’t a hashtag consolidating the ideas. I looked through the original article by Vince Schilling and saw the quotation by Allie Young about being a “Hollywood Indian.” I knew that was what we had to get trending. Continue reading →
“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” said actor Loren Anthony, a Navajo Nation member. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”
ICTMN also posted video taken on the set from another performer, Goldie Tom, showing actors voicing their concerns to an unidentified producer.
“We don’t need to sell out our people,” one actor says in the footage.
“I understand completely,” the producer replies. “But we’re not gonna change ‘Beaver Breath.'”
“It’s no surprise, of course, that Adam Sandler has written another movie overflowing with the kinds of jokes that might feel edgy to an 11-year-old who finally understands what sex is,” Sargent observed.
The story quickly picked up traction nationally, blossoming into a rare public blunder for Netflix, which was just coming off the largely-favorable reception for Marvel’s new Daredevil series. And the budding broadcast hub chose to address the issue with a somewhat warmed-over statement.
“The movie has Ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous,” the company stated. “It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke.”
While Sandler himself has not weighed in, the chorus of Native Americans supporting the actors has only grown. Natives In America founder Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, a past Racialicious contributor, organized the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag to rally attention to the incident.
And Netflix itself now faces the prospect of a boycott, as the #WalkOffNetflix campaign is also gaining steam. Online supporters are threatening to abandon the streaming service if it does not cancel Sandler’s project.
Meanwhile, the production staff has reportedly reached out to the actors who left the set, including 74-year-old Choctaw performer David Hill.
“I hope they will listen to us,” said Hill, a member of the American Indian Movement. “We understand this is a comedy, we understand this is humor, but we won’t tolerate disrespect. I told the director if he had talked to a native woman the way they were talked to in this movie — I said I would knock his ass out. This isn’t my first rodeo, if someone doesn’t speak up, no one will.”
Enough time has probably passed that most of us can now consider Marvel’s new Daredevil adaptation in full — both the good and the bad. And make no mistake, the good has been very good at times.
In fact, I suggested on the Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast that this show, along with Orphan Black, The Flash and arguably Arrow, has introduced enough non-mainstream “prestige” shows that calls for a set of separate sci-fi/fantasy Emmys should be taken seriously.
But, like a hurdler tripping and landing chin-first near the finish line, Daredevil’s 12th episode closes on a note that is less “shocking” than it is disappointing. And par for the course with the comics industry in all the wrong ways.
Yes, I am proposing that a major comic book institution change the race of one of its popular characters as it transitions to a new form of media. In this case, I want Marvel Studios to cast an Asian American actor to play the lead in the upcoming Iron Fist show it is developing for Netflix. It seems logical enough to me, though as always, there are fans who are urging Marvel to resist changing his race.
Years ago, an actor/writer working on a pilot episode for Fox told me she suspected a 2010 session just led producers to transform tertiary white characters into ethnic minorities, with no change in the scripts to acknowledge the shift in race or culture.
But then came this fall’s sleeper hit, “Sleepy Hollow,” Fox’s tale about the modern-day adventures of Ichabod Crane. Ichabod somehow awakens in modern times after a 250-year sleep. The story unfolds like “The X-Files” meets “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (except the Yankee moves forward in time rather than back). Crane teams with a young cop to tackle supernatural weirdness related to the return of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
And the young cop, Abbie Mills, is played by Nicole Beharie, an up-and-coming African-American actor who made a splash as Jackie Robinson’s wife this spring in the film “42.” Suddenly, the show was anchored by a strong black woman who gets to kick down doors, tote a trusty sidearm and play skeptical Dana Scully to Ichabod Crane’s witchcraft-wise Fox Mulder (for the uninitiated, that’s an X-Files shout-out).
When the show featured a storyline centered on Mills’ sister, we got to see two black women in an action/adventure setting, fighting the bad guys instead of waiting to be rescued or seduced. It was exactly the kind of diverse casting I had been waiting for since 1999, when the issue hit a crisis point as the broadcast networks offered a fall slate of new TV shows without a single character of color.
We have been here before. Our history becomes our present so often it becomes difficult to distinguish the two. Politicians and cable news hosts and the naïvely colorblind ask us to forget, most of the country obliges, and black people, again, are left to piece together the fragments of history, suffering, rage, and pain so that we may have hope for something better.
Again we advocate for justice. Again we question what justice would even look like. Again we demand that black life be valued. Again we wonder why it never was in the first place. Again we weep, we pray, we march, we raise our voices. Again we prepare ourselves to be let down. And again we ask when will the moment come where we won’t have to go through this again.
The cast of “Arrested Development.” Image via jta.org
Like a lot of people this holiday weekend, I powered through all 15 episodes of the fourth season of Arrested Development. (Apparently I’m one of just 10 percent of viewers who finished the whole run by sundown. I don’t know if this is an honorific or a red flag.)
And as it turns out, there’s quite a bit to go through as regards the series’ treatment of people who aren’t the Bluths. But I want to try something a little different from our open threads — I’d like to crowd-source some reactions to some of the various depictions we saw this year. Spoilers and general guidelines under the cut. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World