Tag Archives: Science-fiction

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 Fading Diversity Of Lost Girl

By Guest Contributor Shilpa K.


Bo in Lost Girl. Image via Syfy.com.

Racial diversity in science fiction and fantasy can be difficult to find. Perhaps that’s why the Canadian fantasy show Lost Girl’s casual, anyone-can-be-anything attitude towards race, gender, and sexuality is so refreshing—and why this season’s shift in representation has been so disheartening.

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The Walking Dead Midseason Finale 3.8: “Made To Suffer” (And How)

Hosted by Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour

I would like to take the opportunity to express my dismay that more and more shows are doing this midseason finale thing. It really is just the worst thing for my emotions, especially for fanboys and fangirls like me who find the week-long lull between episodes torture enough. However, one good side-effect to the dreaded midseason finale is having two cliffhangers intensify a show’s season, and this hour of Walking Dead in particular was all the more riveting for it.

This week, we see what happens when Rick, Michonne, and the rest of the Lil’ Asskickers infiltrate Woodbury. Considering the title of the episode is “Made to Suffer”, one can imagine the rescue mission proves…unpleasant. Particularly if you’re a supporting character of color. Watch out, everyone but Merle in Woodbury patrol…but, part of what makes The Walking Dead so great–in spite of the pitfalls–is the tense drama elevates the story. And, in spite of how much (constructive!) criticism I and the rest of the tablers impart, the fact that is that we here at the roundtable all are huge fans of TWD. That fact gets lost in the critique sometimes, so it never hurts to put some love out there. Plus, how can an awesome show get any more awesome if no one points out how?

Before the roundtable hibernates for the winter, Kenneth Hwynn, Carly Mitchell, and newcomer Nikki Urban (welcome, Nikki!) join me, as we witness Glenn do things to a corpse that we will never unsee. Or unhear.

* Spoilers make us all so sad.

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The Walking Dead 3.4: “Killer Within”

Hosted By Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joe Lamour

The best and the worst thing about the zombie genre is that anyone can become a casualty at a moments notice. This doesn’t particularly matter to me (usually) because I feel zombie movie characters are secondary to the carnage packed into an hour and a half flick.

With a show like The Walking Dead, however, character building is as important as the carnage. We grow to love (or hate) characters over seasons full of episodes. This makes for great drama, and a more real feeling of sadness when a death occurs. At least, that’s what should happen…

Carly Neely, Kiki Smith, Kenneth Hwynn, Jeannie Chan, Jenn Kim and I mull over this week’s plusses and its many, many minuses.

* Help to keep the comment area a no spoiler zone.

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Dark Victorian Fairytale Science Fiction: An Interview with Psyche Corporation

By Guest Contributor Ay-leen the Peacemaker, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

In exploring the range of music that has been classified under the steampunk umbrella, Psyche Corporation would be on the more Gothic side of the spectrum.  The one-woman musical singer behind the band, Psyche Chimère possesses a versatile voice, and her music ranges as far as the imaginative topics she sings about. At turns Psyche Corporation moves from evocative and theatrical, as with“Part of Her Design” or “Beast”; to the darkwave dance beats of “Institute” or “The Crime”; to whimsical but edgy storytelling like in “The Ceiling” and “Wonderland.” (You can listen to her music on her MySpace, Reverbnation, or last.fm).

Psyche Corporation’s music, however, has struck a chord with the steampunk community, and she has performed at steampunk events around the country, including The Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey, Dorian’s Parlor in Philadelphia, the Steampunk Salon run by the Brooklyn Indie Mart, and in conjunction with Steampunk Canada & the Toronto Steampunk Society for Canada’s Fan Expo. Psyche Corporation’s next steampunk performance will be at The Anachronism at Webster Hall in New York City on November 21st.

Just in time for Halloween, however, Psyche Chimère stopped by the blog to talk about her darkly-tinged music and her career as a musician in the steampunk community.

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