People sick of American politics and American media, you might want to look away from this one. Or not. Also, I reserve the right to use copious profanity throughout this post… because it involves American politics and media.
For various reasons on Sunday night — mostly having to do with the fact that I can’t beat that one hidden boss in the Dragon Age 2: Legacy DLC wtf why doesn’t Anders heal faster he’s so damn useless and seriously why is Sebastian even in this game — I found myself watching Predators (2010) on TV. I’d been vaguely interested in seeing the film back when it was out in theaters, but something warned me not to, so I didn’t. So I got to see it on cable, sans the first 20 minutes in which I wasn’t paying attention while I made dinner… and wow. What an utter mess. My instincts were completely correct.
I get what they were trying to do with it. The pure-nostalgia soundtrack, the return to the jungle environment — this was basically a remake of the original Predator (1987) that the studio decided not to label as such. I liked the original Predator, back when I was a teenager, because a) most teenagers have appalling taste, and b) who wouldn’t like seeing a team of smartmouthed macho men getting the arrogance kicked out of them — Oh, wait, that wasn’t why you liked the film? Oh, well. Actually Predator was kind of progressive for an action movie of its time. It didn’t have an ethnic enemy; remember Rambo was the thing back then, Americans endlessly re-fighting the VietKoreWorld War and reframing it as One White Guy Against The Endless Brown Hordes. Not that there weren’t brown hordes in the film, but at least the film correctly implied that American CIA shenanigans were at the root of that. And it actually had an ensemble cast, sort of. This was back in the days when Ahnold wasn’t quite the big name he later became (partly as a result of Predator); Carl Weathers was better-known thanks to the Rocky films, and Jesse “the Body” Ventura had a big audience via wrestling. So Carl Weathers’ character got to have some personality and purpose in the story other than to be The Black Guy Who Dies, and Ventura got to pronounce classic lines like “Ain’t got time to bleed” with a straight face.
But that movie had serious problems. You knew Weathers’ character was doomed the instant you saw him, along with Bill Duke’s character — the other black guy. You knew when you saw Billy, the generic American Indian character, that he was going to die a Noble Savage death. You knew Poncho, the generic Latino character, was going to reveal cowardice or criminality before the end of the film. You knew the female character, who never even got a name, would be useless deadweight and have to be rescued repeatedly. You also knew she would probably get to live, because who else is the surviving male hero going to bang for his victory celebration?
This new version raised all of that, and saw us some additional extra-crispy crapcakes to boot. Nothing progressive about this one; regressive, in fact. It’s Adrian Brody and his amazing friends — not an ensemble — with the rest of the cast reduced to nothing but a TV Tropes index. The role of the Noble Savage was played by an English-speaking Yakuza who inexplicably knew how to date and wield a samurai sword with expert skill. (Because that’s what all Japanese do in their spare time, don’t you know: sword practice and antiques appraisal.) There were again two black guys, but the movie pulled an awesome fakeout by making me initially think the one played by Laurence Fishburne would have an interesting role. (And by “awesome” I mean “rage-inducing”.) The lone woman gets to carry a gun this time, and actually shoot it! And she doesn’t have to be preggo to survive the film (a la Predator 2). Progress! Not. She still gets reduced to helplessness before the end, and must be rescued by Adrian Brody’s uber white guy. There’s a lovely little Adam-and-Eve shot of them near the end.
(I’ve been consoling myself since Sunday by imagining that both characters are gay and want nothing to do with each other. I know there’s some fanfic out there somewhere like this. Recommendations welcome.)
So 25 years after the original Predator and we’re still getting slapped with the same — or worse — tired, predictable bigotry every time we risk our dollars or time on Hollywood. I don’t go to the movies much anymore, and this is why. But here’s the problem: all that canned bigotry we’ve been swallowing? It’s everywhere. It permeates all our media, from video games (even the ones I like, like Dragon Age 2, though it’s better than most) to movies to commercials to books (even my own fiction, though I try to be better than most). It sends us unsubtle messages about who can be trusted, and who can’t; who has a chance of survival in a crisis, and who doesn’t; who’s smart and who’s just a big dumb thug. Who will succeed, and who will fail. And worst of all, the canned bigotry in our media poisons the way we view the real world. This should not be news to anyone reading.
But something important has changed: Americans. We’ve never been just what American media so relentlessly depicts. Now, however, with every passing year, the narrative that the media chooses to promote — straight white guys doing everything, being everything, winning everything — becomes more and more blatant a falsehood. Non-hispanic whites are about 60% of our population. Less than half of those are white men. Yet white men get the vast majority of lead roles in American films and television. (PDF) They don’t even have to compete for those roles; in most cases the roles are set aside for white males and white males alone. (Talk about Affirmative Action. People of color have never been the primary beneficiaries.)
America’s scholars and doctors are not mostly white men; they don’t look like what Hollywood gives us. Our soldiers don’t look like this. Our athletes don’t look like this. Our teachers and volunteers and musicians and tourists and fucking dogwalkers don’t look like this. Our children don’t look like this.
And every time we unquestioningly accept a straight white guy as the centerpiece of all our art and entertainment, we’re lying our asses off. To ourselves, as well as everyone else.
Here’s why that matters. For the past week, America has been in a paroxysm of replay refereeing. Those of us on the liberal side of the aisle have been gloating a little, I’ll admit — but that’s mostly out of relief, because the election confirmed that 51% of the country has not drunk the Kool-Aid that the Republicans have been serving for the past 4 years plus or minus 30. Better to gloat than think about the fact that 48% of the country did drink that Kool-Aid, and would probably rather die than throw it up and swallow the antidote. (OK, that’s a really horrible metaphor. Sorry. Bad author.) There have been some good analyses of what happened on the Republican side of the aisle, and some good suggestions for the future from the Repubs’ ostensible target audience of white males, mostly amounting to “Republicans need to recognize that the country isn’t all straight white guys and you don’t get to run everything anymore. Grow the fuck up and share.” Which is nothing more than people of color and women have been saying for decades, but… well, we’ve already established that Republicans don’t listen much to folks like us.
These armchair quarterbacks are right. But they’re also wrong. The problem isn’t what they’re saying, but who they’re saying it to. They’re talking like this is just a Republican problem, a conservative problem, a white guy problem. No. The kyriarchy is systemic, and it is supported by everyone, not just by those at the top of the pyramid. We all need to recognize that the country isn’t straight white guys anymore. And we all need to change the way we’ve been doing things in recognition of this fact.
I’m saying “we” because even us black female anti-oppressionists slip, sometimes. I was surprised by the election results. Although I believed the statistics rather than the lies and damned lies (warning for batshittery), I honestly thought it would be a closer contest, not the electoral landslide we actually got. This is because I’d forgotten that hardline conservatives are only about 30% of the country — the rest of us are far more liberal, and always have been. How could I forget this? Well, I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid, but I tasted it. (OK! I said no more Kool-Aid! I mean it this time.) I let the fact that the 30% is overrepresented in our media — which gives it a much, much louder voice than it rightly should have — influence my thinking.
There was good reason for my anxiety beyond the Fox Noise machine, note. I worried that white women, in this even-more-racially-polarized-than-ever society, would fail to turn out at the polls, even though Romney was threatening their ability to control their own bodies. Throughout our history, in any critical juncture where race issues have been pitted against gender issues, white women have chosen to be white first and women second. I also feared that the Republicans’ efforts to suppress the vote among people of color and the working class in places like Florida would actually be effective. And they were. Took Florida fricking ages to finish counting the vote because of shenanigans like that. But I underestimated my own people — for whatever value of “my people” you want to use here, black or PoC or liberal or something else. I underestimated just how pissed off the majority of the country was over all this ridiculous shit. I heard the narrative being painted by all the white guys on both sides of the aisle — voter suppression — but I didn’t hear the narrative brewing among everyone else, which was aw hell no they ain’t takin’ my vote away. In retrospect, I don’t think the Democrats won this year because they’ve done such an awesome job of things. I think they won because the Republicans did an awesome job of pissing everybody but white Christian straight rich (etc) men off.
They should’ve seen it coming. But they have an excuse, though a shitty one; they weren’t paying attention. I’m the one who should’ve seen it coming.
Because, as a novelist, I’m part of the American media. I’m one of the people creating those insidious little narratives that influence your thoughts about the real world. I know the power of a narrative, and I should’ve realized that this one disguised a powerful and equally important subtext. I also should’ve realized there was more than one narrative at work — Theirs, and Ours. So this whole thing has served to remind me that, much as I champion the right of PoC and women and everyone else who’s gotten second, third, and no billing to take the center stage of American life, there’s still a part of me that has absorbed the bigoted messages of all the media I’ve consumed. They’re toxic, those messages, and incredibly virulent; takes nothing more than a glancing brush and they’re in you. Changing all your perceptions of reality, often in ways you don’t recognize ’til it’s too late.
Predators grossed $52 million at the box office — a moderately successful film by all accounts. For it to have earned that much, millions of people worldwide had to shell out a whole lot of money. To amuse themselves with two hours of rather blatantly misogynistic, homophobic, and white supremacist messages.
This is why I’m saying that it’s not just the GOP that needs to change. Our entire society needs to reorient itself. We need to examine every institution which purports to work for the American people, and ask ourselves whether the real complexity of the American people is represented within it. If not, we — all of us, not just the underrepresented people — need to advocate for change. Every liberal who’s laughing at conservatives right now needs to check themselves. Ask yourself how much of that stuff you bought into, even as you went to the polls. Then take it further. Ask yourself why we keep telling lies about our own history. (Hint: in reality, blacks were by no means passive or uninvolved.) Ask yourself why we swallow those lies, unchewed and untasted, and then gleefully finance more. Ask yourself why we so often blame women for men’s infidelities* — and paradoxically ask yourself why we think of women as prizes to be won, in real life as well as in film. Ask yourself why so many of us clutch pearls at the idea that our children might have a more fluid notion of gender and sexuality than we do. And then ask yourself why half this country seriously thought that pregnancy from rape was a good thing, that birth control is a bad thing, and that our president might be a foreign usurper hellbent on… fuck, I don’t know, destroying the world.
The modern GOP is a monster. I’m not defending it. It deserved the shellacking it got, and unless it changes then it is a mortal party doomed to die. I’m simply saying that we, as a society, have created that monster. We saw the early stages of transformation and failed to take action — probably because lesser monsters just like the big guy, are hidden in every level of our society. So we all bear responsibility for hunting these monsters down and shooting them in the head.
(Mightily resisting the temptation to work in a metaphor here about taking off and nuking the site from orbit. I think we can still salvage the country. I hope so.)
* That one’s courtesy of Justine Larbalestier, who happened to be ranting on Twitter about this very thing while I wrote this.
25 thoughts on “Predators, the GOP, and you”
The sad thing is, I love love love movies. I just don’t love the movies I’m offered. But apparently that doesn’t matter. Le sigh.
I think part of their loss is that they also did a fine job of pissing off well-off White Christian males who think.
And some of that 48% who voted for Romney do not believe the far right GOP anti-intellectual nutjobs. They made their choices based on the view that (1) Obama has shown a penchant for ruling by decree rather than messing with the steps of passing laws and (2) they believe Obama will not help the economy. Finally, they all express the firm belief that the nutjob social agendas “Can’t happen here.”
Right or wrong, it is a far cry from buying into the B.S.
For myself, the logical, rational part of my brain went into the election believing the math – I’d followed Nate Silver and the Princeton Election Consortium, Electoral-vote.com, etc. – and I knew the cold, hard math was not in Romney’s favor. There was, however, a persistent irrational voice in my brain, the part that is fascinated by conspiracy theories, that had glommed onto certain ideas out there about how there might be computational “errors” in election machines without a paper trail that persistently favored Republican candidates… and I feared a wholesale theft of the election – with such a narrow lead in the popular vote, it would’ve been almost seamless to pull off.
On the other hand, I’ve rarely if ever, in the past, consumed my media (movies, TV, books, video games, etc.) with such a critical eye on how race, class, or gender, etc. were portrayed. As a straight white male, I haven’t been challenged on my preconceived notions very often. But when I am challenged, I try to learn from the experience and grow into a better person, as much as possible. (It hasn’t always been possible, and comes in fits and starts and gradual evolutions, with occasional steps backwards.)
One of the reasons I really like this blog (even though I’m still so deeply far behind in my novel reading that I haven’t yet had a chance to get to your Inheritance Trilogy – neverfear, I’m slowly catching up and expect to hit 100K Kingdoms some time in 2013 ;)), is the added dose of perspective and reality that I don’t always get other places.
We are on the same team. All people who want to make a better, fairer, safer society with social justice and awareness of our own flaws are on the same team. I’m on the straight-white-guy part of the team, but I’m as sincere as Linus’s pumpkin patch. Thanks for this intelligent piece of writing.
You’re missing the point. I am uninterested in rehashing the election by itself here. There are ten bagashmillion other blogs where you can do that.
What I am interested in is the election in the context of our cultural narratives, and in the context of America’s real makeup. For example, I think it would be interesting to interrogate that whole “can’t happen here” belief you mention. If I’m understanding you right, you’re suggesting that the people who chose to vote for Romney did so in hopes that he would only enact part of his own stated platform, and not the far-right nutjob parts he promised to enact as well. If so, then it sounds to me like those voters were probably buying into a very common Hollywood narrative. In Hollywood, American values and mores are resilient and unchanging, and no one would ever enshrine discrimination into law. If such a thing did happen it would be short-lived because Americans look out for each other. Some good (straight white male) person would come along and make a speech and get the law overturned, or some other good (straight white male) person would lead a revolution and make a St Crispin’s Day speech that would motivate everyone to fight until the law changed, and there would be a nice happy ending.
But I don’t think women who are old enough to remember the days of death-by-back-alley-abortions would have the luxury of trusting Mitt not to do some of the nutjob things he said he would. Ditto people who are poor enough to have known hunger and homelessness, QUILTBAG people, children of Holocaust survivors, children of Jim Crow survivors, etc. A few of those people would surely buy into the same Hollywood narrative of “it can’t happen here”; like I said in the OP, those narratives are insidious. But for the most part, I think it takes a special kind of privilege to be that trusting.
Please excuse the momentary pause for a fangirl freakout. HOLY SHIT THERE’S GONNA BE A TAILCHASER’S SONG MOVIE?! HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT? I LOVE THAT BOOK.
::ahem:: Sorry ’bout that. Thanks for visiting, and I agree.
All those things you said: yes.
I live abroad but I’ve seen this false American narrative–spun by American movies, music, and TV; international media outlets; entitled white guys who go abroad in painfully large numbers to my country of choice, etc–influence how people from other countries think about America. Holy crap that’s terrifying.
In Colorado, the “Can’t Happen Here” Narrative was espoused by a lot of people who I know that voted for Romney.
Although, I think the narrative has more layers than simply “Can’t Happen Here”. It also has shades of “Southerners Are Ignorant, and Don’t See That They Are the Ones Being Manipulated”. Which basically amounts to people who’re essentially libertarian in nature justifying voting for Republican candidates due to the fact that they don’t think the Republicans mean any of the Religious Right Rhetoric that they spout. Personally, that strikes me as horrifying in that they justify voting for someone on the basis of the fact that they’re assuming the candidate is a liar, but yeah, that justification is common out here.
One of the reasons why I love filmmaking and keep making/trying to make movies is to change that narrative. It is HARD, both for me as a person who drinks from the firehose of Hollywood media, and to write movies that will get funded.
It’s actually a bit more complex than you say. “With the exception of the south, Texas and Oklahoma,” Obama actually did pretty well with whites. There’s a wide swath in the South where Republicans get a huge percentage of the white vote, which skews the national totals.
Quick mass reply:
Scott: Yeah, that really is terrifying. Granted, though, everyone who voted for Romney had to be OK with his lying and flip-flopping, so maybe they figured the embrace of the religious stuff was just another one. Again, they have the luxury and privilege of being able to embrace that narrative, that the good (straight white) guy only lies when he has to and would never do anything truly heinous.
Annie: One of my favorite sites is The Hathor Legacy, which was started by a woman who went to film school and rejected the bigoted messages she was blatantly told to insert into her films. Just in case you weren’t familiar with it!
hector: I really don’t care about the white vote. Obviously you can discuss that over at Daily Kos, and elsewhere. Again, I’m not interested in simple election analysis here; I’m interested in the entertainment-media-reinforced myths that have driven it.
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I participate in a writing group (mostly as a beta reader) and I am always at odds with one member because I try to do just what you suggest: check myself. In turn, I check what I consume, etc. and so I make comments about narratives that reinforce these myths. I make comments because I find them offensive but also because we’ll never get away from them if we don’t stop perpetuating them. Anyway, the reason I am always at odds with this guy is because he can’t bring himself to “censor” anyone when it comes to art. It’s like he feels all “art” is valid no matter how offensive it is (I put art in quotes because I often see offensive messages couched in art specifically so that they won’t get censored). I have tried several arguments to support the idea that offensive and/or suppressive art is damaging and we ought to, at the least, censor it through not consuming it and certainly by not creating it but I just can’t seem to get through. While I find myself most often having this discussion with this one particular person due to the group we are in it’s not like he’s the only guy I have this conversation with. Anyone have any thoughts on ways to be a better advocate for busting these harmful myths? Especially in regards to the censorship issue?
White chick. Voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Last time, I did it solely for me. This time, I did it both for me and the daughter I’ll be delivering sometime before Christmas. Ordinarily I’d leave my race out of that announcement but it seemed relevant this time around. It seemed relevant because, in the aftermath of the election, I realized I wasn’t as clueful as I thought I was about how those who aren’t white males of a certain age viewed the election. Some of the dog whistles I heard. Some of the code words I deciphered. I was especially good when it was aimed at women (not as good as I should be…so few of us are…). But on Wednesday morning, as the post-mortems rolled in, I realized that I’d missed a lot, including the fury among blacks and Latinos. I was happy about the result. Nothing’s going to change without that kind of turn-out and the fury that drove it. Of course, the narrative certain elements of the right wing are now embracing is disgusting, but I take comfort in knowing that the people who matter are awake to the b.s. Some of the things said on Fox about how the women’s vote broke down, especially regarding married vs. single, were just plain insulting (did I also mention that I’m married?). But it’s going to get uglier before it gets better. At least people are listening.
As for the election, I leaned hard on Nate Silver and Sam Wang. So did my coworkers. Scientists. What can I say? We even debated whose model was better, Wang’s or Silver’s. In a true case of identity politics, one of my coworkers favored Wang just because Wang is a fellow biophysicist. So I never doubted that there would be an Electoral College blow-out or that the Dems would enlarge their majority in the Senate and pick up some seats in the House. Actually watching it happen, though, remained thrilling. Watching the gap between prediction and reality get filled in is always thrilling.
Join a better writing group. If you’re the only person in the group taking this guy to task, then the rest of the members condone what this guy is doing and they are supporting him by their silence. If the guy thinks art is supposed to reinforce the status quo, he’s a shitty artist. One of the ways we can be better advocates is by not putting up with bullshit when we see it, and boycotting it — and saying why we’re boycotting it — when it persists. There’s also no reason you should continue being the lone voice of anti-bigotry in the group when the whole group is arrayed against you. That will wear you down to nothing. Leave, tell them to suck it, and go find some writers who actually care about art. Then make better art than your old group could ever imagine.
May I suggest Critters while you’re looking for another group? Not free of bigoted bullshit by any stretch, but at least you can choose what and how much of it you put up with.
That pretty much goes for every institution you’re a part of. Protest, if you think people will listen. If they’re not listening, go somewhere people will. And do better work with those people.
You’re right about us needing to take responsibility for our consumption – to vote with our dollars, in a sense. But can I also just say that I’m so tired of the tacit approval of Obama, our of fear or repulsion of the GOP alternative? There is no “might” in your line about him being a usurper.
If we’re going to talk about things like racial justice, or mitigating the excesses of “white men killing brown people (or, “saving them”)” in our media, then let’s also talk about mitigating those excesses in the real world. Under Obama we are in *more* wars than we were under Bush, he passed NDAA, set a precedent for extrajudicial assassination of US citizens, passed a pro-corporate healthcare bill, has an ongoing love affair with Goldman Sachs, et al, continues the US practice of funding Israel’s terrorism of Palestinians, and is playing Rambo by proxy with drone strikes in rural Pakistan. No one but the so called “radical left” is even talking about this stuff. Not only are the Democrats not doing a good job, they’re doing a goddamn *terrible* job.
Maybe you’ve heard about this from others. Maybe you (the second person you, not you, Nora) decided that the potential risk of losing reproductive rights is enough of a reason to overlook Obama’s grievous crimes against humanity and people of color around the world. That he’s a cultural vampire like all politicians, and shifts his policy stance as his advisory team suggests in order to garner more votes or secure the ones he has.
Liberals criticize the GOP/conservatives for reacting out of fear – of the shrinking white minority, the OMGMooslems, the socialists, and whatever other nonsense, yet they’re not looking at their own fear-based reactions. They’re not looking at the fact that the only reason the radical right even HAS a voice at all, why women’s reproductive rights are even potentially on the table at all, is because the Democrats, with Obama at the helm, are a center-right party. By the rules of the game, the GOP has to be categorically opposed to them, and since they’re not going to swing back around to the left, they have to move to the extreme right in order to even stay relevant. Obama offered them everything short of a pie and a blowjob, and when they refuse it, liberals look at how unreasonable the GOP is being, but not the fact that Obama’s so aligned with them in the first place.
God, I just… Sorry, but, this default Obama love/acquiescence amongst liberals is infuriating to me. Anyway, yes, we do need to start being accountable – in what we write, in how we talk about issues, in who we vote for, in the systems we continue to support.
Please point to a single line in my OP or responses that praised, or even mentioned, Obama.
And then please respond to what I actually wrote, and not whatever you think I wrote that triggered your rant here. Or maybe you meant to post this on someone else’s blog? Because I didn’t write squat about Obama being a usurper.
Oh, I see the line about usurpation. But regardless, I’m not going to start discussing with you whether Obama really is a Kenyan. Because a) that’s bullshit, and b) in your zeal to champion the radical left, you’ve completely failed to engage with the actual subject matter of this post. It is not about consumption or accountability or even who deserved to win. It is about how we think, and why.
I am not a writer but an advid reader of Fantasy, Loved yours. Why I am writing now is by chance I caught your rheotic on goodreads and here I am. I was glad to know that I was not alone in thinking that the republicans had it wrong and if they don’t change, (if we don’t change) getting it wronger! I voted for Obama, in 2008, and 2012 because he was the best canidate for the job. in every election I am neither Republican or Democrat. I vote for the best person that is on the ticket. I follow the race as the canidates sprew their rheotic and cancel them out for what they say or do. how much proof does someone need to prove that they are american citizen does everyone not born caurcasian have to prove they came out their mothers womb on american soil and by rights his mother was an american that makes him american unless he claims citizenship to another country.
Movies I do watch but have like you say a problem with the makeup of cast and characters and roles. take bond for instantance the only bond girl i have ever respected is the Queen of England. the latest and best bond girl. the rest have been a demistration in how low can we go in unclassy females. do you have to be naked and paraded around to be consider a good actor or character in a film. do we keep watching movies that depictate these roles that are not a reflection of fact or of a morale compass. I choose to spend my dollars on what I like and give praise to those who deserve it. I may not be the popular girl on the block but I live and pay where I want to be. I would starve rather than go to a restaurant that does not believe in a person right of choice who to love or what to do with my body. I have not excepted present that people have brought because I do not support those companies. I have walked five miles to a differnt store because the one across the street descriminated against females and minorities they hired but did not promote or hire in management positions. I know
I cannot change the world but will not promote the B S that people push I let my dollars make a defference along with my vote.
keep on writing and practice what you preach in your writing.
Well, first let me say that if I came off as being critical of your post, that wasn’t my intent. You’re not singing Obama’s or the DEMs praises, after all. I’m actually agreeing with your thesis, that we need to take responsibility – but not just for the media we consume, but also our politics, which does relate to the overall cause of racial justice. I tried to connect Obama’s cavalier imperialism to the fictional “ideal” of Rambo killing brown people – as it’s really the same attitude.
And I’m definitely not arguing that Obama’s not a Kenyan. His ethnicity or nationality is not even a concern. Only his policies. I feel, in general, that not enough is said about these things, that at worst the DEMs (and Obama) get a lukewarm reception, rather than outright criticism. In my view, the GOP is not even worth discussing amongst the left – they’re buffoons and lunatics. Now, especially that O has been re-elected, it’s time for liberals to hold their guy accountable.
Being both a new parent and a reader of this blog, I’ve been amazed at how early the narratives start. I’ve come across children’s book after children’s book in which all the human characters are white, in which a white man (well, boy) is the main character, in which various animals/creatures are assumed to be male unless given specific female characteristics. It’s insidious.
There are definitely better options out there, but I’ve been surprised at how much work it takes to find them and make sure they’re what our daughter is reading, even though we live in a large city with a diverse population.
My husband and I watched the new Predator film and started placing bets on which stereotype would die when. It was just that pathetically obvious and so sad to see that this has not changed decades later.
As for Anders’ healing… doesn’t he make you miss Wynne?
Ms. Jemisin (I’m new to your blog AND your books, so I’m not confident of the proper address),
I’ve read the Inheritance Trilogy, and just now finished “The Killing Moon”. I’m in awe of your skill, and after 30+ years of avidly devouring and coveting good scifi/fantasy like a Dreamblood Addiction, I followed along to your blog and read all of THAT just as avidly. I’m NO kind of political animal, and out of ignorance-based aversion to passionate and caustic rebuttals from your readers, don’t intend to make any statements, suppositions or stupid blunders here. Don’t ‘intend’ being the trap of course….
However, I did want to say that your call for a change in narrative, or at least that we analyze and take steps to censor those who stubbornly replicate the same old tired straight white guy bs, HAS begun to make inroads….maybe more than you might appreciate. For myself, I READ. Not TV, not movies, not newspapers so much either….but just books. When I’m stressed, bored, happy or sad, it’s always books. After reading your books, blog and videos, I did some self-analyzing and realized that my favorite books are ALWAYS those with a female protagonist possessing depth and a great diversity of character and introspection. Additionally, I can honestly say that I do NOT favor a white hero protagonist over anything else. I love or hate or am indifferent, according to the story and how it made me feel, although since I am a woman, identifying with a strong female is a given. You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with anything that you blogged about? Weeeeeeellll, the narrative is obviously influenced by the variety of media that contribute to a learned and curious populace right? So the influx of cultural diversity (thank God) in every aspect of media outlet has actually begun to CHANGE that narrative. You said it yourself, in the video about Octavia Butler (which I’m reading next!). The point is, significant change takes time but it IS changing. I can say that with some naiveté perhaps, but let me tell it from my own world experience:
I’m a 38 year old (white) female Officer in the US Navy, married to a half Japanese Officer who is also in the Navy. Furthermore, I’m a combat-proven carrier jet pilot with 15 years of experience within the world of the Ultimate White-Guy-Brotherhood. I’ve been burned by it many times, despite the triumph of being where I am. Although there will always be some bitterness there, the military is changing to reflect society, as it should, with all races and personal sexual preference being a private matter and unimportant to the government. Media isn’t the only barometer of changing narrative for Americans, but it IS the most visual. When I read “The Killing Moon”, I didn’t care that most of the characters weren’t white, I cared about them and their lives and their struggles to redress the atrocities committed in their world. I felt the same while reading your other series, didn’t care that the protagonist was ‘brown’. Good writing will always tell. A fellow pilot, friend of mine (from a ‘good family’, born-with-a-silver-spoon type, with automatic entree into political life and society after he does his military stint….you know the stereotype….) called me last month to chat and mentioned that he had just finished reading an amazing fantasy series, and couldn’t wait to read more of that author. My shock was in realizing this series featured a protagonist that was gender-confused female from an extinct race of people, that frequently loved and was loved by both sexes. Most definitely not the kind of book that a man like him would’ve been reading and crowing about say, even 20 years ago. THAT is also a small example of how you can read your barometer of change in other ways and have more hope. Hope that Americans are adjusting faster to a more equal and accepting society.
But really, Ms. Jemisin, apart from all this….I just Goddamn love your books and hope that you never put down your pen. And if your life and success serves to inspire women, with or without color, to achieve their dreams and find their voices too….all the better!
Ms. Jemisin – I’m happy to read your advice because it’s exactly what I’ve done. Seeing someone else suggest that route makes me feel less like a quitter. :) I find it can be hard to decide when to stop and move on. Perhaps I am too optimistic sometimes in thinking I might make a difference and so I hold on… but, anyway, I think you make an excellent point that you do have to find a place where your voice can be heard because that is where you will make a difference. And, in a group of art makers and art consumers, the more you are able to get your voice out there – with a more realistic and inclusive message – then the more good you’ll make happen. Thanks again, and thanks for the link!
Ditto to edgestate’s comment. My holiday gifts to the nephews and goddaughter are always books and I’m appalled by the options – it takes forever to find something I actually feel good about giving to a young person to read. But, on the other hand, it’s worth the time it takes to try to break the cycle.
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