American History textbooks more like
Chapter 1: Introduction to White People
Chapter 2: White Settlers and the Indian Savages
Chapter 3: Whitey Makes a Country
Chapter 4: The Blacks
Chapter 5: Wars, Wars, Wars
Chapter 6: No More Racism!: Martin Luther King Jr. Gives a Speech
Chapter 7: The Modern Whites
I wanted my first-year film students to understand what happens to a story when actual human beings inhabit your characters, and the way they can inspire storytelling. And I wanted to teach them how to look at headshots and what you might be able to tell from a headshot. So for the past few years I’ve done a small experiment with them.Some troubling shit always occurs.
It works like this: I bring in my giant file of head shots, which include actors of all races, sizes, shapes, ages, and experience levels. Each student picks a head shot from the stack and gets a few minutes to sit with the person’s face and then make up a little story about them.
Namely, for white men, they have no trouble coming up with an entire history, job, role, genre, time, place, and costume. They will often identify him without prompting as “the main character.” The only exception? “He would play the gay guy.” For white women, they mostly do not come up with a job (even though it was specifically asked for), and they will identify her by her relationships. “She would play the mom/wife/love interest/best friend.” I’ve heard “She would play the slut” or “She would play the hot girl.” A lot more than once.
For nonwhite men, it can be equally depressing. “He’s in a buddy cop movie, but he’s not the main guy, he’s the partner.” “He’d play a terrorist.” “He’d play a drug dealer.” “A thug.” “A hustler.” “Homeless guy.” One Asian actor was promoted to “villain.”
For nonwhite women (grab onto something sturdy, like a big glass of strong liquor), sometimes they are “lucky” enough to be classified as the girlfriend/love interest/mom, but I have also heard things like “Well, she’d be in a romantic comedy, but as the friend, you know?” “Maid.” “Prostitute.” “Drug addict.”
I should point out that the responses are similar whether the group is all or mostly-white or extremely racially mixed, and all the groups I’ve tried this with have been about equally balanced between men and women, though individual responses vary. Women do a little better with women, and people of color do a little better with people of color, but female students sometimes forget to come up with a job for female actors and black male students sometimes tell the class that their black male actor wouldn’t be the main guy.
Once the students have made their pitches, we interrogate their opinions. “You seem really sure that he’s not the main character – why? What made you automatically say that?” “You said she was a mom. Was she born a mom, or did she maybe do something else with her life before her magic womb opened up and gave her an identity? Who is she as a person?” In the case of the “thug“, it turns out that the student was just reading off his film resume. This brilliant African American actor who regularly brings houses down doing Shakespeare on the stage and more than once made me weep at the beauty and subtlety of his performances, had a list of film credits that just said “Thug #4.” “Gang member.” “Muscle.” Because that’s the film work he can get. Because it puts food on his table.
So, the first time I did this exercise, I didn’t know that it would turn into a lesson on racism, sexism, and every other kind of -ism. I thought it was just about casting. But now I know that casting is never just about casting, and this day is a real teachable opportunity. Because if we do this right, we get to the really awkward silence, where the (now mortified) students try to sink into their chairs. Because, hey, most of them are proud Obama voters! They have been raised by feminist moms! They don’t want to be or see themselves as being racist or sexist. But their own racism and sexism is running amok in the room, and it’s awkward.
This for every time someone criticizes how characters of color and female characters of color especially are treated in text and by subsequent fandoms. It’s never “just a television/movie/book”. It’s never been ”just”.
“…and by subsequent fandoms." <— bless this addition.
This one is always worth reblogging.
When I say, “Representation matters,” it’s not just the presence of PoC, women, PwD, LGBTQIA, in narrative, it’s the roles are those characters are occupying.
The hall of mirrors that is the interplay between fiction and real life becomes a negative feedback loop with real consequences, because we internalize things and then we act them out.
Storytelling is a powerful thing. What stories are we telling, and why?
MCU: the fandom who will literally defend nazis
oh be fair they only defend the handsome white dude ones
#while claiming that black male heroes are secretly nazis#but they’re not racist (tags via dammit-mcu)
#BYE AT HYDRA #AND HYDRA APOLOGISTS TBH #THERE WERE PEOPLE DEFENDING WARD’S BASIC ASS #AND THERE’S BEEN SOME TRYING TO FANWANK RUMLOW INTO CARING ABOUT BUCKY DURING WS (YEAH HE TOTALLY CARED AS HE WAS COMPLICIT IN THE ABUSE AND TRIED TO KILL CAP) #WHILE ACCUSING SAM OF BEING HYDRA (tags via buckybarnesss)
When you say your a feminist…I hope you really know what that means. It means standing up for women of color.
Standing by black women who must deal with being referred to as welfare queens or ratchet.
Being a feminist is standing beside immigrant women who deal with wage theft, unsafe working conditions, and being referred to as leaving anchor babies in America.
It means standing beside Native American women who face domestic violence and rape at unprecedented rates.
It means standing beside Muslim women who choose to live out their faith and face Islamaphobia, sexism and ignorance constantly.
It means standing beside Asian women who have been misrepresented in the media to be thought of as only submissive and quiet.
Please recognize that feminism impacts the lives of every single one of these groups…but we are all women"
JM: So what happened after Star Trek? You left LA not long after, right? ——————
AS: Los Angeles felt like the wrong place to be, so I took my family and we went up to New York. The town seemed dark and dismal and boring. Lonely. But it wasn’t, that was just my life. And I couldn’t find any work. I did a couple of films right away. Vertical Limit and Reign of Fire. In Vertical Limit I had six lines. I spent six months in New Zealand to deliver those lines. I was playing a kind of Afghani or Pakistani Sherpa dude, a mountain guide. It was fun. It kept me going financially. No one was sending me scripts. No one wanted to know, really. I was flailing. My marriage was falling to pieces. In my imagination, we were in New York for a ridiculously large amount of time. It was a year. And then they blew up the World Trade Center.
JM: You were there?
AS: My wife and son were. I had gone back to England on September 10. I was going to direct a film. The very next day, they blew the building up. And that was the beginning of a new chapter of my life, the beginning of becoming Arab, becoming politicized. I think that happened to the whole swath of people who have Arabic or Islam in their culture. Everybody had to change their tune on that day.