Friday, August 12, 2016

Putting on Superman's Clothes

I find in fandom a lot of talk about the relationship of people of color and all girls and women to mainstream mass media, which is overwhelmingly produced by People Who Are Not Us:
How do we position ourselves vis a vis stories that are not made by, of, or specifically for us? 

above: Reporter Lois Lane Diguises Herself as Clark Kent
“Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane” #26 (1961)

You probably know the basics about the under-representation of women & girls as characters and as producers, but the
 Geena Institute of Gender in Media gets into the nitty-gritty: 
it's almost laughable how it even shows up in things like the percentage (17) of women and girls in crowd scenes. 

(The institute is full of inspiring and encouraging stuff too, like a link to this article (Aug 9, 2016) about "seven women who in the past year shut down body shamers online and went viral.")

"Why Black People Like White Movies"

I came across an article from 2014 in which Andre Seewood [author of Slave Cinema: The Crisis of the African-American in Film (2008)] discusses "Why Black People Like White Movies". 

Seewood says [boldface mine]:

"The short answer here is that we don’t have much of a choice. 
It is a question of agency. We watch Whites exercise power, privilege and control in “White” films because some of us aspire to exercise that same type of agency ourselves so we, for lack of a better phrase, roll with the Whiteness that we see on the screen."
I'd come across that ^ article while I was rummaging around looking for genderswap and racebent Starsky & Hutch (not a fandom much given to such play), and I'd found this:

Chris Rock on Playing Starsky

Chris Rock:
“I don’t think the world expected things [re race] to change overnight because Obama got elected president. 

"Of course it’s changed, though, it’s just changed with kids. 

And when you’re a kid, you’re not thinking of any of this. Black kids watch The Lord of the Rings and they want to be the Lord of the Rings.

“I remember when they were doing [the 2004 remake of] Starsky & Hutch, and my manager was like, 'We might be able to get you the part of Huggy Bear,' which eventually went to Snoop Dogg.

“I was like: 'Do you understand that when my brother and I watched Starsky & Hutch growing up, I would play Starsky and he would play Hutch?' I don’t want to play Huggy Bear.
This is not a historical drama. This is not Thomas Jefferson. It’s a movie based on a (lousy) TV show, it can be anybody. 

 Who cares?
If they want me to play Starsky or Hutch, or even the bad guy, I’m down.
But Huggy Bear?”

––from “What will Oscars 2016 host Chris Rock say about racism in Hollywood?”, 2016

Snitches & Tricksters

Huggy Bear, the black snitch in Starsky & Hutch, (played by the fashionable Antonio Fargas) is a problematic character, partly because the show being "lousy", as Rock said, we simply don't know enough (or, really, anything) about Huggy's motivations.

(Unlike Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins (Andre Royo), the black informant in the Wire, who has a complicated backstory.)

I've seen Huggy compared to Stepin Fetchit and Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars.

Jar Jar Binks, culpably created by George Lucas, is an indefensible character.

But Stepin Fetchit was created by a black actor, 

< Lincoln Theodore Monroe (with unknown man (R), via), 
who built a successful career out of playing the character.

Are characters like this subservient or subversive?

Are they tricksters and boundary-blurrers, or are they dupes?

Of course it's not that simple--power is not an either/or relationship.

My Own Inner Captain Kirk

This all all applies to Why Women Like Male-Dominated Media too.

I've written before about this:
in my one unequivocable fandom, Star Trek, I love Captain Kirk for several reasons, but at heart,
I want to BE my own captain, like him.
I want his self-confidence, swanning about the universe! I want his lack of self-consciousness about his body.

I use my experience watching and loving Kirk to further become the hero of my own life. 

Which is great!
But I can't even imagine owning the automatic respect everyone grants him.

P.S. There's not much genderswap Starsy & Hutch, not suprisingly, but it's very in keeping with Star Trek's mission "to boldy go" that there's lots of genderswap Star Trek.
(Even in canon, Kirk swaps bodies with a woman in the 1969 episode "Turnabout Intruder" [my photo review].)

The genderswapped Star Trek 2-part comic book Parallel Lines, for instance, was published  in 2014 by IDW (Idea and Design Works, the US's fourth-largest comic-book publisher):

image Via


ArtSparker said...

Geena Davis plays the part of a producer who wants women to be more successful in Hollywood in the film "In a World" with the amazing Lake Bell, who wrote and directed as well as starring.

Frex said...

Hi, ArtSparker!
Yes, I liked that movie a lot--the father/daughter relationship was painfully real (reminiscent of mine)--and good.
Actually I'd forgotten it was Geena Davis in that role--thanks for linking that up for me. I should see it again.

I wonder what Lake Bell is up to lately...

Frex said...

P.S. Ha--I looked it up--speaking of voice-overs, she was a voice actor in The Secret Life of Pets.