Saturday, September 24, 2016

In Media Race

The fan podcast Fansplaining got me thinking more about race and pop culture fandom  [transcript of part 1: "Race & Fandom"].

Many of the guests refer to recent statistics that show that there are more fan-written romances online about the Star Wars: Force Awakens couple to the left here
< Hux & Kylo Ren
than there are romances about the central black character Finn.

It seems to be the case that even when main characters in media are poc [people of color], like Finn, fans don't incorporate them into fandom as romantic figures as often as they do the white characters, even if the white characters are minor, like Hux, who's only onscreen briefly.

There's a whole list of reasons why fans say they don't ship [imagine in a romantic relationship] characters--reasons that on the surface may be legit, such as "the actor isn't very good", but reasons that somehow get suspended for white characters. (White actor Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) is
a better actor with than without his mask.)

[neogenesis85 compiled a list of these reasons, and more on this topic---here, in a post about "the intersection of race and misogyny (misogynoir) in fandom":
"Fandom Misogyny and Racism II", September 21, 2016.]

Are we now in a situation where some canon is more enlightened than some of the fans who've been calling for more and better representation of poc and all women?

From the same article, above:

"[TV show] The Walking Dead fandom is a textbook example: Michonne 
[Danai Gurira, right > killing zombies] 
showed up shortly after [white man] Rick’s wife died, and the show started building their relationship from go.
"When they started trusting each other, the soundtrack played a romantic piano score over their scenes.
Michonne started to fill a void for Rick and his kids, and they did the same for her. They started to become a family – Rick couldn’t do it without her, and he straight up told her that.  
"Then the show introduces white, blonde Jessie and they [fans]’re all like 'finally, a love interest for Rick!' I don’t even think most were conscious of it, it just never occurred to them that a love story had been building between Michonne and Rick all along."
Its not just race---Jessie presents as a straight girly girl; Michonne is an Amazon.
And that brings up another objection some fans had to "Richonne"-- that Michonne is a strong, independent, bad ass woman who shouldn't need(?) a romantic relationship with a man.

I get that in a way--because women in media always have to have a man.
But in another way I don't get it at all. It is so hard, it is so tiring to always be the strong one, alone--I say, let that woman have a boyfriend! Further, let that boyfriend give her foot rubs. And shoulder rubs---it's hard work swinging a sword.

Also, the show does have lesbian characters, so Michonne doesn't have to represent everyone.

Now, certainly some white fans were over the moon when Michonne & Rick finally kissed last season:
bink excitedly told me about it, even though I wasn't watching the show anymore. (It got too cruel for me--though I'm tempted to try again this season to see how this ship progresses.)

But it's naive to think that fandom overall (well, in the United States) will be entirely different than the racist culture at large. Even as we try (hopefully) to be better than that, we're none of us immune to these massive historical forces that work on a micro level, like mold spores.  

It's hard, but I don't think white fans like me should be surprised and defensive when we get it wrong.

Things Happen Without White People Involved

I was also just wondering about race and fandom re two new Netflix series:
Stranger Things, which is getting tons of love, and
The Get Down, which isn't (viewership so "tepid" it may not get renewed).

I can't see why the one is more popular than the other. 
They're actually somewhat similar---both following groups of kids in the past (Get Down in 1977/ Stranger Things in 1984). 
If anything, the Get Down may be the more interesting, though I've only watched the pilot (which stands alone well).
The Get Down celebrates the birth of hip-hop from African American and Latinx culture. [The 'x' in Latinx replaces the gendered "a" or "o". Nifty, huh?]

So, it's just not about white people at all.
And I wonder if that's why viewership is low...
The show's not another rehash of slavery or drug dealers---it's about black & brown characters making their own creative world: 
Even that brilliant TV series The Wire was about the tragedy of being black in white America, and while it was wonderfully complex, there was nothing in it to disturb liberal white fans like me. 'Cause it was still centered on us.
It even made the Stuff White People Like blog, who noted,
"Though white people have a natural aversion to television, there are some exceptions."
I'm trying to say, white fans (like me!) are used to hearing about how we are involved, even if it's in a bad way, but we're not used to not hearing about ourselves at all.

 Saturday Night Live did a skit about this--about how white people got upset at Beyoncé's song "Formation" because it was about her Black experience.
White person 1: "Maybe this song isn't for us?" 
White person 2: "But usually everything is!" 
The Day Beyoncé Turned Black--

CNN said Beyoncé caused a stir "by inserting race into her art…" and performing “Formation” at the 2016 Super Bowl.
[Sorry, this video keeps getting taken down off youTube.] 

"inserting race into her art"???
Taylor Swift does it all the time!

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