Viewing posts tagged racism

Awe & Slaughter

As expected, having been posthumously put on trial for his own murder, Trayvon Martin has been found guilty.  He committed the heinous crime of being black and in possession of a hoodie, armed with fizzy drinks and sweets, walking round George Zimmerman's neighbourhood.  What else could Zimmerman do, given that (in his words) "these fucking punks" "always get away"?

Also, how long before Law & Order does a storyline based on Trayvon Martin, in which they bravely confront the issues and break PC taboos by depicting him as a junkie gangbanger, his family's lawyers as slimey liars, any professional black activist involved as a cynical demagogue and all black protestors as unreasoning, flailing idiots who assume racism without evidence and who frustrate the good faith efforts of the police and DAs office? Just like in all their other 'race' episodes that they've ever done ever.




(Edited for clarification on one point, and to add a subject label.)

Punishing Viewing

Something I wrote a while ago, somewhat rewritten.  I'm re-posting it to mark the release of 'The Mind of Evil' on DVD.  In brief, being in colour doesn't make it any better.


There is a very old idea about ‘human nature’, that we are born with certain social characteristics already implanted or programmed in our brains, usually inherited from our parents and ancestors. You will find this idea laced throughout the whole of modern Western culture. Ruffians and villains in Conan Doyle are often said to have "vile antecedents". Oliver Twist is incapable of being a pickpocket because, despite being raised in a pauper's orphanage, he is a middle class child displaced amongst the scum classes. Similarly (because J.K. Rowling is nothing if not studiedly unoriginal) Harry Potter is filled with love just like his late mum, despite being systematically emotionally and psychologically abused up to the age of 11.  I could go on at great length.

This conception of human nature (please take the quote marks as read whenever I use that phrase) is directly and inextricably linked to class, and to questions of social role, crime, etc. It is still claimed ...

That Isn't Right

It occurs to me that this post (in which I had a go at 'The Reign of Terror' for giving us a thoroughly reactionary and misleading picture of the French Revolution) should've been called 'That Isn't Right'. So I've given that title to this post instead, which is also about all manner of wrongness in the representation of history.

I wasn't going out on much a limb dissing 'The Reign of Terror' (the acronym of which is TROT, amusingly enough); nobody is terribly attached to it.  'The Aztecs', by contrast, is one of those stories that fan opinion tends to think of as irreducibly Good.  It isn't that everybody likes it, but anyone trying to say that it's Bad definitely has the burden of proof upon them.

I'm not actually going to say that it's bad, as such.  On the whole, it's very well made.  But....


Black and White and Red All Over

"Tell me, Aged Servant of Yetaxa...
do you approve of interracial marriage?"
Firstly, the Aztecs are played by white people.  It's not easy to tell for sure, but it looks like at ...

Monkey Business

On 'Ghost Light'.


Let's leave aside the aesthetic beauty of the production, with its pattern of oppositions - light and dark, day and night, madness and sanity, stone and wood, feminine and masculine, dead and alive - which alternate until they start to bleed into each other and mingle until we are left with no certainties.

Let's leave aside the willfully abstruse script; the wonderful way it is deliberately constructed as a jewelled puzzle box; something to be studied and pondered and interpreted rather than just passively enjoyed.

Let's leave aside the scrumptious bevy of literary references, sly self-referencing jokes, puns, double meanings, allusions... all of which show an intense and highly self-conscious (though not glib) awareness and playfulness with language, text, genre and storytelling tradition.  You want an example?  How about the use of the word "wicked", which - with wonderful irony - appears in both the Victorian usage and as 80s teenspeak.  It's the last word of the story - the last word spoken by the Doctor in the last-filmed story of the classic series.  And when the Doctor uses it to describe Ace, he sounds like a Victorian moralist (of times past or present ...

Prometheus Underground

Warning: Triggers and Spoilers.  And waffle.


Sex & Monsters

In Prometheus, the Engineers are ancient Titans who created humanity... and, it is implied, seeded the galaxy with their DNA. There is something very noticeable about them: they are all men. Meanwhile, there is a definite vaginal look to a great many of the alien bio-weapons they created and which then subsumed them. However, I don't think its really possible to read the battle between Engineers and their bio-weapons as a battle of the sexes. The weapon creatures are also phallic and penetrative, as in previous iterations of the Alien universe. All the same, it's true that presenting the creators of life (in their own image) as exclusively dudes does imply that generative power resides in the male alone. It is enough for one Engineer to dissolve his DNA into the waters of a planet to kickstart the process that will lead to animal life (if that's how the opening scene is meant to be read). The Engineers are male but apparently sexless, capable of asexual reproduction. The deadly runaway bio-weapons, which seem hermaphroditic, look like the intrusion of sex into a male but sexless world. Sex is ...

Beyond Redemption

I think there is something inherently dodgy about the notion of 'redemptive readings'.  It seems to imply a determination to look at a text in a positive way that is at odds with what could be called 'proper scepticism'.  This objection is itself open to the objection that it's silly to approach a piece of entertainment product with 'scepticism', especially when it is part of a series of which one is supposedly a fan.  But, this loses sight of context and agency.  There are various ways of choosing to watch the same thing.  When you sit down to enjoy an episode of a show you like, for fun, you're a bit odd if you're not expecting, hoping and trying to like it.  When you're watching it with the express intention of analysing it and then writing about what it means, proper scepticism becomes appropriate.  Trying to like what you're watching becomes a somewhat iffy strategy in that context.  Besides, doesn't the necessity of trying to find ways of praising what you're analysing tell us something in itself?  This muddle also loses sight of the distinctions that are always to be found within ...

Independence Day

This is a slightly-expanded/tweaked version of something originally published in the January 2011 edition of Panic Moon.  Back issues of this excellent fanzine (now, sadly, on hiatus) are still available, here.


In 'The Mutants', Earth’s empire is the British Empire in decline, as it disassembles itself out of economic necessity (true in general terms but misleading in particular; the British were usually savage in their resistance to independence). The Marshall echoes Ian Smith, who ran the racist apartheid state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and tried to hang on after the British cut him loose.

We get a positive view of a national liberation movement. Ky is clearly the figurehead of a powerful anti-Overlord groundswell; they’re called “terrorists” naturally, and maybe they are, but they’re fighting for their freedom. We get no patronising sermons to oppressed people about non-violence.

The system is depicted as inherently racist, featuring a version of apartheid. The Solonians are not black, but then neither were the Irish… and they were the first to come under the British heel. 'The Mutants' shows racism, quite rightly, as the ideology of empire, not the cause.

There is an apologia for empire that stresses the “progress” it can bring to its subjects. The concept of “progress” is ...

How Curses Work 2: This Fez is Loaded

The utility to Western imperialism of depicting Arabs with the kind of culturalist discourse of modern vs. pre-modern, secularism vs. cultish religion, democracy vs. theocracy, civilisation vs. medievalism, rationalism vs. fanaticism (translated out of code: good Westerners vs. bad Arabs) that followed in the wake of the "war on terror" is obvious.

This way of constructing Arab and/or Middle Eastern cultural identities in Western art, literature, media and ideology, is very old.

Edward Said's seminal book Orientalism outlines the way in which the West has constructed the East as an exotic, romantic, cruel, sensuous, decadent, fanatical, inscrutable Other.  (...though it is occasionally weakened - in my presumptuous and insignificant opinion - by the problems underlying Foucault's notion of 'discourse', which Said utilises.)

Jack Shaheen's book Reel Bad Arabs reveals how Hollywood has vilified and dehumanized Arabs.  Here's a great short documentary demonstrating his thesis.  It's central message may not come as a surprise to you, but it's still salutary to see the evidence collated and concentrated.





Such representations of Arabs pop up in the Doctor Who story 'Pyramids of Mars' (1975) as part of the show's tactic, at that time, of raiding the motifs ...

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