YOU’RE A FUCKING RACIST!
An explanation is probably in order. This post is in response to an assertion made on the aforementioned ‘Talons’ thread, an assertion agreed with more-or-less by several other posters, that one might mistake John Bennett in his yellowface prosthetic make-up (see above) for an actual Chinese person. Yes, human beings – people with brains and opposable thumbs and everything – actually felt comfortable making that assertion in public… though, they do use pseudonyms on Gallifrey Base forum, so maybe that anonymity helped.
Some of the people in question have been engaged in inventive games of circumlocution and tactical point-missing around the subject of the racism in ‘Talons of Weng-Chiang’. The usual disingenuous special pleading, most of it. ‘There’s a stupid white policeman – does that mean it’s racist against white people?’ and ‘I’ve shown it to Asian friends and they weren’t offended!’. Y’know, the sort of cretinous, spurious, trivial, entitled, privileged, desperate, dishonest bollocks always trotted out when these waaaah-waaaaahing manchildren feel that their untroubled viewing pleasure may be even slightly complicated by being implicated in the injustice visited upon people other than them.
However, the idea that it might be possible to mistake the above image – in all its Fu Manchu-y and rubbery and yellowy inglory – with an actual human being of Chinese descent… well, it’s simply breathtaking. How is one to respond to people who evidently
a) base their notion of what Chinese people look like not upon the actual appearance of, y’know, actual chinese people, but rather upon racist stereotypes conjured into life by immobile, expressionless yellowface prosthetics, and
b) think that their own comfort with this racist elision is itself an alibi against charges of racism?
There’s something often said by fans about ‘Talons of Weng Chiang’: “ignore the rat”. It means, decide to see past the extremely unconvincing giant rat monster in the story (which looks like exactly what it is: a combination of a real rat in a bad model set and a fluffy puppet) so that you can see the quality of the story beneath. Well, ‘Talons’ is a good story in many ways… and no guilt need be felt by anyone who watches and enjoys it (another straw man set up by the point-missers club). But it’s devastatingly revealing that any fan should be more worried by the unconvincing rat than by the unconvincing yellowface. It reveals priorities that are so insular and narrow-minded as to be… and I don’t think this is too strong a word… inhuman.
However, it’s yet another quantum leap to the point where you find the rat unconvincing but not the yellowface. And you’re prepared to say so in public. This reveals a shameless thoughtlessness, a terrifying absence of self-examination, an arrogance born of privilege. And it also seems to reveal a willingness not simply to be unconcerned by the monstering of a whole race of people, not simply to delude yourself that its not happening in the text (because you’ve never bothered to avail yourself of the myriad opportunities now freely available to anyone with internet access to educate yourself about how representations of people work in the texts you consume) but to actually think that the representations (of, say, Chinese people as expressionless, rubberfaced bogeymen) are accurate and true to life. I know that isn’t literally what is being said – and the people I’m talking about would doubtless clutch their handbags in offended and petulant injustice (they notice and care about injustice when they think they’re the victims of it, natch) at what I’m implying about them. But it is what their attitude amounts to: that they care more about the travestying of a rat than the travestying of human beings of a different ethnic background.
I’m sick of being nice about this. Racism is not some abstract concept that people unaffected by it get to define so that they are always absolved of it. Furthermore, racism is what racists do and racists are those who do racism. So, if the above image fails to trouble you, especially if it fails to even strain your credulity, then, as I say, you’re a fucking racist and, as far as I’m concerned, you can fuck the fucking fuck off you fucking fuck.
It’s a whole other order of problem, but a guy was just acquitted of murdering a kid because a jury seemed unable to notice racial profiling when it lead to bullets being fired. We should be long past the point where we’re prepared to tolerate this shit politely. It doesn’t warrant politeness. Or quiet reasoning. Or patient explanation. It warrants anger and contempt. Even down at this low level. Even at the level of an old episode of Doctor Who… precisely because, as Dr Sandifer says, that old episode doesn’t exist in 1976 anymore; it exists now. And it is now long past time that we all grew the fuck up.