skywardprodigal: Beautiful seated woman, laughing, in Vlisco. (Default)
[personal profile] skywardprodigal

Saw Earthsea, and, lo, it sucked. Not hard-work for no pay on broken asphalt with the cops coming around the corner, but, it wasn't all that good. That's okay. In tvland, not everybody gets their cookie before it's time to go home.

Anyway, the casting was problematic for some folk because LeGuin deliberately embedded a critique on the white=superior not-white=inferior prevalent in European based art and literature in Earthsea. LeGuin's written about it in Earthsea in Clorox, A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books and Chronicles of Earthsea.

As a gift to [ profile] se_parsons, [ profile] leadensky/[ profile] hossgal posted some challenges to 'LeGuin so makes sense!'

I responded some there, but here are more of my thoughts on the matter.

LeGuin was, in part, attacking the white privilege think that good = white and bad = brown. She turned it on its ear and wrote something that challenged people's thinking. What sci-fi com did was reverse that and reinforced the idea that white = good. Whatever Tolkien intended, thinkers in the Nazi party were convinced that Tolkien was 'one of them' because they were able to read it that way.

Most of you know as well as I know that that's still going on: white people believing that not-white = inferior. The thing about sci-fi that its one of the few tropes where 'othering' and 'flipping scripts' in regards to gender roles, socio-economic-status and perceived ethnicity are deconstructed. Unfortunately, it's very often deconstructed in such a way that non-white people aka 'others' aren't so bad because really, they're the same as white people. LeGuin's challenge was discarded and, lo, Earthsea was white-washed.

As for the Disney production of Cinderella, that was an example of a production jumping on the multicultural route. Things are freeing up, some, and even with Disney's odious history they're trying to do better by going with the 'we're all the same' route. It's not perfect, and it's something, and I saw that production as more reflective of once-upon-a-time-in-another-world's-Goa, Canaries, Cape Verdi, Caribbean or even once-upon-a-time in the historical Republic of Palmares.

Or even, what happens in so much of Shakespearean theater where casting is deliberately diversified in terms of perceived ethnicity (i.e., hence, why KHC cut his eyeteeth on Shakespeare. At least in Shakespearean theater, Othello ain't always 'black' or Arab. What, Laurence Olivier made that *his* role for ages and ages and ages? And maybe he connected through his own otherness as a non-traditionally gendered man living in a heterosexist socity, or maybe he was availing himself of white privilege to appropriate a non-white identity, discard the non-whiteness and still embody it as human. But I digress. A whole lot.)

As a black woman, I long ago gave up on fantasy because I was sick and tired of the white=good, black=not so good subtext. It fatigued me. I get enough of it in real-life kthx. I emptied out my library and even flat out threw stuff out. Now, it's one thing when a set of stories is grounded geographically in a place that has its own ethnic diversity even though all folk may look white (like, let's say, the worlds of Robin Hobb or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain). And in fact, I could deal with the idea of Evil Fomorians or ravening Firbolg being black because there's some historical evidence to the effect that Kmetic pirates used to raid what is now Ireland. But other than that?

I'm out of there.

And for sci-fi com to cast Ged as Bobby-fricking-Drake (whom I love in all his Long Island Sensitive Frat Boy prosaity)? Slapintheface. And damn it, comic book Bobby's even arguably Jewish. And movie Bobby Drake? At one time, he so had a koolaid stained Coed Naked Lacrosse baseball cap doing time in his momma's dishwasher. But in regards to seeing Ged as not-white in the imagination and seeing Ged as white on tv? Here's the thing, people are lazy. And more often than not, the default setting for hero = white guy, just like their default setting for good guy = white guy.

It's not so much that the brown people in LeGuin's mind aren't people just like the white people on the tv screen on sci-fi com, it's that people that are the same color of the folk as seen by LeGuin are barely considered human by tv-watching folk the world over. And by casting Vetch and Ged as they did, they took a work that embraced and challenged the texts of the genre, flaws and virtues, and compounded the problem the books had been created to address.

As for Whitney Houston's Cinderella? She took a classic story, one that's told in one form or another the world over, and cast it to reflect the audience she was trying to attract. If the producer's of sci-fi com have done exactly the same thing, what does that say about them?

Somebody else feel free to comment about the magic negro thing, because I'm way too busy being a fairy godmother, catalyst in real life to handle it here.

ETA: links

[ profile] buggery's rant
[ profile] ide_cyan's Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes
[ profile] kassia06's say on authorial intent
[ profile] leadensky's Race in Earthsea - is it that big of a deal?
[ profile] minisinoo's Go Nina
[ profile] ninamonkey's Wizard of (White)sea and more...from a Non-white Perspective
[ profile] yonmei's Earthsea bleached

Nalo Hopkinson's Ursula Le Guin on the Earthsea television series
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu's Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes at Strange Horizons
David Steritt's Face of an Angel
Jack Womack (a sci-fi author that conceives of worst-case-scenarios re: race in America)
So Long Been Dreaming a post-colonial sci-fi reader

blackfolk thread
[ profile] deadbrowalking thread 1 and 2
Earthsea Wank
imdb message board thread
slate message board thread

in another lj.


skywardprodigal: Beautiful seated woman, laughing, in Vlisco. (Default)
a princess of now

October 2010

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