On Michael B. Jordan’s defense of lazy diversity.

Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.

-Michael B. Jordan: Why I’m Torching the Color Line | EW.com

Michael B. Jordan would have made a perfect live-action Cyborg.

I don’t presume to know the full scope of opportunity offered Black actors when it comes to big budget Hollywood films, but I’d venture to guess it’s minimal. The default, particularly in the case of comic book and sci-fi action films is usually male and white. So while it may annoy me when Black actors leap at the chance to play traditionally-white characters, I understand. But Michael B. Jordan’s open letter to bigoted genre fans, published last week on EW.com, is stupid.

It should not be necessary to change a character’s race in order to get diversity on screen. You want Black faces on screen, then write Black characters. The Fantastic Four is on yet another reboot while characters who have always been Black, Blade and Spawn, are languishing. The people in charge of the X-Men film franchise can’t cast a dark skin Storm to save their lives. A character’s Blackness should not be incidental. This idea that changing a character’s race in order to reflect “how the world looks” may keep Black actors paid but sends a very lazy and dishonest message. It suggests that Blackness does not exist as anything other than a reaction to whiteness.

If Trank & Co. really wanted to make some kind of groundbreaking bid for diversity, then Sue should have been Black as well. Lord knows we need more female superheroes of color on screen. But instead we’re getting this revisionist adoption explanation. This is the crux of why Jordan’s letter annoys me. It’s a cheap defense of racial diversity, when at the end of the day, he’s merely defending his paycheck. Any attempts to get diversity on screen will benefit Black male actors before Black female actors, so I’m not very inclined to take any of what he says seriously.

I’m tired of fake diversity that only serves the interest of getting Black faces on screen. We need to get Black stories and Black narratives up there as well. I wish more people in Hollywood were interested in making Black things, and less interested in making things Black. There’s a big difference between the two, and I don’t expect people like Michael B. Post-Racial Utopia Jordan to advocate on behalf of that.

 

Why are Wendy Williams’s racial politics so trash?

It’s important that people are able to tell their own stories. When Lee Daniels says “I hate white people writing for black people; it’s so offensive,” he’s not saying it to the exclusion of white writers but to ensure he’s telling the most authentic story. The underlying reality of his remarks is white television writers will always be more likely to find work; the field is far more competitive for Black writers so at a minimum Black writers should be writing Black stories. It shouldn’t even be a debate.

I always refer to A Different World when this topic comes up. The first season of the show was staffed with a number of white comedy writers, people who were tasked with accurately depicting the experience at a Historically Black College. Those writers were replaced when the creative direction of the show changed and the show became “more Black.” Cultural details and notes are important. Having a Black actor merely recite a line in a script does not make the dialogue Black so much as how the words are written and what words are used. Speech patterns, slang, lived experience, clothing and music–all of these details were crucial to properly conveying the experience of Black college students in the late 80s. Their Blackness was not incidental. This is what Daniels means, and he’s right.

But Wendy Williams thinks he’s wrong, and frames her argument within the context of her talk show that is meant to have a “multicultural” appeal. Wendy works in daytime and has made a number of changes to her approach to fit within the daytime format. Her comparison is lazy and inappropriate, and no one on her “Hot Talk” panel agrees with her. Wendy is the same person that unfailingly defended Iggy Azalia’s appropriation even after criticizing Miley Cyrus for similar offenses. I can’t even begin to understand where her logic rests, and I watch her everyday.

Wendy Williams is officially on New Negro Watch™.

CBS’s ‘Supergirl’ looks like she’s having fun

There’s a striking difference between the trailer for CBS’s new Supergirl series and Universal’s Jem and the Holograms. Mainly, Supergirl doesn’t skimp on the action and fun.

Supergirl presents an action/adventure heroine masquerading as a romantic comedy heroine, so all the tropes are present — Calista Flockhart is in full Miranda Priestly mode as Kara’s boss “Cat Grant,” there are romantic-misunderstandings, the protagonist is clumsy, nerdy and naive. But the RomCom formula ends there. While “Kara” is tired of hiding her powers, she’s not an angsty alien trying to adjust. She wants to be a hero, and judging from the trailer she’s having fun doing it.

I don’t presume to know the budget for Supergirl, but it’s very telling that a network TV show has no problem giving you the action and fantasy its female protagonist is known for while major film studios continue to completely butcher their female-led properties when they aren’t dragging their feet and making excuses. The only thing worrisome about the show as it stands is that it’s on CBS, which could make it difficult for the target audience to come around to it. It’s also slated to air opposite another DC/WB property, FOX’s Gotham, on Mondays at 8pm, which is possibly the most befuddling scheduling choice since airing Empire opposite Black-ish.

First trailer for CBS’s ‘Supergirl’ is out of this world fun

‘Jem and the Holograms’ – Universal Pictures should be ashamed

Everything I’m about to say will be said by nearly everyone who has seen this trailer, starting with “What the fuck is this?”

Jem and the Holograms was as much about action, adventure and fantasy as it was about music and romance, yet none of that is present in the trailer for the movie. It’s almost as if some suit at Universal Pictures decided the property did not warrant a large enough budget to contain the original premise and decided to water it down to this. I’m almost certain that’s what happened. This falls right in line with the rumor that Warner Brothers wants a “character study” for their upcoming Wonder Woman film instead of the epic war movie director Michelle Maclaren had in mind. This needs to stop.

We are long overdue for multiple action/adventure franchises with a female protagonist. Hunger Games should be one of many. Young girls deserve to have a choice of female leads to identify with and root for. Studios should not be reducing heroic female narratives to coming-of-age stories and “character studies.” Judging from the Jem and the Holograms trailer, Synergy will not be making an appearance. No holographic genie means no special effects or fun, action/sci-fi elements. Removing those elements almost guarantees no one outside of the target audience will see it, which means Universal execs can shrug their shoulders and claim they “tried” when the movie bombs.

And where the hell are The Misfits?

Universal has set this movie up for failure. It will just be another misfire some idiot executive cites ten years from now when trying to justify why his studio won’t produce a female-led action movie. In the meantime, Paramount is able to guarantee even more shitty installments of Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Someone should fire Hollywood and start fresh.

There are no bullies in the gym waiting to make fun of you.

Due to a savvy marketing campaign that preys on body insecurity, Planet Fitness has successfully implanted the term “gymtimidation” into the discourse. The term is designed to recall being tormented in high school gym class, like when the class bully would throw the dodge ball extra hard at your face, or call you any number of feminizing and humiliating names when it was your turn at bat. A lot of our beliefs and paranoias rely on childhood trauma, often at the expense of developing healthy relationships as adults. The idea of gym intimidation is one of the silliest.

I want to be perfectly clear, and I mean this in the best way — no one in the gym gives a damn about you.

If you’re a newbie with piss-poor form, no one will pay you any mind unless you’re drawing attention to yourself by being noisy or potentially harmful to yourself and the people around you. No one will laugh at you for asking how a machine works or needing help with adjusting a bench. You’re a grown-up. I would argue folks are more likely to be staring at all the attractive, fit people you aspire to catch up with. There will always be someone bigger, stronger and more attractive than you in the gym, no matter how advanced you are. They aren’t bullies.

You want to be surrounded by people who know what they’re doing. They’re using better form than you. They have more energy. They’re perfectly happy to offer you a spot. Spotting is standard gym culture/courtesy and great way to establish a rapport with other members.

If you’re a skinny guy in the free weight area, use light weights if you’re worried about looking like you’re struggling. Beginners should be lifting lighter weight anyway. Worry about yourself. Focus on your own goals and not everyone else. Those people don’t care about you. Promise.

In ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, 9 is a crowd

It’s easy to understand why Joss Whedon is so exhausted.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is very good. It doubles down on nearly everything we came to love about the first Avengers and the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it has to be hard to strike the perfect balance of

  • creating bigger, more elaborate spectacles that top the previous Avengers
  • composing a structured, 3-act story . . .
  • . . . while slavishly adhering to a larger, mandated narrative
  • throwing in some stakes that stick
  • the right blend of action, humor and emotional arcs . . .
  • . . . while making sure your writing never gives way to well-worn tropes that sacrifice female characterization.

That’s lofty for any movie, not just a Marvel event, and enough to wear out creator and audience alike. Multiply that times the number of heroes needing just the right amount of character momentum for this and future films and it’s easy to see how Whedon and Co. may have missed the mark in some areas.

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Even with the majority of characters established in other films we still have to create Ultron, the primary villain. And don’t forget our two new heroes, Scarlet Witch and Quicksliver, briefly glimpsed in the mid-credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Ulysses Klaue shows up, establishing himself as the antagonist for the forthcoming Black Panther film. The top of the third act yields the creation of Vision, a new hero who is a result of Ultron’s megalomania, Tony Stark’s weird science and powered by one of the gems that will propel him into Infinity Wars.

And don’t forget the sidekicks who make brief appearances with varying degrees of utility — Idris Elba, Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle as Heimdall, Falcon and War Machine, respectively. We’ve gotten to a point in the MCU where everyone onscreen is a star.

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The sheer size of the cast isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Certainly what works in Marvel’s favor is getting to know new cinematic versions of beloved comic book characters as we revisit the familiar. The best execution of this is during a party at the top of the film, uniting heroes auxiliary and main from across the entire MCU (minus Guardians of the Galaxy). It serves as a family affair and reward to fans who have made it this far, and allows the characters to have an extended moment of levity before Ultron crashes the party and tells them how useless they all are. James Spader is perfectly calculating and seductive as Ultron, a bot built by Tony Stark intended to help save the world by providing the team some slack but who ends up pursuing his own agenda. The film could use more of him, not for story reasons but because Spader is so good. For an outfit largely criticized for lack of compelling villains, Ultron is a step in the right direction.

The problem with Age Of Ultron isn’t the story or even the multitude of characters. The problem is we already know bigger and better stories are on the way. It has become standard practice for Marvel to not only secure future dates for sequels but for them to announce, specifically, which stories will be told years in advance. Ultron is just a stone on the path towards Civil War and Infinity Wars, storylines that, given their place in comic book history, should be huge game-changers for the franchise. Having this kind of foresight as an audience member somewhat diminishes the impact of this film. For all the effort and money that ends up on screen, it feels just a bit smaller than it should.

Caps via Superhero News