The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fanboys and a disturbing hypothesis

Fanboy movies were mentioned in connection with race. It might be instructive to note that of the approximately 130 SF/Fantasy films that have ever earned over 100 million dollars, only two black stars can be found: Will Smith and Eddie Murphy. Why? I think that both of them are funny enough to disarm the negative reaction. Murphy has sold out pretty completely, but Smith still has a decent chance in the race. Next up? “I am Legend.” Anyone want to bet whether he gets any, as Charlton Heston did in the previous version of Matheson’s story, “The Omega Man”? I thought not. However, I’m still betting he’ll be the first to pull off a blockbuster with…dare I say…balls.
Hell, I’m a trained SF writer, capable of extrapolation into nasty realms.
Want the most disturbing implication of these statistics? Well, IF one granted the following propositions:
1) black men don’t engage in breeding behavior in successful films as often as whites. That, in other words, sexual behavior in black men is repulsive to white men sufficiently to depress box office.
2) That black men die disproportunately. Often protecting whites. In other words, SURVIVAL at all is frowned upon.
3) That these trends reflect not some prejudice on the part of a tiny group of “Hollywood Executives” but rather the culture as a whole.
4) That similar trends may exist in general printed fiction across the board (the trend of exclusion most certainly exists in Science Fiction. I haven’t analyzed numbers in other fields)
5) That when blacks do exist in these worlds, they have a clownish (i.e. non-threatening) aspect.

Then it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that the fantasy world of white people excludes minorities. When said minorities exist they are non-reproductive (fat, gay, old, children, etc.) or female (sexual targets). If the preference is for them either dying or failing to have sex, clearly the subconscious preference is for the entire group to die.
Hmmm. Would this reflect itself in, say…police shootings of unarmed black men? Debates over health care for minority communities? How about international aid for dark-skinned countries as opposed to light? How about political sanctuary for lighter-skinned aliens (Cuba) as opposed to darker (Haiti?) . A preference for adopting lighter-skinned foreign babies over darker-skinned (would Madonna or Angelina Jolie have been as criticized publicly if all their adopted children had been, say, Serbian? Or even Chinese?)

In other words, were I to attempt to make such a case, how hard would it be? Now, clearly we’re only talking about my 10-20% “disconnect” which mean that there would be plenty of “Negrophiles” to behave in positive ways. And our national mythology prevents almost anyone from publicly stating such attitudes. Most wouldn’t even have the permission to admit to themselves that they have them. Cognitive/emotional dissonance, anyone?

Oh, we could have a great time extrapolating out from these unconscious attitudes to social, educational, fiscal, and law enforcement attitudes. You could just go crazy.

Of course, it would be important to note that these are probably universal tendencies. The fact that blacks happen to be outnumbered and outgunned is just a sorry twist of fate for me. It sucks. But while I don’t take it personally, I do like to look at the problem from all directions. I do see answers: communication, conscious awareness, the “Browning” of America, and the march of time. There may be other answers as well. I know that sticking my head in the sand accomplishes nothing.

Swear to God, though…I wish there was someone else who thought like me, who’d say this stuff. I never, ever, ever wanted to prate on about this garbage. I just have this horrible feeling that if I don’t talk about it, no one will.
Noticed that as I’ve reached my I.F. goal, it gets harder to keep myself completely honest. I do reach for the stray Mochi at night. That’s not good…I’m more sensitive to sugar these days. Sigh. I have to change my motivations. It’s odd how you have to hook yourself into deeper and deeper levels. If it’s not about raw performance, or weight, or “how you look,” I have to eat today for how I wanna feel next week. Or perform nxt year. Jeeze.
Two days to finish the 1st draft on Shadow Valley. Everything’s going pretty well. Will do Bikram Yoga today at 11am after about six weeks off. It’s gonna be brutal. Have to remember it’s a breathing exercise, keep my ego out of it, remember that I’m doing the best I can. Also remember it’s not a fitness activity: it’s HEALTH, creating a foundation for fitness. That’s very, very different, and, again, harder to motivate myself toward.


Mike R. said...

>e plenty of “Negrophiles” to behave in positive ways. And our national mythology prevents almost anyone from publicly stating such attitudes<

Well, not for the young. It's often very common for them to admire and imitate (often badly) black (popular and / or gansta) culture. Mind you, they often get called names for doing so.

In the adult sphere, perhaps it's more common in private? Might the prevalence of "Black Guy on White Girl" porn be evidence of some type of secret negrophilia?

>Noticed that as I’ve reached my I.F. goal, it gets harder to keep myself completely honest. <

That was my exact experience as well. I got pretty close to my goal weight and then I started slipping. Then I had surgery and fell a lot during my recovery period. I then tried the "only eat from 5-10PM" form of IF and that failed miserably for me. So . . . now I'm back to hard core IF - 36 hour fasts, nothing but water, period, every other day, no exceptions. My experience with that is that if I do it without any cheating, it works. Period.

So, I intend to do complete IF for the next month as I really want to be in the best shape possible for my wedding.

>Also remember it’s not a fitness activity: it’s HEALTH, creating a foundation for fitness.<

Could you explain this a little more. I'm not sure I get how one prepares for fitness as opposed to just getting fit.

Steven Barnes said...

I meant that one can't publicly express NEGATIVE attitudes.
To slightly modify Coach Sonnon's performance pyramid, the progression goes:
1) Sanity. (Meditation, journaling, I.D.E.A., etc.)
2) Health (Yoga, Warrior Wellness, Chi Gung, etc.)
3) Fitness (running, weights, etc.)
4) Skill (Sports, dance, Martial arts, etc.)
5) Competition.
The higher numbers rest on a foundation of the lower numbers. Go directly for fitness without a foundation of healthy emotions and healthy joints, elastic connective tissues, good posture and energy, and you can tear yourself to pieces. Even worse is the "Weekend Warrior" who competes without any preparation at all. They've never grown up, remember that they used to be able to play football without being "fit" or aligning their joints, and then bang bodies with their buddies for three hours, then take pain-killers all week long to compensate. It's actually kinda tragic, because they really COULD extend their athletic careers with small, consistent investments of time.

Steve Perry said...

Well, as one of those old white guys born pre-1950 for whom you are awaiting the passing thereof, and raised in the heart of the cracker south, I certainly know what influences I had growing up.

I don't claim to have transcended them. I'm certainly not as racist as most of the kids I went to high school with, but I dunno how pure my heart is.

I've made the -- sorry -- token effort to get past the don't-let-'em-screw and kill-'em-all in my books.
One of the most kick-ass of the matadors is Dirisha Zuri, who looks much more like Grace Jones than Beyonce. She gets laid and regularly beats the crap out of the bad guys. At the risk of offering a spoiler, she's still alive at the end of the series.

Then there is Ellis Mtumbo Shaw, who is the ostensible villain in the most recent matador novel, who not only doesn't die, he comes to realize Something of Import, and leaves the bad side of the Force to become a good guy. And he gets laid, too.

Of course, these are just midlist books, and I don't know that they will have all that much effect on anything; still, as a white guy, what else am I going to do to be part of the solution and not the problem? (Past a certain point, I catch flak because, well, you know, I'm not black, so I can't really offer a genuine portrayal of anybody who isn't white ...)

Sure, Hollywood Shuffle is painfully and pointedly funny when you see the Jewish white guy director and writer telling Robert Townsend to "make it blacker!" But if nobody can write from any head but their own, that's gonna pretty much kill writing for any but a narrow target audience ...

Steven Barnes said...

Of course people can write from other perspectives than their own. Just start with the assumption that they have the exact same needs, hopes and dreams--and then differentiate slightly. You and people who think like you are hardly the problem, Steve. That said, I would consider it about five times more probable that a white guy would create a black FEMALE lead character than a male one. Off the cuff stats there, just what it feels like. The only duty any of us have as individuals is to be conscious, healthy, and communicate within and without. And to have the courage to tell the world what we see--warts and all. Other than that it's all politics, and that ain't my department.

Dan Moran said...

Orscon Scott Card wrote an entire novel with only black characters -- Magic Street. I've got it sitting on my mantle for when you come by for dinner -- would love to hear your take on it.

One of the problems with writing outside your perceived or actual group is, of course, the response of the people who self-identify with that group. One of the last stories I actually wrote, all the characters were black -- no reader said anything, but the story's set 500 years from now. It would be interesting to see the response to a similar work set in the present.

One of the things you run into, as a white and apparently straight male, is the very ideologically committed questioning your right to address their experience in any way. Once you hit that tripwire, communication tends to stop. I could cite a recent example on your blog. :-)

Steven Barnes said...

No doubt. And men get it about writing women. Or people of culture X writing about Y. And true believers will try to control the images, and tell you you can't. Screw 'em. Want to play safe? Get a member of that group to vet your stuff. Several writers have asked me to do that for them, and I was honored. It's not that hard...unless deep down you're afraid that your actual opinion might accidentally surface...

Dan Moran said...

Not much. The worst thing anyone's ever said to me about my writing was that my women were men with tits -- came from a conservative woman I otherwise respected who hated the bisexual protagonist of my first novel. I lived.

But it is a barrier, and one you have to take care with. This was my sister making fun of me -- Juliet's Korean and Terminal Sue's Cherokee:


"He's a deserter," Juliet said gleefully. "A Nazi deserter. A blond-haired Nazi deserter."

"You're a Nazi?" Terminal Sue asked. She mimicked him: "'I knew this guy once, he was blond and from Germany and named Fritz, but not even he was a Nazi.'"

"I'm from Santa Barbara," Bogie snapped. "People from Santa Barbara don't become Nazis. They become Republicans."

"You're a Republican?" Terminal Sue asked.

"That's almost as bad," said Juliet. She eyed him suspiciously. "Are you gay?"


"Do you smoke?"

"Yes," said Bogie, before he realized she meant cigarettes.

Juliet nodded thoughtfully. "A white heterosexual Republican male supporting the tobacco industry." She looked at Terminal Sue. "He could be."

"Could be what?" Bogie asked.

"Almost anything," said Juliet.


And my sister loves me ... :-)

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