The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Forbidden Kingdom and racial images

Someone asked me what I thought of "Forbidden Kingdom" (the Jackie Chan/Jet Li movie) with its white star, in the light of "21". Or "A Mighty Heart."
Or that 9/11 movie, or any other film where the race of the character is changed to white supposedly due to "Color Blind Casting" or some other such
lie. Well, obviously, what it is is an attempt to reach the largest audience. Human beings are tribal (doesn't that sound so much better than
"racist"?). People are more inclined to see something if there are emotional anchor-points connecting the actors to the audience. Race is one of
those, don't you dare doubt it. No one wants to admit it, but it's the simple truth. That said, the white kid in "Kingdom" holds the role of the
clueless kid who is trained by the masters. Oh, what the heck...why not? I mean, we all know why we'll go see this movie...for the supposedly fabulous
fight scene between Jackie and Jet. All else is dross. Cast a cow, if they want to.
What WILL disgust me is if he has a romantic dalliance with a beautiful Asian girl. While, of course, Jackie and Jet are "above such things." The human hindbrain can be frustrating.
##
The subject of seduction came up. An interesting one, to be sure. Let's make it clear that we're not talking about courtship, which may or may
not include premarital bedroom shenanigans. Seduction is the art of making sexual contact with another human being--the question of the
ultimate relationship status isn't really relevant. Clearly, the "art" of seduction is different for males and females. Women can usually manage
to get sex whenever they want to...if they don't care about a relationship afterwards. Men are just that desperate. Guys often set out to dangle
the signs of "potential relationship" in front of a woman, complete with suggestions of his net worth and social mobility. I remember reading a
book applying some fairly sophisticated psychological theory to "making a man fall in love with you." To me, this is the same as those "Speed
Seduction" books and courses. Same ethical level.

The real question is: how can men and women satisfy their sexual needs (separate from a committed relationship) while remaining ethical? Most of
us have had encounters that we later regretted. Others have had missed opportunities where it only dawned on you after you left the party that
he/she was hitting on you. Learning to navigate these waters, being honest and compassionate, while still having fun, is a test of mind and heart.
Personally, looking back over my life from the safety of being well and truly married, I can think about the experiences I've had and extract rules
that seem to work, that I would be happy to pass on to my son, for instance. I didn't pass rules for seduction to my daughter--I have to
be honest and admit that I love the line from EdTV: "Men are the gas. Women are the brakes." What I gave Nicki was a caution that until she could
support herself legally and ethically, she had no business messing with sexual energy. It is simply too powerful.

What would I tell Jason? Well...considering that I thought for about three years to figure out what I was going to tell Nicki, I suppose it would be
a good idea to start thinking about it.
##
As strange as it may sound, my primary rule is to treat every woman the way I would want someone to treat my sister, my daughter, or my mother.
That is, if one can imagine one's sister, daughter, or mother having a lusty, healthy sexual life. I have no problem with such imaginings. This then
ties back to the idea of "Long term selfishness." That is, that there is nothing wrong with selfishness. The problem is SHORT TERM selfishness, where
people do things to cheat others. Long term selfishness demands that you protect the other party as well, because you want to come back and deal
with them again in days or years to come.

So long-term selfishness applied to seduction means that you have to
1) accurately perceive the values and needs of the other party.
2) determine if you can satisfy those needs ethically, without promising what you have no intention of delivering
3) honestly provoke, induce, or stimulate a sexual desire in the other party
4) project confidence that you can fulfill that desire
5) project the qualities that your object of desire finds intriguing and attractive.
6) provide a safe, comfortable space for the rendezvous
7) Deliver the goods. Remember--you want to handle yourself so that you could come back for seconds some day, right? That
means that you are honest, generous, caring, affectionate, respectful...and genuinely passionate and interested in HER, not just in someone to,
in the single most revolting phrase I've ever heard applied to sex, "dump a fuck in." Christ.
8) Provide mutual protection from STD, pregnancy, or emotional trauma.
##
Here's another rule that I had during my dating years: never have sex with anyone you wouldn't take a call from a year later, at 3:00am in the
morning. If you don't like her enough to care about her life and welfare, exactly, precisely why are you jumping in the sack with her..?

Just wanted to clear the air about basic rules before any discussion of strategy and tactics.
And the question of the day is: what basic rules have you guys set up to control the sexual aspect of the Mating Game?

17 comments:

Michelle said...

hrm..is it still a lie if a white character is replaced by a black character due to blind casting?

Example: Wild Wild West

Note: I am truly curious, be civil.

Dan Moran said...

Fair question, IMO.

Whoopi Goldberg played Bernie Rhodenbarr in Burglar -- he's male and Jewish in Lawrence Block's novels.

Robert Neville's a white guy in "I am Legend," and James West's a white guy in the original WWW.

Danny Glover played Philip Marlow...

Those are off the top of my head; I'm sure there are others.

Anonymous said...

Women can usually manage
to get sex whenever they want to...if they don't care about a relationship afterwards


That is non-experience based thinking there, and contradicted by empirical data. As a woman who is both polyamorous and a swinger, it is my experience that men reject women they're not attracted to, or women they're afraid of (too intimidating--for which read either sexually aggressive or smarter), and I'm sure there are other categories.

Even when partnered (e.g., married), just because the wife desires sex doesn't mean the husband is willing or interested.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Completed unrelated to the current posting, but must be asked. In your lifewriting daily email, you indicated that one of your earlier novels might be turned into an anime. Please tell that it is Streetlethal or the Kundalani equation. I read them a long time ago and think that they would both be great for that medium.

Jas. said...

"is it still a lie if a white character is replaced by a black character due to blind casting?"

I'll ask the question Mr. Barnes would ask: did the white character have sex but the black character does not? If they change that aspect of the story because the lead is black instead of white, then is it really "blind casting"?

Mr. Moran was right, some time back, when he said that once you're sensitized to this sort of thing, it comes up with depressing regularity.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Women can usually manage
to get sex whenever they want to...if they don't care about a relationship afterwards


Not being all that interested in sex without a relationship afterwards, I can't report from as much experience as anonymous whether this is true. I think it is true (at least when you're young and reasonably thin - the only state in which I've been single) that women get more open offers of no strings sex than men, but then, most of those offers were from people I didn't find attractive, and so I can't take them as evidence that all the people I did find attractive could be had for the asking.

Beyond that, to whatever extent that it's true that women can more easily get sex without a relationship afterwards, isn't that just saying that women can more easily get sex on terms that the average woman doesn't want? I'm not convinced that women have a huge advantage over men at getting sex with the people they actually want and on the terms that they actually want it.

I love this standard, though: never have sex with anyone you wouldn't take a call from a year later, at 3:00am in the
morning.
And I agree that the "make a man fall in love with you" books for women and the "speed seduction" books for men are about on the same ethical level.

Steven Barnes said...

Will Smith was not cast due to "blind" casting. He was cast due to "star" casting, but his race was both central and oddly ignored--destroying the potential humanity of the character. Think James West wouldn't have had a love scene if he'd been cast white? Give me a break.
##
All other things being equal, on one level it is equally egregious for a white character to be replaced by a black as vice-versa. If it were done equal times in equivalent ways, it would be equal. But it's not: there are sexual and power politics at play that decide when and how such a switch can be made. The two groups are very different in terms of numbers: outnumbered ten to one, the very worst black actors could do, in a perfect world, is replace 13% of white actors. White actors could replace ALL black actors with room to spare. So on a practical level, it could just never hurt as much TO THE GROUP, even though it would hurt to individuals wronged by the action.
Be civil? When am I not civil?

Steven Barnes said...

"Women can usually manage
to get sex whenever they want to...if they don't care about a relationship afterwards

That is non-experience based thinking there, and contradicted by empirical data."
##
Should I have said "compared to men"? And this is certainly not based entirely by experience or observation, but on countless comments made by countless women over the years. Also the fact that, for all practical purposes there is no market for "male prostitutes" (serving women) as opposed to female prostitutes who serve men. Sex clubs have to have rules to keep single men out of them, and lower rates for women to get them in. Take the average man, and the average woman. Have them walk into a room and announce that they want to have sex that night. I think I can be confident in saying that the woman has a MUCH better chance of this happening. Yes, men reject women they're not attracted to. That's why God made beer. Just kidding. No, I'm not. Women can't simultaneously hold the opinion that "men are dogs" who will "screw a knothole if they can grease it up" and also hold that men are as selective as women in sexual partners. It's not true, and so far as I know has never been true, anywhere in the world.

Steven Barnes said...

"isn't that just saying that women can more easily get sex on terms that the average woman doesn't want? I'm not convinced that women have a huge advantage over men at getting sex with the people they actually want and on the terms that they actually want it."
##
Yes! My whole point is that the game is stacked for and against both men and women. Men and women both have advantages the other craves, and disadvantages the other side ignores.

Steven Barnes said...

The Anime project is based on "Dream Park." We'll see what happens...

Reluctant Lawyer said...

"Dream park." I remember it, although if I recall, it was the sequel, the California Voodoo game that had one of my favorites of the characters you created: Niles Bishop.

Josh Jasper said...


Yes! My whole point is that the game is stacked for and against both men and women. Men and women both have advantages the other craves, and disadvantages the other side ignores.


Women, as far as I can tell, are the ones who don't *want* to play the game, as it ends up being a net loss in terms of autonomy. Getting influence by sex, or the promise of sex, has some pretty harsh connotations, and it's certainly not something I'd recommend as a means to feel good about yourself.

Men, however, have a vested interest in women showing more interest in beauty than in power. We stack the game against women, because as you noticed, they dominate the power axis, and get to influence who advances along it, and for what reasons.

Steven Barnes said...

I don't think women lose more than men. Both sides lose freedom, both accept roles different from their dreams. Each side programs the other. One thing I try hard to remember is that, were women men, they'd behave like men. Were men women, they'd behave like women. There just isn't some huge gap in ethics or morality or intellect between the two groups.

Anonymous said...

"Women can usually manage
to get sex whenever they want to...if they don't care about a relationship afterwards."

...and if they're not considered ugly freaks.

Anonymous said...

"I didn't pass rules for seduction to my daughter--I have to
be honest and admit that I love the line from EdTV: 'Men are the gas. Women are the brakes.'"

OTOH, people can have more control over their lives and ensure their happiness better when they don't rely on someone else to be the brakes to their gas. Even if they're male. :)

"What I gave Nicki was a caution that until she could
support herself legally and ethically, she had no business messing with sexual energy. It is simply too powerful."

That's actually good advice for everyone. :) In addition to postponing the risks of STDs and pregnancy until one's an adult, there's also the matter of privacy. Sex can be more romantic when a couple has privacy, and it's easier to have privacy when you don't still live with your parents.

OTOH, does masturbation count as "messing with sexual energy" too? Should a kid wait until moving out for *that*?

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