The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, December 24, 2009

If Spike Lee had directed Avatar..?

One of my favorite Mad Scientists, Jonathan Post, rather cheekily asked if I thought Avatar would have been different if directed by Spike Lee. Specifically, if their culture would have parfait'd along color lines, with lighter-skinned Na'vi lording it over the darker ones.

Naw. That happened in America because of the protective coloration thing: the difference in color between Africans and Europeans was stark, and formed an impassable barrier in and of itself. (We'll ignore for a moment the fact that I don't believe in the racial mix as presented in the film. Absent some innate superiority in white folks, in a hundred years things are gonna be considerably browner, rather than, as "Avatar" comfortingly suggests, whites will continue to be on the top of the heap. From this point of view, it wouldn't be "dark and light" but probably the most obvious difference--short, and non-blue)

As masters sexually plundered their slaves (not always rape, but never less than what might be considered extremely non-optimal conditions) we got mulattos. These children were treated better by whites than their darker-skinned brethren, both because they LOOKED more like whites, and because it is natural for human beings to feel protective toward their own offspring.

They got more privileges, and became an intermediate group between "pure" Africans and "pure" Europeans, a buffer group who could actually be used against their own people as spies and overseers. Needless to say, this triggered serious resentment in the darker folks, as well as urges to imitate them. By dress, language, appearance and social custom, many blacks did everything possible to look and act like the master class. Christianity was, from this point of view, another piece of protective coloration. I have no doubts that the average master treated a Christian slave better than an anamistic or Islamic slave.

Really complicated ball of snakes. Post-slavery there was a lot of hope that, if ex-slaves could just take on the attitudes and actions of whites, that they might enter the "promised land" of equality. Yeah, dream on. As decades rolled, you have cycles of optimism shaded by pessimism as the "two steps forward, one step back" of political and social reality set in. You get "upper class" blacks taking on all the protective attitudes...including, unfortunately, taking on the very attitudes of their oppressors, including considering light skin more "attractive" than dark skin.

TRUST ME, this is real. Growing up, I definitely saw and heard it. My own mother was light-skinned enough to have "passed", and spent her last years regretting she had not. Feeling that her dark-skinned children stopped her from connecting with more desirable men of higher social standing. Pretty nasty stuff. Poor Mom...that was the time she grew up in, a time of lynchings and trying desperately to believe that "black blood is the strongest in the world, because one drop makes you whole." Pretty abysmal coping mechanism. Don't think she really believed that for a moment.

##

Anyway, here's how it might happen:

1) IF Earth had controlled Pandora for generations, and

2) IF lighter-skinned Na'vi somehow had privileges above the darker, such that those privileges controlled their survival and breeding...

3) THEN it would be inevitable for poisonous, self-hating attitudes to gain strength.

But even then, for it to be as bad as it has been for black Americans, you would have to brainwash them, remove their culture and destroy their memory of their own history. Otherwise you would be in danger of engendering hatred toward the oppressor, rather than self-destructive value patterns.

##

Oh...and if Spike had directed Avatar, there would have been at least one black male character to identify with. Say...the other Avatar scientist? Maybe one of the support staff? Feh.

Still loved it, though. As I've loved countless SF works that excluded or degraded me. Is that sick, or what?

55 comments:

LaVeda H. Mason said...

The Dangers of A Single Story

We, as a people, need more stories...

No, you aren't sick.... just honest about whether the work is good ["If I were white, with all that it entails, would I think this was a good story?"]

Shady_Grady said...

"Still loved it, though. As I've loved countless SF works that excluded or degraded me. Is that sick, or what?"

Not sick. Just human. And I write that as a fan of Robert E. Howard and HP Lovecraft, who both had rather serious issues with Black people.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

As I've loved countless SF works that excluded or degraded me. Is that sick, or what?

I don't know. I used to be much more able to not notice misogyny in art, and I may have been happier for it.

Do people with really good memetic immune systems dislike art which is bigoted against them, or do they enjoy the good aspects of the art and let the poison slip past them?

It's possible that your ability to take on a white point of view enough to enjoy mainstream art is part of the flexibility which helps you as a writer and coach.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

But I'm totally aware that I am of mixed genetics, and that my genetics aren't really very important, in the end. I don't wake up in the middle of the night thinking "I'm black".

This might have something to do with how you can enjoy art which ignores or degrades black people-- there's a part of your mind which doesn't really believe in race.

More generally, people are guessing about what they need to live well. This current style of analyzing art might or might not be a good idea.

I think you're right that no political movement aims at equality, and I'll extend it by saying that not only don't they aim at equality between groups, they certainly don't want equality between the leaders and followers. Spoiling other people's fun is one of the basic ways of exercising dominance.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"As I've loved countless SF works that excluded or degraded me. Is that sick, or what?"

Not sickness, resistance. Memetic antibodies that enable Black Sci-Fi fans to enjoy and, in the case of successful authors like Steve, thrive in a medium permeated with poison potentially lethal to the Afro-psyche. We've salamanders basking in fire.

"I used to be much more able to not notice misogyny in art"

I hope there's a blog that parallels Steve's expose of racism in Sci-Fi and the visual arts with one that illuminates pervasive misogyny in these media.

"no political movement aims at equality"

Politics is about POWER. Every constituency bound by a shared identity, grievance or ambition aims for absolute power, nothing else or less. Those who live under the conqueror's heal play the Moral Card, do the forward-back shuffle and sneak up the slippery slope to mask their true intentions to both the oppressor and their own conscience. We all aim for The World; the Nazis were simply more honest than most.

"If Spike Lee had directed Avatar.."

This opens a generalized thought experiment wherein Blacks, women or other opposed groups had authored or directed works in which they've been demeaned or marginalized. What if Avery Brooks had truly commanded DS9? Minus his Negro Spirit Guide persona, how would the Emissary lead the Bajora? Instead of being superficial clones of Jews or Palestinians, would the Bajora have modeled American Blacks? Would Bajoran-Cardassian hybrids like Dukat's daughter enjoy privileged middlemen status a la mulattoes in the Old South? Would Bajoran high fashion consist of blue makeup and prosthetic neck ridges?

Shady_Grady said...

I hope there's a blog that parallels Steve's expose of racism in Sci-Fi and the visual arts with one that illuminates pervasive misogyny in these media.

There are LEGIONS of them... =)

http://matociquala.livejournal.com/1544111.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/25/science-fiction-diversity-gender

http://community.feministing.com/2009/07/sci-fi-apparently-incompatible.html

http://wheatamongtares.blogspot.com/2009/12/sci-fi-sexism.html

http://saveblackromance.com/?p=418

Nancy Lebovitz said...

The reason I'm not sure becoming more aware of misogyny and other bigotry in fiction has been a favor for me is that it's too tempting for me to read for whether the author is breaking a bunch of rules rather than being more intelligently sensitive to my own emotional reactions.

ethiopian infidel, I don't think Nazism for their own group is what people generally want. If it were, genocide would be a default rather than an occasional atrocity.

I believe it's typical for people to exclude, exploit, and abuse outsiders, and to attempt conquest when there's some reasonable chance of success. I also believe that people are naturally slave-owners. The only reason the vast majority of people think they don't want to own slaves is that we've had barely two centuries of an abolishionist world.

That's very different from wanting to wipe out people who aren't in your group. The death camps *shocked* people when word got out. They didn't go home thinking, "Gosh, we'd like that sort of advantage for ourselves."

Xenophobia is normal, but note that even the most extreme anti-immigrationists don't want to conquer Latin American and de-populate it.

And I don't think the most extreme anti-immigrationists are restraining themselves-- they just aren't as expansionist as they could be.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"I don't think Nazism for their own group is what people generally want."

I cited the Nazis since they're the most dramatic and PC example. Communists, Muslims or Christians would fit nicely as well. My contention is that groups strive to win absolute power for their constituents, and seek to "annihilate" the opposition, where annihilation means either assimilation or death. Such groups needn't be biological; Muslims and Communists are bound through shared memes, not genes. Assimilation can entail biological absorption, slavery or religious/political conversion. Groups whose identifies are rooted in shared lineage naturally gravitate towards the Death Option, since that's the straightforward means of purging the gene pool. For instance, the racist film and literary tropes discussed in this blog appear to be Freudian-type depictions of semi-conscious desires by Whites to exterminate Blacks. Judging from the ready resort of modern groups such as Hutus to genocide, and its ubiquitous depiction and tacit advocacy in ancient quasi-historical texts such as the Bible and Iliad, I dismally speculate that wholesale extermination's the default means for humans groups to rid themselves of competitors. To borrow and adapt insights from Dawkins and Chomsky, as group identity enlarged beyond inherited genes and rested more on shared memes, assimilation became viable and preferable, gradually displacing the older, more brutal homicidal method. Consider the extent to which a group or society chooses assimilation over extermination an index of its progress.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Ethiopian Infidel, it's hard to be accurate about the subconscious motivations of people you know, let alone the subconscious motivations of huge numbers of people you don't know.

What people do offers a hint, though I grant people can't always just do what they want.

I do think there's a pull towards assimilating people from other cultures, a pull towards not letting them in so as to have an excuse to take advantage of them and get away with abusing them, and a pull towards doing all the things that *aren't* directed outside your group-- survival, fun, internal competition....

I think that if the drive to kill was all that strong, there'd many fewer human cultures. Genocide happens, but it's far from the default at any tech level.

Travis said...

And a Merry Christmas to all!

Michael said...

I'm surprised there aren't prominent black characters in Avatar because it's such a known fact that the audience for scifi is heavily black-- that's why the Klingons became black, for instance, and every scifi TV series has major black characters. I guess if you're really trying to tell a colonialism, hate-western-civilization allegory, though, that'd just get in the way.

Anonymous said...

It's an historical fact that lighter north Africans preyed on (made slaves of) darker sub-Saharan blacks--long before the antebellum South existed.

The nuances of racism are both conscientious to detail--and petty.

Anonymous said...

But I'm totally aware that I am of mixed genetics

Well, we're ALL of mixed genetics. After all, that's what genetics IS.

Porkov said...

Spend time with children. Pay attention. Before they become damaged they have the imagination and the will to pretend to be anything that captures their interest. If you play WITH them you might discover that you aren't really a crusty old ideologue. I think that's what theater is for - pretending. The willful suspension of disbelief. Getting out of your skin and inside someone (or something) else's.

liamascorcaigh said...

@Nancy Lebovitz: You're obviously intelligent and decent but you're too reasonable. This leaves you vulnerable to the deadly Ofart virus. This organism has penetrated your blood-brain barrier with the result that you believe by default that Other Folk Are Reasonable Too. This fatal error in cognition leads to you're agonizing about "misogyny" in works of art rather than appreciating their beauty and skill and meditating upon the human achievement they represent and allowing their insight to enrich you.

This "misogyny" is an hallucination but like all Ofart sufferers you will loudly disagree. It is an artifact of Feminist ideology, a purely delusional confection of waffle, bile, personal inadequacy and careerism. In the slurry pit that is the modern Academy it's method is called Deconstruction or, as one's landscaper might say, Mierde del Toro.

Feminism is a Closed System of pseudo-thought, incapable by its very nature of delivering analytic insight. I'll illustrate this by the following:

Two persons are in a motor-car. One is a man, the other a woman.

Scenario 1: The man is driving.
Feminist Interpretation: The man is in the power seat. He has complete control of the vehicle. He determines its vectors. He owns the journey, the destination. The woman is reduced to the position of a mere spectator, a purely passive presence, deprived of any input into her fate, a mere dialogic convenience to alleviate the tedium of travel.

Scenario 2: The woman is driving.
Feminist Interpretation: The man is exercising his power over the woman by exploiting her as his chauffeuse. She, servant and slave, is the tool of his convenience. She does all the labor, while he, the Lord and Master, relaxes.

Other Folk Are Not Necessarily Reasonable. Some are ideological fanatics whose sole aim is to deface and degrade human reality to accord with their own virulently anti-humanist, often self-serving, neurotic fantasies.

Is it any wonder that "misogyny" is "everywhere"?
Ditto "racism". Ditto "homophobia". Ditto "imperialism".

Don't be a Dittohead, Nancy.

Anonymous said...

Your only sickness lies in the inability to recognize that it was Islamic slave traders who sold the slaves to Whites--who die off even now when trying to live in Africa...

Why is it that so many people think it was a bunch of Christian Deacons and Sunday School Teachers who kidnapped innocent blacks and forced them to pick cotton???

It was--and still is--Islam that enslaves Black Africans...

Steven Barnes said...

liamascorcaigh:

Around here, we kinda take the approach that about the same percentage of human beings are bigots as are assholes. Not the same group, the same percentage. From that perspective, it is reasonable to assume that (about) 10% of negative reactions are indeed based on a group antipathy. And we try to avoid calling names such as "dittohead"--that rarely improves the communication. Thanks.

Dark Eden said...

Insta-lanched here, so I'll try to share an evil white male perspective on this fascinating conversation! This is a bit long and meandering so feel free to TLDR me.
The storyline of Avatar is a very simplistic paint by the numbers white guilt fantasy where the white guy gets to reject and cast off all the sins of being white, literally becomes a person of color (blue in this case, like a super ultra mega blue stater!) and then, since he still has the awesometasticness of whiteness within him, becomes the leader of the people of color and leads them to victory against his hated former people. Its really a pretty disturbing thing if you look at it from that point of view, very nihilistic. Its also “of a kind” of these sort of white rejection movies. People point to Dances with Wolves, but the Last Samurai was just as much a part of this growing tradition of movies.
Also the whiteness of the humans... the whole point is rejection of the white race. The bad guys have to all be white. If there were some black people, some Delgado's and Ramirez's, it would have complicated the white guilt fantasy and taken away from the simplistic, 'we're completely wrong in every way and they're completely right in every way' morality of the story. In this particular story there is no place for anyone but evil whites and noble savages.
I think if Spike Lee had directed it, it would have been a very different movie because I don't think he would stress or even possibly realize the whole white rejection fantasy it was based on. I imagine he'd start fleshing out the world, and probably the first thing would be to make the Na'vi more compelling by complicating them. I imagine there'd be some militant Na'vi. There'd be a plurality of points of view, I'm not exactly sure what he'd do here.
Now I'm not a person of color, granted, but I have to imagine if you are, and you live in and among other people of color, you quickly figure out the key word is not color, but people. Some people are good and decent, and some are jerks you don't want to invite over for Sunday brunch. I imagine this simple realization would radically transform the Na'vi from innocent tree hugging eco-fantasies into a more living breathing realistic native culture complete with a bad side.
I don't think he'd literally have lighter skinned Na'vi. But I think there would be more of a diversity of viewpoint. There'd be Na'vi who wanted to work with the humans, ones who didn't particularly want to sit and hug the big tree but thought the human tech was cool, who tried to learn more about the human world and even try to join it. There'd be Na'vi who hated the humans instantly and wanted to kill them all. The same dynamics would be there but the trigger of skin color variations wouldn't necessarily be the cause in some strange alien race. I have no idea exactly how it would turn out, but Spike could probably relate to the Na'vi a hell of a lot more than I could, and I imagine that would flesh out their presentation in ways a white boy like me couldn't possibly predict, but I know it would introduce flaws and foibles to them which would, in and of itself, ruin the white rejection fantasy. You see lots of rich white celebrities talking about how much better the natives in the huts are but you don't actually see any of them abandoning their material goods to go live in the huts with the actual human, flawed natives.

Dark Eden said...

Part 2, apologies for the spam bombs.
Now, as to black people and love of sci fi movies. This is something of a new revelation to me as a white guy. For most white sci fi nerds, sci fi is not something you are actually proud of. Its something you embrace because you love it and in spite of the regular beatings you get for talking about it among the non dorks of society. There's an intrinsic 'coolness' that white people perceive in black people ("Everyone wants to be Black, but no one wants to be Black." - Paul Mooney) that, at least in my head, puts most black people I meet in the 'cool people who won't want to listen to me talk about Star Trek and might break my glasses if I talk about my pokemon collection.' Its kind of retarded, and I'm not sure black people would believe this, but I think the general white nerd attitude is that black people are just... well... better than sci fi? That 'you people' have better things to do than care about some dorky fantasy about aliens and ray guns. I think I started realizing that at least at some level some black people think sci fi is actually in the 'cool' category when I started seeing sci fi themed rap videos like some of the Missy Elliot ones and that one 2Pac video (California Love?) in the post apoc world. That one especially was completely gratuitous dorkification that had nothing to do with the song but there it was.
That one especially had me sit down and ask the seemingly bizarre question.. 'do non-dork black people actually like sci fi?' It seems black people don't know that good and decent people are supposed to tolerate actiony sci fi but not embrace sci fi as a whole lest you become infested with the taint of dorkdom. You do see white bands with sci fi themed videos but they're all very careful to include a wink and a nod to how stupid sci fi is. 'we don't actually like this sci fi stuff, isn't this silly? What a laugh!' That was completely absent from the rap videos I saw, the artists there went full bore scifi dork! It was... strange to say the least.
I still don't quite know what to make of it but I'm fascinated by the very idea of non dork black people being sci fi fans. Forget Avatar. I'd love to see black directors, writers, actors, etc, creating their own unique visions of sci fi fantasy. I've long dreamed of seeing something like an African Lord of the Rings style movie based on African mythology and with an all black cast. For me this is a very selfish desire. I've always been more of an Arabian Nights fantasy fan than a Tolkien fan. The elves and dwarves and pixies don't do much for me. There's some great black actors who seem strangely willing to dork out on their acting roles that would surely jump at the chance of an African take on fantasy movies? Not sure.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"Islamic slave traders who sold the slaves to Whites"

Muslim Arabs indeed inaugurated the Sub-Saharan slave trade. And Muslim slaving continues in Darfur and Mauritania, over a century after the abolition of slavery in Christendom! Given this, I find the widespread embrace of Islam and facets of Muslim culture by African Americans farcical and tragic. To liberate themselves from the debilitating tropes of Christianity, they embraced far more oppressive despotism.

"Why is it that so many people think it was a bunch of Christian Deacons and Sunday School Teachers who kidnapped innocent blacks.."

Don't kid yourself. Christian slavers were vile, murderous fiends who used the Heathen Conversion mandate to justify their atrocities. I'd also remind you that, owing to their more advanced technology and superior State organization, Christians have split far more blood than Muslims, despite Islam's more murderous doctrines. As progress during the coming century makes mega-kill weapons more affordable to those with lesser means, this may well change...

LaVeda H. Mason said...

Dark Eden:

Speaking as a black woman, I've always loved sci-fi, because in these universes, it didn't matter what color you were. If we were stupid, mean, smart, silly, kind, loving, noble, or villainous, it was because we were human, and humans are like that. In the sci-fi universe, the color of our skin didn't matter any more than the color of our eyes, or the color of our hair.

It was also a place where people strive to be better; not always succeeding, but the goal is to transcend reacting, and to respond thoughtfully.

Now, I'm speaking about Star Trek, my particular geeky addiction... but I'm sure that there are people out there who say similar things about Star Wars, and other SF universes as well.

And, for the record, SF *isn't* 'cool'... I call it "Barry Manilow Syndrome" ... Barry is considered 'lame'; but who's buying the albums, the concert tickets, and watching whatever specials/special appearances when he's on the tube? [Yep, I've got the boxed set of his studio outtakes, lol!] He's 'lame', but he's laughing his butt off as he 'limps' to the bank... a tidy living, if you ask me :-)

SF is pretty much the same way. Nobody wants to admit they love it, but everyone knows what you mean when you say, "Make it so"!

NahnCee said...

f5So this culture that you're boo-hoo'ing about having been removed, would that be the same culture as we still see in Africa? The culture of female genital mutilation, genocide, gang rapes, boy soldiers, massive corruption, bodies floating down rivers, and ignorance that can believe AIDS was introduced to kill you *and* tha it can be cured by having sex with babies?

That the culture you're claiming would have saved American blacks from their own self-destruction?

What I don't understand is why both American blacks and African blacks are so anti-education. It's almost as if a "stupid" gene had been self-selected for in the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic.

But as a taxpayer, I'm getting very very tired of being told I need to divvy up to support America's unemployed, uneducated underclasses, and now to pay for their medical bills, too, including abortions, boob jobs, and gun shot surgery.

Dark Eden said...

"SF is pretty much the same way. Nobody wants to admit they love it, but everyone knows what you mean when you say, "Make it so"!"

Ms. (Mrs?) Mason, this is a good point! Maybe its just I have trouble picking out the black dorks unless they're very obvious about it. Come to think of it, every black dork I've known has been so extreme that they make Urkel look cool in comparison. Maybe if you're black and not completely consumed by the dork side of life you can hide it better?

And I share your thoughts on sci fi. This is why I love it, it speaks to the highest impulses of man, shows us warnings about the present day and lets us explore ideas we'd never consider otherwise.

Dark Eden said...

PS: Was Tupac a dork that hid it well? He did have a certain theatre background didn't he? That's a pretty big indicator... Trying to imagine Tupac watching Star Trek then quickly changing the channel if someone walked in.

William said...

The Mayans were a civilization that flowered and declined without any influence, adverse or otherwise, from the Europeans. They thought that the sight of a tortured baby was so pitiable that the very heavens would weep to see such a sight. During times of drought they, therefore, tortured babies to death.....Primitive peoples were not gentle ecologists. They were just like us, only more ignorant and superstitious. It is racist to assume that only Europeans are clever enough to be evil.

LaVeda H. Mason said...

Dark Eden:

'LaVeda' is just fine; thanks!

There's an error in your thinking there; liking SF doesn't make you a 'dork', whether you are black/white/asian... People who are 'dorks' generally have social issues, and they sometimes happen to like SF, too. 'Dorks' also like [insert junk food of choice]; does that make it 'dork food'?

One of the reasons [IMO] that people are on the 'down low' about their love of SF is that we're supposed to be realists, with our feet on the ground. When you have hope that human nature can change and grow, you get 'The Look'... the pitying one because you are a dreamer ... overly optimistic at best, delusional at worst.

So, we keep it to ourselves, but watch/read SF to keep that spark alive.

And, yes, I can imagine Tupac enjoying an episode of Star Trek... and I think he was tough enough to watch it and not care if anyone gave him flack over it. :-)

liamascorcaigh said...

@Steven Barnes

Guess I should have used "bigot" and "asshole" instead. Silly me. OK. Here goes. Bigot. Asshole. Glad you cleared that up.

BTW, hear your next book is entitled "Etiquette For Thee But Not For Me: How to use incredibly subtle nuance to call people rude names while rebuking them for using much milder epithets."

Punditius said...

I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that Spike Lee would do Avatar. On the level of narrative, Avatar is a simplistic piece of modern liberal/green propaganda. While Lee, in my opinion, is off-base in the racial positioning in his movies, he does not do "simplistic." Cameron is childish, Lee is adult.

But IF Lee did something like Avatar, he would, I think, have focused the action on the Earthlings, not on the Aliens. He would have done something with the Aliens that would have made them truly alien rather than someone's dumbed down fantasy of American Indians. There would have been some imagination & ambiguity in the movie's narrative line.

There is more to being a director than handling the story line, of course. There may be aspects of Avatar that Lee doesn't have the skill set to direct. OTOH, I doubt that Cameron could have done a decent job on any of Lee's movies.

BTW, Avatar is a rip-off of Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom novels. What a wonderful movie it would have been if Cameron had stuck to Burroughs.

Steven said...

Way to much emphasis on differences here, and therein lies the problem.

Good citizens of this great land understand that we are in a melting pot of all races, religions and creeds.

Good citizens want fellow citizens despite their color, religion or creed to be fellow citizens who, love their country, to work and thrive together despite their countries imperfections.

Video said...

I have never visited this blog previously (here thanks to an Instapundit link), but I find the depth, decency, and civility of the comments refreshing. Imagine...people who can think, write, and discuss ideas without resorting to tired stereotypes and/or ad hominem. Is this really the Internet?

Chris said...

Avatar was the ultimate white suicide fantasy. I've known many rich, white liberals like Cameron who love nothing more than to see whites get obliterated by the "oppressed" minorities of the world. It's a peculiar form of self-loathing that's quite common in rich, left-wing whites. Annoying and absurd, but common. Although not completely self-loathing since the people they enjoy seeing suffer the most are the middle and working class Walmart-shopping, Applebees-eating whites.

Ed Brenegar said...

Interesting thought. I was disappointed with the story. I found the movie, apart from the visuals, not very engaging. It would have been far more interesting to build it around Neyteri, seeing these invaders entering this sacred land she loved from her perspective. She was the strongest character. Instead it was just another White guy trying to find who he is. Just another Dances with Wolves. It would have been interesting to see Peter Jackson's version.

Ed Brenegar said...

Interesting thought. I was disappointed with the story. I found the movie, apart from the visuals, not very engaging. It would have been far more interesting to build it around Neyteri, seeing these invaders entering this sacred land she loved from her perspective. She was the strongest character. Instead it was just another White guy trying to find who he is. Just another Dances with Wolves. It would have been interesting to see Peter Jackson's version.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

This thread has headed off in a bunch of directions..... Oh, Instapundit.

liamascorcaigh, one of the crucial pieces of being reasonable is understanding that the map is not the territory, the name is not the thing, and that you'll benefit from paying attention to the details of a social movement rather rather than elaborating your stereotypes. In particular, there are a lot of different feminists with different takes on the world.

In re blacks and sf: Years ago, I heard a black person say that a lot of upwardly mobile blacks don't identify as sf fans because they've already got one stigmatized identity, and don't need another. Comments? (This was probably some 15 or 20 years ago, and sf isn't as stigmatized now as it was then.) The quote isn't at all exact.

NahnCee: There are a lot of black people, both in and out of Africa, who care a great deal about education.

There are dysfunctional white sub-cultures (notably in Appalachia-- if I mentioned dysfunctional upper class white subcultures, it might derail the discussion), but it generally isn't assumed they're typical of all white people.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Video, Steve Barnes both models courteous behavior and insists on it.

If you'd like another good commenting community, I recommend Making Light.

liamascorcaigh said...

@Video: 3 words: sock puppet. Goodbye.

Michael said...

I could point to lots of evidence for the "Hollywood sees blacks as a key audience for scifi" thing but I think this pretty much sums it up.

Who's the biggest black star at the moment? Will Smith.

That would be Will Smith, star of Independence Day, Men in Black, I, Robot, and I Am Legend, reported this week to have Flowers For Algernon in development.

Anonymous said...

I cited the Nazis since they're the most dramatic and PC example. Communists, Muslims or Christians would fit nicely as well.

And don't forget such fine and upstanding folks like atheists. Atheist humanistic regimes butchered over 200 million innocent civilians in the 20th Century alone, thus making pikers of Islamofascists and the Roman Catholic church and its Crusades (which were defensive responses to maurading Islamists), witch hunts and inquisitions.

Despite theistic humanist revisionism, Hitler was no devout Catholic or some right-wing Christian, he was propelled by worldly and pagan Germanic fables, the occult and the belief that the Aryan race was the pinnacle of evolution. He invoked religious symbols and language merely to propel his secular humanistic religion of hate.

Atheists love to conflate the death toll of "religious wars" and pogroms while conveniently ignoring their atheist cousins murdering innocents under the banner of communism, socialism and any other form of secular paganism. Geo-politically, atheism is a lethal irreligious religion with its own system of faith/beliefs.

Google R.J. Reynolds "Death By Government" and see what forms of government violated the most basic human and civil rights in the most cruelest manner. The western white man and Christianity are certainly not innocent of shedding innocent blood, but governments predicated upon the concept that God and absolute moral law is irrelevant to ethical government are the most dangerous in that they inevitably lead to despotism and tyranny. Just witness the arrogance of the Democratic Party as it attempts to ramrod it's agenda down a majority of Americans opposed to their unconstitutional usurpations in the private sector that can only lead to a velvet gulag at best or a "democratic" tyranny at worst.

Dark Eden said...

Not sure where else to post this, been poking around the blog here, and it dawned on me that this is the blog of a black sci fi author! (I'm slow on the uptake) I am curious to try out your work Mr. Barnes, definitely will pick up a book, and I'm curious if the regulars here might suggest some other black sci fi fantasy authors that you like?

I feel a little awkward asking that (because buying their books specifically because they're black is, well, racist isn't it?) but I'm curious to see what's out there.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I don't know what's racist in that range-- it's a contested word.

I recommend Delany. His Nova is spectacular-- flashy prose, a series of stable high-number elements which are responsive to human thought, flights through the centers of novas (one direction is much safer than the other), Arthurian symbolism, Tarot (only backward people don't believe it it), jacking into machinery..... Delany is one of those idea-a-minute sparkly writers. He ranges from fairly conventional science fiction to the very odd.

Octavia Butler was more of a clear and dignified prose, take an idea and dig into it writer. I liked her Fledgling, it's vampires, but a rather different take on them. They're symbiotic with humans, though not all of them are benevolent. The viewpoint character is a newly developed black-skinned vampire who isn't hurt by daylight.

Tanarive Due's The Between is a very scary and somewhat science fictional horror novel about a man who doesn't belong in the time stream. Warning: there's a lot of blood, and I found the relationship disaster scarier than the horror elements.

Nnedi Okorafor writes something like magical realism, but with explanations. There's a reason computers grow on trees. Her The Wind-Speaker has a first half which is some of the best comfort reading I've seen, and a second half which is a good scary coming of age adventure. The Shadow Speaker is set in the same world.

Nalo Hopkinson has written a number of respected novels, but I haven't read them yet. She edited Mojo-- stories about root magic in the African diaspora. It'll give you a good sampling of black writers.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"And don't forget such fine and upstanding folks like atheists."

I believe I did cite COMMUNISTS. Having said that, I dispute the canard that equates Marxism with Atheism, and which blames the innumerable failures and atrocities of the former upon the latter. The tragedy of Leninism stemmed far more from disastrous political organization, absurd economics and quasi-religious mania than from Atheism. Specifically, the Bolsheviks allocated unlimited power to a tiny elite (i.e. the Party Vanguard) to insure their program's victory. Unsurprisingly, such brazen violation of Lord Action's Maxim dictated absolute tyranny! Only Nazi Fuhrerprinzip offers a more predictable recipe for absolute political dementia! Coupled to the political disaster was the bogus economic corpus of Marxism and especially its Bolshevik addition, Collectivization. Lenin tried his grand experiment in Russia after WWI, and the immediate result was famine. Yet Stalin and his fellow travelers in the Third World doggedly followed Lenin's failed program in Ukraine, China, Cambodia, Ethiopia..same result every time, only vastly greater dead. Marxists persisted robot-like in their democidal dementia because they were propelled by quasi-religious political faith that ignored repeated calamitous consequences in favor of prophetic predictions of egalitarian paradise assured by supposedly infallible dogma. In short, MARXISM IS A RELIGION, despite the professed Atheism or rationalism of its proponents. Therein lays the tragedy.

I'd also add that many of Communism's most brave and ardent opponents have been Atheists. Famous Atheists who led the charge against Marxism include satirist H.L. Mencken, Conservative political theorist Walter Lippmann, philosopher Ayn Rand, Science Fiction's own Robert Heinlein and history's most influential Anti-Communist, George Orwell.

"..concept that God and absolute moral law.."

Precisely which "absolute moral laws"? Jesus' beatific and impracticable platitudes that mandate Communitarianism as surely as Marxism? How about the Mosaic laws and Leviticus decrees that ordain death for their violation? Or the supposedly divine commands to enslave and to commit rape, child murder and genocide? Those to advocate "divinely" ordained moral law as the sure basis for ethics would do well to watch the following YouTube video, which lays bare the horrendously skewered nature of the Monotheist moral compass.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71dndgYOqsY

john marzan said...

i hope there will be no backlash against halle berry, mariah carey, paula patton, jason kidd, grant hill.

john marzan said...

Growing up, I definitely saw and heard it. My own mother was light-skinned enough to have "passed", and spent her last years regretting she had not. Feeling that her dark-skinned children stopped her from connecting with more desirable men of higher social standing.

tough to connect with more desirable men when you're already a divorced/single mother. what if she was single and looks like alicia keys?

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Anonymous, there's a difference between Communist/atheist tyrannies and secular democracies.

I certainly do nag "religion is the problem" atheists about the Communist genocides, and I think that "Communism is really a religion" is cheating because I've never heard an atheist criticize religion-shaped institutions in any other context. Instead, atheists criticize the metaphysics of what most people call religions.

The only people who don't have blood on their hands are agnostics. Yay, us! Unfortunately, agnosticism doesn't seem to have enough emotional oomph to get to be in charge of much unless you consider religious freedom to have an agnostic tinge.

I think the bottom line is that if you don't care about what happens to people, you'll get disasters. If the people at the top of social structures don't care what happens to people, you'll get big disasters. Democracy is a pretty good tool for getting the people at the top to care somewhat.

Religion vs. atheism doesn't make that much difference. I don't know whether Communism was the biggest killer because atheism helped take the brakes off, or because it happened in an era of nation-worship, or because there were more people available to kill by then.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

@NahnCee:

"The culture of female genital mutilation, genocide, gang rapes, boy soldiers, massive corruption, bodies floating down rivers"

African Americans, particularly Africentrists, do tend to wax uncritically on all things African. Practices such as female genital mutilation and the gross misogyny, tribalism and rank superstition that infest and debilitate much of the continent are indeed best left on the departing side of the Middle Passage.

"What I don't understand is why both American blacks and African blacks are so anti-education."

FYI, African immigrants sport arguably the highest rate of educational attainment of ALL Americans:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_immigration_to_the_United_States

2.
http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1b/45/9d.pdf

"But as a taxpayer, I'm getting very very tired of being told I need to divvy up to support America's unemployed.."

The vast majority of America's unemployed and under-educated are WHITE.

BTW, you're a RACIST. This is not an insult; it's a straightforward extrapolation of the mentality of someone who makes statements like:
"It's almost as if a "stupid" gene had been self-selected for in the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic."

Scott said...

Comedian Wanda Sykes said it was the black man in Tiger Woods that was driving the Escalade and it was the asian in Tiger that crashed it.

Am I a racist for laughing at that joke? Less of a racist because a black told it?

Scott said...

Thanks, Nancy; bought the first three at Amazon just now.

mjholt said...

The movies are too white all the way around. It is time that hollywood figures out that white people want to see people of color in the movies, too.

To give this context, that phrase, "too white" has come to mind all too often for decades, since I asked my Dad (white) if he was going to move to the mid-west. He said no, "It's too white."

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Kent said...

@Nancy Lebovitz: You're obviously intelligent and decent but you're too reasonable. This leaves you vulnerable to the deadly Ofart virus. This organism has penetrated your blood-brain barrier with the result that you believe by default that Other Folk Are Reasonable Too. This fatal error in cognition leads to you're agonizing about "misogyny" in works of art rather than appreciating their beauty and skill and meditating upon the human achievement they represent and allowing their insight to enrich you. This "misogyny" is an hallucination but like all Ofart sufferers you will loudly disagree. It is an artifact of Feminist ideology, a purely delusional confection of waffle, bile, personal inadequacy and careerism. In the slurry pit that is the modern Academy it's method is called Deconstruction or, as one's landscaper might say, Mierde del Toro. Feminism is a Closed System of pseudo-thought, incapable by its very nature of delivering analytic insight. I'll illustrate this by the following: Two persons are in a motor-car. One is a man, the other a woman. Scenario 1: The man is driving. Feminist Interpretation: The man is in the power seat. He has complete control of the vehicle. He determines its vectors. He owns the journey, the destination. The woman is reduced to the position of a mere spectator, a purely passive presence, deprived of any input into her fate, a mere dialogic convenience to alleviate the tedium of travel. Scenario 2: The woman is driving. Feminist Interpretation: The man is exercising his power over the woman by exploiting her as his chauffeuse. She, servant and slave, is the tool of his convenience. She does all the labor, while he, the Lord and Master, relaxes. Other Folk Are Not Necessarily Reasonable. Some are ideological fanatics whose sole aim is to deface and degrade human reality to accord with their own virulently anti-humanist, often self-serving, neurotic fantasies. Is it any wonder that "misogyny" is "everywhere"? Ditto "racism". Ditto "homophobia". Ditto "imperialism". Don't be a Dittohead, Nancy.

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