The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Wesley Snipes

My mention of Wesley Snipes and Blade has triggered a couple of comments, and I wanted to be clear:

And I only bring up Snipes because of the ROLE he was playing: Blade, one of only two iconographic black cinematic characters (the other being Shaft). If Michael Jai White had played Blade, I would have been happier. Of course, when he played Spawn, they hid his face and gave his wife to a white guy, but hey, it's just a movie. I could care less about Snipes the human being, but I care a lot about the fact that neither he nor anyone else has been able to break out of that box. If Blade had been able to have one kiss over the three films, it would have mattered to me. A lot. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does. It influences the images I can create in my books and television scripts and (hopefully) movies. I want to support my family, but I also want to speak my truth, and I want to create images that I would have wanted to see as a child. If Wesley and Denzel and Will and Don and Larry and whoever ALL fail to successfully put such images on-screen--and I guarantee you they want to, then what does that leave me as an artist? It leaves me having to tread very, very carefully, knowing that there are invisible cultural tripwires, that if I stumble across one of them no one will ever admit what they were. As, for over twenty years the only black Male science fiction writer in the world, I've had to carefully test the thickness of the ice every single time I wrote anything. And whether I'm correct or not, I think it is my willingness to pay attention to the obvious cultural pitfalls, regardless of the pain, but simultaneously maintain my optimism, that is the REASON I'm the only one who has survived and thrived. I might be wrong as heck about it, but considering that the percentage of black folks in SF mirrors neither their representation in general literature or in the sciences, I suspect I might be very, very right as well.
To hell with Wesley Snipes. But if Blade had, just once, gotten the girl...honest to God, I think I might have cried.

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