Hollywood Keeps Screwing Over Women of Colour

My family and I are massive Star Wars fans. We are by no means experts on the Star Wars universe, and it might seem blasphemous to say that the Force Awakens is my favourite instalment, with Rogue One in close second. When the protagonists of these two films were announced, fan-boys had their panties in a twist at the sudden boost of oestrogen the films were about to receive. How dare women taint their comic conventions with cos-plays which aren’t sexualised or gender-bent?

The Force Awakens arrived to shatter glass ceilings, especially in a universe where previously there appeared to exist one whole woman.  I rejoiced. Rey is a complex, compassionate, driven character who held her own and proved herself worthy to carry the lead role. Finn, played by John Boyega, is the first black lead character in a Star Wars film, accompanied by Oscar Isaac who is also a person of colour. This film delivered thrice over and made it look effortless.

Rogue One came along, and while I was indeed distracted by the endearing Captain Cassian Andor (*insert heart eyes here*), I began to notice a pattern. Once again Star Wars had impressed me with its immensely diverse cast….but they were all men. Despite Jyn playing the protagonist, she still carried the role of token female. White token female. The Force Awakens follows the same trope, and after realising this I was compelled to analyse these characters and their (usually romantic) counterparts. The new Lara Croft starring Alicia Vikander opposite Daniel Wu, pulls the same stunt. Lion with Dev Patel. The Hundred Foot Journey. Master of None.

Why does Hollywood continually cast white women opposite men of colour?

It seems that during the all the grappling in our fight for equality and the rise of the female, women of colour are once again at the back of the bus. Hollywood equates ‘woman’ to a minority, therefore a white woman is as good as any. Representation is representation, right? Accept it isn’t. WOC and our experiences were never and will never be identical to those of white women. This issue begins with the over-romanticisation of white women in the media, and the constant flood of Eurocentric idealism which WOC are made to endure every day of our lives. Even in movies we see men who look like the boys we grew up with, yet they’re paired with women who look nothing like us. We fall for them, but they don’t fall for us. It doesn’t help that the few roles which are written for WOC are then white-washed, usurping even more opportunities for WOC in the media. Scarlett Johansson, I’m looking at you, girl. Movies are attempting to champion representation at the expense of WOC.

the-big-sick.jpgRecently a movie called the Big Sick made waves in the Muslim community as its focus is a Muslim man and a girl he falls in love with. You guessed it: A white girl. (This is not to mention Hollywood’s idea that an inter-racial couple always includes a white person. But that’s a story for another day.) I have run out of patience for the Asian male community in Hollywood who continues to make strides for themselves, while they abandon, ignore and dismiss their fellow WOC.

I’m exhausted trying to mould my experiences around white women’s just so I have somebody to identify with.

For the longest time, we have applauded women – any women – on their accomplishments in taking the larger community of women to greater heights. But the support does not seem to be mutual across racial bounds – as it has been from us – and intersectional interests fall on deaf ears. Once again, there is no space for us at the front of the line, while even our male counterparts refuse to acknowledge their part or privilege in this. So with nobody to rely on besides each other – just like my mother says – we’ll do it our damn selves.

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Laila Manack

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How ‘Spiderman’s’ Character Michelle Spoke Volumes Without Saying Much

Recently while discussing one of my new favourite movies, Spiderman: Homecoming, somebody stated with a look as if they’d just devoured a lemon, that Zendaya’s character Michelle was surly, miserable, and that her presence was unwarranted. While my own issues with Michelle’s character lie in how little we saw of her throughout the film, despite such an accomplished actress lending talent to the role, I found my cohort’s comments to be unfair. The simple reason was this:

I saw myself in Michelle.

This might not seem like the most objective of arguments, since it is very possible I could relate to a character and she could be sour at the same time, but hear me out. I also promise that my predisposition to support anything Zendaya is involved in will not affect my argument.

Michelle’s snarky brooding was rooted in quiet observation of the world around her. She spoke out actively against slavery and voiced her desire to protest as if it were another bullet point on her daily to-do list. Her one-liners may seem bitter and unnecessary; however I couldn’t help but view her as a reclusive revolutionary. I also instantly recognised her casually sharp opinions as similar to mine and those of my close colleagues. I guess my discontent with these aggressively disdainful views aimed at Michelle stems from the fact that: If that’s how they view her, it must be how they view me. In today’s rising social, economic and political climate, remaining neutral could very well be just as harmful as spewing hatred. However, linking every conversation topic to colonialism is bound to earn one a few eye-rolls and lose one a few friends.

Her character might not have been prominent or crucial to the larger story, but it was undoubtedly a more realistic take on just how many aspects conscious women of colour have to deal with, and how we deal with them. It was a relief to see a portrayal of a women (of colour – lest we forget) who is legitimately as fed up as we are, and I can’t wait to see more of her.

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Tired but still trying

Laila

Good Times and Tan Lines

The outdoors has always provided a certain clarity and wholesomeness unavailable to us when locked up under a roof with our cell phones glued to our hands. For this reason and myriad others, our most recent family trip involved almost a dozen camping tents, and tons of water. From the moment we arrived and began organising the layout of our camp site, I had already realised that we were creating memories which made me believe in something brighter than ordinary.

IMG-20151223-WA0057For five days we were allowed to savour a venture uninterrupted by inhibition. Showers became optional due to the sheer hours spent in shimmering swimming pools. Hair remained unkempt and unbrushed, but laughter wildly framed our faces better than any hair-iron curls could. Makeup brushes lay forgotten at home, but sun-kissed cheeks and healthy glows were genuine and unfettered by artifice. Dresses became shorter as we braved the heat, and slowly but surely our tan lines began to appear, defining physically what we could only feel. In the almost unbearably languid wind in scorching afternoons, feet pattered back and forth on muddy ground carrying overflowing buckets to fill water guns, flushing the laziness away.

Soon the Camper’s Code became self-evident. Keep your swimming costumes close at hand in case of spontaneous swimming pool cravings.  Never, and I mean never, leave your camping chair unsupervised for danger of another eager camper stealing your spot while you are seeking out an evening snack. Towels are not necessary since air-drying requires minimum effort and does a more thorough job.  Eventually our habits blended together and at the end of each day we crawled into our tents with our batteries flat, but bursting with eagerness to begin the next day.

 
IMG-20151223-WA0090So our days were inhabited with unexpected water wars and unplanned ice-cream endeavours, although it does bear mentioning that horrid taste of sunblock in our mouths. Under the gorgeous shade of our acacia trees (which we really lucked out on), we napped the afternoons away, restlessly attempting to find comfortable positions on our deck chairs which we learned to be unsuited for sleep. The fears that our childhood vacations there would be unhinged by mediocre experiences were shattered. It was the type of joy which made you forget pain exists. High on Vitamin D and a legal but exclusive kind of ecstasy, we manifested dreams and created memories which are tattooed on our hearts like tan lines.

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Blue-Eyed Mutant

You’re Such A Girl

15703527371_694c10fbac_bA few weeks ago on a magnificent trip to the Mother City with my best friend and her family, an acquaintance mentioned something to me which made me question myself as well as my response. Upon glancing at my cell phone background and furrowing his brow at the mischievous Tinkerbell Disneyland face character, he muttered amusedly, “You’re such a girl.” To this I stuttered, “No, I’m not.” Why did I hesitate before responding? Probably because my answer was inherently averse to every fibre of my being whispering ‘Of course you are, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of’.

The word ‘girly’ has come to imply that perhaps pink is one’s favourite colour, or that one likes chocolate and shoe shopping and discussing feelings and one’s Pinterest board is filled with wedding dresses. I don’t hold pink to any particular esteem, yet I have an immense love for shopping. I can never own enough shoes, yet I despise perusing feelings. Many have debated whether I even have any. Why is it so necessary to label people and place every person we meet in neat and tidy boxes? Is it because it represents some semblance of control in a world where we hold none?

If I could watch a romantic comedy every day of my existence, I would. I am the person they create those movies for. I am ecstatic when the end credits role and I’m left satisfied with the couple who were clearly meant for each other. In no way does this mean that I expect the same circumstances of my reality. In fact, at times I am realistic to an annoying degree. It should not be a crime to enjoy a rom-com while being a member of the female sex. The same goes for cooking shows and Marvel films and science fiction.

I am the most emotionless person I know. I don’t tear up in movies but I wail every time we witness and animal suffering on screen. I will not apologise for finding joy in certain things just because they match society’s stereotypes of weakness and submission. A woman’s femininity is not required to be compromised because she wishes to be viewed as compelling and unyielding. We can be feminine and fierce, and we do not need permission.

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Blue-Eyed Mutant

Don’t Ask About My Future

Anybody acquainted with me knows that I do not seek value in receiving validation from others. I found this trait to be especially helpful when one is studying in the field I am. Most of my friends studying Arts degrees are all too familiar with the confused, vacant stares and the disapproving stutters of older relatives who have nothing more to do than offer banal life advice to those unfortunate enough to be in their presence. But that is a subject for another time.

Recently, somebody asked me what my biggest fear is. I am not a person who is daunted easily, although I do seem to hold a certain aversion towards spiders. However his question was not directed at the trivialities of arachnophobia, so without hesitation I answered that what what frightened me the most is a nine-to-five job. His reply: “Well then, what are you going to do?” was accompanied by knitted eyebrows in a perplexed expression. This scared me. His befuddled reply suggested that his mind accommodated for nothing beyond the confines of a future working substandard hours in a a dusty cubicle until the time comes to go home and repeat robotically the next day.

Now, I am no expert at careers. Of any sort. But i have feeling something must be amiss when about 75% of the students I know would most probably break down sobbing if you were to ask them about their plans for the future. Last year, we were required to ask permission to use bathroom. Now we’re expected to decide on one path for the rest of our lives? Forgive us if we break out in a nervous sweat every time you ask that dreaded question:

“What are you going to do after school?”

So no. For now, I have no idea what I want. Hopefully I’ll figure it out along the way, fitting the pieces together in an asymmetrical puzzle. And if not, I’m a gymnast so I’ll trapeze my way through it and pray the net appears. For now, all I know is that my future does not involve me behind a desk for nine hours working towards somebody else’s dream. Otherwise, my book is unwritten.

Here’s a plot twist: How about a word of advice from the kids to the grown-ups for once. I understand it might seem like the only relevant topic for meaningless conversation, and even though you have no idea who I am you still feel the need to delve into my desires and pursuits in life. Nonetheless: please don’t ask us about our futures. Your guess is as good as ours.

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Blue-Eyed Mutant

Never Judge a Book by its Movie

During the last few weeks it has been an effort to remain involved in my literature. Writing and even reading felt more tedious than usual, especially when I had to begin a new book. This does not mean, however, that literature is an aspect which is in any way less essential to my happiness and survival. Staying current with news on book signings, new releases and conventions allows me a sense of purpose. Even though I don’t live close enough to attend any such events, I know that one day I will see it all. Authors and fan accounts are my celebrities, and their tweets riddle my timeline in such an organised chaos that one glance is enough to make me feel included.

 
Anybody who has been passionate about a piece of literature knows that sometimes there is an unequivocal desire, however small, for that literature to be adapted to screen so that the world may appreciate it. Recently I heard that another one of my favourite book series is being optioned for television, and I could not be more unimpressed. This is not one of those books.

 
Katniss-with-bowOver the past few years I have witnessed a plethora of incredibly well-written works being butchered at the hands of casting directors and cinema producers who could not care less what runs through the minds of deathly possessive book nerds. Agreed; some masterpieces have been adapted of literature; when the movie/TV series remains loyal to the story which has already managed to gather a worldwide fan base just by being ink on paper (The Hunger Games begs to be mentioned). There is no need to compromise the understated subtleties of a character’s traits and their eclectic personalities for supermodels and overrated actors who only serve to rack up views and massacre the characters we love in the process.

Never-judge-a-book-by-its-movie-JW-Eagan-bookmark-on-EtsyThe book series in question is undeniably one of my favourite. Throne of Glass gripped me from the first page, and the author’s mature approach offers moral questioning at every turn. I can’t help but feel protective over each character and what every new page has taught me – as is the case for most books I read. As much as I attempt to remain positive when it comes to movie/TV adaptations, I wholeheartedly believe that this is a book best left untainted by the superficiality of Hollywood’s glamour. I don’t see why a piece of literature so worthy of praise needs to be pressed flat into a movie reel, just so that people who could not bother to read it are able to ‘watch’ the story play out. Some books are screen-worthy. But others don’t desire the manufactured attention the cinematic world offers. They deserve better than that. If we want to escape into the fictional world, open the damn book. Otherwise, as Thor so aptly put it, you’re not worthy.

 

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Blue-Eyed Mutant

Freedom of Speech

Recent extremely publicised events have brought to my attention the severity of the word ‘freedom’. Uncharacteristically, I will refrain from mentioning specifics due to the nature of the subject. Instead, I will refer to the general idea of opinion, belief, and what the concept of freedom has morphed into.

The words “freedom of speech” are flung around so often these days that we have become complacent to the meanings as well as the responsibility attached to them. Freedom of speech does not justify bullying or enforcing our opinions on others. No matter which ‘side’ of the argument we decide to take (and this is not to say that there are always sides) we never have the right to hurt others while satisfying our egos or securing our self-esteem.

That being said, I too, have experienced the tough decisions which tempt us in the explore page on Instagram or the hashtags on Twitter. Millions of disparate opinions and perspectives, and even more confused people with personal turmoil, attempting to sift through these onslaughts of images and communication. Deciphering what is right from wrong and then fitting it to what we believe in (or think we do), is the most difficult challenge facing us – especially young minds – today. I have always thought my conviction to be strong and my faith unwavering, and even I have had to remind myself not to become desensitised to the disturbing ideas we are faced with daily. Every hour we update social media there are more images we would rather not have laid eyes on, and being exposed to them more and more are bound to make us question our convictions.

Freedom of speech has become so free that anybody who opposes the majority of society’s opinions are labelled, barraged and called out. While this is nothing new, I find myself wondering when we skipped the part where everybody has the right to voice their beliefs, and jumped straight to the inverse. Why do we call it freedom of speech when society has just boxed us all in, brainwashed us into oblivion and then instructed us to turn aggressive when somebody dares verbalise their personal views? Just because they call it freedom, does not mean everybody possesses it; nor does it mean that we can turn it into a weapon and use it to oppress others.

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Blue-Eyed Mutant