For comic book fans and fans of science fiction movies, 2014 proved to be a banner year. Whether it was the #BlackStormTrooper outrage or the cancellation of Syfy shows there was much to discuss. Here is my rundown of the worst of the best, or the best of the worst Nerd Culture had to offer us when it came to racial diversity!
10. DC Comics announced that Frank Miller and Scott Snyder will be teaming up to write the third Dark Knight book:
Yes! This was good news for comic book fans. The author of The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE WRONG WITH THAT?
Well, it’s the same Frank Miller who wrote Batman: Year One, 300, and Sin City. 300 was infamous for its Orientalism and negative racial tropes, and while Batman: Year One was gritty and excellently written, it manages to include only one Person of Color, and he’s a crackhead whose singled out as THE Black character.
9. Warner Brothers cast Will Smith to save the world. Again.
The Suicide Squad (Task Force X) are a group of villains and antiheroes who exchange their prison sentences for government missions. The casualties are usually high and at least one member loses his/her life per mission, thus the rotating roster. Rumor has it that Will Smith will be playing the role of a race-bent Floyd Lawton a.k.a., Deadshot
So why does this make my list? Well the head of the Suicide Quad is Amanda Waller, a morally ambiguous and powerful black woman who stood up to the likes of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Warner Brothers decided to announce the casting of this project WITHOUT the one mainstay of The Suicide Squad being cast.
I was fairly disappointed when they didn’t choose Oprah to star as Waller. #tears.
8. ABC, #Ferguson, and Shondaland:
On a more serious note, amid reports that the television network offered Michael Brown’s murderer, Darren Wilson somewhere in the neighborhood of six figures to conduct an interview, ABC was still airing Shonda Rhimes’s dramas Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, the former made popular by the same people tweeting using the Ferguson hashtag. Shonda Rhimes’ successful TV shows starring Black women as leaders (this is even true of Grey’s Anatomy) is overshadowed by ABC’s race problem.
The casts of most of ABC Family’s programming are lacking in the diversity department for the simple reason that it has only 5 writers of color according to one survey, And ABC its parent company is not that much better. What Shondaland provides is insight into how calls for more, and better representation are not enough. The use of social media, such as Black Twitter’s Thursday night ritual of live-tweeting #Scandal & #HTGAWM could be one of the best ways to inspire more People of color to become culture creators and actual owners of media.
As a religious person and as someone committed to the themes of the Exodus story as a liberationist, I found no good reason to see Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. The call to #BoycottExodusMovie is not only a protest against White Supremacy in Hollywood, but also in the field of Egyptology itself. What was Ridley Scott’s response to the criticism of his ALL white main cast?
‘I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such, I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
Critics of the film were delighted to hear that the Exodus: Gods and Kings flopped at the box office.
Rumor has it God has a sense of humor.
6. Doctor Who producers worked really hard to prove that their show wasn’t/isn’t racist:
Last year, The Daily Mail ran an op-ed piece by Chris Hastings: DISCRIMINATE! DISCRIMINATE!: Doctor Who branded thunderingly racist….. The backlash from fans, was well, predictable. As the scholar and editor of the book (Doctor Who And Race), Lindy Orthia endured a prolonged period of harassment.
While fandom denied any participation in Doctor Who’s problematic notions of color-blindness, the writers for the show in New Who’s season 8 took particular care to cast a more racially diverse set of guest stars. In addition, Samuel Andersen was cast to play the role of Rupert “Danny” Pink. Pink is introduced to us at first as one of Clara’s co-workers, and then a love interest, all the while playing Watson to 12’s (Peter Capaldi) Sherlock. The racial diversity of this season was very much appreciated as was the improved writing and storyline. Let’s hope that both of these trends continue in season 9.
5. White fans failed to see the irony behind #CancelColbert:
Comedian Stephen Colbert found himself in hot water after turning his hand to hipster racism while trying (and failing) to land an actual critique of the Washington Racial Slurs American football team. KillJoy Prophet and activist Suey Park used the hashtag #CancelColbert as a way of problematizing the ‘ironic’ racism.
What happened next was wave upon wave of harassment and threats aimed at Suey because many took the hashtag LITERALLY. No, this was not about cancelling the Comedy Central program that ended last week. #CancelColbert was a campaign geared towards protesting one, anti-Asian racism in the guise of humor (a recurring theme on my list, check below), and two, to reject the use of false equivalencies, and understanding the concrete differences in experiences of victims of White Supremacist violence.
4. Disney, #BlackStormTrooper And Star Wars fandom:
If you thought that the Disney/ABC television group had a race problem, you might want to think again about the company that still refuses to re-release Song Of The South. Disney bought Lucas Film and acquired the rights to make Star Wars movies. In the process, they hired J.J. Abrams, director of Star Trek Into Darkness, a movie which completely erased one of the most notable characters of color in science fiction, KHANNNNNNNN! Abrams’ casting for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is somewhat more encouraging with the selections of John Boyega (of Attack The Block fame) and Lupita Nyong’O.
Um, only one problem though. When the teaser trailer for #TheForceAwakens debuted, some Star Wars fan boys took issue with Boyega being dressed as a Storm Trooper. The Empire cloned a white guy Jengo Fett, so why would a black man be either disguised or recruited as a Storm Trooper? The Star Wars canon such as Timonthy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy (which Disney has said it isn’t using) has images of the Sith Empire updating the Storm Trooper program by recruiting anyone and everyone who wants to be one. Also of note, in one of the animated series, there is a black Storm Trooper. Apparently, these group of nerds did not get the memo.
3, Uh, how about those Sony E-Mail leaks? BUT HEY A BLACK JAMES BOND!:
2014 could be the year where Hollywood’s Orientalism was finally fully exposed to the general public. Sony Pictures had planned to release The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. A comedy based on a plan to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. It was also purported to have all the anti-Asian stereotypes that occur in the racist media.
A group of hackers accessed Sony’s e-mails, and lo, and behold, Sony has a low view of Black actors even veterans like Denzel Washington, as well as films made by or starring black people such as 12 Years A Slave, Django Unchained, and Lee Daniels’The Butler. In short, Shonda Rhimes was right, the executives at Sony hold on to racist beliefs, and this influences the way they manage their studio. Sure, the leaked e-mails showed that Amy Paschal wants Idris Elba to be the next James Bond, however tokenism is never going to be the answer to structural racism and persistent anti-blackness.
2. Marvel Comics and DC Comics DISCOVERED THAT PEOPLE OF COLOR ACTUALLY READ COMIC BOOKS!:
This year the mainstream comic book industry joined the struggle for equality in taking note that People of Color can be nerds too! Whether it was DC Comics adding the character John Diggle from Arrow to the Green Arrow comic, the announcement of the Black Panther (2017) and Cyborg (2020) movies, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, or publishing The Mighty Avengers with a roster of Spectre (Monica Rambeau), Blade, White Tiger, Blue Marvel, and Luke Cage, the Big Two really tried to get our attention.
DC Comics also gathered some buzz around Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity, a “Cosmic Neighborhood Watch” mash-up version of the Justice League with an all-star cast lead by President Superman. Some fans were just not feeling these moves, like the racist and sexist backlash against Marvel making Falcon the new Captain America, and the new Thor a woman. As DC Comics and Marvel attempt to racially diversify their rosters and movie franchises, I expect more of the same fan responses in the years to come.
1. #NotYourShield and #GamerGate:
#Gamergate is a group of misogynist internet trolls which work to silence women who have criticized sexism in the video game industry. #NotYourShield is a sub set of GG that hide behind anonymous online sock puppets stealing the avatars of People of Color and pretending that PoC and women supported GamerHate’s racism and misogyny. One account tried to use my AnaBlacktivist (Black/Anabapist/activist) friend Drew Hart’s profile picture, but they were caught redhanded. From my engagement with them in my twitter timeline, GG claims that if you criticize any of them, that means you are bullying geeks and nerds. They have created a culture of victim-blaming and sexism, while trying to play the victim at the same time, and it’s this type of abusive behavior that sends them to the top of my list.
Did I leave out any stories? Share what I missed in the comments section below!
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Rod Thomas is a writer and religious blogger based out of Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, USA. He earned his Master of Divinity with a concentration in Black Church Studies, and obtained a Master of Theology in History and Theology as well. His thesis was on a Postcolonial Interpretation of Early Christian and Black liberation theology. In his spare time, Rod loves to keep up with politics, daydream about the possibilities of a nonviolent politics, read Science Fiction as well as watch Sci-Fi shows and movies, as well as engage in Critical Fandom studies. You can find him on Twitter at @h00die_R and at his blog, PoliticalJesus