5.23.2010

Contemplating "White Romanticism"

"We can be slaves, or we can be Lycans!!!"  - Does this vomitacious quote ring a bell for you?

As predicted, the white guilt fantasy genre is evolving.  Instead of the White Messiah message, writers are trying to be a little more subtle, lest writers like Annalee Newitz rip them a new one on the issues concerning race.  Now, instead of romanticizing historical and faux historical battles, white American writers are romanticizing the discrimination and dehumanization which often brings about said battles.  Now, instead of the white guy joining "the natives", he's born one, conveniently freeing him of the "privilege" stigma (so as to take his "struggle" more seriously).  Keep in mind that the "glamour of persecution" is fucking everywhere these days, from commercials of Hot Pocket eaters who feel stigmatized by hamburger-eaters, to commercials where joggers fear some day they'll be harassed like skateboarders - this bullshit is everywhere.

Hollywood's a better example, of course.  In the piece-of-shitastic third installment of the Underworld franchise, the werewolf Lucian is born into servitude.  In Spartacus: Blood & Sand, the main dude is a white dude sold to a gladiatorial manager.  Spartacus consistently rebels and speaks out against the slave-master dynamic, while the token Negro who cracks the whip wholeheartedly embraces it...so much that he has to be mentally "freed" by yet another white dude in the season finale.

Uh...Negro, please.

And remember Defiance?  You know, the Craig Daniel flick which came and went, just as God intended?  You know Edward Zwick's hand was behind that shit, right?  The same hand, which made Tom Cruise into a samurai and turned African tragedies involving diamonds and child soldiers into a romance between white folks, also just had to stick its fingers into the motherfucking Holocaust - just what the fuck is Zwick planning to do next?  A God-awful Last Samurai prequel in which he does an in-depth glamorization of the extermination of Native Americans?

And what's with all the hideous "speeches" in these goddamn films?  What's with the "we are not slaves/animals/sheep, we are Spartans, we will fight back, this is 'our' land, blah blah blah"?  Echhh!!!  Like...shudder much?

All these films do is remind people of color how clueless white Americans are in matters of race, oppression, and history.  All they are, children, are testaments to white American narcissism, lack of insight, and horrifyingly mind-numbing denial.

White Americans, stop romanticizing this type of shit - it's not "romantic".  And stop fantasizing about being slaves - there is nothing fantasy-worthy about that shit.  It doesn't make us "the same"; it's not going to "bring us together".  Only a privileged, dimwitted, complete and utter shithead could sit down, write this bullshit, and seriously think that shit like this is going to help usher in a post-racial society - uh...it's really not.

And white Americans, stop scratching and scraping and dissecting your alleged moments of discrimination/history of oppression.  You have white privilege.  You are born with it.  Whatever suffering a distant, nonexistent Native American ancestor of yours experienced isn't negatively affecting you now.  You are not "Irish" either - the Irish themselves have made that shit clear time and again.  So you can all stop behaving like rich kids looking for "street cred"...after all, it's in and of itself a sign of privilege.

Fashion tip from Moi for white people wondering about "their turn": don't worry.  If and when you finally experience real discrimination - real, in-your-face, nothing-you-can-do dehumanization - you will know it.  You won't need someone to "point it out" to you.  And you will not like it.  You won't find one iota of amusement in the situation, so you will most certainly not smile, smirk, giggle, snicker, or cackle about it.  It will not be an experience you'll treasure and keep close to your heart, to break out and parade during racial discussions in futile hopes of "winning".  It will be the ugliest experience of your life and you will not just "get over it" when it's done.

18 comments:

  1. Dude, Moi, it's TOTALLY the same thing when you're a white "slave" but then let's say you ran away, you look like you could assimilate seamlessly into the majority and then no one could ever identify you as a slave and then in a few generations they could all be like WOO!...oh WAIT......

    I saw that article before - but, today I made the mistake of reading the shittastic comments on Ms. Newitz' article. They drive me fucking crazy - it's one thing if they're like, stupid trolls "lulz ur gey" type comments, but some of these, people actually had the brain power to use big words, write out paragraphs and use grammar correctly, and yet they are still too fucking stupid to see blatant racism.

    To quote one Mugatu:
    "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"

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  2. Thanks! I know exactly what you mean!

    Btw, you may want to reread this post of mine; I had to do some revamping and editing.

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  3. I am not against "let's see what is like" movies and novels per se. It's not the secret that people care only about things that concern them; and it's also no secret that it's difficult to understand other group's experience.

    So to make people understand, it's not a bad thing to show them what is like to be in a situation, give them a taste their own medicine, etc. In that sense, a WASP actor in a main role about slavery or racism or other forms of oppression- all of it makes sense.

    If you want to send message to a group (in this case, a privileged one), you must use a member of said group in order for people to identify and "get the message".

    So, the problem is not as much with white actors in movies directed to whites; it's what's going on in said movies. It's clear filmmakers themselves have NO IDEA about what is like to be o oppressed, or to suffer, or else they would never romanticize it or misinterpret it.

    Would they romanticize September 11, or similar historical event, I wonder? No, because that thing is important to them and they know the subject deserves full respect.

    Slavery? Not so much. While most of them know it was bad, they have no idea what was it like, just like they don't know what's like to be discriminated, or treated like crap and less than fully human.

    So while I understand why they put their actors in the main roles (in order to make people interested*) I don't understand why they don't let people who really know what's going on (POC, for example) direct and write and create those movies.

    *I'm strongly against casting white actors in the roles of POC (blackface etc). But if you're making an allegory (like Avatar) or you really want to have a white person born in a "native" setting, then you should do your best to get your facts straight. Ask people who know "what is like"!

    White guilt fantasies and other liberal crap fantasies make me sick, because there's nothing romantic about oppression, there's nothing romantic about war, there's nothing romantic about dehumanization!

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  4. @Moi: This post is on point! I'm soooo sick of Hollywood at this point that I can't even stand to entertain anymore of the inane crap it puts out. After Transformers 2, which I saw only parts of, I was just too through. I guess that I wasn't supposed to interpret those cooning robots as a pretty blatant homage to black face? (Sorry, Michael Bay, (DON'T) try again). Avatar, The Last Samurai, and the like were the final nail in the proverbial coffin for me.

    @Mira:
    Sorry, but I don't need to see a black female reenact a violent, demeaning rape, or to see a black male dismembered/shot for target practice in a film in order to relate to and understand that the Rape of Nanking was a bad thing.

    Simply being a human being, and feeling the absolute revulsion that comes with envisioning/hearing about such things, is enough for me. What you seem to be suggesting, and I may be wrong, is that white people (WASP and others) cannot feel empathy toward anyone who isn't white. That they have, in someway, lost their humanity, or only understand it as it impacts those who look most like them.

    And while it's partially true that people only care about things that impact them, we are also biologically hardwired to empathize with our fellow man at least on some level (e.g.: When you see someone shot in the knee cap you grimace even though you're absolutely fine, or the anger you might feel at someone being unfairly ridiculed, etc.). Though I know I'm hoping in vain as lived experience has taught me differently, I sincerely hope that most white people do not always, or even mostly, need to see someone who looks like them in a certain situation to understand the inhumanity of certain things.

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  5. And while it's partially true that people only care about things that impact them, we are also biologically hardwired to empathize with our fellow man at least on some level

    Exactly. And constantly showing white people in these situations doesn't help, because the white audience members aren't being taught to empathize with people of color, just the folks who look like them.

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  6. Would they romanticize September 11, or similar historical event, I wonder? No, because that thing is important to them and they know the subject deserves full respect.

    I take it you haven't seen World Trade Center, then.

    And before you shake your head in disbelief, Mira, just go on and head and believe it. White Americans have ZERO respect for such things. Just ask Jessica Lynch.

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  7. @Dr. Vagrant X


    Simply being a human being, and feeling the absolute revulsion that comes with envisioning/hearing about such things, is enough for me. What you seem to be suggesting, and I may be wrong, is that white people (WASP and others) cannot feel empathy toward anyone who isn't white. That they have, in someway, lost their humanity, or only understand it as it impacts those who look most like them.


    Yes. This is exactly what I'm suggesting.

    You're black, right? I was speaking of whites. They DO need people who look like them to realize "what is like". Like Ankhesen said, whites can sympathise only with "their own kind" (other whites). If they see a person of colour they can't picture themselves on this person's place. If they watch a person of colour in any situation (good or bad), they don't think "this could have been me, or my child". No. When whites see a person of colour, they always see "the others".

    That's why I said they usually need a white person in a situation to understand a situation.

    And while I am against using white actors instead actors of colour, I do think allegories and alternate histories and similar forms of "what if" stories are potentially a good thing.

    But they are NEVER used in the right way. Just look at "Avatar". Just look at it. They fail. They fail a big time.

    This is true for other forms of oppression and not just race.

    I do think oppressed group of people should write those things, but I am not sure if oppressed are interested in making mainstream novels/movies in order to teach oppressors. I don't blame them. But it's obvious oppressors don't have a clue what's going on. hence, "Avatar" and similar crap.

    And one more thing:

    And while it's partially true that people only care about things that impact them, we are also biologically hardwired to empathize with our fellow man at least on some level (e.g.: When you see someone shot in the knee cap you grimace even though you're absolutely fine, or the anger you might feel at someone being unfairly ridiculed, etc.)

    There was this much-debated test that showed whites don't show empathy towards non-white people. Not in violent situations, but in everyday situations (drinking water).

    I don't know what to say, really. I am not saying whites don't have any empathy (most of them would help a pregnant black woman on the street), but it looks like it's not enough. They are unable to see non-whites as "one of us". That's for sure.

    @Moi

    I take it you haven't seen World Trade Center, then.

    I haven't seen it. But I heard about it, and while I bet it was painful to watch, I assumed it was painful for different reasons. I thought they made it look overly heroic, but not "romantic" in a way they often make other people's history look like (note that "other people" can be both POC and non-Americans).

    When they do it for POC, they make people of colour marginal and unable to help themselves. They cast white actors in main roles and make them Mighty Whitey or something. Suffering and struggles of blacks (and other POC) become just a colourful (no pun intended) setting for white people's romance or a display of how good and amazing they (whites) are.

    When they do it for non-American history (especially if it's not a western history), they completely miss the point, cast actors from countries different than the one that's been portrayed, and make them speak different languages. They misinterpret historical facts to match the story Americans would like to see.

    An example: imagine a movie about September 11 that is titled July 11 (summer makes a better setting), it's set in Canada (Canada, US... it's the same thing, right?) and everybody speak German (German, English... it's the same, right?)

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  8. The latest way I've been getting off on the latest burst of white fantasy films is every time someone says something about Avatar, I go into great detail as to how much it reminds me of British colonization and I pull out facts and figures or compare scenes to real-life accounts. The response is usually that of a pointedly unhappy glare and then upon seeing that I'm probably not going to shut up about it, they go into the special effects and shut up about how amazing the story was.

    When Blood Diamond had its turn, I would recount the story my computer teacher once shared about how his friends had their hands cut off for even being suspected of taking a diamond. Or I'd talk about how there's a hierarchy based on skin tone in South Africa. Stories suddenly seem a whole lot less flashy when a big bucket of reality is splashed over them. I quite enjoy the "uncomfortable silence" that follows.

    @ Dr. Vagrant X
    I really think you make great points. I wanted to illustrate out how WP manage to still miss the "human being" mark. Because while WP say that "we're all part of the human race," there are a lot of compartments in a white mind. There's the box that holds "human beings" right? And inside of that box is another one labeled "whites." It has 4 sides and is a solid white on the outside. And next to the white box is another box, but this one isn't shaped the same way as the white box. It's like a trapezoidal shaped box with strange colors and designs on the outside, and it's labeled "everyone else". Now, inside of that box there are a number of other boxes that form like "black" or "Indian" but mostly it's seen as the "everyone else" box - or "other". The "other" box is viewed to mostly function like the white box does, but it's still different and inferior somehow. Sometimes it's different in the "special" way, like when the box contains cultural customs or food. But most of the time, there's no effort made to see how the "other" box actually looks and functions on the inside, nor to pull the other boxes out of it. It's just sitting there, randomly producing things the white box can recognize sometimes. But all the while, it's still being seen as that other curious but inferior version of the white box.

    It's the same reason the bodies of dead Haitians can be splayed across the television screen, but the bodies of dead white people are too offensive.

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  9. Mira,

    I thought they made it look overly heroic, but not "romantic" in a way they often make other people's history look like

    Understand how white Americans think. Overly heroic is romantic. Why? 1) A movie was made. That's typical white American romanticism right there. Once Hollywood gets a hold of your history, your tragedy, and/or your culture, it's ruined. 2) Extra heroism = propaganda. Remember all the justisfied American "hatriotism" which blossomed around 9/11?

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  10. Vagrant X & Vic,

    Great points and examples. Thanks.

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  11. This is a perfect example of why I won't be seeing either The Prince of Persia or The Last Airbender this summer. Jake Gyllenhaal? Really? *sigh*

    I have a feeling that Hollywood may be underestimating what the viewing public may or may not be willing to spend money on. Could it possibly be projection on the part of the studio execs? Because the kids coming up today are used to living in a multi-racial society and it doesn't seem to faze them. They probably wouldn't have a problem frequenting movies with POC leading characters (although it's quite possible that their parents would have a problem with it).

    Unfortunately, since these same studios would actually have to start making the conscious decision to stop whitewashing movies, I doube it will change anytime soon. (I have the same beef with TV execs. I'm so sick of the blond, white woman phenomena that happens every Fall, I could scream.)

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  12. Perhaps I'm being unfair to Jake Gyllenhaal, but I'm so sick of Hollywood always taking the easy way out in their choice of leading actors and actresses in these instances that The Prince of Persia is high on my list of movies not to see this summer.

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  13. You're not being unfair to Gyllenhaal. America had Dominic Rains, Ethan Rains, Pej Vehdat, or even could've put a call through to Britain and asked to borrow TJ Ramini, but no, no...can't have actors of actual Eastern blood playing an Eastern character.

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  14. Could it possibly be projection on the part of the studio execs? Because the kids coming up today are used to living in a multi-racial society and it doesn't seem to faze them.

    Could be. Maybe the execs are trying to "remind" white kids to strictly idolize white actors and actresses, and ignore all those successful singers, rappers, athletes, actors, and martial artists of color.

    You may be onto something. My coworker and I were driving together to a lecture and Kesha came on the radio. My coworker (who's white) immediately shuddered and said, "You know, when I first heard about her, I thought Kesha would be a feisty black girl, not some sorority white chick wannabe."

    Now, these comments aren't new to me; I hear & read this complaints from WP all the time about movies (Pathfinder, Last Samurai, Avatar, etc.. As you say, a cast of color wouldn't faze them. They're expecting it at this point, and when they don't get it, they shudder.

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  15. Re: Prince of Persia

    Inorite!

    It's like the only time that Arabs can play Arabs is when they're BAD GUYS.

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  16. It's like the only time that Arabs can play Arabs is when they're BAD GUYS.

    Oooooooh - good point!!!

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  17. It's like the only time that Arabs can play Arabs is when they're BAD GUYS.

    This is an excellent point, indeed, and it's not limited to Arabs. If "Natives" (of any kind) are good characters, they are played by white actors. If they are evil, they are played by "natives" or quasi-natives (people of a different ethnicity that is the same as native ethnicity to whites).

    PS-Speaking of "Prince of Persia"- if they mean on ancient Persia, they weren't Arabs; they were Indo-Europeans.

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  18. Mira,

    Don't worry. Americans can't tell the difference.

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