If there’s one thing that most fans of Star Trek will agree on, it’s the fact that Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the show — and, more optimistically, for human society — was predicated on the idea that all life is valuable, and that the worth of a person should not be judged by their appearance. Much of this was done through the old sci-fi trope of using aliens to stand in for oppressed groups, but Star Trek didn’t rely on the metaphor; it had characters who were part of the ensemble, important and beloved members of the Enterprise crew, who were people of colour. It had background characters who were people of colour. And, here and there, it had anti-heroes and villains who were people of colour … one of whom, Khan Noonian Singh, became well-nigh iconic.
Image 1: “Who is your favorite villain?” ; Actor John Cho (Lt Sulu) answers.
Image 2: TOS Khan looking at a watercolor of himself. Yes, he’s wearing a dastar (Sikh turban)
Image 3: Cumberbatch and Montalbán (as Khan)
And who is now being played by white actor Benedict Cumberbatch in the new JJ Abrams reboot movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
We’re all cynical and jaded enough to know the standard dismissal when it comes to matters of media representation: Paramount Pictures and most film studios are not interested in diversity or visibility, they only care about the bottom dollar. Star Trek as a franchise is too much of a juggernaut to affect with boycotts. There are too many people who love it, who love those characters and that world, and will go to see the movie. And for some of these people, this devotion to the idea of a future where even South and East Asian men get to pilot a starship and love swashbuckling, where Black women make Lieutenant on the Enterprise and actually get the boy, will be trivialized and eroded and whitewashed when the most formidable and complex Star Trek baddie becomes a white man named Khan.
It wasn’t perfect in the 60s when Ricardo Montalbán was cast to play Khan (a character explicitly described in the episode script of Space Seed as being Sikh, from the Northern regions of India). But considering all of the barriers to representation that Roddenberry faced from the television networks, having a brown-skinned man play a brown character was a hard-won victory. It’s disappointing and demoralizing that with the commercial power of Star Trek in his hands, JJ Abrams chose not to honour the original spirit of the show, or the symbolic heft of the Khan character, but to wield the whitewash brush for … what? The hopes that casting Benedict Cumberbatch would draw in a few more box office returns? It’s doubly disappointing when you consider that Abrams was a creator of the television show Lost, which had so many well-rounded and beloved characters of colour in it.
Add to this the secrecy prior to release around Cumberbatch’s role in the film, and what seems like a casting move that would typically be defended by cries of “best actor for the job, not racism” becomes something more cunning, more malicious. Yes, the obfuscation creates intrigue around and interest in the role, but it also prevents advocacy groups like Racebending.com from building campaigns to protest the whitewashing. This happened with the character of the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, as well as ‘Miranda Tate’ in The Dark Knight Rises, who ended up being Talia al Ghul but played by French actress Marion Cotillard. This practice is well in effect in Hollywood; and after the negative press that was generated by angry anti-oppression activists and fans when Paramount had The Last Airbender in the works, studios are wising up. They don’t want their racist practices to be called out, pointed at, and exposed before their movies are released — Airbender proved that these protests create enough bad feeling to affect their bottom line.
So the studio has now found a way to keep it secret and underhanded. Racebending.com was there for most of the production of The Last Airbender, and were even able to correspond with Paramount Pictures about it. This time, for Star Trek: Into Darkness, their hiding and opaque practices has managed to silence media watchdogs until the movie’s premiere.
As I said, this racist whitewashing of the character of Khan won’t affect how much money this Trek movie makes. And I’m happy that the franchise is popular, still popular enough to warrant not only a big-budget reboot with fantastic actors but also a sequel with that cast. I’m happy that actors I enjoy like Zoë Saldaña and John Cho are playing characters who mean so much to me, and that they, in respect for the groundbreaking contributions by Nichelle Nichols and George Takei in these roles, have paid homage to that past.
But all of that will be marred by having my own skin edited out, rendered worthless and silent and invisible when a South Asian man is portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch up on that screen. In the original Trek, Khan, with his brown skin, was an Übermensch, intellectually and physically perfect, possessed of such charisma and drive that despite his efforts to gain control of the Enterprise, Captain Kirk (and many of the other officers) felt admiration for him.
And that’s why the role has been taken away from actors of colour and given to a white man. Racebending.com has always pointed out that villains are generally played by people with darker skin, and that’s true … unless the villain is one with intelligence, depth, complexity. One who garners sympathy from the audience, or if not sympathy, then — as from Kirk — grudging admiration. What this new Trek movie tells us, what JJ Abrams is telling us, is that no brown-skinned man can accomplish all that. That only by having Khan played by a white actor can the audience engage with and feel for him, believe that he’s smart and capable and a match for our Enterprise crew.
What an enormous and horribly ironic step backwards. For Star Trek, for media representation, and for the vision of a future where we have transcended systemic, racist erasure.
“don’t play the race card,” you start to say. but it is already too late. my Race Card is face-up in attack position. you scream as your body is sucked into the Shadow Realm
you don’t have to have racism in your heart to do something racist (via celeryandhummus)
Taken from her book “Assata: In Her Own Words” (page 31)
white people go around naming their kids after countries and colors and inanimate objects and still have the nerve to make fun of our names
“Fashion Week’s Models Are Getting Whiter”
That was the headline the other day at Jezebel, which came up with the above graph after some exhaustive research.
What’s up with New York Fashion Week?
In reporting on the issue myself, I realized that this isn’t just about a bunch of women on runways. It’s about the very perception of wealth. In short, the faces that we see in ads for luxury products — makeup, handbags, sunglasses — are almost invariably white. Black and Hispanic ladies: good luck.
Ashley Mears, a sociologist and former model who’s studied the issue, says high fashion is looking for girls who project youth, unattainability and a sort of sexual purity. Over the centuries, those qualities have come to be reinforced with whiteness in the West.
“Throughout colonial history, non-white women have often been marked as sexually deviant, hypersexual, sexually available,” said Mears. “Not just women, but also men.”
For black models, that means being repeatedly told they should get nose jobs, or that their rear ends are too big.
To be fair, some industry insiders take this seriously. But others, not so much. One designer who’s show I attended at Fashion Week was Nicole Miller. About a quarter of her models were non-white, and she had this to say.
“I had 5 diversified girls, plus a redhead,” said Miller. “Which is the most diversity. Because the lowest percentage of the population is redheads. So you have to include them in the diversified group.”
There you have it: redheads as women of color.
TYRA GET ON THIS SHIT
I AM TIRED OF SEEING WHITE PEOPLE
YSL then and now
Do you see how powerful those first images are? Flawless black queens.
some of them white women look like actual feet.
the soles, to be precise.
What most people outside of the couture world don’t know is that Monsieur Laurent was a revolutionary on another front: he tore down the barriers which excluded Black women from the world of high fashion.
After hearing of his death supermodel Naomi Campbell told New York’s Channel 4 News that, “My first Vogue cover ever was because of this man, because when I said to him ‘Yves, they won’t give me a French Vogue cover, they won’t put a black girl on the cover’ and he was like ‘I’ll take care of that,’ and he did.”
The New York Times online was flooded with responses, and comments from around the world, regarding Laurent’s death. Deborah Ward of Chicago, Illinois, summed up his impact on Black women in fashion, “I became of a fan of Monsieur Laurent when I was a young girl. I awed at his fashions on Black Models on the pages of Ebony Magazine. Very few designers showcased their fashions on Black Models. He was the first. ” Laurent was also regularly featured in the Ebony Traveling Fashion Show, based not only on his clothing, but due to his friendship with the matriarch of Black publishing, Eunice Johnson, who is also the producer of the annual 50 year old show.
Monsieur Laurent was also the first couture house in Paris to feature Black models on his runway, which opened the doors for such models as Iman, Pat Cleveland, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Veronica Webb, Alek Wek, Liya Kebede, and, his muse, Katoucha, who preceded him in death, with a mysterious fall into the Seine on February 29, 2008. According to Target Market News.com, African American women spent more than $20 billion dollars on apparel, yet fashion houses continue to ignore them on the runways, and as important customers. Yves Saint Laurent not only used Black models on the Paris runways, but he used them in print ads, and also considered Black women when designing his top end cosmetics. His commitment to positive representations of Black beauty gained him devoted followers, including celebrities like Halle Berry, who was recently seen carrying his luxe purse, the Downtown Tote.
Continue reading at NowPublic.com: Yves Saint Laurent’s Quiet French Revolution | NowPublic News Coverage
Clearly, once he died, it was back to whiteout time. So time for us to drop him and the rest too.
That’s extremely important to note. If you don’t have key figures giving chances, there won’t be any chances. They choose Whiteness each and every time.
- Abraham Lincoln never fought vampires or zombies
- Adolf Hitler was not machine gunned to death in a movie theater in Paris
- Marty McFly did not invent Rock and Roll
- Richard Nixon never dispatched Dr. Manhattan to end the Vietnam War
You never complained about these changes to history, so shut the fuck up about a black man playing a fictional spy, you idiotic, racist pricks.
A little white girl says the word cunt, and the world falls over itself to clutch its pearls and say she should be sheltered from such vile language.
A little black (who is even younger) actually gets called the same word, and everyone’s like, “come on you guys, lighten up. it’s a joke.”
White men, they get nervous when another race gets a little power, ‘cause they’re scare that that race is going to to do them what they did to that race. So they start screaming, ‘Reverse racism! This is reverse racism!’
Wait a minute, isn’t reverse racism when a racist is nice to other people? That’s reverse racism. What you’re afraid of is Karma.