The Trojan Horse belongs in “The Illiad”

If you’ve seen Orange Is The New Black, the new Godzilla movie, Pacific Rim, or any of a host of films and TV shows that have a white (usually male) protagonist front and center while the more interesting characters of color are pushed into the supporting roles, you’re probably familiar with this.

The mentality behind it is something like this:

“Well, audiences need someone to identify with in the story, and since mainstream audiences only identify with white people, we need to have a white person there to sort of sneak in the interest in the characters of color. We use that character as our Trojan Horse to get people to see the characters of color as people they can identify with and root for.”

In essence, because white people only care about white people, there needs to be a white character involved in the story even though, narratively speaking, it should be about the characters of color.

Like fucking Dances with Wolves. Everybody knew that the Lakota characters were way more interesting than John Dunbar’s white ass. As far as the story is concerned, Kicking Bird and Wind In His Hair were the real main characters.

Fucking The Last Samurai, which is Dances with Wolves Goes to Japan, but far less self-aware about those pesky issues like racism and imperialism. I don’t think anyone watching that movie needed Tom Cruise to help them understand these characters, their world, or their story.

Don’t get me started on The Help. Like any of us gave a flying fuck about Skeeter’s ass when Aibileen and Minny are the real heart of the story.

This Trojan Horse shit is so bad that even white folks are starting to notice this shit!

I would like to take this moment to say…

ENOUGH ALREADY!

I’m so beyond sick of that shit! I’m so beyond sick of it that the next time it happens, I will not be held responsible if I go up to some random white guy and toss a bag of rabid opossums on his crotch. That’s how fucking done I am with that shit.

They think it’s so damn clever, too. “Have another attractive white man. SIKE!

Really? That’s the best they can do? Not creating three-dimensional characters of color. Oh no, that would take too much effort. No, they gotta put boring-ass white folks in the center of the narrative because that’s what they say audiences want and expect. And yet those desires and expectations inexplicably have nothing to do with the ways that mass media force-feeds people white supremacy from the day they’re born. That whole message that only white people are important apparently comes out of thin air. It’s always, “The audience wouldn’t see that,” or “The audience doesn’t want that.”

How about this one: “I’m a lazy, racist asshole with no imagination, and I think everyone else is too.”

We don’t need that shit. We didn’t need that shit in Blade; we didn’t need it in Bad Boys (or Bad Boys 2); we didn’t need it in 12 Years A Slave; we didn’t need it in After Earth; we didn’t need it in The Butler

So many movies already made a shitload of money with nary a White Tour Guide Character in sight. You don’t need a white character to ease the audience into giving a shit about characters of color. You just need to give characters of color the same care and attention as you would the white characters. As a matter of fact, all that time and energy spent on this random-ass white dude or white chick would be better spent on giving the characters of color more to do in the story besides help some white person fulfill their destiny or whatever the fuck these assholes think people of color ought to be doing.

These muthafuckas need to cut the fucking shit and just admit that they don’t wanna see our Black and Brown asses on screen more than they absolutely have to unless we’re helping white folks or making them laugh at us.

Or, at the very least, stop breaking their arms patting themselves on the back so hard for deigning to have a Brown or Black face in the supporting cast.

What I want to see

You know what kind of story I want to see?

I want to see stories about a woman of color enacting theatrical, operatic vengeance on anybody who fucks with her or stands in her way. I want a woman of color with such a lust for power that she makes Frank Underwood look like a slacker. I want a women of color who’s such a slippery, duplicitous, self-serving, magnificent bitch that David Xanatos would be impressed.

And I want the narrative to not punish her for it. That’s right. I want her to get away with doing horrible shit in the name of vengeance, ambition, or some other shit we act like we disapprove of but actually enjoy. I want her life to not be some Aesop about how good always wins or some other trite bullshit we know to be a flat-out fucking lie.

I am so tired of women of color, especially Black women, having to be and noble and selfless. I am so done with stories where women of color are not allowed to have grand flaws and epic passions.

If the Bride from Kill Bill can slice and dice her way through Tokyo to get back at five people who did her wrong and still have people root for her and call her an awesome character (without any of the justifications or qualifications that one would have to do with, say, Regina Mills or Marie Laveau), I want women of color to be able to do the exact same type of shit without the story or the audience constantly reminding us of how badwrongevilhorrible she is.

We throw the term “goddess” around so much when it comes to women of color. So let’s give them the same freedom as true goddesses. Let’s allow them to be everything they can be: kind and cruel, beautiful and horrible, wonderful and terrible.

Does “Encanta” lie like “Miss Saigon”? Thoughts on writing and representation

“Miss Saigon Lies” posts from the Don’t Buy Miss Saigon campaign have been making the rounds on Tumblr lately, and this got me thinking about Encanta and whether I am telling lies in my play too.

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Is it only empowerment when a White girl picks up a sword? (Revised and reposted from Tumblr)

Here’s something I wanted to talk about every time a movie comes out that shows us an “empowered” White girl and says how she’s some sort of role model for all women because she shows that women don’t have to be fragile or delicate.

As much as I loved Brave and despised Snow White and the Huntsman, people saying this sort of thing really, really irritates me.

Know why it irritates me? Because so many women don’t get to be seen as fragile, delicate, or vulnerable. Most of these women are women who look like me.

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In Which I Ponder a Lily-White Les Miserables Movie

I’ve been a fan of Les Misérables since the 90’s.

Like, a big fan.  When I was a kid I had 5, count ‘em, 5 different cast recordings.

As long as I’ve been a fan, every production that’s striven to be a definitive cast has included people of color.  The Tenth Anniversary Dream Cast (meant to be the best of the best) included Lea Salonga as Eponine.  The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Concert included not only Salonga as Fantine, but Norm Lewis (whom we all love in Scandal) as Javert and Iranian-Canadian Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras.  The Complete Symphonic Recording, which strove to be international as well as definitive, cast Kaho Shimada from the Japanese production as Eponine.  Les Mis has been around for a long time; it’s been performed in a huge number of countries; and more than many other musical theatre productions it’s understood to be about content and story instead of about people’s skin color.

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My new shit

I recently completed a draft of my new play, Encanta. I like to describe it as Kirikou and the Sorceress meets Moonstruck on the island from The Tempest.

The story itself is pretty simple. Penzima is a pirate who washed ashore after a storm sank her ship. After making fast friends with best buddies Armando and Carlos, she soon meets Katrina, a powerful sorceress feared and hated by everyone. Sparks fly, and Penzima is immediately smitten with Katrina, who is in turn drawn to the charming, witty Penzima. Penzima vows to show Katrina that she is worthy of her love, but will that be enough?

What really excites me about Encanta is that it’s a play about the magic of love, lust, and romance that focuses on LGBTQ people of color. All the characters are Latin@ or Afro-Latin@.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but aside from being a joy to write, Encanta breaks the mold for “acceptable” narratives for LGBTQ people and people of color. You know the ones: the pain porn, the stereotypical bullshit, the Sassy Gay/Black/Latin@ Friend who has no live of their own. You get the idea.

Encanta is all about people who are being silly and crazy and in love and using magic who just happen to be LGBTQ people of color. Too often, we only get to suffer because it’s “inspiring,” and we only be funny when who we are is the butt of the joke.

Fuck that shit. I want my escapist fantasy too. I want passion and romance too. I want my happily ever after too. And since the powers that be seem more interested in not scaring off straight people and white folks, I made Encanta for myself.

That Internet Wife Of Mine

So recently your truly achieved a milestone here at Ars Marginal in hitting my 100th post. It’s pretty cool to think about because Ars Marginal has truly grown and evolved. So to honor the epic accomplishment I decided to do a one-on-one interview with our fearless leader, my internet wife, RVCBard, who coincidentally is celebrating her 25th birthday (again) this weekend. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOO!!!!

As the interview will soon prove, there’s a reason why the two of us aren’t allowed to get together without adult supervision and a SWAT Team in place.

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Creating art and life from the intersections (reposted from Love’s Labors Lost)

(Originally posted at Love’s Labors Lost)

With the $1 Play Project underway (and if you have 60 seconds and $1.00, you really should give what you can), and way too much to do in not enough time, I want to take a moment (read: procrastinate) and talk about what it’s like and what it means to create art from a perspective of intersectionality.

Before buzzwords like “intersectionality” came along, a lot of people assumed that womanhood was White, Blackness was male, and both were straight. When Black feminists and womanists proclaimed that All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some Of Us Are Brave, they created a new paradigm for examining race, gender, and sexuality that centered on the lives of Black women.

When I started writing Tulpa, or Anne&Me in late 2009, I had no idea I’d be doing the same thing for theatre. As much as I like to fantasize otherwise, I’m not really all that brave. I hate pain (receiving or inflicting it), and I am more easily hurt than I often let on. I’m much more prone to shyness, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion than my online persona indicates. My outspokenness about racism, sexism, and homophobia says more about their magnitude and the peril they pose to human beings than about any particular courage or wisdom on my part.

So when I set out to put down on paper some of the many thoughts and feelings I have when I try to relate to White women about race and gender (all from the perspective of a woman who loves women), it wasn’t because I was intentionally trying to provoke people. It initially started out on my LiveJournal on something of a lark that channeled my infatuation with Anne Hathaway into something more meaningful. Since the discussions about race I was having with real White women were often so lacking, why not make up the conversations I wanted to have?

As Black women, we are constantly being asked to hide away or tear off chunks of who we are to make us safer for consumption. When we are with women, we’re supposed to magically forget we are Black. When we are Black, we’re supposed to ignore our womanhood. And we’d better keep that queer shit deep in the closet if we know what’s good for us. Yet in Tulpa, all three of these identities are necessary to fully understanding the characters and the story.

Tulpa, or Anne&Me is not Intro to Intersectionality. The dialogue is pretty exclusively about race. But it’s a queer woman’s experience of race and how it impacts her most personal moments. The play focuses on an intimate relationship. But it’s a relationship between women trying to maintain that intimacy in the face of racism and what that means for both of them.

“Your silence will not protect you,” Audre Lorde once said. Even prior to reading Sister Outsider, I may have sensed that this was true. As much as I hate being the center of attention or the object of scrutiny, the alternative – my silence – was even worse. My silence would mean allowing someone other than myself to define what my life means or what it should mean. My silence would mean becoming a shadow not only of myself but to myself. My silence would mean accepting my own dehumanization.

Despite the fact that I live as a queer Black woman in my queer Black woman body, as an artist I often wrestle with a sense that my life as I live it diminishes my art because it’s somehow not as universal. But creating Tulpa, or Anne&Me cured me of that.

My art does not happen despite my queer Black woman self but directly because of it.

My queer Black woman self is not an obstacle to my humanity – it’s the key to truly acknowledging and understanding it.

Round Table: LGBTQ Edition

A few months ago, four POC novelists held a round table discussion which tackled the challenges that authors of color have to face in both the publishing industry as well as the media in general in terms of race, gender and orientation.

http://arsmarginal.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/round-table/

With diversity in media, in particularly in terms of queer content, an LGBTQ-themed round table was recently conducted. This time it was opened up to playwrights, comic book creators and artists of various storytelling mediums.

Participants submitted questions and topics they wanted to address. What was interesting reading the responses while composing this round table. The participants only saw their own responses, so the answers often made for fascinating reads. With an eclectic mix of writers from very different backgrounds, sometimes there would be seven vastly different answers and in certain instances, the answers were unanimous and almost verbatim.

One thing was certain, this was definitely a conversation that has been long overdue, and certainly one that needs to continue.

Seven storytellers, one powerful discussion.

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