Filing the Holes in Black History

african-roots

During my undergraduate degree in environmental studies, a particular course in the history department caught my eye.

This course was called History of Africa South of the Sahara.

I first I discovered this course during my first year while thumbing through the course catalogue planning for my upper years.

Ooh, this would be an interesting elective, I thought upon reading the course description:

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Whitewashing vs. Racebending: Yes, There is a Difference

Samuel L. Jackson starring as a racebent Nick Fury

Samuel L. Jackson starring as a racebent Nick Fury

You can count on it.

Whenever a major media outlet posts an article about the problem of whitewashing in mainstream entertainment, there is a certain response that’s guaranteed to appear in the comments thread.

Well it’s no different than casting a person of colour in a role meant for a white person, so if they had a black James Bond, it’d be equally racist and offensive.

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Whitewashing is Still a Problem in Mainstream Media (even if it’s not happening this time)

Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek: Into Darkness, playing the role of an important non-white character from the Star Trek universe

Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek: Into Darkness, playing the role of an important non-white character from the Star Trek universe

I’ve always had a fondness for stories about female warriors.

Among my favourites is Hua Mulan, the legendary subject of an Ancient Chinese epic poem about a young woman takes her aged father’s place in the military by disguising herself as a boy.

In the 1998 Disney cartoon, Mulan, she is shown exhibit bravery, ingenuity, and honour, and succeeds in helping save China from invaders.

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The world is a terrible place.  We have to use the power of story for the ultimate good.

Candlelight vigil

The world is a terrible place.

It’s hardly worth referencing a specific incident to support this statement.  Just turn on your TV.  Turn on the radio.  Log on to any social media platform.  Open your front door.  You could spit and it would land on something awful taking place.  The reasons why are too numerous to count.

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On Captive Protagonists, Slash Fiction, and the Fantasy of Gender Equality

Kirk and Spock

There was an unsuspecting evolution that led to me reading a work of male/male original slash fiction.

It started when an online friend of mine recommended a book to me through Goodreads: Uprooted – a beautifully written, dark fantasy fairytale by Naomi Novik.

My friend I discussed this book extensively via Goodreads as I read it, and when I finished, I suggested we next read the same book simultaneously so we could discuss our reactions to it in real time.

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On Appropriation, Censorship, and the World of Possibility in Between

Image of a Native American man from J.K. Rowling's History of Magic in North America.

Image of a Native American man from J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America.

How do I know if I’m appropriating the traditions of another culture in my writing versus creating a respectful adaptation?

Admittedly, this isn’t an issue I’ve devoted much thought to in the past.  Of late, however, following the J.K. Rowling #MagicInNorthAmerica controversy, it’s been on my mind a fair bit.

For those not familiar, #MagicInNorthAmerica has to do with a series of fictional monographs discussing the history of magic in the Harry Potter universe.  Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling recently released these on her Pottermore website to promote the release of the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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Motivation Doesn’t Matter: On Instrumental Valuation, Diversity, and Barbie’s New Curves

Mattel's new "Fashionista" line of Barbies

Mattel’s new “Fashionista” line of Barbies

People are often surprised to learn that I have fond memories of playing with Barbie dolls as a child.

This disbelief could be interpreted in a number of different ways, each a bit more biting and backhanded than the last (you don’t seem feminine enough to have been interested in dolls; to look at you, I’d never guess you played with a doll that was so connected with fashion).

Most likely, though, it’s a puzzling discrepancy that draws folks up short: I care a great deal about diversity and representation in popular culture, yet in that regard, Barbie has often earned a failing grade.

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