4.07.2011

Pondering the Blasian Sci-fi/Fantasy Paradigm

Uhura and Sulu
If you haven't figured it out by now, like Ankh, I'm a proud, unapologetic geek.  As a huge fan of all that is science fiction and fantasy, it's pretty hard not to notice that the pickings for Blasian pairings in this genre are pretty slim.  And when I say slim, I mean nearly nonexistent.  It’s extremely disappointing that even in a genre that allows unprecedented freedom to eschew "the norm" in exchange for unique characters, interesting storylines and real diversity, black women are consistently paired with white men, or what are undeniably white "defaults."

Take sci-fi/fantasy fiction, for example.  A lot of the stories with interracial pairings I've read (which are usually in ebook format), are IR in both race and species, but have non-human heroes that more often than not--whether the author intends it or not--end up reading as white men.  He could have orange skin and white hair, but underneath all the outside trappings, it's plainly obvious that he's really just a white man in disguise.  You know, kind of like Transformers, but a lot smaller and way less interesting.  And if he does happen to be half-human, his human half is usually--and unsurprisingly--white as well.

Adrienne and Malik
A few months ago, I read one of the only sci-fi/fantasy novels that I've been able to find that has a BW/AM pairing.  The alternate universe storyline was interesting, but I couldn't help wondering if incorporating an AU was used as a clever way to explain the hero's Asian appearance/ancestry.  I'm not questioning the author's artistic license, but am merely wondering if readers--whether consciously or unconsciously--need such an  explanation in order to take the characters at face value and simply enjoy the story.  Judging by how POC--particularly WOC--are treated in various fandoms (Uhura, Cho Chang and Guinevere of Merlin fame immediately spring to mind), I have to say that, unfortunately, they just might.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard hard-core sci-fi fans refer to Tuvok as a "black Vulcan", but half-human (read:  half-white) Spock is simply "a Vulcan."

The TV and film side of the equation doesn't fare much better, although for slightly different reasons.  I'm sure we're all aware of the dearth of POC leads on that end of the entertainment spectrum--especially in science fiction and fantasy productions.  And black heroines and Asian heroes in particular?

Fugetaboutit.

Demitri and Zoey
Inevitably, this topic almost always leads back to one of the only recent portrayals of this pairing on the small screen (or any screen for that matter).  Y'all know what I'm talkin' 'bout.  Yep...FlashForward.  I know I should stop beating a dead horse, but damn it, it needs to be said again and again and again if necessary:  Demitri Noh would have made for a much more interesting and layered leading man than Mark Benford.  Yeah...I said it.  (And really...there was absolutely no contest between Zoey Andata and Olivia Benford, so I won't even bother to go there.)  

As Ankh pointed out in her spot-on series "How FlashForward Went and Fucked Itself", the writers/showrunners really shot themselves in the foot with their single-minded determination to make us give a damn about whiny, brooding Mark, at the expense of Dem's characterization.  In other words, they were willing to throw Demitri under a double-decker bus in order to force the audience to embrace and empathize with Mark.  Now IMHO, Demitri was a much more fascinating and complex character--one which, along with his gorgeous fiancée Zoey, the audience desperately wanted to see more of.  And we got to see more of them all right and not in a good way.  During the last half of the season, viewers witnessed the complete emasculation of Demitri and the unfair, almost gleeful demonization of Zoey (who was the actual victim in that eventual train wreck of a relationship).

Alice and Kenji
And I'd like to think that had Fox picked up Virtuality, we'd have gotten a lot more Alice and Kenji goodness, but experience and my own natural cynism tells me that they probably wouldn't have gone nearly far enough. 

They rarely ever do.
 
From my meanderings around the 'net, it's become quite apparent that people are practically begging for Hollywood to give them some real variety.  The huge commercial success of movies such as The Karate Kid and The Princess and the Frog and the well-deserved lambasting of racebending films such as The Last Airbender and The Prince of Persia, tells me that a large segment of the American populace is ready and willing to move beyond the "white is right" meme that Hollywood has been pushing since the invention of the silent movie.  

John and Helen
It's been over four decades since Gene Rodenberry's bold, Trek-ian vision of what an intelligent, enlightened society can achieve if we set aside childish things and truly work together for the common good.  And here we are in 2011 with a black president, a minority population on the verge of becoming the majority within a few short decades, and a generation of young people who are a lot more open-minded about race relations than those who came before them.  Yet Hollywood still stubbornly insists on bombarding us with a continuous barrage of unapologetic, blinding whiteness when it's becoming more and more clear that the viewing public is no longer buying what they're selling.  Literally.

Life usually imitates art, but in this aspect at least, society is putting the entertainment industry--in all its incarnations--to shame.

7 comments:

  1. **Kneels with my forehead touching the floor**

    but I couldn't help wondering if incorporating an AU was used as a clever way to explain the hero's Asian appearance/ancestry

    Though I don't know the motivation of this artist, I'm also writing a story set in an AU universe that predominately features POC and I'm not attempting to be clever. My goal is to show us represented in the future and beyond our current galactic boundaries. I'm not only removing POC from the clutches of "whiteness" but also attempting to bring them together.

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  2. Hateya, you're better'n me. I'm working on an sci-fi fantasy epic about a planet full of alien PoC...there ain't a white-un' in the bunch. In fact, the only white people are shown (as little as possible) on the starship in the beginning of the first book, and they're villainous...and ostensibly white. That's deliberate, in case you're wondering.

    Once the storyline shifts to the planet, you won't come across an alien lighter than a walnut, which just happens to be my complexion. If things go the way I want, there will be illustrations. But if not, then I as author have to do a good enough job so that readers will see these beings the way I want them to be seen; a planet full of beautiful brown aliens. It can be tricky, but that is why authors should invest in an excellent, accurate cover.

    Anyhoo, that's enough self-promotion for tonight.

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  3. @Amaya

    I'm just struggling along. It's weird because I'm not even interested enough in "whites" for them to be the villains although some might show up as miscegenated Norwegians. ;)

    Illustrations sound wonderful. We definitely need more POC in this field who are ready, willing and able to help us get our stories out there visually.

    It can be tricky, but that is why authors should invest in an excellent, accurate cover.

    And so they should.

    Self-promotion. My suspense thriller is still on tap. I just didn't have enough info to get it done in 2010.

    I'm outta here until next week this time.

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  4. @All

    *blushes* I try, thanks.

    @Hateya

    In this particular story's case, the hero's homeworld in the alternate/parallel universe was located where Japan is located here. That's why the hero looked/was Asian. At least that's what the way it read to me.

    Again, I'm not questioning or putting down the author, I'm more wondering if that explanation was necessary because some people require it to be able to accept that the hero is Asian.

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