Irony is a Shade of Scarlett

So like many of you I caught the interview where Scarlett Johannson encouraged moviegoers to keep asking for diversity.

Now I like ScarJo and all but like many of you I laughed heartily for a good five minutes.

The guffawing finally ceased when I realized this wasn’t an Onion article and the Lucy and Ghost In The Shell star was being serious.

Then this was my reaction.

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The Dark Knight Changed the Way I Watched Movies

by Benjamin To | Originally published at BANDtogether

In the summer of 2008, there I was: A fresh-faced, 19-year-old pharmacy school dropout, a few months removed from stepping off the plane from humble Oregon and on to hopeful California soil. I had no direction of where I was going or knowledge of how to accomplish my lofty goals, but I knew I wanted one thing and one thing only: I wanted to be a part of cinema.

One of my first — and one of my favorite — jobs was when I worked as a film projectionist at a local movie theater. It was one of those summer jobs that lasted well beyond the summer. Even though the pay was trash and I hated some of my managers, I had access to free movies that were actually projected on 35mm film (which is on the verge of becoming an extinct format). I made sure to watch everything I could get my hands on from big budget action blockbusters to independently produced prestige dramas. Since I didn’t have the money to go to a traditional film school like USC or UCLA, the movie theater became my film school.

Everything that I have absorbed about appreciating and deconstructing cinema up to that point came to a climatic crescendo in the form of a tiny little art house flick called The Dark Knight, and it altered my perception of sights and sounds, forever.

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Black Friday Special: Jamal Igle at CTRL+ALT

Earlier this month, we were part of CTRL+ALT, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo. Along with Clark University’s Betsy Huang, our fearless leader Keith Chow co-hosted a reading lounge in which they held workshops, panels, and salon discussions with other artists. We’ll be bringing you these sessions over the next few weeks, starting with this one-on-one conversation between Keith and renowned comic artist Jamal Igle.

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Fantastic Beasts is Not So Fantastic with Diversity

Update 11/25/16: The original version of this post stated that Tina was simply white. I have since realized that Tina’s full name is Porpentina Goldstein, and that she and her sister Queenie are likely of Jewish descent (and thus both have only conditional whiteness). I have updated the post with this information in mind. 

The Harry Potter universe is a world that’s followed most of us since we were kids. While in many respects it’s aged along with us — we see Harry grow up and have kids, and the film Fantastic Beasts is certainly aimed at an older audience — in other aspects it has remained disappointingly behind the times. In particular, Fantastic Beasts is yet another example in the Potterverse of how marginalized folks, particularly queer people and/or people of color, continue to be exactly that: marginalized.

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La Borinqueña and La La: Heroes Worth Waiting For

When my oldest daughter was 3, we would sit together in her bean bag chair, turn off the lights, and watch the Justice League animated series. Here she learned about superheros and when she started becoming interested in comics, I wanted to make sure she read something that represented and looked like her so I handed her a copy of Araña. That was five years ago, and now she is 12 and is immersed in finding representation in what she reads.

It’s small stories like this that amplify the importance of diversity in literature and, in this case, comics. It is for that reason that the launching of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s La Borinqueña comes at a much needed time.

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What Artists Can Learn from the Trump v. Hamilton “Distraction”

by Timothy Yu

Mike Pence went to see Hamilton. He got booed. The actors read a statement from the stage. And our president-elect tweeted a demand that the cast apologize for their “harassment.” Just another day in the dawning Trump Era.

There was plenty to say. Some pointed out the irony of Donald Trump, scourge of political correctness, complaining that the theater should be a “safe place.” Others pointed to the chilling precedent of our incoming president demanding that artists apologize to an elected official. But what most surprised me was seeing some of my friends — many of whom are themselves artists, writers, literary scholars — repeating the argument that the Hamilton controversy was “just a distraction” from Trump’s other problems.

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AfroGeeks Unite!

Hello Friends,

This has been a dispiriting couple of weeks. We are facing a new political reality and now, I feel, there is an increased social, political, and creative urgency — something I’ve never felt before. To address this, me and a few local Bay Area creators have decided to launch AfroGeeks Unite! It is a small initiative that aims to get more POC youth (particularly black youth) involved in the speculative fiction (used as a catchall for SF, comics, horror, etc.) community.

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Ghost in the Shell and the Complexity of Cultural Appropriation

by Trungles

There is an old fairy tale popularized by Hans Christian Andersen as The Little Mermaid. I’m one of those odd first-and-a-half generation Vietnamese American immigrants, and tales of living in between spaces have always held my attention. The story goes that a little princess from a world under water wants to live on the land. She falls in love, exchanges her tongue for a pair of legs, and finds herself thrust into the unenviable circumstance of navigating a strange space where she literally has no voice. Ultimately finding no place for her in the world for which she had given up everything, she casts herself off the side of a ship into the ocean, drowns, and dissolves into sea foam. Victorian sentiments about Christianity and moralizing stories for children eventually got Andersen to amend the ending. This is more or less the state of Asian American identity politics. We’re always finding ourselves caught between “where we come from” and wherever we yearn to belong.

The buzz around the 2017 Ghost in the Shell film, among many other film and television projects of its ilk in recent memory, has ignited a bevy of thinkpieces about cultural appropriation and the nature of Asian American identity politics. The topic is complicated.

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What Can A Nerd Do (About Trump)?

Okay, we, as nerds of color (TM), especially now that a white supremacist nightmare is about to become our president, need to get our collective shit together. Bigly.

So I’m gonna — periodically — post some links and actions and ideas (under the heading “What Can A Nerd Do?”) about what a nerd can do, politicalwise, to combat the eeebil is is come upon us. And I will edit-to-add any legit links/ideas left in comments about the topic at hand as well, so jump in mah nurds!

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Our Roddenberry Moment

The day after the election, I received a message from a frenemy I’ve known since junior high. He has kept close tabs on me and my career, always presenting himself as “devil’s advocate” or “the rational voice of the other side of the argument.” Basically, he’s a book smart troll I didn’t block because of the insidious effects of nostalgia. His message was one line:

“What good is all that science fiction stuff, now that we’ve won?”

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