Race, Intersectionality, and the End of the World: The Problem with The Handmaid’s Tale

by Shannon Gibney and Lori Askeland

Hulu’s reboot of The Handmaid’s Tale opens with a car chase: the protagonist (Elisabeth Moss), who will later be called “Offred,” is racing with her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) in their faded, old model Volvo through a frozen landscape, sirens of their invisible pursuers wailing.

The decision to introduce us to Offred as a member of an interracial family revealed an obvious break from the overwhelmingly white world of the novel and 1990 movie. Many reviewers construed that fact — and the powerful presence of Samira Wiley in the role of Offred’s badass lesbian friend, Moira — as undeniable evidence that the series would be more intersectional in its approach to feminist themes than the novel had been.  (“There’s intersectionality, too, with Moira, a lesbian, played by a black actress, Ms. Wiley,” was the breezy quip of the New York Times’ Katrina Onstad.) But sadly, bodies of color alone do not a liberatory racial narrative make. Indeed, a deeper look at the series shows the uncomplicated, and therefore, problematic effects of this “colorblind” casting.

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I Cape For Black Women

What makes a hero? Is it the super powers? The skill sets? The gadgets? Our intentions? Our actions?

I’m a comic book guy through and through so these are the questions that haunt me. There are moments in our lives that define us. That we allow to define us through our choices, our mistakes and how we respond to them. Sometimes those moments are big, sometimes they are minute. But in those moments we definitely learn the content of our character.

Here’s an example.

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What’s Hiding Behind the Feel-Good Curtain of Hidden Figures: One Black Feminist’s Take

In a scene in Hidden Figures that is all too familiar for Black women viewers, or really anyone from a historically marginalized group, Taraji P. Henson’s character Katherine Johnson rushes to enter the NASA control room where she has just handed off crucial calculations for astronaut John Glenn’s safe return from orbit, and has the door summarily slammed in her face. The camera lingers on Henson’s profile, as she grapples yet again with the devastating knowledge that although she may be a useful “computer” for spitting out numbers that may make missions successful and even save lives, she is still not seen as fully human in the eyes of her peers and superiors. Indeed, in Henson’s capable hands, viewers ourselves experience the physical and emotional pain of being barred from entering the halls of power for absurd reasons beyond one’s control — in this case, race and gender.

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The Chronicles of Swanson: The Lying, The Witches, and The Wu

When it comes to the Doctor Strange film, it continues to be the Greek-bearing gift of racism that keeps on giving.

I had no doubts that the white supremacy would ensue the moment it was announced that the Grand Wizard would portray the eponymous Sorcerer Supreme.

The film didn’t disappoint in this regard. After all like attracts like.

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Artist Talk: Shawn Taylor in Conversation with Ajuan Mance

If you’re in the Bay Area this week, you should attend this conversation. It is one of our events leading up to 2017’s Black Comix Arts Festival, a Co-Presentation of MoAD, Cartoon Art Museum, and Black Comix Art Festival.

Join the Cartoon Art Museum and Black Comix Art Festival at the Museum of the African Diaspora for, “Ajuan Mance in Conversation with Shawn Taylor,” an evening celebration of current Bay Area cartooning sensation Ajuan Mance as part of the SF Comics Fest. Writer Shawn Taylor from The Nerds of Color will chat with Ajuan about her latest projects in illustration, cartooning and writing, her creative process, her recent rise in popularity, and what she plans to achieve next.

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Luke Cage is the Most Feminist Show on TV

Spoiler warning: spoilers throughout. Best to read this after watching the whole season! Which I recommend!

It was during a small, nearly throwaway scene deep in episode 10 that it hit me like Jessica Jones’ fist: Luke Cage is the most feminist show I’ve ever seen.

The scene, captured in the screen grab above, features four women characters — four black women, not a one of them under the age of 30 (and none of the actresses under 35) — each of whom is in fundamental conflict with the others, but who come together in two temporary alliances to fight a multi-level battle. Yes, it’s complicated.

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This Year’s Supergirl

Originally published at Bitch Flicks

At 8 years old, I would wake up early every Saturday morning to tune in and watch Superboy. Over the years, I’ve been a faithful viewer of the original George Reeves Superman series, Lois & Clark, the Bruce Timm animated series, the live action films, and of course the comics. I’m a comic book guy through and through. For me, Superman isn’t just a superhero. He is THE superhero. I’m very protective of the Man of Steel’s mythos and legacy. Suffice it to say, I had my concerns when the CBS series Supergirl was announced.

Somehow when I wasn’t paying attention, my reaction evolved from, “The pilot was cute, I guess I’ll tune in,” to “Jesus Christ is it Monday night yet? I need my Maiden of Might!!!!”

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Love For Leslie J

I’ll say this much for the new Ghostbusters film, it’s staying true to the spirit of the franchise. Apparently.

Just as Ernie Hudson got thrown under the bus and treated like garbage during the release of the original Ghostbusters film, Leslie Jones is enduring the same crap in wake of the reboot.

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We’re All Supergirls

In the tradition of today’s superhero, each new season brings new stories and of course new characters. New characters help to expand the lore of our superhero, and in the case of Supergirl, I thought what if these new characters happened to be women of color? After all, Supergirl managed to reach out with a message of equality and feminism. Now, let’s go a step further and showcase intersectionality. Feminism is for everyone and not just for our Caucasian female lead.

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