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.
At this point, it’s damn near impossible to keep up with the onslaught of Netflix original programming. Along with all of the film and series content, the tentacles of the entertainment Kraken inevitably started reaching out for more international collaborations. Around Thanksgiving we were treated to the Brazilian series 3%. In terms of originality, it doesn’t score high: another variation on the theme of a future world where young adults do what they have to do to survive.
It does have its points of deviation though from say The Hunger Games and Divergent with a touch of Elysium. Brazil has had a long and appalling history of income inequality, which I’m sure is where the idea of the tagline came from: “In a dystopian future there is a clear divide between the rich and poor, but when a person turns 20, they have the opportunity to cross the divide.” As implied, by free will all the candidates get to try to make it from the miserable mainland to the utopian island Mar Alto; that looks kind of like Recife to Fernando de Noronha on the map. The tests they undergo are less physical and more psychological until they are whittled down to the fabled 3%. The setting, albeit futuristic, feels closer to present as we undergo our own survival in the collapse.
In our final live edition of Hard NOC Life from the NOC Reading Lounge at CTRL+ALT — the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo, award-winning poet Bryan Thao Worra discusses the literature of the Laotian diaspora and explains why the Asian American literay canon needs more speculative fiction.
President-elect Donald Trump has decided to go after Civil Rights movement icon — and national hero — Congressman John Lewis. The attack comes after Rep. Lewis told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he didn’t view Trump as a legitimate president due to Russia’s interference with the 2016 election. Lewis isn’t wrong, and it is more than hypocritical for the PEOTUS to lash out at people questioning his legitimacy since that’s what he has done to President Obama for the last five years. In the meantime, Twitter has clapped back at Trump, and many of Lewis’ colleagues in congress have pledged to boycott the inauguration. We want to help out by pointing our readers to Lewis’ award-winning graphic memoir trilogy, March. Let’s all pitch in to make his books #1 bestsellers on Amazon this Martin Luther King Day weekend.
Back in November, we recorded a live edition of Hard NOC Life from the NOC Reading Lounge at CTRL+ALT — the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo. Hamilton superfans Constance Gibbs, Kendra James, and Kevin T. Morales joined Keith to nerd out over the smash Broadway hit musical Hamilton.
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?”
By now the events of Peter David’s NYCC anti-Romani rant is all wrapped up, with David writing a series of personal blog posts including an apology to the Romani community. Whether the Romani community — and the Romani activist involved in the incident, along with fans who were both at the panel and have seen the video — forgive David is a separate issue. Rather than focus on the merits of an apology, the opportunity presents itself to instead focus on the actual issue of lack of Romani representation in our media.
To first understand why the lack of Romani representation is an important issue, we have to understand who the Romani people are. For many — including myself — because of this overall lack of representation, there comes an overall prevalence of ignorance regarding who the Romani people are, what their struggles are, and what their actual culture is.
If you missed out on George Takei’s Allegiance during its acclaimed, but brief, Broadway run, Fathom Events is giving you an opportunity to see the musical — that made Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda sob — in a cinema near you!
My sister, Dr. Tara Betts, dropped the Luke Cage syllabus over at Black Nerd Problems. It is a must read. I wanted to add to this wealth of knowledge by offering my own “special features” companion piece to Cage. I will present the following without description as I do not want to taint anyone’s experience. This is only a small amount if what is actually out there. I mentioned other books in my reflections on the series. You can read it here.
In watching The Birth of a Nation I was a little destroyed. There’s so much to unpack. Nat Turner is a legendary figure in the Black community — a former slave who removed his own shackles. It’s a story I’ve wanted to see on screen for a long time. The reviews out of Sundance were huge. Then, news of Nate Parker rape charges and acquittal broke. I debated a long time about whether or not to cover the story when I came to TIFF. Eventually, I decided that a film this prominent and this culturally invested couldn’t be ignored. I have mixed feelings about what I saw. I’m going to take it slow.