The new Ghost in the Shell trailer has landed, but I have reservations about watching the film.
I love Scarlett Johansson, I think she has a serene presence that she brings to her characters and I can follow her through action to love interest roles with a belief that is the mark of a great actress. However, I am seriously concerned about the white washing of the lead character. The movie’s producers even considered making Scarlett Johansson look more Asian using CGI special effects! Yes, seriously!?!... I can't harp on about white washing of black roles and then comfortably ignore the whitewashing of a Japanese character and potential employment of 'yellowface' because I love the anime the film is based on!
Were there no high profile Japanese actresses that could take the role? If there were an abundance of roles for Asian actors in Hollywood then the casting of Ms Johansson in this iconic role would feel more like artistic licence and less like pandering to perceptions of audience's and what they will and won't pay for? Ghost in the Shell the anime is a ridiculously successful franchise on its own, those of us lucky enough to know about it were quite happy to watch it, subtitles and all since the late 90's, so what's changed? Well, apparently nothing in Hollywood who seem unable to take the chance that a film could be successful with a non-western lead.
And it's such a shame too, from a purely selfish perspective because the trailer has really impressed me! They've got the creepy clean yet grungy aesthetic right, as well as the mystery and disturbing feeling of being manipulated and watched that had us gripped in the anime. The graphics and CGI look on point too dammit!!
Anyway, either you stand for something or you fall for anything, someone once said, it's only a film *sigh and a small price to pay in the slow struggle against all the manifestations of 'blackface' that is part of the wider systemic racism in our evolving global society.
In honour of the original and the Japanese people, the opening sequence to Ghost in the Shell 1995... Still gives me chills...
If like me you’ve been hooked on the new Black Panther comic series ‘A nation under our feet’ the news that they are producing a spin-off to explore the glory that is Wakanda might just have pushed you over the edge! What am I supposed to do with all this Black? Its like we’ve gone from drought to turning on the taps of Black characters and allowed a slow but steady trickle into the Marvel Universe!
I mean Black Panther’s resurgence was nicely helped along by the hugely popular Avengers franchise and cemented by the choosing of Tah-Nehisi Coates as the writer for the new comic book series, but those aren’t the only brown faces we have seen…
I’ve also been reading Moon Girl, featuring a young black girl named Lunella and her strangely adorable dinosaur. Not only is Lunella a bit of a bad ass, she’s also one of the smartest people now inhabiting the Marvel Universe! And if that wasn’t enough, Marvel recently announced the introduction of the new Iron Man, or Iron Girl ‘Riri’ who not only rocks her natural hair but is also a pretty hot engineer! And it doesn’t stop there, take a breathe, Luke Cage has his own series on Netflix, it literally takes the black and smears it all over your face.
The series is full of blackity blackness, from the setting to the historical references and the smooth soundtrack, the warm velvety sweetness of its black nostalgia inhabits your senses like a black panther Eau du parfam. The series also lines up some more blackness and nicely sets the scene for Misty Knight to take centre stage with her own series!
Now I thought I was spoiled with a Pakistani Ms Marvel and mixed race Spiderman, and then they go and hit me with a rebooted Iron Man(girl) and World of Wakanda series, does Marvel not want me to work? I have things I need to do, fresh air I’m supposed to get, all this Blackity Black Blackness in the Marvel world is going to seriously affect my ability to function in the real world!!
Now when I first heard there was a new Ghostbusters movie, I was hugely excited, when I heard it was being rebooted with an all female cast I had to take a seat for a moment, I thought yes!! Then I found out Melissa McArthy, Kristen Wiig and Sigourney Weaver were going to be in it, I had to sit down a moment, I love all three of them!!
Then the trailer hit and I immediately tweeted it!! I was that excited!! Then I watched it and as it progressed I became disappointed, I withdrew from the screen, one eyebrow raised thinking, WTF?
The woman in me wants to love this film, strong female leads, showing them in careers that the media doesn't usually celebrate us for and the film passes the Bechdel Test:-
It also features two very funny women and an older actress who isn't playing a mother; Great! I thought, but it wasn't to be so. The Woman of Colour in me, said WTF? There's all these intelligent funny, kickass characters in here and the one, the ONE, Black female character is a lazy, tired trope of the sassy Black woman with 'street smarts' - I mean I know the film is a 80's reboot, but haven't we moved on from the 80's, I mean it's no longer acceptable to slap women on the arse and call them sugar in the office, but clearly someone forgot to tell Hollywood… but then again America, Donald Trump is running for President and he's about as far from the 80's as December 31st 1979….
And then you remember that those holding the power and the money to make movies are old white men and the sycophants that try to woo them. I'm sure (to quote Chris Rock) one of them said "Does this character have to be a Black woman?" and the response was, "what if she's a no nonsense, sassy sidekick" and they all nodded in agreement while they ticked the diversity box and patted each other on the back.
I mean why couldn't Leslie Jones' character have been a scientist too and one of the others the sassy one with street smarts? Why can you reboot the film and have enough imagination to re-cast the lead roles as female, but not that one of the scientists could be Black woman? Aren't white women capable of being 'street smart' and sassy too? Isn't there a smart, educated, charming Black woman in the White House, isn't she the First Lady or something? Your focus doesn't have to look too far to find plenty of examples of Black women being something other than sassy and street smart; Quite frankly, its lazy and insulting.
BLEEK welcomes 2016 with open arms and a lot of self reflection, like what the hell happened to the last few months of my life!!??!
You may or may not have noticed, BLEEK's been down the last few months, not just digitally, but mentally too, I was seriously down - the website mirrored my life. Forget winter blues, this was full on Depression lying on my back and making me do face plant in the dirt - those around me threw up their hands not knowing what to do.
I'm talking major mental health that took hold of my life so completely there was nothing I could do.
Except there was, Depression just told me there wasn't, like it had told me that I was a "waste of space" a "hopeless piece of human crap" and many more that would make a sweary beardy sailor proud. You'll forgive me for referring to Depression as if it’s a person, its one of the ways I've learnt to deal with it over the last 20years, separate it from me, because the me that's well doesn’t recognise the me with Depression. The me that's well is horrified and mortified at the lows the Depressed me will stoop to, so to preserve my fragile ego, Depression became an alter ego, a Mr Hyde to my Dr Jekyll.
The self reflection was spurred on by my loving, albeit, fed up, partner, who coolly and logically pointed out to me that however bad I was feeling, it was infinitely worse without a few basic things - one of those being food. I really don't know why this wasn't immediately obvious to me, I am the poster child for 'Hangry' - (When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both - Urban Dictionary). It was probably because Depression made me not give a dam about my self - "if you're a waste of space anyway what's the point of taking care of yourself?" it said, "it makes no difference to your life, it won't make things better". What Depression didn't do is tell me the flipside - it never gives a balanced argument because that doesn't suit its ends of keeping you scared, isolated and hopeless, it’s the only way it can survive.
What Depression doesn't tell you is how much worse things are going to get if you listen.
So here I am, still sore from going about 50 rounds with Depression over the last few months, but determined to do a lot better. It's still here, but I've locked it in the cupboard for now, I can hear the banging but it's voice is much quieter.
This morning I woke to sight of Facebook telling me that a post of mine “violated Facebook’s community standards”. It concerned a video I viewed a few days ago that I felt the need to respond to, the details of which I’ll go into in a moment. The video immediately had my back up because it could easily be viewed without context. To me, the video features a great example of a person invoking white privilege to make a black woman appear as the aggressor, when in fact it was the other way around. Whether the video turns out to be a hoax or not, I didn’t like the undertones and felt very uncomfortable as the white lady screamed “you’re scaring me” - it touches a nerve brought about by the Jim Crow era, where a white lady only had to be looked at by a person of colour and that person of colour would soon be found dead.
In the video, it allegedly shows a white woman snatching an item from a black child’s hands during a black Friday sale. In the post, I said something about the context of her snatching the item and her reaction, calling the mother “aggressive” and shouting “you’re scaring me” (reinforcing black stereotypes of the ‘angry black woman’) whilst grappling for the box. At the end I posted whiteness is insipid, but could have easily said, whiteness is fragile.
On reflection, I could have put my post more elegantly, but I was angry & I'm not convinced it was “hate speech” worthy of deleting - there is no discourse to appeal Facebook’s decision, they effectively censor you. What’s interesting is that other friends of colour have had their posts censored too, the only common theme being calling out white privilege, or the double standards when reporting on black vs white lives?
I wonder, is this a reflection of my own ignorance, that I can’t recognise my own festering hatefulness or is it that white fragility is more pernicious and widespread than I first thought? It’s interesting because these reactions, with censorship, no doubt reflect the views of the demography of Facebook employees - White males. Whats even more telling, is that when you look at some of the other pages that have been banned, there’s a definite anti feminist anti people of colour theme. In 2014 Facebook page "Anarchist Memes", was taken down, it featured feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBT*QA, and anti-capitalist content. Apparently this was all too much for Facebook, which prior to banning the page, frequently scolded them for content that “violated” Facebook’s "Community Standards" and “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities”.
And it’s not just Facebook, white fragility is everywhere from calling the casting of John Boyega in Star Wars, “White Genocide” to complaining that if an all white The Wiz was made, there’d be outrage and claims of racism, all the while ignoring the fact that there already has been an all white version of The Wiz - The Wizard of Oz… I could go on.
The fact is, the rise of movements such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ has since a equal if not greater rise of "White Fragility” or Insipidness if you’re a bit of a logophile like me, and with increased white fragility, we see an increase in racism, and racist Facebook pages such as “I’m White”, “White Genocide Project and “White Geocides Memes 3” - apparently they are acceptable but calling whiteness insipid is not.
Now I consider myself to be British, my grandparents came here on the windrush and before that via the transatlantic slave trade, but as far as I'm concerned I have as much right to be here as everyone else. I was born in St Thomas hospital, just spitting distance from the Thames, I've lived in south London nigh on most of my life - minus a few years when I tried it 'up north' for a bit, but I learnt my lesson... I've been a council tenant, can drink my own body weight in tea and I've even been on the dole for a brief period - if I'm not British then I don't know who is!
Given my highly credible 'British' qualifications it may surprise you to learn that I've never done a British holiday, yes I've been to Brighton, but Brighton is not typical of your average seaside town - thanks Gay people for helping to up Brighton's tolerance levels - the reason, much like the Deep South in America, I have visions of being run out of town by angry townsfolk clutching rolled up copies of the Daily Mail instead of pitchforks. Also I don't like being stared at, and that tends to happen a lot outside of London, in fact outside of most of the major cities in the UK.
So with this in mind and a healthy dose of nonchalance I ventured to the UK's Riviera for the day - or the Kent coast to be exact.
The town of Deal - I still can't get used to the name, every time I say it I think I'm saying it wrong! About 20minutes drive away from Dover port, along a winding road where the speed limit says 50mph (but you're sure someone added the zero as a joke) you reach a lovely little town, Deal, with one road in and one road out... I know that's usually how most horror stories start but my trip to Deal was anything but horrific. At first glance the town centre seems quaint and filled with the types of shops I love, independent, quirky and staffed by slightly eccentric people - a recent divorcee, who proceeds to extoll the benefits of Pilates and Viagra. At closer inspection Deal seems to be undergoing the same gentrification as London, one half of the high street is all artisan bread and expensive coffee, while the other side is Superdrug and the pound-shop... I get chatting to a 'local' at the greasy cafe on the pound-shop end of the a high street, who tells me that over the last ten years yuppies from London have slowly been infiltrating, I don't mention where I'm from, I'm already Brown, I don't need to draw more attention to myself! While Deal has its own set of landed gentry, it seems they have been here for years and manage to blend with the locals, albeit wearing more tweed and with lower BMI...
The seafront is a sight to behold, blue/aquamarine water gently rolls into the shore - I'm sure someone's turned up the colour out here because I'm used to the murky brown waters of the Thames- I'm not used to this! And quite frankly I can see why someone may choose this over travelling abroad - it's beautiful. Ok so I am aware that I am on a rare sunny day in England, but honestly as I sit on the pebbles looking out to sea I can safely say I am as relaxed as any other holiday I've been on. I seem to have struck lucky with this trip, the UK is experiencing a bit of an Indian summer; the weather is just perfect, all blue skies and warm sunshine. I sit on the beach, it's pebbles, but it's clean, I can't see any litter anywhere, not on the ground, and not washing up on shore, I'm sure I've accidentally driven through the channel tunnel and am somewhere else, because this can't be England can it? An old lady and a small child have stopped to gawk at me, it's the cane roll, they've never seen anything so spectacular I'm sure - well that's what my ego tells me anyway. I spot another brown person and tail them for a few yards for support before they go into the curry house kitchen - someone's gotta make the curry round here I guess...
I leave them and head back to the seafront to check out the local activities. So what does one do when Black-on-Sea? Well what everyone else does, roam around the arcade, eat fish and chips and complain about the weather! I spot the arcade, it reminds me of a dystopian nightmare, think of the giant in twin peaks and that about sums up the guy behind the counter... Some of the brightly coloured machines have disturbing animatronic puppets that beckon you to part with your cash, while all the remaining staff look like the living dead, except they can't be bothered to chase you and eat your brain. It's a strange mix of old and new on every level..staff, the machines, the punters... But I spot in the corner a memory of childhood, the sweet stand, complete with giant sugar dummies, candy floss and Rock! I bought the rock... Drew the line at the giant sugar dummy... Must remember I'm a grownup!
Whats's this? I spy a mobile catering van out the corner of my eye, a small queue is forming so I am curious, I venture over and it's a local seafood van, selling cockles and mussels alive alive oh... Ok maybe not alive, but I'm getting into the the spirit of the British holiday! Now I may be British, but I am not brave enough to try cockles, I'm sorry, they just look like cochlea's and I just can't... The old guy in front of me tells me that I don't know what I'm missing... I certainly do I think and politely return to the sea front.
To round off my short trip to Deal, I decide to do a bit of investigative reporting. I've heard & seen on the national news that seagulls can be right little tea leafs, stealing food out of people's hands & generally engaging in anti-social behaviour. Now this I have to see, as I proceed to wander about the pier with a carelessly held portion of chips in my hand & a tasty bap in the other, but alas i am left well alone… all the delinquent seagulls have been issued with ASBO's....
How does someone like me, with absolutely zero blagging skills end up backstage with Cannibal Ox? Well it’s a long and complicated process that starts with the decision to become a doctor, swiftly followed by years of torture in an NHS hospital, during which at some point you hear ‘The Cold Vein’ immediately become obsessed with it and proceed to bide your time over the next 14years until they release a second album and tour in London.
But the careful planning and manipulation of fates doesn’t end there, you subliminally plant ideas in the mind of a visiting Italian tourist that it would be a great idea to smoke a bunch of weed and drink a whole lot of beer, so that they whitey right at the start of the gig and muggins here has to perform first aid on them to stop them from going into cardiac arrest, and as the immortal lines “My mother said you sucked my pussy when you came out” you have to run back in and out of the gig as you are torn between saving this idiots life and seeing one of your all time favourite Hip Hop artists perform one of your favourite albums ever!!
You then miss the start of the gig as you ensure the life of a fellow Can Ox fan is saved, but you don’t care because you are just so hyped to see them and the venue isn’t that big so you’re sure they’ll come out at the end to meet us. The performance is awesome, Vast Aire’s lyrics are coming at you fast and thick, Vordul Mega at his side spinning his dystopian vision in front of your eyes. There’s some dude up on stage called Double-AB that for some reason is still on stage, but you don’t care, cos Can Ox are here!! Vast Aire’s face makes you chuckle cos he keeps looking at the crowd with a cheeky grin and you wonder what he’s thinking as we are all going mental at him, raising our hands, chanting, whatever he commands, I look across at Vordul Mega, he seems to smile at me as I leap into the air bouncing to Harlem nights.
The gig ends, I can’t quite believe it, I go and wait by the merch stand hoping they’ll come out, they don’t, I am crestfallen, then the security lady who was helping with the Italian guy spots me, we have a good laugh about fainting at hip hop gig, I lament that I haven’t been able to meet my heroes, the next thing I know she’s shoving a AAA backstage pass in my hand and telling me to go and have fun!! I almost lose my shit, hug her and disappear backstage.
Vast Aire is sitting down, no sign of Vordul Mega, a few hangers on and I wait while Vast Aire is visibly bored by a drunken groupie who has somehow managed to worm her way past security and is claiming to be doing a 'study' that clearly requires a personal interview with Can Ox - I overhear him giving her his number - I could have had his number!! but then that would have been creepy and stalkerish. They finish, surprisingly I don’t completely chat gibberish, it's like some weird sort of zen calm has come over me, I thank him for the gig, thank him for well, everything, including shit he has no connection to what so ever - penicillin, the fall of the Berlin wall… just kidding… I enquire about more music, he tells me there is much in the pipelines with a wry grin and more visits to the UK - YES!! I leave him as he tells me to check out the Harlem Nights video which has just been released. I enter another room, Vordul Mega is there, I tell him that Cold vein is up there for me with Liquid Swords. Vordul Mega almost looks as though he’s about to cry, he tells me that before they wrote it, they sat around listening to Liquid Swords and how it inspired them to make The Cold Vein, we hug, I take photos, they are lovely, they sign everything for me!!
I am star struck, but reluctantly I have to leave, but I leave having had one of the best nights of my life.
In a Galaxy far far away, well Canada Water, but it felt like another planet, Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine to be precise, for the geniuses at Secret Cinema have brought Star Wars to life, in this otherwise quiet corner of London.
Canada Water feels like an apt setting for this immersive theatre/cinema experience that is Secret Cinema. The bus station exit of the underground feels like a giant space port, as tribes of Londoners criss cross its hallways to their onward destination. Of course Londoners don’t bat an eye lid as groups of ‘travellers’ start appearing dressed like bedouin nomads, steam punk pilots and martial arts gurus (depending on which group you have been assigned) from the corners of the station.
The first test has been passed - 1. Look the part - and look the part we did! As we channelled our inner Jedi, or Kochanski from red dwarf as did one of our crew, the next challenge awaited us, find the flipping place!! Having accosted several very enthusiastic Star Wars fans thinking they were part of the show we found ourselves in a warehouse loading bay frantically running around while the Secret Cinema team herded us onward to our ‘planetary’ destination.
I won’t say too much about what happened inside, as that would ruin the beauty of the experience, but I urge you to go at least once, its unlike anything you will have seen before. Unfortunately I have few photos from the event, we weren’t allowed to take photos, but devious me managed to sneak a few! All your favourite characters were there, R2D2, C3P0, Chewbacca, Bobafet, I could go on!! Needless to say the night lived up to all my Star Wars fantasies, as scenes from the movie unfolded before us, there were rapturous cheers from the ‘audience’ as the immortal line was uttered - “These are not the droids you are looking for".
It might not have been a strictly secret Cinema, but it was every bit as magical and epic!
Is it ever ok to pretend to be something you’re not?
“We’re all from the African continent.” says Rachel Dolezal when questioned recently by KXYL on her racial identity.
Well I mean hell, if we’re gonna go down that road then, Hitler is Black, so is Bush, Thatcher and Cameron, but no one really gives much of a dam because to all intents and purposes they look white, identify themselves as white and live their lives happily in predominantly white arenas with their all white families. And herein lies the problem with race, no matter where you are from, however much Black, White, Brown and blue you have in you people will make up their own minds based on their perceptions and social constructs, on what race you really are - prompting the question “No where are you really from?” which those who appear racially ambiguous are no doubt, all too familiar with.
Now this lady is the leader the Washington chapter of NAACP, and she’s also a part-time African American Studies professor at Eastern Washington University, teaching a class called “The Black Woman’s Struggle.” - I almost fell over myself reading that last bit, I don’t think irony is the right word here, that suggests a juxtaposition with an opposing idea that often produces humour - I think the juxtaposition comes from the “Hell No!” screaming in my head, alongside the tears of laughter at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole affair. No, I think the right word here (to call upon my Jamaican ancestry) is “Facety” - accompanied by a large ‘kiss of the teeth’ and a comment about babylon and reparations… but seriously, its both embarrassing, insulting as well as highly amusing in equal measure.
This is not the first time that people have attempted to ‘pass’, we only have to look back recent history and there are countless stories of African American’s passing for white, but the difference being they did it to try and acquire some of the white privilege and rights that were not available to Black people during this time, exchanging ones racial identity for social currency and mobility. But this lady for whatever reason felt the need to identify as Black to further her career and ‘special interest’ in Black people? I guess the only redeeming feature is that unlike Iggy Azalea, and other white people who bite Black culture, she at least has engaged with our struggles and tried to understand our oppression - but seriously lady, you just come off like ‘Boss Lady’ from Awkward Black Girl.
Leave all your preconceived ideas at the door, this is an awesome anime for the more discerning anime geek. When does play become more than play? What is the meaning of victory and competition? Should you sacrifice pleasure for success? What is it that defines adulthood from adolescence? Ping pong the Animation is so much more than a story about a sport.
What made me stop and take a look was noticing that the Manga is from the same writer of Tekkonkinkreet - Matsumoto Taiyou and the director is Yuasa Masaaki of Tatami Galaxy (one of my all time favourite anime series) - with these two heavyweights on the team I had to stop and take a look.
I confess this anime completely passed me by first time around, I mean it’s not my usual thing, it’s about Ping Pong right? Wrong! If anything the title Ping Pong is a red herring, this anime is much more about friendship, maturity, the absurdity of competition and defining yourself by one thing. Remove the Ping Pong and there’s the same posturing, battling to define yourself while growing up, egos and gang culture that permeates youth and seeps into adulthood too. At times you could easily transpose the scenes to an altercation between rival Yakuza, such was the dialogue and interactions between the characters - some people take Ping Pong very seriously indeed.
The main protagonist ‘Smile’ can be beautifully summed up by his comment in episode one
“smiling, getting angry - that stuff makes me tired” he's so wonderfully dead pan, so endearingly cynical, and yet there’s a brooding deepness that makes you want to learn more about him. His friend ‘Peco’ juxtaposes against him nicely, he’s the total opposite in many ways, it’s what I love about Matsumoto’s writing, he does characters extremely well, they’re complex, 3 dimensional and flawed in their own ways. I can see many parallels in the friendship between 'Peco' and ‘Smile' that are present in Tatami Galaxy, the main difference being the duration of the friendship - Matsumoto has a knack of writing incredibly annoying but charming characters such as ‘Peco' and extremely cynical ones like 'Smile' - I wonder if these introverted yet fiery characters are a refelction of Matsumoto himself?
Many do not like the animation style, but I love it, it’s very physical, often the bodies of characters in anime can be quite static and similar in shape, but with Yuasa’s style it’s not only their faces that express emotion, it’s as if their whole bodies reflect their personalities and show their emotions. There’s a beautiful realism to the animation style, people are imperfect, as is the world.
Ping Pong the Animation is more than just an anime about a Table Tennis it’s a story about modern life and the choices we make, it's brutal, beautiful, eandearing and funny. I love this anime!