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Episode 179 — Racist Caricatures In Sci-Fi


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#1 July Diaz

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 11:28 PM

Composer, pianist, and music producer Jay Israelson joins Andrew Ti on this fine Monday to discuss racist caricatures in science fiction movies & television. Be sure to call us at (323) 389-RACE to ask if anything is racist.

#2 Cracktivity

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 11:57 PM

This was a massively ignorant episode. Worthless.

#3 Shariq Torres

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:41 AM

Andrew is right that in sci-fi the humans are always represented by white people, specifically white men. I love sci-fi, but this has always been a sore point with me. There are some authors out there who trying to broaden the scope of what a sci-fi "human" is by adding people of color, etc, but for the most part it is a genre dominated by white male characters.

Also, this is going to be a long week. This guest reminds me of the other musician Andrew had on, the one who sounded like he took 20 sleeping pills and then decided to do the podcast.

#4 Joshie

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 07:25 AM

That ep. was ignorant as heck. Whenever there are aliens, they are not necessarily representing Otherized races. There's lots of stuff where they're totally alien, like unable to communicate, crystalline entities, or beyond us to the point where they don't even have anything related to us as a species (see, like, the Star Child at the end of 2001 a Space Odyssey or like, the Shrike from Hyperion) Also, lots of sci-fi isn't based on the elites at the top being right or justified at all. There's famous stuff like Dune that shows the white feudal lords on top having their entire culture basically overthrown by the desert future Muslims. There's also stuff like Time Machine (classic of all sci-fi) that shows how the rich upper class Victorians became weak and defenseless Eloi by hoarding their wealth and making things so hard for the lower classes that they turned into their actual predators in the Morlocks, and society was ruined by that process. On Deep Space 9 you have the Cardassians occupying Bajor, which, depending on how you interpret it, is either a pro-Jewish message against the Germans, or a pro-Palestinian message against Israeli occupation, either of which is a positive sci-fi representation of themes found in our day. This episode seemed to generalize racist-ass George Lucas movies to most everything in sci-fi, and those six movies are just one Hollywoodized soft science fantasy corner of the whole pie of thousands of good stories, etc. told over the years. Then there's the whole category of anime, a huge source of popular sci-fi today, and presenting things from a Japanese perspective, using our symbols in ways that wouldn't be approved of in the West by traditionalists (like say, Evangelion's use of Christian imagery and themes) that are challenging and diverse.

In the future should probably pass on things where neither person really has a grasp/real interest on the topic.

#5 pfchangs

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 08:49 AM

...didn't the Time Traveller bro help the petite, beautiful eloi kill the ape-like morlocks?

#6 Hyde Parker

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 09:09 AM

Quote

There's famous stuff like Dune that shows the white feudal lords on top having their entire culture basically overthrown by the desert future Muslims.


More like Space Persians (see: "Padishah") overthrown by Space Bedouins.

#7 Greymaker

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 10:42 AM

Just, stop. Please. This show is a stain on the otherwise A+ material of Earwolf.

#8 Michael Wo

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 12:37 PM

Wow, fewer sci-fi fans have showed up to complain than metalheads from a few weeks back.

#9 Matt Miller

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 02:42 PM

View PostShariq Torres, on 24 June 2013 - 05:41 AM, said:

Andrew is right that in sci-fi the humans are always represented by white people, specifically white men. I love sci-fi, but this has always been a sore point with me. There are some authors out there who trying to broaden the scope of what a sci-fi "human" is by adding people of color, etc, but for the most part it is a genre dominated by white male characters.


Really? Most of the far-future space opera I've read seems to hand out names in such a way as to suggest a diverse cast, often not even matching physical descriptions. Asian names for dark skinned characters, Irish names for characters with asian features, made up names that don't match any particular culture. Near-future stuff more often has alliances/planets/stations/etc of one culture, but certainly not "always white".

#10 Cracktivity

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 03:26 PM

Episodes like this are depressing because they make me realize that Andrew doesn't know very much--about history or culture or almost anything. Does he know that Star Trek was one of the only shows Martin Luther King allowed his children to watch because the Uhuru character was portrayed as an equal to the white characters?

Science Fiction has always been a place where racial politics could be extrapolated, satirized or seen through metaphor. And what about Samuel Delany or Octavia Butler or "Brother From Another Planet" or the current Will Smith movie?

The Star Wars movies are pretty racist, but it's ironic that this episode came out the same day George Lucas married a black woman.

#11 dlo burns

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 03:41 PM

View PostCracktivity, on 24 June 2013 - 03:26 PM, said:

Episodes like this are depressing because they make me realize that Andrew doesn't know very much--about history or culture or almost anything.


You did hear the episodes about his crappy free-range school, right?

View Postpfchangs, on 24 June 2013 - 08:49 AM, said:

...didn't the Time Traveller bro help the petite, beautiful eloi kill the ape-like morlocks?


I remember him abandoning them, and then he ended up in the crab-future.

View PostShariq Torres, on 24 June 2013 - 05:41 AM, said:

Also, this is going to be a long week. This guest reminds me of the other musician Andrew had on, the one who sounded like he took 20 sleeping pills and then decided to do the podcast.


I like when he can bounce off the more passive guests and really shine, but it still doesn't beat KING FUCK OF SHIT MOUNTAIN

#12 Joshie

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 04:02 PM

View PostMatt Miller, on 24 June 2013 - 02:42 PM, said:


Really? Most of the far-future space opera I've read seems to hand out names in such a way as to suggest a diverse cast, often not even matching physical descriptions. Asian names for dark skinned characters, Irish names for characters with asian features, made up names that don't match any particular culture. Near-future stuff more often has alliances/planets/stations/etc of one culture, but certainly not "always white".

I think there's a split here, I think the authors themselves are usually p. good, and for all the baggage that comes from a racist society, do try to be more diverse and inclusive, but Shariq is right about the Hollywood/business side of things, they're always trying to race-bend things and cast people who look more like white America than they were written, for instance, here's Orson Scott Card who wrote Ender's Game talking about the fight to get the movie adaptation of that book cast right:

http://www.hatrack.c...002-03-04.shtml

Quote

When you hear people complain that Hollywood is racist, you may think it's just political correctness or "the same old whine."
In fact, I've heard white people complain because there are too many black faces on screen. Of course, these are usually people from the West, where there aren't many black people around, period. So any black face looks noticeable and strange to them.

My answer to my western friends who say such things is, "I live in North Carolina, where we actually have black people, and from what I see, black people are way underrepresented." It usually shuts them right up.

But when you hear about how the best roles just don't go to black actors, I can tell you, it's true, and it's not an accident.

I've been in the meetings. Here's the conversation. "I think Andre Braugher would be perfect for this part. I think he's the best actor around in this age group, and this part would show off his best stuff."

"No, no, out of the question."

"Why?"

And here's what it comes down to: Hollywood believes -- and I've heard this even from blacks in the industry, working as executives and agents -- that white audiences won't go to movies starring blacks.

And when you say, "Will Smith," what's the answer?

"Oh, he's fine, as long as he has a white co-star to carry him."

Danny Glover is given no credit for Lethal Weapon. Samuel Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, even Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman -- "everybody" says you can't build a movie on them.

I think they're not just wrong, they're obviously wrong. Every one of them has starred in hits. But when they do, the credit for its success seems to flow to someone else.

I'm not making this up, folks. I've been in the meetings.

It's not a conspiracy. It's just that the people who run the movie biz are terrified of failure, and because "everybody" says that black stars can't open a movie, nobody dares to put these actors in films that might put some real money at risk.

And let's not even get started on what black actresses have to go through to get a part.


Obv. since then at least Will Smith got his own sci-fi big budget vanity project for him + his kid but it does suck how they never cast a huge movie the same like they did, The Wire, or whatever, with just equal numbers of diverse characters/good/interesting actors. They get Idris Elba for Thor or Prometheus and figure they've gone far enough <_<

#13 Garrett Brown

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:19 PM

View Postdlo burns, on 24 June 2013 - 03:41 PM, said:

I remember him abandoning them, and then he ended up in the crab-future.


Can you explain to me what you're referencing? Because, racist or not, I can't continue to live my life without witnessing the crab-future.

#14 Joshie

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 06:43 PM

View PostGarrett Brown, on 24 June 2013 - 05:19 PM, said:


Can you explain to me what you're referencing? Because, racist or not, I can't continue to live my life without witnessing the crab-future.


http://www.bartleby.com/1000/11.html

he loses his time machine to the morlocks, asks the eloi for help, they've lost any sense of human spirit or interest in doing anything not hedonistic, he goes underground to face the morlocks, they set up his time machine as an ambush, because they don't know he can use to escape, so he jumps in, goes like 30 million years in the future, and intelligent life his died out and there's just like, horrible crabs and poison plants that far in the future

#15 mall

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 07:40 PM

these racist caricatures are very racist imo

#16 dlo burns

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 09:51 PM

View PostJoshie, on 24 June 2013 - 06:43 PM, said:


http://www.bartleby.com/1000/11.html

he loses his time machine to the morlocks, asks the eloi for help, they've lost any sense of human spirit or interest in doing anything not hedonistic, he goes underground to face the morlocks, they set up his time machine as an ambush, because they don't know he can use to escape, so he jumps in, goes like 30 million years in the future, and intelligent life his died out and there's just like, horrible crabs and poison plants that far in the future


Or maybe he just ended up in Australia who knows.

#17 Shariq Torres

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 06:38 AM

View PostMatt Miller, on 24 June 2013 - 02:42 PM, said:


Really? Most of the far-future space opera I've read seems to hand out names in such a way as to suggest a diverse cast, often not even matching physical descriptions. Asian names for dark skinned characters, Irish names for characters with asian features, made up names that don't match any particular culture. Near-future stuff more often has alliances/planets/stations/etc of one culture, but certainly not "always white".



I guess we've read different stuff then. The things I've read are usually from a white male's perspective. I haven't read too many where the protagonist is not white.

#18 Hyde Parker

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 08:35 AM

Even the protag of Starship Troopers is Filipino.

#19 seanotron

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 09:17 AM

View PostHyde Parker, on 25 June 2013 - 08:35 AM, said:

Even the protag of Starship Troopers is Filipino.


Yeah, it always cracked me up that Johnny Rico from Buenos Aires was played by a white guy named Casper.*



*Before anyone jumps on me, I am aware many people in Argentina have lighter-skin and that there's a huge European influence there.

#20 seanotron

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 09:29 AM

Also, racism does have a presence in Sci-Fi just like it has a presence in every other genre. I think when it pops up in Sci-Fi it tends to be more disappointing because Sci-Fi as a genre is supposed to be forward-thinking and progressive. So when Star Trek normally tries so hard to be non-racist and then manages to be racist anyway (like this episode - http://en.wikipedia....ext_Generation) - ugh, this episode), it ends up being way more disappointing than when some random Syfy movie does it.