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 Skin color- how much does it matter?

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Tue May 05, 2015 12:51 pm

I love the idea of movies based on African (or Indian or Japanese and etc) fairy tales... but I'm not sure they'd be welcomed by all. The line between celebration and exploitation is pretty slim.
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Tue May 05, 2015 1:22 pm

I agree - Hollywood has to bank on movies that will appeal to the white majority.  As an example, the Christmas remake of "Annie" starred two African-American actors as Annie and the Daddy Warbucks character.  But when Target sold dresses as a tie-in to the movie, all the girl models in the dress ads were white.

Exploitation has never gone away.  The late Russell Means had a role in "The Last of the Mohicans," and wrote that the movie included what he called an "African village scene" - Indians were depicted torturing white captives to death for sport.  I recall a similar scene in "The Emerald Forest", with Brazilian Indians.

As far as movies about pre-Columbian Indians, "Apocalypto" was just plain gross.  "The Emperor's New Groove" was really a modern comic look at Indians of Central America.

Most movies about Black Africans and Australian Aborigines seem to be in context of white civilization:  colonization, slavery, reservations, removals, or ghetto life.  "Walkabout", the 1971 film about the Australian Aborigine boy who rescues two white children, ended in disappointment.  I enjoyed "Rabbit Proof Fence", but I didn't see the aborigines interacting with each other in large numbers.

"Amistad" and "Captain Phillips" were good examples of how Africans might respond to circumstances created by a white majority, and still maintain their culture or character. Both stories take place in a white man's world, and the pirates and slaves are hardly the masters of their fate.

I'd just like to see a summer blockbuster or major holiday family movie, in which an African, American Indian or other aboriginal cast supports a little boy or girl in a growing-up story.  Native architecture, crafts, sports, customs and values should be celebrated.  I don't need to see white people, either as bad guys, rescuers, victims or passive observers.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Tue May 05, 2015 8:38 pm

One step in the right direction was "The Book of the Dead," which was based on Mexican culture and legend. All the characters were Hispanic.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Tue May 05, 2015 10:22 pm

I should have rented that for Cinco de Mayo, but I spent all day running errands.

The entertainment media is aware of the fact that the Hispanic middle class is growing. This is why Dora the Explorer is heavily merchandised.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Tue May 05, 2015 10:54 pm

Have you seen "Whale Rider?" Might do for what you're looking for, Trollbabe.

Come to think of it, "Lilo and Stitch," the biggest role for a white person was all the Elvis Presley songs. I love that movie.

I hated "Emperor's New Groove" until I realized it was more Looney Tunes than Disney.
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Tue May 05, 2015 11:03 pm

Never saw "whale Rider", although I have heard of it. I'll have to look for it.

I remember reading that "Lilo and Stitch" was initially going to take place in the Midwest. I guess somebody liked the Elvis movie "Blue Hawaii."

I ended up renting "Dear White People" because it wasn't released to a local theater. When I rented it, I noticed the trailers include in the video were for movies intended for an African-American audience. It was discouraging to think that a movie about racial dialogue wasn't being marketed to the people who needed to see it the most.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Wed May 06, 2015 1:44 am

Trollbabe wrote:

I remember reading that "Lilo and Stitch" was initially going to take place in the Midwest.  I guess somebody liked the Elvis movie "Blue Hawaii."

Naw, the dude just literally went to Hawaii, fell in love with Hawaii, put the movie in Hawaii. That's the story. They had a few indigenous Hawaiian voice actors, and they worked with local musicians, sent animators there to draw(fun fact, this was one of the last Disney movies to use watercolours).
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Wed May 06, 2015 12:17 pm

Good to see you here, Kathleen! Is there a Kathleen 2.0?

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Wed May 06, 2015 2:24 pm

Yup, Kathleen 2.0 ended up in the "Frozen Desert" (read: the last version of what was the Scroll of Colors once) ...

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 12:37 am

Uhm, Egyptians are as black as people from Morocco are, they are Arabs... So a Pharao played by someone from a subsaharian country wouldn't be correct either. Later quite a lot of Egyptians worked as slave traders.

There aren't many black characters in Game of Thrones, but there are some. And they are more than just slaves.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 3:04 am

Didn't they also do the opposite; cast white people as slaves in Meereen? To "make up" for the final scene in 'Mhysa'. Because having a lot of black people hoist a white girl into the air, calling her "mother", because just liberated them has some pretty unfortunate implications.
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 4:52 am

Miss Gillespie wrote:
Uhm, Egyptians are as black as people from Morocco are, they are Arabs... So a Pharao played by someone from a subsaharian country wouldn't be correct either. Later quite a lot of Egyptians worked as slave traders.

There was a whole dynasty of Nubian Pharaohs. Who were black.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 12:30 pm

This reminds me, I often brag about growing up in the Arabian peninsula as an expat kid.

Whenever Hollywood does a movie about this part of the world, they tend to cast people who have the same Semitic features and coloring. (In "The Kingdom", it appears they even opened a big case of the traditional head scarf, or ghutra, all in the same color, unfaded, for all the Arab men to wear. LOL!) I guess they think the audience would be confused by black Arabs.

Opinions vary as to what constitutes the Middle East, but this region has been heavily traveled by caravan and ship, for thousands of years. Before the Suez Canal was built, people could simply walk between Africa and Arabia. So many of the people throughout the Mideast are of Black African descent, as well as Semitic.

After Islam was established in the seventh century, people came to Mecca from all over the world. Oil trade in the twentieth century created a population boom of technicians and laborers. Arabia is now a kaleidoscope of complexions.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 2:05 pm

Leanan wrote:
Miss Gillespie wrote:
Uhm, Egyptians are as black as people from Morocco are, they are Arabs... So a Pharao played by someone from a subsaharian country wouldn't be correct either. Later quite a lot of Egyptians worked as slave traders.

There was a whole dynasty of Nubian Pharaohs. Who were black.

Yes, a dynasty that lasted for one hundred years. This doesn't make Ancient Egypt black, the same way the Yuan dynasty doesn't make Imperial China Mongol. And in most cases the movie Pharaohs cover different dynasties. There are interesting and impressive black kingdoms (e.g. the Yoruba in Nigeria, Ethiopia) nevertheless Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 2:16 pm

Trollbabe wrote:

I noticed, in American culture, much of our fantasy fiction is modeled after Europe, from the Middle Ages to the Rennaissance.  The sword-and-sorcery genre may be set in something resembling Greek and Roman times, with medieval elements thrown in, but it's still Eurocentric.

I think this has mostly to do with the fact that authors of fantasy stories as well as their readership tend to be white*. The European-y pseudo-medieval setting is just the one they can identify with best. There are Chinese and Japanese fantasy authors who do the same thing as the Western authors, just with Asian settings. It's just their work doesn't get translated often (unless it's a manga).




*Game of Thrones has a large non-white audience, so apparently it's possible to enjoy the show without being Caucasian Razz
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 2:52 pm

Trollbabe wrote:
I'd just like to see a summer blockbuster or major holiday family movie, in which an African, American Indian or other aboriginal cast supports a little boy or girl in a growing-up story.  Native architecture, crafts, sports, customs and values should be celebrated.  I don't need to see white people, either as bad guys, rescuers, victims or passive observers.

Keep an eye out for the forthcoming Disney film "Moana", which will be about a Polynesian "princess". (Not really a princess, from the little I've gathered, but an equivalent who will probably fit in with their princess line.)

I think the only casting I have heard for it so far is that Dwayne Johnson has a speaking/singing role. So that's one step in the right direction.
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 2:59 pm

(Just to say: this is a really interesting thread! Some really good stuff in here.)

wingthing wrote:
I'm glad you pointed that out. Because my gut reaction on reading that remark was "but they totally have... like, Native American features" - and then I realized... but I first saw the Sun Folk in color. So naturally I associate their features with their skin tone in my head.

And then I realized that if I had first seen them in b&w, I would have considered their features as ethnically identical to the Wolfriders. The power of first impressions.

I first read EQ in 1986, and at the time was able to pick up the original Father Tree Press graphic-novel volumes 1-2-3, which took the story up to the cliffhanger when the trolls attacked and the Go-Backs swooped in to save everyone. At that time, volume 4 hadn't yet been published, but was coming out in the summer of 87 (I think?).

I did my first EQ fan art that summer, and although I hadn't gotten to read volume 4 yet, a friend who had read the original b&w single issues had shown me some of the interior art. But I hadn't gotten to see the color covers, or the color version yet. All I really knew about the Go-Backs was that -- and this was on the report of my friend -- that they were "sort of Inuit elves". (Which, in retrospect, isn't THAT accurate a description, but I got what she meant, later.)

So my first fan-art of the Go-Backs gave them all dark skin-color, similar to the Sun Folk, because I figured "if they're Inuit elves, they must be non-white".

Alas! Would have been kind of cool if that had been part of their design… although, considering the characterization of the Go-Backs as a whole, maybe it wouldn't have been the best idea.

Still, there you go, for another version of "you can't tell the intended skin-color from the b&w artwork, because all of the elves have the same type of features".
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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 9:59 pm

Miss Gillespie wrote:
Trollbabe wrote:

I noticed, in American culture, much of our fantasy fiction is modeled after Europe, from the Middle Ages to the Rennaissance.  The sword-and-sorcery genre may be set in something resembling Greek and Roman times, with medieval elements thrown in, but it's still Eurocentric.

I think this has mostly to do with the fact that authors of fantasy stories as well as their readership tend to be white*. The European-y pseudo-medieval setting is just the one they can identify with best. There are Chinese and Japanese fantasy authors who do the same thing as the Western authors, just with Asian settings. It's just their work doesn't get translated often (unless it's a manga).


*Game of Thrones has a large non-white audience, so apparently it's possible to enjoy the show without being Caucasian Razz

Particularly in the past, but still extending into today, there are barriers that have prevented black authors from succeeding in the fantasy genre; and since there are so few fantasies showing black people, black audiences would naturally be smaller.  This is just an example of the systemic racism built into our culture.  

But there should be more fantasies by and about people of color.  The fact that the authors and audiences tend to be mostly white, and that therefore stories are based on white cultures and folklore, is part of the problem-- particularly in the US, where there certainly would be audiences of color were the stories written for them.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Thu May 07, 2015 10:16 pm

Eregyrn - Dwayne Johnson SINGING?? ROFL! He has a good voice, but the thought of him in a musical...

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Fri May 08, 2015 1:55 pm

I don't have time right now to appropriate reply, but I just wanted to give a big applause and agree fully with all the wonderful points that Trollbabe made here!

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Sun May 10, 2015 11:50 am

Miss Gillespie wrote:


Yes, a dynasty that lasted for one hundred years. This doesn't make Ancient Egypt black, the same way the Yuan dynasty doesn't make Imperial China Mongol. And in most cases the movie Pharaohs cover different dynasties. There are interesting and impressive black kingdoms (e.g. the Yoruba in Nigeria, Ethiopia) nevertheless Smile

I never claimed ancient Egypt was "black". What I said was:

Leanan wrote:

But if you write historical fiction and aim for accuracy, you can't have a black Pope or emperor of Rome (but a black Pharaoh of Egypt would be fine). Or if you have them, you also have to give lengthly explanations about how it could have happened.

(And I turned out to be wrong about the Emperors of Rome... oh well, we live and learn.)

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Sun May 10, 2015 1:03 pm

Thank you, Lunakat!

I have to credit my parents for raising me in a diverse environment. My father in particular taught me not to judge or bully people who looked different. I was an adult before I realized that Dad, as the son of a white man and a native woman, would have been considered a half-breed by his Filipino schoolmates. No doubt he'd been on the receiving end of bullying.

I distinctly remember being a very small child when I noticed an Arab man with very dark skin. (As I wrote earlier, the Arabs were generally Semitic or Negroid in appearance.) Mom scolded me, though not harshly, and I understood from that point on that it was wrong to point out that people had different skin colors.

You'd think I would have noticed earlier. As a child, I must have been slow to catch on to certain things. For example, my father had a scar in the middle of his face that I didn't know was a scar, until my mother told me it was from an auto accident.

Among the relatives with whom I grew up, were my mother's sister, her husband and her children. I was in my teens when my mother told me she and her sister were identical twins. How did I not notice?

When I was in my thirties, I went to an Indian Heritage booth at a festival, and saw a bunch of people who looked like my uncle on Mom's side. Next time I talked to my sister, she told me our uncle was an Oklahoma Cherokee.

BTW one of my father's first jobs was in a gold mine, and after WWII he became an engineer. I guess that makes me Two-Edge's daughter.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Sun May 10, 2015 2:18 pm

Trollbabe- I wish I could give your comments a thousand thumbs up! I would add more- but you said it all perfectly. Whatever your parents did was great!

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Sun May 10, 2015 3:53 pm

Thank you! I've always enjoyed your contributions to the Scroll, and I was so glad to find you here.

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PostSubject: Re: Skin color- how much does it matter?   Sun Jul 12, 2015 4:13 pm

I love this thread, and it was one of the best things Lunakat brought up before she got so thoroughly shut down on the old site.

I've always been vaguely uncomfortable with how 'white' the comic was asides from the Sunfolk (Being of Egyptian birth and descent, being raised in Arabic countries and then the UK and then US, it's the kind of thing you just find yourself paying attention to). But I've always loved Elfquest - I love the story. I tried to ignore how all the elves had perfect little button noses and tiny little perfect features, ***including the Sunfolk***. 'It's a comic,' I always silently reasoned with myself. And it is, so it didn't *really* bother me enough to stop reading the story since my love for it outweighed these nagging observations.

Then when the statement was made about how the palace was transforming all of them into taller and paler , I kind of cringed. It's a perfectly reasonable discussion to have, I feel. It's perfectly reasonable, if not healthy to talk about. I'm really glad it's being had here, and not being shut down.

In general, I feel it's not something Wendy went out of her way to ignore or anything when making EQ, but it kind of irks me a little sometimes. This would have been a fine time for the Pinis to address this.
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