OK, I just made a meme.
Yes, they keep calling.
On an unrelated note, may the unforgettable Nichelle Nichols rest in peace.
OK, I just made a meme.
Yes, they keep calling.
On an unrelated note, may the unforgettable Nichelle Nichols rest in peace.
Stereotypes hurt people.
Television, sitcoms in particular, often rely on stereotypes. But it’s not always a Bad Thing. When the stereotype itself is the object of ridicule, kind of holding up a mirror for the audience to look into, stereotypes can actually help turn ours into a better society. The Big Bang Theory is a good example: its Jewish (Howard Wolowitz) and Indian (Raj Koothrappali) protagonists mock not Jews and Indians but our prejudices.
But other stereotypes are more troubling. One notable example, discussed recently, is the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in The Simpsons: a stereotypical Indian-American running a convenience store, speaking with a funny accent.
Yes, I recognize that the line between mocking people being stereotyped vs. mocking people who stereotype others is a thin one. But I think it is drawn somewhere between The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons. The Big Bang Theory‘s humor is defensible because it does not dehumanize the protagonists. The Simpsons, sadly, doesn’t fare that well. No wonder Hank Azaria no longer wants to be the voice of Apu.
However, when it comes to the point of a Caucasian voice actor voicing a non-Caucasian character, I think we are going one step, no, make that one giant leap, too far.
You see, I thought actors, you know, act. That is, pretend to be something they are not.
But now you are telling me that a naturally blond actress cannot play a brunette? Or a Jewish actor cannot play a German officer?
Or is this concern specifically reserved for, I don’t know, “race”? Or what’s the new catchphrase, people who are “racialized”? (Whatever the devil that means.) Because somehow, the color of your hair doesn’t matter but the color of your skin makes you… different?
And does it go both ways? Are Indian actors forbidden to play Europeans? Are black actors forbidden to play white roles? In any case, who decides what kind of acting is acceptable, and what crosses the line? Heaven forbid, into the territory of “cultural appropriation”?
In my all time favorite movie, Cloud Atlas, several actors play as many as a half dozen different roles, in different eras and cultures. These include a Korean actress playing, in one storyline, the role of the wife of a 19th century San Francisco lawyer. Another Korean actress, in a male (!) role, plays as a bellboy in 1970s San Francisco. Hugo Weaving plays the role of a sadistic female nurse in early 21st century Scotland, but also the role of an authoritarian Korean politician in 22nd century New Seoul. And so on.
You can guess which of these roles were criticized by some. “Yellowface” we were told, as if Cloud Atlas had anything to do with Hollywood’s racist past from many decades ago. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather, what that movie told me with its choice of actors and roles is that skin color, this so-called “race”, matters as little as the color of your hair or your eyes. It means nothing. We are all members of the one and only human race. And just as a blond actress can play the role of a brunette or a male actor can play in a female role, a black actor can play as a white person while a person of European descent can credibly play a Korean. Because these superficial differences in appearance mean nothing.
The suggestion that a white actor cannot lend his voice to an Indian character in a cartoon is preposterously backward. It seems designed to maintain racial discrimination. It, to use that fashionable phrase again, promotes and preserves racialization, instead of helping us progress towards a post-racial society in which all human beings are judged by the strength of their character, and the color of their skin matters no more than the color of their hair.
The cartoon series The Simpsons is into its 32nd season this year. It has been picked up for at least another two seasons by Fox.
The Simpsons depicts a “typical” American family of five: Homer the breadwinner, with only a high-school diploma, holding a dead-end but secure job as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Plant, Marge the housewife, mother of three children and the three kids, two of them school-age, one still a toddler. The Simpsons live in a detached house in a suburb and own two cars. They are not rich, but they do have disposable income: Homer spends his evenings gulping down beer as Moe’s Tavern, Marge never seems to have a problem paying for groceries.
In other words, The Simpsons live the American dream: a comfortable North American middle class lifestyle from a single income.
A dream that, as lamented in a recent opinion article in The Atlantic, is no longer attainable.
This, I think, really explains it all. The polarization of American politics. The emergence of extremism. The appeal of slogans like “Make America Great Again”. The “we have nothing to lose” attitude that led many to vote for Trump, despite their misgivings.
And it is by no means a US-only phenomenon. Income inequality may not be as bad in Canada as it is in the US, but the middle class is not doing spectacularly well here either. Europe, too, is not heading in the right direction.
Lest we forget the lessons of history, this is precisely what provides fertile ground for totalitarian ideologies like fascism and communism. When liberal democracy fails to deliver on society’s most basic promise, the ability to provide a life as good as, but preferably better than your own for your children, people turn to other ideas. That was just as true a century ago as it is today.
The other day, I ran across a question on Quora asking why Einstein didn’t support his country, Germany, during the Second World War. Thinking about this question reminded me of an old Star Trek episode and one of the root concepts (or, at least, my reading of it) of the Abrahamic family of religions.
In answering the question, I pointed out the difference between supporting a country vs. supporting a regime. I argued that Einstein, though not even a citizen of Germany at the time (he gave up German citizenship after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, and became a naturalized US citizen in 1940), did, in fact, support his country of birth, precisely by the act of following his conscience and opposing the despotic, murderous Nazi regime.
And that takes me to the Star Trek episode Bread and Circuses from 1968. In this episode, the USS Enterprise encounters a planet governed by a regime not unlike the Roman Empire, but with 20th century technology, broadcasting gladiatorial matches by analog television. In due course, the crew of the Enterprise gets into trouble and link up with a group of rebellious Sun-worshippers. When at the end of the episode, after the conflict is resolved and the good guys prevail as usual, Spock expresses surprise over the fact that such a primitive religion could have survived on this planet into its modern era, Uhura corrects him by clarifying that they were, in fact, worshippers of the son of God. In other words, this planet’s version of early Christianity arrived two thousand years later than on the Earth.
Christianity borrows its creation mythology from Judaism, including the notion of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge, the fruit of which let Adam and Eve understand the difference between good and evil. In my reading, this is what it really means when the Bible proclaims that humans are created in God’s image: that just like God, humans are free agents with a conscience, capable of acting independently, not robots blindly executing a predetermined divine script. They even have the capacity to act against God’s will.
Think about this, just what a revolutionary, what a deeply subversive concept this really is even today, never mind ancient times. The Book of Genesis is probably about 3,000 years old if not older. Egypt, in its third intermediate period, was ruled by pharaohs, seen as intermediaries between gods and ordinary people, whose words must be obeyed. Whether or not the Egyptian captivity happened (there do appear to be reasons to doubt), it’s no wonder Egypt’s rulers didn’t look kindly upon these pesky Jews and their subversive religion that claimed that it is more important to listen to your conscience than to blindly follow the orders of your divine ruler.
Despots can claim whatever they want: They can claim to represent the state, they can even claim to be the earthly representative of a divine power, like the pharaohs of old, but you have something over which they have no power: your conscience, which allows you to defy the will of any ruler, even God’s will, just as Adam and Eve have done back in the Garden of Eden.
And this is precisely what Einstein did when he lent his support, for instance, to Leo Szilard’s letter to Roosevelt that arguably launched the Manhattan project: Instead of slavishly following a despot claiming to represent the country of his birth, he listened to his conscience.
I just visited Twitter.
This is Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, played by Marina Sirtis.
Deanna Troi was not my favorite character, but I always respected Marina Sirtis. So I was very sad to see the death of her husband, Michael Lamper, announced on Sirtis’s Twitter account. They have been married as long as my wife and I.
And then this is Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, played by René Auberjonois.
According to his Twitter account, René Auberjonois passed away today, at the age of 79.
As I said, a sad day.
One of the few news shows I still watch is Reliable Sources on CNN, a weekly backgrounder on Sundays.
Yesterday, Robert De Niro was interviewed in one segment.
He certainly did not hide his opinion about Fox News. Gave me a good chuckle, too, but then I remembered why he was saying what he was saying and it no longer felt funny at all.
Yes, it can get cold in Toronto. Usually not as cold as Ottawa, but winters can still be pretty brutal.
But this brutal, this late in the season?
Yes, according to The Weather Network earlier this morning, the temperature overnight will plummet to -59 degrees Centigrade next weekend.
Yikes. Where is global warming when we need it?
I first read about this in George Takei’s Twitter feed. Then I checked it on Snopes, and it is true.
There really was a 1958 episode of a television Western (an episode titled The End of the World, of the series Trackdown), in which a character named Trump, a con artist, proposes to build an impenetrable wall to protect a town’s inhabitants.
This stunning young lady is none other than future First Lady of the United States, Barbara Bush, back in 1943.
Alas, Barbara Bush is no more. She passed away today after a prolonged illness.
She was genuine, she was funny, and she was noble. Her husband for more than 70 years, George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush were clearly a loving couple until the very end.
And she even appeared on The Simpsons.
Breaking news on CNN: Another school shooting in America.
My only problem with CNN’s reporting is… why do they call this “Breaking News”?
That label should be reserved for news that is, well, unexpected and breaking. School shootings happen with such regularity, they should be part of CNN’s regularly scheduled programming.
No, it isn’t Friday yet.
But it seems that someone at CTV Morning Live wishes it was. Why else would they have told us that yesterday, February 28, was a Thursday? (Either that or they are time travelers from 2019.)
Then again, maybe I should focus on what they are actually saying, not on a trivial mistake they made: that even as parts of Europe that rarely see snow are blanketed by the white stuff, places in Canada and Siberia see unprecedented mild weather. A fluke or further evidence of climate change disrupting the polar vortex?
Here is something my wife spotted yesterday on the back of a garbage truck that was collecting garbage in our courtyard:
The other day, I bought a cantaloupe for my wife.
Today, as she was about to cut it in half, she noticed that it had two sticker labels. Not only that, but held just the right way, the thing looked just like a character from South Park:
Sunday was the premiere of the latest Star Trek series: Star Trek: Discovery. (Yes, I’m only blogging about it now. I’ve been busy.)
I read many comments on Facebook. One recurring complaint: It’s written by “feminazis”. No white males, indeed no whites at all on the ship’s bridge!
To be honest, this snowflake outrage already makes the show well worth watching. Oh my, no whites among the bridge crew! Well, guess what: We are a minority (around 6.5%) on this planet. If you take a random Earth ship from a random time in the far future, chances are its crew will have few white people among them. Mostly it will be Asians and Africans. And it’s not like I actually noticed the lack of white humans on the bridge until you called my attention to it. Then again, I don’t remember the color of their hair either. (Disclaimer: I am a middle aged white man.)
The show? The new Klingon appearance is distracting, but perhaps we can get used to it. The behavior of the crew is another thing altogether. Mutiny by the Vulcan-raised first officer? Really? A dead captain, a broken (or destroyed?) starship, and an imprisoned first officer at the end of the pilot? And what was that kangaroo court anyway? Hitler’s screaming judge Friesler showed more respect, more compassion than this Starfleet panel of judges. Hiding in the dark, they looked more like the Klingon tribunal that sentenced Kirk and McCoy in The Undiscovered Country. What, pray tell, does this have to do with Roddenberry’s Utopian vision of a Starfleet committed to the rule of law, high principles, and exploration?
I am also troubled by the lack of continuity. Interstellar mind meld? Spock has a half sister? Holographic subspace communications? Ship tech that seems far more advanced than anything on any of the Enterprises of TOS or TNG? Not sure what to make of it.
So it is another space show. It does have a decent budget. It even has potential. But I am not yet sure if it is Star Trek.
We shall see if it lives long and prospers.
I am watching the morning news and it’s all about numbers. Some good, some not so good, some really bad. Here are a few, in descending order:
I thought of turning these bullet points into a numbered list, but that would have been too confusing.
Moments ago, Anderson Cooper made his opinion clear about a guest on his show who was defending Trump:
LOL. Well said, Anderson.
Here is today’s gem of a survey question from CTV Ottawa:
My answer is greenish-pink, with whipped cream.
(To their credit, a corrected question appears on their Web site.)
I captured this close captioning gem several days ago but then promptly forgot about it.
I know, I know, it’s not easy to caption a conversation in real time. But it was still hilariously funny. Thanks for a good morning laugh.
For what it’s worth, as I recall the word that was actually used was “agree”. How that turned into “pee”, I have no idea.
Heard on tonight’s episode of Lucifer, featuring the adventures of Lucifer Morningstar, aka. the Devil, Lord of Hell, in present-day Los Angeles:
“So, we can… you know, talk about Caligula, Stalin, Trump. I mean, I know he’s not dead, but he’s definitely going.”
I am glad I wasn’t sipping a drink when I heard this, as I would surely have choked. Even without a drink, it was a close call.
Thanks for the laugh of the week.
Today is a remarkable day. I spent more than the usual amount of time peeking at either CBC Newsworld or CNN, and I have yet to see the face of a certain American real estate magnate turned reality TV show host turned politician; not that I particularly miss the sight of his toupee.
The reason why Mr. Trump didn’t appear on screen is the multitude of other things happening.
For us here in Canada, the most consequential news are the federal budget, the first by Justin Trudeau’s recently formed liberal government. As promised, it’s a budget about spending and spending some more; the projected deficits are huge. The premise of this budget is that deficit spending is necessary in order to help the stagnant economy.
News of the budget were almost dwarfed by news of the death of Toronto’s larger-than-life former major, Rob Ford. Rob Ford was intensely disliked as a politician, but I think few people wished him to die a miserable death from a rare form of cancer. As Ford himself said, his tenure as major, for better or for worse, will be remembered.
Then there is, of course, that terrible series of coordinated attacks in Belgium, with dozens dead. In addition to an impotent, and likely excessive response by inept authorities (I just saw that the airport in Brussels will be shut for three days), it will also likely trigger a new wave of islamophobia, xenophobia. A message that, thankfully, has few followers in Canada, as splendidly evidenced by the negative response in Quebec to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s visit, which is coming to its conclusion.
What was supposed to be the big news of the day is the end of another politician’s trip abroad, namely Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba… but the CNN anchors broadcasting from Havana are talking mostly about the Brussels attacks and their aftermath.
The other big news of the day was supposed to be the “winner-take-all” Arizona caucus… but with all the other stuff going on, I have not yet heard this mentioned on CNN or CBC Newsworld today. Thus, no Donald Trump on my television screen either.
All this news makes me wonder if The Globe and Mail tomorrow might end up being published with not one but maybe three consecutive cover pages.