Wonder Woman is an origin story of sorts for Diana Prince a.k.a Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Amazon who leaves her home island of Themyscira to venture to aid the Allies in World War II. She is accompanied on her journey by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy who crash landed in Themyscira after escaping from the Germans with information on their new super weapons.
I originally planned to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday, and after some delays I finally got around to it last night. The film made headlines for being the first DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film to get good reviews, currently sitting at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not one to blindly follow reviews, but I know a lot of other people do. Relatively poor reviews for Man of Steel and horrendous ones for BatmanvSuperman led Warner Bros to force changes onto Suicide Squad that ultimately made that film worse e.g. cut out the abusive Joker and Harley Relationship, overload the film with songs to lighten the tone.
With that said, I realized that Wonder Woman was carrying the DCEU on its shoulders. This film needed to rekindle hope for the studio executives and the general audience. Did the film live up to the hype? I will say that it wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good.
Firstly, any regular readers will know that I despise the obsession with “fun” that is rampant these days, especially when it comes to comic book films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a whole is committed to keeping the films light, with Kevin Feige saying the films will never be dark. There is no better example of this than Thor: Ragnarok (the Asgardian term for Doomsday) being rewritten just to lighten the tone. I have no problem with levity and fun, but it is always better when it actually fits the situation and the characters. It gets tiresome when every serious moment or line is undercut by a one-liner.
Wonder Woman definitely has more levity and “fun” than MOS and BvS, but is darker than Suicide Squad. Yet it is still better than Suicide Squad. Point being, “fun” is not a guarantee of good, “dark” is not a guarantee of bad, and I hope studio executives don’t see Wonder Woman’s success as the sole result of its lighter tone.
The humour does work well in the film, mainly playing off Diana as a fish out of water in “Man’s World”. Gal Gadot truly shines when portraying Diana’s childlike curiosity and innocence as she learns more about Man’s World. Her performance is weaker when the script asks more of her. Fortunately, she is assisted by Chris Pine. After seeing Pine as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films I knew he would be great in this role and he didn’t disappoint. The character of Steve Trevor has often been used as comic relief and Pine nails that, while also deftly handling the more serious moments. Pine and Gadot are also assisted by their own rag-tag group, amongst which Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is the stand out.
One issue that the DCEU, like the MCU has had, are its villains. The MCU has Loki as its standout, and the DCEU is still trying to find its own. On repeat viewings, The Joker is underwhelming (not just due to his screen time), Doomsday’s weak CGI and tacked on introduction didn’t help his case, and Lex Luthor…they should have cast someone else. General Zod is one of the DCEU’s better contenders, a competent villain but not a very memorable one.
Wonder Woman fights against the Nazis here, with the main focus on General Erich Ludendorff (Daniel Huston) and Isabel Maru a.k.a Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). Although Ludendorff has more screen time, Doctor Poison was more memorable. Her mask probably helped to add to her screen presence, and I’d much rather see a slew of Doctor Poison costumes for Halloween this year than the Harley Quinn epidemic of last year. Not to take anything away from Huston either, his German accent is a bit hokey at times but overall he was enjoyable, with he and Doctor Poison forming a Joker/Harley dynamic.
Diana also has a more personal villain in the film. Many people may already know the villain I’m referring to, but I won’t delve into him too much to avoid giving too much away. Overall, the final villain’s reveal and the final fight scene could have been handled better.
A consistent issue with the DCEU has been its third act. Man of Steel still offers the best third act fight scene in my opinion, with Wonder Woman coming in second. Let’s not talk about Suicide Squad. Like BatmanvSuperman and MOS, WW’s last fight scene is somewhat hampered by some cartoonish effects. The effects in this sequence were more jarring since the visuals and action were pretty impressive up to this point. We don’t truly see Diana fight as Wonder Woman for at least fourty minutes into the film, but the fight is well worth it. I also didn’t feel like the film dragged up until this point or any other in the film. Aside from some poor effects, my only issue with the fight scenes is that slow-motion is overused at times. Otherwise, the action is fast-paced and well-choreographed. Let’s not forget the score, with the Wonder Woman theme being reminiscent of the Donner Superman one in terms of the excitement it generates.
Wonder Woman offers action, levity and some great performances. Wonder Woman also doesn’t shoehorn in any links to other DC characters. The only reference to another member of the Justice League is an organic one that helps to tie the story together and give an ending that has all the “hope” so many people say the DCEU is lacking. I walked out of the theater more excited about Justice League and the other DCEU films, while also hoping that the stories don’t end up being hampered by the “fun” mentality. WW’s tone was a great mix of dark and light, not afraid to show the dark side of human nature while also countering with a level of optimism that befits the character. Superman helped to counter the darkness in Batman, and Wonder Woman helps to counter the darkness in both.
Reviews have started pouring in and Wonder Woman looks like it is the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU’s) first critical darling.
I have never been one to follow critics blindly, but this is still news that I am happy to hear. In my opinion, Man of Steel was a decent (7/10) film hampered by some weak acting and some pacing issues. Batman v Superman came across as a rushed buildup to the Justice League, with a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a weak third act. Suicide Squad… let’s just move on.
Box office success is always imprtant to fans since a film is more likely to spawn a franchise if it is financially successful. If a film is not intended to be a franchise, financial success can still be good for fans since it is validation that other people watched something they enjoy. This is easy to understand but people often seem confused about why fans care abor critics. While the reviews may not impact my own enjoyment of a single film, they can have implications for a franchise. Batman v Superman nearly grossed one billion dollars but was still considered a box office disappointment rellative to expectations. Suicide Squad was a success financially but was critically panned. A string of films like this can cause studios to lose faith in directors or an entire film universe e.g. all the fanboys crying for the X-Men rights to back to Marvel after X:Men Apocalypse.
Wonder Woman is a chance to prove that a female led superhero film can be a critical and financial success, and that the DCEU ship can right itself. People who may have lost interest in the DCEU before, will be more likely to see Wonder Woman. If they like Wonder Woman, they’ll be more likely to see The Justice League, and so on. The DCEU can’t really be considered a failure prior to Wonder Woman, but it didn’t appear to be headed in the right direction.
One of my worries is that the good reviews are attributed SOLELY to the lighter tone. Wonder Woman‘s “fish out of water elements lend itselt to comedy; and Steve Trevor has always been depicted as comic relief as well. I have no problem with humour, but hate when it becomes part of a formula that ultimately waters down an entire world. The mentality that the DCEU films just need more “fun” is rampant online. Even The Rock expressed this mentality when discussing bringing Black Adam to the big screen. “Fun” does not fit Black Adam at all, so now we’ll likely get a bastardized version of the character. MOS and BvS are always criticized for their “depressing” tone but let’s not forget that the lighter Suicide Squad was an even worse film (according to RT). “Fun” is not the only ingredient for good, and also does not have to be an ingredient for good. The Justice League trailers feature some humour that comes across as a cheesy response to all the MOS and BvS criticisms: “We added jokes. People will love it now.” Let’s hope the desire to add “fun” doesn’t overshadow other issues the previous DCEU films had. There is a tendency now to tie unrelated elements of the writing back to “fun”. “Fun” becomes the root that all quality springs from in some people’s minds.
With that said, I am eager to see if Wonder Woman lives up to its hype.
2012’s Prometheus attempted to tell the story of the origin of the xenomorph that Alien fans have come to know and love. The film was met with mixed reviews to say the least, but I am among the people that didn’t love it, but also didn’t hate it with the same passion that is all too common online.
The film’s performances were its best asset. The visual effects were amazing, and there were some memorable creepy scenes. Prometheus asked a lot of interesting questions, but since it was setting itself up for a sequel, many of those questions remained unanswered.
The sequel has now arrived, taking place 10 years after the events of Prometheus. Colony ship Covenant is bound for Origae-6, with 15 crew members, 2000 colonists and 1000 embryos in tow. After receiving a signal from a nearby planet, which scans show to be hospitable to human life, the crew decides to investigate the planet as a potential site for colonization. Of course, mayhem ensues as some crew members become infected and give birth to xenomorphs, or early prototypes of the xenomorph.
One Prometheus criticism that was rife on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) message boards (RIP), is that the scientists all made a lot of stupid decisions. I didn’t jump on that bandwagon as vehemently as some people did, but I could not deny that Covenant is definitely worthy of such criticism. In Prometheus, the scientists remove their helmets on an alien ship after realizing they can breathe the air. People thought that this was perhaps stupid since there could be other dangers. If you’ve seen the trailer for Covenant you already know one crew member gets infected when spores travel into his ear canal. Even before this scene comes along, I couldn’t help but wonder why there would be no precautions to wear helmets on a foreign planet at least until a variety of tests are conducted.
Maybe I could have excused the lack of helmets since the scientists already know the atmosphere is liveable. What I could not excuse was a scene where a scientist sniffs alien mushrooms and then touches them. He has gloves on, but doesn’t feel the need to back away when the mushrooms visibly release spores. He inhales them, and still doesn’t think to back away. In another scene, an alien bursts forth from a crew member, in full view of multiple armed crew members. While the alien takes some time to get its bearings, no one thinks to shoot it until it starts attacking. This kind of writing isn’t a “plot hole” as people love to say. It appears that “plot hole”, like “irony”, is a word that is often used incorrectly nowadays. Maybe there isn’t a specific term for what we see in Covenant, you could just call it sloppy writing that ruins enjoyment of the movie since a part of you feels like some of the characters bring it on themselves. At times, watching Covenant was like watching a slasher flick where the copulating co-eds decide to go investigate a strange noise. These moments are less prominent in the second half of the film, but they remain fresh in my mind.
I will also add that Covenant doesn’t answer all of the questions it asked in Prometheus, which was disappointing since it leaves some of the most interesting points of Prometheus moot for the moment. Perhaps another sequel will try to shed more light but suspense fizzles if it isn’t used just right. Additionally, Covenant also adds more backstory to the alien lore, which the more die-hard fans will either love or hate. I can cope with the new info, but it also adds more questions that remain unanswered.
On a more positive note, the performances give me something I am happy to remember. Fassbender’s performance in Prometheus helped to cement him as one of my favourite actors, after his performance in X:Men First Class. Fassbender has since followed up Prometheus with 12 Years A Slave and Shame, further showcasing his versatility and talent. Here, Fassbender plays a marooned David, as well as Walter, a newer generation synthetic assigned to the Covenant. Walter is played with a southern accent, which slips at times and hampers the performance somewhat, although not nearly enough to ruin it. Fassbender is truly memorizing when playing David, and is undoubtedly the highlight of the film. Fassbender is also supported ably by Katherine Waterston, who plays second in command Daniels Branson. Billy Crudup plays his role well as the newly appointed Covenant captain, Christopher Oram, but his character’s story arc is also a victim of the aforementioned sloppy writing. Aside from Branson and Oram, many of the crewmembers have little to no development or real charisma on screen. Danny McBride is decent in a more serious role, but is still pretty forgettable.The other crew members have few lines and the actors don’t manage to do much with their lines either. While the main cast are strong, the supporting crew offer some stifled dialogue that makes you lose interest when the action cuts to them.
I have never been one to criticize CGI as a whole. However, I do criticize CGI if poorly rendered CGI is used in place of models, animatronics, motion capture etc. Alien (1979) had more convincing looking creatures. Even more recent films that used CGI aliens, such as Alien vs Predator (terrible film, I know) had more realistic looking creatures than the ones we see here. Other effects, such as some of the sequences involving the ship also look surprisingly cartoonish. Fortunately, the action sequences are actually entertaining, with Fassbender offering another highlight in this arena. Covenant may not be a real horror film for Alien fans, but the franchise has always had its fair share of violence and disturbing imagery. There are few jump scares throughout Covenant, and we do get some genuinely creepy ones that linger once the film is done. Yet again, I feel like these moments could have been improved if the characters were getting attacked by something that looked like it was made of flesh and blood.
Overall, Covenant was an entertaining film that surpassed its predecessor. Fassbender alone is worth the price of admission and although I wouldn’t say the film is a return to form for the Alien franchise, it is close to being there.
I am currently working on Part II of my third book, Alive. So far, I am only a few thousand words in, making sure to write at least 500 words a day. By September the complete Alive story should be completed. What I don’t know, is if I’ll have an agent by September.
I’ve sent out queries to ten agents, some of which have already rejected it (evidenced by the lack of response after their stated response deadline). If I manage to get interest from any of these agents I will finally be able to take my first actionable step towards a career as a writer, editing and polishing Alive into a finished product. Which would likely be followed by Alive: Part II, and then Elseworld. There is no guarantee that the books will sell well, but we’ll cross that bridge if/when we get to it.
Even if I do get an agent, it could be 18 months to 5 years before my book is published. In the meantime, I need to take other steps towards crafting a career as a writer. My current tech support role has helped to develop many skills, but I wouldn’t say writing is one of them. I have been thinking of where I want to be in ten years, a self-employed author and blogger, and I know that I need to take more action towards making that happen. Even if I can’t support myself completely with creative writing, I want to find a career that lets me embrace my interest completely and complements it. Journalism is one of the biggest contenders but it is a very tough field to get into, especially for the topics I wish to write about, entertainment and race. Aside from a career as a journalist I am also pursuing other jobs with magazines and newspapers, trying to streamline my job hunt and find work that I find stimulating and rewarding.
As Mark Manson points out, all work will require sacrifice, and all work will be unenjoyable sometimes. The question is what type of unenjoyable experiences are you willing to put up with for your career?
“If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start.”
I have had my work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times. I am still writing and still trying to get published. I am willing to receive constructive criticism, and fine tune and edit over and over again. The peers who have read Elseworld complimented me for the imagery, which is something that was lacking in previous drafts according to an agent. I applied the negative feedback I received and was able to create something better, ultimately enjoying the experience and remaining grateful for it.
I believe that the struggles of trying to be an author are something I can tolerate. I’m sure I will be tested more as time passes. If I do get an agent, their criticism will undoubtedly be more severe than anything else I’ve received. If I can satisfy the agents, then I will have to deal with the editors at the publishing house. I may be forced to debate about certain changes to the book; ones that they view as more marketable. Those are debates that I look forward to having.
Netflix’s Death Note is scheduled for a August 25th release, and online discussion of the film has increased with the release date drawing closer. When I voiced my thoughts on the casting of Nat Wolff as Light Turner (Yagami in the anime) on YouTube, one user asked for my thoughts on the casting of Keith Stanfield as L. At the time I did not realize L was being played by a black actor, and assumed L was another case of more whitewashing.
I have previously discussed the double standard in people’s reactions to whitewashing vs “blackwashing”. When a character of colour is played by a white person people are quick to argue that we shouldn’t focus on race etc. “Best actor for the part, it’s more marketable, it’s just a movie etc.” This is regardless of whether the film is based on a true story, like 21 or is simply a work of 100% fiction. Now, if a white character is changed to a person of colour people suddenly aren’t colour-blind. “Why does Hollywood keep changing the race of characters we love? Why are they pandering to minorities? This is so politically correct!”
I have previously discussed this double standard by using examples of whitewashing and blackwashing in different movies. Death Note offers the perfect case study of the double standard since we have a case of whitewashing and blackwashing in the same film.
1) Whitewashing is being defended for the most part, while the blackwashing is being criticized.
2) Race wasn’t a key part of either character’s identity in the story (e.g. not as important as Chiron’s race is in Moonlight)
3) Both characters are main characters
Firstly, Hollywood “panders” to white people when they whitewash. One of the most common defences of whitewashing by film executives and audiences is that white people are generally more marketable than people of colour. By using this excuse, audiences and film executives admit that they are guilty of their own “pandering”, yet no one has a problem with pandering as long as it benefits white people. This is despite the fact that white people are disproportionately represented in mainstream Hollywood films. Although minorities make up nearly 40% of America’s population, they only account for 1 in 10 lead roles according to a 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report.
The underrepresentation isn’t simply due to a lack of minorities who want to get into acting, or some sort of talent deficiency among minorities. Productions like The Get Down and Straight Outta Compton demonstrate that there is plenty of minority talent that can shine if it is given the opportunity. This is what makes it even more frustrating when a role is given to a white person only because their skin is viewed as more desirable. Now I imagine that whitewashing defenders are quick to jump back to the marketability argument, which offers the perfect segway to discussing Death Note.
Anyone who has seen Keith Stanfield in anything will know that he is undeniably talented. Stanfield is also arguably more marketable than Nat Wolff. Nat Wolff’s fanbase is limited to YA content such as Paper Towns, while Stanfield has already amassed a diverse repertoire ranging from Straight Outta Compton, Get Out and his role as fan favourite Darius of Atlanta. The success of these aforementioned projects also shows that the presence of blackness is not guaranteed to lead to box office damnation. In 2015, people of colour purchased 45% of all movie tickets. Diversity won’t scare this segment of the population away. There are those who think Stanfield’s casting is indicative of a cashgrab for minority money, or political correctness. Let’s analyze the double standard though. If changing the race of L, like changing the race of Light, is just good business, why do people have a problem with it? Don’t people always defend whitewashing as a perfectly ethical business move?
The Departed is often used as an example of another American adaptation, that changed the race of characters from Asian to white (adapted from Hong Kong’s Internal Affairs). Like The Departed, people argue that Death Note has no obligation to keep the characters Asian since it is an Americanized story. Of course, I don’t mind the American location. American does not have to equal white though. People use the American argument to defend the whitewashing of Light, but for some reason that argument doesn’t apply for Stanfield as L. Maybe people want to know where Stanfield is really from? Light and L are both meant to be Asian, so if one race change bothers you, another should as well. Maybe you’ll argue Light and L don’t look Asian.
If you draw a stick person in a country such as America or England, people will generally assume the stick person represents a white person unless you add racial markers e.g. brown skin. When you read a book where the character’s race is not implied or stated, what race do you assume? White is often the default for people in many countries. In Asia, they would assume the stick person represents an Asian person if you draw one and if they are reading a locally produced book they would assume the character is Asian. When they create their animation, they don’t feel the need to indicate a character is Asian by adding stereotypical markers like slanted eyes and yellow skin. The confusion arises when anime gets exported to countries that are not used to seeing Asians drawn a certain way. Despite the country of origin and names in some cases e.g Light Yagami, people still assume the characters must be white due to their skin tone and the lack of slanted eyes. Point being, those people are wrong. There were people who also assumed that Rue of The Hunger Games was meant to be white, even though she was described as having dark brown skin in the books. Assumptions do not always equal reality. Light is meant to be Asian, so Wolff is not the intended race, the same way Stanfield isn’t the intended race. If people can accept this fact, support Wolff and criticize Stanfield, then it is clear they just have an issue with Stanfield’s skin tone.
One particular argument used for Stanfield is that L is meant to be pale, since he doesn’t go out much. Basically, people are arguing that Stanfield won’t look like the character in the source material. What about the fact that Light is white and not Asian (or Asian-American)? Aren’t double standards fun?
I was watching some highlights from the previous year’s Golden Globes, and as I scrolled through the comments I couldn’t help but focus on one that attacked Ben Affleck. As the commenter writes, Affleck is an idiot for defending Islam and insinuating that Islamophobia is a real thing, since Islam is not a race. Affleck has received a wave of right wing backlash for his comments, being interpreted as another liberal who refuses to criticize Islam.
The sentiment that Islamophobia is an invalid, politically correct creation is even shared by former Muslim Salman Rushdie. After a fatwa was declared against him by the Ayotallah of Iran, Rushdie’s life was put in jeopardy by zealots who believed he insulted their religion. Zealot is the proper word to refer to people who would actually try to kill someone for insulting their religion, but I believe that this word is overused when it comes to Islam.
After the Danish newspaper Jylland’s-Postens depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, demonstrations predictably broke out amongst many Muslim populations. I am not here to defend violent extremists. However, I could never help but notice that even instances of peaceful protest by Muslims are often seen as proof of their zealotry. Comments online indicated Muslims should learn how to take a joke, like people of other religions can. Can we agree that this cartoon is pretty offensive?
Maybe people will be quick to argue that it doesn’t matter, since the Prophet was not an angelic figure anyway. Whenever Islam as a whole is insulted, many people turn a blind eye since they see it as a religion that is inherently violent and misogynist. Even if critics can recognize that not all Muslims are terrorists, they still argue that the religion itself feeds into corrosive vices. It is easy to think this when we look at a nation like Saudi Arabia, but seeing nations such as Dubai and Egypt should make it clear that interpretation is just as important as content when it comes to religion. To those people I think it is important that they see this experiment, where people are given a copy of the Bible covered with a Koran jacket. The only thing better than seeing people express their amazement at how backwards the “Koran” is, is seeing their reactions when it is revealed they were reading the Bible. Watch the video, and read the comments to see Christians defending the bible and denigrating Islam. It seems like the Christians can’t just take a joke.
This experiment also highlights the key issue I wanted to discuss. There are far too many people out there who pat themselves on the back for recognizing Islam is not a race, thinking they can end the argument about Islamophobia with that sentence. There are recognized phobias of buttons and clowns, no one is trying to say there is a racial component for those. There is also homophobia, which we can see in people’s attitudes towards topics such as gay marriage. “Phobia” does not have to imply race. However, “Islamophobia” is a valid term due to people’s reactions to Islam, or what they perceive to be Islam. Islam is not a race, but racial ignorance can contribute to it. Following 9/11 there were hate crimes committed against Middle Eastern people of all religions, including Sikh. The fact that the people attacked weren’t Muslim is irrelevant. The attackers intended to attack Muslims, and their ignorance led them to attack people of a different faith. White people who convert to Islam have testified to being treated poorly by friends and family for their decision, due to their association with a religion perceived as backwards and violent.
It is easy to see Muslims as a faceless, terrorist horde with all the negative things we may hear from Trump, the news and maybe even our social circle. I don’t like throwing out the “I have ___ friends” argument, but I am curious to know how many people who relentlessly criticize Islam as the root of all evil actually have close relationships with Muslims. My own exposure has led me to people who rarely mention their religion and never criticize me for mine. They respect their religion, but they aren’t hellbent on killing or converting the infidels surrounding them. Exposure to moderate and liberal Muslims (the majority of them) isn’t a foolproof strategy, but it is something that can demistify and humanize the people we’re accustomed to thinking of as a threat to the safety of progressive Western societies.
In yesterday’s post I discussed one of the experiences that cemented my understanding of the persisting disdain for interracial couplings. I was initially tempted to combine this piece into yesterday’s, but I was apprehensive due to the length of the article. I didn’t want to have to condense these thoughts, since the experiences I’ll lay out in this article are a microcosm of frequent and subtle instances of racism in dating.
I am not saying people have an obligation to date someone of a different race. If two people like each other, and happen to be of the same race, there is nothing racist about that. If one person goes through life, rejecting people due to their skin colour, there is something wrong with that. I have already discussed all the excuses that abound for sticking to one’s race when it comes to dating or sex, including the argument for a “natural preference”, so read those first if your head is already teaming with rebuttals. The supposed hardwiring we have for what we view as physically attractive, can all be traced to accumulated external stimuli, whether it is the advice of our parents or the images of beauty we consume in the media.
There are also cases of people who don’t date their own kind at all, or only date people of a certain shade within their own group. Some people may try to argue that this undermines the point I am making about dating and racism. After all, how can someone be racist to themselves? Someone with a rudimentary understanding of racism would pat themselves on the back for bringing this point up, thinking they’ve thrown a conundrum my way. People can develop feelings of inferiority, or even self-hate due to their own race. This can lead them to take measures to ‘evelate themselves’ by having lighter-skinned children or bleaching their skin.
As I also mentioned in yesterday’s post there are examples of interracial couples and we probably all know some. However, I am sure facts will support my assertion that they comprise a small minority of the world’s population, and the population of any given city. Since most of my friends are white, and most of their friends are white, I have only been with white girls so far. You might think I have no reason to be skeptical of racial progress but these experiences are tainted by a wider net of racism. All names used below are pseudonyms.
I met a girl named Sarah in Ottawa, and she later wanted to get into a relationship with me. Sometime after we met I found out that she doesn’t normally like black guys. Sarah was actually more interested in someone else at the house party we went to, but since he turned her down she just settled for me. Yes, a girl can also end up settling for some other guy of the same race too. However, if the girl has specifically stated that she doesn’t like black guys then there is obviously a racial component at play here. In this case, I was second fiddle, but I was also a “credit to my kind.” It’s not the first time I’ve had someone express that I am good looking “for a black guy” or that they normally think black people are unattractive, but find me good looking. Should I take this as a compliment? No, because that would ignore the negative part of that statement: “You people are normally ugly.”
In the years since this incident I have tried online dating, but the online realm brings up a crucial disadvantage. In the previous incident, Sarah pushed aside some of her ingrained prejudice because she was forced to get to know me. We were in a small social circle where mutual friends introduced us and we bonded through the same activities. If I was just another face on tinder, she probably would have swiped left quickly, regardless of how good my pictures, bio etc. were. Maybe my outlying good looks would have made her swipe right, but then I’d be competing with twenty other guys messaging her that day. Odds are one of the other guys would be a white guy who she considered better looking. I would have the same disadvantage if I was one amongst ten other guys in her college class. An attempt to talk to her there would probably be met with a luke warm reception.
The contrast between what happened at the house party, and what could have happened if Sarah and I came across each other in another setting emphasized how big a role race plays in someone’s selection. In another setting, Sarah wouldn’t have had as much impetus to get to know me. She would see my colour regardless of the setting, which isn’t racist in itself. However, Sarah would only pay attention to my skin colour online. At the house party she also paid attention to my other traits. If racial preferences truly are something hardwired into our systems, like some people claim, then one night of talking shouldn’t have been able to make Sarah willing to hook up with me and even try to pursue a relationship.
Another fallacy, one which I used to fall victim to as well, is the belief that dating someone of a different race means that you are open to dating someone of any race. As an example, my Indian friend Nathan once dated a white girl who lived on the same floor of his building. She was very attractive and I was happy for him, and couldn’t help but wish that I lived in that building too. It turns out that a serendipitious meeting wouldn’t have changed anything for me. Nathan revealed that Emma doesn’t like black guys. However, I was fortunate enough to be considered a credit to my kind again. Like Sarah, I think Emma’s perception of me was influenced by the time she spent hanging out with me. I wasn’t just another face on a dating profile or yet another guy hitting on her in class or at the bar. Emma’s perception of me also brings up the question of why she was open to dating an Indian guy, but not a black one. Maybe she wasn’t really open to Indian guys either, but her proximity to Nathan led her to get to know him better? Or maybe there’s another explanation.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism Without Racists actually explores this phenomenon in more depth. Emma appears to suffer from the “model minority” mindset. Middle Eastern and South Asian minorities have positive stereotypes associated with them e.g intelligent, hard-working. Meanwhile black people have enduring stereotypes of violence, laziness and stupidity. The stereotype of physical prowess isn’t enough to undo the more corrosive, threatening stereotypes. Of course, racial ignorance can also lead to negative stereotypes about South Asians and Middle Eastern people. Bonilla-Silva also retorts that these negative stereotypes may be easier to overcome for these groups due to their positive ones. The Japanese were once held in internment camps, but they are comfortably among the model minority caste now. Likewise, ignorant stereotypes concerning terrorism or docility may dissipate or be overpowered by the positive stereotypes. Some people may also be more attracted to the model minorities since they are also stereotypically envisioned as being lighter-skinned.
Throughout my life, my skin colour has been enough to make people decide I’m unattractive, hold their purses tighter, call security on me and many more. In some ways dating security is the least of my worries. In other ways it is one of my most pressing. Many people may read about some of the racism I’ve experienced, and express disapproval with the treatment. Then those same people would still wish to stick to their own race for dating. Dating discrimination warrants mentioning because it is one of the most prevalent forms of discrimination. It is also one of the forms that is defended most vehemently, even by people who are otherwise tolerant and open-minded.
Sometimes this sentence is rephrased as “I don’t date black guys” or “I’m not attracted to black guys”. Either way it is something I always go back to since it is a sentence I am familar with and provides the most irrefutable proof that plenty of people are not truly “colour-blind” in this day and age. There are a wide range of excuses used to defend racial preferences in dating, with the preservation or commonality of culture being one of the most common. This argument is still undercut by the fact that acknowledging this reason still makes it clear people aren’t colour blind. Some people argue that we are simply born liking what we like, and we can’t control it, therefore there is nothing wrong with their preferences. Of course, what we view as attractive is out of our control in some ways. However, I don’t believe we are simply born with our preferences for dating or sex programmed.
Like I discussed in a previous article, various factors such as the images of beauty we consume in the media and coaching from parents, friends etc. all affect what we view as attractive. For anyone who says interracial dating is unnatural, I bet you can find friends or relatives who put that idea in their mind from a young age. Some people also argue that an interracial child ends up being one without a clear identity. To these people, I say that I am glad they are not the parents of mixed children. Otherwise they would have their children grow up with an inferiority complex. My little sister is mixed and my mother ensures that she is raised with a strong sense of identity and love. Obviously raising a mixed child can bring up some concerns or issues that may not be present for other children. However, the fact that something may be a little more difficult does not mean it must always be avoided. This excuse always struck me as an disingenous copout by people who’ve never even considered dating outside of their own race.
Another excuse that reveals how racism can impact reasoning skills, is the excuse that discriminating on the basis of race is no different that discriminating due to weight, hair colour, musculature etc. If we are discussing racism, emphasis on the first syllable, then distinctions based on things aside from race don’t come into play. However, someone’s other preferences can also help to reveal ingrained prejudices. Girls who say they like “hockey players” can send a clear sign that there is a good chance they only go for white guys (93% according to a 2011 survey).
When I arrived at University of Ottawa in 2009 I had yet to confront the reality of dating discrimination. I could remember girls of different races who had crushes on me at one point, and vice versa. I was already aware of racism, but for some reason I was relatively naive when it came to this specific facet of it. I knew about people in my high school who only dated within their race, but I viewed them as outliers. From what I have seen since, it appears that they are the norm. Of course I also know many interracial couples and/or people who are open to dating outside their race, and I am sure any reader does as well. However, if we measure the sum total of all these open-minded people, I am sure they still constitute a minority of the world’s population.
Aside from being watched while I shop, the lovely Quebec district of Hull also gave me my first real dose of dating/sex discrimination. Since the legal drinking age in Quebec is 18, instead of 19 like Ontario, my friends and I would often head there when we partied. I forget exactly where we were this night. I know that it was either a club named lebop or one nearby, it is part of a small strip we frequented in first year. The club was set up with a dance floor to the right as you walk in. After drinking with my friends for a while I decided to approach a girl standing by one of the tables flanking the dance floor. Now, I understand that rejection in itself is not always an indicator of racism. Although it is soothing to my ego to think that I have only been rejected due to racism, I know other factors can come into play. I don’t reflect on this incident simply due to the rejection itself. It stands out in my mind due to the way the woman reacted.
At first, there didn’t appear to be any hostility. The girl was with some of her friends, male and female, but appeared to be single. I began talking to her, while her friends watched. Before racist assumptions come into play, I wasn’t wearing any baggy clothes, hoodies, bandana, cap, etc. I had on blue fitted jeans, a blue Tommy Hilfiger sweater and black dress shoes. I approached the girl straight on, making eye contact and ensuring that she saw me coming. I didn’t sneak up behind her and I never put my hands on her. She stood on one end of the table and I stood on the other.
The conversation seemed to be going well for a bit, as we talked about where we were from, where we went to school etc. After a few minutes I could tell that the girl didn’t seem that interested, at best she was just being polite. I said goodbye and walked away, thinking that would be the end of that encounter. A few minutes later I meet up with my friends again and a bouncer confronts me, telling me it’s “time to go”.
I asked why and he said I was talking to too many girls. This night is one that is burned in my brain pretty vividly so I can remember that I talked to less than five girls that night (outside of my group). They were all rude with their rejections, including one putting her hand in my face, but I didn’t confront them about that. When I got rejected I simply moved on.
My friends left with me, and I still remember how angry I was that you could simply get kicked out for talking to girls in a club. It was one of my girl friends that told me the real reason I got kicked out. She overheard the girl I spoke to talking to the bouncer, saying that she “feared for her life” due to her encounter with me. Go back and read the paragraph on what I was wearing and how I introduced myself. Does anything in that paragraph come across as threatening in anyway? Threatening enough to say you fear for you life? As always, I initially tried to remove race from the equation. There have been times when I was the guy who screamed racism at everything, and I wanted to make sure this wasn’t such a moment. I went over how I approached, how I was dressed, what I said etc. I could not think of anything that would warrant the girl’s reaction. Unless she was simply afraid of me due to my skin colour. Yes, I’m tall as well. Maybe you’ll argue that she was scared due to that. However, would she have been as scared if a white guy my size approached her the same way I did, dressed as I was, speaking like I was? I don’t think so.
After the SAQ incidents I was convinced that Hull, and perhaps Gatineau, just had a problem with racism far more corrosive than what I previously witnessed in Canada. This suspicion was confirmed at a house party a few years ago, where I met someone else who had a similiar experience from the same clubbing district in Hull. He recounted the story of heading to one of the bars with his rugby team, who were all dressed casually. He and the other white members of the team were let in, but the bouncer advised the only black member that his dress didn’t permit him to enter. When my friend advised the bouncer that the other teammates were all dressed similarly, the bouncer only responded “We’ve had a lot of stabbings in the area.”
One year ago my friends and I were driving to La Pataterie Hulloise. On the way, we were stuck in a stretch of traffic and one of my friends pulled out a board game. We began playing in the back seat, but my attention waned as I saw the cop car beside us. The cop in the passenger side focused on me, before his eyes also darted to my Indian friend driving. As far as I know, playing board games in the back seat of a car isn’t illegal and the cop didn’t bring this up when he pulled us over. To be fair, I did have my seat belt unbuckled as the middle passenger. The cop mentioned this when he pulled me over, but didn’t mention it as his reason for pulling us over. He and his partner simply took our Ids and left us waiting for fifteen minutes. When he returned he tried to hassle my friend about the fact that the car is not registered in his name, but like many young drivers it is registered in his dad’s name. According to my friend, the cops asked him random questions about his dad’s businesses, including some odd queries about his dad having a home for orphans. No, I’m not making this up.
Since my experiences in Hull were one string of racism after another, I think I ended up focusing on the district too much when I thought of issues like racial discrimination. It made me blind to all the more subtle cues around me, which I’ll discuss in tomorrow’s piece.
Note: Due to my schedule, some of my posts are written in an area where I can’t post links to social media or certain sites. For that reason, I will sometimes substitute with newspaper articles or attempt to upload links later in the day.
Some of you may remember this video from 2014 where an edited compilation of footage shows a woman being catcalled or receiving street harassment over the course of 10 hours as she walks through Manhattan. I initially wanted to do an article on this video when I first heard about last year but the YouTube comments made it clear that I would be fighting an uphill battle with the other men on the internet.
There were plenty of defences given for the catcalling and I want to address some of them.
- How is saying “good morning” or “how are you?” catcalling?
The issue is not the greeting itself in this case. Maybe people will call me a “white knight” for saying this, but this is a situation where you have to view it from the eys of a woman. Most men can’t relate to being catcalled by women daily. There was a response video where a male model walked around a city in his underwear, trying to argue men have it just as bad. However, the guy was definitely better looking than the average guy. Plus, the response video seemed to imply that a man walking around in his underwear is equivalent to a woman walking around in jeans and a shirt.
You can try to offer one ludicrious parallel after another, but I think most men will agree that we are not catcalled multiple times a day by strangers as we walk down the street.
So, with that in mind. Imagine you’re a woman. From the time you reach a certain age, you start getting all this attention from strangers on the street. It’s strange at first, but maybe you find it flattering after a little while. Then after a few years, the same thing happens day in day out. Some people are just saying “good morning” to be polite, the same way you’d say “good morning” to a colleague at work. However, some people use that opening as an attempt to get your number, tell you how hot you are etc. So after a while, you’re a little more guarded or skeptical when someone offers the greeting. Are they just being friendly or is it a preamble for something else? This is a case where a few (or maybe a lot), may have ruined a good thing for many.
2. Shouldn’t girls should be flattered?
Read number one again. The woman who are very flattered by catcalling are likely the ones who aren’t subjected to it that often. I was listening to a “Mating Grounds” podcast by Tucker Max, where he asked a female colleague why women wouldn’t be flattered by catcalling or why comments such as “good morning” would bother them. As the woman points out, it is the accumulation of those experiences that makes you grow tired of it after a while. Maybe it is flattering the first day, first week, first year, first decade etc. If a woman who is regularly catcalled still loves the attention, then she is likely very insecure.
As Tucker Max added, he was used to fans at his book signings asking him if he was drunk. It was funny the first few times but by the time the 50th fan asked him he wanted to punch them in the face.
3. So what, we’re not allowed to talk to girls anymore?
If the only girls you talk to are random ones on the street, you need to get out more. Join groups for activities you’re interested, get to know your classmates in college etc, hang out with these new things called friends and see if they know girls. There are other places to talk to women where they won’t be as guarded due to their previous experiences.
The guys who insist that catcalling is a vital part of being a man always crack me up, since they are also the ones who complain the most about women being “stuck-up” or narcissistic. What do you expect will happen if a woman is reminded multiple times a day of how hot she is by guys on the street, plus guys who comment on all her social media and message her with comments dripping with sexual desperation? Trust me, if men collectively put a stop to these actions, we would collectively have an easier time with women.
With those excuses out of the way, I also want to comment on something else that this catcalling video brings up. Now, I am not trying to say that criticism of catcalling is now invalidated due to this issue. I am only saying that it reveals another dimension of the video that gets overshadowed by the people who can’t even acknowledge that catcalling might not be a good thing.
“The Mating Grounds” podcast illustrated my problem as well. Tucker Max pointed out that a lot of the men in the video were black, and also attributed this to a general culture of catcalling among black men. I don’t want to call Tucker Max a racist since a lot of his other content demonstrates that he acknowledges discrimination such as racial profiling by police. However, I think this comment illustrates some level of ignorance, which this article actually helps to shed light on. Although the company behind the street harassment video claimed that they filmed through many different areas of Manhattan, an analysis of the all the locations in the edited two minute clip reveals that 59% of the shots were in Harlem. For those who don’t know, Harlem is over 60% black. Since the areas we see in the video are mostly black, it makes sense that we will see mostly black people in the video.
There is a chance that black people might not just be more likely to catcall. We won’t know since the video’s creator apparently cut out more footage of white guys since the clips contained too much noise. The reponsible thing to do in that case would be to try and collect more footage without too much noise, in order to get a more representative sample. There are other catcalling videos out there, and they all show a healthy dose of white men engaging in it as well. Let’s not reduce catcalling to something that only (or mostly) black guys do.