Dark Side of the Moon: Black women in Wonder Woman

Welcome to my first mini-series! I’ll be writing some short essays that take an intersectional feminist view of Wonder Woman over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

I’m going to discuss the occasional presence, and notable silence of black women, and their role in Wonder Woman. I’ll focus on two black female characters; Diana’s sitter, and a black female warrior. These are the only black women that had any measure of importance in the film. I will not discuss any other women of colour as there were none that had any significance to the plot.

Although the Amazons of Wonder Women have existed in total seclusion, the white patriarchy has mysteriously crept in and pushed black women down in order to raise white women up. Who woulda thunk? Black Amazons do not have the privilege of the blank slate afforded by a society in theory unmarred by patriarchy. In their precious few appearances, they are regulated to supporting the white female leads. They are the nanny, raising Diana while the Queen is on official business. They are the powerful, muscular warriors that Diana defeats in order to show her own strength. These characters form the stepping stones for Diana’s character development, and as she leaves Themyscira, they fade into the background, forgotten both by Diana and the audience.

The first black woman we see (and notably, the only one with more than one line) is Diana’s sitter. Black women in the US have historically cared for white children, either under slavery, or a lack of opportunity. As a result, the Unfriendly Black Hotties note that while using a black woman to be Diana’s caretaker is at best, iffy, they were happy to see that one of the most important women in young Diana’s life was a black woman.

Certainly, caretakers have an important role in any child’s life. But not in Diana’s. Diana’s caretaker’s one line is to scream her name over, and over again, as she races all across town to recover her charge. It would have been so easy to include her as a valued part of Diana’s childhood. So many questions go unanswered – “How do her values and beliefs shape how she helps raise Diana? Does she agree with the Queen’s protectiveness? Does Diana continue to disrespect her throughout her childhood?”  

 

But Wonder Woman is so much more deep than that. I must commend the creators of Wonder Woman for making the difficult, trailblazing (and of course, unexpected) choice to make a black woman’s existence revolve around a bratty white girl.

Thanks to the sacrifice of this vital black female character, Diana can truly shine. Diana’s rebellion shows hints at the tenacious, independent woman that Diana becomes. Her willingness to go her own way, even if it means forcing your minder to chase you across an island, foreshadows Diana’s bold move to leave the island, and the only home she’s ever known, in order to do what she thinks is right – whether that’s running away to do the training your mother forbids you from, or to take the destruction of Ares into your own hands.

Thank goodness the writers used, and then promptly discarded this black woman. Without the disrespect Diana shows her, how could she ever have any credibility as an independent thinker?

Wonder Woman‘s treatment of this sitter as subordinate to a white woman, and as being disrespected by Diana, mirrors the way black women have, and are being treated by US society at large. Black women are often silenced, used, and shut down.  This is obvious in Diana’s sitter, who disappears as quickly as she appeared once she’s no longer useful. Black women are not allowed the complexity, or character development of their white counterparts. Tied in with the history of black women caring for white children, Wonder Woman repeats the mistakes of our white female past and present, by continuing to use black women as tools for our own gain. Whether it occurs in the form of cultural appropriation, gaslighting, or blatant racism, us white women continue to disrespect, ignore, and devalue black women and their personhood.

Further reading

See Girussy by the Unfriendly Black Hotties for their thoughts.

Black Cultural Heritage and the Subversion of the Stereotypical Images of the Black Woman in Toni Morrison’s Sula by Mona Faysal Sahyoun.

Cameron Glover’s take on why Wonder Woman is Bittersweet for Black Women.

Check back next week for the part 2 of this essay!

This week in links: Wheelchair burlesque, terrible art, and floating asexual islands

Jacqueline Boxx, aka Miss Disa-Burly-Tease, is a burlesque performer that dances in her wheelchair. See her performances here.

Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture‘s “Regionalism, Regional Identity, and Queer Asian Cinema” edition is available online here.

Richard Spencer’s podcast, Vanguard Radio, has been banned from Soundcloud.

And finally, have some dreadful fanfiction.

This week in links: More Handmaid’s Tale thinkpieces, and some good old-fashioned hating

Hello, friends! Let us mourn the death of LGBT+ and black culture under Katy Perry as she attempts to reinvent herself.

Max S. Gordon argues that The Handmaid’s Tale describes a black woman’s experience under the guise of a white handmaid.

Mari Yamamoto and Jake Adelstein discuss how the Japanese government under prime minister Shinzo Abe is institutionalizing his love of fascism.

Candace Bond-Theriault proclaims her sexuality in the face of bi-erasure.

Life After Hate is an organisation that seeks to help individuals leaving hate groups.

And in this week’s spirit of hating celebrities, “if Pewdiepie is Youtube’s top talent, we are all doomed.”

And finally, I’m going to try and start publishing a new article every Wednesday. See you soon!

 

 

This week in links: Apathetic ladies, carpets, and justice

Arist and illustrator Miranda Tacchia’s draws unimpressed, blunt women. Find more of them on her Instagram.

Transgender Thai women continue to be conscripted into army as if they were men, unless they can prove they have “gender identity disorder” as well as having sexual reassignment surgery.

Larry Mantle of AirTalk interviews Carly Mee of SurvJustice and law professor Sherry Colb about “stealthing,” its possible legal consequences, and what this could mean for victims of rape.

SurvJustice is a US-based organisation that advocates for justice for victims of sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.

Vreni’s comic at The Nib details her experience with abortion.

Adam Clark Estes profiles the Portland airport carpet that became a hipster icon.

Jen Deerinwater argues that white feminism fails Native Americans under Trump.

This week in links: Presidential dummies, white feminist dystopias, and creepy girl groups

David A. Graham contests that foreign leaders have realised Trump is a pushover, and reveals that Trump has no interest in becoming less ignorant.  Albert Burneko goes a step further, and calls Trump an idiot.

Brian Ashcraft looks at the history, and current use of blackface in Japan, alongside Japanese artists’ use of music styles created by African Americans.

Anime Feminist asks their readers how they feel about Japanese boy bands and girlgroups.

Carly Findlay is an Australian woman with Ichthyosis, whose work focuses on disabilities and appearance discrimination.

Ana Cottle argues that argues that Hulu’s adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale is a white feminist dystopia.

Laurie Penny decries white men using Islamophobia to derail debates about sexism in their own countries.

Featured image from ComingSoon.com 

May favourites

I’ve been listening  to The Emancipation of Mimi and 4 non-stop this month. When are Mimi and Bey going to collab tho?

Designated Survivor is a tense, fast-paced show concerning an alternate America where almost all of congress has been murdered in a terrorist attack, and one man with no political experience finds himself becoming president in the aftermath.

Chef’s Table profiles a different chef in each episode, from the eccentric (Magnus Nilsson – why do you want us to eat moss??) to those that actually seem to make good food (Ivan Orkin’s ramen dishes). As a latina, the chefs that really stuck out to me were Alex Atala, and Virgilio Martínez. Seeing their countries, and national cuisine being treated with such love, and care by these chefs was a wonderful change to the pitying narratives usually shown in the media.

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Virgilio’s quinua con colinabo y cebolla perla

I watched Perfect Blue after seeing Super Eyepatch Wolf’s video essay discussing it, and I was absolutely floored. If you like psychological thrillers, this is for you.

For fellow nerds that are currently stuck without a roleplaying group, I recommend The Adventure Zone –  a podcat hosted the McElroy brothers, and their dad play D&D every other week.

Imrie and Satia are two black British women that host Melanin Millenials, a topical podcast packed with clever debate, sideeyes, and salt to taste.

Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel Room explores the reality of a young boy, who has been trapped inside a single room with his mother for his entire life.

Imani Perry’s More Beautiful and More Terrible discusses the enduring anti-black racism of America, and encourages us to thoughtfully continue our activism.

bell hook’s seminal The Will to Change argues for the importance of including men, and boys (especially those of colour) in feminism in order for true progress to be made.

Ijeoma Oluo is an incisive, intersectional feminist writer. You can find her work here.

I’ve recently finished reading the Luna brothers’ Girls and Ultra comics – the storytelling is fascinating, even if the art tends to be flat.

PKSparkxx’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild playthrough continues to be something I look forward to every week.

Nyappicat’s dance covers are AMAZING and definitely worth checking out. Full disclosure: she’s my best friend so I’m only a tiny bit biased.

Featured image from Mariah’s instagram. 

 

This week in links: Alt-right male insecurity, Saudi Arabian women, and modern-day slavery

Racist, sexist and sexually insecure is no way to go through life, alt-right dudes.

Kat Blaque explains the GOTCHA!!!! of Saudi Arabian women’s oppression.

David Greene from NPR interviews the Russian LGBT Network’s communications manager and their efforts to evacuate Chechen gay men.

Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi discuss the limitations of white adaptions of Austen’s works, and how they have been co-opted by the alt-right.

Phoenix A. M. Singer explains why the Democrat party has failed to make concrete change for the working class and other marginalised groups..

Alex Tizon describes the life and abuse of his family’s slave, Eudocia Tomas Pulido. See responses here.

David A. Graham argues that Trump’s administration has fallen apart.

Featured image of Eudocia Tomas Pulido, from Alex Tizon’s biographical article. 

 

The Tiny Bang Story review

Released in spring 2011 by Colibri Games, The Tiny Bang Story opens with a football meteorite has destroyed the planet (or at least its image) and shattered it into several pieces that you must recover throughout the course of the game.

I really enjoyed this game, but this was mainly for the elaborate search for the various puzzle pieces, and other items that are cunningly hidden. Especially later in game, the puzzle pieces would almost perfectly blend in with the scenery and required a fine-tooth comb to recover.

However, there were a couple inconsistencies in regards to the puzzle piece mechanics. While it would make sense that collecting each puzzle piece would be required to move onto the next level, and in some cases that hasn’t been my experience – perhaps because at that point I had already finished my first playthrough.

Additionally, some extra puzzle pieces can be collected in the final level without any actual effect on the game. Perhaps the creators thought that hiding several pieces would increase the probability of players finding them, especially when they are so well-camouflaged. But if so, why then make it possible to continue collecting the pieces after the quota has been reached?

***

For a puzzle game, there was an unfortunate lack of any puzzles that actually challenge the player.

Many of these were hit and miss, and could be easily solved with trial and error, such as the lightbulb puzzle, and balancing the suitcase weights.

The two minigames I especially disliked were these retro-inspired games within a game.

These were incredibly repetitive and dull. They really felt like cheap fillers amongst other puzzles and really detailed, interesting art.

Luckily I really enjoyed several of the puzzles, particularly those that required putting things together. While you could argue that these lego-style puzzles are as repetitive as the ones I harped on above, they continued to surprise where the mini-games are completely expected. The final piece in each was hidden in the hint image. While I should have known better the second time around, the game completely pulled the wool over my eyes and got me twice.

***

The Tiny Bang Story‘s soundtrack is bland, understated, and repetitive. Repetitive background music can be incredibly effective in making time pass and helping a player immerse themselves in the game. Just about every Animal Crossing game and The Sims 2 did this really well.

 

See the difference? Something about The Sims 2 shopping themes helps completely immerse me in my home-renovation fantasy whereas The Tiny Bang Story soundtrack grates on me so much I usually completely mute it and listen to something else.

***

The art style was unique, varied, and intricate, which suits the investigative aspect of the game. Also, it made me really want to live inside a teapot.

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Screenshot from Calibrigames.com

I’ve noticed that characters didn’t always fit with their environments, especially in regards to the main character who looks creepy and out of place, especially when he was younger.

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Terrifying toad boy from Artsammich.blogspot.com

Sam Nielsen from Artsammich has alleged that some character design was plagiarised from him and Kevin Keele’s previous work.

***

This game’s plot is largely non-existent, which is fine if, like me, you’re more interested in exploring the different levels.

Throughout each level, you watch the blonde man grow from a young child to an adult through the photos kept by who we can assume to be his family members. We finally see him for ourselves at the final level, having become powerful, and wealthy. But to what purpose?

The fact that you are on a journey around the world to track this man’s growth only becomes apparent at the end, and any argument that meeting his family members gives the game continuity falls flat when this cohesion has no actual effect upon the player’s experience of the game. I believe that the developers shoehorned this in in an attempt to give the game some purpose. But again, as this only becomes clear once the game is completed, The Tiny Bang Story is merely a hidden object game with little substance.

The only instance of intrigue (I hesitate to call it a plot point) is when the blonde man sits down with his family for tea, close to a wall where you can access previous puzzles. Sitting apart from the others is an elderly man we haven’t encountered elsewhere in the game. This mystery man is the only thing that leaves players wondering  – who is he? And why is he alone?

Additionally, the meteorite hitting the planet isn’t used in the game for any other reason than to give an excuse to hide puzzle pieces. Why even bother with that prologue if you aren’t going to consider other effects that it would have on the planet and its inhabitants?

***

The Tiny Bang Story is an interesting enough hidden-object puzzle game that fails to draw the reader’s interest for any reason other than camouflaged puzzle pieces. Perhaps this explains why Calibri is yet to release another game.

The Tiny Bang Story is available on Steam, the Apple App Store, and Google Play.

Featured image is from The Tiny Bang Story’s Steam store page. Screenshots are my own unless otherwise stated.

 

This week in links: Meninists, true crime, and social dance

Alison Willmore discusses the self-referential documentary Casting JonBenét and how it criticizes the prying view that audiences love so much.

William Finley’s experience at Fyre Festival.

Pink News is Britain’s main LGBT+ news site.

Adam Serwer and Katie J. M. Baker interview men’s rights leader Paul Elam’s daughter and ex-wives, and describe how he “turned being a deadbeat dad into a money-making movement.”

Captain Andy explains why Laci Green taking the red pill is an uncritical appeal for the inherent goodness of bigots.

Study shows that telling LGBT+ children “it gets better” is a complete cop-out.

Featured image by Jonathan Rodriguez for BuzzFeed News

 

 

Islamophobia and Chechnya’s concentration camps

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Chechnya has been kidnapping gay and bisexual men and detaining them in concentration camps. Approximately 100 men have been detained, and an estimated 3 have been murdered.

When discussing this, several news sites (the Guardian, Daily Mail, Times, and yes, Breitbart) as well as people mention that it is a predominantly Muslim country.

However, several people have been using this fact as a way to criticise Islam – a lazy way of getting a couple Islamophobic digs in while also caping as a supporter of the LGBT+ community.

Such articles subtly conflate Islam with homophobia, a shallow analysis that harms the Muslim LGBT+ community.

Religious texts are above all else interpretive – even scholars using a similar method, such as Biblical literalism, can end up with a broad span of answers depending upon what they focus upon.

Faith doesn’t need to exist in opposition to the LGBT+ community – just as organized religion can be a tool to oppress, it can also be a tool to uplift and empower. Religion is, above all else, run by the powerful who impress their views upon the greater community, whether these are of tolerance, or of homophobia and sexism.

Blaming Islam for the violent homophobia orchestrated in its name does the LGBT+ community a disservice, just as with blaming any kind of religion.

Understandably, many  of us LGBT+ folks are wary of religions, due to the overwhelming prevalence of homophobia disguised as gospel that threatens our lives. We certainly can be critical, and feel hatred towards people that use religion as a weapon against us, but religion can be reinterpreted in far more tolerant, and accepting ways.

A further issue with linking homophobia with Islam is in the ways it allows (mostly white) people to distance themselves from their own homophobia. It’s far easier to feed into the image of the racialised, dark-skinned Muslim that is ignorant, violent, and backwards, than to look at yourself and how your own communities perpetuate homophobia. Perpetuating this view of Islam justifies the violence against Muslims, particularly Muslim women, that continues to this day.

***

If you still have trouble squaring Islam with the existence of LGBT+ Muslims, you can take a look at the work of these people and get some insight into their experiences with religion.

Here, LGBT+ Muslims, Christians and Jews describe their relationship between their sexuality and faith.

Dr. Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle’s demonstrates that homophobia has little basis in the Quran.

Imam Daayiee Abdullah has created a lecture series on the LGBT+ community and Islam.

The Advocate showcases over 20 LGBT+ Muslim activists.

 

 

Imaam is a UK-based advocacy group for LGBT+ Muslims.

LGBT Muslims “discusses the issues surrounding Islam and sexual, as well as gender, diversity. We are offering diverse and positive perspectives from varies individuals, organizations, and will do our best to give historical background to these modern issues.”

If you want to make a concrete impact upon the lives of the gay Chechen men that have been targeted by these homophobic crimes, or receive current information about this crisis, you can donate to and visit the Russian LGBT+ Network.

Illustrator and filmmaker Maeril created a webcomic that explains how bystanders can respond to Islamophobic acts.

Additionally, you can contact your political representatives and demand that they push for these gay and bisexual men seeking refuge to be given visas.

Cover image from Imaamlondon.wordpress.com