scifi channel

Racebending in The Last Avatar: Removing the Excuses

avatar: the last airbenderAs a fan of the series, 'disappointment' is a definite and deep understatement! I mean for Hollywood to do this is nothing short of a shameful big F**K UP! I agree with Eric about Speculative or Fantasy Fiction writing. I'm a fan of fiction both science and fantasy and you can't help but notice that the vast majority -- I'm talking close to 100%-- of fantasy worlds or planets inhabited by humans have people entirely if not predominantly white and have societies based on European culture!! The ONLY exception I could think of is the Earthsea novels by Ursula le Guin, but even then once her books get translated into movies (the Scifi channel), most of the leading roles are white!! Part of what made the series so popular was the uniqueness of having a fantasy world that is populated by NON-white people for a change and whose culture was NOT European based or influence!! And for Paramount to screw this up with white leads is as ridiculous as it is insulting!!

Racist Apologetics

By the way, I am sickened by the same racist apologist comments I've come across the net about this situation! Here are the three most common ones:

1. "It's a fantasy world, with no 'Asian' continent or people; why not have some racial diversity..."

2. "Wouldn't be unfair to whites to have all the lead roles go to Asians?"... (I laughed at this second excuse when I first heard it, but after a while of hearing over and over again these white idiots apparently were serious!!)

3. "The characters don't look white in the cartoon; look at their eyes"

It's a fantasy world

As for excuse # 1, I pretty much answered that above-- when it comes to fictional stories and how all of them are populated by white characters especially in leading or starring roles. I mean in J.R.R. Tokien's 'Lord of the Rings' series it was never stated that the peoples or characters were 'white' but what else were they suppose to be in a story based on Norse mythology?!! I mean you never saw New Line Cinema try to find "racially diverse" people even for the extras (save for the 'Arab-like' enemies) let alone leading roles, all of which were expected to non other than white!!

Would it be unfair to whites for all the lead roles go to Asians?

2. Is a no-brainer for anyone who has the most basic knowledge of Asians in the film industry. Even in movies and shows centered on or based on Asians the lead almost ALWAYS goes to whites! From David Carradine in Kung-Fu to the most recent movie '21' whose starring roles were based on Asian Americans but were still portrayed by whites, while meanwhile having Asian actors play their sidekicks!! So don't me about "unfair"!!

Look at their eyes

3. While the series is NOT anime, it was inspired by anime and manga/ Korean manwa drawing styles where the eyes are drawn large for convience of conveying emotional expression alot easier! As for eye color, the only reason why the characters Sokka and Katara have blue eyes is because they descend from water benders!! In the Avatar world, bright eye color is a sign of element bending-- air benders have gray eyes, earth benders have green eyes, fire benders have yellow eyes, and water benders have blue eyes. It is NOT a "caucasian" trait as they are NOT caucasian. And of course "the eyes" are the ONLY thing these white idiots like to focus on because EVERYTHING else about them is obviously Asian!!

I know that such racist white people are in the minority but apparently it's whites like these that continue to perpetuate this kind of bullsh*t in Hollywood!

What makes a fan a fan?

In August last year had a bit of back and forth over the definition of a Fan with Eoghann Irving from Solar Flare:

Eoghann Irving has posted an interesting rebuttal to my post, Fandom v The Scifi Channel, where he tackles the question What makes a fan? The critique of my position is an interesting one, and I have to say, I agree with his assertion that it sounds like I am trying to say that fans define themselves by their interest in SF.

While there are some who have adopted the fan culture for themselves, cultural adoption is not a requirement to be a fan.

What is a Fan?

We are fans.

We love music, stories, characters, settings, and images. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.

Fans are special.  We are more than just enthusiasts who enjoy a piece of work, fans connect with the work.  We feel it.

Fans love

Fans share a bond with the works they love and with one another.   Fans' passion is infectious, spreading the the works they love to others.

The love of a fan is a blessing to a responsible creator, but it is a curse to the reckless.

  • Farscape fans kept the series alive despite the many attempts by the network to cancel it.
  • Star Trek fans helped kept the series alive until the death of Gene Roddenberry when studio pushed the franchise away from its heart.
  • Heroes and X-files fans fell in love with disparate aspects of their respective franchises, but when the series lost their way through a lack of focus on the part of the studios.

If a fan's love is scorned or goes unappreciated, the fan reacts in the same way a jilted lover would.  If a fan's heart turns cold, it is almost impossible to rekindle it.

Fans Know

Ulic Qel-Droma
Image via Wikipedia

Fans know things about the things they love and enthusiasts don’t.

Anyone can quote Star Trek or Star Wars because many of the aphorisms have gone mainstream, but a Star Wars Fan knows who Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun are.  They have become such an important part of the Saga.  They know the Chewbacca died on Sernpidal during the Yuuzhan Vong war trying to save Han Solo's youngest son.

Fandom is not defined by obscure knowledge.  On the contrary, a fans love for a franchise causes them to seek out everything they can from that franchise.  We read the books and watch the OVAs.  A fan remembers the details and more often than not knows the minutia.

Fans participate

Fans create and enjoy filk, fanfiction, fan films, fan art, costumes and conventions.  We often play role playing games, video games and MMOs in the settings we love.

Fan participation is the most commonly mocked aspects of SF fandom.  No one mocks a music fan's attendance of a concert or a sport fan attending a game.  They don't even mock the wearing of band shirts or sports jerseys, or fantasy football or rock and roll camp.  These are not different from conventions, or filk, or role playing, or cosplay.

Fans support

Fans support what we love.  We buy the books, DVDs, and games.

This is where modern fandom is in the most trouble.  The studios and publishers have not offered fans the options they want for media they consume.  DRM (digital rights management) and region codes restrict how and where media can me viewed.

International fans often have few options for obtaining media other than piracy.

Media companies have to listen to the fans and make media available in as many ways as possible to they do not drive money away.  They also must learn that they are not owners of their franchises, they are caretakers and conservators.  The tighter they hold on to outdated and outmoded concepts of ownership, the smaller market they will have and the most desperate they will become.

What we love supports us.

"Never give up, never surrender!"
Image by barcanna via Flickr

Fans often gather insight and inspiration from the franchises they love.  In moments of fear, I have found myself reciting the Bene Geseret prayer from Dune.  It is also not uncommon for fans to quote dialogue to make a point.

These franchises are not just shows or books we like.  More than we realize they are the myths that help us:

  1. talk about the aspects of life that are impossible to discuss straight on.
  2. see the connections between our lives and the transcendent mysteries.
  3. develop a pattern of living with honor, integrity, and purpose.
  4. react the trial, tribulations, and joyful moments of life.

This is why fans embraced the movie Galaxy Quest.  It is a love letter to fandom, showing at its most extreme, but also showing it for what it is.  A culture that gives hope and inspiration to millions.

Are you a fan?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.  The more times you answer yes, the better the likelihood you are a fan.

  • Have you ever connected with a work on a deep level?
  • Have you ever enjoyed something so much you rushed to tell someone?
  • Have you ever played a game, watched an OVA, or read a book that is part of the extended universe of a franchise you love?
  • Have you ever debated or conversed with someone about an aspect of a franchise's setting or the minutia of a setting?
  • Have you ever dressed up as one of your favorite characters?
  • Have you ever attended an SF convention?
  • Have you ever bought a boxset?
  • Have you ever quoted SF to make a point?
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Fandom v The Scifi Channel

fiction Eoghann Irving from Solar Flare has written a post claiming, “There’s No Such Thing as Science Fiction Fandom.”  His main point:

It would be more accurate to claim that there’s no such thing as a single unifying science fiction fandom.

I think there’s a strong case to be made that historically there used to be one. The one that formed around the pulp magazines, that essentially created WorldCon and the Hugos. Members of that fandom were at one time a pretty good example of the average science fiction fan (Solar Flare).

Is Fandom splintering?

In February, I wrote Three Types of SF Fans, in which I explored the major divisions within SF Fandom.  I do not believe that Fandom is splintering, our problem is Pop Culture exposure and a misapprehension about what fandom is.

The Source of the Problem:

  • Fans are fanatics!  They eat, drink, breathe and live SF.
  • Enthusiasts think they are fans.  They get excited by the release of an SF film, maybe play some games, but are not defined by their interest in SF.

As SF has made its flash into the Pop Culture, many new enthusiasts have been created and a few new fans.  Every flash in the pan has this effect.

We are at the point in the cycle when SF has past its peak in popularity and is falling out of favor causing the enthusiasts to stay interested in the series that turned them on, while talking trash about other SF so they can hold on to an image of coolness, the image of a fracturing fandom is born.

The Scifi Channel is to Blame

The Scifi Channel and the major studios have fed this seeming division by conflating futuristic action films and series with science fiction leaving many enthusiasts to believe that SF is synonymous with futuristic action films.

This makes it almost impossible for any non-action based series or film to have any sort of traction.

To make this point clearer, I have debated with people whether Dead like Me and Eli Stone are SF.  The group I was talking with insisted that they were not because they were not action packed...

Promoting Fan Culture

But the scale of the genre now is such that you really can’t assume that another science fiction fan will like or even be interested in what you are interested in. The sheer number of fandoms within the science fiction fan community results in a huge diversity of opinions and tastes (Solar Flare).

Our biggest problem with multiple fandoms is that fans have failed to communicate fan culture to the next generation.  We have allowed pop culture to parody and ridicule our lives without offering an alternative take for people to see.  The beauty and power of a filksing, the humor of a masquerade, or the basic comradery of a convention.

As long as we allow pop culture to define fandom, true fans will continue to find themselves pushed further and further out of the picture.  So keep the faith, and spread the word.

Flash on the Tele

Scifi channel announced that Flash Gordon will be returning to Television (SCI FI Wire)!  They have greenlighted the first season of 22 one hour episodes to premere on the Scifi Channel in July. 

As a fan of the Flash Gordon Movies, especially the old black and white serial, I am thrilled to see more Flash is on the way.  I only hope the new series is as fun as the earlier adaptaions.

Soaps on SciFi Channel??

Now, I know I might piss some people off saying this: Dark Shadows was a terrible show, but I understand why it was on the SciFi Channel. What is up with this:

The Sci Fi Channel is going into the soap business. Beginning next week (February 13, 2006) the science fiction cable channel, owned by NBC Universal will begin airing the Emmy Award winning soap opera Passions, starring Juliet Mills as part of its [cut out, I will not promote time] morning schedule (Slice of SciFi).

Will Soap air soon? You know Soap the comedy series? There is an exorcism in it. Am I the only one who thinks SciFi Channel may have jumped the shark on this one?