Youngest Female Pilot Honors Tuskegee Airmen

So I often I report the negative news on the blog; today, I am happy to be reporting something else.

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Kimberly Anyadike/ Facebook

15 year-old, Kimberly Anyadike ended a 13 day flight over the nation yesterday. She is believed to be the youngest African American female to have completed the journey, and among the youngest people in the nation (regardless of race or gender) to have done so.

She left from Compton at the end of last month on a small red-tailed Cessna. The tail of the plane was painted red in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen who she hoped to honor:

They [The Tuskegee Airmen] left such a great legacy. I had big shoes to fill . . . All they wanted to do was to be patriots for this country. They were told no, that they were stupid, that they didn’t have cognitive development to fly planes. They didn’t listen. They just did what they wanted to do. (LA Times)

Anyadike’s co-pilot was also a Tuskegee Airman and during the 13 day trip, she stopped in 4 different states along the eastbound leg of the trip to meet surviving members of the all African-American Air Force unit. 50 Airman signed her small plane in thanks. Many were glad to see the legacy of African American pilots continuing into the next generation.

airbriefing“Tuskegee Airmen Briefing” Toni Frisell 1945

Anyadike also understands the importance of continuing the legacy, stating her other main reason for taking the flight amidst discouragement from others was:

I wanted to inspire other kids to really believe in themselves. (ibid)

Given that the first all African-American female crew (pilot, co-pilot, and flight attendants) flew only a year ago, Anyadike’s significance to women’s aviation cannot be underestimated. Not only does her flight represent an important shift away from a largely male, or male only, tradition in aviation (black or white) but was also part of the efforts of several strong women to keep the program where she learned to fly alive. Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, designed to inspire at-risk and low income youth to not only learn to fly but also to take hold of their dreams, was largely supported by female Congressmen. Senator Diane Finestein and Congresswoman Richardson have been key advocates for the program and were also on hand to meet Anyadike when she reached the East Coast. Congresswomen Juanita Millender-McDonald and Figueroa have been important local advocates for the program, taking their accomplishments to the hill. Congresswoman Millender-McDonal also helped spearhead efforts to get the program re-funded under the Bush administration; those effots were stopped by then-Pres Bush, citing Katrina rebuilding as his reason, tho many believe it was part of a longstanding tradition of Republicans to refuse to fund targeted programs regardless of how beneficial they may be. While Bush failed to see the significance of the program, the male pilots behind the program were much clearer on its goals and were just as keen as the women involved to ensure female representation and gender equity in the program.

blackpilotsT. Airman Thornhill, Anyadike & Petgrave/ Facebook

TAM is also a shining examples of black people doing for themselves. Founder, Jamaican-American, Robin Petgrave started the program to inspire youth and get them off the streets and away from exploitation. It is currently supported by the Association of Black Pilots and the Tuskegee Airman Chapter in LA, as well as the KIPP school (open to all inner city youth seeking college prep education). And TAM is part of a larger community effort to help inspire kids from Compton that many locals have spoken out in praise of and helped support through time, effort, media, and funds.

In a world where we are still willing to kick children out of a pool for being the wrong “complexion” or to disparage the intelligence of young girls while encouraging them to see their power in flesh and product, Anyadike offers a critical alternative of hardwork, knowing one’s history, and daring to dream. The collective effort of women and men from Congress to Compton ensured that the youngest black female pilot just made a safe and historic flight around our nation. Her skills and accomplishment will no doubt inspire other young girls and nationally disparaged youth; they certainly inspired me.

(According to the LA Beez, President Obama has authorized the funding Bush canceled.)

Exile and Pride: Book Giveaway Winner

289_popupThanks to all who wrote both public and private requests for our first book giveaway. I’m glad you all continued to send in your requests despite all of the chaos here at the spot lately. 😀

I just wanted to say to all of you that your stories about why this book would mean something to you, your students, or your friends were truly moving and I wish more of you would have been willing to share those with the rest of the blog.

Our book winner is long time reader/lurker: Anna M.

Anna intends to use the book in a reading group she is starting at her newly opened feminist lending room ( a small room off a coffee shop donated by the coffee shop owner, that will house a lending library of feminist texts). The book will be the first queer feminist disability addition to their lending room and will be the inaugural book in their reading group. Anna hopes it will heal some wounds in her community amongst organizers and encourage diverse groups to participate in the building and sustaining of the feminist lending room.

I wish her and her group the very best. 😀

You can learn more about Exile and Pride here or order it here

Free Book: Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride

Rather than post my multi-culti Pride pic again this weekend, I am offering readers a chance to get a free copy of Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride on (my favs) Southend Press. The book address a number of topics including sexuality, dis/ability, rural and urban divides, the class assumptions embedded in whiteness and queerness, gender, and so much more. I will be posting a longer review of the book as part of the series on dis/ability and queerness started here two weeks ago (I know I’m late in posting) but until then, you can read the description of the text at the link above. If you are in Arizona, you can also meet the author at the Society for Disability Studies Conference going on right now.

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If you want a chance at the book, all you have to do is tell me why you want the book AND how you will use it in your own life and/or community to raise awareness about diversity and (gay) pride.

(Our next Pride give away will be a DVD bundle for the boys: Were the World Mine, Latter Days, Shelter, & Boy Culture)

Black Lesbian Lit Virtual Book Club is On

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(Books Published by Red Bone Press)

Starting July 1, 2009,  Swandiver will be hosting a discussion of lesbian literature by and about African descended authors.  The books are varied throughout our shared diaspora and include the first lesbian authored & lesbian character driven Dominican American novel in English: Erzulie’s Skirt,  as well as many titles from black lesbian run press Red Bone Press and the first publishers to focus exclusively on women of color authored literature in Canada, Sister Vision Press. The later was co-founded by another one of the authors in the list, Makeda Silvera, and Stephanie Martin. Sharon Bridgforth, another personal fave, is also on the list of readings.  I’m very excited to (re)read many of these texts and bump up their sales. And I will admit to suggesting several Red Bone Press books for the purpose of driving traffic to a black owned lesbian press that was founded to fill a need in the gigantic queer lit market. Lisa C. Moore is an amazing person and dedicated author, editor, and thinker. It is both an exciting and telling by product of this reading group that most of these books are published by small, independent, feminist and/or lesbian, publishers and I want to strongly recommend that those of you out there ordering books regularly consider ordering from people who actually have a diverse, feminist, and queer publishing history or who have endeavored to represent the voices that other publishers, including independents, have failed to publish in any significant way. It doesn’t have to be these folks mentioned in the post, but you know, I’ve bought books from most of them and absolutely love working with them to fill class book orders or just chat about upcoming literary events or forthcoming titles.

I’ll be reposting extended versions of my comments over there as posts here so you all can read along. Please participate if you are at all interested in the topic. And for all my academic readers who seem hard pressed to find people other than Lorde and Anzaldua to teach, here’s your chance . . .

Happy Pride y’all!

  1. Passing for Black by Linda VillarosaBLack Lesbian Network
  2. The Heart Does Not Bend by Makeda Silvera
  3. Ezulie’s Skirt by Ana Maurine Lara
  4. Does Your Mama Know? edited by Lisa C. Moore
  5. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  7. The Other Side Of Paradise (A Memoir) by Staceyann Chin
  8. The Serpent’s Gift by Helen Elaine Lee
  9. The Bull-Jean Stories by Sharon Bridgeforth
  10. Callaloo and Other Lesbian Love Tales by LaShonda K. Barnett
  11. Love Like Gumbo by Nancy Rawles
  12. Crawfish Dreams by Nancy Rawles
  13. Water In A Broken Glass by Odessa Rose
  14. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

I look forward to seeing you all each month over at Swandiver’s and here (‘cos you know I’m wordy & it wouldn’t be fair to monopolize discussion in someone else’s spot) at the start of each month. 😀

Another Trans Woman of Color Shot in Memphis

kelvinKelvin Denton remains in critical condition in a Memphis hospital today after being shot by 18 year old Terron Taylor. Taylor shot Denton in the nose and throat at 6 am on Wednesday of last week. The two are said to have gotten in an argument at Denton’s apartment.

Taylor admitted to the shooting when arrested but, like so many others, also claimed the trans panic defense.leneeshia According to The Advocate, Taylor told police he shot Denton b/c she had “misled him about her gender.”

Like other women I’ve reported on this week who survived harrowing experiences through sure will, Denton was found before her injuries proved fatal, b/c she walked from her apartment to the Whitehaven Community Center near her home. She knew if she could just get there, someone would call the police and make sure that she got medical attention. All though she did victimberrytiffanyvd7not make it the whole way before losing consciousness, the police report said she was found by a jogger who called for help.

Denton is the 5th trans woman, 4 of whom were African American twoc, to be shot in the area in 2 years. Hate crimes in the state have gone up 38% this year and slightly less than half of that increase is against GLBTQ people. As Memphis Trans Guy points out in discussing the transphobic murder of Leeneshia Edwards in January, 3 of these crimes took place in just 6 months. Moreover, there seems to be a clear pattern of targeting working class/subsistence level African American trans women in the informal economy. The intersections of these identities has been largely missing from discussion of Denton’s case as well as some of the other Storyshooting victims. Many of us who did talk about the intersections in all of these cases were queer women of color. One such discussion at Unfinished Lives makes sure to highlight all of the victims of the 6 month period prior to Denton’s attack and stress the need for HR in Memphis.

The failure of some LGB advocates to use proper pronouns (ie transphobia), and for some transgender advocates to address or even acknowledge the specific race of the women targeted (ie racism), as well as the failure of both to explicitly address class (ie classism, and possible heterosexism b/c trans women are often relegated to working class and informal economy positions) is part of the reason that trans women of color remain such easy targets. duanna_johnsonNot only do they struggle against societally accepted discrimination and violence but they are often rendered invisible by the discourses of advocates on every side.

Taylor is to be arraigned today and several transgender advocates have urged the judge and the police not to except the trans panic defense.

The TN Transgender Political Coalition is also once again calling for the State Legislature to pass an amendment to civil rights law for the state that would include “gender identity or expression” in protected status alongside race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc. (read more here)

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  • Kelvin Denton/unattributed.
  • Leeneshia Edwards/Eyewitness News. Edwards was killed in December 2008 by an unknown assailant. read more using link in post
  • Tiffany Berry/ unattributed. Berry was killed by D’Ondre Blake 2/16/06 outside her apartment b/c “he didn’t like the way she touched him.” read more here.
  • Ebony Whitaker/unattributed. Whitaker was killed by an unknown assailant near a day care center in July 2008. read more here.
  • Duana Johnson/unattributed. Johnson was first beaten and refused medical care by Memphis Police and health care providers and then assassinated under questionable circumstances. read more here.

First Latina Nominee to Supreme Court

Picture_26By now you are probably as well versed as I am on the nominees candidacy, since it is all anyone is talking about, so I’ll be brief. Obama has nominated the first Latin@ to the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor. She was first in her graduating class at Princeton, second in her class at Yale, Phi Beta Kappa, and winner of a prestigious award for her skill as a law student.  In her career, she has been supported by almost as many Republicans as Democrats including President Bush senior (as in not “W”). With Obama’s nomination, her work has been endorsed by three presidents total: Bush, Clinton, and Obama. Her voting record is decidedly moderate, including supporting limitations on reproductive rights while not being pro-life. And tho Republicans are accusing her of litigating from the bench, their talking point cuts off the statement she made about such behavior at the point when she is explaining that many people do litigate from the bench instead of at the end of the sentence where she concludes this is the wrong choice.

The other major controversy for which she is being criticized is her decision to remove an advancement exam for Firemen in order to allow people of color and women to advance to leadership positions they had been excluded from in the past. The media has been presenting this second issue as if she removed the skills test needed to become a Fireman, but she did not, that was a different case in a different state. Also, neo-conservatives are calling her a “reverse racist” for saying she is better equiped than a white man to judge certain cases and for the firemen decision. Tho her choice of words was not the best, one needs only look back to Ginsburg’s criticism of her fellow judges in the case of a teenage girl stripped searched at her school to see why identity shifts the way one reads legal decisions. Those reads matter in cases where the majority of the court is viewing the case through a gendered or raced experience that does not reflect the reality of the potential victims in the cases. Recgonizing this, is not akin to saying Sotomayor or Ginsburg are privileging certain identities over others or that identity matters more than credentials. Both of these women are qualified for their positions, and Sotomayor has more qualifications than any other judge nominated in the last 9 years. To argue this is an “affirmative action hire” with all of its connotations of “underqualified” and “reverse discrimination” is to ignore her immense credentials and bi-partisan endorsements throughout her career.

These controversies, as well as rumors about her collegiality and intelligence, were first introduced by a journalist who admitted to not having reviewed her voting record or educational background before going to print. He also did not quote any sources willing to go on record. It is likely that if he did not bother to check the background and voting record of the subject of his article, he didn’t check similar information of his “confidential” sources either. The criticisms are largely those that are levied at most women and people of color in positions of power or positions traditionally held by white, heterosexual or closeted cis men.

Ultimately, while this is a win in the sense of diversity on the court and representation for Latin@s, it may not be a win for more idealistic and/or left-thinking members of the democratic party. If Republicans weren’t spending so much time screaming “reverse discrimination” they would note that there are many issues in her record where she has been much closer to the right than the left. Like most Obama apointees to office, Sotomayor is a moderate nothing more and nothing less. So while we deconstruct the racism and sexism involved in questioning her intelligence and fitness for the position, and champion the meaning of a more diverse legislative body, let’s not forget to actually question her politics, voting record, and prior decisions on the bench. If Clarence Thomas didn’t teach us why simply hiring a person b/c of their marginalized identity isn’t enough, I don’t know who can.

Terminator Salvation? (Minor Spoilers)

News7_0The big news of the weekend, even tho it is 2 days from over, is that Night at the Museum II trumped long anticipated Terminator Salvation in box office take. This news reminds me of a certain vein of discussion around the AI finale (and no I don’t watch that show, but who in queer media studies isn’t watching the aftermath?); some people argue that the AI winner is a reminder to a Hollywood invested in slick production and hype, that most people in N. America just want something “real” w/ a dash of triumphant storyline. In the world of Memorial Day Weekend openings that means that box office take is telling Hollywood that while CGI is fascinating for Directors, Actors, and gamers, most of the N. American viewing audience is still drawn to storytelling and recognizable plot lines. And just like the AI finale, that admission in no way undermines what is lost when we steer toward the middle. In both the triumph of Night at the Museum II and Kris Whatshisface, we lost diversity and complexity while we gained “entertaining enough”.

The Plot & The Director

terminator-salvation-baleThe basic plot of T4 is that John Connor and Skynet-modified Marcus Wright have to work together against a resistance “final battle” time clock to save Kyle Reese. In the process, the major figures of the resistance are revealed and/or re-invented, and each has to come to terms with the meaning of humanity.

Long before T4 hit the screens, fans were complaining about the decision to hire McG, a 41 year old director who got his start in music videos and was once best known for his contributions to the Pop Up Video genre and feminist-lite Charlie’s Angels remakes. People were concerned he might miss the subtle nuances of the Terminator franchise. Unlike popular opinion, formed largely off the innovative liquid technology of T2, the Terminator has always been about the storyline as much as scary Arnold/Skynet coming to get you.

McG doesn’t disappoint critics. The first 30 minutes of the film are throwaway. Many less invested viewers will stopterminator_salvation__the_future_be caring or wanting to understand the storyline before the plot actually starts; my movie companion was one of them. In a special on the latest installment, McG said he made sure to get “the best actors” he could find b/c he wanted to make sure that he did proper homage to the franchise. You can have the best actors in the world, but an action film without strongly written dialogue, well conceived and executed plot, and an overarching story that multiple audiences can follow, is little more than a video game. While the film does an amazing job in the last 1.15, the first 30 minutes are a video game. (And I’ve just found out the video game is already on sale, set in the the interim period between T3 and T4, and all of the characters in the film are introduced there. Hence why the film starts as if it is in the middle of the story, without explaining anything. Way to sell out the film franchise McG. So we don’t get the story we all wanted so you can make bank at the gamer store?!? Oh and Christian Bale refused to be in the video game . . . ugh)

The film also fails in its shift from Sarah Connor’s story to John Connor’s life. His mother, a once slightly vacuous waitress turned brilliant and slightly unhinged bada** is reduced to little more than old tapes that I am not sure are even Linda Hamilton’s original recordings. (They are the original script, but I would like to know where he got a tape player in 2018.) Worse than that, when we last left John, he was locked in a bunker with his future wife as the world came to an end. For most fans of the entire franchise, the next piece of the story should have been how 20 something year-old John emerged from that bunker, cultivated a global movement, and became a hero compelling enough to stop the resistance from executing vital orders from the resistance command. McG skips over this story to the film and franchise’s detriment. As one person said as we walked out the theater, “I don’t get why John Connor is so exceptional or why anyone would follow him over anyone else [in this movie].”

The Good News

tmarcus2Part of the reason that viewer, and the companion I took with me who has never seen any of the Terminator franchise either, were confused is because the film’s focus is not John Connor. Instead, we are given two equally compelling stories that revolve around Connor long after he has become both legend and thorn in several people’s side. One is the story of Marcus Wright, a convicted killer whose actions result in the death of his only brother. Wright, like Connor, is somewhat of a time traveler and victim of Skynet. In scenes that recreate the original T1 in reverse, Wright becomes central to the film. His presence amongst the resistance forces them to re-evaluate what makes them human and what defines heroism. Unlike Angels and Demons, these lofty questions are central to the entire storyline and carried through every scene. Thus much of the film is taking up with vignettes that explore the human condition, from marauding rapists, to people hording or sharing precious resources, to families just trying to stay alive. All of these are seen through Marcus’ eyes.

Marcus’ journey is ultimately one of redemption from killer to hero. He fights against an unexplained anger inside him to do the right thing & he is initially inspired by Kyle Reese. Andtmarcus while that inspiration comes into question when he finally reaches Skynet, Marcus makes the right decision in the end. And even it is accomplished in a scene stolen from another Cameron original, Dark Angel, it’s a message that seems particularly poignant on Memorial Day weekend and for a nation that continues to debate what it means to be N. American.

The other compelling story is of Kyle Reese, John Connor’s father. When I heard they had cast Anton Yelchin, the somewhat bratty teen from Huff and Chekov from the Star Trek update, I admit I was disgusted. While Yelchin did a brilliant job on Huff, I felt he was too young, too whiny, and too tyelchinvisually different from Michael Biehn to be convincing. I was wrong. Yelchin makes this film.

(Note to other directors, Yelchin is a big Terminator fan, he even had Terminator toys as a kid. When you remake movies and old television shows, these are the types of people you want to find. Unlike people who have never “really watched” or worse, are snide about the shows or their fans, you want people who will rise to the occassion under any circumstances b/c they are as invested as the audience. I believe that part of the reason the Sarah Connor Chronicles suffered was b/c of how flippantly Lena Headly dismissed Linda Hamilton, viewers, and the franchise itself.)

Anton Yelchin’s Kyle Reese is infused with just enough youth and heroism to show us the boy who would become Sarahtmy Connor’s savior and John Connor’s best friend. He has an uncanny ability to infuse his heroic moments with the necessary indignation and guidance that transforms these moments from petulance and condemnation to hope and strength. Yelchin’s performance was inspired and subsequently Reese is inspiring.

The character’s story arc is extremely well written. Despite having no real resistance to support him and having clearly lost all of the survivors in his community, including his father, to the machines, Reese manages to keep both himself and a young mute African American girl named Star alive and fed. He reminds both Marcus and one of the communities they encounter together that what separates humans from machines is their ability to care about and for each other. And when he is captured, he calms the entire transport ship of captives and helps provide the leadership they need to stay alive.

His capture follows the narrative of the original Terminator film, unfortunately the writers undermine the logic in thistmbiehninstallment. Reese explains to Sarah that he and Connor met when the later saved him from a Skynet death camp. At the time neither Reese nor Skynet knew who his father was, so Skynet would have no reason to kill Reese while in custody. Despite neither T1-3 or Sarah Connor Chronicles ever revealing who Connor’s father was beyond Sarah and John, T4 starts with the assumption that Skynet already knows the truth which makes the death camp a wasted easy way to win the war. There is also an equally ridiculous scene in which Connor himself screams about Skynet killing his mother and father, and then names him, to a machine (!!!) as if he has completely forgotten that machines can be downloaded!!!  Meanwhile he is keeping it from the resistance fighters?!? This logic gap is never corrected in the movie and like another major logic gap involving Wright’s character, it serves to destabilize the entire franchise if you think about it too longterminator_salvation_movie_image_anton_yelchin_sam_worthington

Another frightening update to the Kyle Reese story in T4 has to do with the iconic clothing. When Marcus rises from the earth in one of the opening scenes, McG borrows heavily from Kyle Reese’s arrival in the past. This homage, that has a naked Wright choosing a long trench coat and combat boots that don’t quite fit, and later asking “what day is it,” reframes the original so that Kyle Reese’s clothing choices are actually modeled after Marcus Wright. And some of Kyle’s weapons knowledge also comes from Marcus. So where the original T1 implied that Kyle had learned most of what he knew from John and in turn, John learned most of what he knew from his mother Sarah who learned it from Kyle, the T4 narrative replaces Reese with Marcus. This same centering of Marcus in the overarching marcus-wright-kyle-reese-terminator-salvationstoryline of T4 also means the displacement of John Connor who would never have found his father or survived the Skynet assault without Marcus’ help. See the problems?

All of these issues are apparently the result of displacing James Cameron, the writer and creator of the franchise. Cameron wrote all three of the original Terminator movies and the best episodes of the Sarah Connor Chronicles. It is hard to imagine why McG thought he could pull it off without him, but according to the IMDB database, Cameron is back on the team in an unspecified role for T5.

If Marcus’ journey is meant to make us reflect on the redemption of humanity, Kyle’s is to remind us of the human spirit and the heroism that lurks in all of us.

Race and Gender

tmulticultiyelchin

While T4 is a decidedly male centered storyline, there are several important women in the cast from the first shot to the very last.  What is exciting about these women is that they are both racially and age diverse. They are also intelligent and an integral part of the storyline and the team. Thus we are giving female scientists, doctors, fighter pilots, and community leaders. Their work is implicated in the progress of both Skynet and the Resistance and at least two of them, one a small child, ensure that the resistance lives to fight another day.

What is disappointing about these characters is that despite all of this, they never seem to escape traditional gender roles. Jane Alexander’s considerable talent is wasted in her role as a sort of earth mother elder who challenges the hoarding of the “younger” members of her group. The role made sense and she plays it well, but it was just so much stereotype as twilliams1evidenced by her complete reduction to caretaker in the Skynet prison. For a woman who entered the movie putting gun toting men 1/2 her age in check, standing there hugging children to her in a prison was hardly the way one would have imagined a true earth mother would go out.

The self-proclaimed bada** fighter pilot, Blair Williams, played by bi-racial Asian American Moon Bloodgood, spends much of her infamous fight scene knocked out or off screen while Marcus comes to her rescue. She does get in a few good punches, but there is considerable screen time where she is literally passed out on screen or missing from the shot all together. She is quickly reduced to “girlfriend” or “love sick” as a result of her “hero coming to the rescue.” Despite having been in the resistance long enough to be one of Connor’s major confidants, Williams sells him out within 24 hours for a man no one is actually sure is still human. She even tells him the Resistance code language in a similarly ignorant move; given that not all of the humans are on board with the Resistance, spelling out their special code to mark hideouts to a man she just met is unthinkable. Accept, you know, she’s a girl and he’s hot. And tkatedespite all of the talk about humanity, her brothers in arms turn on her with the same 5 second precision when she “ma[kes] her choice.”

Kate Connor, the resistance physician, is Connor’s pregnant wife. She spends the bulk of the film giving him longing glances and acting as his comforter in a world that just doesn’t understand what he is going through. (cue small violins please; seriously, Thomas Dekker did angst and conflict much better than Bale did in these scenes with Howard. I found myself wondering why these moments were included when all they did was negatively engender Howard’s character and take away from Bale’s mostly spot on performance; maybe the DP was walking by again.) While Kate clearly has the skills, she lacks an intelligible subjecthood in her own right. Those who remember T3 will find the transition from Claire Danes to Bryce Howard’s Kate a serious decline in the depiction of an outspoken and free thinking equal to John Connor.  If we think about Sarah Connor’s transformation from T1 to T2, Kate’s transformation is a complete reversal. Where she should have been getting stronger, she is turning into supporting cast. And again, this is the reason the storyline would have benefited from starting back at terminator_4_Claire_Danes_2the bunker where Kate still wasn’t sure she liked John all that much.  We could have seen her develop the skills that made her the Resistance’s key physician; remember, at the end of T3 she was a veterinarian not a medical student. We could watch her grow closer to Connor as they fought alongside one another to build the Resistance. And then the pregnant, doting-eyed, Kate would be a single facet of a complex women. The failure to do that, More than leaves those of us who remember T3 concerned about what this means if the death of John Connor is not ultimately prevented, as it was not in T3. (And for the record, I do think that is the moment T3 went off the rails, b/c according to T1 John Connor was moments from destroying Skynet tjessewhen Kyle was sent back in time. “Skynet was defeated” and its last ditch effort was to send Arnold back. If that is true, there is no way that Skynet would have had time to kill John Connor and send back the T-X while Kate Connor modified a T-800 to send back to stop it.) To her credit, Howard  infused the character with enough strength that I think given the right script and character development can turn Kate Connor back into something more than John’s care taker.

Ultimately, both Kate Connor and Blair Williams could have taken a page from Jesse Flores, a bi-racial Latina character played by bi-racial Portuguese-Asian Aussie Stephanie Jacobson, who was both bada** and loyal. She was in love with Kyle’s brother and tstaroften motivated by the death of their unborn child. However, she managed to balance feminine with strength in ways these two characters miss. She also had many fight scenes in which no man needed to come to her rescue. In some ways, I noted a bit of Jesse in Howard’s Kate that I am looking forward to seeing in the next installment.

The other major, but likely to be overlooked part, played by young African American actress Jadagrace, is a young girl who can hear the HKs and other Terminators coming before anyone else can. Her skills are invaluable to keeping Kyle Reese and ultimately John Connor alive. Though they actually carry her around like a rag doll prop in one scene (seriously, both Marcus and Yelchin tuck her under their arm and run about the set with her little legs flopping out from under their thick arms), she is also ever vigilant. She is the one who discovers the nuclear power cells that Reese and Connor use to hide behind in an outmatched fight (unfortunately no one covered their flank so it didn’t work) and she is the one who picks up the lost tstar1detonator switch and makes sure it is back in Connor’s hand at the critical moment.  She is also the one who finds Reese when Connor can’t and saves him from the Terminator.

On one level, her “disability” and how it enhances her abilities rather than “cripples them” is a testament to an anti-ablist narrative in the film. Little Star is watched over by all of the key players in the cast as a valuable member, and as I said, she is also mostly watching out for all of them.

At the same time, her skill replaces those of dogs in the franchise. As Kyle Reese painstakingly explains to Sarah Connor, dogs can hear the Terminators coming and can also sniff out “skin jobs” so they are “invaluable in the future.” Through injeepflashback sequences in T1, we see the dogs save Reese’s life and they are an ever present part of the series from that point forward. It’s as if McG has forgotten the basic tenants of the Terminator universe, even as he uses the infamous photo of Sarah Connor with a dog at her side. While those who do not remember this fact will happy with the depiction of both ability and blackness represented here, we cannot forget that in McG’s universe, the dog is replaced by a little black girl.

I also kept being reminded of the anti-hero in Wolverine played by Ryan Reynolds/Scott Adkins. General Stryker had his mouth sewn shut and then permanently sealed b/c he thought he talked to much. I couldn’t help but wonder if the natural haired black girl who couldn’t speak was a similar motif, in which she was welcomed for her cuteness and her smarts but Terminator Salvation: The Future Beginsexpected to be silent and shoved to the margin without complaint. You make think I am taking this too far, but when most black people in film are wise cracking side kicks, including little-Mr-needed-to-shut-up Jaden Smith in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the decision to make a silent black girl character, especially one that replaces a dog, cannot be overlooked.

The other black character in the film is played by ever pleasant on the eyes Common. He is under utilized in this film which is unfortunate. Common was one of the only entertaining parts of Smokin Aces and did a compelling tho throwaway part in last summer’s Wanted. If he’d been given a larger role, he would have made this film even more male centered but at least justified his presence. While he was never demeaned in this role and was clearly a trusted part Terminator Salvation: The Future Beginsof the team, it was hard to take him seriously as little more than background given that even the critical conflict between him and Marcus stemming from the death of his brother was handled with such short shrift. I can only hope he is given more to do in T5.

As implied earlier, Bloodgood’s role is much larger than Common’s. While she never escapes gender stereotype, and again I say if all you are is the pretty-girlfriend-in-tight-pants-and-low-cut-top then it doesn’t matter if you can carry a gun, the film does avoid typical anti-Asian gendered depictions of Williams. When Williams is attacked by 4 men who intend to rape her, they do not make engendered racist comments that dot much of N. American films particularly summer blockbusters staring Asian women. Where I expected something akin to Bruce Willis’ offensive comments in the resurrection fo the Die Hard franchise, McG gave us a scene that firmly demonized the male rapists and left much of their sexist and all of their potentially engendered racist comments to the viewers’ imaginations.

In fact, where McG fails in overestimating the entertainment value of multiple explosions, he exceeds at a vision of the future that actually reflects the diversity of the present. Soldiers and civilians alike are peopled with both white people and people of color, women and men, elders, youth, and 3o somethings, able-bodied and differently-abled. The crowd scenes also reflect the California landscape, which despite conservative Californian’s efforts, is a multi-lingual and multi-racial place. Thus people speak Asian languages and Spanish alongside English. Unfortunately, for all of the raciallinda-hamilton-terminator diversity in the film, Latin@s are still missing as characters in their own right. Relegating them to the background is one of the only major issues with race in this film I can really find. From crowd scenes to one liners to important characters, McG has done a better job than almost everyone else in ensuring visual diversity and up against Night at the Museum that casts white actors as Africans and Middle Easterners, it’s a shame the box office didn’t turn out differently.

T4 is one of the first big blockbuster films to envision a diverse world in which most of that diversity is positive. No one but Bryan Singer has managed to do that in a really long time and as long as McG returns to the original feminism of Cameron’s Sarah Connor then I think the women in this planned trilogy will also come into their own right in the end. Unfortunately for now, while there are lot of talented actresses, and critical female roles, in the film there are no women or girls who transcend gender stereotypes. At the same time, while Star Trek gave us the worst cast female cameo ever, T4 gives us the best one.

As implied there are no queer characters in this film.

The Machines

McG is also trying to be innovative with the Terminators themselves in this film to varying success. On the one hand, he t600gives us highly skilled water and road Terminators and on the other, devolved robots. In the T4 special, McG explained that he took the models from the original movies and intentionally devolved them in order to show a progression in Skynet’s innovations. It makes sense that just as the progression from the T-800 to the T-1000 made huge leaps, the T-800s were a huge advance. What does not make sense, is that while the Terminators are devolved in this film, the water based and motorcycle models are as evolved as non-liquid based technology could be. How do these two technologies exist? And why is McG so careful in his thinking about the Terminator models while violating one of the key tenants of the franchise: Terminators cannot swim. If Skynet can make vicious eel like terminating machines then why couldn’t they figure out how to make the T series swim?

Visually, the T series comes across as clunky and behind the times. While I both understand and applaud McG’s thinking on this issue, from a viewer standpoint it was the wrong choice. Many people iterminator_salvation_movie_image_christian_bale the audience I was in were bored by the T series, as evidenced by text messaging, talking, etc. To me, they came across as poorly funded Saturday movies on the Scifi channel or z-rate scifi from the 80s, hardly scary to a generation raised on CGI. The eels were much more terrifying. However, they not only exposed a logic gap but also seemed stolen from the Matrix (much like the supposed recap verbage at the beginning was out of place homage to Star Wars).

There is also a surprising cameo related to the T series which had this Terminator fan giddy. My companion guffawed and when I asked her about it later, she said “oh please. Isn’t he like the governor?!” While she thought seeing an “old” politician on screen was ridiculous, having not seen any of the prior films but knowing Arnold played the original Terminator, I thought it was both amazing and creepy. Creepy b/c we now have a freakish explanation for why the original series looked like Arnold; I mean, it is a Californian company and Californian lab thatterminator-salvation_71produces them . . . Talk about real life shifting the meaning of art. The rise of Arnold was much scarier than Tom Hanks drivel about statues in Angels and Demons.

One of the other major logic gaps related to the machines in this film is the existence of Marcus himself. I cannot give away the plot, but suffice it to say that if Marcus is a hybrid, why is he the only one? And if his body is 90% metal then what does his heart do and how are both it and his brain (which has been chipped ala the T series from the TV show Sarah Connor Chronicles) uncorrupted by Skynet?

Conclusions

Ultimately, if you are willing to ride through the first 1/2 hour of the film, you won’t be disappointed. The movie pays homage to many of the others in the franchise, including resurrecting beloved lines and characters. It also follows the storytmarcusandjohn Reese tells in T1 fairly accurately while violating some of the storyline from T3. While John Connor is certainly not the most compelling character in T4 (people actually laughed at the Batman like growling Bale did in much of the early scenes in the theater I was in), Yelchin’s Kyle Reese is  a profound presence from beginning to end and Sam Worthington and the character Marcus Wright do not disappoint.

While there are major logic gaps throughout the plot that if you discuss them long enough will completely undermine the entire film and the franchise, I think most people are willing to giver Terminator some leeway. Ultimately, if McG and his writers clean up some of the logic, focus their lens back on the question that plagues the majority of us, ie “what makes Connor exceptional,” and trusts his actors and his scripts more than his explosions, the new trilogy will shine as bright as the original. If not, there is always the final episode of TSC which blew this movie out of the water.

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all images come from Terminator Salvation and are the property of Warner Bros Studios except

  • Ben Stiller. Night at the Museum II. Dir Ben Stiller. studios
  • Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese. Terminator. Dir James Cameron. MGM, 1984.
  • Claire Danes as Kate Brewster. Terminator: Rise of the Machines. Dir. Johnathon Mastow. Warner Bros. 2003.
  • Stephanie Jacobs as Jesse Flores y Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese. “Today is the Day Pt. 1” Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. Writer James Cameron. Fox. 2009.
  • Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor w/her dog. Terminator.
  • Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Terminator: Judgment Day. Dir James Cameron. Lion’s Gate, 1991.

Hey Hollywood How About Some Women for Summer?

transformersThe never ending discussion about the role of women in graphic novels and the depiction of women in adapted comics and novels for the summer blockbuster has begun. Rather than fight the good fight this summer, in which I remind people that ideas about women and the depiction of female characters can in fact be updated from the original without violating the basic plot I am just going to point to the myriad of female superheroes in classic comic books that could be staring  in movies this summer. In fact, a quick view of the films scheduled to be released this year has only one offering in which women have (as I recall) been seen as equal to their male counterparts: GI Joe. While Uhura in the new Star Trek isfemale-motorbike-transformer-arceeactually smarter than many of her male counterparts, she is completely undermined as I discuss in my Star Trek review, so she does not count. And the Director of Transformers II finally saw his way around putting women in, but the graphics show no update of the character; she is still an anorexic looking, neon pink thing, updated only slightly so she has actual headlights for breasts!!! I haven’t seen anything that sad since Tranzor Z’s Missile “Boobs”.

While I’d like to see the women below in more clothes, sans bum shots, if sent to the big screen, don’t tell me we don’t have options. This is what happens when Hollywood favors white heterosexual male producers, studio heads, and directors over the same diversity in Hollywood that we have in the country as a whole. All of these female characters, many of them poc and some differently-abled, fall out. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with having white, male, heterosexual directors (paging Bryan Singer) but I do think there is something wrong when year after year the plethora of big budget summer offerings can only offer me various plays on the same heteropatriarchal driven fantasy. (Not to mention racial narratives that perpetually imagine fantastical worlds without poc in them.)

the song in the background:

Isis, one of the first all-female rock bands signed in 1964 & homage to Mighty Isis

featured super heroes & villansIsis

  • Elektra Woman
  • Dyna Girl
  • Bionic Woman (the real one)
  • Wonder Woman
  • Wonder Girl
  • Princess Leia
  • Phoenix
  • She-Hulk
  • Misty Knight
  • The Huntress (Batman and Catwoman’s kid in an alternate universe, now there’s a blockbuster for you)
  • Miss Marvel
  • Red Sonja
  • Mighty Isis
  • Leiko Wumokf47-01
  • Vampirella (whose swimsuit I swear I saw at the shop last week while looking for my own)
  • Friday Foster (played in the film version by Pam Grier)
  • Thundra
  • Mary Marvel
  • Deadly Nightshade
  • The Black Canary
  • Tigra
  • Cat Woman
  • Rose and Thorn
  • Shanna
  • Big Barda
  • Storm

Other women, who might be great for blockbuster films are included in my other post on female super heroes/tv characters (which includes some Latinas from Latin American graphic novels sense the depiction of both Latinas and Asian American women is so poor here in the states).

Or how about a golden age come back like these women from the 1940s? Using 40s comics would open several genres that are popular right now like: Mysteries, Psychological Thrillers, Gangster Movies, etc. all with super heroes (see my explanation of this new combination in my Wolverine post)

Featured heroes & villans:

  • the domino ladlunamoth
  • fantoma
  • Red Tornado
  • Woman in Red (a detective who put hard boiled male detectives to shame)
  • Lady Luck
  • Miss Fury
  • Phantom Lady (not the anime ok)
  • Nelvana
  • Teen Wilcat
  • The Spider Queen
  • Silver Scorpion
  • Bullet Girl
  • Hawk Girl
  • Lady FairplayAmericas Best 24 p14
  • Invisible Scarlet O’Neal
  • Miss America
  • Pat Patriot
  • Black Venus
  • International Girl Commandos
  • Bulletgirl
  • Hellcat/Patsy Walker
  • Miss Masque
  • Moon Girl
  • Miss Masque
  • Luna Moth (who one of my friends is named after)

What about gay representation? Wiccan and Hulking from the Young Avengers perhaps?

I suppose this might be a bit much?

rage

But I did really want to see what “Juice Pig” looks like in part 2. And in QAF land, they did make it into a major motion picture at the end.

It seems that Showtime will be offering its own animated regular series starring “the world’s first gay superhero” hopefully in the Fall. It is set to be penned by Stan Lee and based on a novel about a gay superhero entitled simply: Hero. If the small screen can do it, so can the big screen.

Or how aboutdust

  • Echo (Native American/also once thought to be differently-abled)
  • Moondragon (bisexual)
  • Jubilee (Asian-American, X-Men)
  • Misty Knight (differently-abled)
  • Nightengale (Haitian)
  • Dust (Afghani, Muslim, woman X-Men)
  • Ranma 1/2 (Asian, transgendered)
  • Dark Angel (Latina)
  • Sudra Jones (African American, drawn and written by Af-Ams)
  • Joto (black, and so totally gay even if he is too young to know)
  • Chandi Gupta (S. Asian)

OracleBrainiacVirus

  • Mantis (Vietnamese)md2
  • Batwoman (lesbian)
  • Araña (Latina)
  • Oracle (differently-abled)?
  • The Black furies (environmental feminist werewolves; af-am)
  • Ghost (most popular female character at Dark Horse. ie $$$)
  • Random 5 (african american written by african americans)
  • The Menagerie II (Latina)
  • Arachne (a single mother)
  • Silver Hawk (Asian; Michelle Yeoh rocked this part in low budge, let’s see it with big American studio backing)
  • the silencer (african american)
  • Darna (Asian)
  • Photon (African American)

Cecilia_Reyes_1

  • Cecilia Reyes (Afra-Latina X Men)silverhawk1
  • Karita (Afra-Latina)
  • Farscape women (various non-white aliens, including older woman)
  • Swift (Asian, bi-sexual)
  • Witchblade
  • Pathway (African American, autistic)
  • Dawnstar (Native American)
  • Heather Hudson (African American)
  • Willow (lesbian)
  • Sashiko (Asian American)
  • Hack/Slash (Lesbians, questioning, and taking back the night)

hackecho1

  • Sister Superior (differently-abled)
  • Starlight (African American)
  • Firebird (Latina)
  • Rina Patel (S. Asian)
  • Jonni Thunder (Genderqueer)
  • Vixen (African)

Obviously, some of these characters would need to be updated but the bottom line is that there are a number of strong starlightwomen and poc that could be featured in the Summer Blockbuster cycle. Very few of them have been considered and still fewer have been centered. Several of the women on these lists actual appear in graphic novels about male heroes or in confederations containing male heroes, many of whom have already had multiple turns at the summer cinema. Despite this fact, most of these women are still absent. When they do appear, they are drained of much of their intellectual or physical powers, turned white when they were written as woc or bi-racial, or turned straight when they were originally bi-sexual or violently killed when lesbian. While many graphic novels and comic books are riddled with misogyny, that is not an excuse to either omit women or fail to update them for modern audiences. Many of the women in this list would likely only need updated clothes and dialogue and very little else. Some of the more modern characters have already been written as feminist and most tackled issues regarding the oppression of women at one point or another. While still others, like Anesta Robins are hardboiled sci fi detectives that would appeal anyone who liked Blade Runner. Aaranas I’ve said before, Bryan Singer proved this when he did the X Men and Stan Lee has repeatedly said he wants to do better by women, people of color, and differently-abled characters.

While there are many male viewers and directors who like things just the way they are – men as super human and women as half-naked objects all tied together in a heterosexist bow – the reality is that women and men with a clue are alive and movie going in the summer months too. We don’t all want to watch quirky chick flicks (which do very little for the racial or ability integration of films either) or spend our parenting hours re-directing intentionally misdirected youth. We don’t want to fight with our significant others, less clear friends, and blog trolls about why black face, the absence of visible Latinos, the demonizing of the queer community, and women in spandex undies and stilletos is just not ok. I certainly do not enjoy being called “un-american” on wikipedia.

If basic decency cannot influence Hollywood, then let’s talk $$$. Sex and the City, which also had its woman hating real_power_batwomanmoments and saw the return of mammy, was female led and female centered. It was one of the major box office hits of the summer. And while part of its appeal was a successful tv run first, there were many shows with female superheroes and people of color who can say the same. If the attention the fictional comic book Rage got on QAF is any indication, the same could be said for gay superheroes if they’d actually be given a chance. And the re-release of Bat Woman, a lesbian, garnered so much buzz people were looking to buy copies before it even went to print. And seriously, do we really want to condone a film genre that seems to echo the wrongheaded warning of The Seduction of the Innocent?

Who would you like to see next summer?  (PS. No, I am not looking forward to Beyonce as Wonder Woman or Rose McGowen as Barbarella, but I do want to see both of those characters return to the screen.)

———

images

  • Transformers I, movie still. unattributed
  • Pink Transformer. unattributed
  • Mighty Isis. Steve Rude
  • Leiko Wu/Phantom Sand. unattributed
  • Luna Moth. unattributed
  • Phantom Lady. unattributed.
  • Dust. unattributed
  • Moon Dragon. Rubinstein
  • Cecilia Reyes. unattributed
  • Pathway. unattributed
  • Michelle Yeoh as Silver Hawk. unattributed.
  • Hack/Slash. unattributed
  • Echo. unattributed
  • Starlight. Milestone Comics part of DC Universe.
  • Arana. unattributed
  • Kathy Kane aka “Bat Woman.” unattributed

interested in more amazing images: see SwanShadow Blog