Afrofuturism Canon

Women in futuristic African Attire in the middle with characters from the movie Black Panther on the right and left of the women.  There is a blue background behind the characters with transparent futuristic faces in the background.
Image Source: https://revolt.tv/stories/2018/02/27/octavia-butler-black-panther-afrofuturism-tomorrow-0700aed4c1

I’ve noted before that this summer I’m doing a lot of reading for both Rhetoric & Composition theory as well as Afrofuturism (I’m also reading the new textbook for my English 1010 class coming up for Fall 2019 to try to lay out how I’m going to teach it). I’m noticing quite a few things. One of the things that I want to talk about today is the fact that because Afrofuturism is just now going “mainstream” due to the success of Black Panther, its “canon” (the works that define it) are still being written/formulated/expressed. There’s still a quite a bit of debate as to what exactly constitutes an Afrofuturistic text (heck, my spellcheck even now is underlining Afrofuturism in red, highlighting that the term is still one that is not widely disseminated).

What is (currently) considered Afrofuturism?

So, the one of the most current definitions of Afrofuturism that I’ve seen is that Afrofuturism is a future (futuristic future or future that has futuristic elements) that deals in some way with the African diaspora. That is, the contintent of Africa in some way or the forced migration of African citizens to other continents (mainly for slave labor) and the effects (future) that has had on the culture. While I personally feel that this definition is too narrow (for reasons I’ll explain shortly), this means that the “canon” is generally forming around authors and filmic representations of this idea. So far the major authors are Delany, Butler, Hopkinson, and Okorafor (a fairly recent addition). I’ve attempted and abandoned Hopkinson’s seminal work Brown Girl in the Ring, but at some point before my dissertation, I know that I’ll have to hold my nose and read a representative work by each of these authors. Again, while I have no particular animus towards these authors in particular, I don’t really like their brand of sci-fi, which in the days before the Afrofuturism term began to be used in the 1990s, there work would have been label Social Sci-Fi and this is a sub-genre that doesn’t really interest me as much. The filmic representation for Afrofuturism is even bleaker. Basically, the only “mainstream” examples are Black Panther (seminal, in my opinion) and maybe Space is the Place (formative). If you google Afrofuturism films, you will find others listed, but again, none of them could be considered mainstream.

What is (currently) Excluded from Afrofuturism

Quite a lot, actually–too much in my opinion. A specific example from one the articles that I’ve read is Hancock because it doesn’t explicitly deal with the African Diaspora. If that’s the case, then it stands to reason that other predominately African American/African Descent movies in the Sci-Fi genre would also be excluded, even if there is a valid for including them. I, Robot would be out (even though it talks about robots as an underclass/servant class like People of Color used to be), most of Will Smith’s other work, pretty much any of the Denzel Washington Sci-Fi movies, the (poorly reviewed) adaptation of the Dark Tower which “race-bends” the main character and most certainly should be discussed–in terms of controversy to Idris Elba’s casting and what that means for those of African Descent in Fantasy/Sci-Fi, and even the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, which I would argue is probably the most important Afrofuturistic film to be released since Black Panther because it argues for “self determination” and not letting your past define your future–yet, it doesn’t do so from an African Diaspora context, so it will probably be excluded–and I don’t think that right. In the book space, both Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due are working in the Sci-Fi genre, but while I’ve seen them on the list for one forumulation for the canon, they are often left off of others for the “Big Four” listed above.

Why We Need ALL Our Authors of Color

So, this one is running longer than I intended, so I’ll end by saying: we NEED ALL our African American/Descent authors who are working in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy space for Afrofuturism. Too often, Sci-Fi and Fantasy have been genres that have been the province of writers outside the African American/Descent culture and as such, our voices have been marginalized and hindered through lack of representation. Without voices inside the field, we risk letting others define who we are and more importantly, without different ideas flowing throughout the “canon,” we risk others labeling our contributions as “one-note” and lacking the diversity we find in ourselves and wish to bring to the greater writing community at large. “Canon” formation is a good thing, but limiting a canon too much can create a homogeneity that can rob us of our voices just as surely as no recognition at all.

Sidney

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Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness: Why Killmonger (Blackpanther) Was Wrong

Killmonger and T'Challa (Black Panther) face off against each other.
Image Source: https://medium.com/@wyattdonigan/why-killmonger-was-quite-possibly-the-greatest-villain-ever-on-screen-2a1288413065

A quick update on the weekend–I had planned to write a blog post of Friday, but due to how busy I was in the Writing Center and the fact that I also went home for the weekend made it nearly impossible for me to get a blog post written that I would have been happy with, so I just didn’t write one for Friday. Monday was an off day for me, and I spent the day doing (and recovering from) yard work. So, even though I mentally planned this blog entry, it just didn’t get done due to yard work. Now with that out of the way, on to the post . . .

Killmonger as a Hero?

As I’ve been reading through articles and texts on Afrofuturism, there has been quite a sentiment that I (also) heard when the movie first played: Killmonger could have been (and in more radical comments–should have been) the hero of the movie. Now, long-time readers of the blog know that I hate the new (although at this point, it’s fairly old) trend of trying to make the “villain” into the “hero” and vice-versa. I could only shake my head during the time. Despite my “anti-hero”/”villain” bias, I still knew that there was something wrong with that sentiment. I couldn’t put my finger on it, nor could I successfully articulate it (even to myself). However, as I’ve read more and more articles, I’ve finally discovered why I dislike this idea/ideology so much: to take Killmonger as the “hero” and to take his view is to ignore the actual theme of the movie–hate or love, which is more powerful?

Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate; Only Love Can Do That

In many ways, the Black Panther (T’Challa) vs Killmonger debate offers a rehash of the Martin Luther King, Jr/Malcolm X debate that occurred historically, which (although there were other more fundamental differences) boils down to violent vs non-violent protests for civil rights. Flash forward, and you still have that debate–now, T’Challa wonders if things done in the past can be forgiven (made right–and how does a “good” man/king do that) vs. Eric (who is bound by the past and can’t push forward). Eric wants to continue to fight the battle of the past and just cannot move forward. While he has a point–slavery (and injustices it engendered were wrong and horrifying)–he now wants to use violence to retaliate for past atrocities. One article that I read, while admitting that Killmonger’s violence is a problem, rationalizes that he is bad because he uses the violence indiscriminately–against both the “colonizers” and his own people. In other words, the authors had no problems that he was violent–just that he was violent to people of his own color/kind as well as to those out of his race.

The thing that T’Challa does that makes him a hero is that he can acknowledge the wrong, but then he can figure out how to try to find a solution and then to move on. Eric is all about revenge/avenge the past. He wants to perpetrate the same fear, the same destructive behaviors, just to a different group. In essence, Killmonger is all about flipping the dynamic on its head, while T’Challa is interested in changing the paradigm in a positive and helpful way. He is not interested in fighting the old battles or (more importantly) turning the same old tired paradigm upside down. Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is that the avenge/revenge angle is one that is not correct, no matter what the authors of the articles (and popular sentiment) may want. In this case, T’Challa’s message parallels that of a Jedi–“Defend, never to attack.” Sure, you can remember the wrong, so as not to allow it to happen to you (or anyone else). Killmonger’s attitude is a “Do Unto Others as They Have Done Unto You” and this negatively affects both the man and the message–which is why the movie (and the hero) is ultimately T’Challa and his worldview.

Sidney

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Updated Marvel Ranking Post with Black Panther

 

blackpanther_youtube

So, this is a super short post.  I had to go to the Driver’s License Center this morning to renew my Driver’s License.  For those not in America, your Driver’s License in America is SUPER-IMPORTANT!  We don’t have a “universal ID,” in America, but this is pretty close.  It functions as the ID for employment, for (obviously) driving, for banking, for home ownership, for voting, etc.  There’s very little you can do without it, so that’s where I was this morning.

I noticed that over the weekend, people were interested in the Ranking of Marvel Movies post, so I thought I’d fast track my ranking with Black Panther.  I should also note that I forgot that I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and while I didn’t have time to add it in, I will in fairly short order, so the only Marvel movie I haven’t seen is Thor: Ragnarok which I hope to see in May.  Well, that’s all I have time for today!

Sidney



The Black Panther (Marvel)–Non-Spoiler Movie Review

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB

Wow.  Just wow!  I saw Black Panther over the weekend and I was absolutely floored by how good of a movie it turned out be!  Based on the traffic on the site over the weekend, it looks a fair number of people came to check and see what I though of it.  Apologies for not posting this review sooner, but I always like to take a day or two to think about my responses–positive or negative to reflect before coming online to talk about them.  I also watched several reviews (spoiler and non-spoiler) to get a feel for how other critics were talking about the movie (I only watch reviews after I’ve already seen something–too many “non-spoiler” reviews give away too much of the plot by focusing on the story.  And this is one story that you don’t want spoiled!  Sure, thanks to foreshadowing, you can see somethings coming in this movie, but still, it really, really works!

A Great Marvel Movie

One of the things that I want to stress is that this is an excellent Marvel movie.  Don’t think this is some cheerless dirge -like epic.  The filmmakers expertly crafted humor, drama, pathos, action, and suspense into the movie.  If you liked other Marvel movies, then you’ll like this one.  However, it also has a sprawling, epic feel to it.  The setting–Wakanda specifically and Africa, in general–is almost a character in itself and is very much a visual spectacle.  The colors really pop (esp. later in the movie) and I really like the way the filmmakers integrated the music into the narrative.  Really impressive stuff.

A Great Story–Plot

This is also where the movie shines.  Don’t worry, as this is a non-spoiler, I won’t talk about the specifics.  However, I will say, from a plotting standpoint, this is “aspirational” for me.  I would love for my stories to show this level of drama, suspense and action sequences.  The filmmakers–for me, at least–got the mix pretty much perfect.  I’ve seen a few reviewers ding it for not having enough action, but I think that, much like any other “origin story,” the filmmakers chose to focus on the introducing us to and developing the characters rather than on slam-bang action.  There are definitely action sequences, but they aren’t there at the exclusion of everything else and they make sense in the context of the story, unlike other movies that I could name.

Great Characters

This is where the movie truly shines.  The characters in this movie are awesome!  There isn’t a character who did not land in terms of characterization, motivation, or development.  I have to say that all the characters really exhibited a pathos that was interesting to watch on screen and really helped to engage me as an audience member.  As a writer, I saw the true power of characters to literally “pull” the audience into the story and then propel them to want to finish the story (again, aspirational for my own writing).  There are standouts of course, but I don’t want to highlight too many, for fear of spoiling things, but I will say that T’Challa has a sister and her banter with her brother is not to be missed.  Her lines are some of the best in the movie (humor-wise) and reminded me of the banter that my uncle and I shared before his untimely passing.

Afrofuturism

I’ve talked a few times about Afrofuturism on this blog in relation to school, but I’ve never really defined it.  Black Panther is probably the best representation of it that I’ve seen on-screen yet.  Afrofuturism is about the African/African-American experience, but rather than focusing on the past, it instead looks to the future.  Sure, there are references to the past, but rather than dehumanizing, the subject of Afrofuturism acknowledges that the past happened, but it looks to a brighter future with technology and with heart to note that a brighter path is open to all, if we only have the courage to embrace it.  While I may be reading the movie with an Afrofuturistic lens, it does have elements sci-fi that help to make it a movie that isn’t just stuck in the past retreading the same old ground.

Overall Grade: A+ (Excellent)

Really, this movie is an Excellent movie and does all that it sets out to do exceptionally well.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Again, some say it doesn’t have enough action.  I noticed that the very first mission (few scenes) are very dark (although my suspicion is that this is on purpose to make the colors pop when you first enter Wakanda, but it does make it hard to see the very first action scene).  However, I try to grade movies (or other media that I review) with the same grading scale colleges use and Excellent is used when there are either no blemishes or the blemishes are so minor that they don’t detract significantly from the overall experience.  I can’t decide if this is my favorite Marvel movie yet (although I think it might be), but I can safely say that it is in my Top 3.  I’m glad that the filmmakers and actors got a chance to make this movie and that I got a chance to see it!  I don’t usually make recommendations–but in this case, I’ll just say, if you’re at all interested in Marvel movies, or are just curious as to what all the fuss is about, to me, this one didn’t disappoint.

Sidney



Super Bowl Trailer: Black Panther (Marvel) & Planning on seeing Black Panther Saturday

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB
Black Panther (Marvel Movie) Movie Poster Releasing on 2_16_18, Image Source: IMDB.com

Regular readers of the blog know that I am a fan of both Marvel and DC.  Yes, heresy I know, but unlike many who watch the comic book movies, I’m actually a fan of comics books.  I bought odd issues from Rite Aid stores (they were called Eckerds Drug Stores) back in the late ’70s and early ’80s from their round spinners that they used to keep near the checkout counter–or more accurately, I should my parents would deign to buy them for me when I saw one that really caught my eye (did I mention that my parents were big on reading?).  Later, as I grew up and received an allowance for chores, the bulk of my money went towards books and comics.  I generally had enough money for 2 paperback books (Sci-Fi/Fantasy, of course) and either 1 magazine or 2 comic books.  Sometimes, if the mag. was cheap enough, I could even squeeze in a comic.  So I have a pretty sizable collection (I had more, but traded about a third away).  The point is, I actually read and enjoyed comics, so I really like and enjoy the comic book movies–most of them, anyway.  So I am stoked about the upcoming Black Panther movie.

Going Saturday
I enjoy most Marvel movies and that I’m really invested in the Marvel Universe (however, because of AMC buying out the local Carmike theater, I missed the latest Marvel and DC movies.  While I wasn’t able to find a new theater, I went ahead and bought advance tickets for Black Panther to see on Saturday, so fingers crossed–I hope it will be good.

 

 

Planning on Doing a Non-Spoiler Review and Updating Marvel Ranking Post
If I do go and see it, I will, of course, do a non-spoiler review as I tend to do with the movies that I go see in theaters.  I will probably also rank it on the Ranking of Marvel Movies post as well, but I will probably need to add in the fact somewhere that I’ve missed a Marvel movie (Thor Ragnarok).  The listing won’t actually be complete until I’ve seen that movie and it might be a while based on school, in particular, and life, in general.

Anyway, I hope to be able to talk to you more about it next week and here’s hoping that it has some really strong plotting, characterization, and visuals (& a good dose of humor) as well.

Well, that’s all I have time for today–have a great day, everyone!

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

 

Black Panther, E3 and Me

 

blackpanther_youtube
Image Source: YouTube.com

So, this blog was going to be about E3 (the video game and computer game conference happening on the West Coast this weekend), but Marvel released a teaser trailer for the Black Panther movie coming in 2018.  You can find the teaser trailer here: Black Panther Teaser Trailer.

I’m very interested in this movie as I was introduced to the Black Panther via a Marvel Comic that talked about the various gadgets and costumes of Marvel heroes in the early to mid 80s (it was the same comic that described the Mandarin’s rings and Falcon’s  wings/jet propulsion system) and mini-series done about the character when I was in High School in the late 80s/early 90s.  However, I discovered that the movie will debut next year close to my birthday, so I feel that it will be a great movie to see as a present to myself, so I’m already “sticking a pin in it” as the expression goes.  I hope it turns out as well for Marvel and the creators as well as Wonder Woman has turned out for DC this year.  I will keep it on my radar.

E3

Playstationlogo_gamerant

This weekend marks the kickoff to the E3 Conference.  I am a very big fan of video games and video game narratives, and this is where the newest games and technologies are mostly announced for the upcoming year.  E3 used to be about selling games and software for Christmas, and while it still has some of that element, mostly its about things that will be coming out in the next year and building anticipation for things even further out (a year and a half to two years).  Electronic Arts’s Press Conference kicks things off later today, and then tomorrow will be Bethesda.  Ubisoft and Sony will round out Monday’s coverage and then the show will begin in earnest with games out on the show floor.  EA’s press conference (or EA Play Event as they technically aren’t doing “Press Conferences per se since last year) is scheduled to kick off at 1pm Eastern time (9am Pacific Time) and I plan on watching that before digging into some yard work that I’ve put off for too long.  If there’s anything fun and relevant to the blog, I’ll probably talk about the things that were announced that I find most interesting (games are doing some pretty neat and novel things in the narrative space these days).  In between the conferences, I hope to get some writing done over this weekend as well.

Have a great weekend!

Sidney




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