26 Jun

The Code Behind the Kitty: Unpacking the Racist Myth of the Siamese Cat

(Source: thenegrotude, via duhdoydorothy)

14 Jan

Jumbled Ruminations on "Argo"

farahjoon:

One of the most infuriating things in the world is when people expect you to “catch them up” on extremely complex histories and cultures and ethnicities and peoples and geopolitical struggles which they could very easily research on their own. What’s even more infuriating? Argo. I have had far too many folks ask me to “explain” why they shouldn’t see Argo, and almost every single time I get upset because it’s so fucking obvious — you’re watching Hollywood once again attempt to narrativize the Middle East through its Western filter. But it’s difficult to even try to explain the many layers of jingoism and self-aggrandizing propaganda in this film and its contemporaries to those who are incessantly trained to prioritize the lives of a handful of wealthy white people who are, thanks to Affleck, valorized as the “civilized,” “educated,” “elitist” Anglos vying for “safety” and “freedom” when confronted with the Angry, Bearded, Brown Revolutionaries — and their Supportive, Shrouded Sisters and Spouses® — who “reign over” an “exotic” and “evil” land. Someone who graced me with their presence just this past week said something to the effect of, “Well, where are all the Iranian American filmmakers? I’m sure Affleck would’ve let them take over the film production, but they apparently don’t exist.” What exactly is going through the mind of someone who thinks this way — someone who assumes that Hollywood’s power players would readily afford anyone outside of their entity of privileged, white, Euro-American, Judeo-Christian men the opportunity to make their version of this particular film at this moment in modern history? And, moreover, what exactly is going through the mind of someone who thinks that one Iranian American filmmaker is going to speak for us all? My friends and I have had far too many unnecessary run-ins with a lot of thoughtless, condescending, xenophobic, and bigoted white folks — white-passing privilege makes these experiences all the more interesting because people assume you’re “one of them” and say literally anything they want in front of you — and many of these people have fostered such a cripplingly myopic conceptualization of “terrorism” that they actually talk about “terrorism” as if it’s the polar opposite of anything that Europe and its great North American allies have ever engaged in. No one seems to think about resistance vis-à-vis “terrorism.” No one seems to think about our collective engagement in the Orientalist gaze — how we at once fetishize and denounce the victims of our leaders’ myriad neoimperialist projects. No one seems to think about the acute stigmatization and racialization of Islam. No one seems to think about just how fucking heartbreaking and rage-inducing and gut-wrenching and soul-crushing it is to see peoples and places and religions you are connected to further demonized and othered to no avail by dangerous and irresponsible profiteers — by people like Affleck and Clooney and their cohorts who masquerade as “politically-conscious artists” yet who, in all actuality, poison the masses with fuel for fire, with more reasons to hate “those savages over there.”Argo is the beating of a war drum whose reverberations are unceasing. If you’re going to spend only the first minute or so of the entire film giving audiences an historical foundation that reads like a subpar Wikipedia session, you shouldn’t be producing a mainstream blockbuster movie about Iran. If you’re going to compare CIA operations to abortions, you shouldn’t be producing a mainstream blockbuster movie about Iran. If you’re going to close your sefid circle jerk of a narrative with a soundbite from a former U.S. president instead of a cautionary message about sanctions/drone strikes/apartheid/Islamophobia/warmongering, you shouldn’t be producing a mainstream blockbuster movie about Iran.

What I do argue also is that there is a difference between knowledge of other peoples and other times that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study and analysis for their own sakes, and on the other hand knowledge—if that is what it is—that is part of an overall campaign of self-affirmation, belligerency, and outright war. There is, after all, a profound difference between the will to understand for purposes of coexistence and humanistic enlargement of horizons, and the will to dominate for purposes of control and external enlargement of horizons, and the will to dominate for the purposes of control and external domination. […] Today, bookstores in the United States are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, Islam exposed, the Arab threat, and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted to them and others by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange Oriental peoples over there who have been such a terrible thorn in “our” flesh. Accompanying such warmongering expertise have been the omnipresent CNNs and Fox News Channels of this world, plus myriad numbers of evangelical and right-wing radio hosts, plus innumerable tabloids and even middlebrow journals, all of them recycling the same unverifiable fictions and vast generalizations so as to stir up “America” against the foreign devil.

—Edward Said, May 2003

(Source: aloofshahbanou, via aloofshahbanou)

28 Dec

(Made rebloggable by request.)

I just saw The Hobbit in 3D. Here is my feminist review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

I took my mother to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Christmas day because she has read all of Tolkien’s books at least eight times. My mom really likes Peter Jackson because he cares about women and especially moms. (One of Peter Jackson’s first films was about a man acting as caretaker for his zombie mom.) Peter Jackson cares about moms. Unfortunately there are no moms in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. (None. Do not argue with me.) J.R.R. Tolkien did not care about moms, which is why he was so beloved by Jimmy Page. There are no women in The Hobbit (none, don’t argue with me), so in adapting it to film they had to bulk it up with some Galadriel content. It was pretty alright, Cate Blanchett is good at her Elf Job.

The best part about The Hobbit, as a novel and a film adaptation, is that there are not many elves as compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Elves are fucking obnoxious and nobody likes them, and I’m sick of Tolkien’s weird anglo supremacist allegorical nonsense, and elves’ false sense of cultural superiority when it comes to writing systems. No one cares, elves.

The Hobbit is good because it is about dwarves. Dwarves are better. What made this film really good was that they reshaped the narrative and turned it into a story of dwarves fighting to reclaim their homeland from a colonizing dragon. In the novel, if I recall correctly, dwarves are mostly out to pillage the mountain and take Smaug’s treasure. This adaptation is much more moving and compelling! It basically transformed the story into one of a displaced people seeking justice during a time when middle earth’s greatest powers—FUCKING RIVENDELL, ELVES—were trying to maintain a vision of “peace” and “political stability” and “neutrality” which benefited and maintained their own power while neglecting to address the needs of oppressed and marginalized groups in middle earth. Something tells me that this adaptation was inspired at least a little by that standby legend that Tolkien’s depictions of orcs were Nazi allegories. The film really plays up the whole “dwarves were displaced and chased out of their homeland and are looking to reclaim a settlement while being hunted and brutalized by orcs and goblins” which is hamfisted but also soooo aaaaawesome. Except, you know, to compound Tolkien’s gross racial stratifications, it’s pretty disgusting to see this story of solidarity between hobbits and dwarves, this allegory of struggle and colonization, applied by a production that refused to cast or represent anyone who wasn’t white.

Did I mention I saw this thing in 3D? This was my mother’s idea. I have a hard time with visual processing and couldn’t see much of anything. I cried about this in the theater. 3D movies rank poorly for accessibility and they are expensive and I hate them. (Off the top of my head, I know that s.e. smith has written about accessibility concerns in movie theaters and with 3D in particular, but I would love to read more.)

Anyway, I think my mother liked it okay. She pretended that her mild disappointment arose from the slapsticky action and the less-than-faithful adaptation, but I know she’s had it up for Viggo since the late eighties, and she was probably just bummed that this film lacked the beefcake she’s come to expect.

28 Dec

Anonymous said: im sad that this blog is no longer active. i miss your posts!

I’ll come back! I just saw The Hobbit in 3D. Here is my feminist review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

I took my mother to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Christmas day because she has read all of Tolkien’s books at least eight times. My mom really likes Peter Jackson because he cares about women and especially moms. (One of Peter Jackson’s first films was about a man acting as caretaker for his zombie mom.) Peter Jackson cares about moms. Unfortunately there are no moms in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. (None. Do not argue with me.) J.R.R. Tolkien did not care about moms, which is why he was so beloved by Jimmy Page. There are no women in The Hobbit (none, don’t argue with me), so in adapting it to film they had to bulk it up with some Galadriel content. It was pretty alright, Cate Blanchett is good at her Elf Job.

The best part about The Hobbit, as a novel and a film adaptation, is that there are not many elves as compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Elves are fucking obnoxious and nobody likes them, and I’m sick of Tolkien’s weird anglo supremacist allegorical nonsense, and elves’ false sense of cultural superiority when it comes to writing systems. No one cares, elves.

The Hobbit is good because it is about dwarves. Dwarves are better. What made this film really good was that they reshaped the narrative and turned it into a story of dwarves fighting to reclaim their homeland from a colonizing dragon. In the novel, if I recall correctly, dwarves are mostly out to pillage the mountain and take Smaug’s treasure. This adaptation is much more moving and compelling! It basically transformed the story into one of a displaced people seeking justice during a time when middle earth’s greatest powers—FUCKING RIVENDELL, ELVES—were trying to maintain a vision of “peace” and “political stability” and “neutrality” which benefited and maintained their own power while neglecting to address the needs of oppressed and marginalized groups in middle earth. Something tells me that this adaptation was inspired at least a little by that standby legend that Tolkien’s depictions of orcs were Nazi allegories. The film really plays up the whole “dwarves were displaced and chased out of their homeland and are looking to reclaim a settlement while being hunted and brutalized by orcs and goblins” which is hamfisted but also soooo aaaaawesome. Except, you know, to compound Tolkien’s gross racial stratifications, it’s pretty disgusting to see this story of solidarity between hobbits and dwarves, this allegory of struggle and colonization, applied by a production that refused to cast or represent anyone who wasn’t white.

Did I mention I saw this thing in 3D? This was my mother’s idea. I have a hard time with visual processing and couldn’t see much of anything. I cried about this in the theater. 3D movies rank poorly for accessibility and they are expensive and I hate them. (Off the top of my head, I know that s.e. smith has written about accessibility concerns in movie theaters and with 3D in particular, but I would love to read more.)

Anyway, I think my mother liked it okay. She pretended that her mild disappointment arose from the slapsticky action and the less-than-faithful adaptation, but I know she’s had it up for Viggo since the late eighties, and she was probably just bummed that this film lacked the beefcake she’s come to expect.

22 Oct Joanelle Romero is the founder of Red Nation Media, which hosts the Red Nation Film Festival, and which is specifically designed to promote native women in film and television. (The ninth annual festival is happening the week of November seventh in Los Angeles.)
Romero started her film career as an actress, in Barbarosa (a 1982 western), Parasite (1982), and Powwow Highway (1989). In 2000 she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary American Holocaust: When It’s All Over I’ll Still Be Indian. 
She also co-founded Native American Heritage Month (which is in November), because she is amazing!

Joanelle Romero is the founder of Red Nation Media, which hosts the Red Nation Film Festival, and which is specifically designed to promote native women in film and television. (The ninth annual festival is happening the week of November seventh in Los Angeles.)

Romero started her film career as an actress, in Barbarosa (a 1982 western), Parasite (1982), and Powwow Highway (1989). In 2000 she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary American Holocaust: When It’s All Over I’ll Still Be Indian.

She also co-founded Native American Heritage Month (which is in November), because she is amazing!

14 Oct Sandra Sunrising Osawa is a Makah woman who forged her career in commercial nonfiction television, beginning with producing documentary series about Native Americans for NBC in the 1970s.
Osawa’s work often explores the nuances between sovereignty and the environment, as in 1995’s Lighting the 7th Fire, a PBS POV special about struggles over spear-fishing rights in Wisconsin, and 2000’s Unusual and Accustomed Places, which chronicles fishing rights battles for the Makah in Washington. In 2000, she produced and directed a documentary about Oneida stand-up comic Charlie Hill, called On & Off the Res’ w/Charlie Hill.
For Osawa, who worked in education and cultural preservation before turning to filmmaking, media is a tool for not only revitalization but decolonization: “I think media has long been an overlooked part of our struggles and true sovereignty cannot exist until we are truly able to tell our own stories.”“
Here's a biography with info about more of her work. Here's an interview with her.

Sandra Sunrising Osawa is a Makah woman who forged her career in commercial nonfiction television, beginning with producing documentary series about Native Americans for NBC in the 1970s.

Osawa’s work often explores the nuances between sovereignty and the environment, as in 1995’s Lighting the 7th Fire, a PBS POV special about struggles over spear-fishing rights in Wisconsin, and 2000’s Unusual and Accustomed Places, which chronicles fishing rights battles for the Makah in Washington. In 2000, she produced and directed a documentary about Oneida stand-up comic Charlie Hill, called On & Off the Res’ w/Charlie Hill.

For Osawa, who worked in education and cultural preservation before turning to filmmaking, media is a tool for not only revitalization but decolonization: “I think media has long been an overlooked part of our struggles and true sovereignty cannot exist until we are truly able to tell our own stories.”“

Here's a biography with info about more of her work. Here's an interview with her.

11 Oct

I am putting together some posts about a colonialism and horror, but I want to share a few links relating to indigenous filmmaking and indigenous people in film in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day (fuck Columbus day). Feminist Film has relevant posts under #colonialism and #indigenous issues.

CBC, in conjunction with its documentary series 8th Fire, offers some material on Canadian aboriginal filmmakers. It’s great! You can also watch 8th Fire online, but I think it might only work in Canada.

Basically Black
was the first all-indigenous tv show in Australia. We’ve mentioned this before, but I wanted to point out this site, which offers some information as well as reading materials about the history of aboriginal television in Australia.

Maori Television is a New Zealand station that was launched as part of an indigenous language and culture revitalization movement. Their website has videos, some of which are in English. Here's an article about how Maori rights organizers worked to get it on the air, and why it's important. In the future, I'll try to find more articles about the connections between film (and television) and language revitalization globally.

TCM's site has a section to accompany their Native American Images film series, which offers a essays about native representation in Hollywood. It's actually pretty interesting.

Finally, Native Networks offers some resources for indigenous filmmakers and about indigenous film. It is part of the National Museum for the American Indian, which hosts the Native American Film + Video Festival.

I have also put together some information on native women filmmakers, but I’m gonna spread those posts out throughout the month!

05 Oct hikergirl:


By: Andrew O’Hehir
Some people will be thrilled by Andrea Arnold’s raw and daring reimagining of “Wuthering Heights” – and you can count me among them – and other people will be irritated or massively bored. But whatever you make of it, this movie isn’t like any British costume drama you’ve ever seen before. Arnold, the Scottish filmmaker whose previous work includes the gritty urban thriller “Red Road”and the intense sexual melodrama “Fish Tank,” isn’t going after Emily Brontë’s classic romance in some spirit of avant-gardism or postmodernism or anything like that. If anything, this is a pre-modern,stripped-down “Wuthering Heights,” an attempt to dig through the pages and pages of florid melodrama back to the elemental truths of life and love on the damp and frigid Yorkshire moors.
Considerable attention has been paid to the fact that Arnold has cast two actors of Afro-Caribbean heritage to play Heathcliff, the archetypal tortured romantic hero of Brontë’s novel. (Solomon Glave plays the foundling Heathcliff, in the early portion of the story, and the supremely handsome James Howson plays the adult gentleman who returns to reclaim his lost love.) But that only seems like a bizarre contemporary twist if you go by the film and TV versions, in which we’ve only seen white actors like Laurence Olivier, Ralph Fiennes or Tom Hardy take on the role. I mean, maybe Arnold has some political or cultural agenda about how Britain has always been a polyglot society, long before the era of immigration, but also maybe not. Fact is, in Brontë’s book, Heathcliff is pretty clearly not white,and what’s more he’s a character who befuddles the racial distinctions of the day. (read the rest at the link)

(via Pick of the week: An earthy, sexy new “Wuthering Heights”)

This looks really good. I haven’t read Wuthering Heights, but this reads to me like a conversation not dissimilar to Wide Sargasso Sea's reclamation of Bertha/Antoinette's voice in Jane Eyre, a colonial subject “writing back.” That link leads to an article looking at Wide Sargasso Sea, drawing from the book The Empire Writes Back's assertion that reclaiming the voices of colonized people in literature questions “the bases of European and British metaphysics, challenging the world-view that can polarise centre and periphery in the first place.” 
Because Heathcliffe is not exactly a white character in Wuthering Heights. In this chapter on postcolonial gothic by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, she calls Heathcliffe, along with Jane Eyre's Bertha Mason, “defeated 'colonials' othered in their questionable racial provenance, swarthy and un-English.” There's also a book called Windward Heights by Maryse Conde which reenvisions Wuthering Heights in a Caribbean setting.
The Paravisini-Gebert article mentioned both I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and White Zombie (1932), which are two early zombie films that demonstrate the myth’s origin in colonial/Caribbean literature and culture, as well as a representation of colonial society. The zombie is a concept originating in Caribbean and West African culture that became a symbol for white colonists of the potential danger of their “passive” oppressed subject. Amazing how that myth turned into one about American fears of being overtaken by an Other, right?

hikergirl:

By: Andrew O’Hehir

Some people will be thrilled by Andrea Arnold’s raw and daring reimagining of “Wuthering Heights” – and you can count me among them – and other people will be irritated or massively bored. But whatever you make of it, this movie isn’t like any British costume drama you’ve ever seen before. Arnold, the Scottish filmmaker whose previous work includes the gritty urban thriller “Red Road”and the intense sexual melodrama “Fish Tank,” isn’t going after Emily Brontë’s classic romance in some spirit of avant-gardism or postmodernism or anything like that. If anything, this is a pre-modern,stripped-down “Wuthering Heights,” an attempt to dig through the pages and pages of florid melodrama back to the elemental truths of life and love on the damp and frigid Yorkshire moors.

Considerable attention has been paid to the fact that Arnold has cast two actors of Afro-Caribbean heritage to play Heathcliff, the archetypal tortured romantic hero of Brontë’s novel. (Solomon Glave plays the foundling Heathcliff, in the early portion of the story, and the supremely handsome James Howson plays the adult gentleman who returns to reclaim his lost love.) But that only seems like a bizarre contemporary twist if you go by the film and TV versions, in which we’ve only seen white actors like Laurence Olivier, Ralph Fiennes or Tom Hardy take on the role. I mean, maybe Arnold has some political or cultural agenda about how Britain has always been a polyglot society, long before the era of immigration, but also maybe not. Fact is, in Brontë’s book, Heathcliff is pretty clearly not white,and what’s more he’s a character who befuddles the racial distinctions of the day. (read the rest at the link)

(via Pick of the week: An earthy, sexy new “Wuthering Heights”)

This looks really good. I haven’t read Wuthering Heights, but this reads to me like a conversation not dissimilar to Wide Sargasso Sea's reclamation of Bertha/Antoinette's voice in Jane Eyre, a colonial subject “writing back.” That link leads to an article looking at Wide Sargasso Sea, drawing from the book The Empire Writes Back's assertion that reclaiming the voices of colonized people in literature questions “the bases of European and British metaphysics, challenging the world-view that can polarise centre and periphery in the first place.”

Because Heathcliffe is not exactly a white character in Wuthering Heights. In this chapter on postcolonial gothic by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, she calls Heathcliffe, along with Jane Eyre's Bertha Mason, “defeated 'colonials' othered in their questionable racial provenance, swarthy and un-English.” There's also a book called Windward Heights by Maryse Conde which reenvisions Wuthering Heights in a Caribbean setting.

The Paravisini-Gebert article mentioned both I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and White Zombie (1932), which are two early zombie films that demonstrate the myth’s origin in colonial/Caribbean literature and culture, as well as a representation of colonial society. The zombie is a concept originating in Caribbean and West African culture that became a symbol for white colonists of the potential danger of their “passive” oppressed subject. Amazing how that myth turned into one about American fears of being overtaken by an Other, right?

(via duhdoydorothy)

04 Oct You might have noticed that we (finally) changed our layout! I was hoping to have more accessible and readable tags and info. That’s still a work in progress, though! But I’ll let you know when I finish compiling all of our tags and topics.
Let me talk for a second about our new banner. The image I used was one I snipped from a 1917 book called Motion Picture Making and Exhibiting, captioned with the line “joining the films after the development.” It’s a (pretty rare) shot of a moment in film (and labor) history.
It seems like there has been very little written about the manual aspects of early film history. But if you know about the history of factory labor in the U.S., you know that this type of work was largely performed by women. Not surprisingly, in the earliest era of the American film industry, a lot of the production was women’s work.
(Let’s not forget that, globally, factory labor is still mostly performed by women, most of whom are not white. Similarly, although the type of labor performed by the Lowell Mill Girls or at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory has invited a lot of historical scrutiny, contemporary labor performed by women of color is not discussed or examined with the same reverence.)
I have found one text that tackles this topic. Karen Ward Mahar, in Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood (2006), positions these women’s work both within the context of American industrialism as well as a gendered schema of the early film industry. Mahar’s book examines what she names a “golden age” of women in filmmaking, the period (in the early 1920s) before the studio system’s monopoly when women were offered relatively abundant opportunities as producers, writers, and directors. (Like Mary Pickford!) Mahar shapes a narrative about the “regendering” of film that’s pretty fascinating—she argues that during this period, women’s presence in social reform (think not only the suffragettes but the prohibitionists as well) bled into the film industry and allowed women like Lois Weber to become powerful auteurs.
But before that, women were primarily confined to the screen or the sweatshop. Mahar explains this:

Since the developing racks could handle only two hundred feet of film, every positive print of a film exceeding two hundred feet—nearly every film by 1910—was joined together by hand before being sent out. This simple but laborious procedure, requiring “dexterity but not skill,” was quite literally a textbook example of a female-type job. Indeed, a writer from Moving Picture World exclaimed after a 1910 visit to the Vitagraph plant that film joining was “a congenial occupation for a number of girls and young women.” The workplace was tidy, the women seemed happy, and he bragged that “this branch of service had opened up new and clean opportunity for many of the objectionable features of factory life.” Still, the duties of the film joiner were not easy. Film joining required diligent attention and speed, but joiners had few tools to help them. With no guide to align the film strips, and without a clamp to hold the cemented pieces together as they dried, the film joiner searched for the correct frame, snipped the film, brushed on odorous glue out of a bottle, and held the splice together with her fingers.
Understandably, mistakes could be made in developing, editing, tinting, or splicing. Thus, before each film left the factory, it was inspected for errors. In 1910 Pathe Freres employees took the finished films to long, darkened rooms, where female inspectors sat two by two at small tables in front of small white squares on which the films were projected. Each inspector had a button that, when pushed, recorded the frame on which an error occurred. Film inspector George Kleine used mostly female film inspectors, who worked for $7 to $12 a week, but the few male inspectors he employed received $2 to $5 more weekly, with the exception of one particularly well-paid female inspector. At the Selig Polyscope Company in 1919, all films were “subjected to the scrutiny of a lady examiner.”*
The type of work offered to women in the film factories, then, fit within the culturally defined arena of women’s work at the turn of the century: it was performed indoors, it did not require strength or invite danger, and it required “dexterity but not skill.” As in other kinds of factory work, women printers, cutters, joiners, and polishers were to be nimble fingered but not creative. Like the new clerical jobs opening up for women, film inspecting was clean and required some education and skill, but it was tedious work. And like clerical work, most of the jobs in the film factories appear to have been limited to white women. Existing etchings and photographs do not reveal any women of color working in early film factories, and there are no references to race or ethnicity in contemporary descriptions. Film historian Charles Musser’s conclusion that the early film industry was a “white” world appears to extend to the laboratory as well.

(*at Feminist Film, all films are subjected to the scrutiny of a lady examiner.)
As a bonus, here are some films about gender and labor history:
American Dream (1990) is a documentary about a 1980s strike on Hormel Corporation. It won the Oscar for best Documentary. Director Barbara Kopple won that Oscar in 1977, too, for Harlan County, USA, which is an essential labor history documentary about a coal strike, and it really highlights the work of women in community-building in labor organizing.
With Babies and Banners: Story of the Women’s Emergency Brigade (1979) is about the Women’s Auxiliary in the 1936 Flint Sit-Down Strike. I’m from Flint, and this is one of my favorite films. If you can get a hold of it, it’s an amazing portrait of women’s labor and organizing in one of the most important strikes in world history. (I’m getting an Emergency Brigade tattoo!) The only surviving participant in the strike is Geraldine Blankenship, who was a teenage member of of the Women’s Emergency Brigade. The woman who organized the auxiliary was Genora Johnson Dollinger, who was only 23 at the time. After the strike, she worked with the UAW doing union publicity tours, organizing, and writing the book that the above link directs to.
Okay, I said I was from Flint, so I’m not gonna pretend that Roger & Me (1989) isn’t one of my favorite movies. (“Pets or meat” lady is, allegedly, a family friend.) All criticisms be damned, Michael Moore is a big deal to me. While I think Bowling for Columbine (2002) is kind of a mess of liberalism and poorly-developed arguments, I’m including it because it features women impacted by welfare-to-work.
Made in L.A. (2007) is a documentary about sweatshop labor and piecework performed by Central American immigrant women for Forever 21, and their efforts to unionize in favor of basic labor protections. Blood, Sweat, & Lace (1994) is another documentary about the subcontracting system in Los Angeles and how it impacts immigrant women of color, this time Asian-American women. (This one might be harder to come by, but if you have access to a research or university library, you might have some luck.)
Salt of the Earth (1954) is a landmark film, a drama about a Mexican-American miners in New Mexico and their struggles not only with scabs and management, but with white miners. At the same time, it’s about the work of wives and mothers, and arguments for “equity” within the home. Salt of the Earth is most famous for being blacklisted by HUAC for communist-leanings, because of its politics and its association with the International Union for Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. It’s so valuable not only for its labor content but its labor context: the producers and the actors (only a few of whom were professionals, most of whom were local union members) were blacklisted, and Rosaura Revueltas was deported. (Some of the scenes were filmed in Mexico city after her arrest.) Watch this movie!
Of course I have to mention Sally Field’s Norma Rae (1979), the dramatization of the life of Crystal Lee Sutton. Niki Caro’s North Country (2005) is a film about labor, assult, and sexual harassment and is based on Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.
A number of films have been produced about Juarez, femicide, and labor-related violence in Mexican border towns. Among them are the documentaries Performing the Border (1999), Seniorita Extraviada (2002) and the dramas Backyard: El Traspiato (2009) and Bordertown (2006).
These are just a handful that I could name, but Berkeley offers an extensive list for anybody who is looking for more.

You might have noticed that we (finally) changed our layout! I was hoping to have more accessible and readable tags and info. That’s still a work in progress, though! But I’ll let you know when I finish compiling all of our tags and topics.

Let me talk for a second about our new banner. The image I used was one I snipped from a 1917 book called Motion Picture Making and Exhibiting, captioned with the line “joining the films after the development.” It’s a (pretty rare) shot of a moment in film (and labor) history.

It seems like there has been very little written about the manual aspects of early film history. But if you know about the history of factory labor in the U.S., you know that this type of work was largely performed by women. Not surprisingly, in the earliest era of the American film industry, a lot of the production was women’s work.

(Let’s not forget that, globally, factory labor is still mostly performed by women, most of whom are not white. Similarly, although the type of labor performed by the Lowell Mill Girls or at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory has invited a lot of historical scrutiny, contemporary labor performed by women of color is not discussed or examined with the same reverence.)

I have found one text that tackles this topic. Karen Ward Mahar, in Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood (2006), positions these women’s work both within the context of American industrialism as well as a gendered schema of the early film industry. Mahar’s book examines what she names a “golden age” of women in filmmaking, the period (in the early 1920s) before the studio system’s monopoly when women were offered relatively abundant opportunities as producers, writers, and directors. (Like Mary Pickford!) Mahar shapes a narrative about the “regendering” of film that’s pretty fascinating—she argues that during this period, women’s presence in social reform (think not only the suffragettes but the prohibitionists as well) bled into the film industry and allowed women like Lois Weber to become powerful auteurs.

But before that, women were primarily confined to the screen or the sweatshop. Mahar explains this:

Since the developing racks could handle only two hundred feet of film, every positive print of a film exceeding two hundred feet—nearly every film by 1910—was joined together by hand before being sent out. This simple but laborious procedure, requiring “dexterity but not skill,” was quite literally a textbook example of a female-type job. Indeed, a writer from Moving Picture World exclaimed after a 1910 visit to the Vitagraph plant that film joining was “a congenial occupation for a number of girls and young women.” The workplace was tidy, the women seemed happy, and he bragged that “this branch of service had opened up new and clean opportunity for many of the objectionable features of factory life.” Still, the duties of the film joiner were not easy. Film joining required diligent attention and speed, but joiners had few tools to help them. With no guide to align the film strips, and without a clamp to hold the cemented pieces together as they dried, the film joiner searched for the correct frame, snipped the film, brushed on odorous glue out of a bottle, and held the splice together with her fingers.

Understandably, mistakes could be made in developing, editing, tinting, or splicing. Thus, before each film left the factory, it was inspected for errors. In 1910 Pathe Freres employees took the finished films to long, darkened rooms, where female inspectors sat two by two at small tables in front of small white squares on which the films were projected. Each inspector had a button that, when pushed, recorded the frame on which an error occurred. Film inspector George Kleine used mostly female film inspectors, who worked for $7 to $12 a week, but the few male inspectors he employed received $2 to $5 more weekly, with the exception of one particularly well-paid female inspector. At the Selig Polyscope Company in 1919, all films were “subjected to the scrutiny of a lady examiner.”*

The type of work offered to women in the film factories, then, fit within the culturally defined arena of women’s work at the turn of the century: it was performed indoors, it did not require strength or invite danger, and it required “dexterity but not skill.” As in other kinds of factory work, women printers, cutters, joiners, and polishers were to be nimble fingered but not creative. Like the new clerical jobs opening up for women, film inspecting was clean and required some education and skill, but it was tedious work. And like clerical work, most of the jobs in the film factories appear to have been limited to white women. Existing etchings and photographs do not reveal any women of color working in early film factories, and there are no references to race or ethnicity in contemporary descriptions. Film historian Charles Musser’s conclusion that the early film industry was a “white” world appears to extend to the laboratory as well.

(*at Feminist Film, all films are subjected to the scrutiny of a lady examiner.)

As a bonus, here are some films about gender and labor history:

American Dream (1990) is a documentary about a 1980s strike on Hormel Corporation. It won the Oscar for best Documentary. Director Barbara Kopple won that Oscar in 1977, too, for Harlan County, USA, which is an essential labor history documentary about a coal strike, and it really highlights the work of women in community-building in labor organizing.

With Babies and Banners: Story of the Women’s Emergency Brigade (1979) is about the Women’s Auxiliary in the 1936 Flint Sit-Down Strike. I’m from Flint, and this is one of my favorite films. If you can get a hold of it, it’s an amazing portrait of women’s labor and organizing in one of the most important strikes in world history. (I’m getting an Emergency Brigade tattoo!) The only surviving participant in the strike is Geraldine Blankenship, who was a teenage member of of the Women’s Emergency Brigade. The woman who organized the auxiliary was Genora Johnson Dollinger, who was only 23 at the time. After the strike, she worked with the UAW doing union publicity tours, organizing, and writing the book that the above link directs to.

Okay, I said I was from Flint, so I’m not gonna pretend that Roger & Me (1989) isn’t one of my favorite movies. (“Pets or meat” lady is, allegedly, a family friend.) All criticisms be damned, Michael Moore is a big deal to me. While I think Bowling for Columbine (2002) is kind of a mess of liberalism and poorly-developed arguments, I’m including it because it features women impacted by welfare-to-work.

Made in L.A. (2007) is a documentary about sweatshop labor and piecework performed by Central American immigrant women for Forever 21, and their efforts to unionize in favor of basic labor protections. Blood, Sweat, & Lace (1994) is another documentary about the subcontracting system in Los Angeles and how it impacts immigrant women of color, this time Asian-American women. (This one might be harder to come by, but if you have access to a research or university library, you might have some luck.)

Salt of the Earth (1954) is a landmark film, a drama about a Mexican-American miners in New Mexico and their struggles not only with scabs and management, but with white miners. At the same time, it’s about the work of wives and mothers, and arguments for “equity” within the home. Salt of the Earth is most famous for being blacklisted by HUAC for communist-leanings, because of its politics and its association with the International Union for Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. It’s so valuable not only for its labor content but its labor context: the producers and the actors (only a few of whom were professionals, most of whom were local union members) were blacklisted, and Rosaura Revueltas was deported. (Some of the scenes were filmed in Mexico city after her arrest.) Watch this movie!

Of course I have to mention Sally Field’s Norma Rae (1979), the dramatization of the life of Crystal Lee Sutton. Niki Caro’s North Country (2005) is a film about labor, assult, and sexual harassment and is based on Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.

A number of films have been produced about Juarez, femicide, and labor-related violence in Mexican border towns. Among them are the documentaries Performing the Border (1999), Seniorita Extraviada (2002) and the dramas Backyard: El Traspiato (2009) and Bordertown (2006).

These are just a handful that I could name, but Berkeley offers an extensive list for anybody who is looking for more.

12 Apr

RENT A RASTA from cinepobre.com on Vimeo.

unaguerrasinfondo:

baddominicana:

jamaican-supremacist:


When white women flock to Jamaica for a little fun in the sun, the R&R they’re often looking for is not “Rest and Relaxation” but to “Rent a Rasta” according to director J. Michael Seyfert. His eye-opening expose’ of the same name sheds light on a barely acknowledged form of sex tourism, namely, white women who visit the Caribbean Islands to get their groove back with the help of black locals. This documentary claims that, each year, as many as 80,000 females from a variety of relatively-wealthy Western nations descend on Jamaica alone.

yup. they go to the DR too. we call the guys who service em sanky pankys.

we see you white wimmins. we see you. witcho exploitative, fetishizin asses.

damn, this makes me wish i would of kept a zine someone gave me that was basically a travel diary of a white anarcho/feminist from the USA who was on vacation in Cuba - maybe she was there with a school/organization or something, but essentially it was a vacation. initially i thought it would be interesting, but after reading a couple pages i realized that it was absolute garbage and binned it. i remember she had written about being solicited (possibly for dates/sex/etc.) by cuban men in Habana- and she was upset and offended because they assumed that she was a rich tourist (which she was, although she spent a good deal of time writing about how she wasn’t rich by ‘american standards’)… watching the video above you can imagine why some cuban men would assume that this white foreigner on vacation was a sex tourist. 

(via persephonette-deactivated201207)

16 Feb

On the Descendants; or Postmodern Colonial Culture

deadandimmortal:

A professor I had wrote this brief article on The Descendants that I think is worth reading. I have heard inklings of how Hawai’i is presented within The Descendants in problematic ways. Here, Jason Sperb complicates the reading somewhat, but doesn’t appear to be convinced by the film.

While the colonial gaze is always important to discuss (I personally think it’s pretty rampant within cinema), with The Descendants being an Oscar contender, I think its especially important to keep in mind.

05 Feb

becoming-wave:

culturite:

Micro-Review: 8th Fire - CBC Doc Zone

“A 500 year old relationship … coming out of conflict, colonialism and denial.”

In case you missed it, you can now watch all four episodes of CBC’s recent series 8th Fire, which explores many aspects of contemporary Indigenous life in Canada.

There’s never been a show like this on television before.

So, if you’re a little scant on your knowledge of Canada’s colonial history—and its continuance into the neocolonial present (which, sadly, is a lived reality for all of our people)—it’s time to watch and learn. 

The series is equal parts micro-history lesson and semi-critical assessment of the challenges and opportunities that Indigenous Peoples face, but 8th Fire at least attempts to tackle, in broad strokes, what is an admittedly complex cultural, social and political reality—and a highly interwoven set of complex relationships between Indigenous Peoples and the rest of Canada.

Sadly, the series frequently reproduces dominant, statist perspectives advocating economic and resource development as the sole prescription for creating social change in Indigenous communities and, too often, the series retreats into reiterating rhetorical platitudes of “reconciliation” translated ineffectively as “we all just want to move on and get along with each other by getting to know our neighbours better”. This TRC-inspired kumbaya sing-a-long serves to invisibilize the real violence that is continuously enacted on our peoples through ongoing forms of colonial racism, domination, abjection and subjugation.

And yet, as 8th Fire is ultimately a product of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the state’s publicly funded national media outlet, it isn’t surprising that the show’s aim is to ‘reconcile’ 500+ years of genocide, by trying to convince Canadians that Indian Country is open for business—and that Indians are ready and willing to get down to the business of signing deals with corporations and government to erode, ever further, what little reserve lands and postage stamp pieces of our traditional territories are left.

This narrow vision of reconciliation—in which the eighth fire of friendship and harmony is ‘lit’ through the collaborative exploitation of Indigenous lands by co-opted Indians and their capitalist Canadian counterparts—is a frustratingly ineffectual vision for change and certainly not a model for revitalizing the spirit, strength and vitality of our peoples.

Financial partnerships won’t heal the past or provide retroactive compensatory payback for the wholesale theft of Turtle Island and the annihilation of millions of Indigenous lives.

Learning from each other, if we’re being sincere about it, will require more than having our people continue to dress up and play the part of suit-wearing ‘seat-at-the-adults-table’ Indians; it will require that Indigenous leaders and communities reclaim our own visions of living and being that refuse the terms of recognition and validation offered by Settler society as the only basis from which to assert our strength.

In this way, 8th Fire succeeds most effectively when it offers realistic portrayals of the radically new—and rapidly growing—demographic of young Indigenous peoples that has emerged from the wreckage of more than five centuries of colonial rule. The hybrid, modern, courageous and resilient character of our peoples is truly something to be celebrated; and 8th Fire is at its strongest when it focuses on personal portraits that reveal this vitality, creativity and determination.

What was missing throughout the series, however, were stories that affirmed both the validity and necessity of our resistance to the totalizing corporatization of all aspects of Indigenous life. Resistance stories are as much a part of our histories as are those of development deals reached, treaties signed, and complicity agreed to.

We need our warriors’ stories to be heard as well.

While I hope that CBC will make continue to make space for Indigenous-centred programming on the network, I still think it’s remarkable that it’s taken until 2012 to finally see the beginnings of a media representation of native people that is getting close to being…accurate.

It’s a first step. And a welcome one. But let’s be clear that it’s just a first step.

In his closing monologue, host Wab Kinew says that “[Native people] want closer links…we want reconciliation.” But we should ask ourselves: do we know what this would mean for our people? Do we know what it looks like? And is it what we really need and want? 

The road ahead will indeed by a rough one for all of us but, if we don’t address the ongoing impacts of colonization in a real and meaningful way, we will be kidding ourselves to think that we can somehow buy our way out of generations of dependency by building ‘new relationships’ based on signing treaties with corporations instead of governments. We need to defend our homelands and lifeways, to protect what we have left, and to rebuild our nations—beginning with ourselves.  

Maybe the next series should be about decolonization and resurgence, rather than resources and reconciliation.

Please feel free to reblog and comment. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the show.

Wow, great post. Thanks for sharing that. I just watched the first episode today and thought it was a great start. Haven’t seen the rest yet, so I’ll save further comments for later. I just want to share this with some of my followers who might not yet be following culturite.

(via tanacetum-vulgare)

22 Jan

The X-Files‘ mythology relies heavily on government conspiracy and only briefly with Indians, namely the Navajos (Diné, represent!), who figure into a brief three episode story arch. However, one could argue that the overall mythology, with its alien colonization, small pox vaccination conspiracy, and hybrid alien-human species, has American anxieties about colonialism written all over it.

—”Riffin on The X-Files,” mixedblood messages
 

10 Oct

In “honor” of what banks and elementary teachers like to call Columbus Day, and what we call Indigenous Peoples’ Day, this week at Feminist Film we’ll be featuring indigenous women directors, representations of indigenous people and indigenous women in particular, and indigenous voices.  Please submit suggestions or your pieces!

To start off, take a look at these Resources on Indigenous Feminism.

17 Jul

Wamapoke wedding in Parks and Recreation, by Newspaper Rock

lakalenyu:

Amy Poehler, the creative force behind Parks and Recreation, is building quite a track record on Indians. Unfortunately, it isn’t a positive one.

There are these incidents in the series:

Spirit of Pawnee in Parks and Recreation
Face-Cutting in Parks and Recreation
Twisted to Death in Parks and Recreation
Indians in Parks and Recreation

Her Palin rap during the 2008 presidential campaign:

Palin Rap Features “Eskimos”

And this picture of her in a hipster headdress:

Tumblr darling Amy Poehler wearing a beaded headband with two feathers sticking straight up out of it, an accessory stereotypically associated with native women.

[Image described in alt text.]

Full Article Here

That awkward moment when half your dash adores a racist and you keep waiting for someone else to call out the gross shit she’s done and they never do cuz she’s just so FUNNY and she’s making such strides for white women in comedy.

Welp.

Some things to think about:

It’s true that Parks and Recs is using “Racist Anti-Native Heritage” as a caricature of midwestern small-town white people.  From this post at Newspaper Rock, concerning the Spirit of Pawnee murals:

The old mural shows a train racing across the plains. A cartoonish Indian warrior jumps off the track before the train can hit him. It’s as if he didn’t have enough sense to avoid a train. Nearby, another cartoonish Indian warrior is drinking “firewater” and gesticulating wildly.

I think these are the primary “racist undertones” referred to in the summary. Since murals like this exist and Parks and Recreation characterized the mural as inappropriate, this seems like a reasonable use of stereotypes.

However, that’s obviously not all there is to it.  First, it’s really problematic (and shaky) to argue that “ironic racism" is okay or Not Really Racist, especially considering that the audience primarily white.  And white people joking with other white people about racism, using racism, is never a radical act.  It’s a racist act.  Do I think that Parks & Rec has made some nuanced commentary on small-town racism?  Sure.  Do I think it was lost on the audience?  Probably.  And, more importantly, I’m not sure white people should feel so entitled to comment on racism so lightly all the time, and I definitely don’t think we should be congratulated on it.

More importantly, though, as that post points out:

For inspiration for the proposed mural, Leslie examines a display of Indian artifacts: a desk with a couple of shelves of baskets and pottery. I couldn’t tell where the artifacts came from—somewhere in the West, I suspect. But I doubt baskets and pottery would be the primary artifacts recovered for Indiana’s Indians.

For more inspiration, Leslie examines an old painting that shows Anglos getting off a locomotive to meet a Plains chief by a tipi. As with the baskets and pottery, I don’t think you’d find Plains imagery as far east as Indiana.

So the episode tells us a couple of stereotypical images are bad. It then undoes whatever good it may have done by presenting more mistakes and stereotypes: Indians are museum pieces, Indians make baskets, Indians look like Plains chiefs. Nice of you to include Indians again, Parks and Recreation, but you’re still not doing it well.

And that’s really important.  Call it Did Not Do The Research all you want, but you can’t pretend that that’s not emblematic, 100% Pure American Genocidal Racism right there.  That’s the thing about white people praciticing Ironic Racism toward Natives—it’s always the exact same racism as practiced by  regular racists toward natives.  I can’t even tell y’all apart anymore!

It’s a shame, not only because it’s my favorite show.  It’s also a shame because the show has been progressing toward having some of the best-developed characters of color on any network sitcom (the only well-developed characters of color on any network sitcom?)  Although not without race problems, it’s notable that all but one of the core female characters on the show are of color.  So it really fucking sucks that a show that puts so much effort into representation of black and brown characters, a show that has done so much for white women in comedy, pretends like an entire group of people doesn’t exist [as humans].  And that’s pretty reflective of the state of things, right?

I would say that by the third season, the Ironic Native Racist schtick appeared less (as their writing started to actually develop).  The glaring exception is episode 7, “Harvest Festival.”  From Megan Gilbert's recap:

They wait for Ken, the leader of the Wamapoke tribe, who is sporting a slicked-back ponytail, a bolo tie and a festival-related grievance. Tom gets in a “Dope bolo” before Leslie addresses Ken in his native language. But this does little to assuage Ken’s grievance: the “carnival” is being held on the site of the Battle of Indian Hill, and its shooting galleries and fried dough stands need to be moved.

Leslie holds her ground—literally—going to the Map of Pawnee Settler Atrocities Against the Wamapoke (99% blue with “atrocities” in blue) for backup for the fact that given its history, Pawnee has a hard time not being offensive. Ken resignedly leaves, throwing a “I just hope that the souls of my ancestors don’t put a curse on this festival…” over his shoulder, then tells camera in confidence that white peoples’ fear of curses is equal only to their love of Matchbox 20.

Although the “white people are racist assholes and people of color can manipulate that to make them look ridiculous” thing can be smart and funny, there are still a lot of problems.  For example, from Newspaper Rock:

The Wamapokes supposedly lost the battle because they didn’t have any weapons, which is a bit insulting. Describing them as hapless children isn’t much better than describing them as savage killers. Actually, as Allan W. Eckert’s A Sorrow in Our Heart makes clear, Indiana’s Indians were sophisticated defenders of their rights and cultures.

Leslie holds her ground—literally—going to the Map of Pawnee Settler Atrocities Against the Wamapoke (99% blue with “atrocities” in blue) for backup for the fact that given its history, Pawnee has a hard time not being offensive. Ken resignedly leaves, throwing a “I just hope that the souls of my ancestors don’t put a curse on this festival…” over his shoulder, then tells camera in confidence that white people’s fear of curses is equal only to their love of Matchbox 20.
The Indian’s name is Ken Hotate, is which is better than Brave Eagle or Running Bear. But “hotate” is a Japanese name for plain scallops, not an Indian word.

Clearly Hotate has invented the “curse” to achieve his political goals. The idea that an Indian would place a curse in 2011 is silly. It would be like accusing someone of being a witch—a practice that died out centuries ago. But it’s also silly that most of the townspeople believe him. The joke is primarily on them, not on him.

And:

Clearly no one is taking the Indians’ spirituality seriously. Not even Hotate, who find Leslie’s offer “interesting” and agrees to lift the curse. It’s as everyone knows the white man’s wishes trump the Indians’, and all that matters is how to pay off a special-interest group.

In the Wamapoke “ceremony,” Hotate’s Native song is subtitled in English. “I am not saying anything,” he intones. “No one can understand me anyway. Doobee. Doobee. Do.” Even though Hotate’s actions are a spoof—he’s lifting the “curse” he made up—this is really a slam against Native ceremonies. “We” don’t understand what “they” mean, so perhaps the Indians are babbling nonsense. Perhaps their religious beliefs and ceremonies are nothing more than stunts to impress gullible non-Indians.

It’s good to remember to ask a few questions when you deal with jokes about race:  who is the subject?  who is the audience?  who is the object?  who gets to participate in the laughter?  And, most importantly, what is the punchline?

Can anyone tell me the original source of that photograph?  I think it’s fucked up and she should be held accountable for it, but the creative director also makes a difference (and should be held accountable).  Plus, as Gillian Jacobs/Alison Brie for GQ-Gate has reminded us recently, media representation of gender and race in television (and film) is…well, fucked up.

We would like to hear more from you guys about race in Parks & Rec, and if you have any links or articles to recommend send them to us.  But remember, before you comment, to Check Your Privilege.  Even the best Feminists/Social Justice Bloggers on tumblr have a pretty poor track record when it comes to Native representation.

(via lakalenyu-deactivated20111225)