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Boris' Ramblings

N.O.C Nerd of colour

Rating: 1 votes, 4.00 average.
I read a really interesting and heartfelt article today about being, what the writer calls, a Nerd Of Colour (NoC) and how although a huge geek fanboy, finds himself visually under-represented in the entertainment and gaming industry.

Please take the time to have a read here:

It really struck me when the writer mentions Firefly as a case study. In that universe China has become such a super power that it's culture is pervasive and the characters regularly swear in mandarin, but there are no Asian characters in the show.
I'm ashamed to say I hadn't ever noticed before.

I thought this article brought up a subject that is usually avoided and expressed it in an open way that will hopefully provoke a sensible discussion amongst it's readers.

The subject of female representation is brought up a lot - but race seems to be avoided as people don't want to get into awkward territory/ unintentionally offend someone. It's a little odd as hobbyists are usually outspoken on pretty much every subject going.

Anyway - I thought I'd give you something to mull over at the virtual water cooler.
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Gaming , Real Life


  1. ScottRadom's Avatar
    Bah. I think that the flipside to being a member of a visible minority is having to endure the fact that us Anglo Saxony types are the majority. I obv. don't have the bloggers insight into being a member of a minority but it seems to me that it's a no brainer that most of the iconic characters he mentions from 30+ years ago would be white. I don't think we can really hassle Bob Kane or Tolkien for writing abotu white guys at a time when Blacks weren't even aloud to play baseball in the majors.

    He mentions his dissapointment in Battlstar Galactica. Okay. How about Heroes? It featured an Asian character as a lead (The Japanese kid. Complete with.... SUBTITLES!). It had an Indian Dr. involved too. I think. That show sucked a ton. How about Lost? Iraqi, Asian, Black, the works. Also that show sucked. A ton.

    Why does Wolverine have an "asian fetish"? Why not. He lived in Japan. A man who admires and follows a cultural code of Japan get's relegated to simply having an "asian fetish"? Seems like a derogatory statement to make. Especially about my fellow Canuck. Fictional though he may be.

    So let's talk about nowadays. When I go buy my weekly dose of nerdness from my comic shop I am BOMBARDED by Japanese manga culture. I hate that goofy looking stuff! My store is about 45% Manga/Anime vs 55% of my "white power" buys like Thor and Captain America. I'd say for a minority culture Japan has done pretty well on the old nerd front.

    Nowadays we're seeing more and more films dealing with race as an issue. Clint Eastwood almost single handedly with films like Invictus and Gran Torino makes sure race is in our faces. Good for him. I also admired his work on Sands of Iwo Jima. Mostly because it DIDN'T deal so much with race and discrimination, but rather told a story from a different perspective. Good for Clint! That dude rocks. Race and Culture are being treated with respect and dignity on a wide front across the entertainment world. It'll trickle down into the nerdy realms of Sci-Fi and Fantasy eventually. Problem there is 90% of nerdy stuff is based on existing stories from 30+ years ago. Why not cast Spider Man with a Vietnamese kid as the lead? 'Cause the character is white. Cast him as Vietnamese and you're not making a Spider Man movie. It would be no different than casting Spider Man as a girl. Both ideas might be cool and all but fighting 40+ years of conceptions with a character is a waste of time.

    As for the female side of things I think we're seeing more than ever a REALLY strong representation of women in our nerdness. Since the eighties chicks have been kicking ass and taking names. Ripley, Agent Sterling (Whatever her name was. From Silence of the Lambs), and Buffy have been MORE than holding their own for a long time now. Women might be dissapointed in the physical representation of their sex by lead actors such as Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox, but as a man that brings me to my next point.

    So... let's put aside the racsism and sexism issue and talk about the REAL issue. The one that haunts us all with it's horrible, horrible misrepresntation. If a Nerd of Colour can cry foul at being left out in the cold, or made to feel like less of a member of the X-men or being snubbed for double "O" status again by MI6 then how about me? Why don't I get represented?

    There's been about 6,000,000% more movies made with a red demon with a big hand and a horn deficiency that have been made than action movies starring an awesome fat dude.

    What about us "Nerds of Size"? Name ONE cool fat dude in a movie. Or a Comic Book. Or Anything? No... not that guy. He doesn't count, he was comedy relief. Nope, that one doesn't count either. Sidekick at best. That dude? Nah, he was dumb and got killed. Name one fat dude that walks up to a woman after saving the day and says something cool that starts making out with her while the screen fades to black and the heavy metal music starts playing as the credits role?

    Yeah... not gonna happen.
  2. Boris's Avatar
    valid points - is under-representation a broader issue?
  3. three little pigs's Avatar

    Some interesting points of view, however I take issue (light heartedly)) about Clint Eastwoods "almost single handedly"

    Take a look at Sidney Poitiers back catalogue, as well as being mightily entertaining to the point of putting recent H/wood pap to shame, there are strong and well thought out themes which not only deal with discrimination on a racial level but on religious, ideological and generational levels as well.

    Not knocking Clint, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly rates as one of my faves. Oh how I would like to Vignette that.

  4. ScottRadom's Avatar
    Oh sure three little pigs, Clint's work pales to some of the legends in the field and their effort. Especially Sidney Poitier. But I mean contemporary.

    Becca, no I don't think under-representation is an issue. If anything I think that we're seeing much more than our fair share of issue oriented entertainment from all sorts of minorities be it race, sexual orientation, or size. I just don't think we're going to see it in Sci-Fi or Fantasy.

    'Cause that would defeat the point I think. I mean, Marvel tries a little with the "mutant curse" in it's books. Minorities who are treated differently 'cause they're different. 'Cept I don't think being picked on because you're black is EVEN the same thing as trying to gain a sympathetic footohold with the reader because the poor hero in question is different because he can lift a bus and turn into metal. I just don't think it works. If you bombard the reader/viewer with too much stuff the person taking it all in is probably going to self edit some of the content. I mean, in Sci-Fi the setting and all the great things that make it sci-fi take up so much of the story that I think it'd be poor to throw in a race or other minority theme and have it compete with the other things going on. It can happen, but usually I find it as allegory.

    With other mainstream settings it so much easier to tell a story featuring the perspective of... let's say lesbians. A light hearted look at a lesbian couple raising a family in today's society is certainly doable. But set it on Tatooine with Sand People always lurking round the corner and... no.

    My thoughts anyway
  5. MonkeyShaman's Avatar
    Sorta longwinded sentances and I'm spelling like I'm made out of thumbs but there should be a point around here.

    It's kinda hard to get a foot in the door seeing as he states that racial unawareness is a form of racism (however that vocabulary juggle pans out). But having had this discussion with lots of people over the years as well as holding the subject of social equilibrium very high on my core belief list and as the whole racial/ideological discussion is kind of a hot topic over in my neck of the woods as well I can't really help myself.

    "I remember one of my fellow nerds of color inviting me to a Rifts game in a tough tone of voice as if he was initiating me into a gang, all the while looking around nervously as if his street cred would be in serious jeopardy"

    That sorta sounds like regular puberty.
    I guess I can't say much about american cultural climate on this but I can only assume the issue of nerdhood is a global thing. I'll try to structure it as I go along:

    The complaint that a piece of fiction or a work of art doesn't revolve around you is stuck up.
    It would sort of be like me whining about the Monalisa not being a man or that the makers of diehard should have cast a lead with a bigger tool.

    Most commercial creative decisions are based on commercial gain, I wouldn't know the first thing about being a korean kid from x neighbourhood in queens I will even go as far as saying that it would have been an easy out for the creators of spider-man to typecast kind of like when insecure women of webcomics make an all male cast gay just to show that they can indeed make multi facetted characters and it's to their creative credit that they didn't but I could relate (probably as well as anyone) to being Peter mr.joe average angsty teen Parker. (Or for that matter just really digging the web swinging thing which as far as I could parse with my limited literacy is not related to his 'whiteness') Concidering the current state of affairs in europe I'd say that if the nearest thing you've come to racism is scrawny brown haired measure a man by his actions Peter Parker your safe.

    As far as my observational skills have allowed me to register isn't 'asian nerd' sort of the holy grail of nerddom? Like when you die and have collected all the limited edition starwars leftist political pogs you return like buddha as a shiny new japanese kid with great bootleg connections? Isn't that a bigger social dilemma? I'm willing to bet that you could go to any games workshop for a day and see more black kids there during that day than you would in your local riding club for a full week.

    On the whole context of social commentary in science fiction and fantasy we could probably go two routes here (at least from this whole racial standpoint):

    A. All science fiction and fantasy deals with race

    • At some point all science fiction and fantasy end up with some alliance of the races who've previously been too biggoted or xenophobic to get along to fight a bigger externalized evil by overcoming the evils within.

    • It's all you ever hear about, its always the dwarf this or the 'nids that, our very own 'imperium of mankind' is this fascist memorabilia obsessed recluse waging war on anything thats not pink on the inside.

    • We like this format because if it was just 'then that guy when and beat up that guy and then his kids went a bit sour for it' it would sort of just be regular fiction.
    B. Science fiction and fantasy is not social commentary

    • Star wars deals with social inequality as much as Erin Brockowich deals with Generational space soapopera involving lightsabers or American History X deals with enviromental protection and destroying the one ring.
    With white people still being to skittish to admit they like Wu-Tang clan as that would prove they are racist (wth?). While happily singing along as well as (you know because they have a sense of humour or just like well produced music with sort of tongue in cheek lyrics about a big ol' man talk or quite simply are slightly piggish) looking at their girlfriend when Jay C admits to having 99 problems and none of them concern women. Doesn't in effect saying 'White people are fear mongering racists not open to discussing this cause they don't recast all fictional characters as 4'9" eskimos with a wonky eyes' blot out any sort of chance at developing peer to peer interaction as well as squandering any hope of social evolution by flaunting your own closed mindset?

    And isn't the bigger picture then that this is something present in all tiers of our culture?