Earlier this week, Brussels was attacked. Two blasts at the Brussels International Airport and another explosion just 7 miles away at a metro station. Over 30 dead. Hundreds wounded.
Istanbul, Ankara, Paris, San Bernardino, the list goes on. ISIS claims responsibility over and over and over again. And every single time, Muslims as a collective group are blamed. We get hashtags like #StopIslam followed by something about how we all need to be exterminated.
Is it strange then that I turn to comic books and superhero shows to try to escape it all?
It’s about time we have a Disney animated film with more than one main female character. And it’s actually about love for someone other than a prince charming! And don’t even get me started on the songs. “Let It Go” has been stuck in my head for the past month. Seriously, the movie is all kinds of fantastic.
The only thing that sort of stinks is the fact that progress has to come in single categories. If movies ever take big steps in women’s rights and providing more female voices, then it’s always in the form of Caucasian females. Imagine if they had set the fictional town of Arendelle in China or Spain or even somewhere near the Andes, which is in Latin America. (We still don’t have a Hispanic disney “princess,” by the way. Just FYI.)
I know I know. It sounds like I’m just trying to detract from the awesomeness of the movie by bringing in that stupid topic of race. Gosh. But I’m just thinking about the majority of little girls in the world who are not Caucasian would probably love to see more characters on screen who look like them. Because…
The woman on the left is supposed to be Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura on the TV show, “Star Trek,” from 1966-1969. It was one of the first times an African American woman portrayed a non-stereotypical character on screen.
I understand that Frozen was set in a place similar to Denmark in honor of Danish author Hans Christian Anderson whose story, “The Snow Queen,” was the inspiration for this movie. Sure that’s fair. But what about Tangled ? That totally could have been set anywhere else in the world.
I know that we have our token minority Disney characters. We got the Chinese covered (Mulan), the African Americans (Tiana), the Arab/brown people (Jasmine and Aladdin), heck we even have the Native Americans (Pocahontas), and like a gypsy too (Esmerelda)!
Sidenote: The setting of Aladdin is pretty weird if you think about it. It’s set in an “Arabian” land and yet the Sultan’s palace looks like the Taj Mahal, which is in India. The Arab world and South Asia are VERY different. But let’s not even get into that.
The point I’m trying to make is…I don’t want the rest of the world to be tokens anymore. Isn’t that a fair request too? I know I’m not the only person who feels this way.
On a slightly different note, have you heard this brilliant version of “Let It Go” in 25 different languages? It gave me chills!
And then I noticed that there was no Arabic. Or Hindi or Bangla or Urdu… But come on at least put in some Arabic! It’s like they skipped over the brown portion of Asia. And the entire Middle East. Oh Disney.
Baratunde Thurston spoke at the journalism school last week. Do I really have to say more? Have you heard of this guy?! He’s fantastic. He’s from DC, went to Harvard, was a consultant for some time, then a digital director at The Onion, all while doing stand-up comedy on the side, and now he has started his own company called Cultivated Wit.
He also wrote the New York Times bestseller, How To Be Black. That book has been on my reading list for ages and it shames me that I have not gotten to it yet. He talked about a lot of things ranging from his own family history, where he thinks the future of journalism is heading, the influence of technology on journalism, and of course, race.
Naturally, I found him inspiring because he manages to do what he loves without abandoning topics that interest him. In his case, he’s interested in technology and race. And he’s able to weave those subjects into his journalism in a humorous and enlightening way that actually makes people want to read his work.
His quick bullet points on what’s happening/changing in journalism:
Distribution of good ideas
Experimentation is basically free
It’s a really exciting time in journalism and it’s great to hear someone like him talk about it rather than some news anchor. The guy sitting at a news desk in front of the camera is what I think of as being old, traditional journalism. This new digital surge of energy flowing into the journalism industry sounds way more exciting to me and frankly, it looks like it’s going to be way more diverse too. Both in terms of gender and race.
At the end of Baratunde’s talk, one guy came up to the microphone and basically asked what can white people do to combat racism. It was kind of hilarious because I’m pretty sure all of us in the audience just turned to Baratunde thinking, “Yaaay he’s gonna solve racism!”
Out of the many suggestions he had, one part stuck out to me and that’s when he said to get a black friend (or really any minority). And actually be friends with them. In the sense that you trust and respect them enough to share your ideas and what you’re feeling. Essentially, talk about race with them. I know I have white friends who don’t ever talk to me about race. Even if it comes up casually in conversation, it’s always brushed aside quickly for a more neutral subject, like how crazy Miley Cyrus is.
On that note, I’m going to end this with a clip of Key and Peele‘s stand-up comedy. Because sometimes you just need two half black/half white guys to wrap up a random post about Baratunde Thurston, journalism, digital media, and race.