Saturday, March 05, 2005

white wash

Remember the 'rave' scene in The Matrix Reloaded? When I saw that movie in the theater, I immediately thought there would be some sort of puritanical reaction to the sexuality of that scene. Such a reaction was inevitable, given the portion of the American populace that seems inordinately interested in making sure nobody is enjoying themselves (or each other). What surprised me, however, was the negativity surrounding the racial distribution of the cast - white people bitching that white people were under-represented.

Aside from the obvious ironies in that, there is also a contextual problem related specifically to science fiction stories: the 'western world' is building weapons, actively cultivating enemies, poisoning its own water and food and air, and (in the case of the USA) is being run by the Four Fuckheads of the Apocalypse. It stands to reason that when the big biotech plagues break out, it will happen here first. Our current foreign policy is ensuring that anyone with missiles is pointing them straight at us. Our empire grows top-heavy, and like all empires it will one day fall. Only excessive hubris or optimism would lead one to believe that the future is white.

Apocalyptic intervention isn't even a necessary requirement... just look at the world today: white cultures are a numerical minority, and their growth rates lag those of the rest of the world. Left to its own devices, humanity will become progressively more colorful as the years go by.

None of these reasons stop the average American from assuming the world is white, nor do they stop the entertainment media from giving the (white) people what they want. So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised when, for instance, the Sci Fi Channel aired Legend of Earthsea, a miniseries allegedly based on Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea books, and completely missed the point... I can just see the suits pitching the story: 'it will be like Party of Five... on another planet!!'

Fortunately Ursula K. Le Guin is no chump, and she didn't just take the money and run. In her article in Slate, How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books, she says:

My color scheme was conscious and deliberate from the start. I didn't see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill. I didn't see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had "violet eyes"). It didn't even make sense. Whites are a minority on Earth now... —why wouldn't they still be either a minority, or just swallowed up in the larger colored gene pool, in the future?

I wrote all of the above back when the Slate article first came out, but apparently didn't post it... recently the issue of racism popped up in another post and I tried to cross-reference this one, but it didn't exist yet. Now it does.