Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Who's at the Front of the Bus?

As well as the SFWA front page and LiveJournal, I'm told, that post was also mirrored over at the SFWA Facebook page. I had a quick look and saw some valiant efforts to explain the very simple argument to commenters not getting it big time. I don't know if I can comment myself as a non-user, but to be honest, my dislike for Facebook means I'm not even going to check. But, there was one somewhat random call to support my argument with the last ten [I assume that's what they meant to type] novels made into movies that won awards or were nominated to them. Hmmm.

Cross-media adaptation and critical recognition have, as far as I can see, zero relevance to the issue -- which is the absence of the abject from protagonist status in popular narratives -- but just for shits and giggles, I thought we might take a cursory look at, say, a benchmark "Top 50 Sci-Fi Movies" list. Cause, as I say in comments over on the SFWA blog, segregation is a whole lot more obvious in Hollywood. So a lazy Google of "top sci-fi movies" brings up a list of top-rated Sci-Fi on Imdb. Let's have a little looky as to who's riding at the front of the bus in those movies:

1. Inception (2010) -- white, straight lead
2. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980 -- white straight lead (+ Black Buddy B character)
3. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) -- white, straight lead
4. The Matrix (1999) -- white, straight lead (+ Magic Negro)
5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) -- white, straight lead (+ "Go on without me" black B character)
6. Alien (1979) -- white, straight [?]* lead (+ "meat for the grinder" black B character)
7. WALL·E (2008) -- N/A
8. A Clockwork Orange (1971) -- white, straight lead
9. Aliens (1986) -- white, straight lead
10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) -- white, straight lead
11. Metropolis (1927) -- white, straight lead
12. Back to the Future (1985) -- white, straight lead
13. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) -- white, straight lead
14. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) -- white, straight lead (+ Black Buddy B character**)
15. Blade Runner (1982) -- white, straight lead
16. Donnie Darko (2001) -- white, straight lead
17. District 9 (2009) -- white, straight lead
18. Avatar (2009) -- white, straight lead
19. The Thing (1982) -- white, straight lead (+ Black Buddy B character)
20. The War Game (1965) -- N/A
21. The Terminator (1984) -- white, straight lead
22. Twelve Monkeys (1995) -- white, straight lead
23. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) -- [***], straight lead
24. V for Vendetta (2006) -- white, straight lead
25. Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future (1973) -- white, straight lead
26. Stalker (1979) -- white, straight lead
27. Star Trek (2009) -- white, straight lead
28. Frankenstein (1931) -- white, straight lead
29. Children of Men (2006) -- white, straight lead
30. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997) -- [***], straight lead
31. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) -- white, straight lead
32. Planet of the Apes (1968) -- white, straight lead
33. Young Frankenstein (1974) -- white, straight lead
34. Brazil (1985) -- white, straight lead
35. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) -- white, straight lead
36. Solaris (1972) -- white, straight lead
37. The Man from Earth (2007) -- white, straight lead (+ black B character)
38. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) -- white, straight lead
39. Moon (2009) -- white, straight lead
40. The Face of Another (1966) -- [***], straight lead
41. Kin-Dza-Dza (1989) -- white, straight lead
42. The Iron Giant (1999) -- white, straight lead
43. Jurassic Park (1993) -- white, straight lead
44. Iron Man (2008) -- white, straight lead (+ Black Buddy B character)
45. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) -- white, straight lead
46. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) -- [***], straight lead
47. Serenity (2005) -- white, straight lead
48. Akira (1988) -- [***], straight lead
49. Open Your Eyes (1997) -- white, straight lead
50. Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009) -- white, straight lead

* -- I've heard vaguely that Scott told the actors to play it as if the Nostromo crew have gone through all possible permutations of potential relationships, creating all manner of subtextual sexual tensions. This is however wholly subtextual.
** -- Arguably, with Jedi, Lando is promoted to A character status; the attack on the Death Star could be said to constitute a third narrative thread along with the mission on Endor and Luke's showdown with the Emperor. It is however, ultimately dependent on the white, straight leads carrying out the lynchpin action of bringing the shields down.
*** -- With the one Japanese live-action movie and a few animes on the list, we're stepping outside the Hollywood system, of course, to a culture where we'd expect a different default ethnicity. Even here though, I'd say there's a subtly Westernised look to some of the protagonists. YMMV.

So there you go -- not one protagonist of an abject social group. If we want another sampling, we might just look at this list of top-grossing movies. The situation here looks a tad better in terms of colour -- thank fuck for Will Smith, it seems -- but I'm looking for Teh Gayz in that list, and all I'm seeing is the lesbian aspect of Black Swan.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Alex F. Fayle said...

But that's the SciFi (SyFy?) genre, no? Geeky straight boys who want to be the hero or to be with the straight white chick (with slight men-exciting lesbian tendencies).

Fortunately as I was growing up in the 80s I was able to find some queer fiction or queer subtexts to keep me going... (the Chronicles of Tornor series). As for movies? I had to go to indie film for queerness - Another Country, Maurice...

9:22 pm  
Blogger John M Kerr said...

Wow, fuckin convinced me. I mean, a minority's a minority, right? But zero from fifty? And on *both* counts? That is statistically improbable.

12:44 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Alex: I was that geeky straight boy... just queer instead of straight.

I do remember the joy of Channel Four starting up, the discovery of movies like Another Country, Maurice, My Beautiful Launderette. But what I really wanted was a queer hero blasting an armoured clone-goon, then wise-cracking a quick quip as a starship blew up in the background -- cause we can do that too, yanno?

4:06 am  
Anonymous Alex F. Fayle said...

I was that geeky straight/queer boy too...

And yes, I would have loved to see a queer Terminator! Or at the very least a queer Captain Kirk, no?

7:19 am  
Anonymous Emo said...

Given the whole character of Kirk, I'm actually amazed he didn't ream a redshirt once in a while...

12:25 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

We're certainly a minority. Out of that number of films you would have thought at least one.

Can your queer superhero with pistol blast, before blasting the armoured clone goon, start with the south side of Glasgow. I have an aversion to the place.

PS write a space opera for us guys, with said queer hero who flies off into the sunset with the prince, and live happily ever after.

10:06 pm  
Anonymous mastadge said...

Is WALL·E N/A? I've only seen it once, but wasn't the robot romance gendered? WALL·E being the masculine labor unit and EVE being the sleek, sexy fembot?

12:23 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Mastadge: Good point. I haven't seen it, so I was just thinking, "robot," but in a way, anthropomorphised machinery, which is -- or should theoretically be -- non-gendered and non-racial, is even *more* demonstrative. "Obviously" the non-gendered robot must be *made* male *because* it is the protagonist; the default/normative overwrites even the absence of that dimension of identity.

Actually, I'm trying to think of specific examples where anthropomorphised objects also gain ethnicity -- i.e. where that subsidiary character X in such-and-such a Disney movie might be given racial markers, thus defining the protagonist as "white" in contrast. That wouldn't be the case here, from what I understand of the plot. But I'm thinking of the "comedy Negro" stylings of Mudflap and Skids in the second Transformers movie.

3:56 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Mark: Have you read my story in the Glorifying Terrorism anthology?

Ibrox? Meet Jack Flash.

3:58 pm  
Blogger green_knight said...

I haven't seen Wall-E, but was watching Cars a while back, and other than the love interest and the cheerleading groupies, *every single character was gendered male* (and, presumably, at least in the relationship that is shown, straight).

That matters. (See also, Eddie Murphy as voice actor for comic sidekicks). The pattern holds even when you can't find *any* story reasons for it _to_ hold.

7:26 am  

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