Monday, March 2, 2015

"Minorities Should Stop 'Stealing...White People's Superheroes'": I Guess Michelle Rodriguez Never Heard of Dwayne McDuffie or Milestone Comics

Something on a Monday for the "ghetto nerd" set...


Michelle Rodriguez is a functional actress.

She is not an expert on comic books and popular culture--as far as I know.

However, one of the joys of popular culture is that taste cannot be easily reconciled or arbitrated. By definition, "popular culture" means those "art forms" that do not require special training, education, background, or resources to enjoy.

This does not mean that a given person's perspectives or opinions on or about popular culture stand outside of the political and social moment in which they are located.

For example, as reported by CNN, Michelle Rodriguez suggested on Saturday of last week that:
"I think that people should stop being lazy and that people should make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology." 
Within 24 hours of being posted on Saturday the video had been viewed nearly 2 million times. 
The comments come after Rodriguez was caught on camera Friday saying that minorities should stop "stealing...white people's superheroes." Rodriguez, who identifies as Puerto Rican and Dominican, was walking to her car when TMZ asked her about rumors that she might be cast in the traditionally male role of superhero Green Lantern, last played by Ryan Reynolds.
She dismissed the rumor as "the dumbest thing I've ever heard." She followed it up with, "It's so stupid, it's like, 'Stop stealing all the white people's superheroes' ... make up your own. You know what I'm saying?" 
Apparently, not everyone felt what she was saying, prompting her to post a Facebook video captioned "About that whole superhero thing."
Passion and enthusiasm are not a substitute for critical reflection or inquiry. Moreover, while Rodriguez's spirit of self-reliance and do it yourself empowerment for those who are the Other in Hollywood, and the comic book business specifically, is admirable. Yet, said Horatio Alger spirit of entrepreneurial independence exists within the world as it is, not necessarily the world that many of us would like to believe exists.

"Minorities" have been doing their own thing and inventing their/our superhero characters for many years.

Michelle Rodriguez must not know about the legacy of Milestone Comics.

Michelle Rodriguez most certainly must not know about the legendary comic book writer who happened to be black, Mr. Dwayne McDuffie.

Internalized racism and ignorance are very dangerous things because they perpetuate and legitimate structural inequality and white supremacy in the United States and the West, and also lead common folks like Michelle Rodriguez--who happen to be in Hollywood movies--to make mouth utterances such as the following:
"Instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy or instead of trying to turn a white character into a black character or a Latin character, I think that people should stop being lazy and that people should make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology."
McDuffie and the other black and brown and female comic book creators, TV and Hollywood writers, and others who are trying to, and if are very lucky, have successfully broken into the "superhero game", are not lazy.

The Horatio Alger myth when mixed with some enthusiastic pleadings for economic independence in a Hollywood industry that is grounded in channeling the white racial frame and where white men are grossly over-represented (white men are about 20 percent of the U.S. population and 95 or so percent of Hollywood's show runners, writers, producers, and executives) is a tragic sort of naivete.

It is also amazingly intoxicating for the model minority types such as Michelle Rodriguez who have succeeded--however marginally--in that business.


KissedByTheSun said...

Michelle Rodriguez should stop being lazy, stealing white people's arguments and make up her own.

joe manning said...

How soon they forget. The successful hastily pull up the ladder behind them and proceed to blame the victims. Convincing oneself that his/her status has been earned doesn't entail embracing "whiteness" and trashing homeboys/girls.

Gable1111 said...

How is a black or brown actor playing a "white supper hero" stealing? Rodriguez using that characterization put this in the most negative light possible.

KissedByTheSun said...

Not to mention that Green Lanterns are chosen from various worlds composing a diverse and representative group of heroes according to the lore. Her comments suggest that Green Lanterns that represent Earth should always be White, when the comic itself leaves the door open for any human to become a Green Lantern. Don't speak if your not fluent in geek.

Gable1111 said...

Well, besides the fact she didn't know WTF she was talking about, she missed a real opportunity to say something smart in support of actors of color. Instead, she not only "pulled the ladder up" behind her but nailed the door shut for good measure.

As we used to say back in the day, Rodriguez is "smelling herself."

OldPolarBear said...

lol good one -- multiple likes!

OldPolarBear said...

Not really that much into superhero comics, but from what I have seen of Green Lantern, some of the Green Lanterns from other worlds are not only not human, but not even humanoid forms.

ToneTone said...

It's not mythology. It's fiction.

Scopedog said...

And there was a Black Green Lantern--John Stewart. And he was given the ring while Hal Jordan was still a GL.

Black Sci-Fi said...

We bring our own "life experience" to the public forum. IMHO,Ms. Rodriguez brings the self-hatred of the Dominican racial construct that encouraged the division of Dominica into the DR/Hati along with the need to please Hollywood producers. In addition, in recent years her private/public persona is not geared toward economic/social justice for POC but more shaped by her political advocacy for the liberation of bi-sexuals.
Ain't Hatin'/Jus Sayin'
At the heart of this issue, advocacy for self-production by POC of original cultural superheros, she and I are in agreement.
The problem is that the vast number of (white) consumers don't buy into that vision and will not support too much diversity (beyond themes of slavery and civil rights,so far) at the box office. That leaves POC with sometimes token inclusion in the heroic cultural mythology of the majority (white) consumers. To a certain extent Marvel World characters are being recast to include POC as traditionaly white characters to reflect the diversity of the "world marketplace" rather than an advocacy for social/economic justice.
Lastly, "shotgun interviews" are aimed at eliciting a more candid, less PC, response. I'm sure Ms Rodriguez, if given time to prepare a more thoughtful response, would gladly do so.

INDYOO7 said...

I fuckin love your site man. I can't recall the last time I read an article about the Legendary Dwaynne McDuffie. It makes me feel sooo good to know that I'm not the only anime, comicbook, cartoon black geek (BLERD OR BLEEK TO YOU) out here. Thanks for giving a home to wayward black nerds. Oh also checkout, it's another site that could use some love.

Dan Kasteray said...

She's such an uncle tom anti feminist. What's wrong with a woman playing green lantern? And then for her to insist that non whites not enjoy super heroes? Wtf? If James Bond can be played by 20 different guys then we can get a female Latino green lantern or anything; the sky should be the limit.

Dan Kasteray said...

She's pulling the Herman Cain routine

Cavoyo said...

Has she ever seen the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie, or The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise? White people should stop stealing superheroes and develop their own mythology.