December 15, 2014

Sixkill in Cheap Shot

I discussed the debut of Zebulon Sixkill in Sixkill, Robert B. Parker's last Spenser mystery. After Parker's death, author Ace Atkins has continued the series and Sixkill's role in it.

Cheap Shot is the third of Atkins's Spenser books. Here's the story:

Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot (Spenser)From Booklist
Kinjo Heywood is a ferocious middle linebacker for the New England Patriots, but he has a penchant for off-the field violence as well. When he thinks he’s being followed, his agent hires Boston private investigator Spenser to find and discourage the followers. ... The three thugsters—Spenser, longtime running buddy Hawk, and Spenser’s protégé Z—employ their usual investigative techniques of intimidation and smart-ass repartee in the service of solving the case. Atkins’ third shot at the Spenser caseload shows steady improvement over the first two. Spenser is as tough and funny as ever, and Atkins has become a worthy successor. --Wes Lukowsky


“Assured... Atkins’s gift for mimicking the late Robert B. Parker could lead to a long run, the the delight of Spenser devotees.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A well-conceived adventure that balances Spenser and friends’ experience with Akira’s innocence while drawing on Atkins’ own Auburn football days.”

—Crimespree Magazine

Cheap Shot is the best yet, with a whip-crack plot, plenty of intriguing and despicable characters, and the lovable, relentless Spenser at its center….Atkins also has a deft way with Parker's style… Atkins is bringing his own energy and strengths to Parker's series. Cheap Shot is Spenser, by the book.”

—Tampa Bay Times
Native aspects

Zebulon "Z" Sixkill is only a supporting character in Cheap Shot. He might or might not make a list of the top 10 characters in the book.

But it's nice to see Atkins continuing to use him. Sixkill adds some fresh blood to the Spenser formula.

Sixkill's background as a Cree Indian is mentioned a few times, but it's mostly ignored. That's the way it should be. Being Indian will come up occasionally if you spend time with an Indian, but that's about it.

It's like anyone's ethnicity, religion, job, childhood, hobbies, etc. It'll come up now and then, but it's rarely the center of attention.

Parker overdid it in Sixkill. Perhaps a quarter of Spenser's interactions with Sixkill made some reference to his being an Indian. That's way too much.

As for the rest of Cheap Shot, it was a solid mystery until the end. Then Spenser and company got handed a few too many answers without working for them, and it petered out.

Still, Atkins did an excellent job of mimicking Parker's style. Cheap Shot was at least as good as the typical Spenser book by Parker--maybe better. The books aren't great literature, but they are entertaining diversions.

Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.

December 14, 2014

Media bias enables prejudice

Blaming the Victim, Excusing the Powerful: What Real Institutional Media Bias Looks Like

By Reed RichardsonTo fulfill the promise of a free press in our democracy journalism can’t be satisfied with assuming the posture of looking down on the powerless. Instead, journalism, at its best, should be—must be—about punching up at the powerful.

Most, if not all, individual journalists wholeheartedly agree with this ideal. And yet, time and again it’s easy to find examples of an institutional media bias that undermines this ethos. By consistently favoring the status quo and reflexively deferring to authority, news organizations that should be exposing and condemning abuse, prejudice and corruption all too often end up excusing, justifying and perpetuating it.

As a result, celebrities, corporations and government officials all command an outsized influence in the traditional media. This phenomenon isn’t new, but the magnitude certainly is. As never before, these entities are able to mobilize a veritable army of handlers, lawyers and flacks to soothe, shape and, spin the press into accepting their version of reality—no matter how tenuously related to the truth it might be.

This fundamental bias marks the central thread that runs through the coverage of everything from Bill Cosby to Ferguson to the US drone strike program. Stripping away each of those storylines’ unique details reveals the same flawed core: a media that grants the benefit of the doubt to the establishment and that saves its cynicism for the voiceless. In a way, this bias acts as a kind broad enabler of all prejudice, allowing whatever latent inequalities exist in the status quo to go unchallenged, if not outright defended. Thus, institutionalized sexism, racism and militarism enjoy a sympathetic ear in the press precisely because they are institutionalized.
Comment:  This is another nail in the coffin of the myth of the liberal media. A truly liberal media would demolish conservative lies about the "war on terrorism," climate change, tax cuts, and so forth. Instead, every issue is smothered in faux evenhandedness. Contrary voices are muffled and the status quo continues unchallenged.

December 13, 2014

The science of racism

The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men

And how to reform our bigoted brains.

By Chris Mooney
I WENT TO NYU to learn what psychologists could tell me about racial prejudice in the wake of the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. We may never really know the exact sequence of events and assumptions that led to the moment when Brown, unarmed and, according to witnesses, with his hands in the air, was shot multiple times. But the incident is the latest embodiment of America's racial paradox: On the one hand, overt expressions of prejudice have grown markedly less common than they were in the Archie Bunker era. We elected, and reelected, a black president. In many parts of the country, hardly anyone bats an eye at interracial relationships. Most people do not consider racial hostility acceptable. That's why it was so shocking when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games—and why those comments led the NBA to ban Sterling for life. And yet, the killings of Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and so many others remind us that we are far from a prejudice-free society.

Science offers an explanation for this paradox—albeit a very uncomfortable one. An impressive body of psychological research suggests that the men who killed Brown and Martin need not have been conscious, overt racists to do what they did (though they may have been). The same goes for the crowds that flock to support the shooter each time these tragedies become public, or the birthers whose racially tinged conspiracy theories paint President Obama as a usurper. These people who voice mind-boggling opinions while swearing they're not racist at all—they make sense to science, because the paradigm for understanding prejudice has evolved. There "doesn't need to be intent, doesn't need to be desire; there could even be desire in the opposite direction," explains University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek, a prominent IAT researcher. "But biased results can still occur."

The IAT is the most famous demonstration of this reality, but it's just one of many similar tools. Through them, psychologists have chased prejudice back to its lair—the human brain.

We're not born with racial prejudices. We may never even have been "taught" them. Rather, explains Nosek, prejudice draws on "many of the same tools that help our minds figure out what's good and what's bad." In evolutionary terms, it's efficient to quickly classify a grizzly bear as "dangerous." The trouble comes when the brain uses similar processes to form negative views about groups of people.
Comment:  For more on racism, see A Hunger to Deny Racism, White Privilege = "Willful Blindness," and Why Your Intentions Don't Matter.

December 12, 2014

Raven the Navajo Teen Titan

Branding shmanding, ‘Teen Titans: Earth One’ is pretty good

By J. Caleb MozzoccoThe new, rebooted version of the Teen Titans that Lemire and the Dodsons came up with for their Earth One graphic novel is really good, fairly compelling, true to the original spirit of the characters involved (if not the original Teen Titans concept; this is based on the Marv Wolfman/George Perez team) and conceivably of interest to a wider audience than DC diehards.

Lemire uses the most basic of elements of the Wolfman/Perez era—Raven helping to gather young heroes, alien Starfire arriving on Earth—as a catalyst for a story involving super-powered teenagers coming together as a team. The cast is confined almost entirely to those created by Wolfman and Perez—Cyborg, Tara, Jericho and the aforementioned Raven and Starfire—with the exception of Arnold Drake and Bob Brown’s Garfield Logan (here codenamed Changeling), who, like Dick Grayson, Wally West and Donna Troy, was among the preexisting characters folded into Wolfman and Perez’s Titans comics.

The characters are all rather closely related, which gives the book a perhaps claustrophobic feel—you’d only need about a half-dozen locations to shoot this as the TV pilot it reads so much like—but is also a more economical way to introduce and bind them together, and one denied Wolfman when he was writing his original version within the confines of a monthly comic.

Navajo 16-year-old shaman-in-training Raven has begun having strange dreams of a distressed alien family that apparently fell to Earth and found by mysterious, semi-sinister government types, all with names familiar to longtime DC readers (Slade, Markov, Dayton, Rita).

Teen Titans: Earth One

By Nightwing17Mixing a dash of X-Men and more than a hint of Runaways into the classic Wolfman/Perez formula, Teen Titans: Earth One introduces us to four teenagers growing up in Monument, Oregon when the emergence of strange powers and visions of a buried secret bring them together. Their visions are shared by Raven, another girl, living in New Mexico with her grandfather.And:Speaking of Raven, It was pretty cool to recast Raven as a Navajo, however I don’t know that you can honestly say that her heritage is relevant for any reason other than to lampshade her powers and give her access to one of those wise Navajo grandfathers who are always happy to instruct you in ‘the old ways’. It’s restrained enough to be considered frustrating rather than out and out offensive, but it would have been really nice to see the story actually reflect something about Navajo culture instead of regurgitating unhelpful white guilt and stereotypes. Well, maybe we’ll do better in that regard next time.

December 11, 2014

Greenpeace damages Nazca site

Peru Is Indignant After Greenpeace Makes Its Mark on Ancient Site

By William NeumanAn expression of concern by the environmental group Greenpeace about the carbon footprint was marred this week by real footprints—in a fragile, and restricted, landscape near the Nazca lines, ancient man-made designs etched in the Peruvian desert.

The Peruvian authorities said activists from the group damaged a patch of desert when they placed a large sign that promoted renewable energy near a set of lines that form the shape of a giant hummingbird.

The sign was meant to draw the attention of world leaders, reporters and others who were in Lima, the Peruvian capital, for a United Nations summit meeting aimed at reaching an agreement to address climate change. The meeting was scheduled to end Friday but negotiations were expected to continue into Saturday.

Greenpeace issued a statement apologizing for the stunt at the archaeological site, about 225 miles south of Lima. Its international executive director, Kumi Naidoo, flew to Lima, but the Peruvian authorities were seething over the episode, which they said had scarred one of the country’s most treasured national symbols.

This Greenpeace Stunt May Have Irreparably Damaged Peru's Nazca Site

By George DvorskyThe Peruvian government is planning to file criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who may have permanently scarred the Nazca Lines World Heritage Site during a publicity stunt.

As The Guardian reports, the Nazca lines "are huge figures depicting living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary figures scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago." The figures, which can only be seen from the air, are believed to have had ritual functions related to astronomy.

The ground around the site is so sensitive and so sacred that Peru has even forbidden presidents and top officials to walk where the Greenpeace activists went. Peru's Deputy Culture Minister told the BBC: "You walk there, and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years." Tourists generally get to see the site from the air, or, on rare occasions, are equipped with special foot gear.

"They are absolutely fragile. They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years," said the minister. "And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognized of all."
Greenpeace apologises to people of Peru over Nazca lines stunt

Culture ministry says it will press charges against activists for damage to world heritage site as UN climate talks began in Lima

By Dan Collyns
Greenpeace has apologised to the people of Peru after the government accused the environmentalists of damaging ancient earth markings in the country’s coastal desert by leaving footprints in the ground during a publicity stunt meant to send a message to the UN climate talks delegates in Lima.

A spokesman for Greenpeace said: “Without reservation Greenpeace apologises to the people of Peru for the offence caused by our recent activity laying a message of hope at the site of the historic Nazca lines. We are deeply sorry for this.

“Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass.”

Earlier Peru’s vice-minister for culture Luis Jaime Castillo had accused Greenpeace of “extreme environmentalism” and ignoring what the Peruvian people “consider to be sacred” after the protest at the world renowned Nazca lines, a Unesco world heritage site.
Comment:  Why don't the space aliens return and fix it?!

A tweet makes the problem plain:

Donna Yates ‏@DrDonnaYates Dec 12
FYI: this is the damage done to the Nazca lines by Greenpeace. Not minor. Not in someone's opinion. Look at that.

"Hands up, don't shoot!"

Some tweets on the connections between the different forms of violence perpetuated in America:

"Hands Up, Don't Shoot" chant of Ferguson protesters was the same message conveyed by "peace chiefs" at Sand Creek.

Blacks say, "Hands up, don't shoot!" Muslims say, "Hands up, don't torture!" Natives say, "Hands up, don't massacre!" #TortureReport #USA

Women to angry spouses, frat boys, athletes, cops, soldiers, etc.: "Hands up, don't rape!" #HandsUpDontRape #rapeculture #waronwomen

The Geneva Conventions on torture are like Indian treaties--i.e., guidelines to be followed except when they're inconvenient. #TortureReport

Comment:  For more on Ferguson, see Our Broken Justice System and Grand Juries Won't Indict Killer Cops.

December 10, 2014

Congressman calls Indians "wards of government"

Congressman’s Native American remark causes outcry

By Felicia FonsecaU.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s reference to American Indians as “wards of the federal government” has struck a harsh chord with tribal members and legal experts.

The Arizona Republican stunned an audience gathered in Flagstaff last week with the comment that came in a discussion about a land deal that would clear the way for a copper mine.

Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe says the phrase is antiquated and ignores advances made in tribes managing their own affairs.

A spokesman for Gosar says that wasn’t the intent. He says Gosar has been an advocate for strengthening tribes’ relationships with the federal government.

Congress maintains authority over Indian affairs. But the trend has been for tribes to take more control over things like crime, education and health care from the federal government.
Republican Congressman’s Disrespectful Comment About Native Americans Stuns Local Tribes

By Allen CliftonApparently as Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe voiced concerns over the proposal, Gosar belittled Native Americans by referring to them as “wards of the federal government,” claiming the government still has control over much of what they do.

“He kind of revealed the truth, the true deep feeling of the federal government: ‘Tribes, you can call yourselves sovereign nations, but when it comes down to the final test, you’re not really sovereign because we still have plenary authority over you,’” said Stago.

Naturally, the congressman has refused to elaborate further on what he meant by his comments, only stating through his spokesman Steven Smith that it was not the intent of the congressman to offend Native Americans.

Though I’m not sure how one would go about spinning a reference to Native Americans as “wards of the federal government” into any sort of positive compliment. It’s one of those statements that is fairly self-explanatory–there’s not a whole lot of leeway there.

But then again, is anyone really shocked to see a Republican make some sort of insensitive or offensive remark toward a minority group? That’s the sad state of affairs for the GOP nowadays. I’m not even sure if you can still refer to it as “headline news” for someone from their party to say something blatantly offensive about minorities.
Natives respond

A Native reply via Facebook:THIS asshole says natives are "wards of the government." And I can tell you MOST people I talk to who are not part of my many community circles think so too. I mean this in terms of how you view native nations people as less-than, as unfortunates. Or viewing them jealously as if they are handed everything you want or have on a plate and they are getting the fat of the land. These are far from the truth, these varied assumptions.

Phrases such as "ward of the government" should be struck down viz colonized people whose lands, lifeways and original liberties were taken and were done so recently as to be storied in living memories yet. This phrase is a trap and a trigger.

If you utter crap like, "casino munnneeeeeee" or "free school, free health, free everything is what THEY get" and other shit that shows you have no concept of the forms that sovereignty now takes, the deleterious financial contracts binding many indian lands still, and other are also in great need of shutting the hell up and doing your best to listen next time you open a conversation with a native person. The information available to you is vastly more and quite different from the few scraps of cardboard supplied that are endlessly parroted in America (and everywhere else, frankly).
Finally, explains why Gosar's assertion is wrong:

Rep. Gosar won't apologize for calling Native Americans 'wards'American Indians and Alaska Natives are not wards of the federal government. That era ended with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

The Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution recognizes tribal governments as sovereign nations. But they are often described in court decisions as "domestic dependent nations"--a term that was created to justify state encroachment and federal encroachment on tribal territories.

The distinction, however, does not apply to Native people themselves. To call them "wards" treats them differently than every other American.

"That's just not appropriate," former U.S. attorney Troy Eid told the AP, referring to Gosar's remarks. "In the heated context of what this represents, it's especially inappropriate to be resorting to what amounts to race baiting."

"Cracksgiving" party at Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College athletes to be disciplined for dressing as Native Americans at ‘Cracksgiving’ party

By Beth BroganFourteen members of the Bowdoin College men’s lacrosse team will be disciplined for dressing up as Native Americans at a November party known as “Cracksgiving” held in an off-campus house known as “Crack House” rented by members of the team.

As first reported in The Bowdoin Orient, a student newspaper, and confirmed Wednesday by college spokesman Scott Hood, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster sent a campus-wide email Tuesday evening to inform the college community that Bowdoin will take disciplinary action against the students. However, Hood said no students will be expelled as a result of the incident.

In the email, printed in its entirety by the college newspaper and confirmed by Hood, Foster wrote that just prior to Thanksgiving, some members of the men’s lacrosse team who live in a residence known on campus as “Crack House” on Harpswell Road hosted “Cracksgiving,” and students were encouraged to dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans.

According to Foster, the invitation urged students to attend “wearing your finest Thanksgiving attire.”

Fourteen of the team’s approximately 50 members—some of them residents of the house—dressed as Native Americans, he said, “even after some of the team’s other members actively tried to talk them out of it.”

“Especially disturbing is that the hosts of this event knew—or should have known—that their actions would offend; yet they went ahead with their plans nonetheless,” Foster wrote.

December 09, 2014

Debating Peter Pan Live!

While I watched Peter Pan Live!, I did a bit of live-blogging on Facebook. I didn't plan to debate the production, but a couple of people responded and we were off.

Things started innocuously enough:

Off to Neverland

Watching Peter Pan Live!--the must-see event of the year!

I have a radical new idea for a remake: Cast a teenage boy to play Peter Pan the teenage boy. You know, instead of a grown woman.

Yes, I'm brilliant, I know. Thank you, thank you.

Didn't Christopher Walken used to sound normal when he was young? Now he sounds like he's doing a Christopher Walken impression.Casting a teenage boy presents a lot of issues from a musical theater perspective.It can't be much worse than trying to convince oneself that 26-year-old Allison Williams is a teenage boy. I'm not buying it.

I bet Daniel Radcliffe could've nailed it.Of course, a 25 year old man is much more's about the voice, for one, and the ages of the Darling children.I meant when he was a teenager. "Cast a teenage boy [such as Radcliffe when he was a teenager] to play Peter Pan the teenage boy."

Problems arise

Race in ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬: Nine of the ten Lost Boys are white. The first four of Tiger Lily's tribe look brown-skinned and ethnic.

Even if the "tribal" actors are white, they're adorned with broad stripes of brown color. This conveys the impression that they're brown.

The tribesmen wear bone chokers and breastplates, and round pendants--like Indians. They tend to creep on all fours--like animals. ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬

The Lost Boys, including Michael Darling dressed as an Indian, reject Wendy's attempt to teach them how to avoid war. That's because Lost Boys, like Indian savages, are uncivilized.As near as I can tell, the Natives are also generic (tribally too unspecific).Yes, they're generic. But making them so doesn't solve the problem, it only redirects it.

The problem is that Peter's Lost Boys are wild, undisciplined, and ignorant because they have no rules, responsibilities, or parents. No law and order. In a word, they're uncivilized. And Tiger Lily's tribesmen are the same.

The message is that Lost Boys = indigenous people = savages. Whether the tribe is from the Americas, Africa, or Asia and the Pacific Islands doesn't really matter. The story is an indictment of all indigenous cultures. It suggests they're akin to children frolicking in the jungle, or animals in human form.As someone who grew up with this kind of unfounded, blatant, erroneous picture of Natives, I have only been condemning specific issues in these cases. But I am thrilled that we are finally at a place where we can finally address the broader ignorance issues that needs to be ended. Especially in popular media and entertainment.On the other hand:For heaven's sakes, it's FANTASY, it's silliness, it's choreographed -- did you notice how realistic the plants and trees were? *not*

Maybe you can go after "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" next time.
Are you seriously going to argue that people haven't gotten their ideas about Indians from Western movies, sports mascots, and corporate logos--all of which are forms of fiction? In fact, people absorb messages about reality from whatever they see, including fiction. As a few centuries of novels, plays, movies, TV shows, and comic books have proved.

So we should say nothing about racist stereotypes in movies or TV shows because they're "fantasies"? How about school plays, paintings and statues, or songs? Did you miss the last ten thousand times I criticized racist stereotypes in our culture?

A blackface minstrel show is just a fantasy. As is a Halloween party with Pocahotties and "Nava-hoes." Really, you expect me to give these a pass because they're "fantasies" like Peter Pan? As the last 20 years of my work has demonstrated, that's not gonna happen.

Lost Boys = Lord of the Flies?Haven't missed a one of your criticisms, and most often agree with them (although I'm protesting your NIGA group for its abominable acronym). I guess you've protested Peter Pan for 30 or more years now?

The Halloween analogy is false -- stupid women wanting to be "Nava-hoes" doesn't compare to Barrie's play, nor the musical. And if you knew the story, you would not put = between Lost Boys and the Indians in the show -- the Lost Boys are a different group altogether.

We've had plenty of literature, that for better or worse, deals with issues like this. Do we ban it all, or do we learn? Would you remove Lord of the Flies from the libraries (after all, they were certainly "Lost Boys" who became quite savage)?
The Indian savages perform the same function as the Lost Boys. They run and play in the forest, follow Peter Pan, and fight the pirates. They're different but equivalent groups.

That's why I said the message is that they're the same. Not that they're literally the same.

I didn't say my examples--the minstrel show and Halloween party--were alike in terms of "quality." But they're all examples of employing fictional or fantasy characters. They're alike in that regard.

And saying my analogy is "false" isn't much of an argument. Explain why it's false if you can.

In fact, anyone can present a racial stereotype and claim they're just "play-acting" or "pretending." If racism in "fantasy" is harmless, it's harmless whether it's a minstrel show, a Halloween party, or "Peter Pan." I say it's harmful in all these cases so the "fantasy" defense is rubbish.

I don't think the Lord of the Flies boys dressed specifically like Indians. Tiger Lily's tribe did. We're talking about characters who use racial stereotypes to represent a particular group--in this case, Indians or indigenous people. We're not talking about anyone who becomes "savage" in any way.

We're also not talking about censoring or removing Peter Pan. You invented that straw man because I didn't say a word about it. My solution is to fix the racist and sexist elements of this play and then present it.

If you want to present the original story with its racism and sexism, go ahead. You do that and I'll criticize it, just as I've done here.

Do we ban it or do we learn from it? I'm helping people learn from it by educating them about its racism and sexism. You're doing the opposite: telling people to ignore its problems and simply enjoy it as a "fantasy." Don't talk to us about "learning" when you're advocating the opposite.

P.S. My official critique of Peter Pan is 10 years old:

Tiger Lily in Peter Pan: An Allegory of Anglo-Indian Relations

I found every line about Indians in Barrie's original book to make sure I didn't miss anything. I understand his racist stereotyping well.

No doubt I mentioned the play and the Disney movie before then. And yet Peter Pan is only one of a thousand topics I've dealt with over the years. The facts prove there's no "obsession" here, so your claim is false and insulting.

You say you haven't missed my criticisms, yet you're surprised I criticized Peter Pan. Criticized it the same way I've criticized countless comic books, cartoons, video games, and other things that qualify as fantasies for children. So why are you surprised?

To reiterate, I've criticized Peter Pan and movies, TV shows, and plays like it many times before. My actions have been completely consistent so your surprise is illogical. In fact, the only surprise would be if I ignored a spectacle featuring Indians in prime-time television.

Racist and sexist, too

On the gender front, ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬ may be even worse. Girls = mothers = caretakers and servants = nags and scolds = killers of fun and freedom.

Wendy should slap some sense into Peter. "You say you want a mother, but you don't want to do anything I say? What do you think a mother is, you stupid twit?

"If you want someone to serve you, go hire a maid or a butler. I've got better things to do than to babysit babies."

Now she's singing about how she wants to kiss Peter Pan. Even a century ago, girls went for the charming bad boys who would love 'em and leave 'em. All Peter needs is a leather jacket and motorcycle to seal the deal.

Back to the racial issues:

If you want a race of animal-like savages, make them bestial for real. Centaurs, cat people, talking bears, etc. Or make them toy soldiers come to life a la Toy Story. There's really no excuse to equate savages with indigenous people. ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬

Getting a closer look at Tiger Lily's tribe as they dance. Perhaps half the actors are nonwhite. All have dark hair and several have dreadlocks. Shoes look like moccasins. Definitely an Afro-Indian vibe. ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬

And they're mixing the Wyandotte song title with "Hickory dickory dock" and "Tweedledee, tweedledum." Well, gee, thanks for making it clear that Native languages aren't just singsong nonsense words.

Not to mention the tom-tom beats and chanting that echo a thousand old Westerns. They aren't even subtle. This is obviously an "Indian" song in everything but name.

And Tiger Lily says Peter is the sun and the moon. Good thing she praised the "great white father" only once in this scene, or it would be unbearable.

Peter is mystified that Wendy, Tinkerbell, and Tiger Lily all want more from him. Why are girls so needy and clingy? Why can't they be strong and independent, like boys?! ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬Do you know when this story was written, what society was like at the time?It was written around the time when Dorothy traveled to Oz, took command of her destiny (more or less), and proceeded without any thought of clinging to a man or becoming a mother.

That was several decades after Alice had her solo adventures in Wonderland. A couple of centuries after Jane Austen's heroines showed what strong, independent women could do. Are you seriously arguing that having all three female characters long for Peter was a sign of the times? That authors like Barrie couldn't conceive of any other way of thinking?

And the producers are putting the play on in 2014, not 1902 when it was written. They're responsible for how its sexist message plays today. If you or they don't want anyone criticizing the sexism, don't put it on the air now. Leave it and the racist savages in the dustbin of history where they belong.

Next up: How Santa's message of toys for everyone obscures the structural poverty built into our society.

Tinkerbell must die

Captain Hook's "brilliant" plan to kill Peter Pan is to poison him. He puts the poison in Peter's medicine while he sits next to the sleeping Peter. How about stabbing him in the chest instead? ‪#‎PeterPanDead‬

But Tinkerbell drinks it instead! What a bumbler that Hook is!

Tweet to save Tinkerbell? #TinkerbellMustDie

Now Peter is speaking to the audience, telling us to clap if we believe in fairies. Die, you little piece of CGI fakery!!

Odd. The swelling music seems to indicate we should be filled with joy, not laughter at this silliness.You must have had a very sad childhood -- and I'm not trying to insult. That a grown man is so obsessed with a little musical that children love is worrisome. When I was a little girl, I thought Mary Martin was speaking directly to me. I found joy in the show, and still do. Lovely music, great dancing, lots of fun.As I said, I've posted critiques and analyses of thousands of Native stereotypes. I'm not sure Peter Pan is even in the top 25 or 50 of the subjects I've covered. Despite the fact that it's one of the longest-running and most prominent purveyors of Native stereotypes in existence.

If you're worried that I spent a couple of hours posting a few comments about one play, I'd hate to see your reaction to the subjects I've actually focused on. You know, things like the Washington Redskins and other mascots, The Lone Ranger and Twilight, and hipster headdresses. I guess you'd be amazed at my rock-solid opposition to racist stereotypes wherever they occur.

P.S. My childhood was stunningly normal, not "sad." I'm incredulous that you've suddenly discovered that I criticize things. If you somehow missed my last 10,000 postings, check them again. You'll see a decades-long pattern of denouncing racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice.

If you don't like that, sorry, but that's what I do. I thought it was obvious, but now you know.

Here are some of the criticisms directed at this production:

I guess a lot of people are "obsessed" or had "sad" childhoods. Which are obvious codewords for, "Stop criticizing my beloved fairy tale, you can't make me think about its racism and sexism, la la la la la I can't hear you!"

A tweet to sum up the racial issues:

Tiger Lily's tribe in ‪#‎PeterPanLive‬: brown skins, body paint, bone chokers and breastplates, crawling on all fours--but not stereotypical?!

For more on Peter Pan, see Native Stereotypes in Peter Pan Live! and Peter Pan Live! Reviewed.

December 08, 2014

Native stereotypes in Peter Pan Live!

Let's turn from the overall production of Peter Pan Live! to its Native aspects. First, the problems in the source material:

What's up, Tiger Lily? Peter Pan and the Native American stereotype that has certainly grown old

NBC featured an actress of Cherokee descent, but some say Rooney Mara’s forthcoming film turn will merely be ‘redface’. Is there any way to redeem JM Barrie’s most dated character?

By Alan Yuhas
In the 1904 play and 1911 novel that brought Peter Pan to fame, Barrie calls Tiger Lily a princess of a “Piccaninny tribe.” She has all the trappings we now recognize from the worst sort of Native American stereotype. Tiger Lily puts her ear to the earth, breaks out a peace pipe, and speaks with her cohorts in guttural gibberish. Most uncomfortably, Barrie is not only prolific with the word “redskin” but also has Tiger Lily rapturously declare Peter “the Great White Father,” after he saves her life.

There is, however, “something about Peter that captivated everyone and let Barrie get away with a lot,” said Anne Hiebert Alton, a professor at Central Michigan University and the editor of a scholarly edition of Peter Pan. From Barrie’s perspective, she said, the world divided easily between the British and everyone else.

“He’s not being consciously racist,” she said. “But we still can’t let him off the hook.”

Barrie’s works do stink of their era. He turns Tiger Lily into a hero but makes sure she is subservient to Peter; he treats her tribe as better than the true enemy (pirates, adults) but not nearly as important as the heroes (boys, kids, not girls). Alton also pointed out that Barrie died in 1937–long before anyone thought to take issue with his portrayal of Native Americans.

The production tried to fix the problems:

Ugg-A-Wha? Updating Stereotypes in ‘Peter Pan’

By Jeremy EgnerAll of which put the casting of Tiger Lily and a reworking of the song “Ugg-A-Wugg” near the top of the list of things NBC’s new “Peter Pan Live!,” which debuts at 8 p.m. Thursday Eastern time, had to get right.

“Tiger Lily needed to be Native American—that’s how Barrie conceived the role,” said Neil Meron, an executive producer. But the treatment can’t be “insulting to the Native American community,” he said.

Enter Alanna Saunders, 22, who graduated from the University of Miami in May and had lived in New York for roughly two weeks before she saw a flyer seeking Native American actors to audition for Tiger Lily. Ms. Saunders, a descendant of the Cherokee Nation, won the part and is thus starting her professional career on a live network extravaganza before an audience of millions, sharing the stage with the likes of Christopher Walken (as Captain Hook).

“It feels so ridiculous that I got this opportunity,” she said from the set last week.

Ms. Saunders brought no expectations to the production, she said, mostly because she had so little experience to draw upon. But she was curious about how “Peter Pan Live!” was going to handle one of the musical’s most famous numbers.

“I was thinking, ‘There’s no way they can do “Ugg-A-Wugg,”’” she said. “Because the lyrics are gibberish, and they’re pretty offensive in terms of trying to be any sort of authentic Native American reference.”

The song is a duet between Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, in which the islanders and Peter’s Lost Boys form an alliance against Captain Hook. To refresh it for modern sensibilities, the songwriter Amanda Green, the daughter of an original “Peter Pan” lyricist, Adolph Green, and David Chase, the production’s music director, worked with Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, an Emmy-winning composer and member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. The nonsense lyrics were replaced with nursery rhymes and the rhythms were shifted to make the song less stereotypical and more authentically Native American. (Mr. Tate discussed the process in more detail in recent interviews.)
Natives still criticize production

From Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

"True Blood Brothers" in NBC's production of Peter PanThe take away? Lot of stereotyping:

Indians with crossed arms: check
Scantily clad Indians: check
Playing drum with hands: check
Kids playing Indian: check
Hollywood Indian music: check
Overrepresentation of men: check

So--a question.

"O-a-hey" is supposed to be a Wyandotte word. Does that make this all better? No. Not at all.

#NotYourTigerLily: Nine Months Later and They Still Don’t Get the Point

By Johnnie JaeHaving seen the production, I cannot even begin to understand how anyone could think that this gross misappropriation of our indigenous identities and culture is a step forward in diminishing harmful and racist stereotypes. It’s still the same disappointing, exploitative and racist characterization of indigenous women and people that it has always been. What’s really disheartening is that they took the same approach that Warner Bros. has decided to take with their feature film, Pan.

“They created a non-Native “tribe” that faux-headdress-loving Coachella fans would be proud of, while simultaneously engaging in an activity mainstream society is adept at—silencing Native peoples,” says Tara Houska of Not Your Mascots. “There are plenty of Native actors and actresses to fill Native roles, and plenty of Native writers to consult. If Hollywood feels the need to bring back a character entirely based on racist stereotypes, one would think the smartest approach would be involving Natives as much as possible in the character’s re-imagination.”

Let’s be honest. Peter Pan is one of the most racist and misogynistic literary classics and so are the cartoons, plays and films inspired by the novel. The world of Peter Pan is fiction, but the harm done through the blatantly racist treatment and portrayal of Indigenous people in the story is our reality.

I asked Not Your Mascots’ Maggie Hundley why it was important to discuss the issues with Tiger Lily and her Tribe in the Neverland Universe and she replied:

“Unfortunately, as a kid, I bought into the Indian ‘maiden’ and ‘princess’ caricatures that I saw in movies and cartoons and used them to judge myself. Things need to change. By calling out the degrading and exploitative character of Tiger Lily in Peter Pan movies and plays, we are challenging institutionalized stereotyping of indigenous girls and women in entertainment. It is important to call out these mockeries and create a new narrative to replace the false ones that are force-fed to us by major companies such as Warner Brothers and NBC.”
While Johnnie Jae wanted Native creators to fix the Native portrayals, Adrienne Keene suggested another approach:

Keene: Why 'Fix' Tiger Lily? Why Can't We Just Let Her Go?

By Dr. Adrienne KeeneThose who may have followed my writings on Tonto and Disney’s 2013 Lone Ranger film might see this as a marked switch from my attitude at the beginning of that journey. I argued, very strongly, that Disney should have cast a Native in the role of Tonto, that Comanche advisors and other Native peoples should have been involved much earlier in the process to shape and develop portrayals of Native peoples on the screen.

After watching that long saga unfold, I have a different opinion. I don’t want Native peoples to be forced into a role of trying to put band-aids on a gaping wound of racism. I want Hollywood to stop resurrecting these racist characters.

Think of the world created by the story of Peter Pan. Neverland is inhabited by mermaids, pirates*, fairies…and Indians. Fantasy creatures, meant to show how different Neverland is than the world the Darling children inhabit. The problem is, Native peoples aren’t fantasy creatures, nor are we something of the past, like pirates. We’re real, contemporary human beings. We don’t all live in tipis and smoke peace pipes and say things like “squ*w gettum firewood.”

So my advice the next time that a high school wants to put on Peter Pan or the next studio wants to make another remake: Cut the “Indians” out. Completely. Be creative. Find some other fantasy creature to replace them with. My colleagues last night came up with the idea of space aliens, which I kinda love. A completely fictional “other,” allowing for full creativity. Make up some shiny silver blobs for them to live in. Make up a language. Wrap them in foil or something. Just don’t call them Indians.
Comment:  For more on Peter Pan, see Peter Pan Live! Reviewed and A 21st-Century Peter Pan and Peter Pan's Racist History.

December 07, 2014

Peter Pan Live! reviewed

NBC's mega-event production of Peter Pan Live! aired Sunday night. The reviews were mixed, to say the least.

Some people liked it:

Smooth Flight to Neverland, Mostly. Just Ask @tinkerbell.

'Peter Pan Live' review: Allison Williams-led production, broadcast from Long Island, nearly soars

Others, including me, didn't find much to like:

TV Review: NBC's 'Peter Pan' falls sadly flat

By Mark KennedyThis "Peter Pan" needed a lot more fairy dust.

NBC's live telling of J.M. Barrie's classic tale Thursday was an oddly ponderous, disconnected, disjointed and jerky mess. If it had been a Broadway show, it would have gotten the hook (pun intended).

It wasn't the small things that broke the spell—ungraceful wire work, clunky transitions, a Tinkerbell that was as annoying as a mosquito and sounded like a wind chime, a tea cup that fell from Peter's head and some technical glitches.

"Peter Pan Live!" simply never flew.

It suffered a draggy start, cursed by a "Downton Abbey" drawing room dialogue and a call for everyone to go to bed. It grew better in the colorful Neverland but veered into parody with a Captain Hook by Christopher Walken that seemed like a failed "Saturday Night Live" sketch about Johnny Depp. The whole thing lost steam by the second hour. Was anyone still trying to save Tinkerbell with 45 minutes to go?
The boggling mixed signals of “Peter Pan Live!”: Why on earth did NBC decide to do this show?

"Peter Pan" wasn't a technical disaster or a racist cringe-fest--but man, was it weird

By Sonia Saraiya
NBC’s production of this 1904 musical did nothing different, interesting or risky. (It might not even have been sung live! What was the point, NBC?) Aside from a few changes to Tiger Lily’s song to make it slightly less racist, “Peter Pan Live!” was “Peter Pan,” more or less intact. Which is mind-boggling. If Disney had produced this, audiences would be asking: Why is it so overwhelmingly white? Why wasn’t Tiger Lily’s role rethought or cut entirely?

And the most obvious response to all of this, naturally, is that “Peter Pan” isn’t meant for television, because it’s a play, and it’s not meant for modern audiences, because it was written in 1904. But then that leads to the most obvious question that struck me as I was watching last night: Why on earth would anyone make this show in 2014? As the fabulous and opinionated Tom and Lorenzo wrote this morning: “There’s a difference between ‘old-fashioned entertainment’ and ‘offensive minstrel shows’ and this falls somewhere in the middle.”

We live in a world where a feminist retelling of the book of Genesis is a bestselling book and an upcoming miniseries on Lifetime. Where children’s fables are being unpacked and retold to include more female and minority perspectives. The “Hunger Games” franchise and the Marvel and DC universes are engaging with complex, dystopian themes in their storytelling. We are not shrinking violets in our American living rooms, and neither are our children, and yet this version of “Peter Pan” is like a time capsule from 1904, unwilling to do anything to disturb the fragile social norms of a bunch of long-dead white Brits.
The 7 worst things about NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!”

Nearly two days later, we still can't quite believe what we just saw

By EJ Dickson
1) Cast someone who can actually pull off the role of Peter Pan.

The problem was that Williams simply doesn’t have the charisma to pull off the Boy Who Never Grew Up. She looked nice, and sounded nice, but as the A.V. Club’s Caroline Siede put it, “Williams feels like the girl who got every lead role in high school but couldn’t quite compete with stronger performers in college. She’s not bad, but she lacks the right impulsive, impish energy for Peter Pan.” Someone with more firecracker energy, like an Anna Kendrick or an Ellen Page, would’ve made for a much stronger Peter.

4) Replace or cut out the “Ugg-A-Wugg/True Blood Brothers” number.

The trouble is that no matter what you do to Tiger Lily and the “Ugg-A-Wugg” number, it’s still a song about Native peoples celebrating Peter Pan, their white male savior; replacing the “gibberish” Native American lyrics with equally gibberish nursery rhymes doesn’t necessarily make it any better. And because the number itself really isn’t that integral to the narrative or even very good to begin with, the smart choice would’ve been for NBC producers to cut it (as they did with the operatic “Mysterious Lady,” presumably due to Williams’ vocal limitations) or replace it with a new, equally rousing, more politically correct number.

7) Pick a better show.

Let’s be real: Peter Pan is not the best musical in the world. While it’s great for parents to turn on when they’re busy, so they can plop their kids in front of it and watch them zonk out for a few hours, the pacing is slow, the score subpar and poorly edited—I know we all love Christopher Walken, but do we really need at least three musical numbers for Captain Hook and his band of pirates?—and the libretto full of stodgy, regressive ideas about women and gender. Considered as a whole, I’d take a good production of Guys and Dolls, The Music Man, South Pacific or even Grease over Peter Pan any day.
A few people simply gawked at it:

Peter Pan Live on NBC: Reviewed

Hate-watching “Peter Pan Live!”: The funniest tweets during tonight’s NBC musical

Comment:  For more on Peter Pan, see A 21st-Century Peter Pan and Peter Pan's Racist History.

December 06, 2014

Our broken justice system

Why Is America's Sense of Black Humanity So Skewed?

There is a real disconnect between what white people know and what black people know in this country.

By Brittney Cooper
Unfortunately, key players in this case, buttressed by a particularly clueless segment of white America, actually seemed to believe that a grand jury decision in favor of Darren Wilson would simply be accepted by black America. The outrage from the St. Louis Police Officers hearkens back to an era when black people were expected to willingly endure white people’s routine horrific acts and humiliations committed against them. That this decision feels like a travesty worthy of literally stopping traffic in locales all over the country is an affective response that seems to escape white notice, an apparent casualty of the well-documented racial empathy gap, among white Americans. Though many white people do understand the racial magnitude of last week’s devastating decision—the sense it offers that black people, and in particular young black men, are simply sheep for the slaughter—far too many white people do not understand this.

Among those with more insidious and overt racial animus, the belief is that we should simply “lie down and take it.” Among well-meaning, reasonable white people, the view is more anodyne. These people implored us to wait for justice to take its course, for the evidence to be evaluated, the witnesses to testify, a decision to be made.

There is a real disconnect between what white people know and what black people know in this country. Philosophers and political theorists understand these as questions of “epistemology,” wherein they consider how social conditions shape our particular standpoint, and ability to apprehend the things that are supposed to be apparent to us. “How do we know what we know?” is one way we might ask the question.

It is deeply apparent to most black people that the legal proceedings in the grand jury deliberations were a farce. Whether we consider the deliberate incorrect instructions given to jurors by the prosecutor, or the refusal to challenge the incendiary and inhumane characterizations of Michael Brown as “it,” “demon” and “hulk,” black people know that a lie has been perpetrated.

Too many white people lie comfortably in bed each night with the illusion that justice was served, that the system worked, that the evidence vindicated the view they need to believe—that white men do not deliberately murder black boys for sport in this day and time and get away with it. Most well-meaning white people need to believe this. For me as both teacher of different kinds of epistemology and as a black person, I do not have the luxury of believing this. I do not have the luxury of stepping over the bodies of Eric Garner, John Crawford and Tamir Rice, leaving my unasked questions strewn alongside their lifeless bodies.
The American Justice System Is Not Broken

By Albert BurnekoThe American justice system is not broken. This is what the American justice system does. This is what America does.

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates has written damningly of the American preference for viewing our society's crimes as aberrations—betrayals of some deeper, truer virtue, or departures from some righteous intended path. This is a convenient mythology. If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures. We can stand over here, and shake our heads at the failures over there, and then return to the familiar business, and everything is OK. Likewise, if the individual police officers who take black lives are just some bad cops doing policework badly, and not good cops doing precisely what America has hired and trained them to do, then white Americans may continue calling the police when black people frighten us, free from moral responsibility for the whole range of possible outcomes.

The murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Sam Shepherd, and countless thousands of others at the hands of American law enforcement are not aberrations, or betrayals, or departures. The acquittals of their killers are not mistakes. There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.

America is a serial brutalizer of black and brown people. Brutalizing them is what it does. It does other things, too, yes, but brutalizing black and brown people is what it has done the most, and with the most zeal, and for the longest. The best argument you can make on behalf of the various systems and infrastructures the country uses against its black and brown citizens—the physical design of its cities, the methods it uses to allocate placement in elite institutions, the way it trains its police to treat citizens like enemy soldiers—might actually just be that they're more restrained than those used against black and brown people abroad. America employs the enforcers of its power to beat, kill, and terrorize, deploys its judiciary to say that that's OK, and has done this more times than anyone can hope to count. This is not a flaw in the design; this is the design.

The real problem in Ferguson, New York and all of America is institutional racism

By Vincent WarrenBlack men are not dying at the hands of (mostly) white cops–nor are those cops being excused from legal responsibility–because of mutual distrust between black and brown people and law enforcement agencies. To suggest so simply, and perhaps deliberately, mistakes the symptom for the disease.

Trust, or lack thereof, is based on lived experience, and it is the actions of law enforcement in communities of color that has eroded black and brown Americans’ trust. To present the situation as mutual distrust not only obscures the specific causes of that distrust–it intimates that everyone is equally responsible for the problem. The call for “conversation” as the solution then reinforces this idea that the legitimate problems with law enforcement vocalized by minority communities are really all just one big misunderstanding.

Our political leaders should not begin to offer solutions for a problem if they won’t even name it: systemic, institutional racism exists in police forces throughout our country.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” Frederick Douglass famously said. “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

From the prosecutor and the grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island to the halls of Congress–where reform ideas like the End Racial Profiling Act or the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act have hit a dead end–and a thousand places in between, our government institutions have been largely unresponsive to demands for real structural reform. Much like the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, grassroots protests in Missouri and New York and across the country–including the hundreds of actions of civil disobedience, bridge and highway shutdowns, and walkouts–are the engines of change, and communities and grassroots organizers are the ones providing the concrete solutions to the problem.
We Don’t Need Nice, We Need Justice: Racism and the Moral Blindness of White America

By Tim WiseNice is the enemy of justice because to raise one’s voice against oppression is to be instantly pegged as not nice, as disruptive, as unruly, as dangerous. To block traffic, or interfere with the all-important Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center is not nice. To interrupt the symphony orchestra in St. Louis, or the drunken revelry of nice white baseball fans at a Cardinals game is not nice. To signify sympathy for a murdered young man in Ferguson, with even a gesture as simple as raising one’s hands as you come out of the tunnel before the football game is not nice. It is, to some—who would rather just watch black men entertain them with a few nice interceptions—worthy of punishment, or professional discipline. How dare they, say the nice white people who paid good money to see black men play gladiator for the glory of the hometown team.

Nice people change nothing. They never have and they never will. Those who are nice are so invested in their niceness, in their sense of propriety and civility that they rarely raise their voices above a whisper, even in the face of sweltering oppression. Nice white people were the ones who didn’t own black folks during the period of enslavement but also didn’t raise their voices against the ones who did. Nice white people are the ones who didn’t spit on sit-in demonstrators but also had no problem spending money with businesses that had remained segregated all those years.

To be nice is to have an emotional stake in the prevention of one’s own pain. Nice people don’t like to look at the ugly. It’s upsetting, and most of all because it puts us on the hook and calls forth our humanity to actually put an end to that pain. Precisely because most people are good and decent and nice, they turn away from any evidence that the world, and their society is less decent than the sum total of its citizenry. It’s too much to take in. This is the irony of niceness: unlike persons with antisocial personalities or severe sociopathy who quite enjoy pain and suffering and often seek to cause it, those who are nice are so wrapped up in rainbows and lollipops as to make gazing upon the truth a bridge too far.

Nice people do not protest, angry people do; and right now, I’d trade every nice white person about whom Chris Rock was speaking for 100,000 angry ones. But not those who are angry at black folks or brown immigrants or taxes—we have more than enough of them. I mean 100,000 who are angry enough at a system of racial injustice to throw ourselves upon the gears of the machine, as Mario Savio once insisted. A hundred thousand angry enough to join with our brothers and sisters of color and say enough. A hundred thousand who are tired of silence, tired of collaboration, tired of nice, and ready for justice.
Comment:  For more on Ferguson, see Grand Juries Won't Indict Killer Cops and Police Prejudiced Against Blacks.