Friday Feature: Francesco Francavilla

There’s something really, truly, incomparably wonderful about being full of leftover Thanksgiving turkey and drifting off to sleep on a couch with a comic book in your lap, while the rest of the world gets into fights over electronics at Wal-Marts around the world.

That pleasure was all mine today with a book that I picked up on a whim because, you guessed it, the cover looked really, really cool.

That book was Black Beetle: No Way Out.

I don’t want to focus too much on this, but the production quality of this particular hardback is just way ahead of the curve. The cover price is $20, but it has the feel of a $35 “special edition” book. I think Dark Horse is taking a page out of Archaia’s manual – If your product looks professional and well put together, people will pick it up. Once it’s in their hand, you’re halfway to the sale, even relatively unheard-of creators will get a second or third look when these high-quality books are on the shelf.

Anyway – moving on. Black Beetle is a pulp-mystery-superhero adventure-drama with that old radio-play style that you seem to either love or hate. I happen to fall in the “love” category, so these pulpy adventure stories in almost every iteration I encounter them.

But the true selling point of Black Beetle is the highly stylized, somewhat retro, never disappointing art of Francesco Francavilla. A couple of seconds on his website will show you better than I can the true love that Francavilla has for the pulp genre.

Francavilla is the writer as well as the artist on this title, which is always a treat, and his love for pulp mysteries shines through clearly in the writing as well.

Even beyond the Black Beetle book, Francavilla’s art is always a pleasure to encounter. He frequently creates lobby cards and movie posters for some of his favorite other works. Notably, he created a poster image for tons of episodes of “Breaking Bad.”

He contributed art to the impeccable Batman: Black Mirror, which otherwise featured art from Jock and the writing of Scott Snyder (and it’s about Dick Grayson while he was Batman, and if you’ve previously only Bruce Wayne Batman, you should really check out Dick Grayson Batman).

Do yourself a favor if you’re a fan of comics or pulp adventure stories, and check out Francesco Francavilla’s work wherever you can get it.

Except Archie.

Ok, fine, Archie too.

Advertisements

Panem: A Land Without Sexism?

Extremely few spoilers — really, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’re gonna be fine.

Have you seen the latest installment in the Hunger Games film adaptation?

I caught it on Sunday, and hot damn, was it worth getting out of bed even while I was sick! It was exciting, it was thrilling, it was poignant, it had great action sequences and acting, and the special effects were top-notch.

But what I think is most important about “Catching Fire” is what it’s missing.

I’ll explain in a moment.

First, an explanation for those of you who aren’t familiar with the series:

In Panem, a post-nuclear-apocalyptic rearrangement of North America, a dystopian society reigns. The land was divided into 13 districts and the Capitol, and 75 years ago the districts rebelled against their government. After regaining control, the Capitol instituted an annual competition to remind the districts of the price of the peace they now “enjoy”; each year 24 teenage tributes (a boy and girl from each remaining district) must fight each other to the death. Only one is supposed to win, but in the first installment Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark from coal-mining, poverty-stricken District 12 outwitted the Game Master and managed to win the Hunger Games together, by play-acting a sympathetic love story.

The residents of the Capitol, extraordinarily decadent and oblivious to the despair and poverty most of the districts live with, consider the pair their darlings, and they are forced to act out their romance even after the Games end, much to the chagrin of Katniss’s childhood companion Gale, who harbors his own romantic feelings for the heroine. The people of the districts, however, don’t buy the love story and see their defiance of the Hunger Games as inspiration for a rebellion against the capitol — the manipulative President Snow then must try to turn the pair, and all other previous winners of the games, into a warning instead of a symbol of hope.

(On the same page, now? Great!)

.

Gender-Neutral War

On the surface, this series could be very similar to a lot of action movies with female leads. We’ve got a love triangle. We’ve got an oppressive government trying to keep whole sections of the populace down. And we’ve got a woman warrior.

But in “Catching Fire”, there’s a notable absence that distinguishes it from many of these “Strong Female Character” films:

Katniss’ gender is not one of the film’s fixations.

“Catching Fire”, therefore, becomes refreshing in one of the same ways that “Parks & Recreation” is: yes, Katniss is very different from most female characters (even protagonists) we see today, so it’s a big deal to us. But her casting-off of feminine stereotypes (and the complementary peeling away of men’s as well) is not an issue within the film itself at all.

It is not startling to anyone in Panem that she is a female who behaves this way. She does not have to prove to people that she deserves to be taken seriously (as a hunter, as a warrior, or as a rebel) despite her gender. She is not held up against a bar of femininity that she must either measure up to or karate-chop out of the way.

Yes, the people in the Capitol want to mold her into something she isn’t, but the mold is based on classist perspectives, not gender stereotypes.

It’s nice to see that even Gale, the brawny, more traditionally masculine type in the film, doesn’t expect Katniss to do anything especially feminine (by our standards). Nor does he try to change her to be so. He never begs her to stop getting herself into trouble, nor is he frustrated that she won’t let him protect her from the harsh world (ahem, Twilight).

Pleasantly, the inverse is also true: men in Panem don’t seem to be held to any traditionally masculine standard of physical strength, aloofness, or anger.

Gale does not express any embarrassment at being physically rescued by Katniss. No one mocks Peeta as being “soft” or “girly” because he’s a mediocre fighter, bakes shortbread cookies, and is essentially Katniss’s movie girlfriend.

.

I’ll take a pass on saucy wenches, thank you.

Not even the slimy, nefarious types like the career tributes, President Snow, or Game Maker Plutarch make any easy jabs at Katniss’s femininity or stereotypes of women or men.

And this is what makes “Catching Fire” stand out — it would have been so. friggin’. easy. to just follow that tradition. A script hatched in the more traditional bowels of Hollywood would’ve taken many more cliché opportunities:

Career tributes could have made some snarky comment to Peeta about being protected by “his girl”, and then we could’ve spent part of the film worrying that it was going to bother him and that he was going to do something foolish in an attempt to prove his masculinity. (Bo-ring).

Or we could’ve seen President Snow, in the scene where he taunts Katniss in her own home, say with a sinister smirk, “You’ll be much more content as a happy wife and homemaker back here instead of stirring up trouble.” He could’ve tried to put her in her place not only as poor person from District 12, but as a woman, too.

Of course, then Katniss could’ve made some saucy retort… which would have gotten laughs, but would be trite and insipid compared to what the absence of such an exchange signifies.

.

What a b****?

The absence of cheap sexist pandering is carried even farther in a notable absence in the villains’ treatment of Katniss:

No one ever calls Katniss a “bitch”.

It would even have been easy for people to disregard this gender-based slur if it had been in the dialogue. Had the writers tossed it in, I doubt many people would have commented on it, and those who did would have been quickly shut down: “Of course they called her a bitch; they want to kill her! That’s the least of her problems.”

But the decision not to use it means so much more than its presence would have meant.

“Catching Fire” makes the choice to pass on the opportunity to drop this word, in even the villains’ speech. To use it would have been a cheap way to convey their hatred to the audience, and implied that her gender inspires part of their hate. No one, not even President Snow, considers her gender when evaluating her, whether as a threat or a hero.

.

A sexism immunity incubator?

But even if someone did try to hurl “bitch” at Katniss, I don’t think it could have carried the weight it usually does.

Because, in order for such an insult to wound, there must be a fear within the victim that it might be true.

Calling a female character a “bitch” can be a harsh, wounding thing to say in most stories — because the women in them have learned to harbor fears that they really are nothing more than “some bitch”. This fear is often deeply-ingrained in both fictional and real women, and it’s this fear that makes us vulnerable to that word’s power to do harm.

Yet, Katniss harbors no such fear or self-doubt. Katniss has such a sense of self-worth, of identity, and of strength that she could not be stricken by such a ridiculous attempt to hurt her. There are of course other things that can hurt her, or make her doubt herself, but it takes much more than sexism to do it.

.

Catching on?

By never even considering how her behavior, decisions, or actions would be viewed through a sexism-supporting paradigm, I think Katniss does much more for women’s self-esteem and confidence in their individual identity than a character who constantly brings up how stereotype-defying she is. As in “Parks and Recreation,” it’s the absence of sexism that makes the loudest statement.

(And the men in the film do much for this goal as well, though as secondary characters this absence cannot be as strongly felt).

Katniss is a character that’s invulnerable to sexism. Not because she had to choose to fight it, but because what it entails is so absurd to her that she could never be vulnerable to it. Even the villains treat her as an individual, rather than as a tired stereotype. There is no part of her that could worry that sexist critics (if they existed) would be right about her or about her value as a human being.

This lack of sexism, both internal and external, is perhaps the only redeeming quality of the dystopic Panem society, which otherwise turns a magnifying glass on the rest of our own society’s flaws: extreme wealth disparities, a lack of resources for the mentally ill, willed ignorance, consumerism, gluttony, and the inescapable cycle of poverty.

So while people are out and about getting excited about Catching Fire-themed makeup selections (ugh), the part of Panem I think we should really apply in our own world is the characters’ invulnerability to the pressures — and sometime cruelty — of sexism and gender stereotypes.

And who knows, maybe one day Hollywood can actually make money off that.

(Oh wait, it did).

.

For further reading:

NPR: “What Really Makes Katniss Stand Out? Peeta, Her Movie Girlfriend.”

RogerEbert.com review of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

Ms. Magazine blog: “‘Catching Fire’: Positive Fuel for the Feminist Flame”

Reel Girl: “‘Catching Fire’ torches Hollywood’s gender stereotypes”

(BTW — don’t read the comments. They’re dumb).

Coulson Lives! (Sort Of)

A god

A genius

A monster

A frozen warrior

 

…..and this guy….

Say what you will about all the miscellaneous Marvel movies, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s the fact that Phil Coulson was the best thing to come out of all it. Starting all the way back in the original Iron Man film, and continuing still, Agent Coulson became a fan favorite that is still a big part of what makes those movies fun.

The question is: why?

We’re watching these movies because they’re about superheroes. We’re in the theater because we want to see Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, or Thor smash through villains and save the day. Yet, by the time most of us walk out, it is the non-powered character that sticks with us. I think the answer is simpler than we all believe.

It’s because he IS human.

It’s because Coulson IS us.

Agent Coulson is a mere man among gods and monsters. He has no power, there is nothing special about him, and he is always out of his league. He walks in the shadow of giants, BUT he loves the shade. He’s the character none of us knew we wanted; until he showed up and we realized we couldn’t live without him.

He is a fan, like us. He collects Captain America trading cards. He fawns, with some control, over his heroes that he gets to stand next to when the world is at the brink. He is our window into that world. A perfect contrast to the madness and power that circulates around.

He is who we are, and where we wish to be.

An everyday guy, living in a world of heroes.

Coulson, as a character, is at his best when he is that contrast between us and the heroes. In those moments he becomes incredibly relatable. His victories become all the more sweeter, because we all know the odds are stacked against him, and we hope to believe that we could do the same.

As Joss Whedon puts it, he’s “the little guy”.

“The idea of the Little Guy is something that I am very fierce about, and there has never been a better Little Guy than Clark Gregg. That intrigued me, this world around the superhero community. It’s the people whose shop windows get blown up when the Destroyer shows up.”

So, when someone tells me they’re going to center a show around this beloved character, it’s hard to not get excited…

….then be all the more let down with the result.

Agents of Shield has a fantastic premise, and a lot going for it; mainly Coulson’s inclusion and direct ties to the Marvel movie universe. Yet so far, the ratings haven’t been Avengers-esque and Coulson… well… he hasn’t been either.

Agents of Shield has a lot of problems; though five episodes in things are getting better. Characterization is minimal, it feels very “monster of the week,” and, if I could editorialize for brief moment, their hacker, Skye, is a terrible character. Yet, despite those issues, that’s not the show’s biggest problem.

Coulson doesn’t resonate the way he used to.

I know many of you are screaming out at the monitor, saying that it is because it isn’t the same Coulson, but a LMD or Vision, or something else; but I am not talking about that. I talking about the fact that he doesn’t seem as relatable any longer.

It’s because he’s no longer “the little guy.”

In Agents of Shield, Coulson is the star, the hero; and that in and of itself is not the problem. Having a character in that sort of position doesn’t make him unrelatable; the problem is he is no longer in the shadows of giants.

We all loved him because he was the underdog, because he was surrounded by powered beings beyond anything and still soldiered on. Yet in Shield, there are no gods and monsters, only men; and when that happens Coulson just seems like another generic action hero. [Albeit, with some funny one liners.]

Like stated previously, his character works best when he is contrasted against the personas around him. Yet, whether due to constrained budgets or poor scriptwriting, that isn’t happening in the television series. That amazing relatable spark is gone when all you have is another Alias.

Agents of Shield gives us Coulson, but an Agent Coulson who is not the quiet hero, rather the man of action. One could argue that this is simply another side to the same character, which I could agree with. Yet, the problem lay in the fact that the audience has fallen in love with a very specific side, and to show otherwise may steer them away from the show.

I want Agents of Shield to be great, but more importantly, I want the character that I didn’t know I needed until he was there to come back. He let me experience the Marvel universe in a way that I don’t think will be replicated for years. Like a drug, I desperately want that experience on a weekly basis.

Coulson lived, but my adoration is waning. He’s not the character we all fell in love with, but maybe he can be again. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take multiple seasons or a looming cancellation to bring him back to form.

Friday Feature: Flower

Ecology

Agriculture

Sustainable Growth

Conservation

 

All of these have come to the forefront of the world conversation, and for good reason. So it is no surprise that contemplations on those things pop up in different forms of media. Sadly, we don’t have room for that large of a discussion today [though tomorrow is another conversation!] As such, I’m going to point you to a singular game that speaks to those topics, and adds its own voice to the conversation.

 

 

Flower is a game by thatgamecompany on the Playstation 3 and Playstation 4; the second in a set that includes fLow and Journey. The game functions on a simple mechanic; you are the wind. In each level you start out in front of a singular flower and proceed to move through it. As you blow through the fields you collect petals and leaves; creating a rainbow of color.

 

Each level has a natural pathway created by the flowers you fly through, and it feels completely natural as you use the controller’s built in motion controls to tilt, turn, and spiral through the fields. There are hidden aspects to the game that the crafty player will notice, but that’s the most “game-like” thing about it.

 

 

Flower is more about the experience. The music and visuals create an atmosphere that enwraps the player. It can be almost trance like when you are flying from field to field, your color trail behind you, as you spin through the air. It is truly one the most engrossing experiences a player can have in a game.

 

On top of all this is the simple message that the game conveys through its multi-hour story. The small narrative is parceled out bit by bit between each level and occasionally within as well. The individual stages are framed by a hub screen that is set in an unknown apartment in the city; but to explain as to why would give away one of the game’s sweeter secrets.

 

 

If the topic matter doesn’t engross you, the visuals will. If you have the ability to play through this game; do it. Set aside two-three hours, grab a glass of wine, and relax with Flower.

 

….time to make like a tree…

[sorry, couldn’t help myself]

In the Name of a Man Who Never Would

Here are two irreconcilable truths about Western society: 1. It has a violent history, and 2. it’s heavily influenced by a man who would never commit an act of violence.

Whether we are Christians or not (and most of us aren’t), in the Western world Christianity  informs everything from our languages to our art to our calendar. Christianity is based on Jesus, who pretty famously said things like, “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,” and “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

And yet countless wars have been waged by Christians — even more bizarrely, countless wars have been waged in the name of Christ.

Which makes me wonder what happened to the people of Messaline.  

Martha, Donna, and the Doctor arrive on Messaline

In Season 4 of Doctor Who, the Doctor, Martha, and Donna find themselves on the war torn planet of Messaline. Two species are stuck in an intractable conflict, and each side sees the elimination of the other species as the only way out. Naturally, the Doctor has a problem with this.  

Doctor: A second ago it was peace and harmony in our time; now you’re talking about genocide!

Commander: For us, that means the same thing.  

Doctor: Then you need to get yourself a better dictionary. When you do, look up genocide. You’ll see a little picture of me there, and the caption will read, “over my dead body.”

After a series of run-ins between the two sides, the Doctor and his companions discover that the two species initially came to Messaline as allies to colonize the planet together. The two peoples realize that they must cooperate in order to make the planet habitable, but in the midst of this revelation, Jenny, a newly-cloned human soldier, is killed by the human commander. The Doctor, who has formed a bond with Jenny, is furious, and points a gun to the commander’s head.

Just when we think he is going to avenge Jenny’s death, the Doctor casts the weapon aside and says:

I never would. Have you got that? I never would! When you start this new world, remember that! Make the foundation of this society a man who never would.  

It is a powerful moment; a moving example of radical nonviolence. The audience gets the idea that the peoples of Messaline are going to do just that: build a society around a man who never would.

Martha befriends a Hath soldier

But back in the real world, we know how that experiment went: Crusades, witch-burnings, pogroms, bombings, lynchings. All in the name of a man who never would.  

It’s clear that the name of Christ has meant different things at different times. The Prince of Peace evolved to become a man of war.

It happened to the Doctor, too.

The 11th Doctor finds himself conflicted in the midst of war

Turn to Season 6 of Doctor Who, an episode called “A Good Man Goes to War.” Here the Doctor has in many ways become the commander that he berated in Season 4. As River Song says, The Doctor has become

…the man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name. Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forest, the word “Doctor” means mighty warrior.

Similarly, the meaning of the name Jesus Christ has been utterly transformed over the past couple millennia. Take this recent quote from celebrity pastor Mark Driscoll:

Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist; he’s patient. He has a long wick, but the anger of his wrath is burning. Once the wick is burned up, he is saddling up on a white horse and coming to slaughter his enemies and usher in his kingdom. Blood will flow.

This is certainly not the Jesus we find in the gospels.  There he is the ultimate pacifist, the ultimate “man who never would.” He goes to his death without a word of resistance, much less an action movie display of macho violence. What has the word Jesus come to mean?

In the world of Doctor Who, the Doctor is responsible for the damage he causes to his own name by straying from the path of pacifism. But Jesus hasn’t been around for a while. Any damage that has been done to his name has been done by his followers. And we’ve failed massively in making the foundation of this society “a man who never would.”

So are the people of Messaline set up for the same kind of failure?

Perhaps the fact that the people of that planet were born into war means that they learned a lesson we too often miss. To quote another great man who never would, Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of the world.

Dr. King observed the terrifying existence of nuclear weapons and realized that ending global war was the only way to ensure the survival of humanity. In a nuclear society, pacifism is practical.

There’s hope in this idea for the planet Messaline, and hopefully for us, too. We’ve made countless, terrible mistakes in the course of human history. But in the face of our own destruction — whether by nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, or violence against the environment — maybe we will turn back to the rare men and women throughout our history who “never would”, and will finally, belatedly, take a turn in the right direction.

Friday Feature: Good Job, Brain!

In a stark departure from my usual Friday Feature fodder, this week I bring to you a *drum-roll please* PODCAST!

Namely, the Good Job, Brain! trivia podcast.

 

While the overall theme of the show is a trivia-quiz-show format, most of the episodes features an equal amount of quirky history and science, researched by one of the show’s hosts. Each week has a topic, typically masked in a pun or a pop-culture reference (which, you know, is great).

I don’t do pub trivia, though I’m sure if I did, GJB would be a great way to train up for the big events. I enjoy GJB how I enjoy Ken Burns documentaries: pure “edutainment.” (Entercation? Maybe I should ask the hosts…)

The team responsible for Good Job, Brain! are all respectable professionals that just do the podcast for the fun of it, which I think lends it self to a much better show in the end.

Professionalism.

I don’t really have too much more to say about GJB except that they’re really entertaining and you should check them out. This summer I would always listen to this podcast while I was mowing the lawn. I considered it part of my self-improvement regimen – physical activity, landscape beautification, and brainal enhancement all in the span of an hour. I’d say it’s working pretty well…

In contrast to last week’s feature, Good Job, Brain! is fun for all ages and temperaments. Though, as their website states, “there’s no explicit language, but poop does come up sometimes all the time.”

 

Salvation from the Outside-In

As much as I claim to love sci-fi in all my geekery, my exposure to it is almost exclusively through comic books or video games. I don’t have much exposure to the “classics” and genre-makers outside of Star Wars/Star Trek.

But a few years ago I read the first Dune book by Frank Herbert. It instantly became one of my favorite sci-fi stories of all time.

For anyone who hasn’t read it, it’s about Paul Atreides, the heir to a governing family who is betrayed and ousted from their throne on the desert planet of Arrakis. Arrakis seems to be a clear allegory for the middle-east. We learn very early on that Arrakis is the only source in the galaxy for the “spice” Melange. The spice is used by the spacing guild for interstellar travel. Does that sound like the oil industry to anyone else?

Anyway, the Atreides family is not native to Arrakis, but had been moved there to rule over it by an imperial edict. During the coup, Paul and his mother escape into the desert and are reluctantly taken in by a tribe of Fremen, who are the desert-dwelling natives of Arrakis. In a relatively short amount of time, Paul joins the Fremen under a new name Muad’Dib (the name of a desert mouse respected by the Fremen) and becomes their messiah, Lisan al-Gaib, who will make their desert planet more hospitable.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the 1927 film Metropolis.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s about Freder, the son of a wealthy industrialist who is the captain of industry in the Metropolis where the truly wealthy, who live high above the ground in the city’s buildings, have attained their wealth on the backs of the truly poor, who live and work on machines deep in the bowels of the city. Freder is shown the conditions of his “brothers” in the working class and is overcome with compassion. He meets a woman, Maria, who has become the spiritual leader of the working class.

Maria preaches a sermon (which Freder overhears) that compares the Metropolis to the biblical Tower of Babel. She says that those who built the tower (the “hands”) couldn’t communicate with those whose grand design the tower was (the “brain”) without an intermediary (who she calls the “heart”). To make a long story short, Maria believes Freder is the “heart,” the mediator, for the Metropolis who will ensure communication between the workers and the industrialists — but this is only discovered after the workers start a violent uprising that results in cataclysmic flooding of their homes, threatening the lives of their children.

I noticed after a little bit of reflection that these two classic works share one very obvious thing in common — both feature a privileged hero that enters into an underprivileged community to “rescue” them from their plight.

Chani, a Fremen girl with whom Paul falls in love, from the David Lynch’s 1984 Dune movie. Note her characteristic blue eyes.

Whilte Dune’s native characters seem to have a variety of skin colors (except in film, where they are white), their entirely-blue eyes are a distinct visual quality that comes from prolonged exposure to the Melange spice. But since their culture is so clearly based on Earth people of color, the Fremen are often assumed to be brown-skinned. In Metropolis, the entire cast is white, and it’s primarily clothing and demeanor that distinguish the classes. Both films, however, have an element of the White Savior trope. (Before I go on, I want to interject here and say that just the fact that a story leans on a trope doesn’t make it a bad story. I think both of these works are excellent. Or at least very important.)

The White Savior trope is found in stories where a privileged outsider (usually literally white) encounters an indigenous group who has been oppressed (usually literally non-white), joins them, and then is the catalyst for the ultimate improvement of their lives. This is typically in the form of leading a rebellion against the White Savior’s previous oppressor-group, or providing the indigenous group with some sort of wisdom (like teaching them their value).

These are nowhere near the only works that make use of this trope. More movies than I can count fit the bill, along with plenty of video games, and plenty of novels. Many stories like this have earned a solid pedigree as “classics” because arts and entertainment have long been the domain of white men.

Stories that use this trope are often quick to point out culpability. “Of course white men were responsible for oppression. But that was in the past, and it’s only a few white men that are still oppressors. See look at how good we can be!” is the premise of many of these films.

The issue with these stories isn’t necessarily that premise. It could be perfectly true and the trope would still be a problem. The issue is that the white savior trope implies that without a white savior, none of these groups could “save” themselves. In Metropolis, it seems like the writers of the story had this problematic thesis explicitly in mind. When the poor workers began their uprising without the guidance of Freder, their savior, they are caught up in a furious mob that nearly brings about the death of all of their children.

Maria tries to save the children of the Metropolis during the flood caused by their parents. Again, without Freder, the children would have died.

Dune’s white savior, Paul-Muad’Dib, was foretold in the mythology of the Fremen people. But we find out in the story that their mythology had been manipulated by a secret matriarchal religious group, called the Bene Gesserit, of which Paul’s mother is a part. The Fremen people were conditioned to believe that their salvation couldn’t come except at the hands of an outsider.

Recognizing the role that geek culture has played in forming this particular trope, what is it that we geeks (but particularly white male geeks) take away from that discovery?

White males are in the unique cultural position of having agency in every situation. Except in very intentional situations, white men always have a voice that people in power are more likely to listen to than if the voice had belonged to a woman or person of color.

Is the lesson we learn from this trope that privileged people shouldn’t use their voice on behalf of the unheard?

I don’t think so… But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything. One of the biggest pitfalls many “charities” encounter in their work in underprivileged communities is making the assumption that they know how to “fix” all of that community’s problems. They begin to act without taking time to ask the community members themselves what they need.

We who have power tend to assume that we know best. We’re not wrong to think that we should help when we can, but we need to recognize that help can only be defined by those who want it, and often listening is much more beneficial than speaking out.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

P.S. I couldn’t think of any geeky stories that explicitly resist the white-savior trope. This might be a problem of my cultural location – I’m a white man who falls easily into patterns of “favorites” and therefore doesn’t actively seek out stories created by persons of color. There are myriad works I can think of that don’t rely on this trope simply by virtue of having an all-white cast, but that hardly seems helpful either. I’d be really interested to hear from any readers that know of a story where an indigenous group advocates for themselves, or where a white-savior isn’t the sole protagonist, or where no attempt is made by a white protagonist to join and lead a closed indigenous group.