Diversity

Diversity in Gaming

Reader Wayne W sent me this story on gaming diversity. According to a 2005 survey, Black Americans are spending more money on games than other gamer demographics yet only 2% of game developers are Black. MTV conducted a five-part series asking Black video game professionals their first-hand views on ethnic diversity in games and the gaming industry.

I wholeheartedly agree that we need more diversity in gaming. And not just physical representation. We need more diverse roles for minorities in games. A game full of Black gangsters can certainly be considered diverse in terms of cast, but fulfilling stereotypical roles is almost as bad as no representation. While I think television, movies, and comics are starting to see the light, it seems that gaming has yet to catch up. I’d very much be interested in seeing the demographics of gaming professionals in 2008 to see if anything has changed in the past three years.

Thanks Wayne for the articles. Brilliant stuff. I can’t believe I actually support something MTV produced.

[Via Intelligent Gamer and MTV’s Multiplayer Blog]

Downey Jr. Bringing Blackface Back

Robert Downey Black Face

Here is the trailer for Tropic Thunder starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. Observe:

I laughed my ass off. Robert Downey Jr. playing a white actor playing a black man is somehow entirely too absurd. I fell on the floor with tears in my eyes.

So why is this funny while “Under One Roof” is shudder worthy? Clearly this is just a modern interpretation of blackface and there’s nothing all that funny about blackface.

For me, the funny is in the reactions of the people around him. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but from the preview it’s pretty clear that everyone around Downey thinks he’s absolutely nuts. Blackface is so incredibly wrong and yet, it somehow works in this context. It’s Downey’s absolute commitment to the role that makes it so right.

Unfortunately, this aspect of the film threatens to overshadow the actual plot. I don’t think I could watch this without marveling at how wrong it is to see Downey in blackface and how wrong I am for laughing horribly at him. I no longer care what the hell is going on as long as I get to be horrified at Downey in blackface.

So fair readers, will I burn in hell for laughing at something so wrong or does this smell of the awesome?

Prince Foofy Foofy of Bel Air?

Prince Foofy Foofy

Reader Mikey D sent me news that Flavor Flav, who shall now only be referred to as Foofy Foofy, is starring in a sitcom that premiers tonight. Palm firmly on forehead I clicked the link he sent and there it was, “Under One Roof.”

*groan*

Fresh Prince meets pile of shit.

There’s not a whole lot of real info on the site so I thought I’d poke around to see if anyone had seen an episode. Apparently, MyNetworkTV didn’t feel confident enough to send out screeners to TV critics. But Mary McNamara of the LA Times managed to sneak a peak at a rough cut. She describes the cast as one note characters who reflect a wide variety of American stereotypes:

Winston (Kelly Perine), now a shallow, materialistic real estate baron, lives in the requisite McMansion carefully appointed with just about every stereotype imaginable: the stringy, implanted white trophy wife named Ashley (Carrie Genzel); a wimpy (possibly gay) son (Jesse Reid), a princessy (possibly stupid) daughter (Marie Michel) and a staff that includes a gibbering Chinese cook in a Mao jacket and a drunken Mexican gardener called Pablo. Pablo has replaced the former gardener, Mario, who, for a time, lives in one room of the mansion with nine family members, a chicken and a goat.

Nothing says funny like a Ching Chong Chinaman cook and a drunk Latino gardener.

The producers of the show apparently don’t understand how anyone could take offense. In the words of executive producer Claude Brooks, “It’s all about the big laughs. And we’re equal opportunity offenders.”

Now, to be fair, it is possible to offend your audience and get away with it. “South Park” takes shots at everyone and is balls funny. The key is intelligent writing. I seriously doubt that there will be much intelligence in this show.

The only draw for this show is Foofy Foofy. For the life of me, I can’t understand why a train wreck like him gets multiple reality shows and now a sitcom and a train wreck like Britney only gets a cameo. You replace Foofy Foofy with Britney Spears, I’m watching me some “Under One Roof.” Foofy Foofy seems to bring in the big bucks. There’s clearly an audience for his brand of buffoonery. But I don’t think you can bottle whatever he has up and try to package it up to sell. Foofy Foofy is best when he’s himself. On a sitcom, he has to learn lines, hit marks, wear makeup, rehearse. None of that sounds like Foofy Foofy.

Forget the blatant stereotypes or clueless producers or all of that. This show will fail because Foofy Foofy won’t be Foofy Foofy. He’ll be Foofy Foofy playing Cali Cal, a mere shadow of Foofy Foofy.

Are We Living Martin Luther King Junior’s Dream?

40 years after his assassination, America has yet to fully realize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of true unity. From a legal stand point, certainly there have been tremendous strides. Everyone is now fairly equal in the eyes of the law. And yet, socially, we’ve made little progress. Sure, the racial divide isn’t as overt as it once was. But we’ve got big problems and we’re not getting very far.

Moblogic is one of the few newscasts that I watch on a regular basis precisely because of what happens when the interviewee grabs the mic from Lindsay and turns the question on her. Instead of throwing up a smoke screen or ending the segment, she answers honestly. Fucking brilliant. And this is coming from a CBS sponsored newscast.

I hope Obama becomes our next president. Forget the war, forget the economy, forget everything the media typically focuses on. I want Obama to win because I want him to help us come together. It’s the new damn millennium and it’s about freaking time we come together as Americans rather than fracturing apart as ethnicities. True, we should embrace our differences and celebrate our own identities. But at some point, we’ve got to come together and work together as a truly united nation.

Okay, enough politics for one day. That’s why I set up that other blog!

Is Lebron James Vogue Cover Racist?

Lebron James Vogue Cover

Vogue finds itself at the center of a little racial controversy. The above cover for their March 2008 edition is accused, by some, of portraying Lebron James as the stereotypically savage black man lusting after Gisele Bundchen, the universal white woman in distress. Mind you, these charges don’t come from James or Bundchen. In fact, word is they quite like the cover.

I don’t see it. I mean, I do, but I don’t think the racist arguments hold much weight. Maybe if Gisele was half dressed and screaming, maybe you could entertain thoughts of a rape fantasy. But she’s quite clothed and looks quite happy and Lebron looks like he just dunked on a fool.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But I think we’ve gotten to a point where political correctness has gotten in the way of honest expression. To even think that Vogue intended to make a statement saying black basketball players are savage white woman rapists is absolutely insane.

So, fair readers, what say you? Is this cover racist? Is Vogue racist? Or is Gisele just happy to pose with Lebron for a cover with her?

UPDATE: I don’t want to get into the habit of republishing too much, but I thought Jason Whitlock had an interesting take on the Vogue cover. He wonders if someone should write a handbook entitled “What Will and Won’t Piss Black Folk Smooth the **** Off.”

Is Oscar Racist?

Oscar is ready for his closeup.

A brief look at last night’s nominees reveals that of the sixteen actors up for Best Lead and Best Supporting actors, only one, Ruby Dee, was a minority. Okay, maybe two. Javier Bardem is Spanish so while I guess technically he’s a minority in this country. Regardless, the Academy Awards once again demonstrated a woeful lack of diversity. Yes, yes, foreign films were very well represented. I’ll give them that. But other than that, the lack of color sorely disappointed me.

Is the Academy racist?

Though I think the lack of diversity at the awards every damn year is infuriating, I’m not sure this is an entirely fair question. The academy votes based on the pool of movies that are made every year. If there’s a lack of diversity at the awards, it’s more than likely that there was a lack of diversity in movies that year. The year might indeed have a large slate of diverse films, but they may not have quite been Oscar worthy. I mean no one would put Who’s Your Caddy or How She Move or Step Up 2 the Streets up for Best Picture.

Is Hollywood racist?

After all, they make the movies. If there’s a lack of diverse films, aren’t they responsible? My gut reaction is to always blame Hollywood for sucking eggs. But it’s possible that they’re just out to make money, aren’t they just playing to their audiences? I mean, if people really wanted diversity in their movies, wouldn’t Hollywood be making those kinds of movies? The studios follow the money. If there’s money in comic book movies, BAM, we have a billion comic book movies. If there was money in diverse casting, shouldn’t we be seeing more diverse casts?

Are audiences racist?

Ah, now we get to the heart of the matter. More than likely, when we go to the theater we don’t care about the ethnic make up of the cast. We’re looking for some good entertainment, a few hours to suspend disbelief, and maybe a laugh or cry or two. Race is probably the very last thing on our minds. In this regard, it’s more unawareness than it is outright racism. And since there doesn’t seem to be any vocal clamor for more diversity in film, why would Hollywood change? Tickets sales are down, sure, but that’s more likely due to technology than anything else.

Is there a way to break the cycle?

I think more directors are slowly waking up to the fact that diverse casts are a welcome change that audiences will certainly appreciate. And I think for real change to occur, it’s going to have to start with the directors and casting directors. I’d like to think audiences could effect change from the bottom up, but I don’t think most of us even consider ethnicity when watching movies. When we see it, we appreciate it. If we don’t see it, we still pay our fifteen bucks.

It’s the new damn millennium and we should be much further along in terms of diversity than we are. Part of the problem is that we don’t pay attention to ethnicity. In some sense, being blind to color is what this American experiment is all about. But when we fail to notice, we also miss out on opportunities to celebrate our differences. We end up getting cookie cutter entertainment that does little to stimulate our imaginations. We could be celebrating out diverse backgrounds and instead, we’re celebrating the same bland stuff year after year.

And while I don’t think Hollywood is necessarily racist, they sure aren’t going out of their way to celebrate diversity.

Exclusively Diverse

In response to my question on whether or not America was more sexist or more racist, reader Paul Jang sent me an article he had written for Sierra Vista High School’s newspaper, The Messenger:

If You Want Equality, Don’t Promote Exclusivity.

By Paul Jang

I had to check for current events one day after school for a school assignment. Figuring BBC would be a better outlet of international news I went ahead and clicked. Lo and behold did I find the most ridiculous piece of news ever.

The Gay World Cup kicked off on Sept. 25, 2007 in Buenos Aires Argentina. The World Cup showcased over 500 soccer players from 28 different countries.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any sort of bias against people of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual) but just the fact that there is a separate World Cup besides the FIFA World Cup just had me straight puzzled.

Let me explain why. Over the years, people in the minority, whether of the different race, orientation, or some other thing that made them stand apart, has fought for equal rights and to be on the same stance as the people in the majority. And because people back then generally lacked the tolerance, acceptance and understanding behavior, special interest groups have been created, such as the Black Panthers, The Gay Liberation Front and others.

In the past, the creation of certain special rights group helped their cause and put them on the map. But with today’s ever changing and ever-fusing society, people can actually be hurt by these groups. As far as I know in American society, there have been leaps and bounds in the civil rights for equality among all people. Even though it’s far from perfect, we’re heading into the right direction.

But why and how does the Gay World Cup come into this? Easy. By creating a new organization exclusively for the people of specific gender, race or orientation, they are doing exactly the opposite of what they’re fighting for. In the race for equality, they are excluding themselves the equality and going straight for dominance, figuratively speaking.

Scenario: So there is a Gay World Cup. Does that mean the Fifa World Cup’s for straight people? If it is or they create a “straight” World Cup, you can bet that there will be protesting against the creation and implementation. Does that mean that the majority is denied something the minority has? Is it because that they are the minority that they get special treatment? Some equality.

New example: Cultural History Months. We celebrate cultural history months such as Black History Month in February, Asian-Pacific Heritage Month (Yes, there really is one of those) in May, National Hispanic Heritage Month in September and Native American Heritage Month in November. Yes, I’m aware that many view the races above as oppressed and exploited. However, where is European History or even European Heritage month? Not all white people were oppressors and exploiters. Many did good things for their fellow man—mixed races alike The North in the Civil War was fighting to free the slaves. Should we think of them as oppressors?

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the world is becoming a more unified place, not just the US. It can also be said that in the future, mixed marriages are going to be very commonplace to the point that specific gene pools are diluted enough that it can turn into someone saying, “I’m 1/32 Irish” or “I’m 1/64 Chinese.” I’m not saying to dump national pride of your homeland, but here, in the US, be united in the fact that you are human beings. Humans first, race second. These groups veer away from that, it creates tension and furthers racial difference. Don’t be politically correct, be real, but don’t be egotistical as to think one type of person is better than the other.

I’m sure I can say for any ethnic family that their parents are somewhat critical about mixing races, orientation or something like that. They are from that generation of where special interest groups were pretty much family, and still is. Adults, don’t pass on your irrational intolerances. Don’t be hypocritical in the sense that you teach tolerance and acceptance and be double-faced.

Paul’s got a point. Reverse discrimination is not the answer to years of repression. We can’t truly celebrate diversity if every group has their own separate but equal social environment.

At the same time, I think it’s important to celebrate our diversity and high profile events, if promoted properly, can serve to raise the awareness of groups that have previously had little public voice. The trick is to make events like a Gay World Cup inclusive to all groups, to invite teams and fans to participate regardless of their sexual preference.

It’s a shame to have to put the burden on the minority groups, but in order to truly celebrate diversity, it is up to them to recruit outside of their exclusive group. It’d difficult because when you create an ethnic or sexual preference or whatever else specific group, the genus of the members is common experience. There’s a safe comfort level that’s tough to break out of. And yet, we must always challenge our own perceptions if we are going to accept those who are not like us.

If exclusive groups strive to overcome their exclusivity, a more true celebration of diversity will emerge.

Thanks for the thought provoking article Paul.

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