In spite of this being a terrifying monster story and a cautionary tale about messing with the very fabric of our time and space, Stranger Things 2 was far more life-affirming and by the end worlds less bleak than its predecessor.When Stranger Things was the breakout Netflix hit of 2016 it was with a great deal of criticism over its treatment of women as well as lack of diversity. A pointed Saturday Night Live sketch poked fun at the fact that somehow the showrunners “forgot” to include scenes from the one young black character’s family. And many viewers pointed out the troubling male gaze that drove the show as well as its sexist treatment of its few female characters. This was not a production that even remotely passed the Bechdel test. #JusticeForBarb Color me surprised when Stranger Things 2 came straight out the gate, immediately addressing all the critiques that had been leveled against it and doing the work to improve on their past flubs. From superpowered Kali/Eight (Linnea Berthelsen), skateboarding gamer and new girl Max (Sadie Sink), to Lucas’s little sister Erika (Priah Ferguson) and his awesome mom (Karen Seesay), the new women of Stranger Things are each exercises in badassery and self-efficacy. All of a sudden, whole episodes begin passing the Bechdel test, and the town of Hawkins feels more real than ever with so many new faces of color who play significant roles in the story throughout its telling. The effect is marvelous and a perfect example of how more diversity and inclusion only makes a narrative better. This is only the second time I’ve seen an 80s-inspired narrative with a South Asian woman, and my heart was so full watching Kali be amazing on-screen. I can’t wait to see all the Halloween costumes and cosplays inspired by this new queen, and I’ve never looked forward to news of a third season so much. [caption id="attachment_48390" align="alignnone" width="920"] Linnea Berthelsen as Kali.[/caption] But the Duffer Brothers didn’t stop there. Where Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) was the only black character in season 1 and was often marginalized by his nastiness towards Eleven (Milllie Bobby Brown) and grating personality which had no context since we never met his family, Stranger Things 2 not only fleshes Lucas out better through his parents and amazing little sister, but the story shifts in an organic way to him being the romantic interest. In a narrative that is still dominated by white people and their stories, Lucas’s role this time around felt like a creative coup. I think the Duffers might have also taken cues from Issa Rae’s Insecure cinematographer on lighting darker skin tones because Lucas wasn’t blending into the nightscapes like he was in season one. Thank you. Proper representation and inclusion matters. So much.
The stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority.By Nandita Godbole “If you date, find a Hindu fellow,” instructions from my doting father, as I left India for the United States in 1995. Given his long tenure in public service, he believed that sectarian differences were less contentious than religious ones, displaying and reading from holy books of different faiths at his work desk, offering a safe conversation space to those who approached him. Yet, he could not have imagined that although the premise of Hinduism appears inclusive, practicing it imposes subtle expectations on women. When one moves away, and becomes an immigrant, it intensifies their immigrant experience, affects their accent, attire, grooming, food, travel, etc. Along with these shifts of adjustments, the stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority. Until the late 1990’s the Georgian calendar did not include Diwali and I recall that friends would be taken aback by my ‘Happy Diwali’ reminders. What nuances remained veiled under enthusiastic celebrations in one’s home country, became targeted glaring differences in the new country. Outwardly, the vibrancy and essence of this unmistakably Hindu celebration filter through the lens of a new country and its commercial substitutions. Paraffin votives replace traditional clay lamps, floral wreaths replace fragrant floral doorway garlands, adhesive floor designs replace elaborate forms of rangoli, Christmas lights replace colorful ‘lanterns’, fireworks are limited. A quick trip to an ethnic grocery store freezer replaces the age-old tradition of handcrafting desserts, and spontaneous family visits become a trip to a ticketed ‘Diwali Mela’, if accessible and affordable. But these are not the problems.
If South Asians only respond to racism when it is directed at them, rather than when it is wielded against people more vulnerable than them, they will forever be held hostage by the need to assimilate into white supremacy.By Sangeetha Thanapal Recently, Priyanka Chopra, the lead actress of ABC’s Quantico, was told she was “too ethnic” for a movie role in Hollywood. This understandably upset Chopra. She took it “very personally” and stated that she hopes to change the way the industry functions in time to come. Chopra has lived in the United States, speaks fluent English, was 'Miss World 2000', is able-bodied, thin, light-skinned and has 11 million Twitter followers. All of these should mean she is a shoe-in for major movie roles in Hollywood. Unfortunately, racism within the industry has limited her opportunities, and in her reaction, she pointed out the inherent stereotypes of people of color that plague Hollywood. Interestingly, this was not Chopra's position just a year ago. When the controversy of #OscarsSoWhite erupted in 2016, Chopra, who was asked about it at the Oscars, gave something akin to a white, liberal answer. She said that “casting by race is a very primitive idea to (her),” and that she believes she got her role in Quantico simply because she was the best person for the job, despite the fact that the producers have made it clear that they wanted to cash in on her existing fame and reach. Furthermore, her answer is fundamentally anti-black. #OscarSoWhite was started by black activist April Reign, and much of the writing and commentary on the racism of the Oscars was by black intellectuals. Many of the actors and actresses that refused to attend the show that year were also black. To glibly deny that they even had a reason to point out the racism of the Oscars and to boycott it is essentially anti-black.
I could no longer ignore a glaring fact about Lynch’s new Twin Peaks: It is fueled by troubling cultural appropriation.I’ve been a serious and passionate Twin Peaks fan since the 1990s. I’ve written a weekly column on a popular fan site since before The Return. I founded my own Facebook Bookhouse of old-timers that I hear tell is one of the most productive and decent fan communities with almost zero trolling and wonderful discussions. As a woman of color — and one of an even more niche community of Twin Peaks fans of color — I’ve been a vocal and staunch defender of David Lynch’s work as not racist and sexist, and I’ve theoretically situated The Return in the framework of Brechtian theatre principles and socio-cultural satire. I’ve done my part to feature the voices of other fans of color, as well as actively advocate for rape and trauma survivors through my writing and participation in fan communities. I watched Twin Peaks: The Return from an unabashed female and feminist gaze, and found much of Lynch’s commentary to be powerful and empowering. Twin Peaks has been like an imaginary home to me for decades, and a place where I was able to accomplish a great deal of healing and self-development. But after the surreal and disturbing finale, and slowly coming out of the haze that has been these past three months, I could no longer ignore a glaring fact about Lynch’s new Twin Peaks: It is fueled by troubling cultural appropriation.