I want to see "BoJack Horseman" succeed at writing a nuanced portrayal of a person of color and their culture. By Linh Cao “I stepped outside of the Ho Chi Minh airport and felt the humid air envelope me. Palm trees taller
P.T. Barnum was a wicked man, and deserves to be remembered as such.Every so often pop culture affords us the opportunity to subvert a paradigm, promoting diversity and inclusion through storytelling—the upcoming "A Wrinkle In Time" and "Ocean’s Eight" are perfect examples. But unfortunately and most of the time, like in Hugh Jackman’s new biopic "The Greatest Showman", visual media not only upholds systemic and structural inequalities but goes even further to whitewash over terrible history and evil deeds. "The Greatest Showman" presents the founder of the circus P.T. Barnum as a charismatic hero, framed in multiple love story narratives, as we follow his creation of his so-called Greatest Show On Earth. While multiple accounts of Barnum’s real-life personality do indicate his commanding stage presence and business smarts, "The Greatest Showman" appears to gloss over and omit the laundry list of cruelty, misinformation, and exploitation upon which Barnum relied for his capitalist circus and sideshow projects. Step right up for a reality check about P.T. Barnum. While historians can claim that Barnum made space for the disabled and atypical to work within their physical means, Barnum’s advent of the “freakshow” did not work to promote anti-ableist human rights. Instead, he further marginalized and othered them by framing them as those who are not like "normal" people—he displayed them in ways to heighten their perceived monstrousness and physical difference. The people used as human displays were taunted and verbally abused by spectators, and they were mistreated behind the scenes as well since they had no power to demand equal or even fair treatment to able-bodied carnies and visitors. The "freaks" were not considered equals to the "norms", a fact that "The Greatest Showman" has conveniently overlooked. Often these sideshow performers were indentured servants to the Big Top, since their weekly wages were subsumed into Barnum’s money-making machine to cover lodging and food when touring the country.
Hypothetically Marshall is a feel-good ode to allyship, but in practice, it ends up being a disservice to one of the legacies of the most accomplished, important legal minds in American history.We are living in something of a Black Renaissance right now in terms of the arts, music, and movies. After more than a decade of domination by Tyler Perry and reality TV, the silver screen and the small screen have exploded with shows like Insecure, Queen Sugar, and Atlanta and movies like Moonlight, Selma, and Fruitvale Station. But while the artistic zeitgeist of the Black Lives Matter era has paved the way for more ambitious Black stories, not all these productions hit the mark. The most recent to miss is Reginald Hudlin's Marshall featuring Chadwick Boseman in the titular role. Instead of a sweeping exploration of Thurgood Marshall's unreal career from trial lawyer to Supreme Court Justice, or an in-depth exploration of one of his many harrowing cases — rumbling into the South to save the life of a falsely accused Black person — this film zeros in on a case that Thurgood Marshall could not even argue. In Marshall, Thurgood is banned from litigating in court and can only serve as an advisor to a reluctant, white Jewish insurance lawyer who argues the case instead. Hypothetically the film is a feel-good ode to allyship, but in practice, it ends up being a disservice to one of the legacies of the most accomplished, important legal minds in American history. Thurgood Marshall was a lion of the court — a looming figure with a huge personality, who for much of his career pulled off impossible cases. He argued Brown versus Board of Education and ushered desegregation. He argued in the South amid the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. He crisscrossed the nation and even argued in front of the Supreme Court.
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.