Tag Archive: Racism

(Spoilers for both “Frankenweenie” and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010)!)

As a director and visually insightful storyteller, Tim Burton has been a critical darling as well as an icon and initiator of Popular Goth Culture. Successful as a director, writer and producer, Burton has done some truly fantastic films, such as “Beetlejuice” (1988), “Batman” (1989) and “Edward Scissorshand” (1990), with the latter film being a film classic and arguably still his best work to date. After 2005, Burton has had a bit of a creative decline which can, perhaps, be pinpointed in his being too overly productive (Looking at his resume at IMDB, it’s stated that Mr. Burton made two films in both 2005 and 2012) and stuck in the trap of his own brilliant style and quirky narrative deployments. His current work has also grown towards the habit of filming adaption’s of previous existing films, novels and plays, and many of his critics have claimed this to be an ongoing error and a major cause of his fall from his high style.

Tim Burton working on "Frankenweenie"

Tim Burton working on “Frankenweenie”

However Burton is, and has always been, good in plying at the fresh fields implied in the adaption’s he has tackled. His darkly comical version of “Sweeney Todd” was extremely engaging and fascinating, as was his vision of the comic book hero Batman. Making his own personal interpretation of already existing ideals is not necessarily a bad move. The problem lies more in that Mr. Burton doesn’t seem to always think through the interesting aspects of the stories he re-creates.

Adding to the faults which have motivated criticism of Burton’s work since the new millennium, and which can be seen in his latest work “Alice in Wonderland” and “Frankenweenie”, Burton has begun to rely more on demonizing marginalized groups in the guise of shaping his villains and uses the soft narrative contrivance that conflates the normal attractive, or beautiful, guise with that of the good person of the narrative.

Victor and Sparky

Victor and Sparky

“Frankenweenie” is a re-make of a short film Tim Burton made when he was just starting out as a film maker. The story centers a young boy, Victor, who through a logic-free science brings his dog back to life. The story begins with showing Victor being a loner who instead of wanting to have friends prefers the company of his dog Sparky while making inventions and homemade films, starring of course Sparky. After introducing their protagonist, who at this point should be mentioned is white, cis-gendered, male and non-disabled (his character modeling is made personify the cute, i.e. fits our society ideas of what is a decent looking person would entail), the viewer gets a glimpse of his schools class: they consist of a heavily over-weight boy named Bob, a Japanese-American boy named Toshiaki, a girl with pale hair and giant black circles around her eyes, a boy who is most certainly a person of color (possibly having roots in the Middle east) named Nassor and a hunchbacked boy named Edgar. At first it’s a refreshing scene, seeing so many different types of children; especially seeing children of color and disabled children, since these groups are often ignored in mainstream films and media. But very quickly it turns out the roles for all these children are the roles of antagonist. Everyone is a bully. Victor is the victim.

Nassor (left), Edgar (beneath Nassor), Weird girl (next to Nassor), Elsa (right), Toshiaki (next to Elsa), Bob (next to Toshiaki)

Nassor (left), Edgar (beneath Nassor), Weird girl (next to Nassor), Elsa (right), Toshiaki (next to Elsa), Bob (next to Toshiaki)

The Weird girl, the one with pale hair and the sullen eyes, warns Victor that something will happen to him in the near future since her pet cat has had a vision. The vision being that one of its feces is shaped like a “V”; apparently the cat Mr. Whiskers has had feces in the shape of a letter that each student’s name begins with and shortly after something big has in fact happened to the kid in question. Victor blows this warning off since he doesn’t believe in this odd take on a superstition. Fair enough, however Victor is rather dismissive of the Weird Girl (who doesn’t even get a name) and openly shows her with his hostile body language that he doesn’t want to talk to her. He just says curtly “sure” and quickly leaves. I myself am a hard-core atheist and find superstition illogical, but for the sake of goodness, when someone is just trying to be nice and warn you without being offensive, you should at least be polite back.


After this exchange with the Weird Girl we see Edgar, another of Victor’s classmates approaching to ask of Victor a favor. Edgar, in this scene, is shown having trouble understanding personal space, so Victor being uncomfortable with how close Edgar gets to him appears reasonable to the viewer. Nevertheless, Edgar has approached Victor to simply suggest that they work together on a science project since neither of them have any friends. Victor responds simply that he wants to work alone, while crawling away from Edgar. Why? This revulsion is never explained. Edgar is not being mean. He is simply stating that they could work together since both are friendless. Victor denies the request but no reason is forthcoming, though Edgars socially “odd looks and behavior” seem swimmingly obvious.
The pivot point of the narrative of “Frankenweenie” comes when Sparky the dog is run over by a car and killed and we follow the trajectory of grief this brings to Victor. Victor’s obsession with Sparky’s death is transfigured when, during a science lesson, he is enlightened by how the muscles of even the dead respond to electricity. This inspires Victor with the plan to attempt the same technique to bring his dog back to life (as even Mary Shelly was inspired by the like experiments in her day to incorporate them into her “Frankenstein”). Victor succeeds in reanimating his pet, but wisely decides to keep the fact that he has awoken his dead dog a secret. This attempt at concealing the reanimated falls apart when Edgar spots Sparky chasing a cat. Edgar then proceeds to blackmail Victor into showing him how he brought the dog back to life. If Victor doesn’t show Edgar how he was able to bring his pet back to life, he will tell everyone about Sparky. Victor then reluctantly demonstrates the technique with a gold fish.


Before this point, the film was a typical Burton kid film: comfortable macabre with a light heart. A boy brings his dog back to life because he loves his dog so much. But then Edgar starts blackmailing Victor, bullying him into bringing a gold fish back to life. Edgar happily goes to school with the re-animated gold fish. It is then reveled that all of the other students are bullies: after Edgar blackmails Victor, he is cornered at school by Nassor who threatens him. Nassor makes it clear that if Edgar doesn’t tell him what he’s hiding, he’s in trouble. Simultaneously, Toshiaki and Bob are shown bickering about the upcoming science fair. Bob claims Toshiaki is the “smart one” out of the two, stereotyping the over-weight Bob as naturally stupid and Toshiaki as the naturally smart and science-obsessed one. Toshiaki is also shown being sinister and malevolent, as illustrated when he decides that a proper way to win the science fair is by forcefully strapping Bob to a small rocket and launching it off the roof, all while speaking in poor English. Toshiaki in short embodies every negative stereotype against Asians imaginable.


While it is refreshing to see a children’s film with a diverse cast, it is unfortunate that the entire diverse cast is in fact demonized. The only character that belongs slightly to a marginalized group and is not demonized is Victor’s science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski, who is an immigrant (but, he is not a Person of Color like Nassor and Toshiaki. Make of that what one will). Mr. Rzykruski is shown being an energetic and supportive teacher who is falsely accused of inspiring children to do deadly experiments. This results into an awesomely funny speech while he tries to defend himself, which will be linked below. (The science teacher’s design is strongly modeled after the deceased legendary actor Vincent Price, who worked with and strongly influenced Mr. Burton. Mr. Price was a major inspiration for Tim Burton’s first short animation, “Vincent” (1982)).

Mr. Rzykruski is the one to tell Victor he should become a scientist, which brings up another major problem with the film.

Whether it was intentional or not, the film sends the message that only white, “decent looking” men should be involved with science. The science replacement teacher the class gets is a woman, who formally taught PE. One of the students proclaims she knows nothing about science, to which she then snaps that she knows enough. The problem here is that there is an extreme lack of women in science as well as their being many harmful prejudices against women that make it difficult for them to take place in science. By having the female teacher being mean and ignorant of science is not progressive. It is also an outdated stereotype that strong women are mean.


In the films climax all of the kids Victor has interacted with decide to bring an animal back to life. After Victor’s secret is reviled Toshiaki, Nassor, Weird girl, Edgar and Bob all try to bring an animal back from the dead. After blackmailing and threatening, the kids enter Victor’s room, looking for the device that brought Sparky alive. The children all decide to experiment and to try to bring an animal back to life. Edgar brings a rat back to life, Toshiaki his pet turtle, Nassor his hamster and Bob sea creatures. Weird Girl tries the technique on a dead bat, but accidently mixes the creature with her cat. As one can predict, all of the creatures become uncontrollable monsters that start wrecking and terrorizing the city. The only explanation that is given for the significant different results of bringing the animals alive are that one must “love” the science or experiment. The explanation does not hold up, for Toshiaki and Nassor brought back their pets; sounds like there was a hint of love in that experimentation. True, they are more concerned with winning the science fair, but they actively chose their own pets instead of random dead animals. Weird Girl most definitely loved her cat. And lots of great science has been driven and performed by curiosity and ambition, which Edgar and Weird Girl probably were embodying in their own experiments. So the message of the film is that only white, non-disabled, thin males should do science. Everyone else – People of Color, women, the disabled – will only cause trouble. The film hammers home the message by even having Victor figure out how to destroy all the monsters and save the town. The person who no doubt has most of the privilege saves the day, proving that only white men can do science and fulfill its consequences. The statement about “loving science” becomes only an excuse for prejudice.


As a side note, it’s also worth mentioning that the meanest adult in the film is a bald man. He bullies his “pretty” niece and yells constantly at Victor. So people who fit our society’s ideals of “unattractive” are also bad since beauty and looks is what marks out the parameters of a good person.

Another case in point is the work of “Alice” by Tim Burton which moves along the same direction in the demonization of marginalized groups. In “Alice In Wonderland”, the villainous Red Queen is given an abnormally large head. The Mad Hatter in the film revels that residents fighting against the Red Queen use a slogan that goes: “Down with the Bloody Big head”. Even worse, the White Queen is hinted at being a bit dangerous (has served human fingers in a jar), yet she’s the one the audience is suppose to root for and the happy ending is encapsulated in the storyline with her being crowned Queen in the instead of her repugnant sister the Red Queen. The film implies that the White Queen should be the ruler, since she’s “prettier” and the lack of attractiveness on the surface pierces deep into the soul (causes or is caused by is never fully explored). Using the Red Queens looks (which may be a form of disability) as a way to critique her is placed on the viewer as a “given” and hints if not commits ableism. It also hammers home the message that only the attractive should be in positions of power and visibility.

The White Queen and The Red Queen

The White Queen and The Red Queen

This rejection of the outliers of accepted “looks” in Alice (the Red Queen has a “misshapen” head) along with placing the hunchbacked Edgar in “Frankenweenie” as a villain and mostly to blame for the problems in the film (he’s the one to push Victor to show him the device and then tell about it to others) makes a disturbing new pattern in Burton’s film. Indeed, the man who once defended people’s rights to not fit into our society’s norms now appears to be demonizing the very same.

The menagerie of children in “Frankenweenie” are supposedly a reference to different horror films, with each character being a reference to classical horror genres and it is no surprise that Burton wants to express an ode to these influential and important classic horror films. The problem lies with the ill conceived and notable disregard of the historical context of these films. The majority of these films were made in times when a lot of marginalized groups were completely deprived of rights, dismissed by the society at large, seen as problematic to majority culture, marginalized by negative imagery, and were nearly always portrayed negatively in cinema. So casting these old stereotypes into his film does not work without insight to the historical ethnicity and becomes double edge sword cutting towards the highly offensive. You simply cannot have a privileged person being the victim and all the marginalized groups being villains. Yes, even the privileged can have difficult lives, but that does not take away the fact that we still live in a highly hierarchical world where those of marginalized groups struggle to be engaged equally in the social, cultural and political. When Victor is the hero and is shown as the only one we should like and the only one who should be allowed to do science that hierarchy is strengthened. And that is fairly harmful, if not irresponsible.


Tim Burton has been and remains an important filmmaker. There is no other director quite like him. In his earlier works, Tim Burton has even strongly defended outsiders and probably doesn’t mean to be offensive. It is crucial that he should start thinking more about what roles he gives to marginalized characters; then he will once again be on top of his game.

Hello everyone,
A lot has happened. So, a lot has been written and talked about. Here’s a short guide to some recommended post.

Kelsey Wallace over at “Bitch Media” wrote about the ten douchiest reactions to the Sandy Hook Tragedy.

Ann Somerville wrote about Gun Controll.

The author Vijay Prashad wrote about the deaths of children that don’t make news.

Rebecca Carroll viciously attacked Quentin Tarantino’s newest film, “Django Unchained” and rightfully so.

Nuala Cabral, a feminist activist, wrote an open letter to Universal Music Group’s corporation CEO Lucien Grainge regarding the music corporations constant exploitation of women of color.

On the same note, click here to watch a video where women of color tell the rapper 2 Chainz what they want for their birthday (in response to his hit single, “Birthday Song”).

If you haven’t or have heard of 2 Chainz and his single “Birthday Song, check out the Rap Critics deliciously funny review of his hit single.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Best Regards, Maaretta

(Trigger warning for brief discussions of sexual abuse)

Kopano Matlwa is known as one of South Africa’s most exciting young writers. She has a degree in Medicine, which makes her both a writer and a doctor. In fact, while studying to get her degree, Ms. Matlwa simultaneously wrote “Coconut”. Her debut won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literary in Africa in 2008, sharing the prize with “I Do Not Come To You By Chance” by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and “Tenants of The House” by Wale Okediran. Ms. Matlwa has also written “Split Milk”, which appeared in 2010. Both novels describe racial relations in South Africa.

Kopano Matlwa

“Coconut” tells the story of two very different young black girls living in modern-day Johannesburg. The novel is written in two parts, the first part focusing on the rich Ofilwe and the second part focusing on the poverty stricken Fikile. Through depicting these two girls’ lives, “Coconut” addresses racism, the lost of one’s own culture and identity, sexual abuse and colonized consciousness.

Ofilwe is shown being a girl who takes her family’s wealth for granted. She lives a pampered life, but faces racism from her white school mates and authorities. Ofilwe lives her first years in blissful blindness to the prejudices around her, but as Ofilwe gets older, she realizes more and more how much racism she has faced in her early years. This racism runs from open disgust to her “dark lips” and refusal of the “racial contamination” of the kiss, or when her classmates decide her ethnic characteristics innately imply that she could only be born in a “stink-hole”. She also realizes with help from her brother, Tsempo, how much of her own culture, identity and history (through the mechanisms of the oppressive former apartheid system) she (as many black South Africans) has lost.

In one of the first paragraphs of “Coconut” illustrates the lost of the cultural field by means of racism when we are lead through Ofilwe and Tsempo arguing over religion. Tsempo argues that being Christian goes against their black identity, since they were forcefully converted by whites. He points out that the original beliefs of the Africans were quite different. Ofilwe can barely stand hearing this, since she’s a devoted Christian. In this sequence Matlwa confronts the fact that when Christianity (as other abrahamic religions) was spread, the black South Africans lost a part of their culture. This is an interesting fact which is rarely pointed out, despite these violent conversions causing many African and many non-African people to lose parts of their own culture*.

Another example of lost heritage and discrimination is the use of language and presumptions of inclusion and exclusions founded on the identifier of people’s linguistic talents. Ofilwe is first proud of the fact that her family speaks English at home. However, due to her skin color, no one believes this to be the case; when a few men come to her classroom to collect data on the different mother tongues among children, the men refuse to believe her when she states she speaks English at home. Her teacher even punishes her for lying to the men. After some discoveries about her parent’s backgrounds, Ofilwe then realizes that her parents purposely didn’t speak their mother tongue to her, thus leaving Ofilwe to try and learn this language by memorizing words she overhears during her parents arguments. Matlwa beautifully captures the struggles of a person longing to learn about her roots and culture while simultaneously being denied proper information about it.

Old statistics chart of linguistics in South Africa

Ofilwe suffers a crisis, since she is forced to confront that despite being economically privileged, she is unfortunately marginalized due to her skin color. Ofilwe as a character is shown as pampered, but the reader still sympathizes with her and her situation.

Johannesburg (City Skyline)

In the second part, the reader is introduced to Fikile, a poor young woman from a slum. She lives with her uncle since her mentally unstable mother rejected her when she was extremely young. Fikile in her first depiction is shown having an intense revulsion for her uncle. The reader later learns that this hatred is justified (as more is revealed about Fikiles life) as the reader comes to understand that Fikile while a child was repeatedly molested by her uncle. Fikile did not at first understand what her uncle was doing to her, but after learning about rape and sexual assault at school through an awareness presentation, Fikile at once recognized the actions as similar to the ones her uncle committed, and comes to the revelation that she herself has been a victim of sexual abuse. One of the finest details Matlwa gives in “Coconut” is how strong this shocking revelation is to Fikile, as Matlwa has her protagonist, forced to this realization of abuse, is convulsed by vomiting in the class room as the presentation is being held. It’s an honest portrayal of a young girl suddenly understanding that she has been severely abused.

As the novel continues, Fikile starts to express strong troubling comments regarding blacks. She states that they are lazy and blame whites for everything to cover up for their irresponsibility. She recalls telling her school teacher that she wants to be white when she grows up. While referring to the customers she waits on at her job at a fancy restaurant/café, Fikile says that they represent everything she wants to be:“rich and white”. In contrast to everything she does not want to be: “black and poor”. Fikile buys into the myths of the poor and black being to blame for their misfortunes and believes that she will one day be rich as well. This resembles the divergent and ubiquitous mentalities of a colonized consciousness among a deceived lower classes all over the world. The American author John Steinbeck for instance lampshaded this mentality by stating: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Fikile has a noticeably similar way of viewing her situation. She believes that she will be able to escape all her problems if she just adapts to behavior of the white upper class and totally hates her black heritage.

Fikile has developed a colonized consciousness, meaning that she has adapted and identifies (takes the values of the oppressing class as her own) with a white supremacist way of looking at people of color. She refuses to see the faults in any whites she encounters, but is quick to give many irredeemable (and made up) flaws to all blacks she meets. Fikile faces racism herself, but fails to see it; she has adapted the beliefs of the oppressors and therefore demonizes blacks. This phenomenon happens among all sorts of oppressed and marginalized groups. Like Steinbeck commented on colonized consciousness being the ideological means for the capitalist upper class for stopping socialism making a root in the US, colonized consciousness prevents people from being aware of their situation and fighting for more rights. Fikile does not see that her opportunities are limited and through her hate actually adds limitations for herself and other people of color in South Africa.

Desperation for a better life and the environment around her play an important factor to her mentality, but Fikile’s intense dislike for other blacks may also be a result of the trauma from being abused as a child. Fikile at some point decides at once that a black man talking to her is a probable rapist. Due to her relationship to her uncle, this comment does raise the question of her idea of blacks being lazy, and good for nothing, as being inexorably linked to her horrific childhood memories of her uncle. Are Fikile prejudices because she has bad experiences, because she’s too desperate too see straight, or just the simple, but inevitable, brainwashing by society ruled through prejudice? Or are all three symptoms equally to blame for the disjunction of class, ethnicity and identity and the upended consciousness of Fikile?

Luckily, “Coconut” is a coming-of-age tale alongside a depiction of modern day South Africa, so Fikile’s world view is challenged as the novel proceeds.

Kopano Maltwa being congratulated by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka

“Coconut” is a highly impressive novel which deals with many important issues. It highlights topics that are necessary to talk about. It’s also a captivating tale about identity and growing up.

South Africa’s flag

*As a half Finn, I can mention that for instance the Finnish people originally had pagan-like beliefs. This changed through the conversion and influence from the Swedes. In fact, at some point Birger Jarl thought the Finnish weren’t becoming Christian quick enough, and sent a small crusade to Finland (which was at the time just another part of Sweden).

Hello everyone, here’s a short collection of articles that are worth reading!

Over at Ms. Blog, Elizabeth Kissling wrote about scientific research showing that our ideas about PMS are overblown.

Anita Little at the same blog wrote about the black-white gap in Breast cancer mortality.

At Feministing, Lori Adelman bravely stated that the iconic kissing sailor photo depicts sexual assault, not romance.

Zerlina Maxwell explained why Republicans need to shut up about rape forever.

Lori Adelman also wrote about Republicans problematic views on rape. (The article was written a couple weeks before the election.)

Update! Ms. Adelman has recently written about how the rape apologist Republican candidates did last night.

Lastly, over at the “The Guardian”, the journalist Adam Frost and designer Jim Kynvin studied all of the Man Booker Prize winners to see what the most likely winner will usually be. (Spoiler! The answer of course being: white, male, English, from somewhat wealthy families and writing about the past. Well, at least they are more diverse than the Nobel Prize for Literature).

Dr. Seuss is one of the most loved and known of very young children’s books writers and a major influence on our modern popular culture. Dr. Seuss’s most famous works include “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham”. His novels are age-related and logically quite short with very simple story lines, thus the first adaption’s of his books were half- hour long cartoons*. Unfortunately, in 2000, Ron Howard directed a live- action version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, which featured Jim Carrey as the Grinch (being as annoying as possible). The film was a success, and so began the phenomena of live- action adaption’s of Dr. Seuss’ work. One of the most horribly failed adaption’s is the live- action version of “Cat in the Hat” (2003), mostly because, despite its similar title and premise, the movie has nothing to do with the book it is apparently “based on”.

“Cat in the Hat” centers on the children pair of 12- year old Conrad (Spencer Breslin) and his younger sister Sally (Dakota Fanning). Conrad is shown being the out-of-control trouble maker while Sally is cast as the obsessive control freak. The film makes the children, despite their tender ages, caricatures of gender stereotypes: the wild male and the uptight female, a depiction of gender which cast women as killjoys and men as free and fun-loving, even if the behavior causes problems for those around them. The film depicts Conrad’s behavior, regardless of it being beyond the pale of mere trouble making and inflicting severe difficulty upon those around him (especially his single caretaking mother), the viewer is suppose to sympathize with Conrad more than with Sally who’s worst crimes is only that she alienates others.

The children’s Mother is a working woman whose boss wants to have an office party at her house. On the day when the planned party is meant to take place, the mother is pressured to leave for her work, and is forced to beg the kids to take care of the house to insure a “clean” party (Her boss is evilly phobic about the “clean”). She hires Ms. Kwan, an Asian woman, to babysit the kids. Since Ms. Kwan’s foreign, the film decides to make her watch a TV broadcast where her home country (Taiwan) is portrayed as being filled with people who even in parliament debates punch each other instead of having discussions. She then also falls asleep while she’s supposed to be babysitting the kids. The way Ms. Kwan is written weaves a subtle implication of the non-white as lazy and irresponsible, and (somewhat in contradiction) explosively and unexplainably violent – or as the tone of the film seems to suggest: “It’s never too early to teach kids to be prejudice against others!”.

As the kids stare miserably out of the window of their house, seemingly capture inside and the boredom entailed, they hear a bump upstairs. The bump turns out to be caused by a big black-and-white talking cat with a Tall stripped hat. This turns out to be the said Cat in the hat (Mike Meyers) and this is where the film truly begins its downhill journey.

The cat acts nothing like the original cat from Dr. Seuss’ book. While the Cat in the original book did cause some trouble, this cat constantly makes sexual innuendos and threats of violence. He is far less caring of the kids than his original counterpart. The original cat could cause messes, yet all the while sincerely wanting the children to break their boredom and enjoy his games. In the end (and this is also implied with the gentleness of the original) the Cat will back off when the kids show he’s crossed the line and in the end rectify unconditionally any damage his actions have created (in the movie the conditions are Actually A Contract!). Mike Meyer’s cat, on the other hand, puts children into danger, constantly threatens violence for the slightest inconvenience, is impregnated with the insipid gestures of the most cliques vaudeville actor (and seems to be channeling a bad cowardly lion impression for some reason), is fond of insulting others and is a threat to those around him. In short, Meyer’s Cat would seem to be the antithetical other to Dr. Seuss’ original character.

The introduction of the Cat begins with him storming into the apartment, answering the children’s question of why he has appeared with “well when a mommy cat and daddy cat love each other very much…”. After that, he proceeds to make innuendos while seeing a picture of the children’s mother, beats up an elephant (which just randomly pops up), cuts off his own tail, and threatens to kill several people on several occasions, including nearly hitting a kid in the back of the head with a baseball bat. In the midst of the film, when the children try to catch their runaway dog, the children lay out two options of what to do. The Cat responds to their plans, stating: “There’s also a third option. It involves… Murder!”. For those who are particularly attached to Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat”, seeing Meyer’s Cat state murder as a answer to a problem is the equivalent of finding Winnie the Pooh rambling on about the possibilities which lie in bank robberies – a terrifying and repugnant scene to witness, while leaving the nostalgic audience feeling dirty and betrayed.

The problem is not that the film uses violence and suggestive humor, but that the film on a whole doesn’t consist of any other kind of humor, except for the occasional scatological joke. The film doesn’t seem to understand whether the film is made for adults, or for children, or for neither (If you chose the last option, congratulations! You guessed right!).

As for the violent attitude of the cat, most of these scenes seem to exist for the sake of “Dead Baby Comedy”. The internet critic Kyle “Oancitizen” Kallgren has stated that “Dead Baby Comedy” is a branch of humor which is design to push the audience into the corner of shock and offense. Naturally, when done well, “Dead Baby Comedy” can be used to make people reflect and re-think on society’s taboos. However when this branch of comedy is done wrong, it only leads to as Mr. Kallgren puts it: “You end up laughing at it, because what else can you do?”. The “Dead Baby Comedy” used in “Cat in The Hat” consists of the latter kind, where the viewer is put into a position where the only way to respond to the excruciating violent tone of the film is to laugh. Not because the jokes are funny or thought-provoking, but because they are straight out offensive and frightening.

An essential flaw of “Cat in the Hat” is also how many prejudices are enforced through the films story-telling. As mentioned before the babysitter Ms. Kwan has fallen asleep. While sleeping, she is constantly tormented by the Cat and his minions. She’s thrown around, used as a mop and even used as a boat near the end of the film. Ms. Kwan has no agency, no active role or even speech, and is only there to be used and cast aside and in worst causes physically abused while unconscious, by all of the other characters that are white or a talking animal. Since Ms. Kwan is the only non-white character in the film, the treatment of her character is fairly uncomfortable and it boggles the mind why the filmmakers would portray Ms. Kwan in such a light.

It is also worth mentioning that one of the primary villains, the mother’s mean-spirited boyfriend Quinn (Alec Baldwin), is at one point shown to be a closet over-weight person. Ms. Kwan is also overweight. Since the only plus size people in “Cat in the Hat” are portrayed negatively, this leads to a strong fat phobic feel to the film.

Add on to the uncomfortable feeling about other ethnicities, the strange repulsion to the overweight and the films narrow depictions of women and we’ve got a film full of violence, sexism, racism and sizeism. One which in the end seems to be aimed at children.

“Cat in the Hat” is one of the worst film adoptions from a book. Not only does the film have nothing in common with the book its “based on”, but the film just doesn’t work in any way. It can’t even decide who’s its audience and, in the end, can’t really entertain anyone.


*The 1966 Chuck Jones animated Version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, though diverging from the original text in a number of places, and having a musical score included, is considered a Classic of the Seuss genre and of the Jones animation style in general.

First, some two to three weeks old, but still worth a read, essays and articles:

At Feministing, Chloe Angyal pondered if Facebook is enabling eating disorders.

At the same blog, you can read about Guatemala launching a femicide unit.

The blog Racialicious had a good article on racist fans of “The Hunger Games” series.

Also at Racialicious, Andrea Plaid made a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, who’s most famous for portraying Uhura in the original “Star Trek”- series.

Feminist Blogger Kelsey Wallace wrote a short, but spot-on and brilliant, critique of George Clooney’s film “The Ides Of March”. Like Ms. Wallace, I was also highly disturb by the films nearly anti-abortion message, as well as the way the female main lead was written as well.

Alya Dawn Johnson at The Angry Black Woman talked about the Bechdel Test and race.

At Bitch Media, Caroline Narby wrote an article on girls and Asperger’s.

At Colorlines, Hatty Lee posted some statistics which show that thousands of young black men die in gun crimes every year.

Since March is ending, which means the end of “Women’s History Month” is near, the team at Gender Across Borders recommends us to remember Marie Curie.

Second, the new:

Glenn Greenwald wrote about three congressional challengers worth supporting.

Blogger Arturo R. Garcia, who’s works focus often on race and popular culture, explored how Felicia Day and Chris Hardwick reinforced Geekdom’s whiteness.

Rest In Peace, Adrienne Rich.

Update: As Maya Dusenbery (feminist blogger and activist) noted perfectly, a win for abortion rights has been made in Argentina! (Article written by Edurne Cárdenas)

And lastly, something fun!

The Lonely Island’s songs haven’t often thrilled me much. However, “Like A Boss” is a hilarious song. Watch the video below!

The Welsh artists “Marina And The Diamonds” song “Oh No!” is witty and colorful social commentary, with a great melody. View the video below!

Christmas is on the way, so I decided to do a post with a theme for the holiday. A common thing for the holiday’s is one will write about their favorite films centering on Christmas, but I tend to enjoy such subject mattered cartoon shorts slightly more. Thus this article will feature some of my favorite cartoon Christmas specials and an explanation of why I am fond of these particular shorts. Most of these are episodes from shows I enjoy watching, but not all.

“For Whom The Sleigh Bell Tolls” from “American Dad!” – This is a pretty much hit and miss show, sliding between brilliance and dullness from episode to episode. But I can’t deny that this episode has everything I would like to see more often in a Christmas centered episode: bizarre re-telling of Christmas traditions, adventure, light social commentary, and, of course, a lesson on the importance of family union. It starts off with the father of the shows main family, Stan Smith, giving his fourteen year old son Steve a gun behind his wife Francine’s back. While practicing shooting, Steve accidently kills a man he assumes to be a mall Santa. Stan convinces his son to not tell anyone about the incident, and after Francine discovers what has happened, the whole family together buries the dead man in the woods, hoping they can put the horrific accident behind them. However, they soon receive threatening letters, and after discovering the unmarked grave to be empty, the Smiths realize the man they thought Steve killed was the real Santa Claus and he’s out for revenge…
The story in its self is already surrealistically hilarious and the animation is actually pretty good, as well as the final showdown between Santa and the Smiths being a very entertaining, and visually ironic, action sequence. The twist of Santa being a crazed vendetta seeking individual is particularly delightful in a perverse sense and sends the narrative in odd and satisfying directions. There’s also a very good subplot of how Stan has to learn to accept his daughter Hayley’s new husband as being a part of the family, as well as Hayley’s new husband (his name is Jeff) divining a direction and means to respond to Stan’s mean spirited behavior. Francine is a delightful combination of a wise as well as a bit of an amoral person, and it’s darkly, painfully funny to see how Steve develops from a nerdy innocent young boy into a gun nut. Not only one of the best animated Christmas centered episodes, but also one of “American Dad’s” best episodes.

“Depth Takes A Holiday” from “Daria” – This choice may come off as way cheat to some, but Christmas is a pretty major driving factor in the only fantasy based episode from the show. The Plot centers around the unlikely event of Daria suddenly encountering Cupid, the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and a Leprechaun, the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day on her way home. They tell Daria that Christmas, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day have all left the Island of Holidays, the resident home for all Holidays. However, since the recent runaways were the three most popular holidays, the natural order of both the High School like Island as well as the normal world have gone berserk and it’s up to Daria and her friend Jane to convince Christmas and the other popular holidays to return to their home – otherwise the world can kiss Christmas, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day good bye.
The best thing about this episode is that it not only is a good episode to watch on Christmas, but it also serves as a good Halloween, Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick ’s Day’s episode (not to mention Guy Fawkes Day). I also like how Daria, the heroine of the episode, keeps her trademark deadpan sarcastic attitude throughout the episode no matter how weird things become (or where ever she finds herself). The whole tone of the episode is pretty cynical as well, as the major threat portrayed with a world lacking Christmas and Halloween is only the decrease of shoppers for candy and presents ( Which Daria and Jane point out is not necessarily a horrible effect for the condition in which our world finds itself). Having a whole episode about Holidays and making it entirely skeptic about the often optimistic philosophies people have about Holidays is pretty brave and a rare move and the critique of consumerism is laid out by Daria and Jane early on in the episode. Absurd and sardonically comical, this is episode is a good watch for any holiday season.

“She of Little Faith” from “The Simpsons” – This episode from the Simpsons is mostly known for the canon decision of making Lisa, the eight-year old girl in the family, a Buddhist. Lisa grows concerned that the church has grown too materialistic for her, which leads her to find a new faith in Buddhism. While this decision makes Lisa very happy, her family as well as the rest of the members of the church are greatly displeased with her new way of life, and therefore attempt to make Lisa convert back to Christianity by using Christmas as bait. As one could guess, Lisa doesn’t respond to this plan coolly…
While Christmas originally is a Christian holiday, it has become more and more of a holiday many non-Christian people could celebrate as well (I myself celebrate it despite being very much an atheist!). This episode gently and beguilingly highlight the manner in which different beliefs can come together in the spirit of fellowship and kindness which the holiday entails and which the episode “She of Little Faith” brilliantly does by focusing on Buddhism. The Episode is an open song to tolerance as a main theme which we can all free to embrace. The episode’s end is touching in how Lisa resolves her conflict with her family, showing how everyone can have a nice holiday after they decide the most important thing is love and compassion, not who you pray to (or if you pray at all).

“A Huey Freeman Christmas” from “The Boondocks” – Here’s another somewhat cynical Christmas special, but it does also feature some of the sweetest moments in the series. Huey, a ten year old who is much wiser than his young years, gets the chance to direct as well as write his School’s Christmas Play. Huey dismisses the opportunity first since he “doesn’t give a damn about Christmas”. However, after his grandfather ignores his attempt to explain the actual history of the Christmas holiday, Huey becomes determined to make the school play so people will see his vision of the holiday. He soon becomes rather obsessed with the project, causing him to lose sleep, alienates those around him, becomes a bit of “fatcat” and in the end faces an absurd charge of racism from the school staff regarding his wish to cast Jesus as black (But he is from the Middle East, Huey points out to no avail). Meanwhile, his younger troublemaking brother Riley terrorizes Mall Santa’s, as well as their neighbor Jazmine who is a devout Santa worshipper (confusing the story of Jesus with Santa’s to hilarious effect in the episode).
The episode has very sad moments, but surprisingly has quite happy and side-splittingly funny moments as well. The beginning features Jazmine having a dream of preaching the word of Santa in a gospel church, which is cute in its portrayal of childlike innocence and confusion and makes a mocking comment on fairy tales told to children. Huey’s idealism butts heads with the adult world he lives in rather roughly, but he strongly stands his ground, as his character often does in the show. It is always inspiring to watch. Robert, Huey’s and Riley’s grandfather, is shown in a rare tender moment in the episode when he tenderly carries the sleeping Huey to bed, which is a mere second long scene in the show, but still summons a “aw” from the audience. Over all, it is also honest in its portrayal of how life doesn’t always work out as we would like it to. (However, most of the characters get a happy ending, especially one of Huey’s nicer teacher’s who attempts to embrace, though a bit naively, tolerance and multiculturalism).

“A Very Special Family Guy Freakin´ Christmas” from “Family Guy” – The plot of this episode centers on the Griffith family getting ready for the Holiday, with the mother Lois doing most of the work. Peter, her husband, is not helping out much and causes disaster after disaster. Lois tries to be reasonable and level headed, but, finally, after only wanting to clean up one of the disasters thrown at her, and realizing she has no paper towels to help her grapple with the mess, Lois experiences the ultimate meltdown in one of the best freak-outs ever animated.
This episode is a pretty goofy and over the top but is a spot on depiction of all the stress and disasters Christmases, and the holidays, can sometimes contain. Poor Lois truly puts everything into these two special days (which she thinks is a time of good cheer and union), trying to make things joyous even when they take a turn for the very worst. the episode is hilarious, while addressing how unfairly all the responsibility was given to Lois to handle. This makes the ending, where things turn out for the worst for Lois but good for the rest of the family, quite bittersweet. While I do think “Family Guy” as a show can be pretty bad at times (The Series started strong n the first three seasons, but has taken a bit of a dive since), this episode is still very good and pretty unusual with it’s not quite jolly ending.

The Stress Got to Lois

“How the Grinch stole Christmas!” (1966) – This is one of the most famous short animated films ever to be made. Based on a book by Dr. Seuss, the short is directed by Chuck Jones (and animated in the classic Chuck Jones style!) and Ben Washam, as well as the entire script being read by Boris Karloff. Karloff’s voice is capturing, as well as the rhymes and lines used in the story being memorable. There’s also the main characters theme song, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” which is an classic and iconic “the Villain Sucks” song.
The Story centers on the tale of the Grinch, a green creature who lives up in the mountains alone. He dislikes everything about Christmas, and therefore comes up with the plan to steal Christmas from the “Who’s down in “Whoville”. This short is referenced a lot in other Christmas specials, so if you haven’t seen this special yet, you should for the “education” (for instance, it is referenced in episodes of the Simpsons, PJ’s, South Park, and on and on).

“Woodland Critter Christmas” from “South Park” – Absurdity and winter wonder has never been mixed as magnificently as in this South Park episode! Stan, one of the four young protagonists in the series, comes across a group of cliché-like cute talking animals and gets dragged into helping them with various tasks after the female porcupine becomes pregnant despite being a virgin. The animals tell Stan that their savior is on the way. However, he must kill a mountain lion that is known to eat their savior. Stan does so, only to realize that the pregnant porcupine is not pregnant with a seed from god, but from Satan, thus making it possible for the anti-Christ to be born…
“South Park” has made a lot of great Christmas episodes, this being perhaps the funniest one. Stan’s reaction to everything happening around him is great, the twist at the near end of the episode is pretty surprising and it is packed with rich jokes. It’s also a fun deconstruction of cuteness, making the sweet cuddly Disneyesque animals malevolence and demonic wouldbe destroyers of the world. And one shouldn’t miss out on how the day is saved at the end of the episode. Just a pure enjoyable Christmas special.

So there are my favorite animated shorts with the upcoming holiday’s theme. Hope you all have a nice Christmas/Holiday Season which is upon us!

And lastly here are a couple honorable mentions of Christmas/Holiday Specials which you should see when the chance arises:

“Marge Be Not Proud” (The Simpsons) – A beautiful, beautiful depiction of Mother-Son relationships during the holiday.

“Red Sleigh Down” (South Park) – Camp, camp and more excellent camp all the way through!

Buchi Emecheta is a Nigerian born writer living in London. She was born in Lagos to Igbo-parents (a minority in Nigeria). Emecheta was married at the tender age of sixteen and moved to London with her husband. After six years of marriage, they separated. She took an honors degree in sociology while supporting her five children all by herself. Her first book, “In the ditch” was published in 1972; it was a short story collection about her experiences as a poor single mother in London. After that she has published several works, including the highly-praised “The Joys of motherhood” and “Second-class Citizen”.

“Second-class citizen” tells the story of Adah, whose life events are similar to Emechetas. The novel starts by telling about Adah’s childhood. She is lucky enough to go to school, to only be promised as a wife to a man she’s never met. When she has her 16th birthday, Adah moves to London to live with her student husband, with home she has two children with. Her husband, Francis, takes his time with his studies, while Adah struggles along to try and feed the whole family. As time goes on, Francis becomes less and less interested in his studies, while bullying Adah to bend to his will. Adah also realizes that the Londoners don’t like blacks very much.
Adah suffers racial discrimination out in the world and gender discrimination at home. She realizes that since she is a black woman; she will be viewed by society as a second-class citizen.

Nigeria’s Flag

Emecheta’s language is gentle and frank. Emecheta looks at Adah’s situation with sharp eyes: she critics Francis and other African men for being male chauvinist and patriarchal, but she also critics the Londoners and other Europeans for being racist and not very understanding towards African immigrants. Adah is shown as a typical Nigerian woman: her value is measured by the number of sons she gives birth to. Adah’s hard work is being taking for granted; when she voices her opinion she is met by anger. She does what she can to help her children, knowing that she is the only one they can rely on.

Emecheta gives a pretty hopeless image of the role women have in the Nigerian society. At the very first page of the book it is told that Adah’s parents didn’t even bother to record her birth since “She was such a disappointment to her parents” that were expecting a boy. When Adah has her first child, Francis’ parents become deeply disappointed and angry that their first grandchild is a girl. Emecheta makes it clear to the viewer that Adah has to deal with people that don’t even consider girls to be worth giving birth to. Adah also gets to start school later than her brother Boy. Unlike Boy, she must give up her studies for the family. Her job is to make her husband look good and fortunate. Adah is also just people always blaming women when things don’t work out. There’s a scene where, after fighting with her husband and being beaten by him, she goes to a church to pray. There she meets another Igbo person, a man, who is able to guess that she has had a fight with her husband. The man then offers Adah that they can pray together, asking God to get her husband to forgive her. Adah then thinks to herself: “Typical Igbo way of thinking. It is always the woman’s fault if there’s been a fight between a husband and his wife”.

Violence is also a subject that is explored in this novel. It is not graphic or a major part of the book, but it’s still a powerful subplot. Francis occasionally beats Adah when he thinks she’s not being obedient enough. Adah just lets it happen, until she decides that she’s had enough. After a while, she starts to defend herself by hitting him back. Showing him that she won’t be intimidated by his fist.
Adah’s ideas and own wishes also collide with the English society. She is unable to get help when she needs it because of cultural misunderstandings and prejudices. She can feel the hostility from whites as she walks down the street.

“Second-class citizen” is a book that deals with the subject of oppression in a realistic, touching way. Emecheta’s prose is easy to read and truly gives an insight to what it’s like to be a Nigerian woman.

“Frozen River” is an independent drama film from 2008. It is both directed and written by Courtney Hunt. This is her first film, which I would not have guessed after watching it. After viewing this film I was sure she had a lot of experience in film making due to the films maturity and how touching it was.

“Frozen River” stars Melissa Leo as Ray, a middle aged woman with two kids who is in the midst of buying as well as desperately needing a new house. Unfortunately, the money she has been saving up for the new house gets stolen by her husband who takes off on a gambling spree. This act destroys the family’s economy. Ray has a low-paid part time job which can barely feed the family, let alone buy the new house. While trying to figure out how to be able to gather enough money for the new house, she comes across a part-time human smuggler, Lila Littlewolf. Ray soon realizes how much money she can make through the smuggling of illegal immigrants from Canada to US (over a frozen river which separates the boarder of the USA and Canada). Ray becomes a smuggler herself, working with Lila, but working in the smuggling business doesn’t go as smoothly as the women have hoped…

“Frozen River” deals with big issues: poverty, immigration and motherhood. The movie is pretty short (97 min.), but it’s so intense it feels a lot longer. Ray’s struggle to somehow satisfy the needs of her family single-handedly is heartbreaking to watch. She gets a rotten deal, a not uncommon thing for single mothers in the US (they are actually the most common group of people who are below the poverty level in the US). Ray is shown having a part time, minimum-wadge job, a problem that most single-parent women have and which places many of them below the poverty level. So the movie is fairly realistic about Ray’s problems, which makes the movie even grittier. For an American film, “Frozen River” gives a true and fair voice to poor families, and to the sometimes harsh realities of being a single mother. Also Lila, the other smuggler and a Mohawk, is a character the viewer bleeds for. She is also a single mother, but her child has been taken away from her by her mother-in-law. She has trouble getting jobs and feels mistreated by the white majority in the film. Lila at first acts harshly towards Ray, but after the two women get to know each other and realize that they are both getting the bad end of the social deal, she and Ray bond, resulting in a moving friendship. This part of the movie is particularly poignant since it’s one of the few decent female bonding’s portrayed in cinema.

Even if you meet most of the illegal immigrants briefly, Hunt gives us a pretty good idea of how vulnerable their situation is. Ray even seems somewhat lucky for not having to be one of them, even if just barely so. Hunt seems to want to point out how inhumane illegal smuggling can be and how we should put into place some kind of protection system for the illegal immigrants. Hunt also points out that Ray and Lila get a fairly small portion of the money for the smuggling, while the top dogs in the smuggling business are fairly rich and very savage.

“Frozen River” is a near-perfect work of cinematic art which I feel should be viewed by everyone interested in any of these issues. It is actually not that hard to find, either, since it was highly acclaimed by critics.

As a movie about illegal immigration/immigration, I thought this was one of the best movies I’ve seen on this subject.
Some other films of interest dealing with the issue of immigration are “An american tail” (1986) by Don Bluth and “Persepolis” (2007) by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi. Even if “Persepolis” is not strictly about immigration, it does deal with it in some parts of its 90 minutes or so length. It is also, like “Frozen River”- a great movie directed by a woman.
Does anyone hear now any good movies about immigration? Or has anyone seen “Frozen River” and would like to comment on it?

Lila and Ray

Afro-amerikanerna har alltid haft en stark egen kultur i USA. Speciellt i områdena som dans, musik och litteratur. Svarta författare behandlar de svåra ämnena som sin identitet, utsatthet och deras mörka historia på ett imponerande sätt. I den här artikeln tänkte jag berätta kort om Afro-amerikanska litteraturens genombrott och berätta om de mest kända författarna.

Harlem Renaissance var, enligt Nationalencyklopedin, en period av livligt kulturellt aktivitet som pågick runt 20- och 30 talet i Harlem, New York. Genom bland annat antologin ”The new Negro” skapades en ny känsla för svarta gemenskap och för vikten av ansträngningarna för att få sina röster hörda och lyftes fram betydelse i det afrikanska arvet. Men författarna diskuterade också utsattheten på grund av sitt ras och historia som slavar. Viktiga svarta författare som trädde fram under denna period är bland annat Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, och Jean Toomer. Efter den här perioden har många Afro-amerikanska författare fått möjligheten att få sin röst hört.

Den mest kända svarta författaren från USA är förmodligen Toni Morrison, som fick Nobelpriset i litteratur år 1993. Toni Morrison är född i Ohio 1931 och debuterade år 1970 med romanen ”De blåaste ögonen”. I den boken skildrar hon hur en ung svart flicka utsatts både för rasismen i världen och sexuellt våld i hemmet. Morrison skriver om det dubbla förtrycket som svarta flickor och kvinnor utsatts för på ett gripande sätt. Hennes kanske näst mest kända bok är ”Solomons sång” från 1977. I den boken skildrar Toni Morrison de hårda levnads villkorna i USA som svarta människorna levde under tiden från 30 talet till sent 60-talet. Hon berättar om en ung mans uppväxt från en pojke till en mogen man och samtidigt hela hans familj saga. Här använder Toni Morrison Magisk Realismen; hon begagnar fantasi elementer för symbolik. Till exempel när huvudpersonen Milkman lär sig att flyga betyder det att han har blivit självständigt och klok och på så sätt kan ”befria sig”. Hennes mest kända roman är ”Älskade” från 1987. Toni Morrison skriver om slaveriet och fattigdom. Berättelsen är tragisk och tonen i boken är bitter, och hon använder mystiska dimensioner för dramatik, alltså Magisk Realismen igen. Även i den här romanen beskrivs en familj saga. Huvudpersonen Seth har en mörk hemlighet. Ett av hennes många barn, som heter Älskade, dog på ett konstigt sätt, men nu kommer hon tillbaks från döden som en ung vuxen kvinna – och skapar kaos. Romanens berättelse symboliserar de förflutnas grepp på oss och hur man lider för saker man har gjort och vilka hemska villkor man lever under i fattigdom och förtryck. Morrison skildrar ofta kvinnor som extra utsatta, eftersom svarta männens traditionella beteende är inte alltid så trevligt mot kvinnorna.

Ralph Ellison (1914-1994) är mest känd för sin debut bok ”Osynlig Man” från 1954, som delvis är självbiografisk. Boken handlar om en svarts mans utveckling till självinsikt. Den utforskar rasismen, utnyttjandet och manipulation inom politisk aktivismen och svart identitet. Huvudpersonen förblir vara namnlös genom hela boken och befinner världen han lever i obegriplig. Ellison ansågs av många vara arvtagare för författare Richard Wright i sin skildring av samtida svarta verklighet, men attackerades av svarta nationalister på 1960-talet. Efter denna kritik och jämförelsen hade Ralph Ellison svårt att pressa fram en ny bok. Han har också skrivit viktiga essäer om svart musik kultur som är samlade i böckerna ”Shadow and act” från 1984 och ”Going to the Territory” från 1985.

Richard Wright (1908-60) började sitt författar karriär i Chicago 1934 med att skriva om hur de svarta människorna har formats av det vita samhället. Romanen ”Son av sitt land” från 1940, som handlar om en svart pojkes svåra uppväxt i Chicagos slum, lyfte Wright till en av århundradets mest inflytelserika Afro-amerikanska författare. Han har också skrivit en självbiografi ”Black Boy” från 1970, där han skildrar sin familjs liv i fattigdom och deras hårda kamp att ta sig ur denna miljö. Efter kriget bodde Richard Wright i Paris tills hans död i 1960. Där skrev han bland annat romanen ”The Outsider” 1954, som handlar om en svart mans engagemang i Kommunistpartiet. Wright själv tillhörde till Kommunistisktpartiet under en period.
Zora Neale Hurston (1903-60) anses av många litteratur forskare att vara en av de viktigaste kvinnliga prosaförfattarna. Till och med Toni Morrison har sagt att ”(Hurston) är en av de största författare av vår tid”. Hennes studier i antropologi och folkloristik präglade romaner ”Mules and Men” från 1935 och ”Their eyes were watching god” från 1937. Däremot ”Dust tracks on a road” är en självbiografi. ”Their eyes were watching god” är Hurstons absolut mest kända verk och författaren Alice Walker har sagt att ”det finns ingen bok som är viktigare för mig än den”. Romanens huvudperson är kvinnan Janie, som berättar historien om sitt liv till en väninna. Janies liv har präglats av hennes tre äktenskap till tre väldigt olika män. I boken gestaltar Neale Hurston en stark bild av hur det är att vara kvinna, och hur det är att vara svart. Så som många andra viktiga böcker, är inte den här boken heller bara omtyckt; till exempel författaren Richard Wrights kritik mot boken är att eftersom alla svarta karaktärer talar extremt dåligt engelska i romanen, ger den bara en bra möjlighet till vita att skratta åt de svarta. Och han fortsatt: ”boken ger ingen antydning att vara en seriös värk”. Ralph Ellison har i sin tur kritiserat boken för att den är oseriös och att den är mer ”en elak parodi”. År 1979 författaren Alice Walker utgav en samling av Hurstons texter med titeln ”I love myself when I am laughing”.

Langston Hughes (1902-67) var en poet, författare och teater aktivist. Han debuterade 1926 med diktsamlingen ”The weary blues”. Under 30-talet skrev han prosa där rasfördomarnas absurditet blottades och en radikal social politik förespråkades. ”The ways of white folks” är samling av hans satiriska noveller. Hughes grundade svarta teatergrupper i Harlem, New York, Chicago o.s.v. Hans pjäser är samlade i ”Five plays” från 1963. I hans serie av böcker som handlar om Simple (Till exempel ”Simple speaks his mind”) låter Hughes en naiv ung svart man, huvudpersonen Simple, bli hjälte i historier där maktens män blir dragna vid näsan och där de allra fattigaste människornas bekymmer blir synliga. Som många andra Afro-amerikanska författare har Hughes skrivit självbiografiska verk, de två romanerna ”The Big Sea” från 1940 och ”I wonder when I wander” från 1956.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) var både författare och dramatiker. Han är född och uppväxt i Harlem och Manhattan. I 1940-talet umgicks han mycket med Richard Wright, som också inspirerade och imponerade honom. James Baldwin första essä publicerades 1946, men det var så sent som 1953 han debuterade i skönlitteraturen med romanen ”Gå och förkunna det på bergen”. Han blev en känd samhällskritiker och uppskattad författare väldigt snabbt. Först fick Baldwin berömd för sina essäsamlingar, som ”Ingen känner mitt namn” från 1961 och ”Elden nästa gång” från 1963. Baldwins verk bygger på många av hans egna erfarenheter och upplevelser. Särskilt i ”Ingen känner mitt namn” skildrar han sina möten med Richard Wright, Ingmar Bergman och Norman Mailer. Under 60- och 70- talet blev Baldwin en mycket respekterad röst för svarta i deras kamp för sina rättigheter. Baldwin var även öppet homosexuell och skrev i sina romaner om homosexuellas dåliga livs situation och deras kamp för bättre position i Amerikanska samhället. De två mest kända böcker med det här ämnet är ”Giovannis rum” från 1956 och ”Another Country” från 1962. Att skriva eller tala om ett sådant här ämne är ovanligt i svart litteratur kulturen och genom att lyfta fram ämnet Homosexualitet skiljer han starkt från de andra författarna jag har berättat om. Baldwin fick hård kritik för sina böcker från bland annat ”The Black Panthers”, som tyckte att Baldwin gjorde helt fel när han jämförde homosexuellas situation med svartas situation. Som aktivist i kampen för svartas rättigheter avstådde Baldwin från allt våld, i likhet med Martin Luther King.

Nella Larsen (1891-1964) författare från Harlem Renaissance perioden har fått mycket uppmärksamhet fast hon har skrivit bara två romaner ”Quicksand” från 1928 och ”Passing” från 1929. Larsens första bok berättar om en halvvit och halvsvart tjej Helga. Hela hennes liv präglas av rasismen och sexismen, och hennes eviga sökande för identitet. Larsens karaktär Helga är annorlunda; hennes vita mor kom från Danmark och pappan var från Indien (men ändå svart). Helgas bakgrund som i boken skildras är unikt inom Afro-amerikanska litteratur. Berättelsen handlar också om hennes sökande och längtan för att hitta en man och kärlek. Larsens andra roman ”Passing” handlar också om en tjej som är halvvit och halvsvart men som ser ut som en vit person. Hon lever i rädslan av att upptäckas, att det skulle komma fram att pappan var svart. När hon möter en barndoms vän så rivs allt upp och ner. Boken är väldigt diskuterad på grund av sin utforskning av ras och identitet, men också för att det kan tolkas att det finns ”romantisk” kärlek mellan de två tjejkompisar. Dock den stora uppskattningen hon fick av sina romaner slutade Larsen skriva och blev sjuksköterska istället.

De sista två författare jag vill berätta om är Alice Walker och Maya Angelou.
Alice Walker (1944) är känd feministisk författare. År 1982 kom ut hennes berömda bok ”Purpurfärgen” som också blev filmatiserad och succé med samma titel, regisserat av Steven Spielberg. En annan av hennes många romaner värd att nämna är ”Omskärelsen” från 1992. I den boken berättar hon om könsstympning av kvinnor i Afrika. Inte heller ett helt vanlig ämne inom svart litteratur, och desto viktig.

Maya Angelou (1928) har skrivit mycket poesi, men är mest känd för sin bok ”Jag vet varför burfågeln sjunger”, som är del ett ut av hennes självbiografi serie av 3 böcker. I romanen skildrar hon sin uppväxt som svart kvinna i Sydstaterna under ett svår och dramatisk tid. Denna bok har kommenterats av James Baldwin: ”Ett testamente av en svart syster som markerar början på en ny period inom hjärnan och hjärtan av svarta män och kvinnor… Inte sedan min barndom har jag blivit så rörd… Hennes skildring är en biblisk undersökning av livet i skuggan av döden”.

Det är svårt att inte bli imponerad av alla dessa fantastiska författare. Afro-amerikanska litteratur är fylld av vassa, skarpa, känsliga röster, som skriver inte bara om hur det är att vara svart, kvinna, eller fattig, men hur det är att vara en människa, och att vara en liten person i ett stort, hårt, och fördomsfullt samhälle. De skriver om strävan efter trygghet och överlevnad, om kampen för mänskliga rättigheter och kampen för jämställdhet