This guest blog post first appeared on Suga Butta, and is being shared here with the author’s permission, in its original glory. ~ T.
Y’all, PoCs need to watch out. If you believe what movies and TV tell you, we’re going to be extinct in the next 1,000 years. Or at least become an endangered species. Haven’t you noticed? I know cats who can count the number of PoCs in the media approved future on one hand…and cats don’t even have hands. Think about it, when have you ever seen more than…5, PoC in a movie or show about the supposed future? And when is The Future ever really about them.
Let’s start simple: The Jetsons, a cartoon program about the future as it was thought to be from the viewpoint of the 1960s, popular for decades since. Can you find the raisin in the bowl of rice? I thought not. Not one at all — I guess they figured crack would kill us all off by the 80s. There are excuses that could be made, but, there were a lot of cartoons coming out around that time, and many of them included at least 1 PoC at some point.
Disaster movies have been a summer boon since time began, or at least since the advent of safe pyrotechnics. If you’ll notice in some of the more popular ones, there is always 1 PoC, and they are usually The President, or The Scientist, or The Someone Else Who’s Job It Is To Fix This Shit But Can’t Because Duh They Are A PoC What Did You Think. This same concept applies to women in the genre: they can’t get anything right, either (of course, like the question of PoC, there are exceptions to the rule, but our point here is that it’s still the rule). Indeed, the only person immune to this theory is Will Smith, because White people really enjoy innoffensive rap music.
The most recent inductee into this category is the unfortunately hot mess that is 2012. It gets you excited — there’s 3, maybe even 4 persons of color, and they may even have a diversity of ethnicities included in there. BUT, as we have learned in the past from films like Deep Impact, having a Black president means shit’s about to get real bad, and it does. The East Indian (Scientist, don’t forget that) is the first to go, because, DUH THEY ARE POC WHAT DID YOU THINK™. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton make it, but they’re the only ones who do, because they have high-powered connections, and how dare you accuse this movie of being racist… Black Love, y’all. The only average humans to survive the apocalypse are John Cusack and his family, because the movie is about them, obvi. And there’s a smattering of Chinese workers who Benevolent St Cusack helps stow away on the rescue vessel. Otherwise, the other survivors are all just your regular, run of the mill Rich White Folks with a handful of tokenly wealthy Saudis. Oh, and guess what, when all is said and done, they end up in South Africa.
If we go far enough into the future, we go full circle back to Sexy Savages Who Need A White Savior. Thanks, The Time Machine (2002), you are so progressive!
Now, sometimes the future is “mixed race”, and by that we mean some areas re-adopt feudal class constructs in which the lighter your skin is the higher class you are, and also all of the distinctly dark-skinned people all now live in what used to be a hotbed of slavery, closed off from all the regular folks. Oh, and they’re all farmers, because sharecropping is now futurecropping. But, if you pull yourself up by the bootstraps high enough, you might end up in the highest class of all, where no one cares what color you are, some people even have TIGER STRIPES (I know!!!)…but you’ll probably end up in a menial position of service as opposed to someone with influence. I can’t wait for the future, it’s so different from now.
This is multiple punches in the gut. Especially if you’re East Asian, this is like, well, the Hadouken of cultural appropriation. The world literally explodes, there’s a war, people die, and the The Man packs up your culture and moves away with it, like, lightyears away. It’s the equivalent of when someone on Law And Order is murdered and on top of that the murderer takes the money out of their wallet, and all of their jewelry and gives it away as Christmas gifts like it’s no big deal. You have East Asian (particularly Chinese) food, dress, language, and minor cultural customs… but no East Asians are anywhere to be found. What happened? Did they vaporize into a mist? ALL OF THEM? Other PoC don’t fare much better: there are three Black characters over the course of 14 episodes and a movie, and one character that can reasonably be described as “ethnic”. They do all say words, and they are all pretty badass. But still.
There’s a whole world out there that can be discussed: books could be (and have been) written on every example out there. There’s also the Fake-Out Future, in which TV shows and movies make you think the future is diverse by introducing integrated alien cultures and characters, they’ll tell you it’s an allegory for race relations in the present (hello, Avatar). But, ask yourself this: when you wash off all the makeup and prosthetics, how many times will you see a PoC?
* This same argument applies when people try to use supernatural creatures (vampires, demons, werewolves), for the same reason.