pop culture

/Tag: pop culture

Capitalism killed the flying car.

David Graeber on how capitalism (specifically, the boom of neoliberal capitalism in the ’80s and ’90s) has, contra popular opinion, ground “big idea” style technological innovation to a halt.

Also nice to see Graeber still using this essay as an excuse to bang his favorite drum, i.e. how much he hates doing academic administrative work (which is also something he covered extensively in his book), although to his credit he does link it into a broader criticism of how university adoption of neoliberal ideas like branding, competition, and marketing have ruined academic research.

2019-03-22T09:18:36+10:009th September, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, pop culture|

Displaced princes of diaspora.

Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, different in many ways […] share similarities.  Both follow the plight of a second-generation immigrant of modest means who wishes to claim a place in a world of opulence and wealth, a place that is imagined simultaneously as ‘foreign’ and as an ‘original homeland’. Rachel, the protagonist of Crazy Rich Asians, visits her boyfriend’s home in Singapore, to be confronted with a world of nearly unimaginable wealth, comfort and beauty. The film’s opening quote, ‘Let China sleep, for when she awakens she will shake the world’ does not represent a Singapore remotely representative of the country. Instead, it shows a world of the mega-wealthy Chinese, who seem to signify a kind of ‘authenticity’ and untaintedness; they refer to Rachel as a ‘banana’ – yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Similarly, Eric Killmonger in Black Panther goes to Wakanda to claim his rightful place. Wakanda signifies both original ‘Africa’ and a kind of futuristic utopia. It is populated by Africans who are rich, talented, beautiful, and comfortable in their own skin, as opposed to the African-American Eric, who is represented as being damaged, fearful, and full of rage.

This hierarchy and perspective essentially places the working-class diasporics in both films as the underdogs, while the elite inhabitants of the non-western nations are in a position of power and desirability.

Kavita Bhanot and Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi on colonial fantasy.

This is from a really interesting longer essay that looks at the intersection between race and class, specifically in media produced by American creators of color (and, more often than not, sold for the consumption of white audiences).

Also definitely worth reading the essay it cites critical of Afrofuturism—at least in the context of authors from Africa, as opposed to diasporic authors—from South African novelist Mohale Mashigo.1

  1. And good luck getting the song she references out of your head. []
2019-03-06T08:52:37+10:002nd September, 2019|Tags: culture, pop culture, sff|

Buh-byyyyeeeee…

The Campbells are gone (or at least renamed).

Also big shout-out to the announcement post’s hand-wringing description of Campbell’s provocative editorials and opinions on race, slavery, and other matters, which.

2019-08-28T08:02:19+10:0028th August, 2019|Tags: books, culture, fandom, hugo awards, pop culture, sff|

Campbell dunking season.

Because ’tis the season, archive.org apparently has a scanned copy of Collected Editorials from Analog, a selection of John W. Campbell’s op-eds collated by Harry Harrison—he’s the guy who wrote the novel Soylent Green1 was very loosely based on—seemingly for the purpose of… dunking on John W. Campbell. Content warnings for the usual Campbell garbage, especially virulent racism.

For the tl;dr version, James Davis Nicoll did a review back in 2014 and, well. The title alone really should give it away.

I mean, y’all know I kinda side-eye so-called “hard” science fiction in general, but… ye-ee-eah. Given that this is the sort of garbage believed in by its so-called “father”…

  1. It’s people! []
2019-08-22T15:46:16+10:0022nd August, 2019|Tags: books, fandom, pop culture, sff|

Ramshackle genre.

John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Amazing Stories, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.

But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.

Jeannette Ng accepts an award.

I was wondering why I was suddenly getting so many hits again on my old John Campbell post

(I’m certainly not the first person to’ve pointed out that Campbell was an asshole, but I think I was kinda the most recent person to point out that the award really shouldn’t be named after him? Either way: still totally should rename that, hey.)

2019-08-20T15:52:53+10:0020th August, 2019|Tags: culture, fandom, hugo awards, pop culture, sff|

Orange Skull.

I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travellers, but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realised that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction.

International fascism again looms large … and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down […] Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.

Art Spiegelman (re)learns that everything is political.

Timely reminder that the CEO of Marvel donates substantial sums of money to Trump, as well as functions as a political advisor, and is actively involved in censoring any criticism Marvel employees attempt to make about the regime in the name of being “apolitical”.

(Also that last line probably could do with a whole essay of unpacking all on its own because… wow. What a massive, potentially unintentional, neg against the superhero genre. I mean… I’m into it. But also… wow.)

2019-08-19T08:20:57+10:0019th August, 2019|Tags: comics, politics, pop culture, usa|

Universal comfort.

And not all biases are as obvious or culturally insidious. Maybe you just think no one under 21 should ever be depicted or mentioned as having sex because you’re under 21 and find the idea of sex incredibly distressing. And you’re allowed to find it distressing! No one should ever coerce you into having sex before you’re ready, whether that happens when you’re 17, 27, 97, or never! But if someone writes a YA novel where they draw on their own experiences of losing their virginity at 17, and it makes you uncomfortable – they are not sexualizing you. That YA author has no idea you, as an individual, exist. Instead of leaping to that explanation for why you find yourself uncomfortable, consider the chance that what you’re actually reacting to is someone portraying the experience of being a teenager in a way that you don’t identify completely with, and being challenged with the non-universality of your experience is what’s making you uncomfortable. 

‘Lena on universality.

I think this is a really interesting way of framing this conversation, particularly because it explicitly states that reactionary fandom anti “discomfort”1 with media—despite usually being framed in “woke” language—is coming from exactly the same damn place as white boys who get mad about girls and people of color in “their” A Star War (or whatever).

  1. See also: people unironically using the word “comfy” to describe media, which is both a huge red flag and massive berserk button for me. Yay! []
2019-02-07T13:23:24+10:0024th July, 2019|Tags: culture, pop culture|