Demagogues Like Us

During a news conference earlier this week, president Vladimir Putin praised Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as an “absolute leader in the U.S. presidential race.” He also added compliments like ” brilliant and talented,” to describe Mr. Trump.  After hearing about these compliments, Mr. Trump responded by saying, “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Mr. Trump went on to note Mr. Trump’s high poll numbers. In a separate interview with Joe Scarborough, he also mentioned, in an indirect insult to our President, ” at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” During that interview the host, Joe Scarborough mentioned that Putin has killed journalists and political opponents in the past but Mr. Trump casually replied by saying that the U.S. does the same thing.

Wow.

Image courtesy of: The BBC

Now you can see how this is concerning for various reasons. Firstly, Mr. Putin sanctioned the unlawful annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine just to keep the Ukraine from developing closer ties with the west. That alone flies in the face of American values of independence and free rule. Secondly, Mr. Putin has utilized the media, much like Mr. Trump to push their agenda–Mr. Putin directly and Mr. Trump indirectly.  Thirdly, to not condemn violence against a people group, and actually condone it, is not a virtue that a current or potential president should have.

Both New York Times journalist Charles Blow and Professor Michael Signer wrote interesting  articles on demagogues—-Singer’s piece was in the Washington Post . In Singer’s article he quotes author James Fenimore Cooper who described demagogues as meeting four criteria, “they posture as men of the common people; they trigger waves of powerful emotion; they manipulate this emotion for political benefit; and they threaten or break established principles of governance.” When you hear Vladimir Putin railing against Western involvement in Russia’s affairs or Donald Trump talking about placing a wall to keep immigrants out you can see some of Fenimore’s criteria being fulfilled in both men.

One of the interesting things is that these characteristics are seen in long-time Superman arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. He is a character who defines himself as a man of the people, defending the world from the evil alien, Superman. This is rhetoric that we have seen in our political discourse before.

In the series Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, it explores this characters thought process—this is someone who truly sees himself as the good guy in this story.

Image Courtesy of: dcwikia.com

But thankfully in the end the good guy wins out. That, at least, gives us hope.

Star Sisters

No, I’m not referring to Venus and Serena Williams but I am referring to the new additions to the Star Wars franchise, Lupita Nyongo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Ms. Nyongo will be in the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Ms. Mbatha-Raw will be in Episode VIII due in May 2017.

Lupita Nyongo. Image Courtesy of: TheAfricachannel.com

Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Photo Courtesy of: Comicbookmovie.com

As someone of Ghanaian descent it’s cool to see two women of African descent (Mbatha -Raw from South Africa via the UK, and Nyongo from Kenya via Mexic0). This is very great news when it comes to seeing Women of Color in Sci Fi and comicbook related properties.

On 60 Minutes today, the director of The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams was asked by Bill Whitaker about the diversity that is in The Force Awakens. His response was that it was important to him to have a film that reflected the audience in which it was being displayed to. Now to me that’s very forward thinking. When you have directors like Ridley Scott, who make movies like Gods of Egypt portraying a biblical event with a virtually all Caucasian cast (not the least bit historically accurate), its nice to see a director making a movie that accurately reflects the audience that makes up the current movie going populace.

This is just the beginning though. I look forward to seeing Women of Color in more prominent roles in genre films, whether it be superhero movies, sci fi, or fantasy. Could you imagine someone like Kerry Washington playing the commander of a star ship, or Teyonah Parris playing Captain Marvel, or Tika Sumpter playing an Elvish Queen? That would be awesome.

What do you think? Would Kerry Washington make a good Starbuck or Candice Patton a good ice maiden? Please share your thoughts below. I’m looking forward to a lively conversation.

Respect Your King

Recently Entertainment Weekly ran a cover story on the new Captain America: Civil War film which will be out in May. Like most fanboys and girls I am very excited to see this film. It marks the live action debut of one of the most anticipated superheroes of all, Black Panther. If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I am a big Black Panther fan. Ever since I first saw him in the Avengers comics I thought he was alright but not that interesting. It wasn’t until Christopher J. Priest’s run on the series that I realized how powerful this guy was. T’Challa is the king of the most technologically advanced nation in the world, Wakanda (To all my geographically impaired people, please don’t look it up on a map, it doesn’t exist). He was an awesomely intelligent leader who could outmaneuver Captain America and has the technological brilliance to even make Tony Stark look like a Luddite.

Now imagine my disappointment when I saw the cover.

Now there are a number of things that I take issue with regarding this cover. Firstly, how are you going to place the newly introduced character into the background? That’s not the treatment Entertainment Weekly gave Wonder Woman on its Batman V Superman special issue. Just notice the difference…

 

Wonder Woman is the newly introduced character to the DC Cinematic Universe (We’ve already seen Batman, albeit in his Dark Knight Trilogy, recently). She looks bold, confident, and second to no one. Now, with the Black Panther they have him looking like the third wheel that nobody wants. Seriously? I know that the cover editors probably never overtly intended to disrespect him but then again whoever intentionally disrespects someone these days? They just do it accidentally…like that’s any better.

Secondly, they compare him to one of the reality show Housewives, pick your version, Orange County, New York, Atlanta. My money’s on Atlanta because he’s a black character and they have a predominantly black cast. But I digress. Before I leave this point, speaking of Atlanta, the Atlanta Black Star also wrote a piece discussing the EW Black Panther cover issue.

Thirdly, simple editorial reasoning says if you’re going to introduce a new character you put them up front. That’s like introducing the new LeBron James shoes behind a Jump Man logo for Jordans. That simply does not make any sense whatsoever. When you place the character behind you’re saying a number of things. Firstly, the character doesn’t matter. Secondly, he’s weak. Thirdly, we were too lazy to make our cover correspond with the interior content. All of those things rightly rile up a fanboy or girl.

Granted, they do a very good job on the interior in covering the character and discussing with Chadwick Boseman, the actor portraying the character, the intricacies of the character. But, as the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Many casual moviegoers who aren’t familiar with the character will look at the cover and say, “Who’s that (literal) Black Guy behind Captain America and Iron Man?” and then shrug their shoulders and walk off. It’s imperative that you treat all of your characters with respect, not just the ones with Arc reactors and stars on their chests.

Cheers.