Weird Girl: WOC Representation in Fantasy and SCI-FI
Welcome to Weird Girl! "Weird Girl" is a new series of articles highlighting
WOC's accomplishments and representation in alternative music, literature, films, art, etc. Inspired by everyone from Yoko Ono to to Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Janelle Monáe to Rashida Jones to Michaela Coel. This first installment focuses on a powerful genre close to my heart: Science Fiction and Fantasy.
WOC have always played leading roles
in social movements- so why not the fiction inspired by them?
As in other lists of this nature, the following is incomplete. This is my attempt to shine a light on representations both small and ground breaking. Game changers like Nichelle Nichols and Sonequa Martin-Green's "Star Trek" characters, as well as small, supporting characters like "Deadpool 2"'s Yukio- portrayed as stereotypes- but brimming with dimension and possibility, just beneath the bubbly, sexy, or scowling surface.
For a genre hellbent on portraying the plight of the underdogs- allegories of class struggle, the civil rights movement, lgbtq rights, and even the Muslim registry- the on and off screen representation of POC- specifically WOC, is severely lacking! It is no coincidence that the "Star War"'s universe's FIRST EVER major WOC character portrayed by Loan (billed as Kelly Marie) Tran, has faced cruel backlash from the white, males of the fandom- mostly targeting her weight, appearance, and Asian ethnicity. It's as if they haven't been paying an ounce of attention to the major themes of the "Star Wars" universe and it's heroes! Ms. Tran's character, Rose, is an ex-slave driven by love of her sister (Star Wars has a lot going on as far as family plot lines and iconic plot twists, but "The Last Jedi" is largely driven by the story of the films first EVER sisters and their love and sacrifices for The Resistance- fantastically, they also happen to be WOC!!!) and the survival of The Resistance. Any nerds claiming to be "With The Resistance," but relentlessly bullying Loan Tran online, should probably reevaluate what exactly they don't like about her. Rose, like Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holdo, is a hero! Rose even delivers the most profound message of all the newer films! The Last Jedi is largely a story of sacrificing one's self for the greater good- until there are only a couple dozen Resistance fighters left. When Rose says, "That's how we're going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love," it's in contrast to Oscar Issac's Poe and his impulsive and reckless ego-driven actions. Perhaps she is also speaking to Trump era SJWs? Not that we shouldn't fight- but that we should fight to protect each other and our cultures above all else.
Sci-fi is capable of representing more nuanced concepts in race and representation- if we're open to it. In "The Gifted" on Fox, Blink is a Korean American mutant who not only has the coolest power of teleportation and creating portals- she's multi-dimensional, she's sweet, protective, independent, smart, and funny. She also doesn't shy away from speaking on the concept of "passing." In the "X-Men" universe, mutants are the minorities- some pass as human, and some don't. She doesn't- and as a result of that, she has faced struggles and ostracization her passing mutant friends haven't. "The Gifted" isn't perfect- as a latina, I hate that the only latina character is a highly stereotyped Colombian drug lords daughter ::MAJOR EYE ROLL:: (and also how are they always wearing makeup, heels, and form-fitting H&M styles in the mutant underground) But three out of the four main mutants are POC (I feel a mixed Native/Asian couple is in the works!!!), and the white character of Polaris is portrayed as a de-stigmatized woman with bipolar disorder. Also, an important representation. She doesn't allow her (latino) boyfriend to infantalize her because of her bipolar, and when she does something the others disagree with, it's Blink that points out that her friends shouldn't immediately question her mental soundness- i.e. call her crazy.
The frustration with my various fandoms- is that they are perceived as dominated by white, nerdy males by mainstream media (from "The Simpson's" Comic Book Guy to "The Big Bang Theory") , by white people, and by POC who might be turned off by this misrepresentation of Sci-Fi and fantasy fans. In a 2015 episode of Franchesca Ramsey's "Decoded"- she went to New York's Comic Con and asked POC to name 7 Superheros of Color. There is no absence of POC fans. "I love a good black Sailor Moon!' declares one POC - "you see all these people in their interpretations of their characters and you can be whatever you want to be." Another woman says, "I'm Spanish and I'm Spiderwoman," but that she doesn't see herself as "latina spiderwoman"- she just wants to be her favorite hero! There is nothing wrong with seeing ourselves in white characters- or even male characters. I loved Leia growing up, but I wanted to be more like Luke- I wanted to be the hero- the Jedi! So I would imagine a young, latina jedi prodigy of sorts when I would play "Star Wars" with a stick I colored with markers to be my lightsaber.
White "nerdy" men do not get to own this genre inspired by the struggles of the marginalized against their oppressors,
they should not get to intimidate the women and girls and POC
who share their passion for sci-fi
with oppressive and bullying language and actions.
But- clearly dressing up as our interpretations of existing white heroes isn't enough. As one woman Franchesca interviews says, "So much of what we see in the media as people of color is not positive, and to be able to see ourselves as heroes creates heroes within us." DAMN! Franchesca congratulates her on her perfect soundbite- and she's spot on! Not only do we need more Octavia Butler's to write the stories from WOC perspectives- we need more WOC directors, casting agents, and producers. We need more Janelle Monáe's- unashamed of her interests- of her weirdness, her love and passion of afro-fruturism and story telling- and applying it to her musical talent and unique style. We need to be taken seriously when we're outraged by the white-washing of the few POC characters we have. White "nerdy" men do not get to own this genre inspired by the struggles of the marginalized against their oppressors, they do not get to intimidate the women and girls and POC who share their passion for sci-fi with oppressive and bullying language and actions. Loan aka Kelly Marie Tran just published a piece in the New York Times entitled: "I Won't Be Marginalized By Online Harassment." After the bullying and harassment she suffered at the hands of "Star Wars" fanboys- Loan deleted her social media. Now- She's taking a stand against cruelty and bigotry for herself, and other young POC- just like her character, Resistance hero Rose would. Yo soy con la resistencia tambien, Loan!
Again, the list bellow is incomplete- my knowledge is limited and even if I listed every WOC who has ever made an appearance in roles large and small (and I'm happy to add more with your suggestions)-it's still far from enough! WOC have always played leading roles in social movements- so why not the fiction inspired by them? Let's support and celebrate the women bellow, and support our friends, our nieces, our sisters of color interested in story-telling, directing, acting, etc. to share their voice and become our new heroes.
Star Trek (the original series) -Lt. Uhura
Avatar- Neytiri, Star Trek- Uhura,
Guardians of the Galaxy- Gamora
Star Wars TLJ- Rose Tico
Star Wars TLJ- Paige Tico
Metropolis, The ArchAndroid, Electric Lady- Cindi Mayweather,
Dirty Computer- Jane 57821
Dirty Computer- Zen, Thor Ragnarok-Valkyrie,
Westworld- Charlotte Hale, Annihilation- Josie Radek
Annihilation- Anya Thorensen
Fan Bingbing in X-Men Days of Future Past,
Jaime Chung inThe Gifted
Halle Berry & Alexandra Shipp
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon- Yu Shu Lien
Star Trek Discovery- Emperor Philippa Georgiou
The Walking Dead- Sasha,
Star Trek Discovery-Specialist Michael Burnham
Marvel & X Men Cinematic Universe: Yukio
Rila Fukushima in The Wolverine,
Shiori Kutsuna in Deadpool 2
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets- Bubble
Lost in Space (Netflix)- Judy Robinson
The Walking Dead- Rosita Espinoza
Deadpool 2- Domino
X-Men Apocalypse- Psylocke
Lana Condor all too briefly in X-Men Apocalypse
Westworld- Maeve, Solo- Val
Lynda Carter (who is Mexican American):
Black Pather- Queen Ramonda,
American Horror Story- Marie Laveau, Desiree Dupree, Ramona Royale, Lee Harris/ Monet Tumusiime
Letitia Wright :
Black Panther- Shuri &
Black Mirror "Black Museum" - Nish
Black Panther- Okoye,
The Walking Dead-Michonne
Lupita Nyong'o :
Star Wars- Maz Kanata
Black Panther- Nakia
Star Wars (Cameo)
Black Mirror "USS Callister"- Shania
Patricia Velasquez: the first indigenous model :
The Mummy Returns - Meela / Anck-Su-Namun
Marvel Comics-Miss America
Resident Evil- Rain
Avitar- Trudy Chacón
Lost- Ana Lucia Cortez
Kill Bill- O-Ren Ishii
Game of Thrones- Missandei
Indira Anne Varma:
Game of Thrones- Obara Sand
Jessica Yu Li Henwick:
Game of Thrones- Nymeria Sand
Star Wars: The Force Awakens- X-Wing Pilot Jessika Pava
Marvel Netflix Universe- Colleen Wing
Firefly/Serenity- Zoë Washburne
Firefly/ Serenity- Inara
Stargate SG-1- Adria
Men in Black II- Laura Vasquez
Sin City- Gail
Marvel's Netflix Universe- Claire Temple
The Divergent Series- Christina
X Men: First Class- Angel Salvadore
Mad Max: Fury Road- Toast the Knowing
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them- Leta Lestrange*
*Since JK Rowling has stubbornly decided to support known abuser Johnny Deep in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them... I will sadly not be able to see a WOC in a prominent role in my favorite fantasy series.... however, if you were lucky enough to see it- you might have seen Broadway's...
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Play- Hermione
last but not least...
Kindred, Parable of the Sower, Fledgling