Tag Archive | Minority issues

What’s Up XTRA: Eddie Nestor, comedy acting and life in Hackney

This item was filmed as part of the Sky One-commissioned show, What’s Up. You can find more of their videos here.

Eddie Nestor is a veteran sketch comedian and radio host, currently appearing on BBC London 97.9 radio station.

This video clip is part of a larger interview with Eddie Nestor for the Arts & Culture magazine show, What’s Up. The main interview can be found in Season 8, Episode 1.

I acted as Researcher and Item Producer for this item. I hope you enjoy it!

Subversion Through Destruction: Embracing The Queer Power Fantasy

c918be86c72432bdd57c9e51e148f120

This feature was originally written for One Hit Pixel and can be found here.

Sometimes you just feel like breaking something.

Sometimes, you’ll feel better once you’ve absolutely dominated your aggressors, laid waste to the weak, and are told that you’re a force to be reckoned with. Doing that down the pub on a Friday night will put you in a holding cell, but thankfully we have video games to provide that experience instead.

It’s the power fantasy, being whisked away to somewhere where you’re stronger, smarter and more capable than what you can achieve in meatspace, and you’re awed for it. It’s probably the easiest experience to obtain in our current gaming landscape – almost every action game is about empowerment beyond your normal means.

sodiverseverywhite

However, this empowerment comes in precious few flavours. Either you’re a dashing white guy with a cocksure attitude or you’re a grizzled white guy with a macho attitude.

It’s not random coincidence – the image of the ‘bald space marine’ been an in-joke among gaming enthusiasts for years. To indulge in a power fantasy in a game is to invariably be straight, white and male.

Being only one third of those things, I find those experiences rather restricting in multiple ways. From a purely academic standpoint, having the same protagonists regurgitated is woefully trite. But emotionally, it’s rather chilling – even alienating – to not see someone like you act in a role of power.

As a black person, am I not allowed to see myself lead (in ways other than raw muscle)? As a gay person, am I not allowed to goddamn see myself in any capacity?

Fortunately, Porpentine’s games raise two middle fingers to that, with long fake nails and chunky diamond rings.

Continue reading

Media Matters: The 7 o’clock news with Shaquille O’Neal

 This feature can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.

The other day, I was in a conversation on the internet about the development of an indie video game. The main characters were to have voice actors, and it just so happened one of the cast was a black guy.

The number of people who suddenly yelled “He should be voiced by Samuel L. Jackson!” was overwhelming.

It made me wonder about the presence of black actors in major releases these days. Setting aside that the internet is filled with idiots, is Samuel L. Jackson the only option Hollywood has for ‘the black guy’?
 
Well, no, I’m being hyperbolic – we also have Will Smith. If the role requires someone older, or a narrator, Morgan Freeman’s usually the port of call.

There are others (no need to bring up each name of every rapper who’s turned a hand to film, for example), but they’re very rarely cut out for anything other than a comedy relief role.

If Hollywood needs a British black actor for whatever reason, they’re stuck. Ocean’s Twelve had to settle for Don Cheadle putting on a disgustingly poor Cockney accent.

That’s not to say that there’s a total dearth of black actors out there, it’s just that they often don’t seem to get the kind of high profile exposure that other actors of a similar (or even worse) skill level get.

Continue reading

Feminist comedian to take centre stage at Wandsworth Arts Festival

This feature can also be found on the South West Londoner, here.

Rosie Wilby has been putting in an appreciated queer feminist angle into stand-up, music and filmmaking since she was at university, and her experiences are coming together in her new performance at the Wandsworth Arts Festival this Thursday.
Called Nineties Woman, she talks about her self-identification as a feminist and the newspaper she worked on at university, in a mash up of live performance and documentary.
Studying at the University of York, the campus fostered a wide range of student publications, and started working on Matrix, a ‘zine’ for women.
Zine culture (short for ‘fanzine’) revolves around amateur production magazines dedicated to specific interests. Because of the low barrier to entry, it meant that people who felt that their demographic or interests weren’t reflected in professional media could still get their voices heard.
“It was very much put together in a lo-fi DIY style which seems appropriate, as there was a huge fanzine scene at the time which has now come back,” she said.
Matrix featured a mixture of heavy topics of body image and sexual harassment, but also had cartoons.
At the time, the riot grrrl movement was popular in the feminist scene and heavily related to zine culture. Taking a harder, punk rock edge, riot grrrl media focused heavily on sexuality and empowerment in a counter to the endless reams of boy band pop at the time.
“We weren’t really listening to riot grrl bands when we put [Matrix] together,” said Rosie. “It was more folk lesbian acts like the Indigo Girls.
“When I got to London after graduating, I realised that some really exciting challenging musical things were going on.”
Beyond Nineties Woman, Rosie Wilby works in her self-identity into most of her stand up. She said that, coming from a generation where being gay defined who you were and the company you kept, it featuring in her comedy was inevitable.
She noted that things have changed and sexuality isn’t so much of a core identity issue these days which, in her opinion, is both a good and bad thing. Still, she wants to keep her stand-up accessible to everyone, regardless of sexuality and gender.
“Love is universal, after all,” she said.
Outside of her performances, Rosie is still heavily involved in queer media. Back in 2011, she co-wrote and co-stared in The Bride and Bride, shown at the BFI Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Her radio show, Out in South London, was one of the sponsors for this year’s festival.
She said: “I enjoyed it, particularly the widening focus to include more trans and gender queer work. Though this may mean they need to change the name of the festival.”
In the future, Rosie looks forward to a resurgence of queer voices in media, both from zines and larger-scale publications. She said that a mixture of both in-depth writing was needed among more lifestyle and entertainment publications, though they still have their place.
Out in South London airs on Resonance 104.4FM every Tuesday at 6.30pm

Film Review: Out in the Dark

This review can also be found on Shadowlocked, here.

The BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival is something I truly appreciate. It warms my heart to know that there are actually plenty of films out there that star more than just straight white men as protagonists; and it’s a shame that they end up relegated to a single, yearly event.

There were a huge number of films showing this year, almost guaranteeing a wide range of experiences on offer – but I only got to watch one in particular. Out in the Dark, filmed in 2012 and directed by Michael Mayer.

The plot is something rather simple. Nimer (Nicholas Jacob) is a Palestinian student who, on a risky night out to an Israeli nightclub meets Roy (Michael Aloni), an Israeli lawyer. Their love blossoms rapidly, but severe social standards (and gun-happy police) get in the way. More on the plot later.

From a technical perspective, the film is incredibly solid. Film production norms differ from country to country, so one of the fun things about foreign film is seeing the different stylistic rules they go by.

The cinematography was nothing to hugely fawn over, but the wide shots of the skyline and city streets did wonders for a loser like me who is obsessively urban. The dialogue style definitely stood out – lengthy chats pierced with succinct one word sentences, in a blend of Hebrew and Arabic that’s sadly lost on my monolingual self.

The decision to have the plot heavily focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a harrowing, but well-researched one. It assumes you know the basics of the issue, and although you can understand all of the story without prior knowledge, being aware of the background definitely helps add context.

What it also adds is a marginally fresher angle on what would otherwise be a tired love story. Straight romances in films are rather rote, but gay (male) ones are more so in a slightly different way.

Star crossed lovers, one humble and sexually introverted, the other metropolitan and liberated have their love halted by the grim face of systemic oppression (feel free to imagine those two words in a 72pt font and on fire). It’s a valid story, but it’s one told a little too often.

As such, the racial conflict adds some flavour to the proceedings; juxtaposing cute intimate moments and longing stares with border crossers getting shot in the head.

It’s all a very well-produced reminder of the social injustices in the world, both sexual and racial – but we know this all already. That is, the people who would be inclined to see Out in the Dark in the first place. Dudebro McHomophobe would definitely benefit from watching something so well made (and with such impact, too), but you’d have a better chance of actually ending oppression than getting him into the cinema.

It’s all very ‘preaching to the choir’, really. That’s not the end of the world – we all like to have our political opinions re-enforced, but in the end I ended up not enjoying Out in the Dark as much as I could have done – I was holding out for something more experimental.

I continue to wait for the action blockbuster where Jake Gyllenhaal saves Ben Whishaw from an exploding building, and they make out to the sound of helicopter blades and gunfire. Now that would be progressive.

My Big Mouth: Save Our Subcultures

This feature can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.

Violent attacks against subcultures like punks and goths are now being considered as hate crimes by the Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

What was once only the territory of politically-established social minorities (so race, religion, disability, sexuality or transgender identity) is now broadened to alternative music scenes and subcultures – at least by the GMP.

The plan to record attacks in this manner was sparked by the murder of Sophie Lancaster back in 2007. The 20-year-old goth was attacked in a park in Lancashire along with her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, simply because of their style of dress. While the boyfriend managed to survive, Ms Lancaster was not as lucky.

Because this attack was motivated by judgements about the victims’ identities, a pretty strong parallel can be drawn between attacks of this nature and existing hate crimes.

You could replace these goths with queer people or people of colour, and I could most likely find an existing news report to match. Hell, in March last year there were reports of emos in Iraq being murdered by militia, partially because the subculture is heavily associated with homosexuality there.

The crux of attacks like these is ignorant fear of identities that differ from the ‘norm’. Why the scare quotes? Because in Western culture, to be anything other than a straight white man with a taste in Top 40s pop is an ‘other’, someone to be changed or removed. It’s an awful way to think of things, really. That demographic may not be the most prevalent in terms of numbers, but social dominance counts for so much more than manpower.

Society has progressed just enough to cut some minorities some slack. You’re allowed to be, for example, black in a public place in much of the world without pulling much ire (Though sometimes it doesn’t feel that way). 

But often, our identity as minorities is displayed in ways that aren’t physiological. There’s nothing in terms of body type that separates straight men from gay ones, but there’s a laundry list of ‘coded behaviour’ that society decides is indicative of being gay, or religious, or yes – belonging to a subculture.

What raises the hackles of violent bigots is that people who differ from the ‘norm’ have the temerity to express themselves openly, and think that beating them will change that in some way. That seems very much like hate crime to me.


That subcultures are largely tied to musical tastes, rather than biology may cause some to feel that they aren’t appropriately equitable to the other minorities, but I have issues with that.

Most notably, there are some subcultures that are heavily involved in socio-political struggles. Punk as a movement revolves around being non-conformist, and as such features heavy streaks of anti-racist and anti-sexist ideologies. 

The emo scene, while considered rather male dominated, embraces emotional openness (hence the name) and androgynous fashions, making it a social safe haven for many queer teenagers.

The workings and intricacies of subcultures is just as fascinating to me as learning about feminism, racial history and queer theory, and deserves to be respected in a similar manner. For a glimpse of just how vastly different subcultures can be, take a look at Urban Tribes. Hours will fly by.

The official consideration of subcultures as being part of the hate crime demographic is a while off – England’s courts cannot recognise its legitimacy, and the GMP are the only police force that are recording it.

But all is not lost. By bringing the idea up as a point to be seriously considered, the public are also forced to think of those who are part of alternative scenes as people, not targets.

What this news hopefully won’t do is get people arguing over which minority has it worse, and flinging mud at whatever groups might have it easier. These kinds of ‘Oppression Olympics’ aren’t helpful to discussion; those who try to start them require immediate defenestration.

Note: Simon Price’s entry on The Guardian’s Comment is Free gives a great break down on different subcultures, as well as detailing his own experiences of being targeted.

My Big Mouth: Queer up the media

This feature can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.

A thought experiment for you:

Think of three pieces of media (books, film, games, whatever) that meet the following criteria:

  • The main character is straight. 
  • The piece is not of the Romance genre. 
  • The sexuality of the main character and its social impacts are not the main plot point.

You could probably name at least 10 without thinking too hard. Now try to do the same, but with a queer main character. Go on, I’ll wait.

If you’ve managed to think of any, congratulations! No, seriously, it’s a pretty difficult challenge; feel free to tell me what you’ve thought of in the comments.

I suppose it’s nothing that you think too much about unless you’re actually affected by it, but the presence of characters in fiction that aren’t straight and white isn’t thrillingly prevalent.

However, queer media definitely exists out there – this month had BFI’s 27th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. The problem is, all this content is kept away from the mainstream, and only given a chance to shine once a year.

That’s great for all the pretentious artsy types who already know how wonderfully liberal and accepting they are, but the people who need to see queer media the most barely know it’s around. The teenagers who are questioning their identity and sexuality; people who are jaded with the stereotypes they’re spoon-fed; that one old homophobic guy down the pub. You know the one. I hate that guy.

What we do get in the mainstream media isn’t making me super-thrilled to be open about my sexuality. I’m not too keen on the idea of having my skull cracked open with a tyre iron (Brokeback Mountain), nor do I want to pursue a career in being a Sassy Gay Best Friend (The Hellish Nightmare that is Glee). Though I’m sure I could make a killing if I did. Maybe with the aforesaid tyre iron.

For sure, I would have been a lot more confident in my identity growing up if there was a role model who was much like me. That’s not to say my imagination was so poor I couldn’t project myself into a James Bond power fantasy – the assortment of gay villains excepting – but a reminder that queer heroes (or black heroes or female heroes…) are allowed to exist would be nice.

To flip it on its head, only those who are the most literal and devoid of critical thought could argue that an increased number of openly queer protagonists would be alienating to straight audiences. Last time I checked, empathy and sexual expression were two different things, unless you consider How I Met Your Mother the pinnacle of character-driven storytelling.

Speaking of which, I’m finding it a lot harder to watch action films these days. Aside from gunfights and explosions being tired mindless pap; the levels of machismo are so over-emphasised and forced, it’s like a high budget blockbuster Shrine to Straightness. Sucker Punch managed to be full to the brim of bubbling testosterone with barely any men on screen. The sight of Vin Diesel flexing has been scientifically proven to instantly impregnate women.

The secret to creating reasonable queer media isn’t some kind of well-guarded secret. They’re the same as the media we already consume, with the genders of the romances switched around. It doesn’t seem like an unreasonable demand to have, say, a crime thriller where the long-suffering detective happens to be a lesbian.

Oh. That actually exists. Well okay then.

That’s not to say that good queer media can’t or shouldn’t explore sexuality as a main theme, it just often feels like that’s all that we’re given. I want to identify with an escapist fantasy, not systemic oppression so gritty I could use it as sandpaper. Explorations of sex are enjoyable enough in private, but it’s not something I could share with others, for obvious reasons.

Then again, maybe some soapboxing and issue awareness is a first step in what we need right now. It recently came to light that the ‘Ex-Gay’ advertisements produced by the Christian group Core Issues Trust was, although banned in short order, deemed ‘not illegal’ by the High Court. Regardless of legality technicalities, that the advert exists at all is indicative of a serious need to queer up the media.