I really enjoyed the IT movie.

I just wasn’t very scared.

Now, you could take that as me saying the whole movie was bad, and that theater goers should save their money. You’d be wrong. I actually think it’s a great movie for fans of Stephen King, and good storytelling, to go see this weekend. It’s a quality film- it just isn’t a very good horror picture.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t trying to be?

For anyone who is familiar with the Stephen King novel, and also the mini-series of the same name starring Tim Curry, you’d be familiar with the themes of the story.  A small town where children and adults alike go missing and/or dead every 25 or so years. The town itself has a dark history, while Pennywise, the infamous clown, has been an evil staple there since the town’s inception in various way. Similar to its horror counterparts, like Freddy Krueger, the adults don’t talk about the obvious evil. Thus leaving the children to fend for themselves.

Throughout the movie there are many scary moments, and Bill Skarsgard does a great job as the new incarnation of Pennywise the dancing (and horrific) clown. The first scene with the character Georgie and Pennywise is perhaps the creepiest scene in the film. It had a sense of mystery, foreboding, and darkness. You didn’t really know what was going to happen, until it happened. From there the main characters are plagued by Pennywise, (as he takes on the forms of their various fears), and the increasingly insane town bully named Henry.

This film could have gone one of two ways. It could have been a film that had the overarching terror and horror in the center and forefront, with the childhood friendships and coming of age tales interwoven. Or, it could have been a film about a group of friends, their own interpersonal issues, with the danger of supernatural evil spurring the story forward, but that evil not being exactly at the center.

The film went with the latter.

And therein lies the issue with IT being touted as the scariest horror picture in years. It just…wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong. The young actors were all very good. Especially Sophia Lillis as the young Beverly Marsh. Yet, the film felt like a darker version of The Goonies rather than a true adaptation of IT. There were adventures, foes, young love, and raised stakes- just like The Goonies (if you haven’t seen that classic film you’re missing out)- but the terror was lacking.

Even with the occasional missing limbs and blood, the metaphorical teeth of the story was missing.

In the original novel, and even in the the tv mini-series, there are some SERIOUS topics being dealt with. Those topics including racism, child abuse, mental illness and poverty.

One of the main characters, a young Black boy named Mike, had to deal with racism head on, having been called the “n” word in the previous adaptation and novel. The previous adaptation, and the original novel, put it right in your face. It was blunt, and drove home the ugliness of racism to the audience, and the isolation Mike felt before he found his best friends in the Losers (what the group of young protagonists called themselves). The new adaptation doesn’t do this ugliness justice, but rather tones it down for some reason. The film does a good job highlighting the abuse Beverly endures, and her strength, but doesn’t really address her poverty.

The sadistic nature of the town bully Henry falls short as well. There was something about the previous adaptation that made him a lot more infuriating. The audience was made to understand that he was a sociopath. In this film he was angry and hateful, sure, but the audience was all too quickly made to have some sympathy for him, taking away the edge of it all.

Then there were the moments of CGI. It wasn’t completely overdone, but there were plenty of times when it just wasn’t needed. One of the key elements of quality horror is allowing the audience to be terrified of what may or may not be in the dark. What may or may not be around the corner. What they may or may not actually see. I could have enjoyed a lot more of Skarsgard’s Pennywise without the CGI morphing moments. His eerie acting and eyes alone, that was showcased brilliantly in the opening scene, were enough for me. The film showed it’s hand too quickly. So building up to the suspense was almost gone.

Then there were the comedic moments. To be blunt- there were too many. Finn Wolfhard was funny in his role of the wisecracking Richie, but there were times when the film allowed the character’s jokes to dominate, when they should have taken a backseat. A comedic break in horror is always welcomed, but it should be paced so that the moments of fear and seriousness are allowed to land. All too often in this film Richie had a joke to tell when it would have been best to allow the character to take in the fear like the other kids. Yes, joking is a coping mechanism for fear in some people, and was clearly Richie’s mechanism, but it was obvious the filmmakers weren’t doing it as the character, but rather using the character to make humor. The jokes were funny, but often misplaced for the atmosphere.

Then again, I’m also aware that the film had a lot to try to put into a film, when the mini series had ten plus hours to get it right.

I’m looking forward to part two. It was a solid start.  IT felt like The Goonies meets Stranger Things with a dash of Killer Clowns from Outer Space, and that’s not a bad thing. I’m hoping the second film will be a bit more adult, and the scares will land just as heavy.  Also crossing my fingers that since it will be happening in the 2000’s there won’t be some sort of cheesy moments of Pennywise haunting someone’s Facebook or Instagram.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie- but I’ve seen scarier.


The recent tragic events of Charlottesville, where white supremacists and neo-Nazis descended onto the University of Virginia, inciting hate speech that would eventually lead to the killing of Heather Heyer, the death of two police officers, and the injury of dozens of others, show us that the topic of race relations and racism is an ever-present contentious theme in the United States of America. Throughout history, we have seen this theme reach boiling points that have resulted in uprisings, wars, revolts, and riots.

The film Gook uses the backdrop of one such point in history, the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, to offer a view of the dynamics between Korean Americans and the Black community. By centering the narrative on Black and Asian Americans, as opposed to the often-done white and Black Americans dynamic, the movie gives audiences a powerful slice-of-life perspective into racial relationships not often explored.

Eli and Daniel are two Korean-American brothers who run their late father’s shoe store in a predominantly African-American community of Los Angeles. While Eli is the more focused of the two, he struggles to make ends meet, as the store is some months behind on rent, while Daniel secretly pursues his dream of being an R&B soul singer. The brothers have an unlikely friendship with an 11-year-old Black girl, Kamilla. The film shows a day in the life of these three characters. Yet, the day is different from any other, as four white officers are acquitted for the brutal beating of Rodney King, sending tensions in L.A. to a breaking point, thus changing the characters’ lives forever.

The movie is filmed in black and white, yet it’s probably one of the more colorful films coming out this year in regard to characterization and racial representation. Much of the action and focus is centered on the character Eli, played by the film’s director and writer Justin Chon (Twilight, 21 and Over). Yet what makes sullen Eli’s journey the most interesting are the supporting characters around him. Eli seems angry about life for a number of reasons that are eventually revealed in the film, but how we get a sense of who Eli is, is through the dynamics between him and others in the cast. We see this especially with his older brother/younger sister-like relationship with Kamilla, played by Simone Baker. We also see this through his tumultuous relationship with his brother Daniel, played by David So. These relationships, along with others, such as Kamilla’s with her older siblings, played by Omono Okojie and Curtiss Cook Jr. respectively, are deployed across an ensemble of layered characters, even if we only see some of their layers briefly.

A powerful aspect of Chon’s film is that none of the characters are completely good or bad. Chon explores racial stereotypes and forces the viewer to see the different sides of characters often oversimplified in mainstream entertainment. For example, the older Korean man with the thick accent, who owns the liquor store and seems prejudiced against Black customers, has a story to him, and moments of kindness. Curtiss Cook Jr.’s portrayal of Kamilla’s older brother Keith isn’t relegated to being an angry “thug,” but is allowed to show emotions of hurt and love, even though he is one of Eli’s main antagonists.

Kamilla herself is not just the “sassy” young Black girl with one-liners and attitude, although the young Baker does a wonderful job displaying both. Kamilla serves as a beacon of innocence in the sea of poverty and hardened souls surrounding her. She also serves as a link between the two communities, Korean and Black, represented between the Korean brothers and her own siblings. All of these characters can be looked at individually, but also as symbols of the complex nature of human interaction, especially when it comes to looking at race. Gook gives no obvious answers, but does show the ways in which people from different walks of life can be affected by prejudice, trauma, and poverty in very similar ways.

Which brings me to another aspect of the film that stood out as well: All the main characters are working poor, even if they aren’t aware of it. They all are struggling to makes ends meet, although both sides are shown as believing the other side is taking advantage of and profiting off the other. Perhaps it’s my inner socialist leanings, but I thought the movie made subtle nod to the class aspect of poverty and how people of color get divided, even though they often face a similar struggle trying to earn enough to live and thrive under a system that profits from exploitation.

The film also succeeds in featuring both heavy and light moments. Serious moments of drama are balanced with humorous ones. The funny moments aren’t throwaways either, but provide different aspects of certain individuals that we might not see if it were one tense moment after another.

Some characters I wish we had gotten to know better, such as Kamilla’s older sister Regina (Okojie). While it was a breath of fresh air to have young Kamilla centered in the narrative of Eli’s story, it would have been significant to learn a bit more about Regina’s feelings regarding her troubled brother and younger sister. The viewer has to guess what she feels because Regina is never given a scene to express herself. Then again, with a running time of 94 minutes, and themes such as Korean/Black race dynamics, intergenerational conflict, and the L.A. riots, some things are bound to be left out.

Written, directed, and starring Korean-American actor Justin Chon, the independent film has been showcased at the New York Asian American Film Festival and the San Francisco CAAMFest. It won the NEXT Audience Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The movie was screened at the Sundance NextFest on August 12, in anticipation of its Los Angeles theatrical release on August 18. After the screening, famed director Ava DuVernay (Selma, Queen Sugar, A Wrinkle in Time), did a Q&A with Chon to discuss the movie’s racial themes, along with the craft of filmmaking.


When asked by DuVernay about the racial slur “gook,” a derogatory term used against people often of Korean, Filipino, or Vietnamese descent, as the title of the film, Chon answered, “It’s a chance to educate people. The title? Let’s talk about it [and what it means].” Chon described how when news about the film first got out he received many calls from older Koreans asking him “how dare you?” use the word for his project. Chon explained, “‘Gook’ in Korean actually means ‘country.’ ‘Mi gook’ directly translated means ‘beautiful country.’ During the Korean War, and later during the Vietnam War, white G.I.’s twisted that word to have a negative meaning for Asians.” Chon went on to say that it was a chance to clarify the word’s origins, and to face that history head on.

Chon also spoke to the creation of roles for actors of color, in particular Asian actors, and the lack of representation. “People who say there are no talented Asian actors? Fuck that. We’re here,” Chon expressed.

On the surface, Gook may give viewers déjà vu of another famous, filmed in black and white movie about race. I’m referring to Spike Lee’s classic Do the Right Thing. There are some similarities, such as the prevalent use of the word “fuck” (Gook may actually have Lee’s film beat in surpassing the 120 count on its usage), but Chon creates a unique story that stands on its own. It was an ambitious project to take on so many complicated themes, and the end result is a good film that is touching and thoughtful. It should be seen in order to gain perspective on a tumultuous moment that centers people of color in all the major roles—which is a welcome change to the usual Hollywood narrative.

Gook opens theatrically in Los Angeles on August 18, and in select cities nationwide on August 25.


Photo 1: Courtesy Birthday Soup Films, LLC

Photo 2: Cast of Gook at Sundance NextFest. From left, David So, Ben Munoz, Omone Okojie, Justin Cho, Simone Baker; Alex Chi and James J. Yi, producers | Chauncey K. Robinson


Three years ago this week, a young African-American man named Michael Brown was gunned down in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. His death, at the hands of a trigger-happy white police officer, and the protests that followed to seek justice for his murder helped ignite the movement that became known as Black Lives Matter.

This movement has forced the country to confront the problem of police brutality against everyday people, disproportionately Black Americans, as a central reality of politics and race relations. The narrative around the Black Lives Matter movement has often been a fragmented one, with supporters and detractors alike eager to add their viewpoints. The new documentary film Whose Streets?, which focuses on the killing of Michael Brown and the movement that arose in its wake, puts Black activists front and center.

The film, being released August 11 in Los Angeles, New York, and St. Louis, was directed by two African-American filmmakers, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis. The young directors explained to Filmmaker Magazine that they wanted to do more than just make a film that stroked their egos or presented a montage of chants and rallies, but rather to create something that went beyond the regular media narrative.

Folayan explained, “What was being put on the news was only catching the surface of the issues. Sensationalist, inflammatory language was hyping the story to get ratings, but as a society we needed to get to the truth and to positive dialogue.” Davis added, “How could we use this movie as a tool to change the world…We’re trying to make something that Black people can feel good about. Where they can see themselves as both heroes and complex human beings.”


The documentary, which combines the use of fast-paced cinematography and cellphone footage, gives faces and hearts to the struggle, by choosing to focus on a select group of individuals. Audiences take the journey through the aftermath of Brown’s death with Brittany Farrell, a nurse and young mother; David Whitt, a recruiter for the civilian organization; and Tory Russell, a cofounder of Hands Up United.

The film opens with a quote of the now infamous Dred Scott Case, in which the Supreme Court decided in 1857 that no Black person, freed or enslaved, could claim U.S. citizenship and the rights that entailed. It was a fitting reference with which to begin, seeing as how the lack of justice for Michael Brown, and hundreds of other Black Americans assaulted and/or killed by police, continues to leave many questioning whether African Americans can receive equal justice under the law in the U.S.

From there the documentary flashes through visuals of the turmoil in the streets of Ferguson and the raw reactions of people in the aftermath of tragedy. Clips from various mainstream media outlets are used to highlight the lack of complexity that most reports gave to Ferguson and the activists there.

Whose Streets? is a showcase of the multilayered nature of the Black community combined with a critique of the media’s handling of the narrative surrounding Ferguson. The film has no direct commentary nor experts weighing in between scenes, but rather throws the audience directly into the thick of the action to experience it for themselves.

Watching Whose Streets? transported me back to a not-so-long-ago time when “Hands up, Don’t shoot” became the rallying cry against police brutality. A time when racial tensions were heightened across the country and it seemed like any city could become the “next Ferguson.” Seeing the activists gave me some comfort, but I was reminded all over again how the police officer that murdered Brown, Darren Wilson, was not indicted, and that somehow all the legal inquiries concluded that Wilson killed Brown, who was not armed, in self-defense.

Perhaps provoking that sense of unease is the intent of the filmmakers—an effort to remind the audience that this is only one slice of the story against inequality and oppression, not the conclusion.

Through humanizing the struggle for justice, Folayan and Davis have aimed to make the public understand that the fight for equality, and even more specifically, the Black Lives Matter movement, is not faceless and impersonal. The battle waged in order to be recognized as a human being, deserving of life and liberty, is a very personal story, but it’s also an American story. Ferguson is a specific city, but it can also be symbolic of other times and places in history where a community has risen up.

Black people watching the film will be able to see themselves as modern day heroes for justice, since there is no caped crusader that will come to their rescue to make things right. No liberal white savior, as some films on race have tried to push, will do the trick either. The community finds strength in itself even in the midst of hardship.

After its opening in select cities on August 11, Whose Streets? will be released nationwide. It’s a powerful documentary that uses one defining incident to connect viewers to the overarching fight for true justice and the people who sacrifice so much for it.

Whose Streets?

Directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis


Photo credits: Magnolia Pictures, 2017


A group of young orphan girls move into a home of a couple that lost their daughter years ago. Throughout the film we see the development of their bonds and relationships, as the couple and the girls, learn to love again and find out true family can come in many forms… That is the heart of Annabelle: Creation.

OK, no, I’m lying.

Aside from the initial exposition, of a married couple opening up their home to a group of young orphan girls, the similarities to what could have been a modern day Annie ends there. There’s no musical numbers, but there is vintage music playing on old record players in the background, as a demonic doll attempts to steal the souls of the young orphan girls. This brings a whole lot of classic horror fun for viewers who enjoy good quality scares.

Annabelle Creation is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, and the fourth film in The Conjuring film series. For fans of The Conjuring you’ll recognize the creepy doll Annabelle from those films. Annabelle Creation shows us how Annabelle came to be. The story begins as town dollmaker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther open their home to Sister Charlotte, a nun, and a small group of girls from an orphanage that has been closed. What seems like a blessing to Sister Charlotte, turns into a nightmare, as the dark secret of the Mullins’ comes to light in the form of a demonic doll living in the house.

Some may call the film formalistic and predictable. They may say that the scares are seen a mile away, and the characters all fit the similar horror tropes.

My question to those critics is: So what?

I don’t know about anyone else, but ever since the days of Scream and all it’s copycats, the so-called horror genre had become more of a slasher and gore genre. Nothing wrong with quality slasher films like Scream, and gore like the first SAW, but despite those innovative ways to tell the story of dreadful humans preying on other humans- NOTHING beats a good ghost story or monster flick. In a time when social media and technology has desensitized, or oversensitized, many to everyday tragedies, it’s nice to see films that still play into the mystery of the unknown, the great beyond, and what goes bump in the night.

It’s nice to watch a film that I’m pretty certain won’t find me in a similar situation as the characters in it (I say as I clutch my bible and say my prayers at night). Being able to watch a movie and get lost in the plot, and for a time, distracted from the real world, can be a nice mental vacation- even if I find myself screaming at the screen in momentary fear.

Annabelle: Creation starts off laying the groundwork for the scares, but wastes no more than 20 minutes before the horror gets underway. As I screamed and hollered with each moment in the theater, and the rest of the audience did as well, I was reminded of feeling like I was on a rollercoaster ride. It doesn’t last long, but it doesn’t need to, because the short thrill is well worth it.

The cast of characters are quality as well. The young orphan girls all had believable portrayals, while Talitha Bateman shines through as the one girl who Annabelle has taken a special interest in. There’s some moments of sisterhood and solidarity among the girls, that gives the film a bit of heart that can sometimes be missing in horror films. You actually come to care for some of them, which raises the stakes in wanting them to make it out of the house alive.

I give the film bonus points also for having the stellar actor Anthony LaPaglia, of Without a Trace fame, playing the tragic doll maker. I also give the film additional bonus points for having a slightly diverse cast, including Mexican American actress Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte, and the young Black actress, Tayler Buck, as the orphan girl Kate. Annabelle: Creation takes place in the 1950s/1960s, but the filmmakers don’t use that as some sort of misplaced cop out in order to make the film completely devoid of people of color.

The special effects are subtle, as they should be. The CGI isn’t overdone. The scare factor in Annabelle: Creation is owed a large chunk to what the audience can’t see, but only anticipate appearing. It’s a return to fearing what’s in the dark, as oppose to having it all laid out in front of us. Annabelle is no Chucky. You may find that to be a good or bad thing depending on how you like your killer dolls, but I thought the understated, and silent, presence of the creepy looking doll was enough for me.

What New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures has been able to do with The Conjuring film series is bring back good classic horror and monster tale fun. With future spinoff films, The Nun and The Crooked Man, set to come out soon, it’s clear the producers know they’ve got a good thing going.

Is Annabelle: Creation on the level of Shakespeare in writing and character development?

Perhaps not.

Yet, it doesn’t need to be. it is still unique, even if it’s a return to formalistic scary fun. It’s something perhaps we didn’t know we needed in this day and age, until it was presented to us, and I for one, can’t get enough.

Annabelle: Creation opens nationwide August 11.


If ever there was a prime example to use as a case against comic book “purity,” and the dominance of overzealous fanboys in fandom spaces, the recent reveal of the character Domino for  the upcoming Deadpool movie sequel would be it.  Ryan Reynolds gave fans their first look at Domino today for the highly anticipated film, and the internet went wild. Many were excited, (and rightly so because Zazie Beetz as Domino looks phenomenal) yet, there were some areas of the internet that just were not happy with Domino’s movie-verse look for a “variety” of reasons.

I put variety in quotes because the issues that some of these people took up against the new look had no variety at all. The ones who had issues with Domino mainly didn’t like the fact that she didn’t have super pale white skin, as she’s been known to have in her comic book appearances. Also, some didn’t care for the fact that she has an afro now… go figure.

Now, I’m sure there are some comic book fans who are going to call foul, and say I’m putting race into something where it doesn’t need to be. That they simply want a true interpretation of a character they’ve come to know from their comic book reading. They’ll claim that there’s nothing wrong with wanting her painted white, because plenty of actresses have played in fantasy and had their skin changed to supernatural hues in order to portray a character. Believe me, there were plenty of these people using Zoe Saldana’s Gamora role for reference all over the web today. This is the thing though, read this next line SUPER carefully:


Read the previous line back if you still have issue with what I’m saying here. So called comic book purists can give all the reasoning in the world, but short of “she needs pale white skin in order to have her powers” there is NO REASON she has to be painted white. There is also no reason why she can’t have kinky hair as opposed to straight. There is no reason why she can’t have white skin around her eye, to contrast  with her beautiful brown skin, as opposed to black pigmentation around her eye.


There’s also the issue with her name. There’s claims that due to ONE of her origin stories (comic books give characters different origin stories all the darn time based on the verse and timeline) that her codename of Domino was given because of her pale white skin and black coloring around her eye. They claim that by changing her skin tone her codename useless.


Domino, also known as Beatrice, also known as Neena (in fact even her original name is shrouded in mystery), can still have the codename with or without pale white skin. Her actual powers deal with luck and making it so events fall into place the way she wants. One can argue that although her white skin may have been one of the reasonings for her codename, one could also say she was given the name due to her luck- luck and probability being heavily associated with the game of Dominos. So no, her codename does not need to be tied to her looks. And even if that were the case, there are such things as black dominos.

Then again, why even go through the back and forth of logic when it comes to how this fantasy story can be changed to how the creators see fit?

That’s not the point.

The point of this is that some people need to come out of their fandom bubbles, and understand what the interpretation of this character means for representation and diversity. That may not be important to some, but for those people who are part of marginalized communities who live in a world where mainstream representation that isn’t tokenism is still ever so slowly making progress, the Domino movie-verse interpretation is a step in the right direction.

To use Zoe Saldana’s Gamora as an example to prove my point, all too often when Black women, or non-white women, are added into fantasy genres, they aren’t allowed to have their NATURAL skin tone. Zoe has had this happen to her twice now (Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy). Paula Patton was green in Warcraft. Lupita Nyong’o was unrecognizable as the yellowish older alien Maz Kanata in Star Wars, and those are just a few recent characters. At times it has been that Black women are either having to paint their skin something other than brown to appear in fantasy movies, or aren’t present at all. There have been some recent strides, but the representation is minuscule in comparison to their white counterparts, who although there have been white actresses painted different colors, there are also a whole ton more who were allowed to have their natural skin as well.

Domino’s skin tone is not a make or break for the character. It just isn’t.

Let it go.

Also, just because Domino has an afro, it does not mean she automatically looks like Misty Knight or Riri Williams.


Is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow the equivalent to Jean Grey, since they both have red hair? Or does the “they all look the same now” only apply to Black women? Not all Black women with afros look the same.

Do better, people.

Further, comic book movies and television show interpretations are allowed to switch things up when translating something to screen. Especially if the original stories appeared in times where diversity wasn’t as dominant. These interpretations are allowed to adapt and evolve to their full potential. So yes, this might mean that Iris West isn’t a redhead, or Valkyrie isn’t a blond, but it isn’t the end of the world if they aren’t.

As a community of passionate fans of entertainment, some people could use a real hard introspection as to why certain changes (such as gender and race) of some characters truly bothers them, when most of these changes do nothing to harm the heart of the storyline. Rather they offer inclusion and representation to certain demographics who are greatly under represented.

What’s REALLY bothering you here?

Is it the fact that without Zazie being painted white you have to face the fact that she’s a Black woman?

Don’t worry, it’s all make believe…

Photo credit: Ryan Reynold’s twitter


Fantasy in entertainment is often seen as a means to escape harsh realities and truths. Yet fiction and the fantasy genre are also a creative way to explore controversial issues that affect our everyday lives. From the exploration of race and gender in Octavia Butler novels, to social commentary on systemic power in Night of the Living Dead, stories about monsters and the supernatural “other” have often been used to discuss the human condition. Movie superstar Will Smith’s latest film Bright, set to premiere exclusively on Netflix this December, follows in these footsteps. Using an alternative reality where the supernatural is the norm, Brightexplores racism, class dynamics, and police brutality.

The first full length trailer for the movie was shown this past weekend at the 49th annual San Diego Comic Con. A panel of the film’s stars showed up to discuss the project at the popular event. In the world of Bright, elves are at the top of the food chain – the 1 percent.

Humans are seen to be part of the working class, along with the orcs. Yet the orcs are at the bottom of the social hierarchy:  they are the most discriminated against and exploited. The racial profiling portrayed in the film isn’t based on skin tone, but on if an individual has pointy ears. The movie may take place in a world with mystical orcs and fairies, but the hierarchies, oppression, and cop drama of the inner city is reflective of the world we live in today.

Netflix Original Film Panel: Bright at 2017 Comic-Con, San Diego, CA, USA - 20 July 2017

Stars of the film, Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (Loving), were on hand at the San Diego Comic Con panel for the film, along with co-stars Lucy Fry, Noomi Rapace, Edgar Ramirez, and director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Training Day). Ayer commented at the panel that Bright was a great opportunity to offer social commentary through a format that people can take in, because otherwise they “don’t want to hear about the real issues.” There’s an obvious metaphor of race and racism in the first full-length trailer, yet the action and looming threat of magic and the end of the world, add elements of entertainment which allow those who may not want to focus on the politics of it to engage as well.

The official Netflix synopsis of Bright:

“Set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time, this action-thriller directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch, writer of Training Day) follows two cops from very different backgrounds. Ward, a human (Will Smith), and Jakoby, an orc (Joel Edgerton), embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which in the wrong hands could destroy everything.”

With alarming statistics showing that police have killed as many as 258 Black people in the United States in 2016, and the recent upset in the Philando Castile murder case, it is clear that the United States has a systemic race and justice problem. Bright takes on this topic in an interesting and new way.

Check out the full length Bright trailer below. The film premieres December 2017 on Netflix.

Article originally appeared in People’s World.



The social media campaign #OscarsSoWhite put front and center the controversy around the lack of media representation of marginalized people in Hollywood, and entertainment as a whole. It’s no surprise then that this struggle for narratives that represent the diversity of people of color, women, LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, Black, trans, queer, intersex, asexual) individuals, and others is a recurring theme at the 48th annual gathering of one of the largest entertainment conventions in the world, San Diego Comic Con. With hundreds of panels and events to highlight all things in the entertainment industry from July 20-23, one panel, “Moonlight and Magic: Black LGBTQ Contributions to Sci-fi” sought to shed light on the contributions of the often overlooked, underutilized, and oppressed Black LGBTQ community.

The film Moonlight, an independent movie that told the story of young Black man growing up in Miami and coming to terms with his identity and sexuality, made history this year by being the first film led by a gay, lesbian, transgender, or queer character to win the Oscar for Best Picture. An annual study by GLAAD, (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) examined LGBTQ representation in media and found that, despite Moonlight’s achievement, LGBTQ representation in media as a whole has not improved greatly. GLAAD started the Studio Responsibility Index five years ago to “map the quantity, quality, and diversity,” of LGBTQ characters in the entertainment industry. GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, pointed out in the recent study that although Moonlight was history making, “nearly half of the inclusive films released by the seven major studios included less than one minute of screen time for their LGBTQ characters.”


The study points out that although there has been a slight increase of one percent (17.5 to 18.4) in representation from 2015 to 2016, a majority of this representation has been gay white men. In fact, the racial diversity of LGBTQ characters actually decreased since 2014 to 2016. The study found that only 20 percent of LGBTQ characters were people of color, compared to 25.5 percent just the year before. The numbers aren’t much different behind the scenes either, as those in the Black LGBTQ community struggle to find work and platforms to tell their narratives.

The “Moonlight and Magic” panel touched on many of these topics and more in its hour-long session at San Diego Comic Con on Thursday, July 20. The panel included LGBTQ activists, creators, and professionals within the entertainment industry. The panel began with moderator Faith Cheltenham coming into the auditorium proclaiming that Black lives matter, and that “Black creators” matter as well. Cheltenham, who organized the panel discussion, is the Vice President of BiNet USA, an advocacy group and national network for those who identify as bisexual, and the co-creator of the science fiction focused blog

Joining Cheltenham on the panel were African-American blogger, writer, and transgender rights advocate Monica Roberts; Prism comics board member and creator of the popular hashtag GayMediaSoWhite Viktor Kerney; Mills College professor and artist Aujuan Mance; Bent-Con creator and artist Sean Z. Maker; Queerbait anthology editor William O. Tyler; also attorney and BiWoCC (Bisexual Women of Color Collaborative) founder Eliot Sutler.

The panelists talked about the dangers in the lack of representation for Black LGBTQ individuals, and how it affects society. Roberts noted that the current presidential administration, let by Donald Trump, often picks groups of people as targets to attack, and that transgender people are part of their targets. “Hate thought, and hate speech, leads to hate violence,” she said. Roberts noted the fact that since the beginning of 2017 alone, 15 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means. Of those 15, she noted that 13 were Black and one was Native American. “The level of respect for Black transwomen is low,” she went on to say. “Transwomen are often shown in stereotypical and narrow roles in media, such as sex workers, inmates, or dead bodies.”

The panel also made the connection between the violence against transwomen, and the violence and oppression experienced by Black women. Sean Z. Maker has made it his goal to create Black women characters since, as Maker noted, “Black women aren’t often allowed to be heroes in media.” Roberts furthered this sentiment by explaining, “Demonizing Black womanhood and Black femininity has happened since Black people got off the [slave] boat,” she said. “This dehumanization plays into the violence and murder that both Black transwomen and Black women face.”

Eliot Sutler explained why her love for science fiction and fantasy is connected to the plight of Black people, and Black LGBTQ people. Noting her paper “Black Vampire Lore and the African Diaspora,” Sutler said that similar to how the vampire has been categorized as “the other,” commodified, and often hypersexualized, so too has Black people. “It’s good that we’re having these conversations of what it means to be different, to look different, and be gender fluid,” Sutler said.

The speakers also highlighted ways they are combating the lack of representation and resources for Black LGBTQ in media and the country. Roberts runs a popular blog called TransGriot, which has been going since 2016, that highlights the issues of the transgender community. Ajuan Mance has made the LGBTQ Cartoonists of Color Database, as a source to find LGBTQ artist and creators of color to work with and/or support their work. While Cheltenham is in the beginning stages of launching YesBlackPeople.Com, which is a 2017 digital version of the Green Book, which was a book used by Black people during the Jim Crow era to navigate places that were safe for them to travel. YesBlackPeople.Com seeks to do that for the modern times, in an era where there has been a spike in hate crimes since November 2016.

Finally, the panelists offered words of encouragement and hope for the future of LGBTQ representation. “If you don’t see it. Make it,” Mance expressed to the audience. Viktor Kerney expounded on that advice, “You can’t ask for permission. Do what you need to do. Believe in yourself.”

Below is a video featuring writer and activist Monica Roberts speaking to People’s World on the need for LGBTQ (and specifically transgender) representation in media in the face of ongoing attacks and violence against transgendered and Black people.

Piece originally appeared in People’s World

Picture Credit

Cover: Still from the HBO original movie Bessie, starring Queen Latifah as American Blues singer Bessie Smith, who was also bisexual.

2nd photo: Taken by Chauncey K. Robinson: from the SDCC Panel. From left: William O. Tyler, Eliot Sutler, Monica Roberts, Faith Cheltenham, Sean Z. Maker, Ajuan Mance, and Viktor Kerney.

Video of Monica Roberts speaking:





The July 21 release of the R-rated comedy Girls Trip, starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish as lifelong friends who travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, is a triumphant comedic showcase of all the different layers of the experience of Black women. In a time when, although getting better, this part of the population is often not showcased beyond stereotypical roles in mainstream Hollywood films, this adult comedy serves as a breath of fresh air in the summer heat of action movies crowding the shallow end of the cinematic pool.

The plot is simple enough: Four friends, who have lost touch in the last four years, come together for a trip to rebuild their friendship. Through the course of the two-hour film scandalous fun is had, as the bonds of the ladies are tested. Yet this screenplay, which could have simply been a regular paint-by-number buddy comedy, achieved something deeper, by consciously seeking to break out of the box of the usual images and spaces Black women are relegated to in cinema and media as a whole.

On a panel at the American Black Film Festival this year in Miami, producer Will Packer (Straight Outta Compton, Obsessed, Stomp the Yard) explained to attendees that he originally pitched the film as a mashup of The Hangover and Bridesmaids—but with brown girls. Director Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man), who was also on the panel, elaborated on the allure of such a concept. “What an opportunity to deliver something to an underrepresented audience and what better place to set it than Essence, the only festival in the world that celebrates Black women.”

And celebrated they are, in such a way where each lead actress has moments to shine, and all four characters are given space to exist outside of the rigid categories women characters are often relegated to—virgin, seductress, evil, good, wife, mistress, and so on. Still, like many buddy films, within the group each main character does have an overall role—the motherly one, the proper one, the wild one, the leader. As the movie progresses, the lines of these designated roles are willfully blurred.

Queen Latifah, who stars as Sasha in the film, explained the need to showcase the different sides of women characters. “Women behave badly,” Queen Latifah was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times article.“It’s important to look at reality, not just the fantasy. Men like to put women in boxes and often women do as well…. We need to see all of those steps.”

Jada Pinkett Smith, who plays Lisa in the movie, echoed Latifah’s sentiment at the July 14 Los Angeles premiere of the film. “Giving ourselves the license to let go in that way; I think that it’s sometimes difficult because there is a certain standard that we have to hold that does not allow us to be our complete selves considering our [American] history.”

Pinkett makes a critical point in that more often than not Black women are assigned to the roles of  “best friend”  or minor supporting characters, often more concerned with the plight of their (usually white) main character friend. Each character in the movie has a story and conflict to go through, while within the center of the film is the bond of their friendship.

This is also a crucial point: We often find, even in films where women are actually allowed to be lead characters, that they then are given the main goal to find a romantic partner. This is not the case in Girls Trip. Although romance does occur in the movie, it is not, thankfully, the driving force of the narrative. The supporting men characters, such as Kofi Siriboe and Larenz Tate, exist mainly to serve the women and their plot lines.

The leads in the film have a persuasive chemistry that translates well on screen. None of the scenes felt contrived in terms of character interactions, although there are many situations, while funny, that seem far-fetched. But this is a comedy after all. The audience is able to believe that these four women have been friends since their college years well into their 40s. Tiffany Haddish, playing perhaps the most outlandish character, Dina, manages to give her moments of warmth and relatability. Regina Hall, as Ryan, gives a powerful speech at the end, that speaks to the pressures of being a woman in society, that many women in the audience will no doubt understand, if not champion its truthfulness.

Is this movie a Shakespearean masterpiece? Perhaps not. Although a good many of Shakespeare’s greatest works pushed the boundaries of proper etiquette as this film does. The beginning of Girls Trip lags a little, with some scenes and gags lasting longer than they need to, but overall it’s a fun summer film that gives a different perspective to a type of film not unusual for Hollywood. Since the days of Bridesmaids the idea of women behaving badly is no longer a new concept. Yet these films are a welcome contrast to the testosterone-driven movies with similar concepts (see The Hangover for reference—or don’t).

Movies such as Girls Trip challenge the confines of the ways women are allowed to be funny—especially Black women. That in itself is a radical concept, and if you can laugh while taking part in a much needed progressive step in the direction toward more diverse narratives dominating the screen, then that’s even better. You won’t be short of laughs during Girls Trip, and surely the film won’t fall short in tickets sold this opening weekend.

Photo credit: Scene from Girls Trip


“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever…”

That quote is from George Orwell’s famous book, 1984. The English author of Animal Farm fame wrote the dystopian novel in 1949, just after World War II. Set in a place called Airstrip One (formerly Great Britain), it exists in a world of constant war, oppressive government surveillance, and public manipulation – all dictated by a political system under the control of a privileged elite that crushes individualism and demonizes independent thinking as “thoughtcrime.”

Perhaps that’s our future. Perhaps it is even part of our present.

Do you think I’m being melodramatic? Perhaps all the craziness of 2016 has officially made this Black woman lose her damn mind? No.

I look at current circumstances and can’t help feeling that the path our society appears to be heading down feels too reminiscent of dystopian comic books I’ve come to love, (such as Judge DreddV for Vendetta, and Civil War), but never imagined I’d be living in.

November 8, 2016 showed the world something, just like August 19, 1934 did in Germany (that’s the day German voters willingly gave Hitler supreme dictatorial power). It showed what happens when too many people choose something they believe might lead to their own comfort and security, even if it comes at the cost of justice and the rights of others. What we learned, as the quote which started this article says, is that love didn’t “Trump” hate on those two days; fear won out, and we are now all faced with living in the aftermath.

What heroes will emerge? What side of history will you be on? What can we learn from 1984 when it comes to the human condition and survival?

Don’t do it to me; do it to somebody else

I had already been thinking of 1984 when Trump became president-elect, but it wasn’t until this week that I knew I needed to revisit the book. This was the week Walter Scott’s murderer, a quick-to-shoot cop, was not brought up on charges after a mistrial – despite the fact that the shooting had been caught on video. Yet another instance when a plain-as-day murder of a human being is up for “debate” because the victim in question happens to be Black.

Then, to add insult to injury, on Friday, Dec. 2, the Supreme Court granted a review of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that cops who provoke a violent confrontation, and then deal with you violently, can be held liable for what they do. What this means is that the Supreme Court has decided there are grounds to review whether or not it is really the cops’ fault if they provoke violence or disobedience, and then harm you. As one article put it, aptly: “Supreme Court To Decide If Cops Can Troll You, Then Shoot You.”

How are these incidents connected? Well, when Trump takes office, by the time the Supreme Court takes up this review, he will probably have appointed the next Supreme Court Justice – and we all know his pick won’t be nearly as progressive as Obama’s was. It’s completely possible this Justice will lead the Supreme Court into a ruling that says even if the police provoke violence and then harm/shoot/kill you – they are NOT accountable.

This will be another blow to protection under the law for the countless people – disproportionately African-American – who already find themselves on the wrong end of police brutality.

It’s another example of Election 2016’s ramifications for the marginalized and oppressed. And so comes a lesson from 1984:

“Sometimes they threaten you with something – something you can’t stand up to, can’t even think about. And then you say, “Don’t do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to So-and-so.” And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there’s no other way of saving yourself, and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You WANT it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care for is yourself.”

So it came and went.

A large portion of the population (although not the majority, since Clinton did after all win the popular vote) voted for a bigoted politician who fanned the flames of hatred, sexism, and xenophobia – but promised economic stability for some. Those who deemed themselves part of the “some” chose their own possible prosperity over the further oppression that would likely fall on others as a result.

Lies become truth

How did we get here? There’s been plenty of debate around it, but I think the next lesson of 1984 is clear:

“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.”

Did the Democratic party ignore the working class (read: white working class)? Did one too many so-called progressives think a protest vote was more important than actually ensuring a bigot didn’t win the highest office in the land? Was the white racist backlash against the Obama presidency just too much to overcome? Did the media help normalize a white supremacist viewpoint and Donald Trump? I’m of the mind that all of these, and perhaps a few more, factors played a hand in creating the state of affairs we now find ourselves in.

History was erased.

Those that should have did not account for what has happened in the past – a time when another person in power spouted similar rhetoric and used similar tactics. That time, in Germany, millions of people lost their lives as a result of “some” wanting to ensure their own prosperity.

The “lie became truth.” It continues today as the public is bombarded with fake news and with the mainstream media refusing to fact-check. As a recent article in the Washington Post pointed out, we may very well be entering the “post-truth era” with the Trump administration.

We have men willing to shoot up pizza shops because they wholeheartedly believe an online conspiracy theory, from far-right news sites, claiming that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta ran a child sex trafficking ring in the back room. These are examples of how lies can result in tragedy.

The question now is, what do we do?

No time to “wait and see”

There have been many calls to “wait and see” what will become of this presidency. There have been those who say that we should “wait and see” if Trump – and the white supremacists (read: I’m not entertaining any of that “alt-right” nonsense here), and the sellouts (read: Ben Carson), and other problematic figures being appointed to important decision making positions – will not actually be so bad.

Thus comes another lesson of Orwell’s dystopian novel:

“The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim – for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives – is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal.”

We don’t have the luxury to “wait and see” what will happen to the immigrants and their families as talk of mass deportations is going on. We don’t have the luxury to “wait and see” as continued voter suppression tactics persist, further smothering the voice of the Black community. We don’t have the luxury to “wait and see” while the medical coverage that many people won with Obamacare is taken from them in a few short years. We don’t have the luxury to “wait and see” as there is talk of a MUSLIM REGISTRY in the United States of America in the year 2016.


You get the picture. Or rather, you can understand the words:

“All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.”

Today’s false view is that there is something inherently wrong with standing up against this injustice and bigotry. That we have some sort of obligation to respect whoever takes on the office of president even if they do not respect us, and those around us, as full human beings who have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of true happiness. Happiness that does not come at the destruction of one’s marginalized neighbor.

And therein lies the biggest takeaway from Orwell:

“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

Let us find our voices in our resistance to bigotry and hate. Let us find our power in the struggle against oppression. Let us educate ourselves of a history that the oppressive forces in power want us constantly to forget.

And so, I revisited 1984 because one of my favorite books once again said to me what I needed to hear: “The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.”

We already know what we must do. The question is – will we step up and do it?

Big Brother is watching, but so is history.