Signal Boost: White Privilege, Comics, and Strange Fruit #1

As I was navigating through my Tumblr dashboard last night, I came across the following review of BOOM! Studios recent offering, Strange Fruit #1, which I’d highly recommend that you read (the article, not the comic).

The author, J.A. Micheline, describes for the reader exactly why this project is problematic. Here’s an excerpt:

No, seriously, stop a second and look at this constellation of events. This comic, announced on Dwayne McDuffie’s birthday, about racism in the South by two white men is being marketed as a “deeply personal passion project.” Do I need to go into why I have some questions about why a story about racism is deeply personal to white people? Do I need to explain why I think that marketing choice was tone-deaf and perhaps even toeing the line into disrespect? Do I need to air my concerns about what that indicates about who this book is being marketed to and why I suspect it is not people who look like me?

It’s an amazing fucking article. Go read it.

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Coming Soon! Bunnicula: The Animated Series

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About a week ago, there was an announcement that made me squee. It was hidden in an article about the Boomerang network changing its programming. For the last 15 years, Boomerang has offered only re-runs. Well, that’s about to change as Warner Bros is developing 225 hours of original programming for the channel, which will air internationally on all Boomerang channels and on some Cartoon Network channels. In addition to offering original programming, Boomerang has also started to sell advertising.

According to Variety,

Efforts to lend more wind to Boomerang reflect the furious scrum among media companies to lure the youngest viewers – kids and pre-teens – to their fare. The rise of new kinds of digital media, including subscription-video-on-demand and streaming video, has given rise to fresh habits for viewing content, many of them adopted very quickly by younger consumers.

Anyhow, within the announcement is also another announcement that, as part of this new original programming, an original series based on Bunnicula will be released from Warner Bros Animation this fall! The animated comedy series is based on the bestselling book – Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery – by James and Deborah Howe and follows the adventures of the titular vampire rabbit who drains the juice from vegetables, the Monroe family (who found Bunnicula at a theatre where they were watching Dracula), and the Monroe family’s other pets, Harold the dog and Chester the cat, who is convinced that Bunnicula is a danger to his family.

Bunnicula – and its sequels, Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and Nighty-Nightmare – were favourites of mine when I was a child. I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to hang onto a copy of each, despite the massive purge of books that occurred last summer. Before writing this article, I took the opportunity to re-read the original Bunnicula and was pleasantly surprised that it held up remarkably well. I, personally, cannot wait until this series airs. The animation looks adorable and sheer nostaligia that the project holds for me will definitely mean that I tune in once it airs!

(Ed’s Note: Photo courtesy of Cartoon Brew.)

Ava DuVernay Will NOT Be Directing Black Panther. Cue Sad Face. :(

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So, as it turns out, Ava DuVernay will not be directing the upcoming Black Panther film. In an interview with Essence, DuVernay stated that, while she considered Marvel’s offer to direct, she ultimately passed on the project because she and Marvel

had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me. […] In the end, it comes down to story and perspective. And we just didn’t see eye to eye. Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later.

I definitely believe that DeVernay would have given us an outstanding film, one that’s faithful to the source material that would have addressed issues of race, imperialism, and colonialism. Issues that, within the context of everything that’s happening in America at the moment, are hugely important. I strongly suspect that made Marvel a little uncomfortable because they may have felt that this would have alienated their white male fanbase. Which would have undercut their bottom line.

This goes back to what I was saying about how directors with a unique voice and style aren’t really what Marvel’s looking for. Joss Whedon summed it up perfectly when he said “With so much at stake, there’s gonna be friction.” Marvel’s concerned that unique voices and styles will impact on their bottom line revenue, which is totally fair. I get that Marvel wants to make as money as they can on these films – especially given their production budgets.

But, as I’ve said before, having a cinematic universe that’s so tightly controlled and one that always plays it safe doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to produce good films. And, frankly, as Marvel produces and releases more cookie cutter and lacklustre films, they will notice a drop in revenue.

I think that a lot of the same issues that prevented DeVernay from directing this project is also one of the reasons why we haven’t seen a solo Black Widow film. I think Marvel thinks that diversity – on-screen and behind it – is a threat to it’s moneymaking blockbuster franchises. Which is really sad because, from what I remember from my marketing class, both women and non-whites are huge untapped sources of revenue, not only for the films themselves but also for the attendant merchandise.

Upon the release of Ant-Man later this year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will move into “phase three”, which includes the following films:

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Avengers: Affinity Wars Part 1 (2018)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity Wars Part 2 (2019)
  • The Inhumans (2019)

(Yet there’s still no solo Black Widow movie. Because, fuck you, fans. That’s why. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant entirely.)

Films, like other pop culture texts, have a tremendous impact in shaping how we see and interpret the world around us. They not only reinforce the dominant cultural values of a society but can also challenge them. The writers, directors, and producers who produce films have tremendous power and can use film as a way of stimulating discourse around important issues. This is why diversity behind the camera is so critical.

Set Photos From the New Ghostbusters Film!

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I’m super excited! Not only has Paul Feig tweeted a photo of the new Ecto-1 car (gotta love the ghost hoot ornament) from the new Ghostbusters film, but also a photo showing all four ladies in their ghost busting coveralls has been released!

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Bonus: Here’s Paul Feig with some slime!

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ETA: After I posted, I learned that Paul Feig had tweeted the first official set picture of the new Ghostbusters in their gear – complete with proton packs!

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