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White Anti-Racism: No Hairshirt Necessary

On Avatar: My one and only post

See Huffpo’s full article.

Responding to the question of why the Na’vi in Avatar have boobs, despite the fact that they don’t even have genitals, director James Cameron told Playboy:

“Right from the beginning I said, ‘She’s got to have tits,’ even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals,”

Additionally, Cameron said that in creating the Na’vi, he wanted to “focus on things that can create otherness that are not off-putting.” 

Now, there are so many reasons to criticize this movie (it sucks, it’s too long, its story is lacking, its acting is lacking, it’s a simplistic interpretation of colonial narratives, it’s a reductive allegory for American foreign policy, etc) that I don’t really want to go into it too much, but as food for thought, I will be pondering two questions:

1. Why does Cameron call the Na’vi as a ‘race’ not a species if they are ‘non-placental mammals’? (obviously the answer to this is that a degree of relatability is necessary cinematically) Considering the presence of multiple human races in the cast, did you view the Na’vi as a race or a species?

2. What can be said about Cameron’s implication that there are features of “otherness” that are not “off-putting”? Isn’t part of the “essence” of “otherness” a degree of off-puttingness? Would eliminating the breasts have turned the Na’vi from Others to something actually different?

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Good Hair Comes from India!!!

Chris Rock’s trip to Chennai, India was one of the most intriguing parts of Good Hair. Apparently, the vast majority of hair used in human hair weaves comes from India. Most of it is bought from Hindu temples that perform sacrificial tonsures (head shavings). (An interviewee did speak about the black market hair trade but I found him to be a less than credible source.) The hair is then bought by weave manufacturers who sort it, wash it, comb it and assemble it into tracks of hair.

thanks to sunnyshairandwigs.blogspot.com for the great photo!

I had an unnecessarily negative reaction to this information. Because I associate most products made in India or Southeast Asia solely for American consumption with capitalism, colonialism and destruction of local environments and knowledge, I hastily assumed that evil was at play within this transnational hair trade. After thinking more though, I really can’t see any problem with this. Tonsuring has existed as a Hindu ritual for much much longer than human hair weaves have become a profitable commodityCitizens choose to be tonsured as a self-sacrifice to Lord Vishnu, so one can’t really argue that they forced into this or unfairly compensated. The temples do profit off of hair sales, but the profit defrays overhead costs and supports charitable operations. I suppose the temples are not always upfront with the shavees about the fact they sell the hair, but the hair-buying weave-making industry isn’t underground so no one is being duped. Moreover, Indian people own and operate the weave companies which ensures that the profits go back to the community. Whether or not said profit is fairly distributed, I don’t know, but either way it doesn’t seem to be a capitalist enterprise more evil than any other.

To learn more about the collection, manufacturing and distribution, go to Sunny’s Hair Blogit has a great Q&A by an American online hair vendor traveling to India to see the process first hand.

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2010 Whiter Olympics

Thanks to Zoe M. for linking to White Snow, Brown Rage: The Case Against the Winter Olympics published on Slate. Aside from figure skating, I’ve never had much interest in any of the winter sports, aside from figure skating. And, while I grant that the requirements of figure skating are no less athletically legitimate than those of other Olympic sports (and probably MORE legitimate than those of Shooting), I have always viewed the sport more as a competition of spectacle as opposes to quantifiable ability.

I’m glad people are speaking out against the intertwined racial/geographical exclusion of the winter games; it is absolutely true that, as Raihan Salam puts it, “brown folks hail from largely snowless, tropical climes.” However, I think the selection of sports for the winter games presents as much of a problem within just the US as it does from a global perspective. I don’t care about most winter sports mostly because my family was never wealthy enough to arrange for such excursions and equipment. Most winter sports don’t just require expensive limited-use equipment; for US citizens father than a few hours by car from snowy mountains such activities require entire vacations! Because of this, I don’t think that the winter games have the same capacity to foster a sense of national pride and togetherness. (It’s pretty rare that I advocate for more nationalism…hm) I don’t know how to prove it— might do more research– but I’m sure that the level of enthusiasm within the US for the winter games is markedly lower than it is for the superior summer ones. Thoughts?

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