Tag Archives: blackness

Videogames as Story-telling: Protagonist Love Interests & Race

Well, last time we saw how racist myths can be kept afloat in videogames, even through anthropomorphic means. This post will be different , but yet the same, in that the central issue uniting all these problematics in these virtual narratives is one that sets that which is white as “default” and admirable.

There are myriad videogames one could choose to illustrate any of this. However, I’m going to stick with my experience and what I know.  As with the last post, I mentioned playing a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog games, in this post, I’ll feature a game whose narrative had a great impact on me and that I greatly enjoyed – Custom Robo!

I’ve always been into the battling robots  concept for as long as I can remember. Whether it was Gundam, Power Ranger’s MegaZords ( they looked like robots) , Medabots (which more people need to know about!), I seemed to have always been enamored with the concept of commanding/controlling a mecha-robo to engage in futuristic combat. Perhaps I’ll save what I think the significance of the mecha-robo combat is for another post…

Continuing with my interest in robot-combat fiction/games, I first played Custom Robo around Middle-School and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the futuristic aesthetic in the graphics and the music and character designs, etc. The story ( which, again I may cover in another post because it has significance) was captivating and I still remember it all so vividly. But what I also remember vividly, was the main character , called ‘Hero’ by default, looking like this:

He’s supposed to be the archetype of the honest-eyed, bon-homme (good-natured boy) – and he also happens to be a jolly white boy. And so being the honest, impressionable, and oft-naive bonhomme your main character is made to be, you naturally will need aside-kick, who may need to be a bit more worldy to round him out. Enter, Harry:

Yup. This is Harry (*sigh*..) Now we can go and deliberate all day as to what his race/ethnicity actually is because of his blond hair, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know the motif of blackness being a side-kick to whiteness- Custom Robo isn’t the only place we see it.

Now, in Custom Robo, he serves as more of a guide/mentor to the hero joining the local Custom Robo mercenary squad. He’s a charismatic, entertaining character to interact with,although he is portrayed as a wily, sloppy, lazy, womanizing guy. You know, like many black man side-kicks we see….

His character actually doesn’t bother me as much as another one… or rather what seems to be the game’s disposition towards her.. Harry’s sister, Mira

She’s the head commander of the Police Squad in this game and she’s a black female. And much like her bro, Harry, she’s got a sweet funky hair color! Anyways, in some ways her character makes me happy- it’s good to see a strong , black female who’s actually reverred and respected in the story. What I don’t like, however, is the message her character sends about black females being perceived as beautiful and objects of male affection- esp. when they have natural hair styles.

Throughout the game, these are the women that the womanizing Harry and all the other gentlemen of the game are gawking over are the white, flowy-haired women, wearing more effeminate clothing. It’s almost as if to say that black women , with their natural hair texture, cannot possibly be seen as effeminate and desirable to men. I find it interesting that virtually every other female in this game wins the affection of a guy except Mira. And before someone would like to wrestle me concerning the colonialistic gaze on black natural hair and beauty, perhaps I should remind you (or bring to your attention) Meteorologist Rhonda Lee :


If you’d like to check out some of the game’s lunacy for yourself, with good commentary, I recommend you follow the youtube user who actually inspired me to do this post, Black Preon:

Until next time!

New Series: Me and Black Liberation Theology

I’m gearing up for a class in the fall on contemporary theology.  One of the books we are reading is James Cone’s God of the Oppressed.  I hope to blog through it here at PJ starting in August.

I should start by saying that I’m not really a fan of Liberation theology.  But, that being said, I know that I have read very little Liberation theology, so my being ‘meh’ towards LT is based on summaries and overviews.  That’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to reading this book, because I’ll get to go a little more in-depth.

So, while I’m excited to read and to learn, I’m also kind of scared of what lays ahead.

I’m scared of what happens if I don’t agree with it.

If I disagree strongly with Cone, and Black LT in general, I’m scared that people will say, “well, you just don’t get it, because you’re not one of us.”  Will my disagreement with Cone be because I’m not part of the culture?  All theology is influenced by culture, obviously, but, my life experience of being a) Canadian, b) female, c)Scot-Ukrainian (translation: the palest pasty white you’ve ever seen), d) growing up in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood (mainly Italian, Vietnamese and Jewish) is so far removed from what Cone and other Black Liberation Theologians experienced in the U.S.

I’m scared of what happens if I agree with it.

Will people say, “you can’t really agree, because you haven’t lived it.  It’s ours.”  Should specific theologies be limited to a specific culture?

I’m scared of what happens if I just don’t get it.

Will people say, “Of course you don’t get it, you can’t get it. Don’t even try.

I’ve seen the hypothetical responses listed above in action, usually within Feminist circles.  To disagree with their position just proves that I’m still a product of the patriarchy, and thus my concerns, disagreements, etc., are tainted.

So here’s my question: How open is Black Liberation Theology to critique, and interaction?  Is there room for dialogue?  Can I be informed and influenced by Black Liberation Theology, and is there any room for this pasty, female Canadian at the discussion table?

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Sutton Griggs' Imperium In Imperio: Black Science Fiction As Social Prophesy

Tuesday, I posted on what more Science Fiction literature may mean for Black religion. In my excitement and search for science fiction writings by African Americans, I found Sutton E. Griggs’ Imperium In Imperio online.

The book is an great read, and I enjoyed every moment. Our protagonist is Belton Peidmont, who represents the very anti-thesis of W.E.B. Dubois‘s the talented 10th (light skinned, middle class Negroes destined to lead the Negro community of the late 19th/early 20th century). That honor belongs to Piedmont’s best friend since grade school, Bernard Belgrave.  However, some of the more interesting developments in the book is what I want to concentrate on.

First, there is the visibility of black women throughout the text.  I think this is important; as some theologians have pointed out, that many of the slave narratives written by men rendered women as invisible (even if they do appear or speak, its only in reference to the author’s life). Interestingly, it is the “martyrdom” of a lover that politicizes apathetic Bernard into becoming a revolutionary.  The subjectivities of both Bernard’s and Belmont’s mothers are made determining factors in the destinies of their sons.

Second, as an alternative history text, there are still signs of Griggs’ time.  The vulnerability of the black body, and utter dominance of the power of death which came with the culture of rape and lynching.  Success is defined as living to breathe another day in the P0st-Reconstruction/pre-Civil Rights Era.

Thirdly, I think from a political standpoint, this text is a criticism against both Jeffersonian states rights and black separatism.  Griggs’ weaves Jefferson and separatism in a way that is quite indicting.  In Chapter 15, Belton exposes the fatal flaw in our federalist system: the very ambiguity of the relationship between the states and the federal government–Negroes, under the auspices of the 10th Amendment were denies their rights.  Make no mistake aboutit ; Jefferson is mentioned about 10 times during a 4 chapter long monologue. This is no accident.  Dare I wax Stanley Hauerwas at this juncture, one could go into a diatribe against the inherent violence within liberal democracy (Hauerwas’s term, which he conflates with a notion of capitalist individualism), pointing to Jeffersonianism as chief culprit.

Lastly, my favorite chapter was Chapter VI, “A Young Rebel” in which Belton uses his oratory skill and intellect to rally a group a students to protest against racial discrimination. I see no better way to articulate the possibility of the Civil Rights Movement some 50 years later.

It is in the very act of recording a fictitious account of a black violent revolution that Sutton E. Griggs re-constructs a non-violent politics as patriotism.  Simply by considering an alternative history, asking the “What If” questions, Griggs had imagined a Christian theological view of moral agency for the African American community.

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