See what I did with the title? Eh? Oh whatever. You know it’s cool 🙂
May the 4th be with you! Where my Blerds at? Today is Our Day!
For anyone else who is confused, today is Star Wars Day – a day when Trekkies and Star Wars fans – the OGs of what we now know as the phenomenon of fandom – put their differences aside to celebrate all things hyper drive, light saber and Princess Leia related.
For the sake of full disclosure, I by no means consider myself a geek or a nerd. I haven’t earned those titles, as there are hundreds of hours of study, thousands of dollars invested in cosplay/conventions and heated discussions on whether a parsec is a measure of distance or time that I have not yet invested in. The truth is, devotion to nerdom requires the same or greater energy and allocation of resources that religion calls for. But what I DO have is a healthy appreciation for the worlds that sci-fi has created and the future it compels us to imagine. Do women who look like me have a place in that future?
I mentioned Princess Leia earlier. If you search the terms “sci-fi” and “sex symbols”, your first results will yield the iconic image of Carrie Fisher clad in a copper bra, loin cloth and chained wrists. (She eventually uses those chains to strangle her gross captor and give us all liiife.)
Waaaay down the line, if fatigue doesn’t set in, you may find one or town images of Black female sex symbols in sci-fi. I hate the use of that term, but it is what it is and also points to a larger discussion about problematic female representation in both Sci-Fi and fantasy. For the purposes of this post, I’m more interested in exploring Black female desirability in film on this auspicious day.
What I found was, as you might imagine, woefully lacking.
I used to read comic books when I was young, and it was far easier to find strong, sexy Black female characters between those pages than it was (and still is) on film. Storm, Bumblebee and Ladyhawk were my favorites. Today being May the 4th, I tried to conjure images of onscreen protagonists that embodied the same strengths that their sketched counterparts possessed.
20 MINUTES LATER….
Aha! There was Lt Uhura from the original Star Trek. (A role later reprised by Zoe Saldana in the reboot.)
And then of course, Eartha Kitt as Cat Woman (which Halle Berry, bless her heart, attempted to rival in the Batman reboot.)
Star Wars offered Oola, but she wasn’t so much Black as she was green…which might be a Hollywood thing.
Zoe Saldana – who is Afro Latina – also made an appearance as a green Black woman in Guardians of the Galaxy. Hmmm. Curious.
Black female representation in fantasy is gaining ground in other ways, however. Characters like Soneque Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery and Michelle Hurd as Raffi Musiker in the franchise’s Picard series provide us with portrayals smart, independent and accomplished Black women. Intelligence is hot in its own right, just not in the pin up sense; and I think it’s equally important that there exist an abundance of both forms of representation.
What about you? Who are some of your favorite Black female fantasy characters and why? If I left anyone off that deserves honorable mention on this day, drop their names in the comments and let’s give them the hype they deserve!
Update. I’ve just been made aware of an enormous oversight on my part. Ladies n’ gents, I present to you the incomparable Gina Torres who has been the voice of and starred in everything! Many thanks to @Olu_GH for bringing us into the marvelous light with his “passive observations”.