During lockdown, I joined my first ever book club. It’s not that I have anything against them but I never do very well when I discuss books with other people. I was the same at university. I was always the shy one in seminars who would never speak out unless picked on. I was better in pairs or small groups but I’m still the kind of person who is much better on paper. It also doesn’t help that I’m so easily swayed by a good argument. Our latest read was Sula by Toni Morrison and I was one of the few people who had enjoyed it. However, the moment the rest of the group started criticising it, all of my beliefs went out of the window. Basically, I lack confidence and conviction. Book groups aren’t great for the combo.
It was announced recently that the sequel to Ready Player One will be released on November this year. I can’t say that I’m too excited by the news. I found the book really annoying and thought the film was kind of dull. I think it’s a problem with all novels that rely too heavily on their pop culture references. For one thing, I think it shows a lack of imagination and writing ability. For another, I think it’s a really lazy way of getting your readers onside. It’s using nostalgia to create engagement instead of a captivating story or developed characters. I’d go so far as to say that Ernest Cline’s YA novel made me quite angry. So angry that I’ve really stopped trusting any book that uses popular culture to draw people in. Which means that Slay wasn’t a natural choice for me to start reading. It’s a YA novel about an online video game and it’s really pushing the Black Panther connection. Writer Brittney Morris was inspired by the movie to write her first novel. Something she apparently accomplished in 11 days. But would it read like an 11-day long composition or would it actually make up for the wounds left by Cline? There was only one way to find out.
There was plenty of controversy surrounding the release of this film. After a mass brawl broke out at a Birmingham cinema, Vue and Showcase cinemas decided to stop showing it. This decision was widely criticised for many reasons and eventually reversed. The decision to pull the film was described as dangerous and racist. Dangerous because the film would be seen as taboo. This would change the way that people engaged with it and the message at its core. At the same time, the decision was viewed as racist. The idea that a film showing gang violence would definitely push young people into mass violence was only strengthening the link between Black communities and uncontrollable violence. Especially as the film wasn’t actually as violent as other entertainment that’s widely available. Whatever the reasoning, it did just look like another attempt to diminish the release of non-white films. Even when they are made, they were being pulled at the slightest provocation. To compare, nothing was pulled from screens when a white dude killed 12 people and injured 70 other when he brought a gun into a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. So, why was this incident so different?
One of the most underappreciated films at the 91st Academy Awards was Barry Jenkins’ adaption of If Beale Street Could Talk. It was nominated a measly 3 times in total. To put that in context, the boring remake of A Star is Born got 8. Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody both got 5. That’s fucking insane. Even more insane is the fact that it only won 1 of those 3. Maybe the Academy thought that they’d done Barry Jenkins enough of a favour when they gave Moonlight the award for Best Picture? Or maybe they just thought that they’d done enough to fight racism that year by giving fucking Green Book so much recognition? Whatever it was, it was a travesty. I loved the film though and, once I’d started to compile my anti-racist reading list, I knew that I had to read the original book. So, I started it this weekend and finished it just in time for this review.
Yes, we should all be doing what we can to learn more about racism and how to live a more anti-racist life. Watching documentaries is a great thing but, every so often, it’s good to take a bit of time off and remember that life isn’t all bleakness. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the things you’re hearing and reading about, do remember that Black people have been feeling like that their whole lives. So, it’s important not to let fatigue turn into ambivalence. After all, there are so many other things you can do to keep on living an anti-racist life. That includes watching and celebrating films made by, starring and written by Black people. We all know that there is a huge disparity in Hollywood when it comes to the representation of non-white people in all areas. It’s more than just Oscars so white. So, we need to start proving that people watch films starring BIPOC actors and telling BIPOC stories. And what’s the best way to do that? By watching films starring BIPOC characters.
Did you see the super cringe “I Take Responsibility” video that the NACCP made starring several Hollywood actors. It was well-meaning, yes, but another kind of mis-judged entry to the “we’re all in this together” folder. The video is just tone-deaf and completely misunderstands what people need to hear right now. This is a time when a lot of people are angry and they don’t need a bunch of actors showcasing their white guilt for all to see. God knows, Hollywood has an awful lot to do to make up for their lack of representation for Black actors. It’s going to take more than just Stanley Tucci and Julianne Moore getting all actory in a black and white video. Thankfully, to counter this, several films have been made free to stream in the US. One of them is this 2019 film that lays bare the prejudice that exists at the heart of American law enforcement. It only felt right to watch it for my review this week.
It’s been a really long time since I last posted a Friday Favourites list. To be honest, the series was getting tough and I was bored with it. I couldn’t think of interesting ideas and it was taking me too long to write them. So, I decided to scrap it. I was intending to come up with something different to post but it never happened. In light of the recent protests surrounding race discrimination, I decided to bring it back to life once again. I know that I don’t have a particularly big platform or that I have the ability to influence someone’s decisions. However, I have been lucky enough to be born with a privilege that many people don’t have. I have a voice and I need to use it. Last week, I posted a few suggestions for ways people could learn more about the things that the Black Lives Matter movement is marching for. To learn more about the systemic racism that exists in our society. It should not be up to black people to tell us what to do or how to do it. They’ve been doing the work for us for too long. So, I did something. I wanted to know what I had missed and what I needed to know. And, to help people in the same boat, I thought I’d share it. Hopefully, it can give other people some ideas.