These Are The Voyages… of Hope

Sci-Fi and Spirituality Interspectional

In this episode, host of the podcast The Sacred Now, Jay Jackson and Episcopal priest, Reverend Rachel Kessler aka @nerdypriest on TikTok, join me as we discuss the different places were faith and science fiction meet. We discuss faiths within sci-fi universes as well as how our collective interests in science fiction has complimented or contradicted our beliefs. But ultimately *spoiler alert* this conversation is about the ways that science fiction can continue to give a us hope for a better future. In this episode, we discuss everything from Star Trek, to Blade Runner to Children of Men and more. I hope you enjoy it.  — Support this podcast:

What do you do when you have a crisis of faith or you’ve lost hope? This is the question that most of the new Trek series ask of their characters and of the audience in their series premieres. In Discovery, Michael’s faith in herself and her future have been shattered. She’s gone from being the golden child, molded for command into a mutineer; scorned, rejected and dealing with the fact that she has to rebuild her trust in herself and her reputation as a whole. In Picard, we see Jean-Luc Picard after he has lost faith in Starfleet and the Federation. He feels that they have turned their back on their ideals and doesn’t know how to fight for ideals that no one seems to be believe in anymore. Even in Prodigy, we see children who have been told time and time again, that there is no reason to hope for something more than what they have. They are abandoned and forgotten, according to their everyday reality. In the series premiere, we literally see Dal reach for the stars, just to have his hopes dashed away.

Dal R’El nearly escaping Tars Lamora prison colony
in the premiere of Star Trek: Prodigy

Now in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, we have Captain Pike, literally running from his future, trying to figure out how to have hope when your fate has already been written… and you’re terrified of it. In Pike’s character, you have one version an ideal leader, a man of unshakable integrity and a sense of humor, and yet when we meet him, he’s trying to run his future by hiding in the past.

Captain Pike on a horse looking at the Enterprise.

When it comes to the mission of Star Trek as a storytelling legacy, it is a story ultimately about hope. The original series theorized on a time where an American, a Scotsman, a Russian, a Japanese man, an East African woman and a being from a different world could work, learn and affect positive change in the galaxy together. It’s important to remember that in September 1966, when the show premiered, a crew such as the one on the Enterprise was utterly radical. In 1966, the United States of America was still deep into what we should probably call the 1st Cold War with the Soviet Union and almost everyone in the cast and crew would have come into adulthood during World War 2 and the nuclear arms race that followed. President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 was still a recent and raw memory as well as Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had just passed to both great joy and to great backlash as tends to happen with civil and human rights gains. The Vietnam War was in its 11th year with no signs of stopping anytime soon. And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., facing violence and opposition that he would later say was worse than what he had faced in the south, had been hit by a heavy rock in Chicago while leading a protest against housing discrimination the month before Star Trek’s premiere.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stumbles after being hit with rock by a group of hecklers in an all-white district in Chicago. He continued to lead the march after this event, Aug. 5, 1966. Bettman/Getty Images

This was the world that Star Trek was birthed into. It was against this historical backdrop that Star Trek dared to tell stories about coming together despite racial and ethnic differences, challenging and growing past a history of violence and the power of communication, connection and empathy. Now Star Trek is not a perfect series by any means. As hard as it tries (and succeeds) at being forward thinking, it is also a product of its time and subject to the imaginative limitations of its creators. But the ambition to hope and strive for something better than what was… than what is, is a fundamental building block of what has helped Star Trek maintain its relevance for over 50 years.

In the Interspectional episode linked to the top of this post, “Sci-Fi and Spirituality”, Episcopal priest, Reverend Rachel Kessler, podcast host of “The Sacred Now”, Jay Jackson and I talk at length about Star Trek and other sci-fi properties as they relate to faith. Ultimately, one of the conclusions that we come to is that one of the things that we love about science fiction is its ability to help us imagine a more positive future or at the very least, give us a vision of how to hold on to a sliver of hope even when things seem the darkest. These are lessons that Star Trek teaches us again and again. In the Strange New Worlds premiere, this lesson is taught in a new way. The premiere asks the question: When your fate has been written as Captain Pike’s has, when you can see your own destruction barreling toward you, how do you have hope and faith for the future?

With the Supreme Court opinion leak and the epic rollback of civil rights protections that could come down following an overturn of Roe v. Wade, the question posed by the premiere episode of this series seem oddly prescient, especially when you consider the fact that the episode was written over three years ago. How did they know that we might need this kind of story? One that reminds us that the utopic future of Star Trek was birthed out of pain and suffering. One that doesn’t skip over the hard parts and reminds us that we have to work for the future that we want and that it won’t come easy. People forget that World War III, nuclear fallout and the destruction of 30% of Earth’s population was established in Star Trek’s canon decades ago. It is the history of the future. It is the destruction that we see coming our way, a darkness that might have seemed inevitable from where Gene Rodenberry was standing in the 1960’s. But even in that, there is a sliver of hope that is worth holding on to. There are lives that you will affect and change in the meantime. There are children whose lives you save and whose future will be brighter because you kept fighting even though it felt like end.

The lesson that we learn by the end of series premiere is that it’s not about believing that you won’t die or hoping against hope that destruction isn’t possible; it’s about believing that while you are here, you can make a difference. You can make a change and that your influence can last far longer than the thing that scares you. It’s about accepting death and defeat as a possibility and leading with integrity and vision anyway. It’s The Kobayashi Maru and realizing that the fight matters, even if it doesn’t end in an easy victory. It’s another chapter in the sometimes complicated story of hope.

Sci-Fi and Spirituality

Sci-Fi and Spirituality Interspectional

In this episode, host of the podcast The Sacred Now, Jay Jackson and Episcopal priest, Reverend Rachel Kessler aka @nerdypriest on TikTok, join me as we discuss the different places were faith and science fiction meet. We discuss faiths within sci-fi universes as well as how our collective interests in science fiction has complimented or contradicted our beliefs. But ultimately *spoiler alert* this conversation is about the ways that science fiction can continue to give a us hope for a better future. In this episode, we discuss everything from Star Trek, to Blade Runner to Children of Men and more. I hope you enjoy it. 

Latisha: Hi everybody. And welcome back to Interspectional. I am so excited for this episode. On this episode, we will be talking about the connection between science fiction and spirituality. So I know I have my own thoughts on this coming from a faith background myself, but I’m also really delighted to have two incredibly informed and fun guests to talk about this with.

Cause I think it’s a topic that is not really delved into a lot, but is actually critical into why so many of us find ourselves drawn to science fiction and fantasy properties. I want to get into this and so let me have my guests introduce themselves starting first with Rachel. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little about your area of expertise.

Rachel: Hello. I’m Rachel Kessler. I’m an Episcopal priest. I’m a college chaplain at Kenyon college in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Ohio. I don’t know that I have necessarily areas of expertise other than I consume a whole lot of media. And I have very many thoughts about it from the lens of my faith background which has been a journey from being raised very conservative, evangelical to more progressive versions of Christianity and working in a lot of interfaith spaces as well.

So I’m looking forward to our conversation. 

Latisha: Awesome. So delighted to have you here. I know Rachel, mostly through her TikToks ,The Nerdy Priest. You should absolutely follow her because she has so many great insights. And so I’m delighted that she is coming on this platform to share her insights with this particular audience.

Yay! Jay, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your expertise? 

Jay Jackson: Yes, I’d be happy to. My name is Jay Jackson. I am based out of central Arkansas. I am a writer, actor, producer, standup comedian, musician. I’m a part-time stripper. I do hair. I’m all about getting that bag. I do whatever it takes to get this money.

That’s what I’m trying to do to varying degrees of success. I may start an “Only Fans” here, but that’s where I’m at. As far as my backgrounds I know I looked like a pretty stereotypical jock, but my nerd cred runs deep.

I’m a huge Captain America fan is as evidenced by the Captain America swag in my background here. But I was raised on science fiction, raised on comic books, from a very young age .Star Trek in particular holds a very special place in my heart from the next generation on, but also a big fan of the original series and all of that. As I got older, I started to really get into different genres, detective stories. I was a big fan of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle and all of that. But also the classic literary science fiction. Asimov, Bester, Heinlein. All of those guys.

And so that’s where I started cutting my teeth with delving into some of the bigger questions that science fiction asks around the human condition and also about the way we understand the world around us and what we believe. Excited to be here to delve into that.

Latisha: Awesome. So happy to have you here. And Jay also has a podcast called “The Sacred Now”. Can you summarize really quickly what that podcast is about? 

Jay Jackson: Yes. I like to tell people that “The Sacred Now” is a podcast where we talk about not just religious, but philosophical metaphysical ideals through the lens of pop culture and current events. So we talk about Superman as a messianic figure. Our very first episode was a two-part episode where we talked about how Star Trek has tackled the idea of God or images of god-like figures and how the Trek universe has approached that, which you could make a podcast just on that subject alone. There’s a lot to uncover with that. But that’s the kind of thing that we do. 

Latisha: That’s awesome. I know when I think about Trek and the concepts of God and faith that are explored through it, what’s really fascinating is because it is a sci-fi media, and you’re going through space.

You end up with different peoples and, in different planets and thus different gods both in the regional religions in that area. And also you were literally on different planets. How do they define their world in reference to their faith? And does your faith expand outside of your own planet?

It’s a fair question. And so there’s just so many really interesting things when it comes to like Star Trek franchise, of course. We’ll get into that a little bit more deeply and actually. Going back to your podcast and also Rachel’s work.

What inspired you both to develop those online personas of both like The Nerdy Priest and the podcast, “The Sacred Now”. Jay, can you share a little bit more about what inspired you to even make the podcast in the first place? 

Jay Jackson: Sure. Like you said, I was also raised in a very deeply religious household.

My father was a deacon in the church. My mother taught Sunday school and the whole nine. We had a key to the church. All of this. There literally eight days a week. So the church and the church community was the nexus of our life outside of our family.

Anything that we did outside of the family was pretty much centered around the church. If we weren’t at school. I was also, raised on star Trek and comic books, like I said. And my parents were actually the ones who introduced us to that.

 I am told, I don’t know how much veracity there is to this story, but I am told that my mother originally wanted to name me, Jedi. My father talks her out of it. Because she wanted to stylize it as like the word jet dash, and then the symbol for an eye, like an eye that you blink that was going to be named that.

And my dad was like, you know what? That’s a little too much. But yeah, so my parents were both nerds, like super uber nerds about Star Trek and Star Wars and, Spider-man and all of this, and also deeply religious. I came from those roots. My family also whenever we went to the movies or had to do reports for school; we’d like to talk about it.

We’d like to dissect things. We’d like to really go into like how this particular episode made us feel or really delve into what was the history of things like that. And as I got older, I found myself around people who are less interested in doing that. And some people were, but I found myself missing being able to talk with people about those ideas and take deep dives into subjects and things like that.

I also caveat with this. I am significantly less religious now than I was when I was younger. I consider myself now, if you were to put me in a box, I would consider myself a reverent agnostic. But that idea of being able to examine our perspectives on things and how the media that we experience makes this feel and what we’re actually taking away from that is something that was ingrained in me at a young age and always has stuck with me.

So “The Sacred Now” is a n effort to carry that forward because we live in a scary world sometimes. There’s a lot happening and there are episodes of “The Sacred Now” that we don’t get to really talk about nerdy stuff. There’s a lot of things happening where sometimes we just have to express our ourselves and just be able to get that out. the black lives matter movement was really getting hot and heavy during the Brianna Taylor protests and the George Ford protests. We dedicated episodes to that. We are dedicated episodes to COVID and unpacking that. And so I think that for me, this show’s been a way to help really unpack and unfold and really dissect and process the world we actually live in, in addition to the fun science fiction- type worlds that we enjoy. I feel like I rambled there. 

Latisha: No I can guarantee you that there are so many elements in your story that not only people need to hear, but that we’re validating. So I appreciate that so much. Rachel, same question. And also you look like you want respond a little bit to some things that Jay said.

Rachel: Talk about resonating, right? That idea of being raised in a household that was both very religious. My dad was a pastor. My brother is a pastor. That was our life, our world. But also, I think being raised in a household where my family weren’t really readers.

But in terms of like movies and media, like I joked that the most consistent things in my life have been Jesus and Star Wars. And my relationship to Star Wars has been much more consistent than my relationship with Jesus, if I’m very honest without it. So I get that dichotomy. And yet I do think that like the ways that I dug into scifi and fantasy and literature, and we’re actually ways that opened up my very limited and sheltered worldview, right? I have told this story on TikTok before, but I was a horse girl. I was a horse girl. We can talk about that whole phase of my life.

But I was going through this school library, finding any books that had anything to do with horses, which is how I found The Horse And His Boy by CS Lewis and ended up finding the Narnia books. And that really opened up my little fourth grade mind to fantasy and other worlds, and really started me down like this whole road to geekdom and being raised in an environment where everything was viewed through the lens of faith. It just became natural that’s the lens that I would apply to everything else that I was reading and consuming. And really, it was a lot of, and these are more explicitly Christian writers, but it was people like CS Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle who really started opening up and expanding how I understood my faith and my religious worldview.

And eventually led me down this like strange road where I suddenly, I woke up one day and I was an Episcopal priest. And I’m still not entirely sure how that happened, but this is where we are. And as far as the TikTok thing, right? Like realizing that there was an outlet for, just expressing these thoughts and these connections out into the internet and finding out that there are people that resonate with them and want to have these conversations as well.

I think it was great. And then I know Latisha, you and I have talked about Farscape quite a lot. And Farscape is the show that like, from this conversation we have about deconstructing Christianity and moving outside of very closed worldviews into worlds that are bigger and more expansive than what we would imagine. As someone who is like a broadly understood deconstructed Christian. I think we should always be in the process of deconstructing. That show resonates with me so profoundly. So I can’t get up in my pulpit, my poor congregation puts up with a lot for me.

I subject them to a lot of things that are unfortunate. I still don’t know that they’ve recovered from my sermon on WandaVision. Farscape and space Muppets is like a little bit too far to try to give the context for a sermon. If my church understood how much I restrained myself, appreciate that. This is what it is. So the internet could get subjected to my thoughts. 

Latisha: I don’t know if anyone has recovered from WandaVision, Loki and all of the collected, “I’m just going to activate all of your PTSD and childhood trauma” of Marvel TV shows. One of my favorite TikTokkers is Nique Marina. She just always goes in on like,” This is how Marvel is activating all your unresolved trauma today.” 

Rachel: I love it. 

Latisha: And it’s great. And great in this like “There is a piece of media that is showing a character or several characters going through something that is difficult and doing it in such a way that if you were also going through something that is difficult or had been doing that, you can see yourself reflected in that in a way that you might not have been aware of previously.”

 That is really special. The really interesting thing I find about WandaVision is when it first started, people were like,” Who is the villain? What is the problem? What are we doing?” And it’s the villain is grief!

That’s the villain. Okay. And how we deal with that. Okay. That’s what it is. And somewhat related Elizabeth Olsen, she also did a show on Facebook like the few years previous called, Sorry For Your Loss, which is also about a woman who lost her husband and the process that she’s going through dealing with that grief.

Jay Jackson: Never heard of that. 

Latisha: Yeah it’s a really incredible show. A friend of mine, Kitt, she actually was the showrunner for that show. But I know for me, it was really interesting having watched her for your loss first and then watching WandaVision and not that the show isn’t good on its own cause absolutely was, but it was interesting seeing Elizabeth Olsen as an actress, having gone through like that journey once and then seeing how that journey had been like refined and also in this like larger medium. So it was just really fascinating. 

Jay Jackson: So when you mentioned WandaVision, it’s a little personal for me because at the time when WandaVision came out I was personally dealing with a lot of loss.

And watching that show took a little bit out of me, but it was like necessary because this was like right after 2020, the pandemic was in full swing. And processing all of the loss of that year. And some of the other loss that we’ve gone through. Many years prior, but around that same time, like that time of year is always hard for me.

So like WandaVision came out the exact right time for me because watching Wanda process her trauma and her grief really helped me, no lie, process my own. And I know on some level outside, it’s “Oh, like really a superhero show helps you do that?”

And yeah. Yeah. There are people who aren’t in these fandoms don’t realize, or at least undervalue how powerful these messages are. How much that these stories affect us and help us understand what it is about the world around us. I think that is one of the key things that good science fiction does really well. The ideas to help us understand, A., I want to understand what is, and then 2. Understand what is possible.

And I think that is one of the most important things that I’ve taken away from my fandoms. Do I necessarily believe that God exists in the Christian sense? No, but is it possible? Could be. I don’t know, God could look like the prophets of Bajor or something closer to that.

 Opportunities abound, I guess. My mind can’t really comprehend that, but I have to consider the possibilities that there are things about this universe that I don’t know. And that’s what science fiction does for me.

Latisha: I love that you mention that. I know for me, there’s something to the comfort I feel with the idea that I might not be able to understand. And the comfort that I feel in, I might not be able to comprehend. And that is okay. And I feel like for a lot of people, the idea of not knowing or not being able to control it or not being able to get your head around is so terrifying. Which I get, but it also feel as someone who’s been in fandoms, I’ve gotten practice with the idea. I remember like randomly I was watching a Doctor Who episode where people are going mad because they realized that they were in a simulation and that they weren’t real and they just like, “oh my God, I can’t handle it. Can’t process it.” And I’m like, “I’ve accepted that it could be a figment of someone else’s imagination for a while now.” So sometimes I’m just like, can you just get all of the plot, but that’s because I have practice with that thought process. 

Rachel: We call it speculative fiction for a reason, right?

These fandoms and these worlds allow us to raise questions and speculate at what might be true and what other things would be true if this were true and how we can navigate different possibilities and ways of being in the world. It trains our minds to ask these questions. 

 Bringing up the Prophets of Bajor, I think is like such a fascinating one because I think. Deep Space Nine is one of my absolutely favorite shows. And I think it deals with religion on such an interesting level. Like not just philosophically and theologically, but like sociologically. What are the ways that our religious society would structure itself and what are the conflicts that they would have and what would the power structures be and what would happen when that world comes into conflict with other worldviews and how they integrate?

 It’s a way of taking a “fictional” religion and allowing it to play out how religious societies function and come into contact with each other. And I don’t know, it’s just fascinating. 

Latisha: Oh yeah. And then speaking the prophets of Bajor and how that religion works.

There’s also this question of how does religion work in a society that has been oppressed by another group? And also how someone both can use religion as a source of strength and also rebel against that and being like, “How could my gods let this happen to me?”

And that both of them are valid reactions to the same stimuli and how faith interacts with that. And it’s interesting to see, okay, how does this work? That exploration of humanity which I think is really fascinating. Speaking of the relationship of science fiction and faith, has something ever like really conflicted, with your faith and something that you’ve watched or really complemented it. 

Rachel: Pause to think.

Latisha: I was actually at a Comicon event, and this guy who was in like the Star Trek uniform, and all, but he also was like,” Yeah, I’m also a Christian.” and he’s like “I know what you get ask.”

I’m like, “What ?””How am I a Christian and Star Trek fan?” I’m like, “I actually am going to ask that, but not from the point of me criticizing you and saying that like your faith conflicts with this enjoyment, but as I am also someone of that dual identity and I’m wondering how does it land with you in possibly a different way that lands with me?”

But that being said. Clearly he expected that I was someone who would be like, “You’re a Christian, there’s no way you could be into Star Trek. How dare you with the Spock devil ears!” Or something like that? I don’t know.

Rachel: I come across this a lot. Like I’m struggling to think of a specific example within science fiction, where I feel that dichotomy precisely because of the things that we have spoken about, the ways that science fiction opens questions and opens our mind to broader possibilities which should absolutely in 100% include possibilities and speculations around questions of faith. 

My husband and I joke about this. Cause what I cannot deal with in media is anything that is like deeply nihilistic. Like that period of peak TV, when it was all like Mad Men and Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, right. 

Latisha: I skipped all of those. 

Rachel: Right. I have no interest. I have no interest like even Game Of Thrones, right? I was like, “This is a world in which grace does not exist and everyone is terrible.” And those questions don’t interest me because I don’t see what the value is.

 I joke a lot because I love the show Hannibal. I absolutely love the TV show Hannibal precisely because… okay. Hannibal Lecter is a Satan figure. And it’s incredibly gruesome, lots of very gruesomely depicted murder.

But it’s also a world where beauty and goodness exist. They exist and are perverted, but they exist. And so it’s not a nihilistic world. It’s a world where there is goodness, that goodness is perverted and twisted and warped, but I find it interesting to watch and what I just can’t enter into are speculative universes, where it’s just bleakness and nihilism. Maybe the world’s broken enough and I just don’t need to like speculatively enter it through fiction. 

Jay Jackson: You made me think about Douglas Adams. If I were to answer the question about whether I can think of a science fiction that challenged my worldview or possibly reinforced or helped me process it, I would point to Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Particularly as I started coming into my own in my own faith journey and started really questioning, some of the ways that I felt the church was behaving and some of the experiences that I had. My faith was being questioned, in and of its own.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide kind of came to me like in that moment too. And Douglas Adams, as we all know, was pretty irreverent. And reading Hitchhiker’s Guide kind of made that okay. I found it to be less nihilistic. 

Rachel: I feel like absurdity is different than nihilism. 

Latisha: Yes, very much so. 

Jay Jackson: Yes. It’s okay. Nothing matters. Everything ridiculous. Fine. Let’s just get this like impossible warp drive and let’s like turn whales into potted plants or whatever the case may be. I think that was the first time that there was a science fiction that I can consciously remember that helps me like, “That’s okay. I don’t have to have the answers. I don’t have to have the universe explained to me. It doesn’t have to be fair even. I just have to-

Latisha: That’s a hard lesson. 

Jay Jackson: -Learn how to… It is a very hard lesson. And it was, “Okay, I can still take vet value and enjoy the people around me, even as everything falls apart, even here at the end of time. I’m still here with my chosen family.” The character Marvin in the book, I feel some type of way about spoiling a 40, 50 year old book, but the scene in the book where Marvin dies. I still remember that. And if you read the scene of the book, basically he’s wearing down after all of this. Everything that they’ve been through. And Arthur and Trillian are basically taking him up this mountain.

And it is an arduous journey for him. He has to stop several times. Marvin is an Android by the way, for those unfamiliar. And his attitude has always been like one of fatalism. He’s incredibly sarcastic. Marvin, the paranoid Android is his actual title in the book, but he’s more just “Nothing matters. Everything’s shite.” And he’s voiced in the movies by Alan Rickman. If that gives you any kind of a clue to his character. When they get him to the summit of this mountain, there’s a message that he’s able to see. At the end of his life, he reads this message and he’s like “Oh, maybe it’s not so bad after all. And I’m here with my friends and that’s nice.” And then he shuts down and that’s how he dies.

But moments like that, I think about whenever I’m having a hard time and I’m like, “Okay what’s it all for? How could it kind and just and loving God do this to me? How could this be allowed to happen?” And the answer that I’ve landed on, thanks to, processing through science fiction, is just ” Hey, just kind roll with it.”

It is. In a very Vonnegut/Tralfamadorian sort of way. It is what it is. And so you can roll with it or you can not. And that’s where I landed with that.

Rachel: And I think that’s what makes whatever we want to put under this broader umbrella of speculative fiction, that it’s holding up a mirror to the world, staring at the world, asking where we find meaning. Again, it’s the asking of the questions and posing of hypothesis that I think is what keeps the genre interesting and evocative, right? Which is why I don’t think there was any contradiction in being a person of faith and being really into various fandoms and various forms of media.

And why, I think there’s actually a lot of resonance. I think that’s what it comes down to. Does your faith, wherever you are on whatever spectrum of religious identity, is there enough elasticity to be interested in posing these questions and engaging with other viewpoints and ideas, right?

Or I think there only becomes a contrast if you have a faith identity or worldview of any kind, that’s like in a box that says,” I have the answers. And so whatever I take in and consume has to fit within my parameters of how I understand the world, God, to function.” I hope that makes sense. 

Latisha: No, it does make sense because it’s like, you know, what is your faith journey and is the way you conceptualize your faith? Is it very rigid? Is it that “It must be this way. It is always this way and there’s nothing outside of it,” as opposed to a faith journey as we’ve expressed that embraces the possibility of the unknown. Embraces the idea of, “I know as much as I know, and based on the information available, here’s my hypothesis and I could be wrong. And that is okay because I am on the journey like everybody else.” And I think some people have this conflict of like, “How can you have such strong convictions and still think you could be wrong?”

And it’s like, because this works for now. And it’s worked for other people and allows me to help others. And as I am affirmed in my journey with the other humans that I encounter in a positive way, I’m just going to keep on going and we’ll see what happens next, and that’s just an interesting place to be.

Yes. Scary. I will not deny that it can be absolutely scary. But it’s really interesting. And one thing I was thinking about as you’re talking and this doesn’t not fall into the sci-fi genre, but I was thinking about the movie Dogma, and I really enjoyed that movie. But also what I like about it as a irreverent as it is to the Christian faith. It is written in such a way that the only way those jokes could have been written is by somebody who knows the Bible. The only way so many things make sense is if you actually have a faith background and have read this stuff. And so what I see in that is the opportunity to ask more questions into expand the idea, and I can see how someone would be offended by it, but also if you watch the movie to its conclusion, it actually is quite affirming in the Christian faith, which you have to be willing to go on the journey to get there.

And it’s one of the things I find really fascinating. But I love what you said about the question around nihilism in the SciFi spaces. And this everything sucks and nothing matters. And what you can process with that. Cause I know I personally speaking of sci-fi properties, I have a really hard time with Blade Runner, like a really hard time with Blade Runner.

Rachel: I still haven’t forgiven my husband for the time he got me Blade Runner for Christmas. I had never seen before. And he was like, “Oh, I’ll buy my wife Blade Runner for Christmas that she’s never seen. And I watched it and I’m like, “I hate this.” 

Jay Jackson: My father stole my copy of Blade Runner. He was just like, yeah, he didn’t steal it. He saw that I had it. And it was like, “Hey, Blade Runner, that’s one of my favorite movies. If I borrow this?” I’m like, “Sure.” And he never gave it back. 

Rachel: So why do you hate Blade Runner, Latisha? 

Latisha: Okay. So I have no clue from the very beginning of this film, why I’m supposed to like Harrison Ford’s character. He starts with no redeeming qualities and then continues this journey of lack of redeeming qualities … and there’s… okay. There are certain questions that Blade Runner does ask about reality and sentience and how we define what is and who can be human.

And these are really interesting questions, but the way that it asks these questions… Did we really have to go there? Was it necessary for you to do this thing to ask this question? And so it’s… It’s also a very eighties movie, like many movies in the eighties are, so it also asks this question from a often sexist, xenophobic, often racist perspective that I’m just supposed to go along with without even investigating its own xenophobia, sexism. If you’re going to put that in the story, I need you to investigate that in yourself. 

Rachel: I’m just agreeing with all of the things. I’m just agreeing and I’m watching your face, Jay

Jay Jackson: I’m gonna let you finish, but I have a counter argument. 

Latisha: Okay. Okay. Okay. And what I do accept about Blade Runner is it’s level and it’s place in the scifi patheon. What I do accept about it is that it had this role, this massive influence on much of the science fiction/ fantasy after.

And in order to understand some of what we got later, it is “worth it” to watch Blade Runner, at least once to get that genealogy, that history. But there are some things that I have to read or watch only once and never return to it. On the other end of the spectrum, Bridge To Terabithia is one of those things.

I only need to read it once. And then the movie came out. I thought, what are you doing to the children? But I think it’s a good text that I only need to see once like Fox And The Hound. Anyway, please.

Jay Jackson: I hear you and Blade Runner. It is not a perfect movie. It is very eighties. I understand the concern, a couple of things and see me warming up. So the thing about Blade Runner, like I said, it’s not a perfect movie. It’s supposed to be both science fiction, but it’s supposed to be, I think at least my reading of it was that it’s more noir than anything else. And if you look at the elements of film noir and that whole type of genre.

You’re not supposed to like Decker. He’s supposed to be kind of a jerk . And I’m being generous with the term jerk. But that whole mentality that he’s in, puts him in the mode of a skeptic. And it allows those questions that you’re talking about.

 Since we’re viewing this world through his lens and he’s the character that we’re following. that’s our window into this world now. As with the other point, as far as the other things, the sexism, the xenophobia, the, is it necessary to ask those questions in the way that blade runner asked them?

Probably not, again, kind of a product of its time there you have it. I submit that almost beat for beat the first season of Star Trek: Picard does almost exactly the same thing. We’re not really supposed to like Picard that much at the beginning of the Picard. We see throughout that season, all of these characters that he’s made all these promises to, and those promises have been broken. And so for 20 years or so that we’ve known like Picard, the hero. Now we get to see Picard the asshole and, the flip side of that. And then we take him through this journey where he meets this woman who is an android or in Blade Runner, a replicant, who has her reality questioned.

Her reality has been turned completely upside down because of the nature of what she is. There’s a religious element to that as well. Soji as the destroyer, who, according to Romulan prophecy will bring about the destruction of the universe. There’s that religious element to that as well.

But which I don’t think that Blade Runner had that element to it. But, for the purposes of relating it to today’s topic there you have it. But there’s that as well. When we talk about the xenophobia, at least a piece of the window into why the Romulans are so insular and why they are so at best standoffish with the Federation at this point and all of these things, and you want to talk about faith.

We see in Picard whose faith in everything that this man has worked for the past 20, 30 years that we’ve seen him do has been shattered. My counter argument is that Picard’s kind of doing the same thing, and in terms of seeing what this does for these characters and what it says about us now, again, it’s not a one-to-one correlation

And I think that Picard does do a better job of handling those questions. But I would posit that… I’m not going to say that… what I started to say you wouldn’t have the Picard without Blade Runner. I think that might be a little strong to say 

Rachel: This is where I jumped in and say that I couldn’t finish Picard either. I stopped like half way and I was like, I got no time for this. 

Latisha: Okay. Being someone who has finished both properties. I will accept your proposal, Jay. I will. Cause I do see Blade Runner DNA in Picard. So I will accept that proposal. I will say, because you’re right, there isn’t a one-to-one, there is something interesting in Picard’s journey, in Picard as a person who has lost their faith and someone who is attempting to enter a world that has moved on without him. And he never quite expected that to happen. So there, there is something interesting in that.

And then also, and I’ll do respect to Patrick Stewart. The pacing of Picard is interesting, but I also feel like you had to deal with the pacing that’s your lead could handle.

So I feel like I can’t be mad at it, even if I wanted it to be because you have an audience that you brought in for this particular actor, you need a pace that he can handle. And in order to balance that you have all these other character stories that need to do some work and still not over shine your lead, who can only work at a certain pace.

Jay Jackson: That’s fair. 

Latisha: It’s complicated. But I feel like given possible constraints, is it the best thing that was ever made? Of course not. Is it decent enough that I was able to finish the season. Though it did take me some tries. I am going to watch the second season, but I will admit, it wasn’t a binge. 

Rachel: I want to throw out another kind of on this subject to veer just a little bit, but this question of an unlikeable protagonist who has potentially lost their faith in a world that may be nihilistic : Children Of Men.

 Having read both the book and seen the movie, I actually think this is an instance where like I prefer the movie to the book, although they asked different questions. But you have Theo, you have Clive Owen’s character, who has given up hope. He is definitely someone who has lost his faith. He has gone through tragedy. You have a world where hope literally does not exist in this world because there are no children, right? Like this idea of living in a world that has no future. And yet it’s very captivating. There is this question of what does it mean to claim some desperation of hope in a world that seems to not have any. I feel like that’s a counterexample to what maybe I found so lacking and uncompelling, and I take the point about the noir genre and what’s going on there.

 We can also go on about how much I hate The Expanse and didn’t enjoy the first season of The Expanse so I think I just have issues with the noir genre as a thing.

But I say, I don’t like nihilistic things. This feels like a movie that is in a very nihilistic world. Clive Owen’s character is not particularly likable. And yet I find it deeply captivating. And I would say it’s probably one of my favorite movies. So I don’t know. I’m just throwing that out there for conversation. 

Jay Jackson: I think that the difference there is the idea that you can still see that hope. We can live in these universes that are pretty dark. Our own. The real world is pretty dark.

But when we look at these stories and we can see that there is some light somewhere. I brought up the example of Hitchhiker’s Guide and the character of Marvin on his death scene. And I looked it up, what they were looking for was God’s final message to his creation.

And when they get to the summit and Marvin is able to read the message is: We apologize for the inconvenience. And in that moment, Marvin… what does he say? ” I think I… I think I feel good about it. I think I feel good about that.” And that’s when he dies. Even though it’s a death scene, he was able to find some sort of validation or something to hold onto.

That’s, ” Okay, this is worth it. All this effort and all this pain that we’ve been going through has been worth it.” I think that’s the difference between Children Of Men and Blade Runner because the whole conceit of Children Of Men is that you have this woman who is pregnant in a world where people have stopped having children.

So there’s an effort and there’s mission and, yes, it is very bleak, but there is still this hope that the human race can continue. You don’t really see that with Blade Runner. You do see it with Picard as well. Picard does the Picard thing that he does and holds onto his values and things like that and inspires people.

It’s very that. Whereas Blade Runner, just okay… the Rutger Hauer character is dead. Now tears in the rain. Death. And then what does that mean? So you don’t really go anywhere with that. There’s not a whole lot of hope to be gleaned from that.

I think like we were saying earlier one of the reasons that we love science fiction, speculative fiction is that it shows us what is possible. That in this world that is so bleak and so dark, so dystopian and everything falling apart around us, there is still something that we can hold on to.

Latisha: Yeah. And I think even in Children of Men, yes, Clive Owen is not initially a likable character and all that. But when he is given a mission, what we find is that, despite everything, he still wants to hope for something. And having that in a character in our universe, it may be the smallest thing, but it changes everything. Sometimes it isn’t even” I have hope”, but “I want to hope.” It’s ” I want to believe everything can be okay. I want to believe.” 

Rachel: Even if everything can’t be okay, something. I want to believe something. 

Latisha: Something can be. I’m actually thinking about Idiocracy actually. Which is just such a fascinating, dystopian future But what I love is that, when you get to like the big climax of the movie where you have Luke Wilson scared or being like, ” No, this works.”

The thing that shows that this little thing can work is a little plant.” Look, the plant. It’s tiny, but it’s here and it’s growing and this is possible. I may not be able to fix everything. Maybe not everything can change, but we have lettuce.”

Rachel: Here’s another one of my all time favorite movies is Mad Max: Fury Road. Have we seen this? So like incredibly bleak worldview, but I think ends on a note of, everything is not made better. Everything isn’t fixed. Everything isn’t right. But it ends on like a possibility of renewal. It ends on that possibility of redemption which I find fascinating. What does it mean to stare into the abyss and see the possibility of hope? Which I think is something the scifi genre has the capacity to do well. 

Latisha: I love that. I love that. And actually that kind of answers my final question, which was, what messages or morals do you think a person can take from scifi media in general? And also specifically anything, we answered this question already, but diving in deep, do you think there are lessons to be learned about faith in general that can be gleaned through the lens of sci-fi and fantasy media?

Rachel: I think a lot of what we’ve already talked about. The reason that science fiction resonates with my faith is, and I think really it’s more that science fiction I think has influenced my faith. And we talked about at the beginning, right? The things that I was reading, the things that I was watching, challenged me and inspired me and gave me a capacity to think creatively and expansively and openly in a way that my religious upbringing absolutely did not. And I think at its best, science fiction gives us, again, a language and a reference point for exploring different possibilities and different worldviews if we can be open to that. Faith, at its best, should be about, right, a speculation of what we believe about the world and how we want to have those values and that outlook and that comprehension of God and meaning in the universe, how those things should shape our lives and the way that we interact with the world.

And so I think science fiction is a, I don’t want to say testing ground because that undermines the beauty of science fiction on its own, but I think the way that we enter into stories and imaginative worlds is there’s a lot of resonance for me in that, in how we think about faith. As I mentioned before, I work in an interfaith context. So while I certainly have things that I believe about my faith or about the world or my understanding of God, I am someone who is genuinely interested in how other people see the world. Being a person of faith myself makes me genuinely interested in what other people’s faith perspectives are and how they understand the world.

And I think science fiction is a pallet on which writers and creative people can speculate about these questions. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but that’s my rambling. 

Latisha: I feel like it does. Jay, your thoughts? 

Jay Jackson: Yeah. I echo and co-sign everything Rachel just said. I do want to like, say to that last point about interfaith and being able to associate with people of different faith backgrounds and on different points in their journey, like yes, that is in the context of what we’re talking about. That is absolutely, I think, one of the most important lessons that good science fiction gives us with the due process that the subject needs. When you think about the Trek universe, you have all of these different cultures that are able to work together.

And I know that I’m going to get a little sappy about it. I know that’s how it sounds like. But the whole idea of infinite diversity in infinite combinations includes faith backgrounds in that. And one of the things that I love about Star Trek when we discuss issues of faith within the Trek universe, is that one of the greatest values of the characters that we see is the ability to be able to work with and live with and not just coexist with people with different faiths, but come together and actually thrive in a society where if you believe that logic is the foundation of all things, then okay, that’s you. If you believe that your honor code and things of that nature are tantamount.

Okay, cool. So be it. That does not mean that we can’t come together. That does not mean that we can’t still be people together. And I think that for me is one of the most important lessons to take away from science fiction, especially, living in a real world where people will block and unfriend you because you like a different brand of toothpaste than they do. I realized that I am exaggerating a little bit, but it’s almost to that point where we have a society that is so fractured and at least in American society. We have a culture that is so fractured and tribalistic even that it can be hard to see that at the end of the day, we really all want the same thing which is to be safe and happy and protected and have our families provided for and to live a dignified life.

I think that is a lesson that we can take away regardless of whether I believe in the same God as you do or not. Just because we have different religions, just because we have different faiths that does not mean that we are less valid as people, as humans. And we should conduct ourselves as such. 

Latisha: I completely agree. And what I love is that at least at this moment until proven otherwise, even though I believe the Pentagon recently just said, yes, aliens are actual thing. At the moment we are all human beings. We’re all carbon based life forms.

Our basic functions are all the same, we all breathe in a mixture of chemicals called air and breathe out carbon dioxide and take the oxygen from it, et cetera, et cetera. And so there is a connection that we all do have universally. And I think that is something that science fiction that does have that possibility of hope or connection or whatever that does draw from.

And what I really do love about the work is that it also shows that it’s complicated. And that it’s really hard and that it’s not easy. And sometimes there are no simple answers and you have to be able to hold two conflicting truths at once. And sometimes you can reconcile those things and sometimes you can’t and the lack of absolutes is okay.

And I think sometimes when we’re in a society, where seems like everything’s going off the rails, people cling to something that they feel is absolute and they cling to “This must be!” And yeah, it can be challenging. And like I said, scary to be like, I release the need of having to know everything.

I release the need of absolute surety which expands the world for me. And that can be hard, but it’s also really great to explore. And so I think, yes there’s science fiction does have that positive world view. There’s absolutely science fiction that has a negative and highly problematic worldview.

I’m not denying that those things exist cause they do! That is also the nature of humanity. You’re going to find something amazing and you’re going to find something absolutely horrific and both of those are extremely human. And I so appreciate this conversation I’ve had with you both. It’s been a lot of fun.

Can you share with those people across the interwebs where they can find you on these internet and social media streets starting with you, Rachel.

Rachel: Yeah, I am @nerdypriest on the clock app, TikTok.. I also do Farscape content sometimes when I get around to it @whatthefrell. I’ve been a little lax on that at the moment, but if you want some space Muppets in your life. I’m also @revrachelk on Twitter.

Latisha: Jay. 

Jay Jackson: Oh, ah, so many things 

Latisha: Let us know all the things cause I’m delighted with you. We must find you. 

Jay Jackson: I appreciate that. The most pertinent things I’ll say as far as The Sacred Now. There’s a Twitter for The Sacred Now and there’s a Facebook. You can find both of those @sacrednowpod.

You can find me personally @just_jayjackson. Also working on an intersectional video game working on some other projects, got some music coming out and things like that. We have our own website now Yeah. You can catch all the episodes there like, share, subscribe, all that good stuff.

 We’re working on season three at the moment. I would normally have put it out about this time of year. Not full disclosure, your boy’s had a hard couple of months. Some mental health stuff going on. Some personal stuff going on. It was delayed, but it is coming.

I’m expecting to release the first episode of season three in June. We’re going to go back and pick up some things that we didn’t get around to releasing last season, but we’re going to pick up some conversations there. We’re also going to feature a series on the seven deadly sins. We’re going to discuss each of the seven deadlies in media, we’re going to take a really hard look at them and we’re going to discuss whether or not they are even really sins. We’ll talk about all that coming up on The Sacred Now

Latisha: I just want to time you out right now, for those of you who don’t know what the seven deadly sins aren’t actually in the Bible and we keep on referencing them over and over again. They have a choke hold on something, where it’s not actually there. Okay. I’m done with the PSA, please return to your regularly scheduled self insert awesomeness. Just as technically the preacher’s kid that I am. I just need to say that. 

Jay Jackson: Oh yeah. Oh, we go into that to o!

Rachel: You’re getting into my Tik TOK content. If you want to know why St. Augustine is responsible, for everything bad in Christianity, come to my Tik TOK. We talk about that. 

Jay Jackson: Listen, Rachel, you and I going to have to get together cause this is this is exactly the type of crowd discussion that we try to have. 

Rachel: I just followed you on Twitter 

Jay Jackson: Oh, awesome. Outstanding. Follow back. 

Latisha: My friends are making friends! That will be the end of today’s conversation. Thank you so much, Jay. Thank you so much, Rachel, for joining me. Thank you to you for listening. I hope everyone has a fantastic day and I’ll see you next time. On the next episode of Interspectional!

What Role Does Whimsy Play In Survival?

Black Fae Day Interspectional

Earlier this year, I interviewed Jasmine La Fleur, the founder of Black Fae Day (her picture is at the top of this blog post). It was so great to not only learn about the events and people that inspired her, but also how #BlackFaeDay itself became an inspiration to so many people across the globe. And now, after much preparation and excitement, Black Fae Day and Black MerMay Day (which was created by cosplayer Tranquil Ashes) are coming! Are you ready? Black Fae Day will be the weekend of May 14th and May 15. Black MerMay Day will be on May 28th. All in all, it’s looking to be a Fantastical, Magical May 2022! I feel like both Black Fae Day and Black MerMay Day make two important statements: 

  1. That Black people have the right to be as whimsical and magical as they want to be. That Black existence is not solely defined by struggle, trauma, pain and “trying to get over”. Sometimes we can just be. 
  1. That Black people have a place in fantasy worlds. The realm of fantasy is not solely restricted to a European-American construction. This also means that magic, monsters and myth as well as swords and sorcery has a place for all unlike many movies, television shows and books would have you believe.

In looking at the first statement that I feel these events are making, I’m reminded that for generations, the Black experience in America has been centered around survival. During “slavery times” as my grandmother used to call it, it was about surviving work conditions in unforgiving heat, family separation, beatings, assaults and having almost no control over their lives. Survival required “remembering your place” and many were punished or killed for reading, talking or even trying to dream for something more in their lives; for a different reality from what they saw day after day. For those enslaved people who ran away, bought their freedom, developed skilled trades or defiantly learned how to read, we rarely give them credit for the incredible level of focus, imagination and determination that they must have had for those goals to be accomplished. They were dreamers.  Even in places were slavery has been abolished, Black success and aspiration were tempered with the understanding that at any time Solomon Northup’s kidnapped-and-sold-into-slavery story could become theirs. 

In the eight years after the end of the Civil War, America saw an explosion of Black businesses, Black congressmen and Black education. The first round of successful Black towns were built across the nation. Historic Black Colleges like Clark Atlanta University, Bowie State University and Fisk University were founded. And Black men voted for the first time in US History. These eight years were full of dreams, whimsy and aspirations. But then much of it was taken. Burned out, drowned, paved over and flat out destroyed in many cases. Many dreams and dreamers were decimated for daring to try to be great, fantastic… magical. 

And so the cycle continues in America, of dreamers who make it and those who are defeated. Those who are able rise to great heights and those who are crushed by the limits society places on those who dare to dream. For every Jackie Robinson, there were hundreds of Troy Maxsons whose dreams had been dashed and who used that disappointment to limit the aspirations of their own children. Sometimes it’s out of jealousy, sometimes it’s out of protection; but the question in the Black community for so long was who has the time and energy for dreams, self-care, whimsy and really doing anything outside the norm when it is a struggle to just survive? 

But with every generation, there have been dreamers and innovators that had to not only defy convention, but also defy a world that was ready, willing and able to “put them in their place”. The defiance is in the dream and the whimsy. In the poetry and the art. In the dance and the song. In the music and in the theater. The defiance is to dare that there is more than just survival. And conversely, that we need to hold on to the dream in order to make survival worth it. 


I was shooting some footage for the page when a little girl screamed “look!!! A fairy!” She ran over to me and asked her father if she could take a picture. I’ll never forget her face. #blackfaeday

♬ Brown Skin Girl – Emino

It might seem foolish to see all of this meaning in a day where Black people are encouraged to put on wings and glitter and frolic in a meadow or put on a tail and bikini and swim in the sea. But you see, there are so many days when we are still fighting for survival. It would be foolish to think that because we seek out moments of whimsy or days of being carefree, that we forget about voter suppression. Or that we don’t remember the tragic maternal mortality rates in America for Black women. We know. We just also know that pain and struggle and strife isn’t all there is to us. We know that many of our ancestors didn’t get the chance to rest or celebrate. We know members of our older generation who never had the chance to put on their fairy wings and wanted to do so, oh so badly. We know generations of Black people who were terrified to swim because fear of the water was beaten into them. By embracing our dreams, we break generational curses. By dancing and daring, we invite others to do the same. So whether it’s arts, writing, costuming or giving yourself a little dance party, I invite you to embrace your whimsy this May, and know that we will all be dancing and singing alongside you.

Interspectional Rewind: Celebrity, Social Media and the Responsibility of Fandom Leadership

Building Communities in Fandom, part 2 Interspectional

So you’ve answered the call to be an active fan. You’ve fought the trolls and won. You’ve stood by your friends when they fought their own battles and together you are all standing strong. But now, they come to you, saying that they need last thing from you. As these are the friends that have become your family, of course you reply, “Anything.” And then they say one of the scariest things you have ever heard.

“We need you to lead us.” I, myself, have never answered that call, although I do trying to be responsible with how I use my voice and share my opinion. In the last episode of my first season, I wanted to interview people who had answered that call and built fandom spaces that were open to difficult conversations around mental health and social justice as well as explicitly sought to protect its members of marginalized identities.

In part 2 of the episode, “Building Communities in Fandom” to Bianca Hernandez-Knight of The Jane Austen Universe and Virtual Jane ConJaycee Dubyuh of GAPOC: Gaymer Allied People of Color and Neisha Mulchan, MPH of Diversely Geek discuss the dark side of fandom and what exactly does it mean to be a leader in the fandom space. It’s a role that is both hard to define and incredibly important. A position can be extremely powerful and yet easily dismissed. Those of us who have been members of those communities know that its not an easy job. Between moderating people, creating your own content and possibly being contacted by the corporate media machine yourself, it’s a lot to take on.

One of the most interesting things about fandom leadership is that it’s a job that many have had, from ages as young as 12 or 13 and yet it is a responsibility no one expects and a job few can prepare you for. One minute you are nerding out with your best friends, the next minute you are building a website, creating community guidelines, handling interpersonal conflicts and someone asked you to be the moderator at a con. You are no longer just a fan, you’re a Big Name Fan (BNF). And being apart of the fandom is no longer just about seeing the movie, buying the merch and scouring the internet for sneak previews. Now people are LISTENING to you, your opinions have lasting consequences and there is a pressure to protect those who have sought safety in the community you built as well as the power to unleash your fans and followers at a target if necessary. And as any comic book fan knows:

It can be hard for people outside if the fandom community to understand the power that one can hold in a fandom. But it would be foolish to ignore the lasting impact that a person can have in the online space. In fact, it can be argued that one of the watershed moments of our modern era, Gamergate, is an example of the destructive dark side fandom and fandom leadership.

In this world of influencers, social media gurus and viral TikTok stars, it seems like a person can gain a platform and an audience nearly overnight. But unlike actors, directors and professional writers, the personalities on interactive platforms have a more intimate relationship with their audience. Traditional celebrities have never really had to ask themselves about their responsibility to the public or the image they create until very recently. As a child of the 90’s, I have vivid memories of celebrities often claiming that they “weren’t role models” in an attempt to distance themselves from the impact of their influence. Corporations like Disney, Paramount or Warner Bros. have largely stayed out of the communities that have evolved from the content that they have put out the public. But those aren’t the rules in the fandom space. As the public has grown more accustom to having a level of intimacy with the people that create their entertainment, the lines of separation have blurred in the traditional media space as well, especially with celebrities and creators becoming a presence on social media platforms themselves. So the questions becomes when a community is built around yourself or something you create, are you responsible for leading them?

On the TikTok and Twitter-verse, I’ve seen two responses to this. One response is that as people starting gaining followers, they put out a PSA or community guidelines along the lines of “Hey. This is what I talk about. This is what I expect from your engagement. This is how I expect you to engage with each other. Violate this and you will be blocked/dismissed from the conversation.” While this response is responsible in my opinion, time and experience have shown that this is not the way to get a million followers overnight. It seems like gaining an audience while trying to maintain a level of integrity is a quick way to a slow trickle of notoriety. To be fair, it can be done as shown by the creators such as TheBlerdGurl, Women At Warp and Angry Asian Man. But as the algorithms of social media sites tend thrive on controversy, the content creators that get a large platform fairly quickly tend to sound more like, “Do what you want. I don’t care. Wanna watch me start a fight?!!”, when they address their community.

Celebrities seems to be torn these days about what the proper response is. Some have thrown caution to the wind and let the fallout, be the fallout. It would be foolish to ignore that fact that there is a vocal section of the internet that will embrace every hateful thing that a person could put out there. And what someone loses in respect, they can gain in notoriety and to some, that’s a fair exchange. For others, being or standing up for an underrepresented or marginalize communities comes with its own challenges. In a career where your viability is often based on how “likable” you are; it can be difficult to make a decision to maintain your affable distance or make a statement that could turn the dark side of fandom against you.

Both the hesitation and baptism by fire of celebrities dealing with the dark side of fandom are exemplified by Flash‘s Grant Gustin and Candice Patton. Grant Gustin plays the superhero, Barry Allen aka Flash, and Candice Patton plays his main love interest-now wife in the show, Iris West-Allen. In 2014, when Candace Patton, an African-American actress, was cast to play Iris, a traditionally white character in the comics, the online backlash was loud, abusive and unabating. While much of it has cooled in the subsequent years, the negative and racist messages sent to both Grant and Candice were frequent enough that blocking trolls and defending themselves against people online has become a constant in their lives. For Candice, this experience put her in a leadership position by default because she was the first in what is now a long line of Black women to be cast in television and movie comic book adaptations. She has been the guide both in her industry and to the women of color who have watched her and been inspired by her strength and tenacity if the face of vitriol and prejudice.

Grant Gustin, on the other hand, took a long time to be vocal about his support of his castmate. He’s previously stated that he blocks these problematic folks, but they are not worth additional energy. He has since evolved to attack some of these issues head on, but it took time. This can also be seen as a question of leadership. Fans have pointed out that an earlier and vocal defense of Candice Patton could have lessened the racist remarks that she received. Was it his role as an actor to push the fandom that had been built around his character into a more positive, less hateful space? Many would say “yes”, some would say “no”, but the fact is Candice Patton had no choice in the matter. So it would make sense for the leading man to take on the leadership role even if he never asked for it.

Grant has stated that him being an introvert was part of his reason for not getting into the fray, but I also think that part of it is his image of being a fun, likable and non-threatening actor. Standing up for other people requires that you break the image that people project on to you and suddenly you are standing there as person with principles. And these principles might be the reason that some fans turn against you. One only needs to look at some of the comments in Grant Gustin’s Instagram post below to see some problematic people making themselves known.

And finally you have the leaders that created a community purposefully. Those who saw a need, saw people yearning to have a place to belong and took it upon themselves to make that place a reality. The kind of leadership doesn’t necessarily get notoriety, but a leader can get a level of power and influence that can be used for good or for ill. Sometimes those communities have a leader who is focused on service to the people themselves and others times a cult of personality evolve. There’s also added level of intensity that occurs when when BNFs and fandom leadership feel a responsibility to call out the prejudice, racism, sexism, transphobia, fatphobia etc. that shows up in both the media that created the fandom and within the fandom itself.

The road of responsibility and leadership is not an easy one. It can be full of peril and strife, of making mistakes and causing accidental harm. It can also be one of beauty, love and putting something out there in the world that can help another person and make them feel seen. Positive leadership is challenging, complex and I respect everyone who tries to do it. We all have our role to play in making our corner of the world just a little bit better, brighter and humane. And to those of you who answer that call in the fandom space that is both highly overexposed and still massively misunderstood: I salute you.

Interspectional Rewind: The Hero’s Journey of Fandom

Building Communities in Fandom, part 2 Interspectional

Much like the heroes that many of us follow, the journey from Fandom Neophyte to Fandom Veteran is incredible, exciting and full of danger. It is truly a hero’s journey in and of itself. For those who don’t know, “The Hero’s Journey” is a template or pattern of storytelling that shows up in everything from the ancient stories of Odysseus to The Hobbit to Pixar’s Turning Red. The Hero’s Journey as described in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero Of A Thousand Faces looks like this: 

So how does this apply to fandom? First, I want to mention that almost everyone has a combination of both passive and active fandoms. You can be passionate about football and only casually interested in Star Wars. Or the Marvel Cinematic Universe lives in your blood, but you’ll sit through Lord Of The Rings if someone forces you. But the journey from passive to active fan and then from fan neophyte to fan veteran is an interesting one. So we start this journey where all of these stories start… With the Call to Action

Typically, I think, something in the book we’re reading, show we’re watching, game we’re playing etc.. calls to us. Something that we are experiencing speaks to where we are in that moment of our lives or we see a story that makes us feel powerful or magical because we connect to the characters. Something about what we are seeing or doing makes us FEEL seen and valued. Suddenly, we are no longer just entertained, we’re excited, we’re involved, and we want more. Thus begins the journey of seeking out more and seeking out others like you.   

Crossing the Threshold

Do you remember when you joined your first fan community? Logged into a group chat where people were talking about YOUR THING? Maybe you joined a meetup or facebook group? Or did you go to an event. No matter how you did it, at some point, we all cross the threshold into the world of the FANS. It’s loud and numerous and overwhelming. It’s a wonder to realize that there are so many other people like you. And in the beginning, it can feel like coming home. 

Meet the Mentor 

If you’re lucky, you can often find a veteran fan to take you in and show you the ropes. Much like the breakdown of groups in a high school lunchroom, you’ve got to learn who’s sitting where, what the feuds are and how to navigate a new space. It’s around this time where you realize that this might not be the utopia you were expecting, but it’s still exciting.

Join The Community

This is the training montage. You’re learning quickly. Laughing loudly and feeling comfort and trust among the people who may just become your new found family. 

The First Challenge

You’ve gone through the training montage of your fandom experience. Your mentor has shown you the things that they love. You’ve been introduced to your first community. You’ve observed the trials and the trolls that your new friends have fought and conquered in this new fandom realm. And suddenly, it’s your turn. Either you have been called out or you found a battle that you cannot ignore. Either way, you feel ready to ride into the fray! 

The Work Continues 

Whether or not you succeed in your first battle, the result is the same. You have now become KNOWN. Some other factions might start to see you as a challenge to conquer or target practice. Either way, their goal is to push you into silence. 

The Abyss and the Dark Night of the Mind

The days you wonder if the fandom is worth it. You are challenged again and again. Battle after battle. You’ve seen friendships break. Trolls attack and maybe even a traitor or two in the community. What once brought you hope is now painful. There is no way that it is worth it. 

The Revelation

Your mentor tries, but can’t quite convince you that it’ll all be okay. Your community wants to support you and you’re grateful, but maybe it is still time to hide. 

But then you get a message:

“Hey. You don’t know me, but I wanted to let you know that your fic really meant a lot to me.”

“Thank you so much for standing up to that person. The fandom can be a trash-fire, but it helps knowing that people like you are around.” 

“I’m OBSESSED with your fanart. Please tell me you have t-shirts or posters!” 

Suddenly you realize that it’s not just the movie, the book, the tv show, the sport that is affecting people, you are too. In your tiny sphere of influence, your work is special to someone, maybe many someones. And maybe the positivity that you get from the media, the sport or the activity and the positivity that you put in the world as a result is more important than the negativity that you receive in between. Maybe it is worth it to get up and keep on going. 

The Return

You’re ready to teach what you have learned. And keep on learning yourself. It might even be time to find your own mentee or take an even bigger leap, and move on to leadership yourself. And THAT is its own journey. 

Fans. Sometimes, we get to be our own heroes.

The next post in this series will be about Fandom Leadership. In the meantime, if you like this blog and/or the Interspectional Podcast, please support our Kickstarter to help us continue this work:

Interspectional Rewind: When Fandom Was A Joy

Building Communities in Fandom, part 1 Interspectional

Before I had the chance to properly watch the Disney/Pixar movie, Turning Red, I came across the following tweet:

With in a few hours, this tweet went viral with thousands of people sharing the summaries and links of the original novels, fanfiction, and fanart that helped to shape their preteen/teen years. People shared other fun, but unglamorous shenanigans that were apart of their teen experience like trying amateur witchcraft or forming wolf packs or creating new languages. As someone who was a fangirl in the late 90’s/early ’00s (with the account to prove it), this tweet was confirmation that Turning Red was a film that I would relate to on a visceral level. I may not be Chinese or Canadian or turn into a big red panda when I get emotional, but I did have a diverse group of friends with whom I traded manga, attended Renaissance Faires and went anime conventions with during my teen years. Feeling shame for my interests and/or joys at time, was not apart of my vocabulary.

2002. Me at 16, fanfic writer and playwright. Theater camp attendee. Girl with big stick.

Being that the film was set in 2002, a time before social media took over the world and when TRL was EVERYTHING, I was definitely hit with waves of a nostalgia for the time period. But also watching the girls of Turning Red going through epic and creative lengths to see their favorite band live, I was also hit with sense that this movie captured the experience of fandom in its purest, most joyful form.

Abby (Hyein Park), Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), Mei Lee (Rosalie Chang), and Miriam (Ava Morse) in Turning Red. Note, if you’ve never danced in a parking lot with your best friends to your favorite song, you are TOTALLY missing out.

It’s hard to remember a time when fandom wasn’t so heavily commodified. When the MCU didn’t take over our lives, releasing new media at rate nearly impossible to keep up with and everything wasn’t its own cinematic universe. A time when access to your favorite celebrities or writers was restricted to magazines and possibly an autographed picture if you were lucky. This also coincides with the period of time where being called a “geek” or a “nerd” was still considered an insult instead of a badge of honor. That was the fandom era that raised me and the era the Turning Red takes place in. Even though the massive events were often well-attended at the time, as observed in the movie, it was the day-to-day, smaller in-person and online interactions that really kept the fandoms going.

In the Interspectional season 1 finale episode, “Building Communities in Fandom”, I speak to Bianca Hernandez-Knight of The Jane Austen Universe and Virtual Jane Con, Jaycee Dubyuh of GAPOC: Gaymer Allied People of Color and Neisha Mulchan, MPH of Diversely Geek. Each one of my guests are leaders in their own fandom communities, but before we got to that part of the conversation, I talked to them about their fandom experience. I asked them questions like: “What was it like to met your first friend in fandom?” “How did it feel to read something you really connected with?” They each gave answers that centered around the experience of feeling seen and not being alone. Connecting to a piece of media that describes an experience that you don’t have the words for or that tells you a story that you need hear can be a revelatory experience. Also the ability to connect with others in a small group based on a shared interest can give us the chance to build life-long friendships and be with people who see us without the weight of familial or societal expectation (as we see with Mei’s friendships in Turning Red).

It can give us the freedom to be joyfully ridiculous without being mocked or made to feel unworthy of care or respect. While fandom is most often based on a commodity, this friendship-focused, non-commercial aspect of fandom is something that I think can get missed in our modern of age of helicopter parent-like corporate involvement and the millions of opinions we have access to on social media. In a world where fandom has become identity and livelihood for many people, it can be easy to forget why and how we got involved in this culture in the first place, especially when trolls start coming out the woodwork or things just start getting too intense. Sometimes, it seems like we forget that fandom is supposed to be fun.

Now joyful fandom engagement doesn’t mean ignoring the things in a piece of media that you might find harmful or problematic. We can love something with all of our hearts and still admit that could be better. Or that possibly something that was just part of the lexicon of its day was just not right and is less so now. One cannot underestimate the influence of media as whole because media shapes people’s opinion about life, society, love, people whom they’ve never met and even how they think life should be. Books, movies and television shows are essentially cultural artifacts and as such, they do deserve to be examined, analyzed, placed in a cultural context and dissected as a reflection and/or critique of the society that birthed it. It’s important that look at the ideas that a piece of media reinforces and the new ideas that it promotes. I, for one, try to come at things through an anti-racist, gender-inclusive, lgbtqia+ inclusive, disability informed lens because these are the folks who have been excluded or marginalized in media presence and perspectives for decades. The critical eye can still be loving one, it just means that we see the rose and the thorns and realize that the picture is incomplete and inaccurate if you don’t acknowledge both.

So as I look nostalgically at Turning Red as it very closely reflects my 2002 world at me, I also have to acknowledge that this piece of media could only have created within the past 3-5 years. Only recently could studio executives believe that the story of a Chinese-Canadian girl could be successful which wouldn’t have been possible without the success Crazy, Rich Asians (2018), Shang-Chi (2021) and other projects with diverse, culturally specific casts that have premiered over the past few years. I have admit that with the movie’s presentation of a culturally diverse Toronto, a diverse friendship circle and even a diverse boy band, Pixar’s 2002 is a lot more inclusive and welcoming than what I grew up with. And that could have only been done with a joyful and critical look at the past.

So in this age where fandom is SERIOUS business, BNFs (Big Name Fans) can have a lot of power and there’s more direct access to creators than ever before, I want to remind you to have fun. I want to remind you that you don’t have post everything you sketch or write. Some things can be just for you. And the fandom joy that you get from talking to a friend about a movie that came out 15 years ago is just as valid a form of fandom as influencers that get to go on the red carpet. It’s all about the unabashed joy and the connection that you feel to the work that has been put out there. So go be “cringe” with pride, because we all deserve that kind of freedom. I want just to leave you with these final bits of advice about (positive) fandom.

1. Embrace your fandoms and healing hobbies

2. Find positive communities

3. Celebrate without fear.

4. And when things get intense, remember the family (found, birth, online and otherwise) that love you, just the way you are.

Best of luck out there. I’m rooting for you!

P. S. If you enjoyed this blog and my podcast, please consider supporting my Kickstarter campaign. It’s live from now until the end of April.

Interspectional Rewind: Who belongs in Historical Fantasy?

Star Trek As Period Drama Interspectional

While Star Trek takes place in the future, so many episodes either take place in the past or have a time-period-specific aspect to them. These "bottle episodes" have a tendency to pose complex questions around sociology, psychology and ethics. Focusing on episodes from Star Trek: TOS, TNG, Voyager and DS9, we'll look at these period dramas in space, the themes that can be examined from these episodes and how science fiction makes these stories unique. This is a recording from Women At Warp's IDIC Podcast Festival. For this panel, my returning guests were Bianca Hernandez  (@bookhoarding) for the season 1 finale: Building Communities in Fandom and Dr. Luz Rosines (@LuzXRayMD) from the S1:E3 – Latinx Representation in Space.  — Support this podcast:

Hey Everyone! Welcome Back to the second post of Interspectional Rewind! Continuing some of the themes from last week’s post, I want to invite you to talk a listen to the episode “Star Trek as Period Drama”; particularly listening to it through the lens of historical accuracy vs historical fantasy.

Keri Russell and JJ Feild in 2013’s Austenland

The historical fantasy vs historical accuracy debate has been the source of much controversy across many media genres. Whether it’s regency costume dramas, American westerns or high fantasy epics, there is a tension around who does and does not “belong” in those spaces. On one hand, there is the urge to protect the version of history with which people are most familiar. The American Western, for example, as portrayed by 1950’s television shows like Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and The Long Ranger, shows a version of the 1870’s and 1880’s almost solely made up of white faces. While we now know that the West was significantly populated with Indigenous peoples, Black folks, Mexican residents and Asian immigrants, it can be hard to shake the “reality” that was shown in those earlier films and movies. At the same time, there is also this drive to gatekeep who has access to historical fantasies. The world of “high fantasy”, for example, as imagined by J. R. R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings, has often been portrayed in media as having a solely white population. When the casting for the prequel, Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power came out in early 2022, it was revealed that there would be black dwarves and elves in this series. Many white folks on social media were in an uproar over that fact that this fictional world was no longer solely populated by humans and human-like species that “looked like them”. While others have defended this choice citing the nature of a fictional world, the fact that medieval Europe was a multicultural place and that J. R. R. Tolkien did mean for the story to be continually expansive.

Sophia Nomvete plays the dwarf princess, Disa and Ismael Cruz Córdova plays the elf, Arondir in the upcoming series
Lord of Rings: Rings of Power

Now if I turn this over to the world of romance and period/costume dramas, we see very similar dynamics play out. Historical settings have long been romanticized by being framed in an idealized and easy-to-digest fashion as well as being the backdrop for epic love stories. This tradition of using historical backdrops to tell both our heroic and romantic flights of fancy is one of the reasons why it can be really challenging to separate fact from fiction. A biographical picture can have fictional elements, but the ultimate goal of the story is to tell the story of someone’s life as accurately and as entertainingly as possible. The biopic is bound to the historical record and is often a gateway to perceive actual historical events.

Historical fiction/fantasy, on the other hand, is bound to no such timeline. Instead, actual history is a backdrop upon which modern people’s hopes and dreams can be painted. Depending on the piece of media that is created, the historical backdrop can be more or less prominent, but it is still ultimately secondary to the narrative and world that is created around it. There is also a certainty that most of us feel around what we think we know about history, then there’s the fear around learning new perspectives that challenge that viewpoint and finally, there’s the disorientation that can happen when new people play in our fantasy worlds that we have made from our own history.

With this in mind, when we look at historical fiction media, it becomes important to ask whose fantasy is being projected on the backdrop of history and what are their goals in telling this particular story? Equally as important is the understanding that even when a person is creating a fictional piece about their current reality, they are still projecting their views, perspectives and prejudices on what will become history as time passes. The nature of fiction is that its portrayal of reality is graded on a curve. 

Now for better or for worse, historical fiction is also used to educate. Historical fiction can make history come to life in a way that facts and figures simply don’t. It can help immerse the reader or viewer into various truths of the period. In both the United States and UK educational systems, historical fiction media, be it books, movies or television shows, have been used to supplement the teachings of historical facts and shaped our concepts about what a certain time period was like based on literature. No matter your race, background, gender, socio-economic status, ability or sexuality, if you were taught within these educational systems, you received a very singular view of what history was, who belonged in it and HOW they belonged. 

In most tellings of U.S. and U.K. history, it is white people and white men, specifically, who dominate the majority of the narrative. And all children, white children, Black children, East Asian children, Latino children, South Asian children, Indigenous American children, West Asian children, all get the same message when taught the historical record through both fact and fiction, that Western European/White American history is of utmost importance over other historical perspectives. Also, the majority of canonical and “important” literature and history requires white people to be the center of the story. People of all ethnic backgrounds also learn from their education that white people are the most common stand-in for all of humanity, so no matter your race, ethnicity or background, you must always find a way to relate to the white people in the story in order to succeed. However, it is rarely the case that the white children in your school must relate to someone that looks different than them in order to succeed in their literature and historical requirements. 

So with all of that in mind, the selective history and literature we’ve been taught in school, the history of historical fiction media and the nature of modern-day projection onto the past, we come to what this blog post is really about: People of Color and Period Dramas.

Nicole Remy in NBC’s The Courtship

I, as a Black woman, have been a long-time Austen fan. I devoured so many period dramas in my late high school and college years. I’m a huge Shakespeare fan as well, admirer of Charles Dickens and have the utmost respect for Upton Sinclair. I do not claim to have read all of the “western canon” classics, but I’ve read enough to be considered well-read in many circles. My education also introduced me to Hemingway and Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I say all this to say that I, and many others like me, have had decades of practices relating, connecting, understanding and empathizing with characters that look nothing like us, that don’t reflect our lived experiences and whose realities are far removed from our own. And yet, these are stories I’ve come to love and appreciate. The practice of connecting to characters who have a different lived experience extends into the general practice of consuming media because for many years the majority of books, movies or television shows featured the majority of white people in the most important roles. I, like many other people of color, consumed this media which both told us interesting and compelling stories and also implicitly told us that people like us don’t belong in the story. 

In the past ten years or so, there has been a much louder call to include BIPOC stories, actors and producers in more historical fiction media. And more specifically, to also highlight stories that feature our joys as well as pains. For longest time, if a person ever wanted to see a Black person is a historical piece set before the 1950’s, you were restricted to see a Black person whipped, beaten and brutalized because people’s imaginations for a black person could be in the past was limited to being a slave or servant. Going as far back as Gone with the Wind (and even Birth of a Nation, but we don’t talk about that one) to as recently as 2019’s Harriet , we get black people serving or/and suffering as the main narrative. The history that had been taught and media that was provided showed that there were no other possibilities available. But the historical record actually says that Black lawyers, doctors, sea-farers, teachers, nurses and businessman were around long before slavery ended in 1865. But it is hard to picture that reality if it has never or rarely been seen in historical books, television shows or movies. 

This is Virginia Hewitt Douglass (1849 – 1889), a black suffragist in Boston and daughter-in-law to Fredrick Douglass. This photograph and many others like it can be found here as the digital collection of the Boston Athenaeum.

In 2015, when Hamilton came on the scene, it was both bound by the historical record as a biographical performance piece and was a modern day projection onto a historical background. What Lin-Manuel Miranda did was project modern-day New York City onto Alexander Hamilton’s life story. Lin-Manuel Miranda has said that the musical Hamilton was inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow that he read while he was on vacation. In the origin story of what would become an international phenomenon, we go back to the practice of a person of color using skills of connection and empathy to relate to a person from the past who has a completely different lived experience than they do. For me, and I would guess Lin-Manuel has a similar process, when I imagine myself in the stories that I read, I don’t change my skin color, hair texture or features in my imagination. In the world of my imagination, the world of the book bends around me, so that I can seamlessly fit in and be the hero or heroine of the story. What Lin-Manuel Miranda did was take the world of imagination, the internal story that allowed him to relate to Hamilton’s life, and make it a reality for all of us to see. When Hamilton premiered, audiences saw that you could have an actor of color in historical garb living a life free of ancestral struggle. You didn’t have to see an actor of color present some kind of pain in order to find their portrayal of an historical era compelling. 

Many more period dramas since have included more people of color with subjects ranging from biopics like Small Axe and The United States vs. Billie Holiday to historical fantasies like The Personal History of David Copperfield and Bridgerton. And with that greater inclusion has also come the backlash. In that backlash, some critics have fallen back on what their first education taught them: that people of color don’t belong in history except as slaves and servants and people of color are not main characters in literature. This belief, while common, is, as I stated before, inaccurate and untrue. Some critics when to comes to historical fantasy and literature have said when a formerly white character of wealth and influence is now played by an actor of color, questions around the source of that character’s wealth and the role that colonialism, slavery, genocide and imperialism played in that wealth come the forefront. There absolutely is a place for sources of wealth and status to be investigated in historical fiction media and acknowledging the interconnected oppressive systems that create a character’s wealth and comfort is vitally important. However, if the only time this conversation comes up is when an actor of color takes up a previous white-casted role then the conversation is not about bringing justice to people previously excluded from the story; it becomes another way to keep actors of color out or give them additional burdens that no one else has had to take on.

However, I do believe that more burden should be placed on the writers and producers since the conceits that created the comfortable world for the white character are not the same conceits that are necessary to create a comfortable world for a character of color. For instance, in Hamilton, one of the biggest conceits to make the world comfortable for a Puerto Rican Alexander Hamilton to live in is that he cannot be the only person of color on stage. Another conceit is that this version of Alexander Hamilton is explicitly against slavery in both written and spoken words, but there is no mention of how real-life Alexander Hamilton also bought and secured slaves for his sister-in-law’s marriage. 

Miranda grew up conscious that there were no lead roles for him in the musical canon: he could be a side-kick, or a bad guy, but not a hero. ”…

In Hamilton, Miranda has created a world in which this “other”, whether by ethnicity or personality, takes centre stage. Daveed Diggs is a half-black, half-Jewish man who played the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the original Broadway cast. “I’m a black man playing a wise, smart, distinguished future president,” he told an interviewer in 2016. If he’d seen such a character as a kid, he confessed, it might have changed his life. “A whole lot of things I just never thought were for me might have seemed possible.”

Hooton, Amanda. “’Our Own Form of Protest’: How Linking Hip-Hop and History Turned Hamilton into a Surprise Hit Musical.” The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Feb. 2020,
Daveed Diggs and Li-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton

The imaginary world can be and must be adjusted for people of color to live in the fantasy AND people of color have every right to live in a historical fantasy as anyone else. We have read the books, watched the movies and played the games the same as every white person that has felt so seen by the omnipresence of white folks in media that their representation has become the default expectation. What we are seeing in having people of color in period drama is the claiming of spaces that have always belonged to us and the manifestations of the stories that have been in our heads for generations. Colonization has forced us to speak the language, wear the clothes, and consume the media of our oppressors for so long that we have as much claim to it as anyone else. And it is our right to project our dreams and wishes on the past with as much or as little trauma as we choose. For those who cling the argument of historical accuracy in a fictional/fantasy world as the basis of their debate, it seems to me that the real problem is that some people are now forced to empathize and connect to someone that has a different lived experience than they do and, as opposed to those of us who have had to do that our entire lives, others are out of practice.

Lady Danbury as played by Adjoa Andoh in Bridgerton.

Interspectional Rewind: POC and Period Drama

POC and Period Drama Interspectional

In this episode, pop culture journalist, Amanda-Rae Prescott and historical fashion and beauty blogger, Ayana of The Vintage Guidebook, join me to discuss Bridgerton, Hamilton and diversity in period dramas. We also take time to examine the fandom community around period dramas as well as diversity of the production and writing teams. So tighten your corset and put on your best hat because we are about to take a turn about the room with this juicy conversation. You can find Amanda-Rae Prescott's website here and her articles here. And on Twitter at @amandarprescott You can find Ayana at as well on social media at @vintieguidebook — Support this podcast:

The second episode of my podcast is called “POC and Period Drama” and in that episode, historical costumer, Ayana of the Vintage Guidebook, pop culture journalist, Amanda-Rae Prescott and I talk about the period dramas we love with great excitement. The summer that 16 year-old me borrowed the Pride and Prejudice (1995) boxset from the library, it was OVER for me. I was in love and there was no turning back. At that point in my teenage years, I was already an active reader and a lover of romantic relationships in television and movies where the female character was smart and witty and the male character was able to keep up. Mulder & Scully of The X-Files, B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris of Star Trek: Voyager, Max and Liz of Roswell; those were my ships. So when I discovered the cleverness and wit of Pride and Prejudice (as well as having already taken a liking to Shakespeare), I was taken in by everything in this fictional world. The costumes, the grandeur, but, for me, especially the language. 

The webseries, Black Girl in a Big Dress, is a pretty fair depiction of how I saw myself as I read Jane Austen books and consumed other historical romance media.

As I grew older, I sought out more and more period pieces, but particularly, those based on literature; this included all of the Jane Austen adaptations, North and South, later Poldark, Copper and Ripper Street. Now it surprises no one that very few of the 1990’s and earlier period drama adaptations had people of color in them unless slavery was the main subject. The 2000’s through the 2010’s saw more representation until the huge watershed moment that was the musical, Hamilton opened the floodgates in 2015. With Bridgerton being the phenomenon that was in the winter of 2020, the conversation around people of color in period dramas has expanded to previously unseen proportions. But also the conversation around the presence and safety of fans of color in both physical and online spaces that celebrate these works has been brought to the forefront as well as the authors and writers of color who have previously been rejected or ignored in the historical drama space. 

A quick summary of the racist drama in historical fiction/period/romance space includes that time they tried to blackface classic literature to get children to read it, when racism caused the Romance Writers of America association to implode, that time with the Jane Austen Society of America also imploded due to racism, when the Charles Dickens’ Christmas festival ignored the safety of their black castmates, and fans of Sanditon wanting to use an emoji with racist connotations to support the show.

Also, there was that time that the former plantation that had been hosting a Jane Austen convention for years want to include more explicit discussions about race, power and slavery during Austen’s time and the fans decided to shut down the event instead of learning and the time that Jane Austen Museum in England also wanted to expand the discussion around race and slavery (which Jane Austen wrote about in Mansfield Park) and some people were not happy. These are some, but not all of the racist controversies that have happened over a less-than five year period. 

But despite all of that, money, viewership and social media engagement talk, and by those metrics, producers have figured that having people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in period dramas sell. And some producers, apparently feeling the call of conscience, also decided to address slavery, racism, and colonialism directly in their historical drama adaptations. These decisions also caused their fair amount of controversy. But despite the presence and concerns of people of color “invading” some white folks’ self-insert historical fantasies, the inclusion of people of color and the diversity within the fandom is here to stay. However, the historical drama fan and criticism space has been almost exclusively focused on white people for so long that all of the BIPOC participants who are now and have been vocal in this space know better than to expect that racist people, actions and commentary will go quietly into that good night. 

So when the Bridgerton-inspired reality dating show, The Courtship (which features a Black female lead), Bridgerton, Sandition, Call The Midwife and Outlander all announced that they were premiering their seasons in March 2022, I sent out this tweet:

BIPOC Vampire Day

BIPOC Vampire Day Interspectional

For the last episode of Black History Month 2022, we end as we begun: Celebrating Black Joy.  We are talking about BIPOC Vampire Day with its founder Jamila aka @BlackBettieCosplay. BIPOC Vampire Day (well, weekend) took place on September 17-19, 2021. For this weekend, cosplayers and artists of Black, Indigenous, Latine, Middle Eastern, East Asian, South Asian and other POC backgrounds embraced their “dark” side and dressed up as vampires and various creatures of the night. As movies, television and media have embraced vampire lore over the past few decades, people of color have often been left out or left with minimal representation, with #BIPOCVampireDay, Jamila sought to change that as well as bring a community of diverse, creative people together for a good cause. In this episode, we discuss the inspiration behind BIPOC Vampire Day, how event developed and where it is going next. I hope you enjoy it.

Episode Transcript

Latisha: Hey everybody. And welcome back to season two of Interspectional, the place where we have nerds talking about nerd stuff through a social justice lens. That is my new tagline. I hope you like it. Today I’m super, super excited because today we are talking about BIPOC vampire day. First day that this happened was in 2021 in September. Super exciting event.

And I have with me, the person who created it all. So could you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your fandoms and a really, really, really quick intro to BIPOC vampire day. 

Jamila: So hi, I’m Jamila of Black Bettie Cosplay. My fandoms are wide and vast. So anime, a lot of Disney, Marvel, various indie comics, some D+D stuff.

Kind of just like if it sparks my interest and it’s usually in the fantasy/sci-fi end of things. I’m here for it. Vampires are its own subsection of obsession which is kind of how I ended up making the event. I feel like I was talking to some various friends and we were always complaining about how there’s just not much rep.

Despite how popular vampires have become on movies and TVs and stuff lately. Like the rep is still incredibly low. Like it’s crazy how little you see, as far as diversity, when it comes to the characters that they create. Like, I can maybe name a handful of shows that actually have POC characters as not background characters, but lead characters that happen to be vampires or just villains or anything.

So it’s really small and Black Fae Day happened and it was amazing. And I was like, what if I made a vampire day? Like, why not? That’d be really fun. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, but it was kind of like, “Ooh, the momentum’s there. People are like hungry for it.” And so I was like, “Yeah, let’s do this.”

 Let’s have a BIPOC vampire day. And so that’s kind of how it started. And it was September. It started out as I think a weekend. And then it became three days. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. 

Latisha: That’s amazing. And I’m glad that you mention kind of like some of the impetus started around Black Fae Day because I remember I found out about Black Fae Day late.

Like the day of is what I found out about it. And I saw all these amazing pictures and wings. I was like, this is my exact aesthetic I’ve never seen in my life. And this is it! Why did I not know about this earlier?! And so when I saw BIPOC vampire day, I was like, “Oh, this is like the dark side of that same theme.”

And so that was. Super super exciting. And you mentioned the representation, and that was a part of the story of how this was created. So what surprised you the most about people’s reactions? Cause I know you put out the “Here’s what we’re doing” months earlier.

So what was that first reaction of like, “oh, this is happening?”

Jamila: I think how much excitement there was around it. I mean, I knew it was gonna be some excitement. I had a feeling cosplayers would want to get involved because it was like, “The cosplayers are bored. We have no cons. We need something to do.”

But just like having all the people who had other forms of media, like reaching out. Like I had a bunch of people who are doing gaming related stuff, who were like, “Hey, what if we did a bunch of calls for games that happened to be more centric around BIPOC vampires?” And I was like, “Oh my God, that’s exciting.”

And all this stuff started coming out. I mean, I obsessively follow vampire projects. So I was already like reaching out to people. I already followed for their other vampire projects were like, “Hey. There’s an event coming.” But just generally, how surprised I was about how many people were willing to just jump into it and create little mini events around it, because I announced that it was happening after Black Fae Day had finished. But I didn’t have the dates u ntil like June or something. So it was still very like, kind of last minute as far as like planning it, because the main thing for me is I want it to be a fundraiser and a charity event, because I was like, “If I do anything vampire related, I really want it to tie around some sort of blood something cause blood drive.”

 And so once the dates were all set, I just expected it. “Okay. There’ll be a little bit of excitement.” I didn’t think it would blow up quite so much. And that there’d be like not one fundraiser, but like four fundraisers all happening. And that we were able to kind of work together in the last minute to make it this big, like event full of stuff. Like we had streaming that was going on.

There are games being created. It was… definitely a surprise. I didn’t expect to see all that happening at the same time. So that was cool. 

Latisha: Yeah. So can you elaborate a little bit more on like the fundraisers? What they were and how they tied into the event? 

Jamila: So yeah, I wanted to do something tied to some sort of something to give back.

Cause I was like the events that have been happening are really cool. And I was like, “I don’t want it to just be like, oh, I dressed up in a costume and that’s it.” I was like, we’re getting all this attention to it, so we need something. Like, representation was already kind of happening. It’s like Black Fae Day started pushing that like already.

So that was good. So I was like, “Well, what’s another thing that can be brought into the place?” Like not just, “Oh, Hey, you should consider us!” But something else. And so for me, I was like, “Well, sickle cell anemia is a blood disease that affects a lot of POC is significantly more than anyone else.” And then I was looking on the website of a couple of the national organizations and they’re like, “Oh, it’s September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month.”

And I was like, “Oh shit. Like, I didn’t even plan that.” I was like, “Oh, well now it’s meant to be like, clearly it was supposed to be in September all along.” I didn’t even have a clue that that’s what was supposed to happen. So I was like, “Okay, well now I have to make up a fundraiser for the event and they can be linked to forever.” So that was one of the fundraisers that was going. Another group I think, was doing it for Lifewater. Cause I think they had set their stuff up before they we’d kind of gotten to communicate about it. And so another gaming group that was doing a lot of the streaming. They also did fundraising f or the Sickle Cell A ssociation of America as well. 

So we had two of them kind of running simultaneously side by side, and then we had another group that was doing charity water at the same time. So it ended up turning into something where you’re going to have excitement and we were also going to be able to give back, plus I had a lot of people who were not POC who were like, “I want to help somehow.” And I was like, ” They can share.” But I think some people really liked the fact that they could also help donate and support and have it go an extra step. So that definitely was like, saw some really good traction for people who just wanted to find their own way to get involved.

Latisha: I think that’s so cool. And I love this like communal aspect of the entire event. And I have another episode where we’re talking about vampires and talking about in essence, the way they are primarily portrayed in media is not just folks who are usually white, but also of the upper echelon in many ways, both literally in the text and figuratively are somehow taking away from society or way from somebody’s life.

 I feel like in many BIPOC communities, the community growth and the community concern is one of those things that’s more primary. That’s more like put forward. And so I love with the fundraisers is that you get to put the community in the, like the vampire aesthetic was really cool and it should be inventive.

And it really helps the enjoyment of this work also feel very grounded in different types of people, in different types of cultures and backgrounds. So like I just found that it’s so cool and so interesting. Were there any particular like characters or stories that were in media or in television or books or movies that influenced these celebrations specifically or influenced you as someone who liked vampires?

 Was there like a particular series, like, you know, Was Vampire Hunter D on your list? You know, you have made an entire statue of Alucard somewhere? Like you never know. 

Jamila: I mean, they’re all, they’re all like on my list. Like my first encounter, I think when I was a kid was. Yes. When I was a kid, I’ll admit that was I think finding Vampire Lestat like, that’s that book. I think that was the first one I read out of order. And just like becoming obsessed, but I also read like a lot of folklore, which like had like vampire aesthetics and stuff, but I read plenty of elf things. They kind of similar elements to them. So I’ve seen some people say like, “Oh, fairies and vampires aren’t really that different.” I could have like a long discourse just on vampire lore… Don’t get me started. So yeah like, Alucard. Vampire Hunter D. Like all of that was just like (eat it up). Basically I was like, look up like vampire anime, just like, “What do you got? You have anything new that I haven’t watched yet. Please give me! I need that sweet vampire content!”

 So, I’ve consumed a lot or at least whatever is immediately available. There’s still tons I have not even had a chance to look at. That’s also I think where the… The disappointment comes in because it’s like, there’s just so little. Like, I was super happy when they redid Castlevania and they had some representation in there.

Thank you. But it’s still like, so small and far between, or there’s more movies you see that will include POC in vampire stories. That’s the key thing here is that they’re still rarely the vampires. They’re always like fighting the vampires or whatever, but I’m like, “I get it.” Most of the narrative, we tend to see vampires are rich. They’re usually taking away from society. They’re a curse. They’re awful. So I get why that tends to leans to like, “Oh, well we’ll just make the vampires the oppressors because that’s just like the obvious place to go.” And so you see that storytelling often done and I think that’s probably why it also so heavily leans towards tending to be white people. 

 I think in books, they’ve done a better job of exploring it. So you find more books where you have vampires of color like stuff by Octavia Butler and whatnot. It’s not just telling one version of the story. And it’s funny, cause I was looking up some more books for inspiration.

There’s like one, I haven’t had a chance to read, but like some of the earliest vampire stories, one was actually about a slave that became a vampire and then use that power to get revenge on their slave master. And I was like, “Yeah. Were those, were those movies, please? Where’s that?” Because it’s a version of the whole concept of a vampire that like someone who didn’t have power is getting power and is using that power for their benefit.

And you almost never see that in stories, especially the character tends to be white and already in a position of power. Maybe they might be poor and they use it to ascend, but you don’t see it always extended to the other groups. And so I have noticed that trend a little bit more when you do see those stories is that is how it tends to be used.

In fact, there was an Amazon one, which I’m not going to recommend because I didn’t love all of it, but there was like one of the villain characters that was his villain origin stories. He was like, “We were working for the slave masters.” But then they became vampires. And so their whole goal was to up and the power system.

And I was like, “Yeah, that’s smart.” Like, I mean, why not? Why wouldn’t you do that? You’re given power. You didn’t have, and now you couldn’t like use it to your benefit. Like that’s so smart. So I would like to see more different stories explored. And I think that’s why I was so interested in trying to encourage people to get them, because I know so many people who are like, “Oh, I want to do this vampire, but I’m Indian or I’m black. And people are going to give me crap about it.” Like immediately, they’ll be like, “Why are you doing that? Vampires are supposed to be pale or vampires are supposed to be European or something like that. “

 And so I know plenty of people who want to tell these stories or want to create these characters and have literally been told they shouldn’t because of just the vibe always being a certain look, unless it’s like the five vampires where we were like, “There’s Blade! There’s Akasha”

I’m like, there’s probably two more, but it’s not a very long list. Like in True Blood, they had the black vampires. They weren’t the main characters, but they were in there. They’re like, “Oh, ah, the ones with Twilight.” And I’m like “Yeah, he was only there because of the director.” He wasn’t even supposed to be black. Putting that out there, I’m salty. I have many, many feelings.

Latisha: Many people share those feelings and those salty feelings, unfortunately, and I know this is going to get me somewhere, but like I did not watch all of the Twilight series. I didn’t know. I knew that I know that there is a black vampire. I would guess that he has a total of maybe 10 lines. I could be wrong about that. 

Jamila: No, he has like 10 lines. It trust me, you didn’t miss it.

Latisha: I was just guessing. I was just guessing. But what’s really funny. And I know I’m going to keep on referencing the previous episode, just because we did the exact same thing about slaves or, you know, formerly enslaved people becoming vampires and how that would essentially up in the entire system. And if you already had vampire in that system? Well, no, they’re not going to turn the slaves cause that upends a system that’s already working for them. I was like, “Yo, what if, and I’m going to repeat the same thing I said before. And I was like, what if like Nat Turner right before they hang him? Boom. Vampire!” 

Jamila: I know right! It would change everything! Part of my obsession is I’m working on my own story and comic and whatnot. And I was like, “You know what? Think of how much, like you could really change history?” It’s not to diminish what was done historically, but I was like I have a Haitian character. And I was like, “What if some of them were vampires? Maybe that’s what helped them win. Maybe that was the turning point.” And I was like, “Yes, that’s her original story. Okay.” 

Latisha: I’d be like, “That French vintage taste good, don’t it?”

Jamila: I freaking love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. 

Latisha: Well, also speaking of vampires, for whatever it’s problems, the one that people don’t talk about much, but it’s a solid horror movie is Vampire in Brooklyn

Jamila: Yes. 

Latisha: Which I feel like one of the reasons why I didn’t do as well as it could have is cause people were expecting a comedy, and they actually got a modernized version of Bram Stoker, which they were not expecting. But if you watch it just for what it is, it’s like “This is actually interesting.” And then how Eddie Murphy does take the vampire story and fuse it with a more black, Haitian Afro-centric narrative, and it’s really interesting.

And it’s like, how do we take these stories… Cause one of the things that I find interesting, whether it’s vampires, werewolves, et cetera, we’re all, especially if you’re American, we’re all inundated with the same stories. And I feel like people forget about that. I’m like, “Yeah. Alice in Wonderland. Wizard of Oz. I was raised with those things as much as you.” 

Jamila: Yup. 

Latisha: So being that, that is as much in my psyche, as anyone walking down the street. I also feel like I have like my own level of, “Yeah, this is part of my culture.” And yet I also have another aspect of my culture and I might want to either blend the two or modify or do something so that, you know, I can see myself expressed in the culture that has literally been forced on me since birth.

Jamila: Yup. Yup. 

Latisha: So it’s really fascinating. And you mentioned, people who participated, who were of various ethnicities, where they were Indian, Asian, Latinx, et cetera. And have you seen anything from a variety of cultures with BIPOC vampire day or anything that someone said like, “Oh my gosh, I always wanted to do this, but I’m Indigenous and no one knew what to do with me, but I can do this.” 

Jamila: I definitely saw it. Actually someone gave me a little bit of flack about like, “Why it wasn’t specifically just black?” And I was like, ” No, because here’s the thing. It’s mostly just white vampires. There’s not really much diversity at all.”

And it kills me because as somebody who loves folklore, like I’m obsessed with folklore. I have read so many different versions of vampires. I hate to break somebody’s bubble, but Bram Stoker is not the first person to invent vampires. He didn’t do that. He just took folklore and mythology and superstitions that already… 

Latisha: Not even his folklore, by the way. 

Jamila: NOT EVEN HIS FOLKLORE! It’s somebody else’s folklore. Somebody else’s folklore and turn it into this thing. And so people are always like, “Oh, Bram Stoker”. I’m like, “Yeah, but he didn’t make vampires. Stop it!” And I tried to bring it up a little bit with the event. I’ll probably push it more next year. There are so many takes on vampires, partially because malaria and mosquitoes are everywhere. Not even kidding. That’s like part of the reason, that’s it. That’s why there’s… 

Latisha: And bats. No one likes bats. 

Jamila: And bats. Bloodborne disease and flying creatures that drink blood, they exist. So you have ones that are like, there’s some really cool ones that are Aztec vampires. You have like the Aswang in the Philippines. They have ones that are specific to the Caribbean. Like I grew up with stories of old hag. No, they’re not always like a literal interpretation of what we accept as vampires. Like sometimes it’s like the line crosses with witches and fairy and all sorts of stuff, but there’s still very clearly blood drinkers.

The key thing here. There really is so many different ones. And that was one of the really cool things is some of the people I saw post would give some of the backstory of their cultural vampires, you know? From various walks of life, because some people are like, “Oh, there’s this native blood drinker.”

And they brought that up and they shared that story as they did their makeup or their inspiration. It’s like, anything you wanted to do, you could like pull from your history. You can just make something up. It doesn’t matter. And that’s why it was really cool. As you got to see all of that come about and people got to see that and go, “Oh, maybe I should read it to that more”. Like, “Oh, I didn’t know. There was like a vampire native to this place. That’s so cool.” And so it’s like all of a sudden you don’t have everybody like, “Oh, vampires can only be these five things”. Nope. That’s not how it works. 

It’s just a very simple rule. That’s it. And then you can do whatever you want. It’s just a fantastical creature. You can have fun with it. And so it was nice to get to see people find themselves in that character, whether you like vampires or not, whether the villain or not. They could find their place and how it relates back to them. And that’s what I wanted. 

Latisha: Yeah. I think that that’s so amazing and so fascinating. And also there’s something to be said about like a particular culture’s monster or variety of monsters, you know? And I also feel like, you know, we end up in globalized society, whatever you want to say. So many things end up being homogenized and to being commercialized so much of it is whatever our folklore version of folklore is.

It’s interesting that yes, well, many of us want to connect to the heroes of our cultures. There is also something to be said about the monsters or villains that are specific to our cultures as well. It’s kind of like, what are we afraid of? Or what do we know that others don’t or, you know, Even if this is kind of the dark side, this is a dark side of me, right? And all of that matters. So that’s just really cool and really interesting.

 You mentioned getting a little bit of flack, but have you received any other like negative feedback? And if so, how did you deal with it? 

Jamila: I don’t think I really got much. I mean, I think the only thing that people were like, “I didn’t know this was happening” and I was like, “I don’t know what else I could’ve done.” I’m like, “I announced it like in May. Kept talking about it forever. I don’t know.” 

Latisha: The internet is large and vast. 

Jamila: This social media life is rude. It’s cruel. So I’m like, I mean, the nice thing is there’s going to be, it’s going to happen in next year. So I’m like you’re being notified right now. And from then on, literally up to the event again. No excuses. But overall, it was pretty positive. Like there really weren’t that many issues or complaints.

I was like, people like vampires, I don’t know many people were like, “Why would you do that? Why would you do vampires?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Cause they’re cool. Leave me alone.”

Latisha: Cause they’re cool. Cause they’re interesting. Because I decided that that’s what we’re going to do. 

Jamila: Yeah.

Latisha: That’s awesome. So what do you hope that people will get out of celebrating these days? Whether it be, you know, vampire day or Fae day, I hear mermaid day is happening next year. So as one of the people who’s helped push this forward, what do you hope people get out of it?

Jamila: I feel like a sense of community, cause like, it’s definitely nice to see like, “Oh, Hey, all these people like this thing too. I have new friends maybe.” But also just like seeing the creativity and the drive. It’s been a rough couple of years and I know a lot of people need deadlines or just something to look forward to.

And so that’s kind of been the nice thing, like whether you participate or not, you’re like, “Ooh, I get a day where my feed is just flooded with this, whatever this thing is, mermaid.” So exciting, you know? And so I feel like there’s a little something for everybody. If you’re like, just looking at it, you get something neat to see for one day, if you participate, you get a show off.

Sometimes it’s the first foray into doing something for anybody that was like, “I might not cosplay, but I sure like vampires or I sure like cows I’m going to do a cow thing.” And that’s the first time they might do something, but they’re going to get to have fun, you know? And it’s like a little Christmas. You know, you open up and you have that day were everything super exciting. I feel like we could use as many of those exciting days as possible. And it’s nice to have a day that’s about celebrating instead of mourning or just being upset or angry. Cause there’s plenty of that. I’m so angry. I want to be excited and make beautiful things. And so it’s kind of nice to have an event where that is the goal: is to make something beautiful, to contribute, to help, to find new artists to follow. And it’s just a positive thing that we just need. So it’s been nice to have those like little moments of positivity throughout the year 

Latisha: Absolutely, absolutely. I can totally see that. And what advice would you give to someone who is interested in participating, but it’s like a little unsure. a little intimidated. They’re like “I saw all these wonderful things on my feed, but I could never. I will just admire from afar. Beautiful people. “

Jamila: I’m like, if you want to do it, just do it. There’s no like prerequisite, it’s not a contest. Like this is just about getting involved. And the nice thing is almost all these events have little ways to get involved. A lot of them are open to artists that like, “Oh, you wanted to do some art.”

Some people do art. Some people do art of other people participating. Like there’s all these little ways. If you’re a photographer, find somebody who needs a photographer for their costume or some other thing. There’s like little ways to get involved. Like I’ve seen people be like, “oh, I’m gonna make a comic project for this.”

And it’s like, “Yeah, just find your thing.” Someone made a video game. I was just like “What in the world?” Someone made a DnD game with vampires. Cause they’re like, oh, this event’s coming up. The nice thing is so many of these events are so open-ended, you can find something to get excited about and be involved in.

 But there’s no high requirement. So it’s like do as little or as much as you can. And if you can’t do it that year, if you know they’re going to have another year just prep for the next year and take your time. Cause I definitely like had some where I was like, oh, I want to do it. I do not have any time.

So I’m just going to share every single person I see. I’m gonna just keep reposting everybody. And that was my way of contributing is I was like, I’m just going to like everything and comment and share all the stuff so I can look at it later. So yeah, I feel like it’s like, don’t be pressured.

Don’t feel pressure. 

Latisha: I did the same thing where it was like, share ,comment, share, let them know. I love them. Engagement, engagement, engagement, because I want this to come back.

Jamila: I know it’s like, give them all the love. That’s the most important thing.

Latisha: And I personally think like Like you never know, who’s going to see it for better, for worse.

So many of us spend so much of our time online now. And I still feel, even though there has been more than many of us, many people of color who are creative and our interests and all these different things and who feel very isolated. You know, am I the only one in my friend group who was interested in this? Am I the only one in my block? Am I the only one in my school? 

And so just knowing that there are other people out here who are into similar things who are grown-ups, who were into similar things who are, you know, successful in our own right. And just saying, “You know what, I’m going to go out and have fun.”

And just knowing that there are other people out there like you can be so encouraging. 

Jamila: Yeah. 

Latisha: You know, so it’s just one of those things of like, “Yes, let’s celebrate.” And speaking of, you know, the games and all of this and you’re moving into next year and I’m going to ask you to share the date soon, but not quite yet. Is there any media or more media being built around vampire day? Like is there a TikTok series web series, you’ve mentioned comic books that people made, the DnD game.

Jamila: Yeah, there was a lot of submissions or just art and makeup looks and projects. And so I’m trying to get that updated so that people can kind of see all that stuff for inspiration for the future. Someone was making a diverse vampires book of like six or seven illustrations that a bunch of people had done to inspire people for future character building and design.

There was a slew of games that were all made by one group. They had people submit various role-playing games and tabletop games. There were some video projects that were shared with me. Just so many things that people were just like, “Oh, it’s my time to shine!”

Latisha: I’ve been waiting for this all my life. 

Jamila: Give me all of your vampire things PLEASE! (eat it up) Let me support you. I think it also just energized people to see that there was a demand and a need. And so It’s good because I think there’s so many times where people probably pitch something and just were told, “Oh no, no, one’s going to be interested in that. Just do the same old, same old.”

And it’s like, “Oh, well, here’s an example of how people had no interest in just the same old, same old. They wanted to see all this new stuff.” And so it’s been really good to just like, have all that, just to get that it’s like,” Ooh, people would agree. They want it.” 

Latisha: “They want it. They see it. I’ve got to have it.” 

Jamila: So, yes, there is so much that has been created and I’m trying to like, get it all showcased so people can also see all the different places that they can support all these projects. So yes, so much came out of that. It was so mind boggling. 

Latisha: Fantastic, fantastic. So we talked about next year, but also, you know, where do you see this going? What do you feel is like the future of specifically BIPOC vampire day or just in general, this kind of interest in diverse fantasy and including, people of various cultures and backgrounds and kind of the fantastic lore that is presented.

Jamila: I’m hoping that it will start getting more people, seeing that in the widely known media, that it’s okay for them to have more representation and not just on the sidelines, but in the mix. You’re starting to see like more TV where they have diverse groups of people like mixed race families, all this sort of stuff.

They’re starting to be like, okay, these projects are like, people want to see them, but it’s still. Still far reaching for fantasy and stuff like that, because they’re like, “Well, we got to put a lot of money into that. ” But there’s you starting to see the shift just a little bit, like even on Amazon, I think Amazon, Netflix, just the fact that they started having more POC led fantasy movies, like just appearing.

And I was like, “oh my God, it’s happening finally.” It’s like, “We want this too please!” So it’s like all of these events, they see it. I mean, I hope they’re seeing it, but they can’t miss it. Hopefully, they start realizing that there is an audience for this. There are people who are craving this.

They’ve been craving it all their lives and we can’t just keep churning out the same boring stuff they’ve seen. It’s fine. But we want to see a little bit more diversity. The world’s diverse. Let’s see it. And so many books have existed for so long with so much diversity already in them. They’re just like, “Well, let’s just make Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the 80th time.”

I mean, I love the story, but there’s like a bajillion stories out there. Can we like tap some of those? So we’re starting to see more of that happening. And so that’s good. And I hope that momentum keeps going for the event. Like next year, we’re hoping to just get more prep and have more streaming content, just like some things that people can enjoy online.

And again, the fundraiser is still going to be happening. Just ramp up a tiny bit. Not going crazy. I’m excited that all these events keep bringing so much joy to people. And like the representation that isn’t seen in the media is finally getting shown somewhere else so that little kids can see it.

Adults who never got to see it can see it and they can be like, “You know what? I wasn’t weird for liking Lord Of The Rings and wishing I could be in it.” I’m not weird for that, because look at all these other people, they felt the same way. And maybe one of those projects that people hype up during those event days will actually get greenlit because there’s so many that are looking for funding and these are the events that help them get that funding because they’re getting directed right to their audience.

So I’m hoping that more and more, we’re going to see that shift and it’s going to change because it’s time. It’s way overdue, way overdue. So– 

Latisha: Yeah, I love that. I feel like there’s almost like two levels when it comes to the type of engagement. I feel like there’s the wide media landscape. There’s Netflix and Disney and the folks all the money who makes the things and the stuff that gets sent out there into the world.

But then there’s people on the ground floor on the level of like, “Hey, usually I’m a fan, but no, I create my own stuff too, or I know my fandom community. I know the people that I hang out with and here’s what we’re doing to encourage ourselves to make us happy. And if Marvel or whomever is not going to do it. No worries! We can take care of ourselves to make ourselves happy.” And that’s the plan. So I love that you’re doing that. I love that you’re part of this conversation and moving the story forward. So the moment that I hope you listeners have all been waiting for.

When is 2022 BIPOC vampire day? Please tell us. 

Jamila: So it is going to be in September again, and this time it’s going to be September 23rd, 24th and 25th. So one week before October starts. 

Latisha: All right. So put that on calendar. September 23rd, 24th and 25th of 2022. You can get an early prep Halloween costume. So that’s what we’re doing that weekend. You know! You have all this time to get ready. Thank you so much for joining me here on Interspectional. I’ve enjoyed this conversation immensely. I hope my listeners have as well.

And can you please tell people where to find you on the interwebs websites, social medias, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Jamila: So I go as @blackbettiecosplays, pretty much everywhere on Instagram. There’s an S at the end. And on Twitter, it’s really weird. It’s @bbettie_cosplay and it’s Betty with an I E not a Y. On Tik TOK Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all over the place, pretty much. So follow me. 

Latisha: Yes. Follow her, follow BIPOC Vampire day. Follow all of the wonderful, homegrown fantasy media that you will see in 2022 supporting people of diverse backgrounds and diverse audiences, also known as the global majority. If you don’t know that phrase, learn it. And we’ll see you again.

Or hear from you again next time on Interspectional. So everyone thank you so much for listening and have a great day.

Women of Color in Sci-Fi TV (2015 – present)

Women of Color in Sci-Fi Television (2015 – present) Interspectional

Since 2015 (and a little bit earlier), there has been a massive increase in the amount of women of color that we see in sci-fi/fantasy media across network, cable and streaming platforms. With this increase in representation (and we can always use more), the conversation has shifted a bit more from just putting women of color in speculative properties to exploring how we are being represented and what are the overall messages being send the audience. In this episode, I explore those ideas with transmedia social justice producer and co-host of Trek Table, Claudia Alick and Community Advocate and co-host of Pop Chatter podcast, Natacia Knapper. We look at #StarTrekDiscovery, #Watchmen, #LovecraftCountry, #Flash and so much more. It’s a fun, intense, definitely going-to-challenge you conversation.

You can follow Natacia on Twitter @nknapper and you can follow Pop Chatter Podcast on Twitter at @PopChatterPod 

If you are interested in learning more about the Baldwin House project follow @DCW1MutualAid

You can follow Claudia on Twitter @Callingup and you can follow Trek Table Podcast on Twitter at @Trek_Table

If you are interested in learning more about Watch Nights and F*** The Gala, go to 

Episode Transcript

Latisha: Hey everybody. And welcome back to Interspectional. I am super, super excited for this particular conversation because we are talking about women of color in sci-fi television, but specifically from 2015, up until the present. Now, if you listen to some of my first episodes, I explained that me doing the Woman of Color in Sci-fi Television panel is how I got started.

I did that at Awesome Con. I did that at BlerDCon. It went to Dragon Con, somehow without me, but that’s another story for another time, but when I’ve done those sessions, they primarily focused on TV shows from like the 1960s up into the present up until that point. And there’s a lot to cover, but there’s not a lot at the same time because you’re talking about one or two women of color showing up in these types of media per year for a long time or maybe five or six as we get into the 90’s and the early 2000’s. And around 2015, there was an explosion.

We saw women of color in sci-fi on the Syfy channel and on networks and on streaming, especially. And that is its own thing, I feel. Yes, an add on to this long legacy, but also just this new territory that I find is really interesting to investigate. So I am really excited to have these two guests with me, as we talk about, this new phase in kind of representation, what does it mean?

The types of things they’ve created and what we hope to continue to see in the future. So I’m going to have them introduce themselves. Natacia, could you go first? 

Natacia: Yeah, of course. I’m really excited to be here. Again, my name is Natacia. I’m happy to finally be talking with you with Latisha. I feel like you’ve been trying to get me to come to one of your panels forever and our schedules just never seem to be aligned.

So I’m glad that it finally happened. And I just have so much to talk about. Again, yeah. My name is Natacia. There’ll be a time for me to talk about socials and plug all those things later. I’m sure. I am a black femme non-binary and yeah, I have a podcast where I talk about Marvel stuff and all kinds of other things.

So yeah, I’m excited to really dig into it with y’all. And, yeah, happy to be here. 

Latisha: Super excited to have you here. I’ve actually been on three episodes of the Pop Chatter podcast, which one half of the hosting team Lindsay being the other half, it is always a fascinating conversation. So I am super excited to have her with me.

And yeah, I’ve been trying to get her for a long time. So I’m like, YES! Finally! Claudia, please tell us about yourself. 

Claudia: I am a transmedia social justice producer and a lifelong scifi and fantasy mega-nerd. And I’ve always had these real deep thoughts in my head about it and have struggled to find a community, to communicate about the things with around science fiction.

And it’s only been in like the last decade where I feel like I could have, not only the conversations I want to have, but hear other people having them, which has just been amazing. So thank you so much for having me. I identify as a disabled non-binary black female AFM, and you can reach me at callingupjustice. com and then you can also check me out on Trek Table podcast, talking about Star Trek Discovery. 

Latisha: Trek Table Podcast is so much fun. You hear so many unique perspectives. So I highly recommend that podcast. And for me, puts me in a space where I’m thinking about science fiction more deeply. All right. So my first question to the both of you is in the past seven years or so, what has been your favorite depiction of a woman of color in sci-fi/fantasy and why? So we’re talking 2015 to the present. 

Natacia: So I do have two characters I would like to name. The first character is actually May. Agent May from Agents of Shield. So that’s definitely 2015 on. But the show technically starts in 2013.

I don’t know if that’s cheating, but I would say that May is probably, just like one of my go-to female characters in Sci-fi and like in a comic book world. First of all, Agents Of Shield was definitely like straight up sci-fi. When you get to the later seasons, they weren’t even trying. It went into space. It got wild. Like I’m telling you. People, if you’re just looking for a really good sci-fi show, I think it’s okay to skip the first two seasons and just go deep, just go right into the space with them. But anyway I digress. May, I really loved because she has such a great arc on that show.

 They really start her off from a place where she’s really leaning into some of those tropes that you see with strong women. Where it doesn’t even feel like this is like a woman or femme character, it feels like it is a male character that they are just giving a female identity too.

 This is such a standard trope that we see all the time. I think it’s something that you in particular see with women of color, but they really allowed May to be a more and more vulnerable character as she opened up, as she built this community, as she became more part of this family. You saw her actually grow and learn and become more emotional through the people and the relationships that she gains. And I was having a conversation actually on my podcast where it was focused on like the women of Star Wars. Where it is very rare that we see women allowed to be vulnerable and strong at the same time. I feel like it’s either one or other, or we define strength in being like physically strong.

And there isn’t like strength in vulnerability. I just think that May, especially in the later seasons, this was a really beautiful balance of both. And it was just so kick ass. I just loved watching her fight people. It was really great. You have no idea how many times I’ve gone onto YouTube just watching scene after scene of May just kicking people’s asses. 

Claudia: Fighting herself! Do you remember the one where she was fighting herself! Come on. 

Natacia: So good. Some of the best fricking fight choreography. I just really loved, loved her. 

Claudia: Have you see her on Boba Fett? 

Natacia: Oh, I could talk. Sorry. Don’t get me started on the Book of Boba Fett. I am a Star W ars person but May! A bsolutely incredible! Love her in Agents of Shield. Ming-Na Wen. Just I’ve loved her ever since street fighter. 

Latisha: I feel like she has like the franchises that I love, like not even a trifecta and there’s an EGOT for you are awesome at everything you’ve ever done and completely beloved. She has earned that. I’m just like you just need to name it after her for everything that she’s done. Here’s the thing about so much of her work. And this is also why I think a lot of the stuff is important. The chances of people getting Tony’s, Golden Globes, Oscars for any of the Sci-f i TV work, even in some of the Disney animated work or whatever, super unlikely, like they don’t touch any of that stuff.

Rarely anyone can tell you who won the Oscars or golden globes, five years ago. We can all pretty much tell you at least one scene that we remember in Street Fighter. Like those are the things that stay with people. And yet, somehow our society says that those things don’t need to be awarded. And I have major questions about that, but I digress. And you said there were two, Natacia. 

Natacia: Okay the second one, I’ll be a lot more brief. The second one I feel like this might be a little maybe controversial, but Regina King’s character in Watchman is another character that I absolutely love. There are aspects of that character I struggle with and we’ll dive into that a little bit more later, but her depiction of Angela /Sister Night is just so moving. It is a performance that I actually think about all of the time genuinely.

Like it’s one of those things where again we have a strong female character who’s just allowed to be deeply vulnerable, deeply emotional. And that’s actually where she gets a lot of her strengths from. For a show that really delves into the trauma of being a black person and the history that we have to live with as being black people in this country, she managed to move into this role in such a way where she was able to really fully own her power as a black woman, while also not being defined by her trauma as a black woman. It was just such a beautiful and balanced performance. Honestly, anything that Regina King does. But that performance is one that has stuck with me. And I revisit more than I do most shows, but yeah those would be my two choices. 

Latisha: Those were great and I love that detail. Claudia? 

Claudia: This is a fun conversation. So I struggled to give you an answer partially because I struggled with favorites and picking one, but also because I feel like there’s actors that I deeply love. Even as I find the cultural productions, they are inside of problematic on different levels.

For instance I love Gina Torres in Serenity. Oh, she is so good, but I could never mention that cause it’s complicated. Also so many of these actors who I love are always playing an assistant or a helper or a best friend to a centered white person, usually some centered white dude and I’m like I’m not sure I like that story. So I’m going to name my girl. Sonequa Martin-Green! Sonequa Martin-Green! Captain Michael Burnham! I love Captain Michael Burnham. I could name the actress that plays Owo on there is so good as well. Michelle Yeoh is amazing.

Natacia: Oh My God, Michelle Yeoh! 

Latisha: We already knew like Michelle Yeoh was a legend of just incredible proportions, but the range she is allowed to have on Discovery. All the characters really, but like Georgiou is just so fascinating and hilarious. There is no reason why this murderou s woman should be that funny. Like freaking hilarious. And also you just look at her sometimes you like, “I don’t want to say you have a point, but you might…” 

Claudia: And the chemistry between these actors. These are actors that are so good at what they do. It’s a delight. It’s not only a delight to experience the storytelling that you’re getting.

It’s not only a delight to get the scifi beats that are fantastic and amazing. And the fight choreography. Oh. But just a tense piece of dialogue between Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh, so delicious. So yummy. Just the best. 

Latisha: One thing I actually want to mention because I absolutely enjoy Discovery as well. And the levels of the journey that Michael Burnham goes through, I find incredible. And the different ways family is defined and redefined and questioned is rather incredible. And can I talk about yes, much has been talked about Michael Burnham having natural hair in space, but the fact, and spoilers if you haven’t seen it, the fact that the last couple of seasons sista-girl has braids. I’m just.

I don’t know, like outside of maybe Martha Jones and I have questions about that, but I don’t remember actually seeing like braids and protective styles like that anywhere. On top of that, you know what this means? Do you know that Michael Burnham has braids means? That there is a braider in the future! Like someone got the hair and lit the fire underneath the braid. Or put it the hot thing of water. And like they’ve got hair oil in the future. Hair oil! 

Natacia: That’s so exciting.

Latisha: I’m just saying. And even though it had its problems, I really enjoyed Jurnee Smollett’s performance in Lovecraft Country, like there are levels. So many levels to that too. Her performance stuck with me in many ways, not just ” Ooh, that one gave me shivers”. But it was also amazing to me. Even, I thought in the first episode or the second, when they finally reveal like the monsters in that episode. The fact that by the time you get to the monsters, that it’s almost a relief. 

 It’s like by the time it gets to the strange grotesque, whatever. It’s like “Finally, something other than the human monster that I’ve been having to deal with.” It’s this moment, which I feel is so specific and I feel like you have to have lived that in order to write that. It’s like, how can the appearance of a multi-fanged, tentacled whatever, be like, “Oh, finally!” Like, how do you get to that moment? You make something in real life that’s scary. And you finally moved to the fiction part and you can let something go, which is just like an epic piece of storytelling to me. 

Claudia: I have to admit, I have missed out on the amazing performances and that particular cultural production. I wanted to watch it. And I was like, “Oh, this will trigger all of my PTSD.”

 I’ve tried to approach it a few times. I haven’t been able to experience the trauma that’s involved. I feel like it’s a traumatizing experience to watch the show. And I really want to, so I’m hoping that a few years, maybe when there’s less racism in the world. 

Natacia: It’s feels likely

Latisha: I actually want to hit on that cause I feel like that is a legit experience specifically with black media or black focused media, because some of the things that get put out you’re like “I would like to, but this will hurt me.” ” I would like to, but this will be a problem.” And the advantage of often looking into science fiction is to explore themes with a bit of remove.

So you can get some of that space and yet talk about these things. Granted, we were talking about sci-fi from 2015 to now, but if you were going to go all the way back to The Next Generation, specifically, a lot of the Data episodes. They’re talking about agency and they’re talking about whether this being is property or not. They’re talking about these things. I wonder what analyses we’re going for here, but yet you can look at them with a sense of remove. You can look at it without saying “I am re-traumatizing myself in the process”. And that can sometimes be the advantage of sci-fi.

Claudia: That makes me think about how back in the day, they didn’t allow us to be in anything. Blackness was erased, but blackness is interesting and amazing. So it was sampled and culturally appropriated to make the whiteness actually interesting. That’s why Data is interesting. Data is there because they can’t actually tell stories that actually explore the fundamental questions about disenfranchisement of human beings. Having an entire class of human beings who aren’t treated as full human beings. You think they could do it with Geordi, but they didn’t do it. So anyway, I do want to get back to 2015.

 Like I’ve noticed that once you center a black person in the story, you can’t speak in code. You actually have to have some things that are just black, that aren’t a metaphor for blackness or the black experience. 

Latisha: There’s no metaphors to be had. Culturally, I feel that many people in the black community are fairly direct. Just linguistically. I will tell you what I’m thinking. I’m telling you what I’m feeling.

I do not have time to be passive aggressive because there’s so many things going on because the amount of brain power taking me to not say what I really mean I could use for something else like survival, which is not necessarily the case in other linguistics styles. So it’s an interesting concept.

And actually this leads into my next question, because thinking about it for the longest time, the call, when it comes to media, has it been like “representation matters”. And now it seems to somewhat evolves into like “authenticity matters.” Because even as we’re seeing more people of color, I feel like there’s even more of a call of “Is this person actually person of color?”

“Is this person actually a black person?” Are we seeing those linguistic markers or is this someone, who you just put in this role and didn’t take into account all of the culture and history that they were bringing to them. So I wonder if that’s being pushed, what does that mean if characters of color get “messier”, or if we have more villains. Are people ready for that?

Natacia: Yeah. So I’m gonna touch on Watchmen again really quick and say that I know that this is like an unpopular opinion, but I am actually a pretty big fan of the show “Lost”. I feel like nobody’s willing to say that. 

Latisha: In spite of it being a cultural phenomenon that everyone was into at some point in time. 

Natacia: That show really was that girl back then. I’ve been a big fan of that show and Damon Lindelof, who was the showrunner of Lost for the majority of its run after JJ Abrams left. There were a lot of issues with the characterization of black people and other people of color in that show. There’s so many examples, I don’t even know like where to start. The fact that one of the only main black male characters they leaned into the deadbeat dad characterization, the fact that they got another black lead character then killed them off on screen, like in the most violent way I could imagine.

I think about that death scene all the time, it was so violent. And while that show was like violent in moments, it was just… It glorified that death in a way that was very disturbing. So many problems with the way that they wrote the Asian couple.

There’s so many things that went wrong, but what I actually do think is really important is that over the years, Damon Lindelof has had other projects and over time he is actually in a strange way, learned from a lot of the cultural mistakes that he made with Lost.

So by the time we got to his creation of Watchmen, he was very intentional in creating a writer’s room that featured a lot of black writers. And it was very clear that black writers were involved because of how black people were characterized on this show. Now, I will also say that I love the conversation of authenticity and allowing black people to be villains and to allow them to be complicated people. That we’re not putting black people into one simple archetype or recreating the same types of characters over and over again.

But what I worry about is when I look at the conversations that we’re having on social media. The commentary that I see in different online spaces, I do think that black characters and other characters of color are actually critiqued in ways that white characters aren’t. When I look at the way that people had so much grace for a lot of other male, white centered Marvel characters, for instance, but the level of dialogue and critique that was like happening around Shang-Chi was frustrating at best. And expecting a level of , not perfection, but I think we all know that people of color, black people in particular, but people of color have to meet a certain threshold of being able to do everything right. To be the best at what we’re doing. To always make good choices. And every time our choices are even a little bit faulty. I feel that the critiques are so much harder. And what I worry about in expanding and having more complicated characters, even though I feel like that’s necessary, I think that the conversation is going to be hard and toxic for a while still. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen, but I think we should be prepared to experience a level of, I don’t know, If the word is like backlash that I want to use, but I do think that it’s going to be harder to excuse the behavior, I guess. If that’s the best way of putting it of people of color who are doing things that many white characters have been doing for many generations in sci-fi TV and movies. 

Latisha: Doing for many generations and still beloved. I feel like the villain who we stan for, the villain that we appreciate and say,”Oh my gosh, they’re such a mess, they’re my favorite.” Like having that character be a person of color. To have that character who was that messy upon mess and be someone who’s not white. Okay, during the pandemic, I’ll admit I had a Vampire Diaries moment. Are we ready for a black Damon Salvatore? I don’t think so. And then he gets everything. I’m just saying.

Natacia: To be honest, people love Lando Calrissian, but I don’t even think people are ready for a show that totally centers on Lando Calrissian. Because it’s not just going to be this like fun black man that is like going around, getting into hi-jinks. He’s going to be doing Han Solo shit. And I don’t actually think that people are ready to allow black people to show up in that way without critiquing them to death. 

Claudia: This is what you brought up for me. For a long time, we were in a casting paradigm where there can only be one. Now, this is partially economics. They don’t want black people to get paid. You’re not gonna have a black lead cause the lead gets paid the most. And also that the cultural production is reinforcing ideas about whiteness, which is why you can have sexy, evil white dude. Why? Because American culture wants us to have really good feelings about sociopathic white dudes with lots of power. They want us to feel so good about them. They want us to be like, “Oh my gosh, you’re being genocidal and destructive, but you’re so sexy and hot. I hope you get with Rey.” The thing right in American culture. So that’s why, and this is the Spike versus Killmonger paradigm or the Damon versus Killmonger paradigm. They will give us characters that are sexy, brilliant, that have an amazing argument. And then they will make sure that character does something so awful and horrible that we will have to write off everything good about their argument.

 Killmonger is persuasive, except that he kills his black female partner. I don’t remember the name of that actress, but I was excited cause I was like, “I wonder what she’s going to do? What’s going to happen with ‘Oh, she was a prop for the narrative to force us to hate him and to also dismiss all of his arguments and go for the more centrist politics of Black Panther.’ Okay. Okay. All right, Hollywood. I can’t forget that Marvel at its core is imperialist storytelling.” I am here for it and I love it, but it is what it is. 

Natacia: Yeah. The imperialist storytelling of Marvel is just so wild. I don’t know if you watched Falcon and The Winter Soldier, but when I tell you the end of that show,

Latisha: I think there’s a difference. There’s the end of that show. And then there’s the end of that show because there are two separate endings, one I enjoy. And I like very much, and one, I have many questions about, so you gotta be clear. 

Natacia: Okay. What I am talking about is the show did a really clear job of presenting John Walker as this again, the sociopathic, violent, this sort of flag waving guy and what was really wild to me is they really presented him as such an extreme antagonist to the two protagonists of that story. One of them being a black man in America, and the fact that one, at the end of all of this like, antagonistic back and forth, they were like, chummy by the end of the story for literally no reason. Nothing had substantially changed.

John Walker hadn’t really adjusted any of his behavior or how he was showing up. And yet everybody just pretended that everything that had happened for the last seven episodes had not happened. I thought I had missed an episode somewhere. Like it was so wild.

And then the pinnacle for me was at the end of the day. I love what you’re saying about needing to present like these black, revolutionary type characters as a problem as they’re like against what we should be striving for or what we should be trying to be.

And the character of Karlie who, her motivations were very like weird. Whatever, writing issues. But like at the core of what Karlie was trying to communicate was a large inequity, a violent inequity that existed. And how she was dealt with at the end of that story is wild. And the fact that Sam’s big moment in dealing with that at the end, was to give this moderate, neo-liberal, like speech at the end where 

Claudia: Falcon America is a cop!

Natacia: The fact that he was just like, yeah, let’s all just sit in a room together. Let’s all just be friends guys. Like he is a cop and like he is so pro military. It is wild. It was wild to me how they presented that. And then at the end where he takes the other black super solider we were presented with and perfectly happy by seeing that there’s a little display case for him in a museum.

And he’s just “Oh, wow. I’m so glad. I’m getting this recognition in this museum. That’s really, all I needed” was the inference and like what we were seeing in that scene. Like what I’m trying to say is, there is a very sinister way in which Marvel moves and how they present their stories.

And while I love Marvel, I have a whole fucking podcast devoted to talking about Marvel. I think it’s really important that we are talking about how these things exist in our media because that’s how we get better writing rooms. And that’s how we like push studios to do better job of representation behind the camera.

Latisha: But I also have something to add really quick because we’re literally talking about double consciousness in reference to the media that we consume, which I think is utterly fascinating.

 This idea I am able to appreciate when I’m watching on a” just tell me a story and I’m along for the ride” level. At the same time, I am watching it under the context of “this is how this would operate in the world that I actually live in.” And not only how the actual story would operate if it was real, but also this is how this story is actually operating in the world that I am in.

And so it is this like multilevel understanding of story which only certain people have to do. Also what I find interesting is that I know me when I enjoy various pieces of media, it’s like I have to turn on and off certain dials. It’s like, “Okay, for me to enjoy this, my activist dial has to go down.”

You’re just like “Please don’t do something so egregious that I have to turn it up. Please! I can deal with a lot. And if you just don’t go over the edge, I don’t have to burn this to the ground.” And then… but sometimes they don’t. But, and then… 

Claudia: I find all storytelling produced by dominant media to be sinister. So it means that I’m watching it and enjoying what I can enjoy, because I want to be a part of the world and enjoy things. But I’m the person who was just like, “This is so good. It’s also the devil, but it’s so good.” And that’s what it is to live in this country.

 My opinions are a little extreme, but I can tell when a white person wrote a storyline and a black person cleaned up the words, so it sounded plausible. It used to be, it was only white people in the room. So you could really tell when a white person was writing words for a black person to perform, and now the rooms are often mixed.

 I feel like I’m saying the same thing, but I’m loving this storytelling coming out of Star Trek Discovery. It feels like that’s a room that’s having some battles. Where there’s some people who were like, “Oh, we could get away with doing this and it could look like we are serving a black audience when actually we’re serving what the white people in the writer’s room really want to have happen. What the white producers really want to have happen.” And it feels like there’s enough black producers with power and also like enough aggregate numbers of us there.

It’s not just two writers in the room, two black people trying to hold the line who have precarious job positions. So I’m in full agreement that we have to have extraordinary diversity in the writers room, but also like in the producers as the folks who are writing the checks. This is the only way I get fabulous black female representation that I don’t have to turn my brain off a little bit, every 20 seconds to still be okay with it.

Latisha: It all goes up the line very much. And for those of you interested in learning more about television writers and what they go through, I actually have an episode about that called “TV writers Advocating for Authentic Stories”. So you should listen to that.

 I did want to piggyback something that you said a while back, Claudia, about that time in scifi television and especially much earlier where a woman of color was often like the one in the group or the one on the team.

And now I’m seeing more fantasy, particularly books, not always TV and media, but I’m seeing more women of color in community. And what do you think being in community versus being somewhat isolated from one culture, changes in the storytelling?

Claudia: Can you help me find another science fiction property to reference other than Star Trek Discovery that has black women or multiple groups of women of color in community? 

Latisha: Fast Color. I would say Lovecraft Country. Black Lightning

Claudia: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. 

Latisha: And Naomi, which is, just started, but Naomi, I still feel counts. 

Natacia: It’s really good. I like it. Just started it. And it’s really good 

Latisha: Batwoman. Look at counts or there’s more than one. 

Claudia: You saw my eyebrow just…

Latisha: I know. I saw. But there’s more than one and they do talk about quite a couple of things. And 

Claudia: Okay. Wait. Okay. 

Latisha: It took them a while to have more than one black woman on Flash. It took… Okay, I have a specific Candice Patton question toward the end, but if you want to talk about… Okay, you can literally see like Iris West’s trajectory from the beginning of Flash till now. Like crosses this entire time period of ” We’re going to just throw this black actress out there and see what happens. And leave her to the wolves” to “Wait, you mean, we actually have to consider this person?” “Oh, you actually have to consider the storyline.” “Oh, we actually have to consider their culture.” “Oh, you need more than one person.” “Oh, they need to actually have a plot and actually their own storyline.” “Oh, they need to have agency.”

And so it’s an interesting trajectory that covers the entire time span of what is this conversation. Thank you, Candice Patton for sticking around as long as you did. They didn’t deserve you. Neither do we. You never deserved anything you got and you should have more. I hope you have an amazing post-Flash life whenever it ends.

Natacia: Is the Flash still on?

Latisha: It is! 

Claudia: I don’t think it ended it’s storytelling. I think that’s still going on. I just know you’ve got Meghann. And she’s black. You’ve got the Flash’s dad is a black man. I forget that actor’s name, but I love him so much. 

Latisha: Jesse Martin. 

Claudia: Jesse Martin. Woo, I love me some Jesse Martin.

Natacia: Oh, I’m behind. I need to catch up. 

Latisha: Don’t forget his mixed race children who like to show up. So you have Nora and Bart who have shown up. 

Claudia: But also you’ve got the assistant or the former assistant. She was like a lawyer. And then she became she’s doing something else and she’s psychic. And she’s married to the Flash’s dad.

And so you have these amazing scenes. We just have like community. I will say it doesn’t feel like the community scenes that you have in Black Lightning. The Black Lightning scenes are fully black. And I do think that there’s a difference, not only in the kinds of ways that we actually in real life have community, but I will say though, it feels like a Flash dinner scene is blacker than any dinner scene that I’ve seen at any of the other properties in that particular Arrowverse.

Natacia: I will say, I am not as well versed in Arrowverse, but Black Lightning, I watched two seasons and there was, I don’t know, if this is a conversation for this or a conversation for another time. But I would agree with you. The way that community is presented in episodes of the Flash that I’ve seen there’s a closeness and care and an honesty to how folks are showing up for each other in that space.

And Black Lightning is a show I stopped watching after season two. I don’t actually know if it’s still on or how many seasons it had. But my issue with Black Lightning was always the way it represented blackness was in such a respectability lens that I felt frustrated a lot when watching that show.

I don’t know what the writer’s room looks like at all for Black Lightning, but it did not feel like it was like black writer’s room when I was experiencing how black people were engaging with each other and with the outside world. Because one of the things that I really love, and of course, black people are not a monolith, and everybody has like different kinds of relationships that they have with the black people in their lives.

But I know that there is a reality, a realness in how I’m engaging with people in black spaces when we are our away from non-black spaces versus how I am out in like the non-black world. And I just feel like I never saw that in Black Lightning. And I think I’m always suspicious of any sort of writing or representing of black people in community together where we’re not seeing a difference in how they are with each other versus how they are in like the non-black world.

Latisha: I see that. I absolutely see that. And the question is “A re the writers or the producers, whoever is there, are they present, whomever they are, in those spaces?” Do they know what those spaces feel like? And do they know them well enough to replicate it? Do they know it well enough to write it in such a way… Going back to thinking about things linguistically. If you talk about things like overlapping dialogue or cooperative conversation, which is fairly common in both Black spaces, but also various POC spaces also, various specific, European spaces.

You’re talking about people with a Greek culture or Italian culture you have that, and you have that, “Oh, people interrupt. Ah, people are rude.” Nah. T his is how we talk when we’re together. And you just got to catch up. And if you’re not one of those people who’s able to catch up, that’s cool.

That just means that you listen really intently and talk to someone later, but that’s how we do it. And I’ll have five different conversations while I’m getting a plate of food, but you have to have been there to see it. And then you have to experience it to be able to write it.

And then you also have to have the director and the writer to know how to shoot it. So you get that, that feel and that back and forth. And that I’m talking to you, I’m talking to you, you said something silly. I’mma hit you with a pea while talking to this person. And I need someone to zoom in on the pea that hits the forehead. I just, I need that. 

Claudia: Yes. Thank you for doing a shout out, not only for the necessity to have cultural competency in t he writers’ room. We have to also have cultural competency behind the camera and with the editors. I had a very similar reaction to Black Lightning. But it’s a reaction I have to actually 80% of the black shows that are allowed to have cultural success.

They have to follow some rules. I have conservative family members, very conservative black family members in the south, and they love those storytelling beats. They love witnessing black people looking good, having money, paying their bills. They are a fan of cultural productions that I believe serve notions of success through a lens of whiteness that serve white ideas of how we should be behaving, but are in fact racist on a level. That said I feel like Black Lightning is definitely written by, I’m guessing I’m ignorant, but I feel like it’s probably a majority black writer’s room. But I am guessing that the executives in charge of making the choices, they were serving some people who have racist notions about what is and what shouldn’t be.

It reminds me of Sleepy Hollow. And how they made the choices on Sleepy Hollow and didn’t think it was going to destroy their show. Like they just destroyed the bag cause I was watching that show. I was like, “I’m going to be here for you, girl. I don’t care who the skinny white man is. I will learn to love him.” 

Natacia: 100%.

Claudia: And then they just kept fumbling it. And then they got rid of her. That was like, “You don’t understand why I was…? Oh, you don’t want my money. Oh, you don’t want me to exist on this planet Earth. Oh, that’s how it is.”

Latisha: Okay. So Claudia, you do know the entire journey. And I do mean the entire journey of this podcast and of me doing a “Women of Color in Sci-Fi Television” panel starts with Sleepy Hollow. My very first episode, if anyone is going to watch it, (I love to plug these things because I have them) is about Sleepy Hollow for reason because it is this source of eternal rage for most Black women that I know who love science fiction. If you want to make any one of us enraged… I’m not saying violence will happen, but you will see the urge in our eyes.

Why? Because Sleepy Hollow was great. Sleepy Hollow was fun. Sleepy Hollow was enjoyable. We got to see a black woman centered in the story. It’s her entire story for the first season. And then… and then we all started villain origin stories. I’ll just leave it at that. 

Natacia: When I tell you that, one of the things I am haunted by to this day, is I convinced so many of my black nerd friends to watch that show.

I convinced so many people to watch that show. I remember being like midway through that first season and being like “This show is awesome. Telling everybody who would listen like ” Are you watching Sleepy Hollow? You need to be watching the Sleepy Hollow.” And

Yeah. I completely fell off of that show. I like every black person who was watching that show totally stopped after that. But yeah, very disappointing.

Latisha: And speaking of which combining both the ideas of Sleepy Hollow and talking about w hen black people are presented in the idea of like black respectability in Sci-fi. One of my questions is there’s a pattern, it seems of women of color, specifically black women becoming cops and/or the best friend/caregiver of the white character and black men as security or some type of guard in sci-fi/fantasy properties. So what do we think is up with that depiction? I’ve talked about that also talking about Sleepy Hollow and some other things where I’m like black woman is a cop. Black woman is a cop. Joss Carter was a cop. And I’m like “What is this that says that we think that this is the role that is ideal or fairly typical for a black person to take when they are in sci-fi/fantasy properties?” 

Natacia: Earlier in our conversation, I had expressed that one of my favorite characters is Regina King from Watchman. But I think in the same breath that I love her character, that show while it takes a very different tone than I think shows normally do around black police officers and how we look at black police officers, I can’t ignore that is a central piece to her character on that show.

 And, often, when we see a lot of side characters to the extent that you’re talking about both black women and men are definitely treated as caregivers and how a lot of our media tries to soften or have us feel more relatable to police officers through blackness. It’s a really scary and insidious thing that we see. I don’t want to belabor the point again and spend a lot of time, again, talking about Falcon and The Winter Soldier, but that is such a harmful lens and how we talk about policing and how policing shows up in our media.

Because with one breath you try to present this really like violent white version of this police officer, but then Sam Wilson very much is playing the role of a police officer like of someone who is policing. But doing it in the “good” way. And I think that this shows up in our media a lot and it’s really intentional.

Again, it is a way to get us to relate to policing, to be softer on how we look at policing and to get us to be okay with the ways in which we are as a community part of our own oppression or wanting us to play a part in our own oppression and it’s awful.

And I will say while I think we see fewer tropes, clear tropes of, uniformed police officers that are black. Sam Wilson again is not like a uniformed police officer in a traditional sense, which is why I think most people who aren’t thinking too deeply about it, do not look at that as like policing, but that’s exactly like what he represents and he’s upholding something that is really harmful to black people.

Claudia: So the question is how do you produce some white dominant storytelling that’s going to not only maintain the status quo of how the country works, how white domination works, but also what’s going to help stop a revolution. You don’t want people getting notions and starting a revolution. One thing you got to do is you have to sprinkle some black people in there.

You got to have a little bit of black representation or the white domination is really legible and we’re able to call it out. That’s why there’s so many black judges. And black chiefs of police in these movies and TV series, right? This is copaganda. This is also statistically, not reflective of reality.

So it’s bananas that you see so many black judges, black chiefs of police, but that allows you to cast that person and then not actually have them in the story very much. It allows you to have the feeling of honoring and having that character, that actor in there, but actually how much were they actually impactful in the story?

And also what’s the story they’re really telling? The story they’re telling is will actually the criminal justice system is run by black people mostly, who really like it and want to maintain it. It’s toxic and weird, but there’s a reason why the characters we get to play are the characters we get to play.

They’re the characters that are maintaining the mythologies of white domination that the characters are the caretakers. I’m thinking of the show as a Fringe , where Jasika Nicole, she was… 

Latisha: Astrid. 

Claudia: Yeah. Astrid, I loved that actress. She’s a fabulous actress by herself already. But I had such a fondness and appreciation for the character. But also again, I can really enjoy it if I turn off the piece of my brain, that goes, so “They made sure to have this one mammy character, just taking care of everybody, caring for everybody, never caring for herself.”

At one point you get a kind of a sneak into her character’s life after four or five seasons. After many seasons, you got to have her be a full character. I feel like that’s the pattern. That’s why… okay… WandaVision. WandaVIsion… This is one of my anger points with all of comic books because Captain Marvel was a black woman.

Captain Marvel was a white man. And then they were like, let’s take on a black woman. And it was like excitement. And then the people in charge were like, “You know what? That’s not a good idea so let’s just change the character and gave her weird powers.” And then they kept doing that.

They kept changing the name of the character. So as an audience member, as a comic book reading audience member, it was hard for me to find her cause her name kept changing. So now you’ve got Monica Rambo. I am so jazzed that she’s in this TV show.

 I’m watching it. I’m on the internet, making all kinds of wrong- headed guesses about what’s going to happen. And what’s really happening. In the end, I was mad. I was mad because they didn’t give her an amazing fight. They had her protecting pretend, white children.

They weren’t even real. They were real imaginary white children.

And to then she doesn’t get thanked. She just gets her butt beat. And then the white woman, I just… I had issues. I had issues. I wanted her to have her own story. And I was mad that the story that she was in was actually a white woman’s story. And she was just there to make it more, more interesting and actually she was there to make sure I would watch it. 

Natacia: Oh yeah. A hundred percent. And I’m going to be honest. I went into that show with the expectation that it would be all about Scarlet Witch or whatever. I knew that they had this black character on the show, but I knew that she was not going to be a central character.

Come on. I’m not new to this Marvel rodeo. I know how they do their story writing. But the thing that actually that got me was at the very end.

 A. Exactly what you’re saying about how they had her protecting and guarding these fake ass kids, which was like really wild, but then they took it a step further than even that.

And in those last moments where everybody in this town who Wanda had psychically manipulated and had really caused a lot of drama in the town, whether she knew she was doing it or not, whatever, like she had done this thing to this town, to these people that were all harmed and scared and angry.

And they have the scene between Wanda and Monica at the end where Wanda was just like, “Oh, they’re also upset at me.” I can’t remember what her line was, whatever, something like that. And Monica was just like, “They’ll never understand everything you did for them.” I was like, “What??!! Why would you have her say that?” 

Claudia: Because the black person has to make the white lady who did bad things feel better about herself. That’s how the storytelling is supposed to work. 

Latisha: And so we go back to, I have to sympathize with the questionably, sociopathic white character, and they’re meant to be my favorite. I’m just saying… 

Natacia: Wow!

Latisha: I’m seeing patterns. That’s what I’m saying. And then also the reason why I brought up this question cause I feel like there’s also the… how can we make the black character who we’re putting in here comfortable for a majority white audience?

How can we make them “safe”? Oh I know if we give them the authority that I typically respect, I might be able to put that position over my initial apprehension for identifying with this type of person. If I have the structure of, if you have been approved by this system, then maybe I can put my other problems that I would typically have with you to the side. So I can digest this other part of your story.

It also is like here’s the positions you were allowed to have. You are allowed to be my protector. You were allowed to be my guide and you were allowed to be my babysitter. 

That’s it. 

Claudia: We can also be a fan. The black character is allowed to be like a fan, like a best friend, like a, “Oh, I’m just here. I’m popping into the narrative to be like, “I affirm you. You’re the best.” 

Latisha: Oh no. I put that into babysitter. 

Claudia: Ah, 

Natacia: Tony Stark had a lot of 

Latisha: Babysitters, additional jobs, like seriously. Like how many people need to babysit this full grown man with too much money.

Natacia: The way that we are, I don’t even know how many movies in Marvel at this point, and do we know anything about Rhodey? Do we know anything about Rhodey’s life? 

Latisha: I don’t know if he got any sisters, brothers? I know where his grandma at. 

Claudia: You think when he got hurt, we’d find something out, but 

Natacia: no. 

Latisha: Does Rhodey know how to do laundry? I don’t know. 

Natacia: No idea. Does he have any thoughts about anything? I have no clue. 

Latisha: Where does Rhodey live? Does he live in California, near Tony? Does he live in DC? Does he live in New York? I have no idea. 

Natacia: It’s wild. He’s been around since the very first movie. The first MCU movie, we know nothing. 

Latisha: Again, we know very little about this character who , you’re right, has been around since the beginning. So there’s this question of when, honestly we’re talking specifically black characters right now, what would it take for the stories that we hear, the stories that we’re told to feel more fully rounded than they actually are right now? 

Claudia: I love this conversation we’ve had, cause I just had a discovery that I hadn’t thought about before, which is much of the storytelling and the way that the projects are chosen in the way they’re cast. It’s all designed around white comfort. It’s all designed to serve the most racist audience members. They’re like, “Okay, we’re going to put a black person in here. How do we make the most racist white person okay with this?” Instead of, “Hey, we’re going to tell a story. How do we make this black audience so happy with this?”

Latisha: That’s good. 

Claudia: Y’all the ones who said the things.

Latisha: Saying the things and having been like, I’m going to contextualize and sum it up in a nice little sentence and it was like, wow. 

Natacia: Yeah. 

Latisha: And I’m thinking kind of like what would it take, as people talk about, the future of this country they say that it’s very much on track to being in a “majority minority” population.

But then also what’s happening, I feel, and just one thing that kind of gets on my nerves when people talk about honestly, diversity in any context, and whether it’s white actors or white shows or whatever, not having as big of a platform as they used to. It’s “Dude, once you mean is that you’re going from 95% to 75%, you still have the majority of the pie.”

And then on top of that, that 20% what you have less of is not just going to one group of people. It is now being divided amongst at least six to seven groups of people and these six or seven groups of people have about 10 sub groups each. So you can complain, “Oh no. There’s taking this and that.” And it’s like “No! You have less of a piece of a pie than you’re use to, but you still have the majority of the pie.” And that one piece is being divided amongst multiple individuals. So yeah, we’re still not completely happy. 

Claudia: Can I do a shout out for another Star Trek property. I’m such a Trekkie! Lower decks. I am 

Latisha: Lower Decks. Oh My God, Lower Decks. 

Claudia: We have got a black captain and her black daughter, like it’s a black protagonist and their vibe. I got to say it’s set in the future. I will watch the show because it’s one of the shows I can watch where I’m not going to receive trauma. It’s a trauma-less show where I can watch it. It’s not going to trigger me to feel all of the traumas I feel about being a black woman living in America.

But also it is black. Those actors are putting themselves in the roles. There are black people in the writer’s room. And every once in a while there’s a storytelling piece where I’m like, “Okay, Yeah, that isn’t serving white dominant thought processes and patterns. That’s for me.” I like that. 

Latisha: I know I saw this thing on Twitter, where this guy, I guess he was talking to a woman and she was saying how, like “It’s impossible to really watch any type of media without any cognitive dissonance. There’s always cognitive dissonance going on.” And he’s like, “I’ve never had to do that. My gosh, what must that be like?” And I’m like “Try being black.” But also this idea of, to me, what would it be like to be able to watch media without any cognitive dissonance? Just being able to watch it straight through without having to turn down any dials.

Like what would that be ? There’s a part of me that honestly doesn’t know. And like any dials on any of my intersectionalities. What would it be like to not have to toggle that all the time in order to watch media or even one piece of media where I don’t have to do that. I honestly don’t know. 

Natacia: Yeah. Something Claudia that you’ve been talking about a bit just now, and a couple other times in this conversation is around the concept of being retraumatized or, being traumatized by watching shows. And I think I have a similar opinion because I feel like a lot of black centered shows whether they have a white writers room, a black writers room or multiple different people behind the camera who were black.

I feel like nine times out of 10, the storytelling is focused on black trauma. And what I think for me I am looking forward to seeing is I just want to see black people being on adventures unburdened. That’s actually like what I want to see. You can still have a black story that is very black, right? That like people are just living in that identity. But I would just love to just see black people living their lives, unburdened and not being centered around white people. That is what I want. And I think until we are at the place where that kind of storytelling is able to happen consistently, we are just going to have to deal with having like continual cognitive dissonance.

We’re going to have to keep dealing with like” Do I want to watch this story, even though I know it’s gonna be like really traumatic and painful to sit through?” Or “Do I want to watch the story where black people are just being very pleasant to the white supremacy they’re being presented with in their lives, within that story?”

And saying “Are we okay with that?” And I want to close out by saying just like one thing, that’s really less of a something that happened in a movie or TV show, but like the comic book story. I was actually just talking about the Civil War 2 comic book story in Marvel.

And I’m not going to get into the whole plot of what happens in that storyline, but basically Captain Marvel, the white one, has this whole thing where she has decided that Miles Morales, as Spider-Man, our Afro-Latinx Spider-Man, is a danger basically like to the world and to superheroes or whatever, and goes on this mission basically to apprehend and kill this child.

And that is like literally the whole plot, because some people think that she’s right. Some people think that she’s wrong and what’s really wild to me. And the way that story is treated is Miles is supposed to be the center of that story, but they still dissenter him and how the story is being told.

And even though he is a Afro Latinx kid, there’s no commentary about the fact that this white woman cop is trying to essentially get this black kid either murdered or jailed. And there’s no commentary around that. Also why did it have to be Miles Morales that was the center of the story. And why did this have to be the story that he centered in and this huge team superhero story? I think that’s what I’m trying to get at. It was both about black trauma and not about black trauma at the same time. And I just don’t want to see that kind of storytelling anymore.

And of course the whole story was written by a white man. It was edited by a white man. So none of this should be surprising, but I guess like a story in which black trauma is a part and not a part of a conversation of a story that was like so big and important in the comic book space at the time was just a bummer and would love to see a world where we just see Miles Morales just living his life ,swinging through the streets and just happy. That’s what I want. 

Claudia: I had a beautiful experience that does make me feel like we are moving into a better… I do think that we are having progress. And I think it’s because– 

Latisha: Absolutely. 

Claudia: I think there are more black people who are making choices and they also think there’s more of an awareness that we’re actually a gigantic dominant audience member group and that we need to be served better.

So I remember when the casting came out for Wrinkle in Time. There was a piece of my heart that sang cause when I read Wrinkle In Time, I read the girl character as a black person. I read the entire Foundation series when I was in high school, very mad that it ended on a cliffhanger.

And I read myself into the stories. I would pick a character and just go, “All right! In my head, this character is a black person now.” Now I did this with all the stories. I did this with CS Lewis. It didn’t make sense what I was doing, like with CS Lewis, I was not picking the racist character he decided was supposed to be the avatar for blackness. I was picking the character that I was like, “Oh, I’m reading this through the eyes of Lucy” cause that was the age range I was in when I was reading it. So when they made Foundation into a TV show, they made the character that I had imagined as black; they cast it with a black actress and it was gigantic.

And the universe wasn’t just a “There’s one piece of pepper and a salt mill”. It’s a vision of the future that has lots of people who look a lot of different ways. It felt like the story I was observing wasn’t one that was telling me implicitly, “Oh yeah. In the future, you don’t exist. In the future, all this stuff that’s happening now worked and you’re not here.” 

So there’s a chill I get when I watch cultural productions that are fully white. They chill me to the bone because at their heart, I feel like they’re making a promise. That’s a very dangerous and scary promise. So I liked Foundation. I’m going to keep watching that show. I liked it. 

Latisha: I’ve heard a lot of positive things on Foundation. So I’m definitely planning on picking it up. And I know for me, there’s an interesting dialogue when it comes to these type of genres, since Sci-fi typically takes place in the future and fantasy pieces typically take place in some type of metaphoric past ish, which is the question of who do you see in your past and in their metaphor past, cause just storytelling, and who do you see in your future?

And I know for me I’ve gotten to know more writers. I’ve gotten to know more creators. And, Claudia that’s like we started at the beginning of this conversation. Not only are there more black creators and POC creators, and producers and writers and all of that, but also these conversations we’re having have only really started to happen in the past five to 10 years.

It took me years, but another black person talk about Farscape with. I know that’s an all white property, but I love that shit. And I see certain things in it because of the way it’s framed. And certain things that another black person, another person of color would see that a white person might not.

And so there’s also the kind of critique and the lens of which we’re looking at, even older properties, which have been traditionally, white dominated as being like, “Oh no, I like this too. I see it this way. That’s new”, or I’m seeing it through the lens of gender, or I’m seeing it through the lens of this. And I’m thinking of the lens of that. And us putting our lenses on, for lack of a term, traditional properties also adds the richness of the conversation I think we’re having now. And I think that’s incredible. And I think this conversation has been incredible. And thank you so much, ladies.

This has been great. I want to finish up, I know you already talked a little bit about your socials and where to find you on the internet, but if you can reiterate it one more time, as well as any projects that you’re working on, that you are super excited about. So Claudia, let’s start with you.

Claudia: Sure. So I said you can definitely visit Trek Table podcast. I just can’t wait to experience this beautiful show with a bunch of BIPOC femmes and we’re going to be talking about lots of things. If you go to the two projects that I’m most passionate about are my perpetual global watch night, so black folks often on New Year’s Eve, we do a watch night just to see how we all going to be. So I made a digital watch night in collaboration with Dr. Nzinga. And then I was like, “Wait a second. We did this on the internet.” We could have the watch night happen forever. It can be a perpetual watch night.

So if you go to the website, you can leave a message for black lives and a wish for us all to stay alive and healthy throughout the year. And then I also have another project called F*** The Gala. That’s a swear word. F*** The Gala. And it is a invitation to explore a asynchronous performance art critique of the arts fundraising scene.

And it’s going to be a spicy space. It’s for folks who are like really interested in that conversation, but I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun and we’ve got some amazing artists doing like artistic reflections on racial capitalism and philanthropy and like decolonizing wealth and stuff.

So those are the two projects, F*** The Gala and the perpetual global watch night on 

Latisha: That’s fantastic. Natacia, socials and upcoming projects. 

Natacia: Oh, my gosh. You can hit me up personally on IG and Twitter @NKnapper and napper, which is N K N a P P E R again, that’s N K N a P P E R on IG and on Twitter.

And then I also have a podcast which has been previously mentioned. I have somehow convinced Latisha to be on three times, and we’ll definitely be having her on again. And pop chatter pod, we are currently going through all the Marvel movies, really, all the MCU movies. We’re actually wrapping up the second phase.

 So I got to start thinking about what did we after we finished these movies, but you can find us on social media at pop chatter pod on IG and Twitter. Again, it’s pop C H a T T E R P O D pop chatter pod on IG and Twitter, where me and my bestie Lindsey, just talk about all kinds of nerdy shit, Marvel and otherwise.

And yeah, I think the only other thing I would plug is I am part of a housing cooperative project. I am just plugging everywhere that I can called Baldwin House named after James Baldwin, my favorite author, where a group of folks. Me and other folks in my neighborhood are working at purchasing my apartment building and turning it into a Black-led cooperative and hub for queer BIPOC folks.

And I’m just really fucking jazzed about this project. So if you want to donate, be part of it. We don’t actually have socials, but what you can do is you can follow a ward one mutual aid on Twitter. And that’s where you can learn a little bit about a project. 

Latisha: I’m so excited for that. I am putting all vibes up for that project’s success. Also a general note to all people listening. Yes, you should support ward one mutual aid, but also mutual aid organizations in your area, mutual organizations in other people’s areas, mutual aid helps us survive. And so that should always and forever be on your radar.

But specific shout out to ward one mutual aid. So thank you so much for bringing this our attention. 

Natacia: Of course. 

Latisha: All right. Folks, people who are lovely listeners and I’m so grateful for both having this conversations. And also if you have listened to this conversation, I really appreciate everyone who was part of the Interspectional community. So I just want to say to everyone have a wonderful day and I’ll see you next time.