Guest Blog: Representatives Are Not Representation

Asian Representation in Media Interspectional

A note from Latisha:
I met Jer the way a lot of us meet new friends these days, passionately discussing topics on Twitter. What has always impressed me about Jer is how thoughtful and insightful they are about the topics that they care about. This also seems to be a family traits because Jer’s sister, Jezzelyn, has been a guest on my podcast twice and has shown a similar understanding of complex topics just like her beloved sibling. The Interspectional episode, “Asian Representation in Media” was release on April 9, 2021. I’m honored that Jer agreed to write this piece for my blog so we can go deeper into that conversation. You can find more information about them at the end of this article.

“Representatives Are Not Representation”

by Jer Torres

Wanting to be an actor used to be a deeply embarrassing secret of mine for years. Part of it was because I had absolutely no idea how to act. The other more important part was that the possibility of seeing someone who looked like me telling stories about people like me, a non-binary Filipino lesbian, in mainstream media was so unlikely that it was laughable. It still seems quite unlikely as I have yet to see such representation today, but I am actively pursuing an acting career. I finally chose to make this embarrassing secret into an explicit goal of mine because I was tired of feeling inhuman.

I’m from a small town outside of Toronto, I grew up in the mid 90’s-early 2000’s, so Neopets and RuneScape was about the extent of my internet capabilities at the time. It definitely was not scouting out good Filipino or Asian representation in media. I was surrounded by a lot of white people and almost everyone I saw on tv and in movies in my formative years was white as well. I was unaware that I didn’t see people that looked like me just living life; going to school, teaching, driving the buses, working at the mall or any restaurants, the pharmacy, the banks; they weren’t walking around town or up and down aisles at the grocery store; they just weren’t there in my real life. Asians, and specifically Filipinos, were hardly there on screen and on the rare occasions they were they didn’t feel life-sized. It took me until my early 20’s to understand that bad representation and no representation had erased me from myself.

When I say bad representation I mean the obvious things like Yellowface, Speekee Engrish, the Silent Asian, The Interchangeable Asian, The Mystical Asian/The Yellow Peril, The Hairstreak Asian, etc. I also mean the way Asian identities and cultures are flattened to exist in relation to whiteness on screen. Whiteness at the center of a story reduces any characters of colour down to representatives, especially because there can only ever be one or two (tops) of them at a time. The one has to be easy to identify without being too ethnically different or specific. Representatives are not representation because they’re not people, they are white liberal ideas of inclusion. Characters like Arthie Premkumar and Jenny Chey in GLOW or Tina Cohen-Chang and Mike Chang in GLEE for example, are just peripherals. They’re meant to showcase diversity without actually committing to making them more than just a non-white face in a crowd. Giving them storylines felt like an afterthought once the white characters had established the world and the main attraction. 

Now they may be few and far between, but I’ve seen that with a cast of all Asians or specifically stories that center people of colour, no one is responsible for carrying the weight of The One, because they’re not the only one. When we remove that responsibility and get more specific, we humanize; we see people living and experiencing a human life. 

Saving Face is about Wil Pang, a Chinese-American closeted lesbian whose widowed pregnant mother, Hwei-Lan, moves in with her. Not only is Wil not out to her mother, but also Hwei-Lan refuses to reveal the father of her baby so their relationship is tense and their living situation complicates Wil’s budding romance. It’s a unique plot that shows how life can change in ways that you never expect. The story focuses on mending the relationship between a mother and daughter and reckoning with the impact of hurtful family decisions. In the script, neither Wil Pang nor Hwei-Lan are asked to represent all Chinese-Americans. We just zoom in on their relationship and see how secrecy, ambition, first love, forbidden love, and second chances all play a part in how we did or did not show love in the past and how we will choose to express our love in the future. 

Michelle Krusiec as Wil Pang and Joan Chen as Hwei-Lan in the movie, Saving Face

In Turning Red we follow Meilin, a 13 year-old Chinese-Canadian girl, as she is thrown into puberty and a generational curse. It is a coming of age story that explores the absolute chaos of being a teenager and how the relationship between a daughter and her mother changes as she grows. From the fact that Meilin turns into a red panda to the community she grows up in and the relatives that play a huge part in her life, so many aspects of Chinese culture and heritage are just normal realities of Meilin’s life. The normalcy of Chinese culture in her world allows us to see the world as she does without demanding that the story of a 13 year old girl be everything to everyone. We follow Meilin in her journey to become an individual and how that journey can heal generational hurts, be supported by friendships, and allow all of us to accept and celebrate the parts of ourselves that are supposed to be “ugly” or “unwanted”. 

Meilin shows her friends that she can turn into a giant red panda in Pixar’s Turning Red

Everything Everywhere All At Once is about Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American woman who runs a struggling laundromat with her husband as she cares for her elderly father. Her relationship with her daughter is strained, they keep trying to reach each other but just can’t seem to make it work. In this movie, we again have a story of individuals centered in their own story battling the hurts, traumas and difficulties that come with life. These characters define themselves for themselves in all of their messiness and that is a beautiful thing. With Everything Everywhere All At Once, we experience a story about lovers, generational trauma, loneliness, nihilism, failure, reconnection and hope. 

Eleanor (Stephanie Hsu), Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and Gong Gong (James Hong) deal with complex family problems (as well as the end of the multiverse) in Everything, Everywhere All at Once.

These stories are so special, not because I came away from them thinking “Wow, Asians can be in movies, too!” or “Whoa! There’s a market for us out there!” They’re special to me because they tell incredibly human stories. We tell stories and we consume stories to communicate, to understand and be understood, to learn, to gain vocabulary for our experiences, and to connect to one another. Decades of being told stories that exclude specific identities has manipulated us into believing certain people cannot participate in the human condition. But these movies suggest otherwise. Media that is hyper specific about cultural identities invites everyone to experience life and the human condition through people not ideas or quotas. That is what representation is to me.

About Jer Torres:

Jer Torres (They/Them), a non-binary Filipino-Canadian lesbian, is an actor, tv binger, sometimes writer, and confetti cannon full of tears. They began doing background work for Toronto film productions in 2018 and started taking acting classes in January 2021 with Winnie Hiller. Jer is currently in their second semester studying drama at Seneca College. They have a passion for writing poetry, short scripts, and they hope to one day create the representation they’ve been longing to see in mainstream media.

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.