I was struggling to come up with a Top 7 list for this month. I originally had more fun and humorous ideas planned for June, but given the current social climate, I’d be beyond irresponsible to ignore what’s going on. It’s as good a time as any to get serious and not just fulfill my Top 7 goals for 2020.
Anyone who knows anything about Iridium Eye, or at least anything about my other blogs know that I’m outspoken when it comes to positive representation as well as calling out racist garbage when I see it even in my own reviews. For those who are unaware, I’m from an interracial family (white dad and a black mom). Some of my biggest ethnic samples involve being of Congolese, Cameroonian, English, and Welsh descent as well as other African and European ethnic groups (I didn’t know the African examples until only a couple of years ago which is sadly common being African-American). Despite having a complexion on the lighter side, I have dealt with my fair share of racism which has certainly affected my worldview. I clearly don’t look white, so that made me a target for being prodiled, being called the N-word, being assumed to be subhuman, getting my first DWB at age 19, and being punished for things my white peers/co-workers/classmates would get away with all the time. I can’t lie to any of you about my experiences. Given the current state of this country with the protests, police brutality, and racism on display, I got very nervous over the past week and a half.
How do I feel being a melanated film and anime blogger on this particular platform? Here are 7 of my thoughts an observations on the matter. I’m in no way shaming anyone with what I’m about to say, but I want you to see where I’m coming from. This is going to be totally no-frills and very honest with you.
7: I feel like I’m the only one of my kind in this field.
I know in the blogosphere, people hide behind avatars and user name pseudonyms. Okay, I do answer to both Ospreyshire and Curtis since my information is there given my spoken word project, but it’s whatever. Let’s be honest with ourselves that this is a predominantly white field with reviewing things. One’s race isn’t their fault, so I’m not giving one guff if anyone happens to be Caucasian. I do not do this be be some niche blogger. If anything’s niche, it’s that I review a ton of obscure works out there and that’s irrelevant to my ethnic heritage. I feel so isolated because I don’t feel like there are a lot of bloggers who could relate to me if they are film reviewers. Sure, I know there are a few out there, but I feel like I don’t see many of them. Also, I feel as though I might be the only melanated reviewer that a follower or blogger peer has which can be intimidating in and of itself especially if they figure it out about me or read some of my posts where my race does get mentioned. There are certainly awesome bloggers who’ve been supportive which I do appreciate, but I’ve had several moments where I felt alone.
6: I feel like I have to (low-key) bring up my credentials at multiple junctures.
I don’t want to brag or anything, but I do have some authority on what I cover here. First of all, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Studies where film production and history covered part of my degree audit. Second of all, I’ve done film production work for years. Small scale, but I have filmed and edited things on my own. Thirdly, I’ve had experience teaching cinematography, editing (with Final Cut Pro, no less), screenwriting, and even character representation at a Summer camp before. Fourthly, I’m an author, so I know things about storytelling.
This could be paranoia, but I assume that everyone will question my credentials or my know-how on different subjects especially once they figure out my ethnic background. Do you know how tempted I’ve been to tell people “Shut up! I know that I’m freaking talking about!” throughout these past 3 years I’ve made this blog like some pre-prepared response? I have done the work and I may sneak in some of those facts from time to time in passing in my reviews or Top 7 lists. It drives me to work really hard even though film critiques are more a labor of love and a hobby. Would be nice if I made enough money to have this be a full-time job, but I’m not sure.
5: I’ve made assumptions that other bloggers are apathetic to the world.
I’m not asking for anyone to go full-on SJW at every level. It’s your blog, so I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do. This is more a confession than anything, but I’ve judged people internally (including bloggers I like) that they just don’t care about serious issues. I’m not just talking about racism or police brutality, but it could be historical things, political issues, the environment, etc. Are there content creators on WordPress, YouTube, or social media that freak out over really superficial things like fan shipping or casting choices in a movie? Absolutely, make no illusion about it. What I do struggle with is lumping so many people like those superficial fans when they aren’t like that at all. There have been times where that judgment seeps into other’s comment sections and I’m sorry if anyone was hurt by those moments when it happened.
4: The fear that no one would believe me whenever I voice my opinions or bring up facts in my reviews
Not everyone has to agree with me and that’s okay. I’ve even told some people that I respectfully disagree on issues in a civil matter and people have done so in my comments section. That’s fine and I wish social media was more adult in that manner. With that being said, I feel as though when I talk about more unpopular opinions or go into dropping truth bombs for a point, people assume I’m crazy or conspiratorial. I do my best to do my research when it comes to the more factual things about films or anime. When I do have a contrary opinion to so many other reviewers (professional or amateur), I have to work really hard to articulate why I like or dislike something as best as I can for my point to be understood. I can’t stand being underestimated, so I have to prove that I have enough intelligence on something because people assume that those like me are automatically stupid.
3: The fear that I would be attacked when I bring up problematic aspects of films or series whether in reviews or conversations (online or offline)
This certainly goes way back to my blog’s inception. I get that people use entertainment as a form of escapism. Trust me, I’m guilty of this as well especially recently after being bombarded by so much tragic news. There’s only so much I can take before I become morbidly depressed or immensely enraged as I do my best to stay informed (this is coming from a guy who’s reviewed Hate Crimes In the Heartland, Grave of the Fireflies, and recently Camp de Thiaroye!). Anyways, I’ve had times on the internet where people got uncomfortable when I mention certain unsavory things about popular forms of media or even obscure examples.
I seriously wonder if anyone has gotten angry when they read my Rabbi’s Cat review for example when I called out the offensive portrayal of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jewish) community. That was a critically acclaimed movie, so was I one of the few people who didn’t like it? I’ve gotten into more heated conversations with people online or offline with examples such as how Scarlett Johansson playing Major Motoko Kusanagi in the Ghost in the Shell live action remake was whitewashing, why Krone from The Promised Neverland plays up mammy/minstrel show imagery in her character design, or how the hyenas in The Lion King invoke racist anti-Black and anti-Latinx undertones (with Shenzi and Banzai respectively with how they talk), let alone how the Elephant Graveyard was genocide against them which I’ve mentioned before in my Namibian Genocide & The 2nd Reich documentary review where I made parallels with the Shark Island Concentration Camp. People have freaked out at me and cussed me out for even DARING to make those observations in real life whether they had a sound argument against me or not. I’ve never seen people do this to my white peers as much, but they’re more likely to be listened to than me. That’s not a knock on their ethnicity, by the way. In my experience, my opinions seem to be dismissed more often.
2: People can be turned off by my reviews if they do figure out about my heritage.
Cancel culture can be a terrible thing. I don’t bring it up most of the time since I mainly focus on the movies and series I cover. Unfortunately, I do bring it up when there’s the topic of racism in what I watch or if there’s a scene that I could relate to very much when it does involve those aspects (my review of Imitation of Life was a major example where I talk about being light skinned while simultaneously condemning colorism). I seriously expect people to flee when they put the two and two together in either an act of racist cowardice or wanting to bury their heads in the sand. The bad things that have happened in my life and/or my personal studying on racial issues do affect my worldview directly and indirectly. Does my ethnic background scare some people that much? I’m only reviewing movies, documentaries, and anime on here. It’s not like I’m promoting thugging, trapping, or anything destructive of that nature. I just wish people would be brave to listen whether I talk about Cold Case Hammerskjöld or something lighter like Hikaru no Go.
1: Not everything I review involves protagonists who look like me.
I expand my mind every time I cover a movie from a country I’m not too familiar with. I’ve reviewed movies from multiple countries in Asia, Latin America, and Europe which has been fun. There are things I learn from so much which I do appreciate.
However, I accepted a long time ago that not everything is going to involve someone like me. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy something from somewhere involving a completely different culture. Don’t believe me? My first 10/10 review was Haibane Renmei. There are characters that I can relate to at times. Going back to Haibane Renmei, I thought Reki was such a dynamic character and I could relate to her internalized self-loathing (I have to avoid spoilers). With Song of the Sea, I could relate to Ben since I’m a big brother with a little sister myself and I shared some elements of him being jealous while at the same time being protective of my sister. Shoot, the episode of Kimba the White Lion where the title character gets banned from the lion convention due to his species was very relatable to me since that was a metaphor for being discriminated against because of who they are (fridge brilliance by showing the Original Scar…I mean Claw in the background in said convention), and he’s not even human!
As a critic, I have to accept works from multiple countries. If they have a great story, then I’m all for it. If it’s problematic, then that’s when my criticism becomes harsher. Am I for positive representation with protagonists? Absolutely. I’ve been vocal about it and I put in that work with my books since I know mainstream media isn’t going to do that for me.
In these times of racial tensions, I had to express some of how I felt. I hope people can do better. I hope I can see equality, racial harmony, and justice happen. Is it too much to ask for?
Thank you for reading.