Friday, March 27, 2015

Not Blind To Visual Bias

Currently, there is rampant speculation on who will play Green Lantern in the upcoming Justice League movie(s). Even more, which Green Lantern will appear? For those unfamiliar with the character, several in what is known as the “Green Lantern Corps” originate from Earth:  Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner and Simon Baz. (There’s also the original Golden-Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, but he’s really the Earth Two one, and only an honorary member of the Corps because…yada yada yada blah blah blah. I digress…) As for myself, I want Jordan to appear because that is whom I grew up reading; after all, he is a founding member both in previous and current canon. However, there are rumors that we may see Stewart – an idea I am not opposed to, but against for the previously mentioned reason concerning Jordan. If there were to be a solo Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps reboot/sequel, a great plot would be Jordan handing the baton to Stewart who then could appear in subsequent Justice League movies as Green Lantern. But I digress…

Here's the “issue”:  Jordan is white, Stewart is black. Naturally, there is the desire to be more inclusive with a “minority” character in Stewart. Okay fine, but why can't Hal Jordan be “black”? Why does he have to be “white”? What really are people more concerned about – his characterization or his visual appearance? If a black actor were to portray Hal Jordan with all the proper characterizations of the comic books, is he not Hal Jordan? Of course he is. Only those who would be unwilling to accept it cannot see beyond his visual appearance. This is the same argument with the new Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm (played by Michael B. Jordan, but traditionally white), CW’s The Flash’s Iris West (played by Candace Patton, but traditionally a white redhead) and recent hypothetical discussions on Idris Elba becoming the next James Bond after Daniel Craig’s brilliant run. Again, if Elba, an outstanding British actor, orders a martini “shaken not stirred,” beds a handful of women and kills villains in the perfect mannerisms of Bond, is he not Bond? It's ridiculous to think otherwise, only because of an inherent inability by some to see past the visual appearance for the more important characterization.

There also is a pervasive gender issue with characterization. Recently, Marvel's Thor became a woman. I know, right? Weird. Not because of the gender switch in and of itself, more so because mythological Thor is a male. But so what? For starters, this is comic books. Second, does this female Thor not have the same characterizations and mannerisms of the male Thor? Yes, she does. My only minor unease with the announcement was that Marvel chose to use an established character such as Thor, rather than emphasize and boost one of the many other female characters already in its pantheon. Nevertheless, it's understandable why Marvel chose to do it:  1) in order to throw us off our high horse concerning gender roles, and 2) to make us rethink our traditional image of a character. Same goes for Starbuck on the television series, Battlestar Galactica. In the original 1970s version, Dirk Benedict played the character; in the remake, Katee Sackhoff – an ironic twist, having been written as a female for the original series. Yet, both superbly portrayed my favorite character as the endearing cigar-smoking gambler, libertine and wanton ace Viper pilot.

Thus, have we really moved that far from the stereotypically biased days of yore in our visual perceptions? As a society living in the 21st century, we like to think we are enlightened and above such backward thinking of looking but not seeing. But until we are willing to accept a Hal Jordan, James Bond or any other iconic character that doesn't fit our traditional and entrenched ideas and images of a character, we'll never move beyond a point where especially gender or race are no longer an issue. Our visual perceptions will not allow it unless we start training them to ignore such biases concerning a character, and actual people in general.

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Monday, March 2, 2015

Capitalism, That Sublime Temptress

Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned.” -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Income equality/inequality is a slippery slope. While the gender gap that exists is a legitimate grievance, the overall socio-economic one between lower (i.e. “poor”) and upper (i.e. “rich”) classes is not. It is capitalism, and anything that seeks to disrupt and redistribute that balance is nothing less than socialism. Those who want to institute this “economic justice” seek to create a new class that encompasses all in “economic equality,” failing to realize that such a system is not sustainable or viable. How do we know? From the failed examples of Cuba, North Korea and the former Soviet Union. (China, under communist rule since the 1950s, is an intriguing example, its “success” dubious given its capitalistic tendencies in economic stratification and international trade since the 1970s. It's a communist nation that literally thrives on the backbone of capitalism.)

I understand the desire, the want, to change the rules. More often than not, capitalism can feel rigged for only the few given the secret; meanwhile, the humbled and poor huddle to account for their pittance. As D.H. Lawrence said of the sea, “they say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.” Likewise, capitalism can be cruel and unfair, but still provide the warmest intent and opportunity. No other economic system thus far developed in human history can make such a claim, where any person can rise above their circumstances with proper effort and inspiration. When government seeks to manipulate this scenario artificially by propping up the alleged disenfranchised, it sets up the system for failure and collapse from the bottom by unnecessarily agitating class warfare.

There will always be, and must always be, differentiation in the means of production between leaders (i.e. owners) and laborers (i.e. workers). Those who seek “economic justice”/“economic equality” want all the reward of the leader but none of the sacrifice of the laborer in a competitive environment. They will achieve neither. In essence, they want to remove competition because the playing field is deemed slanted toward a particular group over another. Nevertheless, that’s how capitalism works, and how the benefits from it are derived – by way of competition, for production, for resources and for market share.

Now, as far as the gender gap? Compensation in a job always should be based on achievement, function and merit, not gender or any other demographics. By today’s standards, it is stupid that this is even an issue. Sadly, it is still part of the discourse on discrimination in the workplace. This truly is cruel, and it truly is unfair.

©2015 Steve Sagarra