Why don’t black people like fantasy/sci fi films?

Posted: October 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

I am one of those people who has been blessed by heaven with an unusual gift….the gift of randomness. At certain times of the day I will begin thinking about one thing and then 5 minutes later I have the most random idea or question and I have no idea how I got there…but I did. Call it a gift or a curse. It just is.

Well in one of those moments of randomness I asked Yvette a question that just flashed through my mind: How come black people do not really cater to the fantasy/sci fi genre? Mind you I know there are many African Americans who can get into Star Wars and things like that but from my personal experience as a whole we shy away from that kind of stuff. There are no sci fi/fantasy films directed, produced, or starring African Americans? (Mace Windu and Lando Calrissian don’t count. They were supporting roles) 🙂

Yvette’s response was enlightening. She said because we want reality. We do not have time to delve into make believe. The make believe of fantasy/sci fi seems too far fetched and hard to relate to considering our background of oppression and poverty. I thought about it and I really believe we need to have sci fi and fantasy. I think that is what we are missing. Science fiction and fantasy are vehicles of imagination. Fairy tales and make believe stories give us a window into the realm of possibility. I believe that stories that are reality based and close to real life have value but they can’t offer the same “vehicle of imagination” that leads to creative out of the box thinking.

Maybe in the days when Europe was a hostile, poor, disease plagued civilization it was the make believe stories and fairy tales that provided ways of imagining hope and instilling character that became seeds for the redemption of that culture. I don’t have enough history knowledge to say this for certain but it would be something great to research: The impact of fairy tales on medieval society.

In the meantime I hope someone will take up the challenge of writing a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars type story from an Afrocentric perspective because to be honest I love the stuff 🙂

  • Do you think sci-fi/fantasyfilms help support creative out of the box thinking?
  • Can you name any black sci -fi/fantasy characters besuides Mace Windu and Lando Calrissian
  • Why do you think there are not many black sci-fi/fantasy films?
  • Do you think this would be a profitable venture from a social and financial perspective?
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Comments
  1. Re: black people wanting reality…not sure how that explains the black fiction novels that are totally fanciful. I guess it might be reality for the people who read it, but your wife is onto something with her comment. I like sci-fi too. Not sure an African-American sci-fi picture would make any money. Might just be me and you in the theatre Ramon. 😉

    • mayotron says:

      John,

      Those black fiction novels are fanciful in their own way but most of them mirror this world too closely. Not necessarily out of the box thinking.

      I think it would be interesting if someone did try to create an African American sci fi or fantasy film. I would watch it. By the way now that I think about it….I think it has been tried before…remember The Wiz. Does that count as sci fi/fantasy?

  2. JasonsBlogg says:

    I love Sci-fi, its my favorite movie genre:) What about Morphius from the Matrix? But your’e right, there aren’t enough African American.

    I always thought of a Reality/Sci-fi movie that went like this: A current Ku-Klux-Klan member goes to jail for a hate crime and is given a special potion that takes him into an alterante universe. In this universe, Africans populated the American colonies and had European slaves, and this guy is one of them. He remembers the other universe and is sorrowful for his actions. The End! Million dollar movie theme! LOL!

    • mayotron says:

      Jason,

      Morpheus doesn’t count. He is a supporting character and not a lead role. If you ever pay attention to most movies we are always wise, spiritual guides never the leading hero…but that’s another post.

      I do like your idea though. You should get someone to write it. It almost sounds like a different take on Planet of the Apes. What do you think?

    • rjunkin says:

      I don’t know if it’s fact, but I read that Will Smith was offered the role of Neo first, but he turned it down to do Wild Wild West. He did have the lead role in I, Robot…very sci fi. Denzel starred in Deja Vu. Laurence Fishburne starred in Event Horizon.

      These are just a few examples off the top of my head, I’m sure I could come up with more if I thought about it longer. There are very few sci fi movies to begin with, so the number is going to be low no matter what. One thing’s for sure, we need more sci fi!

      And BTW, JasonsBlogg, that’s a great idea for a script!!

    • mayotron says:

      Katelin,

      I was only thinking of movies but thanks for the info about the books. Seems like most of the authors are Asian but it’s good to know that the sci fi genre is diverse. I knew about Derrick Bell but never read his work and now since I have learned of his passing it is definitely on the list of must read books.

      • StrngeFruit says:

        If we’re talking movies, I wonder if it is less about sciFi and more about the general pressures and challenges that POCs face in hollywood that is then compounded by SciFi being a subset of that.
        Interesting questions. Thanks!

  3. Darlarosa says:

    I have to be honest…that is a damn over generalization if I ever heard one. It is true most black people do not openly like fantasy/sci-fi. Yet the growing acceptance of nerd culture seems to be bringing out more science fiction with ethnic, particularly black, characters.There is a point made by Yvette, black people are told that “fantasy and science fiction” are not “real” and cannot possibly be part of the “black experience”. I have heard horror stories of black and Hispanic kids hiding their love of science fiction, or being told to suppress it because it is not “normal” or “ethnic enough”. My Brother and I were lucky and were encouraged to be ourselves, yet we always had ridicule. Science fiction and fantasy are viewed as also being “white” things. Part of this is the fact that many stories are Tolkien in fashion and seem to be always in medieval England, literally specifically England. Unfortunately Tolkien, and others, virtually ignore the fact that plenty of Africans, Middle Easterners, etc. were trading in major cities and traveled the lands to do so. Those, like Tolkien, who remembered these stranger foreigners did the courtesy of making them monsters. Therefore it is viewed as inherently not black, and there is little encouragement for talented writers to get out and write about such things. There is a majority who tote the idea of writing “reality”, or a rude misconception of it filled with drama, and sex. Personally I am disgusted at many of the bookstores targeted at blacks because of the filth and trash they seem to carry, and the good stores are growing hard to find. Simply put, we are told that liking such genres are not “black enough” or that they hold no such value. As a black woman writer, I have encountered many who suggest I write something else once I mention I like Science Fiction and Fantasy. There is a certain expectation that you either be a Tyler Perry or a Spike Lee, or too damn ignorant or “real” or “ghetto or talented to be into such inherently not black thing. Which we all know is absurd.

    I say all this and propose that it is a cycle. Blacks are told to focus on “reality”, and that fantasy is a white persons thing, and thus few blacks write fantasy, and fewer still read it. Science Fiction is ok because of big budget names like “Star Wars” “I, Robot” or “The Matrix”, which featured black stars. Also science fiction is set in the future so there is far less temptation to fall into that “England is fantasy setting by default” mindset. As I said black people don’t exist in these worlds, and thus it is hard to feel welcomed.The fact is we drift toward stories that remind us of ourselves or of our world. We like to see ourselves in things. How many black people, would off the hand say let’s go see Breakfast Club in the 80’s? There was no one to identify with, and while it is a cult classic now, I doubt it attracted a large ethnic audience. How many white people would go see Soul Food or any of the Tyler Perry movies without Oprah’s seal of approval? When has there been a fantasy movie starring majority ethnic groups in their own land without a white person as a main character? In its own way the book, film, and even video game industries essentially say through the lack of ethnic fantasy or sci-fi acknowledgement that “these things aren’t for black people” , and then promote the charicature of black culture instead—-Black women are sassy, black people only line in the ghetto, or they live in the deep south, all black people are christian except for the one or two Muslims, black people rarely have loving affectionate relationships if they are below the age of 60, black men are hyper macho, etc.—- and all these things become the black experience

    The reason black people don’t like sci-fi/fantasy is a poorly phrased question, but the answer is ultimately that we are not supposed to because it is not realistic enough to the black experience, and also that fantasy has not yet made room for an ethnic telling of fantasy on the large scale. Even Earthsea was white-ified for TV, and thus the chance for a large scale ethnice fantasy was lost. Yet sci-fi is lucky and based on our world, and thus is becoming accepted a realistic. It is a complicated issue, and it is not simply that black people dont want it, it is that black culture has yet to find value in it, because society has been structured against it.

    • mayotron says:

      Darlarosa,

      Thanks for the insightful comment. One of the best yet! I agree that it is an over generalization and I base it on my experience and stereotypes (of which many are filled with truth or there wouldn’t be a stereotype). I also agree that the fantasy genre is pretty closed off because people can’t imagine black people around before slavery and most are set in the medieval era and are influenced by a whitewashed version of history.

      I do agree that sci fi has been more open to black characters because it is mostly based on our world. I do hope for the day when we can also have some well written and well acted fantasy movies/video games based on our people and the kingdoms and empires that existed before the Atlantic Slave Trade. I believe there is enough material there for epic stories that rival Tolkien’s stuff (which although it was well written was racially prejudiced).

      Thanks again for the comments and I will try to write better questions. Most of the time it is just to get people’s attention anyway 🙂

  4. Nelson James says:

    Who says that Blacks don’t like SF/Fantasy, or even comic book superheroes for that matter? Many of the dollars that make the films and television series and books popular are black dollars. I certainly saw plenty of black people in The Avengers. The real problem is that from the creative side of it. The powers that be tend to generally not include blacks in these ventures either on the creative side, nor on the entertainment side. Fandom also seems to be very resistant to the idea of equal heroic time for black leads. With the new Tolkien phenomenon you now have complete franchises that justify having no blacks or people of color at all. Refer to the recent outcry over a women not allow to be an extra in the upcoming Hobbit film because she was “too dark” to be a Hobbit, and the number of “fans” that jumped to the defense of the filmmakers in the decision. Right now a black SF/fantasy fan is basically having to deal with the crumbs when it comes to seeing protagonist’s that aren’t from the same cookie-cutter Eurocentric mold, and Hollywood doesn’t seem to be willing to rectify that situation any time soon. When blacks (and other ethnicities) start to see more of themselves in these productions you will notice the attendence rise tremendously. Now it just seems like crashing someone elses party to which you were not invited.

  5. Alex says:

    There is a prevailing concept among both black and white producers/publishers that black people have to be making a statement specifically about the black diaspora or black identity. This usually has to do with over coming some great racial injustice and leaves no room for the telling of stories about imperfections of our own personal psyches and the actions and choices we, as human beings, are compelled to take. SCI-FI is less forgiving for this lack of dynamic. And producers don’t trust that audiences want to see those layers. If a writer is particular brilliant like Octavia Butler, they seamlessly tie in the so-called “back issue” with day to day dynamics of a person in a special situation. Still this doesn’t explain why Kindred or Parable of the Sower are not made into films. Her work has won the major Sci Fi awards and have sold enough copies to warrant the possibility of having an audience.

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