rasx() Screenshots: Shots out at Sci-Fi Slavery

Here is the third installment in my ragged series of rants about the psychic effects of the American style of slavery on modern cinema. This one follows “rasx() Screenshots: Shots out at Slavery” and “rasx() Screenshots: More Shots out at Slavery.”

Rutger Hauer as the Dying Gaul

Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner (The Director's Cut) Trust me. When you are faced with the task of introducing the African history of American slavery to new-millennium students of color, you should start with this image of Rutger Hauer from Ridley Scott’s art-direction masterpiece, Blade Runner (The Director’s Cut). Just watch a clip from the study, A Girl Like Me, by Kiri Davis and you should have no problem beginning to accept the horrible truth that American young people of the new millennium are still conditioned to have more sympathy for European-identified symbols than any African identification.

Many readers who know how well Africa moves under oppression will immediately intuit the voodoo-Santería-syncretism of my suggestion here: this is a “white man” telling the American viewing audience (supposedly suspending reality in a science fiction fantasy) that he is a slave. He says to live in fear, “That’s what it is to be a slave.” Easily—trust me—easily it might be the first time in their American lives that a young (or, sadly, an older) viewing audience would even begin to think in a non-defensive emotional manner about real American slavery—in spite of the stellar career of a Louis Gosset Jr. or an Ester Rolle. Future songs like Blade Runner can catch white people of all skin colors off guard—even Ridley Scott himself can claim ignorance about what he is doing here in the rasx() context!

Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner - Final Cut Having heard hours of interviews and commentary tracks with Ridley Scott (especially the three-hour feature in Blade Runner—The Final Cut), I am certain that he steers clear of even mentioning why Rutger Hauer uttered the word “slave.” At best you should do well to get a master of visualization arts like Ridley—the guy who shot over two-and-a-half thousand commercials—to compare the Rutger Hauer death scene in Blade Runner with the European art-history classic Dying Gaul (Galata Morente). But this discussion would help our young, nascent African history students as they now have the opportunity to understand that American slavery was not built for Black people—but it comes from a long Indo-European tradition (an “innovation” often emulated in post-Old-Kingdom Africa itself).

Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner (Comparing the Cuts) There is even more power in using the imagery of Blade Runner to talk about American slavery: this is a story set in the future and it does an excellent job seductively insinuating that something supposedly so barbaric and retro as slavery can exist in a “high-tech,” “brave,” “new” Indo-European world. It prevents the American escapist from dismissing slavery with a quip like, “That was then—this is now…” It makes slavery glimmer just behind the scenes of a pop cultural white world. It is no accident that a pop-artist like Tricky would use a sample from Blade Runner to enhance memories of his mother (who committed suicide when he was a child) in a song called “Aftermath” from the classic “trip-hop” album, Maxinquaye (a compression of his mother’s name, Maxine Quaye). Tricky samples Leon, played by the late Brion James. Just before the slave Leon shoots the Voight-Kampff cop trying to catch him, Leon says, “Let me tell you about my mother.”

I am flippantly certain that Tricky used that sample because he identifies with what Leon represents. Leon represents a man without a “real” past. Leon is a fabrication of his European masters—a replicant, a facsimile of a real (white) man. Tricky knows very well that he would “lose his audience” to just come out and confront these “complex issues.” So he turns to voodoo and samples Blade Runner.

Lawrence Fishburne’s Mental Bondage Drama

Laurence Fishburne, his slave speech in The Matrix

The Matrix is the blockbuster American sci-fi film with the word “slave” in the script. The image above shows the incredible Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus saying the word to the hard-working Keanu Reeves (Neo). Josh Wickett in “The Matrix: A Counter Racist Movie Review” provides a view into the character of Morpheus:

The role of Morpheus is a great one but unfortunately this movie was made under conditions dominated by racism White supremacy so Fishburne is still playing a “magic Negro”: a trustworthy non-white person whose purpose is to help the main White character gain deep insight into the meaning of life by helping said White person connect with the soul, believe in himself… In spite of that, it’s a treat to see Fishburne in his craft. He has several scenes of dialogue that he aces; damn he’s a good actor!

Lawrence Fishburne fighting mental bondage in The Matrix Lawrence Fishburne, playing a very traditional American character that dates back to Huck Finn and Jim, is composed in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world fighting against tyranny with his digitized thoughts. The Matrix (the first movie) succeeds at dramatizing mental bondage, providing a visual aid for those in need of some kind of vision apart from television.

This image marks a peak of this mental bondage theme with Morpheus chained to a chair with wires attached to his virtual head. In spite of all the many, many strange, bizarre shortcomings of The Matrix trilogy, Fishburne deserves credit for portraying one of the few characters of African descent in the Hollywood world in a dramatic struggle for what is among is thoughts instead of what is his material—his person, place or thing.

Black actors in Hollywood (and most actors in general) have been forced/seduced (often by themselves) into playing insulting demeaning roles—and have and will try to sustain themselves on minutiae, morsels and moments to justify the indignity of being paid a lot of money to send not-very-useful messages to young people. Lawrence Fishburne in The Matrix has some of the largest morsels to make quite a snacky career.

Children of Black Women

Clare-Hope Ashitey in Children of Men In the world of film visual effects professionals, this is the shot from the “famous” birth scene in Alfonso Cuarón, his excellent sci-fi film, Children of Men. Just corner Alex Lindsay in a pub in Zimbabwe and he will go on and on about the technical details of this scene. Here in the rasx() context this composition with the lovely Clare-Hope Ashitey is almost the exact prone position taken by LisaGay Hamilton as Younger Sethe in Beloved. Slavery enough for you? In both cases, the message behind these movie births is a Darwinian threat that is hard for white supremacists in denial to take: Black women have the most dominant genes.

Buy this DVD at Amazon.com! Let me say it again in a brand new paragraph to threaten more “employment opportunities” for myself: Black women have the most dominant genes. This science sounds strange to you? Well, that’s why these messages fare better in science fiction stories—because truth is stranger than the American pulp fiction swaddling imperial children over 40. This scene should represent the core of what dudes of color like DJ Spooky call Afrofuturism—since this dude is probably in Antarctica right now I fear it does not.

Since I failed to discover P.D. James when I was young enough to be interested in such things, I am unable to verify that the character, Kee, played by Clare-Hope Ashitey was deliberately specified as an African woman. Whoever made this casting choice made the wrong choice for white supremacy but the right choice for the Universe. Because, folks, it’s ultimately the Universe that selected the “contingency” we call Planet Earth—and, in turn, this planet selects for Black women—and so it should be no great mystery why the study of science is not celebrated in the United States. Science fact is so disrespected that you have to put it in science fiction.

So, here in the rasx() context, when human life “finds a way,” in the face of the greatest empire television has ever seen, it will take the middle-Earth passage through our African women. Any new science fiction stories coming out to a theatre near you that “naturally” minimize the African presence in the fictional future are nothing but poison lies of barbarian seduction.

You think I can get “a job” in Hollywood now?