Wednesday, February 17, 2010


After finishing her meal, the lady next to me at China Bar calmly asked a waiter for a small plastic container, then helped herself to ALL the tabletop sambal chili, oblivious to my stifled giggles as she noisily scraped the tin clean.

I didn't know you could do that! Free condiments, WHOOO! *steals soy sauce and cutlery*

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

She's ALWAYS fricken' right

Trigger warnings.

Flicked to Dr Phil today, and saw the topic was "Abducted by a Predator", featuring guests whose children had gone missing or had been murdered. One throwaway line Dr Phil said - and I can't find an online transcript or corresponding video of this particular part, so I may not quote it correctly - struck me as odd:

[while advising college-aged twin girls and their mother about safety] These things do happen... I wonder how many girls who have been abducted, have the final thought in their minds of, 'My mother was right.' I shouldn't have been in the place, or spoken to that person...

I am lucky enough to have never (yet) had my safety threatened to that extent, but really, a victim's final thought being, "My mother was right"? Come on now.

Maybe, "Oh God, I'll never see my mother again", or "Somebody please help me", or "Why?" or "Please make it stop". And it makes me sick to write these, to imagine the ordeals of others. But I did it because I cannot believe someone would suggest a victim would take time out from the gripping terror and physical pain and pleading for one's life that comes with being abducted/tortured/raped/murdered, in order to chastise themselves for not listening to their mother. Even if they are in the "wrong" place, or talking to the "wrong" people, or wearing the "wrong" thing, or doing the "wrong" thing.

And of course, this is all making some major assumptions about all mothers everywhere offering the same "advice", and it being foolproof, and that everybody has mother figures in their lives.

I mean, I don't know firsthand what goes through somebody's mind as they are attacked. I have come close, having been threatened and harassed before, in situations where some tut-tutting outsider could shake their head and sigh, "You should have listened to your mother about not sitting in the front seat of a cab/ walking on the street at night/ talking to strangers/ being impolite to strange men".

But in each of those situations - and only one escalated to the point where I experienced the pure, total fear I imagine the victim of a kidnapping/assault would feel - the last thing I was thinking was, "My mother was right!" I was thinking a lot of things, all of which are covered in those entries, but not that.

Taking safety precautions and listening to your guardian's advice is one thing. Skimming dangerously close to blaming (female) victims is another, Dr Phil. It's insensitive (to say the LEAST) to even suggest that the thought "my mother was right" or some variation of the victim-blaming sentiment should even enter a victim's head WHILE THEY ARE BEING ABDUCTED/ASSAULTED/MURDERED.

Seems like only yesterday I was addressing this very attitude... oh wait, it pretty much was!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

“Two black guys?”

I nearly peed myself when I saw Samuel L. Jackson in the post-credits scene in Iron Man.

While talking about action movies with a male friend of mine, we got onto the topic of The Matrix. I started laughing, relating the story of how Will Smith famously turned down the role of Neo for the lead in the horrendous flop Wild Wild West, saying, ‘Yeah right – computers taking over the world?’

My friend laughed, but after a contemplative silence goes, “Well, I don’t think Will Smith would have worked as Neo anyway. It would’ve been weird to have Morpheus and Neo as black.”

Before I could stop myself, I yelped, “What? Don’t you think that’s a bit racist?” Which was bad ‘cos he was immediately on the defensive.

“It just would’ve changed my perception of the whole movie.”

“What do you mean? You wouldn’t know any better if it had happened differently, right?”

“Just that Neo is… he starts off as a really dry sort of guy.”

“And dry default equals white?”


“You’re saying that Mr Anderson is meant to be an Everyman.”


“And an Everyman is a white middle class male?”

By now I can practically hear him rolling his eyes. “Yes… But what would I know, I’m just an ego-centric white middle-class male too.”

My friend has this way of sneering, ‘Yeah yeah, just ignore me, I’m just a white middle class guy who wouldn’t know oppression’ whenever I say anything about the ‘isms’. I jumped back onto why Black Neo would have been problematic.

He failed to give me an adequate response. Just kept going back to, ‘Well, Morpheus was black too. If both Neo and Morpheus were black it would’ve been… different.”

Is there a black leading guys quota I’m not aware of?

Is it really that much of a stretch to have two of three heroes (if you count the three heroes to be Neo – Morpheus – Trinity) as non-white in a major blockbuster movie?

Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus) is African American. Moreover…

Marcus Chong (Tank) is multiracial*.

Anthony Ray Parker (Dozer) is African American.

Gloria Foster (The Oracle) is African American.

The sequels included Jada Pinkett-Smith (Niobe) and Harold Perrineau Jnr. (Link) and Sing Ngai/Collin Chou (Seraph) and Randall Duk Kim (The Keymaker).

But if Neo was black that’s overstepping the mark?

WHY? Because we already have token black characters – we can’t make the hero of the whole movie black? That’s just way too different/unlikely/threatening? The hero has to appeal to EVERYBODY – failing that he has to appeal to the majority, the target audience for whom every conceivable thing on this planet is created to cater for – who just so happen to be white heterosexual middle-class men.

I just find it so weird that my friend would feel this way. I think I upset him a little (well, I more or less called him racist) but seriously? He didn’t specifically reject the actor for the role (although he did say Will Smith isn’t serious enough), it was specifically the race of the actor.

Is it that hard to have the hero of a major action movie someone who is Other? Someone who is not You – but might represent Someone Else?

I asked him to name some movies starring black action heroes. He came up with Blade and Shaft. Here’s mine:

  • Blade
And that is all I had off the top of my head. Talk about brain fart. After some internet inspiration…

  • Samuel L. Jackson (HELL YES, particularly Pulp Fiction, Star Wars and Snakes on a Plane, and I am so loving him as Nick Fury)
  • Bruce Lee (including general actors of colour)
  • Jackie Chan
  • Vin Diesel
  • Jet Li
  • Will Smith, even though he did turn down The Matrix, still counts with the likes of Bad Boys and I Am Legend under his belt

And yes, I realise this is not a ground-breaking realisation. White-washing in the media and racism in Hollywood and never casting people of colour as heros or solo stars in their own rights - all of this has been critiqued before. It's 'been done'. But no, it's not done, it's still relevant. 'Cos it's still a problem.

*I am not entirely sure of Marcus Chong‘s real ethnicity and can’t seem to find any information on it. I know he was adopted by Chinese-Canadian Tommy Chong and that his name was originally Marcus Wyatt. To me he appears to be of mixed descent.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

If you didn't want to be assaulted you shouldn't have looked assaultable!

Try to guess what Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland is talking about when he advises, ''Don't display your iPods, don't display your valuable watch, don't display your valuable jewellery. Try to look as poor as you can." Is he cautioning Australian tourists in foreign countries with high crime rates, perhaps?

Nope. This was part of his speech at an international students' safety forum, in light of recent assaults on Indian members of the community, some of which have been racially-motivated.

Look, it is one thing to take steps to ensure one's safety when in public. Most reasonable people do indeed take every possible precaution to prevent harassment, robbery, violence, victimisation.

But it is another to make demands that people must change their entire lifestyles in order not to be victimised - where they live, when they travel, where they work. And I am getting so sick of hearing it all. Whenever the news is playing in the background about another attack or attempted murder on an international student, I hear the same old questions over and fucking over again.

"Well, why was he/she walking to the isolated train station/through the park at night/on the street/etc?" I can't answer for every case out there, but I have to take public transport late at night because I work in hospitality and finish shifts at 11pm-ish, can't afford to take $25 taxi rides every time, walking isn't an option and at this stage neither is getting a car. And I get the alarmed "but girlies shouldn't be on the train late at night!" schtick from people all the time. What do you want me to do, wait for a fricken' pumpkin to turn into a horse-drawn carriage? I take as many precautions to ensure my own safety that I can: I am extra alert when walking the streets, I sit near women on the tram to give the illusion I am not travelling alone, I stick to well-lit areas and always carry my keys in my hand. But shit can happen, and if it ever did the first thing I'd hear is a lecture about "being more careful", as if I were running down King Street naked but for a bikini made of $100 notes screaming, "COME AND GET ME YOU PUSSY C&%TS!" rather than a member of public going about her damn daily business. And it shits me off.

"Why didn't he/she live somewhere else if it was that dangerous? Why did he/she move into that dodgy poor area?" Well, I don't know, probably because living somewhere else was not a viable option, methinks! I'm pretty sure if you had the choice between living in a dangerous-as-fuck area and moving somewhere safer, you'd lean towards the "safe" side of things! Maybe that seedy suburb is all they can damn well afford. Or they don't know the city very well. Or they are moving in with friends/family already established there. I know it definitely doesn't mean they want to be victimised in their own neighbourhood, as most people generally do not want that!

"Why were they working at 7-Eleven/driving cabs/working the graveyard shift at Hungry Jack's/as a bussie at that club knowing it would involve shift work, late-night commuting, violent clientele, and possible armed robbery attempts?" The same reason other people get their various jobs, I should imagine! Because the pay cheque outweighs the other issues, or they can't find anywhere else that will hire them, or they don't have the skill sets to enter a different industry, or they are part of a family-owned business or partnership, or it's close to home, or they have no choice in which shifts they are allocated, or because they like it.

Everybody has the right to feel safe; and just because they have a shiny watch, or drive cabs, or take the last tram at night, or live in a shithole, does not mean they "kinda/sorta" had it coming when they are violently attacked. Telling people to "look as poor as they can", and not show off items that could draw the attention of muggers at night, well that's one thing. That's all fine and dandy.

Except you can tick all the items on the Police Commissioner's little safety list, and still be the victim of a robbery, assault, rape or murder. And what then? There are things about some people that draw the attention of predators and, unlike iPods, can't just be hidden. Gender. Race. Size. Sexuality. Disability. Profession. And people will go to amazing lengths to blame the victim, because it's easier to jump on something they did "wrong", rather than admit it could just as easily happen to you, or admit that predators are actual members of your community, not just scary opportunistic shadow people.

I don't even have an answer here, I'm just sick of hearing all this shit about what you should do to protect yourself, and if you get stabbed on the street at night, well what the hell were you doing there in the first place? Some people are just fucked up and think it's ok to hurt other people just because they're there. And the ultimate safety tip - BE INVISIBLE! - well it's not really viable, is it?