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D. A. Boxill

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Welcome To The Belly of The Dragon: How a Stigmatized Barbados Community Opened My Eyes and My Heart

The Topics Dystopian Films Won’t Touch – Entertainment – The Atlantic


By Imran Siddiquee

Since the release of The Hunger Games in 2012, dystopian cinema has enjoyed sustained interest in American culture. Popular young adult novels are being turned into blockbuster Hollywood films every few months, it seems, and with good reason: Beyond their built-in teen fan base, films like Divergent,The Giver, and The Maze Runner draw on some of adult society’s greatest fears of the moment: Is technology tearing us further apart? Will global warming destroy the planet? Will income inequality further create a world of haves and have-nots?

Critics have worried that these particular films stoke an irrational fear of technology, or a distaste for big government, but dystopian stories have long been celebrated (and used in classrooms across the country) because of their ability to push audiences to think critically about their actions.

Yet with the upcoming release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, poised to be the biggest film of the year, it’s just as worthwhile to consider what these films don’t seem to fear. While recent dystopias warn youth about over-reliance on computers, totalitarian rule, class warfare, pandemic panics and global warming, very few ask audiences to think deeply about sexism and racism.

Which is strange. If the United States were to truly transform into a totalitarian state, or suffer an environmental catastrophe, it’s safe to say society’s deepest divisions wouldn’t magically disappear overnight. These dystopian adaptations ask their young audiences to imagine that race and gender issues have been partially overcome in the future, while general human suffering has somehow increased. The results feel false, and undercut the films’ attempts to comment on the present day.

This is not to say that these movies don’t occasionally touch upon identity—both Divergent and The Hunger Games clearly have something to say about gender equity, and The Maze Runner gives boys of color some prominent roles. But none imagines a future in which racism and sexism are significant problems facing their protagonists.

For instance, in The Hunger Games films, there is diversity in the cast. District 11, the site of a brutal execution in the second film, is filled almost entirely with black inhabitants. But at the same time, the film implies that white characters like Katniss and Gale now make up the majority of the poorest district (12).

None of the primary characters seems affected by race or are racist. Instead, the film continues the old sci-fi tradition of imagining the subjugation of white people, essentially saying, “Things could get so bad that people who look like Liam Hemsworth are now at the bottom, too!”

Whenever Hollywood does get an opportunity to talk about race in one of these movies, it minimizes the subject. Characters of color like Beetee, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who mentored Katniss, or Christina, Tris’s best friend in Divergent (played by Kravitz’s daughter Zoe), certainly play major roles in these stories, but their race is never at issue. You might say that this is an example of admirably “colorblind” filmmaking—were it not for the fact that the audience’s perspective is always that of a white protagonist.

To an extent, the diversity of characters depends on the source material, but producers typically have some leeway in casting decisions. Suzanne Collins, in her original novel, does not explicitly describe Katniss as Anglo-Saxon (she has “olive skin”), so it’s actually the filmmakers who make the decision to default to white. In fact, Collins intentionally leaves many lead characters in the novels racially ambiguous, creating a more integrated and nuanced world.

When the first Hunger Games film decided to cast black actors in the roles of Cinna and Rue, many fans of Collins’s book (who had imagined the characters differently despite the novel’s clear description of their “dark brown” skin color) were upset, but they still went to see the film in droves. In the sequel, Jeffrey Wright was cast as Beetee, who is in fact described as having “ashen” skin by Collins.

Similarly, the recent film adaptation of The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s beloved dystopian young adult novel, hinges on the concept of “sameness,” as it imagines a future in which those in power have decided to erase the collective memory of humanity and “protect” people from their own emotions. The result is the creation of a bland and literally colorless community (the first section of the film is presented entirely in black and white). Yet rather than using this opportunity in part to further explore how “color” operates in the real world (namely, how race relates to power), the filmmakers barely touch the subject at all, in essence promoting the very “sameness” that Lowry feared.

It seems like at some point, Hollywood would get around to telling a different kind of story. There are more than a few alternative YA dystopian books for Hollywood to pick from—including epics like Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, which explores social and environmental devastation from a more intersectional perspective. Parable of the Sower focuses on the life of 15-year-old Lauren Olamina as she tries to survive in a country devastated by global warming and poverty.

Her primary foe is a rapidly declining society, but like in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Lauren is also up against increasingly patriarchal institutions. In a world where corporations begin to own entire cities, it’s harder for people of color to find safe housing and jobs are especially scarce for women. While marriage itself offers few real benefits anymore, interracial marriage is still a potentially dangerous choice for some characters.

Butler simultaneously confronts a myriad of oppressions and portrays her black protagonist’s success as not only the result of determination, intelligence and bravery—but also her “hyperempathy” for others and an intense belief in the concept of “change.” As Lauren says in the novel:

Embrace diversity. Unite—or be divided, robbed, ruled, killed by those who see you as prey. Embrace diversity, or be destroyed.

This is how Butler weaves a variety of issues into her narrative, without zeroing in explicitly on any one of them. And though “hyperempathy” may seem a heavy concept, consider that the current crop of blockbusters do not hesitate to show kids killing one another in the name of capitalism, violently thwarting monsters to escape the maze of adolescence, and even murdering babies.

It seems then that youth could benefit from a more honest investigation of what a world of increased oppression might really look like, or at least a more resonant reflection of the world in which they already live.

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/the-topics-dystopian-films-wont-touch/382509/

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What Can Studying People From Birth to Death Teach You About Living the Good Life?

Cover Drive “Speak Out”


The band Cover Drive became involved after visiting the conference in December where they spoke and interacted with students from all over the Caribbean who were in Barbados to learn about the program. So impressed were they that they got aboard and penned a new track which features the vocals of the Ambassador Dr. Larry Palmer.

Check it out and download it below:

The single was launched on May 25th in a short ceremony on the terrace of The Central Bank of BarbadosFrank Collymore Hall.

According to lead singer Amanda Reifer,“It’s a great opportunity and we’re happy to perform in a positive way in our community. We wanted the lyrics to be relatable; while we were writing it we wanted to find a way to not make it sound preachy but still get the message across.”

(photos by Wave Element)

 

VIDEO: Stromae – Papaoutai


Papaoutai” is the newest single from Belgian (with Rwandan roots) hip-hop electronic music singer and songwriter Paul van Haver, better known as Stromae. Papaoutai is confirmed as the lead single taken from his highly-awaited sophomore studio album, still untitled, that’s scheduled for release later this year via Universal Music Group. The song comes after the international success of his debut “Cheese“, released in 2010, and the hit single “Alors on danse” which remained at number one for several weeks in many countries throughout Europe the same year.

It follows his usual style of laid back lyrics delivered over an infectious beat for a very catchy masterpiece you can’t help but want to sing-along to (even if you can’t understand the french).

The video’s themes and action echo Stromae’s refrain of “Où t’es? Papa, où t’es?” (Where are you? Dad, where are you?) and we can see the plot advanced by well placed choreography [no spoilers from me].

Check it out below:

The new single was released on iTunes on May 14. The music video was premiered on VEVO on June 6.

 

25 Things You Don’t Have To Justify To Anyone

We Can’t Get Lost Anymore


Thought Catalog

We can’t jump off bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean, because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag.

My best friend and I once got lost in Connecticut. We were juniors in high school, it was 2004, and we were lost in the state we’d grown up in together. We kept driving, hopeless and amused, using the signs on the road and our spotty intuition as our guides. We sang songs in the car as our cell phones, incapable of no more than a phone call, sat like bricks in our pockets. There wasn’t a map of the world conveniently in the palm of our hands, no app to see how many people had…

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Weekly Wisdom I


Don’t let your environment limit you

-Steve Fung

 

No matter what your circumstances or what you’re going through, if you have a dream or any kind of goal you want to achieve, keep fighting on and success will come.

Update!


NEW Features!

Weekly Wisdom

I would like to introduce you to new feature of my blog called ‘Weekly Wisdom’ where I will bring you teachable and  inspirational moments, quotes and other tidbits.

TEDxYouth@Bridgetown – Wisdom Shared

I promised to bring you coverage from TEDxYouth@Bridgetown so I will be sharing with you a bit of the wit, wisdom and warmth which I gained from the various TEDsters in the new segment.

(and yes Hi! I’m back again! Sorry to have disappeared again – but hey life of a University student can be quite overwhelming and hectic)

Recommendations:

Book Corner

You can check out what I’m currently reading via my Goodreads Shelf (there’s a widget on right of this post) or even keep track of and join my 2013 reading challenge. My current goal is 35 books. I will also be review and recommending at least one book a month for you to read and hopefully enjoy as I have.

Music Corner

Musical Artist or Musician of the Month, Album reviews. New artist spotlight, anything goes over here once it’s music related.

Stay tuned! Anything else can happen! Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion anytime.

 

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