Friday, March 31, 2017

There be tygers

As I was saying:

(and "race" is not a mind concept, according to this movie.  That is, it isn't a fundamental issue of identity.  If some people think about that too long, the conversation could get REALLY heated.). 

Well, now the question of race and identity (like the question of sexual preference, or even sexuality itself, and identity) is on the table:

On the other hand, this conceit could have been fascinating. The idea of Asian “ghosts” being implanted into white “shells” opens the floor for a whole array of interesting questions and possibilities. What effect does this have on the Asian population of this dystopian future—will their racial identity eventually be wiped out? How might a Japanese person who is not yet a cyborg deal with this phenomenon on an emotional and psychological level?

Or not.

Race is a cultural marker, which belatedly makes it an emotional and psychological one.  The psychological hurdle of the plot is that the "Major" is turned into a cyborg as a medical experiment a la the Nazis, not as a way of saving her life after a fatal accident (the reason she is given, which turns out to be a lie).  Against that, the problems of racial identity are deemed to be rather small beer.

Which maybe isn't a good idea; or maybe it is.  Oddly, the assumption in that quote is extremely racist: Asian brains are different from "white" brains, is what's being said there.  That's an idea that might appeal to a racist like Charles Murray, but I'm not sure it's a hill you want to die on when complaining about race and casting in a Hollywood movie.

If this is terra incognita and where angels fear to tread, there's a good reason for it.*

*As I re-read the quote, I think of the effort in New Orleans to "mix" the races by intermarriage.  The dream was that, with children of "mixed" marriages (assuming race is a valid category, not an invalid construct imposed by white Europeans on the world) would dissolve racial differences based on appearance (which is all they are based on).  Instead you got the fine legal distinctions of mulatto and quadroon and octaroon, based not on appearance but on who your ancestors were (a small step away from checking birth certificates for sexual identity), and the "paper bag" test (if your skin was darker than the paper bag, you were too dark).  Maybe you don't want "white" to be normative; but if you don't (and why would you?), what should be, and why?  Aye, theres' the rub.....


  1. Last summer I got into a discussion with my lesbian niece who's in college - have I mentioned she's been in many anti-Trump demonstrations? - and she started using categories of sexual orientation that I had to ask her to define. And I'm her gay uncle. I can't keep up. I told her not to be surprised when those all changed several times before she turned 60. I'll bet a lot of sci-rangers would claim all that was a matter of hard genetic inheritance. Only that will all change too in the next four decades.

  2. The idea that we are fundamentally sexual beings (rather than spiritual, or moral (or not, but should be), etc., started with the Vienna school that gave Freud his prominence. And since Freud is out of favor, why not genetics?

    Now we tie sexual preference to our humanity, and people with "low sex drives" are abnormal, maybe not even human, certainly stunted and unhappy and to be pitied. Celibates are just in-human, while people with multiple sexual identities are to be admired.

    Or something. And now, in defense of race, we take up the language of the most virulent racists.

    So it goes.

  3. "The dream was that, with children of "mixed" marriages (assuming race is a valid category, not an invalid construct imposed by white Europeans on the world) would dissolve racial differences based on appearance (which is all they are based on)"

    If you have the opportunity and it comes to your area I highly recommend going to see Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni's one-person show: "One Drop of Love." It is at once a history of the concept of race in America and how it involved alongside her personal history and exploration of her own identity as a mixed race person. To say anything about it would be to give too much away, except to say that it is very illuminating on this issue and leaves you asking more questions then have been answered.

    She follows it up with a Q and a session with the audience and that is fascinating as well to hear the accounts, observations, frustrations, and questions from people from different ethnic backgrounds and skin color.