Wednesday, November 05, 2008
** I just got an email from SF Crowsnest that "SCIENCE FICTION FANS VOTE ON NEW NAME FOR THE OBAMA YEARS" and they chose the name "The Avalon Years." Is it wrong that I want to gag? Back to my original post** No matter your political beliefs, one has to take a step back and appreciate that we are living in a time that will be remembered as a great step forward in American history. There are moments when I am slightly hesitant to embrace a man as young and untested as Barack Obama as president but at the same time I am proud to live in a country that continues to move forward-- despite the sometimes bumpy ride-- in a socially conscious way. As a woman, I won't lie, there were many moments that made me cringe during the presidential race and I know we still have a long way to go. But I think I can honestly say I believe that we'll keep trying until we get it right. What has been especially interesting to me is how Hollywood has done so much to make a Barack Obama presidency possible. Now, I don't mean to say that I think the fact that Bruce Springsteen, Oprah and Matt Damon campaigned for Obama made a difference. I don't think most people vote based on what their favorite celebrities have to say about politics. At least I hope not. No, what I'm getting at is how influential entertainment can be in shaping our ideology. No matter where our society is in reality, our entertainment seems to be a step ahead of us. Sometimes this is a good thing, such as when Glen Close played the Vice President in "Air Force One" and sometimes this is a bad thing, such as Paris Hilton becoming famous for any reason at all. But the interesting thing is that whenever we talk about a "first" in America, such as an African American president, it's already occurred on TV or in the movies. Movies have been casting black presidents for awhile. Morgan Freeman was the president in "Deep Impact" while Tommy Lister had the title of Galactic President in "The Fifth Element." However I'd have to give the most convincing portrayal of a black president to Dennis Haysbert who starred in the television show "24," which I am personally happy to say now features a female president. And it's not just the portrayal of American presidents that I appreciate. Take "Star Trek." For the first two seasons we did have white men as captains, though the show did feature the first interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura-- very controversial at the time. But then in 1993 "Star Trek Deep Space Nine" featured Avery Brooks as the first African American Captain to lead a "Star Trek" series. And not long after that, in 1995, "Star Trek Voyager" introduced a female captain, played by Kate Mulgrew. Leave it to sci-fi to lead the way. Looking back at those old "Star Trek" series' it's easy to see why I have been so enamored of sci-fi and fantasy for as long as I can remember. No matter how many times I have encountered the glass ceiling in real life, I have always been able to look at characters like Ellen Ripley in "Aliens" and say to myself, yeah, women kick a**... And when I become strangely sad to see gay marriage banned in California (who am I to say who can or can't get married?) I know that Hollywood's acceptance of people like Ellen Degeneres will keep the issue alive and force us to continue to reexamine our prejudices-- such as movies like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner did back in 1967. Sometimes Hollywood can be preachy and heavy handed. There have been plenty of movies that have made me want to smack the director just by sheer virtue of being obnoxious. I am no fan of movies like "W." by Oliver Stone because I dislike being told what to believe about a real person by an obvious ideologue like Stone. But, I like that we live in a country that values free speech. I like that movies that skewer our presidents, like Primary Colors can be made. It means that we always question our beliefs, our leaders and ourselves. So here's to President-Elect Obama. I wish him nothing but success.