John Carter vs. the Mainstream.

Ah, John Carter…you never learn.  You’re not one of the popular kids.

I saw the Disney picture last week, and brain-explodingly LOVED it.  There’s some changes to the story I don’t agree with, and a few that I do, but overall, the heart, spirit and look of the movie was everything I hoped for.  Bang on.  Bullseye.  Round of applause.   For the twelve year old boy who first discovered Tharks and Dejah Thoris in an old issue of DC’s Weird Worlds, this movie made me clap my hands and grin until I ached.

My kids didn’t love it though, and not winning over that precious kid audience  is keeping this film from making the kind of money that the producers need.  Which means we’ll never get a sequel, a sticker book, happy meal toys or any of that stuff that comes along with blockbuster films.

Fig. I : What won't be happening at local Walmarts.

But that was a given. It’s John Carter. He never rises far above secret cult fandom. He’s the George Harrison of Science Fiction – The Dirk Gently’s Detective Agency, the Humbug Magazine, the Beethoven’s 6th Symphony of pop culture, and that’s kind of where I like him.

John Carter is the perennial poor relation to his superstar big brother, Tarzan. Both were created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but Mr. Loin-cloth got dozens of novels, more than a hundred movies, two hundred TV episodes, four hundred comic books, animated shows, lunch boxes, toys, games, you name it, there’s a Tarzan version of it. The Ape Man was one of the most popular characters of the 20th Century.

Mostly because of things like this.

Whereas John Carter isn’t even IN half of the ten novels Burroughs wrote about Mars.  And when Carter got  adapted into other media, it was a tepid affair.  Instead of Tarzan’s four hundred issues, John Carter totaled about four dozen comics in the last century.

As for film and TV adaptations, previous to this recent Disney epic, the Barsoomian movie catalogue numbered one:  a basement-budget sci-fi direct to DVD adaptation of Princess of Mars, made in 2009, and starring former porn queen TRACI LORDS as Dejah Thoris and Antonio Sabato Jr. as the Captain.

This is real. It exists. I've seen it.

It’s surprisingly less vile than you think it would be, but still hardly much of a film.  The budget is so low, the Tharks only have two arms.  Seriously.

Fig. II: A Four-Armed Thark prepares an evening meal.

To further scare away the mainstream from this franchise, the “science” in this sci-fi is just goofy:  John can hop over mountains on a planet that’s actually HEAVIER than Earth.  The airships fly by means of the 8th Ray, or basically, magic.  Evolution on Mars got cheap-date-drunk before choosing how many limbs each creature got, and interplanetary teleportation is explained away by settling back in a spooky Indian cave.

Personally, one of the reasons I like Barsoom is the civilized way in which all parties agree that physics doesn’t really matter there, just like Oz, Wonderland, and Narnia, but apparently that sort of thing causes modern audiences to flee.

The final barrier to mainstream popularity is, ironically, the popularity these stories used to enjoy.   Burroughs’ Mars novels were such a huge influence on the Science Fiction creators of the years following 1912 that John Carter can’t seem “new” or “fresh”.

Fig. III: I think it's Barsoom.

Frank Herbert’s Dune was utterly lifted from Barsoom, as was Star Trek’s Vulcan, James Cameron’s Avatar, and George Lucas’ Tatooine. We’ve seen John Carter reproduced as Superman, Adam Strange, Buck Rogers, Captain Kirk, the Raiders of Gor, Richard Corben’s Den, Green Lantern and Luke Skywalker.

Dejah Thoris inspired Elaan of Troyus, Orion Slave Girls, and Leia’s Metal Bikini. Homages to Tars Tarkas show up in the Klingons, the Predators, J’onn J’onz, and the Sand People of Star Wars. Tharks are the reason we think all Martians are green.

Fig IV: A two-armed Thark - handicapped, but willing to fight on.

For younger viewers, it’s hard to appreciate the century old template that these modern tropes are drawn from, because it feels like we’ve seen it all before.

When in reality, we’ve only seen it all SINCE.

So, John Carter is a permanent sub-niche fandom, and those of us who have been to Barsoom expect it that way. It’s a little more cool to be out of the mainstream, man.  We burrow a little deeper into our inner geek.  We can drop references like Dirk Gently and Humbug Magazine and know the hepcats in the room dig the bit.

Figure V: Dirk Gently.

It would be nice if Disney didn’t lose quite so many hundreds of millions on this picture.  It’s so much better than the critics are telling you.  Andrew Stanton created a lovely tribute to a piece of science fiction history, and he did it with such love and joy and FUN that I giggled like a schoolboy for most of the movie.

If you haven’t seen it, go this weekend.  Your Jeddak, COMMANDS it.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your COMIC BOOK JOHN CARTER BONUSES!

The officially ERB FAMILY approved Marvel adaptation of the second novel in the Barsoom series came out just two days ago!   It’s drawn by my buddy Ramon Perez, and is as beautiful as the Red Planet itself.  The script is burning through the original book a little faster than I expected, but I suppose it’s a fairly frantic pace all around with GODS OF MARS.  The layout, the colouring and the feel of the book is delicious.

John, getting his Barsoom-legs back after a few years away. I TOLD you the art was pretty.

ALSO ON THE COMIC RACKS NOWADAYS!!

Dynamite Comics has two different ongoing Barsoom series:  Dejah Thoris and Warlord of Mars. The Dynamite WARLORD is currently adapting the very same novel that Marvel is adapting, (GODS OF MARS), and is a few chapters ahead, which means Carter fans new to the stories, but buying both titles are getting complete spoilers for the Marvel book.

 The scripts for both titles are readable, and the art is good in the Thoris series, (not so much in the Warlord book).  Unfortunately, there’s a lurking creepy quality to the stripper pasties they put on all the women in this incarnation of the franchise.

 Either embrace the nudity of the original novels, or give Ms. Thoris  something less skeevie to wear, thank you.  The brass nipple clamps are the worst of both worlds.

It’s been a fun couple of weeks revisiting the Mars of my childhood.  I’ve even taken to re-reading my Marv Wolfman/Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson Barsoomian comics from the 70s, with much nostalgic vigour when I get a spare moment, and I’ve put the audio-books of the original ERB novels on in the background while I’ve been drawing lately.  Best part:  Listening to the invariably male readers doing an imitation of Dejah Thoris when she’s saying romantic things.

I’m off to swim in the river Iss.  Wish me luck.

44 responses to “John Carter vs. the Mainstream.

  1. I agree with you like, 1000 per cent. LOVED the movie and am saddened by the Public Whim’s inability to see it as the wellspring of almost every popular sci-fi cliche they have ever embraced. I don’t particularly give a rat’s patootie that they don’t get it, but because of that, we don’t get sequels and hot babes plowed on Jager and dressed as Deja Thoris on Halloween.
    Poop.
    Can I reprint this at some point over at DBAWIS? Huh? Can I?

    The One True Batman
    *Kaff*…*Wheeze*

    • If you reprint it, it won’t have the pretty pictures with the funny captions. I’d prefer you just hyperlink back here.

  2. I first read “Princess” back in 1982. It ha a major influence on me as I was an awkward thirteen-year-old. Yeah, This cemented me as a scifi/fantasy nerd for the rest of my life. I have no complaints. The thing that Disney hit themselves in the bollocks with is that they twisted it to be more like a kid’s movie a la Tron. Seriously. It felt like it was a resurgence of the Tron franchise with loincliths. They bungled the ad campaign to begin with. If you recall, buzz really didn’t start until he fan-made advert came out on YouTube that made the proper ads look p*ss-poor.
    So much went wrong with promoting this film that it’s truly sad that this (forgive me for the current usage) epic story isn’t getting the treatment it so badly deserves. I hope the same thing doesn’t happen if they bring “Pellucidar” to the big screen.

  3. How many will be confused by the phrase “Phillip Jose Farmer’s Dune”?

    Cheers!

    Steven Willis
    XOWComics.com

  4. Join John Carter fans at http://www.facebook.com/groups/288143804588289/

    Help us fight to SAVE John Carter!!

  5. Yeah, I really want to check out this movie as well. I never expected it to make much money anyway… (<-by Hollywood blockbusters standards at least)
    Sequel or no sequel, I'll be glad to at least enjoy this big epic film for what it is. Why do most people think about movies in terms of franchise, and not enjoy them for what they are? (not critizing you, Mr. Templeton, just the way people start talking about how much money movies make and if they warrant a sequel, etc…)

  6. The Dune reference is wrong. Frank herbert wrote Dune. But, that does not hurt the article. I like the article. I agree with it.

  7. Only issue I have with this article is that Mars is 1/3 the gravity of Earth, not ‘heavier’ although the amount of power John Carter shows there is excessive, almost to the Superman proportions, so it is very exaggerated on what he could really do. But it’s a fantasy story with scifi trappings, so we have to treat it as such and enjoy it for what it is. I loved the movie. — Ken :)

  8. Ah, but the men in the Dynamite series are so, so much hotter too… :)

  9. I hate to blow my own horn. Okay, no I don’t. These days an author’s got to do what an author’s got to do. I have my own John Carter tie-in. My book, Jane Carver of Waar, which came out from Night Shade Books just this month, is, as you might guess, a pastiche of John Carter, only I’ve replaced the gentleman from Virginia with a biker chick from Coral Gables, Florida.

  10. Mr. Templeton, you’ve almost sold me on my Barsoomian fandom being comparable to what it’s like being one of 17 people who actually watched and appreciated Deep Space Nine. I’m used to being in the minority among geeks and, to a certain extent, I can admit kind of digging it.

    There’s no question Disney completely dropped the ball on how to present and market John Carter. What I’m afraid gets overlooked, however, is how this is also an indictment of how poorly read so many people are–even within the geek community–that the majority of potential viewers snubbed it as some kind of knock-off instead of realizing it was an adaptation of a novel nearly a century old.

    I’ll be honest: I didn’t actually read A Princess of Mars until four years ago, just before I turned 30. Unlike so many of this film’s non-audience, though, I had heard of and knew about John Carter for years. It was impossible to read magazines for articles about Star Trek and Star Wars without inevitably encountering references to Burroughs’s Barsoom.

    What has happened in the last 20 years that fans are so unaware of the lineage of their own favorites? Are creators no longer name-dropping Burroughs in interviews? Are fans no longer bothering to read them? I’m not expecting everyone to read all ten novels in order to earn their Geek Card. But to have to explain online repeatedly to various “sci-fi fans” that no, John Carter is not an uninspired Avatar-wannabe, just became exasperating in the last several months.

    As for me, I went with the friend who finally got me to start reading the novels and I took my 16 year-old nephew. He loved it, particularly Woola. When his mom picked him up and asked how the movie was, he smiled and said, “It was beast.”

    Here’s my full write-up, in case you care: http://travismcclain.blogspot.com/2012/03/john-carter.html

    • That’s a nice write up, well done. And yeah, ERB Barsoom fans ARE sort of like DS9 fans, in that they have to constantly explain why they’ve chosen the less popular franchise to settle on. (Voyager fans are a different matter, as they have no possible justification for that. Not even 7 of 9 counts.) As someone who has been a life-long fan of George Harrison, Dirk Gently and Humbug Magazine, it’s a familiar feeling.

  11. I hate what Hollywood does with most books to movie “deals” because it becomes the “deal” an not the story that takes over.

    While I am glad they made John Carter – I am sad about the title they chose. It seems strange, because to my friends who have never read the Barsoom Series, it made no sense. They had no idea who John Carter is/was or what the Barsoom Series is all about. I am still not sure why the didn’t call it Something of Mars, Man of Mars, Warlord of Mars, John Carter of Mars, even big strong man fighting apes and bugs with a cute babe of Mars, would have been better titles. Still not sure why this whole March release thing, it is obviously a summer movie, but I digress.

    Like you, the nerdy 13 year old girl inside of me, ahumph birthday is Monday, bleah, is giddy beyond belief because we finally get to see something made of A Princess of Mars.

    One set of books you forgot to mentioned that was influenced by The Barsoom Series is the John Norman Gor books, which was an obvious retelling of the some parts of the Barsoom Series. Although I gave up on the Gor books after book 3, the women running around as scantily clad slaves with collars and whole – big strong man got to be a little too much for me. But it was obvious that John Norman ripped off ERB.

    Ta ta for now.
    Clydene

    • I mentioned the Gor books, in the paragraph right after I mis-credited Phillip Farmer as the author of Dune. I read a Gor book or two when I was young and found them SO clearly a rip off of Barsoom that I didn’t read any more.

  12. What are the odds of another studio picking up a sequel like Hellboy or Narnia did?

    • If the John Carter fan base on Facebook keeps growing (it is over 5000 members right now) and more positive blog posts about the movie continue, I have to think that the studios will take notice. From what I read about the proposed sequels to the film by the director, they sound every bit as good as the first film is. It could create quite the franchise!

      I enjoyed this article and will be following your blog, sir. Well done. :)

  13. I was a little nervous about how this film would turn out, and I’m happy to say that I love it !!! I have seen it several times, and I love it more each time I see it.
    Like most John Carter fans, I have waited a lifetime for this film to be made, and I am pleased with the results.
    Read more in my blog:

    http://lowiczanka.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/dejah-thoris-of-barsoom/

    where I talk about my meeting with Danton Burroughs !!

  14. “Dune” was written by Frank Herbert, not Philip Jose Farmer. I know. I know. You were just checking to see if we were paying attention ! LOL I totally agree with you. I think it’s the best “Space Opera” I’ve seen since
    “Empire Strikes Back” ! I agree about the flashbacks. I knew what was
    going on. One that actually brought tears to my eyes was the flashback
    where Carter remembers once being too late to save his wife while he’s
    fighting the Tharks. There are even those critics who pan the film
    because they think Taylor Kitsch is too distractingly handsome to
    play John Carter ! Sheesh ! I’m glad to see the film was finally made.
    Hollywood has been trying for 70 years to make a film of “Princess of
    Mars”. I once saw test footage for an animated John Carter film that
    was made by Fleischer Studios back in the 1940’s. Nothing came of
    that. For those who complain about John Carter leaping around like
    Superman- remember John Carter came first- “Princess of Mars” was about an Earthman going to another planet to become a super-hero. Superman
    reversed this & had an alien come to earth to become a Superman. I
    think that’s the biggest problem “John Carter ” has to overcome- too
    many critics are complaining that they’ve already seen such scenes in
    other movies, forgetting that “Princess of Mars” was the book that
    first originated these ideas !Oh, and Pellucidar has been brought to the big screen as “At The Earth’s Core” (1976) with Doug McClure & Peter Cushing !I’ve heard the reason “Of Mars” was dropped from the title was because of the failure of “Mars Needs Moms”.

    • I was actually aware they JUST started up a Dirk Gently series on the BBC. I think they’re up to episode two or three. But even with that recent production, Dirk is still a poor relation to Arthur Dent. Arthur is a household word, where Dirk is his hardworking younger brother. Another George Harrison.

  15. He never rises? He’s pretty high right now, and I for one am not very interested in seeing anything new based on Tarzan. I’d love to see a few sequels to this movie, more so than anything else I’ve seen in the last few years, and there have been sequels to some fairly poor movies, so I wouldn’t rule it out.
    And If anyone needs proof of how cool a concept John Carter of Mars is, just check out the opening issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume Two, rather a good comic in my opinion.

  16. postmasterkeith

    ERB is being honored with a US stamp this year. Tarzan shares the stamp image with him. But you can still organize local events and have the local post office set up a one time special pictorial postmark that would tie in to any of his works.

  17. Hey Ty!
    An interesting post and I did get your hep references Dirk Gently is a fun read! ; )
    But to be honest I did not feel the need to see this film because to me it was another film in a long line of WHITE MAN/ BOY SAVES THE WORLD films and I am truly beyond tired of that trope and genre.
    Glad that it made you relive your halcyon days but for me it was just a rehashed idea of with the white male as outsider saves the savages, and that is just too lame for words for me.
    Pax : )

    • I appreciate your view on the matter, but I think there’s one element you’ve overlooked to this specific story. John Carter was a Confederate soldier. Here’s a guy whose self-image has largely been built on fighting for the side that worshiped at the altar of slavery, but when he finds himself on Barsoom surrounded by people of different species, he doesn’t create a mental pecking order based on which species most resemble him. Indeed, he clearly values the four-armed, green Tharks over the seemingly white human-ish Therns. (Yes, the Red Men of Mars are white people with a bunch of red tattoos; that’s because red skin just would not photograph well and in the novels they were always pure red.)

      Now, of course, one can easily interpret the species of Barsoom as allegories for various races and it’s pretty obvious that’s what Burroughs intended to evoke. Again, though, why create a Confederate protagonist if not to show that John Carter rose above his heritage? Burroughs could easily have made John Carter a tough guy from any era. That specificity, I think, invites us to read him as a tale of redemption of sorts.

      You’re welcome, of course, to disagree with my interpretation and were you to suggest my perspective is one of white privilege, I’m not sure I could offer a concrete rebuttal. You must take my word for it that I do make a point to find a perspective beyond the one of my circumstances (you’re welcome to consult my blog or Twitter feed). Even at that, though, does it not count for something that I’ve made an effort to see a race-positive element at play, or that Burroughs seems to have intended one?

  18. I did write my comment to Ty but you feel the need to explain the meaning of this series to me.
    I do disagree with your interpretation, thanks for giving me permission. ; )
    You see the thing is its is the same old story over and over again. (The film Avatar)
    White male is the savior of the oppressed people. Tarzan an orphan raised by apes in the jungle is much better at doing things and commanding the animals than say the natives who were living there for thousands of years.
    I remember reading the bio and watching the film “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” She was playing the part of a Queen of a jungle tribe who gets rescued by Tarzan, but it is he who leads her to safety. When Dandridge suggested to the director of the film ( I am paraphrasing) why would Tarzan know the jungle better than the Queen of a tribe who was born and raised there? Why would she not know her own way home?” The directors basically told her to be quiet and stop talking nonsense.
    And then there is the the trope of the White outsider who comes and learns about himself from the supposed others and learns to be the better human, but he ( the white outsider) is always the leader the one looked to by the “others”,” the aliens”, “the savages”.
    “Here is a quote about the Tarzan books in regards to the racism in them.
    Some critics complain of racist undertones in the original Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan stories. The original series of Burroughs books rationalize that Tarzan, due to inherent genetic superiority, is able to accomplish feats that the dark-skinned natives – despite living in the area for centuries – cannot. For instance, Tarzan communicates and commands many of the animals, learns to read, and adapts to the African jungle with more skill than the native-born Africans.”

    Read more at Suite101: Original Tarzan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hero or Racist? | Suite101.com http://marian-henderson.suite101.com/original-tarzan-of-edgar-rice-burroughs-hero-or-racist-a347625#ixzz1q3iUQwqT

    And here is another link discussing and disputing, rather well what you have stated to me in your rebuttal to my comment.

    http://fourfour.typepad.com/fourfour/2012/03/john-carter-is-so-bad.html

    I am as I said beyond tried of the meme, trope, plot device, whatever you wish to tag it as, of the White Male saves the world and is better, smarter and the ideal leader to the natives.
    And really I am supposed to applaud a Confederate soldier rising above his racist heritage? And that ERB made that bit of an effort? That is so condescending.

    And if Edgar Rice Buroughs wanted to try something really interesting and daring he could have made John Carter a black slave from that time and transported him to Mars to help the Martians in their strife. But let us be honest would you have read those books, or that comic book or wanted to see that film?

    Yes your premise is born of white male privilege, but it would have been really refreshing and enlightened if you owned that fact, instead of trying word your way around it.

    Yes I am way past wanting to see films of this ilk. But if you enjoyed it then that is great.

    Pax

    • I would LOVE to read a story of a black slave transported to Mars and rising to save all the Martians. HELL yeah! You’re right that Tarzan is a racist character (and one of the reasons I never really warmed to him, in the novels, he treats the local Waziri as his servants more than a few times, which never made a damn bit of sense to me as a kid), but the original John Carter novels are surprisingly progressive for their era. Not only are the various races of Barsoom undisguised analogues for Native Americans, Christian Whites and Africans, the Native American metaphors (Tharks) come across as the most honorable, and the Christians (Therns and First Born) as damnable villains. (Gods of Mars is as strong an indictment of organized religion as you’re likely to find in a popular novel of the time!)
      I understand that you’ve read enough of handsome white male heroes, though. There are a surfeit of ‘em, no doubt.

      • Maybe Ty to “test the market” a bit by doing an edition of Bun Toons some Saturday morning, but make the bunny black instead of white. That way we could all see how it might play out.

        Well, on second thought, he would probably be accused of being racist in having a “black-face bunny” masquerading in the serious literature that encompasses comic books. Gotta love comic book fandom…

        Cheers!

        Steven Willis
        XOWComics.com

        • There’s a bit of a difference between suggesting a Barsoom story involving another human character from Earth at the same time, and changing my self portrait. Don’t forget, John Carter wasn’t the protagonist in a few of the novels, including two that featured a DIFFERENT Earthman named Ulysses Paxton, who also travels to Barsoom. The suggestion of a slave doing so in a third human transition to Barsoom is actually a damn cool idea, one deserving of less derision than this, I’d think.

    • I did write my comment to Ty but you feel the need to explain the meaning of this series to me.
      I do disagree with your interpretation, thanks for giving me permission. ; )

      I fear my remarks were read with a paternalistic arrogance that I certainly did not intend. It seemed presumptuous of me to assume you were familiar with the source material, as you leveled your charge of white narcissism specifically against the film and made no mention of the novels. How was I to know from that lone paragraph to what extent you were acquainted with the series?

      Regarding Tarzan, I can only say that I readily agree with your criticisms of that character and his mythology but that I also find it somewhat unfair to conflate it with John Carter.

      As for my own perspective on the matter, I accept your criticism but I do find it rather harsh. I can think of nothing thoughtful to say that doesn’t smack of “Shit White People Say,” so I’ll respectfully decline to go further. I would only ask you to consider this: Even if Burroughs had been inclined to write an African-American protagonist (and, yes, that is an incarnation that I think would have kicked nine kinds of ass), might we not now be debating how disingenuous it was for him to try to write that character a century ago? How could he have presented it to the mainstream readership he sought without resorting to something insulting?

      Indeed, this occasions me to ask: When did the first positive portrayals of African-American protagonists appear in American literature, written by white authors? I’ll look into that later, and I want you to know I will also ruminate further on this topic. I am reluctant to hijack Mr. Templeton’s blog as much as I am resistant to responding with knee-jerk thoughts.

  19. Thanks for responding and understanding Ty.
    I do love your blog as I like to learn new things and you always do it in a fun, funny and enlightened way.
    But yes alas John Carter as he is in this film and as he was written is not for me. : )
    Oh and I would so LOVE my idea of a black slave John Carter to be a reality too. That would be way swift! But it took the richest movie maker and one of the most successful in the world after being turned down by Hollywood to make the film Red Tails and still not so many people went to see that.

  20. You Steven Willis are simply pure comedy.

  21. Hey everybody. The biggest problem with the internet is that tone of voice, and body language and all the other things that carry meaning well when people are in the room, don’t work as well on the blank posting board of a blog. SO…I’ve interacted with everyone here a number of times, and found you all to be interesting, clever, and lovely people, who would all like each other if they in the same room, I’m sure of that.
    Let’s put on some music, it’s really a lovely afternoon.

  22. Glad you enjoyed the movie so much Ty! I had a sinking feeling you would be disappointed, given how everything gets updated for modern audiences, so it’s nice to hear the film was good to fans.

  23. Woah, wait up – hasn’t Dejah always worn pasties? In all the images I see, it’s all pasties, pasties, pasties…

  24. Hello Travis McClain,
    You found my response harsh, but then in truth I found what you wrote to be condescending. I did by the way read your blog about the film John Carter and you did not once address any of what I suggested in terms of the white male as savoir trope. You were more concerned with the way the film was structured and the lameo attempts to make the film something akin to Star Wars and the Cowboys and Aliens films. This is what bothered you most about John Carter, not a jot about what I said as my bone of contention with this film and why I will not be seeing it and the books that I will never read for the same reason. As a woman of colour I am so tired of this trope, and the white privilege attached to it.
    Well I find that most of the comic book sci/fi loving genre hardly if ever consider the consistent and historical racism and sexism of the films and or books, for whatever reasons they may have. I do have my ideas of these reasons but I do not wish to go into my speculations and unless my “harsh” on you and the other readers.
    I too am a fan of Deep Space 9 and I adore Captain Benjamin Sisiko, but I also loved the episode “Far beyond the Stars”, where he is a black writer who writes of a black space Captain but the story idea is shot down as unrealistic, because no one could ever believe a black man as a captain let alone a space captain!
    So you see my re-imagining of John Carter is not really a bad idea, but it would never have been done, and I highly doubt that ERB would have written John Carter as such for he was not so enlightened per se. But maybe they could have changed it for the movie? I mean why not they change Aang, Katara and Sokka and made them white for that really bad film? But that is a moot point.
    Yes tone is not readily apparent on the internet and comments boards and unless you write an insipid LOL behind everything no one can get one’s tonal gist.

    If you do find out anything in your quest for Black characters in any literature that are not derogatory or deeming ( I do not say African American because we are not all American, some of us are British/Canadian. :-) ), I would be more than ever so please to read what you find.
    Until then pax.

    Hepburn3

    • I do hope you accept me at my word that I sincerely did not intend any offense or condescension, and I want you to know I not patronizing you when I say that I really am giving this a great deal of thought. Also, allow me to thank you for your civility and thoughtful, articulate responses. Too often, discourse online consists of hostile talking points and I want you to know how much I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to offer more substance than that.

      As a fellow “Niner,” we clearly have the basis to become pals! :P For my money, “Far Beyond the Stars” was the single finest hour of the entire Star Trek franchise. Having the main cast (and even some of the secondary recurring character actors) appear without makeup really punctuated the story’s attempt to pull back the allegorical mask of Star Trek and really address the issue at hand.

      Totally off-topic DS9 aside
      My favorite Sisko moment, though, wasn’t even in that episode. It’s in “Badda-Bing Badda-Bang.” Sisko resists going to the Holosuite of Vic Fontaine’s because, even though he’s allowed into the program, he would not have been allowed into the club as it really would have been in the early 20th Century. It’s a point of distinction rarely made in futuristic entertainment, or even in our own modern era re-dressings of a lot of our past.

      Somewhat less off-topic query
      Also, I have to ask as this has crossed my mind in the past: Is there an equivalent to our hyphenated ethnic terms outside our American borders? Are there self-identified African-Canadians or Asian-Brits or what have you? Just a curiosity I’ve had for years but never thought to ask anyone who might be able to answer it.

  25. Oh and Ty what you said about tone is so true.
    Thanks ever so much. :-)

    p.s. what are we listening to? ;-)

  26. Yes there are other self-identifying terms used by people of colour. :-)
    Most people in Britain just refer to themselves a British, which I do when I was living and studying there.
    But when I am home in Canada I am African/British/Canadian but I sometimes do not do so for some people just read the tag and assume something else of me.
    And it is always okay to ask questions for it is far better than to live in the blank or vacuum of the insipid.
    I am always civil for I see no need to be rude or use invective towards another.

    p.s. I believe your sincerity and I do look forward to what you discover. :-)

    pax and laters to you Travis!

    Hepburn3

    • I really have looked more into this! I would be lying if I said I’ve spent the entire last month on it, but I have poked around some sources online and in my own library, and I’ve had a few conversations with others offline about the topic.

      It’s difficult to establish the earliest positive portrayals of African-Americans in literature. As near as I can tell, no white author bothered with an African-American protagonist for quite some time. African-American themes and issues were first explored in poetry (Lucy Therry wrote the first known poem by an African-American in 1749, though it was not published until a century later). Slave narratives, such as the moving writings of Frederick Douglass, gave readers their first real positive African-American figures in prose but these were largely works of non-fiction or, in the case of Uncle Tom’s Cabin a sort of composite of various real stories.

      The writing career of Paul Laurence Dunbar (first published in 1888 with a pair of poems) offers us a chance to see that even the earliest post-emancipation writings invited criticism for their portrayals of African-Americans. Dunbar often wrote with an emphasis on dialect which he felt more accurately reflected his subjects, but it also created the sense that African-American characters were less intelligent or were more cartoonish than recognizable as real people.

      One thing that has frustrated my research into this is that so much of the more commonly available criticism of portrayals of African-Americans in literature focus on poetry and works of non-fiction. Novels are often dismissed almost like throwaway writing exercises by even the more prolific writers. “Oh, sure, DuBois wrote some fiction but his real work was The Souls of Black Folk.” This itself, I think, invites us to ponder just why we’re so limited in discussing the canon of African-American literature that we aren’t more attentive to works of prose fiction.

      • Hello Travis, lovely to hear back from you again. :-)
        I was going to mention this author to you before your quest but I thought that maybe you might discover her yourself.
        When I was doing my undergrad degree in Comparative Lit. I took a course in Romance and Orientalism lit. (not necessarily novels in the romance languages but the genre itself). We looked at specifically the use of and the placement of “The Other” as protagonist or antagonist in the stories.
        For the most part the protagonist in the romance novels we looked at were female and white and the the heros male and white but in some cases they were not. One such case was the short novella by Aphra Behn
        “Oroonoko” it was published in 1688.
        It is a problematic novel in the way it deals with the protagonist the African slave Oroonoko and slavery and the idea of a white person writing in a black slave’s voice/point of view. I recall our class discussions and they made for great discourse and it was great 2 hour class! Our Professor ran it more as seminar class, but I digress.
        Here is the link about “Oroonoko” via wikipedia:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oroonoko

        It is also considered the first English novel, or one of the very first.

        Laters
        Hepburn3 :-)

  27. I still think John Carter wears too many clothes in this film. At very least he could have been wearing something out of, say, 300 or the like rather than that massive kilt.

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