A lot of people think the worst of adults who watch cartoons or enjoy comic books and I really don’t see why, case these things you deem childish really wield immeasurable power. Sci-fi and fantasy saved me from a life of self-loathing and a lack of purpose, illness and here’s why.
Comics & Graphic novels mean so much to me because of the rich and unconventional representation conveyed in them. The first powerful women I saw on TV that looked like me where Uhura in Star Trek and Storm in the X-Men cartoons. I feel like as a child my Mum really encouraged me to watch cartoons and read comics because these pieces of media are arguably the world’s last truly pure art-forms, cure nothing was watered down or made to fit inorganic cookie cutter moulds.
My English teacher once called hope ‘childish dreams and the stuff of adult nightmares’ – children watch the X-Men and marvel at the beautiful beings and their dedication to saving the world, but adults see the complex nature of villains and the powerful reflection of our judgemental and bigoted society in these narratives.
I find it very difficult to enjoy contemporary pieces of art/media because I find it hard to find traces of myself in anything I consume – and by this I don’t mean the archetypal black girl. I mean complex, intense, weird, non-conforming black girl. As much as I value the heroes and villains of today, I think that it is very important to hold on to the heroes and narratives we’ve already been blessed with. We have so many diverse and complex characters within the fantasy/sci-fi genre of art and literature and we can’t afford to forget them, we can’t just settle for 20th Century Fox’s representation of the X-Men, because anything tailored for mainstream audiences will have it’s message altered drastically, simply to suit a commercial market. And we know that the fantasy/sci-fi genre is so much hitting sales targets.
I recently read an extract from an article on Themarysue about how Legend of Korra helped a young woman of colour validate her experiences and life journey; “Seeing a woman of colour validate my experiences meant more to me than words can express. Before Korra came along, I was unconsciously taught by the media that these kinds of things only happen to white people. I felt so alone until Korra and her spiritual journey told me I wasn’t” I was so moved that I cried, because I know exactly what she felt in that moment. When I watched the X-Men I would feel so strong and invincible – complex women like Ororo Monroe and Korra made me feel like I could do anything in the world; go against the grain, raze corrupt institutions, fight a dragon, save the world, do good at school, feel better about being alone.
I’m blessed and privileged to have a Mother who is so open-minded and complex, so much so, that she could decode all these amazing pieces of art and make fantasy the centre of my formative years, because I don’t think I would have gotten by without this reassurance and these reminders that I am powerful and awesome. The media has such a strong impact in our lives and in the way we piece together our perceptions of our roles in society, it’s really important to consume the right kind of media and spread the right kind of message.
Written by Tara Nafisao