Diversity Aboveground: Lessons from Home

Recently, a film was released about a girl of color who teaches an alien about the power of family while the alien helps her in return.

Lilo and Stitch

No, I don’t mean that one. The film is called Home and was made through DreamWorks Animation. Oh is a Boov who has made a mistake that could bring the Boov’s worst enemy right to them. Their enemy is called the Gorg.

Junior Gorg

No, this is not the Gorg you’re looking for. Gorg in Home is more of a mixture of the Witch King of Angmar, Ursula and Star from the “Good Night Show”. Yes, he is more menacing than Junior Gorg and he has good reason for hating the Boov.

The first half of the film bordered on boring as Oh and the other Boov were subject to cultural misunderstanding jokes of the lowest possible denominator. It’s the second half when Oh is forced to see everything he has ever been told was a lie. Oh has been taught to never doubt his leader, that the Boov are always right and everyone loves them. He still believes this even as the Boov invade Earth and move all its human inhabitants to Australia.

Tip doesn't like Oh

Tip is a 14 year old human girl whose mother has been taken to Australia while Tip remains behind. This film could have easily become another “White Saviour” film. A “White Saviour” film is where a main character, who is Caucasian, meets a person of another race, ethnicity or culture, takes over their life and changes it for the better as though the person of color was too inept, poor, stupid, etc. to do it themselves. The fact that Oh is an alien does not save him as many criticize Lilo & Stitch for putting Stitch into the Caucasian role and being a male on top of it. Instead of becoming a “White Saviour”, Oh has to learn how much his ignorance hurts others and pay for his mistakes.

Like colonists who took over the Americas and Australia, Oh was told that humans were simple savages who would embrace their captors. He can’t imagine why Tip would be so upset with him and his people. Why wouldn’t she be pleased that instead of just fixing her mom’s car, he has to “improve” it into something more to his liking?

Tip’s anger is only tempered at first by two things. First, it’s not long before she realizes just how little that Oh knows about pets, music, dancing and knowing that someone out there loves you. Second, Tip has been in Oh’s situation to a lesser degree. She knows what it’s like to be different. Tip is the first person of color to star in a DreamWorks animated feature, or to have “beautiful brown skin” as her mother calls it in the film, and she’s the first heroine of color to have her natural hair. Even though she was working two jobs to afford her own restaurant, Tiana still felt relaxer was a necessary expense in The Princess and the Frog. Tip grew up in Barbados and there are brief mentions how she and her mother moved to the United States for a better life, just as the Boov wanted. There were also customs and culture that were alien to her but had to be learned in order to finally fit in and make friends although the friends parts must still be elusive because her mother is the only person that she specifies missing. Still, Tip doesn’t keep her mouth shut when she feels Oh has wronged her or made a mistake. She’s strong without having to kill everyone in the room or make others feel inferior on a regular basis.

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Tip and Oh

Oh knows nothing of family because young Boov are raised in a communal existence with no ties to anyone else. He has to have Tip teach him the concept of mother and family. It comes up again and again that the Boov’s actions lead to the stripping of children from their families. However, these actions were also done in real life by humans who have no one to blame but themselves. The governments of Australia, the United States and Canada all forcibly took the children of their indigenous people and placed them elsewhere to remove their native identity while making them more like majority population. However, Oh finds himself in the opposite situation of learning from the indigenous people of Earth. He becomes a better person by accepting Tip as an equal and acknowledging all that she has taught him. The final proof of how far he has come is to be prepared to die for her and her family.

The lesson of how a person cannot blindly believe everything they are told is hammered home when Oh discovers that their supreme leader is responsible for the Gorg’s unending vengeance for the Boov. Even the Gorg has lessons and technology they could learn from. For a film made and marketed towards children, it’s remarkable that Home would address these more adult themes of the mistreatment of indigenous people, the government spreading misinformation, colonialism and the evils of the “White Saviour” mentality. Between that and the thumping soundtrack, it makes a subpar film in other aspects worth watching.

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Trevor Noah

This week Comedy Central announced Jon Stewart’s replacement for hosting “The Daily Show”. It will be Trevor Noah who has appeared as a correspondent several times in the last four months.

With Larry Wilmore hosting “The Nightly Show”, it was assumed that Comedy Central would play it safe for their flagship show and hire another male Caucasian like Jason Jones. While Noah kills the dream of having a female host for “The Daily Show”, he’s still an improvement in diversity. He was born and raised in South Africa where Apartheid made his parents’ biracial relationship illegal. His mother served time in prison over it. When was the last time you saw a host of anything televised who wasn’t either American or British? Plus, he and Larry Wilmore are still the exception, not the norm. Of the five broadcast channels with over ten late night shows, Tavis Smiley is the only minority who hosts on a regular basis.

Like Chris Hemsworth, Ben Kingsley and Cicely Tyson before him, Trevor Noah got his start on a soap opera in his native country before branching out. First, he became a media star by hosting various award shows and appearing on celebrity competitions like South Africa’s “Strictly Come Dancing”. Also like Hemsworth, he lost at dancing. Instead, Noah focused on a new love: comedy. This change was less than ten years ago and now he’s at one of the pinnacles of comedy: hosting his own late night show.

Trevor Noah did receive criticism for some earlier Tweets because a comedian saying problematic things is just shocking. Remember all the times that Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have been called to resign or apologize? Especially by Fox News? It’s also very doubtful that if Noah was truly Anti-Semitic that Jon Stewart, a devout Jew, would suggest him as a successor. Whether Noah is guilty of anything more than cheap laughs on Twitter will be proved once we see his behaviour around his correspondents and special guests, but there’s no firm date on when Noah will debut. Audiences should expect September at the earliest.

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Next week will be a time for Fairy Tales and more…

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