January 23, 2010KR BlogKR

Of Avatars, Of Bodies, Of Heroes – Part 1

“How is it done ??? / remolding body into / image of body,” writes Samiya Bashir in the poem “Topographic Shifts,” from her latest book, Gospel (Redbone Press, 2009).


The poem describes an amputation performed on a baby girl born with twelve fingers and toes, but these lines make me think, of course, about the pressure so many women feel to alter our bodies: how the “image of [the idealized] body” worries, haunts, maims.

What I love about Bashir’s work is how her poems work against this enforced correcting. Many of her poems thrum with the erotic joy of queer black bodies, and her work celebrates the lived experiences of bodies that resist “remolding.”

You see, ever since I watched the movie Avatar, I’ve been on a search for poems by queer women of color that gives us back our bodies.

(Some spoilers after the jump.)

Much good ink has been spilled (good pixels darkened?) about the problematic racial dynamics of Avatar. (This is one of my favorites on the subject.) So I won’t belabor the point here, but will simply say that during the entire two hours and forty minutes of the movie, the part of my brain that processes the politics of pop culture wouldn’t shut up, and the slight nausea I felt afterward was not only due to the 3-D glasses.


One thing that really got me, and which I haven’t yet seen much mention elsewhere, was how Michelle Rodriguez’s character, Trudy, is slotted into the role of the strong, brave woman of color who ultimately sacrifices herself for the greater cause. Really? Again?

But what if ??? I started thinking ??? what if Trudy were the main character?

As a Latina, her joining forces with the Na’vi would be an exciting act of solidarity. She would come to see that those who would colonize Pandora are the same as those who had colonized her ancestors. And she would hop on Toruk, the wild and ferocious dragon-like creature, and fly off to defeat the colonizers once and for all.


And why assume heterosexuality on Pandora? Any society as advanced as the Na’vi would clearly recognize and honor all sexualities. Let’s have Trudy and Neytiri fall in love ??? we can keep the same plot developments with of the jealous warrior/boyfriend, and the magical night under the luminescent Tree of Voices.

tree of voices

I won’t indulge in speculating here about whether or not Rodriguez is actually queer, but she could certainly play one in 3-D. Hear that? That’s the sound of swooning dykes “

What an fun movie this would be: a queer woman of color as the hero of a Christmas blockbuster!

But reality descends. Yesterday, my sweetheart sent me a link to this story about how Danny Glover can’t get funding for his movie about Toussaint L’Ouverture and the revolution that freed Haiti ??? because it doesn’t have a white hero.

Hollywood’s not about to give us the heroes ??? those transgressive, transformative bodies and spirits ??? that we queers of color might want to see on the big screen.

O.K.. If not to the movies, then to poetry I go.

What poems? Which heroes? Tune in next week to find out!