Look! A Zombie! Race and Passing in ‘iZombie’

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-11-01 00:01Z by Steven

Look! A Zombie! Race and Passing in ‘iZombie’


Rukmini Pande
University of Western Australia

iZombie’spassing” narrative complicates its broader racial politics.

As the fall season of US TV swings into gear, the CW’s undead caper iZombie seems poised for an interesting second outing. Helmed by Rob Thomas (of Veronica Mars fame), the show’s first season was received well by both critics and audiences, and was quickly renewed.

To recap briefly, the show follows Olivia (Liv) More (Rose McIver), a driven MD whose life is turned upside down when she is turned into a zombie. Now working in a morgue, Liv finds out that the brains she eats give her memories of the deceased persons’ lives, specifically, murder victims’ memories.

She teams up with police detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) to track down various killers, while also attempting to find a cure for zombie-ism (with her ally/boss, Ravi Chakrabarthi [Rahul Kohli]). She also has to try and outwit Blaine (David Anders), an ex-drug dealer turned zombie who has created a new business out of infecting influential people and controlling them through their desire for brains.

The show has garnered kudos for its interesting plot and diverse casting—Ravi is British-Indian, Clive is African-American, and Blaine has a number of non-white accomplices—yet its narrative choices end up complicating its broader racial politics…

…Passing and Survival

The practice of passing is a complex one but may be broadly seen as occurring when, as Brooke Kroeger explains, “people effectively present themselves as other than who they understand themselves to be” (Kroeger Passing: when people can’t be who they are. New York: Public Affairs; 2003: 7). This is a deliberate fashioning of identity presentation and has been practiced across demarcations of race, gender, sexuality, and sometimes religion. While the reasons that people attempt to pass are diverse, it’s most often a “strategy for managing stigma” (Einwohner, Rachel L. “Identity Work and Collective Action in a Repressive Context: Jewish Resistance on the “Aryan Side” of the Warsaw Ghetto.” in Identity Work in Social Movements. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 2006: 121–139.126) and is employed in situations where being “outed” carries heavy consequences.

Interconnected to this is the acknowledgement that the ability to pass depends on various factors, including physical appearance, income, and community relations. As Allyson Hobbs writes in A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America (2014), to pass successfully a person must distance themselves from their community, and the community in turn must do the same. All these factors play into the narrative of iZombie at various points, but by making this a conversation about white bodies, it ignores the historical conditions of that construction, especially in America. In a culture where the raced body is always the one under scrutiny and most likely to suffer policing, the effects of structuring a narrative that places white bodies into that space without adequate critical engagement is dangerous…

Read the entire article here.

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Passing For White

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-10-19 21:40Z by Steven

Passing For White

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

David Crary
The Associated Press

America is more diverse than ever and racial pride is strong, yet a new movie and book are highlighting a phenomenon that seems like a relic of the segregationist past — black people passing as white.

The film, The Human Stain, is an adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel about a classics professor, played by Anthony Hopkins, who conceals his racial background.

The book, Passing: When People Can’t Be Who They Are, by Brooke Kroeger, includes a sympathetic profile of a black man who passed as a white Jew during the 1980s and ’90s.

Kroeger, a New York University journalism professor who spent four years researching her book, said passing has a profound resonance for many black Americans.

“Over and over, I’d hear personal stories about members of their family who didn’t return for reunions, who led clandestine lives,” she said.

“Traditionally, the attitude toward passing was you accepted it, you never exposed a passer. Post-1960s, when people are so proud of their racial and ethnic identities, it seems more like cultural treason, yet still people don’t give passers up.”

Paul Johnston, a retired X-ray technician, knows of passing firsthand. His parents, Albert and Thyra Johnston, passed as white along with Paul and his three older siblings while the family lived in two New Hampshire towns during the 1930s and ’40s. Albert was a physician in the community.

The truth of the Johnstons’ background came out in 1941, when Albert was rejected as a Navy officer. But despite the family’s fears, townspeople in Keene, N.H., were generally receptive to them even after the news spread, and the Johnstons’ experience was movingly depicted in a 1949 film, Lost Boundaries.

Paul Johnston, 68, is now married to a woman of Irish descent who has nine children from a previous marriage.

“Some of the kids were pretty prejudiced, but they grew to like me,” he said in a telephone interview. “They thought it was quite fascinating that something like this [his family’s passing] would happen.”

Johnston, who says some of his relatives continue to pass for white, lives in a predominantly white town on Cape Cod.

“Almost nobody knows of my background, not because I’ve kept it a secret, just because I haven’t talked about it much except to a few people in my church,” he said. “I don’t think it would make any difference to people, but you never can tell.”…

…In The Human Stain, Roth’s fictional protagonist, Coleman Silk, was loosely modeled on the late Anatole Broyard, for many years a prominent literary critic for The New York Times

Read the entire article here.

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350:445 Revisiting Racial Passing in the 21st Century

Posted in Course Offerings, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-11-01 04:01Z by Steven

350:445 Revisiting Racial Passing in the 21st Century

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Summer 2013

This is a course on racial passing, which many people wrongly believe is an antiquated phenomenon. Passing has historically referred to light-skinned African Americans who use their phenotypes to pretend to be white and enjoy the privileges of whiteness. As we will discuss in our seminar, today people pass in a variety of ways, and not just racially. For example, folks regularly pass economically, religiously, and/or through gender. In discussing contemporary passing, we will begin with President Barack Obama, who some have argued has engaged in a form of passing by having black skin yet “white politics.”

We will read primary and secondary material on this literary genre, to determine the tropes, images, themes, and formal elements that comprise “the passing narrative.” We will also consider the ways in which it has been expanded in this “post-race” era.

Primary texts will include:

Films will include: “Imitation of Life” (1934 & 1959) and “The Human Stain” (2003).

For more information, click here.

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Passing: When People Can’t Be Who They Are

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing on 2013-11-01 03:46Z by Steven

Passing: When People Can’t Be Who They Are

PublicAffiars an imprint of Perseus Books Group
288 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-58648-287-9
5 1/2 x 8 1/4

Brooke Kroeger, Professor of Journalism
New York University

Through the provocative stories of six contemporary “passers,” and examples from history and literature, a renowned journalist illuminates passing as a strategy for bypassing prejudice and injustice

Despite the many social changes of the last half-century, many Americans still “pass”: black for white, gay for straight, and now in many new ways as well. We tend to think of passing in negative terms—as deceitful, cowardly, a betrayal of one’s self. But this compassionate book reveals that many passers today are people of good heart and purpose whose decision to pass is an attempt to bypass injustice, and to be more truly themselves.

Passing tells the poignant, complicated life stories of a black man who passed as a white Jew; a white woman who passed for black; a working class Puerto Rican who passes for privileged; a gay, Conservative Jewish seminarian and a lesbian naval officer who passed for straight; and a respected poet who radically shifts persona to write about rock’n’roll. The stories, interwoven with others from history, literature, and contemporary life, explore the many forms passing still takes in our culture; the social realities which make it an option; and its logistical, emotional, and moral consequences. We learn that there are still too many institutions, environments, and social situations that force honorable people to twist their lives into painful, deceit-ridden contortions for reasons that do not hold.

Passing is an intellectually absorbing exploration of a phenomenon that has long intrigued scholars, inspired novelists, and made hits of movies like The Crying Game and Boys Don’t Cry.

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