Death of Good Taste
by DICK CHENEY
Into The Badlands
creators Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have a sketch in their new Netflix series W/Bob and David where a white director explains the genesis of his movie Better Roots. Ironically two white men have also teamed up on the AMC network to launch their version of the slave story called Into the Badlands.
Into the Badlands takes place on a massive plantation where young boys are either trained as ninjas or put to work in fields cultivating heroin. Young women aren't allowed to become warriors, so they are exclusively limited to farmwork. Sonny (Daniel Wu) is the top slave (in David Cross' terminology, "helper") who has a tattoed mark on his back representing every person he has killed for his master (Martin Csokas).
Despite the extensive slave allegory, exactly one of the helpers is black. You can see him slightly to the right of Csokas in the above photograph. Recently Adam Sandler had a huge problem recruiting Native Americans to play a role in his offensive movie The Ridiculous Six, which coincidentally also will air on Netflix. They have entirely corned the market in racism and anti-racism.
So why use all this plantation imagery if you aren't actually going to include any black people or make any other reference to slavery except the plantation gear and southern accents? The creators of Into the Badlands can't really be blamed for this bizarre mishmash of signification. I mean, were they to be expected to read Olaudah Equino or the provocative work of Phyllis Wheatley? There is no serious evidence that the people who wrote this show can read, period.
You know, a lot of people have been asking me what I thought of what happened at the University of Missouri this month. I settled down with a chai latte, in my finest robe, and read the list of demands that the black students there came up with. Nothing on their list seemed terribly drastic. I mean, I think they were asking for like ten percent of faculty to be professors of color and maybe for some outreach. The real reason the university fired their president was because the football team went on strike. It's only the university at fault that the threat worked.
I'm happy that Lee Daniels made some money off Empire before he totaled it like a car for the insurance money, but I still think about Roots. For my younger readers, Roots was a miniseries that actually contained some of what African people experienced when they were dragged from their homes to this country. It did huge ratings on television; everyone was really into it although it was probably never merchandised like it should have been.
Roots was succesful because it was nothing that had ever been seen on television. Now violence is pretty de rigeur. Daniel Wu is an amazing stuntman and he kills about forty people in the pilot of Into the Badlands alone. To his credit, he is upset about it afterwards. In the mishmash world of Into the Badlands there are no guns, so there is no credible reason that there would even be slaves. Guns enabled slavery to happen in the absence of overwhelming force.
African-Americans aren't the only victims of this tripe. A living woman does not appear until after twenty minutes of Into the Badlands. She is the wife of Martin Csokas' Baron character and she is portrayed by Irish actress Orla Brady. Her husband is cheating on her with this trollop —
— but she accepts the situation because such is the plight of women on Into the Badlands. Make no mistake, creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar want you to know this is a corrupt and dangerous world. There is a place of hope that Daniel Wu and his lisping protege M.K. (Aramis Knight) are planning on reaching; it is roughly based off the plot of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. Evil women are set on foiling the plans of these men. One such individual is the Widow (Emily Beecham), who murdered her husband for power.
I am somewhat skeptical that anything positive will come of this. Into the Badlands might occur in a terrible place and time in human history, but there is no evidence that its masters realize just how bad things are. If you have sensed the allegory I am making to the University of Missouri, you are probably next in line for your own AMC series.
The funny thing is that in a previous generation, college protestors asked for a complete turnover of a new world order and soldiers brought home from endless military engagement abroad. Now kids are only asking for the people driving around their campus with Confederate flags to be expelled, and that's too much. Perhaps they could include on their list of demands the cancellation of Into the Badlands. (The whole thing was in rather poor taste, although Daniel Wu's martial arts stunts were admittedly impressive.) It is no problem satisfying American youths today. I am ready to become the next president of the University of Missouri. That's an easy fucking job.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.
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