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'Noah's Arc' returns, comic corrections: The Lavender Tube's animated discussion on representation

by Victoria A. Brownworth

'Noah's Arc' cast members Merwin Mondesir, Jensen Atwood and Darryl Stephens.
'Noah's Arc' cast members Merwin Mondesir, Jensen Atwood and Darryl Stephens.  

Black Lives Mattered in recent broadcasts, and casting decisions in animated series; plus, the popular 'Noah's Arc' will enjoy a new episode and online cast reunion.

Noah's Arc
Noah's Arc, a Logo original series created by Patrik-Ian Polk (Being Mary Jane) was groundbreaking. The two-season series featured four black gay friends living in Los Angeles and their queer cohort. The men were sexy and hot and relatable AF, but more than anything, they were Black at a time when there were few Black characters on TV and hardly any gay characters of color. Noah's Arc addressed a plethora of issues from same-sex marriage and parenthood to HIV/AIDS to homophobia. There were relationship issues and there was a lot of buffness on display. It was Black Looking nearly a decade earlier.

Noah's Arc ran from October 2005 through October 2006. After the series was cancelled, Polk released Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom in 2008. The film was a continuation of the series. In 2019, Logo began streaming the series on its YouTube channel.

Now there will be a new addition to the Noah's Arc compendia, airing July 5 at 8pm EST on Polk's YouTube and Facebook. The special episode is titled "Noah's Arc: The Rona Chronicles" and is being sponsored by Gilead. A live Q&A moderated by Queer Eye's Karamo Brown follows the hour-long special with cast members Darryl Stephens, Jensen Atwood, Rodney Chester, Doug Spearmen, Christian Vincent, and Gregory Keith.
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LEFT: Hari Kondabolu vs. 'The Simpsons'' Apu. RIGHT: Mike Henry, voice actor for 'Family Guy's Cleveland Brown  

The Simpsons
Raise your hand if you had no idea that characters of color in major animated series have been voiced by white actors for decades. On June 26, The Simpsons, the longest running scripted prime time series on TV which is syndicated in more that 100 countries, announced it would no longer have white actors voice characters of color.

"Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters," producers of the show said in a brief statement.

That was it; seriously.

Other animated series followed suit. Mike Henry, the voice actor for the Family Guy character Cleveland Brown, said he would step down from the role he has played since the series debuted in 1999.

We thought this issue had been addressed a few years ago by stand up comedian and writer Hari Kondabolu, the star, creator, and executive director of The Problem with Apu, a documentary about Apu, the Indian convenience store manager from The Simpsons who for years was the only Indian character on primetime.

Kondabolu's documentary premiered in November 2017 on TruTV and is described as "contextualizing Apu within minstrelsy and other tropes in American pop culture history that have historically stereotyped minorities."

Actor Hank Azaria voiced Apu from 1990 until January 2020 when he announced he would no longer be voicing the character due to the bias implications. Azaria has also voiced the characters of black police officer Lou, black power plant employee Carl Carlson and the Mexican-American Bumblebee Man.

Harry Shearer, who is white, voices Black character Dr. Julius Hibbert on The Simpsons and he will also be exiting that role.

The Simpsons' producers' statement did not say whether Apu or the other characters would remain on the series.
Henry said of his Black character on Family Guy, "It's been an honor to play Cleveland on 'Family Guy' for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role."

Jenny Slate of Big Mouth and Kristen Bell of Central Park have also said they will no longer voice non-white characters.

After the announcement by The Simpsons, Hari Kondabolu tweeted, "Re: The Simpsons using People of Color to voice minority characters. All it took was 30 years, a documentary, more relevant shows doing it first & a conversation about racism spurred by police brutality & murder."

We have so much more work to do.


Amanda Seales hosted the 2020 BET Awards  

BET Awards
Black Lives Matter. That was the theme of the BET Awards on June 28, which featured some amazing performances.
Insecure actress Amanda Seales hosted and put the entire evening as well as the past few weeks of nationwide protested in perspective. Seales opened the socially distanced BET Awards with this searing commentary:

"Now, folks always say, 'All Amanda ever does it talk about race,'" she said. "Well listen, I would love to talk about regular, everyday things, but racism always beats me to it. For instance, candy. Who don't like candy? But whenever I try to talk about Skittles, I remember Trayvon Martin. I would love to talk about ice cream. It's a delicious treat. But each time I do, I am reminded of Botham Jean. Who doesn't appreciate some shut-eye? Man, I had a nap in 2015 that was so good it felt like Black Jesus tucked me in. I still talk about it to this day. But that's a wrap. Because now I can't even dream of speaking about sleeping knowing Breonna Taylor's killers have not been arrested. When I said, 'I don't got the time, I'm on my trampoline,' I meant it, 'cause give it a minute, and racism gonna take the bounce of that, too."

Searing, gutting, heartbreaking. It also is a stunning reminder to white people of how racism touches even the most seemingly casual aspects of life for people of color.


Hamilton screens on Disney+ July 3  

Hamilton
No plans for Independence Day due to the pandemic? Do something really gay and also patriotic: Watch Hamilton, which Disney+ is premiering July 3. The Tony-winning hip-hop musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda became the hottest ticket on Broadway in 2015. A performance featuring the original cast was filmed in 2016. It was due to be released theatrically in October 2021. Disney scrapped those plans and is instead releasing the film, which it says represents a "leap forward in the art of live capture" of theatrical performances, for streaming.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical is a tour de force and, with its largely BIPOC cast, a radical repurposing of a time in American history when such faces were mostly hidden from history. In the context of the current fight for racial justice, Miranda's musical has an insurrectionist element: Viewing white history through the lens of a creator of color is a radical act. And the music is undeniably awesome.


Millie Bobby Brown as 'Enola Holmes'  

Sherlock Holmes
Finally, the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has sued Netflix over its upcoming film Enola Holmes, arguing that the movie's depiction of public domain character Sherlock Holmes having emotions and respecting women violates Doyle's copyright.

The film depicts a nonconforming teenaged sister of Holmes and his feelings of protection are an element of the film. Enola Holmes stars Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown, with Henry Cavill as Sherlock, and is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer. The film is scheduled for a September release on Netflix.

See the court documents at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6956021-Sherlock.html

Toxic masculinity is so fragile—which is why we are divesting of it faster than Confederate statues. Change is in the air and on the airwaves. So you know, you must stay tuned.

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