the boy done wrong again

One of the things that Mr. Gaiman discussed, during the reading I was at, was the rather entertaining bit of information that he wrote Anansi Boys after a long chat with Lenny Henry. NG claimed he wanted to write a book in which "the default setting, like in almost all books, is not white and in which I'd have to tell people if the character was white". I thought I'd follow E's AYP post with one about colour. People's skin colours, to be precise.

I just came back from watching The Last King of Scotland. If ever I'm fortunate enough to graduate to the point where I get to teach a class where I can get my kids to watch films, I'd choose this for the session in which we will discuss East-West identity-formation and the perils of (white people's) Liberalism. Yes, there were flaws but, overall, the film was an excellent example of how a (white, of course; also, pale and floppy-haired) Scottish doctor goes over to Uganda to help the people there and gets enmeshed in Idi Amin's activities. He becomes Amin's personal physician, gets caught up in a life of wine (being Scottish, it's whiskey), women (the President's wife, no less) and song (Loch Lomond as sung by Ugandan women).

In addition to the earnest young doctor, the film has the usual tropes--a shrewd (English) diplomat, menacing (black Ugandan) security folks, the (noble, of course) local (black, again) doctor who saves our young lad's life, and the committed yet practical (white) missionary couple. But then it subverts our understandings of these as well as illustrates how there are interconnections among peoples, then and now. Looking at the young Scottish doctor, I realise how many similar people I know today, most of whom hang about at TUWSNBN. The mechanics through which the Scots doctor constitutes others--the oppressive, colonial "English" (distinct from Scottish); the beautiful, available, married women (both black and white); the admirable and strong African ("this is Africa. You reply to violence with violence," says our hero to the local British diplomat) are similar to that by which Amin ("you think this is a game? this is not a game. It' real life") frames the (white) doctor and the (Asian) businessfolks.

It also subverts the usual heroic narrative--the good don't get rewarded, the bad don't get punished and people caught up in events usually end up in nasty ways. The (white) doctor is called Amin's "white monkey" while Amin himself, clad in a brightly-patterned kilt and with sons called Campbell and MacKenzie, is the Last King of Scotland. Obvious, yes. A good teaching tool, I very much reckon so.

In the end, things happen because the people who do it don't know why they do it. Or, we can look at reasons but people who do stuff usually don't have the time (or the inclination) to sit about and contemplate why they are doing said stuff. They just do it. When the local (black, of course) doctor is helping Our Hero to escape and OH asks why he's doing it, the local doctor replies, "I don't know". Sometimes, stuff is done. And, that's it.


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