April 8th, 2009

Trading in Futures

Working on a little something about the dialectic(s) between dreadlocked aliens, Rastas in space (in reggae and sci-fi), and Jamaicans/Africans as “aliens” among us/US. If you have any other tips/refs in addition to these provocative pics (thx @rizzla_dj & @dizzyjosh for their Star Wars intel), do tell —



Bonus points for anyone who can name all the above!

Update: download the finished article as a PDF.

49 Comments

  • 1. wayneandwax  |  April 8th, 2009 at 9:48 am

    thx @pushingit for reminding me of these matrix dreads too —

  • 2. Alex  |  April 8th, 2009 at 10:21 am

    The BLO’s most recent production, Rusalka, featured underwater nymphs and sprites w/dreds as well…(see below)
    http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2009/03/20/half_wild_half_woman_full_staging/

  • 3. Daniel Boris Dzula  |  April 8th, 2009 at 11:18 am

    We all want to forget him, but Jar Jar [and his race] fits the bill.

    Multiple generations of wookie: http://www.wookies-etc.com/images/content/wookie-family.jpg

    Worf was definitely a Klingon-of-color: http://seznam.startrek.cz/klingon/galerie/st9worf1.jpg

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_TXxSSzDKG2w/SA5F_2kMWTI/AAAAAAAAAVI/e51Hmql7DNo/s400/WorfWill.jpg

  • 4. alexis  |  April 8th, 2009 at 11:57 am

    if you are looking for literary depictions, cyberpunk has a lot. i read neuromancer by william gibson years ago and there is a large subplot involving space rastas. here are some quotes:

    “Zion had been founded by five workers who’d refused to return [to Earth from the orbiting Freeside], who’d turned their backs on the well and started building. They’s suffered calcium loss and heart shrinkage before rotational gravity was established in the colony’s central torus. Seen from the bubble of the taxi, Zion’s makeshift hull reminded Case of the patchwork tenements of Istanbul, the irregular, discolored plates laswer-scrawled with Rastafarian symbols and the initials of the welders. ”

    “”As they worked, Case gradually became aware of the music that pulsed constantly through the cluster. It was called dub, a sensuous mosaic cooked from vast libraries of digitalized pop; it was worship, Molly said, and a sense of community. Case heaved at one of the yellow sheets; the thing was light but still awkward. Zion smelled of cooked vegetables, humanity, and ganja…

    ‘You ver’ pale, mon,’ Aerol said, as they were guiding the foam-bundled Hosaka terminal along the central corridor. ‘Maybe you wan’ eat something’.’ ”

    “The two surviving Founders of Zion [Rasta colony in the orbiting Freeside] were old men, old with the accelerated aging that overtakes men who spend too many years outside the embrace of gravity. Their brown legs, brittle with calcium loss, looked fragile in the harsh glare of reflected sunlight. They floatd in the center of a painted jungle of rainbow foliage, a lurid communal mural that completely covered the hull of the spherical chamber. The air was thick with resinous smoke.

    ‘Steppin’ Razor,’ one said… Like unto a whippin’ stick.’

    ‘That is a story we have, sister,’ said the other, ‘a religion story. We are glad you’ve come with Maelcum… I came from Los Angeles,’ the old man said. His dreadlocks were like a matted tree with branches the color of steel wool. ‘Long time ago, up the gravity well and out of Babylon. To lead the Tribes home. Now my brother likens you to Steppin’ Razor.’ ”

    i never read bruce sterling’s islands in the net, but when i was looking up its references to rasta culture, i stumbled upon this review of Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet by kali tal that seemed somewhat related to your project

    oh, and:

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  April 8th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks, Alexis. I’m definitely interested in literary depictions too. It’s quite curious this projection of dreads/Rastas into the future, whether in the images above or in the work of Gibson, Sterling, et al. Prepping for this piece, I read Islands in the Net last summer, which is actually pretty good and definitely has some interesting Rasta/race issues. I’ve been planning to bring both Kali Tal and Lisa Nakamura into the conversation, though I hadn’t seen that review yet. I’d also like to discuss the ideas of Mary Dery, esp when in conversation with Sam Delany, etc. And, of course, a great deal of Afrofuturist discourse centers on these questions of projecting blackness into the future. For this project, I’m less interested in Sun Ra, George Clinton, and Kool Keith, however, and more interested in sci-fi authors, film producers, and reggae musicians / Rastafarians.

    What film is that Will Smith still from? Men in Black? Another great example.

  • 6. Birdseed  |  April 8th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Yes, the baby is from Men in Black.

    Plavalaguna from The Fifth Element:

    I think I’ve read some analysis somewhere of Predator 2 with a similar idea, that movie of course also has real Rastas in it as contrast/comparison.

  • 7. wayneandwax  |  April 8th, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve discussed Predator 1 & 2 in my work on reggae/JA in the US imagination. The sequel is definitely interesting insofar as it brings “real” Jamaican dreads into contact with the dreadlocked, mesh-marina sporting extraterrestrial — two different kinds of predatory aliens!

    Thx for the Fifth Element reference! Man, there are a lot of these…

  • 8. Birdseed  |  April 8th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Oh yeah, it was here I read that. Sorry. :o

    There’s a lot of “ethnic” stereotyping going on with alien species, aren’t there? I’d say the “jew”-style species and the “mongol”-style ones are two of the other most common ones.

  • 9. wayneandwax  |  April 8th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I think The Phantom Menace takes the cake on that charge, Birdseed. In addition to Jar Jar’s West Indian tropes (and yes, Daniel, you’re right: we can’t forget; though, notably, no dreads on Gungans), there’s also the East Asian and Semitic characters, as critiqued here for instance.

  • 10. Winslow  |  April 9th, 2009 at 1:55 am

    There is this dude Ron Eglash who you may want to contact. Some of his articles talk about Afrofuturism and he is up on his sci-fi more than I am. Although I do fundamentally question the nature of your project because of the connection between some of the old visual sci-fi and the aesthetics of rasta and/or dreadlocks. I mean, when did the latter become prevalent and actually enter the conscious of US filmmakers? If you are gonna throw wookies in there (star wars was 77, Marley died in 77) I do not know if I necessarily see the racial connection (if it has to do with kinky hair and black power stuff then the wookies would have maddd curly hair or somethin akin to a fro). I think a more refined (and ultimately better) joint would involved the rise of dreads on aliens representing otherness tied to the rise of rasta/reggae popularity (rather than ‘african’, as the rise of dreadlocks on the continent have been slow goin and mainly limited to big urban places, in a lot of the bush dudes with dreads are viewed as insane outside of specialized cases, and a lot late 20th century black new world hair-styles try to evoke an african past that might not be there *big daddy kane/high top fade). just my 2 cents.

  • 11. wayneandwax  |  April 9th, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for the thoughts, Winslow. Right now, this is just for a “think piece” in a non-academic venue, so I’m not too concerned about making this the most comprehensive or rigorous study. I will check out Eglash’s stuff, though.

    I think you’re right to emphasize historicity/periodization, esp since, by my reckoning, it’s not until the mid 80s, when dreadlocked posse members “terrorized” the Eastern Seaboard, that dreads became the popular signifier they are (though it’s worth noting that the Mau Mau made them into a fearful symbol long before reggae or Hollywood). Indeed, ALL of the pics above are from 1983 or later — most of them far more recent.

    To my recollection A New Hope (1977) does NOT have any dreadlocked aliens (and this makes sense against the backdrop of JA immigration and place in the US imaginary), but it’s interesting to note that in more recent years (as pictured above), wookies have been sporting dreads. And Gibson’s space-rastas date to 1984, which may be a little early, but not for a prescient observer of urban spaces. Return of the Jedi, where we’re introduced to the quasi-dreadlocked Twi’leks via Bib Fortuna, was 1983; and though we might not see Fortuna as very dread, I think it’s arguable that Twi’lek hairstyles have become more and more like dreadlocks in the years since (as seen on Kit Fisto). So, yes, there’s a periodization to be done here, but I think the early/mid 80s is precisely the moment when we start to see new representations of alienness via dreadlocks (in film and journalism alike).

    By the time we get to Predator (1987), which is admittedly a subtle instance (though the mesh marina puts it over the top for me), and Predator 2 (1990), which includes JA posse villains, I think the regime of representation I’m curious about is well in place. To what extent these representations are “conscious” products of filmmakers is another question; I think it’s a lot easier to make a case in science fiction writing, where the figurations are a lot more explicit (including references to reggae, Rasta, West Indies, etc.).

  • 12. Winslow  |  April 9th, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Dang you are up on your stuff (good look on the Mau Mau). Also, one thing that I am curious about: how many Canucks and Brits who worked in Hollywood had a hand in designing the aliens? The Canuck experience with West Indians has been different than with the US (and perhaps the dreadlocks symbolized something far more sinister in T-dot than it ever did in NY) while the brits, because of tinyness of their island and the density of london, prolly saw a lot more locked peeps than did hollywood cats. oh the levels of analysis!

  • 13. Leor  |  April 9th, 2009 at 10:26 am

    The creatures from the 8th dimension in “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai…” sport rasta hairstyles… can’t find any pics though…

  • 14. ripley  |  April 9th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Yes, can’t believe you left out the aliens from Buckaroo Banzai!

    and the BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET (one of my favorite movies of all time)

    which came out in 1984, and is sci fi but already in some ways addressing a lot of the issues around race, although I’d need to see it again to figure out if there is a specifically Jamaican/Island/Colonial aspect to it. IN way obviously given who the brother is fleeing from.. (and adding another layer of brilliance, the film’s director plays one of the cats he is fleeing from). Oh I need to see that movie again!

  • 15. alexis  |  April 9th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    not exactly and alien, but:

  • 16. alexis  |  April 9th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    not exactly an alien, but:

  • 17. wayneandwax  |  April 9th, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    actually, alexis, that’s a great reference! as i wrote in the blurb at the top (and as you noted wrt gibson, sterling, and afrofuturism), rastas in space/future are, for me, the other side of the coin to dreadlocked aliens. this is an example that i wasn’t considering at all — not that i know what to make of it. perhaps i need to return to futurama for some analysis…

    and leor & ripley, thx for the tips; i’ll have to check those out too.

  • 18. siebe  |  April 9th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Have you seen these?
    http://www.techgnosis.com/dub.html
    http://www.techgnosis.com/cyberconf.html
    Cool reggaeton book! Must get a copy.

  • 19. Caro  |  April 9th, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Brother from Another Planet (one of my all-time fave movies) I don’t think works so well figuring rastas or proto-rastas. The Brother’s hair has some knots, if I recall, but no proper dreads. He basically moves between 125th St. & Times Square, so he’s not physically in any Jamaican immigrant spaces.

    I’m trying to think of specific examples, but I seem to recall some ‘locked white characters in sci-fi, usually hackers.

  • 20. wayneandwax  |  April 10th, 2009 at 6:16 am

    I’m sayin…

  • 21. wayneandwax  |  April 10th, 2009 at 6:29 am

    see also: http://io9.com/338662/predator-vs-real-rasta-only-lasts-25-seconds

    Sure, the Predators look like Rastafarians. In Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the main way you can tell the Predalien is part Predator is his dreadlocks. These guys are like the less-goofy version of Jar-Jar. But how would a real Rastafarian stack up to a Predator? Luckily, we don’t have to wonder, because a Rasta drug lord is a major supporting character in Predator 2. It turns out the alien imitation is way better than the original, at least when it comes to decapitation.

    [can’t embed the video here, unfortunately]

  • 22. Kiddid  |  April 10th, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Not sure if this falls in line with the Sci-Fi theme, but one of my absolute favorite TV shows ever made, the Mighty Boosh, has a few bizarre dreadlocked characters to flaunt…

    The Spirit of Jazz

    Old Gregg (drinks Bailey’s from a shoe)

    here’s another Old Gregg link for the hell of it:

  • 23. puto ingles  |  April 10th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    jar jar has got to be the worst racially stereotyped alien. he speaks patois for christs sake. i dont know if you are familiar with the troubadour music of haiti but they sound JUST like mr binks.

  • 24. Kiddid  |  April 11th, 2009 at 11:02 am

    awe, man…my pix didn’t post! user error i’m sure…here are the original links for the hell of it.

    The Spirit of Jazz

    Old Gregg

    the boosh is more frequently fantastic/magical/absurdist than sci-fi…and the characters aren’t particularly “jamaican”…too good to ignore though, best thing since pee-wee’s play house!

    Intro to the dreaded Spirit of Jazz
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vanhbElnx70

  • 25. wayneandwax  |  April 11th, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks to Isaiah for adding Star Trek’s Nausicaans to the list (at least their 24th millennium instantiations):

    Given the questions of historical specificities/trajectories raised above, this seems like a significant example insofar as, far as I can tell (from browsing a Star Trek wiki — I’m not a Trekkie in any way, rly), the Nausicaans don’t adopt dreads until the later series / millennium, suggesting that, as with Wookies in the Star Wars franchise, we watch dreadlocks gain currency in representations of the alien at the same time that they become more present in US culture and society (and represented as symbols of the violent and exotic).

  • 26. wayneandwax  |  April 12th, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Finally got a chance to read Tal’s review of Nakamura; this passage is spookily germane —

    No African Americanist could miss the repetition of the figure of the black techno-primitive in science fiction in general and cyberpunk in particular. From the “Rastas in space” exoticism of Buckaroo Bonzai and the reggae-flavored data havens of Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net, to the gritty street cred of the characters played by gangsta rapper Ice-T in Johnny Mnemonic and Tank Girl, the magical touch of the Brother From Another Planet, and the wise guides of The Matrix, the sci-fi/cyberpunk trope of blackness as simultaneously a site of wisdom, danger and unimpeachable hipness is baldly apparent to anyone with an eye to see it.

    thx again, alexis!

  • 27. rafi  |  April 13th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    the villain’s guards in the movie Freaked were Rastafarian Jamaican accented walking eyeballs: Eye & Eye

    I think they were technically not aliens but mutant freaks are pretty close.

  • 28. wayneandwax  |  April 21st, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    that’s an amazing reference, rafi. thx!

  • 29. aaron  |  April 23rd, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    I’m told that the black vampire in Twilight has dreadlocks. Not quite an alien (and I haven’t seen the movie) but maybe that helps.

  • 30. wayneandwax  |  April 23rd, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Wow, Aaron, I think you may have provided the long lost (and sought) link between my point of curiosity, dreadlocked aliens, and Gary Dauphin’s interest in colored vampires! I’ll have to check that out. I guess.

  • 31. John Schaefer  |  April 26th, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Laurent the Twilight Vampire (in the film):

  • 32. Gabe Larsen  |  April 27th, 2009 at 2:35 am

    There was a rasta alien in Buckaroo Banzai named John Parker with a Jamaican accent.

  • 33. Gabriel Heatwave  |  April 28th, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Interesting stuff. on a side note, just seen this article about dreads being “the latest and greatest trend in urban hair styles”

    http://www.jamaican-slang.com/are-dreadlocks-becoming-the-new-mohawk.html

  • 34. wayneandwax  |  April 28th, 2009 at 9:18 am

    “latest and greatest”? this could have been written 20 years ago, 15, 10…

  • 35. wayneandwax  |  April 30th, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Via my man Gabe, a Dr. Who devotee, here’s another for the archives, if tipping into the subtle/stretchy side —

    He also reports “Destiny of the Daleks had these kind of androids who me and my brother always called Terrence Trent Darby. Thay had silver kinda braids and I believe they were all black.” After a little searching, I think he was referring to the Movellans

    Of course, this was from 1979, so my periodization theory — linking the rise of dreadlocked aliens with the increasing presence of Jamaicans in the US (and the 1980s posse scare) — doesn’t quite hold up. Then again, Dr. Who was a British series, and dreads were more prominent there earlier.

  • 36. boima  |  May 5th, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Not Rastas or Jamaicans, but black people in Space connected to Africa, roots-space theorizing, in music form!

  • 37. wayneandwax  |  May 13th, 2009 at 10:09 am

    thx to my man E for sending in yet another example, via email —

    Hey Wayne,

    Just wanted to make an add to your growing list of “Rastas in space.” I just saw a new burger king commercial that has commemorative star trek mugs. The interesting thing about the commercial is that the King and his crew are this weird new/futuristic klingon burger kings, and one person in his crew happens to be sporttin’ dreads. I couldn’t find the commercial on youtube, but they’re apparently advertising these mugs everywhere and have been having BK klingon characters attend various star trek premier parties. I’ve attached a photo from one of those parties I found on a trekkie message board.

    E.

    P.S. The King and his two crew members are also darker, which I guess is to get closer to the idea of a burger king-klingon hybrid, but it also adds to rasta look and the idea of racialized aliens…or aliens as racialized subjects.

  • 38. wayneandwax  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    just adding another footnote/tip, this time c/o /rupture via email, who reports that Desmond “Coyote” Hawkins from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy is

    the most multifacted/well-rendered dreadlocked man i’ve encountered in outer space

  • 39. wayneandwax  |  October 30th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    and here’s the latest (via):

    [ah, too bad the video stopped working. for the record, it was a trailer for Avatar.]

  • 40. wayneandwax.com » T&hellip  |  December 28th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    […] around Vybz&Spice’s “Rampin Shop.” (Incidentally, my posts on “Dreadlocked Aliens” and “Treble Culture” were in hot pursuit of the #1; and I’ve gotta say […]

  • 41. wayneandwax.com » M&hellip  |  March 5th, 2010 at 10:26 am

    […] and the Rastas-in-Space projected by Hollywood films and sci-fi authors (big thanks to everyone who helped me catalog the myriad instances of this […]

  • 42. wayneandwax  |  August 6th, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Thanks again to Josh Diaz for alerting me to yet the latest example of this well-worn trope:
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/08/05/tosh-how-apt/

    A few choice bits of analysis:

    Let’s talk about Gabriel Tosh: spooky Rastafarian psychic soldier dude. …He has dreadlocks, he’s a bit mystic, he says “be” instead of “is” – three times within 15 seconds at one point. “This be the moment of truth.” “This be worth a fortune.” Apart from that, the rest of his English is spot on – but apparently he needs a single vocal tic so that we remember he’s Rastafarian. Ah yes: he’s the only non-white member of StarCraft 2?s main cast.… Oh yes, and he has a Voodoo doll. A voodoo doll.

  • 43. wayneandwax  |  September 1st, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Here’s another great example of Jamaicans doing their part to project themselves into space:

  • 44. wayneandwax  |  October 1st, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    "predators"

  • 45. wayneandwax.com » N&hellip  |  October 27th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    […] 90s and 00s, especially in films and video games) that I attempted to round-up in my article “Trading in Futures” for Woofah. (Incidentally, I’ve finally put the entire piece up as a PDF, so take a […]

  • 46. wayneandwax  |  February 24th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Thx to Daniel Thorn for putting me on to this one, from Jayson Musson’s Too Black for B.E.T. project:

  • 47. wayneandwax  |  August 16th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    thx to Dizzy Josh for spotting yet the latest iteration: a portrait (for sale!) of famed Other-killer, Andrew Jackson, holding the Predator’s decapitated, dreadlocked head in his hand:

  • 48. w&w  |  October 4th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    just stumbled upon this latest bit of “affirmation”: “Predator – The rasta story”

    “Everyone knows predeators a rasta”

  • 49. wayneandwax  |  August 9th, 2012 at 1:17 am

    & here’s another submission that must join the gang. thx to alexis for sending my way. as posted here:

    It never occurred to me to browse through the credits of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, to find out who was underneath the monstrous black mask.

    The man was Bolanji Badejo, a 7ft tall Nigerian design student picked up from a bar in West London to fill the title role. He worked on the film for 4 months. Spending every day wrapped in a suffocating custom fitted rubber suit, working to exude a presence of pure evil.

    Despite his incredible contribution to the film’s success Badejo never received any publicity for his involvement. Ultimately, it would be his only film role.

    Someone else found some eerie test footage featuring Badejo in partial costume:

Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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