The specter of the genealogist stereotype

In 1982, Peter Andrews wrote in American Heritage that the “stereotype of the genealogist” has been familar in popular culture, usually a “specific type, easily recognizable and faintly ridiculous,” whether an elderly lady examining musty records or a “retired clergyman supplementing his pension.” He adds that this meant that genealogy, itself, “carried an air of quackery about it.” However, he says this is no longer the case. This is evident in some series I have written about on this blog before, like Amphibia, Infinity Train, Steven Universe, and throughout the recent reboot of Carmen Sandiego, to name a few posts, apart from last week’s post reviewing genealogy in the Outlander series. This is not unique to those series, however. After all, as a podcast, BlackGenProLive, “genealogy and history are en vogue in popular culture, largely due to the number of television programs that are themed around the topics,” and noted in FamilyTree, with The Guardian even saying the current family history boom is due to the internet and TV. [1] Genealogy and family history is widespread in popular culture, with some authors, like Juliette Eames, creating customized children’s family history books for people! As Thomas Jay Kemp put it in 2013, “you can find references to genealogy everywhere in America these days.”

John D. Beatty of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center wrote in 2018 that genealogists before the 1970s especially only played “incidental roles in eccentric, snobby, or dysfunctional veins.” He called the famous satirical painting by Grant Wood, Daughters of Revolution, criticizing the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), one of the first “artistic depictions of genealogists,” and noted a few other examples prior to the 1970s:

  • In the 1942 film Castle in the Desert, Professor Gleason, a genealogist with a “moustache and walking stick,” arrives at a a mansion of another affuelent man, and he is introduced as a genealogist who will “tell us about the monkeys in our family trees.” He later inquires about a notorious family and the wife of the affulent man gives him a warning, and he died after drinking a cocktail. The message of this film for such a superficial portrayal of a genealogist, is that genealogy is “something that only interested the upper classes and involved the lineages of famous families.”
  • In a 1961 episode of the The Andy Griffith Show, “A Plaque for Mayberry,” a town mayor summons a sheriff and his deputy, where they meet two elegantly dressed ladies of a Women’s Historical Society, declaring that they are “attempting to trace the descendant of a Revolutionary War hero, Nathan Tibbs, who had played a pivotal role at the Incident of Mayberry Bridge,” which supposedly turned the tide of the war, wanting access to town records. Ultimately, while the genealoists serve only as incidental characters, the view of genealogical research as “a blue-blooded occupation and those who pursue it do so only to find links to prominent forebears” is communicated once more.
  • In a 1969 film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond goes undercover as a genealogist in order to “investigate Blofeld’s claims of nobility,” and it again promotes a view of “genealogists as effete elitists, a campy profession that attracted only eccentrics.”
  • In a 1969 comedy-drama, The Sterile Cuckoo, Pookie Adams is not a genealogist, but loves cemeteries, taking her boyfriend to a graveyard, extoling the “ability to find stories of the departed by reading their epitaphs.” Beatty suggests that this shows that “cemeteries were not places that psychologically-healthy people ever visited.”

After 1970, Beatty specifically holds up Roots as shattering the “notion that genealogy was only for the blue-blooded,” and says that Alex Haley “embodied a sense of normalcy that had eluded earlier caricatures of genealogists.” This is much better than the “magical quality” displayed in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by transphobic J.K. Rowling, with genealogy not explored at length in the film, none of the characters as genealogists, and the family genealogy is only a minor plot device. Contrast this with the controversial film, The Da Vinci Code, in 2006, where genealogical research plays a key role in the film itself,and various popular television shows [2] where ordinary ancestors are discussed. Even though research is often minimized, Beatty argues that these shows “provide some insight into research methodology.” He concludes his article by saying that new portrayals reflect a change in genealogy over time, including further professionalization and democratization which makes it more available to the masses, even while he acknowledges no one should expect genealogists to become “commonplace on the silver screen” even if they show up more in television. He then hopes for complex and diverse genealogical characters in the future which are devoid of stereotypes and are problem-solvers.

Not accounting for documentaries with family history themes, like Children of the Inquisition, Birthplace, and August: Osage County as pointed out by Esther of MyHeritage, Helen, in an undated post on her genealogy blog, gives a few examples of genetic genealogy in popular culture:

  • The TV series Shameless. In a 2011 episode, “Nana Gallagher Had an Affair,” an estranged mother tried to get custody of her son, but finds out that her ex-husband, Frank, is the biological father. In a 2016 episode “Own Your Shit,” a brother takes another ancestry DNA test, showing that Carl is “part Native American, specifically Apache, securing him a reserved place.” Then there’s the 2017 episode “Got Bless Her Rotting Soul,” where a family friend takes a DNA screening test, finding a “rare chromosomal pattern” which belongs to a fictional, and isolated, community in rural Kentucky.
  • In a 2018 episodes of the series, A Discovery of Witches, there is a study of genetics of various species, like demons, witches, and vampires, including an explanation of mitochondrial DNA
  • In a 2018 episode of the series, Bull, “The Missing Piece,” a team assists a man after police identify him as a suspect using “investigative genetic genealogy via a match in a for-profit genetic genealogy company’s customer database,” and he finds out that he was adopted and had an identical twin brother, with the revelation of a twin brother resulting “in all charges against him being dropped.”
  • In a 2018 episode of Blue Bloods, “Thicker Than Water,” two detectives investigate an attempted murder after a daughter discovers, using a consumer DNA test that “the doctor is her biological father.” Oh no, what a shock! In a later episode of Blue Bloods, “Family Secrets,” in 2020, one character is puzzled by an “unknown first cousin match on his paternal side when he does a consumer DNA test for a school assignment.”
  • In the series Grey’s Anatomy, there is an episode in 2019, “Blood and Water,” where a doctor orders a DNA test to “overcome her fears about her unknown genetic heritage when feeling pressured to have children.” In another 2019 episode, “And Dream of Sheep,” a co-worker is able to identify the birth mother of his friend using a “first cousin DNA match.”
  • In a 2019 episode of The Good Fight, “The One where a Nazi Gets Punched,” a law firm represents plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a “direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing company.”
  • In a 2019 episode of Nancy Drew, “The Hidden Staircase,” a co-worker whips out a DNA test from her lock, asking her long-lost cousin for “some of his saliva for a DNA comparison to help her uncover her mother’s mysterious past.”
  • In a 2020 episode of Stumptown, “The Past and the Furious,” a former marine and current PI, is hired to track down the birth parents of an adoptee.
  • In a 2020 episode of Vera, “Parent Not Expected,” a DCI investigates the death of a young man who had recently found, through a DNA test, that “the man who raised him was not his biological father,” with the admin of an online genealogy forum helping people identify their biological fathers.

“The laws governing inheritance are quite unknown; no one can say why the same peculiarity in different individuals of the same species, and in individuals of different species, is sometimes inherited and sometimes not so; why the child often reverts in certain characters to its grandfather or grandmother or other much more remote ancestor; why a peculiarity is often transmitted from one sex to both sexes, or to one sex alone, more commonly but not exclusively to the like sex”- Chapter 1 of The Origin of the Species

On a related note, in 2013, Daisy Hildyard in The Guardian listed ten literary works about ancestors, specifically pointing to Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, “This Be the Verse” by Philip Larkin, The Rainbow by DH Lawrence, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, “The Eternity of Nature” by John Clare, Brief Lives by John Aubrey, Henry IV Part I by William Shakespeare, Chronicles by Holinshed, and The Bible. Family history themes are even more widespread than this, however. Noel Murray, in 2015, talked about nine films focusing on family secrets, specifically Little White Lie, Secrets & Lies, A Family Thing, Lone Star, Siskel & Ebert, Capturing the Friedmans, The Celebration, Ida, Daughter from Danang, My Architect, and Stories We Tell. Others have written about genealogy in the realm of theater, of which were are various examples, [3] or noted some of the “most insane families in anime.” On the latter, in a post for the Anime News Network, Gia Manry mentioned:

  • Arcana Famiglia (La storia della Arcana Famiglia), a mafia-style family
  • The Rozen Maidens (Rozen Maiden), sister dolls
  • The Ushiromiya Family (Umineko no Naku Koro ni), a huge clan
  • The Matou Family (Fate/stay night), creators of a system that serves as a central conflict throughout the franchise as a whole
  • Eastern Europe (Hetalia), composed of personified nations
  • Britannian Royal Family (Code Geass), has a family history “chock-full of colorful characters, political intrigue, and outrageous deaths”
  • The Hair Siblings (Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo), siblings fighting over their inheritance to the Hair Kingdom and are totally bonkers
  • The Ikari Family (Neon Genesis Evangelion), a clan which has a lot of internal family problems

Some others, like BYU Family History, lists family history themes in the White supremacist Back to the Future, and other films, like Lion King, Holes, Star Wars, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Hitch, and Mulan. As one genealogist put it, “genealogy has changed; but yet it has not,” with genealogists continuing to seek out “records hidden in courthouse attics and basements.”


Notes

[1] There may be some reviews of popular culture in Christine Scodari’s book Alternate Roots: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Genealogy Media, although I’m not sure. But I’ll try to get the book and let you know what I think, writing about it on here.

[2] Like Who Do You Think You Are, Genealogy Roadshow, and Finding Your Roots. Some scholars have criticized what they call “selective rememberance” on these TV shows.

[3] In one post, Sydney Orton,talks about family history themes in Ragtime, Bandstand, The Pirate Queen, Miss Saigon, Finding Neverland, Evita, Bonnie & Clyde, Fiddler on the Roof, and Big River. In another post, she focuses on similar themes in Come From Away, 1776, Allegiance, Anastasia, 9 to 5, Les Miserables, Newsies, A Tale of Two Cities, Bright Star, Memphis, West Side Story, Titanic: The Musical, The Sound of Music, and The Civil War.

The twisted family stories and connections in Outlander

Late last year, Janet Lafleur, told me in a chat, said that “Outlander’s central plot line wouldn’t have been possible without the characters doing genealogical research.” In an effort to make this blog more active and continue pop culture reviews, I decided to write about it in this post, despite the challenges with making a family tree due to time travel (similar to Futurama in that sense), but not different universes like Batman. Chris Paton wrote about this back in 2017, noting that a family tree for the series is available as part of the extended ebook content for the eighth book in the series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, and it can be downloaded from the Random House website and reprinted later in this post. Paton noted that Outlander “starts off as a fantasy time travel series” and that he is “yet to meet a genie that hasn’t become a fan.” Even Vulture had a whole article about a family tree of the show’s characters. So I’m building upon existing research and discussion on this topic.

Let’s start with the above tree, which shows marriages, out-of-wedlock affairs, divorces, children, foster children, and stepchildren. With the time travel begun by the show’s protagonist, Claire, it makes these relationships more complicated. While the tree mentioned earlier would appear to have some errors, reading it closely, that is only because of the way it is set up. So, its better go through family by family.

Beauchamp Family

Due to time travel, Briana Randall is NOT the daughter of Claire and her husband in the 20th century, Frank Randall, but is rather the child of Claire and Jamie Fraser, a Scottish soldier and landowner. Claire’s parents are the same, although Quentin Lambert Beauchamp was Claire’s guardian and raised her.

Fraser of Lovat

This clan in the Scottish Highlands includes “bastards” named Brian Fraser and Alexander Fraser, while Jamie Fraser had a one-night stand with Geneva Dunsany, which resulted in their son, William. This tree specifically notes the relationships Jamie has to his biological and adopted children, and their moms. It is worth poining out that Jamie had married Claire Fraser and Laoghaire MacKenzie, but not Geneva Dunsany, with the second marriage declared invalid after Claire returns, with Marsali and Joan being daughters from that marriage. A French child pickpocket named Fergus was adopted by Jamie, resulting in him taking the Fraser surname. As such, Jamie has three biological children (Faith, Brianna, and William), and three adopted/step-children (Fergus, Marsali, and Joan). That’s one big family, to say the least!

Grey Family

While this family has a major part in some of the spin-off novels, it is a minor one in the series as a whole. Even so, there are a lot of relationships caused by Benedicta Armstrong‘s three marriages, first to Captain DeVane at age 15, second to Gerald Grey at age 21, and third to Sir George Stanley in 1758, the latter who is a widower two times before. The first wife of Hall was a French woman named Esmé Dufresne, Benjamin Grey married another woman and had a son with her, while Dorothea Grey married Denzell Hunter.

MacKenzies of Leoch

This fictional Scottish clan which dispersed after the failed Jacobite Rising of 1745.In this tree, Hamish was the biological son of Dougal MacKenzie, though only a few people ever knew this. Additionally, Dougal and Geillis were lovers and never married, with their son was born out of wedlock and never acknowledged. That’s a few important elements.

Murray Family

A few important notes on this family. For one, Angus Walter Edwin Murray Lyle (also known as “Wally”) is the biological son of Geordie Carmichael, brother of Paul Lyle, because of a rape! Yikes. Additonally, Digger was the son of Ian’s Spirit, and Ian names Emily’s son (Digger) the Swiftest of Lizards. This means it is ambigious whether Swiftest of Lizards is Ian’s biological son or rather that the child is Ian’s son by the Mohawk way of thinking, meaning that a man’s spirit must overcome a woman’s spirit to “conceive a child” as stated on the fandom. I’m not sure whether this is hinting at some sort of gender ambiguity here, or if I’m reading into this more. There is one gay character in the series, Lord John Grey, but he is closeted at a time that he could be hanged for being outwardly gay. [1]

Randall Family

There are a number of interesting notes. For one, while Denys Alexander was the biological child of Alexander, he is actually, legally, the son of Jonathan, Mary Hawkins‘ husband. Additionally, after her first husband died, Mary Hawkins Randall remarried to Robert Isaacs, and in turn he adopted Denys. As such, he took the name Denys Randall-Isaacs. In another interesting time travel note, even though Brianna Mackenzie was the biological child of Jamie Fraser, she was raised by Frank Randall.

Roger Wakefield MacKenzie’s Family Tree

For one, this tree is interesting because William and Sarah MacKenzie are not the biological parents of William Buccleigh. He is, in fact, the illegitimate son of Dougal MacKenzie and Geillis Duncan. Additionally, the three intervening generations from Jeremiah Buccleigh to Jeremiah Walter are not show and are represented by a dotted line on this chart.


Notes

[1] Diana Gabaldon wrote that “he’s also a gay man, in a time when to be homosexual was a capital offense, and Lord John has more than most to lose by discovery” about John, who is the star of Lord John novel series, a spinoff of the Outlander novel series. Another reviewer called Grey “a gay man in a time when that particular predilection could get one hanged…a man of honor and deep affections — whether returned or not.” His orientation was also commented on by NewNowNext, MTV, and GLAAD. Gabaldon also went out of her way to say that a sadistic character, Black Jack Randall was NOT gay, which is interesting to say the least.

Family secrets, family trees, and family history in Spellbound

On October 13, Libby Copeland wrote an interesting article in Psychology Today about the interest of Americans in genealogy, saying that it has become a cultural phenomenon and a big business, noting her book on the topic, titled The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are. She noted that for much of U.S. history it has been seen as either “a worthy middle-class endeavor” or something to “divide people into a hierarchy of stations based on race and class,” which changed in the later 20th century as the pursuit of family history became broader, with more Americans understanding themselves and their ancestors. Copeland also stated that the desire to look backward is sometimes out of a “sense of rootlessness,” storytelling, explanation of family traits, and hoping the past can explain the present, while Black people may be “blocked from knowledge of the past by the paucity of records about their enslaved ancestors.” She also stated that currently, we look because of a fear of current circumstances with the COVID pandemic, with Copeland stating that the present is time to ask questions, reckon with our past and that many of us are “faced with profound surprises about ourselves and our families, answers to questions we never even realized we were asking.” In this post, I’ll explore how this has manifested itself in some of my favorite webcomics, Spellbound, by Rose Luxey, otherwise known as “Ronce.”

It begins in issue 86, aptly titled “Family history.” One of the protagonists, Eglantine “Egg,” comes to the mess hall alongside her roommate Ninon, asks her friend Faustine about what it means that her family is experimenting with magic, “legally speaking.” Faustine explains that her family can be traced to the Great Magic Wars, with her father from one of the leading families. Right after that, we see a family tree, as shown below:

Following this, Faustine explains that her ancestors were part of a family which brought destruction in their quest for more power and realizing her connection to that past, that it is not so distant anymore. The parallel I can think of are White people who have slaveowners as ancestors, who dismiss it as far in the past, even though it is part of their heritage, something which should be acknowledged. Egg is disturbed by this, as shown in the next issue of the webcomic, with Faustine admitting it isn’t good to read about terrible things her uncle did in the past, and alter beginning to tell her about the different kinds of magic.

Sadly, this seems to be the only time roots or genealogy come up in the webcomic. However, this doesn’t mean the webcomic is bad or anything. Rather, it focused on more important issues, interpersonal conflicts, identity crisis, friendship, love, depression, familial neglect, acceptance, and the like. And all of those issues are interconnected with the roots work that each of use do as genealogists. So, in that way, it comes full circle.

Tamberlane and the thorny issue of adoption in roots work

Clearly, there are different types of roots, beyond what the teacher in these panels from Tamberlane is telling her. This is NOT what you tell someone about their roots. Teacher, you are doing this all wrong!

One of my favorite ongoing webcomics, Tamberlane, hits you right in the face with an issue which often faces genealogists: adoption. Tamberlane, the story’s protagonist is told by her teacher, Ms. Callie. that they will be learning about “their roots.” [1] This worries her, as she first thinks that it means she literally has roots growing out of her, and later when she learns that roots make you for “who you are.” She is concerned because she’s from the far-off place known as “Abroad” but her friends comfort her, reminding her that her roots are in Treehollow with the rest of them because she lives there. Cur later challenges Ms. Callie, asking about students who don’t know their roots and starts making a scene. Later, the teacher is flustered and doesn’t know how to answer questions about “Abroad,” with Jentzen kicked out of the classroom as a result, just because he asked a question! This becomes a plot point later in the series, as Cur blames Tamberlane for Jentzen getting fired, even though it isn’t Tamberlane’s fault, leading Piper to get in a fight with Cur. [2] As it turns out, not even Tamberlane’s guardian, Belfry, can adequately explain “Abroad” to her. [3]

Ms. Callie was wrong about roots. As Becks Kobel, a death positive genealogist [4] wrote in October 2017, “we are placed within families, whether biologically or through adoption, that have a long history with all sorts of experiences.” Roots are not only based in your blood, but are wider ranging than that, including your chosen family, those you surround yourselves with, and your circumstances. They can be your roots. There are even some Italian surnames, like Esposito, which were given to children in Italy who were given up by their parents or were adopted! At the same time, a surname may be assumed because of an “unofficial adoption, taking on a stepfather’s surname and so on” as was the case with one of my ancestors, Robert B. Mills II (originally Robert Barnabas Packard). Some genealogists even warn about not being “lured into sympathy research via an adoption story” while others note that DNA tests can be helpful for those with ancestors who were adopted or those looking for their birth parents. Sure, you could say that the “standard” family tree wasn’t made for adoption, but that doesn’t mean it is invalid, as adoptees can be heirs to estate from time to time. Some stick with the so-called standard tree, as “Geni cannot record adoptions” but that doesn’t mean that records of it doesn’t exist. [5] Russian genealogist Vera Miller talked about this:

Many adoptees become curious about their birth families and hopeful their questions about their separations from their families will be answered. The challenges of some adoptees from the Russian-speaking world is facing that their Russian language skills disappeared or were never developed. Thanks to the Internet, these adoptees can find their families with just as much success as adoptees from the English-speaking world.

That brings me back to Tamberlane. She was, at the beginning of the comic, found in the woods by the citizens of Treehollow and while she isn’t always good with communicating verbally, she knows a bit of pidgin Trissol (Silver Sage Sign Language). She calls herself “Tamberlane” when meeting Belfry for the first time in Chapter 1, with Belfry wondering where her parents are, and who left her there. As such, the other stuff I said about adoption isn’t applicable here, although it is still worth noting. Hopefully, in the future, this is explored more in the webcomic.


Notes

[1] Caytlin Vilbrandt, Tamberlane, Chapter 4, Pages 181-190, Issue 15 on WEBTOON, Jan. 2, 2020.

[2] Caytlin Vilbrandt, Tamberlane, Chapter 4, Pages 191-199, Issue 16 on WEBTOON, Jan. 2, 2020.

[3] Caytlin Vilbrandt, Tamberlane, Chapter 4, Page 207, Issue 22 on WEBTOON, Feb. 10, 2020; Caytlin Vilbrandt, Tamberlane, Chapter 4, Page 208, Issue 23 on WEBTOON, Feb. 19, 2020

[4] She left Twitter some time ago and now occasionally posts on Instagram. So, she is still active (perhaps more on Facebook), but not in the way she used to be on social media. And that’s ok.

[5] In a related note, a Puerto Rican genelaogist Teresa Vega, argued that with “Ancestry doing away with <8 cM DNA matches,” it would negatively impact Black and indigenous descendants, saying they should “seriously consider that they are preventing family reunification not only due to slavery, but also due to adoption, genocide, famine, etc.”

“Bye, Bye, The Bat!”: Bruce Wayne, Batman, and genealogy

A while back, Chris Ferraiolo told me, in a chat, that I should do a story on “the Kents and the Wayne’s from dc comics,” or even, possibly, “a few Marvel characters,” saying that their trees are online. So, this post specifically focuses on the Wayne family, with Bruce Wayne’s alter ego as Batman, using fandom sources to talk about his past. I’ll say right here and now that I’m not a big Batman fan. I’ll get to that more later. Personally, I don’t really feel an affinity with him, as he is a rich person who has the capital and resources to create tools that he uses in crime-fighting. As Comic Book Resources puts it, he has a net worth of $80 billion, even though they say that “he’s got to be bleeding cash” and that he is “saving Gotham” but at the “expense of his fortune.” That may be true, but once the villains are defeated, what has changed in Gotham? The city’s ruling class and the division between socioeconomic classes in the city are not disturbed, as he is great friends with the city’s police commissioner, remaining the same as they were before his battles. As such, Batman, like the other rich comic heroes, [1] is no revolutionary but likes the status quo in Gotham, and I think the portrayal of Bruce (herein called this to distinguish between the other Waynes) in DC Super Hero Girls as a rich snob is definitely accurate. Even so, I decided to do this piece, especially after beginning to watch the series, Batwoman (played by Ruby Rose), where Batman’s clothing/armor is taken and revised so it can be for a woman, Kate Kane, who is Bruce’s cousin, who decides to defend the city of Gotham during Batman’s absence.

Some fandom pages say that the Wayne family can “trace its roots as far back as the Crusades with a Frenchman named Sir Gaweyne de Weyne.” That’s pretty far back, farther than anything I’ve found in any of research on my family, so that’s amazing if true. The DC fandom page for the Wayne Family says that Bruce Wayne’s ancestors go back centuries, with “many members playing a part in the history of the United States” including in someone who fought alongside Teddy Roosevelt and another who fought in the so-called “War of 1812.”

Batman #44 (December, 1947) via DC Fandom

On Earth-Two, “Mad” Anthony Wade, who fought indigenous people after the Revolutionary War, is his ancestor. Other ancestors include a Philadelphia silversmith and supposed highwayman named Silas Wayne. There’s also Bruce’s mother (Martha) and father (Thomas), with Thomas killed by a mug, and Martha dying of a heart attack as a result. This made Bruce an orphan, leading him to become Batman, and be raided by his uncle, Philip, along with a number of critics, and he later married Selina Kyle (Catwoman). The latter was killed one of her former associates and Helena, the daughter of Selina and Bruce, became a vigilante to bring the person who killed her mother to justice.

Earth-One is different in many ways. In that universe, Bruce has ancestors dating back to the Crusades, Medieval times, and pioneers who traveled through indigenous territory. There are a number of other ancestors in other universes who are Bruce’s ancestors: a whaling captain (Ismael Wayne), lord of an English castle (Elwood Wayne), a missionary to Asian countries (Emelyn Wayne), a ranch hand (Jeremy Wayne), an army doctor (Thomas Wayne), and a private detective (Bruce N. Wayne). Other universes include the Wayne family being a highly successful prominent family in Gotham City, with roots back to the days of King Arthur, the Vikings, and colonial times. Others even were abolitionists who participated in the Underground Railroad, staunchly advocated for alcohol prohibition, fled the Cubans who won their independence after the success of the Cuban Revolution, or even a leader of a cult of devil-worshippers!

This goes far beyond the family tree shown on another fandom page. Making a family tree about the Waynes would be literally impossible due to the fact there are so many Earths and universes. There is no doubt, however, that Bruce, and his family, were extremely privileged, no matter their role in whatever universe, participating in systems of oppression, which advantaged White people over those of other races. This is not unique to Bruce, however, as many White families (including my own) have slaveowners, missionaries, or others in their family trees, even though they may not want to talk about them, for embarrassment sake, or because they are racist themselves. I’ll end with an image from Batman and Robin #10 in May 2010 where Alfred shows Batman and Robin portraits of the Wayne family ancestors:


Notes

[1] Even worse than Batman is Iron Man, who has a net worth of over $100 billion, as noted in the same article, and his business, Stark Industries, was “the government’s chief weapons manufacturer,” later expanding to “clean energy and other tech divisions,” meaning that he is a merchant of death, a master of war which Bob Dylan sang about. Apart from him, Black Panther / T’Challa has a net worth of $90.7 trillion as he “makes the decisions for its people and also controls its vast resources” of Wakanda, villainous Lex Luther has a net worth of $75 billion with his business (LexCorp), Scrooge McDuck who has a net worth of $65.4 billion, and villain Victor Von Doom who is worth $35 billion. In addition, villains Wilson Fisk ($30 billion), Namor ($6 billion), Norman Osborn ($5 billion), Maxwell Lord ($1 billion), Magneto ($900 million), and Ra’s Al Ghul ($1 billion) have high net worths, as do heroes like  Richie Rich ($8.9 billion), Green Arrow ($7 billion), Ozymandias ($7 billion), Mr. Fantastic ($5 billion), Nighthawk ($5 billion), Blue Beetle ($5 billion), Angel ($5 billion), Danny Rand ($5 billion), Professor Charles “X” Xavier ($3.5 billion), Emma Frost ($3 billion), Silver Sable ($2.1 billion), Mr. Terrific ($1 billion), Janet Van Dyne ($1 billion), according to the same article.

Carmen Sandiego’s search for her roots comes to an end

The Chief looks at the file Jules has compiled on Carmen’s mother

In the past, on this blog, I’ve written about the family history themes in the animated series, Carmen Sandiego, especially in the show’s first, second and third seasons. [1] The final episode of the series brought this full circle, after Julia “Jules” Argent, who had been tasked with finding Carmen’s mother, talks with the Chief of ACME about what they know, which I talk about on my Wading Through The Cultural Stacks blog. Spoilers to anyone who has read this far. So, if you do not wish to be spoiled, then please don’t read any further.

Anyway, the records that Jules and the Chief look at are very illuminating. They say the following:

  1. Carmen’s mother is Carlotta Valdez, born and raised in Vera Cruz, Mexico before moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. She founded an orphanage six months after Dexter Wolfe’s death
  3. Wolfe was raising a family

What is amazing is they find this out by looking at travel records, photographs, and other evidence. They don’t even need a DNA test from Carmen herself! Amazing work, Jules! Seriously. That’s what makes this so great! I’m a big fan of using hard evidence rather than information from DNA tests, but I understand people having to use DNA. Still, no one should think that DNA is a be-all-end-all that will give them the true answers about their origins. That will, generally, only come from documents or perhaps oral stories. We see images of Carmen’s mother in the episode, which I’m not sharing here, but she looks just like Carmen. In an attempt to bring in Carmen, ACME agents come near the orphanage where Carlotta works, but they don’t enter it. Shadowsan does, and confirms that indeed this woman is Carmen’s mother, seeing photographs of her and Wolff on a bookshelf, promising to tell her when she comes back “from the darkness” (she is currently in a state of being brainwashed by VILE to do their evil deeds).

Later in the episode, after VILE has been hobbled, she is handed a file about her past by Shadowsan and allowed to choose her own path. She is then shown on the streets of Buenos Aires and coming to the door of the orphanage to meet her mother.

Carmen walking down the streets of Buenos Aires, nervous about meeting her mother.

Best of luck to Carmen! This is such a great story of family discovery and ancestry that it should be shouted from the rooftops.


Notes

[1] There’s also an episode (“The V.I.L.E. History Caper”) where Professor Maelstrom discusses his Norse ancestry, but it’s so brief that writing a whole post about that really wouldn’t be possible, to be honest.

Carmen Sandiego and the search for her mom, “Vera Cruz”

In episode 1, “The Luchadora Tango Caper,” we learn that Carmen’s mother was named “Carlotta Valdez” and lived in Veracruz with her father, Dexter Wolfe, for one year. The whole first episode is her trying to figure out who her mother was, building on what happened in Season 2, saying she doesn’t even know if that is her real name and that she could be anywhere in the world. She meets Carlotta Valdez, who has changed her name to “Lupe Peligro,” after breaking into her house. In the end, Lupe ends up not being her mother, but she ends up continuing her quest to find out about her identity. She also is able to fight off Coach Brunt and Devineaux. Player then informs her that there is a string of thefts near Mexico City and she decides to look into those, although she says she has to get back to the “good fight.”

In the next episode, “The Day of the Dead Caper,” Carm goes to Mexico City, meeting Sonia, and gets captured. However, she does honor her mother, even though she doesn’t know her, during a ceremony for Dia de los Muertos, while VILE remains in pursuit. Sonia decides to steal the art back she stole, while the VILE agents get chewed out for losing Carmen and their new recruit. In the episode that follows, “The Haunted Bayou Caper,” they help the Crawfish King, a celebrity chef, get back his recipe written by his ancestor after he says it is the most important link to his Creole heritage. In the fourth episode, “The Masks of Venice Caper,” Shadowsan laments to Carmen that her quest to find her mother has been sidelined. She says that was her choice and she hopes to meet better people while saying that family comes in “many forms.” The last episode of the season, “The Jolly Good Show Caper,” does not mention her mother at all. One fan summarized the facts we know about Carmen, from the show, so far:

  • She is born in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • She was associated with VILE since she was a baby until her 14s, and is currently 20
  • Her mom is “Vera Cruz,” and her dad is Dexter Wolfe, formerly a member of the VILE faculty who tries to leave but ended up being killed by the Chief, then known as Tamara Fraser

There are also possibilities she may have some Russian heritage due to the fact her treasured possession, when living on VILE Island, was Russian nesting dolls. In any case, much of her parentage is shrouded in mystery. Hopefully, she concludes her quest, either finding her mother, or something else about her past in Season 4, which may be the show’s last season!

Biding our time…

Hello all! I thought I’d write something to update you all. Above are listed some posts I’ve been somewhat considering writing on this blog as posts. Rather than searching for popular culture that focuses on genealogy, roots work, or family history generally, I’m writing about anything I come across, which mostly end up being animations. I haven’t had a lot of luck recently, meaning that the posts are generally lacking. Despite that, I am excited for the new season of Carmen Sandiego, which is coming out on Netflix next month, because it includes a focus on family history! At one point in the trailer for Season 3, Carmen points this out:

In another part of the trailer, it shows a baby Carmen and Ivy telling her “you’ll find her, she’s out there,” making clear that Carmen’s tale of family discovery will be an important plot thread, like in the previous episodes of the show. There is also a possibility that family history will be part of the final season of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, also beginning its streaming next month on Netflix as well, although I doubt it. So if I don’t get to those other posts, I list above, it’s probably because I’m not in the mood to write about those subjects. I may ultimately discard them altogether, but I’m leaving them as drafts for now. In sum, expect some posts about it Carmen Sandiego in October!

Zaphod and the ghost of his grandfather

Recently, I was reading my handy The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide, which brings together five novels and one story [1] by Douglas Adams. While going through the second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, I came across a scene where Zaphod Beeblebrox, the figurehead president of the galaxy, talks to one of his ancestors! The fandom page for the book mentions this in one line, saying “Luckily, an ancestor of Zaphod’s, Zaphod Beeblebrox IV, saves them.” There’s a lot more going on than that one line in this story, which I’ll explain in this post. I wish this scene had been in the movie, but alas, it is still great to have in the book.

As the Vogan fleet approaches the Heart of Gold, Zaphod makes a gamble and talks to his deceased relative, his great-grandfather. [2] He thinks that his ancestor can help him, and he begins trying to summon him, concentrating, even as his fellow crew members doubt this will work. It is finally successful, but his ancestor is pissed at him for not sending flowers and respecting him, saying he is disappointed in him. He pleads for his great granddad to help him, even as he is reprimanded for not caring about his ancestors and more about himself. He  drops all pleasantries and decides to confront his ghost-of-an-ancestor, who even slows downtime for him. He agrees to help them because he doesn’t want him and his “modern friends” slouching around. However, he states that if he ever needs help again, he should not “hesitate to get lost.” The ship speeds away through space, and, as shown at the beginning of the next chapter, the Vogans believe they have destroyed the Heart of Gold.

Reading this, there wasn’t as much of a family history focus as I would have thought. I would like to mention the occasional family history themes in a Mexican-American animated series named Victor & Valentino and in Cleopatra in Space, specifically in the character of Medjed, whose ancestors were moved from Ancient Egypt to a faraway star. [3] I am excited for the next season of Carmen Sandiego, which will undoubtedly focus, at least in part, on Carmen trying to find her mom, engaging in a family history journey of sorts, building on what has happened in previous seasons. There are also some family history themes in R.O.D. the TV, although no one investigates the family roots of any of the characters. Otherwise, I have draft posts about The Godfather: Part II, Outlander, and characters in the comic book realm, which I’ll try to write up sometime this year. As always, I look forward to your comments and suggestions about my next topics to write about.


Notes

[1] The five novels are The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; and Mostly Harmless. The one-story is Young Zaphod Plays It Safe.

[2] See chapter 3, or pages 159-166 of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide.

[3] There are also, as I’ve noted on this blog, family trees/diagrams in Futurama, AmphibiaThe Simpsons, and Infinity Train, Gore Vidal lampooning genealogy, roots work in Little Fockers, and family history themes in Steven Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. In a recent post, I noted the focus on families in The Owl House, 3Below, Mysticons, Twelve Forever, and Human Kind Of, with startling family discoveries in Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Sherwood, Adventure Time, OK K.O.: Let’s Be Heroes!, Final Space, and Mr. Robot, and Cleopatra “Cleo” in Cleopatra in Space and Jack” in Samurai Jack missing their families as they have both been flung far into the future. I also pointed to those who noted family trees in shows like Bewitched, Donald Duck, Lord of the Rings, and several other awful shows/franchises.

A different type of family tree: Applying family history concepts to animation

Modern Cartoon Family Tree 2.0” by AlexB9598w

This family tree is unlike any other tree I’ve seen before. I thought I’d do a fun one this week. It’s not focused on a specific character or on the draw of family, the latter which I wrote about before. Instead, this shows the connection between people and their different shows. It all starts out with Donovan Cook and moves down from there. I think this tree is interesting in that it shows the connection between these shows. However it is also, you could say, limiting. I say that because it doesn’t exactly focus on the interconnection between people. I know that, for instance, that Rebecca Sugar and Ian Jones-Quartey are married, but this chart only shows them as writers. Similarly, I know about the controversy which enveloped Twelve Forever, leading to the end of the show, and Shadi Petosky, a trans woman, becoming the executive producer of the show and having her own project on the way. Since I don’t know most of these shows, I’m narrowing it down to the shows I do know and working back from there. Let’s start with one of my favorite shows, Cleopatra in Space, and focusing on the executive producer of that show, Doug Langdale.

I then expanded this by looking at the companies behind each one of these productions, and it starts to look more like a bit of a tree, showing the parent companies and production companies. Keep in mind that Sony Pictures Television, as of 2002, owns both Columbia divisions, so the chart would look a little different now. Additionally, DreamWorks is now owned by Universal Pictures, a division of NBC Universal, which is, itself, owned by Comcast. So, the chart would look different today.

Now, I wanted to expand this a little more, so I originally wanted to look at all those who have been listed as being on the Cleopatra in Space crew (herein called Cleo Crew), apart from Doug Langdale. Since that was 40 people, I narrowed it down to storyboarders, which consisted of 18 people in total: Aaron Brewer,  Abigail Davies, Adam Temple, Andrew Marshel, Bob Suarez, Chris Ybarra, Derek Thompson, Eugene Huang, Gary Ye, Ingrid Kan, Kevin Slawinski, Laurianne Uy, Samantha Suyi Lee, Scooter Tidwell, Thalia Tomlinson, Topher Parnell, and Wei Li. From there, I broke it down by the overlapping shows that they had worked on. [1] I ended up narrowing it down mainly to DreamWorks shows, as you’ll see in the chart below:

We learn a lot from this. For one, Chris Ybarra and Bob Suarez had worked together and/or on two of the same shows: Big Mouth and Turbo Fast. Additionally, Adam Temple and Wei Li had both worked on Carmen Sandiego, while Abigail “Abby” Davies and Laur Uy had worked on Spirit Riding Free. We also find that Bob Suarez and Laur Uy worked on the same show too. Even more fascinating is the fact that ALL of these productions were on Netflix and most, apart from Carmen Sandiego, were tied to DreamWorks. We can conclude that many of the storyboarders probably knew each other and/or had worked with one another in the past. If we combine this with the information about Doug Langdale I showed earlier, it would mean that Langdale worked on the same team as Bob Suarez and Laur Uy on The Adventures of Puss and Boots. These connections were likely part of the reason they were hired in the first place.

In sum, this is a unique family tree of sorts, which shows connections between those in the animation industry. You can see who the “parents” (like DreamWorks and Houghton Mifflin) are and who the “children” (like Bob Suarez and Laur Uy) are as well. This sort of analysis is much better than the “modern cartoon family tree” shown at the beginning of that post. That post almost treats the connections between individuals as static. I may do another one about LGBTQ animations or something else. We’ll see what happens! As always, comments are welcome, as I’m deeply unsure about what I’ll write about next.


Notes

[1] I also found that Aaron Brewer and Eugene Huang storyboarded Little Big Awesome, which was produced by Amazon Studios and Titmouse, Inc., and that Aaron Brewer and Bob Suarez storyboarded Niko and the Sword of Light, produced by the same groups. Additionally, Frank Squillace directed Jackie Chan Adventures, while Scooter Tidwell was a storyboarder. At the same time, Bob Suarez, Frank Squillace, and Scooter Tidwell storyboarded The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Furthermore, Abigail Davies worked on Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, with Scooter Tidwell as a sequence director. Finally, Frank Squillace directed Transformers: Rescue Bots while Thalia Tomlinson worked as an animator for the same show.

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