This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

February 4, 2010

“You can’t let it go to the judges…”

…and other snippets of words of wisdom from the Black experiences in HBO’s “The Black List, Vol 1“:


Both Volume 1 and Volume 2 are now out on DVD (I think, only at Target stores). I highly recommend them. Volume 3 premiers on HBO February 8.

(Yes, I know I am breaking my ‘no video clip’ rule here at the blog.)

December 16, 2009

I picked a bad day

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to start reading The Huffington Post again.

December 8, 2009

Rinse, Repeat: All (Still) Comes Out in the Wash

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I first posted this back in March. Since that time, I have all but given up on Heroes. A great graphic accompanied this Racialicious post to show just how much characters of colors have lost ground on the program. In fact, the Racialicious rountablers have traded in Heroes for Flash Forward—a series I have seen only one episode of and now feel as thought I may be too far behind to get on board with. I did have a post about Prince alumni Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman’s music for the show. Maybe I’ll get to that, but I’m not holding my breath.

I still have some Nip/Tuck episodes on DVR, but I’m not that enthusiastic about watching them. There’s a new prison storyline with Matt, an older woman-younger man story line with Julia’s mother, and a serial killer wife storyline. There was an especially disturbing episode involving Sean and Julia’s daughter’s  Trichophagia—put me off of my food for the rest of the evening. But no more characters of color and continuing clumsy treatment of LGBT issues.

I’m holding out hope for the new season of True Blood. There will be a storyline featuring a (gay) vampire king. Oh—and it was not Lafayette who was found dead in a car! In the meantime, during my recent trip to San Francisco, my college roommate hipped me to Epitafios. But I have been unable to find the subtitled versions of the first season for rent anywhere. Other than that, I haven’t found any new shows to get excited about, so my TV viewing has been severely curtailed. You’d think that’d mean I’d be getting a lot of work done.

You’d think.

There are only a handful of TV shows that I watch faithfully, week in and week out. For one, I like being in on the start of a television phenomenon, seeing a series unfold in real time. Thus, it is not likely that in mid-series I will start watching, say “Lost” or “The Wire,” even when friends whose opinions I respect assure me I would love them. But mostly, I am kind of commitment phobic when it comes to TV shows, thinking they are bound to let me down as other shows have in the past.

Three of my favorite recent shows have been prime examples of this tendency of TV shows to disappoint.

“Heroes” began with a bang, and I watched it religiously. The concept was great. The cast was a virtual rainbow coalition of heroes and villains. The story lines were engaging. But over time, more and more characters of color either (a) were killed off, or just (b) disappeared from the story lines. (Racialicious has been keeping up with these developments.) This White-washing is all the more troubling because of how often White killed-off characters—but not the POC—have seemed to have the ability to come back to life. Not to mention how the few remaining characters of color have been treated: one gets his memory wiped back to his 10-year-old state; one, after his beheading, appears only as a magical Negro spiritual guide to a White character; one–known only as “The Haitian” (even in Haiti, apparently) just…kind of…falls off the script, but not before being revealed to be less powerful than what he was previously portrayed as.

"I used to have Super Human Powers." Esparta, http://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/482348262/

"I used to have Super Human Powers." Esparta, http://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/482348262/

My only hope for Heroes is that the mysterious “Rebel” character is the biracial little boy who can talk to and control machines. It’d be nice, though, if we could see him, instead of just his text messages.

Besides Heroes, there is in my DVR cue the FX network series Nip/Tuck. In this case the offense is not so much “White-washing”—though my favorite character from the past (played by Sanaa Lathan) has never returned despite this show’s tendency to bring back characters from past seasons. Instead, in this case we get a “Straight-washing” of the characters: One of the main female characters who used to be married to one of the male leads finally finds love in a relationship with Ellen’s real-life spouse. But…she ends up back in the bed of the other male lead…then loses her memory…then her partner (played by Portia de Rossi) unceremoniously dies on the operating table. What? Past seasons have also not been kind to sexual minorities: they are frequently mixed-up, conniving, and even (literally) murderous. Can’t just one of these characters be well adjusted?

Well, actually there was one such person. The one character who was a strong, proud lesbian from the start gets sexually and romantically involved with one of the main male leads (the same one who led Portia’s girlfriend back to the straight side—guess his organ really does have magical powers). And, in the season finale—marries him! Perhaps this is meant to be a political statement on the unfairness of California’s Proposition 8. (The series is now set in California.) But if that is the case, they probably needed to be a little less subtle with their statement.

"Vampire Children." Shawn Allen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/shazbot/18449204/

"Vampire Children." Shawn Allen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/shazbot/18449204/

Finally, “True Blood.” I have been a sucker (hee-hee) for the vampire genre ever since I was a child and first saw Bella Lugosi’s intense, sexy stare. So, needless to say I had high hopes for a modern-day vampire tale, set in Louisiana, that appeared to be a parable of the Black and LGBT civil rights struggles. And early episodes of the series did not disappoint. In fact, I was hooked by just the opening credits. But. But. More recently we get a combination, double-whammy, twofer of White- and straight-washing. The sexy Creole guy turns out to be the Vampire-lover killer (and, actually, not Creole at all). Okay. Fair enough. But then the strong-willed ironically named Black character, Tara, seems to undergo a transformation that is not making me optimistic about her further development. Oh, and there is the very interesting shy, gay vampire character who gets killed off.

And the biggest outrage: the disappearance of the hands-down most interesting character: a smart, witty, enterprising gay male character, Lafayette. In the season finale an apparently Black character who we only see from the painted toenails ends up dead.

This. Better. Not. Be. Lafayette.

Really, the main story line–a “Twilight”-like romance between a virginal White heroine and a Civil-War era Southern gentleman vampire–is the least interesting. But it is not likely that the writers will drop it, since that is what the novel series on which it is based is all about.

So, will I continue to give my love to TV programs that don’t love me? When the new seasons of these shows start up again will my feelings be spared the disappointment of my failed TV relationships of the past? Will I decide to write a work of fan fiction in which all the deposed characters of color and LGBT characters from my (previously) favorite programs appear together in their own series where they are all the stars?

Stay tuned, boys and girls…

November 30, 2009

Catch a Tiger By His Toe: Speaking Back to the Woods Affair

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Heard on this morning’s TJMS:

Tom Joyner: What’s the n-word in Swedish?

Sybil Wilkes: The same. It’s universal.

There seems to be a certain level of glee in the discussions about what might or might not have contributed to golfer Tiger Woods’ car accident near his home. Glee from all sorts of places, but right now I am interested in the glee coming from some quarters of Black folks.

I guess I should speak for myself in admitting that I have had an ambivalent relationship with Woods over the years. I am speaking for myself—but suspect others feel similarly.

I have rooted for him, and taken some level of satisfaction when he has achieved at the top of his field. I do not like golf one bit. Once when my father-in-law—an avid golfer since his childhood days—took me out to the course with him I got sunstroke and swore no golfing green would ever see my body again. Watching televised golf for me is only slightly more exciting than watching TV test color bars. But still I rooted for him and even watched SportsCenter highlight of his shots.

I have grieved for him. I sensed how close he and his father had been and knew what he must have been feeling when his first and biggest fan died. To me they made the cutest pair: the pride emanating from the elder man, Tiger with his baby face and broad grin by his side. I am not one to talk about folks “looking down from heaven” and being pleased (or displeased). I generally hope that if there is a heaven, there will be something more and better to do than keep tabs on the goings-on here on earth. But in Tiger’s case, I generally have hoped that his Dad was tuning in to tournaments and continuing to take pride in his boy’s accomplishments.

I have scratched my head at him. His characterizations of his racial identity have challenged me to walk my talk. I firmly believe that people should have the freedom to self-identify as they please, in such a way that feels authentic to them—the rest of us be damned. At the same time, I feel that choosing to self-identify as Black in a nation in which Black is degraded can be an important—and brave—political act. I believe that people should have the freedom to love who they want to love and who loves them back—the rest of us be damned. At the same time I am aware that some people in our society are deemed more “lovable” than others, and Black women are often holding the short end of the dating game desirability stick.

So against this context I took in the initial reports of Woods’ one-car collision. My first thought centered on the initial reports that his injuries were “serious.” I thought about how none of us really knows what is in store for us by dusk when we rise out of bed at dawn. How each moment is precious. How money and fame cannot protect us against the great equalizers.

Then the story seemed to stray off of the fairway into the rough. The developing story is starting to read like an action movie that starts out great, but then develops so many holes that you are no longer able to enjoy the plot or even the special effects. Your whole viewing experience dissolves into pointing out to your movie mates how implausible different aspects of the film are. This, actually, becomes the source of most of your enjoyment such that if these loose strings were somehow tied logically in the final act, you’d be disappointed. You cannot wait to review the film for all your friends and relations—telling them that they must see it for its non-intended laugh-value alone.

So the story of Tiger’s accident has developed. I’m not so much worried that he has suffered great injuries—and certainly I am no longer worried that he is on death’s door—as I am interested in the story he has given to the police (apparently) and to the public as well as the public’s reaction to that story. Which brings me back to the glee I am detecting in the reactions.

Again, I’ll speak to myself. (Though I think I could ask these same questions of others.)

I ask myself: do I feel vindicated to see that Woods is being exposed, perhaps, as a regular male human being with normal failings? Am I happy that White women may, after these rumors, no longer be perceived by some Black men as the higher value, lower drama alternative to Black women? Am I relieved that whatever happened in that driveway resulted in Tiger wearing cuts and scratched instead of his wife? Am I tickled and entertained at the implausible (though, I must say, still possibly true) details Woods is sharing with us? Am I titillated by the proactive “lawyering up” of the other woman identified in the gossip around this case? Do I secretly wish that through this experience that Woods may realize that no matter how loved and accepted he may be by mainstream media and White fans, he can still be knocked down to size (and race)?

Am I hoping I am the first to think of the following board-game-inspired punchline to some joke about the affair: Mrs. Woods, in the driveway, with a nine iron?

Am I “wrong” for any or all of these reactions?

On the other hand, do I fear that the familiar apologies for domestic violence—e.g., most of the time it’s the woman who starts it—will be given fuel? Am I sad that whatever the case may be, two little children will have to suffer the upset to their family life and privacy? Am I wary that Blacks harboring unresolved ambivalence toward Woods will be singing the same chorus as Whites harboring unresolved bigotry toward him? Will I be tricked, as I have been in the past, by letting my attention drift to this new, shiny thing instead of focusing on more important national and global matters?

November 22, 2009

The Queen is Quitting; Long Live the Queen

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From The Root’s quote round-up “Oprah’s Blackest Moments”:

I thought nothing could beat the folly of Beyoncé showing Oprah how to gyrate to “Bootylicious.” But, then I watched Jay-Z’s cipher with Oprah this September and realized if this wasn’t one of her most overdue black moments, it definitely was one of her most memorable ones. While I gained rare insight into Jay-Z’s editing and freestyle rapping, his spitfire precision and mid-phrase self-correction, I couldn’t help but chuckle at Oprah’s earnest attempt to repeat the most basic of Jigga’s verses: Little boy from Brooklyn, made it from the ‘Stuy/girl from out the South made it to the ‘Chi/Only goes to show that the limit is the sky/if life give you lemons then you make lemon pie. Yes, in this episode of the African-American Horatio Alger story, of black mogul to mogul love, Oprah was too eager, too unfamiliar with the basic rhyme pattern, and pointed her finger too much as she was rhyming. But, there was also something else at play here, for Oprah, patiently guided by Jay-Z and cheered on by both the simple DJ beat and the bobbing heads of her audience, reached her arms out to the hip-hop generation, and finally, if only for a moment, and I mean close to a nanosecond, rocked the mic.

~Salamishah Tillet, regular contributor to The Root

November 3, 2009

What am I missing?

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**UPDATED: As of 11/4/09 the body count is now up to 10: “A judge denied bond Wednesday for a convicted rapist accused in multiple killings, saying the latest allegations are ‘gruesome’ and the ‘most serious’ he has heard during his time on the bench.” [Source] These latest developments have resulted in the case garnering front page exposure on the Nancy Grace Blog (stories here and here).

Frustrating: The story below reports that latest news on the investigation into the discovery of remains from six Black women at a convicted rapist’s home was to be aired yesterday on Nancy Grace’s CNN show. However, when I looked for further information about the story and aired report on the Nancy Grace blog, there is not an entry for it. (There is only a link back to the news story I excerpted from below. There are, predictably, several stories on Elizabeth Olten and Somer Thompson that appear on the first page of the site.)

So what am I missing? Did Grace cover the story or not? How many murdered Black women does it take to warrant a series of posts about them? (Apparently, more than six….)

…Local authorities also are attempting to trace 50-year-old Anthony Sowell’s residential history since his June 2005 prison release to learn whether there are additional victims, according to Lt. Thomas Stacho of the Cleveland Police Department.

Police arrested Sowell on Saturday, two days after discovering the decomposing bodies of five females inside his home. Another female body was discovered outside the house.

Authorities found the first two bodies while trying to serve an arrest and search warrant on Sowell related to a sexual assault investigation. Sowell was not home at the time; officers found him after a tipster told them of his whereabouts.

The decomposing bodies of the women, all of whom were African-American, could have been lying where they were found for “weeks, if not months or years,” a coroner said Saturday….[Source]

The Nancy Grace blog does have a post appearing on the front page about this case. See more commentary about this Cleveland case at From My Brown Eyed View and at Black and Missing But Not Forgotten.

September 14, 2009

Some of the People Some of the Time: Prologue to a Discussion of “Black Hipster Expression”

Filed under: "Black Hipster Expressionism" — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 12:46 am
Untitled

"None of the People, None of the Time." PPR_Scribe

I’ve been saying for some time that I was going to revisit  issues from the post, “Til your tongue turns doo-doo brown”: 2 Live Crew and Hipster Expression, and the conversation that followed. I want to deliver on that promise starting with this post.

Re-cap

In the original post, I was responding to one of the lesser-discussed aspects of the Henry Louis Gates arrest case. Acts of Faith and Love and What About Our Daughters did a wonderful job of reminding us of Dr. Gates’ defense of the rap group 2 Live Crew during their obscenity trial. I came clean in my post about my own brief affair with the music of 2 Live Crew.

I coined a term—hipster expression—to characterize consumption of racially/sexually problematic creative output:

We could consume problematic Black cultural artifacts in an ironic, intellectual, distant manner. We could even reclaim it from Whites as legitimately “ours.” Perhaps people were portrayed in hurtful ways. But those people were not us.

…Any Black person who writes professionally about hip hop…anyone who teaches a college level course about it…anyone who dons their PhD credentials and testifies in court about it…anyone who blogs about it on a shiny silver Mac… Any one of these Black people is potentially demonstrating a hipster expressionism.

Like its mirror image, hipster racism, Black hipster expressionism is usually exploitative, is an exercise in privilege (though class, not race, privilege), and mostly serves to reinforce instead of tearing down harmful stereotypes. (I would also venture to say it is “inauthentic” but I am always hesitant to label anyone’s experience as real or not.)

Call…and Response

I usually do not get a lot of comments here at This So-Called PPR Life, so when I do get more than 0 or 1 0r 2, I know I’ve hit upon something that folks want to talk about. I deeply enjoyed the conversation in the comment thread following this post. Some excerpts:

I think black academics, perhaps all academics, spend too much time projecting their intellect onto others to the point where they refuse to call a spade a spade. I’ve slid into that mode analyzing literature. You see it happen in art, people pushing all this scholarship into evaluating and abstract painting only to discover someone dipped a cat’s boot clad paws in paint and got the animal to run around on a canvas. If you think hard you assume other people think hard too.

~Nordette Adams, Whose shoes are these anyway?

I, too, have my own experience with this kind of moral dilemma – for my HBCU classmates and me it was Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” and we played it all day long (still have a special place in my heart for that album). I couldn’t agree more with the idea that we create a kind of intellectual distance from these hurtful, potentially damaging words in order to laugh or enjoy the music (and not listen to the insulting lyrics).

~Claudia, The Bottom of Heaven

The mistake is for people to get sidetracked into thinking groups like 2 Live Crew were using artistic expression. It was hate speech. Specifically targeting black women and there was one final attempt by some common sense having whites via the courts and C. Delores Tucker standing by her lonesome trying to stave off the tidal wave of depravity that followed.

~Acts of Faith in Love and Life

“Perform your obligatory duty, because action is indeed better than inaction.” Bhagavad Gita

This is pretty much my entire take on life. And I think if we started adopting these principles as black people, we would see some change in our communities. We see what inaction has done. I don’t even mean going out and volunteering in the traditional sense, but simply being indifferent to the reality of what is going on is, to me, almost as damaging as partaking.

~Seattle Slim, Happy Nappy Head

That Reminds Me...

I was reminded that I still had not followed up on this issue when I read a post over at Racialicious about a new ad campaign for a gym featuring a Blaxploitation-era-looking scantily clad Black woman. As broken down by Andrea (AJ) Plaid:

David Barton Gym is definitely selling Black women’s bodies–or, rather, using the “hip 70s supermama” image (the perfectly spherical ‘fro, the make-up, the hooker shorts) with the copy and pose riffing on the centuries-old Black-women’s-sexuality-is-for-the-lowest-bidder stereotypes–to get more bodies into their gyms.

In response I said:

I am conflicted. I hear everyone about the problematic nature of the context, the text, etc. But these ads bring to mind my uncle’s basement “club room” in the 70s–with the Ohio Players album covers and the velvet, blacklight-lit posters of nude and strategically-nude Black women much like these.

I used to look at these women and marvel at their beauty and power and confidence. They were absolutely stunning. As is the woman in this ad.

…This is one of those things that I, as a womanist, know I should feel outraged about. But instead I feel a kind of warm, positive nostalgia.

One thing I do know is that reactions to this ad may show how novel it still is to see women of color depicted in any ads, thus the few that are depicted carry that much more rhetorical weight. I think the default is to assume that these kinds of ads must be racist/misogynistic/both/otherwise problematic and to spend our critical thinking on deconstructing how that might be so. We are less likely to deconstruct the positive reactions we–or, at least some of us–may have.

There are a number of ways to take my response, among them:

  1. I am just wrong. I am not aware, as a Black woman, of my own oppression and am revealing, through my “opinion,” a “false consciousness”;
  2. I am just being contrary, looking to start some on-line mess;
  3. I have a legitimate difference of opinion, based on differences in my own experiences vs. the poster/commenters;
  4. I have an unusually high tolerance for ambiguity and gray areas—a condition possibly brought on by an inordinate time spent in graduate school;
  5. I am engaging in Black hipster expressionism.

As I write this there are no responses to my response yet at Racialicious. Perhaps there will be none. If there are responses I do not expect that many will echo my viewpoints.

But I know there will be readers who feel similarly.

Just as I know that there are progressive, highly intelligent, worldly, middle class Black folks who re not church-goers, but who are also closet fans of Tyler Perry’s movies. And that there are Black PhDs at elite universities who teach audre lourde and whose car stereos only blare Joan Armatrading, but whose CD collections at home also feature Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. I know I am not the only Black person who recognizes a tendency to sometimes engage in this kind of hipsterism.

This time, the prompt to my thinking about this issue of hipster expression was an ad campaign. But there have been (and will be) other topics and events that are applicable. There will be times when my reaction will cause some to exclaim “Why are you not more outraged at this ad/song/movie/cartoon?” while at the same time others—sometimes about the same prompt and my same reaction—will say, “It’s just an ad/a song/a movie/a cartoon; Why are you getting so outraged?” Guess it is true what they say: You cannot please all of the people all of the time, or even most of the people most of the time…er, or something like that.

Anyway. Over the next several weeks I will be posting from time to time exploring this subject. If you have any insights, or would like to offer your own guest post as part of this series, please drop me a line in the comments or via email.

August 30, 2009

Missing No. 1 Ladies

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Usually—along with the cooling temps, shortening sunlight hours, and back to school sales—fall, for me, means looking forward to the new seasons of my favorite television shows. “Heroes is all set September 21st to begin down the road to redemption; “Nip/Tuck” appears ready for more delicious guilty outrageousness in October; Sports-wise, a couple of weeks of US Open grand slam tennis starts tomorrow and the NFL is preparing to use this football season celebrate the 50th anniversary of the AFL—with, hopefully, particular attention to the league’s pioneering Black players.

For me, the only thing missing is “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

All through the summer, I feared that the program would not be coming back. No promos for HBO’s fall line-up featured show. On No. 1 Ladies’ discussion boards and Facebook pages fans lamented the lack of word and commitment about the show’s return. Little by little the C-word began to leak out. Was the show…canceled?

Well, apparently not—though what exactly is the show’s status is not entirely clear:

The acclaimed BBC-HBO adaptation of the popular series of mystery novels by Alexander McCall Smith, starring Broadway veteran Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe, a lady detective “of traditional build” in her native Botswana, is still alive HBO president Michael Lombardo told Canwest News Service at the semi-annual gathering of the TV Critics Association.

Despite strong reviews, the series did not fare as well as other recent HBO dramas like True Blood and Hung, or established programs like Entourage and Big Love, all of which will return with new seasons.

True Blood is averaging 11 million viewers for HBO, and is the pay cable channel’s most-watched series since The Sopranos.

It would be “an incorrect assumption” to think that The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been cancelled, though, Lombardo said, even though it was pointedly left out of HBO’s programming announcements for the 2009-’10 season.

“We’re actually in conversations now and are trying to figure out the next step,” Lombardo told Canwest News Service.

Two of the series’ original creators, feature-film directors Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, passed away shortly after production began on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective‘s first season.

“It’s been a challenge because, as you know, the creative vision behind that show unfortunately passed away,” Lombardo said. “So we’re trying to figure that out.”

HBO’s programming president, Richard Plepler, concurred.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency did very well for us critically and with audiences, and we’re very proud of it,” Plepler added. “So we’re going to try to figure out a way to get it back.” [Source]

I hope they figure out a way PDQ. I really miss Precious and Rose and all the rest. And I do not know if I can continue to justify paying for HBO for “True Blood” alone.

June 2, 2009

S.O.S.

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"Upside down American Flag." Arthur Guy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthurguy/2537870504/

"Upside down American Flag." Arthur Guy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthurguy/2537870504/

  1. Corey Hatter
  2. Ordero Hillard
  3. Marcus Washington
  4. Andre Malcolm
  5. Arthur Tyler
  6. Sameer Conn
  7. Shaun Brown
  8. Shaun Bowens
  9. Kiyanna Salter
  10. Daniel Calderon
  11. Ernest Williams
  12. Julian King
  13. Brian Murdock
  14. Quentin Buckner
  15. Devour Robinson
  16. Dushawn Johnson
  17. Isiah Stroud
  18. Andre Stephens
  19. Esteban Martinez
  20. Itzel Fernandez
  21. Johnel Ford
  22. Rachael Beauchamp
  23. Johnny Edwards
  24. Kendrick Pitts
  25. Raheem Washington
  26. Carnell Pitts
  27. Franco Avila
  28. Gregory Robinson
  29. Lee Ivory Miller
  30. Rakeem Washington
  31. Tommie Williams
  32. Marquell Blake
  33. Juan Cazares
  34. Christina Campos
  35. Alex Arellano
  36. …(Source)

Please consider copying and pasting these children’s names to your own blog.

May 14, 2009

Sasha and Malia Obama and Murdered Chicago Children: Blame it on the Tech-t-t-tech-technology

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According to Media Matters blog, the Washington Times yesterday featured a photograph of the Obama children, accompanied by a headline about a record number of Chicago area school children who have been murdered this year. It was easy to miss, as the paper quickly removed the image from its on-line edition. But the fact that it happened at all is troubling, especially as there seems to be no valid excuse for the image-headline/story juxtaposition:

The Obama children, of course, are not actually mentioned in the news story. But somebody at the WashTimes thought it made perfect sense to insert the image of the underage White House occupants into a story about murdered kids in Chicago.

And no, this was not an example of an unfortunate juxtaposition, where the the Obama girls photo was actually part of another, more innocuous story and because of a layout quirk simply appeared near the murdered-kids story. Instead, the Obama girls photo was specifically selected to accompany the article. (Source; via A Political Season)

Predictably, after getting caught bloggers called attention to it, the editor of the paper expressed “regret” that this happened and pointed a finger at a technological goof:

“The theme engine, through automation, grabbed a photo it thought was relevant, and attached it to the story,” [John] Solomon [editor of The Washington Times] says, acknowledging that the photo had gone up without a person seeing it. “There was no editorial decision to run it. As soon as it was brought to our attention, we pulled it down.” (Source)

From what I can make out, here are the response options for this kind of eff-up:

  1. Claim there is nothing wrong, and that some people are being overly sensitive or just trying to start trouble. (Especially effective if the names Al Sharpton and/or Jessee Jackson can be worked into the statement.)
  2. Claim that the article/image/statement was (a) a joke, (b) satire, or (c) art that people are just not funny, intelligent, or urbane enough to “get.”
  3. Express regret or sorrow if anyone was offended, making sure to state that offense was not the original intent. (If a racial incident, it helps to have this statement delivered by an employee of the racial group who was the target.)
  4. Flip the script by claiming victim status yourself, making sure to use the phrases “reverse racism,” “political correctness,” “race card,” and/or “left-wing media.”
  5. Similar to the above, claim that others have done/said similar things with little or no recourse. (Especially effective if rap/hip-hop can be worked in.)
  6. Blame it on one rogue individual who is a bad apple in a whole barrel of good Granny Smiths, and place her or him on leave until the dust-up blows over.
  7. Blame it on technology and vow to “look into” it.

In this case, the editor went with the technology scapegoat. (Better to claim passive incompetence than admit active malice, I suppose.) Very effective, because so many of us have had our own run-ins with technology and so are quick to feel the pain of others who have been bested by this beast.

But however it happened, the fact is: It happened. And that is a tragedy.

The tragedy it is twofold. First, it is an unsettling act of symbolic violence against President and Michelle Obama’s daughters.  Second—and most importantly, the whole fiasco detracts from a very important—and still insufficiently-covered story—about the actual young victims of violent crimes and their families in one of our nation’s greatest cities. Most of these Chicago school children have been Black or Hispanic. None of them have become household names like any number of White kids who have also, tragically, been murdered.

So what technological mishap is responsible for this kind of lack of covereage? Who, or what, is to blame?

March 23, 2009

Another “Hmmm” Post-Post-Racial Moment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — pprscribe @ 12:25 pm
"Abstract (metal world)." tanakawho, http://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/1325088727

"Abstract (metal world)." tanakawho, http://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/1325088727

brought to you by Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.

A White entertainer who has banked his image on Black music and dance aesthetics (and who largely got a pass from his part in an infamous wardrobe malfunction with a Black female entertainer), teaching a racially diverse pro wrestler turned action movie actor turned children’s movie actor how to dance, for a children’s network’s awards program that has recently gotten heat because the program’s representatives did not remove from the show or nominations list a young Black male entertainer who has been charged with domestic assault…

…Well, deeper analysis than “hmmm” would just exhaust my mind right now.

March 22, 2009

All Comes Out in the Wash

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 2:51 pm

There are only a handful of TV shows that I watch faithfully, week in and week out. For one, I like being in on the start of a television phenomenon, seeing a series unfold in real time. Thus, it is not likely that in mid-series I will start watching, say “Lost” or “The Wire,” even when friends whose opinions I respect assure me I would love them. But mostly, I am kind of commitment phobic when it comes to TV shows, thinking they are bound to let me down as other shows have in the past.

Three of my favorite recent shows have been prime examples of this tendency of TV shows to disappoint.

“Heroes” began with a bang, and I watched it religiously. The concept was great. The cast was a virtual rainbow coalition of heroes and villains. The story lines were engaging. But over time, more and more characters of color either (a) were killed off, or just (b) disappeared from the story lines. (Racialicious has been keeping up with these developments.) This White-washing is all the more troubling because of how often White killed-off characters–but not the POC– have seemed to have the ability to come back to life. Not to mention how the few remaining characters of color have been treated: one gets his memory wiped back to his 10-year-old state; one, after his beheading, appears only as a magical Negro spiritual guide to a White character; one–known only as “The Haitian” (even in Haiti, apparently) just…kind of…falls off the script, but not before being revealed to be less powerful than what he was previously portrayed as.

"I used to have Super Human Powers." Esparta, http://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/482348262/

"I used to have Super Human Powers." Esparta, http://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/482348262/

My only hope for Heroes is that the mysterious “Rebel” character is the biracial little boy who can talk to and control machines. It’d be nice, though, if we could see him, instead of just his text messages.

Besides Heroes, there is in my DVR cue the FX network series Nip/Tuck. In this case the offense is not so much “White-washing”–though my favorite character from the past (played by Sanaa Lathan) has never returned despite this show’s tendency to bring back characters from past seasons. Instead, in this case we get a “Straight-washing” of the characters: One of the main female characters who used to be married to one of the male leads finally finds love in a relationship with Ellen’s real-life spouse. But…she ends up back in the bed of the other male lead…then loses her memory…then her partner (played by Portia de Rossi) unceremoniously dies on the operating table. What? Past seasons have also not been kind to sexual minorities: they are frequently mixed-up, conniving, and even (literally) murderous. Can’t just one of these characters be well adjusted?

Well, actually there was one such person. The one character who was a strong, proud lesbian from the start gets sexually and romantically involved with one of the main male leads (the same one who led Portia’s girlfriend back to the straight side–guess his organ really does have magical powers). And, in the season finale—marries him! Perhaps this is meant to be a political statement on the unfairness of California’s Proposition 8. (The series is now set in California.) But if that is the case, they probably needed to be a little less subtle with their statement.

"Vampire Children." Shawn Allen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/shazbot/18449204/

"Vampire Children." Shawn Allen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/shazbot/18449204/

Finally, “True Blood.” I have been a sucker (hee-hee) for the vampire genre ever since I was a child and first saw Bella Lugosi’s intense, sexy stare. So, needless to say I had high hopes for a modern-day vampire tale, set in Louisiana, that appeared to be a parable of the Black and LGBT civil rights struggles. And early episodes of the series did not disappoint. In fact, I was hooked by just the opening credits. But. But.  More recently we get a combination, double-whammy, twofer of White- and straight-washing. The sexy Creole guy turns out to be the Vampire-lover killer (and, actually, not Creole at all). Okay. Fair enough. But then the strong-willed ironically named Black character, Tara, seems to undergo a transformation that is not making me optimistic about her further development. Oh, and there is the very interesting shy, gay vampire character who gets killed off.

And the biggest outrage: the disappearance of the hands-down most interesting character: a smart, witty, enterprising gay male character, Lafayette. In the season finale an apparently Black character who we only see from the painted toenails ends up dead.

This. Better. Not. Be. Lafayette.

Really, the main story line–a “Twilight”-like romance between a virginal White heroine and a Civil-War era Southern gentleman vampire–is the least interesting. But it is not likely that the writers will drop it, since that is what the novel series on which it is based is all about.

So, will I continue to give my love to TV programs that don’t love me? When the new seasons of these shows start up again will my feelings be spared the disappointment of my failed TV relationships of the past? Will I decide to write a work of fan fiction in which all the deposed characters of color and LGBT characters from my (previously) favorite programs appear together in their own series where they are all the stars?

Stay tuned, boys and girls…

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