This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

January 8, 2010

Images for No. 1 Ladies

I was very happy to see that the amazing HBO series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, has been nominated for three NAACP Image Awards: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for Jill Scott, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Anika Noni Rose.

I first wrote about the show the night after its premier:

Last night, about halfway through The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency I realized that I had been tense since the program began. It only took me a moment to figure out why. I had been so looking forward to it, so hopeful for it. But I feared that I would be let down.

But what I suddenly felt at that moment was…relief.

Also, a sort of a feeling of revelation. It is actually possible to depict Black people (and, more specifically, Black African people) without having the required one good White person? Perhaps the White school teacher from Britain with a heart of gold…. Or a White American missionary who begins the tale with ambivalent feelings about the dark people but, through a series of heartwarming interactions and growth-inducing traumatic experiences, comes to terms with both his underlying racism against Blacks and his disappointment with his God…. Or a White female Australian there to save the apes from the ravages of a changing global ecosystem and the bias and ignorance of the natives who have lived amongst the apes for generations….

No? None of these obligatory White characters are present? Just Black Africans going about their daily business and lives? Africans who are proud of and happy in their country (Botswana, in this case) and are not looking to escape to somewhere else? Africans who have the capacity for tremendous good, tremendous bad, and all levels of complexity in between? Africans who face plagues and violence and the tug-of-war of the old and the new with bravery and grace?

The very notion of such a program appearing on my television set is almost too much to comprehend….

I did comprehend the program. And wrote about it regularly. (My posts on the program can be found here.) Sadly, the series is not currently filming a second season and it does not appear as if it will any time soon—although the show’s producers and HBO are said to be “in conversations” to figure out a way to bring it back. I really do miss The No. 1 Ladies and hope that these discussions will be fruitful. Until then, I know what I will be rooting for if I watch the Image Awards.

August 30, 2009

Missing No. 1 Ladies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 5:32 pm

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.

May 21, 2009

Reflecting on Race and No. 1 Ladies’

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 12:35 pm

I did not fully realize it until I excitedly checked my DVR for this past Sunday’s episode, but The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is finished for the season! I plan to search around the web for any information on whether the program will be coming back for a new season—I certainly hope so. To keep me occupied in the meantime, I am planning a series of posts inspired by the series reflecting a little on race, cultural authenticity, and depictions by Whites of people of color. Racialicious has a good post up about this very issue.

Some random thing I may cover:

  • The first book I read that (to my knowledge) was by a Black author was Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I read while in high school. It would be an understatement to say that this book changed my life and reading habits forever. But I am often annoyed that it took so long for me to read a book by a Black author. I am trying to ensure that my own children do not suffer the same fate.
  • An experience I have had as a parent is rediscovering children’s books I loved as a child, only to discover how incredibly racist the books are. Also, I have found some books that I loved that I know now were about White characters, but that as a child I had somehow “read myself into” them, recreating lead character in my own image. To me, for example, Pippi Longstocking was a little Black girl (though her non-Black image was clearly illustrated on the cover and throughout the pages).
  • I struggle with the idea that there is an “authentic” Black experience, or authentic anything experience. I am not sure what that means, or who is to judge, or what happens to those experiences that fall outside of the realm of defined (by someone) authenticity. Yet I have very definitely read and seen depictions of Black folks that rang absolutely untrue to me. (And not all of these depictions were by White folks.)
  • Along those lines, it used to annoy me in the 80s when some folks (Black, White, and other) complained of the Cosby Show that it did not depict a “real Black family.” In many ways, the Cosbys were much like my own family growing up. We were all Black. But somehow were we not “really” Black? Of course that is a ridiculous notion. But I am intrigued by what I think that statement and claim of inauthenticity really means.

Those are some of my thoughts right now. I welcome any other thoughts you may have. In the meantime, I do not know what I will do without both “Heroes” and “The No. 1 Ladies’.” So if you have any suggestions for summer TV viewing, I’d appreciate that as well.

May 12, 2009

Love Heals: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 12:21 pm

The 7th episode of the HBO series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency resolved some mysteries and revealed a couple new or unresolved ones. As usual, I attempt here not to spoil the plot. Instead, I will focus on one of the themes for the episode—and, indeed, for the series as a whole.

In the author’s diary for this week’s episode, Alexander McCall Smith talks about the healing power of love that he sees as part of Botswana’s national character. I have already talked a bit about my ambivalence about love as a weapon of justice. But this time my focus is a little different: Who has the capacity to love. No, actually: Who has the right to love?

When this series first began, I kept hearing one question. Is it possible, people wondered, for a White man—a White, British man—to write sensitively and respectfully about a Black African woman?

Some people said, out-and-out, no. Others doubted. Others left the question open, but still were angered that a White male voice should be privileged over the voices of native Black Africans generally and Black Botswanans specifically—especially Black Botswanan female authors. It appeared to me than many people expressed these opinions without ever having read any of the No. 1 books, or seen any of the episodes of the TV program.

I understand the consternation. I once did a video presentation of films that used Black folks as backdrops—in movies about Black people and experiences. (No use cataloging the films I used as examples. Just begin with Glory and Mississippi Burning and Out of Africa and free associate from there.) I have very definite and strongly felt opinions about White and other folks’ appropriation of the creative, artistic and other cultural products of Black and other POC. The White kid on the subway wearing waist-length locs and a Bob Marley t-shirt smiling hopefully at me gets barely a smirk from me in return… Everything but the burden. Yes. I get it.

I cringe when White folks say of their former Black “help” that these people were “like part of the family.” I am annoyed at young White hipsters traveling the globe and “connecting” during their vacation or year-off with black and brown and yellow and red people with whom they come into contact. I chuckle at Madonna’s infatuation with multiculti skin art and rankle at her infatuation with multiculti “orphans.”

Yes. I really get it.

Yet. Is it possible for a White person to truly feel love and respect for a culture not his or her own? How would that look, exactly? How would we discern that from any of the (I think) inauthentic examples I mentioned above?

It seems from the bonus material for No. 1 that Alexander McCall Smith feels love for the people of Botswana he has met, and continues to have a relationship with people and institutions in that country. Do I get to disallow his love, or say that it is not love?

When JLB first tells Precious that he loves her, she responds “I am very glad.” Not the reply he was looking/hoping for. But perhaps that is how I can respond to the professed “love” of cultural outsiders: I am glad that you love me; I, however, do not necessarily love you. And if that is what you were looking for by telling me of your love, then your love is not true.

But if love heals, then am I doing myself a disservice by not opening my mind to the possibility of seconding that emotion? Do I remain stuck in the past, unable to move forward in some sort of racial reconciliation? What prize to I get if I hold the cultural line, not letting any White (or other non-Black) folks in, belittling their attempts to connect and relate, being on the watch-out for the racial betrayal I know is just around the corner?

I have asked many questions, yet I do not have many answers. But so far, at least, the White film and decision makers connected with The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency have not felt the need to inject themselves into the story. We have not seen the appearance of the White British nurse with the heart of gold or the ambitious and naive young White American Peace Corps worker. It is difficult for me to imagine the restraint that this must entail. Surely some cable executive somewhere has said, “This is really great stuff…but, er, I think we need to create a character that people can relate to”—and that character, of course, would need to be White. But so far, we have not had to be subjected to this random White character to appease the (White) audiences. I thank the people connected with the series for that.

I don’t know if it is “love” or not. But I love it. And am very glad to have it.

***My previous posts about The No. 1 ladies’ Detective Agency can be found here.***

April 30, 2009

Everybody Plays the Fool: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 10:01 am

JLB is in love.

But then, we already knew that. What we may not have known before this past Sunday’s episode is the lengths he is willing to go to win the (at least for now) unwinable heart of Precious Ramotswe. Everyone has advice to give. Most of that advice involves JLB presenting himself as someone other than JLB. Surely he knows the lady detective better than that.

She will not be swayed by the inauthentic.

But perhaps she will be swayed by JLB’s loving care of something (her white “van”) that she loves and cares for so much—and that is a material symbol of a someone (her late father) who she loved and cared for and who loved and cared for her so much in return. Perhaps she will also hear and see how she is making JLB feel—as if he is being used, his time and his willingness to assist being taken for granted….

Everybody plays the fool, Mr. JLB Matekoni. Sometimes. There are no exceptions to this rule.

JLB’s own housekeeper is playing the fool—for him.

Mr. Patel—the first non Black African resident we have seen—is apparently being played by his young daughter, who has ideas of her own about how she spends her time (and with whom).

The butcher, Rra Badule, is being played by his wife. This, he already suspected even before appearing at Mma Ramotswe’s door. But he will accept it, apparently, for the sake of the boy he loves so much and the hope (likely misguided) of a better future with his wife.

Everybody plays the fool. Sometimes.

***Previous No. 1 Ladies’ posts here.***

April 22, 2009

African Hearts: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 1:14 pm

Sunday’s episode was my favorite yet. And if you haven’t seen it yet, let me warn you: watch with a box of tissues close by.

In this episode we are treated to a guest appearance by the incredible CCH Pounder. She plays a grieving mother from the US who, though she officially loses her son, ends up gaining more than she ever could imagine. The interaction between her character and the Botswanans reveals what we Americans do “best” when traveling the world: being American. She is (at first) dressed inappropriately, naive about hospitality despite poverty, awkward in acknowledging her connection to the Africans, and—most relevant to my previous discussion—hell-bent on vengeance. But through exploring her son’s “African heart” she discovers African hearts of her own.

The other huge payoff with this episode is the further development of the relationship between Precious and Grace. Again, I try to write these without giving away too much of the plot so I will not say too much here. Suffice it to say that another sisterhood is here forged. And that Anika Noni Rose has got to be one of the most undervalued actors in the business. In this post from That Black Girl Site Corynne says:

Rose, however, layers in much more complex attributes giving her vulnerability, a big heart, and a strong head for business. In most of the episodes that have aired thus far, Rose is the source of comic relief. She doesn’t need to say it word it is imbued in the way she moves as well as when stares thoughtfully and blinks her eyes. But Rose gave us even more this week when she also showed that she can turn in both a comedic and a heartbreaking performance in the same show. Her confession to Precious Ramotswe had me (and I suspect a bunch of you) in tears.

Hopefully this episode will quiet somewhat the concerns of some observers who wanted from this series more of a focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the continent. This issue is dealt with here in a manner that is serious without being heavy-handed. Over in “real life,” Botswana’s response to the AIDS crisis is seen as one of the more successful models on the continent:

Botswana’s national treatment programme is now seen as a successful model for other African countries to follow. Though progress was initially slower than expected, the programme made rapid progress in 2004 and 2005, and patient responses have been comparable to those seen in Europe and the USA.

MASA [the national antiretroviral therapy program; the Setswana world for "dawn"] has demonstrated that antiretroviral treatment can be provided on a national scale through the public health system of a sub-Saharan African country – not just through localised projects run by foreign aid workers or researchers. In Botswana’s case, almost all of the actual cost of treatment has been paid by the Government, while other partners have given support by providing laboratory equipment, staff training or patient monitoring services.

…But the struggle to provide universal treatment in Botswana is far from over. All of those already enrolled must continue to receive drugs and monitoring services for the rest of their lives, and people who develop resistance to their current medications must have access to alternatives, which can be more expensive and complex than first-line therapy.

It is much easier to provide treatment in towns than in rural areas, and MASA will need to be further decentralised to ensure that all areas are covered. The shortage of skilled staff will continue to be a great challenge to MASA, and the programme will continue to be very expensive. The need for help from the rest of the world is as urgent as ever.

Botswana’s long-term vision is to have no new HIV infections by 2016, when the nation will celebrate 50 years of independence. (Emphasis added; Source)

***Read my previous posts about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency here***

148252221_a978e1ff601
“Botswana, condom dispenser.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/mvcorks/148252221/


April 16, 2009

Beyond “An Eye for an Eye”: The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — pprscribe @ 3:31 pm

The primary task of any great fictional detective is (re)creating balance. Notice I did not say “solving the mystery” or “proving whodunnit.” Any average fictional detective can solve a puzzle; a great one solves the puzzle in such a way that some type of moral imbalance is made right again.

Different fictional detectives achieve this in different ways. Columbo always knew (as did his audience) who the perpetrator was right from jump. He achieved balance not by proving the wrongdoer’s guilt, but by leading the wrongdoer by small degrees into making more and more mistakes until she or he reveals herself or himself–as well as revealing the truth that she or he has been outsmarted by the little ragamuffin detective. Perry Mason, in contrast, achieved balance by forcing the true perpetrator into making a public declaration of guilt on the witness stand, and in the process achieving full public clearing of the wrongfully accused. Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy achieved balance by repeatedly demonstrating a human hand for a seemingly supernatural crime–and literally unmasking the perpetrator who is then carted off to (presumably) prison.

In mainstream fictional cops and robbers fare, justice is largely retributive. Think “an eye for an eye.” Think Dirty Harry. The audience cheers when the bad guy gets hers/his. And the bigger and gorier her/his crimes, the bigger and gorier her/his punishment must be. That’s balance.

Now into this gallery of great fictional detectives comes Precious Ramotswe, the “lady detective” of Botswana’s fist and best woman-run detective agency. In the third episode Sunday night, we once again see the theme of how Mma Ramotswe restores balance in the solving of crimes. Mma Romotswe’s way is not retributive, but restorative. I am trying to write these posts with as few spoilers as possible, hoping to encourage people to see the series for themselves so I will not go into much detail here. But several times in this episode, like previous installments, the most wonderful lady detective demonstrates more of a concern for non-judicial judgment, and putting the spoils of crime to good use even if it means that the criminals get to forgo public damning for their actions.

At this point it is important for me to admit that I have some discomfort with restorative justice as a theory of morality. When it became clear that post-apartheid South Africa was moving to a “Truth and Reconciliation” model as opposed to the post Nazi Germany Nurenburg model, I was ticked off. I wanted those responsible for the horrors to be publicly unmasked as well as pay–with their financial security, with their freedom, and yes–even, in some cases–with their lives. (And I say this as generally someone who is anti-death penalty.) I was mad and I wanted payback. I have come to recognize the value of restoration and reconciliation. And certainly, Mma Ramotswe’s fictional example has resulted in good for her community that would not otherwise have been achieved in a more adversarial model for achieving balance in criminal cases.

But still. I am ambivalent.

And clearly I am not the only one. In Sunday’s episode we saw further nuances of Grace Makutsi as she looks askance when her employer makes an observation and implied suggestion in resolving the hospital mystery. We know from her family situation that Grace knows, painfully, that time does not heal all wounds (as Mma Ramotswe mused once, likely thinking of her own past abuse). We now see that she is uncomfortable with the idea that those who were near to death anyway deserve to have their truth sacrificed in the name of keeping the larger community’s faith in the medical system. This was an especially poignant moment for me due to the key role that Grace played in solving the mystery (and saving a life).

So, I can see that an eye for an eye mainly results in mass blindness. I can’t get over the idea, though, that an amends for an eye still leaves one party blind. I have a feeling Grace would have this same idea.

I’ll be watching her closely to see how she comes to terms with this.

***Also watching The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is TransGriot. PPR_Scribe’s previous No. 1 Ladies’ posts here. Please, if you are blogging about this series, tag your post with the full title and drop me a line if possible. Thanks!

April 8, 2009

“Something Else”: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 1:01 am

As I have said here previously, what I love so much (so far) about the HBO series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is its difference. An all-Black cast: different. Set and filmed in Africa (Botswana): different. A leading lady who is sexy and smart and “traditionally-figured”: different. A relatively slow-paced and relatively sweetly-written plot: different. There is just a lot here that we do not often get to see on our small screens at home (or on the big screen either).

This week’s episode revealed more of this difference.

****MILD SPOILERS AHEAD****

One has to do with the developing relationship between the two female leads. Fairly well-known working Black female actors in Hollywood probably have stacks and stacks of scripts in which they were slated to play the sassy Black friend to the White female lead. Or, if there were multiple Black female leads, likely the script called for them to be waiting for a man in order to exhale. But two Black female leads who are depicted in an employee-employer working relationship? Talking about work expenses and life and human nature?

Now that is “something else.”

Also different is that each of these women has been given a complex back story–even in such a (on the surface) simple and sweet story as No. 1 Ladies. We already saw some of Precious Ramotswe‘s back story last week in her marriage to a jazz musician, experience of domestic violence by his hand, and resulting death of their baby. But this week we also see that there is more to Grace Makutsi‘s past than just a near-perfect score at secretarial school.

That these two women’s paths have intersected is clearly going to be the impetus for each of them growing in different ways. In episode two it is not yet clear how this will come about, but the hints are there.

This week we also get an interesting and heated exchange between BK, the hairdresser and Grace. Sexual orientation is never explicitly brought up in the exchange. But BK does accuse Grace of having been words away from calling him “something else”–that something else being, I guess, “gay” or some slur for gay–and thinking that there is something wrong in being something else. Later BK and mild-mannered Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni engage in a joint display of macho stage play to assist Mma Ramotswe on a case. Mr. Matekoni compliments the normally flamboyant BK, and BK then says something like, “Yes, not bad for a ‘something else.'”

Again, I am withholding judgment on how the BK character is treated here. When I first saw him last week, I wracked my brain to remember him from the books but could not. Well, it turns out that the character was created specifically for the series. In the “Making of” behind-the-scenes program he is described as adding “comic relief.” A flamboyantly gay hairdresser as comic relief? Not so different. We’ve seen it a million times before.

But perhaps there is something here that will develop into something else. Perhaps BK will also be given a more complex backstory and get to be more than the sassy BFF. (Yet another character type that is always the best friend but rarely the lead.) I am hopeful.

In the meantime, I hope that the adorable Wellington returns.

****Elsewhere, on The No. 1 Ladies':

Claudia of The Bottom of Heaven comments on the lovely Jill Scott’s portrayal of a lovely fully-figured woman:

Maybe this is what Stanley Crouch had in mind when he wrote that Scott’s character “embodies Bessie Smith’s proud claim of being a big fat mama with the meat just a-shaking off her bones.” But I don’t think Crouch quite gets it. Mma Ramotswe doesn’t strike me as a blueswoman, though she can be as forthright, perceptive and as sensual as one. As a plus-size woman myself, I’m just delighted to watch “No. 1 Ladies” and know that there isn’t a role in this series that Tyler Perry is qualified to play.

I agree 100%!

****Please, if you are blogging about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, tag your post with the full title and drop me a line if possible. Thanks!

April 5, 2009

“Aiding” Africa? The Helpers Have No Clothes

One of the things I loved about the HBO broadcast of “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” is that it portrayed a different picture of the African continent than what we usually see: either a place where only exotic wild animals roam the land or a place where only famine, disease, poverty and war characterize the people.

Of course, this is not to say that the continent is problem-free. So often, however, these problems are painted as endemic to the countries and their people, with Americans and other great Westerners as those who will come in and save the day.

So it is nice to get an alternative view of the problems on the continent and what is and is not helping–and a view that is not from a non-African, White, male. Dambisa Moyo provides just such a view:

Dambisa Moyo is a unique voice in the debate over African aid. In a conversation dominated by white, male westerners—and most conspicuously by celebrities such as Bono or Bob Geldoff—Moyo is a black, African woman. Born in Zambia to a banker mother and a father who now runs an anti-corruption organization, Moyo earned her master’s from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Economics at Oxford. She’s worked as a consultant to the World Bank, and for the past eight years was the sub-Saharan economic expert for Goldman Sachs. It was at Goldman Sachs that Moyo began work on her book, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, released just a few weeks ago.

Moyo does not see the premise of her book as controversial, saying that to most Africans it is simply common sense:

I think it’s quite bizarre frankly, and slightly laughable, when I hear people say “Oh, the book is controversial.” My view is that it’s hardly controversial; it’s very obvious. Someone described it quite appropriately as The Emperor Has No Clothes. Because I think we all know that aid is not working. That’s why in the book I draw on literature from organizations like the World Bank. It’s somewhat bizarre that all this evidence is out there [that aid doesn’t work], but somehow we just continue to push for more. Let’s take the capitalistic system for a second. It’s quote, unquote, not working now. We have centuries of evidence that it generates wealth and delivers jobs, and yet here we are after one bad year and we’re ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. So I find it quite worrying that we can look at aid—after sixty years and one trillion dollars that haven’t worked in Africa—and we still don’t question the system. It seems the natural thing that when something has as bad a record as aid does, we should question it and want to overhaul the system.

I readily admit to not having a very good mind for macroeconomics. That is why I depend so much on the analysis of others–those who I must trust with their expertise–to get a handle on such issues. I’ve only recently begun reading books on economics, starting with two by Fareed Zakaria: The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom. I’m looking forward to adding Moyo’s book to my self-imposed syllabus.

March 31, 2009

Blogger Call-Out: No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

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In commenting over on the Blackinformant, I mused whether some of us who blog and who plan to regularly watch the HBO series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” might want to blog about the program on a weekly basis. Duane was down, and further suggested that folks follow his lead and drop HBO a line saying how appreciative we are that this program is on the air–as well as doing the same for other programs on other networks:

I say, let’s make a list of shows out there that do buck the trend (programs that are either by us or for us) and thank the networks, producers and advertisers for quality programing. I figure if they can hear from us when something is garbage, they should also hear from us when it is something that we like. The more they hear from us, the more incentive they have to keep producing programing like this.

Elsewhere on the web, I have been enjoyng other conversations about the program. Professor Tracey was also loving the show, saying “What a relief to watch something sappy, sweet, and sassy, all at the same time.” Diary of an Anxious Black Woman took issue with the accents and the portrayal by Black Americans of Black Africans, but concluded “I can see enough subversive elements in the story to keep me interested in checking this series again.” That Black Girl Site was very much looking forward to the premier, but no word yet if it lived up to her expectations.

So anyway, if anyone else out there is blogging about the program, I guess just tag you posts “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” and search around for what others are writing about it. And consider taking the Blackinformant’s advice. One last thing, if you do not have HBO and consider subscribing to watch the program (as That Black Girl thinks you should) then do not forget to let them know that The No. 1 Ladies’ is the reason why.

March 30, 2009

Liking Ladies’ No. 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 11:47 am

Last night, about halfway through The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency I realized that I had been tense since the program began. It only took me a moment to figure out why. I had been so looking forward to it, so hopeful for it. But I feared that I would be let down.

But what I suddenly felt at that moment was…relief.

"Botswanan flag." futureatlas.com, http://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/506956546/

"Botswanan flag." futureatlas.com, http://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/506956546/

Also, a sort of a feeling of revelation. It is actually possible to depict Black people (and, more specifically, Black African people) without having the required one good White person? Perhaps the White school teacher from Britain with a heart of gold…. Or a White American missionary who begins the tale with ambivalent feelings about the dark people but, through a series of heartwarming interactions and growth-inducing traumatic experiences, comes to terms with both his underlying racism against Blacks and his disappointment with his God…. Or a White female Australian there to save the apes from the ravages of a changing global ecosystem and the bias and ignorance of the natives who have lived amongst the apes for generations….

No? None of these obligatory White characters are present? Just Black Africans going about their daily business and lives? Africans who are proud of and happy in their country (Botswana, in this case) and are not looking to escape to somewhere else? Africans who have the capacity for tremendous good, tremendous bad, and all levels of complexity in between? Africans who face plagues and violence and the tug-of-war of the old and the new with bravery and grace?

The very notion of such a program appearing on my television set is almost too much to comprehend.

I will say that I liked the program. Loved it even. I am sure it is not perfect. I am not certain if the gay hairdresser will be treated with the humanity that will save his character from the perils of stereotype, for example. And of course, I wish that something of equal quality can be done with a book by a Black author. I sense that if I look carefully enough I will see clear signs of a “White gaze” in the depictions of this program–Africa and Africans as seen, still, by White men who, perhaps, have romantic ideas about the continent.

I will have to look at my recording of the program to assess any further nuances of my reaction. Again–the program was just so new that I could barely concentrate on anything other than my great relief and contentment.

I will also say that I loved Ms. Jill Scott. In this world of unworthy “artists” getting the fame and recognition that is more rightly due others, sometimes the fates get things right. And Jill Scott is one of those cases. She was stunning to look at and stunning to listen to. We were even treated to her amazing singing voice.

And the cinematography is like…visual poetry. Apparently the series is being shot on location in Botswana. It is rare that we get beautiful shots of an African landscape that are not immediately followed by a voice-over describing a migrating herd of some four-legged species of animal.

I see that Madonna is in the news again concerning her child and her wish to adopt another child from his country of birth. I suspect more people get their image of “Africa” through lenses such as this than will get it through the tale of Precious Ramotswe and her investigations.

But I can hope.

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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