Archive for March, 2010

Originally posted at Stereohyped in Sep 2008

“I was a little different; I didn’t do what the fast girls do,” Solange says in the opening lines of “I Decided,” the lead single off her sophomore set, Sol-Angel & the Hadley St. Dreams. If you can resist the urge to point out that the fast girls probably used birth control, you’ll find that in many ways, she’s right.

After attempting the fast track to success with a few attempts at R&B-Pop stardom, Solange reinvented herself as the Knowles clan’s in-house songwriter – penning tracks for sister Beyoncé and “sisters” Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams – a dubious honor at best, unless you consider “Get Me Bodied” a high water mark in songwriting achievement.

This is why Sol-Angel is so surprising in its effectiveness and authenticity. In the years since her last album, Knowles’ style and lifestyle choices often came off merely as the rebellion of a teenage girl living in her older sister’s shadow (“Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”) trying to find her own identity – with all the “be different” earnestness of an angsty teenager.

(more…)

Advertisements

So, today we say a long-overdue farewell to Nip/Tuck – the single biggest travesty on television in the last 5 years. A little harsh, no? After all, VH1 has built its entire resurgence on shitty shows that will almost certainly bring about the end of mankind. But we never expect anything of reality shows, so that’s a whole other deal.

I’m disappointed in Nip/Tuck because it was once truly the most visionary and groundbreaking show on the box. I discovered it via weekly mini-marathons as they geared up for the Season 3 premiere, and I would literally spend the better part of each four-episode screening slack-jawed and bug-eyed. The shit they came up with was purely out of this world, but the writing was so sharp that it didn’t feel like an insult to your intelligence. (more…)

Originally posted at Racialicious in Aug 2008

Books is BadThey are proud of their ignorance.

They equate getting an education to “acting white.”

Inner-city students have to decide between being smart and being “cool.”

I’m sure you’ve read at least one of the above statements at some point over the course of the last five years. Like the “down low” frenzy of yesteryear, it’s the pummeled dead horse du jour of African-American narratives. (more…)

Dexter: Bloody Good

Posted: March 1, 2010 by RA in Race, Television
Tags: ,

Originally posted at Racialicious in May 2008

Dexter

As much as we clamor, beg, and plead for minority representation in the mainstream media, when we get it, it seldom seems to work out as we’d hoped. Many people of color can attest to squirming uncomfortably in front of their televisions, praying for that character of color to finish up and skulk offscreen, so we can return to the idyllic white utopia we enjoyed only minutes before.

Do not adjust your monitors – I really did just say that. While I appreciate the need for children and teens still defining their identities to have (at least) the occasional protagonist who looks the least bit like them, I never quite bought that argument as applied to adults. I (like many consumers of U.S. media) have never had a problem consuming all-white narratives for three reasons: (more…)

Originally posted at Mixed Media Watch in Aug 2006

White SaviorAny self-respecting, gluttonous “Law & Order” viewer here must have seen the previews for TNT’s made-for-TV movie, “The Ron Clark Story.” If you haven’t seen them yet, you absolutely have to.

The movie features Matthew Perry as a white teacher who joins an “inner-city” public school system, whose enrollment is 99%-black (but I’m sure you’ll see a white kid or two— hey, tokenism works both ways). He gladly takes on these students nobody cares about, turning them into… oh, who the hairy hell are we kidding? We come across this exact synopsis every three years or so.

My early pick for Best Line this time?

“Nobody wants them, and I do. So what’s the problem?” (ahh, what a fucking saint.)

Before Antonio Banderas’ “Take the Lead,” the last White Savior flick I remember was some drivel supposedly set to air on Lifetime a few years back (somebody help me out here), but the most successful film in this genre has to be Michelle Pfeiffer’s last hurrah, “Dangerous Minds.”

Still, it seems one of the effects of global warming is an increase in the speed of the earth’s revolution around the sun, because:

  • it’s been scientifically proven that these White Savior movies come around only once in three years,
  • and my cellphone, computer, and even cable box suggest that “Take the Lead” was released just this year. So much for state-of-the-art technology, right?

Anyway, there have been a few Black Teacher versions of this narrative, but somehow they don’t leave me needing a shower quite as urgently as these White Savior flicks. More after the jump…
Why? Let’s look at some of the more memorable examples.

Morgan Freeman in “Lean on Me” (1989): Here, the students, though engaged in stereotypical activities, were much fuller characters– each with his own individual flaws, virtues, etc. Still a treaclefest, but it didn’t set up the students as creatures to be alternately pitied and feared. Plus, Freeman’s Principal Joe Clark is a bit of a tyrannical asshole (with a heart of gold, of course).

Whoopi Goldberg in “Sister Act 2″ (1993): Right. Like these kids were really in any danger.

Samuel L. Jackson in “187″ (1997): Back when SammyJack actually read scripts before signing on to a picture. This is no shlocky tale of a good teacher who doesn’t give up on his “loser” students. It’s a dark film with a near-existentialist outlook on the futility of good works. SammyJack doesn’t exactly care about these kids when he begins teaching in New York, but they’re more than just a means to a paycheck. However, after he is attacked by his own students, he moves to an LA-area school where he begins a zombie-like existence reminiscent of Meursault in Albert Camus’ “L’Etranger.” Sure, he helps some kids along the way, but somehow you don’t get the feeling he really set out to — collateral repair, if you will.

Thus, you see, those movies don’t really count as White Savior flicks—an assertion that is bound to leave many asking the Syzlakian question, “Well if you’re so sure what it ain’t, how’s about telling us what it am!”

To that end, let’s run down a few essential elements of a White Savior flick.

1. Race is NEVER mentioned… at least, not by the Savior:
These kids are… BLACK? Only a racist like you would notice that, for I don’t see color! In “Music of the Heart,” Meryl Streep’s Roberta Guaspari—a violin teacher—has to deal with parents telling her they don’t want a white teacher teaching her son “dead white man’s music.”
The message: “Us whites are the oppressed ones! Left to us, we’d have a color-blind society in a heartbeat!”

2. The Jaded Black Administrator:
Each of these flicks must have someone of color there to devalue the kids, just in time for White Saviorman to cluck his tongue and declare in his/her softest (but most determined) voice, just how amazing these kids are. “Ron Clark” has one of these, and I tell you, I could’ve sworn that scene was directed by Leni Riefenstahl for the “White Savior for Canonization” committee.
The Message: These people are so problematic, even their own have given up on them… but not us! White Man’s Burden lives on!

3. The words, “Based on a true story” :
Whenever these issues are brought up, there is always a mass of people rushing to point out that it was based on a true story. Well, that shuts me up, doesn’t it? To quote Williams and Delli Carpini, “it is not enough for movies to say only that they are ‘based on a true story. For politically relevant media, how far and in what ways dramatic license was used must be made much clearer than is currently the norm.”
The Message: See? That’s how “these people” really are!

I could go on, but why bother?

So yeah, I hate White Savior movies… no fancy ending here.

Originally posted at Mixed Media Watch in Aug 2006

Huey Freeman & Aaron McGruder

Separated At Birth?: Huey Freeman & Aaron McGruder

“I am one those red-blooded, flag-waving white Republicans you’ve heard about,” says one of Cartoon Network’s trademark teaser letters in its Adult Swim time slot. “I think The Boondocks is totally irresponsible viewing… and I love it!”

While Adult Swim likely aired those comments in their usual tongue-in-cheek manner, there is definitely an argument to be made for this show’s appeal to racists— not to suggest that “red-blooded, flag-waving white Republican” is in any way synonymous with “racist.”

Born of creator Aaron McGruder’s controversial 6-year-old comic strip, the animated show is one of this fall’s early successes on the network. Its ratings are proof of the marketing power implicit in the word “controversial”—a promotional buzzword often used in describing the original form’s handling of racial issues through the eyes of the 10-year-old protagonist, Huey Freeman. (more…)

Originally posted at Racialicious in Oct 2007

South Park“Well, you know why they’re like that, don’t you?” inquired that familiar, beloved voice in my ear. “It’s because they’re Jewish.”

If you live somewhere in these United States, chances are you have that friend or relative whose bigoted statements seldom fail to ruin a perfectly good time. Your light, breeze-shooting convo turns into an uncomfortable lecture if you call them out, or an agonizing battle with your conscience if you don’t.

Mine’s my dear old Great Uncle Arthur – proof if I ever needed it that the whole “I can’t be racist. I married a so-and-so” argument is pure bullshit. He spent 20 years married to Aunt Ethel, the original Absolut Jew. (more…)