Nobody is/was surprised by Seth MacFarlane’s performance last night at the Oscars. He is the guy who you (let’s face it I) would only secretly make out with, but keep that right to the grave and deny with every fiber of being- he is smarmy, sweaty, and thinks he’s hilarious, the worst of all personality and physical flaws wrapped up into one punchable face.
But the problem is not Seth MacFarlane, at least not alone. This is not some standup show at an open mic night. This is a professional production - where every action, joke goes through a heavy vetting process. It’s prime time on family friendly ABC - there is a whole line of gatekeepers waiting to sign off on every moment - and already nervous about the issue of liveness.
Everybody knew what they would get in having MacFarlane (which apparently is nothing without the ability to animate postmodernly between references. That guy had no material.) and MacFarlane had to have known that he’d be used the scape goat if controversy hit. Whatever people say or think, ABC wins. Numbers went up for MacFarlane (thanks 13 year old dudes) and people have been in a flurry about it - even those who read a blurb about it on a site they found through another site are interested in offering their opinion.
But the issue really isn’t with MacFarlane - it is with the writers he collaborated with, the producers who circle jerked as he told them his ideas, the corporate suits who got to think their kids may think their hip, everybody in that room who was complicit with applause, and I’ll even throw in those who didn’t take the time to maybe note the racism (her hard is only hard to pronounce because you’re too lazy to learn it), anti-semitism (Jews run Hollywood? Really…white dude?), homophobia (really, no homo?), ethnocentrism (the Academy every year, but really when are we going to stop noting the fact that even people in France are human?), fat jokes (calling out Rex Reed by calling Adele fat - c’mon)…it all just seemed like a parade that everybody just watched waddle by. Also, there were like 18 women up for awards…so it’s really an unfair battle.
Even Jordin Sparks had the ovaries to stand up in front of a room of MTV favorites and a billion teenagers to comment on Russell Brand’s jokes concerning the Jonas Brothers and virginity. Though I disagree with the JoBros and constructions of sex and virtuous virginity, I still have to admire the fact she interrupted the awards to call Brand on his bullshit (which really was a cheap shot…who gives a shit? Let them carry out the ruse and try to connive girls into anal sex like the good ol’ days). Even when Ricky Gervais punched everybody’s egos at the Golden Globes, people were willing to throw mini hissy fits when at the mic to condemn his meanness and everybody hooted and cheered. But make jokes based on race, sex, sexuality, and class and nobody utters a word. They may refuse to titter and sit with arms folded, which is protest enough, but to have nobody utter anything is off-putting.
It sucks because if anybody did, MacFarlane would come back on stage and criticize people for not finding him funny. This is one my biggest peeves, by the by, making it MY fault for not finding jokes funny. Because it assumes one person is objectively right and the other is an idiot. It happened one time during the telecast.
This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.
When people “ooed” the joke, he asked the audience if they were on his side. As much as I hate to do it - let’s diagram why this is a shit joke…just so I can feel better.
Rihanna and Chris Brown don’t even go here. They have absolutely nothing to do with the Academy Awards and though they’ve both been in films, they aren’t really in the industry -so really, they have been just trotted through the ringer for you to make a cheap joke. Also, it really minimizes the brutality of Django’s narrative - not to say that there is a hierarchy of domestic violence - but to just summarize the film as “unthinkable violence” really ignores the larger issues of power, rape, emotional violence, physical violence, race (considering Hildy is raped by her master and implied countless others)…and there are literally no similarities between the Rihanna/Brown violence and that in the film - except for the fact that MacFarlane is comparing black couples. And then we have a whole host of issues involving making a joke about domestic abuse and violence. It’s really just gratuitous and lazy joke telling.
We all get the joke. It’s not really that complicated, but I think it’s deserving in its criticism. It doesn’t accomplish anything - the joke isn’t some nuanced commentary.
I watched the awards with robotslovedinosaurs and we kept making eyes and during commercials discussing how the show embodied everything wrong with the culture of irony - how it really just becomes an excuse for saying fucked up shit and blaming others for taking offense. First of all, let’s get this PC shit out of the way. Just because I am offended by a joke, does not mean that “everything is so PC” - I hardly hear anybody but white, 19 year old dudes complain about how overly PC the world has gotten or 55 year old white dudes talk about the good ol’ days - well, shit has changed and few people are sorry that you have to be more careful about who you talk pussy with, but c’est la vie. It must be really hard - but it was really hard for me in sixth grade to have a classmate talk to me about my tits, insinuating sex, feeling threatened and then being called a bitch because I didn’t get the joke.
The problem is not Seth MacFarlane, per se, but what happens when the age of irony is sanctioned by the public. It’s a convergence of points- the fact that we don’t have discussions about these topics. We don’t seriously open up discourses; instead, we try to “fix” or create instant solutions for incredibly tangled issues. We encourage firing people for comments or banning them from projects instead of saying “that’s fucked up…let’s unpack this baggage.” Nobody likes to be shushed - it just intensifies bad feelings and let’s face it, makes us want to be even louder or more grotesque.
We leave these things under the radar, undiscussed and festering. We have those like Seth MacFarlane (and there are more of him out there the Toshes, the Cooks) who make jokes regarding rape, race, violence, homophobia casual - and because it has been sanctioned (it’s on mainstream television, after all), it’s assumed that it must be alright. Yet, after the jokes are made and out there, there is no more control over how those jokes circulate. I dare ask…if this era of irony didn’t exist would the kids in Steubenville be so cavalier in joking about a raped teenager?
Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is ironic, because A) it suggests eating children, which is extreme B) it’s not a modest proposal as eating children is a bit of a scandal and actually a large undertaking. The problem with irony is that it assumes the teller is not what he/she offers - we have to assume Seth MacFarlane is not a racist, homophobic, misogynist, asshole - which he’s never really been able to disprove. This goes for pretty much everybody who hides behind irony.
There is something, however, nice about the fact that criticism has gone fairly mainstream and instances of irony are being questioned at a larger scale (though this happens in every sitcom, variety show, talk show…). I know it’s going to be short lived until the next time some idiot says something they probably shouldn’t have and feels forced to apologize. I really look toward the day when people decide to do something besides complain on blogs, Facebook, YouTube, text messages to friends (see what I did there?)- not only in the sense of deconstructing - but in holding more honest and public and more intimate conversations concerning topics which seem to make people feel nervous and uncomfortable. As a cynic, building intimacy within a culture that privileges individuality, anonymity, and insincerity seems pretty inconceivable, but its something to seek and strive for (lit ref. for RBF).
I have listened to Action Bronson talk about wanting to put knives in buttholes, Miguel declaring my pussy his (false), Schoolboy Q talk about how he loves to hear that pussy purr (in my dreams!), and MY FAVORITE lyric by Skeme and Schoolboy Q “cotton candy, sweet as gold, let me see your pussy hole”, but Drake’s video grosses me out.
Firstly, he’s the worst. He’s all smile with no heart. His lyrics are empty - and in fact there aren’t any real substantial lyrics here, just this continual reassurance that he started from the bottom. Did I miss something? Is there a whole host of poetry? I just hear a beat and a man protesting too much about his ability to be more than just a smile and a former child star. It doesn’t matter how many times he says it, we all know that his hip hop career wasn’t from the complete bottom. Being a teenage star in Degrassi, no doubt helps. It’s evident, because he has absolutely nothing to say.
Secondly, this video. It is vile because it is under the guise of good naturedness, but only perpetuates the objectification of women - but not in a standard “video vixen” sort of way, where women could arguably be in control of their objectification, but the fact that they are rather passive in this construction. What’s most uncomfortable is the real world application… So we’re supposed to find it hilarious when a woman just wants to purchase lip balm, but has to stand while the clerk victimizes her, stares at her tits and for a moment is held hostage by his gaze - then she is passed over for yet another chuckle worthy dude - who continues to hold her up, lies, but because he’s arguably (far more arguably, because he’s a complete lech) more attractive than the first, she comes across as interested and all the possible threat is minimized, because it is assumed she was into it the entire time. Sexual harassment is the new pickup line. This is followed by clips of headless women gyrating - I don’t know if they get paid more or less if their faces are on camera - but they sure are being watched by drunk, panting, sweaty dudes, who can’t believe their luck.
What bothers me most is the dishonesty. I would much rather have somebody straight up objectify women, then attempting to back away, disassociatie, and hide behind the guise of “irony.” Drake is for me more threatening, because he acts not only as if it is natural, but as if he deserves it - it’s his right as a man to ogle, to harass, and women should get on board. What’s frightening is that he’s kind of right to think that, considering he’s the mainstream golden boy and because he’s come at Chris Brown in defense of Rihanna - and because of that is viewed as Prince Charming (though, I have a problem with a defender who has a sword in one hand and an unsuspecting boob in the other).
Aubrey (Drake) is the roofie guy, the guy who street harasses women while they walk in the middle of the afternoon, and the kids who laugh and brag about the girls they and their friends taught lessons to earlier that week.
Rather than talk about explicit lyrics, let’s talk about this…let’s talk about the way in which all of what those like Aubrey perpetuate has been naturalized by the music industry - that rather than play songs that deal explicitly with race, MTV will play this shit. Will give it award and Drake will continue to make drudge after drudge after drudge - while anything remotely challenging will further be contextualized as more dangerous, more underground - and I’m not sure if more accessible. The problem with the internet’s openness is that it’s easy to get lost and we often times just stick to what we know or with that which is familiar.
We should all just listen to Prince.
But since he’s all about legality, this will have to do - a bit of Venus and Furs …
I know that a lot of people were creaming their jeans over the No Doubt reunion. It’s been eleven years, so a decent time to get Adrian off the couch and Tom’s nose out of a book (nerd). I am not part of the homecoming court and wasn’t checking off the list of teases, nor counting down the days until songs and videos premiered. I haven’t cared about No Doubt since their 2000 album, Return to Saturn, but you try to be a fifteen year old girl listening to “Bathwater.” It’s sheer poetry.
Before I get into what I don’t like about No Doubt, I’m going to offer a few concessions:
I really like(d) Tragic Kingdom. I was twelve and it’s pretty much an entire rock album about how much it sucks to be a girl - Not wanting to be bothered, dealing with gender constraints and frustrations, and heartache that at twelve I couldn’t wait to identify with (actually at twenty seven, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed), and a relative disinterest in just about everything.
I always thought Gwen Stefani was a pretty ok lady. In interviews she always comes across as an awkward nerd who made good. This was also before nerd-chique hit hard. Plus, she actually has a voice and is a show-woman, both I greatly admire during a time where all you need to do is pat your pussy on live television to be a fan favorite (Yeah, Rihanna, I said it. We all said it).
These two things aside, I have never been a superfan of No Doubt. I hadn’t missed them these past 11 years; in fact, when I heard they were getting back together, my first thought was “Why”? It was not so much that I am against it. Nostalgic 90s should be cashed in on by all the bands of my youth.
I remembered why I didn’t care when I heard and saw their single, “Settle Down”:
What the fuck is this?
Is their flavor Africana this album?
That’s the problem with No Doubt as a band and a concept. They are about as worldly as the Real Housewives of New York in Morocco. There has always been something disconcerting about their “incorporation” of “otherness” in their music. It is used nothing more as a fad, fashion, or flavor than an actual acknowledgement of non-western music.
Remember when Gwen Stefani was all about India while promoting Tragic Kingdom?
There have also been subtle references to a general “urban” look
Their follow-up was the ‘reggae/dancehall’ period
(Note: I do actually like “Underneath it All”)
Then came the hiatus…but don’t worry about missing out, because Gwen on her off time brought us a smattering of Japan:
and really just a hodgepodge of exotic otherness:
Am I saying it is inherently bad to experiment with sounds and mix Western with NonWestern - nope. But there’s a difference between pairing and sampling and appropriation. Do we really need more examples of tribal Africa? Geisha’s? Cholas? Without any kind of forethought as to what proliferating those images mean or do? Cultural identity is way more complicated than what is being offered and such simplicity does more harm than good when it used to just highlight the differences between blonde white girl and “other.”
Note: Just because you went on a vacation does not mean you are an adopted citizen. You are not a Geisha because you bought that kimono in Chinatown. You are not African because of that drum you got at that store in the mall. Smoking pot to Bob Marley’s “Best Of” does not make you the bearer of the Rasta movement.
I have a bit of soft spot for Cher Lloyd and I don’t really know why, considering I’ve never been all that impressed by her singles. Maybe it’s because she seems like a fun Dickensian ragamuffin.
“Want U Back” is one of those songs that I’ll probably play back quite a bit throughout the week, because it reminds me of 90s bubblegum pop and I’m feeling a bit nostalgic these days.
I, however, have some questions/issues.
1. You dumped this guy because he was a goober with not much game. And now you’re livid that he’s found, presumably another goober? I’ve never quite understood why women are supposed to find ineptitude a precious quality. Are we really that hard up for companionship that we’re supposed to fight for ambivalent assholes? Though this is couched in the sweet overproduced sounds of pop music, I’ve been noticing this trend everywhere and with more frequency. Hubby can’t figure out how to boil water…oh that lovable lug, here’s a microwave meal. Dude can’t figure out how to operate a broom…pssh, men, here’s a swiffer! It’s really patronizing when women’s knowledge is only represented in comparison to idiots. The fact that we’re supposed to not only accept this, but to fight other women for dummies is a whole other category of gross.
2. What restaurants did you go to? It’s rather ambiguous. McDonald’s claims to be a restaurant. You are currently in a diner (not really a restaurant, though I would argue most often better). Get a new place.
3. When you dumped him, you thought he would cry. He didn’t give a fuck and so you want him back. Again, what message is this really putting out there? I think women are a bit confused and I’d like to clear things up. Mr. Darcy was a fictional character constructed and written by Jane Austen. His class and position dictated his stiff, somewhat unemotional personality and he was character from the 19th century. Now I like emotionally distant guys as much as the next girl. Not all assholes are Mr. Darcy; in fact, very few assholes are Darcy. Unless he’s willing to bust your sister out of a bum marriage, amend past mistakes by talking up your sister to his BFF, and looks like Colin Firth, he’s not a Darcy. If there’s no fight on his end, let that shit go.
4. What things did you do first that he is now doing with her? The world does not begin and end with individual experiences. I’m sure most of the things this dude did were not the firsts with you and I’m pretty sure they weren’t your firsts either. The only thing I could think of was anal, but after racking my brain, I could not think of a narrative where women missed anal.
5. Is it really all that difficult to spell out “you”? Call me nitpicky, but this text speak has gone a bit too far. You have spent more time capitalizing the U, than just writing it out. Is this supposed to be symbolic? A hint towards deconstructing the subject? Doubtful. Your arguments are invalidated as soon as you start U-ing all over the place.
6. I don’t understand the layout of the video. You’re upset at the guy, so you humiliate the chick who had nothing to do with your break up (which you initiated). That’s not good sportsmanship. First, there is only one person at fault and it’s you. That new chick maybe an idiot, but only for falling for a guy who lacks the game you want back. Redirect your frustration.
At least Neon Hitch is honest, which is really all I’m ever looking for.
Simply, I can fuck you better. Another woman wiggles into the relationship. There’s an a sort of acceptance of the situation. Plus, Neon Hitch is not doing much to try and win this guy back, just stating the fact. Acknowledging he’s moved onto a lesser lady and that he’s missed out on some quality intimacy.
Louis C.K. is the best. I am enamored by him and think he is quite possibly one of the smartest, funniest, self aware comedians who have ever worked a room or a television set. If he did decide to start a religion, I would drink whatever Kool-Aid he offered.
International Women’s Day officially closed… in light of all the depressing discourse over women’s bodies and rights…I figured it was about time for another “primer” (to borrow from RBF) of lady tunes that at least I have been into lately.
Just give it a shot.
Beach House - “Silver Soul”
Breeders - “Do You Love Me Now?” (Last Splash is a FAN-Fucking-Tastic album)
The Real World/Road Rules Challenge is a reality show on MTV. The format is quite simple: past cast members from either of those programs (though now more often strictly Real World since the latter show no longer exists. Every once and awhile the Challenge will provide “Fresh Meat” to keep the hard body cast it aims to serve) compete in mini challenges. Individuals or teams, based on performance or politics, are thrown into elimination rounds to weed out the herd until a few remain to compete in the final challenge.
As a cultural studies and television scholar the program is a hotbed of analytical activity. The challenges are filled with chauvinism, as physical strength is prioritized over all else, collaboration is disregarded for the sake individual glory, the men do their damnedest to eliminate the women who are usually portrayed as out of control emotional nutcases, and provide countless poor examples of women being overly reliant on men to either take control in physical situations or the political game.
It also provides the stunning display of self importance that makes reality shows the train wrecks we want to watch. The Challenge, for many, have become their jobs. The same handful of people come together to display their physical prowess, strut their egos, throw hissy fits and then applaud themselves for being less than a trifle famous.
The program has always provided the drama necessary to create “good” television. It combines the drama of sports (which is one of the reasons why Bill Simmons and friends from Grantland love it so) with the intensity of melodramatic reality shows.
It’s kind of like Written on the Wind (1956) meets Gladiators…yes, it is that good.
After watching these two clips, I’ve realized they are essentially the same.
This particular season of the challenge has consisted of people being paired with their exes from past seasons or shows. MTV plays quite fast and loose with the definition of “EX” as people who have kissed on a show are also competing with those who have had actual relationships - which changes the dynamics of those involved in those pairs - which affects the way those two communicate with each other - but leave it to MTV to just scrap together a narrative.
From the get go this program has run into problematic territory in more extreme ways than they have before.
Firstly, MTV patted themselves on the back for including a lesbian pair on the team. Not only did they think they were progressive in terms of representing women, but MTV wants everybody to know they are pro-gay. The games also tend to make up rules in order to re-establish the status quo. The audience is always reminded that these two are lesbians, which for the challenge means, there is no dude on their team. Nobody gets how they can survive, they’re considered doomed from the start (despite the fact that both have proven to be quality competitors). They actually survived for six episodes before losing in an elimination - beating quite a few heavy dudes.
Second, in one of the first few episodes, shit got real, when male castmember, Vinny, ripped off another castmember’s shirt, drunk and on purpose. The incident itself was quick and most of the footage consisted of a drunkenly upset and embarrassed Mandi reeling over her exposure. By morning she had forgiven him, she knew he “didn’t” mean it (because apparently that’s what matters), but surprisingly Vinny and his teammate Sarah were booted off the show for the sexual assault. I say surprisingly, because everybody on the show had chalked this up to harmless revelry. What nobody discussed, either within the show or publicly, was that MTV had just been sued by a former challenge participant for negligence in regards to her being sexually assaulted by two cast members with a tooth brush (Tonya Cooley Allegations). MTV was on notice. Production had already been lax with at least one instance (and in this case a big one). Also, try finding anything written on the subject since October/November 2011. MTV has been really great about not talking about it, nor allowing any past or current cast members to comment.
MTV had shown themselves as being responsible, at least as far as women were concerned. They were proactive. Onward progressive youth culture…
And then there was blackface.
As well as reaffirming male privilege. The program also reinforces white privilege.
The situation was this:
Emily and Ty are exes
Ty starts something with Paula. It’s a sickeningly sweet fling. It’s annoyingly cutesy.
Emily and Camila decide to make fun of the couple, which means Emily spreads Nutella all over her face, you know, to accurately portray Ty, because she’s method.
Ty becomes furious quite quickly. Not only is he upset that his relationship with Paula is being made fun of, but this display is also super racist.
As soon as the joke falls flat, Emily begins to realize that not only is making fun of the couple hurtful, but that she has cut deeper than just being jealous. She has crossed the racist line and her understanding of herself and Ty go into a tailspin. She is immediately regretful, despite the attempts to assure herself that it was a joke and nothing more. She keeps contending that “it wasn’t malicious” and she “wasn’t coming from a mean place.”
She spends the night sobbing as Ty threatens to leave (though after sleeping on it, he decides to forgive her and stay).
Invoking the history of racism by donning Nutella is bad enough, but my issue here is how the whole situation is controlled by production.
While preparing for her performance and spreading the hazelnut spread all over her face, Emily asks her counterpart whether her nutella face could be considered racist.
If ever you ask yourself that question, the answer is yes.
No matter what your intentions are, whether they be from a mean spirited place or a fun jokey place, racism is racism. You don’t have to intend to be racist in order to be racist. That was what Chappelle’s Show was all about and why all those on the show who tried to redirect the clearly racist implications of blackface to something nonracist are the reasons why Dave Chappelle quit one of the greatest satirical shows on television.
Camila, Emily’s partner in crime, complained that the whole incident was just a joke and that Ty shouldn’t take things so seriously.
First, there is no such thing as “just as a joke”. There is always a reason, always a victim, and if you don’t know who or what they are, you should quit telling jokes.
Second, often when people do things that are offensive, they often try to redirect their guilt to their victim. It’s a passive aggressive move, as old as time. Very few people want to acknowledge their own prejudice, so to call their victim “too sensitive” takes the pressure off of them and places the responsibility elsewhere. It became Ty’s fault that he “didn’t get it.” But he did.
That was the issue. The attempt at the joke was not. None of the white people could understand the big deal. They could acknowledge that it was wrong, but all kept contending that Ty was making TOO BIG of a deal about it, that Emily was really nice and grew up sheltered, so probably didn’t know any better.
The rest of the episode was constructed in a way to inform the audience that this could (there was no definite stamp of approval or disapproval) be considered racism and that when people like Emily who don’t know any better (though she knew enough to ask whether it was racist) do things like this, that the best thing to do is apologize. The rationale used by the white housemates (Ty is the only black person left on the show at this point) is reinforced - unintentional racism is not a big deal.
Unfortunately, unintentional racism IS a big deal, because that’s how racism works and not acknowledging that (MTV) is how racism continues to circulate. MTV focused on more reasons why the incident was not racist than the fact that it was…
One of the more egregious examples was that Ty and Emily had a relationship, so because Emily had sex with a black guy, she couldn’t be racist.
think about it
WHAT?! Yes, it does.
It may not make you a member of the KKK (though again sex and power over the Other is a thing, kids), it does not mean that you are free from the binds of institutional racism, meaning inequalities/oppression that are below the surface (read LeRoi Jones’s “American Sexual Reference: Black Male.” It is a highly intense piece that could arguably be doing more harm than good, but can help those unfamiliar with understanding why such assumptions concerning race and sex are misplaced).
It is true, that Ty is African American. He is black. But what was being teased had nothing to do with his race (the relationship). Placing nutella all over your face to highlight his blackness, to enhance his difference as compared to all the white people (as if nobody could figure out who Emily and Camila were talking about), made the situation racial. No longer was he referred to as a man, but as a black man, which carries with it all the stereotypes, particularly those regarding sexuality which have been proliferated through film and television - the overly sexualized and sexually aggressive and dangerous black man who lusts after white women.
Not knowing this history is a problem. While Emily may not have intended to be racist, she played into the stereotypes and representational strategies that help circulate racist thoughts and attitudes.
While Emily was clearly apologetic over her lack of knowledge and foresight, MTV was the real problem.
Focusing on the rationale created by white folk to make this a nonracist issue screamed for some type of intervention “a hey…let’s flush this out a little more” scenario.
MTV also aired an aftershow right after the program and made Emily once again acknowledge her mistake and cry in public. After that was over (approx. 7 minutes), they moved onto more important subject matter, like who was fucking who and why or why not.
MTV did all they could to prove to audiences that they were aware ENOUGH; however, they did as much as they could to acknowledge without really exploring the issue, which in turn continues to promote the fact that explicit racism like the use of racial epithets or blackface is the only type of racism.
What they did was ignore the issue that so was glaring: we (Americans) are not postracial. It is really quick to point out individual acts, say “that’s wrong,” and that the lesson learned is the most important thing. What MTV does not want us to consider are the deeper meanings of racism, to ask further questions like why their programming lacks representation of people of color (seriously, look at the schedule: MTV ON AIR) and pretty much always has. That a color barrier had to be broken after challenges from those both within and outside the network (David Bowie, for example). And they don’t want us to question the stereotypes often employed in their program. In fact, they really don’t want us to ask many questions at all, especially as it relates to racism.
One of the reasons why I like The Challenge is that it is representative of the culture in which we live (in this case American). Is it highly constructed, yes, but in a way that is hyperreal and able to expose us to the underbellies of misogyny and racism that continue to exist despite our attempts to relegate political isms to the past. The Challenge is the microcosm that consistently reminds us of how little women are regarded within a culture that treats them as emotional wretches who are only useful as sexual objects, to be played with and disposed of for “manly men”. We are also reminded of who is in charge of the microsociety - white dudes. For the past several seasons this has consisted of four individuals - Johnny, Evan, Kenny, and Wes, who good or bad (depending on side) have run the game - have manipulated and become those who strong arm all the remaining players to do what they say “or else.” Race is rarely discussed but continually constructed - Black men are touted for their physicality and everybody seems disappointed if they don’t live up to their blackness. Black women are shown as aggressive, violent, crazy, or out of control. Asians, Latinos/as are rarely included in the program and their ethnicity is rarely if ever mentioned in the show. And it is all in the name of capitalism.
It is 2012. Some lament that we don’t have flying cars, but I’m more concerned by the fact that people are still not aware that blackface in any form feeds into racism. I am less angered by the lack of technology (because we can fly in airplanes, to cite Louis C.K.) and more so wish that racism was a thing of the past. I’m over excuses like “I didn’t mean it” which is meaningless. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you intended, nor even about you - this is not an apology, it is a refusal to acknowledge somebody’s feelings and experience - which to me is worse. That we could see more of the unseeable forms of prejudice rather than the more explicit. I wish we were better at confronting it than avoiding it. I wish those working in production would be more apt to make changes, take more responsibility for their representations. I wish irony would go away, since nobody seems to understand what it is and every joke is thought to be ironic because everybody believes we live in a postracial society that doesn’t exist nor has ever existed.
Really well known fact: I LOVE THE MONKEES. I have since I was a young kid. I remember singing in a brush to “Last Train to Clarksville”, pretending my bed was a stage. There was no audience (not even stuffed animals, because if I recall correctly, at age 9 I worried that doing so meant I was crazy. Another time). When I was a teenager I saw the television show for the first time. It was while we were living with my grandparents and Screen Gems aired The Monkees before Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie. I was mesmerized by the pomo (yep, totally said it) structure of the former. Ridiculous storyline, wacky cuts, parodies, music videos. It was a dream to have what was always happening in my brain being shown onscreen - a series of references, actual thoughts, anxieties, songs - moving quicker than could be processed. Whatever showed after it paled in comparison. It was a joke. Lackluster. I caught the show maybe twice before they began to play something like The Partridge Family. Alas, I was not a happy camper. I didn’t actually get to see the rest of the series until I was an undergrad and all my past memories were fulfilled. I was not disappointed by my memory. It was absolutely correct…it was still one of the best things ever to be shown on television.
This is all to say that I was royally bummed when I found out Davy Jones had died, because I have built a history with the band. The fact that I have attached memories and built a soundtrack (including the time I put on the Greatest Hits on repeat while driving all night. My friend was more upset by that then the fact I had fallen asleep at some point or multiple points throughout that run. 19 year olds) makes me even more upset at mother…for having killed Davy Jones.
The reports say it was a heart attack, but alas, this is all too coincidental and don’t take into account the fact that my mother is cursed. This is somewhat a family secret - a story that we have joked about since I was a little kid. Every artist my mother has purchased an album from has either failed in their career, been a hot mess, or died young. The older I get, the more true it has become. The only problem is that it is unclear when all the consequences come. Sometimes it happens rather quickly while for others it is a long and winding row of hotmessdom.
Some examples, you ask? WOULD LOVE TO:
Jon Secada? Heard of him? EXACTLY? Bertie Higgins, who? Kim Carnes? The third layer of One Hit Wonder Inferno Jane Oliver? Exactly Nelly? Not coming back.
Remember this one?
Yep, that was Mom. YOU’RE WELCOME!
Fine Young Cannibals - It hurts me to say, that was her too.
When she’s not hurting her careers, she’s causing personal tragedies. While we may expect celebrities to start running wild and get into shenanigans - my mother’s curse takes them to a whole other level of “WHAT THE FUCK?”
This was Boy George Before My Mom. A bit moody, but his love of a good Calypso beat brought him and world joy.
This is Boy George after…heroin addiction (my mom may not have caused this, but most likely brought on him getting his ass caught) and getting arrested for tying a person to a radiator…c’mon.
Michael Jackson - CHECK
My mother like millions of people bought Thriller. You know the rest of MJ’s story.
George Michael - Hell yes and there’s more to come
Whitney Houston - Double Check
People were largely taken aback by this one. Granted, Whitney Houston had been on and off for years - and it’s unclear what she had been taking around the time of her death. But in that time we got to hear her tell us “Crack is Whack” (and for poor people), detail her doodie butt accounts of love with Bobby Brown, and just completely take a shit on her divadom. When I asked my mom about it, she replied “The bigger they were, the harder they fall.”
Davy Jones - YEP
Davy actually hurts. I had a vision that at some point they would all get back together, go on a reunion tour, and I would see them. Granted, it probably wouldn’t get that crazy. It would just be me and a bunch of Gen Xers having a great time. Not going to happen.
Some people to look out for:
All of the Police
The rest of the Monkees
Eminem - Yes, his pill popping has already started - so watch out.
But the greater reason I went through this rigamarole was that with every musician’s scandal or death, I think of my mom. I think of how we are linked through the albums she bought that were eventually the singer’s or bands’ demise. I remember listening to Jon Secada’s “Just Another Day” on repeat during dinner. We used to dance crazy hard to The Fine Young Cannibals. I remember her talking about George Michael’s “Faith” video and my dad poking fun of her crush’s booty dance. I think about all the moments when we’ve been in a car and the radio has been turned up just enough for both of us to jam.
Essentially, I am following Michael Nesmith’s lead. After the news broke about Davy Jones, he wrote a response that included:
While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity.
While I could chalk up all the people to changes in the industry that made them irrelevant, issues of taste, celebrity access to excess, genetics, and the fact that shit just happens, I prefer to think that this curse exists. It brings me right back to my memories as a kid. It reminds me of how much I love music for being able to connect me with what are small, seemingly meaningless bits of time. And helps take away that shock value so heavily placed on celebrity deaths and transitions it to recognizing the meat of what those celebrities put out in the ether - outside of egos, gossip, and corporate interest.
Guess what? the Academy Awards last night were boring and aimed to make people feel better about an industry that does little more than convince audiences that Hollywood and America is THE BEST! This year the French film, The Artist (Hazanavicius, 2011) won, so the Academy does recognize other nationalities - as long as they celebrate the Hollywood magic and Harvey Weinstein backing them (let’s face it, we might as well just give melt all but 5 awards, make a gigantic Oscar, give it to him and cut down the ceremony from five hours to 30 minutes with commercials).
Weinstein may not be able to influence votes (he totally can), but he does have the power to make a French film play in cineplexes across the United States, despite being black/white, silent, with unknown leads. The Artist can also go straight from Best Foreign Film category to Best Picture nominee (apparently Sony doesn’t have the same clout, sorry A Separation).
The Academy Awards this season also reinforced that in the United States women are only as good as the men they work for. Women look really good in dresses - if you see any discussion of women and the Academy Awards - it’ll probably be followed by a designer’s name and commenting on whether or not they looked cute enough for the Academy Awards. On top of the pageantry, if you take out the two performance awards for women - where women are guaranteed a win - I saw only three women actually up on the stage to collect awards, both with men - and few getting a word in the 30 seconds anybody has to speak.
Francesca Lo Schiavo - held the art direction award for Hugo, as her husband Dante Ferretti gave the speech for the both of them. For those thinking “well, maybe she doesn’t speak English” - She does.
Oorlagh George - part of the father-daughter team who won for short live action - The Shore - her father provided the speech, which actually was kind of sweet, while she only got the opportunity to shout quickly that the award was for her mother. Yes, you may, point out that her father was the one who wrote it and directed it, but Oorlagh IS a producer- but if I have to hear the dude bros from The Undefeated masturbate over their win, I’d like to hear more of what Oorlagh has to say.
Sharmain Obaid-Chinoy - produced Saving Face and walked up with director, Daniel Junge who so *graciously* allowed her to speak (literally, he said “I should really allow the woman from Pakistan to talk”, then took up more time for a category that’s going to be shorted on time, and then stepped aside allowing her to speak) - again, when the film was brought to Junge about the issue of women’s faces burned by acid, maybe just take allow the producer, journalist an opportunity to fully accept the award - Junge, do not ALLOW her to do anything. Thank your mother in the press room.
But the lack of representation continued with even smaller things, the surplus of men over women in the montages they continually aired - concerning the best films, the power of cinema, the significance - it was another gesture- here’s a Gabourey Sidibe, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon - interspliced with about 15 dudes, including Adam Sandler - Razzie superstar.
It was the fact that for Thelma Schoonmaker’s nomination for Best Editing (Hugo), the woman who helps make Martin Scorsese “Martin Scorsese” is only shown talking about how great Marty is- the other nominees talked about the editing process or the film itself - Schoonmaker, however, one of the most significant editors, responsible for some of the best editing and films we’ve seen for the past 31 years, is only shown giving a sentence about Scorsese- not the film, the process - just how cool Scorsese is.
According to the Women’s Media Center - only three categories in the whole shebang had women outnumbering men, whereas others demonstrated the discrepancy of Boy’s Club Hollywood. As they point out, the list includes multiple names for one project, so when they say for writing only two women were nominated for the entire category, that means Annie Mumulo and Kristin Wiig - the Academy was able to get their nod to women AND comedy in one nomination. Halleloo.
So essentially, the lack of women winning, is par for the course, when few are even nominated (19% as opposed to the 81%, when are we going to get that slogan going, Occupy Women?).
It’s interesting that films like We Need to Talk about Kevin, Young Adult get no nods at all, despite having favorites like Tilda Swinton, Charlize Theron, and Diablo Cody attached. I guess the Academy just figured that The Help would be their patronizing gesture - One film about women, with a bunch of women (including women of color! DOUBLE POINTS), about how great it is that white women can help black women and racism, and it’ll make everybody feel better that racism is officially over.
BTW, when is the Angela Davis biopic coming out?
Oh that’s right, never
I dutifully watch the Academy Awards for the pomp and the chance that maybe something I actually liked that made it through the rigamorale of Hollywood gets something. Plus, it’s an excuse to have a fancy party feast with your BFFs. But again, I wish the industry would be a little more honest…
Put the awards on Spike TV and have it hosted by the Entourage crew…actually, you really just need Jeremy Piven.
After each win, have the literal circle jerk that at this point is only merely represented by the actual ceremony.