Archive for the 'pop culture' Category

Thanks, Tila!

Tila Tequila

A little levity for you: while the debate about whether marriage equality is something to unequivocally celebrate continues, at least one thing has been cleared up. We now know who to thank for the victory in California! And no, it’s not LGBT organizations and activists who have worked tirelessly towards this goal; that would make way too much sense. No, folks, we should actually be thanking Tila Tequila.

“It is because of me. I definitely think [my show] has helped the movement,” Tila told Us Weekly at the Hollywood premiere of “The Love Guru” on Wednesday.

“A Shot At Love” pits men and women vying for Tila’s affection against each other in a series of challenges designed to help Tila find the man or woman of her dreams.

“Before it came out, everyone was still a little apprehensive about [same sex relationships],” she said. “Then they realized, ‘Wow, everyone is really into this stuff, and it is fine.’ The next thing you know, [gay marriage] is legal.”

Or maybe the show just reassured everyone who was apprehensive about the gays getting hitched that even if queer people look like they’re gonna marry a hot, interesting individual of their own sex, in the end they’ll wind up going with a boring person of the “opposite” sex named Bobby?

(Yes. I will admit it. I watched that train wreck of a show. And DANI WUZ ROBBED!)

Also, I am amazed that the image in this post is the only one that showed up on the first page of my Google Image Search (SafeSearch turned off) for “Tila Tequila” that was not hyper-sexualized or featuring major nudity. Actually, why am I surprised?

(Thanks to Myles for the tip!)

Congress jumps on the hip-hop scolding bandwagon

In today’s news: the House of Representative held a hearing titled “From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images.”

I love hip-hop, yet I see the flaws in some of the music and culture, especially the corporately approved and pushed brand of hip-hop music and culture that dominates the scene. As a queer woman of color, there’s plenty of times when I’m nodding my head or dancing to a good beat only to find myself cringing at some sexist or homophobic lyrics.

But singling out hip-hop for scolding like this in a congressional hearing? Ridiculous. First off, while some hip-hop artists might be particularly direct in voicing their sexism and homophobia through their lyrics, hip-hop is certainly not the only offender when it comes to such things. Pop culture and entertainment is riddled with sexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism. Maybe it’s not as blatant as “the ‘B,’ ‘H’ and ‘N’ words,” as the AP article lists them, but it’s most certainly there. I don’t think I could watch TV for half an hour without seeing at least a few instances of such things, and I don’t think that subtlety or, say, being packaged as cheesy, harmless sitcom jokes makes oppressive imagery any less harmful or negative. Gentler, kinder isms are still isms, and may perhaps do more harm than the blatant stuff because, for most people, it’s totally acceptable, nothing to bat an eye at. Hip-hop though? Apparently a whole congressional session is needed to talk about dynamics that play out in every facet of American culture, just dished out by less convenient whipping boys.

Also – doesn’t Congress have anything better to do than wring their hands over hip-hop? If they’re so concerned about sexism and racism and violence, why are they worrying over symptoms instead of trying to deal with root causes and systemic injustice? Actually, it’s rather shrewd of them to make a big show over things like this while allowing the factors contributing to these larger, systemic problems to continue unhindered. As rapper and producer Levell Crump said during the hearings, “change the situation in [his] neighborhood and maybe [he'll] get better … If by some stroke of the pen hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present in our communities.”

Then there’s the title of and inspiration for the hearing. From the article:

”From Imus to Industry: The business of stereotypes and degrading images” was the title of the hearing, referring to former radio host Don Imus, who lost his job after making derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. The Imus incident has sparked debate within the music industry about black artists using offensive, misogynist and violent language.

This is what’s pissed me off about much of the reaction to the Imus incident. Virulent white asshole says something sexist and racist, and … Black artists come under fire? Folks start hollering for the banning of the n-word in Black communities? What is this, some twisted version of that anti-drugs commercial from the 80s, but this time with white folks saying “I learned it by watching you on BET!” when they spout the same racist and sexist bullshit that white people themselves came up with in the first place? PLEASE. This reminded me of an excellent Democracy Now! interview with Michael Eric Dyson that aired during the Imus brouhaha, during which he was asked to respond to the NAACP’s funeral for the n-word:

I think that there are many more issues that the NAACP should be focused on: structural inequality, social injustice, this war in Iraq, the imperial presidency, which has subverted the democracy of the country… I don’t think Don Imus can blame hip-hop for his problems. First of all, the demonization of black women is much older than Snoop Dogg. This is a history in America that is racist, that sees black women as oversexed, because they had to deal with the oversexed organs of their black men.

Word. It’s just incredibly frustrating to watch Congress spending time on something like this when white culture and the white power structure is riddled with prejudice and discrimination that has done and continues to do far more material damage than hip-hop ever could.

Of race, gender, and mutants

Jean Grey and Storm

Spoiler alert: don’t click on the link below if you haven’t seen X3 yet, plan to, and care about things getting ruined for you. (I myself am extremely irritated when people, blog entries, film reviews, etc reveal crucial plot points of films that I’ve yet to see.)

Just read some astute analysis on the WIMN’s Voices blog of how some major sexism plays out in X-Men: The Last Stand, specifically in the portrayals of Storm and Jean Grey. In the blog entry, Makani Themba Nixon writes that “a story about fierce women and their struggle to step into their power becomes little more than anti-feminist propaganda.”

Sad, but true, though the phrase “anti-feminist propaganda” kind of irks me – I’d just say that the portrayals of supposedly strong women just wind up being weak and sexist.

It’s a shame, given that I love the X-Men films. And even though this did have many problems (the aforementioned sexism, the weird treatment of some POC characters, etc) and was, as many have said, not as good as X2, I did like it fairly well. And, damn, do I love Jean Grey. Totally my favorite character, followed closely by Magneto, then Wolverine. Too bad Storm’s portrayal totally sucked, maybe I would’ve liked her more.

Magneto and Professor X Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X

Speaking of Magneto – does anyone else find themselves cheering for Magneto and his side of things more often than not? Sometimes I’m just like, hell yeah, fuck those humans!

Which brings me to another piece of excellent thinking on the politics of X-Men: Black Politics, X-Men, White Minds. In the essay, Morpheus Reloaded discusses the parallels between the narrative of the X-Men and the Black civil rights movement, with Professor X symbolizing Martin Luther King Jr and Magneto symbolizing Malcolm X. Before you balk (if that was your impulse), it’s not so far-fetched – the white creators of the X-Men, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements that they were witnessing in the 1960s. Morpheus Reloaded also discusses that aspect of the X-Men: what is going on when white people create an allegory for Black liberation movements? What’s the end result of that sort of thing? In summation, Morpheus Reloaded writes, “The reality however, for better or for worse, is that the X-Men are here to stay as is: an intended expose on race, bigotry and intolerance in society that actually in the end sheds more light on the white psyche than anything approaching reality.”

(thanks to Josue for the heads up about the first article)

weltschmerz

The National Spelling Bee is an entirely too stressful thing to watch on TV.

Also: kundalini for the second to last word in the entire bee? Way too easy. Though, um, ursprache? Kinda made up for it, though I suppose if you sprechen die Deutsche or however it’s spelled, it’s not that unbelievable. I wanted the Canadian girl to win but, oh well, go Jersey!

Most Beautiful Baby?!?

Daytime TV is dangerous and should generally be avoided. Case in point: for some reason, I was watching Live with Regis and Kelly (as of a few moments ago, when I finally turned it off). Today’s big segment: the final rounds of the Most Beautiful Baby competition. Apparently, people across the country have been looking at baby pictures and voting for who they think is the Most Beautiful Baby of them all.

Does this seem really weird to anyone else? I mean, come on! Going through rounds of elimination to determine which baby is more beautiful than all the other losers? As if our society isn’t lookist enough, we’ve gotta impose oppressive standards of beauty on children from jump?

Unsurprisingly, all of the five finalists (that’s just wrong. babies should not be finalists for anything) are white. Also unsurprisingly, all looked exceedingly grumpy, uninterested, or frightened when they were trotted out on stage. And frankly, I’ve seen MUCH cuter babies.

Ah, well. At least Martha is on soon. Unfortunately, Ellen doesn’t air in Atlanta (where I’m at for work this week) until 5pm. Similarly obscene: Jeopardy! airs at 4:30pm, instead of its appropriate time slot of 7pm. WTF, right?

Not that I don’t have work to be doing here instead of watching TV…

Holy stupidity, Batman!

There are far more important things to be writing about (and hopefully I’ll get to at least one of those things later on today), but I needed to have a public WTF?!? moment about this, from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Frank Miller, who changed the way people looked at comics with his noirish 1980s Batman graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” and his “Sin City” series, says he’s started work on a book where the caped crusader will “kick a lot of al Qaeda butt.”

“Not to put too fine a point on it — it’s a piece of propaganda,” Miller told a group of about a thousand fans this weekend at the WonderCon comic book convention in San Francisco. “Batman kicks al Qaeda’s ass.”

Miller says the book will be called “Holy Terror, Batman.”

Holy Terror, Batman?!? This can’t possibly be good. It just seems like these issues are too fraught, to complicated, and too rife with opportunities for racism, ignorance, and oversimplification to be fodder for this sort of comic book.  It’s not even as if he’s going to try to take a nuanced look at the issues; he’s not hesitant to say that it’s going to be propaganda, punto, and we all know how nuanced and balanced propoganda is! As another comic book artist says in the article,

“A standard-issue treatment would show them as another crew of generic swarthy bad guys, and there will, of course, have to be a ‘good Arab’ or two to prove the comic isn’t prejudiced. I’m guessing an Iraqi commando on our side,” Gonick said. “But if Miller gives them the real characteristics of al Qaeda — that is, really depicts the details of their religiosity — he could get into trouble.”

I know next to nothing about Frank Miller, but having much enjoyed Sin City, I’ve got to say, I’m a little disappointed. Not that Sin City is some sort of model of progressive or leftist thought. It’s one of those things that’s fucked up eight ways to Sunday, but that I still enjoy. I think you’ve just got to suspend your principles a wee bit now and then to enjoy much of anything in entertainment these days.

2005 as summed up in 10 dictionary definitions

Today, when I went to m-w.com to verify that I was using a word correctly (it was “regale,” and I was), I noticed a link to the top 10 words looked up in the online dictionary in 2005. They provide an interesting summation of what 2005 was all about. The list, with some commentary added by yours truly:

  1. integrity, as in, is there any little smidgen left in the US government? Anyone? Anywhere?
  2. refugee and how that word does not mean the same thing as evacuee and really should not be used interchangably
  3. contempt of court, I’m guessing? Or perhaps, the contempt that many people worldwide feel towards BushCo? Because that’s definitely where I’d place most of my contempt this past year. And the year before that, and quite a few years before that, too.
  4. filibuster, as in what the spineless Democrats will never, ever do, no matter how necessary it may be
  5. insipid, which I actually had to look up to remind myself what it means, and which quite accurately sums up most of American pop culture these days. ESPECIALLY television. Excepting, of course, some shows, especially the one that FOX canned because they suck at marketing one of the BEST. SHOWS. EVER. Bastards
  6. tsunami, a tragedy of proportions that I still can’t wrap my head around, and yet that I fear I’ve already become kind of numb to, as is wont to happen when we humans aren’t directly affected by the tragedy
  7. pandemic, shudder.
  8. conclave, as in the men we have to thank for the gem that now sits on St. Peter’s throne (though, really, one can’t have all that much hope for that particular position)
  9. levee, as in yet another thing that the government gets to act all surprised and sorrowful about when they drastically underfund it and, shock of shocks, it breaks
  10. inept. Yeah. I think you all can think of plenty of societally timely and relevant applications for this word yourselves.

Nothing new in The New World

The not-so New World

I’m really waiting for the Religious Right to flip out over the obvious immorality of this film – hello, pedophilia?
When white America comes out with a movie that prominently features Native people, you can’t really expect much good to come of it, can you? So, when I saw the previews for Terrence Malick’s The New World, I was appropriately dubious. Yet, I was also slightly intrigued, because even though I should know that the first line of this entry is absolutely true, the cinematography looked beautiful and interesting enough to make me wonder – maybe it’s not so bad?

Well, I’m glad that my brief moment of naivete didn’t drive me to go out and see the film (in fact, it didn’t come close), because it appears that it’s the racist, revisionist garbage that one would expect. Gabriel over at Modern Fabulousity offers a sharp and insightful take on the film.

Thinking about the film spurred me to learn a bit more about the history behind the incessantly sentimentalized story of Pocahantas, which brought me to the website of the Powhatan Renape Nation. They’ve posted a response to the Pocahantas myth as promoted by the Disney movie and countless other sources. I learned quite a few things from it – for instance, that her real name was not Pocahantas (a childhood nickname meaning “naughty one” or “spoiled girl”) but Matoaka, and that she was only 11 when her supposed romantic interest, John Smith, arrived in her land. Additionally, the whole thing of her saving Smith’s life was probably a total falsification. All of this being, of course, totally unsurprising, given the white man’s insistance on twisting Native history beyond recognition and to their own racist advantage. From the piece by Chief Roy Crazy Horse: “Of all of Powhatan’s children, only ‘Pocahontas’ is known, primarily because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the “good Indian”, one who saved the life of a white man.”

Somewhat unrelated: upon finding the Modern Fabulousity blog in search of writings on this movie, I also found this amusing take on the “gay trend” in the Golden Globes:

Most Annoying Oscar Trend: The Year of the Gay. Expect to hear this repeated ad naseum, due to Brokeback, Transamerica, and Capote. But three films do not make a trend, people. You could just as easily call it the Year of the Country Folk (Brokeback, Walk The Line, A History of Violence and North Country), or the Year of the Effete Novelist (Capote, The Squid and the Whale), or, God forbid, the Year of the Overblown Literary Adaptation (Narnia, Constant Gardener, Pride and Prejudice, Memoirs of a Geisha, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Proof, Breakfast on Pluto, Brokeback, Munich). But I guess none of those have as much incendiary appeal as The Year The Queers Took Over The Planet And Held Your Children Hostage.

I’m not queer or trans, but I play one on the big screen…

… or the big screen, as it were.

So, on tonight’s Golden Globes, Brokeback Mountain won Best Drama, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Song, Felicity Huffman won Best Actress for Transamerica, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor for Capote. A strong year for queerness and, um, transness in the movies. Too bad none of the queer and trans characters in these films could actually be portrayed by, oh, I don’t know, queer and trans people? Ah well, I suppose we can only ask for so much. (That’s sarcasm there, folks.)

Of course, that’s not to say I wasn’t very happy about Brokeback Mountain winning.  Though I think my personal highlight of the night was Sandra Oh winning Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for Grey’s Anatomy.  My girlfriend and I both cheered very enthusiastically when that happened.  We <3 Sandra Oh!