links for 2006-10-04

Spotlight on mixed actors

by Jen Chau
spotlightBackstage, the weekly paper for actors, actually devoted a good-sized article to the discussion of acting and how mixed-race people fit into the field (thanks to Jarrad, my actor friend for the heads-up! I didn’t even realize that it had come out yet! :)). The article questioned whether “racial categories help or hurt actors.” I was asked to comment as part of the article, and was happy to see that many mixed actors and actors of color were also included in the discussion of this topic.

Chau explains….”I definitely think that there’s that struggle with, ‘Do I try to get roles that I actually identify with culturally, or do I just fit into what people think that I am?’” she says. “How much do you really fight that as an actor or actress? I think that in some ways Hollywood is a little bit behind the times; they see people in very defined categories. Within those categories, you’re supposed to look a certain way. It’s very limiting. I personally think that it isn’t until people force it a little bit more that Hollywood is going to change.”

Actor Coby Bell, son of Broadway actor Michel Bell, is multiethnic — African American and Caucasian — and admits that casting directors see him differently than he sees himself. “I’ve always been put into the category of African American as far as Hollywood goes. I’ve never had a problem finding work, so I’ve been lucky in that sense,” he says. Bell’s résumé includes Half & Half, Third Watch, Girlfriends, A.T.F., Smart Guy, and, most recently, a starring role in the new CW series The Game. He says it’s rare to find a project in which race isn’t an issue.

This is an interesting conversation that we have been having more and more lately. How do you negotiate the difference between what is already available to you in Hollywood as an actor, and where you would like to see things go (if you are indeed concerned with realistic representations and want actors to be able to play characters true to their own ethnicities in real life)? Some actors care and feel the responsibility…others consider the small opportunities afforded them, and take the good roles they can get (no matter what ethnicity they are asked to portray).

This brings up a lot of questions — is it important for actors to truly represent the characters they play (latinas playing latinas, middle easterners playing middle easterners, etc.)? Do we want to go in that direction? This raises questions of authenticity, responsibility…who is accountable for these images? And what exactly are we prioritizing when an actor is matched up with a character to play? Is the most important thing their ability to tell the story? Or is it to make sure that they truly represent the ethnicity of the character they are playing? Perhaps one matters more to some, while the second matters more to others. It’s interesting to think about as more and more actors of color are on screen and speaking about this issue… thoughts? :)

links for 2006-10-03

Introducing a new project: Race Changers

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new project called Race Changers! Please head on over there to check it out. Race Changers is a blog that brings together a community of people working towards an anti-racist future, one week at a time.

The Goal
People often ask, “What can I do as an individual to make a difference?” Race Changers offers a way for any person to join the fight against racism. Each week we post a new assignment that we will all do together, and we discuss what we learned from the experience.

What it will look like
Assignments may be anything from reading a compelling article to initiating a thought-provoking conversation about a particular topic, from writing a journal entry to volunteering with a local campaign. We hope to harness the power of collective action to create the momentum we need to create lasting change.

Make sure that you receive all assignments!
To receive email updates whenever we put up a new post, click here. To subscribe to our RSS feed in your feedreader, click here. No idea what the heck we’re talking about? Not to worry, you’re not alone. Check out this excellent, easy-to-follow explanation of what RSS is all about.

Spread the word
As always, we encourage you to spread the word about our projects to get more people involved in the discussions. With Race Changers, it’s that much more important. Because the success of our work hinges on more and more people getting involved and learning, reflecting, discussing, and acting, we encourage you to bring friends, family members, co-workers and any others you know into this work! Also think about things that you think we should all do. If you have an idea for an assignment, we’d love to hear it! Email your feedback, ideas and suggestions to us at team@racechangers.com!

We are looking forward to making great changes and challenging racism along with all of you.

The bizarre appeal of ‘Flavor of Love’

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

flava flav california raisinLola Ogunnaike just wrote a great article for The New York Times examining the overwhelming success of VH1′s reality show “Flavor of Love.” The show’s first-season finale in March drew nearly six million viewers, making it the highest-rated show in the cable channel’s history.

(Her observation that Flavor Flav “bears more than a passing resemblance to a California Raisin character” is also hilariously spot-on!)

Personally I can’t stand the show. Even having to hear it play in the background (my boyfriend is a loyal viewer) makes me nauseous, mainly because of all the slurping noises — presumably from when the girls make out with Flav. *shudder*

And yet, I know so many perfectly intelligent, conscious people *coughJenChaucough* who can’t help but watch the show. Is it just the can’t-look-away trainwreck-quality of the show? Or is there some deeper appeal?

Fans of the show call it a harmless guilty pleasure, and its star a lovable and unlikely Romeo. Critics have accused the show of trafficking in racial stereotypes and have called Flav everything from a sellout to a modern-day Stepin Fetchit.

“Anytime we mention ‘Flavor of Love’ on our show, the phone lines start blowing up,” said Donnell Rawlings, a New York morning radio personality on the popular hip-hop radio station Power 105.1. “Good or bad, our listeners love talking about Flav. They can’t get enough of it. You’ve got beauties and you’ve got the beast, and it’s become one of those shows you must watch every week.”

In any case, fans of “Flavor of Love” and Flava Flav are in luck. Apparently, the franchise is expanding:

Mr. Cronin said he and his partner are working on a spinoff of “Flavor of Love,” which will feature 20 men vying for the affections of one woman. This doesn’t mean VH1 viewers have seen the last of Flav. Ideas for a nighttime talk show, an animated series and another reality show, where he acts as a Cyrano de Bergerac dispensing dating advice, are being batted around. He also plans to release a self-titled independent album on Halloween.

YouTube Wire: rednecks, white nerds, hebrew crunk and more

by guest contributor Luke Lee, Racialicious’s senior YouTube correspondent
Check out Luke’s own blog at real men are not

rednecks tvDespite nearly a week of constant videos of or concerning the now infamous Bill Clinton interview, the folks at Rednecks TV clawed to the top spot of This Week’s “Most Viewed” with their latest episode, episode nine. The first thing you notice, of course, is the glaring Confederate flag that Rednecks TV uses as background and illustration which for now doesn’t seem to have anything to do with their show despite their association of the Confederacy and the south with being a supposed redneck. Now, basically this is a show where two guys sit at a table and talk and do various “tests” and “product reviews.” They don’t seem to talk about race at all beyond saying “redneck” a few dozen times and for the most part, it’s just an assortment of fratty phallic-humor jokes…

weird al white and nerdyAs previously touched upon on Racialicious, Weird Al Yankovic has a new video out where the chorus line is “White and nerdy” and that pretty much says it all. What’s important to note, however, is just how popular the music video is and how well it’s received in user-ratings and comments. There are a few versions of the video floating around and in total there must be well over 500,000 views so far and not to mention a solid 4/5 stars rating. People love this stuff…

hebrew crunkAnd speaking of Blackface-Without-The-Actual-Blackface type humor, one of the things that really clogs my toilet is when people try to make jokes by pairing two things that are supposedly “completely opposite.” In this case we have a cartoon of Lil’ Jon and a Rabbi in “Hebrew Crunk!” Cue the rush of people running to the local Halloween store to buy fake dreads, sunglasses and gold teeth just so they can say “Yeaaaaah,” drink lots of alcohol and act like an idiot to “play the part” in a few weeks… And as you’ll notice is a recurring theme on YouTube: some idiot doing blackface. Continue reading

Racism in the advertising industry

by guest contributor HighJive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

That’s a tough question to answer, based on the last few weeks in the advertising industry.

Anheuser-Busch pulled the plug on its Bud Light campaign starring Zagar and Steve. Native American groups complained Zagar — who bears an uncanny resemblance to a Yanomamo tribesman — displayed stereotypical and racist characteristics.

An Ohio auto dealership sparked outrage by trying to air a radio commercial with blatantly anti-Muslim messaging. The announcer copy proclaimed the car seller was “declaring jihad on the automotive market.”

The Chicago Creative Awards sunk to new lows with Master of Ceremonies Tony Little, accompanied by two scantily-clad, large-breasted bimbos. The lecherous Little literally groped female award recipients when they stepped onto the stage. Next year, maybe the Chicago Creative Club will book Neil French to host.

CBS reality TV series “Survivor” segregated contestants by ethnicity, ultimately polarizing advertisers as well. After two episodes, the producers switched to a multicultural merging with no explanation.

Plus, a contender in Advertising Week’s annual icon contest is none other than Aunt Jemima.

The continuing diversity soap opera inspired plenty of ugliness too.

Advertising Age conducted a poll that showed 93 percent of respondents did not think the agreements signed by New York shops would solve the exclusivity problems.

Advertising Age followed through with a cynical editorial that stirred controversy when the iconic publication declared The Human Rights Commission is “asking the industry to lower its standards” by hiring minorities. Subsequent “clarifications” by AdAge were delivered with a bumbling incompetence reminiscent of the infamous Al Campanis perspective on Blacks in sports. Continue reading