Month: June 2009

by Carmen Van Kerckhove, originally published at CNN.com

I got a call yesterday morning from a radio show producer asking if I thought it hypocritical for African-Americans to celebrate Michael Jackson as a black man, since it seems to many people that he spent most of his life turning himself white.

She stopped short of calling Jackson a race traitor, but the implication was clear. And it did get me thinking about the strange role that race played — and didn’t play — in Jackson’s life and career.

Race is never simple, especially when it comes to a complex artist like Michael Jackson.

Jackson often expressed in his music a hopefulness — “It don’t matter if you’re black or white” — about race relations that many found naïve. And yet had no qualms about using anti-Semitic lyrics in his song “They Don’t Care About Us” — “Jew me/Sue me/Everybody do me/Kick me/Kike me.”

We will never know what drove Jackson to alter his appearance so drastically during his adult life. Jackson said that he suffered from vitiligo, a condition that eliminates pigment from skin leaving white blotches. His dermatologist and others close to Jackson, including Deepak Chopra, have also said he had vitiligo, even though many people have expressed doubt about it, fueling debate over whether Jackson was “trying to be white.”

But what about the plastic surgery, the nose, the hair, and other obviously altered aspects of his appearance? On our blog Racialicious, Readers have been speculating about whether he was driven by internalized racism or something else: an extreme form of artistic expression, an obsessive desire to fix one’s appearance called “body dysmorphic disorder,” or a desire to erase any resemblance to Joe Jackson, his abusive father.

One of the best insights we have into Jackson’s emotional life is a television interview he did with Oprah Winfrey in 1993. He admitted then to being a perfectionist and added, “I’m never pleased with myself. No, I try not to look in the mirror.”

Whatever drove this apparent self-loathing, I don’t believe we can separate race from the equation. Race cannot be separated with precision from body dysmorphic disorder, hatred of his tyrannical father, or any potentially relevant theory being discussed right now.

Why?

Because if he hated his body, he was hating a black man’s body. If he hated his father, he was hating a black man. Race ran through it all; we cannot and should not dismiss its effect. Read the Post Michael Jackson on race – and who he saw in the mirror

June 30, 2009 / / diversity

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

fallentwins1

“It’s done in fun. I don’t know if it’s stereotypes — they are robots, by the way. These are the voice actors. This is kind of the direction they were taking the characters and we went with it.”
Michael Bay, as quoted by the Associated Press

This argument is, of course, sophistry. Bullsh-t, if you prefer. As was discussed over the weekend, Revenge Of The Fallen brought out the worst in Bay and writers Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. And the “twins,” Skids and Mudflap, have only become a joke. As you read above, Michael Bay was content to throw voice actors Tom Kenny and Reno Wilson under the bus for the uproar they’ve caused. And let’s not forget, this film just flat-out sucks.

fallenposter1 But in this story, it’s alleged that Bay had a heavier hand in making the twins “fan-friendly.” It’s also been explained in the novelization of the film that their inability to read extends only to ancient Cybertronian, rather than contemporary language. In the Film School Rejects story, Wilson, who is black, offered this slightly more plausible explanation for Mudflap’s behavior:

“It’s an alien who uploaded information from the Internet and put together the conglomeration and formed this cadence, way of speaking and body language that was accumulated over X amount of years of information and that’s what came out … If he had uploaded country music, he would have come out like that.”

Read the Post Beyond The Twins: Another look at Revenge Of The Fallen’s Character Flaws

June 30, 2009 / / On Beauty

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

“So, are the girls hot?”

This is the most common question I receive from American men when I explain that I have been living in Brazil. These men come from all walks of life, are of various racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds, and of varying levels of education, exposure to other countries, etc. Long story short, this question seems to be on the minds of many men. It is, for better or for worse, a universal curiosity.

But in my response, I quickly put things in perspective.

“Well, for one, Ugly travels. I see just as many unattractive people in Brazil as I do in the States, and equally as many beautiful people on both sides as well. But I can safely say that the majority of women in Brazil work really hard to be beautiful, more so than the majority of American women.”

There are usually follow-up questions about body types (butts being the primary focus, of course) and clothing styles (are the clothes all skimpy?) and I handle those accordingly. The preoccupation with appearance in Brazil-related questions is to be expected considering that one of the primary portrayals of Brazil in the United States relates to beach culture, scantily-clad women, and sex. But when one takes the time to consider the reasons behind the high standards of beauty in Brazil, it is obvious that there is more to being beautiful and participating in the process of achieving that than just a bikini wax or the perfect nails. Beauty in Brazil is a complex matter involving gender, race and, most certainly, class. Read the Post The Brazil Files: Bela* or Bust (Introduction)

June 29, 2009 / / Uncategorized
June 29, 2009 / / celebrities

by Guest Contributor (and regular commenter) Joseph Shahadi, originally published at Vs. The Pomegranate

Michael Jackson is dead.

My reaction is complicated. On Facebook my high school classmates and I are mourning Michael Jackson and sharing memories. Claudia wrote, “I remember when someone brought the Thriller video to school and there was a ‘viewing’ before 1st period in the auditorium….was one of the few times I wanted to get to school early.” And Anissia wrote, “cannot speak right now. I will be up all night watching these new reports. Is it a dream?”And then, “woke up this morning thinking ‘What a horrible nightmare,’ only to turn on the news to see it is real.” My classmates and I are exactly the right age to get this news like a punch in the gut. We were the kids that made Michael Jackson a superstar. Whether we liked him or not (and we liked him) Michael was an integral part of our childhoods. And his passing, especially at a relatively young age, is an unsettling reminder of our own mortality. I can close my eyes and see the auditorium Claudia mentioned, but that morning was decades ago now. It is an odd feeling.

Still, my ambivalence about Michael Jackson was best captured on Facebook by two people I did not know in High School: Mark wrote, “(I am) not sad that michael jackson the pedophile is dead… whatever”. While Stacia wrote, ” (I am not) happy with this two-edged sword media coverage. Can we get a *day* before ya’ll whistleblow the sordidness? 24 hours, yo.” Read the Post Michael Jackson is Dead

June 29, 2009 / / media