Elementary Racial Privilege, My Dear Watson

Courtesy Wikipedia

By Guest Contributor Sylvie Kim

When I first skimmed Joanna Robinson’s Pajiba post on the casting of Lucy Liu as Watson in Elementary, CBS’ upcoming remake of Sherlock Holmes, and her call to have Liu play the titular protagonist instead, I thought, “Right on.” Though mainly staffed by white writers, I’ve always considered Pajiba to have a fairly critical sense of race and gender in their film and television reviews for a site that’s … mainly staffed by white writers.

But then I really read Robinson’s piece.

Robinson’s main rationale for Liu taking the lead in the modern reboot is that she’s too sexy to play Watson. While I understand her angle that traditionally Watson is the more amiable, less aesthetically pleasing counterpart to a more fly-yet-caustic and emotionally detached Holmes, perhaps there was a cultural competency oversight or two in her analysis of Liu’s sexiness:

Hell, I’m all for Asian women getting prominent roles.  Lord knows Grace Park, Sandra Oh and that fake Hot Topic punk on “Glee” could use some company.  But this is the most ill-fitting casting news since they announced Jonny Lee Miller as their Holmes.  Listen, you TV executards, we all know sex sells, but Holmes is supposed to be the icy, removed sociopath.  Not Watson.

Liu is a sexy, charming performer, but sweet she ain’t.  Anyone who watched her try to Manic Pixie Dream grind her way through “Watching The Detectives” will understand.  You know what Liu does well?  Chilly.  She’s like sexy ice water in your veins. Seriously, cast her as Holmes, make the doughy-featured Miller your Watson and I am fully on board.

And a new thought replaced my previous endorsement: Again?
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The Grammys As White Nostalgia?

Courtesy Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

By Guest Contributor David Kline

Reviewing the outcomes of this year’s Grammy Awards, Jon Caramanica of the New York Times described how, “for the umpteenth time, the Grammys went with familiarity over risk, bestowing album of the year honors (and several more) on an album that reinforced the values of an older generation suspicious of change.”

For Caramanica, the issue is not the quality of Adele’s musical offerings, but that her spectacular success at the Grammys – her album 21 brought her six awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep – represents a particular cultural refusal of progressivism, a nostalgic clinging onto the safety and familiarity of a tried and true musical conservatism. What I want to suggest is that this nostalgia might also be understood as certain kind of white nostalgia for cultural dominance that is perceived as threatened within what is now known as the “post-racial.”
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