4-26-12 Links Roundup

I have mixed feelings about the performance of “Think Like a Man.” I want to support the success of a film with a mostly black cast, a black producer, and a black director, especially one that so handily beat the odds and expectations for it. But I can’t help but wonder why it had to be this film that successfully crossed over. It may be a hit with a lot of black women, but there are plenty of us who aren’t feeling the patriarchal, anti-woman relationship advice that drives its plot (interesting side note: while its audience was over 60% women, Think Like a Man got even more favorable reviews from men who saw it than from women).

I’ll be honest, I’m not going to see “Think Like a Man,” for reasons other black women have mentioned (and also because I have a toddler and babysitters are too expensive to waste just any movie). But it’s fair to ask if the overly sexist title makes the film only seem more retrograde by comparison in a genre of movies that’s…actually pretty retrograde in general, almost inherently so. Is Think Like a Man really much more sexist or gender essentialist than “He’s Just Not That Into You,” or “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”? Probably not.

On the one hand, patriarchy sucks. On the other hand, hey, black folks can make gender essentialist patriarchal movies that “general audiences” are interested in, just like white folks! Progress? A tiny bit?

“We were accused of being too sensational,” Mena said, “of focusing too much on la nota roja, killings, drug violence, and the like.” The goal, Mena said, was to show the devastation such acts wreaked on Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Linares and Mena talked about creating a newspaper from the Spanish-speaking communities, not about those communities. Reporters would not report from their desks or re-write press releases, it would be old-fashioned shoe leather reporting. Linares stationed a reporter to cover the Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Nicaraguan consulates full time. The stories rained down on Hoy. “La Opinion didn’t cover Central Americans much,” Mena said, “so that’s what we started to do.”

The coverage wasn’t cozy though. “The problem with community organizations is that they invite us to the crowning of the beauty queen,” says current Hoy reporter Francisco Castro, “but when it’s reported that the beauty queen is harassed by the president of the organization they don’t want to answer the phone calls.” Linares hired Castro and mentored him so his boss’s death has hit him hard.

“¡A la yugular!” To the jugular, Castro remembers Linares telling him when suggesting a story angle.

The group was headed by a skinny 28-year-old named Dan Lee, and when he danced onto the stage that night the audience started dancing with him. Lee—whose nom de rap is Tablo—had a puckish charm, a sly grin, and a reputation as a genius. In South Korea, Lee was already a superstar. He had released four number one albums with Epik High and published a best-selling collection of short stories in both English and Korean. Talk show hosts almost always found a way to mention that he graduated from Stanford in three and a half years with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English. Though that would probably count against a rapper in the US, back home he was lionized as a symbol of success.

Now the group was building a fan base in the States. In addition to its New York show, Epik High had sold out major venues in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The crossover success was visible on iTunes, where the trio was soaring up the hip hop charts and would soon hit number one in the US, topping Kanye West and Jay-Z.

But then, at the height of the group’s fame, the comments sections of articles about Epik High started filling up with anonymous messages accusing Lee of lying about his Stanford diploma. In May 2010 an antifan club formed and quickly attracted tens of thousands of members who accused him of stealing someone’s identity, dodging the draft, and faking passports, diplomas, and transcripts. The accusations were accompanied by supposed evidence supplied by the online masses, who also produced slick YouTube attack videos. It was a full-fledged backlash.

By that summer, Lee’s alleged fraud had become one of Korea’s top news items. Death threats streamed in, and Lee found himself accosted by angry people on the street. Since his face was so recognizable, he became a virtual prisoner in his Seoul apartment. In a matter of weeks, he went from being one of the most beloved figures in the country to one of the most reviled.

“Walmart fueled its rapid expansion in Mexico with millions in bribes paid to get building permits and land use approvals through quickly. Last month, Wal-Mart suspiciously received building permits only about 12 hours before the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to temporarily block those permits,” James Elmendorf, Deputy Director, of LAANE told Colorlines.com.

In 2004, Elmendorf’s group LAANE led the defeat of a Wal-Mart sponsored initiative that would have exempted the company from zoning and environmental restrictions in nearby predominantly black and Latino Inglewood.

In March the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion to ban chain retail stores from Chinatown. But the evening before Robert “Bud” Ovrom, general manager of the city’s Building and Safety Department, told the council that Wal-Mart had just obtained the construction permits to renovate the ground floor of a building in Chinatown.

“This project is moving forward. This ordinance would not have any immediate impact on this project,” Ovrom told the council, according to the LA Times.

“I am confident we can do a better job of serving this growing population with themes that resonate strongly with them,” he told the audience at CinemaCon, the exhibition trade show taking place in Las Vegas this week.

Hollywood has had a hard time finding a way to cater to the Spanish-language moviegoing audience, even as television has been forging paths for new cable and other networks that appeal to that growing demographic.

“The numbers just jumped out at me,” Dodd told reporters at a briefing at CinemaCon on Tuesday. “I think an effort ought to be made to work at that.”

Yet, he said, Hollywood has to be careful about how it tries to attract this burgeoning audience by not merely making movies in Spanish or presuming that a single cultural approach would find broad appeal.

  • v.dot

    The Wired article about Tablo / Daniel Lee is just incredibly worth reading. Equal parts disturbing and educational.