Links Roundup 1.17.13

The “it’s suppose to happen” in inner-city communities reframe is not surprising. Places like Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown exist because of the fear-industrial complex. The white middle-class flocked from cities into the suburbs and rural communities partially due to fear of black and Latino youth, integrated schools, and urban crime. The continuously deployed the narrative of “it’s not suppose to happen in Newtown” and their neighborhoods mirroring “American family’s dream” embodies this entrenched belief. The efforts to imagine Holmes and Lanza as good kids turned evil, to scour the earth for reasons and potential solutions, works to preserve the illusion of safety, the allure of white suburbia, and the power of whiteness.

In imagining the killers as good kids who did a bad thing, who snapped because of a divorce, because of too much medication, because of inadequate mental health treatment, because of too much mental health care, because of guns, and because of who knows what, white manhood — the visible link that binds together so many of these shootings –always gets erased.

“Do you also think it’s odd that white men commit the overwhelming majority of mass murders,” wondered Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, “but that people don’t identify that as a causal factor? Instead we talk about mental illness and gun control. If it were Asian women or Jewish men or elderly African-American, it would be topic number one. But not white men.” In fact, the media response to mass shootings often reimagines white men as victims.

Since the early ’80s, networks have increasingly chased younger viewers, usually in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic, because said viewers are supposed to spend their money more freely and be more likely to try out new brands. Thus, they’re more attractive to the advertisers who underwrite the broadcast-network business model.

That’s all well and good, in terms of profit, but the pursuit of almighty demographics has also had the effect of making television whiter and whiter, precisely at the same time that the United States has had a non-white population growing more quickly than the white one. This has all changed a bit in the past few years, largely due to the success of ABC’s mid-’00s ensemble dramas Lost and Grey’s Anatomy, but the majority of series still have mostly white casts, and the number of series on broadcast networks with minority leads can be counted on one hand.

What happened is easy enough to understand, and it’s one of the same reasons for TV’s increasing lack of blue-collar sitcoms: The more networks could provide advertisers with demographic information, the more those advertisers chased the demographics with the most money. According to Stepakoff, in the ’90s, this meant chasing white parents and their teenagers, which ended up being The WB’s demographic. These viewers might have been reliable Cosby viewers 10 years earlier—after all, the Huxtables were affluent, just like the theoretical WB viewers—but increasingly, networks, driven by advertisers, believed that rich white people who would spend the most money on products wanted to see more white people, ideally affluent as well.

For months, they had happily immersed themselves in the luxe world of the square-jawed Cinar and the long-legged Yesim, whose complicated love triangles and out-of-wedlock pregnancies offer a daily distraction from real-world problems, like sanctions and a currency collapse, for millions of Iranians.

But this Sunday, the characters of the Turkish series were nowhere to be found. One of Iran’s most popular satellite channels, GEM TV, operating from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and broadcasting illegally into the country, was taken offline without explanation. Its Web site was also down, adding to the mystery.

“These soaps open my heart. Who is taking them from me?” asked Shahnaz, 52, a homemaker who did not want her last name used. “Dirt on their heads,” her 84-year-old mother cursed in Persian, to no one in particular.

On Monday, with the Iranian news media silent, wild rumors flew about the causes of the blackout, with some describing a technically complicated government crackdown and others a shrewd plot to get people to subscribe online for a monthly fee.

“First, they made us addicted, and now, they are trying to get money out of us,” said the doorman of a building in West Tehran.

I was personally not aware that Malawi had a somewhat significant Muslim population when I read this report by Nyasa Times discussing the trend of sex workers wearing the hijab in certain cities in Malawi. This is because I was aware that Malawi identifies itself as a Christian nation “with no religious conflict”, with the religion being followed by 83% of the Malawian population. Yet as I discovered, a minority of Malawians, 13%, are Muslim.

According to the report, sex workers are wearing hijab in order to attract clients from the expatriate Asian Muslim community. Hijabed sex workers are also popular among Malawian Muslims who as the article puts it “feel ashamed at dating bareheaded ladies” and those non-Muslims who want to know what it feels like to have sex with a Muslim woman.

Nar­ra­tives about slav­ery seemed to be the win­ning for­mula for white writ­ers, direc­tors & actors. Daniel Day Lewis was enthralled by his win for best actor in a film, por­tray­ing Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln in the his­tor­i­cal film “Lin­coln.” “I am so proud to be part of a Civil War film that cen­tered around the issue of black eman­ci­pa­tion yet was some­how mirac­u­lously able to not have any prin­ci­pal black char­ac­ters in it,” he exclaimed, “Quite a feat. Quite a feat.”

Incred­i­bly, both Christoph Waltz, one of the white leads in Django Unchained, and Quentin Taran­tino, the white writer & direc­tor, were win­ners as well for a movie about a black slave get­ting revenge on slave mas­ters across the Amer­i­can south. “Two white men win­ning awards for a movie about slav­ery — amaz­ing,” cried Taran­tino, “Amer­ica has come a long way in terms of racism.”