All posts by Kendra James

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Summer TV Recap: Reflections on HBO’s Ballers

by Kendra James

HBO’s Ballers is one of the most confusing yet simplistic shows to debut this summer. It doesn’t require more than 30 minutes of your attention a week, and if asked what it’s about you need only three words to explain: Entourage with football.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, John David Washington, Dule Hill, Omar Benson Miller, and Rob Corddry, the show was billed as a comedy about the lives of current and retired football players in Miami that would entertain while also highlighting some of the issues the NFL has faced (or tried to quietly sweep under the rug) over the past decade.

In reality, calling it a comedy would be an overstatement. It is better described as a show with an occasional guffaw. The pilot was directed by Peter Berg, who also directed the film and eventual pilot for Friday Night Lights before sticking around to executive produce that show’s entire run. That pedigree, and the fact that Ballers debuted before Berg shared a transphobic meme about Caitlin Jenner, had me inclined to at least give the pilot a chance.

The confusion in watching Ballers comes when you realise that you are still watching Ballers. By the time you’ve reached the finale you’re done trying to explain why you’re watching Ballers: an uneven show being kept afloat by nothing (really, nothing) more than the charm of the cast and the frustration of knowing that underneath the luxury porn and sex jokes there could be something there.

Wyatt Cenac on Twitter- -There's maybe only one response to being in a Miami hotel when room service finds you watching 'Ballers.' Holler out -YOLO- and over tip.-.clipular

 

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Photo Gallery: Back in time on Governor’s Island

There are two weekends each summer in New York City when you might find yourself riding the downtown subway next to a flapper and her bootlegger dressed partner. They’re not elaborately costumed film extras, and you haven’t found yourself stuck in an episode of Doctor Who. This was the 10th year for the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island, and August’s Saturday date didn’t disappoint when it came to fashionable attendees.

For your enjoyment this morning, a lighter side of Racialicious. Check out our gallery of Gatsby era attired POC attendees below.

 

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The Racialicious Preview For San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Thursday + Friday

Well, it’s that time of year again. As this posts Arturo and I will be gearing up for the five day sprint of geek culture (and alcoholic beverages) that is San Diego Comic Con.  Like our past two years of tag teaming the giant convention you can expect  our preview posts, con observations and panel live tweets from @aboynamedart, @wriglied, and @racialicious), possible tumblr updates, and –new this year– daily updates from our Instagram account, also @racialicious.

As usual, Art and I have taken a moment to highlight a few panels that spotlight diversity, Creators of Colour, and any POVs generally marginalised in fandom, entertainment, and creative spaces.  These are also the panels you’re most likely to find us livetweeting from over the next few days, so tune in and if you’re attending, don’t be afraid to say hello! I’ll be cosplaying (Peggy Carter on Thursday, Rey from The Force Awakens on Friday and Saturday, and Margaery Tyrell on Sunday), but we’ll both be recogniseable by our haggard visages and overly caffeinated shaking limbs.

Panels for Thursday and Friday are listed below, with Saturday and Sunday soon to follow! The official schedule is also posted here.

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Aloha Movie

Land, Power, and Filmmaking in Hawaii: An Untold Story Of “Aloha”

by Shay Chan Hodges; originally posted at the Huffington Post

Updated Author’s Note: I wrote the following post three weeks ago, adding to the dozens of articles about race and culture in Hollywood after the release of “Aloha.” I was one of the few writers, however, who even acknowledged the existence of a native Hawaiian perspective.

On Larry Wilmore’s the Nightly Show, for example, three comedians discussed Emma Stone as “Allison Ng,” including Chinese comedian/actress Kristina Wong and comedian Jo Koy, who is Filipino and Caucasian. Within the first minute, Wilmore said: “The controversy was that Emma Stone was cast as a half-Asian woman…maybe she was like a quarter I think Hawaiian or something like that…” Comedian Koy jumped in, “yeah, a quarter Chinese I think.” Wilmore asked, “a quarter Chinese or quarter Hawaiian?” And Koy responded, “I think Hawaiian is just anything…it’s like Filipino, Japanese, it’s like if you’re in Hawaii and you eat Spam, you’re Hawaiian.”

As a mixed-race Chinese/Mongolian/Norwegian living in Hawaii for the last twenty-three years, it was truly depressing to watch an ethnically diverse group of people dismiss an entire culture in a discussion about racism.  And in all the articles I scanned that week, only one sought to delve deeper into the movie’s presentation of native Hawaiian sovereignty struggles.

Meanwhile, in real time, a significant cultural conflict has been playing out in Hawaii at the top of Mauna Kea  — a volcano considered sacred by Hawaiians  — and has barely made national news. (Coincidentally, Crowe’s depiction of Hawaiian cultural struggles was not far off from these current clashes). Yet the media continues to ignore real Hawaiian news and the perspectives of people in Hawaii.

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Racialicious (Noir)stalgia: How To Maintain Your Black Identity While Having Three Very White Friends

by Kendra James

The 90s nostalgia burden is real, and it manifests itself in a variety of unique ways amongst most 20-somethings. Whether we’re rereading a favorite Scholastic series or giggling over a popsicle stick with googly eyes on YouTube, the burden of rose-colored glasses lives with us all. My personal burden is the reality of existing as a 27 year old who unironically watches Girl Meets World in earnest.

When I claim that Girl Meets World  is a good show I fully expect my opinion to be taken with a grain of salt. If you know me at all, then you know how much I love the show’s precursor, Boy Meets World. Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric were my world when I was younger. I’m comfortable admitting that were it not for an extreme case of 90s Nostalgia Syndrome I would not have started watching (and rewatching) episodes of a Disney Channel Show aimed at the white tween girl demographic.

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Girl Meets World: Clearly a show for a very particular demographic.

That demographic categorization isn’t meant to be an insult, just a statement of what it is. I should reiterate: I genuinely enjoy Girl Meets World. Nothing tempers my innate, bitter New Yorker cynicism like the weekly reminder that Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence managed to stay married and reside happily in a huge apartment in the East Village with their two kids– one of whom is perpetually in adorable undone suspenders. I generally find tween stars cloying and unrelateable, but Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter, who play Riley and Maya (the titular Girls meeting the titular World) have grown on me since the show’s 2014 debut. While, yes, I had to literally get up and take a walk around a park to gather myself and my emotions after Shawn Hunter’s return during the first season, I also enjoy the episodes that focus solely on the girls and their Disney-appropriate middle school adventures.

But the fact remains that despite the second season addition of ‘Zay’ (a new student at the middle school who sounds like he came up through the Hollywood Shuffle School of Black Acting, which could be more a fault of the Over-Acting Teen Aesthetic Disney employs than the scripts themselves. Time will tell.) Disney’s Girl Meets World is an incredibly white show.

Even aside from the obvious choices — take The Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Living Single — the 90s were chock full of shows with full or majority Black casts. I would sooner revisit the slightly goofy The Parent’hood (Director Robert Townsend’s 1995 sitcom vehicle, not to be confused with the NBC show Parenthood) than Boy Meets World if I were looking for for deep 1990s meditations on race relations in America. With a revolving door of vanishing Black supporting characters, Boy Meets World was hardly the most diverse show of its era either. Cory and Shawn had a Black friend, Ellis, for a few episodes during season one, and a Black teacher, Eli, during season three. Both were short lived and in typical 90s fashion, diversity focused solely on the presence of Black characters rather than exploring the vast diaspora of people of colour.

And yet, despite the fact that I watched Black led shows like Sister Sister, it’s Boy Meets World’s seven seasons that remain the most beloved television of my childhood. And it was Angela Moore, the girl that managed to jam that revolving door of blackness in season five, who I used as a point of personal validation of my own existence through high school and college.

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Yea ‘Aloha’ is Super White, But What’s Up With the Way We’re Talking About It?

Still from Aloha

by Sharon Chang, originally posted at  Multiracial Asian Families

Okay first let’s just get this out of the way. Aloha is a really, really bad movie. Like REALLY bad. It’s getting horrible reviews (as it should) for lousy directing, a terrible script, mismatched A-list actors, poor production etc. It’s boring as hell to watch. I’m not going to even bother giving a a story synopsis here because the plot is so pointless and uninteresting, it doesn’t matter anyway. If you want or need a synopsis, it’s easy to find one online. Just do a web search.
No all you need to know, if you don’t already, is this: Set in Hawaii where Native Hawaiians continue to be besieged by whites and the military, the movie centers white people and the U.S. military anyway, all of which is supposedly made better by the conceit of a military-serving mixed-race Hawaiian/Chinese/Swedish character, who is actually played by a white actress.

Yup. Pretty much.

I saw this movie not because I wanted to (believe me there were so many other things I’d rather have been doing on a sunny day in Seattle), but because I felt I needed to. It’s rare that any sort of discussion about mixed-race/Asian intersections enters public discourse. So when it does, it’s a really important opportunity to get a glimpse into how society views and thus treats people of multiracial Asian descent.

I think almost everyone acknowledges/agrees here that casting a white woman in the role of mixed-race woman of color is crap; that blatant Hollywood whitewashing against a Hawaiian backdrop merely renews the license on an insidious practice that keeps marginalizing people of color. But as the scathing reviews keep rolling in, here’s what I’m really noticing: “Why is Emma Asian”, “Emma Stone Isn’t Asian”, “Not Buying Emma Stone As An Asian-American”, “Emma Stone As An Asian”, “Asian Emma Stone”.

Do you see it too? This is a film set in Hawaii which yes, doesn’t depict the many Asians who live there and alludes to yellow peril, but ultimately is a place that belongs to (and has been stolen from) the Hawaiian people. And yet in our conversations somehow this crucial point seems to be getting subsumed under the shadow of politicized Asian America. Even multiraciality seems to be less interesting to the public than that a character was supposed to be a ‘quarter’ Chinese. To be fair, reviewers do mention Native Hawaiians, Hawaiian culture, history and oppression to varying degrees (they sort of have to), but it’s pretty clear the fact of Stone’s non-Asian-(sometimes-mixed)-ness, is the one calling shotgun:

“…[multiracial people] comprise the fastest-growing population in America. Which makes Crowe’s choice of Stone as the melanin-free embodiment of Hawaiian soul and one of the most prominent part-Asian characters ever to appear in a mainstream Hollywood film so baffling.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Emma Stone, a white actress best known for her role as a white savior with a heart of gold in ‘The Help,’ plays a character who is ostensibly the result of an Asian penis interacting with a white vagina.”

The Frisky

“‘IT IS THE YEAR 2015. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW EMMA STONE, WHO IS WHITER THAN WHITE, GOT CAST AS A HALF ASIAN CHARACTER.'”

Salon

Aloha actually features one of the more prominent Asian/mixed heritage female leads in any studio movie in recent memory. She just happens to be played by Emma Stone.

The Daily Beast

“In an industry that already severely lacks Asian representation on the big screen, they get EMMA STONE to play an Asian…Have you learned nothing from Breakfast at Tiffany’s? It’s offensive. And it’s offensive to let the talents of many Asian actors go to waste. Plus, it’s just plain rude pulling this during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.”

Complex

As far as I can tell, none of these mainstream reviewers are of Native Hawaiian descent and less than half are of mixed descent.

This, I don’t like. At. All. I’m deeply invested in exploring the facets of a mixed-race Asian identity and looking at the many questions it raises in a raced/racist world. But I am notinterested in a conversation about that identity which moves towards anti-indigeneity. This is what I see as the Hapa narrative, where mixed-race gets used as a wedge to further divide people of color while advancing white supremacy; something I wrote about in “Say Hapa, With Care” for AAPI Voices (2014):

The hapa of [Native Hawaiian] people stands in stark contrast to a widely commodified version, which lumps together mixed-race Asians and Pacific Islanders and then somehow magically loses the Pacific Islander part. This is no accident (whether intentional or not). It stems from a history that has sought to forget and remove Native peoples for centuries.
This is why, over the weekend, I called my fierce Native Hawaiian friend, scholar and activist Maile Arvin again to get her weigh in. And this is why, right now, I’m going to stop talking about my analysis immediately and let hers take final-center stage.


I’m not really interested in what they think is a more culturally competent movie but still is a white romance. It’s fundamentally flawed. It’s about a military contract and using Hawaii to protect the US from China and Japan…I haven’t seen critique of that. I’ve seen a lot of critique of the word ‘Aloha’ [but] more fundamentally it’s a settler/colonial movie. It’s not just about the name of it but the story they tell about Hawaii.

Maile was completely even-keeled, unruffled and unsurprised by the whitewashing of Aloha:

Hollywood doesn’t usually do well by Hawaiians. The tourism industry depends on all these movies about white romance in Hawaii. It’s not lucrative for Hollywood or tourism to tell any other story. There are so many movies that are shot in Hawaii and often they’re not identified as [being in] Hawaii, like Lost orJurassic Park. Hawaii is often used as the backdrop for all these stories that are about uninhabited islands – or – if it’s about Hawaii, it’s about white people falling in love.

She said she’d heard the movie-makers were claiming, in their defense, that Cameron Crowe loves, adores and respects Hawaii; that he researched his film for months and worked to incorporate the story of the Hawaiian people. But, she replied:

What Maile said she’s been far more interested to see is so many articles criticizing Aloha‘s whitewashing when, by contrast, Descendants (which also featured a mixed-race Hawaiian character played by white actor George Clooney) drew so little attention in 2011:
It seems like the Emma Stone character being Asian has sparked more critique than Descendants. Nobody seemed to have a problem with George Clooney playing a Hawaiian. [So] for a large audience, Hawaiians looking white isn’t a problem, but a mixed Asian person looking white is unbelievable. Which is kind of disturbing. The wider public thinks that Hawaiians could look like Emma Stone, but if they’re mixed with Asian, they can’t. It seems connected to larger problems like the API [Asian Pacific Islander] designation and Asian Americans speaking on behalf or over Pacific Islanders. It shows gaps in solidarity.

In conclusion, she powerfully spoke on the kind of intention/action it really takes to build coalitions and work in alliance with the Native Hawaiian community:

There are definitely a lot of mixed families and people who are Asian and Hawaiian. They are not necessarily always in conflict. At the same time, a lot of people who aren’t mixed [Hawaiian] grew up on the island and identify as Hawaiian. That’s the same problem. It just covers up Native Hawaiians again. And Native Hawaiians are erased from so many things. It’s important to be clear about how you represent yourself. For example, there are some Asian American activists [in Hawaii] that identify themselves as Asian settlers. Some people hate that idea. But it’s a way to express solidarity and really involve in activism with Native Hawaiians.

I think we need to be very very careful, aware, and far more thoughtful about the ways we critique this film. At this point I’m maybe even less concerned with Cameron Crowe (who’s an idiot) and his dumb movie, and way more worried about us. If we’re truly outraged by Hollywood whitewashing because it invisibilizes and erases, do we do much better when we erase too? Aren’t we just cloning the same that’s been done to us? Emma Stone should not have been cast in a person of color role. I one hundred percent agree. But let us never forget what that role was truly supposed to be. Not just an Asian one – but a very marginalized Indigenous and mixed-race one too.

Undoing racism is about uplifting oppressed voices, remembering forgotten histories, and not allowing our own suffering to become more important than the suffering of others. In thinking on Aloha, please make sure you are also hearing/centering Native Hawaiian voices and the story of Native Hawaiian peoples:

“Say Hapa, With Care”

“Possessions of Whiteness: Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness in the Pacific”

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Quoted: Thoughts on Addy Walker

For seventeen years, Addy was the only black historical doll; she was the only nonwhite doll until 1998. If you were a white girl who wanted a historical doll who looked like you, you could imagine yourself in Samantha’s Victorian home or with Kirsten, weathering life on the prairie. If you were a black girl, you could only picture yourself as a runaway slave.

Since 2013, a Change.com petition has gathered nearly seventy signatures demanding that the Pleasant Company discontinue the Addy doll. “Slavery was a vile, cruel, inhumane, unjust holocaust of Black Americans,” the petition reads. “Why would this subject matter ever be considered entertaining?” The petition accuses the Pleasant Company of “diminish[ing] the cruelty of slavery and instead glorif[ying] it as some sort of adventurous fantasy.”

I’ve never found Addy glib and insensitive, as the petitioners do—but she does trouble me. She is a toy steeped in tragedy, and who is offered tragedy during play? Who gets the pink stores and tea parties, and who gets the worms? When I received an Addy doll for Christmas, I was innocent enough to believe that Santa had brought it to me, but mature enough to experience the horrors of slavery.

“I didn’t even think about that,” my mother told me. “I just thought it was a beautiful doll.”

— Addy Walker, American Girl; by Brit Bennett, May 28, 2015

 


 

As a kid, I couldn’t really articulate what I didn’t like about Addy, other than the fact that her stories scared me shitless and her color palettes bored me. As an adult, it drives me up the wall that she was the first non-white doll the company ever made. It’s totes insane that young black girls were presented with violent stories of a malevolent slave owner, the selling off of Addy’s brother and father and the death-at-every-corner escape to Philadelphia that she and her mother made.

Non-black girls buy Addy, too, but the appeal of the franchise was, and is, that girls from different cultures have a doll of their very own, so Addy was effectively “our” doll.

Slavery’s 250-year stronghold on American people is unquantifiably important to the story of our country. In many ways, it’s how we learned to treat the other and there’s still more to learn and understand about the culture of the institution. As much as, if not more than, the American Revolution and the immigration of European people and World War II, slavery continues to influence the culture all of us live within.

The people who endured slavery were the bravest heroes our nation has ever birthed. Kids should learn about slavery. Black kids should learn about slavery. But, maybe, a doll isn’t the right way to do it. It just feels/felt…wrong.

I Secretly Hated My Addy American Girl Doll, by Whitney Teal; November 18, 2013

WNYC Presents: Funny Or Racist?

by Kendra James

There was a lot of good discussion on racial comedy at last night’s panel featuring Arun Venugopal, Desus NiceCrissle West, Jeff Yang and Guy Branum and we’ve summed a good deal of that up in our Livetweet Storify below. The panel was broken up into sections with each new topic introduced by a different video or comedic soundbite, and everything was going along swimmingly with very thought provoking (and hilarious) banter tossed back and forth between the participants.

It was during the Q&A that things got, as one might say, quite real after a discussion about Sarah Silverman’s use of blackface on her Comedy Central show.  A realness which made for the highlight of the evening as West was forced to keep it all the way 100 with an audience member who really did try it. The exchange can be found around 1hr 19min in in the livestream link, but also transcribed in part below:

Audience Member: My name is Alan Rich, I’m a discrimination lawyer … Crissle, one thing that you said about Sarah Silverman– I get the impression that you take her work at face value.  And I think that so many comedians who are really funny — I don’t think that she’s making fun of black people in any way shape or form about black people when she does blackface. Because those of us who know the history of blackface is that not only white people did blackface, black entertainers had to do black face to get jobs.

Crissle: Wow, so you have to be really white to make that statement. That is just the whitest thing–

Audience Member: It’s a comment about how ridiculous we as a society can be.

Crissle: Can we not? I’m really not about to do this.

Audience Member: I’ve never walked out on Paul Mooney, so you have to give me a pass.

Crissle: And you’re a discrimination lawyer? Holy God. Sooo… I’m  gonna go ahead and address that by saying first of all that I can absolutely say that you’re racist for being a white woman in 2014 or whenever it was that she did this to put in blackface and go on television. Yes I can absolutely call you racist for that. you know the history behind it and you did it anyway. That is racist. I can say that. I’m a black woman, I’m gonna just go ahead and take my word over yours on that. That’s racist. And I don’t like her for it.

Audience Member: [Sic] Tell her! But you don’t know her. You don’t know what’s in her mind.

Crissle: Where is my access to Sarah Silverman? I don’t have to know her– I don’t have to know what’s inside Sarah Silverman’s head. I’m looking at her actions because her actions are what she’s presented to me. She didn’t put put a book called Sarah Silverman’s Diary here read my innermost thoughts and see how I came to these fuck ass conclusions that I have here today. She got on TV in blackface and decided that that was funny and it was not. And you as a white man trying to tell me that my feelings are invalid because I don’t know her is a crock of shit … and that’s why I get on my show every week and say what I need to say because white people like you feel like you have a goddamn point.

Panel Q&A sessions can be difficult for anyone with Acute Second Hand Embarrassment Syndrome (ASHES, in my opinion the worst kind of ashiness a Black person can get), so I really appreciated how the situation was handled. Plus, having only just started listening to West’s podcast The Read (which she records alongside Kid Fury) about a week ago, I felt particularly privileged to be able to hear her give a Read live and in public.

It is a nonnegotiable fact in  my life that white people in blackface constitutes a racist act.  Context, intent, the word ‘subversive’, and the names Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman do nothing to change my mind in that regard. Context and intent don’t change the fact that there comes a time in every Black parent’s life where, for instance, they have to do something like sit down and explain to their children why there are radically different pictures of Black celebrities such as this,why one image is better and more appropriate to imitate and aspire to, and why such a beautiful woman was forced to allow herself to be treated as such.

Josephine Baker

Hi.Lar.I.Ous. (Images of Josephine Baker)

I suppose things are funnier when you have the luxury of skipping conversations like that altogether.

Colour commentary aside, WNYC and The Greene Space hosted a great night for us and all in attendance for their continuing Micropolis series. Readers of The R can look forward to another livetweet from the space next week when we head back to cover a live recording of Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu’s podcast “Another Round,” which will also feature The Butter editor Roxane Gay.