All posts by Kendra James

Open Thread: The American Music Awards

Jennifer Lopez performs at the 2013 American Music Awards

Pitbull hosted, 39 year old rap star of my childhood Nelly proclaimed his love for 19 and 21 year old girls while performing Ride Wit’ Me, TLC continued to make me sad by insisting on continuing to perform sans Left Eye, and Jennifer Lopez gave a killer Celia Cruz tribute, but the American Music Awards were still plagued with overt racism, troubling moments, and a grim glimpse into what this year’s Grammys are going to look like.

The show opened with this gem of a performance from Katy Perry:


A quick check with Twitter confirmed that I was indeed seeing what I thought I was seeing (Katy Perry performing a song that has nothing to do with Japan, it’s people or their culture, while wearing a kimono and possible yellow face surrounded by others doing the same? Check.) and that it was, yes, as problematic as I thought it was. Unfortunate, but not entirely unsurprising given the legacy handed down by other pop artists like our friend Gwen Stefani.

The shtick is doubly creepy when you consider how Perry’s supposed love of Japanese people manifested itself during an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel show back in 2012:

“I am obsessed with Japanese people, I love everything about them and they are so wonderful as human beings. I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace.”

By any means necessary, eh Katy?

The second biggest “Yikes.” of the night came when Macklemore beat out a slew of Black artists in the favourite rap/hip-hop album category and proceeded to make a Very Special Comment about Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin and racial profiling. A comment that I might have found more sincere had he mentioned the names or cases of any of the numerous other cases since Trayvon Martin’s; Renisha McBride, perchance?

It may have also been more meaningful coming out of the mouths of one of the other nominees in the category (Kendrick Lemar or Jay-Z), but that could just be my own cynicism. In a year filled with the Macklemores, Lordes, Justin Timberlakes (he picked up two televised AMA wins), and Robin Thickes of the world it looks like Black artists will have to continue fighting for wins in the hip-hop, rap, and RnB categories as we move into Grammy season.

I tuned in and out of the show (because 11pm is late for anything to be ending, I just started a Charmed rewatch on Netflix, and it’s not like these are the Oscar Awards of music or anything), so I invite y’all to discuss  anything I may have missed (and/or the sad state of popular music) in the comments below.

Table For Two: American Horror Story: Coven and The Originals in Brief

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Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange, and Kathy Bates in American Horror Story: Coven. If nothing else, the show is a master class from some of the grande dames of acting.

With Jordan St. John and Kendra James

My distaste for The Vampire Diaries and its selective racial memory are well documented. When I heard that The Vampire Diaries spinoff featuring the ancient ancient vampire family, The  Originals, would be set in one of the most racially complex and interesting locals in the American south, New Orleans, I did not have high hopes. I was more intrigued when it was announced that American Horror Story: Coven, the third season of the campy horror gorefest would also be taking up residence in New Orleans Garden District. Now that both shows have a couple eps of painful exposition and audience baiting twists and turns behind them Kendra and I are sitting down to see how both are handling history, witches and race in the Big Easy.

Editor’s Note: This was finished before the 11-20-13 episode of AHS: Coven, so we know now that, yes: Queenie did the right thing. Spoilers for  The Originals and American Horror Story: Coven to follow!

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The Walking Dead Recap 4.6 “Live Bait”

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In the previouslies, AMC takes us back to Woodbury and the Governor’s escalation towards becoming Michonne’s archnemesis. I had actually forgotten (and by that, I mean that I probably looked away the first time) that Michonne had stabbed the Governor’s daughter through the back of the head like that, and I had just started to forget the image of the Governor being stabbed in the eye, so I’d like to thank AMC for taking me back. We’re jumping back in time with this week’s episode to find out what the Governor has been up to this whole time.

(Full recap and spoilers after the cut!)

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The Walking Dead Recap 4.5: “Internment”

 

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By Jeannie Chan

Previously, on TWD: the flu spreads rapidly throughout the prison and our favorite characters are in danger of dying. Hershel sent a team out to the veterinary college to get medicine and ended up most likely infected himself. Rick confronted Carol about killing Karen and David and told her she could not come back to the prison.

This week, we pick up right where Rick left off and open with a mesmerizing and haunting scene of him driving back to the prison. He keeps flexing his bandaged hand, probably still throbbing after the beating he gave Ty, and glancing over at the watch Carol gave him. How many things are you going to let haunt you for the rest of your life, Rick?

(Spoilers and full recap after the cut!)

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The Walking Dead Roundtable 4.4: “Indifference”

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Hosted by Jeannie Chan

I’m so glad to see such great comments posted to the open thread for last week’s episode. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching this show, it’s that there’s no such thing as an easy decision, let alone a right one. It’s clear that the camp is conflicted with Rick deciding for everyone and cast out Carol. And we’re all still wrestling with Carol’s decision to kill. Read on to see how Carly Mitchell, Kiki Smith, Nicole Norkin (our newest Roundtabler!) and I process everythang.

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Open Thread: The Walking Dead 4.4 “Indifference”

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By Jeannie Chan

This episode was a doozy. I am holding onto the hope that this season is THE season for The Walking Dead. We keep digging a little deeper with each episode and this week seemed to be the most introspective of them all. I regret not being able to squee as much as I usually do, but let’s hear from you guys! We have a lot to talk about.

Who’s on Team Rick? First of all, this is going to be a huge point of contention. I am still on the fence about this myself, but did Rick make the right call in banishing Carol? His other options aren’t that great. It’s either tell Tyreese that Carol killed Karen and Tyreese will exact vengeance on her, or what, lie for her?

Who’s on Team Carol? I stand by my love for Carol. When she explained that she learned how to reset a dislocated shoulder by Googling it, or whatever, because she was tired (read: ashamed) of having to tell the ER nurses that she “fell down the stairs again,” we’re reminded of the quiet, timid, battered woman she used to be. No one can deny that she has made a huge transformation since Season 1. No one else on this show has changed as much as she has. Few other characters have earned our respect like she has either. And that’s what makes it so hard to see her be exiled like this.

Overall, this was a huge downer of an episode, right? But it was done so amazingly well. I am loving how utterly and devastatingly human these people are now. Or really, again, because, you know, they are. Or were before the world fell apart. And this theme of holding onto their humanity is taking an interesting turn with Lizzy’s obsession and confusion with the walkers. Children are always going to have a hard time understanding the permanency of death, the cycle of life, etc. etc. and I imagine that can only be more muddled when the cycle is never-ending now. And on the other end of this spectrum, we have that shot of the photo on the wall to show us that the walker that Bob just disposed of had, at one point, been a real person with friends and family and had hobbies, like hunting. The last time we were given this glimpse into a random walker was in the very first episodes of the season when we met Morgan Jones’s wife.

Also, I completely forgot about Sophia until Carol mentioned her again. And when I remembered, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. And when Carol just simply said, “No,” when she was asked if she lost her daughter to walkers, my heart broke for her. And for Rick. And then my heart broke again when Bob revealed that he snuck some booze during the medicine run and we learned that his motives for joining the group on these outings were compulsions to satisfy the alcohol dependency he is still clearly struggling with.

And Michonne finally was able to admit to herself that the Governor’s trail has gone completely cold. (Has it though?? I have no idea if David Morrissey has signed on for episode this season and I don’t even want to check because I want to be able to react appropriately if and when he shows up but his plotline can’t just dry up like this, right? There has to be an epic showdown, right?)

Anyway, I have a lot of questions. And a lot of feelings to process. I’m sure you all do too. Let’s rage it out together in the comments below!

Open Thread: Kerry Washington hosts Saturday Night Live

Image via Vibe.com

By Kendra James

With the combined fire power of a few cute empire waists, boxy tops, and racial stereotypes, Kerry Washington became one of a handful of Black women to host Saturday Night Live in its 30+ year history. Given the recent controversy surrounding the lack of color in the SNL cast, its understandable that the show would be eager to face the topic head on. Asking Washington to host was a nice first step, but they seem content to stop there.

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Scrolling text in Kerry Washington’s SNL cold open, via Mashable

Sure, SNL addressed their lack of Black women directly in the cold open, but joking about the glaring absence really loses all effectiveness if you don’t take steps to fix it immediately after. Addressing your own racist casting practices as a joke makes you seem less like a writer’s room full of subversive humourist savants than it does a room full of white privileged writers. The screen caps above represent a joke that could only retain legs if at the end of the show they’d announced the addition of a full time Black female cast member.

Of course, after seeing the sketches Washington was thrown into –especially in the first half of the show– it’s probably worth wondering how well a Black woman would fare in this era of SNL. With a sketches that included a mouthy, angry Black girlfriend, a BAPs style Black ghetto girl, an Ugandan beauty queen who reeked of Eddie Murphy’s “what have you done for me lately” bit from Raw, and the best Angela Davis impression she could muster, Washington and the SNL writers were one weave joke away from a stereotypical Black woman full sweep.

Washington put her all into everything she was given (as did Jay Pharoah, who was in all but 2 sketches on Saturday night, “because,” said the writer’s room, “if they want Black people then, goddamnit, we are going to give them black people! Take that, critics.”) but surely there have been several other hosts from popular breakout television shows who’ve knocked their hosting nights out of the park without relying on racial humour to take them through. Jon Hamm comes to mind. Unfortunately, where someone like Jon Hamm seems to inspire new, original material, the SNL writers room looked at Kerry Washington and clearly decided that with the plethora of jokes people have been making about Black women for years, they already had all they needed.

The only sketch that seemed as if it had any input from a non white writer included the Angela Davis impression mentioned above. I really do wish my white friends would stop telling me to watch The Wire. But for the most part, I still have to disagree with Kenan Thompson’s recent comments about there being no Black female comedians who are ready for SNL. It’s the SNL writers who aren’t ready for Black women.

The rest of Saturday night’s sketches are underneath the cut. What do you think, readers?

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