IN THE BEGINNING, the Network Suits said, “Let them be white,” and reality TV cast members were white. Seasons passed, and they multiplied to a mighty celluloid nation, populated by dominant men and decorative women, Bachelors and Top Models, Apprentices and Swans. We shall remember this age as “BF.”*
After half a decade the Cable Suits gazed upon their Network neighbors’ unscripted creations, saw the ratings bounty sexism had provided, and grew envious. Then the Cable Suits decreed that producers must layer racism atop their misogynistic bedrock, saying, “Let us remake Black people in advertising’s eternal image.” So producers birthed a minstrel show and called it Flavor of Love, and it was bad, and Kentucky Fried Chicken was happy.+ Flavor of Love begat Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School and I Love New York, which begat Real Chance of Love. And lo, people of color began to rule over their own plots of televisual land. But there was much suffering; visibility became a plague on their McMansions. Competing Cable Suits discovered Black Housewives in Atlanta, reformed Black and Latino men From G’s to Gents, and taught White Rappers their place.
Ashley Anne Kirilow, a 23-year-old Burlington native, admits she faked cancer, ran a bogus charity and collected thousands of dollars from hundreds of people. She shaved her head and eyebrows, plucked her eyelashes and starved herself to look like a chemotherapy patient. She told anyone she met she had been disowned by drug-addicted parents, or that they were dead. Both parents are alive and well, each in separate marriages with three young children… While volunteers claim she raised $20,000, she said it was less than $5,000.
Since this newspiece a fourth fraud charge has been added to Kirilow’s list.
Kirilow is young, thin, sweet-faced and white: over the year that she convinced people to donate money to her cancer cause, she was given trips to Disneyworld and took a paradise trip to Australia; she is alternately described as an angel and a princess.
When I first saw this news case, I thought to myself (yes, rather cynically): there is no way that anyone other than a young, attractive, normative person could have pulled this off. If Kirilow had been—for example—fat, in her 30s, plain-looking and homeless, few would’ve given her the time of day. Much of Kirilow’s success seems attributed to the fact that she easily roused pity with her little lost girl story and her brave smile. Kirilow embodied a version of white womanhood that we want to believe in (or at least we’ve been socially conditioned to embrace it): pretty, plucky, determined, and in need of rescue.
Kirilow is a prime example of a sympathy grifter: a grifter who uses racist/sexist/classist/etc beliefs in their favor, to get money, affection and attention, or to (literally) get away with murder.
An official in charge of psy ops at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said no decision has been made so far. “It will take months to set up the big screens to use in psychological warfare operations and a wide range of contents will be shown,” the official said. “I don’t know whether songs by girl groups will be included, but there is that chance since pop songs were used in the past.” But he added the content of propaganda broadcasts will not be limited to girl bands.
Oh, the propoganda broadcasts won’t be made ENTIRELY of girl band materials? Well that’s dumb.
Hosted by Thea Lim, featuring Tami Winfrey Harris, Andrea Plaid, and Latoya Peterson
It was bound to happen sooner or later.
We proudly (or shamefully?) present the True Blood roundtable. And don’t worry, if the Racialicious Roundtable hex gets True Blood canceled, we promise to never roundtable another TV show again. And now, let us begin with True Blood Season 3, Episode 2: Beautifully Broken.
Black Family Dynamics
Thea: So the first thing that popped out to me about this episode was Alfre Woddard as Lafayette’s mom…and of course the fourth member of this family would be institutionalised*, homophobic, xenophobic, racist and full of general hatred. Now, I don’t expect some kind of Cosby Show happy black family, but it continues to rankle me that the only family of colour on True Blood is so messed up. Or perhaps it’s not that they’re messed up, but that they’re messed up in a very flat, monochrome way, while the other families (if you think of Eric and Pam, Bill and Jessica, and Sookie and Jason as all families) seem to have much more fleshed out, good-and-bad dynamics.
And sidebar: There’s not much love or compassion for the mad people’s/people with disabilities movement on True Blood either…Lord, I hate it when TV shows use mental health institutions (I officially stopped watching House over their representation of an “asylum”). At least Meadowlands looked like a nice enough place.
Tami: Can we get a functional, true-to-life black person on True Blood? Just one? See here’s my problem with the “diversity” on TB: It’s like Alan Ball realized he had to do better than Charlaine Harris’ whitewashed Sookieverse (Harris wrote the books on which the HBO show is based.), but his solution was just to toss some stereotypical, one-dimensional characters into the town. Sassy, tough-talking, angry black chick? Check. Bible-thumping, “Oh, lawd!” hollering mama? Check. Large, stern black woman in public service profession? Check. Drug-dealing black man who frequently calls women “bitches” and “hookers?” Check. Ex-con who winds up with bullet in his brain. Checkitty check check. You know I love me some Lafayette as much as the next TB fan. His bon mots are my favorite. And I have been thankful that they have allowed him some depth and humanity. Nevertheless, when I look at Lafayette together with all the other black folks in fictional Bon Temps, I get a little queasy at how “typical” and uninspired the show’s portrayal of my people is.
Andrea: ::Stumbles in from watching all of the episodes in a week:: True Blood newbie joining the discussion here. So….those dysfunctional Negroes. I agree with you, Tami with every critique you have about Tara’s family. I also think a far more sinister message is getting played out via Tara’s fam: if Black folks don’t let go of their -isms and -phobias, they will be locked up in sanitariums. Bill having slaves? Groovy, because he’s renounced his evil ways and is trying to mainstream. Eric being a Nazi? Well, Eric *is* a vampire. Jason having all sorts of -isms and -phobias? Well, that’s aight because he’s, well, young, dumb, and full of cum. Arlene? Well, she’s coded as “poor white trash,” and, by extension, not having the educated sophistication to realize how “ignorant” she is. But none of the white characters suffer from debilitating mental illness because they’re holding on to bigoted views. They’re just quirky, lovable them. (/snark)
Latoya: I take a different view on this one . To me, the revelation that Tara’s family has a history of mental illness provided some much needed context and backstory to characters who were in danger of being sidelined. A lot of Tara’s development and characterization have been around how she has coped with her childhood – showing how her family has a history of mental illness provides even more depth to her mother’s struggle with alcohol, Tara’s own struggle, and why she and Lafayette can be so cold and secretive. They are doing it to protect themselves and hide their background. And considering mental illness in the black community gets so little attention (see here for some studies and discussions) I was glad to see it receive a frank discussion. These scenes weren’t played for laughs until Lafayette made that crack about the sexy attendant.
And while I will second Tami’s call for “a functional, true-to-life black person,” I have to say that any remotely functional, clear thinking person would have gotten the hell out of Bon Temps before the end of the first season.
Nazis and Political Subtexts
Thea: So, is True Blood taking inspiration from Twilight? Oh just kidding. Werewolves! Nazi werewolves! If vampire narratives are always about sex, what are werewolf narratives about?
Neon Indian is a hipster-indie band that has been gaining some notoriety as of late. They performed on Jimmy Fallon, and have been making the music festival circuit as well. Though the name annoys me, I hadn’t actually associated them with any cultural appropriation, since nothing I’ve read about the band references anything Native. I figured maybe they were talking about the other kind of Indian. Their name actually comes from (if you believe teh blogz) a make-believe band front man Alan Palomo (who is Latino) had in high school.
So, even if the name wasn’t a direct reference, and the band has avoided Native stereotypes (send me images if you find otherwise), you can’t control your fans (Clearly, as we saw with the Blackhawks and Flyers fans last week).
The fans in that picture above crashed the Neon Indian stage at the music festival Bonaroo (more music festivals and headdresses, of course), wearing headdresses, feathers, and pasties on their bare breasts. According to hipster runoff, this is how it went down:
And it got even stranger during a riveting, bulked-up version of “Deadbeat Summer,” when a crew of scantily-clad ladies wearing homemade feather headdresses (two of whom were fully topless with colorfully painted boobs) bounded onto the stage, seemingly by design, and cavorted around aimlessly, jiggling to the wistful musings about sunlit streets and a starlit abyss. Depending on your vantage point, it was either hilarious or pathetic, but Palomo just laughed and shrugged.
Apparently the girls jumped up there on their own, and it wasn’t actually part of the set at all.
Yes, the headdresses are wrong. But what gets me even more is the topless/feather pasties part. There’s a legacy and history there that many people don’t know or understand.
Native women have been highly sexualized throughout history and in pop culture. There are any number of examples I can pull from, the “Indian Princess” stereotype is everwhere–think the story of Pocahontas, or Tiger Lily in Peter Pan, or Cher in her “half breed” video, or the land ‘o’ lakes girl, seriously almost any image of a Native woman that you’ve seen in popular culture. We’re either sexy squaws (the most offensive term out there), wise grandmas, or overweight ogres. But the pervasive “sexy squaw” is the most dangerous, especially when you know the basic facts about sexual violence against Native women:
1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime
70% of sexual violence against Native women is committed by non-Natives
By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man
Award-winning graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese is a huge fan of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series. So when he found out the live-action movie adaptation would feature an all-white principal cast, he became one of the more vocal voices against the casting controversy.
With the movie’s release just over a month away, Gene has spoken out again against The Last Airbender (“the last stone from my slingshot on this topic”) — using a comic, of course — calling on folks to boycott the movie: Why I Won’t Be Watching The Last Airbender Movie. I’m re-posting it here:
Nicely done, Gene. To see more of Gene Luen Yang’s comic books (they’re great!) visit his website here. And for more information on The Last Airbender’scrappy casting choices, go to Racebending.com.
Alicia Keys loves drama – and no, I am not referring to her current lovelife (you’ll have to read a different kind of blog to get that gossip, unfortch), I’m referring to her music videos. When it comes to star-crossed histrionics, both Keys’ music and videos always deliver the goods. Which I kind of like, most of the time; woman’s got a good set of lungs and a nice scrunchy crying-for-the-camera face.
But her latest video just gets on my nerves. “Unthinkable” stars Chad Michael Murray as Keys’ white lover, and shows reincarnations of the same interracial couple across several different decades, suggesting that from the 40′s up to today interracial relationships still face prejudice.
While I appreciate the way Keys uses time to show parallels between the racism of the past and the racism of the present, there are a few things about this video that strike me as deeply dishonest. Broken down for your reading convenience, here are my issues:
1. Only black people hate interracial relationships!
Okay Ms Keys, why do you only have black people showing prejudice in this video? From the 50′s to 70′s to the 80′s to the 00′s, all we see are black faces looking on at the Murray/Keys pairing with fury and even violence. Oh no wait, we get a split second of a white cashier looking at black/white flirtation with disgust…and then it’s back to black folks.
A video doesn’t just pop out organically from the brain of its creator: someone makes very specific choices and then very specific casting calls to mark race in a video. So why did Keys and her team choose to only show black people getting mad about the interracial love in this video?
This seems particularly problematic and dishonest in the “50′s” section of the video, where the optics, if you really look at them, are disquieting: a group of angry, bloodthirsty black men circle a defenseless white man with a puppy dog face.
So not only do we get a very racist portrayal of black people as aggressive and irrational in contrast to a lover-not-a-fighter white man, we get a profoundly skewed version of history. Anyone with a 101 knowledge of Black History Month knows that in the 50′s it was black men, not white men, whose lives were in danger if they so much as looked at white women. For some of our readers this will be well-trod ground, but let’s do a refresher just in case: Emmet Till was a 14 year-old black boy who was tortured and murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. And his story was not an anomaly; this happened to many black men. So much so that an all-white jury took all of 67 minutes to acquit both Till’s accused murderers. This didn’t happen in 1897, it happened in 1955.
All that free advertising—or “unsolicited lift,” as the New York Times calls it —generates some brand loyalty among black people, Trojan reports: “Internal research [sic] indicates they account for 22 percent of all condom purchases but 40 percent of Magnum purchases.” Trojan also claims 75 percent of the condom market.
Now, Ludacris is doing his part to spread more of the large latex love by teaming up with the company for its very first ad campaign, a contest where people can create their own paeans to the brand. The winner gets $5,000 and a trip to the hip-hop festival Birthday Bash, to be held in Atlanta in June, and personal congrats from the rapper/actor himself.
I am wondering, though, about the racialized sexual stereotypes undergirding and getting perpetuating by this, namely that mainstay of black sex-negative imagery, the Big Black Penis. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World