Category Archives: authenticity

Quoted: How Hollywood and The Help Screw Up History

The Help Movie

There have been thousands of words written about Stockett’s skills, her portrayal of the black women versus the white women, her right to tell this story at all. I won’t rehash those arguments, except to say that I found the novel fast-paced but highly problematic. Even more troubling, though, is how the structure of narratives like The Help underscores the failure of pop culture to acknowledge a central truth: Within the civil rights movement, white people were the help.

The architects, visionaries, prime movers, and most of the on-the-ground laborers of the civil rights movement were African-American. Many white Americans stood beside them, and some even died beside them, but it was not their fight — and more important, it was not their idea.

This isn’t the first time the civil rights movement has been framed this way fictionally, especially on film. Most Hollywood civil rights movies feature white characters in central, sometimes nearly solo, roles. My favorite (not!) is Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, which gives us two white FBI agents as heroes of the movement. FBI agents! Given that J. Edgar Hoover did everything short of shoot Martin Luther King Jr. himself in order to damage or discredit the movement, that goes from troubling to appalling.

Why is it ever thus? Suffice it to say that these stories are more likely to get the green light and to have more popular appeal (and often acclaim) if they have white characters up front. That’s a shame. The continued impulse to reduce the black women and men of the civil rights movement to bit players in the most extraordinary step toward justice that this nation has ever known is infuriating, to say the least. Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn’t need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.

–Martha Southgate, The Truth about the Civil Rights Era

We Just Can’t Avoid The Help

The Help UK Cover

This book will not just quietly die.

We first were notified about Kathryn Stockett’s The Help back in 2010. A few readers asked us if we had read it. If we had heard the NPR interview. One blogger, Onyx M, started a critique blog. We’ve been silent for a while on the book world – outside of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, we haven’t reviewed a book in a long time. Probably because the stack of books that people have sent in still teeters on my desk. And all of the books are good, so they deserve a thorough discussion. But stealing time away to read a book, analyze it, and write about it doesn’t come easy.

And that process is even harder when one enters a book with as much trepidation as I enter The Help. Now that ads for the movie adaptation are all over TV, it’s time to go ahead and put this to rights. I have a new book review format that may help with timeliness. Now, if I can only get over my reluctance.

Even skimming the reviews makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. Continue reading

Welcome to East Willy B! [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Sometimes there’s love in laughter. And the cast and crew bringing the new web series East Willy B have a lot of love for the real-life neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and (most) of the fictional characters.

The series’ heart is Willie Reyes, Jr. (Flaco Navaja) the 30-something Puerto Rican-proud bar owner who inherited the business from his dad, including the barfly crushing on him, Giselle (Caridad “La Bruja” de la Cruz). Wille is trying to keep his bar, which has served as the nabe’s hangout and nerve center, from closing down due gentrification in the form of his ex-girlfriend Maggie (April Hernandez) and her new white beau (and Willie’s longtime rival), Albert (Danny Hoch), and the incoming white hipsters looking for cheap(er) rent.

Transcript of the premiere episode after the jump.

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Shady Business, As Usual: Jennifer Lawrence Steps Out As The Hunger Games Heroine

By Arturo R. García

Yesterday, Moviefone’s Gabrielle Dunn wrote that this image of Jennifer Lawrence in character as Katniss Everdeen from the planned Hunger Games movie adaptation “calmed” any concerns about her casting. We beg to differ.

To be fair, Ms. Dunn was referring more to questions about the 20-year-old Lawrence playing a 16-year-old character. But the concerns regarding a white, blonde actress being hired to play a character many fans considered to be multi-racial won’t go away soon, as Racebending’s Michael Le illustrated on Twitter:

Meanwhile, movie blogger Ms. Go identified Lawrence’s unspoken “co-star”:

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Quoted: No Such Thing As a “Black Twitter”

Watching black folks on Twitter tells no more about African American culture than watching the forums at Salon or Gawker reveals about white culture. Sure, among certain Twitter groups, black folks relax and use vernacular and call on experiences that are unique to us. But attempting to assign deep cultural meaning to trending topics like #hoodhoe is a reflection of racial bias. We do ourselves no favor by buying into the thinking that topics like this and #itaintrape reveal something particularly significant about black people. Don’t get me wrong, these memes are misogynist. But anyone who has spent more than two seconds online knows that misogyny and sexism are everywhere–a reflection of American…no…world culture, not that of any particular race. Consider the deeply sexist conversation surrounding the Julian Assange sexual assault accusations and the trolling on the #mooreandme hashtag. These were hardly driven by black Twitterati.

If some white people are amazed at what black folks do on Twitter, it is a sign of their own ignorance and prejudice. Williams laments that on the anniversary of the disaster in Haiti, the #haiti hashtag peaked at number 76 on the Twitter trend list, far below a slew of vulgar and sexist tags. But are black people solely to blame for that? Were all the white people on Twitter discussing Haitian relief efforts? Why should black people be more or less ashamed of the idiots among us than people of the majority culture? Why should silly and profane Tweets written by black folks hold more weight than the equally silly and profane Tweets written by everybody else?

I, for one, refuse to be burdened with the actions of @lilduval, some dude I’ve never heard of who created the  #itaintrape meme, nor those of @slimthugga, who waxed yesterday about sleeping with white women in honor of MLK Day.

~~Tami Winfrey Harris, “Rejecting the Notion of “Black People Twitter

Image credit: Boing Boing (via Portfoli)

Voices: The Huckleberry Finn Controversy

Compiled by Arturo R. García

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
- Mark Twain, author, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Seems to me I’m doing something constructive by simply eliminating a word that’s a clear barrier for many people.
- Dr. Alan Gribben, Twain scholar, Auburn University.

We’ve got our first official race flap of 2011—and it involves something published in 1884.
- Kai Wright, editorial director, Colorlines

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Marvel Does Right By Runaways

By Arturo R. García

Good news from Racebending yesterday: Marvel Studios responded to questions over the casting of Nico Minoru in the best possible way.

As you’ll recall, the character is one of the core characters of Marvel’s Runaways comic-book series. But the original open call, while specifically asking for African-American actors to audition for Alex Wilder, left Nico’s description open, aside from the problematic description of “uniquely beautiful.”

But as posted on Racebending Thursday, the company sent them this statement:

Thank you for reaching out regarding your concerns over Marvel’s recent casting notice for THE RUNAWAYS. We appreciate your interest in our production and with Marvel Entertainment.

To address your concern over casting for the role of Nico, as we do with all of our films, we intend to stay true to the legacy and story of the comic when casting these parts. Thus, our goal is to cast an Asian American actress as depicted in the comic series and the casting notice will be adjusted accordingly.

We thank you again for your correspondence and the opportunity to clarify our process.

Marvel Studios

And it’s true: the film’s casting call website now specifies that the “Girl 1″ character is not only “uniquely beautiful” (whatever that means), but Asian-American. Also, the audition deadline has been pushed back to Sept. 15 to give applicants more prep time. So why does this matter? As we did in the case of The Last Airbender, we’ll let Racebending break it down:

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DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! Liveblogging The Karate Kid Remake With Jen’s Hardass Asian Mama

By Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

Spoiler Alert + Any use of inappropriate cultural terms or conflation with the original movie is entirely intentional.

The Karate Kid (Jaden Smith) and his Mom (Taraji Henson) are leaving Detroit. Lest you think this is a single black mom/deadbeat dad scenario, we’re told upfront that the Karate Kid’s Dad is dead…period. Detroit is portrayed as a gray, dismal city full of shuttered storefronts. This is America in our continued state of joblessness, America in the 21st century, America on the decline. But China, where they’re headed for Mom’s work, is the land of opportunity, the land of now, the land on the up-and-up, or, as the Karate Kid’s Mom puts it, “a magical new land,” like unicorns live there or something.

The Karate Kid tries out his Mandarin on the Asian dude sitting across the aisle from him on the plane. “Dude, I’m from Detroit,” the Asian dude says. Light laughs from the audience, which is mostly made up of families with tween children and some creepy older loners who probably wanted to be Daniel-san back in the day. My Hardass Asian Mom (HAM) approves of this joke: “Not all Chinese or Asian looking guy speaks Chinese, this is true.

Meanwhile: Where is my Bananarama remix???

When the Karate Kid and his Mom arrive at the airport, their lady driver is holding a sign for “Mrs. Packer.” Mom corrects the lady driver, telling her the name’s “Parker.” Ah, Engrish!

After settling into their new flat and discovering that they don’t have hot water, the Karate Kid goes looking for their super, who turns out to be Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan ignores the Kid and, instead, picks up a dead fly with his chopsticks, chucks it on the ground, and keeps eating his cup o’ noodles with the same chopsticks. (Which my HAM says would totally happen in China although she told me not to write about it, so, of course, I had to write about it.) The Karate Kid leaves to check out the local park, where we meet his love interest, Meiying. Meiying, aka Mini-Tamlyn Tomita, has the jankiest hybrid haircut–a bob with pigtails–which is sorta cute if you’re into mullets.

And what is Mini-Tamlyn doing in the park? Tuning her violin! And listening to Bach! NATURALLY.

AWKWARD MOMENT ALERT: Speaking of hair, Mini-Tamlyn asks to touch the Karate Kid’s cornrows. Eep.

That’s when the Chinese Billy Zabka comes over, all jealous, and tells Mini-Tamlyn that she should be…practicing the violin. OMG NERD!!! Then Chinese Billy Zabka beats the Kid’s ass, upping his badass quotient considerably. At which point, my HAM takes off her glasses and covers her eyes.

The next day, the Karate Kid covers up his bruises with his mom’s makeup. He looks like he knows what he’s doing. Something tells me his real-life mama Jada’s taught him a trick or two in this department and he may be a few years away from “guyliner,” which means he may be a few years away from being a total Hollywood douche-nozzle. But for now, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s kinda adorbs.

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