So Scandal last week. Like… OMG, right? So much to say, so much to spoil in this introduction if you haven’t watched last week. I ask, however: why haven’t you? Go, now. I’ll wait.
If you’re back, (or if you’ve never left,) join Kendra James, Jordan St. John, Zach Stafford, Loree Lamour, Johnathan Fields and I as we talk about last weeks game changing episode and our expectations for tonight’s finale.
“So you’re going to twerk right?” was a common question my sorority sisters and I got when we entered a dance competition this year at our school.
Not too long ago, the university I attend welcomed its first historically black Greek-letter organization. I had the privilege of becoming a member of this sorority and was curious to see how the students of a predominately white university in a wealthy area would receive a historically black organization on its campus.
The university was widely accepting of the sorority; however, as we became more visible on the campus, we experienced much cultural insensitivity.
This year, for the first time, we participated in a sorority dance competition that raises money for charity. During the week leading up to the dance-off, several people approached us asking if we were going to twerk — as if twerking is the only style of dance a black woman can do.
I’ve watched the video for Janelle Monáe’s new song, “Q.U.E.E.N “(featuring Erykah Badu), just under a hundred times in the last 24 hours. Um, really. It’s on a loop. When I’m not watching it, I’ve been streaming it online, posting it online, and downloading the single. Then I spent a good 10 minutes telling my musical soulmate friend Holly about it this afternoon on the phone. This is all par for the course when I like a song and here’s why:
Like other feminists, songs like these by Black women stop me in my tracks and make me take notice (maybe you could tell that already). See, right now I’m standing in the BART station twerking as I type and wait for the train. Can’t help it. Serious. Believe, I’m twerking because the drums are so tight but, more so, because almost every single lyric makes my bones shake.
Even if it makes others uncomfortable. (I will love who I am)
What I like most about the song are the questions that Monáe, who says she knows what it’s like to feel like the other, asks throughout the song; often starting with “Am I a freak?” As in,
Am I a freak for dancing round? Am I a freak for getting down? Am I a freak cause I love watching Mary? I’m cutting up So don’t cut me down
Every once in a while she’ll give answers to her questions: “is it true that we’re all insane? (I just tell them no we ain’t and get down).” But mostly, she leaves it for us to decide. No matter the answer, I will always love freaks–like a real deep love–so just the question pulls me into the song. And not a freak as in, “Let your freak flag fly because nobody understands me,” Gaga-style; but more a freak in the sense of blending past and present, funk and protest, which many of us have long embodied.
Some have begun to speculate that this song may be about her (queer) sexuality, which may be true, and that’s ok. But, I’m more interested in the ways her freak status is about weaving in a politic that is specific to this generation, her generation, our (hip-hop) generation(s). This is most exemplified in the rap lyrics at the end of the song. Some surprise as in, “I’m tired of Marvin asking me ‘What’s Going On;” while others challenge “Categorize me, I defy every label;” and my favorite–as a Missouri girl with roots deep–stays grounded, “Gimme me back my pyramid, I’m tryna free Kansas City.” Those lyrics, that (brown girl) insurgency explored through a simultaneous connection and refusal to be pinned down are indicative of the margins many of us have have been relegated to. Have celebrated in. Created alliances through. Where we’ve landed and where our true possibilities lie. As Lorde states, Monáe gives a nod to “those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference.” Whether it’s because of our sexuality, our political stances, our backgrounds, or our hairstyle, what we have forged on our bodies and in our collaborations are the tools, the communities we depend on. Not throwing out one piece in favor of or deference to another.
And this is also evident in the sonic flow from Monáe to Badu without missing a beat. The change in pace and music refer back to Baduizm with lyrics that build on the themes of qwerk, solidarity, and what Shana Redmond refers to as “a sound/sight corpus of black feminist knowledges that take advantage of social movement methods” (Redmond 2011: 406) As Badu sings,
Shake til the break of dawn Don’t mean a thing, so duh I can’t take it no more Baby, we in tuxedo groove Monáe and E. Badu Crazy in the black and white We got the drums so tight Baby, here comes the freedom song Too strong we moving on Dance ’til the break of dawn Don’t mean a thing, so duh I can’t take it no more Baby, we in tuxedo groove Monae and E. Badu Crazy in the black and white We got the drums so tight Baby, here comes the freedom song Too strong we moving on
Love. In particular, I love the displays of solidarity: the love of music, the tight drums. As much as I also love the difference in style, presentation, age, and cadence. And I especially love love love how it’s all brought back together by the unifying “the booty don’t lie.”Reminding us that this blend is the (Afro)future for Black girls in the margins.
So I ask and end with another Monáe question:
“Electric Ladies, will you sleep? Or will you preach?”
Last year, around this time, I was nursing far too high expectations for a little pilot season pickup called Deception. This year I’m just really glad it’s been cancelled so that the actors involved can escape with some dignity intact. One can’t say the same about Community.
Yeah, it’s that time again. Most networks are at least 80% set with their 2013-2014 Fall/Winter lineups. For better worse you will be sitting through another season of potentially Harmon-less Community. As Abed might say, some stations just like to watch the world burn.
While race on Rhimes’s shows is omnipresent, it is not often discussed explicitly. This has led to a second-order critique of her shows: that they are colorblind, diverse in a superficial way, with the characters’ races rarely informing their choices or conversations. Rhimes, obviously, disagrees. “When people who aren’t of color create a show and they have one character of color on their show, that character spends all their time talking about the world as ‘I’m a black man blah, blah, blah,’ ” she says. “That’s not how the world works. I’m a black woman every day, and I’m not confused about that. I’m not worried about that. I don’t need to have a discussion with you about how I feel as a black woman, because I don’t feel disempowered as a black woman.”
This season on “Scandal,” race has been more openly discussed. In one scene, Olivia remarked to Fitz that she was feeling “a little Sally Hemings-Thomas Jefferson” about their relationship, one of the first overt references to its racial aspect. Rhimes had written the line into three previous scripts and taken it out each time. She finally included it, but only as a flashback, later in the show’s run but early in Olivia’s relationship with Fitz, when Rhimes knew it would have been on Olivia’s mind. “I don’t think that we have to have a discussion about race when you’re watching a black woman who is having an affair with the white president of the United States,” she explains. “The discussion is right in front of your face.”
I am shy about exploration. I’m perfectly comfortable asking a million questions at a Taco Stand, Ethiopian restaurant, or Russian Deli. But when I’m sitting down to a bowl of Ramen, Pho, or Naengmyeon, I point and slurp quietly.
Maybe this has to do with the fact that I can “pass” and don’t want to make a spectacle of myself by asking too many questions.
This area is the subject of Anthony Bourdain’s latest episode of his new CNN show, Parts Unknown. I was pleased to see my favorite chef, Roy Choi, as one of his Ambassadors.
Artist David Choe also played tour guide – when they stopped at Sizzler, I felt an immediate connection. I, too, grew up going to these and related to his memories of feeling a “need” to get your money’s worth from the buffet.
I’ve already heard some people criticizing the episode for being inauthentic, ignorant, and even culinarily offensive (‘Jollybee in an episode about Koreatown?!’ said one friend of a friend), but I thought it was pretty interesting for how it was so adamantly Korean American, regardless of whatever essentializing of Korean culture and history the two native informants accomplish. Their Ktown is, for this current boom in K-cuisine (yes, I think the aggressive marketing, experimentation, and exoticized domestication of Korean cuisine warrants it becoming a K-product), such a defining site for the history of Koreans in America. But they do identify in different moments as Korean (un-hyphenated), like when Choe’s father connects the conversation about the impact of the L.A. riots and the rise of Ktown to Korea’s current global cultural presence: ”now Korean culture, K-pop, Psy, it’s all over the world, [the] influence.” The somewhat random assemblage of cultural practices and food as what defines Ktown and Koreanness is what’s interesting about the story, because it says more about how cultures are personally codified (through food, location, interactions with different communities, parents, punishment…) and created emotionally and physically through consumption (mostly food, in this case).
Phantom sex tapes are the spectre of choice hanging over ABC dramas this finale season. Well, to be fair, I only watch three ABC hourlongs, but two out of those three are threatening their heroines with sex tapes as we head into their finales next week. The only difference is that one doing it with less disco background music and more Connie Britton.
Choose your poison, I guess? It’s time for Scandal.
The Summer Doldrums, as I like to call the break network television gives us from June to September, are quickly approaching. Hot temperatures and a new season of The Bachelorette go hand-in-hand, and I take that as my television telling me, “Go Outside.” But, like all couch potatoes, I just turn from one tube to another. Join me as I say ta-ta to my TV, and hello to my Macbook Pro. Below the cut are two queer web series worth watching.
This post comes with a STRONG LANGUAGE warning… for some of you. See what I mean, after the jump.