Category Archives: Entertainment

The Business Of Diversity: Why Hollywood Needs Integration

By Guest Contributors Zach Stafford and Nico Lang

Choscar

Illustration: Joseph Lamour.

Over the years, people of color have had the hardest time breaking into the ‘biz’ or just simply being recognized for the work that they have done on the silver screen.

It was in 1939 that the first African American person–Hattie McDaniel–won an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone With the Wind. It took 30 years for another African American person to win again: Sidney Poitier won Best Actor in a leading role for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, a film that tackles racial divides and interracial dating at the onslaught of integration. But how much have we integrated since then?

In their 2011 New York Times article, “Hollywood’s Whiteout,” staff film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott wrote, “[Race] in American cinema has rarely been a matter of simple step-by-step progress. It has more often proceeded in fits and starts, with backlashes coming on the heels of breakthroughs, and periods of intense argument followed by uncomfortable silence.” Their article came out in response to the 2010 Academy Awards where zero African Americans were nominated, which struck many as peculiar within this Obama Era where ideals around post-racism circulated from sea to shining sea.

The lack of people of color at the Academy Awards was a stark reminder that Hollywood was still very much divided. Let’s play a game: Can you name a prominent black actor under 30? Someone that, if you walked up to a random person on the street, they would know who you are talking about? Didn’t think so.

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Scandal Roundtable 2.19: “Seven Fifty-Two”

Hosted by Joseph Lamour

Image via ABC.com.

As I said in my recap last week, “Seven Fifty-Two” is all about Huck–as much as Fitz wanted to weasel his way into the story…and Olivia’s life. Of course, Olivia wasn’t having it, and neither was Mellie. Loss was the thread that wove the disparate stories last week.

After the jump. Jordan St. John, Loree Lamour, and T.F. Charlton join me to break down another engaging episode of Scandal. Continue reading

Quoted: Leaning in While Black

In a review, published in In These Times, about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, Racialicious senior editor, Tamara Winfrey Harris, writes:

Whether Sandberg, from her perch at the pinnacle of a tech behemoth, is the right person to lead a revolution for less-privileged women has been the topic of much debate. But bits of the author’s wisdom may “click” for particular readers in unexpected ways. Sandberg’s message about choosing supportive partners made me blink, because it stands in stark contrast to advice directed toward a particular segment of professional women. Thanks to concerns about low marriage rates among African Americans, professional black women are bombarded with warnings about careerism and success. A burgeoning genre of advice books instructs straight black women to, in effect, “lean back” in order to attract men.

In Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, (the basis for the film Think Like a Man), author Steve Harvey admonishes: “If you’ve got your own money, your own car, your own house, a Brinks alarm system, a pistol and a guard dog, and you’re practically shouting from the rooftops that you don’t need a man to provide for you or protect you, then we will see no need to keep coming around.” Elsewhere, Harvey warns women that if they travel for business, their left-behind husbands might understandably stray.

Black women, especially highly successful ones, are expected to sacrifice achievement for the alleged greater good of traditional marriage. And they are encouraged to think more about being chosen than choosing—making themselves attractive to men by conforming to an outdated template of femininity rather than, as Sandberg suggests, selecting a supportive mate interested in a 50/50 partnership.

Sandberg counsels that choosing a mate is one of the most important decisions a working woman will make. If that is true, lack of support, in addition to systemic sexism and racism, may explain why black women fare worse than their white counterparts in the halls of power. All women of color make up just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats and 5 percent of congressional seats. Snagging unsupportive life partners isn’t likely to improve these statistics (or the personal lives of women).

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Open Thread: NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out

by Joseph Lamour

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Image via SportsIllustrated.com.

It’s Gay Sports Day here at the R, and really, shouldn’t every day be Gay Sports Day?

Jason Collins, currently with the Washington Wizards, reveals in the next issue of Sports Illustrated that he is a gay NBA player.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

This is the first time a current athlete in any US major sport has come out of the closet. If you remember, former professional soccer player Robbie Rogers came out, but only after he retired abruptly earlier this year. And across the pond, a professional rugby player, Gareth Thomas, came out in 2009. It’s about time the States followed suit.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Race + Television–The Vampire Diaries 4.20: “The Originals”

Promo shot for The Originals. Via the CW.

Last week The Vampire Diaries (TVD) aired Episode 20, “The Originals,” a “backdoor pilot” for a spin-off series coming this Fall of the same name, which will (finally) remove the Original Family of Klaus, Rebekkah, and Elijah from Mystic Falls, VA, and send them even further south to New Orleans. I know, I know–at this point we need more Southern vampires on television like we need another summer superhero movie. But here’s the surprising thing: If TVD showrunner Julie Plec weren’t also in charge of this show? It could be very, very good.

There hasn’t been much to be excited about this season, so this was a game-changer and it was more than just a change of scenery (TVD has had a lot of that this year). Admittedly, you can’t go wrong in erasing the ridiculous part of the plot where the 1000+-year-old vampires have to pretend to be teenagers, fitting in with small-town Virginia life. The new chosen city for the show isn’t overly inspired; New Orleans is hardly original when it comes to vampire storytelling, but with it comes an instant change to the mood and tone of the show.

“The Originals” steps back from the teenage shenanigans of TVD, and thank goodness for that. This is show about family–the family you’re born into vs. the family you make for yourself. With that, plus the introduced cast members, there’s some serious potential here.

The problem is it is Plec’s show–and a lot of the potential it has won’t ever see the light of day.

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Scandal Recap 2.19: “Seven Fifty-Two”

by Joseph Lamour

Image via ABC.com.

Scandal is back! Again… again… again. This show sure has a lot of breaks. A thinly veiled attempt to leave us wanting more. It definitely works though, doesn’t it?  And there are only three more episodes left the season. Tragic. I may have to start going outside again.

If you recall our recap a few weeks ago, we last saw Olivia being swaddled by Fitz in her hospital room as her new beau Captain Jake Ballard waited outside. This week’s episode doesn’t really move the story forward, but it provided a much desired backstory for hacker-sassin Huck. This type of episode usually frustrates me as the only thing that happened, really, was that someone got up off the floor. But, like I said, a good backstory is a good backstory. And Huck provides a meaty one.

Spoilers for Scandal 2.19 “Seven Fifty-Two” appear under the cut.

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Slammin’ Poetry: “A Letter To JK Rowling From Cho Chang”

by Joseph Lamour

Recently, we came across a great spoken word piece while perusing Angry Asian Man, and we think it deserves a listen. By Rachel Rostad, “A Letter to JK Rowling from Cho Chang” is not only a critique of the first love interest for Harry Potter, but of problematic representations of Asian women in books, cinema, and media as a whole.

If you’ve watched by now (which you should, it’s a pretty awesome four minutes) you could imagine that this stirring piece, well, stirred a lot of people. Since this viral video’s posting on YouTube it’s started an ongoing discussion- not only of representation of people of color in media, but PoC representation in her piece as well.

For Rostad’s video response to the comments on her poem, continue under the cut.

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Tyler Perry’s Rape Problem

By Guest Contributor Carolyn Edgar; originally published at CarolynEdgar.com

**TRIGGER WARNING**

From the trailer for Tyler Perry's Temptation

A week after rapper Rick Ross found himself in hot water over a lyric that was said to promote date rape, producer and director Tyler Perry found himself facing questions about a scene in his latest movie, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, in which a character appears to be forced to have sex against her will.

Except–oops. That hasn’t happened. And probably won’t.

While the Internet continues to explode with commentary about Ross’s offensive lyric, almost no one is talking about the disturbing “seduction” scene in Perry’s latest movie. In fact, of all the reviews I read of Perry’s latest–including several that were scathingly contemptuous–only one characterized the scene as rape, and even that reviewer dismissed the movie as camp.

(Spoiler Alert–spoilers to follow)

In the film, Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is wooed by Harley (Robbie Jones), a  super-rich playboy who is obviously the Devil. We know this because Harley drives a red car and runs shirtless regardless of outdoor temperatures. But we really know Harley’s the Devil because Judith’s preacher mama (Ella Joyce, whose pinched facial expressions deserve their own billing) exclaimed, “That’s the Devil!” in an effort to drive Judith into Harley’s arms–I mean, discourage her from further contact with the man.

But I digress.

Judith and Harley are on Harley’s plane when Harley, in the most unsexy manner possible, lets Judith know that he wants to make love to her. Judith rebuffs him, saying they should keep things strictly professional. Harley grabs her, and Judith says “no” forcefully, a few times, which turns Harley on even more. He pauses long enough to say, “Okay, now you can say you resisted,” and then appears to rape Judith.

The next time we see them, Judith is snatching away from Harley and telling him she wants nothing more to do with him and never wants to see him again–all signs that the encounter on the plane was, indeed a rape. However, in the next scene, Judith sees Harley at her job and becomes angry when he does as she asked and ignores her. (Women are fickle, y’know.)

Suddenly, Judith is at home on her cell phone, berating Harley for not paying her any attention–while her oblivious husband (Lance Gross in dweeb drag) watches a basketball game in the next room. Harley demands to know if Judith’s husband is better in bed than he–and instead of saying, “Of course, since he’s not a rapist”–Judith flashes back to what passes for steamy lovemaking in a Tyler Perry movie. We’re then made to understand that Judith did indeed consent, or at least, gave in. Harley tells her he’s coming to get her, she invents a flimsy work-related excuse and leaves. Her preacher mama is shocked, but her husband doesn’t even look up from the game.

We next see Judith and Harley in a bathtub surrounded by about eight million candles–he’s the Devil, you know–and the proliferation of burning candles and steam means we’re supposed to imagine that some kind of hell sex happened, creating a whole different kind of fire hazard.

There are obvious differences between Rick Ross’s lyric and Tyler Perry’s film. Harley doesn’t slip a molly into Judith’s Champagne–he drugs Judith with bad lines. She is fully conscious–so conscious, she says “no!” several times, in fact.

The woman who half-heartedly resists the hunk’s advances until she can no longer deny her own desires and gives in, is, of course, a hackneyed and familiar trope of romance novels and soap operas.

Problem is, we don’t see Judith giving in. We do see her saying “no,” and Harley forcing himself on her. We don’t understand that she eventually acquiesced until the flashbacks.

And this is why Perry deserves some backlash–backlash he won’t get from mainstream media–for this scene.

Perry could have easily made Judith’s consent obvious. A breathless “Yes!” wouldn’t have completely removed the “ick” factor, but would have made Judith’s desires clear. Instead, Perry inexplicably chooses to leave the audience in suspense–briefly–as to whether or not an actual rape occurred, all while promoting the dangerous idea that a woman’s “no” is not really “no,” but merely part of the game of seduction. This scene puts Perry in such fine company as men’s rights advocates who argue that date/acquaintance rape is simply buyer’s remorse, and men who argue–as one man did on Twitter last week–that a man has to push to make sure a woman’s “No” is really “No.”

In real life, people who are sexually assaulted sometimes stop resisting to avoid further physical injury. Relenting, or giving in to what feels inevitable, is hardly the same as consent. As many people have said in the wake of Steubenville, “no means no” needs to be updated to “anything other than yes means no.”

Of course, Perry also is out to punish Judith for turning her back on the Lord. Judith’s downfall is foreshadowed when she starts dressing like Kim Kardashian and drinking alcohol. In this sense, it may not matter to the film’s overall morality message whether Harley rapes or seduces Judith. Either she consented, or she asked for it. Notably, Perry screened this film for 100 pastors prior to its release. They gave him their blessings. That fact may be more troubling than the film itself.

I admit Tyler Perry’s films are not for me. Perry has achieved tremendous success by making films that are not only not aimed at people like me, but which are derisive of ambitious, professional black women like me.  I’m sure many excuses will be made for how this pivotal “seduction” scene isn’t rape, or how I’m just a hater–the usual response to those who criticize Perry’s movies. Whatever.

Still, if we’re holding entertainers to account for their words and images, we should be consistent. Perry is as responsible for the images he puts on film as Rick Ross is for the words he puts on a record. And both deserve to be called out for promoting a patriarchal view of sex in which a woman’s consent is irrelevant.