Grey’s Anatomy vs. Scrubs*: Or the Limits of Representation

by guest contributor Maia, originally posted at her blog, Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty

I’ve started watching Grey’s Anatomy really regularly (they’re repeating Season 1 in NZ), I’m not quite sure why – because I don’t really like it that much. I don’t think it’s well-written, by half-way through season two I hated almost all the characters. But watch it I do, if nothing else it gets things to blog about it.

Shonda Rhimes (Creator of the show) said that she wanted Grey’s Anatomy to look like America, and she did quite well. Of the four authority figures we see most regularly, three are african-american, and one of those is female. This is a world where you can live in a trailer park and grow up to be surgeon. Rich or poor, male of female, Korean, African-American or white – anyone can work at Seattle Grace.

Compare this to Scrubs, the authority figures are all white men, and while you can be a doctor and female or a doctor and African-American, the women of colour are all nurses.

There was this episode of Scrubs where all the main characters were speaking to the camera about their lives. I don’t remember the reason but Carla (the Latina Nurse) was telling a story about when she was a girl, and how she came to be in the job she was in. She was in a store and someone was injured in some way and a doctor came in and saved the patient. Her segment ended with her saying “That’s when I realised I wanted to be a doctor.”

The show didn’t have to tell us why Carla didn’t become a doctor, because it was really clear. What I loved about Scrubs is that it showed a society where racism, sexism, and the class system were all problems. Continue reading

Madonna adopts baby from Malawi?

by guest contributor Nina

(Note from CVK: as of now we’re getting conflicted reports over whether or not this adoption has gone through. Madonna’s publicist has denied it, but Malawi government officials have said it’s true.)

In the latest celebrity news, Madonna has adopted or plans to adopt an orphan from Malawi. Apparently she wants a boy and had about a dozen to choose from. So now it is just a short time before we see the little one in the most stylish baby clothes, being carted around the streets of London and L.A. in the Material Girl’s arms. The new mother,with a smug “aren’t-I-an-amazing-person-
because-I-adopted-this-child-that-would-have-died-without-my-help” look on her face.

I know that we are supposed to be in awe of celebrities adopting African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, but I cannot shake the feeling that it is just a trendy act and reeks of noblesse oblige and reputation rehab! Maybe Madonna will get a shout out on BET’s 106th & Park. A decade ago Hollywood was adopting African American kids (Mia Farrow, Tom Cruise, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Spielberg), and now the cause celebre is Africa itself and as the caustic mass media puts it “AIDS babies.”

Some would argue that without these individuals, the orphans would die. Well according to a 2003 UNICEF report, “AIDS has already orphaned more than 11 million African children, half of whom are between the ages of 10 and 14.” So unless Angelina, Madonna and the rest plan on adopting a few hundred kids each then they aren’t really putting a dent in the situation. The old adage, give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day seems to apply here. Less than 5 % of Africans affected with HIV/AIDS have access to medication that costs a mere $7-8 a day. A couple of million dollars for antiretrovirals that keep these kids’ parents alive would be far more beneficial in the long run than adopting one child. Instead Madonna hopes to spend $3 million on a kabbalah-influenced orphanage to indoctrinate Malawian children in her religion of the moment.

Furthermore, the issue of these children’s racial/cultural identity is worth discussion. Malawi has a ban on non-resident adoptions of Malawian children. A ban that was in place, presumably, to maintain the culture of their children. But the ban was lifted for Madonna. This site has devoted considerable time to issues of racial identity, particularly for transracially adopted children. When Oprah asked Tom Cruise, “how do you discuss race with your son?” (who is African-American). Cruise looked at Oprah like she asked him to describe bestiality. “He’s my son, Oprah. He’s my son” he said indignantly, to the applause of a mostly white audience.

Race is a thorny topic but it needs to be talked about especially if you adopt from outside your own. I just don’t think that white, wealthy celebrities can really deal with it. Hell, even celebrities of color live in a rarefied world. I once saw an interview with Natalie Cole where she said she didn’t realize she was black until she got to college. And she grew up during segregation! I cannot wait to hear from Zahara, Maddox and all the rest in the years to come.

links for 2006-10-05

Wait, not the Sean Jean, now?!

by Jen Chau
get outta here with that gear!Have you ever worried about not being let into a club because of the way you were dressed? You know, your clothing wasn’t quite dressy enough, or you were wearing sneakers? (god, you really should have known better! what were you thinking?!). Well, apparently, a spot in Nashville has taken all of this so seriously that they have gotten very specific about the gear that is unacceptable. Thanks to my bro for the heads-up on this. ;)

A Nashville Nightclub has introduced Brand Specific Dress Codes.  The sign outside the club displays a list of unacceptable brands, including: Southpole, ECKO, ENYCE, Sean Jean, Phat Farm, FUBU, etc.  The brand specific dress code is creating controversy both because it discriminates against style and because the brands chosen suggest racial profiling.  One shop keeper described, “You see black people wearing more of these type of clothes. I have it on now. I think he pointed his finger toward black people (talking about) the grills and the Sean Jean. I think he’s talking about more black people.”

I agree. The grills and the Sean Jean needs to stop. :) Seriously, this brings up a lot of questions. I honestly don’t think this situation is as much about race here as it is about the club’s assumptions about “the kind of people” who wear these brands…although it probably does go back to race for the club. They are probably thinking Phat Farm = hip hop, hip hop = thugs, thugs = trouble. And of course hip hop is synonomous with black, so…. :| I mean, let’s be honest — what were they thinking? Probably that the people who wear Ecko and FUBU are thugs up to no good who will only do damage to their place. Or maybe the management just doesn’t think this crowd is “refined” enough to be partying at their establishment. Clearly, this situation reeks of assumptions and stereotypes…and possibly even some classism. I can see how all of this is being pinned on racial discrimination, though, because again, the assumption at play here is that only black individuals wear these brands.

Well, I don’t know how it is in Nashville, but if it’s anything like the big apple, good luck. I mean, when you are trying to get into these places, you’re at the bouncer’s mercy. I think that it’s a club’s prerogative to let people in based on their arbitrary/random rules and whether they feel generous on any given night. It’s all so silly and superficial, but that’s the way it goes in the land of drinking/dancing/seeing and being seen. This is why I stay home. :| :)

But clearly this club hasn’t done its research. If it had, it wouldn’t blindly ban Sean Jean. I mean, have they caught sight of the Sean Jean “2 Button Grey Sharkskin Jacket!?” ;) Suave!

I think that if folks want to boycott, they should definitely show up to the club in this, this, or any of these. :)

Mastercard ‘Priceless’ commercial features interracial couple

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

mastercard priceless interracialA few of you have written to us (thanks Geraly and Becky!) about this new Mastercard commercial featuring an interracial couple. To watch it yourself, go to this page and click on “Meet the Family.”

It’s a cute little spot, about a Japanese(-American?) woman and white man getting engaged, and then having their parents fly in to meet each other. It uses the usual “priceless” formula:

ring: $9,000
flight from Tokyo: $6,800
flight from Chicago: $1,400
Dad? Mr. Suki. Mr. Suki? Dad. Mr. Carson. Akiko. Brian. Mrs. Suki. Mrs. Carson. Dad? Brian?

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What race are you going to be for Halloween?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

not cuteHalloween is the one time of the year when it’s socially acceptable to prance around half-naked and take cultural appropriation to a whole new level by actually dressing up as people of different ethnicities. Hmmm… maybe I’ll go blonde and pass for white this year.

Thanks to the wonders of Web 2.0, it’ll be even easier this year to keep track of all the racist Halloween costumes for sale. I read about a new site called Costumezee on TechCrunch (yes I’m a nerd) the other day:

Search by tag, see related costumes, review costumes, give costume ideas ratings by stars, build your profile – it’s a little hard to find the RSS URL for a search but other than that Costumezee is very 2.0 and the company knows it. You can also view other users’ lists of costume ideas, so if you’re dying to find out what Michael Arrington is going to dress up as this year (?) perhaps you’ll be able to find out after he reads this post. The most important part of the site is that users can make their own costume suggestions – this is more than just a one way trip through affiliate links.

Check out the tag cloud: it’s fascinating to see what people are searching for. Apparently people are all about the creepy Burger King dude this year. But apart from that, popular searches include harem girl, pocahontas, sumo wrestler, indian warrior, egyptian queen, hula dancer, belly dancer, and my personal favorite: breasts.

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World