Tag Archives: Katy Perry

The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.12.13: Nelson Mandela, New York’s Poor, Black Republicans and more

You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.

You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.

Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

I’ll be 34 this year and we’re only beginning to see a change in the scenery when it comes to diversity and the fantastic. A recent UCLA study found that even though racial and gender diversity in television remains appallingly low, more diverse shows bring higher audiences while less diverse ones struggle. Meanwhile, some major networks may finally be getting the message. At this year’s annual Fox Broadcasting confab, titled “Seizing Opportunities,” the underlying theme was more diversity equals more money. Speaking to an invitation-only crowd of executives, producers, agents and media coalitions, Fox COO Joe Earley said this about welcoming more diverse shows: “Not only are you going to have more chances of a show being made here, more chances of a show being a success on TV, more chances of making it into syndication, more chances of a show selling globally and making you millions of dollars, but you are going to bring more viewers to our air and keep us in business.”

Cultural critics have rightly decried whitewashing in the name of social justice. Networks are now beginning to see dollar signs where they once imagined dearth. But beyond money and morality, diverse programming is also a question of quality. “Racist writing is a craft issue,” the poet Kwame Dawes said at this year’s AWP conference. “A racist stereotype is a cliché. It’s been done. Quite a bit. It’s a craft failure.”

Without an understanding of culture, power and history, diversity is useless; it’s blackface. And television has often given us nothing but that: cheap stand-ins and tokens to up their numbers and check off boxes.

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Open Thread: The American Music Awards

Jennifer Lopez performs at the 2013 American Music Awards

Pitbull hosted, 39 year old rap star of my childhood Nelly proclaimed his love for 19 and 21 year old girls while performing Ride Wit’ Me, TLC continued to make me sad by insisting on continuing to perform sans Left Eye, and Jennifer Lopez gave a killer Celia Cruz tribute, but the American Music Awards were still plagued with overt racism, troubling moments, and a grim glimpse into what this year’s Grammys are going to look like.

The show opened with this gem of a performance from Katy Perry:


A quick check with Twitter confirmed that I was indeed seeing what I thought I was seeing (Katy Perry performing a song that has nothing to do with Japan, it’s people or their culture, while wearing a kimono and possible yellow face surrounded by others doing the same? Check.) and that it was, yes, as problematic as I thought it was. Unfortunate, but not entirely unsurprising given the legacy handed down by other pop artists like our friend Gwen Stefani.

The shtick is doubly creepy when you consider how Perry’s supposed love of Japanese people manifested itself during an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel show back in 2012:

“I am obsessed with Japanese people, I love everything about them and they are so wonderful as human beings. I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace.”

By any means necessary, eh Katy?

The second biggest “Yikes.” of the night came when Macklemore beat out a slew of Black artists in the favourite rap/hip-hop album category and proceeded to make a Very Special Comment about Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin and racial profiling. A comment that I might have found more sincere had he mentioned the names or cases of any of the numerous other cases since Trayvon Martin’s; Renisha McBride, perchance?

It may have also been more meaningful coming out of the mouths of one of the other nominees in the category (Kendrick Lemar or Jay-Z), but that could just be my own cynicism. In a year filled with the Macklemores, Lordes, Justin Timberlakes (he picked up two televised AMA wins), and Robin Thickes of the world it looks like Black artists will have to continue fighting for wins in the hip-hop, rap, and RnB categories as we move into Grammy season.

I tuned in and out of the show (because 11pm is late for anything to be ending, I just started a Charmed rewatch on Netflix, and it’s not like these are the Oscar Awards of music or anything), so I invite y’all to discuss  anything I may have missed (and/or the sad state of popular music) in the comments below.

Double standards: What’s the difference between Russell Brand and ‘Superhead’?

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said

I am (blessedly) very close to finishing British comedian Russell Brand’s second memoir Booky Wook 2. While Brand’s first foray into writing, Booky Wook, was funny, literate and self-aware. The continued story feels self-aggrandizing and cobbled-together to capitalize on the star’s growing fame (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek). Two books in, Brand’s “beautiful fucked-up man” (TM Sarah McLachlan) schtick begins to wear thin.

Ultimately, you win no points for admitting that you are a predatory, selfish, womanizing asshole (albeit using flowery, anachronistic turns of phrase) if these self-revelations don’t lead to changed behavior. I was struck last night that Booky Wook 2 stands as a testament to society’s double standard regarding male and female sexuality. A young (white, straight) man can write two books regaling readers with tales of two-, three- and foursomes; obsessive masturbation; spitting in a woman’s face; hiring prostitutes (and making one cry through aggressive behavior); carelessly dispatching sexual partners; and, famously, calling an aging sitcom star to slyly allude to having had sex with his granddaughter.

And this all makes him just a lovable cad–one who gets much shine over on the ostensibly feminist site Jezebel. And folks buy in to the notion, advanced in Booky Wook 2, that Brand has been saved by the sweet, sweet love of a “good” woman–wide-eyed pop star and Christian-when-it’s-convenient Katy Perry, who Brand recently married. Brand can wear not just his promiscuity, but misogyny, as a badge of honor and be feted not just by the media at large, but in spaces reserved for women.

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