Tag Archives: Oprah Winfrey

Quoted: The Atlantic on Hollywood’s “Sassy Black Lady” Problem

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Writer Akash Nikolas on the buzz surrounding Oprah Winfrey’s role in The Butler:

A win for her would be deserved—she’s wonderful in the film. But it’d also be the latest example of what seems to be a Hollywood maxim: Black women only get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress when they play characters who confirm the stereotype of the Sassy Black Lady—bold, sharp-tongued, impertinent.

Hattie McDaniel was the first black actress to win an Oscar for Gone With the Wind, playing house-slave Mammy who was warm and witty with her slave-owners. Half a century later, Whoopi Goldberg won for Ghost by playing Oda Mae Brown, a psychic with no back-story of her own and whose entire purpose was to support a white couple and entertain the audience with sass talk. In recent years, black actresses started winning Best Supporting Actress more frequently. Jennifer Hudson won forDreamgirls by playing Effie White, a diva with too much attitude to remain in a successful pop group and just enough attitude to cover “And I Am Telling You.” Mo’nique won for Precious by playing Mary Lee Johnston, an abusive mother whose sassiness was taken to a monstrous extreme as she terrorized her daughter out of her own fear of being alone and unloved. And Octavia Spencer won for playing The Help’s Minny Jackson, a back-talking maid who fried chicken, cracked jokes, and literally made a racist employer eat shit while her husband beat her.

If Oprah nabs the Oscar, she will have also won by playing sassy, but look closer and you’ll see her role rises above and complicates the stereotype. In her introductory scenes, Gloria is sweet and maternal, and it’s only as the movie progresses that we see her sassiness growing out of resentment—over her husband’s career, over the discord between her son and his father, and over her station in life. In this way, the film actually provides historical context for the sassy black woman, suggesting that she became that way because of decades of inequality. At the same time, the film also offers a modern revision of that role. Gloria feels fleshed-out; she’s not over-the-top, her story is fully explored (and fully her own) and, with the film covering several decades, we get the scope of a complete life lived well into old age.

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Open Thread: Dark Girls

By Arturo R. García

D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke’s much-anticipated documentary Dark Girls premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network Sunday night, so let’s open the floor up for your opinions.

Following the discussion on Twitter, there seemed to be concern over the documentary touching on white men who entered relationships with black women, yet refusing to touch on issues related to white privilege very heavily.

White Men Discuss Their Attraction to African-American Women

In Dark Girls, hip-hop author and journalist Soren Baker, a white man who's married to an African-American woman, describes his early attraction to women of all races—and shares his father's reaction. Plus, another man in an interracial relationship discusses his wife's skin tone.

Also, a note via Shadow & Act: The film will be available on DVD on Sept. 24.

The Racialicious Links Roundup 6.6.13

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana have criticized the Obama administration for having vocally opposed state legalization efforts and for taking a more aggressive approach than the Bush administration in closing medical marijuana dispensaries and prosecuting their owners in some states, especially Montana and California.

The new data, however, offers a more nuanced picture of marijuana enforcement on the state level. Drawn from police records from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report is the most comprehensive review of marijuana arrests by race and by county and is part of areport being released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. Much of the data was also independently reviewed for The New York Times by researchers at Stanford University.

“We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner,” said Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report.

While “colorblindness” in adoption has been widely challenged, however, not everyone is convinced – like the adoptive mother who recently told me, “I don’t see my son’s color. Race is just not an issue for us.”

Some people maintain that any cultural loss is unimportant compared to what children gain through adoption. But in both mainstream media and personal conversations about adoption, cultural and racial identity need not be pitted against a child’s right to love, safety, and security.

This unfortunate “either-or” framing of the issue finds frequent expression in discussions of transracial adoption. Michael Gerson—whose wife is a Korean adoptee—wrote in the Washington Post: “Ethnicity is an abstraction…. Every culture or race is outweighed when the life of a child is placed on the other side of the balance.” In a National Review article criticizing Kathryn Joyce’s book The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, adoptive father David French dismissed “the ‘culture’” (note the mocking quotation marks) of internationally adopted children as “the culture of starvation, of rags, of disease, and of abandonment.”

In his veto message, Scott noted that Congress never approved the policy enacted by President Obama last year to allow children brought to this country illegally to seek reprieves from deportation. “Although the Legislature may have been well-intentioned in seeking to expedite the process to obtain a temporary driver’s license, it should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis,” the governor said.

The last-minute block and tackle suggests Scott’s sensitivity toward conservative activists, who were aghast when the onetime crusader against Obama’s health care law embraced in February the administration’s proposed expansion of Medicaid. The proposal to accept millions in federal dollars to insure poor people was beaten back by state lawmakers but not without leaving a mark on Scott, who is expected to face a tough reelection campaign in 2014 against former governor and newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist.

Scott’s veto also highlights the Republican Party’s struggle to boost its appeal within the fast-growing Hispanic community. The bill’s sponsors said the governor’s veto flies in the face of the millions of dollars the Republican Party is allocating to minority outreach and candidate recruitment.

“Make no mistake about it: This will be an anti-Hispanic bomb if he vetoes this bill,’’ said Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto, one of the legislation’s sponsors. “The vast majority of my peers understand we need to encourage immigrants to become working members of our society. It makes no sense that the Scott administration would veto something it’s already doing.”

Cantankerous oldsters are, of course, a staple of comedy. But the trick is to evoke the anger, prejudice, exasperation, fear or simple confusion with which one generation often regards the next without losing the character’s essential humanity.

Although she has a Madea-like quality in that she is played by a much younger woman, there is virtually no humanity in Hattie. As we watch her berate and deride daughter Linda (Kendra C. Johnson) — whom we learn Hattie first threw out of the house when Linda was but 17 (hahaha)— and grandson Danny (Andre Hall), a college graduate having difficulty finding a job in a tough market (hahaha), one is left to wonder how much Perry hates his own grandmother.

Only her brother-in-law and business partner Floyd (played with admirable comedic grace by Palmer Williams Jr.) seems immune to Hattie’s hatefulness. Linda certainly is not; at the end of episode one, she discovers that her husband is cheating on her. Again.

Hattie predictably explodes with a chattering rage when Linda asks to move back home. By episode two, she is considering a reconciliation because she feels she is unfit for anything other than an unhappy marriage.

Wow, wonder why? Surely, there was an episode of Oprah based on just this sort of unhealthy relationship.

Boiling down zoot culture to one set of beliefs, variables, or ethnicity and race, rather than looking at its pluralistic totality, has been at issue when discussing it. Participants did not move in lock-step and carried differing, if often overlapping, views of the zoot suit’s meaning. While most zoots would agree that their fashion operated as a claim of public dignity denied them by white society, how each zoot defined such “dignity” varied: “dignity for a black male zoot suiter in New York … was often not the same as dignity for a Mexican American female zoot suiter in Los Angeles,” Alvarez points out. Moreover, some zoots, as previously noted, opposed the war and others actually joined the military to fight.

The focus on male zoots often obscures the numerous women active in the scene. For all its poignancy in capturing the fate of Montoya Santana, as noted by Carmen Huaco-Nuzum, in “American Me,” its female characters operated as foil for the movie’s larger discourse on Chicano masculinity. Though the film attempts to break free from gendered assumptions regarding Chicanas, with the exception of one female character, the movie remains bound to an image of Mexican American women as “subservient” and passive, dutifully enduring their oppressed fate. Borrowing from intellectual Octavio Paz, the film, Huaco-Nuzum argues, perpetuates the “legacy of being ‘la chingada,’ or the violated woman — the passive, long suffering female in servitude to the macho.”

Earlier popular productions broadcast similar themes. Luis Valdez penned “Zoot Suit” in the late 1970s, originally as a play focusing on the injustice of the Sleepy Lagoon Trial. In 1981, it became a movie starring Edward James Olmos. Utilizing court records and reports from the Los Angeles Times, Valdez constructed a narrative sympathetic to the defendants but one that virtually ignored the trial’s female participants. According to Catherine Ramirez, Valdez flattened subtleties present in news accounts and court records, depicting female zoots within a Madonna/whore binary of Mexican American women, thereby consolidating the domestic concepts his sources encouraged and constructing a popular model that others would draw from perpetuating the errors of his initial sourcing decisions.

Tyler Perry Hates Black Women: 5 Thoughts on The Haves and Have Nots

The Have And Have Nots

The cast of OWN and Tyler Perry’s The Haves And Have Nots

By Guest Contributor Dr. Brittney Cooper, cross-posted from Crunk Feminist Collective

Welp.

I watched the premiere of  Tyler Perry’s latest train wreck on OWN last night for two reasons. A.) Morbid curiosity and B.) I didn’t wanna hear negroes’ mouths about how I didn’t give it a chance and was therefore uninformed and unqualified to speak on his show (despite the 12 or so movies and 2 stage plays of his I’ve paid to go see and time I spent watching episodes of his existing tv shows that I can’t get back.) Anyway. Here are my thoughts.

1.) Tyler Perry is a cultural batterer:  the cultural equivalent of an unrepentant wife-batterer. Why, you ask? Well, let’s see. In under 15 minutes of episode one there were three Black women: Hanna, a maid, who speaks like she just left the plantation; Veronica, a rich black lady bitch, who throws her coat and hat at the maid; and Candace, the maid’s daughter, a scheming, conniving prostitute who tells people the mom is dead, later can be seen raising her hand to her mom, has her own son who is God knows where, is allegedly in law school, but paying for it by questionable means, and ultimately by the closing scene of episode two can be seen raping the white patriarch/politician.

The fact that Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire, along with their remixes (Bad) Baby Mama, Golddigger, Freak and Hood Bitch showed up in under 15 mins is surely a new world record.

A few caveats: no knock to domestics who speak in Southern dialect — I am from the deep, rural South, love the cadences in our voices, and have a beloved, and dearly missed grandmama who cleaned white folks’ houses well into her sixties.

(But I know a fucking controlling image when I see one.)

No knock to sex workers, who I think should have rights, benefits, and legal protections. Black women sex workers in primetime is a whole different deal representationally, though, and we need to OWN that.

Black women deserve better.

2.) Tyler Perry can only represent Black men positively by throwing Black women under the bus. Since dude’s plotlines are so simple a 13 year old could write them — no disrespect to 13 year olds–, there are of course 3 Black men to balance out the 3 Black women. They include the husband of the rich lady –he’ll prolly be comparable to Scandal’s Cyrus, or at least Tyler prolly thinks that’s what he’s doing, lol; his son, a drug counselor (respectable profession); and the son of the maid, a Shemar Moore lookalike and all around good guy, whose sole aspiration in life is to — wait for it — drive a tow truck. So 1.5 solidly good guys out of 3 ain’t bad. Why 1.5? Because of course the rich drug counselor is on the DL, which in TP’s world makes him a sexual deviant. We’ll see how this plot line develops, but since TP outs dude by way of terrible slow pan shots, meant to simulate not-so-secret longing after the buff white dude, I am not optimistic.

Black gay men deserve better.

3.) I feel some type of way that Oprah would be in league with such foolishness. And that is because I AM NOT AN OPRAH HATER. And I have little patience for people who are. The chick is doing her thing, and I’m proud of her.  And I really want to see OWN do well. That aside. I like to think she has been duped, hoodwinked, and bamboozled. But I know that ain’t the whole truth. Really, OWN is struggling. And when networks struggle, they pimp the “urban demographic” for ratings and money. And once they are set financially, they bounce. The Fox Network did it: Living Single, Martin, In Living Color. The WB, UPN, and the CW all did it. So I see what O is doing, and I resent it.

Why?

I know she and Tyler  share that nouveau-riche-Black-southern-abuse-survivor-started-from-the-bottom-now-we-here connection.

BUT

Oprah doesn’t seem to understand, that a rich, independent, college-educated chick like her, who shuns traditional marriage, is in Tyler Perry’s world the DEVIL, a veritable, conniving bitch, who hates babies, men, and old people, needs Jesus, plus a good slap from a sexy Black man, and will still probably catch AIDS and live in misery because she chose not to conform to the dictates of Christian respectability.

Why Oprah doesn’t get this is beyond me. It seriously is.

OWN deserves better.

4.) On his best day and her worst day, Tyler ain’t even in Shonda’s stratosphere. This whack-ass mashup of Deception + Scandal + The Help in no way compares to anything Shonda Rhimes is doing. I can already hear the brothers now, talking about how Candace’s character is comparable to Olivia’s character. They are comparable in only one way: they both sleep with white men. Comparison over. And that is how you know that Black men’s primary issue with Olivia is not her moral choices, but her racial ones.  (But Edison was a good guy even though he didn’t get chose; and Harrison — well let’s just say I’m #teamGingham all the way.)

I digress.

My love of Scandal should be a clear indicator that my problem with TP is not about respectability politics. In other words, I am not advocating for positive representations. I’m advocating for complex, human representations. TP doesn’t complicate Black women; he demonizes them.

Candace is not just a sex worker, but a sextortionist and a rapist. A predator. She does not merely have mother issues, but she nearly slaps her mom and can’t account for her baby’s whereabouts.

We don’t hate Liv, because while we might reject many of her choices, we identify with her as a human being with needs, emotions, and as a person with the ability to do good in the world, despite the bad she also does.

Tyler Perry just thinks Black women — other than maternal domestics– are bad. That’s why he can’t complicate his analysis. But they have therapists for that, and I wish he’d see one. Posthaste.

And this brings me to my final point:

5.) Tyler Perry is dangerous. He has made Black women mistake hate for love. When his heavy-handedness is still not enough to chastise and discipline us for being independent, driven, and sex-positive, he will resort to straight up distortions of history, and assume that his working class audience will miss the sleight-of-hand. Case en point: that rape scene! Because of course history is replete with poor Black women raping rich white men. Not.

And the fact that he would traffic in such an utter fiction — a fiction that is the very basis for centuries of brutality against Black women on the grounds that they are by nature un-rapeable, a fiction that drove the creation of the culture of dissemblance and the politics of respectability — makes his cultural production not merely bad but despicable.

And that is why I titled this essay: “Tyler Perry hates Black Women.” How can he not?

Monday Video Roundup

By Arturo R. García

In lieu of a regular roundup, something a little different, with all sorts of video goodies.

Rise of The “Harlem Shake”: First off, compare this:

To this:

The one up top, as The Root pointed out last week, is the actual Harlem Shake.
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Quoted: Gabby Douglas’ Interview With Oprah Winfrey

Gabby Douglas (l) and Oprah Winfrey. Courtesy: Comcast

“I was the only African-American at that gym,” Gabby went on. “I definitely felt isolated. Why am I deserving this? Is it because I’m black? — those thoughts were going through my mind.”

Gabby appeared on Oprah’s show Sunday with her mother, Natalie Hawkins, who recalled how her daughter told her about the cruel treatment on several occasions.

When Gabby was 14, her mother said, she reached her breaking point.

“She said, ‘I’d rather quit — if I can’t move and train and get another coach, I’d rather quit the sport,’” Hawkins said.
- New York Daily News

Open Thread: Oprah Says Goodbye

By Arturo R. García

Every single day I came down from my makeup room on our elevator, I would offer a prayer of gratitude for the delight and the privilege of doing this show. Gratitude is the single greatest treasure I will take with me from this experience. Opportunity to have done this work. To be embraced by all of you who watched is one of the greatest honors any human being could have. I’ve been asked many times during this farewell season, “Is leaving the show bittersweet?” Well I say, all sweet, no bitter, and here’s why: Many of us have been together for 25 years.

We have hooted and hollered together; had our “a-ha!” moments; we ugly-cried together; and we did our gratitude journals. So I thank you all for your support and your trust in me. i thank you for sharing this yellow brick road of blessings. I thank you for tuning in every day along with your mothers and your sisters and your daughters, your partners – gay and otherwise – your friends, and all the husbands who got coaxed into watching Oprah.

I thank you for being as much of a sweet inspiration for me as I’ve tried to be for you. I won’t say goodbye; I’ll just say, until we meet again. To God be the glory.

- Transcript of Oprah Winfrey’s closing monologue, aired on May 25

Like her or not, Oprah Winfrey’s three-day farewell tour was, at times, as larger-than-life as the financial empire she built over the past quarter-century, out of a morning talk show on WLS-TV in Chicago. The roster of guests for the first two episodes, taped at the United Center, included the usual cavalcade of stars. But Winfrey signed off in front of a more traditional studio audience. Of course, with the arrival of her own network, Winfrey might have been a bit on the nose in going with an open-ended departure.

But for now, we’re curious, dear readers, about your thoughts regarding this “final” Oprahpalooza. Where do you think she’ll go from here, and what does that mean for you as viewers?