Archive for the ‘pop culture’ Category

Whose Image Is It Anyway?

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

When I read Ruby Sale’s reaction to last night’s Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actress” going to Mo’nique for her role in the controversial “Precious”, I thought to myself, “this is a post for Something Within.”

What say you, is Mo’nique’s role in “Precious” anything for black women to leap up and celebrate about here during Women’s History Month?


Many Black people, even Black feminists, seem happy and excited that Mo’nique won an Oscar. I must admit I am not among this group. As a matter of fact, I am stunned at our contradiction. HOW CAN WE CELEBRATE THE SUCESS OF A BLACK ACTRESS WHO MAKES IT ON THE BACKS OF BLACK WOMEN? What I mean is how can we celebrate a Black actress who accepts a role in movies that represents Black women as bad mothers as did Precious and the movie Backside. Is her individual success more important than the consequences of feeding the public images of Black women as whores, immoral and unloving mothers and parents who love dope more than their children? I am not denying that this type of Black woman exist. Nor am I saying that all representations of Black women must avoid our failures. I am saying however that these narratives and representations are dangerous in a popular culture where this is the pervasive image.

Miss MoWhen Black actresses sign on to a script like Precious, they fertilize these lies and locate their work within the contemporary lie of Black women welfare queens that Ronald Reagan created and the conservatives used to the hilt as another example of Black immorality and bad parenting. Conservatives used the misrepresentation of Black women to carry out punitive and racist public policies. Mo’nique cannot have it both ways. Nor can we! She had a perfect opportunity to represent and she failed us. It does not make her right because White Oscar members give her legitimacy. As Audre Lorde said our “wants do not make our actions holy.” Our hunger for fame should never exceed our hunger to advance ourselves and the race with dignity while creating grounds of resistance and reaffirmation that preserve and extend our liberties. In other words, what is the end game of Black art in a society where Black is a dirty word and oppression is a silent killer that touches all of our lives?

Little Man and Doritos

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I don’t even watch football, but there I was yelling and rooting for New Orleans. (How as a minister do you not support a team that calls itself “The Saints”?)

So, here’s a question for the two of you crazy football fans who reacted like I did when you saw the “Little Man” Doritos commercial that claimed a $5 million dollar commercial spot during the Superbowl: what about it? What about the commercial turned you off?  Why wasn’t it as funny to you as it was to millions of others crazy football fans?  Of course, I kept my anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-capitalism, post-critical analysis to myself when it came on the tube. That was probably around the time I drifted off to get some more spaghetti and red Kool-Aid at the buffet table.

Oh So”Precious” Open Forum

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I had originally intended to name this blog post “Precious, Celie, and the Opposite of the Tragic Mulatto.” But I changed my mind. Have there been any “tragic mulattoes” movies in recent years? Does anybody but me know what I’m talking about when I speak of the tragic mulatto?  As David Pilgrim points out in his study of the tragic mulatto figure:

…literary and cinematic portrayals of the tragic mulatto emphasized her personal pathologies: self-hatred, depression, alcoholism, sexual perversion, and suicide attempts being the most common. If light enough to “pass” as White, she did, but passing led to deeper self-loathing. She pitied or despised Blacks and the “blackness” in herself; she hated or feared Whites yet desperately sought their approval.

Tragic mulatto.  Think of literary characters like Peola Johnson in Fannie Hurst’s “Imitation of Life,” Clare in Nell Larsen’s “Passing.” Tragie Mulatto. Think real life entertainers like Dorothy Dandridge. Halle Berry, Lisa Bonet, Mariah Carey. (For the tragic male mulatto counterpart, think Frederick Douglass, Bob Marley, Barack Obama.) One of the top excuse racists, like Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell, use to protest interracial marriage is the fate of mixed-race children. It’s an argument rooted in the “tragic mulatto” myth which suggests that mixed race  children are doomed to be rejected misfits whose black blood prohibits them from reaping the privileges that white people enjoy.

You get my point.  The female tragic mulatto character is the antithesis to the fat, black Mammy character that Hollywood loves and shows no sign of doing away with. One has to think long and hard about when was the last tragic mulatto movie produced by Hollywood. But Hollywood sees to it that every generation gets its “black, ugly and unloveable” black woman story. Back in the 1985 it was Celie in “The Color Purple” and now in 2009 it’s “Precious,” Lee Daniel’s movie adaptated character from Sapphire’s book “Push.”

Both films explore incest, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy and colorism within the black community. In “The Color Purple” Celie is the victim of a sick, loathesome abusive father. In “Precious” the girl Precious is the victim of a senselessly savage, cold, despicable abusive mother. The recent film is set in 987 Harlem and tells the story of an obese, black, dark-skinned, teenage girl Precious (played by Gabbe Sidibe) who is impregnated twice by her father and lives in an apartment with her extremely physically and verbally abusive mother, named Mary (played by M’onique).

There’s no denying that while both “The Color Purple” and “Precious” are commercially successful, much-hyped  films, but is it true as  Salamisha Tillet over at The Root claims that the two films have met with radically different receptions by audiences?I don’t know.  Is it obesity that turns some folks off from the movie? Is it the fact that Precious is not only dark, dark skinned and unattractive (in the European sense of the word), she’s morbidly obese and breaks your heart every time you look at her. Do audiences react differently when weight/obesity enters into the equation? Is it the fact that Harlem’s means streets serves as the background to Precious’s harsh life which adds to the movie’s discomfort compared to poor, but gentle rural backdrop to”The Color Purple”?

I don’t know the answers because I haven’t seen the movie yet.

While I’ve seen the trailers, read the reviews, and caught some of the talk show interviews Gabbe has given, I haven’t ventured out yet to actually see the movie “Precious.”. I can do bad on my own, I tell myself. I don’t need to pay money to be drawn into other people’s unrelenting tragic drama.  That’s the excuse I give friends for not rushing out to catch the movie.

The truth is: I’m still weighing whether to wait until “Precious” comes out on DVC where I can see it in the privacy of my home. That way I can cry, wince, groan, scream, and rail in the privacy of my home as opposed to being held hostage in a big movie theatre to a story and a sorrow that have no end.

So, weigh in. Tell me what you think of “Precious.” How does it compare to its Hollywood antecedent “The Color Purple” or its antithesis “the tragic mulatto” figure? Just wondering.

There’s A Place in the Sun

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

My mother was a big Stevie Wonder fan back in the day. She’d work in the bakery of Rich’s Department store in Atlanta all week long to buy us children shoes and to buy herself a new 45rpm record. Whatever records were stacked on the record player waiting to be played when she got home from baking and decorating cakes all day long had to be rearranged to accommodate whatever Stevie Wonder hit she held in her purse.  Wonder’s ‘66 hits “A Place in the Sun” and “Blowing in the Wind” ( both composed by Bob Dylan) were my mother’s favorites. (Stevie himself was only 16 years old when he recorded the two songs.) Waking to the sound of these Wonders’ hits blasting from the record player was a sure sign to us children that we’d be spending that Saturday cleaning the house at Mama’s orders from top to bottom.

Here’s to you Mama here on Throwback Friday. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get it.

Like a long lonely stream
I keep runnin’ towards a dream
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like a branch on a tree
I keep reachin’ to be free
Movin’ on, movin’ on.

‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run.
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun.

Like an old dusty road
I get weary from the load.
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like this tired troubled earth
I’ve been rollin’ since my birth
Movin’ on, movin’ on

‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run.
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun.