Archive for Media

Old Spice’s New Spark

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 23, 2010 by thebibliophile

Quite possibly the best commercial that has ever existed. Even with its slighly misogynistic lines about “smelling like a lady.”

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The Prep School Negro

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 9, 2010 by thebibliophile

Prep school survivor (and I say this only slightly tongue and cheek as one myself), Andre Robert Lee, who attended the prestigious Germantown Friends School, has recently created and released a documentary about his experience as a student of color at a Phildaelphia-area prep school. The documentary is called The Prep School Negro.

It’s definitely worth checking out – and I think a long time coming. While certainly some of the language (ghetto) and positioning raise an eyebrow for me, I am waiting eagerly to be able to see the documentary. I do believe that students of color’s experience at elite predominantly white institutions, challenges what Lee calls the “racial naivete” of our country.

There is a wildly inaccurate belief that somehow if we all go to school together that issues of race and class are erased. In part, that is the hope and essence of the principals put forth in the landmark Brown case, however, in practice, so very often, the educational system’s biases, whether around race, gender, class, or sexuality impact a student’s experience. Not addressing the very real presence of not only institutional bias, but also the very real existence of bias amidst teachers, students, and parents alike. In truth, part of the experience of being the only student of color at a nearly all-white institution can be amazingly isolating. Assimilation and access is a double-edged sword.

Andre Robert Lee did has been doing interviews about his documentary as well.

Ah….code switching. This is taking me down memory lane, remembering trying to go a week without anyone trying to touch my hair. White dresses and red roses. Wow. Right down memory lane.

The womyn doing the interview “on the stoop,” makes me uncomfortable. I do not appreciate her remark that “you should be paying us for watching since this is therapy for you.” I think that’s a senseless and problematic remark – and I don’t really care that she has an African-American child, that doesn’t reduce her culpability for exeercising white privilege throughout the interview.

My eyebrow raises, if this is going to be a film that suggests that children of color have to be “saved” by the better lives that private school offers – or suggests that all students of color who attend independent schools are from low-income families. Many children of color who attend independent schools, also have parents who are doctors or lawyers – so I truly hope that the film has nuance and doesn’t instead open up a new can of worms.

All About the Mens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 14, 2009 by thebibliophile

Working on it…. thinking about the parallels between Tiger Woods, Chris Brown, Rihanna, and the intersections of race, culture, sexism – anti-black sentiment and the idea that all things must, will, should, and can be seen by our overworked media culture.

Somehow, I feel that being a womynist who speaks against and about the ways in which womyn’s gender and sexuality is promblematized, also means that one must look at the ways that masculinity and men are impacted by the system of sexism.

Perhpas Michel Martin said it best in her “Can I Just Tell You,” piece today when she talked about feeling compassion for Chris Brown and Tiger Woods despite their problematic behavior. Listen to Martin’s piece here.

Tiger Woods

The Jackson’s Give us 5 Ways They Continue to be Whack

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 4, 2009 by thebibliophile

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This is so whack I had to post twice in one day.

Five Ways the Jackson’s Show Us They Continue to be Whack

1. Capiltalizing on their brother Michael’s death. No one, but no one, would be interested in the remaining members of the Jackson family if it were not (sadly) due to the tragic death of Michael Jackson.

2. WTH? You should never have cameras following you around when you are recovering from and healing from the grief (and all the stages of grief) when loosing a loved one.

3. Michael Jackson would not want his children within a 100 miles of this ish. Diana you better come get these children.

4. Business in the street….let me rephrase so that we can all understand: Biznatch all up in da street!

5. Selling your souls, brothers. Selling your souls.

ABC and the Story Arc of Coercive Sex

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 30, 2009 by thebibliophile

Amanda, David, and baby Trevor

ABC has nearly always been in the lead with its soap operas’ daring use of current events. Though it was CBS that actually seems to allow folks of color to be on their soap operas, ABC dealt with the first sexual assault (General Hospital, One Life to Live) on a soap opera, HIV/AIDs (General Hospital), and incest and abuse (One Life to Live).

Recently in a story line about paternity on ABC’s All My Children, David Howard has trapped Amanda into producing him another heir, once he discovers that Amanda and Jake kept his first baby from him. David Howard threatens Amanda and Jake (who are married) with a custody battle for Amanda’s baby, Trevor. David demands that Amanda and Trevor live with him and that Amanda produce a baby with him. Naturally, Amanda agrees, and Jake goes along with it.

Amanda leaves her home with Jake and moves in with her baby Trevor into David’s home. Once a month she does in vitro treatments so that she can get pregnant. Month after month the treatments are unsuccessful. Then on the way to their in vitro clinic appointment, located conveniently in the middle of nowhere and anywhere but here, David runs out of gas. Amanda panics, David suggests they make the baby the old-fashioned way. At first Amanda scoffs, but finally she gives in.

Wracked by guilt, Amanda begins to show stressors: she can’t stand to be around David, doesn’t want him to touch her, is skittish and fearful. Based on his wife’s behavior, Jake assumes that David raped his wife, and attacks him. Amanda denies that David sexually assaulted her, repeatedly and vehemently, and eventually confesses to Jake that she had consensual sex with David – afraid that if she didn’t she’d have to wait another month to try in vitro.

ABC’s problematic and sexist approach and resolutions to sexual assault have been well established. On ABC’s General Hospital, Luke rapes Laura, only to have the story arc have her forgive him, fall in love with him, and marry him – though for the rest of her life she wrestles with disturbing bouts with mental illness and depression. The two were fan favorites.

On One Life to Live, Marty Saybrook was brutally sexually assaulted by several fraternity brothers, led by Todd Manning. When Saybrook’s character returns to the show, her son falls in love with Todd’s daughter (whom he gets pregnant and they have a baby, Hope, making Marty and Todd grandparents of the same child). Todd and Marty are reunited, when in an accident Marty looses her memory – Todd moves in and convinces Marty they were in love and moves forward plans for them to run away together. Just in time, Marty recovers her memory.

Now with the Amanda, David, Jake story arc, All My Children has yet again introduced the figure of sexual assault; this time the area seems so shady, the writing so ambivalent, that it is even more dangerous and frightening to witness. While Amanda insists she had consensual sex with David, what she doesn’t know, is that David intentionally ran out of gas, that he has been consistently trying to undermine her marriage, and his ultimate goal is to destroy said marriage.

It was not an accident that they were stranded. Moreover, it is David who first recommends that they try to “make the baby the old-fashioned way.” What’s more, it is David’s coercive and demand for the demeaning family arrangement, which he secures through threats, that has Amanda under his control.

So while it may be that David did not sexually assault Amanda in the way that media encourages us to see and understand sexually assault, I think it is undoubtedly the case that Amanda having sex with David was coerced. David is, after all, described and billed by the show as “a master manipulator.” It seems to follow that he manipulated Amanda into a situation where she would agree, when coerced and feeling trapped, into having sex.

In “Everyday Life, ” Michelle Mattlemart points out that soap operas often follow a pattern that affirms normativity. She says

the good and virtuous  are rewarded. Love sanctioned by the legitimate union of marriage is better than passion, which is always punished by fate. The female characters ennoble values of purity and virginity for girls, and often become heroic matyrs to men who in fact get away with abusing their masculine authority and class power; but, after putting her through great suffering and temptation, they confirm the happiness of the girl from a modest background by offering her a ring and married life.

Amanda is a “recovering” bad girl, who only recently has been renovated into a mother, a wife, and a womyn “worthy” of a central role in the diegetic world of Pine Valley. Her transformation from into a mother and wife, allowing Amanda’s greatest endeavor to be what Tania Modleski calls womyn’s “highest goal [in soap operas] is to see their families united and happy, while consoling them for their inability to bring about familial harmony.

In ‘The Search for Tomorrow in Today’s Soap Opera’s,” Modleski also explains that “anxiety about conception is transferred to the male…the male suffers the typically feminine anxiety over the threatened absence of his children.” It is David’s fear of paternity, anxiety, and abuse of his power and class status that leads to his coercion of Amanda. I wonder how ABC can possibly resolve this in a way that is not completely disturbing and inappropriate.

Oprah, Accents & Black Masculinity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 27, 2009 by thebibliophile

Why is it that whenever Oprah goes anywhere and meets someone with an accent, she starts mimicking the accent, even when her own imitated accent is nowhere near imitating the accent of the person to whom she’s speaking?  I’m really confused by this behavior.  

  

Oprah & Jay-Z from O Magazine's October 2009 Issue. Photo Credit Unknown

  

And in other Oprah news, recently I read O Magazine’s interview with Jay-Z. I don’t know why, but this interchange between Oprah and Jay-Z seemed so revealing to me:  

O: How were you in school? I’ve heard that when you were in the sixth grade, you tested at a 12th-grade level.  

Jay-Z: I was bored and distracted.  

O: Did you like anything about school?  

Jay-Z: I loved English  

O: I know you love to read now. Were books part of your childhood?  

Jay-Z: No. I don’t remember that.  

O: And I thought we had so much in common!  

Jay-Z: I jut daydreamed a lot.  

O: You didn’t listen in class, you didn’t read books – and you still tested as a 12th grader. You must have a naturally high IQ.  

Jay-Z: Or I’m an idiot savant.  

Good one Jay-Z. Good one. What I found in this interview, is that despite some of the interchanges, in which you can see Oprah doesn’t fully understand the hip-hop generation, Jay-Z’s adultness still comes through. I am particularly struck by how Jay-Z positions and frames his own masculinity. His discussion of what it was like to grow up as the youngest of several brothers, of his father walking out on his family because of his own pain, and how dealing with his issues with his father opened the door to his being able to genuinely love a womyn and become a partner and husband.   

While Chris Rock is busy suggesting that hair that Black men can run their fingers through might help intimacy between Black men and womyn, Jay-Z has another idea, pointing to his own relationship with masculinity and his father. He tells Oprah,”Because when you’re growing up, your dad is your superhero. Once you’ve let yourself fall that in love with someone, once you put him on such a high pedestal and he lets you down, you never want to experience that pain again. So I remember just being really quiet and really cold. never wanting to let myself get close to someone like that again.” 

There’s a great deal of strength and vulnerability in that statement, even as it follows the same path of other narratives of Black male identity. What makes Jay-Z’s statement slightly different to me is that he is talking specifically about feeling abandoned by a parent. He doens’ say he wasn’t able to learn to be a man, or that his mother couldn’t raise a man, he implies instead, that he had to deal with his sense of abandonment from childhood. 

Jay-Z also works to position the womyn in his life, explaining how his mother helped facilitate his healing around his father’s abandonment. It’s just such a thoughtful, beautiful, and honest discussion about fatherhood, expectations for family, and love. 

 Speaking of how Black masculinity has evolved over the last 20 years: 

Unluckily Ignored: Lucky Magazine Ignores Most Stylish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 8, 2009 by thebibliophile

Lucky Magazine, which first launched in the early ’00s and has expanded to become a near obsession (a word Lucky staffers and readers alike adore and overuse) for the fashion forward womyn. They’ve been successful in large part because of what was at the time a daring and innovative layout, product placement, and disciplined focus on the fashion. It’s a formula that’s been widely successful and has launched Lucky as a viable publication, with street and fashion cred – and it’s pushed many of the more established magazines, including In Style, to adapt some of it’s format and approach.  I’ve been a fan and subscriber for many a year. Initially, when Luckywas starting, I was particularly taken with how they featured diverse models, products, and clothes. Not all the models were light-skinned, not all were white, womyn of color were represented as were different body types, and diverse designers.

Predictably, as Lucky Magazine has gained popularity, moving from shoe-string budget and cult following, to larger budget, cult and mainstream following, their advertising dollars, models, and style have become less diverse, interesting, and innovative; and frankly are beginning to contribute to my fashion malaise. One of the areas where Lucky has excelled is their online presence. In fact, what has made Luckyso popular with retailers and fashionistas alike, is that the magazine is about where to find and shop – you are directly linked to how to buy that look. And retailers whose pieces were featured in the magazine found astounding response, as Lucky shoppers descended. The online portion of Lucky for July (though it looks like it was originally run in April) has a feature called “The Most Stylish TV Characters,” which in an age of diversity, has hardly a womyn of color present – the lack of diversity, could, perhaps be blamed on television’s overall dearthof people of color, people with disabilities, people who are not a size 0; however, given that Lucky chose from both cable and network television and across several decades, I find it fascinating, disconcerting, and more than a little careless that somehow they managed not to find more than one stylish television character of color – ever, in the entire history of television. Really?

Lisa Bonet Denise Huxtables on The Cosby Show

 The one womyn they did feature, the stunningly beautiful and wonderfully quirky Lisa Bonet, back during her days on The Cosby Show as Denise Huxtable, is an extremely fair-skinned womyn, and is the only womyn of color featured.  Now it’s an interesting addition. If I were to pick someone from The Cosby Show, I might have selected Claire Huxtable for her effortless and always elegant style or Sandra, the oldest for her use of layering (and love of long dresses, feminine boots, and blazers) – but perhaps this is just my style preference. It’s true that Denise always had something on wholly creative, often mismatched, and seemingly without any link to a current trend. In fact, that was her character’s whole purpose – to be slightly offbeat withthe rest of the family, as signalled, most often, withher clothing. She was channeling, especially in the late ’80s and early ’90s a particular aesthetic in communities of color. I can’t disagree greatly with the selection, but I do wonder how it is that Lucky seems unable to feature a more diverse list. How is it that Thelma from Good Times, Julia from the groundbreaking show Julia, or (and this is the one that really upsets me) Joan from Girlfriends, whose style in the show is on par with Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex in the City wardrobe, aren’t represented?

To me, at the very least it’s lazy fashion journalism, at worse ignorance of pop culture, and a decision to ignore or exclude womyn of color (who cares? who knows them?). Lucky missed a great opportunity, to inject a broader spectrum of womyn, since they seem to have given up doing it in the pages of the actual magazine. It was a great chance to highlight and celebrate diverse womyn  in media – and not just womyn of color; what about Sukie from Gilmore Girls, a full-figured womyn who always wore great color and had style? What about Samantha from Samantha Who?, who represents ability in two-dimensions (the actress having had a double mastectomy and the character suffering from amnesia)?  I guess I shouldn’t feel so badly, it doesn’t even look like any of the Brady Bunch made it either.

Mattel's Barbie based on Julia

It’s confounding that Julia doesn’t make it. It was a landmark television show – the first to feature a Black womyn, who was not serving as a domestic, but instead was carrying the entire show. Julia was a single mother, to her son Cory, her husband having been killed (I believe in combat). And what was a real stunner, Julia was a nurse. A professional Black womyn, who went on dates (gasp!), was respected in her job, and was always dressed to the nines. Not to mention that Diann Carroll who played Julia, was and remains, drop-dead, hit your mama gorgeous. She rocked false eyelashes with jeans! Jeans! And it never looked more glamorous. Julia was so popular that there was even a doll made for the character, complete with sharp white nurse outfit. For many a womyn of color, Julia was a style icon; showing womyn of color in a way we are not often represented: as sharply dressed, fashionable, and elegant. The selection of Denise Huxtable for “most stylish” in the face of t.v. fashionistas like Julia and Joan Clayton, smacks of the same tired stereotype that womyn of color’s fashion and style is interesting only because it diverges from the norm, or in Lucky’scase stands in to capture grunge or quirkiness – which in this case is also a cover for sloppiness and “mismatched outfits,” that just happened to “magically” work. And the assumption from Lucky is that Denise’s character just “threw it on” without any aesthetic philosohpy, when often the whole point of a Denise assemble was to challenge gender and racial norms, while also celebrating African heritage (mudcloth prints) and recognizing through clothing systems of oppression (as when she wore buttons denouncing apartheid in South Africa).

 

Mad Men's Betty Draper

Lucky does feature Betty Draper from Mad Men (why not the original Lucy, I wonder), Ally McBeal, and of course Carrie Bradshaw. I’m not necessarily surprised by those selections. There is, of course, no way that Carrie Bradshaw could not be on the list. I find Betty Draper and Ally McBeal less predictable and interesting choices. For one, if one thinks of the styling of Draper, it’s based on the designs of clothing that stars like Lucille Ball would in fact have worn. Then why choose the modern-day counterpart? I think its a commentary on the desire for more structured clothing today. I also think its harder for us to understand color and shape in black and white. I also can’t help but wonder at the resurgence of subjugated womyn by featuring Draper and to some extent McBeal, whose kicky short skirts and stilettos, while lovely (for some) would never have been work appropriate. Who cared if Carrie Bradshaw wore a see-through dress on her first date with Big and then around town – she was a writer! A creative. Trust that when it was time to attend a business meeting, Carrie, though still with her quirk, appeared dressed appropriately.

 

 

Lucy Lui at Accessories Award show

Ally McBeal

McBeal, a show I loved, didn’t feature Ally in work appropriate clothing often. And what’s more, her clothes were often boring; the worse part of the ’90s: boxy, too big, beige, or in other not very flattering colors. Calista Flockhart was so skinny – and then the short skirts – they were great, yes, but there was no real innovation. Ally McBeal wasn’t stylish – I didn’t get a sense of a style mantra for McBeal – and short (without structure, form, or philosophy, is not a style mantra). Moreover, in comparison to the styles of the characters on the show Ling Mei (Lucy Lui) and Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith), Ally McBeal wasn’t really the most stylish. It was Lucy Lui’s character, Ling (oft stereotyped) that had the best wadrobe in my opinion – and came closest to inventiveness, appropriateness, and styled, structured clothing – most especially in comparison to Ally (who though I loved, didn’t come off as being guided by an adult style philosophy – and who would be when one’s busy seeing invisible dancing babies?) So we have a spectrum, McBeal without a philosophy and Draper confined by the strictures of a womynin the ’50s – and era filled with style philosophy, most of it surrounding how one should hold oneself in and “remember how to seem.”

 

Tracee Ellis Ross

 Girlfriends, which aired in September 2000, could perhaps be dubbed the West coast (and Black) Sex in the City. It followed the lives of four womyn: Joan, Lynn, Maya, and Toni. High-achievers, and for the most part, highly educated, the show had a cult following, particularly among Black womyn, and not least because Joan Clayton’s fabulous wardrobe, undoubtedly guided by the fierce Tracee ellisRoss, who before turning to acting, served as an associate editor with fashion giant Vogue magazine. It’s surprising, though it should not be, that Ellis Ross, like SJP had as much influence on the fashion of her character, and that character so beautifully and evocatively conjured the fashion moment of LA, and yet, neither Ellis Ross, nor the character she played (wonderfully neurotic, intelligent, caring, love-searching) Joan, have received the recognition they deserved. In fact, Girlfriends, was unceremoniously cancelled in 2008 (and yes, I am still bitter about that!). So Ally McBeal can make the list, but Joan Clayton doesn’t – what gives?

Well I suppose it’s the continual erasure and ignoring of womyn of color in fashion. We don’t really exist, we don’t have aesthetics, we don’t make the list. Interesting because we seem to have quite a strong influence. After all, even Patricia Fields noted that Carrie Bradshaw’s lovely “Carrie” gold necklace was a homage to New York’s fashion scene above 119th street and outside of the Manhattan. Interesting too, when one considers how much people of color spend on fashion, particularly brands. This is all old territory…

Carrie Bradshaw in Paris

So let me focus on why Joan Clayton was fabulous. First, she had signature style. Second, she had a womyn of color’s curves and was not afraid to show them. Third, she was always appropriate. Fourth, she still had fun. And lastly, unlike Carrie Bradshaw, Joan Clayton’s looks could actually translate to the street, without having one look like a victim of the monster Trendster. Carrie’s looks while fantastical and inspiring, could not be copies precisely and were often difficult to incorporate. Joan’s looks, which centered function, sophistication and ease, could be more easily translated into one’s wadrobe. And certainly, for many womyn of color, was simply more inspiring and exciting to see. I for one, have loved, equally Joan Clayton and Carrie Bradshaw, and their contributions to style.

So even if Lucky won’t do it, I have to show the fierceness that is Tracee Ellis Ross. All photos credited to nigerianwomaninnorway.blogspot.com/2008/01/od…:

How inventive, purple shoes with her neutral one-shoulder, expertly draped dress

 

At the NAACP Image Awards. Glowing - beautiful and sparse makeup, woderfulclassic hair, and an architectural dress. Finished with a lovely ring.

At a CE event in a beige off the shoulder dress that has just a hint of prairie-domto it, evened out with fantastic black stillettos and a clutch

 

Stunning. The classic dress takes a turn with a lace overlay. Here Ellis Ross mixes two neturals - a pale pale pink and white.

An inventive use of color - fuschia with turquoise. The dress has lovely detailing on the sleeves.

Comfortable, edgy and effortless. A floral dress with cardigan and heels. A classic look for fall and winter.

Great update on a classic A-line design. Plunging floral shirt dress with obi-style black belt. Wonderfully rouged cheeks give a glow. Shoes highlight the vintage feel.

What a finale! Orange ruched dress. There are no words. FIERCE.