Saturday, April 30, 2016

Supplemental Post #8: Beyoncé's Lemonade means way more than infidelity...

After I experienced all of the hoopla that surrounded Beyoncé’s release of Lemonade, I decided to do some self-educating and researched a little bit more about what critics, feminists and women alike were saying about this monumental breakthrough for women in the entertainment industry. What I found was something much deeper than I had imagined — sure, much of Beyoncé’s album surrounds allegations about Jay-Z’s infidelity, but her music and her lyrics have touched upon what it means to be a black woman in Hollywood and what it means to be a black woman in the United States.

I found an article in The Guardian that talked specifically about these contemporary issues and much like Beyoncé’s Formation music video, the article also touches upon all of the social, political and historical issues that African-American women have experienced since times of slavery and segregation.

Here’s the article. I definitely recommend giving it a read.

Core Post #3: The Effects of JLo’s Butt

 The Effects of JLo’s Butt

 1998 Entertainment Weekly cover
There is no question that Jennifer Lopez is one of the sexiest women in Hollywood. But what is it that makes her so beautiful? Is it her personality? Her talent? Her charm? Hardly. In fact, as we have learned throughout countless class discussions and readings, it is her body — more specifically her butt — that has garnered her fame. In many ways, JLo’s gluteus Maximus is more famous than she is — she even devoted a whole song to the body part that defines her as the bodacious and sexualized Latina that she is today ( Sure, Jenny from the Block wasn’t always known for her derrière, but that is what makes this fact so surprising. Celebrities are constantly being judged, manifested and recreated to fit an image, a profile and a stereotype — bring in the race and gender card and you have a concoction so toxic that people stop seeing the person and start viewing objects.

Latinas and African American throughout popular media are known for their seductive, sensual qualities and, like Sofía Vergara and Jennifer Lopez, are known for their bodies and not necessarily their talent. Because of her ethnic background, Vergara is constantly being appropriated to fulfill certain roles and stereotypes — her accent is exploited, clothing choices to accentuate the signature Latina figure that is revered by women everywhere. However, JLo is the exception to the rule. Her popularity has allowed her to crossover into “white” Hollywood and around the world.

JLo’s popularity represents so much more than the rags to riches story of Jenny from the Block (Bronx). Her beauty has reset a standard for what beauty is in Hollywood — curves are now more popular than the emaciated stick figure look that has taken so many teen girl lives; JLo has also set an ideal Latina look book for Latinas — to be attractive, one must maintain a small waist and a large posterior. Unfortunately, this sets an unattainable standard for women that may not have a similar genetic body structure. In the Beltrán reading, she says, “Latinas in the U.S. don’t necessarily buy into white American cultural standards that pose that women should strive to be model-thin. Although young, acculturated Latinas increasingly internalize conflicting ideals, traditional Latino cultures often tend to consider women most beautiful with some weight on their bones, which connotes health, inner peace, and success.” I think it is important to not that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes and though JLo supports this, no one can beat her flawless glam.

Supplemental Post # 6: Response to Lemonade

Jimmy Kimmel said it best. "Beyonce took Jay-Z's lemons and squeezed really hard and made lemonade."

While Beyonce is probably the first artist to drop a surprise album, then one-up herself by dropping a visual album on an HBO Special, she's certainly not the first artist to devote an album (or a large portion of an album) to her significant other's infidelity and/or divorce. Though it seems she's not planning to divorce Jay-Z? Idk. She's the queen and can do whatever she wants.

But I have to admit, Beyonce's response to her husband's alleged infidelity is extreme. When Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey got divorced, the world was treated to a party on roller skates and a mopey, sappy soul, respectively. Okay, so maybe they're not huge stars, but Chris Martin gave us "Ghost Stories," Jt gave us "Justified," and Adele, oh Adele, you've given us so much. Although Taylor Swift frequently sings about her breakups, at least we all have fun trying to guess who her break up song is about. 

My question is, why do these celebrities expect us to care about their angst, relationships, break-ups, and woe-is-me music? Well for some of them, like Adele and Beyonce, it's because it's so compelling and entertaining we just can't look away. Beyonce has even punctuated her music by making it visual. Entirely visual. Not only to we hear her pain and frustration, but we see it. And seeing is believing. 

Why do we care? I guess it depends on how attached you are to the image your star of choice has portrayed. I really couldn't care less about Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. I had a lot of fun watching Adele slay whatever idiot broke her heart. I was all for her. I will always support the infinitely more talented Justin Timberlake over Britney Spears. But really, Justin Timberlake doesn't need my support. And nor does Beyonce. 

I think she speaks for all women who have put up with this shit and establishes herself as a force to be reckoned with, in a way most women can't. Who the hell cheats on Beyonce? Jay-Z officially has 100 problems. He's an idiot, and the world has been given a great gift as a result.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Supplemental Post: Are Celebrities Timeless? John Wayne and the California State Assembly

An extra one just in case!

We tend to think of the celebrity image as timeless. What a celebrity meant at one point in time becomes stagnated, a fixation, a locus of ideology and extrapolation. As with my Mary Kate and Ashley post, this one also has to do with the loss of celebrity, the rupturing of celebrity image. While the former is more deliberate and initiated from the producers themselves, the California State Assembly refusing to honor John Wayne signals the dynamics of viewership.

"Gipson and Alejo both said they would not be able to return to their constituents and feel good about supporting a resolution that honored a man with a history of making racist, disparaging and hateful remarks about minority groups."

Supplemental Post #7: Transcending Celebrity, What Do We Do When Celebrities Escape and Disappear?

" “Skinny girls with blank expressions and seemingly little inclination to speak have fascinated American culture for so long….The mid-19th century witnessed the emergence of the aptly named fasting girls, women in their teens and early 20s whose silence and diminutive size stirred the interest of a public that believed they were spiritually extraordinary.,” wrote The New York Times in 2008. This is an apt description of the Olsens’ replacement persona, “Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, fashion designers.” Having stripped themselves of what the world had known them as previously – it was around this time, too, that they asked to not be referred to as ‘the Olsen twins’ – Mary-Kate and Ashley slowly transcended their celebrity image and became anew." 

Mary Kate and Ashley were such a prominent part of my childhood. Their brand was family-friendly enough for Indian censors to allow them to become a fixture in our lives, partly because the brand was so sprawling and encompassed TV shows, films, bags, pencil boxes, clothes, etc but also because they encapsulated an "Americanness" that felt legible to viewers otherwise unacquainted with the United States. I forgot just how big they were till I read this essay in Mask Magazine on how the demands of celebrity can shape interactions with pubic spaces, with the idea of being known, with the appeal of anonymity. The Olsen twins represent a lot of what is fetishized about fame and their withdrawal (unaccompanied with the pathologisation that usually envelops female celebrities with fatigue -- Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, etc) signals the effect WE - as consumers, fans, adorers -- impact their lives. 

On the 1990s, HIV/AIDs and Madonna: This is long, but important.

This is late, but only because thinking about this was very emotionally taxing and I have a lot of feelings. Also this is long, but informative I swear. I know my opinion takes up a lot of space sometimes so I am not going to reiterate my feelings about Madonna, cultural appropriation, and fetishization here at length. I will however, summarize it as: Madonna is a voyeur. A voyeur of the sexualities of the marginalized, especially gay people of color. She reproduces this sexuality in her work as an edgy fuck you to her white Catholic upbringing and as an attempt to glean some of this raw sex for white women. She tries to empower the white women who have been denied sexual independence for decades by emphasizes queer radical deviance. The problem is really the context. I think a lot of people in class didn't understand why someone like me would be upset about this. 

A lot of people in my generation lack an understanding of the 1990's from a LGBT perspective, mainly because of our countries refusal to teach sex health and history to young people. However, in the 1980's and 1990's, LGBT people were dropping like flies because of the HIV/AIDs crisis. While today we see HIV/AIDs as manageable, in the recent past members of the LGBT were dying mysteriously and no one cared. For years, few attempts were made to figure out was killing so many gay people. AIDS was originally referred to as the GRID or Gay Related Immune Disorder and many thought it was god punishing LGBT for their sins. The Reagan administration failed to acknowledge the issue and one member was taped laughing about the epidemic. Do you know what gay people did? They acted. They kicked up storms of dust. They deployed sex like a tool to get attention, the embodiment of any press is good press. By going to the streets via art, sex, and plain old visibility. So when two dancers kiss in Truth or Dare it is for liberation and revolution, not Madonna.

When hooks states that Madonna cannot understand Black joy fully because she does not understand the pain it contrasts and the oppression it defies (158), she is also talking about members of the LGBT community. Madonna appropriates voguing because she appreciates it as an art form. However, Black gay and trans people started voguing as a space in which they could be themselves and perform their genders and not be threatened, but instead praised. Praised for their creativity, praised for their femininity, and praised for their 'realness'. So when Madonna takes voguing from its community and greater social context, she is stealing something more complex and important than a dance style. By relegating Black performers to stand a foot behind her, and by listing white celebrities as those to emulate in the song she is re instituting a system of white hegemony. 

Yeah white women suffer from oppression at the hands of white man, but they have been huge contributors to perpetuating racism, especially in the name of overcoming sexism. So when Madonna responds to critique of her gay fetish with "What does exploitation mean?...In a revolution, some people have to get hurt. To get people to change, you have to turn the table over. Some dishes get broken" as bell hooks reproduces in her essay, she is echoing sentiments of white feminists before her. A few examples include, the white female abolitionists who reversed their opinions once they learned Black men may get the suffrage before them, the white women who got birth control legalized by citing it as a means to control populations of the poor, immigrant, and/or Black communities, or even the white middle class gay people who silenced voices like those of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson after the Stonewall Revolution.

Madonna's attempts to liberate white female sexuality is admirable, but how many times do people of color have to lie down so white women can use the bridges of our backs to reach their own desired position. When is it our turn? Patricia Arquette's  recent comments during her speech for winning the Oscar for Best Actress suggests the time came and went unnoticed and the cycle has started all over again. Funny enough, an Asian woman still hasn't won an acting award at the Oscars.

The thing about Madonna: Truth or Dare, is Keshishian, the director's ability to illuminate Madonna's use of the gay body of color as prop. Keshishian inter-cuts Queer Nation marching in the NYC Pride Parade (a much more radical space prior to the mid-2000s) with Oliver's homophobia. By doing so, Keshishian notes how depoliticized Madonna's touring Bubble is. She cries over Keith Harring's death of AIDs related complications, but does not name him until a voice over. She demurs when on the phone with her father or talking to her boyfriend Warren Beatty, but demands a Black crew member show her his penis on camera, and questions why one of her dancers even bothers to where underwear in bed with her. By placing these moments in black and white while filming her stage performance on stage in color, Keshishian exposes that Madonna is always performing. Though the film stock changes, her performance of self doesn't. It is a film of juxtapositions and contradictions, yet gives us a portrait of Madge that has breadth and depth. Maybe its ability to expose the totality of her private parts (hehehe) is why she can't watch the documentary to this day. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Supplemental Post #7: Straight James/ Gay James

I want to take this time to talk about our dear friend James Franco. The actor has an upcoming movie, King Cobra, which is based on the real life murder of a gay porn star. Franco is well known for his "obsession" with playing gay characters and telling gay stories, however, this begs the question, are these really his stories to tell?
  Franco has received negative criticism regarding the role, stating that the he is taking roles from gay men and how Hollywood has a persisting problem with giving gay roles to straight actors and trans roles to cis actors. Now, the question regarding Franco's sexuality is a mystery, I know that sexuality is not necessarily just gay vs. straight. However, the actor says he is gay in his art and straight in his life. This is what bugs me and leads me believe the actor is doing more harm than help to the gay community. First of all, he treats sexuality as some sort of persona that he can just freely put on when he wants to be "artistic," but that's just not how it works. I just don't think the whole Gay/Straight James thing is equivalent of an alter ego, which is what he's playing it out to be.
 Also, because actors like Franco are worshiped and praised my the media for breaking down barriers by taking on gay roles. They are seen as brave because they are "confident" enough in their sexuality to play such a role. However, there are plenty of actual gay actors who are capable of taking on roles to tell their own stories. It's a problem when straight cis actors get credit for contributing to more "representation." This is a false sense of representation though, because while there may be more gay characters that are being portrayed on screen there is still a lack of gay actors, and this notion of diversity and inclusion is fed to the audience.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Supplemental Post #7: There's a Lemonade fanfiction

Fanfiction is a wonderful thing. It is a way for fan communities to explore storytelling avenues only hinted at by their favorite media products and celebrate their love of said product. Occasionally these pet projects gain viral status and are picked up by the mainstream media according to their relevance or absurdity, but usually a combination of the two, as in the case of The Lemons. This fanfiction, related to Beyonce's latest album Lemonade, relishes in the sense of righteous vengeance suggested by the album's lyrics and crafts a revenge narrative related to the behind-the-scenes drama in which Beyonce invites a bunch of powerful women to dinner in order to humiliate Jay-Z. It's a fantastic read.

Supplemental Post #6: Miley Cyrus, A Wrecking Ball of Blond Ambition

When charting her crossover from child-friendly icon Hannah Montana to twerking delinquent Miley Cyrus, the former Disney star turned to the originator of the "edgy good girl" image for inspiration. Miley Cyrus' internet busting performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards was inspired heavily by the performance style of Madonna. Taking cues from Madonna's wardrobe, Miley initially sports a corset before ripping it off to reveal an even skimpier two-piece lingerie outfit underneath. Miley had at this point begun dying her hair platinum blonde, a showbiz practice with a deep history of inscribing whiteness in femininity, just like Madonna as well. The parallels don't stop there, Miley is surrounded throughout the performance by black backup dancers, performs a crotch grab, and even attempts to twerk. Clearly drawing inspiration from Madonna's appropriation of queer blackness, Miley's foray into the wonderful world of twerking is yet another misguided attempt by a white artist to reinvent their image on the backs of black folks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Supplemental Post #5: Marketing the Method

We all know Method actors like Daniel Day Lewis and Anne Hathaway will basically do anything to get the role right. From living in a log cabin to standing in a frozen lake for hours, the dedicated Method actor will go to great lengths to squeeze the last bit of authenticity out of their performance. Part of the mystique and allure of the Method is the crazy things that people do while in character and such incidents have in the recent press seemed to gain more attention than the process itself. Following the death of Heath Ledger there is perhaps no role in Hollywood that's more intimidating than the Joker. The part is currently held by Method actor Jared Leto and the rumor mill is at work once again with a whole new batch of crazy stories. When taken to this extreme, the Method seems less of a tool for an actor to genuinely get into character and more a way of marketing and self-promotion. I'm curious to see how Leto portrays the character, especially because it's in a film that I have no other legitimate reason to see.

Supplemental Post #4: Everyone's Favorite Swordswoman

On Sunday night, Game of Thrones returned to the small screen and continued the adventures of all our favorite characters including a loyal swordswoman sworn to defend House Stark. Gwendoline Christie's portrayal of the stalwart Brienne of Tarth has been heralded as a feminist icon by the press. Christie also played recently in two blockbuster films, The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay - Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the Bazaar article "Women Who Dare: Gwendoline Christie", she suggests that she's become something of a cliche, an analysis that not too far off the mark. Her role as Brienne has become so iconic that it seems to have infected her other roles as well. In her role in the most recent Star Wars film her character design, chrome stormtrooper armor, is reminiscent of the chainmail she sports in the medieval show. Christie has described herself as feeling "genderless" because of her size (the actress is 6'3") and has pushed for roles that don't necessarily conform to traditional femininity. She sees this as an important step forward in female representation in media, not simply portraying a strong action hero but also maintaining control over the representation of her body. The sci-fi and fantasy genres are full of "strong" female characters, girl warriors and wizards, who do battle dressed in armor that looks like lingerie and has no practical protective value. Christie deliberately positions her image as a star in opposition to this trend, opting instead to wear practical, cumbersome armor that doesn't emphasize her body as a sexual spectacle. She insists in interviews that it's still possible to tell that there is a woman in the suit and her characters, while often embracing androgyny, self-identify as women. The reception that Christie has received from the fan community and the press has been phenomenal and suggests that everyone's favorite swordswoman is having an immense impact on the media landscape.

Supplemental Post #6: Gender Inequality in...Everything

I came across an article the other day talking about PayPal's new initiative to promote "Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace," and i thought, wow this is great, companies beginning to make changes in the workplace concerning gender inequality. Then I kept reading, and here's the kicker, the panel was an all male panel and the initiative was meant to get the company's "male allies" to work on inclusion in the workplace. Upon reading that, I immediately thought of a scene from one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation, in an episode where the city's Commission on Gender Equality is all male...

The episode was supposed to be a parody of how gender equality is never actually taken seriously which is why it is slightly disturbing that the EXACT same thing actually happened in a real company. In my opinion, this show does a great job of discussing important issues in society with a comedic twist. Additionally, this issue in particular, is one that leading actor, Amy Poehler, is playing a very active role in combating. Poehler's #SmartGirlsAsk campaign is aimed at showing women that they have a voice, especially in Hollywood where women on the red carpet are often asked questions limited to what they are wearing. The campaign encourages woman to speak up and challenge an industry where the wage gap is such a big problem and to not be afraid to shut down sexist commentators.

Core Post #5: Almost a Badass, and how Out of Sight defeats J.Lo externally and internally

There are images in Out of Sight that serve to portray Jennifer Lopez' character as a strong, self-sufficient person: not only is she gifted Chanel suits by her father, but he also gifts her guns that she always carries with and around her person; when she goes to visit Adele, the sister of one of the escaped criminals, she's able to single handedly disarm and incapacitate another angry escapee that's banging at the door and threatening her; when she goes looking around Detroit for a lead and one of the men she questions attempts to overpower and force her sexually, he only gets as far as grabbing her arm before she takes out a baton and thwacks him to the floor.
And then there are images that ruin her in one go: after being kidnapped and stuck into a cramped car trunk with a dirty convict that had just crawled his way out of the ground and managing to escape, her first dream in the hospital is that of finding him again and being unable to shoot her gun at him, instead succumbing to his good looks and charm and joining him for a sexy bath. Seriously? We don't even get any sort of female gaze running beyond George Clooney's face, whereas when Jennifer Lopez is in the trunk, the camera has no qualms about running over her shape. Again, despite having met him for all of ten minutes, when she's on a job with a task force she asked repeatedly to join, she sees him going down an elevator and is too stunned to move, allowing him to escape the premises. Here the film has taken the characters from a badass cop and strong woman to a lovestruck girl who ruins a career opportunity she's wanted for a very long time because she has a crush on a man she barely knew. Her two love interests in the film then become a cop who's cheating on his wife, and a convict who's on the run from the law. Jennifer Lopez' character devalues and defeats herself, before she's ever convinced those around her that she's more than they see or believe her to be. She tells those around her she deserves more than they're giving her, without realizing that she deserves more than she gives herself.
I grew up knowing J.Lo mostly as "Jenny from the Block", and a pop actress married to Marc Anthony who managed to perform and stay relevant well beyond the usual prime age Hollywood sets for women. Now at almost 50, J.Lo still manages to sell records and appear in sexy music videos accompanying them. I had little idea she had been an actress, much less a talented one, and was as pleasantly surprised by her performance as I was soured by the portrayal of her character.
Although, to be honest, I thought there was less racialization of J.Lo than I expected. Yes, she is heavily sexualized, but it didn't seem to be coded distinctly in her race. From her ambiguous name, "Karen Sisco", to the fact that the young J.Lo was a very slender woman, or that no random lines and words in Spanish were dropped, the extent of her 'otherness' wasn't taken to a level one might see today. (Although that might say more of my low standards than of anything else). The article "Jennifer's Butt" stated that J.Lo's body supremely important for her role as Selena, as J.Lo had her same measurements and "Selena's butt was, from a Puerto Rican perspective, one of the elements that made her not specifically Chicana, but "Latina".  Yet her shape, which might've been curvy for the 90s yet today would be eclipsed by figures like Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian, is today distinctly less extreme. It might be a bit of a win, that the extent of figures we see on media is growing, although there's the other bitter side that the greater the figure, the more 'other' and 'exotic' it's seen, be it in the 90s or in the 2010s.

Supplemental Post #3: Archer Reviews Every James Bond Film

The FX series Archer follows the exploits of the spy agency ISIS and it's top 007-type superspy Sterling Archer. Archer is a comical recasting of the tropes of 1960s Man in the Grey Flannel Suit style masculinity. Most obviously a parallel to James Bond himself, it's kind of surprising for it to have taken this long for this video to get made. In the video Archer, posed typically at a bar, drink in hand, gives his opinion regarding highlight films of the Bond franchise. The video is part of a larger Entertainment Weekly article, written in Archer's voice, of every film in the franchise. Archer, both in the video and as a character, pokes fun at the violence and casual sexism endemic to mainstream 60s pop culture but the reduplication of these trends begs the question is parody enough? Is it adequate to simply recast problematic heroes as buffoonish, self-destructive narcissists or do we need a more fundamental restructuring of who we consider a hero?

Supplemental Post #4: RuPaul's Drag Race and Black Stereotypes

I've been a little bit behind on the latest season of RuPaul's Drag Race, and this weekend I decided to catch up. I watched an episode where there was an acting challenge, and this season's scene was a parody of the show Empire, adapted to the name of RuCo's Empire. I also happened to come across an article that made some very interesting points of show and it's performative blackness, and you can read the full article below.
  Basically, the article highlights the cringe-worthy nature of mostly non black gay men in drag attempting to "over-act" out parody scenes of show featuring a predominantly black cast. Because of this, Ru and fellow guest judge Faith Evans, must basically coach the queens on how to be more black, and in doing so, they create a very shallow sense of blackness filled with stereotypes: popping your tongue, switching your neck, bobbing your head, imitating AAVE, and snapping in the air. It only feeds into black stereotypes as well as portrays blackness as some kind of costume or personality that can just be practiced and worked on like no big deal. This does not come as a surprise considering drag and gay culture in general is predominantly filled with queens trying to unleash their "inner black woman" which is not something uncommon to actually hear.
  Another interesting thing to note, is RuPaul's response to all this criticism, and he usually doesn't take it very seriously. He thinks people are just overly sensitive and that they need to get over it. This pretty much how most conversations dealing with cultural appropriation go, you're either offended by it, or you tell people to get over it. I think their is a fine line when discussing appropriation, and as a fan of the show, I find myself trying to defend the behavior because I find something truly freeing in the art of performing in drag and it sometimes feels easier to just say, they're just men in wigs, even though I know there are a lot of issues to be discussed. Any thoughts?

Supplemental Post #7: We Don't See Color?

I was watching a boxing match with a friend earlier and his comment about the fight is stuck in my mind. We have been watching for a while at that point and I noticed that most matches pair a white fighter against a black fighter. So just out of curiosity, I said: "Why do they always have a white guy fight a black guy?" My friend replied: "Hey, we don't see skin color here, we just see two fighters." I was taken back by his comment, utterly confused. A part of me doubted whether I was too conscious about race in a boxing match; a part of me was irritated by the comment. I was irritated mostly because the comment really doesn't make any sense: how can you choose not to 'see' people's skin color? I understand that in our politically correct culture, we see all races as equals and we don't want to take into account people's races when we judge them. However, taking away a person's racial and ethnic context is an especially harmful concept. I wonder if we're inclined to look at stars and celebrity that way.

To elaborate, I made that observation because I thought it might reflect a certain problem in the infrastructures of professional sports, leading to problematic media representation of professional athletes. I wondered if the pattern I noticed was no coincidence, that the fight arrangements are actually influenced by the athletes' races. I may be ridiculously wrong, but I'm interested in exploring more. After all, a person's skin color is one of the first things you notice about a person. Sure, we all want to look past that and say that we are all equals. But ignoring a person's racial context is choosing not to explore an essential part of one's identity.

This ignorance is what caused a brief twitter feud between Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj last year about the VMA awards snub. Upset about the lack of a nomination of her "Anaconda" video for video of the year, Nicki tweeted "If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year." Taking this as a personal attack (because Taylor is a woman with a very slim body), Taylor tweeted to Nicki: "I've done nothing but love & support you. It's unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.." Taylor's comment comes from a feminist perspective, focused on whatever seems offensive or harmful to feminism, which is an important point of view. However, what she fails to see is the racial subtext that Nicki's comment contains. Although she is talking about 'women with very slim bodies,' Nicki is really commenting on a specifically 'white' beauty standard. In other words, she is criticizing the white-dominant beauty ideal in American culture, as a black celebrity who does neither embodies that ideal nor seeks it. Award shows like the VMAs tend to celebrate whatever 'white' pop culture celebrates, and that is what Nicki finds problematic. In her feminist-focused mindset, Taylor decided to look past Nicki's racial subtext and consider her as just a woman, but not a 'black woman,' which resulted in her less than charming comment.

Race and gender are two very relevant and hot-topic issues right now, and they are difficult to talk about. We are often tempted to go with a seemingly 'safe' point of view, looking past people's race, leading to a lack of sensibility about important racial concerns. It is important to separate awareness about discourses surrounding race and judgments surrounding race. We should never resort to uninformed judgment, but we also need to be brave enough to actively seek awareness.

Supplemental Post #3: MCM-Nyle DiMarco

Ok so technically it's Tuesday now but whatever, this is my version of a star sighting post, because I never come across celebs but if I came across this man I'd have many heart palpitations, and I just want to use this time to talk about actual literal perfect human being Nyle DiMarco.

DiMarco is known for being the winner of the 22nd cycle of America's Next Top Model.  While he has those goddamn gorgeous eyes that can pierce the deepest, darkest caverns of your soul, I think he is more than just a model, but a role model as a celebrity with a disability. Representation is extremely important in the media, and while there is sometimes just an issue with misrepresentation in the media through the form of insert-token-minority-character-here in either T.V. shows or movies, I think DiMarco breaks the mold and acts as an example of success for the deaf community. In a society where being a racial minority is a big enough problem, being a member of a minority because of a disability provides an even tougher route to making it in Hollywood. And I think DiMarco proves that it is time for the stigma surrounding people with disabilities needs to end because they are perfectly capable of doing anything a person without disabilities can do.

Core Post #2: Black Masculinities and Popular Culture

Black Masculinities and Popular Culture

Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by the legend that is Michael Jackson. He’s the voice behind the Jackson 5 hit “ABC”; the man behind huge musical hits like “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” as well as short, science fiction thriller Captain EO. However, although he was a world-renowned musical artist known for his “sensual movements,” and natural musical flare, unlike other black celebrities of his time, he was not known for his masculinity. In addition to Jackson, around the same time that his popularity took off, another late artist took the stage — Prince.

Artists like Michael Jackson and Prince fall into a different category than the popular African American male celebrities like Denzel Washington and Idris Elba, primarily because of how reserved, timid and feminine they were in comparison to the latter’s masculine, large personalities and “abrasive” physical presence.

One of their most famous black predecessors, Paul Robeson, was “widely regarded as the epitome of what black people are like… If he played or was associated with the heroes of black culture, he also played the stereotype of the white imagination…” (Dyer) This not only mocked black culture, but it provoked an attitude that further disregarded African American individuals as second-class citizens rather than hard working actors or actresses. Unfortunately, during his time as an actor, he was unable to push completely against these boundaries, but he did in many ways make strides for his culture.

Jackson challenged black stereotypes by conforming to the white society and undergoing serious amounts of plastic surgery. Granted, the story of Michael Jackson isn’t at all a pleasant one. He started off as a young child star and was heavily influenced by his father to look and act a certain way, but with such a naturally gentle temperament that Jackson has, the criticisms and societal pressure influenced him to not only conform, but to develop a “sexual ambiguity bordering on androgyny.” (SID)

Michael Jackson and masculinity are two things that have definitely evolved over time. However, what is so interesting about the confusion that was Michael Jackson is the level of masculinity that appeared in many of his videos and the level of femininity that seems to have plagued his existence to the media. Though his outer appearance overtime became more and more like a Caucasian woman, his videos portrayed a whole different story. Thriller, is one of his most popular music videos and was a pioneering work in the music video industry. There are two important elements that make this video so memorable — the film direction/narrative structure and the special effects. Both worked hand in hand in separating Thriller from other music videos of its time. “‘Thriller’ gives the video audience real thrills – the thrill of tension, anxiety and fear associated with the pleasure offered by the horror genre. The spectacle of the visceral transformation of cute, lovable Michael Jackson into a howlin’ wolf of a monster is disturbing…” (SID) but the same goes for his drastic transformation during Jackson’s tenured identity crisis.