The Brown Girl’s Dilemma: Beauty Standards, Media, and Colorism

It is 2011. ¬†Colorism should be a relic of ¬†America’s ugly racist past. Yet one look at Twitter or a BET video countdown and you will see that Black America’s internal struggle with complexion is still alive ¬†and thriving today. ¬†Hash tags of #teamlightskin and #teamdarkskin abound in online social networks and this is sad. ¬†Media conceptions of Black beauty all to often fail to show its remarkable and brilliant diversity; this should change.

We all know that divisions around complexion were created  during slavery to further manipulate and conquer a stolen people.   However, I wonder why we continue to internalize such divisions to collective our detriment.

Today, I ¬†can say without any¬†reluctance¬†or shred of dishonesty that I for one love the brown skin I’m in. ¬†Yet complexion has informed my conception of myself for as long as I can remember. ¬† Whether it was growing up and questioning if my brown skin was really beautiful, or wishing for long silky hair; the issue of colorism crystallized¬†for me well before I could intellectualize it in a useful way.

At five-years-old I did not know about America’s tradition of slavery and legalized discrimination. Then “Jim Crow” would have sounded like a ¬†funny name for a Sesame Street character. ¬†However, I could observe and it was¬†made clear to me through film, television, and even family dynamics that light-skin was¬†preferable.

My father’s family were very dark-skinned people, and in contrast my maternal grandfather could have passed for white. ¬†This led to an interesting color politic between the various households I moved through. ¬† I grew up hearing¬†pejoratives and stereotypes¬†associated with both light and dark skin that¬†definitely¬†colored my self-perception and how I¬†perceived¬†others. Some of the¬†malarkey I¬†heard growing¬†up included stereotypes like: “dark-skinned” women are naturally¬†mean and could not be trusted. ¬†In contrast, “light-skinned” or “yella” women‚ÄĒthough¬†beautiful‚ÄĒwere¬†highfalutin. ¬† Children were embraced and doted on for their beauty ¬†based on their complexion. Light eyes and soft hair were rewarded, and dark skin and kinky hair were resultantly¬†penalized.

My grandma checked my ears at birth to either confirm or deny what my complexion was going to be. ¬†However, to be fair she was born in 1916 and a lot of her ideas around race were a product of being raised in a segregated South. ¬†My father once told me he wished I had his soft curly hair instead of my mother’s less than soft and curly hair. ¬†As a little girl, I can even remember asking my mother why I was so much darker than her, and expressing that I wished I was her complexion. ¬†It is memories like these that formed the foundation for my ¬†self-conception as a dark skinned Black woman.

School reinforced this¬†original¬†conception. ¬†When I played pretend with my schoolmates, we would imagine we were light-skinned with long hair. ¬†¬†In the 80’s and I would argue even now, fair-skinned beauties were the dominant representation of ¬†which Black was beautiful. ¬†We wanted to look like Vanessa L. Williams, Tracey Spencer, Pebbles, or The Good Girls.¬†From where I stood, the girls in school who were considered the most beautiful and popular were those with fairer skin and long hair. ¬†I am positive that this experience was felt entirely differently from the girls who embodied these traits. ¬†In fact, since my adolescent travails around color, I have talked to my girlfriends who have the light skin, the green eyes, the soft hair. ¬†Guess what? ¬†They experienced just has much hurt and color confusion from being¬†ostracized, stereotyped, and otherwise¬†harassed.

Dating ¬†in the DMV is always an interesting experiment in color politics. ¬†This area is probably more¬†susceptible to this kind of nonsense because of the¬†transient nature of the residents and ¬†the area’s historic ties to Black Bourgeoisie¬†or African-American elite. ¬†¬†As a very brown girl, I have had the experience of being told I was¬†beautiful–with the caveat. ¬†Those who have this experience know exactly what I mean. ¬†You know the whole “your pretty for a brown-skinned girl” or “I don’t usually date dark girls”¬†spiel. ¬†I frankly cannot stomach this kind of talk and it is an immediate turn off. It is fine to have a preference around what you find attractive; however, I would challenge those with these kinds of ideas about complexion to look at their own experience. I’d ask you to consider how much of what you deem attractive has been informed by the media, hip-hop, the beauty industry? ¬†¬†Similarly, I say to the women who say they want their kids to be light-skinned or have good hair, you are simply fueling a¬†disgusting¬†cycle of self-hate. ¬†Please stop.

You may have seen the trailer for the soon¬†to be¬†released¬†documentary film “Dark Girls”. ¬†The film‚ÄĒproduced by Bill Duke for Duke Media and D.¬†Channsin¬†Berry for Urban Winter Entertainment‚ÄĒ documents¬†dark-skinned African-American women recounting their painful experiences around their color. The amount of sadness, self-loathing, pain, and denial in this brief preview is demoralizing. ¬†Yet the film has ignited ¬†a long overdue public conversation around¬†colorism and intra-racism.

Ultimately, we need get away from these toxic and misinformed conceptions born of a racist past. ¬†We should not let this ugly tradition fuel what and who we are today. ¬†¬†Beauty is socially constructed and hence¬†can be¬†deconstructed. ¬†Accordingly, we need to start embracing various representations of Black beauty. ¬† However, if we look critically at this issue, I think more than diverse representations we will find the need for a¬†catharsis. ¬†The hurt caused around this issue is what troubles me more than anything. ¬†I hope that “Dark Girls” ¬†will be a platform for this.

So where do you stand on this complexion thing?   How has colorism affected your self-conception?  How does it affect your dating choices and options? Where do you see historic remnants of colorism playing out in our modern time?  Do you subscribe to the Team Light Skin and Team Dark Skin parodies? Do such attempts to make light of this obviously complex issue help or hurt the matter?

I’m a Black Girl and I am not Broken

I am many things. ¬† Among them‚ÄĒI am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a poet, a writer, and ¬†a lover of love and admirer of creation.¬†I am a person of deep faith, a survivor, and¬†a brave bird. ¬†But for all the things that I ¬†am‚ÄĒboth good and bad‚ÄĒthere is one thing I am not:

I am in no way and by no measure broken.

Don’t get me wrong. ¬†I’ve been all up and through some hurt, but I am increasingly more intentional about¬†emerging¬†from those experiences stronger and more definite in my purpose. ¬†I am grateful to the universe for every door that opens for me and even more¬†gratified¬†for the wisdom to know which one to walk through.

I guess this is why I am troubled by a representation I see in the larger culture: Black women as “inherently broken”. ¬†These¬†representations¬†are adopted¬†wholesale¬†and perhaps more damaging internalized, when they should be¬†interrogated, and even¬†outrightly refuted. ¬†Hence, this post emerged after a misguided attempt to garner my affections. The unrelenting pursuant¬†diagnosed¬†my disinterest, as follows:

“I’m saying bay [urban¬†colloquialism¬†for the term of endearment baby] I’m perceptive but even a simpleton could see you’re going though an internal struggle based on previous trauma…..[it continued] Bay don’t be scared to take assistance while moving on…Those chains aren’t ¬†going to protect u nor make u whole…”

Delivery aside, the notion put forth in this ghetto soliloquy shook me to my core. ¬†Nothing about our interactions up and until this point had communicated either directly or indirectly anything about my past or any pain that was a part of it. ¬†I can say this with confidence because our conversations had been limited to text messaging‚ÄĒclearly¬†not a communication medium optimal for real human connections. ¬†I can also tell you as a matter of fact that this person was by no means perceptive or intuitive. ¬†He was not even smart. We had spoken maybe three times in life. ¬†What I see is that he had clearly ingested a narrative of what Black woman are as a collective, and projected this myth on to¬†me‚ÄĒa practical stranger. For this he was¬†unceremoniously¬†dismissed.

Honestly, I did not need to be healed; dinner and a movie would have been enough.

The Broken Black Girl archetype‚ÄĒnot unlike the lonely Black girl narrative‚ÄĒ¬†is¬†ubiquitous¬†throughout pop-culture. ¬†Our struggle for identity, voice, and healing from the historical¬†remnants of our storied collective experience is one the should emerge from the margins. Yet, I am¬†convinced¬†that the redemptive power of such stories is often lost. ¬†In particular, this plays out in film: ¬†¬†The Color Purple,¬†Waiting To Exhale, Precious, and ¬†For Colored Girls are immediate examples. Each of the creative works tell the story of a Black woman or multiple Black woman in the throes of pain, hurt, anger and general¬†brokenness. ¬†In fact,¬†Tyler Perry has made an empire on capitalizing from the well-worn tales of damaged Black women. ¬†In his work, they are often¬†redeemed¬†by faith, however, the message of redemption is never the dominant narrative in the story arc. ¬†It is the hurt experience of the “damaged” Black woman that is the focus.

It is time we started telling the stories of not only survival, but emergence and optimization.  I want to hear about Black women doing amazing things and living amazing lives on their own terms.  I want to wrap myself in the stories of yes strong black women, another archetype that is getting a bit stale, but more so fully developed women who are vulnerable, talented, smart, funny, and dynamic as the Black women I know.

I’ve lived a lot of life in these near thirty years, but more than bearing the scars of past hurts‚ÄĒI am embodying the power of¬†resilience that¬†manifest¬† from the downturns in life.¬†I’ve emerged from each hurt experience more wise, and grateful to the universe for trusting me to be a teller of my story and our stories.

I am intentional.  I am courageous.  I am beautiful. I am smart. I am multi-dimensional. I am witty.  I am connected to nature and one with creation.  I am strong and weak.  I am prone to mistakes, but eternally evolving. I am at once grounded, but flying high in the skies.

I am a Black Girl and I am Not Broken.

What It Feels Like for a Girl: Poem and Polemic in For Colored Girls

Tyler Perry’s film adaption of Ntozake Shange’s theatrical masterpiece¬†For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf is a commentary on the boundlessness of black genius, as much as it is a polemic against patriarchy. ¬†The genius is found in the performances of the all-star cast and Shange’s poetry. ¬†A self-proclaimed Black Feminist, the polemic is Shange’s‚ÄĒyes‚ÄĒbut as retold here becomes largely Perry’s.

Last weekend I had the¬†privilege¬†of seeing the film with a group of sister friends and it is an experience that I will not soon forget. ¬†The film is Perry’s best work yet and this is a testament to the genius of Shange’s material and the film’s brilliant cast, as much as it is to Perry’s¬†artistic¬†vision.¬†For Colored Girls¬†is examines how black female identity is negotiated, subjugated, represented, co-opted, and often times negated.¬†Told through the interwoven narratives of nine women, the film uses the plays poetic voice to its advantage.¬†Shange’s words drip of the tongues of Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, and Phylicia Rashad, with as much potency and relevancy today as when the stage play debuted in 1975. ¬†Look for Oscar nominations ¬†Newton and Elise.

Based on the narrative thread of his films thus far, Perry is clearly negotiating some issues around black male identity, as much as he is black female identity. ¬†The narrative arc of Perry’s films usually finds a female protagonist bound by an addiction to a man, to a drug, to a lifestyle that finds her losing herself. ¬†The films usually end with the Black woman finding redemption through an act of spiritual transformation‚ÄĒa divine intervention. ¬†With this transformation, she is fully formed and in touch with the God with her. ¬†She is then able to access worldly love with a deserving man. ¬†Tyler has a prototype for his ideal man, he is hard working‚ÄĒand often blue-collar, ¬†he is¬†spiritually¬†in touch, and essentially neutered‚ÄĒvoid of any overt sexual aggression.

Tyler’s critique of Black men is perhaps even more powerful than his edification of Black women. In this film, they are¬†misogynist, rapist,¬†philanderers, liars, cheats, and¬†decidedly¬†weak. ¬†There is no growth for the men and ¬†no redemption ¬†Accordingly, the films powerful performances are at times subjugated to Perry’s penchant for melodrama‚ÄĒat times it’s not clear if this is Perry’s moment of¬†artistic¬†maturity or a dressed up version of his usual wound picking. ¬†For Colored Girls continues a narrative thread in black dramatic works like “The Color Purple” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” that explore the strange dyad that is black men and black women‚ÄĒa relationship historically plagued by forced separation, gender role reversal, and plainly said pain.

This is not Madea. ¬†It is a film with an artistic voice and cultural merit; it is well-positioned ¬†among other classics in its exploration of the black women’s relationship with each other and the men in their lives. Perry is not Spike Lee (the one who makes good films), Spielberg, or¬†Scorsese. Yet with this film, he addresses issues and concerns that will resonate with colored girls everywhere: a need to find their voice in a world that so often seeks to negate it; the desire to love and be love; and the¬†innate¬†resiliency¬†that makes Black women the survivors¬†we are.

Swagaholics Anonymous: Addicted to the Cool Factor

At best, I’m a glutton for punishment.¬† At worst, I’m a masochist, but when it comes to affairs of¬† the heart‚ÄĒI must admit‚ÄĒI am an unabashed swagaholic.¬† I know many of you will argue the semantics of the now soccer mom appropriated term “swag“.¬† Others of you are simply turned off by it all together.¬† Even though “swag” is a relative term, and is likely going the way of bling bling very soon, for me it describes a ridiculously cool, quiet confidence that I suspect many woman find irresistible.

Swag is of course a slang for personal style appearance or attitude. ¬† An abbreviation of¬† “swagger”, the term was popularized by hip-hop artists¬† several year ago, but it really entered the mainstream cultural moment with the hilarious Toyota Sienna Mini Van commercials.¬† Soulja Boy had a hit this year with “Pretty Boy Swag, you can argue the artistic relevance of his unique genius.¬† You can even like the Swagaholics Anonymous Facebook group, a page for people with so much swag they need group therapy;¬† it only has 43 members.¬† Suffice it to say, swag has been with us for a while and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.¬† The terminology may change, but cool is cool.

Who does or doesn’t have swag is certainly relative, but it’s all about the image one presents to the world.¬† Yet my¬† penchant for cool¬† describes my addiction and it usually finds me head over heels for the¬† classic ladies man.¬† You know the heart breaker; the superstar.¬† He may or not be classically handsome, but he definitely has sex appeal. He¬† is¬† put together.¬† He has¬† his own sense of style, which usually includes a good shoe and a good watch.¬† While he won’t have too many words for you‚ÄĒwhen he does speak‚ÄĒhe commands attention.¬† He is smart, but not pompous about it.¬† His cologne will always be on point.¬† He walks like a ball player or a rapper, but is gainfully employed; who says you can’t have corporate swag? He can match wits with the best of them, and always leaves you wanting more.¬† You want to lock him down because he seems so unattainable, and yet in the back of your mind you know if he gets the best of you; you’re in trouble.

For every guy I’ve fallen for like this, I can see the danger sign flashing above their heads from miles out.¬† Yet, I am like a moth to a flame.¬† The cost benefits analysis in my mind always comes out in favor of playing the odds that this time will be different.¬† It’s not just me.¬†¬† I have met many women like this‚ÄĒswagaholics.¬† We all know the nice guy is the safer route.¬† Dating the one who is crazy about you is the healthier choice in the long run, but the passion and excitement of the bad boy or the ladies man can be very seductive.¬† I would¬† certainly never advocate compromising your dignity for this kind of guy; the first law of nature is self-preservation. ¬† Yet, I’m convinced there is no shame in craving a hot boy.¬† What you do once you get him presents a whole other series of issues, but I digress.

It really comes down to the extent to which one embraces the nice guys finish last aphorism.  In Niceness and Dating Success: A Further Test of the Nice Guy Stereotype, Urbaniak & Kilmann (2003) write that:

“Although women often portray themselves as wanting to date kind, sensitive, and emotionally expressive men, the nice guy stereotype contends that, when actually presented with a choice between such a ‘nice guy’ and an unkind, insensitive, emotionally-closed, ‘macho man’ or ‘jerk,’ they invariably reject the nice guy in favor of his ‘so-called’ macho competitor.”

I suspect that any preference among women for the bad boy is probably a combination of one’s upbringing‚ÄĒa lot of us have daddy issues, what society and the cultural moment values as masculinity, a bit of evolution‚ÄĒthe whole survival of the fittest thing, and the fact that many of us girls like a challenge.¬† A lot of us will say we want a sensitive guy because¬† its the right thing to say, but in reality we crave Mr. Swag.¬† Technically what we really want is a hybrid between the two archetypes, the sensitive and cool guy. Yet, it typically doesn’t work like that.¬† At least in my experience.

But you tell me you swagaholics out there.¬† Is there any hope for us or are we destined for 808’s and Heartbreaks?¬† Who has swag to you?¬† Pharrell? Kanye? Jay-z?¬† Idris?¬† For the non-swagaholics why do you prefer the nice guy?¬† Are these characteristics mutually exclusive, can a sensitive guy be swagged-out?


Mad Mel: Racist Tirades, Spousal Abuse, and the Media’s Double Standards

Its seems that we‚ÄĒas a cultural¬†collective‚ÄĒshould be a¬†bit more angry at Mr. Mel Gibson.¬† The press was uniformly¬†squared against Chris Brown for beating Rihanna.¬† Yet, the same media is largely neutral¬†in reporting the recent news surrounding Gibson.¬† Where is Oprah on this one?¬† Nothing to say about Mel allegedly breaking¬†a women’s teeth out of her head?

For those living under a rock, RadarOnline‚ÄĒa web gossip rag‚ÄĒ has¬†¬†released a series of¬†vile audio tapes, allegedly¬†starring Mel¬†Gibson spewing ¬†heinous, misogynistic, racist, and generally¬†¬†hate-filled¬†vitriol at his ex-girlfriend and child’s mother Oksana¬†Grigorieva¬†.¬†

 If we take the position that this is in fact Mel Gibson, which we do at The Kabosh, after listening to the tapes one can only come to a singular conclusion: the man has simply come unglued.   I supposed we can give Mr. Gibson some credit for being an equal opportunity offender.  In his most recent series of  rants, he manages to insult Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, and women, which I suppose is the big bigot cocktail for Mr. Braveheart.

Gibson has been largely irrelevant in Hollywood since a 2006 DUI arrest in which tape of him  mounting  an antisemitic tirade against an officer  was made public.  Nevertheless, many blogs are already asking , if he can  regain his career after this melodrama plays out.   Other blogs are suggesting that the recent tapes are without context and thus are unwilling to unfairly judge, decry, or condemn Mr. Gibson.   And still  other sites suggests he is mentally ill or an alcoholic or some combination of the two, and therefore needs help to deal with his particular for of mania.  

While the media is dealing with this story well, giving it the coverage and spectacle such a sensational story warrants, there something very measured in their calculus of trying to portray Gibson as a troubled and washed-up star, who perhaps may even deserve our sympathy for his mental debilitations.  We have this gem from, Whoopi Goldberg:

I know Mel, and I know he’s not a racist,” Whoopi on ‘The View’ on Monday, seeming both earnest and cautious to weigh in. “I have had a long friendship with Mel. You can say he’s being a bonehead, but I can’t sit and say that he’s a racist having spent time with him in my house with my kids. I don’t like what he’s done, make no mistake.”

Okay Whoop, what to you constitutes¬†a racist?¬† Suggesting¬†to his¬†girlfriend that she would be raped by a gang of the “n-words”¬† given her selected attire, suggests to me…I don’t know, at least some notion of ¬†bigotry in this man’s make-up.¬† ¬†Similarly, his remarks against Jews and now Hispanics show a similar disdain for minority communities.¬†¬† Just because he may break bread with you Ms. Goldberg does not mean he is not a man with some deep-seeded issues around race and ethnicity.¬†

It’s strange to me that ¬†the media was much less forgiving or open-minded just a year ago when photos of a battered and bruised¬†young pop-princess emerged, the injuries inflicted during an altercation¬†with herthen¬†R&B crooner boyfriend.¬† By no means and I suggesting Chris Brown did not deserve to be¬†taken to tasks for his actions, but I find that he was not given the benefit of the doubt in the same way Mel Gibson is.¬† Folks were not stating anything about context, they wanted Brown’s head on a platter.

The extent to which this different media treatment¬†has to do with race is questionable.¬† I think photos of Rihanna’s¬†swollen face¬†heightened the level of spectacle and resulting public outcry, as compared to the audio tapes serving as evidence in the Gibson case.¬† A visual artifact of the abuse would likely tip the scale less favorably¬† in the media coverage.

Charlie¬†Sheen, Robert Downy, Jr., Roman Polanski have all been smeared by controversy for irresponsible¬†if not dreadful acts over the years, and they emerge unscathed and redeemed¬†under the glitz of the Hollywood lights. ¬†This time around Hollywood, the press and the public should uniformerly¬†condemn what Gibson’s behavior.¬† He has shown a disdain and disrespect¬†for women that can be¬†called nothing less than misogyny.¬† His actions are deplorable and should be regarded as such.

M.I.A.’s Born Free: Violence, Media, and Artistic Representation

Another week…another controversial music video…

This time up to bat is avant-garde hip-hopper M.I.A., with the short film for her single Born Free.¬† M.I.A., born Mathangi¬†“Maya” Arulpragasa, brings politics front and center with¬†a violent albeit cinematic critique of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The shocking video was banned from YouTube just yesterday.

The daughter of a Tamil revolutionary father, M.I.A. is no stranger to the violent political discord, the likes of which her video dramatizes.   She was born in London but was raised in Sri Lanka during the decades long Sri Lankan Civil War that pitted the ethnic Tamil minority in rebellion against the Sri Lankan government.  The conflict was characterized by forced evacuations, raids, and many argue genocide.

French director, Romaine Gavras sets the video in a generic-gray cityscape, complete with the high-rise tenement housing that serves as a backdrop for the docudrama styled film.¬† Born Free’s sonic rock, drum laden beats and distorted vocals open the video with a police raid on one such tenement that finds a terrorized couple, nude in their bed and under attack.

Next, the video narrows in on its disjointed narrative, which finds the police squadron singling out, kidnapping, beating, and eventually executing red heads.   The most jarring scene features a redhead boy being shot in the head at point-blank range.   Other violent scenes include cringe inducing police beatings and a graphic landmine explosions, one in which a man is blown up and torn apart limb by limb.

The selection of¬†red heads as the terrorized minority seeks to satirize and critique the absurdity of ethnic and religious divisions that characterize such genocides in the real world.¬† The video could have easily extrapolated its narrative trajectory from the recent Nigerian massacres; in which Christian villagers were trapped¬†and killed by Muslim herdsman‚ÄĒbetween 200 to 500 were killed.¬† Similarly, it could be connoting the Armenian genocide, during which 1.2 million Armenians were killed under Ottoman-ruled Turkey.¬† As an aside,¬†Armenians around the world gathered to commemorate the mass killings just this past Saturday.

The Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, the war in Darfur, or the Bosnian Genocide are all variations on the same tragic narrative that has plagued too much of our collective human history: arbitrary violent division justified by differences that when compared to our common humanness are as negligible, as the between red or blonde hair.

Lady Gaga‚Äôs Telephone video filled with bondage, sex, and Quentin Tarantino references felt risky and subversive less than two months ago‚ÄĒnow with Badu and M.I.A. making strong and radical political statements in their videos and songwriting, Telephone‚Äôs celluloid sexuality and materialism feels like light fare.¬† [See M.I.A.s humorous take on Gaga here].¬†

M.I.A.’s¬†social justice critique¬†does not single out one group, conflict, hero, or villain in the video; instead she takes wide lens in her radical approach to confronting injustice of persecuted minorities.¬† Like Erykah¬†Badu’s Window Seat, Born Free seeks to make a bold political statement about injustice‚ÄĒthrough asexualized nudity and graphic violence.¬†¬† Badu’s¬†assassination and M.I.A.’s executions are both uniquely striking visual representations, during this cultural moment.¬† M.I.A. inserts an international voice to the domestic conversation Badu started with Window Seat.¬†¬† The systematic persecution of people of color, undesired minorities, poor people, and immigrants is a shameful and all too common reality in this country and around the globe.

How timely that this video would come out at the same time that Arizona enacts a law ” that requires local police to question the legal status of anyone they “reasonably suspect” of being in this country illegally”.¬† The law‚ÄĒnoted by our immigrant son President as being “misguided”‚ÄĒwill no doubt lead to increased racial profiling and harassment of ethnic Native, ¬†Mexican, Hispanic, and Latino peoples, regardless of legal¬† their status.

The law appears unconstitutional and against the very precepts and values of a Nation supposedly founded on the equality of all men; a nation alo built by immigrants and “displaced” people, whose checkered history on human rights rightfully deserves interrogation. From the historic treatment of Native peoples, the tragic past of African enslavement and Japanese internment to the systematic plague of urban warfare that plagues are large cities today, America should pay close attention to Born Free, before life imitates art.

Militia groups, Tea Partiers, Birthers, and any number of groups are rallying in the name of freedom, with cries of “we want our country back“.¬† However, what does “our country” really mean?¬† The radical fringe elements of these and other groups are advocating secession, civil war, armed rebellion, and even the¬†assassination of dissonant voices.¬† This is scary stuff.¬†¬† With Palin’s firearm rhetoric and talking heads spewing hateful and malicious ¬†vitriol 24/7, I wonder where our¬†great country is headed.¬† Is polarization and¬†divisiveness really our¬†only future?

While cable news can be¬†scary, it is not nearly as frightening as the government mandated discrimination that provides the framework to the Arizona law. For those concerned about civil liberties, regardless of political affiliation, this law should be of concern.¬† It brings us as a country‚ÄĒdeveloped nation and all‚ÄĒ one step closer to the police state depicted to in the M.I.A. video.

So what do we think? Does M.I.A.’s use of graphic violence to critique the injustice of genocide provide the cultural stimulus required to start a national or even international conversation on human rights?  Or are her unapologetic politics to radical much for the entertainment sphere?  Is political music and art vital and/or commercially viable in this cultural moment?


Girls Behaving Badly – Blogging the Bad Girls Reunion

There is nothing remotely socially redeeming about Oxygen’s The Bad Girls Club.¬† It is trashy reality T.V. at its finest.¬† If it were the Real World, the housemates opening narration might state:¬†

This is the true story of seven, no six, perhaps five, no¬†four…¬†self-proclaimed bitches…picked to fight in a house…party and drink together…make out with each other….and have their lives taped and poorly edited…to find out what happens…when a network manipulates a group of young egomaniacs with¬†a variety of¬†mental, emotional, and social disorders and no moral compasses ….into moving in to a¬†huge tacky white mansion….¬†to see what happens…when said bitches stop being accountable, responsible, or reasonable and start getting exploited…THE BAD GIRLS CLUB, LA

Perez Hilton is hosting the two-part reunion special which will reunite: Portia, Florina, Natalie , Kate, Kendra, Amber, Annie, and Lexie.  The season has been filled with cat fights, blackouts, bleeps and blur-outs, eating disorders, bad bikini bodies, binge drinking, hangovers, sucker punches, random hook-ups, D-List celebrity cameos, racism, manipulation, and above all screaming.  Seriously, this show should be sponsored by Motrin for Migraines.

Thus far, the reunion is pretty much standard reality reunion show fare.¬†¬† Hilton recaps the season showing highlights or¬†low points¬†of the past season.¬† His hosting‚ÄĒnot unlike his blogging style‚ÄĒis snarky and even downright mean.¬† He tells casts member Kate that she is prettier on T.V., going on to state that he found her to be ugly on the show.¬† In this hello pot this is kettle moment,¬† he equates¬†sleepy eyed Kate to an uglier Ashley Tisdale.¬† Hmm.

The promoted fireworks began as controversial cast member Natalie Nunn¬† sashays¬†the catwalk to¬†the set, attempting a one woman coup¬†d’√©tat of the broadcast.¬† She assaults Kate spitting in her face; basically showing herself to be¬† a¬†common trash box, without an ounce of class or dignity.¬†

Little Miss Natalie’s egomania¬†is epic.¬† Her¬†name was all over the blogosphere prior to the season premier of¬† this seasons show.¬† Gossips sites had her hooking up and/or¬†partying with Chris Brown.¬† In his post Rihanna¬†haze, he might have mistaken her for a potential¬†boo-thang, but I highly doubt it.¬† Yet, jump-off status is not out of consideration.¬† Her mantra being “I Run L.A.”, Natalie’s¬†other claims to fame include hooking up with a member of the Celtics warm-up squad, befriending Moesha’s little brother, and getting her full-sewn in removed on national T.V.‚ÄĒquite the resume.¬†

Natalie got her kicks this seasons strong arming, beating up, and otherwise intimidating her roommates‚ÄĒnay Portia who at ninety pounds soaking wet kicked Natalie’s ass and was promptly booted from the house. Natalie then took the immature, sheltered, and apparently hot in the draws Kendra under her tutelage, whose getwit proclivities made her the perfect target for Natalie’s manipulation.¬†

Star struck, fame hungry, cute faced, and laced with a new weave, Kendra did manage to accomplish something her sensei has not thus far, landing new reality TV gig.  She landed a starring role on the new Oxygen series Bad Girls Clubs: Love Games.  In a classic case of student teaching the master, the Charlotte N.C. native is clearly looking to make her mark on L.A.  Who runs L.A. now Natalie? [Clearly Antonio Villaraigosa and not Kendra, but hey it was fun to say).  Nevertheless, BET is reporting that a reality show staring Ms.  Natalie Nunn  may be in the works.  I for one am waiting with bated breath for this one.  Perhaps, Olamide might get in on the fun.

The reunion show quickly devolved into more contrived cat fights, as “the claws¬†came out”.¬† The girls continue to belittle, berate, and bash each other for a full hour.¬† I guess one remotely positive moment was when cast member Amber shared in a sincere and heartfelt moment her joy in the fact that she was several weeks pregnant.¬† Of course this news can only be welcomed as¬†positive, if you think any of these women possess¬†the maturity and wisdom to parent a productive member of society.¬† What’s more, she did not help her ongoing case to not be considered trailer trash, when lifting her billowy empire dress to her navel¬†at Hilton’s request to see her pregnant belly.¬† One word: tacky.

I’ve been wanting¬†to blog about this show all season.¬† It prevails upon me a profound sense of disgusts¬†in so many ways, but¬†simultaneously I¬†find its train wreck aesthetic absolutely intriguing.¬† By a certain age most women have had our sloppy drunk, bad hook up, cat fight, flying off the hinges moments.¬† Yet, the mentality of an individual¬†who would¬† exhibit¬†this behavior in exponential proportion, while on national TV¬†is beyond me.¬† No doubt they must see this kind of exposure as a catalyst¬†for fortune and fame.¬† Yet, I wonder how Florina will explain her psycho tantrums to future employers.¬† Sure Natalie plans to marry money, but her dating pool may be¬†shrinking after any decent man gets a whiff of her on air debauchery.¬† Similarly, Annie showed herself to be a neurotic weirdo, with poor social skills.¬† Boston native, Kate showed a propensity for either racism or stupidity, when suggesting she did not want to go to a sweaty Black club.¬† I’m still not clear if she had a problem with the black people or the sweat, but it‚Äôs neither¬†here nor there at this point.¬† Employers may also have a problem with her getting the reach on poor Annie, with reality¬†TV’s¬†best/worst¬†sucker punch, since Snooki¬†got flamb√©ed.¬† In a sensible and warranted move, Annie filed charges against Kate for punching her in the face without provocation¬†or cause.¬† Despite Kendra’s illogical protest, Annie was right; actions do have consequences.¬† Accordingly, Lexie may, in fact, find it difficult to¬†say¬†get a security clearance, after spending much of¬†her abbreviated season¬†[Lexie replaced cast member Portia] nude.

When it said and done, I am sure these women will try to leverage there appearance¬†on this show into opportunities¬†to generate¬†money.¬† Perhaps other reality shows, endorsement¬†deals, and hosting gigs may be¬†in their future, but the price they may pay for fame could be high.¬† Their visions short and consequences seemingly a non-issue, their poor choices seem like good clean fun today.¬†Yet I can pretty guarantee that Natalie will never have the opportunity to “run L.A.”, not only because she is running herself into the ground with these antics, but her reputation is ruined.¬† People will negate the fact that¬†she was a star athlete¬†and good student at USC, a highly respected and venerable institution.¬† Yet, they will recall¬†¬†her biting, clawing, spitting, and bloviating¬†her way into the annals of reality TV history.¬†

So is the Bad Girls Club harmless fun or dangerous exploitation? Are the women agents of their own image¬†creation or are they being manipulated for money-making corporate entities?¬† Does this hurt women’s relationships in the real world?¬† Can the damage to reputations be repaired or will video follow these young women forever?

Is it worth it?


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