Sunday, June 28, 2009

Transformers. Yes, the robots were racist!

I loved Transformers when I was a kid. I like to think of my childhood as a sort of golden age for cartoons. Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats, Batman, The Animaniacs. Hours and hours of time that I could have spent learning how to play the cello, and instead I was watching animated creatures wield swords and plot to blow up the world.

I saw the first "Transformers" movie, and was mildly disturbed by Jazz, who spoke in a very specific urban/rap/black male voice and diction. And then he had to die! That aside, Shia LeBeouf was amazing and I love him and I loved Optimus Prime, so all was forgiven. That, and the fact that as a thinking, cognitive, socially and political aware Black woman in America, I am so consistently assaulted with racist imagery that it is just a matter of course.


"Transformers 2" was not as good as the first. I still enjoyed it. Shia LeBeouf makes the movie, and I would watch him read the phone book. I don't really have much to say about the movie, because like I said earlier, as a Black woman in America who won't completely shun modern culture, ala the Amish, I really just have to put up with certain insults. What insults in particular?

First of all, the complete objectification/glorification of Megan Fox was simply ridiculous. On the other hand, what else is Megan Fox working with? She is a beautiful White woman, with a great body and a porn star vibe. Guess what? For the sake of her career, she would want to be objectified. I can imagine that when she brags about her 20 inch waist, or when she is posing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly looking quite suggestive, that the last thing on her mind is whether or not she is being objectified (perhaps she is even hoping for it!). And of course, because this is Visibility, I will ask my dear readers, all fourteen of you, why couldn't her character be a Black woman? Is Megan Fox the best actress? No? She is really, really pretty. Why couldn't they find a really, really pretty Black girl who is a passingly decent actress? Nobody knew who Megan Fox was before "Transformers ", so it's not like she was a star. But really, I digress.

The twins. The racist little autobot twins. The embarrassingly, awfully racist twins. I don't care if they weren't human, they took their clues on how to be human from the worst of how to be "black". Optimus Prime takes his cues on how to deal with humans from world leaders. The other autobots sound like stately, strong men (read White men). Starscream, Megatron and Soundwave (all Decepticons) all sound like intelligent and devious robots, taking their cues from intelligent and devious human voice patterns (read White men). Even the evil she-bot Alice (a decepticon who can disguise herself as a human) figures out how to be a sexy she-human (read White girl).

So why is it that the two bots who seem to be the most bumbling and idiotic, who seem to know the least about their own Transformers history, who are ILLITERATE, who disappear when the real battle happens, sound like ghettoized Black men? So the real heroes sound like articulate white people but the comic relief idiots sound like Black men? Even if they are robots, not human, it is still racist because presumably, even aliens who come to earth from a gagillion light years away, know their place within the race pantheon of America. If you are ignorant and trifling, then of course you identify with the Blacks.

But, here is where I differ with most people.........


So what? So there are some blatantly racist images in one of summer's blockbusters, from one of Hollywood's most successful film franchises? So? So Michael Bay (the director) denies it? So? So most White people think that it is fine and dandy? So?

The last people who can be upset about it are Black people. Not Black people. Do you know that Harvey and Bob Weinstein (look them up) started a film company, called Our Stories, headed by Tracy Edmonds (Babyface's ex wife, Stanford grad), specifically for telling the stories of Black America, presumably in a positive light? Do you know that the first film was "Who's Your Caddy"? A film so rife with racial stereotypes and bad acting that even other Black people didn't go see it, despite the fact that it featured Big Boi! How about "Obsessed"? A film that was just plain bad, but did so well at the box office that Beyonce is now considered a legit actress. Beyonce wishes she could act as well as Megan Fox. I can't even begin to point to Mr. Tyler Perry. "House of Payne" and "Meet the Browns" rely on more cooning and shucking and jiving than a minstrel show, and yet, those two shows have a loyal viewing public. Yet, if anyone points out the inherent (I so want to use the N word right now, but we don't know each other that well so instead I will use another word) low brow humor, then other Black people come out of the woodwork to defend Tyler Perry and everyone else. They label the critics bougie, stuck up and out of touch. When one states that Beyonce is doing Black women and Black actresses a disservice by having such incredibly poor diction and acting skills, once again, one is criticized as being snobbish and unfair to Beyonce, just because she sounds uneducated.

Well, in the words of the most esteemed Malcolm X, the chickens have come home to roost. Look at what all that shucking and jiving has brought upon us. It is open season now, people. We opened the barn door and now we want to wonder what happened to all the cows. Okay, perhaps that last analogy fell flat, but my point is, we have abdicated our responsibility for our own positive image throughout the world, and this is the result. For the past decade or so, Black writers, filmmakers, actors and most importantly AUDIENCES have been the reason why the image of Black people in America has been so incredibly backward and stereotypical. We as Black people have really only wanted to see each other shucking and jiving and farting and being loud and ignorant. We as Black people think that it is hilarious! Side splitting! So why are we mad when other people think that it is funny as well? Equal opportunity humor, I say. If we can prance around in our dirty laundry, laughing our asses off, then why can't everyone else join in on the joke? It's so funny, right? Right?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hair, hair everywhere!

On CNN yesterday I came across this headline; "In the Black culture, a richness of hairstory." I was, of course, intrigued. The headline was accompanied by a picture of a beautiful little Black girl, with double strand twists, in the arms of her White father.

The short article is well worth a read, and can be found here,

However, the part that ruffled my visibility cloak was when the article refers to a one Ms. Ingrid Banks, an associate professor of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When talking about natural hair versus straightened (I assume she means chemically straightened) hair, Ms. Banks says that women who have straightened hair are seen as "sell outs" and "embracing the White standard of beauty" and that the natural sisters are "blacker than thou". Ms. Banks goes on to say that,

"When we think about that, there is no other racial or ethnic group in which those ideas come to bear on someone's politics...No one is saying that about (W)hite women, Asian women or Latino women."

Before I launch into what I want to say, let me first say that this visible woman has been relaxer free for six years. However, I have rocked every style in the spectrum except locs. Weaves, presses, relaxers, naturals, short naturals, short relaxers, and just to be perfectly clear, when I die, I want to be buried with a bottle of peroxide! I haven't seen my own color in forever, and hope I never have to!

So, first of all, there is merit to the rift that Ms. Banks describes. If one surfs around the natural online community, one will read things like "Put down that creamy crack (aka, relaxer)" or "Embrace your natural goddess given power and be strong in your beauty, ye daughter of Africa". Yes, the natural community can be quite vociferous in the way that "going" or being natural is presented. In fact, many black women who have "gone" natural see it as a rite of passage. It can be a very emotional moment, one that forces many of us to confront our own beliefs about beauty. In that moment, however, lies the crux of the issue. Almost every woman I know who has "gone" natural, has had to really face her own fears about her own "nappy hair". We ask ourselves, "Will I still be pretty", "Is my hair really my crown and glory", "Will I look like a boy", "Will it look crazy". And every question brings us closer to our own truth about the matter. We are about to take a leap of faith that beauty really does come from within. It is our entire being, our entire belief system, that is called into question when we go natural, not just our politics.

So I could see how the natural crew could sound almost religious in their fervor. We probably do sound like Moonies or Jehovah's Witnesses. We just can't wait to share the good news. So, I can see how a relaxed woman can feel like she is being assaulted with a "Blacker than thou" diatribe every time she encounters one of the converts.

However, the way Ms. Banks describes the rift is quite suspicious, because there are far more relaxed and straightened among us than there are natural. As a natural sister myself, I can tell you that I am in the minority. Of all my Black friends, I have three that have actually worn their natural hair as adults. She makes it sound like there are two camps, when in fact, there a few natural rebels out there who just seem to make more noise than the mainstream Black women who relax their hair. In fact, I think that it is far more likely for a natural sister to get the side glance from other straightened Black women, especially when dealing with the differences in generations. I could (and probably will) do a whole post on how hard it is for the older generations to deal with this new crop (no pun intended) of natural sisters.

It sounds to me that Ms. Banks is not speaking as an academic, rather she is speaking from personal experience. I could be wrong, but it sounds like Ms. Banks is one of those relaxed sisters who is a little tired of hearing it from the natural sisters. Almost like she has been called a sell out, conforming to a White ideal, by a sister that she thought was acting "blacker than thou."

As far as White standards of beauty are concerned, that is exactly why Black women straighten their hair, to conform to a White standard of beauty. Very few Black women have the power of real choice in the matter. They think they do, and they are not consciously saying to themselves "I want to look like a White girl" but any Black woman who has grown up in America has been exposed to a White ideal of beauty, so much so, that it is largely unquestioned. It is so insidious that an educated Black woman like Ms. Banks can actually think that the ritual of straightening Black hair has nothing to do with a White standard of beauty. How can Black women have the power of choice, when most of us have no idea what to do with natural hair, other than to straighten it. If the vast majority of Black women have no idea what to do with their own hair sans chemicals or hot combs, how is it a true choice? It is lunacy to pretend that most Black women just decide, completely on their own, to straighten their hair. In fact, most Black women get their first relaxer when they aren't even grown women. I have heard of girls as young as three getting relaxers, and while there are no statistics, the average age is probably about eight. Now, conforming to a White standard of beauty, or rather a standard of beauty that is based on White women, is not the same as wanting to be or look White. It is simply wanting to look like the best version of yourself, within the given parameters and definitions of beauty. And that, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, and it doesn't make you a bad person. When it comes to Black women and beauty, we can't simply brush off the last hundred years or so of media influence on our collective psyche. It manifests itself in comments that I hear all the time like, "Oh, you look good in natural hair, but I know that style won't look good on me" or "It's fine for you because your hair curls like that, but mine is just too nappy."

Which brings me to the last part of her comment, where she compares Black women and their hair to White, Latina and Asian women. The majority of White, Latina and Asian women have straight hair. Now, let me digress for a moment. How many Black women have ever read a beauty magazine, where they have an article about curly hair? And how many times is it a White woman who happens to have curly hair, and the advice they give doesn't have anything to do with you and your "curls"? See, there is curly hair, and then there is a whole other category out there called kinky, curly, tightly coiled, springy hair, that doesn't behave or feel like the curly hair that White people have. My point is, when I say straight, I mean that the texture is pretty much all the same between White, (non-Black) Latinas and Asians. An Asian woman doesn't have to go to only Asians to get her hair done. A Latina woman doesn't have to only go to Latinas to get her hair done. They can go to Super Cuts. But send me into a White salon and listen to the proverbial record scratch as everything comes to a grinding halt. Non-Black stylists, by and large, don't know what to do with Black hair, straightened or otherwise. How do you so blithely compare Asian, White and Latina women to Black American women, as though they have endured the same hair history that we have? Black American women are the only group of women on the planet, that I know of, who have no idea how their own, non-processed hair looks. To me, that is the weakest part of her whole argument. You simply can't compare the hair struggles that Black American women have with any other ethnic group. The hair textures that are indigenous to Sub-Saharan, Western and Southern Africa are like no other hair types in the world. Black American women, who are largely descended from these groups, have inherited that uniqueness. As such, we can't be compared to other ethnic groups.

As a young girl I hated my hair. I just wanted it to grow out of my head, strong and straight and long. I didn't want to have to go to a salon to get my hair did. I didn't want the special magic lotions and potions that would make it grow. I wanted God to give me what seemed to be so special. Pretty hair. Like the kind Sleeping Beauty had. The kind I pretended I had when I wrapped a towel around my head and stood in the mirror, flipping it over one shoulder and then the next. It was only when I went natural that I began exercising those demons. And that is why I feel so strongly about Black women being real and honest about the reasons why we do what we do. That is when real choice and real power become available. But we are too busy surviving, trying to prove that our choices are not the product of our collective history, when we all know, deep down inside, that our choices come from our desire to want to look and feel beautiful. Unfortunately for us, in this time and space, long and silky and straight is what is considered beautiful. And for most of us, that doesn't come naturally.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Proofread, Child!

I have realized several mistakes in my postings. I would like to apologize for every single one. You guys can count on me to be more diligent in my proofreading in the future! So, as I am still getting up and running, I ask you all to be patient with me and my editing skills!



Monday, June 15, 2009

You Be a Man!

Full disclosure...

I love Bill Maher. I do. Don't ask me why. I think it has to do with his mix of reverent irreverence, his totally transparent shadiness, his brilliance, and yes, I love a man who has a thing for Black girls. Sue me on that last one.

His show this week took President Obama to task, for real. Maher accused the President of not having the stones, the chutzpah if you will, to do what needs to be done for the country, i.e. civil rights for Gay Americans, legalizing marijuana, telling the banks that they can't have anymore money and ending the war. These are all things that Bill Maher thinks should be done and done pronto. He even said, much to his own chagrin, that he wishes that Obama would be more like Bush. A good old cowboy who would run roughshod over congress and the Constitution, because Jesus told him it was his will.

You know, I have to agree with dear old Bill. I do wish Obama would just do what "we", meaning all us lefties, would like him to do. And in the process, give a nice big fat middle finger to all the people who would seek to stand in the way. That would be a nice moment. No wars, people getting high in the street, my gay friends having all the civil rights that I enjoy.

However, it occurs to me that for Obama to be like Bush, it would require his supporters to be more like the people who supported Bush. And that is the crux of the issue. President Obama asked us to hold him accountable, at all times and all ways. President Bush was never required to be accountable, because his supporters knew that if all else failed, he would stop gay marriage, fight to end abortion, and cut taxes. That is all they required of him. He held up his end of the bargain and in return, received their unflagging loyalty. So are we prepared to offer up our list of demands in return for our blind loyalty? Is that what we want of our President?

I can guarantee you that civil rights for Gay Americans threatens to be an issue that could effectively end his presidency. And I support civil rights for Gay Americans. But in order for President Obama to do what is right, he can't stand alone. He needs us, those who support civil rights for Gay Americans ,to be his attack dogs, tirelessly supporting him through the certain shit storm of controversy. Are we vicious enough for that? Can we beat the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world at their own game? Perhaps, we have to get a new game, but we had better come up with the rules for our game fast. You know Bill, like your segment "New Rules"? If we want President Obama to show and prove, we gotta go first. Cause the last thing anyone wants is for President Obama to stand alone, and in four years have to hand over the White House to Sarah Palin. Think it can't happen? Let's really not wait to find out.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kristin and Halle; A Tale of the Titties.

So, first off, I need to get my Racialicious grove on and start thinking of better names for my posts!  If anyone has any snazzy ideas, holla!

This may come as a surprise to some, but I have never seen "The English Patient".  So I was so excited to record it on my DVR and then I had a little date night with myself.  It was a beautiful movie.  Unfortunately, since it was so old, I sort of knew what was going to happen, but still, WOW!  Great film, great acting, the cinematography was outstanding.  I could go on but I don' t have to.  The film won how many Oscars?  And the all important, Best Picture.

As I sat there watching Kristin Scott Thomas in all her glory, I couldn't help but have the thought "She ain't got no titties at all!"  And here she is, the leading lady, the beauty, the gorgeous object of the desire of not one, but two men who both risk their lives for the privilege of being her man.  The artist in me couldn't help but marvel at the way the actors served the stories and their characters.  The Black woman in me couldn't help but feel (large) twinges of pain that still, Black people have yet to be able to achieve that level of mastery.  There just aren't the roles and stories out there for Black artists to create with that kind of detail and beauty.  How many examples do we have of that kind of complete story telling and film making that are considered "Black" movies?  Or for that matter, and what I really care about, how many Black women have gotten a shot at the kinds of roles that Kristin Scott Thomas has been able to sink her teeth into?

So, as I sat there watching her, I couldn't help but think about Halle Berry.  Halle Berry is arguably, one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood.  And, THE BITCH WON'T AGE!  She looks more lovely now, especially after giving birth to the ADORABLE Nahla, than she ever has.  She has retained that dear perfection which she owes to the good lord above.  She is perfection.  She is on the cover of Essence looking perfect.  She is hawking her perfume looking perfect.  No lines, no wrinkles, no proof that she is human.  No, just picture after picture of angelic looking features, that have not shifted one iota in the many years that she has been a star.  And that is just her face!  I have not even gotten to her body and the, as Hugh Jackman has dubbed them, "perfect pair", meaning her titties.  So, here she is, with a tiny, tiny waist, big titties, even a respectably round bum.  Halle, one of the most successful Black actresses, EVER!  Halle, whose very success lies in her gorgeosity, is the best thing Black actresses got going.  

Of course she is the standard by which all others will be judged.  But the secret is, Halle Berrys don't come along very often.  I don't know anyone who doesn't age, except Halle Berry.  Who can have a baby and still flaunt a near perfect body.  And yes, there are tons of Hollywood women who do it, but Halle seems to do it ALL and do it well and with no assistance from a well trained dermatologist.  

Kristin Scott Thomas is a beautiful woman, but not perfect.  Flat chested, a few fine lines, a scar here or there, a less than perfect nose.  Beautiful and can act her ass off, but not perfect.  Halle, is perfect in every way, with a rack that stops traffic.  What my soul, or maybe my ego, has trouble reconciling is why does the Black woman have to be perfect to have half the career that the White woman has?  Halle has won the genetic lottery in spades, while Kristin is just a good looking girl who worked hard on her craft, and yet Halle is the standard by which all other Black actresses are judged.  She is the only one who can even remotely call her own shots or get her projects produced.  She is who everyone wants because she is the only one who will sell, or so they say.  So where does that leave the average, everyday looking Black actress who can act her butt off, but needs, unlike Halle, a little foundation when she goes on camera?  Where does that woman fall in the scheme of things?  Why is there no beautiful, but not perfect, Black woman who can fall in love and die in a beautiful story of star crossed lovers?  Why does the Black woman have to be flawless, with a perfect pair?  Why can't she be a flat chested, flawed and yet deeply wonderful actress to watch on screen?