Friday, January 18, 2013

American Horror Story and Gratuitous Rape

American Horror Story is a show that loves to push boundaries. Sometimes it does this with some terribly emotional, painful and dramatic scenes that are incredible to watch. Sometimes it does this by invoking and presenting a horrendously hard to watch issue, realistically and with no sugar-coating as it did in American Horror Story: Asylum, with the painful depictions of ex-gay “therapy” inflicted on Lana. And sometimes it does this by deciding to have Anne Frank run around in an act of line crossing that left us stunned.

In it’s urge to shock, American Horror Story loves to leap across lines it should hesitate to cross, and rarely have we seen this more evident than with the constant depiction of rape through these 2 seasons.

Rape was a consistent theme throughout American Horror Story: Asylum. In many cases, it was absolutely brutal and painful to watch.  In the media, it is not uncommon to see violence aimed at women but the degree to which American Horror Story: Asylum included rape in its storyline this year was absolutely gratuitous. One cannot even reasonably argue that the rape occurred to move the plot along - it was inserted for shock value, nothing more. Leigh didn’t need to try and rape Jude to have his revenge with her, any more than in America Horror Story: Murder House, Tate had to rape Patrick to murder him. The point of  American Horror Story: Asylum, was for the viewer to be horrified by the conditions of the inmates and this most certainly could have been done without the continual rape of women.  Rape became a facet of entertainment, a tool for setting the theme.

All of the rapists were clearly to be understood as evil and in particular Dr. Thredson played by Zachary Quinto. It is good that rape is understood as a terrible violation; however, American Horror Story: Asylum made it seem as though all rape occurs because of psychopaths. Even though the rape itself was intimate because all of the victims knew their attacker in someway, the attacks still occurred within a framework of the rapist being psychologically damaged in some way, as a way of explaining his actions. The true motivation for rape is power, not psychosis, as American Horror Story: Asylum would have us believe. It doesn’t take a mental illness to make a rapist, nor can we attempt to excuse or distance ourselves from the horrors of rape, by presenting the perpetrators as always as these evil, mentally damaged people, rather than, as is often the case, the normal man in the street, the neighbour, the friend - even the loved one. This is a trope which was continued on from  American Horror Story: Murder House, where the rapist of Vivien and Patrick was Tate, a mass murderer and someone who was again presented to be insane. This approach servers to pathologize the mentally ill and establish mental illness as a threat to the safety and society. 

Read More

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Did the 'Scandal' Torture Scene, Disrespect Sandy Hook Victims?

I must admit that I first tuned into Scandal because of Kerry Washington.  Seeing a Black woman in a mainstream television role as the protagonist is a rare thing today.  We are most often shunted to the side when we do appear at all.  The character of Olivia Pope is often the smartest one in the room, she is aggressive when need be, and is comfortable with herself and her sexuality.  To me, that makes for a great portrayal and I would much rather watch something like that, than a Black woman play the maid (yes, I'm talking about The Help)

Last week's episode featured an extensive scene in which Huck, played by Guillermo Díaz, was tortured to gain information about the shooter of President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn.  It was a difficult scene to watch. 

The Parents Television Council has raised an objection to the violence portrayed in that episode.
“For nearly three minutes, viewers were subjected to graphic and disturbing scenes of a man struggling to breathe while being waterboarded, his nose being broken and his face beaten into a bloody mess, blood spattering on the walls, and being kicked and beaten into submission.”

“The brutal nature of that scene, which was rated as appropriate for a 14-year-old child, refutes statements made by an industry claiming to be responsible and concerned about societal violence,” the organization released in a statement last Monday.

“It is sickening just how quickly the entertainment industry was able to move past the tragedy of Newtown and get back to business as usual,” expressed Tim Winter, PTC president. (source)
There is an argument to be made about a correlation between the proliferation of gun violence in the media and overall societal violence; however, it is worth noting that as violent and difficult as this scene was to watch, no guns were involved. The invoking of the Sandy Hook shooting was clearly attempt to draw sympathy to their cause, though in actuality, it works to make their argument illogical.  Their argument would have been much served had they chosen a section from a television show,, in which gun violence was glorified.

Things Asians Hate

I came across this following video on The Angry Asian man, a blog you should be reading, if you aren't already.  It is done by comedian Eliot Chang and essentially details many of the ridiculously racist thing that have been said to him.

transcript below the fold

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Memoriam of Conrad Bain

I just went on twitter and learned that Canadian actor Conrad Bain, who will be best remembered for his role as Philip Drummond on the sitcom NBC's Diff'rent Strokes and as Dr. Arthur Harmon on Maude, has passed away. I grew up watching Diff'rent Strokes and so a part of me feels as though some of my childhood is gone with this news.  Who would have thought in the 80's that Todd Bridges would be last remaining cast member of Diff'rent Strokes?

On Diff'rent Strokes, Bain played the rich White adoptive father to two Black children (Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman AKA Arnold and Willis).  This is the first inter-racial family that I ever remember seeing on prime time television.  This show was successful not because it radically challenged difference (a few episodes about race not withstanding) but because it supported the idea of the White saviour complex, which continues to haunt our media to this day with movies like the Dangerous Minds, The Help, Freedom Writers, The Soloist, Avatar,  and of course, The Blindside

 Drummond not only pulled Arnold and Willis out of poverty, (a poverty he both colluded with and supported through his race and gender privilege and by his employment of their mother) but he served to uphold the White Man's burden to uplift the downtrodden races through headship.  With catch phrases like "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" that served as the only avenue to the retention of Black dialect or culture, Diff'rent Strokes largely sent the message of, if you catch Black boys young enough, they can be saved.

When I watched Diff'rent Strokes as a child, none of this was even remotely apparent to me. It is only in looking back as an adult that I can see the true nature of this sitcom and it saddens me.  For a time I wanted every White man I met to be just like Mr. Drummond, with no realisation that this kindly middle age man on my television screen was problematic as hell.  So it is with a heavy heart that I learned about his passing.  Conrad Bain and his role on Diff'rent Strokes, is something I wish that my eyes had remained closed to because it is only in ignorance that I could enjoy his work on the show or Diff'rent Strokes itself. 

According to Ann Coulter People of Color Are Responsible for Gun Violence

'Ann Coulter' photo (c) 2011, Gage Skidmore - license:

More than any other conservative commentator, Ann Coulter is the one that drives me to see red the most often.  She is absolutely shameless in her rhetoric and continually engages in what can only be deemed as hate speech.  This woman will justify the unjustifiable and engage in the most blatant racism - particularly if she currently has a book for sale. And no, her Black boyfriend does not automatically mean that she is not engaging in racism.

In the wake of the shootings in Connecticut, the U.S. has finally started talking seriously about gun control.  This is a conversation which I believe is long over due.  As a Canadian, I am all too aware that America's gun problem has begun to effect us, with their illegal weapons making their way across the border, despite our much tougher gun legislation laws. If America's gun culture were solely America's problem, perhaps it wouldn't concern me to the degree that it does.

Since the White House has begun to actively talk about new gun legislation, some Americans have lost their ever loving minds. We've heard everything from how guns keep people to safe, to the suggestion that guns are the only defense against an oppressive federal government.  None of these suggestions are even remotely logical, especially when we look at the rate of gun death in countries like Australia, Great Briton and Canada.  Clearly, more guns don't equal less violence.

Into a debate that is already inflamed with people being purposefully obtuse, Ann Coulter has decided to infuse racism.

The Problem With the "InAPPropriate Comedy"

These days, a lot of what is referred to as humour really comes down to attack marginalized people in some form.  It's not intelligent and it is not witty; it's simply another form of masking hate speech and oppression.  Much of the time when marginalized people rightfully complain, we are told that we are being too sensitive and need to learn to laugh at ourselves, as though laughing at our own dehumanization will somehow ease the pain. 

Hollywood has a long history of making spoofs.  These are meant to highlight the ridiculous tropes in things like horror movies for example, but the InaPPropriate Comedy take this into a new level. Instead of just skewering a movie or movies, InaPProrpiate Comedy engages in racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism in its narrative.

With lines like:
  • "Go ahead make me gay"
  • "Is your pussy slanted" - referring to an Asian woman's vagina
  • "I hope we go straight to the titties, not a lot of talking"
  • "I call your pussy Rihanna, because my dick is gonna beat it like it's Chris Brown"
It seeks to offend every single marginalized group in creation. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Always Wanted To Ask…White People And The N-Word

The Black editors of Madame Noir, and the White Editors of The Frisky, once again sit down to have a conversation.  This time they are discussing the drive for White people to say the N-word, as well as if there are ever certain situations in which saying this slur would ever be deemed acceptable. 

As with the last conversation that I posted, please consider this comment thread a 101 space to ask the questions or make the statements you have always wanted to say or ask about this slur.  I firmly believe that these are conversations we need to have. 

No-one should have to be exceptional to live

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

As a person I think I have a number of positive qualities and I’m sure there are many roles I am capable of fulfilling. But one I have no ambition to take on is that of hero. I am not a heroic person, courageously taking on bad guys with courage and panache.

Aside from anything else, I’d fail most mightily at being a superhero. I am not, it has to be admitted, a particularly big guy or a particularly strong one. Nature decreed I would be short and that other people needed my muscle mass more. I work out, but the strong man I am not.

Given that I have had some unpleasant altercations with undiplomatic and physically more capable people in the past, I have tried to study self-defence. But I have all the grace of a lazy hippopotamus and all the co-ordination of a drunken rhino with a middle ear infection. It wasn’t pretty. And other than the possibility that my attackers may leave me alone because I’ve already badly hurt myself, it’s of limited utility when it comes to self-defence (though I do try to delude myself otherwise).

Also, given my past experiences and less than ideal damaged mind, I don’t react well to violence or threat or even physical-seeming confrontation. I have reactions that range from flashbacks and panic attacks to just freezing. And even without that, I am not one of those people who can react to pain and panic well anyway. Good in a crisis, but not in the face of injury.

All in all, I would be a truly awful superhero.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, When Race, Gender and Sexuality Collide

'A t-shirt sends a silent message as protesters deliver petitions demanding that Rep. Ike Skelton apologize from comments characterized as offensive to gays.' photo (c) 2010, Missouri News Horizon - license:

The fight to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was largely seen as an issue for the GLBT community.  Though the acronym refers to sexuality and gender identity, what many fail to realise is that it is representative of so much more.  Many people who fall under the umbrella of GLBT, also have another area of marginalization that is often ignored outside of a very specific subsets.   Having to negotiate two areas of oppression means that one is even more targeted by society because both identities work together to make the individual in question a target of hate. 

After two years, the ACLU has finally managed to win full separation pay for those members of the military who were dismissed involuntarily after 2004, for being gay. This was a long time coming and certainly owed to former service people; however, it does not even begin to address the wrong that was done to them.   The issue becomes even more complicated when we take into account the fact that women and POC were over represented in the numbers.

According to Colorlines, a 2010 Service Women’s Action Network report found women and people of color were disproportionately discharged under don’t ask, don’t tell:
Even though black women comprise less than one percent of servicemembers, they represented 3.3 percent of all don’t ask, don’t tell discharges. Women in general appear to have been targeted under the policy. According to a 2010 Service Women’s Action Network report, women were 15 percent of the armed forces in 2008, but comprised 34 percent of the don’t ask, don’t tell discharges. People of color represented just under 30 percent of active duty personnel, but 45 percent of don’t ask, don’t tell discharges.

Did We Have a Pro Woman Golden Globes?

Like many last night, I tuned into the 2013 Golden Globe Awards and signed into twitter.   Award shows bring out the snark in me and twitter is the perfect place to share.  One of the things I noticed was the excitement that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were hosting.  Even my jaded heart has to admit that they were hilarious and I honestly felt like we didn't see enough of them and their antics.  Who didn't love Poehler quipping, "wow that was an exceedingly special guest, that was Hilary Clinton's husband," after former president Bill Clinton made his appearance?

And they're right, Ricky Gervais who? 

Notable moments included the always classy Ann Hathaway, who pointed out that Sally Fields paved the way for her. As a huge fan of Sally Fields, I couldn't help but be incredibly moved.  Then there was Jodi Foster, who was given the Cecil B DeMille award for her lifetime of work in the industry.  Foster used the opportunity to come out, attack 6 year old honey boo boo and then lecture everyone about privacy.

"I hope you're not disappointed that there won't be a big coming-out speech tonight. I already did my coming-out about a thousand years ago.

"Back in the days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and then gradually proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now apparently every celebrity is expected to expose the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a reality show.

"I'm sorry, that's just not me and it never will be."
Then you had Lena Dunham, who took home two awards for her navel gazing HBO show Girls.  In her first acceptance speech, Dunham said, "This award is for every woman who has ever felt like there wasn't a space for her. This show has made a space for me, thank you so much."