Archive | Contemporary Culture RSS feed for this section

News Alert: Beyonce Was Always Black; Women Have Bodies

14 Feb

Last night, Saturday Night Live nailed a parody film trailer for The Day Beyonce Turned Black, poking fun at some of the ridiculous reactions to Beyonce’s SuperBowl 50 halftime performance last Sunday.  Here is the sketch:

What is ultimately so amazing about this parody is that it is hardly a parody at all.  If you were on Facebook or Twitter last Sunday, you know that people were pissed.  Not just any people – white people.  It’s astonishing to me that a woman who has always been black is receiving backlash for releasing a song and video that embraces her heritage.  People are outraged over a good pop song with the video that goes with it.  These are the times we live in, and I am terrified.

The video for “Formation” is not something that should terrify people in 2016.  I’m not sure exactly of how to explain this, but I feel that as time goes on, our culture is becoming more afraid of otherness, and less welcoming to diversity.  Look at the types of shows that are popular now.  Shows like Undateable, anything in the Chuck Lorre canon, or my personal non-favorite, 2 Broke Girls, the last of which that many could deem racist.  These shows are meant to be fluffy and filled with inoffensive humor, but compared to the shows that were popular almost forty years ago – All in the Family, Sanford & Son, The Jeffersons – they are weak in subject matter.  The mastermind behind the shows of the 1970s that attacked issues of race, class, gender, and more was Norman Lear.  Judging from the content of today’s television and entertainment, the next Norman Lear is not yet here.

Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance was exactly what one would expect from the superstar – it featured high-powered dance moves and the queen herself flanked by dozens of black-beret-wearing dancers.  Beyonce wore a black and gold military jacket in tribute to Michael Jackson, who made the look famous on his Dangerous tour.  Many who decried this performance accused Beyonce of imitating the Black Panthers.  However, anyone with half a brain would know that this was a work of art – a performance crafted by Beyonce and her choreographers, in perfect pop style.

Beyonce also came under fire for having a female body – with, god forbid – thighs that move when she dances.  I even saw one girl make a comment on Facebook saying that “Beyonce looked fat as hell”.  Let’s dissect that for a moment.  BeyonceLooked. Fat. As. Hell.  If Beyonce is fat, then I am the marshmallow Stay Puft man from Ghostbusters II in woman form.  Beyonce is not fat.  She is an other-worldly creature who has a body that women envy and a figure about which men fantasize.  She is almost not human.

The song Beyonce performed – her new single “Formation,” is nothing more than a celebration of black culture and heritage.  This apparently shocked many people who forgot that Beyonce, in fact, has always been black.  The video, featuring references to socio-political issues such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the killings of Trayvon Martin and other young black men – is not offensive at all.

Beyonce sings in tribute to the things that make her Beyonce: “My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana / You mix that negro with that creole make a Texas bama / I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros / I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils”.  Here. Beyonce refers to her heritage as the daughter of a man from Alabama and the daughter of a woman descended from French creoles in Louisiana.  The last part of the lyric references rumors that Beyonce had undergone a nose job in order to look less black.  Beyonce also asserts her undeniable swagger: “I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it / I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it” is an obvious affront to her haters, and another lyric that slams the idea that she was bleaching her skin. (Yellow-bone is a slang term for being light-skinned).  Some may believe that because Beyonce is light-skinned and marketed to the masses, that she is not black.  Guess what?  Beyonce has always been black.  She’s always been a woman.  She’s always had a body.

It is often said that we fear the things that we do not understand.  It is clear to me now that too many white Americans are afraid of what is unlike them.  Beyonce, as an empowered, feminist, black, hugely successful, and talented woman, is simply too much for people to handle.

All hail Queen Bey.

Beyonce - Braids Car.png

Dance Shot - Pool

Beyonce Southern Ladies

Beyonce - Formation

Beyonce on Police Car

Advertisements

I LOVE LEONARDO DICAPRIO

10 Jan

LEO AND GAGA #1

UH-HUH.

LEO AND GAGA #2

GAH!!!!

LEO AND GAGA #3

BLURGH!!

Was Leo throwing shade or checking out Gaga?  No matter.  He’s clearly a human!

 

Tarantino and His Love Affair with the N Word and “Bitch” in The Hateful Eight

8 Dec
Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern in The Hateful Eight

Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern in The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is now playing in theaters, and the film raises numerous questions about the director’s goals and messages intended in this work.  The film is being shown in 70 mm film, in line with Tarantino’s love of the medium, and it also stars several of Tarantino’s favorite recurring actors, including Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Samuel L. Jackson.  What I took away from this film is that Tarantino essentially wants his audience to be disgusted by the things they are amused by.  This includes the use of racially-tinged language, violence against women, and rape.  Tarantino wants us to look at ourselves in a way that he first hinted at in Inglourious Basterds.  Unlike the revenge films of Tarantino’s earlier canon, The Hateful Eight is modeled more on a mystery whodunit.

Many people are already saying that this film is racist and misogynist.  However, Tarantino’s message is exactly that our society is racist and misogynist.  The action of the film follows John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter who captures Daisy Damergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), for murder.  Ruth’s intention is to take Daisy to Red Rock to be hanged for her crime, but a blizzard impedes their travels, causing the two to have to seek shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery.  We never really learn any of the details of who Daisy killed, which is key to the understanding of how Daisy is supposed to function.  Leigh plays Daisy as a disgusting, foul-mouthed wretch, and within the first few minutes of the film, Ruth elbows her in the nose, calling her a “bitch” who needs to “shut up”.  This moment should frighten the audience.  Our hero character, Ruth, may not be trustworthy in this moment, and the remainder of the film is a slow-burning mystery that is not revealed completely until the last scenes.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this film is that the audience is made to feel uncomfortable in various ways.  The most obvious way is Tarantino’s use of the word “nigger,” which appears around seventy times in this film.  It’s not simply the use of the word that is bothersome, it is the comical and drawn-out manner in which the word is uttered by several of the actors that makes it unpalatable.  Several actors pronounce the word more like “niggaaaaahhh” to place strong emphasis on what they are saying.  This choice may appear to be insensitive, but I found it very purposeful and indicative of the way that Tarantino wants his filmgoers to question the use of language.

The treatment of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character is also highly effective in drawing out Tarantino’s intended messages on misogyny.  We never learn the nature of the murder that Daisy commits, nor do we really know anything about who she is, except for small hints of a colorful personality.  John Ruth intends to take her to Red Rock to be hanged, but in the interim, Ruth has no problem with striking Daisy with brute force, calling her a “bitch” each time.  The first time Ruth hits Daisy, a game is established.  The other characters use Ruth as a punching bag.

Tarantino certainly does not hate women. He is not a misogynist by any means, as we can see that from the numerous examples of strong women in his previous films – Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, The Bride and O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill, and Shoshanna Dreyfus in Inglorious Basterds all come to mind.  Tarantino worships these women, and his characters are strong and multi-faceted.  Daisy is no different, who is strong in her own way.

Near the end of the film, the crux of  the action is revealed by a character.  Oswaldo Mulberry (Tim Roth) delivers some very critical lines about justice versus frontier justice.  When speaking to Daisy, he explains that when there is a murder and a trial takes place, followed by a hanging, that is true justice.  However, if no trial takes place and the people take control of the matter, simply hanging the accused in the town square, that is “frontier justice”.  This film is thusly more about the application of “justice” and how we apply it to the violence of today.  Is it right to simply go ahead and hang someone without knowing their intentions or the validity of their guilt?  Or is it more wise to hold a trial and act fairly?  This is the question that the audience is left to ponder, and Tarantino is making a very valid point.  Should we flay the filmmaker for his use of jarring images and offensive words?  Or is he trying to deliver a deeper message?

This is a very difficult film made by a director and writer who does not shy away from difficult subject matter.  For hardcore Tarantino fans, this film will be appreciated as a part of his canon for years to come.

I Know When that Hotline Bling, That Can Only Mean One Thing

21 Oct

Ugh, I love Drake. I love his face and his new, more muscular build, plus that beard.

“Hotline Bling,” for those of you who do not have access to the radio, television, or other mediums of entertainment communication, is the hottest song of the moment.  Even though the lyrics are being criticized as anti-feminist by numerous bloggers, the song is really little more than an ode to a hookup lost – something that anyone, man or woman, can easily relate to.

The line where Drake laments the fact that his former lover is now “Bendin’ over backwards for someone else…Doing things I taught you, gettin’ nasty for someone else” is perhaps the most poignant, because who hasn’t wondered about the current sexcapades of a former lover?  Ugh, Drake just needs to dance this off!!!

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 6.10.00 PM

Look how upset Drake is as he sings the following: ” Cause ever since I left the city, you / started wearing less and goin’ out more / Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor / Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before”!!

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 6.10.26 PM

Gah, the pain!!! He just has to dance!!!

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 6.10.45 PM

The video features Drake dancing in several vibrantly-colored tableaus, and while most are calling Drake’s dancing, “dorky,” I find it totally endearing and indicative that he has a real personality. I mean, look at this cha-cha:

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 6.24.50 PM

Drake also does this funny move with his knees:

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 6.25.06 PM

Not to mention that this happens, laaaddiieeesss!!!:

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 6.25.38 PM

You can watch the full video for “Hotline Bling” here.  10 out of 10.

Mistress America is Us; We are Mistress America

17 Aug

Brooke Cardinas

The new Noah Baumbach-directed comedy Mistress America is a hilarious reflection of our current narcissistically focused culture.  Written by Baumbach and his girlfriend Greta Gerwig, who takes a hilarious turn as the overwhelmed and thinly spread Brittany Cardinas, Mistress America is a quick-witted take on the life of a 30-year-old woman struggling to make something of herself.

We first meet Tracy, an 18-year-old Barnard student with aims of making the literary society.  She finally meets the inspiration she needs in the form of Brooke, who is due to become her stepsister when Tracy’s mother marries Brooke’s father.  After calling Brooke, the two meet up and Tracy becomes entranced by the confident and seemingly very worldly young woman who will become her stepsister.  Tracy begins researching Brooke, finding out that she moonlights as a SoulCycle instructor and schmoozes with the who’s who of New York’s creative scene, jumping onstage with bands and name-dropping people she knows.  Tracy’s fascination results with her writing a short story based on Brooke, describing her as a young woman “dragging the corpse” of her youth behind her as she tries to make something of herself.  The title of the short story lends itself to the title of the film.

Brooke’s focus for her future is an investment in a restaurant she wants to call Mom’s.  Her rich boyfriend Stavros, who never appears onscreen (lending to the possibility that he does not exist) is helping Brooke with her portion of the investment.  When Stavros pulls out of the investment, Brooke is left to scramble for $75,000.  She immediately consults a medium, who tells Brooke that she has unfinished business with someone with the initials M.C., who turns out to be Brooke’s former best friend, Mamie-Claire, who stole an idea for a flower print t-shirt from Brooke, reaping the profits, and also married Brooke’s former boyfriend, the very rich and Falstaffian Dylan.

Mistress America

The resolution of the plot comes following an extended scene in Mamie-Claire and Dylan’s modern manse in Greenwich, Connecticut, which Brooke deems as an awful place.  What is most impressive about this film is the committed performances by each actor, but most especially Greta Gerwig, who gives Brooke a boundless energy punctuated by ridiculous dialogue and wayward glances.  Lola Kirke, the younger sister of Girls actress Jemima Kirke, is capable in her role as Tracy.  Another highlight is Heather Lind as the clueless and rich Mamie-Claire, who admits to stealing Brooke’s t-shirt idea of a “hard flower” print.

The dialogue in Mistress America is nearly breathless, with each character, although especially Brooke, spouting endless gems.  At one point, Brooke, almost quite elegantly, describes how as time progresses, our wants become greater and the possibility of fulfilling those wants appears to become less likely.  Gerwig gives her character a moment of quite reflection as she stares off into the ether, saying that “all we have left is wants”.

Brooke Cardinas stands as a symbol for young women (and even some young men) who wish to do something with their lives, yet face endless challenges to getting on their feet.  Mistress America is really a portrait of the struggling millenial who hopes to one day make a living at something they love, yet continues to see that possibility shrink with each passing year.  We are all Brooke Cardinas, in some way.

Although Mistress America is out only four short months after Baumbach’s While We’re Young,  this film shows exactly the reach that he has as a director with his real-life girlfriend helping him with both the screenplay and her performance.  Alongside Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach is truly reaching his apex as a filmmaker.

Mistress America: 8.5 out of 10