I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

On the ‘Black Panther’ Movie, Cont.

Interesting quote about why Marvel won’t do a Black Panther film from Iron Man 3 director, Shane Black:

Are there other characters that Marvel has that you have an affinity for?  A lot of us are wondering when maybe Marvel might make an R-rated movie and that might be where you could use some of the “blue material”.  I’m just curious if you have an affinity for other characters.

Black: I don’t know I always thought that certain characters could be adapted in a cool way.  I wanted to do…Quentin Tarantino kind of poisoned the well with Django, but I always thought there was a 1970’s version of Black Panther, which was [a] period that could be really cool and involved a lot of the racial tensions of that time.  That’s not going to happen. 

The interviewer, Steve Weintraub, doesn’t follow up on what seems like an off-handed remark about Tarantino here so it’s hard to know exactly what Black means when he says “Tarantino kind of poisoned the well with Django” or if Black’s point of view here is actually Marvel’s.

But I’m guessing that he’s referencing the controversy around the film because in all the ways that matter most – it would seem – to a movie studio, Django Unchained was a success. It’s Tarantino’s highest grossing film, it netted him an Oscar for best original screenplay and one for Christoph Waltz, was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (along with four other nominations), and is generally considered a well-made film by most people, independent of the content*.

Black PantherIt would be a shame then if Tarantino’s film has scared any movie studio so shitless that it wouldn’t make a film about a black superhero – which is, in the broadest sense, what connects these two properties. The particulars of Django and Black Panther – as characters and stories –  are sufficiently distinct that I can’t believe that Marvel would make this kind of messy conflation, even if it is a convenient way to get out of making a film that it might be scared to make for a whole host of other reasons. This feels to me like Black’s own view.

That said, what are those other reasons?

I think that all of the dithering around about whether or not to do a Black Panther movie actually suggests something about the moviegoing public – or at least Marvel’s perception of what this public would pay to see. Marvel knows what Black Panther is about. It has published him in some form or another for nearly 50 years. Marvel knows that the property is not Django.

So if it is true that the studio doesn’t want to do make a Black Panther movie, maybe it truly believes that the vast majority of Americans don’t want to go see a film about a Black African whose primary focus is resisting Western imperialism.

The shame then is on us.

 

*I didn’t see it and here is why.

(h/t Shadow and Act)



Posted on March 7th, 2013 - Filed under Film
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The Cruel Racism of the Real World

reg_634.QWallis.mh.022413Quvenzhané Wallis was the butt of a deeply sexist, racist inappropriate joke by whoever is tweeting for The Onion last night (which I will not link to or describe because it’s ugly).

And what upsets me so much about it is that this beautiful little nine-year-old black girl had to get a lesson in just what it means to be a black girl in a white supremacist patriarchal country at the exact time that she’s being honored for her artistry. In fact “upsets” is too bland a word for what I feel. It’s anger. A profound sadness.

But the sad, maddening truth of this moment is that it is not surprising. Black people, girls and women especially, are never safe from the random omnipotence of anti-black sentiment that infects this nation, but I had hoped that maybe this poised, thoughtful, remarkably self-possessed beautiful little girl would have this one night.

But she didn’t. The Onion tweeter took that from her. Violently. Cruelly. Unconsciously, it seems.

Welcome to America.



Posted on February 25th, 2013 - Filed under Culture,Current Affairs,Film
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On Beyoncé’s HBO Documentary, ‘Life Is But A Dream’

beyonce-life-is-but-a-dream-cover

I just finished watching Beyoncé’s documentary, Life Is But A Dream, and I think what I was most struck by is an overwhelming sense that vulnerability is hard for this young woman because she’s trying to live up to an impossible ideal.

I didn’t get the sense that she wasn’t interested in being truly vulnerable so much as unpracticed at  it. I have this profound sense that this is a 31-year old woman who has never allowed herself, or been allowed, to feel deeply.

So this film is an exercise I think in watching Beyoncé learn to be vulnerable. There’s that moment where she says, almost surprising herself, that she can’t do it alone. Or the way she conveyed more deeply the hurt she feels that people would think she would fake a pregnancy than she does relating what it must have been like to have had a miscarriage. 

And then there’s that moment early on when she’s talking about how hard she worked for her father’s approval and how he withheld it, presumably to make her into the very thing she is: this hyper-poised star. This is the most revealing, honest and vulnerable moment in the entire film precisely because I think it cuts to the core, for me, of who Beyoncé is as a figure and a person.

And it helps me understand her vocal approach – the very thing that for me makes her such a frustratingly disappointing artist to listen to. So much talent, but such a profound inability to connect to the emotion of whatever it is she’s singing*. We see her singing “Listen” and “Resentment” and I know it’s supposed to be deep emotion, but it’s not. It’s Beyoncé trying to approximate what she thinks it must feel or sound like, or more accurately, willing herself to get there.

For the first time, I feel genuine empathy and sadness for what it must be like to be Beyoncé. It is just for reasons different than I expected.

 

*There are exceptions of course, “Speechless,” “Lay Up Under Me,” “Crazy Feelings” – and yes through sheer force of will, “Resentment” – chief among them.



Posted on February 18th, 2013 - Filed under Music,Television
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What’s the Best Way to Make Music?

I’m rather opinionated about music. Folks know this.

And while all that frustration criticism comes through loud and clear when I write or tweet, I’m definitely not as good at communicating that I understand and respect how profoundly difficult making music really is.

I thought about this when I came across this Tyrese quote on Singersroom.com:

“Producers these days are lazy. Making tracks. Sending emails. I’m just saying. When you make music under the same roof, with the actual artist that you’re working with, everybody is praying together, eating together, laughing together. It’s a different kind of nuance that’s created around music.”  (emphasis mine)

I do think there’s something profoundly special about the music that can come from songwriters, producers and artists spending time together crafting music that the artist feels a close connection to because that artist has had some input into making it, but with that understanding comes a deeper understanding that I think critics of black music don’t articulate nearly enough: what Tyrese longs for is the exception in the music industry, not the rule, particularly with black popular music.

In other words, a lot of people aren’t afforded the luxury of getting into a room with the best songwriters and producers and creating something that they can feel has the personal touch because that’s not the kind of artist they are intended to be, whether they know it and acknowledge it or not. We should be honest about this fact.

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Posted on February 13th, 2013 - Filed under Music
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Race and Sexuality. Who Gets to Decide?

Frank Ocean Ezra_Miller

Ezra Miller is quite eloquent in an interview with AfterElton on why he self-identifies as “queer”:

AfterElton: You routinely refer to yourself as “queer,” which I love. It’s an old word, but it’s kind of a new form of self-identification.
EM: 
It’s true! And it’s a different form of LGBT culture for sure. It’s even almost defiant of each of those letters. It’s kind of wonderfully all-encompassing. I’m all about it. I’m all about that word. I think it’s incredibly useful just as we head into an era of a more indiscriminate and open spectrum of human gender and sexuality. I think it’s good for us to have a word that isn’t so ultimately definitive, that leaves room for people to always be discovering and exploring who they are as a loving being.

AE: It’s defiant of that expectation to narrowly self-assign, I think, but it still aligns you in camaraderie with everything “LGBT.”
EM: 
Well, right. It’s funny how quickly so many heteronormative standards have crept their way into conventional gay culture. I think already even though we’ve done an incredibly productive cycle of opening up gaps in human rights in this particular area, I think there’s a whole new recycle that has to take place.

I find it incredibly interesting how white LGBT activists and other gay-identified folks are thoroughly comfortable and deferential to Ezra Miller’s desire to claim “queer” rather than “gay” or “bisexual”, even as they seem intent (here, herehere, and here, just to name a few) on forcing Frank Ocean into the LGBT framework (is he bi or gay? did he “come out”, etc).

I mean, even the most cursory search of Ezra Miller on AfterElton or any other gay-identified website reveals a consistent use of the term “queer”, but do the same search on Frank Ocean and you find that the more standard LGBT identifiers (most notably that he “came out”) predominate. In fact, I find that there is often hostility to the fact that he refuses to claim any label at all, particularly after his GQ interview.

Apparently, black self-determination is always something to be questioned or, worse, ignored.



Posted on February 12th, 2013 - Filed under Film,Music,Sexuality
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