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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kettles, Robots, and Swimming in "Post Racial America"....

I think it's safe to say that our infatuation with the promise of a "post-racial America" is officially way over. Not that I ever bought into it, for sure. Much about race is bubbling up these days, and while a tiny bit of it just has me shaking my head, the rest of it just makes me wanna kick somebody's ass sometimes. Like Field Negro said, it's just exhausting trying to keep up.

What leaves me going "whatever, dude" is pot/kettle Quincy Jones' non-revelation about Micheal Jackson "wanting to be white". "Have you seen his kids?" he asks in an interview. Wow. This from a man who I've never seen date anyone darker than a Sunset Spray Tan, and whose daughters can pass so well they actually get work in Hollywood. This is who he was with in Europe instead of attending the funeral of the man who made him zillions:

Speaking of Micheal, spotted this on my blogging buddy Eric Easter's site "Big Ideas" from Ebony/Jet.Com. It is a video of Sammy Davis Jr. comparing himself to Michael Jackson on Arsenio Hall, and ends up being something close to a confessional on race. Sammy goes in a few different directions, but you can see and feel the pain this immensely talented man went through, and he used that talent to navigate his way through a tragic life, just like Mike. It was his shield, just like Mike. Oddly Sammy was the only other celebrity besides MJ that made me cry when he passed.

What makes one want to put foot to ass is the situation in Philly that most have heard about by now, where a group of children were denied entry into a swimming pool because it was feared they may change "the complexion" of the pool area. Yes, the fools that run the joint actually said that.

I am not surprised, however, as the same thing happened to me as a kid. My family and I took a road trip to Canada, and in one hotel in Washington state we went swimming. When we went in, all of the YT's promptly got out. I saw one kid crying to his mom "Why can't we swim? I want to swim!" and his mother hissed at him to "shut the hell up". When I asked my mother if everyone got out because of us (it was even obvious to me as an 8 year old), she said "don't worry about it, there's just more room for us to swim now". And being a kid, I promptly forgot about about it. But now that I know better, I'm sure she felt all of the pain, hurt, and frustration those kids in Philly felt, and what made it more ridiculous is though Black, she is the same skin tone as those who got out. I am grateful she made light of it for my sake, so I did not feel what she felt too.

And finally, a cinema related statement on race; a post that my blogging soulmate Tafari did for The Afrospear, which he relayed got him a lot of heated haterade comments:

"Yesterday, I made it a point to go see “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” in IMAX. Ever since the last Transformers theatrical release I had been giddy for more.

Hours before I headed to the movies, I started reading posts online that discussed racism in the movie but still I pressed on to Showcase Cinemas and dropped $10.50 for my ticket.

Fast forwarding 2.5 hours later. I’m walking out of the theater with my mind blown for many reasons; 1st, the movie was so action packed I thought I was going to slip into a seizure. 2nd the movie was overtly sexual, which made it seem like an R rated movie instead of PG-13 and 3rd the racism that was built into the movie was billed as comedic relief.

As I drove home, I tried to reconcile the racism but I could not, so I decided to sleep on it.

So this morning, when I woke up, I actually got mad about what I saw in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” The racism that I’m talking about in case you don’t already know is dealing with the Autobot twins “Skids” and “Mudflap” or the “ Little Black Sambo[ts].

  1. Both of the twins talk like they are straight from a Lil Wayne video.

  2. They play the dozens (crack jokes on each other and anyone else) in every scene.
  3. They are seemingly proud of the fact that they cannot read. “Read?! Nuh-uh…” “No, we don’t really do much readin’!”

  4. Skids has a GOLD front tooth. Yes, a big bucked out gold tooth
  5. The names “Skids” and “Mudflap” imply darkness and or nastiness.

  6. Do I really need to add a 6th, you should get the picture now.

(Wait, for extra measure, if you want to see another relevant countdown list, you have to read this. “7 reasons why Transformers 2 might be racist…”)

With all this now parsed out, I’m wondering why and how this stereotypical bullshit slipped past Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures. Did they care? Did they know? Did they think it was ok?

I feel bad and torn because I actually liked the movie a lot, but how could I in good conscious? Maybe it’s the kid in me remembering watching the cartoon way back in the mid 80s.

Although the racism pisses me off about this flick, I was also disturbed about the adult content and overt hypersexuality. But like I said, I liked the movie, so what does this mean about me?

I know I won’t see the movie again, nor will I purchase the DVD. I do not want my kids seeing this mess and not only that it’s so not a kids movie. Don’t let the PG-13 rating fool you!

Transformers used to be all about the kids way back when, but not so much now thanks to Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures. I’m just saying.

Side note: This post is not nearly what I wanted it to be. Not at all! My thoughts are with and on Michael Jackson. As I wrap this up, I’m chair dancing to “Off The Wall” while I try to control my urge to cry about a man that reached my soul through song, dance and beauty."

From IW: Why am I not surprised that Mike Epps was the voice one of those coontastic robots?

Update: OK, I was misinformed. It wasn't Mike Epps, but one of the voices was YT Tom Kenny, who also voices Spongebob Squarepants :-(


msladydeborah said...

Interesting post IW.

Sammy was the hot ticket during my childhood. Even if people didn't care for his off-stage actions, he definitely lived like he wanted to.

I am MJ'd out. What does it matter at this point in time? May Michael rest in peace.

The Transformers-that brings back memories of my oldest son rushing in the door to grab a snack and settle in front of the television to watch his favorite toon. I didn't see the first movie and I know I won't see this one either. As far as the racism is concerned-I am sure that there are just as many movie goers who probably like that type of stereotypical character. It seems to be comforting to folks to see us at our low mental point.

Josephine said...

Great post you covered a lot. I do think that Transformers 2 is racist. Sambot really? This is the kind of racism I see everyday in NY or when co-workers makes jokes about natural hair and stuff like that. All long as it's in "context" they think it's okay. It's just a joke. Ridiculous.

d.funkt said...

mikes epps was a voice? really? i didnt hear that. that makes me sad.

Max Reddick said...

Frankly, I never bought into the whole post-racial hype. Post-racial was a term coined by white liberals to pat themselves on the back for their perceived overcoming of their own racism.

And their is a new book about Sammy Davis and his fight against racism. Heard about it on NPR. Sounded interesting. However, the book's thesis is that Sammy endured a lot from both whites and blacks to break down doors for black people in the entertainment industry.

But about the movie. I say it with my fourteen year old son. I had read the many reviews covering its racist nature, but I went anyway so as to make up my own mind. But my fourteen year old son ended up making it up for me.

When we left the theater, he was very quiet which is quite out of character for him especially after seeing such an action packed movie. Finally, I asked him if he enjoyed the movie. He replied, "I think Michael Bay just called me a nigger." 'Nuff said. That was some bigoted BS.


SDG said...

Lawd, Lawd, Lawd! You mean we ain't post-racial yet? Sometimes I wonder whether I have become so jaded, that the nonsense I read doesn't make me raise more than an eyebrow.

I seriously worry because I wasn't surprised by what happened to the kids in Philly, Transformers, Quincy, Michael, Nay-Nay, Pookie or anyone of them.

America is racist as hell. Always has been and probably always will be. It's really f*cked up that I'm even fixin' my mouth to say it.

Quincy needs to STFU. I cried when Sammy passed and when Michael passed. Like you, they are the only 2 that moved me to tears.

Marvalus said...

I'm really trying to give Q the benefit of the doubt and chalk his statements up to him going through the emotions of grieving...he was at the "anger" stage when he made these bullshit statements. That's what I keep telling myself.

LOVE Sammy Davis, Jr!!! No one knows the pain, do they really?

The situation in Philadelphia...I live in a suburb where my child is one of few black kids...luckily, I haven't had to face anything like this, and neither has my child. But just to have this situation happen in my country keeps me on my toes and makes me go looking for it...and that makes me mad as hell.

Invisible Woman said...

@ms lady: you are right about Mike. About Sammy--it's funny how they were both practically crucified for trying to live they way they wanted to--just because folks did understand. Not that hey had to, it was their own business. Sad

@josephine: thanks for commenting. yeeaahhh...racism isn't going anywhere anytime sonn, for real.

@d.funkt: see my update; oops! but that did seem to fit, yes?

@max: thanks for that great comment. i believe i might use that quote from your son on one of my blogs....

@sdg: we do think so much alike don't we? btw, what happened to your new blog girl? i CANNOT keep up with you! lol

@ms. m: quincey did that interview BEFORE Mike passed, so he was just talkin' out the side of his neck.

I am thankful that my family hasn't gone thru that either, but ya know, that's not to say they never will--that is the scary part.

SDG said...

IW. It's back online. I was having some pblms w/live journal.

Davion said...

Ok, so i'm not going to really take a side, but just offer some observations and a couple of opinions in regards to the transformers movie. First: I did notice the obvious "urbanization" of Skids and Mudflap.
Two: Skids and Mudflap, to my knowledge, were actual characters in the second generation of the Transformers cartoon. So they didn't just make these guys up for the movie.
Third: Them being proud of being illiterate aside, if they sound like they're straight from a Lil Wayne video, who can we really be mad at?-- the filmmakers for recognizing that "Lil Wayne- esque" kids really do exist and talk this way? Or "lil wayne-esque kids for really existing and talking this way? or lil wayne for being so popular, ubiquitous, and influential in the first place?
Fourth: gold teeth aside, I'm sure the filmmakers were trying to appeal to a specific demographic, however I would have felt a little more comfortable if the voices for the actors were actually African American (ala Chris Rock in Madagascar, Eddie Murphy in Shrek, Tracy Morgan in G-force). But Damn!!! How can you not see that you're obviously stereotyping and creating two minstrel-ass characters! I think X-Zibit was the voice of Jazz in the previous Transformers movie and he was almost as coonish as these guys, but I really wasn't that offended because he came off as authentic and believable in my opinion. (I mean, for that matter-- Scatman Crothers was the voice of Jazz in the original Transformers cartoon series).
But finally, I guess my most compelling thought is: how self-limiting are we for assuming that some characters who are supposed to be inorganic robots from another galaxy should conform to some human/racial identities that satisfy us? The most realistic way to look at it is like this: how would you behave if you were sent to an alien planet and supposed to blend in with your surroundings? If you weren't native to the cultural/ethnic complexities of the planet you'd probably take the most obvious elements you found and try to mimic those too.
I'm really the most offended that Michael Bay didn't hold true to the makes and models of the vehicles that the original transformers shaped themselves after to blend in. He catered to GM because they paid him the Big Bucks.
So that's my rant.
But then again, I'd never want to assume that a wise Latina woman would make a better judgment than a white man who'd never had the same experiences.


Marvalus said...

WHAT??!!! BEFORE!!???

Aww, hell naw!!

Christian H. said...

The biggest problem with Transformers is that MudFlap and Skids live next door to me. On both sides and around the corner.

One the one hand our young brothas ARE LIKE THAT. But on the other hand we say "don't tell people that." Don't put the major black personality on TV for people to ridicule.

What should they promote?

I dress like a professional and brothas won't even speak to me.

I go to the club dressed like I respect women and haters come out.

Until you chicks CUT ALL OF THESE BUMS OFF, Hollywood has every reason to make fun of "thugs."

Invisible Woman said...

@sdg: always glad to see you writin'!

@davion: hi there, welcome--hope you come around some more...i love reading comments and feedback like yours, and so do others...thanks for validating what a lot of folks thought.

@ms. m: i know, right?

@christian: hi there :-) i know what you mean. but i said this on someone else's blog, it's not okay for that image to be perpetuated in real life or on screen; there are folks who love that cartoony lil wayne image, the way they loved snoop, and busta rhymes, and mc hammer. they just love feeling comfortable with a stereotype that can easily be placed in a box.

but trust, there are just as many that can't stand it as love it.

btw, i think you may be hanging out in the wrong type of clubs--there are lots of girls/women that would love a guy like you, believe me...the haters come out cause they know you are special...keep it movin'! :-)

givepeace05401 said...

Isn't it interesting who's death touches you? I remember crying over the passing of Pearl Bailey.

Anyway, let's not forget the Sammys and Pearls who gave so much laughter and joy.

Invisible Woman said...

@givepeace05401: i'm ashamed to say this, but i forgot pearl bailey passed :-( she was quite a character, and quite wise, i thought