A People’s History of Pots, Kettles, Finger Waggers, Bullies, and Accidental Amnesiacs

The wonderful thing about being in America is having the ability to speak one’s mind.  Not only that, there are so many ways an individual can express his/her thoughts these days via social media.  Add to these traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and television, we find ourselves surrounded with 24/7 access to thought and opinions on all subjects political, social, religious and so forth.

What I do find particularly frustrating at times is the simplicity and lack of nuance and imagination within many thoughts and opinions.  With the tools we have to communicate with one another, there is so much opportunity to discuss, debate, and grow as a society.  But what seems to happen on most occasions, is that the simplest, most unsophisticated thoughts are the ones that not only get the headlines, but are also leading the discussions. I plan to follow that thought up with another blog post soon.  But for this thought, I will direct my attention to the trending topic of Michael Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams.

Personally, I don’t care what people think of Sam in terms of his sexuality.  You can be for it or against it.  In this world, and certainly in this country, people are going to have an opinion on what they think is right or wrong for whatever reason.  As we can see via many comments on Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN as he spoke to Rams’ brass,  there is no shortage of opinions on either side.  I’ll address my thoughts on it shortly.

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People who know me understand that I have no sacred cows when it comes to my perspectives.  All of us individually and as a group deserve a basic level of respect. And we all deserve our fair share of criticism. I love being black and I love black people.  That doesn’t mean I vouch for everything black folks say and do.  I am pro equal rights for all, regardless of ethnicity, political, religious preference, sexual orientation and so forth.  Still, I don’t blindly endorse what any political party, Christians, Muslims, atheist, the straight or gay community says and do either. Unfortunately, far too many have a ‘you’re for me or against me’ victimization mentality, when they are called on the carpet for inconsistencies or hypocrisies.

With this in mind, on the subject of Sam’s PDA with his male partner, I have a message to all parties who care.

The Religious/White Folk: I’ve already spoken to you about this before.  Be anti-gay.  Just don’t talk to me about morality and your kids seeing Sam and his boyfriend kissing on TV.  Fact of the matter is, Ray Rice knocked his fiancee’ the hell out and I don’t see any of you protesting that.  Straight players have publicly cheated on their wives, laid pipe all over the country, objectify women in strip clubs making it rain… and again, you never mentioned that in your pulpits or your social media formats.  What trips me out the most though, is that for every preacher, politician and anti-gay public figure, a certain percentage of them are closet drag queens, or somebody on the down low having sex with men.  Seriously?  

The Religious/Black Folk in General: See message to white folk.  But add to this that as you say things like, “I’m tired of this being thrown in my face; when you say, “Yuck!” or “Gross” or “I don’t want my kids to see this on TV…,” remember that Dorothy Dandridge got in a pool at a hotel, and the same white folks who said they don’t have a problem with black people had that pool drained. Traditionally, racist white folks have always had a use for black folks.  As slaves, mistresses, servants, entertainers, or even as a ‘friend.’  JUST NOT AS EQUALS.  There are layers.  I don’t expect everyone to accept me for who I am.  But not attacking me is not the same as respecting me and protecting my right to exist as an equal!  For a person to say I have gay friends/family,  but I wouldn’t teach my kids that it’s OK, is like saying, I don’t have anything against black people, I just don’t want my kids dating them.  It’s still bigotry.  At least admit that.  That doesn’t make you a criminal, it just means there is some potential for growth.

**Most bigotry is in some form or fashion related to sexual fears and myths.  That’s another story.**

Look, we all have biases to overcome. The first time I saw Omar Little kiss his partner on The Wire, I was like, “Whoa WAIT!  What just happened?  It wasn’t a shock because it was sickening.  It was shocking because I hadn’t seen it before.

Black people especially should be mindful of our own history with biases against us and the imagery that was important towards our own progression as a people. When I was a kid, I remember my parents gathering us around the television to watch The Flip Wilson show because there wasn’t another show like that for black people.  There were hardly NO shows for black people. From ‘Good Times’ to ‘The Jeffersons,’ we were able to receive images on television about our families, our values, often referencing issues that were important to us.  Many times in Southern states, they refused to show black people in a light that was integration friendly.  They lost their minds when Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte’s arm in 1968.  Can you imagine what it was like when Jim Brown (who was then the personification of black male sexual power and prowess) did a love scene with white sex symbol Rachel Welch in “100 Rifles?”  Talk about an OMG moment!  This struggle has continued despite many strides.  Even when the Cosby show was on, many criticized the show because they felt a black family with a father who was a doctor and a mother who was an attorney was ‘unrealistic.’

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Naturally, the gay and lesbian community is going to support images on television that reflect a celebration of their value and right to exist.  So seeing Sam kiss his boyfriend at the pinnacle point of his life is a big deal.  There is no gay conspiracy to force acceptance upon the straight community.  Will and Grace is for them is what Sanford and Son was for us.

Acknowledging this puts me in the cross hairs of many of my straight friends. Even now, on social media when I defend gays, I am often assumed to be gay. They say things like, “I don’t care about what you do with your life.” When I try to show them the parallel between our plights with bigotry, I’m told, “Be gay and do you!  Enjoy your lifestyle… but don’t force it down my throat!”   Remind me of how many whites were and are called “nigger lovers,’ when they stand up for our rights as a people.

I believe the topics of free thought/free speech is a wonderful thing to discuss.  Donald Sterling’s fiasco as well as Michael Sam’s coverage are just the latest opportunity which brings that subject to bear.  I just hope that we maximize all these thoughts and speeches to do more than hyperbolize.

You know what came to my mind when I first saw the kiss?  I thought, “Look, Michael Sam is just like most other African-American big time athletes.  They get to college and go white!  No different!

See,.. now there is a bias for you!

 

 

 

 

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Scandal’s Season Finale…. May Be Slipping A Little

I was late on the Scandal train.  Some friends at work got me hip to the party.  I blazed my way through the first two seasons via Netflix like my hair was on fire!   Once, my daughter came home from school and had forgotten something important in her locker.  I had to take her back.  But I was in the middle of some serious shenanigans involving Mellie at the time.  I had to pause my episode.  WTH?  I took her back like a good daddy would.  But don’t think I didn’t give her the straight business all the way there and back! I didn’t mention the show of course.  I went with the ‘being responsible’ rant instead.  #VeteranMove

Like so many, I love the show.  Shonda Rimes is a genius.  She can weave a plot and spin a narrative.  Writing good television is harder than it’s ever been before.  This is one of the reasons there are so many reality TV shows.  Not only are they cheap to produce, it doesn’t take much imagination.  Who needs a Rhimes to write a great story when you can just roll out a Kardashian, Honey Boo Boo or a Desperate Housewife in front of the camera?

When a well written show strikes gold, it creates a cult following.  Social media carries it even greater heights.  I consider myself a veteran and eclectic television show watcher.  I was Marin Tupper sitting in front of the TV set as a kid.  From Kojak and Columbo, Starsky and Hutch, and Berretta, Hill Street Blues and LA Law, The Sopranos and The Wire, The West Wing and Breaking Bad, I know good, and imaginative story telling when I see it.  The bar is higher than it’s ever been.

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One of the biggest challenges for a great show with a cult following is to continue to write at the level that rocketed the popularity of the show in the first place.  Success and an abundance of praise can make writers lazy.  I’ve seen it with the best.  McNulty’s serial killer fiasco in Season 5 of The Wire come to mind.  Breaking Bad had some ridiculously unbelievable moments as well;  like Gustavo’s desert hospital on standby ready to pump his stomach after taking poison during his revenge plot.

This brings me to last night’s Season 3 finale of Scandal.  The challenge Rhimes faced, was having the ability to tie up a particular set of loose ends, while giving the viewer a taste of anticipation of what’s to come.  She had to to leave us reeling, giving us water cooler material to chop up over the next several weeks.  If not careful, the narratives can be rushed leaving the cake half baked.

This is how I viewed last nights finale:  (SPOILER ALERT)

Sally Langston’s cold blooded murder of her husband was ok.  I’ve always seen her character as a more fluent Michele Bachmann.  Her husband wanting to suddenly leave her in the wake of having a one night stand exposed with James Novack seemed lame.  But going Norman Bates on him lines up with her ambition to be president.  The fact that she called Cyrus, the man in charge of handling her political enemy instead of her own fixer didn’t make any sense.

Speaking of which, how in the hell did David Rosen’s assistant suddenly come up with an NSA link into Langston’s phone?  I knew they had to figure a way to expose that Langston was murdered.  I have no logic to explain that.

The scene at the Pentagon where Fitz and Eli went mano-a- mano was epic! The president’s insecurities made him feel desperate and powerless enough to talk sh#! about screwing Olivia; bragging about how she tasted as if Pope were a former lover rather than her father.  You would have thought it was Drake talking to Chris Brown.  Eli’s,  ‘I’m a man while you’re a boy’ rant was some of the best theater you will ever see.  It reminded me of Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman going toe to tow in Crimson Tide;  Or Pacino and DeNiro at the diner in Heat.  John Morton is one helluva actor, and Rhimes let him loose on Fitz.  As far as I’m concerned, he should win an emmy for that scene alone!

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One of the reasons Eli Pope could step to the President like that was because he’s was the head of  a clandestine organization (B613) whose power exceeds that of the oval office.  This makes Pope untouchable.  So how in the hell could Fitz flip the script, put Pope on the street and make Jake Ballard ‘Command?’  Jake Ballard?  Seriously?  How does that even happen?

That’s a problem!

Speaking of B613; What is Rhimes doing with Quinn Perkins?  I get that she’s a bit looney.  But her direction started to smell the moment she got involved with Charlie and foolishly got played into killing a security guard.  Hadn’t Huck taught her anything?  Further, because Huck told her she wasn’t a gladiator anymore she then goes back to Charlie?  There was nobody else in that office to talk to her before she walked out?  Don’t tell me she’s that lost after being hard core enough to rip a GPS from her chicklets!

Lastly, the plot of Olivia’s mother being a terrorist was masterful.  The fact that her and Eli are devils in their own right is fittingly and awesomely complicated.  It makes me wonder what kind of person Olivia will be down the road.  Does she have some Eli or Walter White transformational potential?

Still, towards the end the plot became sadly predictable.  I’m sitting on the couch watching the show, and I said outloud, “That plain ain’t landing in Hong Kong.”  And, “Oh, that’s Olivia’s mom calling,” all before it was revealed.  But I’m supposed to believe she shot some dudes akin to the Navy Seals, landed the plane in an abandoned air strip in Angola and made it back to Washington D.C. by episodes end?

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I’m hard on television shows.  I know it’s fantasy.  But the astute viewer will maintain a certain standard of expectation once it’s been established.  If there is too much slippage to the point of lazy pandering I will cold drop a show.  This happened most recently with Boardwalk Empire.  It has it’s share of blunders in Season 3 but it ended strong.  Season 4 was a complete fail!  The writers just started smoking crack or something.  I finished the season hoping it would recover but it didn’t.  I’m out!

I hope Shonda Rhimes hasn’t lost control of her masterpiece.  And that she doesn’t let the hype get in the way of her creative genius.

Caught Up on “The Wire!”

Thanks Jason Whitlock!  No I really mean it. 

I was minding my own business till you insisted on the radio over and over again that “The Wire,” a show that used to be on HBO was by far the best drama series in the history of television – network of pay.

I had seen bits and pieces of David Simon’s production.  I had heard about the stories and some of the characters as well.  I never got hold of the series because I didn’t have HBO during any of it’s 5 seasons.  I caught an episode years ago while stay in a hotel that carried the network, but since I was not familiar with the show or it’s characters, I was not able to follow what was going on.  The Wire is one of those programs that picks up it’s plots from the previous week and so on.  So my interest for trying to pursue it any further dissolved quickly.

But, while catching up on the podcast archives of the Jim Rome show where Whitlock frequently substitutes for the host, he spent well over an hour detailing once again why the show was the best.  He had done this before in a previous show.  But this time he even went as far as interviewing Simon the mastermind of the program.  David Simon has a story of his own that is very well worth reading – so I won’t insult him by giving some brief synopsis not worthy of his research and work.  I will say instead that Whitlock’s passion for the show finally got to me and I decided to start from the beginning via Netflix.  I watched the first three episodes of season 1 over this past weekend. 

Right from the jump I was  introduced to the Baltimore police department, political and judicial figures, some crackheads and a drug cartel who’s main characters have as much depth as any real life characters ever seen on television.  “Ahhhh so this is what you were talking about when you described the contrast between crime boss Avon Barksdale and his lower level nephew D’Angelo.  This is how it really is when a police department is cash strapped and care more about their image than doing good police work.  Wow!”  I make it sound simple.  But the depth and detail of the character development I’m trying to describe is beyond anything I’ve seen before. 

What is really authentic about “The Wire” is that much of the story that Simon told during 5 season was based on his own personal research of the Baltimore Police Department, the drug trade, the politics, the reporting via the major local newspaper, and how it all effected the lives of the citizens of inner city Baltimore in particular.

The storylines are genuine, and the acting surreal.  After a mere three episodes I find myself fully invested into the characters and I look forward to seeing all 5 seasons in successon as soon as I possibly can.

Congratulations Mr. Whitlock!  You hooked me!