It has been awhile and my first post back is my favorite kind of post: useless. Since the internet went after Ms. Kardashian for her (accurate, but poorly delivered) advice to women, she waited approximately one month before giving folks something else to type about: her Met Gala dress. To the horror of some fashion history enthusiasts, the former Mrs. Kanye West wore Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday’ dress to the mega fashion event of the year. Despite the short amount of time on her body (wearing the garment only on the red carpet and switching into a replica after), claims started popping up that she had damaged the dress. So did she? The image below is from the Marilyn Monroe Collection website, the originator of the ‘damage‘ accusation.
It isn’t clear when the image on the left was taken. The different lighting also makes fair comparisons harder. It could be a replica for all we know, so I went to the source: Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
If you watch the clip, the camera pans down the back of the 60-year old dress to show, you guessed it, damage.
This video was posted on May 3 and depicts Kim K’s fitting before the Gala, giving a better idea of the condition of the dress before the loan. Ripley’s released a statement denying that the reality star had done any harm to the garment and the images support their claim.
Remember when social media became significant enough that employers would check current and potential employees personal accounts to ensure that their behavior fell in line with the company’s morals, mission and expectations? While individuals are entitled to have a private life separate from work that needed to balanced with a organization’s desire to not employ an admitted homophobe, bigot or blatant idiot. Getting fired for what you decide to post publicly is a very real risk, but it’s not new. Gina Carano joins a slew of others who elected to post and suffered the consequences.
After tweets questioning the validity of the election, mocking mask wearing, joking about the use of pronouns, Carano posted this masterpiece on Instagram:
Carano compared the brutality that this woman (and Jews) suffered during World War II to the hate she’s had to deal with for stating her political views. Apparently, hating someone for their beliefs is equally as violent as beating someone for who they are. Tone deaf much?
The first myth to dispel is that this is cancel culture. As I stated before, employers firing employees for online behavior is not new or uncommon, it’s at-will doctrine at work. When you’re on the company’s dime, you gotta toe the company line or to paraphrase Laura Ingraham, shut up and act.
Working for Disney, one of the biggest media companies in the world, comes with massive responsibility and huge amounts of attention. Why would Disney keep someone on the payroll who’s mouth (or fingers) might cost them money? To answer that, internet sleuths found a tweet from Carano’s former co-star, Pedro Pascal, from June 2018 to help prove hypocrisy. The problem is he wasn’t employed by Disney then. Carano’s recent tweets were all under contract. And the final one, wasn’t the first one. What do they call people who make the same mistake over and over?
The second myth is that she’s being targeted for her conservative viewpoints. Is Nick Cannon a conservative? Joy Behar caught heat for her insensitive comments about Mike Pence and I think Kathy Griffin has finally come out from the hole she was in for the past couple of years. Whatever end of the political spectrum you reside on, it comes down to money. Carano’s unwillingness to see herself as turning into a liability gives her an excuse to play victim. The only difference between Carano and the others who sank into hot water, is they apologized. She’s avoided doing so as if it would be an affront to her principles, when in reality, it’s a bold refusal to be even the teensiest bit reflective.
Maybe she didn’t need to apologize. Maybe a brief clarification like:
I get that not everyone understands the point I’m making, but I’m just talking about hatred. Hatred that pushes people into separate spaces and makes it hard, almost impossible to be a good neighbor. We shouldn’t be happy to make life hard for other people.We can live and let live.
Nevertheless, Ms. Carano moved on, within days, to a second chance at The Daily Wire where she will star in a movie from the conservative website.
The blessings of another opportunity…something I’m not certain the tortured woman in her post got.
I give apologies seriously, not carelessly. I’m not a fan ofsaying sorry ‘just because’, which is why I took an interest in Ellen’s first show since the accusations surfaced this summer of a toxic workplace environment.
It all started, mean spiritedly enough, in March with a tweet from podcast host, Kevin Porter soliciting horror stories about DeGeneres:
This is Twitter, so there’s no way to sift through what’s real, what’s saltiness dressed up as social justice and what’s simply a lie.
A few fell into the category of discernibly believable:
Only two are first-hand, the others are something that happened to someone else🙄. Based on the virality of the post, you might have been left with the impression there were hundreds of juicy replies. This tweet, after all, triggered something much greater…but no. The vast majority were the written version of rubber-necking and a very slim minority were people confusing being likable (how you are with people) and being kind (what you do for people).
It’s normal to think that someone’s persona is who they actually are, but whatit seems like and what it is are two different things. Ellen, or anyone for that matter, should not be tasked with being everyone’s friend. Behavior which we engage in to protect ourselves or draw boundaries, might not be perceived as nice by outsiders. What should we do then?
I don’t know Ellen DeGeneres personally, but I do know that a little over twenty years ago, she took a tremendous professional and personal risk by coming out. Perhaps that experience shifted how she deals with people. Whether it’s right or wrong isn’t really the point. It comes down to who has she hurt? If the Buzzfeedarticles are to be believed, no one.
One ex-staffer is quoted as saying: “People focus on rumors about how Ellen is mean and everything like that, but that’s not the problem. The issue is these three executive producers running the show who are in charge of all these people [and] who make the culture and are putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean,”
A few even stated that ‘they don’t think DeGeneres is aware of the scope of what goes on behind the scenes because she doesn’t spend enough time in the office or interacting with the staff to have a strong sense of the culture‘.
It turns out the best thing that’s come out of this situation is the ousting of a handful of executive producers: Ed Glavin, Jonathan Norman and Kevin Leman, who were mentioned in nearly all the accusations of inappropriate and/or toxic behavior in Buzzfeed’s articles. The next best thing is Ellen taking responsibility for the workplace environment. She is in the best position to change the culture because this is her show. She addresses everything pretty clearly in the season opener:
The peanut gallery has complained that she’s joking and that’s inappropriate and that the apology was insincere and that she’s not addressing what she’sdone that’s hurt people, but I would argue that she wisely stayed away from that. Apologizing to people would open a Pandora’s box of randos coming out of the woodwork to demand redress from slights from years prior. Genuine harm is worth addressing. She admittedly erred in not cultivating relationships with all her staff and isolating herself from the culture at her own show, but she committed to changing that. We’ll see…
(Side note: I do think Twitch’s promotion was pandering a bit, but I’m not going to go hard on black man getting a huge opportunity.)
Reflecting on Ellen’s situation, I thought about the last time a host had to make a public apology:
The behavior is 100% more repugnant, but was received with hardly any backlash. I wonder why?
Netflix has caused quite an uproar with its release of ‘Cuties,’ a film by French-Sengalese director, Maïmouna Doucouré. The story follows preteen Amy as she desperately seeks acceptance from her obnoxious peers and painfully navigates what she thinks it means to be a woman in the age of social media. Amy, as a recent immigrant, is faced with two perceptions of womanhood; one, (represented by her friends) where ‘being grown’ means sounding and looking like it, hence the tight, short clothes and coarse language that Amy tries to emulate and the other option (represented by her Muslim family), where being a woman means marriage and marriage means listening to your mother cry as she has to feign joy at delivering the news about her husband taking a second wife. Is it any wonder that Amy gravitated toward the former?
Amy and her friends attempts at ‘grown pose’ are met with derision by the older boys they try to flirt with and disgust by the adults who boo them in the movie’s penultimate scene. Amy, in the end, rejects the two options presented to her throughout the film and chooses one of her own, which I believe, makes for a happy ending.
Most of the critics (comprised mainly of people who haven’t seen the film) charge that it exploits young girls and is child pornography. One of those critics, Sen. Ted Cruz, requested that the Attorney General investigate Netflix for its release of the film.
Senator Cruz references 18 U.S. Code § 2251 and 2252 as the basis for his request. Other detractors have cited the Dost test, which is a six-point guideline used by U.S. courts to determine whether or not a visual depiction is lascivious. But to really get at the core of the issue, it’s best to look at 18 U.S. Code § 2256, which gives definitions. First, how does the Code define child pornography:
(8) “child pornography”means any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where— (A) the production of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; (B) such visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or (C) such visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
(A)Except as provided in subparagraph (B), “sexually explicit conduct” means actual or simulated—(i)sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex;(ii)bestiality;(iii)masturbation;(iv)sadistic or masochistic abuse; or(v)lascivious exhibition of the anus, genitals, or pubic area of any person;
(B)For purposes of subsection 8(B)  of this section, “sexually explicit conduct” means—(i)graphic sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, or lascivious simulated sexual intercourse where the genitals, breast, or pubic area of any person is exhibited;(ii)graphic or lascivious simulated;(I)bestiality;(II)masturbation; or(III)sadistic or masochistic abuse; or(iii)graphic or simulated lascivious exhibition of the anus, genitals, or pubic area of any person;
It’s a lot of words, but it’s necessary given the sensitivity of the subject. So, what do I know for sure? ‘Cuties’ is not child pornography. The Dost test was created to determine what depictions fall into the category of ‘graphic or simulated lascivious exhibition of the anus, genitals, or pubic area of any person.’ At no point in ‘Cuties’ are any of the young actors nude, so at no time are their private parts displayed. A montage in the movie, however, shows close-ups of the dance troupe’s pelvises thrusting, backsides swaying and hips gyrating, so quite a few people have determine that this meets the standard in the test (it doesn’t). But, let’s say it does…
What about this? She’s 10.
And this? She’s 15.
This one’s a classic. She’s 12 here.
This one got rave reviews and won a couple of Oscars. Oh…and she’s 10.
I don’t know if there were charges of child exploitation when any of those performances came out. It doesn’t matter since the statute of limitations has likely passed. My point isn’t to focus on criminality, but on the uncomfortable-ness that people feel watching young girls strike suggestive poses. That discomfort was an important part of what made ‘Cuties’ so impactful. You’re not supposed to feel good watching. We should feel unnerved.
Folks are mad about what they read and heard about a movie, but dry-eyed and tight lipped about what’s happening to our girls in real-life and that to me is the real crime.
It’s fascinating that a single, which initially had no album, ends up being the breakthrough song for singer, Lizzo, whose latest release, Cuz I Love You, debuted this past April, and features the aforementioned hit song, Truth Hurts, which was released in 2017. That’s right, 2017. The eligibility period for the 2020 Grammy Awards is October 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019. It would seem the song is too good, too late, but through the magic of semantics, its chances are almost magically revived.
To a lay person, a track and a single are the same thing, but in Grammy speak, a single is a separate, individual entity; a track is a recording on an album. A single is entered for consideration if it is different (i.e, remixed, features additional artists, etc) from the album (not the case here) or if it is released in advance of the album (definitely the case here). So there’s the single from 2017 and the track from 2019, which are identical, but the Academy only recognizes the original album version for screening and verification and ta-da! That’s how Lizzo’s two-year old song gets her some timely recognition.
side note for the haters in the peanut gallery:
Perhaps the Grammys will take note of this particular instance and make changes, but in the meantime the song’s entry, according tothe body which governs its entry, is legit. And if you’re still grouchy about ‘Truth Hurts‘ inclusion, think on this: at the 43rd annual Grammys, the award for Best New Artist went to Shelby Lynne for outstanding work on her sixth studio album, beating out front-runner, Sisqo, known previously for his work with R & B group, Dru Hill. Take Alessia Cara: her debut, Know-It-All was released in 2015; she had hit singles in 2017 with ‘Stay‘ and ‘1-800-273-8255‘ and was nominated (and won) for Best New Artist in 2018. My point? Grammy rules can be arbitrary, but why be mad about someone worthy having the opportunity to be recognized?
+Never have I been more grateful for my sloth in posting an article as I am today; when news broke last week of ‘Bye Sister,’ (YouTube makeup guru, Tati Westbrook’s video about James Charles), I wasn’t ready to give something off my cultural radar 43 minutes of my life, but when I finally did, Charles decided to release his own video (also over 40 minutes) clarifying the incident which led to their very public blowup.
When I heard what was going on from my preteen cousins, I was put off by the fact that a grown woman was coming for someone nearly half of her age. It felt cruel and juvenile. What’s worst was the almost celebratory energy surrounding his downfall. Westbrook’s accusations that Charles was manipulating straight men into thinking they were gay and using his fame and power to strong arm people into having sex with him rang false to me. Mind you, he’s only 19. Teenage boys trying to have sex by any means necessary is not unfamiliar to me and while not always savory, it isn’t exactly predatory (unless we’re talking about the underage). Her comments were inflammatory to say the least and led to an unprecedented 3+million subscriber drop for Charles which included celebs like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West and Ariana Grande.
But lo and behold, in the midst of the smoke, a clearing: ‘No More Lies‘ dropped Saturday and in it Charles refutes all the claims made by Tati, point by point and in the process, earned over a million subscribers back. If ever there was a case to be made for not rushing to judgement, this is it. Initially, I was going to make a point by point comparison of their videos, but I decided to just focus on the red flags in hers, specifically the points she made that had me going, ‘Hmmm, say what now?’:
🚩 she doesn’t just spill the tea, she scalds with it – Anytime someone tells another person’s story, my red flag antennae go up. Tati told all this boy’s business, including how she and her husband helped up his earnings per video from $90 to $2,500. She mentioned a million dollar deal that they helped negotiate for him. She discussed private conversations she had with him, one in particular in which she said, ‘I told you this is not good and you could have your career destroyed.’ Considering the effects of her video, I wonder now if that was a threat or a warning?
🚩 details, details…except when it comes to her – Another red flag: vagueness. From what I take from both her and Charles’ video, this situation was triggered by his posting an ad for Sugar Bear Hair, a competitor to Westbrook’s Halo Beauty. She was understandably upset by his decision, but her explanation for why she needed to address this publicly is not as clear. She says that she could have just stopped talking to him, but decided to address it through YouTube because she ‘didn’t feel safe talking about this privately’ and didn’t want her words twisted and used against her. She wasn’t clear about why she felt afraid which leaves viewers to come to their own (likely, not good) conclusions. It’s a serious case of allowing people’s tendency to presume the worst do the work for you which is a nasty passive aggressive tactic.
🚩 all good, all good…except for him –I found it peculiar how Tati described James’ ‘unwilling’ pursuits as individuals ’emerging into adulthood who don’t quite have everything figured out,’ but neglected to see that those words fit Charles to a T. She opens her video with clips of praise for Charles, describes herself as a role model, talks at length about the amount of help she and her husband gave Charles, even stating that her role in their relationship was more from a parental stance, but would you raise an eyebrow or a glass at a ‘parent’ that shades their ‘child’ in the most visible way possible? Are we happy or horrified when we spot a parent spanking their child in the street? Warning sign: self righteous shading is a one dimensional justification for a personal takedown; it sounds a lot like, ‘I’m such a good person because (I do this, I don’t do this, people tell me so) and this person over here is bad because (they do this, they don’t do this, people say so)’. Checking people from a pedestal is a MAJOR red flag. Checking people who are unrelated to the issue, as she did Charles’ mother, another violation. In the video, Westbrook mentions that Christie (James’ mother) said to her, ‘thank you for looking after my boy.’ After listing his ‘flaws’, she claps back, ‘ok, I’m handing that back to you.’ As if playing mentor is akin to guardianship. The unmitigated gall is jaw dropping.
🚩 what it looks like and what it is are two different things – towards the end of her video, Westbrook gets into the ad that started it all and her beliefs that she didn’t really think Charles was in danger, that if he was in danger, he could have left and that the deal with Sugar Bear Hair must have been in the works because companies don’t just have contracts laying around to give to people. All valid assumptions, but still, conjecture at best. She has no credible reasoning for thinking that his story about linking up with SBH at Coachella was untrue other than her feelings and that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it lie.
As it stands now, ‘No More Lies’ has racked up over 29 million views in two days. It didn’t make YouTube’s trending list, which is weird considering the numbers. Checked it today and he’s been flagged for a copyright claim which might explain why his video is not on the list and interestingly enough, Tati’s game changing ‘Bye Sister’ was unlisted (meaning that you won’t find it in searches, but you can watch it if you have the link or in my case, have watched it already and it’s in your viewing history). Considering how detailed and proof riddled his response video is, I wonder who would benefit most from its reach being limited? And to not break my own rule and be vague, I’ll answer my own question: Tati Westbrook.
I’ve watched the Ryan Lochte saga on ABC for the past two weeks now; I was stunned like everyone else and was glued to the tube as all the details unfolded the following day on what seemed to be every network. And then, I realized: this is too good to be true. Imagine this: You’re a showrunner and you have a controversial contestant: bonus- you have a controversial contestant and people love watching trouble, wait, people also love getting rid of people they can’t stand. How do we get as much mileage out of this contestant as we possibly can without comprising the integrity of the show and have the judges do something crazy like inflating the scores…Got it! Let’s plant some paid troublemakers, get them to make a scene and hopefully, get lots of attention (check!) and sway opinion favorably toward him (remains to be seen).
Apparently, the protesters didn’t have valid tickets, whatever that means. As many shows as I’ve been to, at the bare minimum I have to give my name (which is on a pre-printed list) and show proof of ticket and you’re telling me these guys got seating on the dance floorlevel with winks and smiles? Oh…okay. Secondly, they’ve been working that footage hard, why? Because they paid for it, so they might as well. They have given permission for every network on earth to air footage of the incident, they’ve used it in commercials and during the show. All the angles show that one of the protesters was so close to Lochte that as he got tackled by security, he bumped into him on the way to the ground. So, let me get his straight, you want to call this guy a liar, you get close enough to touch him and you focus your energy on the judges? Or were you obeying instructions to not touch or confront the talent? The second guy never even moved toward the Olympic swimmer. I call shenanigans and I call it hard!
The Oscars were on last Sunday and Chris Rock put on a clinic of how to show grace under fire. Despite calls for a boycott and suggestions that he should step down as host, Rock delivered an edgy, mostly funny opening monologue. Not everything landed (who’s fault was that Stacey Dash bit?), but a lot of it was fly-yes, that pun was very intentional- (‘Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties – I wasn’t invited’; black folks ‘were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer’; the clip featuring Whoopi Goldberg, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan inserting themselves into nominated films – great sfx btw!) . At one point, he soften a bit, simply saying that all black actors want is opportunity. It was in that moment, I realized something…that’s not going to happen.
There is something uncomfortable in 2016 about any group of capable, creative people asking peers for a chance. People are designed to protect their own self interests; it’s all about survival, so in an industry where it’s incredibly hard to succeed (white or not), we’re asking those who work the most to give up a piece of the pie? Why would they? They know how lucky they are to work AND they know how quickly it goes (especially if you’re a woman of a certain age), so what motivation do they have to diversify (i.e, increase an already crowded playing field)? And please don’t say fairness because nobody cares about equity when it comes to money unless you’re talking about ownership. And please don’t say justice because Hollywood is not the government or law enforcement (and you can see how well those institutions have done by people of color).
We’re asking for people to change what they do and not what they think and that’s a waste of time. Ok, so you throw a couple of nominations out to black folks. Is that the answer? A bigger problem becomes watered down to something superficial and ultimately, can’t be taken seriously. It’s not about how many black actors get nominated. That’s a worthless discussion if we’re not talking about minority writers, directors, crew, producers or the fact that Asians and Latinos have it worse. We’re asking white people to give us a place at a table where nine times out a ten, we don’t like the food they serve!
Enough with that. While I didn’t agree with Jada Pinkett regarding an Oscars boycott, I do agree with her statement via her Facebook page that ‘we must stand in our power’. It’s not self imposed segregation to create films and shows with our own money; It’s called community: a collection of like minded individuals working toward one goal. So, while the solution isn’t knocking on doors, it’s not kicking them down either. It’s going back to your house, inviting some friends over and getting the job done.
Had no clue what I was going to write about tonight, but I decided to stick with the marriage theme this time extending into reality TV. Married At First Sight is a social experiment, but not really, after all arranged marriages have been around for centuries. The real appeal of the show is almost akin to watching Fear Factor; the attraction is the shock and awe of seeing real people doing something you would never do. The premise: three couples are matched by four experts; they marry sight unseen, go on a honeymoon, and move in together over the course of six weeks and at the end decide whether or not to stay together. The first season was mostly a success with two couples staying married. Last season…not so much. Everyone divorced leaving viewers wondering if after only two showings, whether or not the show had run out of steam.
My gut says the show’s problem is in it’s all white panel of matchmakers. The first season, despite not being a fan of the show, I was disappointed to see that the lone black couple got a divorce. When all three pairs split the following season, I figured out the problem: there’s a culture gap between the experts and the participants of color. Personality, character and dealbreakers are all nice to talk about, but much of that stems from where and what they grew up in. If the show wants better success, they need to incorporate feedback from family to give a fuller picture of what kind of person is looking to get married.
Ok, so I had time on my hands and I haven’t written anything for awhile. So why not find something meaningless to overthink? Like Bindi Irwin’s recent DTWS win. It’s not so much about Bindi, but her partner, Derek Hough, who is now a 6-time mirrorball trophy winner. No one else on the show comes close to that tally. He’s talented, for sure, but how has he managed that kind of success while other cast mates are lucky to make it to week two?
After doing some math, there’s no question that the powers that be at DTWS has their favorites and to the favorites go the spoils (with the spoils being the younger, more agile celebs). Over the course of the past ten seasons, there have been twenty-five professional dancers, only thirteen have participated in at least five of the last ten seasons (which was my only requirement to be included in the list below). Everyone is placed in order from the youngest partner age average to the highest:
Mark Ballas: 25 Derek Hough: 28 Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 33 Karina Smirnoff & Peta Murgatroyd: 36 Sharna Burgess: 39 Cheryl Burke: 40 Kym Johnson: 41 Maxim Chmerkovskiy: 45 Emma Slater: 48 Tony Dovolani: 49 Anna Trebunskaya: 51 Tristan MacManus: 59
Fun facts: I was sure Derek Hough would be at the top of this list, but instead, it’s his good friend, Mark. While Derek has danced with older competitors (he won with 50 year old, Jennifer Grey and partnered with 43 year old, Ricki Lake), Mark hasn’t danced with anyone outside of their thirties. Other interesting tidbits: Tristan MacManus’ youngest partner was in their forties. Tony Dovolani is the longest running cast member (appearing in every season except the first). His average is what I would expect everyone to be around, but with a more than two decade difference between him and Ballas and Hough, it’s clear that producers, despite claims to match based on physical traits and compatibility, shield certain dancers from possible early exit by pairing them with likely frontrunners.