The recent attack on the offices of the French satirical paper, Charlie Hebdo, has ignited conversations about free speech and inspired a variety of publications to take a stand and reprint some of the offending images. In light of the current events, I wanted to revisit the stir Nicki Minaj caused when her lyric video for ‘Only,’ off her latest album the Pinkprint, dropped. What followed was a firestorm of criticism for imagery that evoked the Third Reich: red flags emblazoned with a stylized black and white Young Money logo, Minaj strolling through lines of rank and file soldiers straight out of a Leni Riefenstahl film. The Anti Defamation League responded by saying that, ‘the abuse of Nazi imagery is deeply disturbing and offensive to Jews…’ Minaj gave what read like a rote apology, but the director Jeff Osborne was beautifully defiant in the face of the wagging fingers: ‘First, I’m not apologizing for my work… nor will I dodge the immediate question. The flags, armbands, and gas mask (and perhaps my use of symmetry?) are all representative of Nazism. But a majority of the recognizable models/symbols are American…What’s also American is the 1st Amendment, which I’ve unexpectedly succeeded in showing how we willfully squeeze ourselves out of that right every day.’ Right to free speech is often the first justification for the protection of offensive language/imagery, but only a few months prior, it wasn’t enough. Osborne’s comments perfectly align with supporters of the French journalists and cartoonists. If drawing an image of the Prophet Mohammed is fair game, so should the use of Nazi imagery.
What’s so special about these Kim Kardashian pictures that they’ve been the talk of the town for the past 24 hours? Ok, I’m not blind; I get it; it has that ‘roadside accident that you can’t look away from’ quality to it and it’s supposed to, but doesn’t anyone remember that she already posed nude for W magazine four years ago? It’s the same stunt but less artistic; in Paper, she looks like she showered in Canola; ‘W’ re-imagined her as a living Balloon Venus, painted silver and looking, honestly, quite stunning. Why this magazine thinks a naked woman is earth shattering in 2014 is beyond me, but when’s the last time the publishing industry did something revolutionary?
If you didn’t watch the live finale last night, check the video to get caught up.
I listened, read and watched the media barrage after Kate Gosselin and her 13-year old twins, Mady and Cara, were interviewed on the Today show and I guess I must’ve been watching something else. Did I think Mady’s slow answers and Cara’s non-answers humiliated their mom? Yes. Did I think that Kate snapping her fingers at Mady and telling her to, ‘use her words,’ was inappropriate? Absolutely, and in hindsight, all of them may regret their actions, but I also think (as a former fan of Jon and Kate Plus Eight) that Cara is not the most talkative child, which might be why Kate focused on Mady speaking so much. Were we watching evidence of the ‘damage,’ as Samantha Guthrie (of the Today show) put it, from years of being in the spotlight or simply two teenagers acting like, well, teenagers?
I felt terrible for Kate, for the way she was being vilified and the for the way Guthrie implied that her children were being harmed by her actions. What’s curious to me is that there’s all this talk of Kate pushing her kids to be in the spotlight, but there was no talk of upcoming TV opportunities or the kids signing with agencies or management. I don’t know what’s going on in the Gosselin household, but I do know that Kate is the primary caregiver and custodian of eight children, none of whom we hear or read about in the press, acting up in school or being all-around terrors. Everyone’s talking about her People cover and her apparent hunger for fame, but no one’s talking about the likely impetus for her doing the cover story: Jon’s exclusive with InTouch Weekly about their children living in a ‘House of Horrors,’ with a pissed-off looking Kate on the front page.
The minute Jon files for custody, maybe I’ll believe that his concerns are genuine; or if Child Services comes a-knockin,’ I’ll reconsider, but until then, Kate Gosselin is a stand up mother who is dealing with tremendous pressure from outsiders, which can crack even the steeliest of individuals. It’s a shame that a five-minute moment on TV has somehow come to define her as a parent. If TV can make or break a reputation, then I submit the family’s last appearance on Celebrity Wife Swap (ok, a bit ironic, I know): Kate runs their home like a well-oiled machine, maybe strict, but her children appeared disciplined and thrived under the structure and what was most touching was how much she loves being a mom; she takes it seriously and it’s the primary description that she has for herself. When she was reunited with her children after the swap, you could see that the love in this family was reciprocal and effusive.
Last week, news broke that Oprah Winfrey had experienced racism at the hands of an Italian store clerk while shopping in Switzerland. She simply chalked up the incident to prejudice, saying, ‘‘I’m in a store and the person doesn’t obviously know that I carry the black card and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am.” The internet was a buzz about how things like this can still happen to Black people despite a tremendous amount of wealth and mainstream success. After apologies from the store owner and the Swiss tourism board, Winfrey later stated that she regretted mentioning the incident at all. It all seemed a bit familiar as back in 2005, Winfrey made similar claims when she wasn’t allowed into a Hermes store after it had closed, and according to the staff, was being organized for a private event. I was surprised I couldn’t find many articles from the sales clerk’s perspective. Though the owner offered apologies, she did add that there was likely a language issue rather than malice on the part of the clerk and after reading an interview in a German newspaper with the clerk (who wished to remain anonymous), I’d have to say I agree. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that an Italian speaking English might not have accurately conveyed what she meant, but that doesn’t make her a racist. It’s also not so far-fetched to think that Oprah, with a movie to promote, offered up a tasty soundbite to get her name trending. I think it’s terrible it comes at the expense of this woman who feels she needs to hide for fear of humiliation and worse, that someone as learned and as well traveled as Oprah would make the assumption about this woman’s character and exploit her in national and international media.
There are some people who look at Huma Abedin and think she’s crazy; others think she’s crazy like a fox. I don’t fall into either camp. Based on what I can tell from her resume, she appears to be an intelligent woman: graduate of George Washington University and long-time aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Since the second scandal with her husband, mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, people have been asking ‘why’ non-stop. Why would a common sense woman forgive her husband after committing such an egregious act? Publicly embarrassing her, not once, but twice? And worse still, making her look like a liar (to some, co-conspirator), cheerfully posing in People magazine as a ‘normal family,’ while he continued sexting. Some have posited that Abedin has political aspirations for herself and for her family that trump the stain of any scandal. That doesn’t make much sense to me. She’s been in the political world long enough to know how hard it can be to come back from minor missteps, let alone major ones and to do so twice is practically unheard of. No, I think this is a woman who is married to a man who has a problem, possibly an addiction, and has decided to stick it out. This is admirable to me, but mine is the minority voice in the court of public opinion.
Apparently, you’re only supposed to forgive your spouse interminably for minor offensives: the sporadic snide remarks or forgotten special occasions. But the big stuff? The painful stuff, the actions which test the concept of unconditional love, that’s the stuff you kick them to the curb for. Marriage is incredibly difficult, not just because of the merging of two separate lives, but because of the commitment to love this person, ‘for better or worse.’ What does ‘worse’ mean? And once you define it, can you love someone through that? And whatever your ‘worse’ is, would you want someone to love you through it?
If a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.
I can’t say I’m surprised or disappointed by the verdict (which is sad). Trayvon Martin joins what seems to be an endless list of black men murdered on suspicion: Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Ramarley Graham…
Graham’s case was an interesting one; the officer gave chase, breaking down the door to his home, following him into the bathroom, shooting him dead. The lack of search warrant and a weapon (on Graham), as well as security footage presented the opportunity to charge the officer with, at the very least, unlawful entry. Officer Haste ended up being charged with manslaughter only to have the indictment tossed out by the judge on a technicality. Prosecution of an officer is rare. Rarer still is a trial and although George Zimmerman is no police officer, the fact that this charge was brought before a judge and jury is a small victory. In the cases mentioned above, only two (Bell and Diallo) went to trial (all officers were acquitted in each case).
The only reason Trayvon Martin’s story went beyond the typical news cycle was because of the public outcry and grassroots efforts to have Zimmerman prosecuted. The next step is to galvanize support for the repeal of the various ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in this country. The maxim that an individual has no duty to retreat from a place where he is lawfully allowed to be, encourages ‘shoot first’ logic and the inconsistent application of the law provides justification to those who have malicious intent (and no witnesses).