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 floor level 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.
As I look back on 2015, I was thinking of one of my favorite subjects: The Dress. Which team were you? I was white and gold and I remember the one day that I magically able to see black and blue. It only happened once, but it made me realized the importance and the power of perception. Much of what we understand about people is based on our perception which is informed by a variety of things (experience, other’s opinions, genetics, etc). How you saw the dress was strictly based on how your brain processed the light in the picture. Perception is as close to involuntary thinking as someone can get. Why someone thinks something is pretty and another finds it repellent or smells something and thinks it refreshing and another thinks it foul is all more of an internal process than an external one. Our very understanding of the world around us is based on how our neurons click.
I remember how confused I was when people said they saw black and blue or blue and gold. I wondered, are we looking at the same picture? Are they serious? But more than that, I was fascinated. This opened my mind up to how people understand race and public discourse on race. Imagine if you only saw black and blue and people called you ignorant or racist every time you said this. You probably wouldn’t say it much publicly and you might also seek others who see black/blue like you. What if only people who saw white/gold were able to talk about the dress as freely as desired? How much would you really invest in the conversation?
This is simplistic, I know. It also might come across as a defense of racists, but it’s not. This is really an indictment of how we deal with discussions of race. We have to accept that everyone’s perception is very real to them and what they see and feel cannot be ‘logicized’ away; just like we can’t suddenly see white/gold, if all this time we’ve been seeing black /blue.
Everyone’s voice has a place in the conversation. The definition of racism which only allows for white people to be called racist creates an unpleasant dichotomy; same behavior, different treatment because prejudiced just isn’t as serious a condemnation as racist. When people feel like their behavior is held up to greater scrutiny than others, they disconnect and you can’t expect them to participate in productive dialogue.
The goal isn’t to get rid of people’s perceptions or change them, that’s not the world’s responsibility. The objective is to get people to expand their horizons and realize that there’s more to understanding than what we see.
A recent episode of WatchMojo featured a top ten list of celebrities that are famous for no reason. What struck me was that the only ones who made the cut were females. A tired trend on a lot of these lists. Search the term ‘famous for nothing,’ and you’ll see countdowns littered with the usual suspects (reality stars, children of celebs) and topped by the mother of them all, Kim Kardashian. A few years ago, I would have nodded my head to the beat and banged the drum in the hater parade, but now, I see two things:
Self-righteous judgment masquerading as promotion of talent and true art. The 2000s ushered in the golden (or dark, depending on who you ask) age of reality TV as well the communication landscape known as social media. Suddenly, reaching thousands or millions of people was not the sole province of the chosen few. ANYONE can cross the threshold from obscurity into celebrity without having to beg permission from the establishment. So what happens? Card carrying members of the elite don’t want to walk red carpets and be named in the same breath with someone who’s most famous for pooping on a flight of stairs. So, the argument goes that reality TV celebrates what’s wrong with America and gives a tremendous platform for foolishness, so the success of any person in that genre makes a mockery of success. Only hard workers and people with discernible gifts (not hood rats and rednecks) get touched by Midas. But that’s what so great about reality TV… it democratizes fame. But this type of notoriety, while the easiest to attain, is tremendously difficult to manage because it requires YOU. When an actor or singer gets criticized, it’s about what they do (or maybe what they wear), something separate from their individual selves. For a reality star, you’re getting railed on for who you are on a regular basis (multiply that through social media and you’ve got a recipe for disaster). This is not a life that many can handle much less maintain for a long time, so some credit is due to those who survive which leads to…
Why all the hate? Especially for women that have managed to make something of themselves in a field littered with burnouts and has-beens? So many of the tirades that mention people who are ‘famous for no reason’ almost NEVER mention men. For all the Kardashian talk, no one seems to remember that Brody Jenner’s fame stems almost entirely from reality TV and his debut (in 2005 with The Princes of Malibu) predates his step-sisters’. But mentioning a few male examples isn’t the point. In our culture, there’s something infuriating about a woman who figures out how to monetize her good looks or charisma or both in a way that increases her capital and status. We get mad about the pretty twenty-something who marries the millionaire; she gets called a gold-digger (he doesn’t get called any names); we roll our eyes and suck our teeth at the size 2 supermodel making thousands per fashion shoot (but give a pass to the (likely male) designer and agent who require she maintain her size to fit the clothes) and we gossip about that cute (and competent) co-worker getting all the attention from the front office (but we’re not questioning the fact that the ones at the top of the chain are all men). Women who succeed at using their feminine wiles turn the system on it’s head because they win at game they’re supposed to lose. They snub the idea that the only time it’s acceptable for a woman to be pretty and charming is in service of a man. They also turn their backs on conventional wisdom about what it means to be ladylike. Are Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton this century’s greatest feminists? I’m not sure, but they’re definitely doing something.
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.
‘Walk the beach at midnight.’
The dry, blunt cut blond wig.
How old is her love interest?
The British accent.
Minimum age to have a fling (regardless of season).