Entries from January 2010 ↓

“What You Hear, Kemo Sabe?”: Does Avatar Merely Revive Old Movie Stereotypes of the “White Savior”?


James Cameron’s Avatar has been hailed for its medium-busting visual effects and astounding commercial success. Since its release on December 18th it has repeatedly topped the box-office in multiple countries, and is now the highest-grossing film in history, having taken in nearly $1.9 billion worldwide.

But, underneath the breathtaking graphics and lifelike performance capture, does the story of Neytiri and Jakesully, above, just retell the story of a white person finding himself by “going native”? Is it merely a fable about Europeans who would take over non-white people, save for the leadership of a Caucasian guy who leaves his reprehensible, bloodthirsty tribe, in order to cast his fate with the natives?

Avatar has famously been compared to Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning, 1990 work, Dances With Wolves, which also raised similar charges regarding the consistency of the “white savior” myth. Disney’s Pocahontas has also been i.d.-d as Avatar‘s spiritual predecessor, though, perhaps no more pointedly than in these two YouTube clips, the first of which remixes video from Avatar to audio from Pocahontas‘s trailer, and the latter which does the reverse.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

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Today, this afternoon, Friday, April 25, at 2 pm ET, on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, my guests are:

Rebecca Keegan, author of The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron;

Dr. Mikhail Lyubansky, a professor in the psychology department of Psychology at the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign. He authored “The Racial Politics of Avatar: Part 1” and “The Racial Politics of Avatar: Part 2” for Psychology Today‘s web site;

Dr. Raymond A. Winbush, author of three books on race issues, and director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. His post, “Avatar, Africans and Racism: Some Brief Reflections on James Cameron’s Tale about White Supremacy,” appears on his blog, Reparations for Enslavement and the Blackside of Things.

They’ll talk about Avatar, race, and these issues, with the goal of giving listeners some clarity on them.

chrismatthewsBut first: After the President’s state-of-the-union address this past Wednesday, Chris Matthews, right, of MSNBC’s Hardball fame, opined that Obama “is post-racial, by all appearances. I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”

I’ll talk with Jesse Washington, race and ethnicity editor for The Associated Press, and author of the essay, “Do Blacks Truly Want to Transcend Race?” about what Matthews meant, and what it means for Obama and our national understanding of the subject.

You can hear these thoughtful individuals’ ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Foul-Mouthed Amazing Little Brat.


Mere seconds into this excerpt from the “red band” trailer—one containing harder, R-rated content—for the upcoming, vigilante superhero fight-fest Kick-Ass, you become painfully aware that darling little Mindy Macready, above (played by Chloe Moretz), is not your ordinary, little, enjoying-some-ice-cream-with-her-dad (Nicholas Cage) type.

Then it gets worse.

Then it gets really better.

I won’t spoil it except to say, 1) the language is NSFW, and 2) if they can legally do this with pubescents, then I’m gettin’ my doggone Gunslinger Girl live-action adaptation. No bet.

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Big Pimpin’? Ginormous Pimpin’.


Brothers, I’m talkin’ to you: Is there a special someone that, this Valentine’s Day, you want to completely knock off her feet?

If so…I can’t help you.

But if you wanna blow her off the planet, I’m your man.

Check this out: I talked to my personal florist, Calyx & Corolla, and, if your plastic is the right color, they’re ’bout to hook you up.

How would your girl feel walking into a cubicle stuffed stupid with, not a dozen, not two dozen but, 1,000 red roses?

Lemme put it to you this way:

Fulfill her wildest dreams with the most extravagant, most passionate, most romantic Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever sent – 1,000 roses (that’s more than 80 dozen)! Every corner of the room will be blooming with the richest, most radiant, long-stemmed red roses she’s ever seen. And to make the day even more romantic, we will also include the petals of another dozen roses. Use them to create a path to the 1,000 Roses surprise, or sprinkle them on the bed or in a candlelit bath for two. She’ll LOVE it, and we guarantee it will be a Valentine’s Day neither of you will ever forget.

This is for true playas only. So, I know you won’t even blink that the price of three days and nights of resulting freakiness is one thousand long-stemmed red roses & rose petals, $1,995.95.

Eat Cheese…And You “Don’t Stop.”


laughing_cowWhen The Laughing Cow, right, France’s Jura-based makers of spreadable cheese wedges, above, recently started airing their latest commercial, something about the cloppy, jug-band, oddly sexy beats underneath sounded familiar. But I couldn’t place ’em.

So I racked up a little internet research, and, voilá: The track—called “Don’t Stop”—is by the UK’s Patrick & Eugene. It’s from their 2008 import, Everything & Everyone.

51paurvjxwl_ss500_Patrick & Eugene? Yes, Patrick Dawes and Eugene Bezodis, whose debut domestic release, Altogether Now (Birds Bees Flowers Trees), right, is out today, featuring new tracks next to their best-loved songs.

On the P&E web site, the bushy duo describes their sound as

whistles, bells and bongos combined with banjos, ukuleles and sunshine pop vocals to produce a unique but accessible music for post modern vaudeville, with a nod to Monty Python, Derek & Clive and even Woody Allen.

screen3If you can rememeber back to 2006, their ditty, “The Birds and the Bees,” was compellingly clamped to Volkswagen’s reintroduction of their classic Rabbit. The ad featured of black and white subcompacts dipping into dark tunnels and alleyways, right, only to re-emerge, followed by gray, black, white, and multi-hued lil’ uns. (Multiplying like…rabbits, get it?)

If you can’t remember that, though, ne’er worry: “The Birds and the Bees,” “Don’t Stop,” the slinky, captivating “Llama” (hear it on their MySpace page) and eleven other compositions fill out the new CD. Plus, I’ve packed this post with YouTubes, below, for your listening and viewing pleasure. Dance, kiddies, dance.

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You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

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Dumping Out the Coco: O’Brien Late Night, Back To The Future Edition.


The more things change, the more they stay exactly the same. At least that’s what Gawker commenter Ken Hunt said after excavating this eerily prophetic, 1998 Late Night with Conan O’Brien clip, below.

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The School of Hard Knocks.


“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.”

paula-giddings-headshotToday’s broadcast continues my discussion with scholar Paula Giddings, right, author of When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. This time, we’re talking about about her latest book, Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. (Part 1 aired on January 1st. That’s Ida B. Wells-Barnett, above, in a 1930 photo, taken the year before she died at 68. For a picture of her when she was not yet 30, follow this link to our January 1 post.)

Giddings and I resume our conversation, speaking on, among other subjects, Wells-Barnett’s success in politically organizing Chicago; an effort, the author holds, whose branches, leaves, and fruit reach to the White House today.

Then, our conversation took a turn, and during the second part of today’s broadcast—the last 20 minutes—we spoke about the life of the Black scholar, especially the female Black scholar.

It was frank and insightful, and it naturally rose out of the issues we were addressing the moment before. So, it was the best kind of digression one can have with a guest.

Paula J. Giddings is the Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor in Afro-American Studies at Smith College, and the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 22, at 2 pm ET.

You’ll hear it by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Beatin’ You and Your Boy Bloody.


After seeing the outrageous trailer, below, for Kick-Assabout a crew of self-styled superheroes—I’m hot to check this action-comedy masterpiece-to-be. That’s the drool-worthy one-sheet, above. [turning to you] Hey…lower your hands, buddy. I’ll smack you up.

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GoodFellas, and Why It’s the F#@%in’ Ninth Wonder of the World.


It’s difficult to say how much I remain in awe of director Martin Scorsese’s violent, 1990 opus, GoodFellas, above. Meanwhile, on the internet, my use of Wikipedia is second only to the attention I give Google.

So, imagine my surprise when, looking up GoodFellas on Wikipedia, I came across a detail that blew up my appreciation of both.

It was a single sentence, the fourth paragraph in the Wiki page that chronicles the film’s rich history:

“The word “fuck” is used in the film approximately 300 times,[2] ninth most in film.”

Utterly blew my mind. Not the 300 times part. The “ninth most in film” part. My first, immediate thought was, “Somebody counted that?”

Turns out someone did, on the Wikipedia “List of films that most frequently use the word ‘fuck.'” I won’t even spoil it for you, except to say that 1) 2005’s fecal-tongued The Aristocrats came in #183 on the 187-film list, and that 2) Spike Lee, for all his sanctimony, has a place of honor on it. As they say, seein’ is believin’. Check it out.

Palm Some Poms, Yo.


Hey, chocolate-covered fruit freaks: Do yourself a favor and grab a bag of absurdly delicious Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranates, above. My wife picked me up a 2-pounder of these sweet chewy suckers a month or two ago and, whoa. Knowing me, I’d have probably gone for the Dark Chocolate Covered Cranberries. Glad I didn’t.

Anyway, Brookside Foods is clearly better at food than they are marketing: When you go to their web site, Pomengranate is all the rage on with the fans. But it’s not even on the product page. Well, follow the crowds, kiddies. Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranates 2 lb. bag, $18.61, Amazon.com.

Justice’s Drum Major Still Leads.


Most are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. image, above, his sonorous voice, and with many of his speeches.

Bu few, perhaps, know that King was a published author who wrote six books during his lifetime: Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958), The Measure of a Man (1959), Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can’t Wait (1964), Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), and The Trumpet of Conscience, published in 1968, the year he was assassinated.

All of these works are available on Amazon.com, and can provide us with a deeper, more profound appreciation for and understanding of Dr. King’s ideas and great legacy.

Why not commit to reading more of what he said, himself, in his own hand? It would be another way to honor the man who led the march we still walk.