Thanks for the comment Regina. I tire of the same narratives too. What has been irking me as of late is not so much that black women can’t be sexy without someone calling us “hoes” and “ratchets” and such, but that our current moment seems to JUST be about black feminism (and general mainstream feminism) JUST as an expression of a very limited form of black female sexuality. I mean, can we get some diversity up in here? “Hip-hop feminism” as espoused by Nicki (which one can argue is more like “gangsta rap” feminism only) and “Beyoncé” feminism (which although complicated reminds me so much of Olivia Pope) seems to be all we get these days. I remember back in the day we had a fuller spectrum of what black female sex power looked like: we had Lil Kim AND Queen Latifah; we had Da Brat AND Left Eye; we had Salt-n-Pepa AND Roxanne; hell Remy Ma, Bahamadia, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and on and on and on. Now? FOOEY! Badu and folk like Janelle Monae don’t get the shine like Nicki, Bey, Olivia, real housewives, etc. Why not? Hell i don’t know, but I am tired. Can we get something other than this http://youtu.be/LDZX4ooRsWs and this http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/08/25/beyonce_vma_performance_w...?
I enjoyed this post.
As I read I continuously turned over in my head discussions about black women’s pleasure politics and empowerment in pop culture. While discussions of black women’s sexualities and identities remain somewhat archaic - I tire of the narratives that leave black women as victims or as sexual deviants - the question remains how sexual prowess and pleasure for black women can change the direction of the pendulum for black women’s sexual economies in pop culture?
I loved Key and Peele in the first season. It pushed the envelope in useful and meaningful ways as a pop culture scholar - especially the “Luther” skits which are hilarious and a jarring wake up call of the respectability and power politics you reference in your post.
I agree that they follow in the trajectory of Pryor and Chappelle but I wonder about the crossover effect Haggins talks about in Laughing Mad. Now that Key and Peele have “made it” or “crossed over” I recognize a shift in the focus of their skits. I’m not quite sure what this means yet but I’m wondering if the direct commentary will make their humor less complicated and water down the impact they have on satire and humor as a tool of social critique.
I find it really interesting that on so many levels this clips does so much of the ideological work you have thoroughly excavated and explicated. It explodes with teachable moments like the ones you describe and further complicates our relationships to the significations these images circulate, giving us opportunities to contextualize how we as media scholars understand the myriad ways we navigate these images that students are not fully privvy to at the start of a course. What an interesting clip!
Thanks for this comment Nina; yes, the sense of context that gets communicated as challenge/street cred in the Bring it On clip and as communitas/celebration in the Get on the Bus sequence is all but lost on the folks in The Office. But The Office is so intentially self deprecating, while Bring it On — in this sequence and others, attempts to sell us an ostensibly “authentic” insider aesthetic, as performed through the bodies of Solange Knowles and her black and brown ladies’ crew. Consider the “krumping” scene below, (also from Bring It) where Hayden P. is again posed as the watching and learning audience, even as the film attempts to capitalize on the krumping dance style popularized by African American teenagers from Watts in the 2005 documentary Rize—a film which bears its own complex relationship to the circulation of culture.
Thank you for this insightful commentary. This is another prime example of neoliberal bootstrapism. Don’t blame the structures, blame the individuals. Ugh. I feel like it’s also really telling that an ostensibly progressive show like The Daily Show took years and years before hiring a black woman for their program. I like to think that that for TDS it isn’t just “add women and stir” though, since Jessica Williams actually addresses being a black woman in a political and structural context.
Thanks for your comment Morgan! Petersen, Lewis, Chapman and Pinkava probably have a less-than-favorable perspective on the Braintrust given the manner in which they were ousted, but while some have their directorial duties rescinded and ultimately leave the company, others stay on and are still seemingly involved in feature-film production (even if this is not in the capacity as director). In the case of The Good Dinosaur and recent news concerning its production - including the need for voice actors to rerecord new lines of dialogue as a result of drastic plot alterations - we may never know the true story behind these high-profile personnel switches. As a Disney film rather than one made by Pixar, Frozen benefited from Disney’s Pixar-esque “storytrust”, but I absolutely take the point that the possible involvement of a collaborative structure for Frozen from the very beginning may have yielded a smoother path during production. I guess I now understand the idea of a Pixar ‘Braintrust’ as only something we hear about in the popular press when the model is needed to step in and ‘save’ an animated film: it is a name activated only when a production is in dire straits. But I understand too that members of the Braintrust have some involvement along the way, and their input is not solely felt when something is not living up to Pixar’s own high standards. John Lasseter oversees the production of every Pixar film in his role as Executive Producer (in addition to his role at Walt Disney Feature Animation as Creative Advisor). Perhaps the specific ‘Braintrust’ label has come to be a shorthand to connote a particularly troubled project in need of an overhaul (to help explain delayed release dates, director switches, and so on), rather than necessarily used to describe the collaborative culture with which the studio has been increasingly branded?
Shabooyah always reminds me of the bodily aspect of the call. As a little girl, it was a “cheer,” much like the Bring It On clip. The word play was just as important as how inventive your moves were, and that bodily performative aspect seems to be one of the other things that gets lost in translation/appropriation, if you will. i like how your piece highlights how Shabooyah starts to break down and lose its potency as it travels far afield its origins. Bad enough when folk in the Shabooyah circle spit a sorry rhyme with a wack move; moving into territory where the rules of engagement aren’t even known is painful to watch– a womp, womp, wommmp kinda funny.
Raechel, you’re so on the money with your critique of this recurring sketch. And like “hipster racism” your focus on the “empty nod to feminism,” is what, I think, allows comedy writers and performers to consider themselves off the hook, but actually they’re perpetuating damaging stereotypes and punching down rather than up.
Thank you for this, Diana. I think these questions (what counts as “feminism,” can there be an actual “rape joke” that “works,” etc.) are important and complicated. I just started watching Inside Amy Schumar (only on Season 1) and have had a similar reaction—confused why it’s being lauded as “feminist” and also, often times, laughing a lot. I was particularly horrified when, during one of the stand-up portions of the show, she made the “everyone has been raped a little bit” joke. Just horrifying, and definitely *not* feminist. I am equally confused as whether or not this sketch counts as “feminism.” Or, rather, how is it *funny*? The video game obviously makes the content (like the straight white couple) more palatable, but I’m not sure it’s funny OR feminist. Like you, I’m left with more questions than answers.
My final thought is that if it is feminist, it is a mainstream feminism that lacks attention to intersectionality. Of course, it is horrifying and not okay for women to be assaulted or raped (ever, ever ever), but I believe an intersectional feminism would also not necessarily support working hard to keep women (or anyone) in the US racist, imperialist military. Protecting US female soldiers ignores the women (and men and children) abroad who those same women are complicit in violencing.
Thanks for the post.