Recent Comments

Dana Gorzelany-Mostak

Thanks for a brilliant piece. Indeed non-white male Sanders voters have found ways to connect and communicate outside of conventional channels. At www.traxonthetrail.com we have located a huge number of Bernie-inspired songs, many of which were created by amateur rap artists. Of course rap has served as a form of social critique for a long time, but I cannot think of too many instances where it has been used to praise a white politician. Might there be a “Bernification” of rap on the horizon?

Dana Gorzelany-Mostak

Bernie has certainly inspired more “love songs,” but some videos have offered a love fest for Hillary Clinton as well. There are two parodies of Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” (2003) that are particularly good. This one was released recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRdyQjSHcJE. Similar to “Talk Bernie to Me,” “Chelsea’s Mom” positions Clinton as a sexually and politically desirable object. We see the loyal voter/fan (Dave Days) follow Clinton on the trail, as well as watch her “tail,” so to speak. (Her backside faces the camera as she gives him a come hither stare while lounging on the hood on a Corvette and leaning over a pool table.) Again, we see a heavy reliance on standard music video tropes with regards to gender representation and visual aesthetics. While conventional in this regard, the video decenters the idea that young, perfect bodies are the most desirable. The song’s narrative takes its cue from the original video (which starred model Rachel Hunter), but offers a twist in the end—the lovesick boy runs to the podium, passionately embraces his mom crush, and ultimately becomes “first man.” (A far cry from the original video, where the boy “relieves” himself in a bathroom while gazing upon his unattainable love.) While I have not seen any recent examples of queer desire, there is of course this gem from 2007, a parody of the Obama Girl video titled “Hot for Hillary:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sudw4ghVe8.

Perin Gurel

Hi Melissa,

Thank you for this thoughtful piece! The push to consolidate the neoliberal center in this election has been extremely powerful. What is weird to me is how the purported white male-ness of Sanders supporters operates as a part of this rhetoric. I mean, what is more “norm(al)” than a white male? Yet in this instance, white maleness is aligned with the unacceptable margins of political discourse? What is going on?

Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash
Perin Gurel

Hi Ben,

Thank you for this informative post! I have two comments/questions. 1) While browsing the Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash (BSDMS), I noticed a lot of women would make Bernie or Hillary? memes on make-up practices and products, like comparing fancy Sephora eyeshadow to drugstore eyeshadow or badly done winged eyes to impeccable ones. Have you seen these as well? I wasn’t personally able to connect with these since my own make-up experience is prosaic, but I am wondering whether these might be a post-feminist reclamation of the “sexist” meme cycle. 2) Again on BSDMS, I saw a Bernie or Hillary? meme comparing “Memes.” The Bernie box had a green creature I didn’t recognize (obviously I am not cool enough) and the Hillary box had what one might call “a mom meme” with a Minion, saying “Exercise? I thought you meant extra fries.” This makes me wonder whether all memes are “millennial” and dank, or whether these loose millennial communities have begun marking gendered and agist categories within the broader meme category after the meme concept went mainstream. Thoughts?

Perin Gurel

Hi Dana,

Thank you for kicking us off on such an interesting note. There is so much talk about “the enthusiasm gap” between Hillary and Bernie in this election, and the video’s mashing of sexual desire and politics made me wonder what would be an interesting text to compare on the Hillary side. Specifically, your analysis of parody made me think of the scene where the Broad City hipster girls run into Hillary (http://www.cc.com/video-clips/5zgtr5/broad-city-hello—hillary). How do we consider this (staged and managed) spectacle of female-to-female desire with “Talk Bernie to Me”? I think this scene parodies romantic movies and utilizes the dangerous coolness of queer desire to attempt something similar. Does it succeed? Thoughts?

Poems from Guantanamo performance screenshot
Alexandra Moore
Sam Krahn

One of the effects for me of this extraordinary piece is the way in which the music brings to the forefront the emotion but also the complex issues of poetic voice and censorship that surrounded the release of Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak.

For those interested in reading more, the editor, Marc Falkoff, has written about the process. One of his essays is included in the Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights, which I co-edited with Sophia A. McClennen.

Alexandra Moore

I think the book and the video work toward slightly different objectives. Whereas the video frames a defense of Slahi in the public sphere as opposed to the military courtroom, the book is perhaps more complex or open-ended in its effects. One of our jobs as professors is teaching students to read critically, and this book invites, or perhaps better, compels critical reading. The redactions serve as a challenge and a puzzle, and readers want to figure out not just what was redacted, but why. Given that the information in the redactions is often supplied by the editor, Larry Siems, in his extensive footnotes that are based on information in the public sphere, readers are able to trace fairly precisely how Slahi is trying to shape his story and how the US Government is trying to shape its own.

I can say from teaching the book to students from a wide range of backgrounds — international students who are in the US as refugees or temporary students, witnesses to the attacks of 11 September 2001, military families, members of different political parties — that the book engages them and consistently asks all of us as readers to try to understand the “legal illegalities” of indefinitely holding individuals without charge, the use of torture, and how the rhetoric of security is used to silence human rights concerns.

Poems from Guantanamo performance screenshot
Kristen A. Traynor
Sam Krahn

This is a really powerful piece. The music adds the intensity of emotion that the spoken word alone cannot fully capture. It gives the audience an opportunity to contemplate the prisoners’ difficult position and experience.

I can appreciate the difficulty with which a composer must approach a political piece, but without the willingness to face this challenge (and possible backlash), the broader society is losing out and is unable to really visualize the emotions the prisoners are experiencing.

Kristen A. Traynor

I remember when I first saw the story about this book. I was amazed that someone was able to get their story out in this way, even with the redaction. What do you think the impact of this story has been (or will be) on the perception of Guantánamo Bay and government policies regarding the prison? The videos seem to have a real potential for impacting the way that people imagine life at Guantánamo Bay by making them picture themselves as the prisoners.

Kristen A. Traynor

It seems that this film had the opportunity to bring certain aspects of Guantánamo Bay and government policies to light the way that Rendition did with our torture policies seven years earlier. Rendition also starred a famous Hollywood actor with mass appeal (Reese Witherspoon.) However, Rendition grossed $9.8 million at the box office, while Camp X-Ray grossed $9.8 thousand at the box office, according to Rotten Tomatoes. I know that a major difference between these two films is that one was a major studio film and the other an independent film, but I am interested in what your comparisons would be. I am especially interested in what you perceived to be the goal of the Camp X-Ray film in comparison to that of Rendition and whether you believe the filmmakers were able to reach it, despite the fact that they were missing some key elements such as the library itself and personal experience of the prison.