If you’ve been on social media recently you will have noticed that the rap world is in Game of Thrones level turmoil. Headlines abound. Kendrick Lamar blasts other rappers. Kendrick Lamar scorches other rappers. Kendrick Lamar hostile verb other rappers. In his new freshly leaked song* (*meaning “released by Kendrick Lamar’s people at a pre-established time”), Kendrick Lamar spends a great deal of time “calling out” other big name rappers and declaring himself – in no uncertain terms – the King of both the East Coast and the West Coast (why it took so long for rappers to discover manifest destiny is beyond the scope of this article).
I heard the barbershops be in great debates all the time
Bout who’s the best MC? Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y’all
New niggas just new niggas, don’t get involved
I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhymin’ wit
But this is hip hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas
They dont wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas
What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it? You better off tryna skydive
Out the exit window of 5 G5’s with 5 grand
With your granddad as the pilot he drunk as fuck tryna land
With the hand full of arthritis and popping prosthetic leg
Bumpin Pac in the cockpit so the shit that pops in his head
Is an option of violence, someone heard the stewardess said
That your parachute is a latex condom hooked to a dread
Rap fans ate it up.
That was the point.
You know what else was exactly the point? What happened next. What happened next was this: The rappers who were (and weren’t) named spent the day responding to Kendrick Lamar in kind. More headlines came in, more page views were achieved, more hashtags were made trending.
Obviously the rappers eviscerated in the song played their part (they knew the role well) and responded with come backs, drama and vows to get lyrical on his ass. Secretly, they were probably giddy. The only thing that can make someone swallow their ego is the prospect of making big money to do so. That’s what this latest spat of drama means. Dollars all around. Stoke the fires of manufactured drama and the public will pay for the privilege of being along for the ride, such is our addiction to intrigue.
Big K.R.I.T. (one of the rappers named) said it best:
“This is Gladiator Shit”…Gotta give the people what they want .”
— BIG KRIT (@BIG_KRIT) August 13, 2013
Gladiator shit not in its combative sense, but in its sense of spectacle. Rap has always walked a very different path then that of other genres of music. Calling people out, creating drama and sadly, even actual violence, are all part of its legacy. It’s like a less regulated pro wrestling saga, where age old feuds and convoluted backstories (complete with betrayals, sacrifices and shaky alliances) play out in the public eye and raise the stakes of the music. Tupac and Biggie engineered such a masterful publicity feud that it still plays out daily for their legions of fans who have not forgotten (it also ended, sadly, with both promising rappers dead).
This is all so reality TV. Real Housewives of Compton called by any other name would seem as shamelessly self indulgent. This is no different than what Keeping up with the Kardashians does so well, and like a reality producer who knows when the drama is in need of a boost, Kendrick Lamar recognized that the rap game needed someone to rake the coals.
What this means in terms of money can only be positive. Loyal fans in both camps will feel it is their duty to vote with their wallets. It’s the only way, aside from ineffectually dissing one another on Youtube videos, that they can support “their guys”. Us vs Them is a helluva drug and one that leads to a vested interest in winning something. The feud is amplified further by social media algorithms that act as a feedback loop as more and more people see trending topics about Kendrick Lamar and chime in, making the topics trend even stronger.
Whether or not Kendrick Lamar is lyrically King of the rap game is of little consequence, he’s certainly the King of playing the rap game.
This week’s Over-analyzing rap lyrics comes courtesy of the always great Wu-Tang Clan. But as I was researching, writing, studying, and singing in the shower (my normal over-analyzing process) I made a startling conclusion:
Wu-Tang Clan wrote a Taylor Swift song before Taylor Swift was even Taylor Swift. And it’s called “Ex-girlfriend” and Taylor Swift is probably kicking herself (yes she can!*) for not having thought of it sooner.
“Ex-girlfriend”, primarily rapped by Method Man, is a song about a crazy ex who continues to plague the singer’s life even after they stop being romantically involved. Even though it has more references to guns and “boning” it can still be considered a prototypical break up song, the likes of which Taylor Swift has made famous. For example, at one point Method Man admits that he knew she was trouble when she walked in:
Shoulda listened when my momma told me, soon as I
turn my back you try to fuck my homies, that was then
this is now I got a new friend, ever since
I cut them loose ends you wanna bone me
Yeah, Method, you should have listened to your momma, but you couldn’t help yourself and got entangled with a person you knew was bad for you. Tsk Tsk.
Luckily for Method, he realized what a “mean” person she was and so cut off the relationship, and wants this song to announce to his ex, “We are never ever getting back together”:
And used up, pull your shoes up, all you need’s affection
but you’re headed in the wrong direction
Tryin to make this nigga jealous, with other fellas
All up in my face actin overzealous
Like you want somethin from Meth, I hope it ain’t love girl
Cause I ain’t got none left for you, plus you miserable
Misery Love Company, shit I’m livin comfortably, don’t need no
nigga huntin me down for fuckin round, with his kitty
Talk to him, before my brother put a spark through him
Won’t be pretty, the situation got my whole attitude shitty
And got you actin high saditty with your slut committee
And because Method Man knows that happiness is the sweetest revenge for a lover scorned, he doesn’t hesitate to point out how happy he is with his – heavily armed – new girlfriend:
Let me find out that you fuckin with Boo, and y’all gon’ feel it
Waitin for the day that you front, and catch a lump
from my black butterfly, that don’t pack a lullaby
Sleep on her, she said you bitches tried to creep on her
in the mall and didn’t know she had the reach on her
Pearl-handled twenty-two, my Boo
She go ahead and walk her dogs, and represent Wu
to the fullest, you and hon can shoot the fair one
I’ll bring the bullets, knowhatI’msayin? Stop playin
It’s kind of like he’s saying his new girlfriend made a rebel out of a careless man’s careful rapper, and boy does it feel great. Also, he’s apparently really confident in her dueling ability, so sure in fact, that he even offers to provide the bullets. (Also, I think he’s suggesting she walks her dogs in the mall, which is probably not allowed.)
It goes to show that if you peel back the crude and vulgar veneer of a rap song, even one by Wu-Tang Clan, it exposes a commonality with simple human desires that anyone would wish for: to love, to live happily, and to be left alone by a crusty ass crew. Amen, Method Man. Amen.
Taylor Swift never seemed like a hardcore rapper but if she ever gets tired of winning 18 awards per Country Music Award show, she should consider trying her hand at the BET awards. I see a “Best New Rapper” award in her future, and even Kanye can’t argue with that.
[Author’s Note: I’m no stranger to intense research and exhaustively getting to the bottom of a topic that I plan on writing about, but the sheer volume of Taylor Swift’s body of work is stunning. I had no idea she was so prolific, not just in writing songs but also in making music videos for them. Having only picked up a rudimentary working knowledge of TSwift (kids call her “TSwift”) by simply being alive during the 21st century, I knew I had to do a closer examination if I ever hoped to write this article. That led me to her wikipedia page which… is probably one of the largest wikipedia pages I’ve ever seen. This thing is MASSIVE. Taylor Swift has apparently done more than the entirety of World War II. Her page is at least four times longer than U2’s Bono and about as long as The Rolling Stones’ entry. Next time you see that little “donation” bar at the top of the Wikipedia home page, just realize that 90% of donations MUST go to the massive, and constant, upkeeping and updating of Taylor Swift’s entry. Whether that causes you to donate MORE to wikipedia or LESS, that’s up to you.]
*If you get this reference you are A) nearly as pathetic as me and B) worthy of a prize. Name the song and singer in the comment section and I’ll be impressed and possibly give you a prize. Hint: the reference isn’t that hard, you’re just really unhip.
I love picking on Will.i.am. Unlike other goofballs, it never feels sad or pathetic to pick on him. Partly that is because his music is pretty annoying. Partly it’s because he steals music and then doesn’t apologize for it. But mostly, it’s because I have a sneaking suspicion that he is actually incredibly smart, caring and acts as a positive force in the world.
For some reason, maybe based on that same sneaking suspicion, the Wall Street Journal brought him on a video segment they call “Tip of the Week” and which we should all call “what is that? I’ve never heard of it.” If you had heard of it, you would know that it is a business show meant to help emerging start ups with various hurdles they may have as they try to find their feet in a crowded market. It has the potential to be a thoughtful and useful series for people hungry for tips from people who have “made it”. Instead, it’s a shallow, contrived mess that seems like it could have been produced by the Onion to satirize the very show that it is.
In another segment I watched, a professor explains why communicating with your customers is a good idea. Don’t bother taking notes the first time, just let that truth bomb sink in first and then move to processing it.
Now here is Will.i.am taking a crack at it (or possibly on crack):
Will.i.am, for his part, does seem to try to say something interesting. For about half of the two minute video, he is explaining the benefits of having a versatile logo which is probably a good idea, albeit one that is, I’m assuming, something one learns on DAY ONE of business or design school. Then, perhaps sensing that he needs to spice things up a bit, he randomly veers off course into a discussion on how India is going to be super freaking important in the future because “we saw what Silicon Valley did, we know what China does, but what India is going to do for the world is…” and then he loses me. Something about English, a different alphabet, and symbolic language. I think. Will.i.am seems pretty sure though, so let’s just assume he’s right. He’s got a feelin’ wooohoooo, that India’s gonna play a big part, that India’s gonna play a big part, that India’s gonna play a big part.
With his advice firmly in mind, I think I’m ready to finally launch my very own start up!
As the Ender’s Game movie adaptation release date edges nearer the heat is turning up for the writer of the book whose vocal homophobia is coming back to haunt him. While Card has never shied away from saying just what he thinks of homosexuals, the increased support for gay marriage and the timing of his movie have had the combined effect of making him rethink his image if not his position.
In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, Card provides the rationale for why you should not boycott his latest cash cow and, if anything, feel sorry for a man who just wanted to publicly express his intolerance in peace and without fear of backlash:
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
Orson Scott Card
The statement isn’t long so I think it would be apt to discuss it all. It’s amazing how its sheer concentration of condescending offensiveness allows us to get such a clear picture of the way Card’s mind works. I guess that’s why he’s a great writer, he really knows how to get to the core truths of a person, even himself.
Part one, or Denial: Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
The apology opens up with a flat out denial that Ender’s Game could even possibly touch on homosexuality or gay rights because gay rights didn’t exist in 1984.
To the uninitiated, that statement might seem… well… insane, but if we take a step back and look at through the lens of Orson Scott Card it is completely logical. That’s because Orson Scott Card still believes that homosexuality is a choice, and furthermore, that it’s a choice that people make specifically to subvert traditional “society”. Gay people want to destroy our society and they won’t stop loving each other until every corner of America is reduced to rubble. You got to hand it to Card, he does have a pretty strong view on the power of love.
Part two, or resignation: With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
You win, gay people and society haters. Chicken Little has thrown in the towel. While I do think, and hope, that he is right and eventually every state will recognize gay marriage (perhaps, unfortunately, in the unheroic but still effective way Pennsylvania is currently paving the way towards gay marriage), Card seems to think that because his side “lost” (as if civil rights should have sides other than “what’s right”), the battle is over and therefore he shouldn’t be persecuted for something that happened so long ago, way back to like a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps Orson Scott Card hasn’t seen this map:
Although, considering gay rights didn’t even exist until at least 1985, I guess he probably considers this a bit too fast.
Part 3, or victimhood: Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
If Orson Scott Card had simply published the first paragraphs I probably would have wrote him off as just another out of touch bigot who doesn’t deserve to even be given a response, so idiotic is his position, but this last part seems to be a more and more common position now that homophobia is becoming viewed as what it is: pathetic and shameful. The Onion’s AVclub satirized this ludicrous response better than I ever could, but I’ll take a swing at explaining it.
Now that more than 50% of the country views gay marriage as a civil right and ethically justified, the old position of institutionalized bigotry that had gotten used to being unchallenged and culturally encouraged is starting to make its proponents look kinda bad. Even worse, when one of its most vocal proponents has a new movie coming out which is now threatened because of the terribly offensive things the writer said about homosexuality, it’s all together unfair. I mean really gay rights supporters, isn’t boycotting a man who has given support in time, money and writing to preventing gay people from marrying because of his personal views laying it on a bit thick? Stop persecuting Orson Scott Card just because he has made it a priority to persecute others!
Ignoring the part where Card thinks that this issue has somehow been completely resolved, the premise that homophobes are in danger of being victimized is preposterous. For proof, we should look to another instance in our history that required us to rethink the way we conceptualized marriage and how people were allowed to participate in it: Let’s think about interracial marriage. Or rather, let’s think about the fact that other than overt racists and octogenarians, no one thinks about the legality of interracial marriage as a divisive issue. But it was. But now it’s not. It’s called progress, and what’s crazy about progress is that unlike the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, you can change your mind on an issue. That’s what most of America is currently doing. That’s what Obama did. That’s what Orson Scott Card doesn’t want to do. Which is fine, but don’t expect to not experience some embarrassment when you express a view that everyone else has evolved away from.
Don’t worry, Orson Scott Card, I still think Ender’s Game is a pretty great book but your personal views leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe those views (which, you just proved you still believe in, having learned absolutely nothing while the world moved on) will affect ticket sales, maybe they won’t, but that’s not intolerance, that’s you getting left out in the cold because you were too busy having a temper tantrum and forgot to grow up.
Well, I hope you’re happy. You begged and begged. You signed petitions. You wrote emails. You created “buzz” from the ground up. Finally, you got your wish and the powers that be greenlit an Arrested Development season four. Only now it would be released in full on Netflix instant. I bet you were so happy, weren’t you? You probably posted immediately about it to Facebook. You probably didn’t even bother checking your newsfeed to see that 50 of your friends had already beaten you to the punch. It’s not your fault. You were distracted by which clever “inside joke” to use. You decided on Mr. Manager. Yeah, Mr. Manager was pretty funny.
Time seemed to stand still. You would sit there staring at the clock ticking away and it was unbearable to think you still had five months to go before the new season came out. You couldn’t take it! Ugh. You tweeted that exact thing – “I can’t take it! Ugh.” – and all of your friends knew what you meant. You got a ton of retweets.
You poked and prodded. “Did you hear, they’re making a new season of ‘Arrested Development’?” You asked co-workers, cashiers, strangers. “What?!” You’d scream when they said they hadn’t seen the show. You’d make it sound like you were offended, but secretly, you were delighted. You lived for this. Missionaries landing in the New World for the first time must have felt the same way. Finally, some potential converts.
Around a month ago, you noticed a change. Everyone was talking about the new season. Twitter could barely handle the load. All of your favorite blogs were buzzing. Even cable television (yuck!) had promos for it which was weird, like a radio ad for Pandora. Orange was everywhere. So was Jason Bateman. You almost forgot to call off work for the release day and tweeted about it. It got a ton of retweets.
Here’s the debate. Do you “live tweet” it at midnight or should you wait to blog about it after a few episodes? What would Walter Cronkite do? Didn’t journalists back then always carry around a notepad? That was like livetweeting, right? You decide to livetweet. Let the bloggers get scooped.
You read somewhere that the premiere would account for roughly 5% of Netflix’s total bandwidth. This was bigger than the moon landing. You felt ready. All day you had prepared. If the power went out during the show you would kill yourself. You tweeted that. No retweets. They’re probably all getting ready for the premiere.
It begins and it’s all there. The whole gang. The music. The familiar atmosphere of a night spent with the Bluths. But then a joke doesn’t hit. You begin to wonder what happened. You tweet. Your facebook is refreshing increasingly pessimistic views on the season. Someone you went to high school with writes “This new Arrested Development blows”. You are worried he’s right. You tweet that you didn’t like the first episode and a few of your friends favorite it.
You want the old show back. That’s all you ever wanted. You want to be seven years younger, sitting alone in your studio apartment relishing every witty inside joke. Now it just seems like some show. You want it the way it was. Jason Bateman seems a lot more tired. Everyone seems slightly less fresh faced. This isn’t what you signed up for. Not to mention, you can’t figure out any of the inside jokes. They are all so new. Where are the old ones? You begin to worry that maybe you aren’t an Arrested Development expert any more. Now you’re just watching the show like everybody else. You’ve lost the ability to identify potential converts. They’ve all seen the episodes by now. They are just like you, and even worse, you’re just like them.
What were you thinking? Did you expect this to live up to your nostalgia laced fever dream? That’s a laugh. It was never going to. Even worse, the show was out of your control from the second it got picked up. The writers could do whatever they wanted with it and you’d just have to sit here and watch it. It would never be as safe as those first three seasons sitting comfortably in a box set in your TV stand. It was going to make things different.
It might even take time to fully grasp the show. What if it takes seven years? What if you aren’t able to livetweet? How are you supposed to consume this? There’s no manual on how to digest a show that isn’t meant to pass through you in seconds. You’re used to television that passes from eyes to finger tips as fast as the nerve impulses will allow. Now, you feel full after a half hour. You feel bloated and tired. You begin to wonder why you ordered this at all. You didn’t even want this. It was too much, you weren’t ready. Or maybe you were past ready.
…getting himself into trouble. I suppose it’s too much to ask of a man who has made his millions off the exploitation of drunk girls on Spring Break, but didn’t his mother ever teach him that when he doesn’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all? He was recently convicted for false imprisonment and assault of three girls in his Bel-Air home described here:
The incident leading to the charges took place in January 2011. The victims, three women, met Francis at Hollywood’s Supper Club where they were partying in honor of a college graduation.
When the night was winding down, Francis “grabbed one of the women by the hand and took her to his limo,” elaborates L.A. Now. The other two women, thinking this was their lift to their car.
However, Francis’ bodyguard and driver whipped out “sheriff’s badges” and prohibited the women from leaving the limo. They were taken to Francis’ home, where he tried to separate one of the women from the trio, and a physical fight ensued.
During the scuffle, Francis grabbed one woman by her throat and hair, and slammed her head to the floor four times.
The women eventually broke free, and despite cautions from Francis not to do so, called 911 immediately to report the incident.
Seriously, what is wrong with this guy?
Well, as if to drive home the point of just how much of a scumbag Joe Francis is, he went on a rant about his “wrongful conviction” to The Hollywood Reporter which, if his goal was proving he is a psychopath, then he accomplished with flying colors.
“I want that jury to know that each and every one of you are mentally f–ing retarded and you should be euthanized because, as Darwin said, you have naturally selected yourself,” he shouts. “You are the weakest members of the herd. Goodbye! And if that jury wants to convict me because I didn’t show up, which is the only reason why they did, then, you know, they should all be lined up and shot!”
Besides an affinity for eugenics, the rant speaks to a mind that has clearly broken with reality. It exists in a plane of hyper-egotism that ceases to have any limitations. Throughout the pathetic statement is a disgusting sense of entitlement that, I think, could easily justify taking three women hostage and physically assaulting them for not submitting to the whims of “the great” Joe Francis. Perhaps, we should update the Miranda Rights to include: Anything you say to The Hollywood Reporter can and will be used against you in the court of law.
Of course, because this is the age we live in, Joe Francis issued a quick apology that was about as sincere as instance that he is innocent. 2013 might have a big contender for the very best non-apology and we’re only in May!
I deeply regret the remarks attributed to me in the interview with the Hollywood Reporter. They were hurtful and do not reflect my true feelings. While I disagree with the jury’s verdict as I am completely innocent of the charges and intend to appeal, I was afforded a fair trial, and if I lose at the appellate level, I will reluctantly but fully accept the jury’s verdict. This was a 6 hour interview with the Hollywood reporter where I detailed to the reporter all of the evidence and why I believed the evidence showed I am 100% innocent. The reporter also interviewed my attorney David Houston for over 3 hours, but failed to include one shred of evidence from the trial that proved beyond a reasonable doubt my innocence. I did NOT commit a crime at all whatsoever. All that was publicized were my most intemperate remarks that were borne out of frustration but with no intent to cause anyone harm. I am not, nor have I ever been a violent person. My comments are appalling, but anyone who has ever been wrongfully convicted of a crime that they did NOT commit would be as frustrated as I am. I want to apologize to all the jurors, the court, the City Attorney and my attorneys for my comments that were manipulated by the media, and please know I am truly ashamed of my conduct. I am truly, truly sorry. I hope everyone will understand I was not being serious and that I fully and deeply apologize for my remarks.
For some reason Joe Francis seems to be stuck on the fact that if he were proven innocent it would somehow justify him saying he thinks a jury of his peers should be lined up and shot. Joe, that isn’t really the problem. As you said, you had a fair trial, and even probably a little bit in your favor given the amount of money you can put forward to hire a good attorney (who is probably regretting ever taking this case, as we speak). You’re not being victimized, but you are showing that you seem capable of committing the crimes you were charged with.
And as with any good non-apology, Joe insists that he wasn’t being serious. Would that change anything? Would the rant have looked any different if it were serious? There isn’t any indication during the rant that he isn’t being serious. Of course, maybe he means that if the jurors were lined up and shot per his wishes he would have felt a pang of regret. A wacky misunderstanding! “You idiots!” Joe would cry. “I wasn’t being serious!” *cue laugh track*. No, luckily even though Joe was probably being serious, no one takes him seriously.
Last nights Billboard Music Awards was full of insanity. It also might have been one of the most interesting awards shows in recent memory because at least it tried. It was full of watercooler talking fuel, flying kicks and a demonstration to the younger crowd why Prince is the greatest. I would love to include a video of Prince killing it but it’s Prince so good luck finding one. Here is a Perez Hilton article that has the video embedded (for now).
Even though Miguel’s painfully awkward and painfully painful Power Ranger kick to a fan’s head will get the most attention (and by this point I’m sure my grandparents have even seen the memes so if you’re working on one delete it now, you’re too late), we can’t ignore that Justin Bieber. Got. Booed! Take that Justin!
Justin Bieber was booed at the Billboard Music Awards, despite winning two awards and performing twice.
The “Beauty and the Beat” singer was accepting the Milestone Award when the crowd seemed to erupt in boos. Looking a bit confused, Bieber went on to assert that he thinks only the “craft” and his music should be considered, arguing that “none of the other bull” mattered.
Despite the deep-seated schadenfreude we as a society have towards Justin Bieber and despite the fact that he makes this ill will worse by constantly characterizing himself as some sort of victim of “haters” trying to keep him down (the “everybody said I couldn’t do it” routine is getting beyond tired, especially now that he has close to a trillion dollars), we need to keep some perspective here.
Justin Bieber got booed, which I guess serves as a validation to the millions of music critics out there who are brave enough to stand up to a 19 year old boy singing primarily for 13 year old girls and are willing to put their reputation on the line to make fun of Bieber’s music. What a relief it must have been to finally see people hating Justin Bieber. That has literally never happened before and I bet it felt good to finally prove that your musical instincts didn’t lead you astray. You’ve proven once and for all that you are a straight shooter who knows when a song is garbage and no sorry I can’t go to the Pitbull concert with you, I’ve, uh, got a thing.
But before you rejoice too much at a clear victory for legitimate music let me say this: Justin Bieber was booed by people who willingly went to something called a “Billboard Music Awards” show. These people, collectively and on average, probably have the worst taste in music in any room in the world. Getting booed by this crowd is like NASA getting criticized by Michelle Bachman: I find it hard to care.
It is also unclear why they were booing. It was probably for reasons as dumb as:
1. Selena Gomez fans who still feel jilted by the breakup.
2. One Direction fans who hate Justin Bieber for the same reason Star Belly Sneetches hated the ones with no stars upon thars.
3. Maybe they were huge Anne Frank fans?
So, music hasn’t been saved after all. In fact, its as bad as it always was. Justin Bieber won some awards. He got booed. He called himself an “artist…[who] should be taken seriously.” And maybe he should be. Remember the Jonas Brothers once said they were the next Rolling Stones and screw those guys right?
- Justin Bieber: Booed at the Billboard Music Awards! (popbytes.com)
- Justin Bieber — BOOED at Billboard Music Awards (tmz.com)
Yesterday, in an op-ed piece for the New York Times Angelina Jolie wrote a moving and courageous account of her decision to have a double mastectomy due to a very high risk of developing breast cancer given her genetic background and family history. It was intimate and objective at the same time, and it could do a world of good for women who are at similar risk but are afraid to undergo a life altering operation or afraid of the stigmas they will be attached with after. It also put a well needed light on preventative medicine and how much more in control we are when it comes to fighting illness. Science has been making great progress towards predicting future disease, it’s about time our social norms caught up with the medical advancements. It’s no longer enough to simply “wait and see” when it comes to our health. Angelina Jolie, always on the cutting edge, boldly and unflinchingly went where many will soon follow and took control of her health.
I was surprised to see that so far most of the response from social media has been overwhelmingly positive. Her article was having the desired effect, as the conversation about breast cancer, predictive science, and preventative measures began emerging in the wake of her announcement. Many people tweeted well wishes, or that they were inspired by her courage, or spoke of their own experiences with cancer. It was enough to make your spirits soar. But I couldn’t get too excited because I haven’t forgotten Jason Collins. He became the first openly gay major sports figure in America, and in similar fashion, the initial response was one of overwhelming support and positivity, and then it turned kind of ugly. And then it turned really ugly:
Soon, the dialogue became less about Jason Collins’ groundbreaking and courageous act and instead turned into a character assassination targeting Jason himself, but also – inexplicably – Obama, the media, our “politically correct” society, and, of course, Tim Tebow. If I’ve learned anything from that sad affair it’s that if we give this thing a day or two, terrible people will come out of the woodwork to say terrible things. Angelina Jolie probably doesn’t care because Angelina Jolie rocks (and if you bring up Billy Bob Thorton or her brother and ignore the last decade of her rocking in every way imaginable then I get to bring up that time in college where you did that idiotic thing that was really embarrassing and you hoped would never be remembered).
Here are the two prongs of what we can expect, illustrated by two harbingers of poisonous vitriol:
1. “She’s rich, therefore what she did wasn’t brave at all.”
As seen by:
Yes, Angelina Jolie has a ton of money. Obviously. But that doesn’t somehow prevent her from being at risk for breast cancer. In her article, she explains why this is a deeply personal decision that she made with her children in mind and her future at stake. And while she can afford the best treatment, she also can expect the most scrutiny. As a public figure, she has, in the eyes of many, become public domain. She knows this. That’s why she wrote an article about it, explaining her decision and that’s why it’s news worthy. (Bonus eye roll if the person saying this respected Mitt Romney for his wealth but hate celebrities for theirs. It’s almost like capitalism can afford some people “unfair” advantages huh guys?)
2. “Those glorious breasts! What a tragedy!”
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Yes, shed a tear, Andy. The breasts that were never yours are now gone. How will you ever cope with this terrible, terrible news. This is objectification at its finest. A glorious cesspool of entitlement and creepy misplaced adoration. It blows my mind that people can feel so attached to something that they have never actually seen except in movies and of which they have zero chance of ever interacting with (Brad Pitt withstanding, of course). But, going back to this idea that her body is public domain, we find that people feel, in a very real way, that they’ve lost something. Nevermind that her choice gives her a better chance of being around a lot longer to do real and lasting good work in the world, or what it means to her family to know they don’t have to worry, or the sheer importance of her own commitment to staying alive as long as she can, because you know, boobs. (Bonus eye roll to the many people who have joked about buying her removed breasts. You guys are a real treat.)
This is the “new normal”, a phrase I fully intend on running directly into the ground until it’s completely meaningless. We HAVE to provide two perspectives on any event. No matter how ridiculous one side is, they need to be given equal footing in a discussion. We saw this with Jason Collins and the ESPN Chris Broussard debacle. We see it when creationists sit alongside scientists to discuss evolution. We see it in every political story that flares up. Freedom of speech has somehow turned into “every voice is equally valid”, which just isn’t true. We have become a culture of point-counterpoint mentality, when in many cases none should exist. Somethings are just wrong. We need to be brave enough to say that.
We are so far into the future that the idea that living under a rock would prevent you from keeping up with the news is painfully naive. Is there a WiFi hotspot near the rock? Don’t you have 3G? We need a new metaphor. Something that screams “21st century!”. Wait. Wait. I think I’ve got it:
If you’ve been living on the International Space Station for these past weeks, alone but for the stars, you may be the one person who still doesn’t know that Jimmy Fallon has been named “The King of Late Night”. The King is dead, long live the king. Even if you have been floating miles above Earth, you probably can’t say you’re surprised. Jimmy Fallon has been a rising star on the late night scene for years and recently he went supernova with shrewd, calculated, hilariousness.
Before I go any further I would like to say that this article owes a lot to an article I read several months ago (when the Tonight Show was just a twinkle in Jimmy’s eye) in the New Yorker that is great. You should read that. I’ll wait. If you don’t come back, I’ll understand. Oh Good you came back. Hey again!
While Jimmy Fallon totally deserves the accolades he gets, and his consolidation of Late Night power through guile and savvy makes him about as cunning as any member of House Stark on Game of Thrones (“Sweeps week is coming”), his inevitability is what is unsettling. It’s also an opportunity.
With the quickly changing demographic make up of the United States television viewership and the increasing emphasis we’ve placed on multicultural inclusionism, the white, maleness of Late Night sticks out. Oprah and Ellen have dominated the daytime scene but there seems to be a barrier standing in the way of a show with a similar presence starting after the sun goes down. Why? I don’t have any hard data but I would imagine women and minority groups keep the same hours as white men do so the audience is there, they are just being ignored or passed over (and I’m not sure which is worse).
It seems like perhaps the problem is that in today’s marketplace of talent, white and male has been the rule for so long that getting someone not white and male seems unthinkable. That’s not the case. If your talent scouts need some inspiration, tell them to go online. Okay, I know they are probably already online but tell them to get off Facebook and head over to some of the podcasts and video series’ that have garnered large cult followings based on word of mouth and grit alone. These creative forces have been operating on shoestring budgets (or no budgets at all) and little help and still (or perhaps because of that) managed to produce compelling, edgy comedy. There are plenty of people ready to break into the big leagues that might ordinarily be overlooked.
The opportunity I spoke of earlier is this: Jimmy’s slot at Late Night is now vacant. Let’s get someone in there that’s fun, exciting, innovated but DIFFERENT. I want to be confronted with a new perspective. I want to be challenged. I think a lot of people do. Here is how far we’ve come: We elected a black president. Twice. A majority of Americans support gay marriage. 21 and Over (not a great movie, but that’s okay) had an Asian LEAD CHARACTER. Rachel Maddow is running circles around other news desks. Television should be pushing the frontier of our culture but in this case, its lagging sorely behind. I know, it’s scary for a media empire to take a plunge into (nearly) unexplored territory (Arsenio Hall paved the way, but by now the road has since fallen into disrepair), but fortune favors the bold and I’m willing to bet there is fortune to be had for the Network that gets it right first.
I would love to hear your suggestions on who you think could pull off the not-so-easy Late Night gig. Post them in the comments. Or aggressively shout them at your computer screen.
“Ebony and Ivory” this song is not. Brad Paisley and LL Cool J got together and decided to bury racial tension once and for all. The result:
Edit: The video of the song was taken down (how unexpected?) so instead I’ll post this video of Brad trying to explain what the song meant on Ellen and struggling (how unexpected?)
It appears that all it takes to end racial friction (particularly between confederate flag shirt wearers and “do-rag” wearers) is to conclude that General Sherman destroying towns during the Civil War more than makes up for holding a race of people in bondage for hundreds of years with the willingness to fight and die to keep that system in place (and leading to the war that caused said general to destroy towns).
What isn’t explored is any sense of self reflection on the part of Brad Paisley on whether it is appropriate to wear a symbol of so much pain and divisiveness. Its message is simply “Look, I’m sorry you are offended by my shirt and what it represents but I don’t mean it like that.” and what it’s really saying is “get over it.” Neither message feels particularly enlightened, and despite LL Cool J’s lyrical acceptance of his “apology”, it doesn’t seem to be enough to justify continuing to feel okay with the confederate flag.
The idea that if a wrongdoer or a justifier of that wrongdoing (“justifier” not being a word) can find any example or instance of an inverse wrong suddenly makes it even is common but foolish. During the Trayvon Martin media frenzy, George Zimmerman defenders were quick to cite examples where African Americans killed white people as if that some how absolved George Zimmerman of wrongdoing (it doesn’t).
Where’s Tim McGraw and Nelly when you need them?