Normalizing the Black Family

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE

When Solomon, Eliza, and her two children are both sold, she is sold away from her children. Their new slave owner, William Ford, (Benedict Cumberbatch), feeling guilty when he hears Eliza’s sobs of protests, tries to buy the children, but the auctioneer refuses to sell the them. William Ford takes Solomon and a devastated Eliza to his plantation, where she continues to cry on the journey to the plantation. When Ford’s wife, Mistress Ford, hears of new slave Eliza’s plight she callously responds, “Oh poor thing, well she’ll get over it in a day or two.”

Debunking the Missing Father Myth in ‘Happyness’

unnamed

While many of the film’s events differ from Gardner’s memoir, the film compensates for this with its extremely authentic and loving portrait of a Black father/son relationship that is rarely seen in mainstream media.

‘Desmond’s': Roots, Culture, and the Black U.K. Experience

Desmond's: DVD Collection Seasons1-4

What makes ‘Desmond’s’ unique is its layered and often nuanced portrayal of immigrant Afro-Europeans and their assimilating progeny that are more closely connected to their African roots than any African American TV show I’d ever seen. It also has a cross representation of class in Black British society by showing retired, working class, upper-middle class, college-educated, college-bound, and not college-bound Black people interacting together all the time. Not only are different classes intermingling, but there are also four series regulars who are white, and their whiteness is not the punchline of tired racial jokes.

‘Killer of Sheep’ A Slice of Life of Watts in the ’70s

KillerOfSheepDogHead

The son then picks on other kids, including his younger sister. Stan’s (nameless) wife yells at the kids too, because of her own frustrations, both with Stan’s depression and the “friends” of his who stop by, like the ones who talk about killing someone they know and ask for his help. After he turns them down she goes off on them, shouting, “Wait just a minute you talk about being a man. Don’t you know there’s more to it than your fists?”

The Popes and the White Patriarchy in Shonda Rhimes’ ‘Scandal’

park-624x361

While the show is not overt, at its core the story is about race and gender relations. Race- and gender-specific language is often omitted from the dialogue, yet the meaning is there. Rhimes takes the White patriarchy of America and individualizes its contributors so that neither (most of) the characters nor the audience realizes that they are contributing to harmful White patriarchal norms and internalizing them until the rare moments when they take a step back from the action.

‘Love & Basketball': Girls Can Do Anything Boys Can Do

Love and basketball and so much else

Prince-Bythewood’s ability to draw commentary about the Black family experience in America is so well-integrated we, as the audience, are able to enjoy the emotional ride the characters take us on without the feeling that we’re watching a heavy-handed representation of the social issues of the time.

‘Chef!': The Perfectly Imperfect Marital Eroticism of Janice and Gareth

Janice and Gareth's stressful ideal

Gareth does not “happen to be Black”; the pressure on him to conform to white culture, to avoid limiting his own narrative, mirrors the show’s own need to conform to that culture, to avoid limiting its audience. This conflict is slyly embodied in plausibly deniable food metaphor.

A Labor of Love and the Internet: ‘Cyber-Seniors’

cyber-seniors-comps-06-vector

There’s an unapologetic sweetness to this film, in part because it is directed by Macaulee and Kascha’s sister, Saffron and their mother, Brenda Rusnak. However, to my great relief, it does well to avoid too much sentiment. After all, the same Internet that has given us Skyping with grandma has also given us an endless pit of ugliness.

Seed & Spark: ‘The Song the Zombie Sang’

unnamed

This was perplexing to me. Were people actually more interested in the story of a dead man over a live woman?

The Alchemy of ‘Still Alice’

NExfzWhlijhrAB_1_b

What works beyond a shadow of a doubt is Moore herself. For a long time now, she has demonstrated an uncanny range and power without ever subjecting us to a shred of vanity. Here, she outdoes herself, channeling Alice’s physical, mental, and emotional devolution with an alchemy that is as thrilling as it is harrowing. Her luminous features slacken, her cadences falter, her life force fades. Scenes with Stewart are especially heartbreaking.

The Golden Gogol Awards: Gender, Psychosis and Big, White Rabbits

unnamed

“You’ve got a lot to learn, Myrtle Mae, and I hope you never learn it.” These words, from 1950’s ‘Harvey,’ apply equally to sex and sanity. Harvey’s young women, Myrtle Mae and Nurse Kelly, are open and assertive about their sexual desires and frustrations. It is the older woman, Veta, who is inhibited. She flinches when a bosom jiggles and squirms when discussing sex. Society’s usual concept of sexual inhibition, as a natural innocence corrupted by experience, is flipped in Harvey: female sexuality is the natural innocence that experience disciplines into inhibition. Myrtle Mae and Nurse Kelly have a lot to learn, and we hope they never learn it.

On Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under The Skin’

undertheskin

It’s only until Laura begins to question herself and her place in the world when she observes the women around her in the next scene. She’s in her van and as she listens to the report of the missing couple and child she witnessed drowning, a scene of just women, conversing, talking, and walking begins. For a bit, it’s like the montage of her looking for her male victims, with the foreboding background music to match. Later on this same sort of montage occurs, but instead of the scary soundtrack, we hear the hustle and bustle of the street as our eyes scan the women on the screen.