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Designated safe harbor:
Originally published at ds-white.com on March 25, 2018.
I’ve been feeling generally under the weather a while now, and for the first couple of weeks I was pretty sure I’d finally caught that flu that’s going around — but I’m starting to suspect that these symptoms are due to the fact that I saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and I just really didn’t like it.
Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure that I can trace at least the whole-body fatigue back to the moment that credits rolled over those two bleak and confusing hours I’d spent watching the story of a town with so little going on that even its dentist takes sides in billboard-related drama but is also somehow big enough to sustain a gift shop the size of my apartment. …
The first time I learned about Emmett Till I was in fourth grade, which is now thirty years ago. I have never once stopped feeling a slight cold wave over my chest at just hearing his name. If it’s more–if it’s a story, a photo, even a painting–that cold wave can turn into a claustrophobic despair, a suffocating rage or a roaring blackness.
It is impossible for me to be unmoved by Emmett Till, and maybe that’s a personal overabundance of empathy. Maybe that’s being a black american woman. Maybe those are the same thing.
Maybe that’s why Zadie Smith’s recent essay in Harper’s Magazine left me cold. She starts with a critical analysis of the movie Get Out, and some of those themes of otherness are universal throughout the African diaspora. But she misses the mark using it as a springboard to examine and ultimately dismiss the controversy surrounding the Whitney’s decision to exhibit “Open Casket,” a piece by a white artists where Till’s ravaged face is the subject. …
(Assume that every question contains a SPOILER for the movie title in bold.)
9. Was that last scene in Dead Calm tacked on because test audiences thought Sam Neill looked like a cuck?
8. The nutritionist’s office in Forks Over Knives is just a rundown house with a placard out front, right? Which is super sketchy, and did anyone else turn it off right away because of that?
7. At the end of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, did I really see Jean-Do’s pupils dilate? …
Tonight we (I and the pets) are watching a version of Macbeth with Fassbender and Cotillard because the Sir Patrick Stewart version was not available on streaming. It’s very Game of Thrones-y from a makeup, costuming and set design perspective (so far). There has also been a, like, three-minute slo-mo battle scene with no dialogue that made me nervous for either the total running time or the edits we were about to see. I am all for trying new things with Shakespeare, but it really wasn’t written with long, dramatic action scenes in mind.
I wonder if, in 500 years, people will be staging adaptations of Aaron Sorkin films where all the characters speak while standing stationary, then move to a new location silently, then speak again. That would be a six-hour episode of The West Wing, easily. …
I came to love Doctor Who as an adult because it respected the sentimental and moral sci-fi/fantasy fiction that I loved as a child, but last weekend’s “Thin Ice” (Season 7, episode 2) made me realize that it had been a long time since I’d loved an episode of Doctor Who on its own merit, for the particular story it told and the characters and situation used to tell it. …
After four bitingly funny and two still-very-good seasons, “Portlandia” is back for a seventh and final spin in a world much different now than when the show premiered and gained instant cult status. Like the Tolstoy truism, all humor seems less funny now in a multitude of different ways.
For Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the most immediate hurdles for their comedy are less political and more personal: is anything funny left to say about the specific brand of mid-market, middle-class twee hipster culture they’ve sent up for six seasons? Does hipster culture even exist anymore?
They’ve got political hurdles to deal with, too, though. The show had a public falling out with the bookstore where the “Women & Women First” bits were filmed — a falling out the bookstore said was due in part to the transphobic nature of those sketches. In addition, “Portlandia” has always been very white, much like Portland itself, and the violence of unexamined white primacy has gotten some media of late (you may have heard). So while the “Portlandia” audience may still find the same kind of jokes funny, they may be less likely to laugh publically. …
Being a wealthy black family in a predominately white world can be an exercise in compromise and contradiction. How much psychological comfort do you give up for convenience and financial comfort in a system that’s generally apprehensive of you and lacks the language or experience to overcome that apprehension?
In Wednesday’s (Jan. 4) episode of Black-ish, the show’s ongoing central conflict plays out via the metaphor of parenting in the age of the internet and immediate access to all of its horrors: Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) are horrified after catching their ten year old daughter Diane (Marsai Martin) viewing porn on her laptop and worry that they’ve given up too much control for the sake of the omnipresent convenience of being online. …
The “Angry Black Woman” trope is nothing new, but it’s been under increased scrutiny since its derided inclusion in a 2014 New York Times profile of Viola Davis. It’s even more dangerous than the “Magical Negro” and “Sassy Black Best Friend,” which also see black personhood as parts of a story centered on white experiences, because it casts black women in the role of villain. Not just furniture in the story, but an active and menacing presence.
I was older than I care to admit when I realized that the bizarrely contentious interactions I had with strangers were not just amusing anecdotes for my (mostly) white friends: As my circle expanded to include more black women, and each of them shared their similar experiences, it became unavoidably clear that the commonality was our presenting race and gender. Our mere presence can read as antagonistic to strangers, who feel no hesitation reacting by instigating conflict — and none of us is born wondering, in those situations, whether we’ve even cast the first stone. …