Month: April 2013

Love Me For Me, Not What You See

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0406265/

Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel written by author Zora Neale Hurston was made into a movie starring actress Halle Berry who played the infamous Janie Mae Crawford.

Their Eyes Were Watching God introduces the motifs and symbols behind race and hair by use of character Janie Mae Crawford, whose long, straight hair and biracial roots are the sources of triumph, defiance, and independence for this woman unfit for classification.

A striking image, this movie poster for the movie Their Eyes Were Watching God, based on a novel by author Zora Neale Hurston, draws you into the premise of Janie Mae Crawford’s life. Played by actress Halle Berry, Janie Crawford is a strikingly beautiful woman of pale skin and silky hair. Despite the paleness of her skin, one can see a twinge of darker African roots in Janie. Her gaze is one of intensity and confidence, a factor that is highlighted within the novel.  Janie’s confidence comes from her uniqueness, being the only fair skinned individual in a town of dark and jealous black people.

Janie’s hair symbolizes a direct connection to her biracial roots, as her grandfather was a white man. Her hair is a symbol of whiteness in the novel as it brings out many of her other Caucasian characteristics, making her the envy of her social circles. Her long flowing locks symbolized her independence and lack of conformity to the standards of her fellow black town members. At Janie’s age, it was unheard of for her hair to be down and flowing, rather than pinned up. Seen as a direct moment of defiance and insolence, it showed Janie’s rebellious spirit and impartiality to the social norms.

Jealously, a common theme in the novel is the very thing that Janie has the ability to thrive on. Her confidence is boosted by the lack of support from her peers and she is able to excel by her own standards, despite the disproof of a majority of those she comes in contact with. Her whiteness comes with the heavy price of hatred and failures to develop successful relationships. A lonely person, Janie’s moment of connection comes after meeting Mrs. Turner, a black woman who adores whiteness. Much like the relationship between Birdie and her mother in Caucasia, Mrs. Turner and Janie exceed the odds and build a relationship around their adulation towards whiteness.

Caucasia features the lives of Birdie and Cole, two sisters born to a white mother and black father. Cole embodies the physical features of her father as a chocolate-brown, curly haired girl. In contrast, Birdie embodies the physical characteristics of her mother as a pale-skinned, straight haired girl. The two sisters are separated and forced to live with their physically-similar parents, leaving each to form bonds with their respective parent. Much like Janie, Birdie has an identity crisis when surrounded by her black peers, but is able to find an ally in her white mother.

Reference:

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.

Senna, Danzy. Caucasia. New York: Riverhead, 1998. Print.

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Only A Dream: A Post Soul Approach to the Civil Rights Movement

Drawing of Martin Luther King Jr. published in Ebony Magazine 1980 http://www.ebony.com/archives#axzz2RVU8BU37

Drawing of Martin Luther King Jr. published in Ebony Magazine 1980 http://www.ebony.com/archives#axzz2RVU8BU37

The most recent aesthetic to black culture is the Post Soul Movement. This aesthetic critiques the narrowness of the ideals formed during the Black Arts Movement. A specific example of this can be found in the Post Soul critique of the Civil Rights Movement.

This drawing was created in 1979 and published in Ebony magazine in 1980. Martin Luther King Jr. is depicted in the background with his hands folded beneath his chin. He is looking out at something the audience cannot see, making him seem pensive. Next to his head is a quote that he made during his famous I Have A Dream speech. The quote reads, “I have a dream…little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Below Martin Luther King are the images of four black children. They are all holding hands. The first three appear to be close in age while the girl on the end seems to be much younger. They are all smiling. Across the group are the words, “1st class citizenship.”

Post Soul aesthetics assure that there is a black identity however, a major critique of the Black Arts Movement is that black identity was too narrowly defined and that identity is much more complicated. Post Soul theoreticians will argue that Civil Rights Movement did not provide the outcome that was promised and like black identity, the African American experience in today’s society is much more complicated than the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement previously anticipated. One could even say that the dream that is depicted in the picture above is still just a dream. Even during the Black Arts Movement, people of the same race were judging each other by the color of their skin and a part of that goes back to the narrowness of the period. Critiques such as these can be seen in Post Soul novels such as Caucasia by Danzy Senna and The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty.

The black experience or identity definitely exists but Post Soul theoreticians want to know how broad that identity can be. The outcome that was sought from the Civil Rights Movement was very limited and the reality has found to be more complicated and more broad than was imagined. For those that argue for the Post Soul aesthetic, it is important to recognize the dream and identity that were hoped for while continuing to search for that broader meaning.

 

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Masculinity and Basketball Shoes

Image Via Freshness Mag

Dozens stand in line waiting for the latest Jordans.         Image Via Freshness Mag.

It may seem odd to think that every year, dozens stand in huge lines for hours to purchase basketball shoes. Is there a point to this practice? What is the benefit of spending hundreds of dollars on shoes that some never even wear to play basketball? Status, and coolness.

The above image shows approximately 50+ people waiting in line for the Air Jordan 11 Concords on December 22nd, three days before Christmas. The crowd appears to be mostly male and mostly people of color. It is the evening, it is raining, and, judging by what they are wearing, it appears to be quite cold. There is a barrier to keep people in line, which shows that the organizers of the event expected a large population to show up to stand in line and buy the shoes. This suggests that, in the past, many people have shown up to wait in line for shoes like these. The people that are most visible in line appear to be quite stylish, wearing hats and expensive-looking shoes. This all occurs in a city, with bright lights helping the people in line to see as darkness falls. The line appears to extend all around the block.

Typically a male-dominated activity, collecting shoes is a sign of status. These shoes can range anywhere from $100 to $1400, with some even extending to $7500.Therefore, by wearing such expensive shoes, males are showing that they can afford expensive things and thus play into the gender role of being wealthy enough to take care of someone. A male who wears expensive shoes is asserting his masculinity in the same way that a woman who carries a designer bag is asserting her femininity by showing that she knows what is and is not trendy.

A stereotype that we see in Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle is that, in order to be a Cool Black Guy, young black males must possess the right kinds of shoes. There are entire sites dedicated to keeping self-proclaimed sneakerheads up to date on the latest shoes. When he begins getting into basketball and becoming a cool guy, Gunnar  is encouraged by his friend to buy new shoes. There is an entire section titled “The Shoes” that is dedicated to Gunnar’s struggle to find the right pair of basketball shoes (Beatty, 88). Gunnar is teased when he picks up a cheap pair, and is instead led to “ a section of the store where the state-of-the-art, more expensive models were on display” (Beatty, 89). There is a clear reverence for these shoes, and Gunnar is forced to sign a document saying that if his shoes led to a crime, he would not blame them.

At times, people who engage in this practice are mocked and viewed as materialistic and foolish for being tricked into wanting an item of clothing badly enough to stand in the cold rain just to spend a few hundred dollars. Especially when it comes to items that are viewed as a part of black culture, people tend to be more critical.

It is important to think about the other items that all types of people stand in lines for for supposedly illogical reasons. Foolish as it may appear t some, the practice purchasing shoes like the concords can be a cultural and meaningful experience not meant to be mocked by outsiders.

Citation
Beatty, Paul. The White Boy Shuffle. NY: Picador, Henry Holt and Company, 1996. Book.

Poe. “Freshness Mag.” Niketown New York Air Jordan 11 Concord Launch. 23 Dec. 2011.
http://www.freshnessmag.com/2011/12/23/niketown-new-york-air-jordan-xi-retro-concord-launch-event-recap/

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“Color blindness”: A Crutch to Avoid Contreversy?

“Why Are You White?” Still frame from Mark Waters’ 2004 film “Mean Girls,” with character Karen Smith’s line, subtitled.

Multiculturalism in America’s schools is controversial, and ironic. In an effort to bring equal opportunity to the classroom through “color blindness,” educators make race taboo, failing to honor the diversity of their students. These classroom standards dismiss personal identity and perpetuate the divide between peers of different ethnicity.

The still frame image above is from the movie Mean Girls. The image displays a girl who looks like she is in her teens. The girl is white, blonde, and blue-eyed. As she is asking the question, subtitled below “So if you’re from Africa, why are you white?,” she has a perplexed look on her face. Behind her we can see the outline of other figures in what we know from the movie clip below is the cafeteria. Her facial expression does not look sarcastic or joking, but rather her curiosity seems sincere.

From the movie clip of the same scene, we can infer more about the meaning of the still frame. Karen Smith is sitting at the lunch table with Cady Heron, the new girl from Africa, Regina George, the blonde queen bee in the middle, and Gretchen Wieners, the brunette on the far right. After Karen asks the question, Gretchen looks at her with muted horror and concern. She scolds her, “Oh my God Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re white.” This is the key line, in which the film offers a satirical look at multiculturalism in schools. Gretchen’s response to Karen highlights the taboo nature of any kind of race discussion among students. Gretchen’s reprimand, in which she conveys her shock at Karen’s lack of lunch table tact, uncovers a kind of conditioning and adherence to what she believes are obvious social skills/rules.

“You just don’t ask people why they’re white.” You just don’t talk about race. You don’t even see color. You’re colorblind.

Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle also satirizes on the irony of the simultaneous pride and silencing of multiculturalism in schools. He talks about his third grade teacher at the “Mestizo Mulatto Mongrel Elemantary” in Santa Monica, who wears the shirt, which reads the crossed-out-words, “Black White Red Yellow and Brown” and then leaves the word “Human” clearly written at the bottom, without a line through it. This is his teacher who claims to be colorblind and who provided Beatty’s first “type of multiculturalism: classroom multiculturalism, which reduced race, sexual orientation, and gender to inconsequence” (Beatty 28).

The “inconsequence” which Beatty identifies at “Mestizo Mulatto Mongrel” is the same inconsequence that occurs at North Shore High School in Mean Girls. It is a combination of conditioning, convenience, and fear, which eliminates the possibility for valuable discussion on diversity, and isolates peers.

In a way, color blindness is to multiculturalism as invisibility is to black identity. The commonality lies in the fact that both color blindness and invisibility serve the majority as blinders that erase the validity of both multiculturalism and black identity.

Both color blindness and invisibility exist as a crutch for which the majority to lean on as they sidestep the issues of racism and inequality in schools and beyond.

Citation: Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Waters. Paramount Pictures. 2004. Film.

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K-Pop vs J-pop: Worlds Apart. Noob Addition

If you’ve hung around the internet long enough you’ve definitely come across both J-pop and K-pop and if you’re a noob you probably believe there is no difference between them. However, they are aesthetically, and musically different and the way they are marketed is also very different.

In recent years around the internet there has been a massive flame war going on between fans of K-Pop and J-pop and non-fans about how similar they are, who’s better and what sets them apart. Whether is praising either side to the utmost or making rude or racist remarks to flare up fan hate, the debate is ongoing and in truth pointless. Both genres poses different qualities that make them stand out and here I’ll try to separate and explain just how different they

Let it be known that I am fan of both J-pop and K-pop and have no biased towards either side. Go that? Good, now let get to it.

J-Pop LM.Cs' lead singer Maya(left) and lead guitarist Aiji(Right)

J-Pop LM.Cs’ lead singer Maya(left) and lead guitarist Aiji(Right)

Members of TVXQ

Members of TVXQ

The way in which Korean Pop stars and most Japanese pop artist dress is inherently different in a rather obvious way. When comparing a group like LM.c to a group like TVXQ, Japanese pop artist dress in a manner that is heavily influenced by punk rock and Lolita Fashion which is heavily reliant on exaggerated hairstyles, hair colors and articles of clothing that would usually never be seen in public on a regular day; not even in anime typically. Korean pop idols on the other hand dress in a way that is more close to how normal people dress which makes their sense of style more relatable not only to their mother land fans but fans across the world. Korean idols are dressed in attire that their fans can wear on a normal day while still being stylish and cool. Contrary to that Japanese Pop stars wear clothes that can sometimes be borderline fetish clothing or something that a nineteen eighties final fantasy character would wear, which is fine but outside of conventions it will be frowned upon. In their music videos their styles change a bit to more glamorous attire with a lot more jewelry but the same contrast of style is still present.

Korean pop starts are marketed to the public in an image that their fans can adorn to be more like their favorite idols if they so desire. However, with a Japanese pop star, there sense of style may be socially acceptable in their native country however, international fans who want to dress like their favorite stars may hit a road block because they style in which they dress may not be a common fashion statement for their area. There is also a huge difference in the amount and style of jewelry they wear. Japanese pop stars wear more spikes and studded attire reminiscent of the punk rock image, whereas Korean pop can be seen with this same trend, although they tend to wear smoother jewelry like watches and necklaces.  If there were words to describe the styles of both genres of Asian music Korean pop music would be described as overall mature with a stylish and smooth flare and a very refined look. Japanese pop on the other hand could be described as childish or edgy in some cases with more rough features or features that are more childish in nature.

BoA in casual Attire

BoA in casual Attire

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

The music produced by Korean Pop stars is also on a different scale and draws its primary influences from a different genre than Japanese Pop. Korean pop seems to draw more influence from the nineties to early two thousand era of pop and hip hop music, relying a lot on electric beats, drums and hip hop style lyrics to produce sound. Japanese Pop on the other hand predominantly relies more of either heavy rock influence with guitars and drums or solely electric beats to give a metal sound or a kids bop type of sound. Korean pop music tends to be more aligned with today’s western pop and R&B music industries music. Japanese pop music sounds more like the punk rock era of the western music industry in the early two thousands. Even in the way that the two go about performing music videos is vastly different. In Korean pop videos the performers are the main focus of the video is the artist or band and predominantly focus on them and their music. It also incorporates a lot of complex choreography that takes a lot of practice to perform in sync as they do as seen in EXO-K’s video Mama. Contrary to that, Japanese Pop is more about telling a story with the video that sometimes and other times not explains the symbolism of the song. It uses less complicated dance moves and in a lot of cases does most of the dancing in one such as with an E-girls music video such as One Two Three.

Korean pop music is predominantly heard by people who like artist for their music without attachments to anything else. Their music is popular because of them as artist, be it for their looks or the actual quality of their music. When a K-pop artist appears in a score for a Korean Drama, they are there to help popularize the K-drama and not the other way around such as the Loveholics featuring one of their older songs Flowerpot in the K-drama Coffee Prince. Japanese pop on the other hand is more known for being a part of Japanese anime and there are several examples of this such Moan Kurosaki’s debut album HOTD being a collection of ending themes she did for animated series High School of the Dead. Another example would be LM.C sponsoring the anime Red Garden in which there logo and paraphernalia made numerous appearances and also featuring two of their singles Oh My Juliet and Rock the LM.C as the two ending themes of the series. There are some instances where a Korean Pop artist does a themes song for an anime such as TVXQ’s brilliant remix of the very first theme song of the smash hit One Piece called We Are! By Hiroshi Kitadani. It should also be noted that there are a number of J-pop artist who are also Japanese anime voice actors.

LiSA single Oath Sign for anime Fate/Zero

LiSA single Oath Sign for anime Fate/Zero

The way in which Japanese pop idols are marketed is a bit different from your typical K-pop group. As far as it is known Japanese pop groups don’t have an extensive training program anywhere near as rigorous as the Chaebols systematic training system and there is also no base or upper age limit in Japanese Pop. Singers can go on singer well after their forties and there are some quite young Japanese pop artists as well. There is also a seemingly more American style to recruiting new blood into the industry because based on talent more than looks. This is not to say that there aren’t J-Pop idol groups out there though. A lot of Japanese pop groups of this day and age find their niche in the anime industry as it is one of japans highest grossing forms of entertainment and a lot of artist debut their singles as opening or ending themes for new or ongoing series; as a side not opening themes tend to be more popular than ending themes. One such example would be the solo singer LiSA debuting her 2011 single Oath Sign as an opening for the series Fate/Zero and Crossing Fields for the anime Sword Art Online, both of which were wildly popular series in 2011. There are many other veteran groups that have made a name in the fan world for performing several themes for a wide number of anime such as Uverworld and the W-inds.

Korea on the other hand has a very extensive program for creating and molding artist into the ideal artist and marking tool. Korean idols being at a young age, usually teenage years, and begin training them for a certain number of years, with regular evaluations of skill and talent before putting together a select few chosen recruits from thousands to be a new face in K-pop. They endure log amounts of dance practice because K-pop involves a drastic amount more choreography than J-pop, vocal training to assess how good their singing talent is and they also make sure they are visually pleasing to the eye. They may or may not be selected for a group and if not they continue to be evaluated until it becomes their time to shine or they are dropped from the company. There is much circulation around the net about K-pop artist having to enter into slave contracts that bind their every move and give the company they sign with almost total doctoral reign over their personal lives.

The life span of most K-pop artist is fairly short unless you’re like mega popular and transcend boundaries like Seo Taiji, in comparison to their sister genre across the way in which some K-pop artist go through a 5 year span and end up doing something else with lives like going to law school. The reason their lives as artist are so short is because they have to pay for managers of groups, good choreographers for performances, vocal coaches, and living accommodations as well as marketing teams which can begin to rack up cost; not to mention that they still have fifty to seventy other kids that are still waiting for their chance to shine. Overall the reason is that it becomes to expensive to keep up the cost of one when there are many behind them.

Although they both have strengths and weaknesses any reasonable fan  can agree that there is much fun to be had enjoying both genres of music and that neither is perfect. Hopefully this will help you distinguish between the two the next time your derping around the internet.

References:

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