I think I might start putting up an occasional entry about my graduate class. This semester, for the first time, I’m teaching the course “Race and Media” and it’s actually going really well. I keep waiting for the conversation to die down, but each night it seems that there are more and more questions and issues thrown around in the discussion.
I had a class on race and media at the University of Iowa. It was taught by Tim Havens, who did a great job keeping a discussion going without going the traditional discussion leader route. That said, I also had a race class taught by the irreplaceable, essential Mary Campbell. I’ve tried to combine the two approaches, while adding in a number of readings I’ve picked up over the years and, like I said, so far it’s going really well.
This week, one of the readings came from Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s book Racism Without Racists, and this particular excerpt really stood out to me. In this chapter, Bonilla-Silva is examining the oft-cited phenomenon of people declaring tolerance, but harboring beliefs that suggest otherwise (in other words, “I’m not a racist, but…”). I talked about it with my race class and I think the discussion went well, but I just can’t stop thinking about it:
“First, readers need to be reminded that I see racism as a problem of power. Therefore, the intentions of individual actors are largely irrelevant to the explanation of social outcomes. Second, based on my structural definition of “racism,” it should also be clear that I conceive racial analysis as “beyond good and evil.” The analysis of people’s racial accounts is not akin to an analysis of people’s character or morality.”
This could easily represent a fundamental disconnect between academia and the “real world”–if I call you a racist, you’d probably get offended. However, I think the distinction is an important one.
If I know that a certain stereotype exists (e.g., “White people like sour patch kids”), that doesn’t mean I believe it. Hell, I can understand the wonderful complexity that is Santa Claus, but I don’t think he’s climbing down our non-existent chimney anytime soon. In other words, my ability to recognize that stereotype doesn’t mean I’m going to buy random White people delicious sour patch kids.
That said, can you really separate recognition and belief when it comes to race? When Bonilla-Silva writes that analysis of racial accounts is not akin to an analysis of people’s character or morality, I have to question that, at least on some level.
This was further complicated by, of all things, an episode of House. No, this isn’t a diatribe against the steep decline of a once-great show (though after a weekend of watching episodes from a few seasons ago, I could write volumes on the subject. I’ll let the A.V. Club handle it). I was watching a rerun on USA and the patient-of-the-week was a woman who had turned into a functioning psychopath. They were quick to point out that not all psychopaths or sociopaths are killers, but I couldn’t help but wonder why not. I mean, the symptoms are all there–aren’t they just waiting for opportunity?
Yes, I understand the compartmentalization of these kind of issues, and I get that there is a difference between understanding stereotypes and internalizing them. But if you understand stereotypes, haven’t you already internalized them, at least to a certain extent? If I’m at the store and I’m supposed to buy a snack for some White person and I don’t know what they like, if the first thing that pops into my mind is sour patch kids, doesn’t that make it an issue? Of course I would shrug it off and dismiss it as a stereotype, it feels like the damage is done. There are a number of fascinating studies (with fascinating methodologies) showing that people tend to respond faster in an emergency if the victim is of the same race. If my schema instantly connects White people and sour patch kids, in an emergency, doesn’t that make me a racist? And shouldn’t there be some sort of consequence for feeling that way?
I realize there are more questions here than answers, but I’m fascinated by the discussion, and I hope I can find an answer (or what might help explain this anyway) by the end of the semester.
So, it’s almost been a week, and I’m doing everything I can to look on the bright side of life (Monty Python style). Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Okay, it’s definitely depressing about the elections, especially because we’re not used to what’s normal. Bush’s first midterm elections were the first in decades that an incumbent president actually had an increase in seats within his own party–normally (like clockwork, actually) a president is elected and two years later his party is not in control of at least one house of Congress. Hell, the only reason it worked for Bush was 9/11. His second midterm election he lost seats. So, this is pretty typical, but to hear Fox News talk about it they just toppled the world.
I think what many are forgetting (including myself at times) is that the Democrats still control the Senate and the Presidency. So I highly highly doubt that the GOP can repeal healthcare. Anything they send up to the Senate will get voted down, and even then, if it somehow miraculously makes it past the Senate, Obama will bust out his veto pen and there’s no way the Cons can pull 2/3 override. Plus, Americans don’t like having benefits taken away from them, and already a majority of Americans do not want healthcare repealed. The best Republicans can do is challenge the funding (and, again, I can’t see Obama letting that get by him). Repealing healthcare is something that gets the base excited but has no realistic shot of being overturned (like abortion).
There was actually a pretty interesting article in the Times about how the Republicans have these huge, ambitious ideas but absolutely no plans to go along with it. The last time that happened? When Gingrich took over the Congress under Clinton, after which the Republican party got ridiculously carried away then were then collectively bitch-slapped by Clinton and the voters. Even Obama’s toughest critics on the liberal side (saying he’s not liberal enough, which I think has merit) have said they’ve noticed a change in the administration in the past six months, suggesting that they’re finally realizing they actually have to play the politics game. So, he’s not unaware of what’s happening (and I’ll take Chicago-style Obama any day).
We have three things going for us right now (besides the majority):
1) The Tea Party. The problem with so many conservatives is that they just know how to fire up their base (Tax and spend! Death panels! BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!11!!1!) but then do whatever the hell they want. The Tea Partiers are believers (like Sarah Palin), which is what makes them so terrifying. However, I could seriously see them gumming up the works for the Republicans, who kind of assumed (like Fox News) that the Tea Partiers were basically Republicans. There are going to be plenty of crazy people with microphones who believe their own press releases.
2) The Republicans have been fighting the easiest fight imaginable–against the idea of the Democrats. It’s like dating a girl and wondering what it would be like to date a different one. In your mind, it’s idealized, until you actually start dating that person and the Kunderan kitsch comes crashing down. Same thing here. The Republicans keep going on and on about what they would do if they were in power, but…now they are. They’re part of the machine and the average Independent voter (who really does determine who is elected) is going to be more wary of what they say (it’s exactly what happened during the last Presidential election). Sure, Republicans love to play the victim card even when they’re holding all the power, but their problem is that they play it so loudly, which leads us to…
3) The economy is improving. It’s moving as slow as fuck, and it doesn’t have the rapid turnaround that all of us were hoping for, but it’s slowly, steadily improving. Obama and the Dems implemented a number of policies, and EACH ONE was bitched about by the conservatives. And not just voted against, but bitched and bitched about. If the economy continues to improve, it will be very difficult for Republicans to point to anything they did as making a difference.
Now, for a bonus, long-term number 4:
Did you see Harry Reid was re-elected? It was actually kind of a shock–he was down between 6 and 7 percent in the most recent polls before the election, and we all assumed he was gone. But you know who was underrepresented in polls and actually turned out strongly for Democrats?
Why did this happen? Because conservatives, who should appeal to Latinos (especially in terms of religion and family values), keep on railing against immigration reform, and so more and more Latinos are growing up hating conservatives (kind of the opposite of the Cuban population, who always saw Republicans as fighting Castro). The conservatives could have taken a different approach, but they reached out to Tea Partiers instead. And what is their stated first order of business when they take office in the spring? Tabling Obama’s immigration reform, which would have (among other things) extended citizenship to undocumented immigrants.
This could get interesting.
While President Obama continues to work toward immigration reform (or talk about it, anyway), a disturbing poll released a few days ago shows that this may be a moot point, at least for the time-being.
Quinnipiac University recently conducted a national poll asking about immigration issues and how it might be impacting Obama’s polling numbers (which, admittedly, are less than impressive). From the look of things, the poll seems to be legit (as opposed to the joke of a polling organization that is Rasmussen). It supports a lot of traditional opinions about immigrants and enforcement of immigration laws, but there were definitely a couple of disturbing trends.
First, the usual suspects. According to the Los Angeles Times, the poll had a “strong anti-immigrant tilt, favoring, by 68% to 24%, stricter enforcement of immigration laws rather than integrating illegal immigrants into society.” This is problematic, but by no means does it stand out. Traditionally, Americans have always favored reducing the number of immigrants entering the country. Seriously, there could be one immigrant entering the country per year, and it would still be two too many.
As if that wasn’t a big enough problem, Americans also will overestimate the number of people of color in this country, along with the number of undocumented immigrants. And I’m not just saying they’re off by one or two. Researchers call it “innumeracy,” and it is evident when Whites are asked to calculate the percentage of the population that is Black, Latino, and Asian. The most recent of these studies was conducted in 2005 by Richard Alba, Ruben G. Rumbaut, and Karen Marotz in their article, “A distorted nation: Perceptions of racial/ethnic group sizes and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities.” They found that a number of Whites actually estimated that, in the United States, Whites were in the minority (already!) and that the rest of the country was 30% Black, 22% Latino, and 16% Asian. For me, the kicker was that they estimated 12% of the country was American Indian (and all I could think about was the Chris Rock routine–after all, around the time of this study American Indians clocked in around .17% (yes, point one seven percent–I did not mess up the decimal point)). And yes, for those of you keeping track, that number of people of color combined with the estimated number of Whites does add up to 100 percent.
Along the same lines, not only do Americans over-estimate the number of immigrants in the country, but they ridiculously over-estimate the number of undocumented immigrants in the country. In fact, in an extensive survey by the PEW Research Center for the People & the Press, respondents stated that most immigrants were in the United States illegally. (For the full report, click here) Seriously. Even though, according to the census only about 30% of foreign-born immigrants are here illegally, Americans (who already believe there are far more immigrants here than there actually are) think that “most” immigrants are here illegally. It still shocks me.
However, by that reasoning, it’s not terribly surprising that the Quinnipiac University survey revealed that there was so much concern about needing to do something about immigration enforcement. If I’m a citizen and I believe crime is so bad that as soon as I walk out the door I’m going to be gunned down by street thugs a la Death Wish 3, then of course when someone asks me about my concerns, I’m going to say that we need more police and less crime. It’s human nature, however flawed the logic might be.
Now, what really threw me off was this result:
“The poll, carried out during the first week in September, found that, by 48% to 45%, an end to the constitutionally guaranteed practice of granting U.S. citizenship to children born of illegal immigrants.”
This absolutely shocked me. Contemporary U.S. immigration policy has almost always worked to keep families intact and to not punish children from their parents’ actions. The fact that so many people might actually be opposed to allowing children of undocumented immigrants to be citizens is just unbelievably devastating.
I could only come up with two possible suggestions as to how these results came to be:
1) Again, I think it all comes back to estimations. I’m wondering how frequently this happens (undocumented immigrants giving birth so their children can be citizens), and I can’t imagine it’s often. After all, that’s a long, dangerous journey to make, especially if someone is pregnant. It could be that this just doesn’t happen as frequently as people envision.
Along the same lines, I wonder if perceived intent has something to do with it. Are these respondents picturing a pregnant Latina pulling herself onto the U.S. side of the Rio Grande and immediately giving birth? Or are they picturing a husband and wife living in the U.S., deciding to have kids because that’s the next step in their relationship?
2) I also wonder about the wording of the question. It reads:
“As you may know, under our constitution and current laws, all children born in the United States are automatically granted citizenship. Do you think we should continue to grant citizenship to all children born in the US or do you think this should be changed so children of illegal immigrants are not automatically granted citizenship?”
I wonder about the phrasing “automatically granted.” I think most people born in the United States believe that they “deserve” to be here, and I think that they somehow feel that they have earned the right to be citizens. Plus, given the cultural stubbornness of the powerful Horatio Alger mythology, I think the idea of someone just being “automatically granted” anything is bound to be challenged.
I’m not saying the poll was conducted incorrectly–I just wonder how much influence these kinds of factors can have.
You know, I complain so much about The Blind Side I sometimes forget I’ve never seen it. I’ve seen the publicity-hype around Sandra Bullock to snare her the Oscar, I’ve seen the trailers, and I’ve read my share of reviews (this one is particularly good). But I’ve never actually seen the movie.
So, I figured it was time. I am going to type my thoughts while I watch this movie. I should warn you that there is no hint of objectivity here–just sarcastic Joshua T. being bitter at a movie. Oh, and this movie is over two hours long, so this may be a lengthy entry.
Okay, let’s get started.
• Oh, good, the writers awkwardly managed to work in the phrase “blind side” a whopping 3 minutes into the film. Hey, that’s the name of the movie!
• What a lame-ass stretch to show the infamous Theismann/Taylor tackle and then paint it as something other than a pathetic YouTube/Boomer shout-out.
• Obligatory drive through the “bad part” of town. OMG, a lingerie store??!! They must be in the ghetto!
• Maybe this is just Larry Liberal talking, but these shots of suburbia are far more disturbing than the so-called projects we just saw
• BAHHH! You’re right, movie. White people are crazy! Have you ever noticed how White people drive cars like this but Black people drive cars like this? Cutting edge humor.
• Sandra Bullock finally shows up! Chew some scenery, girl from Speed 2!
• Crikey, that kid has spoken eight words and already I’m annoyed.
• Jesus, we learn “Big Mike” can write, but even the White teacher reads it aloud for him. He entitled it “White Walls.” Do you get it people?? Symbolism! I’ve seen more subtlety in a Michael Bay film.
• The kid has a name–Shawn Jr. He’s giving Big Mike pointers on how to be nice to girls. Stellar.
• In case you were curious, we’re 18 minutes into the movie and Big Mike has said exactly 20 words. Shawn Jr., who we met like 3 minutes ago, already has more.
• It’s possible that this Shawn Jr. lowered the bar so drastically that Bullock’s performance was Day-Lewis-esque by comparison. Right now he’s decked out in a full-length American Indian headdress. He’s the second-most offensive stereotype in this movie.
• Sandra Bullock doesn’t swear. I’m sure that won’t be a running joke/dramatic speech later on
• But the gym is closed, Big Mike! BAM! Sandra Bullock: P.I.!
• Bullock glares (stares thoughtfully? What the hell is she trying to convey?) at her husband (Tim McGraw/Shawn). Tim: “I’ve seen that look many times.” Yeah, so has anyone who has seen any Sandra Bullock movie ever. She’s got the acting range of Hayden Christensen.
• Oh, her husband sleeps on the couch when he’s bad. No doubt who runs this household!
• Of course they have a book of Norman Rockwell paintings sitting on their coffee table. Who doesn’t? Nothing like being beat over the head with clunky metaphors. It’s about CONTRAST, people!
• Wow, he folded the sheets. Diamond in the rough indeed!
• Big Mike is sitting at the dining room table while the family is watching football! WHAT??! Now Bullock has brought them all into the dining room too. Man, they can learn a lot from this guy. This is what family is really about. Seriously, I’ve seen less heavy-handed writing in a Danny Tanner monologue. Keep ’em coming, Blind Side. I’ll keep throwing out references if you keep doling out this bullshit.
• Hesitation by the daughter, but then she metaphorically takes Big Mike’s metaphorical hand to say metaphorical grace metaphorically.
• Oh ZING! Bullock is taking Big Mike shopping because he “obviously doesn’t know how.” She’s so outrageous! She’s saying what everyone is thinking!
WORD COUNT: It’s 30 minutes into the movie and Big Mike, who so far has been in practically every scene in the movie, is up to 36 words. Seriously. That’s okay, Blind Side. Let’s just let Whites characters talk about racism–what could a Black character possibly have to offer?
• Ahhh, Big Mike doesn’t like to be called Big Mike. He prefers to be called Michael.
• Oh PG-13 ghetto–you are terrifying. Loud music and people sitting outside??! Take that, Hamsterdam!
• Shopping for clothes. A purple shirt on Michael? Sandra, what were you thinking?? You know what they need? “Pretty Woman” playing in the background. Kind of an homage to Julia for her bullshit Oscar.
• Oh, but don’t worry–he has picked out a shirt that they’re not showing the audience, and Sandra seems incredulous. Oh, man, when they show that shirt, it’s going to be outrageous!
• Here comes the pay-off…OH NO! A striped shirt that is gold and maroon? I’ll bet the audience was rolling for hours.
• Sandra talking with her haughty Southerner housewife friends. I’m sure this will end well. Jesus, is everything in this movie a walking cliche?
• Oh good, they’re talking about Sandra’s interest in the “projects” with disdain, suggesting that she’s just taking on another “charity case.” (And yes, the character in the movie used scare quotes). Oh, and Sandra’s already indignant. How could they possibly be saying these kinds of things? My god, she’s been living with a Black man in her house for almost two days and she just drove him to his place on the so-called wrong side of town. She’s so much more enlightened than they are.
• They’re looking over Michael’s scores and, after testing in the third and fifth percentile in everything else, he tested in the 98th percentile in “protective instincts.” Ummm…they test for that? In the 8th grade? God, I’d love to see those questions.
WORD COUNT: 40 minutes into the film and we’re at 85 total words that Michael has spoken. Awesome. Seriously, the guy has been in every scene except for the shots of the teacher’s lounge, Sandra and Tim talking in their bedroom, and Sandra’s scene with the school counselor. 85 words.
• Fantastic–Shawn Jr. is suggesting that his dad (Tim) donate leftover food from their restaurant franchises. All those employees, all the people he consults with, and all this time all Tim had to do was ask his son. His ridiculously annoying son.
• And now for some product placement at Borders®. Where they find a book. A book they used to love. Ferdinand the Bull. Let me assure you, America, I’m positive that this isn’t some heavy-handed metaphor and I’m sure this will never be mentioned again.
• Michael sees someone at the restaurant where he just worked. Someone Black. But that person wasn’t eating there…he was working there!
• And it’s his brother. Seriously. His brother. What a small, contrived world.
• Seriously, that was his fucking brother.
• Now they’re back at her house, and Sandra Bullock is reading Ferdinand the Bull to her family. And Michael is laying there too, listening obediently.
• Move ahead to Tim and Sandra in the bedroom. PG-13 sex. Hot.
• Family portrait at Christmas and Michael’s not in it. Oh, I’m sure Sandra will have something to say about that.
• Yep, she did. And a freeze-frame of the family picture with Michael. I’m sure it’s heartwarming, but all I can think is the Christmas card at the end of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season 6. What a good show.
• And we’re back to the Southern housewives at the hoity-toity restaurant. And they’re making comments about Michael. Uh-oh, Sandra’s getting offended. “Is this some sort of White guilt thing?” one of them asks. You know, that’s actually a valid question. Anyway, Sandra scolds them and responds, “I don’t need you to approve of my choices, just respect them.”
They apologize. One asks, “Isn’t it amazing that you’re changing his life?” Sandra’s writers reach into their Hallmark bag and pull out, “No, he’s changing mine.” *vomit*
And now one of them asks if Sandra is worried that Michael is going to rape her daughter. Sandra sneers at her and says, “Shame on you.”
You know what, Blind Side? Shame on you. This scene offends me on so many levels it hurts my brain.
Go to hell, Blind Side. Racism in the United States is a ridiculously complex issue encompassing practically every facet of our lives. It is everywhere, and…brace yourself…it’s not just people who are in the KKK. Shocking, I know. It’s something that needs to be explored and discussed, but this piece of shit film actually shuts down the conversation. It completely glosses over issues of wealth and poverty in exchange for some trite epiphany about Michael never owning a bed. It belittles the education discussion by suggesting that if teachers only tried harder, it would make up for the massive disparities that students of color experience. And, worst of all, it depicts racists as thoroughly unlikable people who we can spot a mile away and avoid. They act like they’re better than everyone, they’re hyper-privileged, and they are completely disconnected from reality. This way, suburbia-types can shake their heads in disapproval, reassured that racism is safely segregated in the 1960s and maybe elite social circles in the South. Vindicated! Whew! That was close! Now they can go back to talking about “urban youths,” the “bad part” of town, and talking about how stereotypes exist for a reason. Way to go, Blind Side. Build up that straw man and then burn it to the ground. Oh, and get that Black guy to shut up! We came to see Sandra tell it like it is to racist caricatures!
WORD COUNT: We’re at 50 minutes and Michael has spoken a whopping 154 words. Wow. To put this in perspective, in broadcast news the average speaker talks at around 130 words per minute. For reals.
• Oh boy, the daughter (whose friends have mocked Michael because, you know, everyone in the South is racist) is warming to Michael. She sees him pushing the girls on the swings.
• Wow, that happened quickly. She defies her friends while studying in the library and defiantly walks over and sits with Michael. METAPHORICALLY! Take that, society! Defiance is not just a city in Ohio!
• You know, whenever Sandra walks on-screen, I am just blown away that she won an Oscar. Seriously.
• And we’ve hit the football scenes. But there are problems. Michael doesn’t know anything about football. Seriously. Not a thing. And I’m not talking “girlfriend stereotype from a beer commercial” clueless, I’m talking “aliens from another world who never discovered competition” clueless.
• And now he’s distracted by balloons. Seriously. Balloons.
• Sandra sure has some sass. But she’s insightful! Michael doesn’t want to hit anyone…because he’s Ferdinand the Bull! Just like the book they casually pounded into the script earlier! This is officially no longer a movie, people. It is a film!
• Dear gods, Shawn Jr. is in charge of training Michael. I liked this racism better the first time I saw it, when it was called The Toy.
• Do they still make training montages? Apparently so. I liked South Park’s much better.
• And now they’re going to adopt Michael. I think the problem with this movie is that it’s too much like real life.
• Hey, it’s a sassy Black woman in a Hollywood movie! How uncommon!
• Sandra is indignant that the State would let her adopt Michael without even asking Michael’s mother! What a horrible loophole! I can’t believe it even exists! I’m sure it’s not for any logical or serious reason.
WORD COUNT: One hour into the film, and Michael has said 186 words. I really can’t even believe this.
• “Mrs. Orr, you’ll always be Michael’s momma.” You can cut the condescension with a knife.
• Now they’ve adopted him. And Michael said something funny! If there’s something more awkward than child actors laughing, I don’t know what it is
• Shawn Jr. is using condiments to learn about football plays.
• Now Shawn Jr. is singing “Bust a Move” with Michael in the car. And they’re in a car wreck. It looks like the kid will be fine, though I was kind of hoping his voicebox would be temporarily disabled (for about another hour or so)
WORD COUNT: One hour ten minutes into the film, Michael has said 228 words (though about 20 or 30 of those came singing “Bust A Move” with Shawn Jr.
• Michael can’t play football. They need Coach Bud Kilmer out there! (or, better yet, Coach Lance)
• Sandra Bullock explaining how to protect the quarterback by equating the team with her family is easily the most condescending, contrived, idiotic thing I’ve ever seen on film. Utterly unbearable. You know, I saw clips of this in the trailer, but I had no idea how bad it was going to be. This is weapons-grade stupid.
• And now he knows how to play the game! Cinematic gold!
• Racist fan in the stands! That’s right, Sandra–“sticks and stones!”
• Racist football player on the field!
• Holy shit, it’s the aforementioned fan’s son!
• Sandra called her coach on the sidelines on his cell phone. She’s so outrageous!
• Don’t worry, America–she told off that stupid fan. But Shawn Jr. pointed out the “sticks and stones” comment. Oh, Shawn Jr.!
• Racist player is racist! And so are the refs! But coach stood up for Michael. And now Michael will protect him too! But not before Sandra’s voice echoes in his head. Literally. Ugh.
WORD COUNT: 247.
• Don’t worry, White people. Michael took the racist football player out of the game. We’re safe from the racists!
• Another montage of SEC coaches. This is a really long movie.
• Now Michael needs to get the grades. But he’ll have to make all A’s or else he can’t play college football.
1) <sarcasm>Yeah, because the SEC has been really stringent with academic standards and football.</sarcasm> “If Michael doesn’t pass his ethics class they won’t even consider him for USC!” If he’s the world-beater like they portray him, I’m sure a team would make it happen.
2) Timmy McGraw suggested that he go to a junior college, but Sandra wisely points out that “most inner city kids who go to junior college drop out in the first year.” Yeah, Sandy, because Michael’s life is exactly like that of other inner city kids going to junior college. Idiotic.
• Kathy Bates: tutor. You know what this movie needs? Another White person spouting knowledge!
WORD COUNT: One hour 30 minutes into the movie, and Michael has said 256 words. Using the earlier estimate, if he said his lines in a row, it would almost be 2 minutes. If someone pays me thousands of dollars, I’ll watch this movie again and count Sandra’s words.
• In case you’re wondering, Shawn Jr. just sat down with Michael and Nick Saban. The scene with the three of them takes exactly 45 seconds. Nick Saban says about 80 words. Shawn Jr. says about 45 words. Michael says 0. My 130-word estimate may have been way off.
• More football. You know, when the movie is about an individual and not a team, football scenes are incredibly boring.
• The coaches are all pitching their offers to Shawn Jr. Phil Fulmer getting fired was apparently not the low-point in his career.
• Now Sandra (a huge Ole Miss fan) is giving the inside track to the Ole Miss coach. She actually said that, on one of the recruiting trips, she said they “took him to a titty bar” and “he had nightmares for weeks.” She advised the coach to take him to a movie “but not Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he’ll just cover his eyes the entire time.”
My GODS, this movie is going to extremes to make sure the Black man doesn’t scare audiences. Give him a fucking personality! Must everything be absolutes? The family is unnaturally perfect, Michael is a puppy, and racists are loud and obnoxious. The fact that this movie is being touted than anything other than a Lifetime Original Movie is a crime. Seriously, put Penelope Ann Miller in Bullock’s role and that baby’s airing after the Jessica Lynch Story and a Mary K. Letourneau event!
• Who thought this kid was a good idea? It’s Hayden Panettiere in Remember the Titans all over again.
• He chooses Ole Miss. Wow, that was suspenseful.
• Isn’t this movie done yet? Crikey, it’s like watching Transformers 2.
WORD COUNT: One hour 40 minutes into the film, and Michael is up to 259 words.
• Tim McGraw…breaking down “Charge of the Light Brigade.” Interspersed with shots of Shawn Jr.
• Holy crap, Michael’s paper that he wrote he read (in a dramatic voiceover) was almost longer than all the words up to this point combined
• “Way to go, bro” from the daughter after Michael graduates. Oh dialogue…so natural-sounding.
• This movie just keeps on going! He graduated! What a natural ending! Now they’re prattling on about Ole Miss and potential NCAA violations. Ugh.
• This NCAA representative is accusing Sandra and Timmy of being boosters. You know, it kind of sounds like they are. Way to go, movie.
• I think he believes what this NCAA representative is saying. Why did I ever think watching this movie was a good idea?
• And now the movie has a misunderstanding of romantic-comedy-esque proportions. OMG, Sandra said something in a tone she didn’t mean!!!1!!
WORD COUNT: Well, it’s much better this time, thanks to Michael’s narration of his paper. In one 10-minute segment (and really only a few minutes of that), Michael more than doubled his word count with 295 more, for a grand total of 554 words. Just imagine if he had been allowed to speak the whole movie!
• Christ, Timmy is comforting Sandra, and here comes the Full House music. Make it stop. This is so amazingly bad. Seriously, how in the holy hell did she win an OSCAR for this???
• Now Michael’s at a party in the Blind Side hood. Oh no! Alcohol is also attending the party! And he took a sip! I’ve been to karaoke parties that were scarier than this.
• Oh, Blind Side. Now the head Black guy (the one who was making eyes at Sandra earlier in the film) is suggesting that Michael had sex with Sandra’s daughter. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
Just to clarify. Just so we’re ALL on the same page, the film first creates these ridiculous cartoon racists who ask in a restaurant in front of their friends if Sandra was concerned Michael would rape her daughter. And, with that underhand pitch, Sandra knocks it out of the park, storming off with righteous indignation. But now, about an hour later, there’s actually a fucking Black character who is suggesting and encouraging this exact thing happening. This movie is so ridiculously racist I don’t even know how to handle it.
• Michael loses his temper because this dial-a-bad-guy keeps talking about doing Sandra and her daughter. But not before the bad Black guy says he’s going to “bust a cap in yo’ ass.” Because, you know, they have to use painfully outdated slang that the White theater-goers would recognize (and quote). “Hey Michael, that’s a radical shirt! NOT! Waazzuuuuuuppppppp!”
• Apparently Sandra’s accent kind of optional. Anybody can use an accent the entire time!
• And now Sandra is telling off the evil Black guy. And she said something that I’m sure was meant to be witty (Sarah Palin-style). Something to make housewives across America pump their fists in the air. Absolutely disgusting.
• Ferdinand the Bull reference. Again.
• Seriously, writers, cram in the word “family” one more time. It might have an iota of meaning left.
• And Shawn Jr. eyes some college women. Don’t worry folks, he’s straight! It’s okay to still like this movie, Bible Belt!
• I’ll be honest, I stopped counting Michael’s words. He hasn’t said a ton more. It’s 2 hours into the movie. I just want it to end! MAKE IT STOP!
• Another Sandra narration. How powerful. *Yawn*
• Oh, and what the hell happened to his brother?
• And Shawn Jr. gets the freeze-frame. Painful.
And it’s done.
That movie was Phantom Menace-esque in its god-awfulness. Remember the movie’s valuable lessons:
1) Blacks should be seen, not heard.
2) Metaphors are defiantly metaphorical
3) Stereotypes are bad, unless they bring in money at the box office.
Many things bother me about attitudes toward immigration. I understand, at least to some extent, concerns people have about unemployment, cultural identity, and the change–I don’t agree with it, but I can at least understand where they’re coming from. But the one thing I will never get are those people who freak the frick out when it comes to language.
The latest example that I’ve seen was in this Los Angeles Times article that discusses the Homeland Security plan to create a “tough pathway” for undocumented workers to gain legal status. Shockingly, there are people opposed to this plan, citing economic concerns (surprise) and the fear that this is merely code for “blanket amnesty.” Because, you know, every gun control measure is going to lead to firearms being banned, every pro-choice decision is going to lead to mandatory abortions, and the possibility of undocumented immigrants achieving amnesty will lead to automatic citizenship for everyone in the whole entire world (and also the V’s and moon martians). Whatever.
Honestly, that didn’t even throw me off too badly–these are far from original talking points. But what did throw me off was when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained that “the ‘tough pathway’ to legal status would require illegal immigrants to register, pay a fine, pass a criminal background check, pay all taxes and learn English.”
Register? Makes sense? A fine? Yeah, whatever. Pass a criminal background check? Sure. But the English thing really trips me up.
The so-called “English-only” legislation has a wonderful, xenophobic history in the United States, but the movement really took hold in the 1980s and 1990s when legislation was passed in a number of states decreeing that English was the official language. Granted, of those states passing the legislation, most did not have a large Spanish-speaking population (or any other linguistic minority). In fact, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia passed laws making English the official language, and each of those states had a Latino/a population of less than one percent. Wow, what a victory. Way to go. In history we’ll put that right in between me fighting off those invisible dinosaurs and John Chaney of Columbus, Ohio, finding that penny. Score!
It continued through the 1990s, most notably with California’s Proposition 227, which mandated that all students in public schools must be taught only in English (essentially setting Latino/a students back rather than teaching bilingual classes until those students learned English on their own). Even today, it still rears its nasty head every once in a while when people want to drum up support in a midterm election (often accompanied by some flag-burning amendment). You can drape English-only laws in the language of patriotism, but this type of legislation is only enforcing the idea that the Spanish language (and bilingualism in general) are markers of being nonWhite and excluding those populations from having a voice in today’s society.
Two thoughts on why this casual mention of requiring English is ridiculous. First, the state laws are basically symbolic, designed to intimidate a minority population into feeling uneasy, unwelcome, and far outside the power structure. Hegemonically, it’s genius, but it’s ultimately short-sighted. Ask California Republicans how their nativist legislation panned out in the 1990s.
Secondly, it’s stupid. Sorry to be trite, but it is incredibly stupid and I can’t think of another word offhand. It’s stupid. Look back at some of the drastic lingual action taken in the past:
• Sauerkraut makers re-named their product “liberty cabbage during World War I. Stupid.
• In Australia, during World War I, the countritinent re-named 69 of its towns because they had German names. Stupid.
• Calling french fries “Freedom Fries” because France didn’t want to go to war against Iraq. Weapons-grade stupid.
This is no different. Years from now, we’ll all think it’s stupid (kind of like fashion from the 90s or popped collars). Look, English is just one language in the vast marketplace of languages. It’s not sacred or special just because we speak it. It happens to be one of the languages that widely recognized and spoken, and I’m sure a number of immigrants are going to learn English on their own in order to compete economically with other U.S. residents. It might be strongly advised, but it shouldn’t be required. And even if it was, how does that work? Do these individuals have to speak in English at all times? Or only when they’re out in public? What happens if they don’t? Absolutely ridiculous.
Oh, and if we’re going to have English-only laws, then all citizens should have to pass English tests, and if they fail then those individuals will be kicked out of the country.
Hmmmm….Maybe this English-Only idea isn’t so bad after all…