Cosmo’s True Colors

A few nights ago on Twitter, a set of images got under my skin. Can you guess why?

Earlier this year, Cosmopolitan published an article entitled 21 Beauty Trends That Need to Die in 2015. Typical, right? But their bigoted twist caught my eye. As far as I could tell from the images above, only Black women were featured in the negative (R.I.P.) column. Hence, when I first saw the photos above, I assumed that they were demonstrative of a wider trend. However, it turns out that I was only partially wrong.

Last night, clarity came in the form of a link to the original article. My irritation was somewhat reduced after I saw that not all of the “R.I.P.” women are Black. There are, in fact, Caucasian celebrities depicted in that category.

Yet on the side captioned “Hello, Gorgeous!”, I couldn’t help but notice the inclusion of only one woman of color. Even then, I took careful note of who the non-white celebrity was–Nicole Richie, a woman who, like Rashida Jones, has a background that is not necessarily apparent to those who are unaware.

What do I make of this?

I’m not sure. I have the distinct impression that someone instructed Cosmo’s reporters to make an effort to be more diverse, and the photos in this article came about as a result of their attempt to do so. (I couldn’t help but notice that the piece contains a disclaimer, undoubtedly written after the recent kerfuffle surrounding its discovery.)

Yet I also know what time it is. To this day, more often than not, lifestyle shows and magazines promising tutorials for “all types” of hair end up offering examples for those whose locs fit into categories such as really straight, kinda-sorta straight, and short-and-straight. Time and again, staff of TV shows and magazines demonstrate little-to-no imagination when it comes to offering their audiences authentic diversity. Now, they may claim they don’t need the help that would be available to them if they hired minority writers. However content such as that found in January’s Cosmo article suggests otherwise.

Defaults and Diversity

I don’t read many scripts.

Just after I typed that, I looked to the skies, hoping that the Scriptwriting Gods don’t zap me. Apparently, I’m breaking a cardinal rule of aspiring screenwriters everywhere. (Rule #1: Watch ALL the movies. Rule #2: Read ALL the scripts…)

Quite frankly, I think it’s a waste of time. The public complains about folks in LA constantly churning out the same old thing. Is it any wonder, though, when insiders preach that writers should get into the industry by following a uniform set of practices?

Mind you, I’m not a complete rebel. Over the past while, I’ve glanced at a few screenplays. And there’s something that I’ve noticed.

It seems that there’s a pattern relating to Hollywood’s diversity–or lack thereof. From what I’ve seen, unless a writer specifies that a character is a person of color, chances are, he or she won’t be depicted as such. Hence, the racial default for a character in a North American movie is white. Casting directors and producers also have a hand in what a character ultimately looks like. What concerns me, though, is the fact that they have blinders on when it comes to people of colour.

Time and again I’ve wondered if any of them actually know any of us. As actual human beings, and not merely cheap tropes.

I think that it’s more than accurate for me to assume that those in charge of casting have ludicrous notions regarding what non-white actors are capable of. All of this adds up to a situation that is unfair—not only to actors, but the movie-going public.

Now, for many of you, I’m yammering on about something obvious. However, the fact that casting a Black/Latino/Native/Asian person as the girl or boy next door doesn’t occur to much of Hollywood infuriates me. And it made me think. The trends involving how minority characters are written are disturbing.

Consider this past round of Oscars. The following meme struck me when I first saw it

OscarsLackDiversity

Don’t get me wrong. I will be eternally thankful to Steve McQueen and The Powers That Be for sharing The Goddess Otherwise Known As Lupita with the world. But I want something more. The silver screen rarely reflects reality, especially when it comes to people of color. We are more than sidekicks or members of the subjugated class. We own bars, we drive cars, we struggle, we thrive, we live lives.

Someone on Twitter shared the following statement. I don’t know who originally wrote it, but I could shout it from the mountaintops.

thepowerofdiversity

While TV shows are catching up, in terms of reflecting humanity, I think that movies are light years behind.

And I know how things work. I realize that the films that are coming out over the next couple of years have already been cast. Hell, most have already been made. (In saying that, I’m not trying to make excuses for those who make films. I think that anyone with a basic knowledge of the industry will understand that I’m being realistic.)

Yet going forward surely something can be done. God knows, we’re worth it.

TGIT? #HTGAWM!!

Are you ready?

Tonight’s the night!

I’ve seen Scandal. The pilot, via iTunes, and…Snippets here and there. I know it’s good. EVERYONE knows it’s good.

But the show I’m waiting for is How to Get Away With Murder.

Viola Davis is back, looking better than ever. Not “classically beautiful” my ass!

“Be careful who you show your crazy to.”

“You call it crazy. I call it winning.”

Hells, YES!!

Seriously.

The last time I watched, I had a mini marathon. God knows, I miss staring at my TV, going

wtfcat

I might even stay up* and see it live!!

*Last year I recorded most of my Murder and watched it later on in the week.

The Bachelor

Let me give a moment to something I love to hate. Reality TV. That branch of media that reminds me of a regrettable friendship. So many of us have them. You know…The person we thought we could hang out with, but wound up running from…Sort of like a misogynist who finds himself trapped in a Women’s Studies class?

Take The Bachelor. Please. Deep down I despise the show, yet remain fascinated by it. If you’re looking for a fresh take on an old guilty pleasure, you might want to check out these resources.

1. This post by Stephanie Simons made spending time on The Bachelor sound every bit as exciting as I thought it would be. The show’s producers love to depict Bachelor alums as happy people who miss their sisters-in-charms. However Ms. Simons’ account blows that belief out of the water.

2. If you’ve watched The Bachelor for a while, you might already know about Reality Steve. I don’t know who leaks information to him–whether they’re cast or crew members. Still, he’s a spoiler source with a fairly decent record–right down to who the Bachelor picks in each season’s final episodes.

3. You may or may not know that Jason and Molly Mesnick have a podcast. I’ve only listened to an episode or two of This Is Reality and it’s actually been interesting. It’s one thing to think you’re manipulated from start to finish when you watch The Bachelor. It’s quite another to have that thought confirmed by people who have actually been on it.

(Here’s a fun fact I learned from the Mesnicks: Imagine the amount of time that the Bachelor(ette) spends with their potential mate(s) on the show, then divide that by…Any number you like. I was shocked by the (guesstimated) figure that Jason mentioned. Indeed, it’s probably worse than viewers have thought. The rare, genuine relationships that are formed in spite of the producers’ machinations are a fluke. As a kid I spent more time with my teachers in a week of school than these people do during 7 weeks of filming.)

A system that’s doomed to fail isn’t a system. It’s sloppy. Luckily for you and me Sadly, the Bachelor’s producers seem to know that they’ve created one of the most delectable piles of muck in the universe. It’s hard to believe that they would ever think of cleaning it up.

Let it Die: More on Modesty

Hopefully this will be my last post on this subject. In the future, instead of whipping up a brand new screed on modesty, I’ll point folks here.

I’ll be honest with you. After I wrote my notes for this post, I felt a sense of déjà vu. A search revealed that I’ve written about Christianity and modesty more than once. (If you don’t feel like reading any further, this post best summarizes my thoughts.)

So why mention it again?

A few nights ago I was involved in a social media discussion on modesty. Someone that I follow posted a link to an essay entitled “The Trouble With Christian Cleavage”. I saw it, and…I lost it.

Moments later as I went to bed, I started questioning myself. A part of me wondered if I was being a horrible person. After all, the person who wrote the article is just another human being. I know what it’s like to want to express yourself and have the words not come out the way you intended. (The author expressed this sentiment on his Twitter feed.) As I look back, I realize that in my first couple of tweets I may have sounded like I was angry at him. I’m not.

Rather, it’s the ideas that he was perpetuating.

In his post, the writer followed a familiar formula. Honestly, at this point I’m surprised there isn’t a test out there called The Christian Modesty Argument. If there were, I know the steps that would help people pass it:

1. Use pseudo-spiritual language in an attempt to manipulate women. Take a gentle approach, and yet…Leave your sisters with the impression that the way they dress is ruining the very fiber of men, other women, and Christendom itself.

2. Rely on a description of men that makes them sound utterly stupid.

In response to the now-deleted post, I read a host of tweets. Among them was a link to this essay by Nate Pyle. In an imagined discussion with his son, Mr. Pyle reminds his readers of the truth: that men are responsible for how they perceive what they see. This concept deserves to be popular in Christian circles, yet it isn’t. A part of me does not want to imagine why.

If nothing else, can we please abandon the notion that “men are visual creatures”? I’ve seen that phrase used multiple times. It’s horrible. Firstly, I resent the way it refers to men as “creatures”. I need to use a dictionary for a better definition, but in my mind, a “creature” is an animal—and not an intelligent one.

Secondly, I know the phrase is meant to convey the idea that men are visually stimulated. However, as far as I’m concerned, it might as well be saying “women don’t have eyes.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Women notice the way men look. If you don’t think so, you need help–and lots of it.

Really, at this point I think I’m just using different words to say what I did in the piece linked at the beginning of this post. Christians’ ideas concerning modesty need to progress. I look forward to the day when the plague of dishonesty ends for good.

Why Christian?

I mean, really. What’s the point anymore?

I know some people are asking themselves that question. Especially in an age where fundamentalism seems to be the dominant public face of the religion.

That question is also the title of a conference headed by Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber: Why Christian?

I found out about their gathering yesterday. It’s definitely piqued my interest.

When I saw the page featuring their speakers, I smiled.

If I may be frank with you, I’ve never seen so many women of colour on a conferenced helmed by two Caucasians. From what I’ve seen, such diversity is normally included when a conference’s founders are people of colour.

Although I still know very little about Why Christian?, there was something else about it that struck me as unique. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first…And then, Rachel dropped this tweet:

Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Christian conference (hereafter called a “CC”). Yet I’ve seen plenty of their websites.

Why is it that many CCs that have predominantly (white) male speakers are marketed to everyone within their demographic? (By “everyone” and “demographic”, I’ve seen pages for conferences for church musicians, youth leaders, you name it–yet there’s no discrimination among the gender of those who are expected to attend.) Meanwhile, when a CC lineup features a predominantly black or female group of speakers, then that’s exactly who I see in footage of its audience. (The only exception are a handful of Caucasians or men that I’ve observed.)

I used to assume that these unique attendees were family or close friends of those who are a part of said conferences’ mainstream. However I realize that in making such a conclusion, I’ve ruled out another option. What of the man or woman who has looked at a conference’s web page and said, “I am a Christian. I believe that the people who are going to to speak will be saying something that is relevant to my walk with God….”?

Hence, they decide to attend regardless of the risk of being perceived as an outlier.

Our perceptions of who belongs where need to change. Especially in religious circles. Or for the sake of this piece, Christian ones. Just because a speaker doesn’t appear to match perpetuated norms, don’t assume that you won’t learn from them.

I still think I’d watch.

The Cosby Show, I mean.

I heard that over on the Q web site they’re going to eliminate Jian’s interviews. My first reaction was to enter into a mild panic: “Man, what’s next? Cosby Show DVDs?” I don’t say that to insult the scores of women who have come forward. Rather, to speak the truth about a childhood memory. For you see, for me, watching that show was not all about him.

The other day I saw this article with a link to a page that explained how people could watch episodes of The Cosby ShowSans Cosby, I suppose? I know that a lot of fans are facing an odd predicament. They want to enjoy their beloved sitcom without the spectre of the alleged horrors that the program’s namesake has perpetrated. I haven’t followed the link, but I gather that some people have taken the time to scrub Mr. Cosby’s image from the show’s visuals. The reason I never followed through with learning how I could watch The Cosby Show without looking at one of its stars is simple: I’m simply not interested.

Now when I say that, I don’t mean to insult his victims. I abhor the idea of rape. I know that these days when some people hear Mr. Cosby’s name, they cringe–or worse. But when I think of The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby isn’t the first person that pops into my head.

I can’t escape the idea that Mr. Cosby was a part of an ensemble cast. In my mind, to disregard the show solely because of him is to insult the talented souls who worked both in front of and behind the camera.

I get a smile on my face when I read the words “Gordon Gatrell“. And who can forget about the elder Huxtables’ anniversary?

Among the characters in that scene were Rudy, Denise, Vanessa, Theo, Sondra, and Clair Huxtable. Clair Huxtable–a woman who has inspired at least one t-shirt. The only woman who could possibly have replaced my mother if I needed a spare. These are characters that I loved. Just look at this clip from “Off to See The Wretched”.

Phylicia Rashad and Tempestt Bledsoe were amazing.

And yes. I know that Bill Cosby was in that scene. I know that Cliff Huxtable was there. Yet again, I assert that The Cosby Show was not a one-man gig.

Back to those DVDs. NBC has already decided to scrap a pending pilot. Mr. Cosby has cancelled various tour dates. I understand that some venues have offered refunds for folks who no longer want to see his shows. But I’m still not comfortable with the idea of doing away entirely with The Cosby Show. It was one of my favorite programs and a critical part of my childhood. If a decision is ever made to abolish it, I’d be truly heartbroken.

Take me away, *How to Get Away*!!

I really should write a long piece on How to Get Away with Murder.

Not since Frank Underwood on House of Cards have I been so drawn to–and terrified of–a fictitious person.

Annalise takes the cake. As my friend Mischa said, she “needs Jesus”.

And it’s not just her. I swear. Every character is flawed in just the right way to keep me hooked!

Just last week I was thinking, “If these people weren’t so fascinating, I would be completely disgusted.”

Here’s what’s coming next week:

Sporty Sexism

It’s now evident to me that when I’m about to fall asleep, I need to resist the urge to check my phone. Chances are I’ll find something that leaves me vexed and itching to write an essay.

Consider last night. Meet Exhibit A:

MensHealthSexistSports

Hmmm.

I don’t follow sports very closely. Yet during the World Cup, I was mesmerized. My poor mother had to put up with me sitting in front of the television yelling

Kick it. KICK IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTT!!

over and over again.

As for the article itself, it was everything that that tweet suggested. The original title was “The Secret to Talking Sports with Any Woman”. I don’t know if Men’s Health let it see the light of day. Nevertheless, basically, it stated that when it comes to sports, women will be able to relate to the action on a field if they share a connection with the players who are running around on it.

And how is such a connection forged? Through regaling us with tales of compassion from the players’ lives. To break it down further, we “need story lines”.

I don’t know. In the moments when Soccer Fever took over, do you think I cared one whit about who was invested in whose life, or which players paid attention to Charity XYZ?

Nope.

In all seriousness, Journalists, we women do not need so-called manly things to be softened in order to appreciate them. We can enjoy pastimes like sports just as they are, no primping required.