About manofreel

Film and Television historian, reviewer, and professor

Unfinished Business

It has been six weeks since our last posting. During that time there were summer courses to teach and the completion of a research fellowship in Chicago that undertook the difficult topic of the origins of the Afrocentric slur “Uncle Tom.”

As to the previous post on July 22nd:

About George Zimmerman and Trayvon. Since the Zimmerman verdict, he has been stopped by police for a traffic violation and was armed. He was photographed at a munitions manufacturer. African American pundits have quieted down, as is usually the case. So far the vast majority have refused to elevate black-on-black youth murders to the level of outrage exhibited in the Zimmerman case. The legacy of Trayvon Martin is that we will never really know what happened except Martin died under suspicious circumstances at the hands of a man who fully bought into the gangsta thug stereotypes created by black male youth themselves.

About Comic Con – This event examples the complete and utter success of hegemonic influences to distract young Americans from the problems they will face (are facing). It also sucks billions out of the pockets of consumers as they desperately seek to leave the reality of their daily lives.

About Tiger Woods – Upon reflection not really worth talking about.

About Heidi – The revelation is that her mother is the photographer. Heidi looks great, to be sure, and if she needs to display her perfection as a means of coping with her divorce, who are we to argue?


Levels of Cultural Seriousness

Over the weekend it occurred to us that there were varying degrees of ongoing seriousness underway as we swelter in the heat of mid-July.

1. The George Zimmerman verdict and the resulting debate over racial profiling and other racist behavior.

2. The legacy of Trayvon Martin and why his death appears to be more tragic to African Americans than “run of the mill” black-on-black committed murders.

3. The complete ridiculousness of the ability of Comic-Con to influence American culture through mass audience desensitization i.e. the ability of the superhero film to cause us to accept heroic violence as a means to solve society’s problems. See #1.

4. The joy exhibited by the critics of Tiger Woods over his recent inability to win another Major golf championship; why it appears the public needs to hear his blonde ex-wife’s approval of his new (and recently divorced) blonde girlfriend.

5. Model Heidi Klum’s apparent and continuous need to display her nude body in the aftermath of divorcing a black man, the singer Seal.

We will address these points in our next blog.

Trayvon Continued; Racial Bingo from Juror B-37

First a correction: In a previous post Zimmerman Juror B-37, who was the female juror interviewed on CNN’s AC 360, was incorrectly identified as B-33.

From the website The Root, a very reasoned argument made by Keith Harrison that African Americans do not engage in self preservation at a level befitting the perilous conditions they live in. Harrison writes that

“Indeed, a key component of this awful tragedy is the message that our community already delivers to the world: African-American life is cheap. We deliver that message through our everyday collective silence in communities nationwide. Silence in not engaging in a sustained fight to stop the slaughter in our neighborhoods of our young black men. Silence in stonewalling law-enforcement officials when they seek assistance in finding murder suspects. Silence in not letting those outside our community — including Zimmerman juror B-37 — appreciate that every black life is precious.”

He goes on to add:

“From 1980 to 2008, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, 93 percent of black homicide victims were killed by other blacks. During the same time, 84 percent of white homicide victims were killed by other whites. But blacks are disproportionately represented in homicides as both victim and offender. Blacks were six times more likely to be killed than whites and eight times more likely to face homicide-related charges.

Where is the outrage in our community about all of those slain blacks, most of whom were male and a plurality of whom were under 25 years old? Where are the protest demonstrations? Where is our community’s message that the ongoing carnage is unacceptable?”

Read the entire article at:


Racial Bingo from Juror B-37

The more B-37 speaks the more she takes on the appearance of someone who was predisposed to an acquittal before being seated. According to B-37,when the jury first voted it was 3 for acquittal, two for manslaughter, and one for second degree murder.

Clearly B-37 voted for acquittal. She has referred to the defendant as “George” and not Mr. Zimmerman, she is on the record as saying “George’s heart was in the right place,” she has made a gaggle of insensitive comments that her five fellow jurors have distanced themselves from and, most egregiously, she has equated Zimmerman’s post-shooting emotional pain as being of equal stature to Trayvon Martin’s death.

From Gawker, her voir dire (questioning before being accepted on the jury): Her husband is a lawyer, she refers to Trayvon as a “boy of color” (i.e. a colored boy), and she goes out of her way to claim that she does not read the newspapers delivered to their home (her husband is a lawyer, so they don’t discuss anything?), nor trust anything the media says (but how would she know if she doesn’t read the papers or watch the news?).


From CNN, part of the AC 360 interview with said juror:

B-37 revealed that:

“I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him,” she said.

She told Anderson Cooper that Zimmerman felt his life was in danger before shooting Martin, and it was his voice that was heard screaming for help in 911 calls. “He had a right to defend himself,” she said. “If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him, or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

Didn’t the defense in their closing argument admonish the jury not to try to “fill in the holes”? Sure looks like B-37 did not take that seriously.

The entire interview is an eye opener. It reveals a person who admits that Zimmerman should have never gotten out of his car but yet doesn’t feel he should be held accountable for anything that happened after that. And that’s pretty much the whole case isn’t it? Zimmerman waits for the police, they escort Trayvon home, end of story.

Not to blame the victim but once Trayvon knew he was being followed by an adult male he should have hung up with Ms. Jenteal and immediately called 911. The dispatcher’s office then might have been able to correlate Zimmerman’s call with Martin’s call, and realize there was an emergency situation that needed responding to immediately. After all Zimmerman could have been a kidnapper or prowler himself. And that is what young Martin should have told police on the phone.

“There’s a man in plain clothes, that was driving a car suspiciously behind me, and now he is appearing to stalk me and he may have a gun.” For lightening fast service all Martin had to do was say he is watching a young white blonde girl being followed by a man who looks like he has a gun. Presto, they are there in seconds, guaranteed.

But I digress.

Don’t Tell Me, Show Me

Even though FBI forensics could not tell who the screams belonged to, B-37 could.  B-37 claims she knew what happened, that “Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him.” That’s a juror who heard all about the case before being seated and was hoping to get on the jury to be able to acquit. Her belief was then completely reinforced by the in-court animated (sort of) cartoon representation of the incident put on by the defense (there’s audience reception rearing it’s head again, folks).

The defense showed the jury how it happened and, in absence of anything visual offered by the prosecution, the jury was left with the defense’s brilliant subliminal nudge to the jury’s own preconceived core beliefs of the defendant’s innocence (i.e. the victim was black so the likelihood of him being violent was great; and just look at Zimmerman’s face and head after the incident– evidence that he was in a fight). The defense’s visual theory of the crime is what convinced those three jurors who wanted a conviction (based on the evidence told them) to change their minds because, given the choice between evidence explained and a theory seen with your own eyes, you are going to believe what you see. Why do you think TV advertisers tell viewers “don’t try this at home”?

Then again, the three jurors who believed Zimmerman should have be convicted of either manslaughter or second degree murder should have stood their ground. B-37 says that those jurors changed their minds after “hours and hours” of reading the law, but since Stand Your Ground was not used as a defense, what were they really doing in there? Probably listening to B-37 and her two like minded jurors drone on about what’s done is done and how George needs to get on with his life because, although he shouldn’t have gotten out of the car to get his ass beat, he did, and so he had to kill the black gangsta ’cause you know how violent these colored boys are.


Stand Your Ground Law Under Attack

But the Martin death has already opened up a whole new can of legal worms.

The so called Stand Your Ground law is under attack in Florida to the point that the Governor refused to return to the State Capitol until camped out protesters leave.


Currently 22 states have SYG laws on the books.


Higher Ground

Stevie Wonder, whose dogged determination rallied America around the idea of a King Holiday, announced he was cancelling ALL performances in Florida for the foreseeable future.


And speaking of King


David Simon’s The Audacity of Despair

David Simon is my hero. As a fellow boy from Baltimore Simon, he tells it like it is and how it should be. And if he never writes another word for the rest of his life, he will have as his legacy created the best TV cop show ever in Homicide: Life on the Street and created the best dramatic series in the history of cable, The Wire.

Simon has a blog so, of course, I think it should be followed. It is named The Audacity of Despair.


The Scarface Effect and Trayvon Martin

Possibly the most grippingly gut wrenching scene in Crash, the Oscar winner for Best Picture of 2004, occurs when Don Cheadle’s emotionally disconnected black detective character vows to his sweet (but still a struggling junkie) mother that he will find out who killed her son/his brother.

“I’ll find out who did this mom.”

“I know who killed him.”

Surprised look from Detective Waters. She continues…

“You did.”

A shocked and pained look from Waters as his mother sticks the knife in further.

“I told you to go find your brother but you were too busy.”


“You didn’t have much use for us anymore.”

The scene ends with a devastated Waters walking away in slow motion, after his mother completes the surgical dressing down of her cop son by giving her carjacker boy (played by Larenz Tate, ex-O-Dog from Menace II Society) and now on the slab in the other room, credit for bringing her the sorely needed groceries her junkie ass needed (“the last thing he ever did” mom laments) that in fact Cheadle’s character had provided.

Cut to the Trayvon Martin case.

I know who killed him.

We did.

We did, as in the young nigga gangstas of Chicago who kill young blacks there like they are ordering so much take out. “I’ll take a large fry with that and throw in a coupla dead homies to go. Just shot ‘em… so the bodies are still fresh. Theyse out there on 79th.  Chop chop, don’t make me shoot you 2!

We killed Trayvon because, and let’s keep it real, what else was George Zimmerman supposed to think? That only we can kill each other? Please.

Now, I know this was a terrible tragedy and I’m not excusing this murder at all because that is what it was, a murder. George Zimmerman saw a young black kid, lost his fucking mind in fear and rage, and decided ‘not on my watch will this nigger rob a house ‘cause that’s what these young niggers do’ and I got my gun and if it comes to smokin’ this homie I’m down with that.

Right? Am I right? Honest to God that was what he was thinking and Mark O’Mara can kiss my ass if he wants to publicly defecate on himself by saying race was not a factor. It was the only fucking factor! And you know it.

But I digress.

What we who debate this verdict have done here, is basically refuse to put the crime in it’s sordid context. So let me attempt to do just that.

We know what Zimmerman was thinking and accordingly, the verdict in the case was inevitable. Anyone who professes shock as a result of this acquittal just moved here from from Antarctica.

Just last night on CNN’s AC 360 Anderson Cooper interviewed Zimmerman juror B-33, who insisted being photographed in shadow because she’s scared to death (she said she was acting “out of caution,” which means she’s scared to death) and I don’t blame her.


Cooper asked her if she felt sorry for Trayvon.

Her reply was brutally honest and should settle any doubt that no matter what the prosecution did, or did not put on at the trial, the verdict was predetermined by the mindset of the jury before they were seated.

Her reply…”Yes, I felt sorry for Trayvon… (wait for it)


After the interview, one of the legal pundits nearly jumped out of his shoes, remarking that he could not believe that the juror said what she said.

“Trayvon Martin is dead,” he commented. “George Zimmerman has been merely inconvenienced. I find it incredible that she blah, blah, blah.”

And, as Walter Cronkite used to sign off, “That’s the way it is.”

To recap, B-33 felt like a black boy’s death only equaled the suffering of poor George and, as she recollected to Anderson, “We all cried in the jury room about that.”

Furthermore, as we have learned from Channel 7 in Chicago, another of the jurors (B-29) had just moved to Florida from the Windy City four months before the trial and claimed during the jury selection process that she knew absolutely nothing about the case, only remarking that “we have a lot of crime in Chicago.” Wonder what she was referring to? Maybe she thought, jeez niggers are killing other niggers every ten fucking seconds of every day down here to, just like Chicago?

So in the jury’s opinion, what’s one more dead black teenager more or less? They appeared just so sorry that George had to go through an experience that will probably scar him for life. A pity that he had to be the one to kill somebody that was doomed to die anyway at the hands of someone who looked like him. George, they are saying, please let these niggers kill each other. So here’s your gun back (and he will in fact get the gun he killed Trayvon with returned to him), don’t do this again, and go outside now and play with the other watchers. We, the jury, forgive you and apologize.

But I digress.

As a researcher specializing in audience reception (seriously, believe it or not I’ve got fricking credentials) I am not surprised at these two separate reactions. The first being that George Zimmerman was convinced Trayvon was a threat just based on his appearance.

The second being that the jury found it completely understandable that George Zimmerman would view Trayvon as a threat to the point he had to shoot him. The jury’s mindset was in perfect harmony with the defendant. Accordingly, it was perfect jury selection for this case. When the prosecution decided to eliminate (without cause) the one black male potential juror, the verdict was set. There was no way that an all female jury of white women was going to convict. Why, you ask? This is where audience reception plays a role in understanding the mind.

Afraid for their lives from young black male hip hop aged niggas who wear their pants down below their asses, and who display gold grills (as Trayvon did in the pictures the media did not care to show us) Zimmerman’s women were people who felt as he did, that these grilled gorillas needed to be put down. They voiced their acquittal based on what they would have done under identical circumstances.

The details of the “crime,” they surmised, were somewhat unnecessary. Morphing the death scenario into simulacra, these women fantasized that if had they seen Trayvon that night he would probably have wanted to rape them, or sodomize them, and or kill them. They would have had to shoot him, too.

Thus, they ultimately were thankful to George because, in their fantasy of the crime scenario, he saved them from humiliation, pain, and death at the hands of someone who had no right to be where he was (aren’t the niggers supposed to be living in the ghetto?), even if he had every right to be where he was. But, ironically, where Trayvon Martin ended up was exactly where the white jury of six women thought was his place, the same slab ex-O-Dog ended up on.

But how did George Zimmerman decide Trayvon was a threat?

Certainly, it was not, as we are fuming, just because he was black. As the riot poster indicates rightfully, Being Black is indeed not a crime.

But killing other blacks is a crime and while Trayvon was not a murderer, he got dumped in the rotten apple barrel with the Chicago wanna be Scarface gangsta niggas. And let’s face it black folks, the Scarface wanna be gangsta niggas are LEGION.

And while it is outrageous to think that we live in a society where a kid can’t walk to the store and get back home alive, it is happening every day. In Chicago. In Baltimore. In Philly, In L.A. We can’t just pick and choose who we get nationally outraged about when a black boy gets “got.” Cherry picking the dead makes blacks look like outrageous hypocrites.

We aren’t doing jack about black-on-black crime because we are as afraid of the Scarface wanna be gangsta niggas as George Zimmerman is.

The Scarface Effect

A few years ago I completed my Ph.D dissertation on the psychological effects of the Brian DePalma film Scarface on young black men. Yes, Scarface, you know the one, Al Pacino as Tony Montana barking those immortal words, “Say ‘ello to my little frien’!” My research discovered that if you bother to understand the murderous, sociopathic behavior exhibited by Montana, the film’s “hero,” and connect that fictitious character’s reception by its young black male audience to their real life experiences, understanding the tragedies occurring in places like Chicago will become second nature to you. When a fiction becomes a documentary in the eyes its its audience, behavior changes. Think Trekkies, make them poor, stick them in the ghettoes with no hope, and give them phasers that work. Get the idea?

And unexpected result of this audience reception of Scarface is situations such as the Zimmerman case. I had not considered that oppositional dominant group reaction but now it appears obvious that it would occur under the right set of circumstances.

Because black boys have bought so wholly into the ‘Scarface’ Tony Montana is the Ghetto Jesus-deliver-me-money-for-my-sins mentality, (and we will celebrate the 30th year of this phenomenon beginning in December) the cultural identity of this audience has made a quantum paradigm shift into, for lack of a better term, a type of mass collective mental illness.And we just can’t rationalize it with a diagnosis such a Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome (a 2005 book by Joy DeGruy) or even a racist justice system as skewered by The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander’s tour de force must be read book).

Yes, there is trauma and, I’m sorry Michelle, but niggas is selling drugs and going to jail for it. That’s why they have the laws — to put stupid niggas in jail who still sell despite the law. Duh.

But I digress. Slightly.

Well researched books such as Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America (Richard Majors, Janet Mancini Billson) and Code of the Streets by Yale professor Elijah Anderson broke new ground by contemporizing ongoing discussions about the psychology behind the behaviors of young black men. I took this discussion to the next level by focusing on the one text all hip hop aged young black males from the ghetto seem to agree is their Tony Robbins “how-to” inspiration.


As long as crack and heroin sales and distribution remain the largest employer of black young men of the urban ghetto, as long as it remains the major survival skill to dress a certain way to avoid confrontation, as long as it’s cool to be a fool and a chump to dig school, as long as black men continue to kill each other in genocidal numbers, the George Zimmermans will seek black boys out, hunt them down, and kill them. They are irrationally fearful but, based on counter-indoctrination into authentic African American life and how negative black male behavior is deified by that group to the point of demonization by the mainstream, these types of overreactions are the result of a perfect storm of receptivity colliding within a space of irrationality created by both black reception and white reception of black reception.

Killing is a choice. Zimmerman made an irrational choice based on his fear, itself predetermined by what young black men represent themselves to the world. And that choice is based on the hopelessness of many, but certainly not all young black men, many of whom escape into an authentic life of good behavior.

If we are not killing each other at Guinness record paces every fucking year, Zimmerman might have, as one Twitter reaction opined, offered Trayvon a ride home to get him out of the rain.

Was Zimmerman’s act committed out of racism? Sure it was, as was the verdict that followed. It was only by a miracle that Martin’s family raised awareness to the point where the system actually reversed itself and investigated the crime which, for one shining moment, gave value to a young black man’s life.

However, the actions of other young black men killed Trayvon Martin, too. They will forever be the unindicted co-conspirators of this case. Stricken with a disease I call The Scarface Effect, this deadly virus will continue to spread until society offers meaningful alternatives to the lifestyle celebrated in a 30 year old film and embraced by the nigga gangstas who did not pull the trigger, but nevertheless frightened a pathetic George Zimmerman into doing their work for them.

Unlike Lee Harvey Oswald, Zimmerman is a patsy who did pull the trigger.