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.

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.”

Beat

“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.

ESPECIALLY AFTER SHE SAID THIS…

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)

BUT I ALSO FELT (equally) SORRY FOR GEORGE AND THE SITUATION HE FOUND HIMSELF IN, TOO.”

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.

Scarface.

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.

Happy 25th Birthday to Die Hard

Monday, July 15th marks the 25th anniversary of the American debut of the now classic action thriller, Die Hard. Who knew that a former bartender, Walter Bruce Willis, who was the highly unlikely star of the ABC romcom Moonlighting, would become not only one of the most iconic action movie stars in cinema history but one of Hollywood’s greatest motion picture stars period?

“Come out to the coast, we’ll have a few laughs.”

As the recent article in Maxim points out (sorry, no Hometown Hottie pix) Die Hard changed the action flick game by creating a template, dare I say a new sub-genre within the action stable, that allowed the follow-what-works mentality of the film industry a perfect model for practically all male led action dramas. From Wesley Snipes as Passenger 57 to Sam L.’s Snakes on a Plane to Channing Tatum saving the White House to Keanu Reeves trying hard not to die on a bus, over the past 25 years Hollywood has banked billions copying the simple one man against impossible odds theme of the John McTiernan helmed film.

The Maxim article on Die Hard:

http://www.maxim.com/movies/5-things-die-hard-changed-about-action-movies-forever

Yes, John McClane liked the sequined shirts of Roy Rogers (so did I) but his “yippee ki-yay motherfucker” was full on Shane meets Hang ’em High‘s Marshal Jed Cooper, not the milk and cookies cowboy singer’s approach to life on the range. And how long did Alan Rickman get roles after his bad ass turn as supersmart, superstylish Euro supervillain Hans Gruber? Answer…he is still rolling hard.

“Nice suit. John Phillips, London. I have two myself. Rumor has it Arafat buys his there.”

After the film struck gold at the box office Die Hard morphed into its own industry, birthing sequels like rutting rabbits. After the original there was:

Die Hard 2 (1990). With my favorite TV cop ever, Dennis Franz playing an airport cop and John Amos offering bad times in cahoots with William Sadler, still one of the hardest working second fiddles in Hollywood. He was William Fichtner slightly before William Fitchner.

Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995). Arguably Sam Jackson’s first big budget action starring turn. Later he and Willis would team up to make Unbreakable, maybe the most realistic (if not the best) Batman/Joker story ever told. And if you don’t think Unbreakable was Shyamalan’s take on those immortal foes, watch it again.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007). Featuring Timothy Olyphant in a bad guy role which propelled him into the superb Justified, created by the incredible Elmore Leonard. Also it had that former Apple TV ads kid, Justin Long, and a very good cameo by a self deprecating Kevin Smith. And incredible beauty Maggie Q, fresh from her sidekick work on Mission Impossible III, played an Olyphant  henchman  that would help score her own TV series, Nikita.

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013). Well, maybe they should have stopped in 2007 or at least provided a truthful title like A Good Day to Homage Die Hard. At least Moscow photographed beautifully, though. A Good Day’s sole purpose was to pay tribute to the original’s 25th anniversary, as evidenced by the ending during which the McClane children, now all grown up, serve as the proof for the longevity (and continuity) of the Die Hard brand.

But a bad sequel won’t stop the McClane train, look for Die Hardest in 2015!

Yippee Ki-yay, motherfuckers!

The Long 4th

I have come to completely ignore the celebratory side of the 4th of July. As an African American I side with Frederick Douglass. The 4th did not set my ancestors free, so no fireworks and hot dogs for me.

But there was good television to be watched.

AMC, currently my favorite cable network, aired The Walking Dead’s entire library. I paid probably more attention to the first two seasons than I ever had, swallowing the bitter pill of my rejection by a certain Cleveland university to teach a critical thinking course based on the series. I felt completely justified in my decision to present them with the idea, there is so much cultural meat on those allegorical bones (no zombie pun intended). The expansion of the main characters’ arcs is a wonder to see, as is the racial and ethnic cultural inclusiveness.

For me, the latter is a critical success. With the exception of Michael Rooker’s “Merle Dixon” the post-apocalyptic zombified world is also a post-racial one. In fact, a major (if not the overarching) theme of the series, the breakdown of our world capitalist, dog eat dog society of programmed dependence upon government, and its replacement by a decentralized dependence upon close knit groups more aligned with communism, heightens the “dog eat dog” aspects of current life into a metaphorical masterpiece of consumer consumption completely off the chain.

I am reminded of The Joker’s observation in the The Dark Knight that “when the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other.” The Walking Dead is that statement, moved from literal to figurative.

Wimbledon

As a intense tennis fan it was a great relief to finally see a Brit win the tournament, although for a moment Andy Murray threatened to hand the trophy he was 40-love away from winning back to an almost resigned to lose Novak Djokavic. But that did not occur. With my boy Federer slowly fading into the good night of memory, the men’s side of tennis seems even more compelling as new faces such as Juan Martin del Potro, and that Polish semi-finalist guy (whose name I can’t remember right now) join Nole, Murray, and Nadal as serious contenders at the slams.

One observation. If Patrick McEnroe doesn’t give his brother John at least 50% of his income he should. Sunday’s “Breakfast at Wimbledon” was the first ever men’s finale broadcast by ESPN. As expected Johnny Mac was there, talking way, way to much as always. But joining him was Patrick, who has won as many Gran Slams as your truly, the difference being I don’t have an accomplished brother who has won Wimbledon on multiple occasions. And he talks as much as John does, causing me to mute practically the whole match. Please ESPN, there are a ton of ex-champions who deserve to be in that booth. Sampras, where is Sampras? He’s articulate and has won W twice as many times as McEnroe.

As for the ladies, Marion Bartoli of France won the championship. After the match she was insulted by the BBC’s announcer, who pointed out the obvious, that she was not as attractive as the “6 foot blonde amazons” who populate the game now (apparently referring to Maria Sharapova– and the lesser talented Euro “supermodel” appearing players who favor the Anna Kornikova I-don’t-have-to-win-tournaments approach to getting rich from endorsements):

http://sports.nationalpost.com/2013/07/08/wimbledon-champ-marion-bartoli-avoids-insensitive-bbc-announcers-comments-with-class/

The Killing

How much better can this show get? A more straight forward plot this year, featuring the tortured soul that is Linden, who I just want to scoop up and hug, and her wigger partner Holder, who the writer’s have right at the edge of annoyingly offensive but still charming.