Friday, September 17, 2010

My latest post on Love the artist. Hate his racism?

"How Soon Is Now?" by The Smiths is somewhere near the pinnacle of my list of GenX musical classics.

I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar...I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular...I am human and I need to be loved...just like everybody else does.

Have there ever been lyrics that more perfectly captured the tenor of the post Baby Boom? And the waawr waawr of Johnny Marr's guitar reminds me of teenage self-seriousness and angsty afternoons spent listening to "Meat is Murder" on the stereo. The Smiths oeuvre could have remained the stuff of my generational reveries if not for former lead singer Morrissey's latest bout of racist idiocy. Now I'm wondering if it is possible to separate an artist's actions from his art.

In a recent Guardian interview, Morrissey called Chinese people a "sub-species" in a discussion about animal abuse in China. In doing so, he condemned an entire group for the actions of a few; slurred a specific ethnic group as less than human; and demonized a people of color. Surely, Morrissey knows about the animal abuses in Western countries, including England and the United States. But I doubt we'll hear the singer calling the English a sub-species any time soon, especially given past racialized comments that have brought him under public scrutiny, including a xenophobic NME interview in which he opined over the loss of the English identity in the face of "floods" of immigrants to the country.

Morrissey's music, his jabs at the political right in England and the U.S., and his animal rights activism have given him particular appeal to a progressive fan base. And so, it is curious to watch fans contort themselves to justify and rationalize his recent statements. One commenter on Gawker offered, "This isn't a racist comment because Chinese people are not a race, they're a nationality. He's not calling ASIAN people (across the globe) a 'sub-species' but rather the behavior of people within a certain nation-state." This excuse, of course, ignores that racial bias that makes it easier to condemn a country of Asian people, while absolving the citizens of other predominately white countries for similar behavior.

I won't claim that I will never again let my iPod rest on a song by The Smiths or Morrissey, but the way I experience those songs has been forever tainted. While I have never listed Morrissey among my celebrity idols, many certainly do, and I find this perplexing. It is one thing to love the music and hate the man, but if you find bigotry abhorrent, how can you then idolize someone who has a history of demonstrating racial prejudice?

True Blood Ep. 36: "Evil is Going On"

Listen to Renee and I talk about the final episode of season three of HBO's series, "True Blood."

Listen to internet radio with TTBatMerlottes on Blog Talk Radio

And join me over at Racialicious for our weekly "True Blood" roundtable:

Tara Cuts Her Hair: A Reality Check

Thea: It’s true. That was a good moment. What did y’all think of the haircut scene? Did one of the writers watch Good Hair and then write a memo saying “Black ladies like hair. Must write hair scene for Tara.” Oh, I have just out-cynical-ed even myself.

Andrea: Not at all, Big T. (May I call you Big T, Thea?) I liked the scene a lot. I dig your analysis about the racialization of the scene, but I didn’t quite read it that way. At first, I read it as an engendered scene, of “look at the woman cutting her hair to change her life,” which seems to be a leitmotif of women’s transformation stories in literature, mythologies, and pop culture. However I had to check that idea because hair-cutting seems to symbolize, in both spiritual and secular traditions, a letting go, a movement towards transforming one’s life for people of various genders. And, as much as I loved Tara’s fresh braids for three seasons, I really dig her natural lush ‘do, which is rare to see a dark-skinned Black woman rock in moving pictures.

Thea: Oh yes! I normally get Little T. Big T, much better. And cosign, I liked the significance of Tara’s new, bigger hair – maybe she’ll make a triumphant return at the end of the next season to save the day or something and Sookie will finally realise what a terrible friend she has been…hope hope.

Tami: I agree with Andrea that changing hair is often used to symbolize a woman’s transformation, but the hair cutting scene irked me. Maybe I’m not up on my weavology, but you can’t just hack off your shit and reappear downstairs looking like a new woman.

Latoya: Well, having done the presto-chango myself, you can hack off your braids in your bathroom and untangle them yourself over the course of a few hours, depending on how fast you are and how short your natural hair is. Your hair generally holds the braid pattern – for me, it means I have crinkles. Now, where Tara found time to do a roller set/straw set before coming downstairs…search me.

Tami: We all know what really happened is that Tara called her stylist and set up an appointment for four weeks later. Then she sat for like 12 hours while her hair was de-weaved, washed, deep conditioned and re-weaved into the new cute shorter ‘do. I’m just saying.

Andrea: Tami….see…..LOLOLOLOL! Considering that no one seems to know where Bon Temps’ Black community is–let alone who/where Tara would get her braids done–I’m gonna let that detail slide. Girlfriend had to do for herself….as per usual.


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