Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: Type Casting
3 Comments | posted April 29th, 2007 at 10:43 am by Felice Belle

Stereotypes Are A Real Time-Saver
– Wallace Rickard, The Onion


Last Sunday, I almost missed the curtain for Jack Goes Boating because I got into a heated discussion about 50 Cent and Jimmy Iovine. My friend argued that 50 – a poor, orphaned black youth from South Jamaica, Queens – was unfairly maligned in the mainstream media, when the real target should be Jimmy – the wealthy, white, co-founder of Interscope Records who writes 50’s checks.

I was not so willing to let 50 off the hook.

There was a period in time when black performers did not have options. If they wanted to work, they were forced to wear the mask. They took what was available to them – maids, minstrels, buffoons. Now I was not alive at that time, this is simply what I have heard.

Today’s artists have a choice. And some willingly wear blackface and promote denigrating images of an entire community in the quest for the almighty dollar. It is one thing to simply report on one’s circumstance. It is wholly another thing to celebrate violence and misogyny for profit. “Keeping it real” has been taken to an absurdist extreme. The result, a perfect combination of capitalism and colonialism.

Unfortunately, these days, the entire world is watching.

I had little more than stunned silence in response to the German army training video where recruits were urged to shoot at targets as if they were black men in the Bronx. I wondered if these men secretly bumped “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” after work on their iPods. If these men had heard of Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond or Sean Bell.

This is not about 50 Cent or Jimmy Iovine or rap music or the German Army. This is about personal choice, individual responsibility and concern for community.

Stereotypes are the stories we tell ourselves about a people. Not that there is no truth to them, just that there is no balance. The stereotype becomes the singular point of view.

What happens when the people who once fought against stereotypes, make the choice to fully inhabit them? (For entertainment purposes only). And what happens when the people who consume these products are not discerning enough to make the distinction between an individual and an image?

I’m not sure what happens. I’m pretty sure it’s not good.

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 29th, 2007 at 10:43 am and is filed under Politics, Music, Race. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 3 responses

  1. Theo Gangi

    Nice piece. I totally agree with your points (that German army training thing is crazy). There are two things that come to mind– 1. the market. If people didn’t consume 50 records like addicts, he wouldn’t be a problem. 2. His music, at its best, can be intoxicating. Same with other rappers with questionable messages. So how can intelligent people take a stand while they’re nodding their heads? A creature like Iovine exists on profit. If he couldn’t sell his product, he’d find a new product that would sell.

    In a society that respects free speech, I don’t think you can tell an artist what to rap about. The archetype of the American gangster is the new cowboy, who was the new frontiersman. I heard a saying once, coined believe in WWII– ‘The English act like they rule the world, the Germans act like they want to rule the world, and the Americans act like they don’t give a fuck who rules the world.’ I know these are stereotypes, but stereotypes are not born out of thin air. Whether it’s 50 Cent or Tony Soprano, there is something about our national attitude that likes the gangster, and wants to identify with him even as we condemn him. I don’t expect that to change.

    What has changed is the attitude towards women. While hero’s in 40’s movies did smack their women around a bit much, there is something unacceptable about how women are portrayed nowadays. A line does need to be drawn here. This development seems particularly corrosive and ugly, as we respect our women as much as we respect ourselves.

    April 29th, 2007 | 1:39 pm
  2. Kate Torgovnick

    Such an interesting post. And Theo, I love your comment about gangster being the new cowboy. I’d never thought of it that way.

    April 30th, 2007 | 12:46 pm
  3. Yeah, such a cool post. And I like the cowboy analogy too.

    May 2nd, 2007 | 12:17 pm

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