Welcome Back Dear Readers!

In the vein of Sofia from Color Purple, DBW is home ‘nah. And, as particular to how my people understand my people, I have been on CP time with finishing the first season of BET’s Being Mary Jane (BMJ). Listen, there were too many shows around that time. Bumper to damn bumper shows and between that and, you know, a job complete with all the writing you can stand and I just didn’t have the wherewithal (I’m classy thus I use classy words) to finish the show. I was three episodes from completion. And every week my recollection that I needed to catch up got filled with other things. Like Chipotle. And Haribo Gummi Bears. And occasionally: sleep.

But Jesus be a short summer break (I still have ALL the writing to do) and some insomnia: I FINISHED THE SHOW. (The caps are for me. I’m tryna do like Iyanla says and live my truth and stuff.)

And while my doomed shipper heart suffered as per usual (I ain’t spoiling ish so don’t come here fussing at me about that), I mostly enjoyed the series overall.*

But this ain’t a review so I’m not spending time delineating what about the show I liked—not necessarily.

 

Here at DBW y’all know I have ONE mission. I talk about Black people.

 

I talk about Black people…alot. You’ll find nothing different on this inspired occasion. Why inspired? Cause of this:

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Clockwise: Vera Farmiga (who looks an awful lot like Sarah Jessica Parker for my tastes–girl stop fucking with your face); Keri Russell, Julianna Marguiles, Jessica Pare, Claire Danes, Sarah Paulson.

Let’s get a better shot shall we:

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So much white! So much…Blue. So. much. blush.

Okay, let me put some things out here first before y’all forget who you’re talking to.

Disclaimer 1: DBW LOVES most all of these shows represented on this cover. DBW does not watch Bates Motel because DBW is not interested in refreshing her skills of psychoanalysis thus she will not be watching Vera Farmiga have a bad love relationship with her child. DBW also does not watch The Americans as DBW tried to watch it in its first season and often felt fatigue more than excitement. Also, I don’t really find Derek Luke all that attractive so that wasn’t a pull. I mean when I see Black people on FX shows–even in secondary roles, I’m looking at YOU Justified. I’m on the RAY-CHEL ship and I will go down with that little pirogue you hear me– ahem, I try to pay attention.

American Horror Story: Ain’t enough hours in the damn day to justify why I can’t be bothered. Suffice to say? I can’t be bothered. Also, Sarah Paulson ain’t friendly and she can go jump off a water slide.

But The Good Wife? Hell yes I watch. DBW is still wearing her funeral black after this damn season.

I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget.

See? Now I’m chanting the lines from A:tS “I Will Remember you.” That’s how much damage Robert and Michelle King inflicted upon me.

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(MY FAVORITE EPISODE OF THAT SHOW EVER. EVER. COME FOR ME.)

:clears throat again: Homeland? Yes indeed I watched that foolishness. I went from a Carrie and Brody fan to a Carrie and Quinn fan and WOULDN’T HE MAKE A WONDERFUL DADDY TO SILLY ASS CARRIE’S BABY?! TELL THE TRUTH.  I MEAN HE SHOT HER AND THE TUMBLR SHIPPERS SWOONED LIKE THAT WAS A LOVE LICK.

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DBW still ain’t let go of Claire Danes and Billy Crudup breaking up Mary Louise Parker’s [seemingly happy] home and yet I sit down to watch that show and fuss about them white people ‘er week.

Mad Men? Chile. That show has been my bedside companion since 2008. When folks didn’t know what AMC was I was sitting down watching little Sally Draper put that plastic bag over her head. The Angels was watching over her silly ass even then. #blessed

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But Mad Men is where I want to start this conversation because you know, of all the women who could have been on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter’s [Leading] Drama Queens edition, the one none of us was checking for was Jessica Paré, aka Megan Draper…er….what was her name before she married “DOHN” as she says it?

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The most famous moment. Don’t start singing it else you’ll get stuck with that earworm for all eternity.

I got no issues with Paré. Not a one. Well, I got one. You ready?

SHE AIN’ T THE LEAD ACTRESS.

The lead actress is the one whose name appears earlier in the credits. That person: Elisabeth Moss. Do y’all know where Paré’s name is listed? 10th. Tied with Kiernan Shipka.

:sips Simply Limeade and bites dill pickle and lips purse from the salt:

 

What is DBW trying to wait for you to pick up on? Well…that she ain’t lead.

 

And why would DBW come out of hiding to bring up that little fact? Well, we’ve been here before. Walk with me through memory lane. Remember this? Then (Lord that was 4 years ago…WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE) I tried to describe the context around which, if any, BW would be allowed to be cover material for a magazine like Vanity Fair.

Well…since then…little has changed. Last year Kerry Washington (I’m getting to her in a minute too) was allowed on cover because she’s THE BLACK WOMAN on television that we all must recognize, respect and admire because she’s beautiful according to a number of cultural registers including the most dominant one–the Eurocentric one (listen), well-educated, articulate (these are always criteria for BP to exceed their racial status) and EXCITED ABOUT LIFE (have you watched her interviews? She’s SO excited. And let’s not begin to chat about how her Neutrogena sponsorship ain’t gon work for all us BW. Neutrogena has always been just a shade or THREE too light for many of us. Carry on though, girl. Carry on.)

Disclaimer 2: I ain’t knocking Washington.** I like her fine. But she’s got herself in an interesting pickle not of her own design. That pickle being that when you’re the only one all expectations, joys, worries, responsibilities and burdens fall to you.

And folks, BW on television is a lot like being a Highlander. There can be only one. :Cue “Princes of the Universe”:

I know, I know, you’re gonna say,”but there’s 6 coming this year to television DBW. Viola, Halle, Taraji, Octavia, Regina, Jada. Not to mention the ones already on tv: Kerry, Taraji (when she was on Person of Interest….my heart goes out to you CaReese fans), Nicole, Gabourey, and Angela.”

It’s true, it’s true. There’s no better time to be a negress on television. And, yet, based on the cover of THR? It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter.

Here’s the thing that rubbed me wrong folks: THR would rather put an actress with 10th billing on the cover of its magazine rather than a lead Black actress (I’m not even going to expand to other women of color because I’d be here all day. I mean, Lucy Liu? Archie Panjabi? I could go on…) with first or second billing.

Kerry was on the cover last year and she had a baby this year so she was unavailable. But again: She wasn’t the only one of us on television. She’s just the only one visible. I mean, let’s take a looksie over the last three years and see if there’s a pattern:

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2013: Kerry front and center. And there’s Elisabeth Moss. I guess you can’t have back to back repeats. But you also don’t need to have the same show twice either…

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2012: Either way? There’s Marguiles and Danes on cover. Mmhmm.

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2011: Interesting that Marguiles is on back to back covers. Connie Britton returns in 2013. Christina Hendricks but HEY! Regina King! (Who will be confused with Rutina Wesley that year)

 

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2014: But maybe THR felt like they hit their diversity quota with the Oscar roundtable? I mean, it’s a perfectly even 3:3 ratio.

And this is why, while I’m terribly curious about what this upcoming television season will do for Viola and Halle and their own visibility despite being lauded with more nominations that you know…Kerry ever got…ahem…I know this industry doesn’t always think about those who don’t fit their models.

Because, why has no one done a cover of Halle for CBS’s Extant? Why is there no slow rollout of her as there was for Kerry?*** I’m sure there will be. I’m sure it’s only just May.

But folks: It’s Halle Berry. Oscar award winner Halle Berry…Coming to television. That’s a pretty big deal considering how excited we all were to see a successful film actress like Kerry Washington enter a primetime series–and rightly so! Again, no shade.

But Jessica Paré.

Academy-Award nominated Angela Bassett in a season of television where all DBW heard was that her performance was wonderful and fierce with them giant ass dookie braids. Can’t be on the cover.

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Indeed Madam. Indeed.

 

Not unless she’s with the rest of the AHS cast and Ryan Murphy.

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Then she can have a photo.

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Just a quick aside to say DBW believes in God because this woman’s face and body is still as fabulous as it was when she was shimmying in that sparkly Halston for WLGTDWI.

But Jessica Paré.

Nicole Beharie and her gorgeous-used-to date-Michael-Fassbender-and-got-me-all-in-my-feelings-after-they-broke-up-but-now-is-on-a-hit show-self that’s just as strange as whatever Sarah Paulson did on AHS.

But Jessica Paré.

There’s one name I haven’t mentioned in this section and it’s the one I started this whole thing off with: the lead actress of Being Mary Jane, Gabrielle Union.

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This show is important for a number of reasons: 1) It’s a huge success for BET who finally got their ish together and decided to back their original programming with real money and not that Monopoly money they been trying to pretend is real currency for years. 2)It gives us glimpses of complex Black sexuality that has been held back from us for a good long while.

I mean….this scene of Mary Jane’s married dude Andre diving into her pool to fix her broken light, because she ain’t getting in (HAIR), resulted in him looking like this:

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Which resulted in this wonderful moment.  Shivers at that moment she curls and uncurls her toes. Even Seasoned Saint sexuality with Mary Jane’s Mama and Daddy having a moment!

3) It provides a formidable counter to much of the race-neutral characterizations many BW have to take on in this current television era. From the first episode where Mary Jane is in bed wearing a headscarf because she wears an expensive weave that requires she not lie on it without a covering, DBW fell in love with the show’s cultural specificity.

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HEADSCARF.

Again, specificity is not the same as stereotype. Stereotypes are reductive attributes, fixed, immutable, and naturalized. Specificity suggests cultural characteristics that resonate within specific populations. For example, the idea that Scandal’s Olivia Pope can lie on a pillow without a head scarf and wake up with it magically laid to rest is not accurate; neither is it specific.

BW’s haircare is EXPENSIVE. I don’t care HOW down you may feel about your boyfriend married President not being there for you. Before you go lay down in your bed and cry while listening to the best of Anita Baker and Sade (or if you’re classy inclined—Nina Simone), you BETTA tie yo’ damn hauh (read: hair) up so you can be ready for work in the morning.

You can tell I still ain’t forgave Olivia for that ish in season 2. Still ain’t. Only thing could make it right is a jar of coconut oil and a large widetooth comb on her bathroom counter.

Anyway…Mary Jane did. It was REFRESHING to see a BW do what I do at night. It is nice to know you are seen. Not just ideal. Not a glorious, glamorous, fierce, impervious, always über fashionable but a woman who if she ain’t got no company over, ties her hair up with a silk scarf so it won’t be crispy, crunchy, wavy (in the wrong places) the next morning.

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I ain’t saying the show is perfect. The only consistent storyline is the romance arc. There’s no big goal to work toward. It’s much more a case study of a neurotic/narcissistic/bourgie/well networked Southern Black cable news anchor.

Neither perfect are the performances. Union is good; great could be if she works on it. She needs more practice in her dramatic levels but she’s a Black girl I recognize. A Black girl that helps create a continuum of Black womanhood on television. Olivia Pope, much like the woman who portrays her, cannot be the only one because there is only so much that character can represent.

Moreover, while I understand that Pope has to be identifiable to a mainstream audience (read white) and while I certainly believe that BMJ  can also connect with non-BF, that’s not its premise and neither should it be. Contrary to this article (and its own very strange ambivalence about the place of “universal” identification), DBW doesn’t frankly care if everybody connects with the character. And here’s why: no one cares if everybody connects with the average white character on a show. It’s just assumed they are so normative, why wouldn’t everyone try to relate, identify and be familiar. Universality is typically only applied to cases of non-white media. You know, the non-normative.

One of the great things about a possible spectrum of BW characterizations is that while they can all be different and all be relatable to mass audiences if need be, they can also be SPECIFIC. Specific, like a WASP-y yet agnostic female attorney forced to return to work after years of homemaking when her asshat (at the time) husband goes to prison and eventually decides to end a relationship with her new lover because she feels it has deleterious effects on her as a parent (BS but that’s what that heffa did. SOBS. :rocks self and sings “Rollin’ in the Deep”:) .

Specific, like an overly teary yet brilliant CIA agent with a chemical imbalance and daddy issues who falls in love with a man who may or may not be a terrorist sleeper agent.

Specific, like a French Canadian with a deep love for spaghetti, who takes a job as a secretary, falls in love with her taciturn, mercurial boss, shows it by performing a New wave French song with illegible lyrics at his birthday party, becomes a copy editor and then realizes her dream as an actress on a soap opera who occasionally enjoys threesomes.

That kinda specific. But back to Union, again, I don’t think this is the performance of a lifetime but…

Jessica Paré.

How much good faith would it have earned THR to demonstrate that they read their own articles about the success of Being Mary Jane and realize that including the lead of one of cable television’s hottest shows would not only help it get recognition from those Television Academy members who don’t realize BET still exists but also prove once again that Black viewership is REAL?

Again, DBW can anticipate the counter arguments: BET is not on the radar. Union isn’t that great. It’s not a critically acclaimed series.

And as many rebuttals to those points as I can make, I’m just going to go with the simplest one: Optics are everything. Contrary to popular belief, Lupita Nyong’o is not the only other BW available to work right now. Don’t EVEN get me started on her because her issue is the opposite side of the visibility spectrum where she gets lots of mediated attention/fetishization but ends up with little employment aside from a makeup endorsement and a role in the goddamn Jungle Book. But I won’t address it because y’all still believe and are praying against her working with Tyler Perry and I ain’t got the strength to fight…today. The magazines are suffering a post-Nyong’o sugar coma right now but, again, it’s that Highlander thing. In addition, just because she’s the Most Beautiful Woman in the World doesn’t mean it’s not still important to PRETEND like you notice that there are other BW who are on television and are in lead roles. One≠ALL the BW.

I understand that the stylists had a particular kind of look in mind that only pale could endure but I mean, BW can wear blue! So what, you want to do this weird Big Love-esque style look?

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BW will work it out. We always make do.

But putting Jessica Paré on the cover instead of one of those other women I mentioned—especially Union—illustrates one big point: they gave NOT. ONE. EFF. (excuse me mama)

At the end of the day, it’s just a magazine cover. It’s just agents and managers vying for their clients to be on the cover of THR. DBW gets it. However, as per usual, the minute we assume that business is ideologically (yes, yes, big word) neutral and is not operated by humans with perspectives, beliefs, and hierarchies, is the minute we lose sight of what this is about. Is it about a diversity count? No. But is it about acknowledging that whatever difference is occurring on-screen, it be illustrated and seen as important.

Because relying on Kerry? That ain’t gon sustain.

Oh FFS: Let’s listen to the Highlander theme. It’ll cheer us up.

*I mean it wrapped up a little too neatly and with few things unresolved as if they questioned being picked up for season 2. SPOILERS: And neither dude in the running?! And one of ‘em got a baby coming? And they got Whitney singing “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” over her handing the dude back his sperm and it’s sposed to symbolize something but we ain’t sure since I don’t think Mary Jane changed all that much but I mean what I know?

**Not knocking but she did sorta magically jump the there can only be one Black lady famous at one time velvet rope. She jumped right on past Sanaa, Nia, nem.

*** I’m fully certain that Halle has…issues. But still…

 

 

 

 

 

Hey there readers! DBW has come out from under her brand new duvet to answer all the questions. Well, just one question today.

Am I doomed if I’m a BW and I enjoy friend chicken?

In a word: NO. Now, is there a valid reason one would feel such concern over enjoying such a meal? Absolutely. I’m not going to drag y’all through the history. This isn’t that blog. Instead, why don’t we just take a quick field trip to Google images and see if we can visually trace why BF don’t always feel comfortable claiming fried chicken. I’M DOING THIS FOR YOU READERS. I HOPE YOU KNOW THAT MEANS I CARE.

And so it begins.

And so it begins.

I really am not a fan of Griffith. I can't care that he's the "father" of film. Shot from Birth of a Nation. Black Congressman eating chicken while on the floor. Lord help.

I really am not a fan of Griffith. I can’t care that he’s the “father” of film. Shot from Birth of a Nation. Black Congressman eating chicken while on the floor. Lord help.

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Remember when KFC told Oprah to give away all those coupons for free chicken? Yeah, I'm sure some of us are still traumatized.

Remember when KFC told Oprah to give away all those coupons for free chicken? Yeah, I’m sure some of us are still traumatized.

The assumption presents itself.

The assumption presents itself.

Look, like I said, this isn’t a deep meditation on how visual culture and white supremacy linked together to tie fried chicken as a Black pathology. Suffice to say: it is a thing. It is a thing that follows behind BF regardless of socioeconomic class. Like this dude:

If he can’t enjoy a wing tip without recirculating old stereotypes, we are all doomed.

But is it such a thing that you can’t get your 2-piece white meat spicy Popeyes on? Hell no.

I mean, Annie the Popeyes chicken lady notwithstanding you should feel completely free to go grab you a 2-piece.

Sighs. So I’m sure by now you’re wondering why DBW is going to all this trouble to legitimate BF relationship with chicken? Well, it’s because sometimes we forgot our own selves that it’s not the chicken that’s the problem. It’s the circuit of representation which often times we get NO Say over. That chicken thing? It’s gonna be linked to BF regardless if we eat and continue to stampede each other at KFC in Oprah’s name or if we decide to as a collective go completely vegan. Representation is not based on what folks actually do or don’t do–it’s based on imagination and lore. Remember my example about BF not riding bikes? Yeah. That. (Sidenote: DBW knows that BP ride bicycles. Before y’all get in a tizzy about my ignant generalization, please actually read the damn post first. I’m just saying.)

Anyway, all this talk about representation is tied to this:

So…DBW is about to mildly defend Orange is The New Black (OITNB) from this well-meaning but petty, overly reductive, non-nuanced article. The author makes some valid critiques:

  1.  Piper Kerman’s success is built on the backs of Black and Brown bodies she knew in prison
  2. The fact that Assata Shakur’s autobiography of being in a male prison is not already a television series is indeed a shame–although if the author honestly thought a network exec would make that happen she really hasn’t been paying attention.
  3. The fact that the show is at least initially centered around a white lady.

However, her analysis (because you know…she quit halfway through which isn’t a terribly complete analysis–let’s call it a “lysis” because it’s half done) of why she didn’t enjoy the content of the series is based around what she read as the show being full of tropes/stereotypes: “With very little exception, I saw wildly racist tropes: black women who, aside from fanaticizing about fried chicken, are called monkeys and Crazy Eyes; a Boricua mother who connives with her daughter for the sexual attentions of a white prison guard; an Asian woman who never speaks; and a crazy Latina woman who tucks away in a bathroom stall to photograph her vagina (the pornographic image is indiscriminately paraded throughout an entire episode).”

But here’s the thing: All of those types she lists and simplistically describes are wholly out of context–context, by the way, that is NECESSARY in understanding how what could be initially seen as one-dimensional character stereotyping is actually more complex AND dimensional as we watch the characters develop.

The fried chicken bit? Taystee taking ownership of loving chicken both served the scene AND was a mild form of what we media studies/cultural studies lovers of Stuart Hall’s sexy ass (May the Lord watch between me and he while we are absent one from another)

DBW loves her some Stuart. She can’t be the only one who watched those Media Education videos both wholly enthralled with the information and the speaker.

describe as a transcoding strategy of “contesting from within.” What does that mean? Well, instead of the tried and FAILED way of trying to annihilate a stereotype (because well, we never can annihilate it. We can superimpose something over it but that doesn’t eradicate the old type–it just gives us TWO) contesting acknowledges it AND playfully demonstrates that the issue isn’t with the group in question but the group who decided that, for example, enjoying fried chicken is a problem.

For another example of contesting from within go here and here. DBW loves Beau Sia. It’s brilliant.

For the record: DBW does not think that moment was minstrelsy, neither a simplistic stereotype. The way it was written was a smart negotiation. But since the author didn’t actually know what a negotiated reading (Lord Jesus deliver DBW from folks who never learned about encoding and decoding) was, all she heard was “fried chicken” and ran away. Sad.

But not only that. We got one of the best examples of code switching ever. I mean, for real, it’s the best of what BW do: we observe. We take note. We discuss. Flawless moment is flawless.

Moving on: Crazy Eyes:

My all time favorite moment with Crazy Eyes aka Suzanne aka the lady with the Bantu knots whose parents are white Quakers. I DIE EVERY TIME she sings this song. Because why can’t vanilla and vanilla be a swirl?!

Yes, we initially watched the character from the perspective of Piper. And, yes, the woman we would come to know as Suzanne (if you’re worried about spoilers after all the news stories about this show please climb out from under the pop culture rock you hide under more often) was initially viewed as “Crazy.” But again, if you stop there, you miss the depth and nuance that the writers and the actor brings to the character. Even to the point where the character has a meta moment and asks the character we initially viewed her through why she is called Crazy Eyes.

I’ma pause for a minute and let that sink in with your spirit for a minute. Don’t worry about me. I’ll wait.

Sipping tea and eating a dill pickle.

Sipping. Crunch.

Have you caught it yet? It’s called NUANCE and SYMMETRY folks. But again: You’d have to finish the show to get that reward.

Finally, for time’s sake, I’m going to pull one more distorted type from the list: “a Boricua mother who connives with her daughter for the sexual attentions of a white prison guard.”

So, the author is talking about this:

Aleida and Daya Diaz. Daya ends up in a situation and Aleida and other prison women folk come up with a solution that solves a host of problems.

Okay, so there are actual story reasons that do make sense within the logic world of the series supporting this decision–which, I mean, given the powerlessness of these women leaves them precious few options. DBW sees it less as reinforcing a stereotype and more like using the foundation of that type to showcase so many other things between these women. These women are not dumb but very knowledgeable about how the world operates.

She would be right if…Oh DBW will never step foot in a hot tub again. NOT AGAIN.

And they get to be playful young women:

I just love these girls and their terrible ass dance routine.

Look: Jenji Kohan admitted that she bait and switched what the show would be about when she initially framed the series around Piper and then actually made it about all the other women in prison. We know that. It’s not revolutionary; it’s just a strategy that enables a plethora of women types to be on television. We WOC have not yet hit the pinnacle folks. We still fighting with the same folks for opportunities to be in the same 5 parts. So when a part that is actually culturally specific and smart comes along, we need to try to figure out what it’s doing before we run off to talk about things that are tangentially related and don’t actually take into account the complete dearth of representation WOC suffer from.

Is it perfect representation? Hell no. There are many problems with the series to pick at. Also: Representation in and of itself is faulty because duh–it’s a RE-PRESENTING OF A THING.

So what does all this mean? In short: If you get upset over a character wanting some chicken, you’ve missed the damn point. Go back and start over again.

Or to say it like Piper:

Preach girl. Preach. Even though I still don’t like you, you make a good point.

DBW here with a post just in time for the BET Awards! You know I love the BET Awards.

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Remember when Will and Jada hosted? Oh man.

It’s my favorite time of year. For DBW, it’s the equivalent of  The (All the Black Last names) Black Family Reunion that is so full of foolywang if it doesn’t make you wince at least once, it’s not doing it’s job correctly.

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Soula Boy crying during the Whitney Houston tribute made DBW wince so hard my head hurt.

I love Family Reunions. My family has one every single year…mostly as a reason to travel someplace far from our familial origin. I’ve never attended a white reunion but I know a few things about BF reunions and I can tell you: foolywang is the name of the game. EVEN when going for respectable, there’s always a fight about the t-shirts (cause you know we wear t-shirts),

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Two very common t-shirt designs: The damned tree or the grandparents when they were young. Sometimes, they’ll frame the text around an outline of the state where the reunion is happening.

There’s fights about the barbecue spot, about who was at the banquet too drunk to take a picture, or about why Auntie Such and Such is mean mugging you (where inevitably your mama will ask you, “did you speak? You did speak right?” And by “speak,” DBW means, “did you say hello”).

Family reunions, in a sense, thrive on some sense of ignominy. Everybody loves Jesus for a few days and show it very publicly even though they probably don’t actually think about Jesus before they arrive or after they leave. Then there’s the family group circle where somebody’s gonna cry while honoring those who have gone on before while holding hands and swaying to The O’Jays “Family Reunion.” Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” is far too far for this event.

And just let me digress for a sentence and say that while I love the melody and sentiment of that song I have heard it so many times that I want to shake the hell out of Eddie Levert for making that song knowing full damn well that Black folk were going to sing it til Jesus comes back.

Don’t believe me? Do a Youtube search for Family Reunion O’Jays. You will find as many powerpoint videos of family reunions with this song as the background as you will versions of just the damn song.

Anyway, back to the main thought.

There’s the “talent” shows where talent is in quotes because regardless of if the individual (usually the children) are actually good at what they do or not, you’re forced to sit there and endure the performances that never end and the best part: You sit there chanting things to the children to get them to carry on: “Take your time.” “That’s alright!” “Go (random child’s name) go!”

DBW ain’t shamed to admit she did the talent segment of her family reunion once. It was 1986. It was July. Somehow DBW’s family was on a boat (this memory is fuzzy as I was young but I feel like we were on a boat). Talent show was gearing up. I look at my cousin and we had just heard Al B. Sure’s “Night and Day” in the car ride over to the “boat” (hell it may not have been a boat. I dunno.). I loved both Al B. Sure and “Night and Day” and thought to myself, “This would be a great idea to sing in front my family.” So we did. But at some point as you’re singing into a mic acapella, you realize: You don’t really know any of the words save the chorus and the groan-y noises Al does in-between.

SHAME. And that was the last time DBW participated in anybody’s talent show. (Well there was that one time DBW’s mother insisted we offer songs to Jesus on his birthday one year but I will save that story for another time. There’s really only so much familial shame DBW will share in ONE post.)

Anyway, take all those feelings and events and mix it with some measure of celebrity and you’ve got the BET Awards. I’ve mentioned it before here (scroll down past the Glee diatribe to get to it) but really, what better place to see foolery, ignominy, redemption and GOSPEL all at once? I mean, seriously: P. Diddy appearing in a cloud of smoke followed not too long after by Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams (I don’t know why they always bring Adams out. I. don’t. know.) singing about Jesus and tryin not to get too happy (For folks unfamiliar: “Happy” means to get so excited by them being “Filled with the Holy Ghost” that they dance real fast and shout real loud). DBW loves the dissonance. It’s like the best comfort food. And after the week BF have had, we need all the comfort food we can get.

And don’t talk to me about “it makes us look bad.” Look, if it’s not your thing it ain’t your thing but regardless of what we do, we will look bad. REGARDLESS of what we do we’ll still be called names and made to feel discredited and demoralized in a witness box while family of the individuals responsible for trying to make her feel bad celebrate with g-d ice cream cones. and not worthy to do something as simple as vote so, please don’t talk to me about “positive” representations. They don’t work to fix systemic issues of identity either.

Anyway: DBW looks forward to seeing Chris Tucker raised from the dead.

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I loved him in his Def Comedy Jam days. I don’t really know what to expect from him now. It’s been a lonnnng time since those days. And he’s made a lot of money since those days.

What we gon talk about now, Chris? What we gon talk about now?!

Oh and before I get out of here, my favorite moment from last year’s Award. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s performance:

Poor Frankie. His voice was not great that night but the man is allowed a not-great day after 40 years on the road.

Here’s better days Frankie:

So, we’ll see what happens tonight and I’m sure I’ll have commentary on what parts of the Family Reunion made DBW wince and what parts brought absolute joy.

Good question. One day I’ll spend time talking about Halle Berry and the tub of looney (apologies! Ableist language) that beautiful woman who sold her soul to the devil to never age past 30, is swimming in. And why she’s Tina Turner 2.0–but not in the ways you think of course–well, we’ll get to that.

Firstly: HELLO Y’ALL. It’s Easter! Not only did Jesus rise from the dead (but he’s not a zombie dammit.) but so did DBW…er…metaphorically speaking. Who’s bringing me some big ass ham?

After requests and promises to find Stephen Amell if I wrote a new blog post, after hearing the new JT album and both liking it and feeling like it sounded too close to Robin Thicke, DBW is here again answering ALL the damn questions.  In response to my last post on Zooey and Idris, and why the possibility of that interracial romance made DBW want to consider life inside padded cell, a reader asked:

Why are people so uncomfortable that I, as a black female, have an attractive, loyal, and loving white boyfriend?

First of all, Good for you. No, seriously. Putting the “white” descriptor aside for just a moment, that you have attractive, loyal and loving boyfriend is enough to take a moment of applause.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dear readers, dear readers, dear readers. It is now winter and I’ve left you all summer and fall without a post. And I do feel horrible.

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I’m Sorry Okay.

I often think of you all when something happens in the newspaper (that I read online) or in my television shows or when I am in a conversation with someone else about something foolish. I think to myself—I need to share this with the five of you who read this blog so that y’all can get as big a kick out of it as I do.

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But writing dear readers…Writing, for DBW is akin to holding her breath under water (YES DBW CAN SWIM. AND HER HAIR IS SHORT AND UNRELAXED SO IT DOESN’T BOTHER HER AS MUCH ALTHOUGH SHE SOMETIMES STILL THINKS ABOUT IT AND STILL DOESN’T SWIM AS OFTEN AS WHITE PEOPLE DO BECAUSE WHY.).

I have pretty good records for “holding my breath.” But when I hit the goal, I often come up for air and then think, Oh my lord I was under water for a long ass time. I’m just gonna float for awhile and then awhile is the whole summer and fall and I have to remember all over again how to breathe under water and REASONS.
Now, you probably don’t care about any of that but that is the only excuse–aside from laziness–that I have to explain my whereabouts.

In any case, I’m here ‘nah. So let’s get to the question. A reader asked me to answer the all too damn difficult question: “Why do black guys go for white girls.” Haa.

And I’ve just gotten real specific by listing the two people I would have the most problem with in the world to get together: Idris Elba and Zooey “I want to physically accost her” Deschanel.

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Sighs. If God is merciful he won’t let this wonderfulness…

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connect with this because that upsets the order of the universe.

But seriously: Lord, if I had a nickel for every time someone has tried to answer the question of BM and white women I’d have as many nickels as Tami Roman (Team Tami FTW).

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Yes, because I love this woman and she rose from rags to riches to rags to riches again. Selah. Also: she’s messy as hell but she’s good for snatching the necessary wigs when necessary. Look at her in this picture! I just…I love how little of a damn she gives about all of us.

The problem with the question is that we honestly have no idea. At the core, it seems to be personal choice and desire. And, yes, desire is informed by a multitude of stuff–history, culture, assimilation, integration, self-hatred, etc. Remember when Hollywood tried to beat us over the head in the 90s with all the “deep black people movies”? Like Higher Learning (which I loved).

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And Zebrahead (which I slept through but tell people that I love),

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Save the Last Dance (which I refused to see for fear of setting fire to the movie theater),

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Jungle Fever (which I watch but skip past the Snipes/Sciorra scenes in favor of the BL conversations shot in full closeup)

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Wait, wait…let’s stop and watch this clip:

I do deeply love the harshness and realness of these BW talking about the state of Black relationships. It’s mean; some of it can be offensive; it’s crude–but it’s real. And few of us can deny that we’ve had this very conversation even though Jungle Fever came out in 1992.

Back to the list…Mississippi Masala (which, I mean…do *you* remember Mississippi Masala? I thought so).

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What did these movies try to teach us? Essentially that it’s none of our damn business anyway. “Love sees no color” and all that foolywang. And I suppose that half of that BS early post-race formation logic is sorta kinda true: It’s not my damn business. So, please, before you send me comments about how you and your loved one break the mold–and for the love of God and all that is holy do not send me comments about how the only race that is important is the human race. I will tell you to take a seat in the lake of fire–realize that I’m not talking about y’all personally and individually. This whole “atomized” individuality is how we all got into this mess to begin with. Bygones.

Here’s the thing dear readers: Just like Flipper’s wife said at the end of the Jungle Fever clip, at the end of the day (BW love saying that expression nowadays. I blame reality television), whatever color woman took her man away. But that it was a white woman just made it sting worse. Why? Because it’s about not feeling first. At the end of the day? It’s about not feeling first. Lemme explain.

So, since BF came to this country (involuntarily I might add), we’ve essentially been embroiled in what I will shallowly call an Image war for our identities. We were enslaved and it seemed that to keep us enslaved (I’m not even talking about that Willie Lynch stuff so don’t ask me about it), some reimagining of identity had to take occur. So beautiful people begin to be called ugly and dumb and beautiful BW who are raped and producing children for their white slave owners are drawn as overweight, asexual mammies to disavow desire because “who would want to lay down with THAT when you have porcelain skinned beauties in overly tight dresses to woo??!”

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What we’re used to when considering mammy.

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More likely what many BW looked like during that era.

After slavery, beautiful BM are reduced to bucks and coons and toms and mandingos and BW are mammies and Jezebels and Sapphires and Tragic Mulattos–identities marked by stereotype more than real dimensional characterizations. What’s more? These are not “good” identities; rather, they are fraught with hypersexuality and hyperviolence and neglect and abandonment and ineptness.

What’s that got to do with my arch nemesis Zooey D? Be still and watch me work.

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Have you ever seen someone who looks more happily confused about their place in life? Me either.

So, BM and BW identities are frozen in time. They rarely change and grow and even if a new identity arises (the black nerd or the black hippie or what have you) they don’t erase the old identities–they just lay the new ones on top of them.

But white people? Oh my goodness, white people have a myriad of identity types. Not even the damn sky is the limit! Anything you wanna be! Any way you want to be it–it’s fine! In order to get to a particular identity you have to give a descriptor–think Southern or Granola or Hipster or F*ckin Hipster, or Midweseterner. Get it? In order to think about the particular identity I have to give you a clue because white signifies very little on its own. A FRAKKIN AMAZING THING.

Here’s another descriptor: QUIRKY. Now, if you’ve been reading DBW for a while you know how I feel about quirky. As a quick refresher? I HATE IT. IT’S SO ETHEREAL AND AIRY AND NOT PALPABLE AND LIGHT AND NOT WEIGHTED DOWN WITH THE GRAVITY OF HAVING LIVED A LIFE THAT IS SOMETIMES FRAKKING HARD AND IT’S FLEETING AND GAAAAAAAH.

:: DBW takes a deep breath and lies down for a few minutes ::

Okay, okay I’m back. So, I don’t like quirky for all those reasons I screamed at you just now. But more than that, there’s an earnestness and an innocence to quirky that I don’t think all the people (read: people who look like me) get to access. There’s a cavalierness to being able to ride around in a cotton dress on an old school bicycle and think about how good your life is and how much you really enjoy record shops and playing tunes on your beloved BUT BROKEN piano because your father is a world renowned cinematographer and you have access to a dietician so you can lose your baby fat. There’s an elvishness to the quirky identity that I found grating because again, it’s completely dependent upon naivete and the fact that one doesn’t have to be aware of Others because they are the most important ones.

Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about so specifically? This.

I just want to contrast this quickly with Jazmine Sullivan’s Cotton ad to show some difference (pun intended):

There are some similarities in how both ads show these women dreamily contemplating their lives in coffeeshops while journaling and such but even at the level of lyric, Sullivan’s is about achieving the “dream” while Deschanel’s is about you know, what she did that day. (I also recommend looking at Miranda Lambert’s cotton ad because the descriptor of difference–in her case Southern and country–makes her song and visuals markedly different.)

Anyway, anyway: that quirky identity that Deschanel makes for herself is one of many that are accessible to her and one that she can switch out for another whenever she’s ready to switch into “takes myself serious ingenue” or whatever. There’s little fixity to her identity persona.

And more to the point of this little diatribe  blog entry: PEOPLE LOVE IT. They eat it up. She is valued beyond measure for being quirky and “oh so cuhyute.” She is accessed value and worth and is allowed to be at the top of the totem pole.

But we BW who are fighting this Image war? We don’t get the same privileges. The attributes mostly associated with us are “turn offs”; things that people don’t love. Things that make us hard to deal with. I refer you back to the Jungle Fever clip if you need a sample.

I know some of y’all remember hearing about Wesley Snipes (enjoy your prison stay! BF, pay your income tax for the love of God and all his holy baby angels) and how he said that BW have too much attitude. Even if he didn’t say it and it’s urban legend right up there with Tommy Hilfiger and Oprah and Liz Claiborne, the fact that it exists and that it has lingered for so long stresses just how undervalued BW are perceived to be.

Too much attitude. Why pick someone who has too much attitude when you can have quirky all day long!? (Yield sign to my white friends: I don’t think any woman comes off particularly unscathed in Snipes’s remarks–especially Asian ladies)

Now, over here at DBW, she with the intellectual letters behind her name recognizes that she’s just created a really strong binary that has little nuance. And yeah, you’re right. These things are simply not that simple. But you asked why it seems to hurt BW when BM go for the white ladies. And my answer is because it feels like we’ve lost the Image war with the very people we’re allied with. I didn’t say it was rational or logical. It’s not betrayal; it’s a question of WORTHINESS. Put simply: are we worth the effort? And many times, it seems like the answer may be no. 

This is why…OH THIS IS WHY..that new ABC show Scandal is so interesting. Oh readers, do yourself a favor and hop on the Twitter on Thursday nights at 10/9 c and SEE for yourself.  (Seriously: Black Twitter is where it is at y’all. Pop some popcorn and watch the foolywang.)

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Flawless makeup Kerry Washington.

The opportunity to identify with (colorblind until the most recent episode where Olivia called herself Sally Hemmings which yes we can talk about but not now because who has time to write THAT novella?!) a BW who is madly in love with a white man (and the white man is in madly–like bordering on obsessive–in love with her) that makes all of us consider our life choices and decisions? Of course we’d take that bait.

HERE! Have some pictures and gifs and stuff so I can prove my point.

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Who cares that he’s married?

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Hell who cares that he is a REPUBLICAN!? All I know is that when he told her that she didn’t belong to him but he belonged to her I think BW all over America had to drink their second glass of moscato juice because that was…yeah.

Why is Scandal so successful with BW? Outside of it being the first show with a black lead in for-damn-ever, it taps into the worthy/value piece. This woman’s identity is scrubbed clean of the others and it’s like this aspirational world where there was never a mammy or a Sapphire but we are really all the same and stuff. (Don’t get me started on the race problems. Like I said, ANOTHER BLOG POST.) And: this fine ass white man and this black man (who looks too much like Bill Cosby for me to take him seriously but I mean, yay Norm Lewis! I’m glad you have a job.) want her affections and IN WHAT WORLD HAS THAT HAPPENED ON OUR DAMN TV SCREENS?

Tony Goldwyn. I don't even know what happened to our good sense when that man utters syllables and vowels and uh...commands.

Tony Goldwyn. I don’t even know what happened to our good sense when that man utters syllables and vowels and uh…commands. That scene with the shotgun was both terrifying and a little quiver-inducing.

Edison Huxtable as the Scandal fan community calls him.

Edison Huxtable as the Scandal fan community calls him.

I shall stop with this for now except to say that really, if Zooey D hooked up with Idris Elba I really would burn Sunset Blvd to the ground. KILL IT WITH FIRE.

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Hello readers!

DBW here with a question that always perplexes her WF (white friends–I’ll add that to the glossary).  See, what happens is that it always happens that  DBW goes into a movie theater or a restaurant or a Neil Diamond concert–a space where she knows BF ain’t gonna be present for and  is surprised that some of us have braved the elements and joined in. As an involuntary reaction, she (I–I haven’t the foggiest idea why I’m talking about myself in the third person) will count the brown bodies. I call it the “how many chocolate chips are in the batter” test.

Does the visual image help you understand the metaphor now? It does doesn’t it.

The reason why? I have no idea. I think it’s a protective measure in case we all need to fight back if the revolution happens or some such thing while we’re watching Shame.

When I found out the director was a BM I had to stop and pick up my mouth from the floor.

And don’t even get me started on that movie. I love me some Michael Fassbender.

I mean, I have never wanted to be a scarf so badly in my life.

But I don’t love movies that make me feel awkward simply for watching a man go through a shame spiral. And don’t even get me started on Carey Mulligan singing “New York, New York” for 25 solid minutes.

Here she is singing the damn song that WOULDN'T END. If it looks like she's trying to remember the words, it's because she WAS. How else could one explain how painfully slow (and unmeaningful) she sang that damn horrid song.

If that heifer sang that damn song any slower, I’d be collecting my Social Security by the time I left the theater. Hell to the no. Anytime as an audience member you feel the need to sing along to help the girl on the screen go faster? That’s a problem

Anyway, I have always argued that white people are the ones who like to count but sometimes, you know, we do too. But here’s an event where counting is something we all have something in common, just like Martin Luther King predicted*.

That's right: The Oscars. The night that is ALL about counting.

While my fair skinned brothers and sisters are counting how many categories they got right, we are counting how many of us there are total at the show. Because there have probably only been two handfuls of BF who have been nominated for Academy Awards (we’re not even gonna talk about the sad lack of Asians, Latinos and Middle Eastern folk who are consistently shut out), counting is a must for us when we talk about the Oscars. Conversation starters like, “I’m sick and tired of looking at all the white folks on the screen cause they don’t ever nominate black folks for Oscars,” are frequent and usually lead to a who’s who of past winners and nominees, e.g., “Remember when Angela Bassett was nominated for What’s Love Got to Do With It? She should have won.”

Indeed she should have won for playing the best version of Tina Turner any of us could ever hope for. Yet it was one of those situations where Hollywood said, "Here Angela, Have a Golden Globe." Look at those flattened sweated out candy curls though! Come on lady girl. I appreciate the french roll though. I do.

I sincerely believe that the reason why the majority of the Academy (who are white) won’t nominate more folks of color (or actually greenlight projects that feature people of color) is because they fear something like this:

I assure you, we know how to behave ourselves in mixed company. But seriously, is that clip not awesome or is it not awesome?! “Joy, sir. I do not know the meaning of the word. But Rev. Martin Luther King does.” How can you not love it? And the woman pulling out that little ass pink Barbie mirror while singing like she’s trying to be Stephanie Mills? How can you not love it. LOVE IT DAMMIT.

But until that great day comes when we can stop counting, this year we’ll be counting  our usual suspects: Morgan Freeman, Samuel Jackson, Halle Berry (if she’s not off in France with her new man already), Forrest Whitaker (and his lovely wife Keisha. I love Keisha. I would be her friend.)

But we’ll also be counting some new BF invited to the ball:

Viola Davis! With her boobies like perfectly shaped M&M's. I can't look at her face because I find myself transfixed by how her dress is harnessing her bosom. Transfixed.

Viola Davis is up for Best Actress in that movie The Help that I refuse to talk about because everyone else in the world has talked about it so much better than me and I refuse to watch the movie or read the book. I will say that I am happy that Viola finally has her moment in the sun and I hope she enjoys the hell out of it cause next year, it’s over with (BW actresses only get one Oscar or nomination per lifetime).

But Viola’s not all:

Octavia Spencer! Girl you looking good girl. And I love that Viola's cheesing makes me feels like she's at her class reunion. It's the NAACP Image Awards--the closest thing Black Hollywood has to a class reunion so that would make sense. But where's the barbecue?

Now Octavia is up for Best Supporting Actress for The Help. I got no thoughts about that. Here’s what I do have thoughts/concerns/worries about:

Y'all my girl fell backwards in her evening gown and stilleto heels while wearing three pairs of Spanx. If she could fall in a pit backstage here, what could she do to herself at the Academy Awards?

See, this is when I knew I loved Octavia. It’s not just that her name is Octavia–although I love the hell out of that. I love old BW names like Pauletta, Georgette, Eunice, Ernestine, and Minnie.

No, no…I love Octavia cause her ass fell backwards and she laid out like she should. And then, she got up:

Apparently with the help of Viola (and despite her bosom harness dress) Octavia landed rightside up again.

The first time I saw this picture I thought a press member said something crazy to Octavia and she was about to go beast mode on them save for Viola and the white man next to her holding her back. I wasn’t totally wrong. When you fall like that, you really want to beat the hell out of something.

Anyway, there’s two more photos I want to show that relate to The Help. 

The Help won Best Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. And Cicely Tyson needs to take that furry feathery still living piece of an animal something off her body and send it back to nature where it belongs. It longs to be free Cicely!

So I haven’t put much faith in the legitimacy of the NAACP Image Awards since Justin Timberlake was nominated for best supporting actor one year. I mean, really? NAACP nominates Justin “I totally threw Janet Jackson under the bus at the Superbowl” Timberlake? Foolywang. This is why I didn’t fall dead in shock at the racial makeup of The Help producers. But what mostly strikes me? The position of the BW. While nobody puts Baby in a corner; clearly (and unintentionally of course) it is acceptable to put a trifecta of BW there so the white dudes can thank all the BP for selecting their little piece of racist revisionist propaganda as best film.

One more photo:

Viola and George. Totally BFF...In my dreams.

I don’t know. This may be the first time George took a cover photo with a non-white woman who wasn’t J.Lo. But here’s my issue: I totally don’t know how to feel about this photo. It’s interesting to me that he’s not looking at her yet she dotes on him. Also, there is not one bit of sexiness in this picture which surprises me because George can generate sexiness with only a paperclip and a piece of Doublemint gum. What gives? Why not put her in that va va va voom dress and have Clooney’s bowtie undone? Why pretend that they are Fred and Ginger when what they could be is Frank and a hot ass Black chick after hours in Vegas?! Sighs.

But back to counting, here’s some good news: you can count with DBW and her soul twin Racquel as we liveblog the Oscars Sunday night. This year we are joining forces with the wonderful ladies of the  Fembot Collective to bring some good old fashioned snark and black womanness to the Academy Awards. Join us and bring your favorite adult beverage as we count our way to freedom. It is Black History Month after all! Click here for the link.

See y’all there!

PS: And I see y’all have answered DBW’s request for questions. Downton Abbey is getting moved to the top of the list. Keep those questions coming!

*Folks are always misquoting King and what he said in that “I Have a Dream” speech. I figured I’d join the damn crowd and just be upfront about how I’m lying on him.

Hello readers,

Y’all still out there? I hope so. I know it’s been a year. Over a damn year since I last posted here. And y’all could have moved on. Found a new BW to love and make you giggle over foolywang like bicycle riding and such. Speaking of which, a few nights ago I became obsessed with music videos featuring BW on bicycles. I found two, Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Girl Put Your Records On” and India Arie’s “Video.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Hello dear readers,

Read the rest of this entry »

A special edition of DBW. I have some other posts in the pipeline but this is first. Occasionally I troll around looking to see how DBW is surviving in the interwebz. This morning, I discovered this: a response to an earlier piece* I wrote about Vampire Diaries and its ambiguous relationship to race (Find that here). Initially taken aback by the really potent response, what started as a really long comment has turned into a blog entry. And, while the points I am making are in response to her blog post, my remarks aren’t just directed at her but at the largest critiques she is participating in. So, I want to thank Unemployed Theatre Major for helping me stay on my toes. Please, let’s discuss more!

And, so it begins. Another blog post about my most favorite show: The Vampire Diaries. Don't hate.

Anywho, onto my long ass comment/response:

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Dear readers,

DBW has a confession to make: I am addicted to the CW’s The Vampire Diaries (TVD).

Don't judge me. It's a really good show. And, as I've said to everyone whose come in contact with this show, if you start watching it, you will become addicted as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

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