White Tears and Casting HAMILTON

To paraphrase Jay-Z, I just saw a Facebook post that fucked up my day.

If you’re new to this blog, I eat, sleep, live and breathe all things Lin-Manuel Miranda, and have been actively following (and participating in as I’m able) the development of the Broadway smash HAMILTON since that little six-minute ditty at the White House six years ago. I’m just gonna drop it here for the three people who haven’t seen it.

Thanks to sold out shows into 2017, the show is now developing productions in Chicago and San Francisco, as well as national tours. So naturally, there was a casting call put out designed to preserve the casting dynamic…..which didn’t sit too well with some people.

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"You can't be serious....."

Since I saw it on FB, I also captured the edited header as well

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"It must be nice, it must be nice....."

Cue my blind rage. My poor friend Jason who reposted it got a blistering earful on my feelings….fortunately, I’m sure he knows it wasn’t a direct hit. Still, I felt the need to vent and had a whole head of steam drafted on the WTPD Facebook page before I shifted gears and brought my thoughts on the subject here.

Some very good points were made on how the wording appeared, and yes, I did consider that in parallel to the infamous casting call from the Straight Outta Compton movie. But as I have been following, studying, and critiquing HAMILTON for nearly the whole six years it took Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring it to the stage, I’d like to think that I have almost as much of an intimate knowledge of this show as anyone directly involved. In every single interview Miranda describes the show as “America then been told by America now,” meaning the melting pot of actors on stage largely telling the story of a whole bunch of dusty, scrappy White boys who shaped the republic we now live in. So you’re going to have to suspend disbelief a little as you see Black and Brown faces playing the obviously Caucasian figures you see in your history books and on your money. But, that is not to say that these are the only ethnicities in the cast. Jonathan Groff, Thayne Jasperson, Betsy Struxness and Neil Haskell are CLEARLY White and just as important to the show as their differently hued castmates. ( I believe that Betsy and Neil have since moved on, but you get the point.)

The popularity of HAMILTON is leading to other standalone productions and  national tours, and it would be idiotic to suggest that the casting mix that is clearly working and a large part of the curiosity for theatergoers be changed. I’m quite certain there was an open call for all dancers regardless of race, and with the huge number of Caucasian actors in the theatrical arts pool, the producers’ quota had been hit. This is not the same situation as say, the movie Gods of Egypt, where a conscious casting decision was made to have an almost solely White cast tell a story about ancient Africans. (Yes, children–Egypt is in Africa. Quel surprise.) At no time did the producers even hint at the exclusion of White actors in the show; this particular casting call asked for “minority” actors in order to mirror the current balance.

In entertainment, producers and directors are always going to be looking for a certain type. That’s simply the nature of the business. However, insecurities from the most well-employed section of the acting pool are not going to be eased by intimating a false controversy in this particular case. Welcome to the competition, fellas….this is what everyone else deals with on a regular basis. And if you’re still feeling some kind of way about this, I’m afraid you will never be satisfied.

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"I'm about to change your life...."

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

So, I really wasn’t planning to watch the Grammys this year.

I forget what award or performance snub pissed me off but I stopped watching the Grammys years ago, Googling only the categories I’m interested in to see who won. Categories, by the way, that never got a millisecond of airtime anyway, so my personal boycott was never difficult.

And then, this greeted me early on a Wednesday morning.

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Aw crap.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any significant amount of time knows that I will move heaven, earth and maybe some smuggled body parts to watch him, as the old folks used to say, “spit across the line.” So that basically meant my Grammy boycott didn’t stand a chance. And I actually watched it live all the way through the Hamilton performance and win, and was pleased with a great deal of what I saw. I expected no less than complete awesomeness from HAMILTON, and they did not disappoint in either the performance or Lin-Manuel Miranda’s traditionally expected acceptance rap. But I was treated to some very pleasant and well-performed moments, such as the new artist duets, the Kendrick Lamar performance, and the artist tributes. I love that Lionel Richie not only received an all-star musical tribute in connection with his AmeriCares Humanitarian Award, but got to participate in it. And of the memorial performances, my absolute favorite was the collaboration of Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix saluting Maurice White; however I did appreciate the fact that Jackson Browne and The Eagles, Lady Gaga and Bonnie Raitt devoted their stage time to Glenn Frye, David Bowie and B.B. King, respectively.

But even with all of that, there’s still a lot that Grammy should have done WAY better. The sound issues, rushed thank yous, and usual snubs of certain categories in the broadcast have needed attention for years, and are probably among the reasons I stopped watching. But one in particular has folks up in arms–the paltry mention of the late Natalie Cole.

And this Mic article didn’t help the conversation progress:

 On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Being in broadcasting and having some experience on what it takes to navigate getting a live show on and off the air in a timely manner, I can understand the choices behind some of the argued points; for example, the fact that Natalie Cole got an extended moment during the In Memoriam segment but not a musical tribute seems to be more at the discretion of the performing artists and not the Grammys executives. And as there are a lot of categories that don’t even get an on-air mention, I can understand not having a separate performance scheduled for her.

However, the protests are not entirely wrong….

Something I did not know before I clicked on the Mic article was that Natalie was the first Black artist to win the Best New Artist award. Given that place in Grammy history AND her legacy as the daughter of Nat King Cole–another musical groundbreaker–you would think that would automatically get her at least a couple of lines in the awards presentation. I’m sure Sam Smith wouldn’t have minded saying a thing or two about her in presenting the Best New Artist award, an award he himself received the previous year.

But the larger issue is that I saw VERY FEW female artist categories, more male performers spotlighted than females, and a seeming disregard for providing them any airtime at all–did you see Ed Sheeran’s female co-writer get completely cut off before being allowed to speak? Time crunch or not, that was completely unacceptable.

And this is probably why the Natalie Cole “slight” is such a big deal. People spoke up about the men who passed on. Most of the male presenters and performers got their full say. And while three of the biggest female names in current popular music got solo spots, the rest of the ladies were lumped into duets and groups–good performances, mind you, but it gives the appearance that female solo artists are undervalued. There needs to be a better balance between the big name draws and the up and comers, the male and female artists, the popular and less exposed genres, what’s expressive and what sells. Naturally, there’s no way to make everybody happy every time…but what we see is not lining up with what you’re saying. You cannot tell us you celebrate all kinds of music and feature the same artists and categories every single year. You cannot keep parading a musical sausagefest and then say how proud you are of women’s contributions to the field. That’s why people feel that Natalie Cole deserved more than she got…not only for the sake of her legacy, but for the women who stand on her shoulders.

Grease: Live! As Told by Twitter

I was gonna write about this when I could watch it totally undistracted and not have to worry about hitting commercial breaks, but kaylaraymiracle did such a good job on Storify, I figure I’ll just share hers. And the fact that she quoted one of my tweets is an added bonus. 😉

(Of course, I may wind up doing my own anyway–with all the ties Lin-Manuel Miranda had to this production you KNOW his live tweet of this was off the charts epic…..)

https://storify.com/kaylaraymiracle/grease-live-live?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=email&utm_medium=email

Dumbass Diaries 15: Bear Bares All

I’ve had a few articles in the queue for this that I took a little too long to address–the separate entrance for poor people to a New York apartment building, a few regarding some outdated and draconian views on children’s hair (which I’m sure I’ll eventually write because it’ll come up again), a bunch of professionals who never studied Latin or language and some two year old article on a perceived racist headline. But as asininity goes, this takes the cake.

No, really, it actually TAKES. THE. CAKE.

Baking has gotten quite elaborate–gone are the days when the simple sheet cake will suffice (and even those have gone to include computer-generated photos and graphics made edible). Three-dimensional sculpted confections have become wildly popular, and this woman named Sharon Green decided to order such a cake for her three year old daughter’s christening celebration at their church–a lovely little sheet case topped with pink blocks and two little teddy bears with pink bows. Cute, right?

Clearly not to Ms. Green (or any of her extra-churchy church friends). Apparently the toy bears’ rendering included an indentation representing the seam one would find on a toy bear–a seam that was interpreted as….wait for it…a labial fold.

Yes, you read that correctly. Ms. Green was upset because, to her mind, the bakers gave the teddy bears a VAGINA.

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Bear-ly an issue, if you ask me….

I don’t even know where to start. First of all, in all my years of owning stuffed animals, I have never in my life seen an anatomically correct teddy bear. And considering it’s a BEAR, in what world would you attribute this physical characteristic to an animal?!? I mean, clearly as a mammal the female bear does have one, but I’m fairly certain it looks nothing like ours, nor is it that prominently visible. Hell, even beloved character Winnie-the-Pooh is drawn WITH A SEAM ON HIS STOMACH. Which is the other curious thing here–the “boy” version of this cake is made exactly the same way but blue.

But OK, she saw what she saw and was offended. Instead of checking the cake in-store (or even, perhaps–and I realize this is a foreign concept–asking about the design BEFORE ordering), she complains about the cake’s vulgarity and demands a refund. Still a bit prudish and projecting to my way of thinking, but still within her right to ask for a satisfactory product. Here’s the kicker: the bakery provided her with candy flowers to cover the “offending” crease, in an effort to placate their customer. After which, not only did she actually put the cake out to be served, but she put the flowers strategically to cover the “crease”–which actually calls more attention and actually looks more suggestive than the original design.

Considering she’d ordered the cake well in advance she probably couldn’t have gotten a substitute from this particular bakery on such short notice. But there were several more logical and less, well, anal solutions she could have gone for. Get a butter knife and smooth out the “offending” crease. Get an inexpensive sheet cake from somewhere else. Take the teddy bears off–it’s just as lovely with just the blocks. Or here’s a crazy thought–DON’T PUT IT OUT. I’m pretty sure little Tahlia could have cared less whether or not there was cake at this party, or if she did, what it looked like. it’s CAKE. For slicing and eating. And I’m guessing those bears were either going to get taken off the cake anyway for slicing OR sliced up for serving. Who’s gonna see a friggin’ crease once you cut it up? Was she somehow afraid that ingesting it would somehow translate into performing cunnilingus? I repeat–IT’S. A. CAKE.

Though they probably could have handled it better, I’m just as nonplussed as the bakery owner about this lady’s complaint. I wouldn’t have even interpreted that had it not been suggested, and the fact that Ms. Green did makes me wonder about what levels of repression and projection she’s dealing with. I also can’t believe she took that type of complaint to the public side of social media. Since the post has been deleted I can’t confirm whether or not this was a page post or an inbox message, though considering this story actually made news I have to assume the former…and if that was the case this lady really is a piece of work. Again, customer satisfaction is key and she had the right to complain about not getting what she thought she’d requested, but she approached it sideways to begin with. The tone of her complaint, the seemingly immediate jump to a refund request instead of inquiring about a suitable correction (or again, CHECKING BEFORE SHE LEFT AND MAKING THE CHOICE TO NOT TAKE IT), and the pubic public chastisement all leaned more towards throwing a tantrum instead of seeking a compromise.

I’d bet even little Tahlia has better manners than that.

DUMBASS.

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Death to the Dumbasses! Reporter gets her due

A good while back I wrote a Dumbass Diaries piece the meteorologist who was fired for defending her natural hair. Because of social media “policy” (that to my knowledge KTBS-TV has yet to produce a tangible copy of), she was let go because of a response to a viewer post that said she “looked like a cancer patient.”

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Well, the young lady in question, Ms. Rhonda Lee, seems to have landed on her feet, securing a job with WeatherNation. Good to know there’s somebody out there that prizes what’s IN her head and celebrates what’s ON her head as a bonus.

WeatherNation, you can go to the head of the class!

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Dumbass Diaries part 14

This one might actually qualify to spark off a “Pissed Off Princess” series….

Kid commercials tend to be cute–the kid will ask a quasi-serious question and then take some action based in child logic that makes the audience laugh. So a young girl asking her mother about the heart health nutritional benefit of a cereal and then laying said cereal on her dad’s chest to “help” should garner a collective “Aw!” from the viewing audience, right?

Nope.

Here’s why:

Yes, boys and girls–Cheerios had the unmitigated gall to portray an interracial family. And the Internet exploded with trolls and bigots. Commentary covering everything from aspersions on Black fathers to “references to Nazis, ‘troglodytes,’ and ‘racial genocide'” were spewed all over YouTube until the comments section was shut down. Not like that stopped this tide of wretchedness else on the Web…one faceless dumbass offered this priceless gem:

“These videos encourage people to seek partners outside their racial group. It already happens too much … for comfort. I shall eat Toasted Oats instead.”

Oh really now?

And as if the fact that there is actually controversy surrounding this ad isn’t bad enough, I have had two sad and sickening realizations:

1) As much as I’d like to believe that it’s only old, crusty, dyed-in-the-wool racist hatemongers, I fear that the majority of those posting this vitriol are teenaged Internet trolls who have grown up in a multicultural world and show know better.

2) I also fear that any of the following scenarios would have been more acceptable and less comment-provoking:

  • If it was a white couple raising this biracial child
  • If the husband had been white and the wife black
  • If the little girl was being raised by a gay couple

With all of the rapes, murders, corruption, adultery, etc. being portrayed on television in grisly, gruesome detail and very few people batting an eye, THIS is what gets America’s underwear in a knot? A commercial with a whole family unit talking about cereal? Seriously?!?

The horror.

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Related links:

Code Switch – NPR: If This Cute Cheerios Ad Causes Drama, What Won’t?
AdWeek:
It’s 2013, and People Are Still Getting Worked Up About Interracial Couples in Ads

Slate: Cheerios Ad Brings Out the Racists

Dumbass Diaries part 13

Weatherperson Rhonda Lee

Weatherperson Rhonda Lee

This might also qualify as the beginning of the Pissed-Off Princess series.

You might recall my documenting my natural hair journey back in October. While I am not fully comfortable with all of the style possibilities on myself, I have seen other women wear them fabulously. Such is the case for weather reporter Rhonda Lee. Unlike myself, being perfectly content to work behind the scenes in the television industry as I contend with this hair, Ms. Lee is right out in front of the camera wearing a close-cropped cut (known as a teeny-weeny Afro or a TWA).

There is at least one viewer who did not agree with her standard of beauty, and he felt compelled to comment on the station’s Facebook page:

    -“the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”

Ms. Lee chose to respond to the “well-meaning” viewer with the following:

    “Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to whom you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.

    “I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.

    “Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.

    “Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”

A very straightforward, polite response to a very insulting comment. Her reward? She was fired.

Now several months ago, when Jennifer Livingston was ridiculed by a viewer for being overweight, she came out ON THE AIR with a five-minute commentary…and was lauded as a heroine and a champion against bullying as the video went viral. The story was aired on many local and national news outlets, and she was even invited to be interviewed on Good Morning America. So if Ms. Livingston standing up for her image is to be applauded, why then was Ms. Lee fired for doing the same thing? It’s not OK to tell a television news personality that they’re fat, but it IS OK to say a perfectly healthy, attractive, well-groomed woman looks like a cancer patient and needs to wear a wig? And what if she HAD been a cancer patient? What does the length (or presence) of hair on her head have to do with her skills as a weatherperson? I’m pretty sure it was not her hair taking notes and passing tests and earning that meteorology degree.

Frankly, I’m more insulted by Ms. Livingston’s situation being classified as bullying. Don’t get it twisted: the “concerned viewer” was as wrong as two left shoe for calling her fat–in fact, I believe the word used was OBESE. And while she looks like she may be over her optimum weight, all I saw was a beautiful woman who was quite capable at doing her job. That being said, I take issue with her comparing those viewer remarks to bullying. Yes, they were certainly insulting, sexist and condescending–but I can’t agree with them being lumped into the bully pile. If anyone was bullied, it was Ms. Lee–and sadly, THAT was by her own employers.

I spent a few good years up in Central Louisiana, and left a lot of family and good friends I would like to visit. You can be sure when I visit, that station will NOT be on my list of things to watch. Not even if it’s exclusive coverage of the Second Coming.

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