In his review D. H. Alves demonstrates that both Barry Jenkins and James Baldwin articulate love as a political force, placing it at the centre of their work, be it in the format of the novel, or its cinematographic adaptation. Moreover, the review examines the theological nature of Baldwin’s work and how Jenkins, while having a […]
Tonya Nelson examines the changing responses of black artists to racism since the Civil Rights Era
On view: December 6, 2016 through May 16, 2017 This sweeping exhibition showcases works of fashion designers of African descent created from the 1950s through now. Organized into themes including “Breaking into the Industry,” “Rise of the Black Designer,” “Eveningwear,” “African Influences,” “Street Influences,” “Activism,” “Menswear,” “Black Models” and “Experimentation,” the fashions are as varied as the designers […]
In today’s New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler reviewed a new book, How to Speak Midwestern. Interestingly, the headline in the print edition is: “Midwesterner, Yes, You Do Have an Accent”. This phrasing is a gentle nudge to rethink what might be perceived as a norm, which, of course, is actually as inflected as anything else. Apparently, this truth is one of author Edward McClelland’s motivations for writing this book.
In the review, Schuessler comes out from behind the curtain of reviewer neutrality. She pronounces, self-deprecatingly: “Full disclosure: Like Mrs. Clinton, I’m a white woman who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. When it comes to pinched nasal vowels and strongly pronounced r’s (a phenomenon linguists call rhoticity), I’m With Her.”
Schuessler also notes: “The heavily industrialized (and segregated) Inland North–as dialectologists call the region stretching from roughly from central New York across the Great Lakes–‘has a wider divergence between white and black speech than anywhere in the country,’ Mr. McClleland writes, with African-Americans largely maintaining speech patterns brought from the South. (Mr. McClelland notes the existence of various Midwestern ‘blacaccents,’ though he doesn’t explore them.)”
Such “blaccents” are not the only subjects deserving of further study by critical race scholars. So is the consideration of the visual. Tellingly, the designers for McClelland’s book eschew figures for its cover, as if to acknowledge the demographic diversity of the region’s populace. Smart move.
Consider the ideology of an earlier publication (1960) with almost the same title:
This book is a “humor” offering. See Google Books for a brief excerpt:
“To speak good Midwestern you need to: Get gear’d up by studyin’ this book. Before you know it you’ll be speaking Midwestern Pertnear as good as Everybody.”
Thomas’s cover design is serious in its invocation, i.e., the Midwest is American Gothic (1930). It is a move to use the authority of the original painting, without any awareness of its intended satire.
Critic A.O. Scott take a while to get around to it in yesterday’s New York Times, but towards the end of his review he writes: “The movie takes up, indirectly and perhaps inadvertently but powerfully and unmistakably, a subject that has lately reinserted itself into American political discourse. It’s a movie, that is, about the sorrows of white men.” Of the film’s main character, Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck), a Boston apartment building janitor who was born in a Bay State seaside town, Scott surmises: “Cast out of this working man’s paradise, Lee is also exiled from the prerogatives of whiteness. . . .to deny that Manchester By the Sea has a racial dimension is to underestimate its honesty and overlook its difficult relevance.”
Sounds like critical race visual cultural studies is in yet another the critical conversation.
In a searching review from yesterday’s The New York Times, critic Manohla Darghis writes in the concluding paragraph:
“Part of Tarzan’s appeal–at least to some–is that he inhabits a world that resembles ours, but without the unsettling distractions of real suffering. It’s become trickier for pop entertainments to gloss over historical traumas, which may be why so many modern colonial struggles involve deep space or an alien invasion. Perhaps it’s easier to rewrite history through futuristic fictions, where worlds can collide before everyone moves on. . .”
I wish Dargis had written more about the intersection of contemporary Hollywood’s vision with Tarzan’s creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’, and about why the blond, muddied, bare chested Alexander Skarsgard (in the role of Tarzan), is a called-for element of our twenty-first century visual culture. Utterly fictive images of transcendent white masculinity have to written, consumed, and rewritten, I guess. . .
“Tarzan has always had bad optics–white hero, black land–to state the excessively, obvious,” quips Dargis.
No kidding, and suddenly Hollywood gets it, too!
If only this was a case of better late than never. . .
Taraji P. Henson’s question at the end of this preview feature piece, “Rocket Science, Race and the ’60s,” published in today’s Times is provocative:
“I hate when I do a film, and it has a lot of African-Americans and they call it a black film,” Ms. Henson said. “I don’t wake up and go, ‘Let’s see, this weekend, I’m going to see a Chinese film, I’m going to see a black film, no I’m going to see a while film with a black person in it.’ Who does that?”
Here’s the correct link: