Thursday, January 19, 2012

How "Golden" is the "globe"?

As a child (and still to this day), I was a huge fan of the television series The Golden Girls.  For me, and probably many others, it was the first time I heard candid conversations about life after 50 on TV.  The sex.  The men.  The food.  The cheesecake.  The "fashion."  But more importantly, the friends in tow.  This show offered something different. It didn't delve into the typical, familiar yet depressing stories about the "elderly" that flickered frequently on the boob tube.  It wasn't about a widow wasting away in a nursing home nor of an aging couple who couldn't enjoy life anymore due to their descending capabilities.  It was about dating, socializing with friends, enjoying retirement or even still relishing in the joys of the daily grind of the workplace.  Things that we all should look forward to as we get sweeter with age. It taught me the importance and the autonomy in creating a new identity for oneself beyond the image attached to career and family.  The Golden Girls was about assuming ownership of one's happiness.

The Golden Girls paved the way for shows like Sex and the City and Mad Men, preparing audiences to watch scenarios similar to those that (we hope) would happen in real life:  a clear-cut divorce from the make-believe, false worlds of its predecessors.  For a sitcom set in Florida (the land of talking mice, argumentative ducks, princess mermaids, servant rodents, scantly-clad, over-tanned women, retirees who split their time between the north and the south, the super religious, and the ultra-conservative), I thought it was funny yet revolutionary.
The series really shaped what my view of "golden" was and should continue to be.  There was a time when titles meant a lot to me.  "Golden" broke ground.  "Golden" took risks.  "Golden" was inviting.  "Golden" was sexy.  "Golden" was haute.  Though young, I took some valuable cultural cues from The Golden Girls.  Some more obvious than others (I was a little Black girl living in the middle of a changing, midwestern urban metropolis; I could relate somewhat, being very outspoken for my age).  The Golden Girls taught me to live life with gusto and pizzazz no matter the age or the circumstance.

Let's fast forward to 19 years later.  The day is Sunday, January 15, 2012.  The time:  mid-to-late evening.  The convening: television sets and internet browsers (possibly) all around the world.  The event:  the 69th Annual Golden Globes (yes, the number is ironic).  I watched it this year as I always do, dreaming of one day donning a custom, couture gown designed specifically for me, the award-nominated screenwriter attending the ceremony for the first time...when I dream, I dream big!  I took note of the fashion, the nominees, the presenters, and the commentators.  Like anything spotted in the media, the attire of the evening quickly became iconic within popular culture.  I couldn't watch basic cable stations like E! or Style or even CNN without any mention of the gowns the women were wearing.  In all honesty, though just only my personal opinion, I think this year's fashion SUCKED!  It sucked hard!  Yes, my use of words and tone may have lost my blog all credibility.  I hope that you continue to hear me out, for I have an important point to make towards the end.

I'm no Joan or Melissa Rivers, but I must offer my commentary on this year's Golden Globe fashion.

Overall concern:  who styled the women at this year's ceremony?  Bed Bath and Beyond? The Christmas Tree Store? Forever 21? There was SO MUCH glitter, green, misused animal print gowns that resembled vintage shower curtains, and flammable material that would make the fire marshall question the hauteness (hotness) in the room.  The fashion that impressed me the most was that worn by the writers and producers of the shows and films that won for their respective categories.  I'm guessing that since their daily wardrobe consists of jeans, the t-shirt worn the night before, and the randomly mismatched shoes that are closest to the front door.  I was not only unamused by this year's chosen, professionally styled attire, I was offended!

The Golden Globe Awards sets the tone for the Academy Awards, which traditionally happens in February.    Award-winning shows and films are watched, shared, and adored, leading to the shaping of popular culture. Celebrities and their work have more influence over our lives then we want to realize (think back to  "The Rachel" haircut from the Friends' era).  I'm so happy that this year's awards show wasn't coveted by numerous remakes or adaptations like in past years.  That is a sign that artists are "creating" again!

While I hope to see many of this year's Golden Globe nominees up for Oscars, I hope not to see a repeat of the fashion.  Unsure about the Golden Globe awards' "attire," many of the gowns from the Oscars are recreated, turning the four to five figure gowns into affordable replicas for commoners' consumption.  I've heard that many of these gowns become available as soon as the next day.  Though some of the gowns would look beautiful on many shapes and skin tones, others would look downright embarrassing on all but its originator. I don't know about you, but I don't think that everyone would look good in Bjork's swan dress from the 73rd Academy Awards. If this isn't a body slam on culture, I don't know what is.

To complicate matters, I am a bonafide film fanatic who lives in the middle of "nowhere"!  My "nowhere" is the current holder of the title #1 College Town in America:  Amherst, Massachusetts.  I may have to watch my back when I leave the house tomorrow, but I have to call this place out.  How can we be the #1 College Town in America when our culture sucks?!  Yes, I just lost credibility again....  Many of the nominated films from this year's Golden Globes hasn't made it to our region (as of the awards show).  I had to engage in daunting conversations with friends over Facebook, asking what would seem like stupid questions to those who live in large cities or other college towns (try "true" college towns like Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill, Madison, and Berkeley that are filled with educated people, diverse communities, family-owned restaurants, a plethora of entertainment options, and a nightlife catered towards its inhabitants all within walking distance or a short drive from doorway to the business district), people who have seen these movies multiple times over.  I posted on Facebook something to the effect of "what in the hell is the film The Artist?"  Sample responses include:  how have you not heard of this movie?  its been playing in my town for three weeks.  I take on the task of "googling"frantically, making sure that I didn't miss out on the important opening weekend, gesturing me to open wide and insert my size 13 deep down my throat.  Instead, the search returned "coming soon," implying that the film not only hasn't reached this "cultural mecca of higher learning," there was no telling when the film would reach my local art house.  I have the pleasure of announcing that Amherst Cinema has recently posted on their website, post Golden Globe awards that The Artist will open at their theatre on Friday, January 20...I may not be able to go this weekend, but damn sure will make an effort to go soon.

***I do understand that politics behind film distribution and licensing have a lot to do with the release of films to play in local theatres.  Also, I understand the power behind a dollar and the voice of supportive consumers.  For those who live in or near Amherst Cinema, I encourage you to either become a member or to attend film screenings on their opening weekends.  It would assist in changing the dynamic of distribution here in particular area.  As both a fan of independent films and Amherst Cinema/Pleasant Street Theatres, I will not only continue to support this nonprofit organization, I will find ways to increase my support this year, hopefully having a way to contribute in more ways than just by buying tickets and purchasing a ton of concessions (BTW, their popcorn is AWESOME).

I'm excited to get a chance to see The Decendants, The Artist, Iron Lady, The Help (damn, all of the films feel like they need to "belong" this season...look at how many use the word "the" in the title!), Mildred Pierce, and Downton Abbey!  As many of these projects are groundbreaking, I hope that many more people will get a chance to experience and support these films and television shows. I would delve into the conversation about the lack of racial equity among the nominees this year, but if you follow pop culture and mainstream media, we're either invisible or have claimed cultural capital on jobs in the service industry.  When the film Pariah reaches us here in Western Massachusetts, expect that 1) I'm going to recruit the masses to see it with me on opening night and 2) that I will see it more than once.  This conversation is getting really old.  I can't wait for the year where we see racial equality spread throughout all of the films and television series nominated for awards of their given seasons.  I hope to see that during my lifetime but with how the political and financial landscape looks at the moment, Black women will remain maids and Black men will remain criminals on the silver screen, only receiving backhanded recognition when we continue to fall back only several decades to the era when we could only play those one-dimensional, demeaning roles.  Media doesn't truthfully reflect the world as we live in it so its important that we don't allow media to define our culture.

Think back to awards seasons' past.  Do box office numbers ever match the list of award nominees (Transformers' movies aside)?  This shows that titles/awards garnered only mean so much to the consumer.  We will watch what we want to watch.  We will do whatever we want to do.  Considering all of this, why are awards even important?

So, what does this all mean?  I am posing a challenge against the power of titles.  What do they mean?  Do titles privilege one sentiment over another?  In the case of the Golden Globes and the #1 College Town in America, titles can be misleading, and really unnecessary.

We're all guilty of following some trend.  Hell, I've been caught at the grocery store, parading around in broad daylight wearing leggings with a waist-length t-shirt like it was appropriate beyond my apartment (who started this "trend" anyway?!).  Titles are given for a reason.  In the case of Amherst being the #1 College Town or mainstream media serving as cultural dictator and "ambassador" of American culture, only a handful of people (or even just one person...please investigate the "Amherst as the nation's #1 College Town story a little bit further than this blog).

"Golden" to me stands the test of time.  "Golden" is my trendsetter.  "Golden," to me, has value that spans over multiple generations.  The Golden Girls did that for me.  Maybe I set my expectations too high.  Maybe I expect leadership from an authority figure held at high regard.  Titles do that to people.  We assume that people or things with titles are important and have influence.  In the case of the awards season and my current place of residence, they can only do so much to live up to the titles bestowed upon them by others.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Importance of Our Voices

It's ironic that my first official blog post goes up on the day that many other internet sites are on strike. I think that it is important that my first blog post be one that is pertinent to the work that I do and the work of many of my cyber colleagues.

Today, many websites (sites such as Wikipedia, Google, and other search engines) are dark. They have chosen to go dark in protest of bills recently introduced to Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), in the House of Representatives, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), in the U.S. Senate, are bills that could censor the internet. Legislators who presented the bills say that their purposes are to control foreign sites posting content that would infringe on copyright. If passed, they will force constant monitoring of links and other materials posted to websites, possibly shutting down these sites.

The types of websites that could be affected are those such as this blog, many of the search engines we use daily, and any of the social networking sites. If this law goes into effect, you will have difficulty accessing your favorite sites (i.e., this blog, Google, YouTube, Facebook, any means of sharing information). Only speaking for myself, I post links to articles and other content on my Facebook page and Twitter feed to inform others of what's going on in society, for example sharing a news story that only a handful of people would have heard of. Think of me as a kind of pied piper. An educated, informed citizen is dangerous to large corporations. These large businesses, such as record labels and film distribution companies, are the entities that would benefit from this legislative initiative. Don't these businesses already make enough money?!

You may say that with me being an artist that I would want to support both bills. For many artists like myself, we exercise self-distribution. If these bills were enacted, we wouldn't be able to distribute our art (think back to when Prince self-distributed his music). Self-distribution is how many playwrights, novelists, poets, and songwriters get their start. These bills could prevent artists like me from reaching the masses, including a possible agent, killing these important career goals.

Exercising my role as the "pied piper," I would like for all of my readers to please visit these links TODAY (as the strike ends at midnight tonight) to learn more about these bills.

End Piracy, Not Liberty, a site supported by Google (this site also contains a petition that you can sign; I encourage all readers to sign the petition)

Colorlines' What is SOPA?

Wikipedia's explanation of SOPA and PIPA

Once these links are removed, I'll be sure to post other information on SOPA/PIPA to my blog.

Please share these links on your respective blogs, Facebook walls, Twitter feeds, Tumblr accounts, etc, any way to share the information with a number of people.

If you have the time, please contact your representatives and say that you would like the elected officials representing you and your neighbors to vote against this bill. To find out how to contact your U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative, please click here.

As with net neutrality, it will be the power of the people to stop this legislation from passing.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Welcome to CoCo's Culture Corner!

Dear Readers:

For many years, probably since my emergence into the world, I've been very vocal about the world at large. However, my perspective has only been shared within reach of those around me: the few, the brave, the already enlightened friends and family who are closest to me. I have an opinion on everything. From fashion to food to film, I ignite intriguing conversation but only a handful of people get to experience it. Hence the purpose of this blog.

I decided to name this blog "CoCo's Culture Corner" to give me a spot to voice opinions and share information on a range of topics. I will talk about fun stuff and topics that others attempt to avoid. I will share knowledge on my favorite things and even include tidbits on things I detests. All in all, I hope to remind the masses that "culture" is many things. Its more than highbrow art. Its beyond the tabloids. It surpasses dinner dialogue shared among friends.

I'm in this world for a reason. Though young, I'm blessed to have had the varied opportunities thus far throughout my journey on this earth. So, I thought to share that insight with others. While I'm not a politician looking to influence people nor a teacher, I hope that this blog will offer various ways of looking at society as a whole. I hope to make you laugh. I hope to make you cry. But most importantly, I hope to make you think.

On that note, I'd like to leave everyone with the sentiment of one of my favorite songs. Sometimes, it does only just takes one person. Why not it start with me :)

***Warning on the link: grab tons of tissues and be prepared for tears. Its a heartfelt moment from one of my favorite television shows, "The Muppet Show."