Image from Drawn and Quarterly
One of the core questions raised in sociology is are we determined by society or do we determine society? Comedian Tom Ballard interviewed journalist Stan Grant on his podcast Like I’m A Six-Year-Old. In the second half of this episode (122) arguments of structure and agency arise around Aboriginal people’s rights and treatment in Australia. Within the interview the two also discuss assimilation, defining a nation’s history, and the role of media in politics.
image from Tom Ballard’s website
The episode can be found at the above link or here: 122 – Stan Grant (Live At Yack Festival) Pt. 1
Whitewashing in film is when either 1) white actors play characters of color and pretend to be of the character’s racial / ethnic heritage or 2) the story itself is changed and characters of color are made white. This has long been a problem, but has reignited recently with casting of films such as Aloha, Ghost in the Shell, and Doctor Strange.
In the case of the film Hell Boy, actor Ed Skrein decided to back out of his portrayal of Major Ben Daimio. He released the following on twitter concerning his decision:
Casting characters of color with actors of color can also be contentious. In the case of The Hunger Games, the casting of Amandla Stenberg and Lenny Kravitz, casted as Rue and Cinna respectively, resulted in a racist twitter backlash. Readers of the book assumed these characters were white, despite descriptions to the contrary. Similarly, the casting of black actress Noma Dumezweni as adult Hermione in the Harry Potter play was met with racist reactions.
Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard and host of PBS program Finding Your Roots, discussed ancestry and the social construction of race with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. The clip can be seen here.
Finding Your Roots has courted controversy in the past for acquiescing to celebrity Ben Affleck’s request to exclude information about his slave owning ancestors. The program also garnered attention for research into actor / musician Fred Armisen’s past, whereby they discovered that his ethnic heritage is Korean and not Japanese as he believed.
The most notorious episodes of the Risk podcast are probably the ones where host, Kevin Allison, talks about kink camp.
In number 229 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 1” and number 230 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 2” Kevin walks the listener through his first experience of kink camp and what it is like to be a gay man at a primarily heterosexual orgy.
In episode number 828 “Make Believe,” Kevin tells a story called “The Whiz Kid” about his return to kink camp where he participated in “water sports” or urine play.
The documentary Paris is Burning is a particularly important record of LGTQ people of color in New York in the 1980s. More specifically, the film is about the ballroom subculture, made up primarily of young, disenfranchised LGTQ POC gathering to “walk” and dance (where “voguing” comes from) in costume. The film has had a lasting impact on current vernacular, such as “shade,” “kiki,” and “realness.”
There was controversy after the documentary around compensation and how the project was represented by Jennie Livingston. The subjects of the documentary lived difficult lives in poverty and the film ended with the murder of Venus Xtravaganza. The resulting question is for documentary film makers as it is for ethnographers – When your career is based in the lives of your subjects, what do you owe them? How might you change their lives by making them famous while they still live in poverty?
The discord around the film reoccured around the 2015 Celebrate Brooklyn screening of Paris is Burning, which was to be accompanied by Jennie Livingston and DJ’ed by JD Samson, both of whom are white queer people. No people of color or representatives from the continuing ballroom scene were invited. Attention was quickly drawn to the silencing of people of color around their own stories and parallels to ongoing gentrification in Brooklyn. A change.org petition declaring “#ParisIsBurnt” was started calling for canceling the event. Ultimately Samson dropped out and ballroom participants who appeared in the documentary were invited to participate.
This year the documentary Kiki was released and has drawn parallels to Paris is Burning, though the director seems to have taken a more collaborative approach and learned from Livingston’s mistakes. It looks at the contemporary ballroom subculture, the importance of DIY, and activism.