Saturday, November 19, 2022

Jangled Bells

It's the most annoying time of the year...

Yep, my inner Grinch is back because y'all insist on pushing Christmas on me earlier each year. This year, I swear some Southern radio station was playing Christmas music before Election Day and that isn't even the worst of it. I've been seeing Black Friday deals since September, so yes, it is already way too much too soon. 

Give folks time to eat the rest of the Halloween candy, damn!

Regular readers of this blog already know to expect a lot of bah humbugging from me right around this time of year, so no new ground to cover by writing yet another piece about how much I hate Christmas. So let's go in a different direction by addressing one of the many reasons why I find all of this so ridiculous: Christmas movies.

Specifically, the Hallmark kind that always end with a happy couple kissing in a faux snow-covered gazebo. Or the kind that features a magical appearance by Santa or his wife or an elf or an angel or an abandoned baby or a ghost. I think that covers the gamut of plot possibilities because no one has come up with a new Christmas story so y'all just do a remix of the various themes already out in the universe. And while there are a few Christmas movies that I do enjoy and could watch over and over, those tend to break the formulaic mode because they are comedies or about family dysfunction. If there is an all-day marathon of A Christmas Story (1983), Elf (2003), or The Family Stone (2005) playing somewhere, I am there--just not until after my birthday.

Every year, Hallmark, Lifetime, and now TVOne roll out a new batch of Christmas movies which makes avoiding that aspect of the holiday just as challenging as escaping Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas. I'm pretty sure that other TV networks have taken note and have been working on their own holiday programming, so now might be a good time for me to finally pay for a streaming service. What are the kids binge-watching on Hulu these days?

Having said all of that, the real reason I've brought you here today is to take note of a little article I recently read that explains why one of Hallmark's biggest movie stars, Candace Cameron Bure, suddenly defected to Great American Family network. Now, when this was initially announced back in April, I took a moment and thought, hmm, I guess that means more work for Holly Robinson Peete. And then I realized, yeah it must be nice that Candace can take her toys to her own room so that she won't have to share.

If you can read between the lines, it seems rather convenient that Bure would claim to want to promote more family-friendly holiday fare now that Hallmark has opted to expand the definition of its family offerings to be more inclusive. Not just in terms of racial diversity, but in presenting representations of family that depart from the "traditional" nuclear model. And while that is certainly her right, nothing screams I'M A SANCTIMONIOUS KAREN louder (except maybe writing it in all caps like I just did).

Color me not at all surprised because this script is just as predictable as one of those holiday movies. The former child star had built quite the brand for herself as the face of Hallmark made-for-TV movies. She got to work for about three to four intense months, and then spent the rest of the year teaching Sunday School and baking bread. It was the perfect gig, but then we had to ruin it for her by asking why come she and her other sitcom sorority sisters were the only ones getting cast in those kinds of movies. And then suddenly it was inconsistent with her brand to be seen in the company of the very people she moved to the exurbs to avoid in the grocery store.

I had taken note some time ago that the offerings on Hallmark were very pumpkin spice latte, so I rarely watched anything on that channel other than The Golden Girls or Fraiser reruns. Since I always fall asleep with the TV on, I often woke up to I Love Lucy, which as many of you know is definitely an all-time Busy Black Woman favorite. Like many niche channels, Hallmark fills the spaces between shows with a lot of promos for its own programming. And I began to detect a theme...

I wanted to keep an open mind about what or who I rarely saw. But it was kind of obvious, and despite the appearance of an occasional Black or Asian best friend, some things are exactly what we see as clear as day. Perhaps it could be written off as unintentional that Hallmark had become a refuge for former sitcom actresses, all of whom happened to be white...or maybe it was a choice. Because I could think of several nonwhite sitcom actresses who certainly could use some work but don't ever seem to get any.

The lack of diversity became undeniable to me the Christmas the Hub and I stayed with his sister. I remember that holiday in vivid detail because she LOVES those movies, they were airing 24/7, and I was pregnant. For three days (talk about biblical allusions), I don't know how many of those movies I sat through and actually watched, but if you can believe it, one stood out from the milquetoast fare. It starred Lacey Chabert, whom I knew as the kiss-ass friend from Mean Girls (2004), as a woman who gets wooed by a Prince in A Royal Christmas (2014). I don't remember anything distinct about the love interest, such as how they met or fell in love, but I do remember that his mother was Doctor Quinn Jane Seymour herself. And I thought out loud, well is there a white actress who hasn't been cast in one of these movies yet? When will there be movie starring the daughter from Mr. Belvedere?

No response to my pregnant rantings, so I just sat quietly in my corner. I could either brave the Staten Island Mall two days before Christmas, read one of my SIL's cookbooks, or give in to see if there was anything compelling or redeeming about any of these movies. I choose option C, and while not entirely terrible, it was a lot like spending a sick day at home with my grandmother. In other words, I knew to expect a bowl of canned chicken noodle soup, some saltine crackers, and an intense stare-down with Victor Newman...

The fact that my Nuyorican SIL was unfazed by the predictability of the plots or the homogeneity of the casts, in addition to knowing many sistahs who enjoyed those same movies, it made me wonder why none of the upstart Black cable networks hadn't produced any of their own holiday fare. It wouldn't have meant sacrificing much time on their already packed programming schedule to preempt a few hours of Martin reruns or not to air The Color Purple (1986) one weekend. Who would notice if instead of Danica McKellar, we got Tempest Bledsoe some work for a change? 

Like every other good idea that I was too busy to put into action, someone at TVOne realized that this ain't rocket science. Since practically every Black sitcom had a very special Christmas episode in the vaults that had been inspired by It's a Wonderful Life (1946) or Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, how hard could it be to come up with something, anything other than the sugar cookie cut-outs on the Hallmark channel? I don't know if Merry Wishmas (2018) was the first of their original movie offerings, but they've been pumping out new holiday movies every year which must have caught the attention of the Hallmark suits. Because now they've responded with their own Mahogany line of Christmas movies, along with a VIDA lineup, and methinks that it was only a matter of time before someone pitched the idea of two elderly lesbians kissing under a gazebo covered in faux-snow. And that was just too much for the most wholesome and ever self-righteous Candace Cameron Bure.

That, and having to cede some of her realm to Holly Robinson Peete.

I'm not calling Bure any names, just pointing out that it is really convenient to allude to "traditional family values" as a euphemism for realizing that she was no longer the Queen of the Hallmark Movie Empire. I wouldn't go so far as to call her a bigot; instead, I would argue that this was a rather shrewd move to make in the midst of a white-hot culture war raging in the real world. In a year when there has been legislation introduced in several states that target trans-youth and claims that children are being indoctrinated into the "gay lifestyle" by a storybook about two penguins, yeah Candy Girl you definitely chose a side. And again, that is your right, because there is an audience that prefers to only see stories that reflect what makes them comfortable in their own biases, so go forth and be mediocre!

But please do me a favor and stop using your narrow definition of Christianity as justification for your intolerance. I'm a Christian too Boo, and my Jesus, the one whose birth your crap ass movies are supposed to celebrate, doesn't seem like the kind of person who would have been concerned about tarnishing your brand. He wasn't all that worried about being seen with the wrong kind of people because there was no such thing in His eyes. You don't have to take my word for it because He said so, and I urge you to look it up in one of those $65 bibles you are hawking.

I will come right out and say it: the Hallmark channel got too ghetto for Bure, so she clutched her purse and hurried across the street. By switching to the Great American Family channel, she can lure her fans to the new mall where there is a traditional Santa and no David Sedaris-ian elves. At her new mall, Bure can get her overpriced coffee served in a disposable cup that has CHRISTMAS emblazoned all over it, brewed by an un-unionized underpaid barista working overtime. Her brother's crappy Christmas movie can play in the multiplex and her tee shirts can be purchased in stores where the retail workers are required to wish you a "Merry Christmas" instead of Happy Holidays (because Hanukkah and Diwali aren't for real Americans). The new mall is everything the old mall used to be before everyone got woke...

Because isn't that the reason for the season--for folks to keep buying the illusion that the Cameron siblings have been selling all these years? They want top shelf placement for their stuff, not to be comingled in what they perceive to be the bargain bin with ours. God forbid that someone just might prefer The Drifter's 1954 version of White Christmas to the movie version from White Christmas the film, also released in 1954. And why not add a little José Feliciano in the mix because Feliz Navidad is a jam! The notion that there is only one right way to celebrate Christmas, or that this is about constraining Christianity when it is all about Capitalism is absolutely on-brand for both Candace and Kirk and their ilk--former child stars whose careers were built on nostalgia for realities that only ever applied to them.

I want to end this on a more festive note because Bure did a lot of people a big favor by making such a dramatic exit. As she stated, this gives her an opportunity to help launch a new venture from the ground floor, so that is both admirable and risky. And by leaving an already established network franchise, she has cleared the stage for other actresses to get some of that Hallmark holiday shimmer and shine. Let the Mowry sisters build themselves an empire! My issue was never about the fact that she left (because even though I did write an entire piece on the matter as if I care, I don't); it is with the manner in which her departure was framed, as if she had to run for her life in order to save her virtue.

Although I'm sure her movies won't get any better on a different network, at least she is safe from secularism and the gay agenda. Her values and her fortune secured, Candace Cameron Bure will be just fine. All of you avid Christmas rom-com movie fans now have an additional channel with a new slate of movies, so now I know what to avoid while channel surfing. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Harriet Get Your Gun

For the record, my face is not tight like this over the fact that I missed Homecoming AGAIN...It is like this because I swear, some of y'all really need Jesus.

Let's cut straight to the point--yep, Ye is cancelled, and I don't want to hear anything about his genius or his mental health because none of that has ever been persuasive to me. As far as I'm concerned, he's been done since I wrote this piece back in 2018, but back then I was hoping that some divine intervention might save him from himself. It didn't, and after this very bizarre year of watching him turn every shade of misogynist, anti-Black, and anti-Semite, well, there isn't much else to say. It is above me now...

A few months ago, I had MSNBC on in the background while I was writing and some rapper popped up in a segment with Ari Melber, which wasn't unusual because he is a definitely a hip hop fan boi. Now, I need to say this as a disclaimer because I honestly did not know who his guest was at that time, but I did stop to watch because I used to find those segments kind of entertaining. However, in under one minute, dude insulted Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and the hairs stood up on my neck as I wondered, who the eff is this and did he just say that isht on television? So color me not at all surprised to see how this same ashy dude resurfaced on Blue Ivy's internet to sing the praises of Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) earlier this month.

Before anyone argues that Killer Mike has every right to endorse or vote for whomever, save your breath. I get that. And if he wants to shout it from the rooftops that he would prefer to keep the devil he knows instead of voting for someone else, then that is his business. This is America. Mike doesn't need my permission to vote for anybody. (For what it's worth, I wrote that without rolling my eyes or crossing my fingers while typing.)

But he shouldn't expect not to be called out for it. 

Perhaps he saw what happened when Ice Cube decided to try his hand at being a modern Race Man and introduced a Contract with Black America in the closing days of the 2020 Election cycle. Earlier this week, a clip resurfaced from an interview he did with Graham Bensinger in 2021 that referenced his ill-timed foray into politics. My initial reaction was to think, so you're back for more smoke, huh Ice Water? Because right now, just as we are two weeks away from an election that might determine the future of our democracy, we definitely should be having a conversation about why Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. hasn't reached out to you, O'Shea Jackson, Sr., to discuss your policy proposals for Black America.

Were we supposed to believe that Cube's been waiting by the phone for an invitation to the White House for two years??? That in between performing at NASCAR and building his Big3 League basketball endeavor, he didn't have time to get his COVID vaccine but he had time to wonder why his calls kept going to Biden's voicemail. That when he blew off that meeting with Madame Vice President as if she was some kind of note-taking intern, Dark Brandon was going to forget that? Bye Felicia!

However, as Cube himself pointed out, this clip is a year old and in his own words he's sitting this election out. So for now, I have erased the snarky tweets in my drafts, reserved judgment that nefarious motives are at play, and will simply suggest in the alternative that maybe you should care if and how folks are planning to vote. Because if you were at all serious about implementing policies to improve our community, Ice Man, then you should not have been so easily dissuaded by Black Twitter trash talk.

Because here is the problem--too many people believe that the work of revolution is as simple as writing a solid business plan. If that's all it took, we wouldn't be here teetering on the edge of Armageddon and the Apocalypse. 

In case Killer Mike or Ice Cube come across this blog and see their names written here, I need them to know that I am not arguing that they should just stick to rap music. On the contrary, we don't need them to shut up; we need them to speak up more often. We need more men with platforms of influence to weigh in on the issues that impact our community. Talking amongst themselves in the barbershop isn't enough. We need them to lend a hand, to do some of the heavy lifting, and to stay in the fight, even when things don't go as planned.

When Harriet Tubman went back to her former plantation to rescue her family and friends, she did so at great personal risk. She was a fugitive and under federal law, she would have been returned to enslavement and sold further South if she had been caught. The legend of her threat to shoot anyone who got cold feet on the journey North is an important metaphor for what we face in our community from folks who would rather settle than fight. It wasn't just her life, but the lives of everyone she was trying to save. That is what makes the work she did in her later years so much more inspiring, like when she served as a Union spy and militia leader during the Civil War. She kept on fighting.

If you opt to sit on the sidelines or decide that the status quo is tolerable because you got to eat the scraps off Massa's table, then like Mother Harriet, I'm good with leaving your Black ass behind on the plantation. Or shooting you if you get scared and decide to run back.

Words are my weapon of choice, so yes, I will unleash a few bullets of criticism if I think your choices are more harmful and selfish than helpful. I will point out that your Contract wasn't a bad idea, just a re-packaging of Tavis Smiley's Covenant that includes many of the same legislative policy agenda items proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus. (Historically, similar proposals have been put forth by the Niagara Movement, the Atlanta Student Appeal for Human Rights (1960), the Black Panther Party's Ten Point Plan (1966), and the National Black Political Convention (1972), just to name a few). Sure, Donald Trump took a meeting with you in 2020, but did you follow that up by meeting with Mitch McConnell or anyone else in the GOP Caucus? Have you been calling on them to do more than listen to your concerns since you believe that the other side hasn't? If the GOP regains power in Congress, have they assured you that your Contract will be part of their agenda and that the legislation that has already been introduced and still pending will move forward? 

Or, as you so eloquently twote, do you just not give a fuck?

To my one-time Morehouse brother who has been tweeting a lot, but not telling us much, I've got issues with this Aaron Burr act of yours. When you took that meeting with Brian Kemp and had all of this advice for Stacey Abrams afterwards, you did understand how it benefitted Kemp to pay lip service to Black concerns while promising to do the bare minimum. After participating in that photo opportunity with you, he didn't even need your official endorsement since all he had to do was demonstrate a willingness to sit and talk football or whatever (since in your own words, politics and policy don't matter). Which is great at any other time except for an election year because y'all could have met for some craft beer in 2021 to discuss the finer points of vocational education. 

As for what you said about Rep. Jim Clyburn and the Democratic Party on The Beat with Ari Melber this summer (no I have not forgotten that), that may be why the good Reverend Senator Warnock hasn't been returning your calls to appear on your show. You went on national television and called a civil rights icon a sellout because y'all didn't support the same candidate. Then you assumed that the Senator would not take that kind of insult personally? Now with the tables turned, isn't that why you've been responding to folks on Twitter who have been saying the same thing about you...

I know you have your reasons, and you are under no obligation to disclose how you plan to vote, but you do understand the damage that can be caused by sitting on the fence. If you want to be respected as a kingmaker, the responsibility for safeguarding the crown is equally heavy for the person who performs the coronation. This generation's MLK may very well be a rap artist who is willing to sit down with friends and foes alike, but it might help to clarify who's who.

Furthermore, while y'all are worried about who gets to be a King, armies of Harriets have been busy registering voters, canvassing door-to-door, writing postcards, phone-banking, organizing, and staying otherwise pre-occupied with the work of saving this fragile democracy in less than two weeks. I know this because that's what I've been doing. I don't have the luxury of being able to call up my Spelman sister to offer advice and have it matter. But I have the choice to roll up my sleeves to lend her campaign a hand. I helped to get your Morehouse brother elected two years ago as well, and in gratitude, he's been blowing up my phone with fundraising appeals. Just as Kemp had to seem willing to talk to you, Abrams and Warnock have to play a version of political three-dimensional chess too. 

And here is where I need to break through that third wall because I got caught up with being busy and didn't publish this piece two weeks ago as intended. I am currently in a hotel room in North Carolina, about to head out to do some canvassing for a few hours before I head down to Georgia to work as a poll monitor. Election Day is two days from now.

Since we are just days away, I need to end this rant with a blunt observation for brothers like Killer Mike and Ice Cube because what I'm seeing in these streets is real. The folks that have been in power believe that we are encroaching on their way of life, and they aren't looking to share or lose any ground. They don't regard us as equal participants in this democracy unless we align with them, which does not seek to elevate us as a community, just individuals. This has been the playbook for centuries--and that is what prompted women like Harriet to escape and eventually work to dismantle the entire system. We are no better off if only a few of us are free.