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Archive for the ‘1985’ Category

bechdeltest

The Bechdel Test (1985) says that a film is not worth watching unless it fulfils three conditions:

  1. It has to have at least two women who
  2. talk to each other about
  3. something besides a man

It comes from Allison Bechdel’s comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For”. She in turn got it from Liz Wallace at her karate class.

It can apply to any story but Hollywood fails the test at a surprising rate, even now more than 20 years later.

NPR did a piece on the Bechdel Test a year ago. In it Eric Deggans, who writes about television for the St Petersburg Times, gave his own form of the Bechdel Test for race:

  1. At least two non-white characters in the main cast …
  2. in a show that’s not about race.

I did not know about the Bechdel Test till I read about it in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s post yesterday at the Angry Black Woman, but even I had something like it in my head:

  1. At least two black characters
  2. who are not stereotypes
  3. whose love lives we know about and
  4. who have their own storyline

“The Secret Life of Bees” would pass (the storylines of Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo), while the “Imitation of Life” would not (black characters are stereotypes).

Johnson gives the strict form of the Bechdel Test for race:

  1. It has to have two people of colour in it.
  2. Who talk to each other.
  3. About something other than a white person.

Like Deggans, I would add that talking about race would be, in effect, talking about white people.

deniseJohnson says most shows fail, though “Battlestar Galactica”, “True Blood”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Veronica Mars” pass.

A show can pass the Bechdel Test and still be racist – and, likewise, it can fail and yet not be particularly racist at all. But it is a quick way of separating those that probably are racist from those that probably are not. And, more importantly, it gives you a way of thinking about stories and how white male they are in their point of view.

Deggans says that most shows fail the Bechdel Test because most successful television writers are white men. They just do not know what women or blacks talk about when they are not there.

Jennifer Kesler at The Hathor Legacy says it is worse than that: when she was learning to write for Hollywood they told her, in so many words, to fail the Bechdel Test: main characters should be white men and no one cares what women (or presumably blacks or anyone else) talk about unless it is about the main characters – who are white men!

But why? Because the white men who run Hollywood say it is what the “target audience” wants. But just what is this target audience? Kesler says in their minds it turns out to be “a construct based on partial truths and twisted math – to perpetuate their own desires”.

See also:

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Edmund Perry

EdmundPerryEdmund Perry (c. 1968-1985), a 17-year-old black boy, was shot dead on June 12th 1985 by Lee Van Houten, a white plainclothes policeman,  a few blocks from where Perry lived on West 114th Street in Harlem. The New York Times does not ordinarily report murder north of 96th Street, but this time they did: Perry, it turned out, had just graduated from Exeter, one of the top private schools in America, and was set to go to Stanford University.

At first it seemed like yet another case of an out-of-control policeman who held black life too cheaply. But it turned out not to be so simple: Perry, according to witnesses, was trying to rob Van Houten! With his brother Jonah, no less, who was an engineering student at Cornell at the time! Jonah was later tried and found not guilty. Van Houten’s shooting was ruled justifiable.

Robert Sam Anson, a white writer for Life magazine, had a son at Exeter who knew Perry. Anson wondered what on earth would possess Perry, with such a bright future, to throw it all away by robbing someone.

After ruling out a police cover-up, Anson asked Perry’s friends and neighbours about him. They always had such nice things to say. At Exeter it was the same. But all the nice things they said did not add up. In time he found that Perry had been selling drugs at Exeter. But that only deepened the mystery.

Exeter was not a great place for blacks. One black student said they were a kind of minstrel show put on to give white students a sense of diversity: “By God, their kids are going to be well-rounded. They’re going to have Rossignol skis and Lange boots and a black roommate for ‘an experience.'”

It seems the racism at Exeter affected Perry far more profoundly than the other black students. It consumed him with anger and made him a radical, one who saw Martin Luther King as a sell-out.

His white teachers and classmates did not understand him: every time he tried to open up and be honest with them he wound up hurting their feelings. He could not talk to them. The only people who understood him were black students and the one white teacher who had grown up in Harlem. But they could not help him.

Perry did not fit in at Exeter, and yet Exeter changed him so much that he had a hard time fitting in with Harlem.  He was torn between two worlds with no place to call home.

Anson made all this into a book, “Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry” (1987), but in the end he had no answers. Michael Eric Dyson, who could have wound up becoming another Perry himself, said it was because Anson did not try to understand the black world that Perry came from, so he could not understand Perry or his anger.

The book was turned into a made-for-television film, “Murder Without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story” (1992).

See also:

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Tender was the kiss when you held me captive in your sweet embrace
My lips begin to burn and my heart beats faster then the normal pace
I try hard to resist that familiar smile that melts me just like wax
But what’s the use, I’m yours and that means forever, there’s no turning back

Baby, baby, baby, it’s a mystery
Ooh, you got me spinning around, what have you done to me
Suspended animation, I’m lost inside of you
I feel so insecure and yet I’ve never felt so sure, what am I gonna do

I’m out on a limb
I’m giving in to you again
Baby, baby, I…I’m out on a limb
I’m giving in to you again

Sweeter than the taste of a midnight rendezvous, so sensual
The look upon your face when you loved me tender and my cup was full
Oh…softer than the sigh when it all was over and I slumbered deep
Lost inside of you like there’s no tomorrow as I fall to sleep

Baby, baby, baby, it’s a mystery
Ooh, you got me spinning around, what have you done to me
Suspended animation, I’m lost inside of you
I feel so insecure and yet I’ve never felt so sure, what am I gonna do

I’m out on a limb
I’m giving in to you again
Baby, baby, I…I’m out on a limb
I’m giving in to you again

Hold me
Keep me warm inside you and love me
Love me right away
This one thing is true
I would die for you

Oh…oh…oh…oh…
Oh…oh…oh…oh…
Oh…oh…oh…baby

I’m out on a limb
I’m giving in to you again
Baby, baby, I’m out on a limb
I’m giving in to you again

Baby, I’m
Baby, I’m

Baby, I’m out on a limb for you
I’m giving in to you
I’m out on a limb
Baby, I’m giving in to you again

Ooh…ooh…ooh…ooh…
Baby, I’m out on a limb
I’m out on a limb
Baby, baby, I’m out on a limb
I’m on a limb
I’m giving in to you again, babe

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If I ruled the world, was king on the throne
I’d make peace in every culture, build the homeless a home
I’m not runnin, for Congress or the President
I’m just here, to tell the world, how my story went
You see – first it was a dream, I was livin in Rome
And then I moved to London, bought a brand new home
And everywhere I went, I drew lots of attention
Like a stretch limousine, one of those new inventions
It took a few years ‘fore the day had come
But I was ruler of the WORLD ranked number one
So I headed towards Washington to claim the crown
Let the whole world know that, the King was in town
As I, arrived, the crowd started to cheer
and then someone yelled out, “The King is here!”
So I headed toward stage, to make a speech
about the new style of living I was gonna teach, uh-huh

If I ruled the world..
Huh-huh, huh-huh uh-huh uh-huh
I’d love all the girls.. I love em love em baby!!
Black diamonds and pearls.. ooh yeahh yeahh
If I ruled the world..

People started flowin as they reached for my hand
I said, “Thank you for bringin me to the Promised Land
but now I must go, say goodbye to everybody
Tonight I’ll see you all at my Super Dinner Party”
And late that night, at my Super Dinner Party
I was dancin to the beat and entertainin La-Di-Da-Di
The music started endin, it was time for a speech
The crowd started sittin as I rose from my feet
And this was once a dream; I explained to the crowd
but now, I rule the world, and I feel, so very proud
Excuse me please, for stoppin this show
I just had to thank you all, huh, and me so
my first day in office, the King on the throne
I spent my first three hours on the telephone
You know with newsmen reporters, and votes too
I had so many calls, I didn’t know what to do
You know out that office I continued to work
I signed so many papers, my fingers started to hurt
Then I shook off the pain, say this ain’t no thing
Cause there’s nothin in the world like bein number one KING!

If I ruled the world..
Huh huh huh huh, huh-huh huh-huh
I’d love all the girls.. I love em love em baby!!
Black diamonds and pearls.. ooh yeahh yeahh
If I ruled the world.. whoawowaahhhyeahhhhhhhh
.. if I ruled the world

{AJ Scratch cuts up the track for a bit

Now I rule the world and now, I’m on top
And I’m rollin with folks that could never be stopped
And I’m here to let you know this is where I belong
And to you sucker MC’s that sing my song
And it’s a song that’s STRONG about right and wrong
And I’m rock it to you baby baby all night long
And it’s a song about love, and happiness
in a world of peace, and you know that’s fresh
Now I’m the KING, and I want you to know
that I’m the Master Blaster Rapper who’s runnin the show
And to all of you rappers in every country
you better stop what you’re doin, and listen to me
Cause we gotta stop war, and use unity
to fight crime and hunger and poverty
Cause the African baby is dyin overseas
while you sucker mission politicians bustin out Z’s
Huh, twenty million people all unemployed
while the rich man try to play Pretty Boy Floyd
While the working class just struggles hard
Try to make ends meet against all odds
While the poor man can’t even deal with life
You know he tried to escape, and smoked the coke on the pipe
And it’s time for a CHANGE, to a better way
Cause the sun has GOTTA shine through the cloudy day
So LISTEN UP world, while I teach this class
and take heed to the message or we ain’t gonna last
Cause I know, the solution, is the contribution
of woman and man to just join the revolution
that’ll take your brain to a higher plane
and help you deal in a world that’s gone insane
with the problems that I know we can stop
from the ruler of the world and the man on top
But the years went by, and time was up
And the ruler of the world had ran out of luck
And all the people at the time who said they were my friends
didn’t know me when my job had come to an end
They came up to my face, as happy as can be
He was running his mouth like, Muhammad Ali
So I shook his hand calmly as I headed to the door
On my way to the ghetto to treat once more

If I ruled the world..
A-huh-huh-huh, a-huh-huh-huh
I’d love all the girls.. I love em love em baby!!
Black diamonds and pearls.. ooh yeahh yeahh
If I ruled the world.. yeahhhhhhhh
If I ruled the world.. if I ruled the world
I’d love all the girls.. I’d love em love em baby!!
Black diamonds and pearls.. ooh yeahh yeahh, oh yeah yeah
If I ruled the world.. whoahahayeahhhhhhhh
If I ruled the world.. yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah
yea yea yea, yea yea yea
I’d love all the girls.. you know I’d love em love em baby!!
Black diamonds and pearls.. ooh yeahh yeahh, oh yeah yeah
If I ruled the world.. yeayeah yeayeah baby babyyyyyyy
If I ruled the world.. if I ruled the world..
I’d love all the girls.. yes you, you, you and you
Black diamons and pearls.. where those diamonds, where those pearls?
If I ruled the world..
Huh-huh, huh-huh, a-heh-heh-huh-huh
If I ruled the world..
Heh-heh, heh-heh
I’d love all the girls.. I’d love em love em baby..

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You glance my way
I almost lost control
Anxiety has taken hold
My body quivers
You flash every night in my sleep
Gazing deep into my eyes
You spoke these words
I was hypnotized
Let me share a night in your fantasy

Turn on emotions so strong
Tensions fire burns on and on
My body screams, Please make love to me!
Youre the object of my desire
Come on baby, light my fire

When I go to sleep at night
Visions of you here by my side
Fireworks explode deep inside of me
I pinch myself as youre lying there
We kiss each other now Im really scared
Too much to ask, even for a fantasy

Turn on emotions so strong
Passions fire burns on and on
My body screams, Please make love to me!
Youre the object of my desire
Come on baby, light my fire
Cuz your the object of my desire
Hey, you really turn me on
Youre the object of my desire
Wont you ignite my fire?
Hey you really turn me on and on and on and on…

I need your love

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Amazulu: Excitable


You blow so hot, then you blow cold
When I make adjustments to your vertical hold
You hit the roof, then you hit the floor
You keep me dancing ’til my feet get sore

Baby, you’re so excitable
I don’t care if you get me into trouble
Baby, you’re so excitable
Won’t you share some excitement with me tonight

I want to stay in, you want to go out
I get nervous when you scream and shout
You blow your top, I’ll mend your fuse
You make me offers that I can’t refuse

Baby, you’re so excitable
I don’t care if you get me into trouble
Baby, you’re so excitable
I don’t want you to change your ways
I’m happy to follow your star
I’ll just take you the way that you are

Baby, you’re so excitable
I don’t care if you get me into trouble
Baby, you’re so excitable
I don’t want you to change your ways
I’m happy to follow your star
I’ll just take you the way that you are

Take a look at the state I’m in
I’m drowning and a-trailing
I hang on ’cause I can’t let go
One look at you and I can’t say no

Baby, you’re so excitable
I don’t care if you get me into trouble
Baby, you’re so excitable
Won’t you share some excitement with me tonight
Baby, you’re so excitable
I don’t care if you get me into trouble
Baby, you’re so excitable
Won’t you share some excitement with me tonight

Oh
(Baby, you’re so excitable)
Oh, baby
(Baby, you’re so excitable)
I need you
Oh, baby
Oh
(Baby, you’re so excitable)
Oh, baby
(Baby, you’re so excitable)
I need you
Oh, baby.

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I can’t lose with the stuff I use
(Don’t you just know it)
Baby, don’t believe I wear two left shoes
(Don’t you just know it)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba
(Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba)
Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Hey, pretty baby, can we go strollin’
(Don’t you just know it)
You got me rockin’ when I wanna be rollin’
(Don’t you just know it)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba
(Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba)
Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Baby, baby, you’re my blue heaven
(Don’t you just know it)
You got me pushin’ when I wanna be shoving
(Don’t you just know it)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba
(Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba)
Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba
(Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba)
Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

The older the woman, the more she teases
(Don’t you just know it)
The younger the woman, the tighter she squeezes
(Don’t you just know it)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba
(Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba)
Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba
(Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba)
Ah ha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)

Ah Bha ha ha
(Ah ha ha ha)
Ey eh, oh
(Ey eh, oh)

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imageDB“Betsey Brown” (1985) is a coming-of-age story by Ntozake Shange, who is best known for writing “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” (1975). This book is based loosely on Shange’s own experiences as a 13-year-old black girl growing up in the middle of America in St Louis in 1959. That is just when the city started to send black children to white schools. Shange was one of them.

Betsey is like how I was at that age: reading books, her head in the clouds, full of wonder, feeling different from everyone else, being told how she should or should not be and, of course, wondering about the opposite sex. She feels inside more like me than the people I know. I felt that way when I was 13 and, to tell you the truth, I still feel that way. All of it.

So I had to read it.

The whites at school call her a nigger and keep away from her like there is something wrong with her, her mother asks why she has to like the most niggerish people, why she has to let everyone know what a niggah she is – when she is just being herself.

If she listened to all these people she would begin to believe there is something wrong with her. They want to shame her out of who she is deep down – which is far more beautiful than anything in their narrow, little minds. But when you are young it is hard to see that. The world is run by such people.

Betsey stays true to herself. She does not let the names get to her.

Shange makes this point by the English she wrote the book in.

She writes not in that particular kind of English you see in books that we all learned in school, what Shange has called White English, but in the English that blacks in St Louis in those days spoke and thought in. And there is not just one sort of Black English, but maybe four or five.

Her mother was careful to speak in White English but thought in an English that was blacker – but still much whiter than Betsey’s own English.

You are used to seeing Black English presented as bad and unlettered, close to broken. Shange presents it as something beautiful, almost like music, something more wonderful than White English, which by comparison seems stiff and ugly, like an old block of wood.

There is this particularly terrible form of White English that is the enemy of all thought and beauty, but if you do not write in it some important white people will think you lack intelligence and education. I have to hold my nose and write in it sometimes to be taken seriously. In fact, I am avoiding just such an unpleasant task right now.

Sorry, I just had to say that, but it is something this book made me see more clearly.

See also:

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Restless
Do da do da do

Sunday morning, break of dawn
And I don’t think I’ve slept at all
I toss and turn and body’s yearning
Thinking ’bout you all night long

Feel the thunder in my heart beating
It’s tearing me apart
I won’t rest until you’re here beside me
Sharing my love through the night

I’m restless, I can’t sleep a wink
Can’t live without your love
I’m restless, I can’t sleep a wink
I can’t live without your love

I tried to fight it, tried to hide it
Just another passing flame, well
Here today and gone tomorrow
But with you the fire raged

Over my mind, body and soul, baby
You took complete control
I’m on the verge of going crazy maybe
You’re all I want
Don’t you leave me in the cold

I’m restless, I can’t sleep a wink
Can’t live without your love
I’m restless, I can’t sleep a wink
I can’t live without your love

I’m restless, I can’t sleep a wink
Can’t live without your love
I’m restless, I can’t sleep a wink
I can’t live without your love

….

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A-B-A-B-C-D-

The moon up above
it shines down upon our skin

Whispering words that scream of outrageous sin.
We all want the stuff that’s found in our wildest dreams

It gets kinda rough in the back of our limousine.

That’s what we are
we all want a love bizarre.
That’s what we are
we all want a love bizarre.

A strawberry mind
a body that’s built for two

A kiss on the spine
we do things we never do.
Swallow the pride and joy of the ivory tower

We’ll dance on the roof
make love on a bed of flower.
That’s what we are
we all want a love bizarre.

That’s what we are
we all want a love bizarre.

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I love this passage from “Betsey Brown” (1985) by Ntozake Shange. It is 1959 and Betsey Brown is the 13-year-old daughter of a black doctor in St Louis. She has been dancing to the blues, better than her sisters, Margot and Sharon. Their mother Jane told Betsey to turn off the music (that nasty coloured music). Her sister Margot tells her:

“Girl, you a niggah to your very soul.” Margot stopped, out of breath and envious. “I can’t imagine what a child like you is even doing in this house.”

Sharon grabbed Margot’s hand and said something Betsey couldn’t hear, but surely had to do with stealing from Vida’s cookie jar and messing with Betsey’s mind. They ran off to the pantry together mimicking Jane. “Turn that mess off, Betsey. Betsey that niggah noise is disturbing my rest.”

Betsey stopped dead in her tracks. She’d had enough of all of this. Every time she played music she was a niggah. If she mentioned Nasser, she was a communist. If she wanted to boycott her school, she was a rabble-rouser. If she wanted to eat at Howard Johnson’s, she was giving whites more than was their due. No matter what she said or did, it wasn’t right. In addition to the fact that she hadn’t been kissed since Eugene Boyd came calling that first evening. It was plain as could be to anyone with good sense, with the head God put on her shoulders, that the only reasonable thing to do was run away. That was clear as day.

Betsey Brown feels inside just the way I do. Not just here but also when she is in her tree looking up at the stars, when she is coming back home on the bus to her neighbourhood and at the beginning when the sun is coming up over the city. Shange seems more like me inside than the people I know.

Betsey likes the blues, but that is too black. She likes Howard Johnson’s, but that is too white. “Acting white”. “Too ghetto”. People try to shame us out of following what is deep inside us. They want us to act and think a certain way.

But if we listen to them we wind up narrowing ourselves to meet their tastes, becoming a flat, cardboard character in our own short lives. We lose our true selves.

Betsey did not listen to them.

Unlike most people in the story, Betsey has no shame about being black. She sees it as being all good – certainly as good as being white, if not better. It is the way God made her.

Shange shows she feels this way too by writing so much of the book in the English that black people spoke in St Louis back then. And it comes off not as an English that is bad, broken or unlettered but beautiful and natural.

See also:

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