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Faith Matters: Who was “Detroit’s” intended movie audience?

By Rev. Irene Monroe

The movie “Detroit” attempts to capture the race riot of 1967.

While summer flicks are known fondly as “popcorn movie season,” the film “Detroit” is difficult to digest.

With raw depictions of street violence, inexplicable scenes of an aggregation of law enforcement – Detroit police, Michigan state troopers, national guardsmen, and private guards – descending on the Algiers Motel, and the constant images of the racial tropes, ” Detroit,” critics have rightly stated, is “disappointingly one-dimensional” and “un-nuanced.”

More vocal critics have posed this question: Who was the film’s intended viewing audience?

“Detroit” is “a movie for white people,” Huffington Post senior culture writer Zeba Blay stated.

I, too, was spent after viewing the film. My spouse left the theater shaking and crying, conveying how demoralized she felt. Rev. Emmett Price, my co-commentator on our weekly Monday segment “ALL REVVED UP” on WGBH on Boston Public Radio, stated, “It was two hours and 23 minutes of the muting, maiming, torturing and murder of black bodies. That’s the movie.”

Because both filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are white, queries abound about cultural appropriation and exploitation, asking whether white artists can sensitively and appropriately depict black pain and oppression.

Bigelow’s high hope was that the film would spark our country’s needed dialogue on race; therefore, she emphatically stated to the New York Times, ”To do nothing was not an answer.”

Moreover, Bigelow felt, given her filmmaking crops and a top-notch all white crew with one renowned black consultant (Detroiter and scholar Michael Eric Dyson) she was equipped to tell the story.

Sadly, she wasn’t. The balance between depicting the horrors of racism without valorizing or demeaning black trauma was eclipsed in “Detroit”, inviting an avalanche of African American movie and cultural critics to chime in.

It’s too simplistic to say that stories of people of color should only be the province of people of color. A similar polemic was once expressed about Shakespearean plays having only white actors back in the day.

Bigelow’s problem, for me, is that she didn’t tell a good story, because she did not have the complete history of the riot, but told the story, nonetheless.

Instead, Bigelow did what she does best – an auteur-driven film – displaying her vast cinematic skills to obfuscate her lack of knowledge and absence of a plausible narrative arc.

With graphic images of white barbaric cruelty inflicted on black bodies, the main character unquestionably is violence. The emotional arc of “Detroit” being black helplessness, the film evokes anger rather than thought, political action and coalition building in this era of the “Black Lives Matter”. Bigelow not only fails at Screenplay 101, she tanked her efforts to make a difference.

How much of Bigelow’s passion to tell the story of the 1967 Detroit riot – especially in the way she did – was out of white privilege, white guilt, arrogance, or ignorance I’ll leave it up to the viewer to decide.

 

Texan is 17th trans murder victim of 2017

Gwynevere River Song

According to Trudy Ring on The Advocate: A transgender person in Waxahachie, Texas, was shot to death Saturday, becoming the 17th known transgender homicide victim of 2017.

Gwynevere River Song, 26, who used “they” pronouns, died at home after an argument escalated into violence Saturday afternoon, reports the Daily Light, a local paper. Song was pronounced dead at the scene. Another adult, whose name has not been released, was taken to a hospital. The Ellis County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate.

Song was a 2015 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. They identified as “femandrogyne” and bisexual, according to the blog PGH Lesbian Correspondents.

-Read more on The Advocate

From GRID to Glee: 35 Years of the LGBTQ Experience in American Politics and Pop Culture: Part 4, The 2010s: “Modern Families”

By Stephanie R. G. Harageones

At the start of the 2010s, things were going well for the LGBTQ community in both politics and pop culture. The largest impact politically was the 2008 election and popularity of president Barack Obama.

Over the course of his presidency, many good changes took shape. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was overturned. DOMA was struck down and by 2015, same-sex marriage was federal law. In a quieter, but as-important victory, child adoption for gay couples was also federally protected.

And more than just hard-won legal battles, attitudes have changed. Anti-bullying and pro-gay campaigns are everywhere. To name a few: NoH8, It Gets Better, GLAAD, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign; the list goes on.

Two television shows had a huge impact on public opinion, and they both started in 2009. Sitcom Modern Family and musical comedy Glee were both milestones for the community. Both series had a huge impact on LGBTQ culture and earned a large following in the 2010s. While there were other TV shows that featured diverse characters and same-sex relationships, Modern Family and Glee have arguably been two of the most critically and commercially successful, unabashedly bringing LGBT characters front and center many times.

Over Glee’s impressive six-season run, the show had nearly 10 characters who were LGBT. These teen characters tackled everything from coming out to virginity, from heartbreak to acceptance, even marriage for two of the most beloved same-sex couples on the show.

With Modern Family, the characters are older and the plot is more nuanced. But the idea is normalcy — a modern family like Mitch and Cam’s being, well, modern. The subtly of their same-sex relationship (and later marriage) is the whole point. Featuring the emotional adaptation of ageing patriarch Jay Pritchett to his son’s husband and their adopted daughter, the show related to an LGBT audience beyond their teen years.

The largest impact on music was from Lady Gaga. Constantly promoting love and acceptance, her hit “Born This Way” is an anthem devoted to celebrating diversity and encourages everyone to be themselves. She even made the Born This Way Foundation, to continue acceptance, tolerance and love. There have been other supportive songs, like “Same Love” and the lesser-known “Boys In The Street”.

And so this brings us to now, 2017. Like many people in the community, I am alarmed and disheartened by the Trump administration. Between the ultra-conservative Pence and terrifyingly anti-establishment Steve Bannon, their agenda feels full of hate and tosses us in a sea of doubt. Just as we were settling in so nicely with Obama-era acceptance, many now worry it will be rolled back or ripped away. But as citizens of New York, we can take some comfort in the message of Governor Cuomo. Days after the election, he wrote: “Whether you are gay or straight, we respect all people.”

We may be worried, we may be in a state of dismay. But at least we’re together, in the state of New York.

 

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