The ‘Surreal Housewives”: Get a Job

I am addicted to Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise. Yes, I watch all of The Real Housewives (Atlanta, New York, Orange County, New Jersey) — and when I say watch, I mean DVR them, which is big for me.

I call it the “Surreal Housewives” franchise because their definition of what passes for high society and wealth is ridiculous. Socialites, for example, don’t need major companies to sponsor their non-exclusive parties. Not to mention, their shameful and ridiculous behavior, which would never go off well in “polite” society or among us regular folks. With the exception of Vicki and maybe Gretchen, the ladies on the O.C. edition appear to be gold diggers.

I was recently watching an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, and one of the cast members — Lynne — received an eviction notice. This was after she just attended a lovely dinner party and after undergoing a mother/daughter plastic surgery session. The woman who spends hours in the gym and actively works on “staying young” got booted from her California condo.

What tripped me out about the entire thing was that Lynne acted as if her husband was some monster because he did not tell her about their dire financial situation. I’m thinking to myself, “Shouldn’t you know?” If you’re a grown person, then you should know the cost of living of where you reside, especially when it is one of the most expensive areas in the world, let alone the country.

Lynne’s husband clearly was afraid to tell his wife and his two monsters, I mean daughters (who are mean and abusive), because of said fallout. Viewers are not privy to everything that goes on in the lives of these folks, but based on the money that Lynne and her spoiled, potty-mouthed daughters blow on a constant basis, I could definitely see how this family stays in financial trouble.

Apparently, they received an eviction notice because he couldn’t come up with a $10,000 deposit. I immediately thought to myself, double plastic surgeries, a trip to Florida and the recent soiree easily surpassed $10,000. To add insult to injury, that same week, Lynne heads out on a trip to San Francisco with her fellow housewives and drops $1,800 on a leather jacket in the first store that they visit.

Therein lies the problem with them and society. Women need to take responsibility for their finances and help contribute to their household finances even when their husbands are supposed to be providers.

I know a lot of people believe that men should provide and protect as stated in the Bible. But where does it say in the Bible that women can’t help their families or themselves? Where does it say that grown men have to be financially responsible for grown women who constantly make poor financial decisions?

I often joke that malls were created to keep women in debt. All you see are women and teenagers walking around spending money on “sale” items that most of them won’t even wear. Is it worth being late on your rent or mortgage because you had to have a fabulous pair of shoes that you may or may not wear? I don’t think so, which is why I stay out of malls if at all possible. Too many trappings — with a direct line to poverty — for me.

Not to mention the fact that we’re in a recession, which impacts everyone. Common sense would tell you that there are only two real options — cut back or get a job. Like many of us in society, the ladies of this show clearly need jobs outside of the home if they expect to continue to live the way that they do.

Lynne actually had a line of jewelry, specifically cuffs, that were being sold in a couple of O.C. boutiques. She was also working on national distribution through a major department store. Her high-end cuffs started at $275, so why they are short on money is a mystery to me. Actually, no it isn’t, as I haven’t seen her work at all this entire season — just drink alcohol, take pain meds and clearly something else.

What’s even most disconcerting is how these women toss their husbands away when they hit hard financial times. Why do we measure men by their wallets? Why do they allow women to do so?

Men are not banks and should not be treated as such.

Families should work as teams. Consequently, as a wife, if there is something that you can do, then you should.

This article originally appeared on Creative Loafing, where she serves as Cultural Critic.

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Tiger the Pussycat?

Why is Tiger Woods giving a press conference on cheating on his wife? Is he an elected official or a man of the cloth? Come on man. 15 minutes of Tiger beating up on himself is not good television. I don’t give a damn about his dalliances with other women. That should be Elin’s concern, not mine. Just play golf again. I do not think that his success on the golf course was due to his squeaky clean image — more like his unparalleled skill set. Why are people mad? 85% of people in marriages in America cheat, so why do we have a different standard for him? Athletes and celebrities are not role models because they are as human and fallible as we are. To the world, I say, “Get a life.” To Tiger, I say, “Grow a pair.”

NBC’s Tasteless Winter Olympics Coverage

OK, I admit it: I’m an Olympics geek. If you read my column regularly, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a huge sports fan. I can honestly say that I was skipping around anxiously awaiting the start of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Yes, I love the kinder, gentler Olympics that some say are too “soft” to watch. To me, it’s more than just ice skating, which in fact is a grueling sport, but I digress.

I was ready. I had my snacks prepared, bookmarks on my laptop to all pertinent sports sites, done all my background reading on the city, nailed down the athletes to watch, memorized the stories of guts and glory, followed the Lindsey Vonn saga and was front and center at 8 p.m. sharp. What did NBC start the 2010 Olympics coverage with? They started the event with the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvil. I understand paying tribute to a young athlete who lost his life in pursuit of one of life’s greatest and most elusive accomplishments. My heart sank when I read reports about the tragic death of the 21-year-old before the broadcast. I immediately thought of his family who was probably there watching, his team and the fans. I knew that NBC would pull together a story, but I thought they would demonstrate a modicum of respect for the young man and his family.

I guess I expected too much.

NBC’s idea of a tribute to this young man was to start off with a short intro by Matt Lauer and Bob Costas, followed by Brian Williams reporting from the scene. NBC then proceeded to show Kumaritashvil alive at the top of the track, which was spine-chilling, and his death three times in a row, along with a still photo of his dead body with rescue workers working tirelessly to resuscitate an already deceased Kumaritashvil.

NBC went way too far. As a media scholar, I understand the predicament that networks face, particularly with so much competition from the Internet and citizen journalists. Having said that, there is such a thing as news value and news judgment, and I’m not sure what showing this young man’s demise over and over added to the experience of viewers — other than sheer horror. I don’t think that NBC should have shown it at all, but would have been more accepting of showing it once, if it were for the sake of transparency and delivering the news to viewers. I thought to myself that everyone working there is clearly asleep at the wheel. Sometimes it should not be about ratings, but about dignity and respect for others.

When in doubt, how about putting yourself in that person’s position? Would Matt Lauer like to see his son’s body fly off of a track and into a metal pole, dying instantly? Would Costas or Williams want the world to see their son’s lifeless body lying there, not moving, his foot propped up against the place where he lost his life? I would think not.

Did they ever think about this young man’s parents? His family and friends watching from his hometown? Kumaritashvil’s teammates? He was part of one of the smallest delegations there — one of eight from his country. What about the members of the Olympic committee? The chair was visibly devastated by this event even throughout the opening ceremonies.

NBC’s failure to think about any of these factors — or to think about it and dismiss it in order to justify showing this young man’s death multiple times — is sad. How do we claim to value life and treat someone’s death with such callousness?

This reminds me of the death of Seydi Burciaga, a young mother killed in the Atlanta floods in September 2009. News and tabloid agencies played her 911 call over and over. During the call, Burciaga, who is minutes from her home, is panicked because she knows that she is going to drown. The networks play the tape until she takes her last breath. I couldn’t sleep after hearing the terror in her voice.

For those of you wondering why I listened to it and why I watched Kumaritashvil’s death — it is because I wasn’t expecting it. I kept waiting for the news programs to cut away or for a happy ending, but it never came. That is what makes this young man’s death even more tragic: the fact that he died over and over again in the eyes of the viewers and the minds of the producers who were actually making these decisions.

I understand that if NBC doesn’t show the footage, they may lose ratings — but they gain respect from viewers by having a standard of decency and reverence for life. What exactly is that standard? All hell breaks loose over Janet Jackson’s nipple, which is covered and has to be magnified a zillion times to be seen by actual viewers because it’s harmful to children, but we can see Kumaritashvil’s horrific death because of its news value? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Burciaga and Kumaritashvil are more than just news stories. They’re human beings with families that are still here.

I used to watch NBC morning and evening news because of what I perceived to be journalistic integrity. Clearly this class act has become an ass act. NBC may be winning the ratings race, but it’s losing a lot more in the process.

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where she serves as cultural critic.

Black History Month Still Matters

February is Black History Month. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week, which then grew into Black History Month in order to highlight the achievements of African-Americans. Some have pondered whether we still need Black History Month with the election of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.

I find it amusing that many folks, including some black folks, want to use this one achievement as an example of why we no longer need Black History Month, or discussions about race and racism. I would argue that this is an example of why we need Black History Month: so that we can continue to learn more about black culture, which is in fact American culture.

In the intercultural communications course I teach, we learn that the more you learn about others, the more you learn about yourself. This is because learning about others highlights our differences and similarities, thereby reinforcing or challenging how you see yourself relative to how you are perceived by others. This is applicable to all cultures, whether you’re Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, South African, Senegalese, West Indian — you name it, and this idea is relevant to your group.

Eliminating Black History Month may eliminate our motivation to learn more about another racial group. In this instance, black folks resided on the margins of society and history books and were sometimes completely excluded, which is how Negro History Week evolved. This experience is not specific to African-Americans in this country — think about women, poor whites, gays and lesbians and other ethnic minorities. Black History Month gives all of us, including black folks (many of who know very little about our history), an opportunity to learn more about a specific group and themselves in the process.

If I had stopped reading about Black History Month, I would have missed out on learning about Henrietta Lacks, a poor tobacco farmer, who died of cervical cancer, but whose cells were used to develop the polio vaccine, leading to important advances like in vitro fertilization, gene mapping, and cancer research. Her cells have been bought and sold by the billions, for which neither she nor her estate received a penny. In fact, she never knew or consented for doctors at Johns Hopkins to take samples of her tissues, which helped launch a multibillion dollar industry.

Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave in Clover, Va. I learned this from an article entitled “Do We Still Need Black History Month,” by Cindy Barnes-Thomas. This article led me to conduct my own research and come across a book titled The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, a white woman who brings this black woman’s story to life. Click here to read more.

This article originally appeared in its entirety in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga Burton serves as cultural critic.

Chris Matthews Makes Black History

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D.

MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews put his proverbial foot in his mouth last week following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

The world was watching President Obama, the man previously with the Midas touch. He had come under fire from many in the country, including his own party, with the Democrats losing the Senate seat in Massachusetts, thereby losing power in the Senate. President Obama’s poll numbers were also in decline, suggesting that citizens were losing faith in his ability to turn the country around.

I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to watching the address because I wasn’t interested in hearing him do more of the same — accept all of the responsibility for the problems in the country that preceded him, support his lame party that does not support him and not acknowledge that the only bipartisanship that the Democrats and Republicans have is to collectively work against him.

Imagine my surprise when President Obama came out swinging, taking everyone to task and demanding that we get over ourselves in order to create the change that is needed to move this country forward. Gone was the man who seemed to be slightly off of his game, at least by all media accounts; in his place, stood the president of the United States who had finally realized his power and concretely stated that he would use it to do what is necessary for this country.

I like tough talk, so my inner Republican stood up and clapped, even if the real Republicans tried hard not to clap in opposition to his policies.

Fast-forward to Chris Matthews, who was so visibly excited about the president’s speech because — say what you will about President Obama, but — the man can deliver a speech like few others. He has the ability to pull you in, connect and have you motivated to go out and change the world.

Matthews caught the bug and looked like he could barely contain himself. He was jovial and energetic as he ran back the plays of the actual address. Matthews, who can be a loudmouth, usually goes hard after folks, especially this president, so I waited for him to pounce; yet he didn’t.

What Matthews did do was make one of the craziest public statements that I’ve heard in a long time: The address was so good that he forgot that President Obama was black. REWIND. Take the needle off of the record. Come again? President Obama’s speech was so good that he forgot that he was black? Wow (in my Mos Def voice). In 1980s terms, I burst out laughing … and in today’s terms I was LMFAO.

Matthews dared say what so many people think, and while he tried to clean it up almost immediately, the words had landed.  Click here to read more.

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga Burton serves as cultural critic. Follow her on Twitter @ntellectual.

100 Years of Black Cinema

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D.

As we all know, February marks Black History Month. But this year, February also marks something else: The 100th anniversary of the birth of black cinema. Black cinema was making black history before Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926. And this week, black cinema is making history once again with the nomination of Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire for Best Picture. It’s the first time in the history of the Academy Awards that a film directed by a black director is nominated for the top award. Director Lee Daniels is following in the footsteps of those who came before him—namely, William D. Foster and Oscar Micheaux.

Oscar Micheaux is often lauded as the father of black filmmakers. But William D. Foster began producing films nearly a decade earlier than Micheaux’s first effort. In 1910, Foster, a sports writer for the Chicago Defender, formed the Foster Photoplay Company, the first independent African-American film company. (Foster wasn’t a complete stranger to show business; he had also worked as a press agent for vaudeville stars Bert Williams and George Walker.) In 1912, Foster, produced and directed The Railroad Porter. The film paid homage to the Keystone comic chases, while attempting to address the pervasive derogatory stereotypes of blacks in film.

This was three years before D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), a plantation fantasy credited with establishing negative stereotypes of blacks in film that still exists today. Consider the Reconstruction scene, where barefoot black legislators eat fried chicken, swill whiskey, lust after white women and pass a law that all legislators must wear shoes. Insert a cantankerous mammy, tragic mulatto, murderous buck, black rapists and a lynching, and you’ve got what is shamefully considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.

In response to The Birth of a Nation, brothers George Perry Johnson and Noble Johnson (a Universal Pictures contract actor), founded the Lincoln Motion Picture Company in 1916, producing middle-class melodramas like The Realization of a Negro’s Ambition (1916) and the Trooper of Troop K (1917) and their most well-known film, The Birth of a Race (1918). The Johnson brothers’ movies featured black soldiers, black families and black heroes, concepts foreign to most mainstream films at that time. Click here to read more.

This article originally appeared in The Root (www.theroot.com).

Beyonce and Gods and Monsters

Bye Bye Beyonce
Beyonce is young, beautiful and talented, but I think it’s time for her to do something different, like go away. We get it – you can sing and dance, most of the time. You’re one half of the most powerful couple in entertainment and a private person. Unless you plan to do something drastically different, I’ve had enough. It was refreshing to see you thank your husband and tell him that you love him publicly. That was really the first time that you seemed real in a long time. Recycling the same old look, sound and dance steps smacks of fabrication. Take a note from J.Lo. Not all publicity is good publicity. The very same public that catapaulted you to fame, will turn on you, when they’ve had too much of you. Jay Leno anyone? Know when to say when. Give yourself and us a break for a minute.

Gods and Monsters
It’s official. John Edwards is the world’s greatest scoundrel – maybe not, but certainly this decade’s greatest jerk. Cheating on your wife who has terminal breast cancer, knocking-up a crackpot, making a father of three take the fall, lying about the paternity of the child and then finally telling the truth, when said father writes a book to restore his dignity and that of his family. Raw dogging it with the jump off? Like Sanford, his narcissism led him to believe that he could get away with it. The levels of deceit are despicable. A person can only take so much. How bad is it when you’re divorcing your partner when you have a terminal illness? Elizabeth Edwards is doing just that. So sad and tragic. Standing by a man that didn’t stand by you or his child. This is what happens when dealing with a man who thinks he’s God, but really is a monster.