Scandal is a guilty pleasure with its bodice-ripping, twisty-turny Shonda Rhimes storyline. Lauded in many circles as a positive image, Olivia Pope is a familiar tragic trope clad in a power suit. All the blogs say that audiences, particularly women of color, have a love/hate relationship with Olivia Pope, the main character of Scandal, because she’s a two-steps-forward, two-steps-back kinda girl. Olivia Pope is a “fixer” with a heart of gold. She worked on the President’s campaign, helping him earn office. The two fall in epic-level love, and have an ongoing interracial, extramarital affair, enacted physically and sustained emotionally, even when the physical component ceases.Read More →

An aliens and monsters meme floated around Facebook this morning with this annoying cast of images. The meme depicts aliens and monsters in pop culture transforming from ugly and monstrous to attractive and desirous. It asks WTF happened? Here’s my first FB post: “People would rather embrace aliens from outer space than illegal aliens.” My later post: “It’s actually an old pattern from way back when. People who study pop culture say that we had an invasion of alien bug movies when we were afraid the aliens (in this case, Japanese during WW II and Koreans afterward). We’ve been invaded by illegal aliens time andRead More →

In Django Unchained, the “N-Word” occurs 109 times. Occurs? Is used? (Look at how awkward that statement is; it’s an active sentence about a word spoken, but without a speaker doing the action.) I twitch to imagine Tarantino saying the word himself. It just sounds wrong. It sounds like some clumsy white dude trying to sound cool while he hangs with his homies. When Samuel L. Jackson says it, it’s quite cool and melodious. As a director, Tarantino can say the “N-word” one hundred and nine times with whatever accent, register, or inflection he desires. With gusto, in fact. Fortunately, at least for my auditoryRead More →

Paranormal fiction and urban fantasy books are plentiful these days, but a large portion of them are vapid. Allie Beckstrom, the heroine in Devon Monk’s “Magic in the…” series, is a welcome contrast to the genre’s disappointingly passive Twilight female characters.   TV shows such as Buffy, Charmed, and So Weird made common the genre’s kick-ass female characters, and opened the door for urban paranormal’s expanding popularity. The burgeoning teen fiction/young adult market, born with the huge demographic hump of Gen Y, cemented gothy/vampy/werewolfy/witchy/faery stories as a permanent fixture at Barnes&Noble. Yet, as the genre boomed, its greatest strength declined in favor of the lowestRead More →

The Spice Girls represent “bustier feminism” in the 90s. It is no accident that Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas’s new book, opens with a discussion of this band. They represent the negation of feminism by commercial cooptation. The Spice Girls are the pinnacle of Girl Power and bustier feminism. They placed Girl Power, a frosted cupcake of an ambiguous message about feminism, front and center in the public imaginary at the turn of the century. According to Andi Zeisler’s Feminism and Pop Culture, the Spice Girls and the Girl Power they promoted were a “shorthand for a kind of a diet feminism that substituted consumer trappingsRead More →

Baton Rouge has a new radio station: 103.3. Well, not a new radio station, but an old station with a new format. The new format is “Music for Generation X.” The old format was “Divas.” It’s quite a Frankenstein’s monster of genres, playing everything from Nirvana and Guns-n-Roses, to C+C Music Factory, with pit stops at Salt – n- Peppa, and REM, not to mention mid to late 80s disco, hip hop, rock, and the weird, bad music everyone forgot existed. Funny, though, because I recognized every song, which demonstrates the way that music in the 80s and 90s was homogeneous despite the generic differencesRead More →

Here are my top twenty interesting, off-the-beaten-path movies of the decade, in no particular order. Of course, I’m glad this isn’t a job requirement, since a list is too limiting. This  list includes movies that I thought were different and interesting. Not all were critically acclaimed, either. Still, something about each one just stands out. Some of these are action pics, but they are not your standard shoot ’em up style. None on the list are major movies. 1. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) A strange man with an amazing sense of smell learns how to make perfume and then murders women inRead More →

Mix tapes are dead. Among the many dead technologies, I miss the mix tape. The death of a technology and its associated objects and habits can bring regret or relief. Think of letter writing. Often, the only clues to women’s history or the only insights into a previous generation’s thoughts and emotions are found in letters. Writing letters was a habitus, a way of being and doing. Today, our digital documentation is excessive, often thin, and shallow. A constant stream of 140 characters fails to capture the nuances of a traditional letter. Perhaps 19th century upper-class women writing about their tea service (see Veblen on spoons;Read More →

Ever since Whoopi’s Direct From Broadway show aired on HBO many years ago, she’s held a special place in my heart. In the original HBO special, her character Fontaine, who is a junkie, goes to the Anne Frank house. This skit is a profound comment on race and humanity. I was excited to see Whoopi join The View, which is one of my favorite shows to watch when I’m not really watching TV.  I was terribly disappointed in her “rape rape” comment about Roman Polanski, for which she’s being skewered all over the net, and deservedly so. Still, she’s got an incredible talent for raisingRead More →

The latest Rolling Stone has an offensive retrospective on Madonna. Although Madonna’s iconic look is always the subject of dispute, lately, the media has treated her like a clown. The only explanation is that she’s over 50. Fifty year old women, they say, shouldn’t prance around on a stage and spread their legs. It’s unbecoming. Rolling Stone frequently participates in this mistreatment even though they’ve helped turn Madonna into an icon.  Many of their pictures deliberately show her in an unflattering light. In this retrospective, they do put a handful of pictures of her in her 50s, but they fill the pages with the youthful,Read More →