Fisking Culture: ATI and Grooming Behaviours

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I’ve been reading through the testimonials on the website Recovering Grace. If you aren’t aware, the main testimonials on the website deal with the reports of inappropriate behavior on the part of Bill Gothard, founder of ATI. The most harrowing thing about these stories is that the girls in question often had no baseline, no knowledge of what was appropriate and what was inappropriate. Story after story has situations in which the environment was already being controlled as a way to set the stage for predatory behaviours.

These situations were already troubling, but most of the girls had NO idea because of their sheltered lives. Worst of all, I could see EXACTLY how they felt. I too had a very sheltered life up until college, and if someone had tried to take advantage of me in this way, I wouldn’t have known what was wrong until it was too late. In fact, someone did take advantage of me once and assault me, but because the person held little to no power in my environment, the situation was not repeated.

I decided to compile a simple checklist of problematic behaviours (known as “grooming”) that should be noticed and addressed with peers and parents if they occur to you.

  • Long looks that make you uncomfortable
  • Asking to spend time with you away from others (under the guise of special tutelage, prayer, instruction or to listen to your problems and counsel you)
  •  Very sympathetic, asks questions no-one else does, wants to know your deepest desires.
  • Constantly asks how you are doing, what is your mood, not satisfied with superficial answers.
  • Tells you to smile more.
  • Accidental touching all the time (leaning, legs touching while sitting close to you, footsie, small of the back when hugging or passing by)
  • Insisting that there is a special bond between you, that others wouldn’t understand.
  • Telling you how much they rely on you, no-one else understands them like you do
  • Special privileges, food, money, or ability to contact them at any time when others wouldn’t be allowed to.
  • Irrational anger or overreaction if they don’t know where you are for a while, or if plans are changed without notifying them. Also overreaction if you spend time with someone other than them one on one.
  • Reassurances that you would never turn on them, along with telling stories of people who did turn on them. Repeated insistence that they “trust you completely” or that you are the only one they can trust.
  • Encounters between you become longer, more frequent and more exclusive (prayer sessions, counseling, lunch periods etc)
  • Mentioning your appearance, complimenting you on a certain way of styling hair, style of clothes, way of walking, way of laughing.
  • Asking you not to wear or style yourself a certain way, specifically for their benefit.
  • Changing plans on you so that group outings become one-on-one situations.
  • Calling at odd hours, needing favors that they don’t ask of anyone else.
  • Asking you to keep the relationship details to yourself, because others would misinterpret the situation.
  • Becoming very offended if questioned on intentions or moral ideals.
  • When forced by circumstances to go on trips away from you, contacting you throughout the trip, or making a big deal of how much they missed you when they get back.
  • Asking what your experience level with the opposite sex is (are you a virgin, have you kissed anyone, have you seen anyone naked)
  • Gaslighting, aka, telling you something that you were present for didn’t happen, or didn’t occur the way you thought it did.

If you have any more of these warning signs to contribute, please add to it in the comments.

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Hottentot Venus and the VMAs

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Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman,
“The Hottentot Venus”

Hottentot sensationalism is our generation’s blackface.

What is it about the black female body that frequently means that it is an object of sex? Object, really. I watched, horrified, women’s bodies, their glutes shaking, placed around Miley as props and I could only think: Hottentot.

Unlike blackface, however, there isn’t even the representation of faces, because it is only the body that is displayed. Also, its not all that new. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Hottentot”, or especially “Hottentot Venus” that was the stage name of Saartjie Baartman, an African slave that was repeatedly put on display in London around 1808 as a freakshow specimen because she had large hips and rotund rear. It was also reported that she had very long labia, though she did not give any public showings of this. She was bought by an animal trainer, who showed her for 15 months in France.

All throughout her “exhibitions” she was coerced into claiming that she was a free woman, doing this of her own free will, and receiving payment from the people who were “showing” her. Reportedly after the public novelty worn off, she was forced to support herself with prostitution. After she died, it was a full 187 years before her remains were taken out of a museum and returned to her homeland in 2002.

The VMA show that has everyone in an uproar was just a symptom of the same “hottentot” display that started in 1808 or earlier. Actually, there were TWO “Hottentot Venus” performers at the time, Saartjie was only the most famous of them. This situation of depersonalizing a woman’s body and making it sensational is nothing new.The curvaceous body of a full figured black woman symbolizes wanton sexuality in our culture, regardless of the personality, agency and goals of the person living in that body.

Don’t believe me? I challenge you, watch Miley Cyrus’ now infamous performance again and count how many black female eyes make contact with the camera. Nevermind, the answer of course is ZERO. Throughout the performance, which is supposed to be celebrating “urban sound” and have a “black feel” to it, every single black female had their faces obscured by either the teddy bears or the sunglasses they wore. They gyrated around Miley, but didn’t touch her, despite miming smacking her ass, they never made contact, they pretty obviously weren’t allowed to.

So we already have a problem, these women have no personalities, no connection with the audience, but hey, they are backup dancers, that happens. Right? It was problematic that all of them were black, but it doesn’t necessarily throw Miley (actually her handlers, I doubt Miley picked her backup dancers and choreographed them personally, hell, she didn’t even write the song herself) under the bus.

But then something different happened. Watch from 1:30 to 2:02 as a woman in striped leggings with an especially zaftig form, who had previously been throwing T-Shirts to the crowd (not dancing), realized that Miley was coming over to her and began shaking her ass (aka, twerking) so that Miley could use her as a prop. Unlike how the black women couldn’t touch Miley, apparently the white woman is more than welcome to mime licking the black woman’s ass, then smack it once, twice, three times. Then the woman in the zebra tights was sent on her way, to finish throwing the last t-shirt and then head off the stage.

Fat non-normative black female bodies are kith and kin with historical caricatures of black women as work sites, production units, subjects of victimless sexual crimes, and embodied deviance.

This performance was the perfect representation of body sensationalism. During the shot of Miley using the woman’s body as a drum, the camera stayed low, and never even showed part of the woman’s face. As far as the world knows, she is just one zebra printed ass that placed itself there to be smacked by a white woman.

 

Fisking South Park, Season 1 Episode 2

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The second episode of South Park, entitled “Weight Gain 4000” deals with many issues: fitness products, gun control, entitlement, cheating and revenge.

The episode revolves around Cartman, who wins a national essay contest, which sends the town into a tizzy when they realize that Kathy Lee Gifford is coming into town to present the Award. The plot then splits; the townspeople and mayor are feverishly preparing the best way to welcome Mrs. Gifford, meanwhile Mr. Garrison is trying to plan a revenge on Cathy for a talent show title she won away from him in grade school, and Cartman doing his best to get ready for a tv appearance.

However, after getting home from school, Cartman sees a commercial for “Weight Gain 4000”, an energy elixir that obviously a parody of “get slim quick” products. Cartman is convinced by the commercial that eating the product will gain him muscle and turn him into a “beefcake” but in reality, it only makes him gain more fat.Kathy Lee Gifford is used throughout the episode as a representative of entitlement. We see a flashback of little Kathy Lee winning a talent contest because she has a group of backup singers and dancers. She is rich, and in real life at this time she was promoting cruise lines and Slim Fast, so its no wonder she was chosen as the example of excess. When she finally arrives in town, she is escorted in a bullet proof bubble (like the pope).
This episode also deals with race relations, as the town mayor decides that the best way to greet a television crew is to have the only black man in the city sing a song, regardless of how inappropriate a choice he is as a person. They only can see him as a representative of his race, and assume that he understands his part in the social contract.The thing that gets me about this social contract is that it hasn’t changed. August 20th, 1997 was when this episode aired. Its 16 years later, and a white woman (or rather, her brand) has made a blatant and obvious point that seeing persons of color as props is perfectly acceptable. Miley Cyrus started her descent into tokenism when she claimed that she hadn’t even listened to a Jay-Z song before singing lyrics written for her about how Jay-Z songs were her favorite. Her music videos have ascribed to tokenism, and then they just went all out.

“it is…worth commenting upon when in the pop culture circus the white woman is the ringleader and the (black) women who look like you are the dancing elephants.”

Another plotline shows Mr. Garrison having his first mental breakdown (of many to come). Mr. Hat initially seems like one of those “oddball teachers” who thinks he can get children to listen to him better if they use puppets. In Mr Garrison’s case, he seems to have had Mr. Hat around for years, and so Mr Hat is an indication of a split personality. That part of his personality is jealous of fame, upset for being passed over for accolades, and spiteful towards the way he perceives people as treating him. This episode opens up the discussion that is still ongoing about gun control (Mr. Garrison easily obtains a gun despite acting very oddly and angrily) and mental health. However, I feel like the mental health commentary is heavy and pointed in the wrong direction (as usual).

People with mental illness are rarely violent; I feel comfortable calling Jared Lee Loughner a tragic one-off, but that doesn’t mean the wholesale abandonment of our neediest citizens is OK. To say that this issue only matters because of the 20 people who were shot is to say that people who suffer from mental illness don’t matter. If you believe that, I suggest you not say it in my presence.

BEST JOKE IMHO:

Kyle: Hey Stan, did you see that rainbow this morning?
Stan: Yeah, it was huge.
Cartman: Heh, I hate those things.
Kyle: Nobody hates rainbows.
Stan: Yeah, what’s there to hate about rainbows?
Cartman: Well, you know, you’ll just be sitting there, minding your own business, and they’ll come, marching in and crawl up your leg and start biting the inside of your ass. And you’ll be all like, “hey, get out of my ass you stupid rainbows” [Silence]
Stan: Cartman, what the hell are you talking about?!?
Cartman: I’m talking about rainbows, I hate those frigging things!
Kyle: Rainbows are those little arches of color that show up during a rainstorm.
Cartman: Ohh, rainbows, oh Yeah, I like those, those are cool.
Stan: What were you talking about?
Cartman: Heh, oh, nothing, forget it.
Kyle: No, what marches in, crawls up your leg and bites the inside of your ass?!?
Cartman: Nothing.

Westboro and the “Pink Mass” Joke

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I couldn’t find a picture of a pink Satan, so here’s a pink satin ribbon instead.

 A story popped up yesterday that seems to have a lot of people laughing, but somehow I just can’t. An independent religious organization called “The Satanic Temple” decided to fight back in a rather unconventional way against the infamous Westboro Baptist hate protests about the Boston Marathon. The Temple apparently decided that they going to target a dead relative (in this case, the mother of the founder of Westboro) and “baptize” her to make her spirit gay via a “Pink Mass”. There hasn’t been an official response from Westboro Baptist, yet.

In this situation, this wasn’t publicized as a loving ceremony. This wasn’t publicized to talk about the two couples who apparently volunteered for this, it was publicized as a “Pink Mass” to turn a dead mother gay.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  

The only evidence I can find for “Pink Mass” being anything other than a ritual specifically to humiliate family members of dead people, is a reference to a Catholic church holding an annual pink Mass for breast cancer survivors and supporters. The Temple seems to have co-opted a religious ritual from another church without even researching to see if it might mean something.  

Any organization is of course free to create rituals that symbolize whatever they wish it to, but creating a ceremony to specifically humiliate people who believe differently than you is abhorrent, and especially unethical when it is specifically done to attack another person’s religious beliefs.

Much was made of the fact that the Temple was basically doing what the Mormons do (aka, baptizing living people in proxy for people who have died). In my mind, howeverm this is not a solid arguement for this behaviour being ok. It does not follow that because a church or group has done it before, anyone now is free to form their own ceremonies of a similar kind. In addition, while intent is not magic, one can see that the Mormons are intending their ceremony to be a blessing, a way for even non believers to get to heaven. In terms of morality, this is in some ways more gracious than the “one chance and that’s it” version that most of the rest of the evangelical Christian sects go for the idea of eternity.

Note: The Satanic Bible doesn’t talk about an afterlife in the way that many of the mainstream religions do. The majority of Satanists don’t believe there is any such thing as an afterlife, and many are in fact atheists. I don’t presume to speak for The  Satanic Temple’s congregation’s personal beliefs, but it is very likely that this “ritual” is not part of a sacred worship ritual formed for the benefit of the church members. It seems pretty clear that this was more a specifically directed mockery/punishment of the beliefs of a group of people (a group of people, I may note, that is larger than just the Westboro Baptist congregation, as many, though not all, Christian believers believe that being gay is a sin, and many believe that being a Satanist sends a person to hell.)

Overall, the saddest, most offensive part is that this ceremony has become a weapon. In attacking the Westboro Baptist, this weapon is being used as a punishment, and the punishment is the idea that being gay sends you to hell. This makes a powerfully offensive statement, that being gay is a punishment, something that can be done to you, and something that is dishonorable and shameful in its own right. Although I’m sure thats not what the people involved in this ritual believed, that is what thier actions imply.

In the end, the woman being theoretically punished or “turned gay” is having this done because her son has hurt people. I wouldn’t condone this behaviour even towards someone who had been nasty in her lifetime, but this is made all the more tragic by the fact that Mrs. Phelps died of an aggressive form of cancer when her son was only 5 years old.

Sorry, all this just doesn’t make me laugh, even though I get it. I get that we want to hold on to something seemingly trivial when people with terrible views take a stand against equality. I get that this is supposed to be whistling in the dark, but to me it’s undeniably mean spirited and directed in the wrong way, and hurts the very people it is trying to help.

In conclusion, I want to call out a cultural trend I have begun to notice. Rape culture is already well known as a situation that propagates and promotes rape as just a fact of life. Rape culture glosses over abuse, hurtful comments and jokes that promote problematic behaviours in others. I propose that we use Shame Culture as a term to talk about the overarching, wide ranging effects of people equating justice with the widespread shaming of perpetrators of social crimes. In our society, day in and day out, I see the back and forth of people trying to modify others’ behaviour via shame tactics, which are almost universally underhanded, and are designed to insult, expose and disgrace the person in question. While exposure and disgrace are side effects of being brought to justice in a legal and moral sense, they are not proscribed as morally good punishments in and of themselves. Even more so for insults.

A person being genuinely offended and voicing that opinion on a private or public stage is welcome and allowed to do so, but there is a difference between asking for a platform to speak your mind and attacking someone else’s self worth. I would say that the Westboro Baptist are an example of people who try to shame others, to devalue their self worth, debase them and shame them into agreeing with them. So I would call for us to rise above those tactics, fight with words of justice instead of words meant to shame and debase.

Take Back the Night (Fisking Pop Songs)

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I heard the new single from pop icon Justin Timberlake over the weekend and was completely floored. Not by the musical stylings, of course, those sound exactly as I would expect them to, and I generally love Timberlake’s style.

But the name of the song is exactly the name of a campaign of night walks to promote women having a right to feel safe at night. I figured the song might have something to do with that, I mean, how genius would it be to write a song specifically knowing that a certain group of people would make that their anthem, and play it over and over again at all of their rallies and walks! But with four writers, including Timberlake, Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, and James Fauntleroy, none of them seemed to be aware of the campaign at all. Beyond that, the lyrics show a complete lack of knowledge about the problems that “Take back the Night” walks are trying to address.

[Intro]
Yeah, uh, feels good, don’t it?
Listen, Yeah, this was your city
You did it all and more, broke every law except for one, babe
Attraction, are you ready
I know you feel it
Pull you nearer ’til you feel it again, oh

The song starts by asking a loaded question with a rhetorical feel to it. It’s a question that can be asked with the expectation that if no response is given, then everything is assumed to be fine. The first verse ends by telling the woman that the singer will make her feel attraction to him again by physically pulling her towards him.

[Bridge]
I wanna do something right
But we can do something better
Ain’t no time like tonight
And we ain’t trying to save it ’til later

All of these are statements he makes FOR her, and makes me feel like he’s reminding her of things she’s said before. This is an issue, because having sexual agency and personal control means being able to set boundaries and have them respected the moment you set them, even if you’ve “gone further” before, or said you wanted something different in the past.

Stay out here living the life
Nobody cares who we are tomorrow
You got that lil’ something I like
A little something I’ve been wanting to borrow

I love the way the language flows here. She has something he wants to “borrow” but to him its just a “lil’” something. No stretch to say this is sex, no stretch to say that it is all he is focused on, and no stretch at all to say it is the one thing he values.

Tonight the night’s, come on surrender
I won’t lead your love astray, astray, yeah

Surrender is a word that is used to imply a conqueror, someone is a winner if the other person surrenders. On the positive side, however, he does amend this by saying he won’t “lead her love astray”. This is a very vague statement, but interpreted charitably it could mean he won’t mistreat her once he gets that “lil’ something”. However, no cookies for being a decent human being.

Your love’s a weapon
Give your body some direction
That’s my aim

Here we see the reversal, its not the man who is dangerous, it’s the woman. Her sexuality and personal agency is a weapon, and needs to be directed by a man who can handle it.

[Hook]
Then, we could
Take back the night
Come on, use me up until there’s nothing left

He really hasn’t made it clear what “Take back the night” even means. They are taking it back from where, to where?

Take back the night
Dizzy, spinning, sweating, you can’t catch your breath
Take back the night
Ooh, don’t know when the sun is rising next
Take back the night
So if the feeling’s right, raise your glass and let’s take back the night

I guess they are taking the night back from the sunlight, as the sun rising always seems to be the worst thing ever in these party songs. Maybe the idea is if they take back the night and run in the right direction, they can keep from ever seeing the sun rising. (Reminds me of the small planet in the “Little Prince”.)

[Post-Hook]
Take back the night
They gon’ try to shut us down, I’ll be damned if we gon’ let them
Take back the night, take back the night
You know you gon’ mess around and find out there ain’t no one better
Take back the night, oh

Another statement he makes for her, that no one else she could mess around with could possibly be better than him.

[Verse 2]
Rare, there’s not too many
No one but you and crowded rooms, we can do anything (yeah)

This reminds me of the mindset of men who are able to move beyond their partner’s comfort zone on the dance floor simply because it is packed. On the surface, yeah, you’d think being in a room full of witnesses would be the worst place to molest someone, but actually it’s a very permissive environment because it’s very hard for the woman to voice her disapproval.

Attraction can drive you crazy
The way you move, you go crazy, that’s incentive for me

The way she moves drives him crazy and that is incentive enough to pursue her. Sounds like a way of saying she was asking for it.

[Bridge]
I wanna do something right
But we can do something better
Ain’t no time like tonight
And we ain’t trying to save it ’til later

A typical tactic for people who pressure others into sex is to point out that there is no point in waiting, if you think you might go for it in the future, then why not now. You aren’t one of those prudes who waits forever, are you? Just because you aren’t “saving yourself” for any particular purpose, doesn’t mean you want sex now as much as later. Getting to know a person or being comfortable with yourself before engaging in sexual activities is just fine.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who noticed that the hook was the name of a popular anti-harrassment campaign. The group had trademarked the name, and contacted JT. It looks like there will not be a lawsuit, and Justin responded to the situation fairly humbly and directly:

“Upon the release of my new single, ‘Take Back The Night,’ I was made aware of an organization of the same name called The Take Back the Night Foundation. I wanted to take this opportunity to let all know that neither my song nor its lyrics have any association with the organization. As I’ve learned more about The Take Back the Night Foundation, I’m moved by its efforts to stop violence against women, create safe communities and encourage respectful relationships for women — something we all should rally around. It is my hope that this coincidence will bring more awareness to this cause.”

I have absolutely no doubt of his sincerity, and I completely believe that this was an accident. What it shows, however, is that people who have the privilege to see the world around them as consensual and possessing agency as a matter of course, don’t see the way the words they use casually are used deliberately by predators. Of course JT doesn’t mean that a girl was “asking for it” when she is assaulted.
I believe it is very likely that he is the person he portrays in interviews, a generally intelligent, caring individual with a great sense of comedy and is very in touch with his emotions. Watch his emotionally wrenching portrayal of a tortured young man in love in Black Snake Moan, and you see a person who is unafraid to cry, to connect with women and show his vulnerability. Which is why it is important that we not give him a pass on this song. He cares about women’s issues, he needs to be shown that cliches like “no one could be better for you than me” can be phased out of the public consciousness if pop stars would stop using them so casually. Wordsmiths in the artistic world can be held accountable because intent isn’t magic.

“It just shows how far we have to go when Take Back the Night as a historic movement to end sexual violence in all forms is still not widely enough known, according to Mr. Timberlake, that he claims he didn’t know that we existed,” Katherine Koestner, executive director of “Take Back the Night”.

I think the best thing that JT could do would be to take the hook, the sound and the feeling of his brassy song and rewrite it as an anthem for the group “Take Back the Night” to use. Do a remix with Gaga (whom he’s worked with before informally on SNL) or Pink to show the other perspective, or better yet, work with them and let them sing it entirely. Give it to the nonprofit royalty free and let any personal proceeds from both versions go to the group.

Fisking Cultural Norms: The Lone Ranger

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I have been awaiting the reviews of “The Lone Ranger” ever since the idea was first announced. The idea of Hollywood doing a grittier, more realistic reboot of ANYTHING is both fun and horrifying at the same time, and has only led to good a small percentage of the time. However, it has led to amusement and discussion of tropes 100% of the time, and that’s where I come in, ready for a good fisking. I want do something a little different, though. I want to boil down the basics of what is being communicated with the look of movie, and contrast it with the goals of Johnny Depp and the producers. Here are the things that were said BEFORE the movie came out. This is from an interview with MTV:

“I like the idea of having the opportunity to sort of make fun of the idea of Indian as sidekick…throughout the history of hollywood, the Native American has always been the second class, third class, fourth class, fifth class citizen, and I don’t see Tonto that way at all. So it’s an opportunity for me to salute Native Americans.” Johnny Depp

This seems like a very respectable goal. If I were to sum up his goals as stated in this comment it would go like this:
A: Portray the character as a first class citizen
B: Portray him as a character worthy of respect
C: Make sure that the character is portrayed as something to “salute”, aka that Native peoples today can be proud of

There has always been a history of actors working closely with designers to come up with the best visual representations of their ideals for the characters. This was brought to the public eye in a very obvious way, however, when Johnny Depp talked at length about how he came up with most of the costume ideas for Captain Jack Sparrow. As far as the character goes, Sparrow was a great achievement of creating a pirate captain in such a vibrant, realistic and iconic way, without resorting to pirate stereotypes other than gold teeth.

So it seems natural that the design of the character would be handed to Depp as the actor that would portray Tonto. Here’s what I would call the first big mistake. The Jack Sparrow (“that’s Captain!”) that we see on the screen is NOT Depp’s unedited work. First of all, there were many more gold teeth capped by Depp’s dentist at his behest (including his front two teeth), and the Disney representatives made him take the number down to less than 5.

Also, Depp had a grand idea that nobody bought, which was to have the character have a deformed nose, which was supposed to be the result of a botched reattachement surgery after it was lopped off in a fight. The nose was supposed to have bad circulation, and thus be blue and swollen. Yes. Instead of a blue beard, this Captain would have a blue nose. Disney never even let the makeup artists do a mock up of the design, so it was happily left alone in Depp’s imagination.

On April 22, 2012, the character design and inspiration for Tonto was revealed to the public in an exclusive interview by Entertainment Weekly.

The world was wondering what he would look like, as his last few roles have obscured his ostensibly Native American complexion and cheekbones with gothic black and white makeup. So it seems he departed from this by…ripping his inspiration from a painting where the subject wears heavy black and white makeup that obscures his features. Also, the producers of the film decided to make Tonto and the rest of the Native Americans in the movie full blooded Comanche…which Depp exemplified by choosing a painting called: “I Am Crow”.

:facepalm:

No, it gets better. Or worse. Hee hee. The painting isn’t of a Crow Native’s ceremonial facepaint, nor is it of any Native whatsoever. I’ll let the painter, Kirby Sattler, explain.

“The subjects are a variety of visual references and my imagination. I am not a historian, nor an ethnologist. Being of non-native blood, without personal history, it would be presumptuous to portray the subject I paint from any other view than as an artist with an innate interest in the world’s indigenous cultures. I purposely do not denote a tribal affiliation to the majority of my subjects, rather, I attempt to give the paintings an authentic appearance, provoke interest, satisfy my audience’s sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy.” Kirby Sattler

Yes. He likes to paint pictures of real historical people, without any of that actual history bogging down his mind. I want you to imagine for a moment, the idea of a popular artist painting a series of successful paintings of, say, historical traditional Chinese people, without ANY research whatsoever into what those people looked like. Imagine the hubris involved. I used China because there are 56 different cultural groups in a similar size landmass, but that doesn’t even come close to the 566 separate nations that exist in America today. Much less all of the tribes that have existed in the past. So this definitely violates C of Depps goals, as I don’t know a non native portrayal based on no particular tribe and having no real sense of history could be honoring to the people for whom this is their reality, their culture.
Anyway, back to Depp on seeing the painting:

“It just so happened Sattler had painted a bird flying directly behind the warrior’s head. It looked to me like it was sitting on top. I thought: Tonto’s got a bird on his head. It’s his spirit guide in a way. It’s dead to others, but it’s not dead to him. It’s very much alive.” 

I think that violates point A of what Depp was trying to accomplish, “Portray the character as a first class citizen” and possibly B, “portray him as a character worthy of respect”. People who are first class citizens are portrayed as level headed, rational and sane individuals. Now, don’t misunderstand me, having religious ideals or beliefs is not the problem here. He is saying that to Tonto, the bird isn’t just “spiritually alive”, its PHYSICALLY alive. This is exemplified in the final product of the movie, where he tries to feed the bird peanuts while it is sitting stuffed on top of his head.

Now, people who have delusions and problems connecting with reality are not less worthy of respect, but they are often perceived as deserving less respect, particularly when their situations are played up for laughs. Feeding his dead bird hat is played up for laughs. Also, add a point to your stereotype score sheet (SSS) for the assumption that Tonto would have a spirit guide (and another point that he would reveal this spirit guide to literally everyone).

“…The whole reason I wanted to play Tonto is to try to [mess] around with the stereotype of the American Indian that has been laid out through history, or the history of cinema at the very least — especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Ranger’s assistant…As you’ll see, it’s most definitely not that.” Depp

So instead, he turned out to be the storyteller. Add another point to the score sheet. Oh, and I forgot, the stereotype that all “Indians” wear ceremonial facepaint every second of the damn day, that earns 500000 points.

I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but I’ll leave you with this final quote from Depp, whom I still very much admire as an actor, but he definitely needs to work on his delivery and examine his privilege.

 “I wanted him to be no joke. First of all, I wouldn’t f**k with someone with a dead bird on their head. Second of all, he’s got the f**king paint on his face, which scares me…I wanted to maybe give some hope to kids on the reservations. They’re living without running water and seeing problems with drugs and booze. But I wanted to be able to show these kids, ‘F**k that! You’re still warriors, man.'”

Oh Johnny…

Now that the movie has come out, if you want a point by point review of the movie itself, please please read this brilliant author take it down on a blog that fully explores Native Appropriations. She’s done better than I ever could and her review should go viral.

Fisking South Park, Season 1, Ep 1

EricCartman

South Park is a foul mouthed, crude show on Comedy Central that has been running for 16 seasons. The show is set from a kid’s perspective, lambasting and commenting on everything. No, seriously, everything. And with that short but sweet intro, I’m launching into the abyss of reviewing/fisking every episode of South Park (that I possibly can, without going mad). I will start with the first episode aired, entitled “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe”.

 
The story is simple enough. We are introduced to Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick, who are 8 year olds waiting at a school bus stop in snowy Colorado. Kyle’s little brother, Ike, is trying to follow him to school, so he plays “Kick the Baby” and punts Ike back into the front yard. Eric tells the boys he had a dream about aliens abducting him, and the boys try to tell him that it was not a dream, it was really “Visitors”. Chef, the school lunchroom chef and the boy’s favorite grownup, comes by to tell them there was a UFO sighting last night. As the children board the bus, they watch Ike get kidnapped by the “Visitors”.

 
In school, Kyle tries to get his teacher, Mr Garrison, to release him from class so Kyle can go save his brother. But when Cartman starts farting balls of flame from a probe the aliens left in his ass, they realize they have bigger problems.

 
From the opening, the show makes it clear that it will deal with these issues with all the tact and care that the creators believed they had when they were 8 year old boys. I was going to make a joke here about the level of that tact and care being absolutely none, but I realized how ageist and sexist this would be. I’ve met many eight year old boys, and many younger boys, and they have all the capacity for empathy and caring just the same as girls of that age do, and as much as any individual does at that time. They really are mirrors of the world around them, and that’s actually why I feel this show often works so well. The cruelty, or selfishness, or selflessness of the kids in response to the insanity of the world around them shows the issues that often are much less complicated than we make them out to be, and at the same time, have a more complex impact than we imagine.

 
Throughout the first episode, we have a few running jokes, some of which continue through the rest of the series, the first being Cartman’s refusal to admit that he is fat and eats too much. This starts as teasing from the boys, but its not aggressive in the context, because they are obviously concerned when Cartman seems to have lost sleep. Stan, Kyle and Kenny are not painted as bullies by the script, but more choose to push Cartman’s buttons as much as he does the same.

 
What’s interesting is that Cartman’s oft repeated defense of just being “big boned” is not his own invention, it’s what his absentminded, overindulgent mother tells him to say. The narrative actually makes a point to show that from the beginning, Mrs Cartman is shown offering him completely ridiculously unwholesome food (powder doughnut pancake surprise, chocolate chicken potpie, and the now infamous cheesy poofs).
Cartman, however, makes the connection between his weight and his food, and says

“I don’t want powder doughnut pancake surprise! All the kids at school call
me fat!”

Mrs Cartman immediately starts to baby talk to him and infantilize him. His frustration at this mounts, until he finally give in. This leads to him abusing his cat later, which is a very common way that children try to gain control of their environment when they are feeling upset.

 
The second joke is the very idea of an anal probe. The boys all think the idea sounds hilarious, and as soon as Cartman expresses fear of the idea, they tease him about it. The anal probe makes Cartman fart fireballs, set things and people on fire, walk funny, and eventually sprout a giant satellite dish.

 

However, it is obvious that Cartman is scared, and at the end of the episode, he yells out:

“Why is it that everything today has involved things either going in or coming out of MY ASS?! I’m sick of it!”

The entire episode, he has denied that anything was done to him, and that it would have had any lasting impact. Oddly enough, it lines up with how some men handle rape/assault. Denial, then acceptance that it happened, but denial that there are any lasting effects, then utter anger that things keep happening to them that are not part of the normal narrative.

The third running joke is of Stan vomiting on himself every time he tries to talk to his crush, Wendy. This is both grotesque and very effective. Stan literally sabotages his own efforts to be nice to Wendy as the gender narrative usually dictates, but this works out as a wonderful reversal at the end of the episode, where Wendy is vomited on by Stan, and instead of running away, she and Stan bond over trying to identify the foods in the vomit, silhouetted romantically against a full moon.

3 BEST JOKES IMHO:

CARTMAN

No kitty! Bad Kitty!! No Kitty, this is MY pot pie!!! MOMM!!! Kitty’sbeing a dildo!!

CARTMAN’S MOM

Well then I know a certain kitty kitty who’s sleeping with mommy tonight!

CARTMAN

What?

KYLE
Yeah! Check this one out!
(to Ike)
Ready Ike? Kick the baby
IKE
Don’t kick the baby.
KYLE
Kick the baby.
Kyle kicks his brother down the icy road.
IKE
Wahhhhh!

KYLE
Can I PLEASE be excused from class?
MR. GARRISON
I don’t know, Kyle. Did you ask Mr.
Hat?
KYLE
I don’t want to ask Mr. Hat, I’m
asking YOU!
MR. GARRISON
Oh, I think you should ask Mr. Hat.
KYLE
(SIGHING)
Mr. Hat, may I please be excused from
class?…
MR.HAT
Well Kyle, NO! You hear me? You go
to hell, you go to hell and you die!
MR. GARRISON
Hmm, guess you’ll have to take your
seat, Kyle.
KYLE
Dammit!

BEST KENNY JOKE:

KYLE
Whoa, maybe you can kiss her.
CARTMAN
Or slip her the tongue.
KENNY
Mmmph mrrr mff Mrmmph
STAN
What? How do you know she has a cat?