Category Archives: Pop Culture

On Becky, M.I.A.,and the Problem of that “Good Hair”

It’s a ‘do you remember where you were when…?” kind of event. Years from now, I’ll say, “I was at a friends birthday party where some of us gathered around the TV, shushing the others, to watch Lemonade premiere.” It was a warm, April evening in Houston and I got to the party with about 4 minutes to spare. We had a hard time hearing, but we leaned in to hear. We gulped the visuals down with wide eyes, like we’d never seen any music video before. There was hollering, cheering, praising, waving, conferring, and more than a few times, …Read more »

Lemonade, Sweet Tea, and Dirty Laundry on the Clothesline

Homemade lemonade was relief from the humid heat of North Carolina summers.  Sweet and sour lemon water always tasted better after it had been sitting for a few days, bathed in the sun so the sugar syrup could fully absorb the lemon pieces floating at the top of a see through pitcher, like a see through picture.  Similarly, I’ve been sitting with Beyoncé’s visual album since Saturday night, absorbing the pieces of myself and my life sticky sweet on the edges of the glass, transparent and raw.  You can see right through me. i’ve always been misrecognized by every man …Read more »

Black Girl Is a Verb: A New American Grammar Book

In her famous essay, “Interstices: A Small Drama of Words,” the venerable literary critic Hortense Spillers wrote, “Black women are the beached whales of the sexual universe, unvoiced, misseen, not doing, awaiting their verb.” At the time, Spillers was talking about the lack of texts about Black women’s sexuality and the lack of a collectively-honed voice and articulation about Black women’s sexuality from Black women themselves. She was writing in a moment that is very different from this one. In Spillers moment, controlling images of Black women as jezebels and mammies ruled the day. These days, the careful labor of …Read more »

No (dis)Grace: Cam Newton and the Emotional Labor of Blackness

The Panthers lost the Super Bowl.  Peyton Manning won his second ring on the backs of a Denver Defense that ain’t nothing nice.  Cam Newton didn’t shine, didn’t get to dab, didn’t ever seem to fall into the rhythm fans have become accustomed to this season.  He wasn’t playing with the joy and jubilant energy we were used to seeing.  He didn’t bless us with that all-star smile from the sidelines.  Instead he was all business from the start, serious, undoubtedly putting the responsibility of saving the season for his team on his shoulders.  But like only one other time …Read more »

Newtonism: Notes on Cool Masculinity and the Fear of Black Genius

“I do not expect the white media to create positive black male images.” –Huey Newton   It is the Friday before the Super Bowl and for the last two weeks there has been much ado about the anticipated performance of frontrunner for the league MVP, and star quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton.  And by performance I don’t only mean whether or not he will rely on his arm or his feet to put points on the board, or whether or not it will be a stat staggering game like many others this season, or whether or not he …Read more »

Love, Hip Hop, and Ratchet Respectability (Something Like A Review)

  In a recently published book chapter called, “Brains, Booty, and All Bizness”:  Identity Politics, Ratchet Respectability, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta, I define ratchet respectability as “a hybrid characterization of hegemonic, racist, sexist, and classist notions of black womanhood,” which allows black women to combine ratchet behaviors (generally linked to race) to the politics of respectability (generally linked to class).  I suggest that black women (particularly those represented on reality TV) are uniquely positioned to enact ratchet respectability through their negotiation of supposed authentic race and class behaviors. Because class based performances (from bourgeois to basic) do not …Read more »

Misogyny and Infamy: On the Erasure of Dark Skinned Black Women As Love Interests in Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton is clearly doing the damn thing at the box office.  Since its debut about a month ago, the film has become the highest grossing music biopic in history.  And no shade, but shade…given the music biopics of late…that Whitney biopic that should have been called the Whitney and Bobby Show, that Aaliyah biopic that was a hot damn mess, and that TLC biopic that was ehhhhhhh, folk have clearly been checking for some 90’s nostalgia.  And while some may believe it is unfair to compare made for TV movies with a heavily anticipated film with a $28 …Read more »

The Bold and Beautiful Possibilities of a Transgender Storyline on Daytime

Soap operas have been an on-again-off-again part of my every (week) day life since I was a little blackgirl trying to keep up with conversations in my mama’s living room.  All the grown women in my family watched “the stories,” whether it meant having them on while they cooked and got ready for a second shift job, recorded them on recycled VHS tapes to watch every night or on the weekends, or taking their lunch hour right around 1 o’clock so they could watch, uninterrupted, at work.  We watched the scandalous and fantastical lifestyles of oblivious whitefolks and invited them …Read more »

What Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman Teach Us About Respectability & Black Masculinity

Like 114.5 million other folk, I was watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night, the most watched show in U.S. TV history (shouts out to Missy Elliott’s halftime performance, yes gawd!).  As a Carolina Panther fan I was not terribly invested in the outcome, but I was low key rooting for the Seahawks 1) because I regularly root for the underdog and 2) I live for the badassery of Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch.  The badassery I speak of is not limited to their on the field athletic prowess (Sherman is a cornerback who attended Stanford, and Lynch is a …Read more »

Serial and the Power of Storytelling

Like so many others, I spent the last few months of 2014 listening – first avidly, then with trepidation and ultimately with disdain – to the hit podcast Serial. The podcast follows a single story, week by week. The story centers on Adnan Syed, a Pakistani  American high school student who was accused and convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999 when they were both students at Baltimore’s Woodlawn High School. The journalist Sarah Koenig is the investigator and narrator of each episode, unraveling clues in each episode to one end: Did Adnan really do it? This …Read more »

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