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1:09 PM / Tuesday November 29, 2022

3 Oct 2014

Dispatch from the frontline in the war on the image of black women

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October 3, 2014 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj

In the last 90 days the SUN’s cover stories have featured at least three spectacular African American female stars—notably Jada Pinkett-Smith, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer—each one leading the cast of a major new television show this season. Even more splendid is the creative force behind Ms. Davis’s show, “How to Get Away With Murder,” (as well as two other mega-hits on ABC) is the indefatigable Shonda Rhimes.

Yes, indeed…we have come a long way baby!

Or have we?

At the same time Jada plays a “Queen of Mean” bad girl in FOX-TV’s “Gotham” and Ms. Spencer dispenses life-saving pharmaceuticals and cutting edge jocularity as head pediatric nurse in “Red Band Society,” three other black female stars—Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Beyonce -continue to bump and grind their butts and boobs to climb atop the record charts.

So profane are some of the latest lyrics by these three songbirds that the widespread disgust many of usfeel obscures the harsh reality that African Americans don’t own or control the images others use toportray us for huge profits. What we see in America’s cultural mirrors is not what is put there by us—rather it was put there for us—to consume.

The juxtaposition of these images reminded me of the memorable closing line in the movie, Platoon, where the lead character reflects on his bloody and emotionally exhaustive combat tour in the jungles of Vietnam balancing the demands of his two sergeants in “a war between two fathers,” one who fought because he was ordered to and the other, because he loved it so.

Nicki Minaj’s newest album, “Anaconda,” is so filthy her high school principal turned her down flat when nshe wanted to return to her alma mater to lecture about breaking into the entertainment business. Rihanna’s latest CD debuted a few weeks earlier with nearly an identical hyper-sexed motif captured vividly on the accompanying video. And if you thought Beyonce was too big to do trash—guess again.

Since collaborating with husband Jay Z, her lyrics have devolved into what’s usually confined to the walls of skid row tap rooms.

A few printable examples, maestro please: “Yeah! This one is for my b****es with a fat ass in the f**king club I said, where my fat ass big b***es in the club? F**k the skinny b***es! f**k the skinny b***es in the club!” (Courtesy Nicki Minaj)

Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” talks about how she “woke up in the kitchen saying ‘How the hell did this s**t happen? While Rihanna revels in “Strip clubs and dollar bills, I still got my money, Patron shots, can I get a refill, I still got my money. Strippers going up and down that pole And I still got my money. Money make the world go around. Money on my mind. Money on my mind. Throw it, throw it up.”

Such stridently divergent images of African American femininity in the 21st century today compete for nthe hearts and minds of our next generation of mothers, sisters, aunts and godmothers. The outcome ofthis culture tug-of-war will in a very large measure dictate just what legacy of the African American experience culture will endure. Less likely to endure though is Nicki herself, as she was soundly booed by many parents at the last Welcome America concert.

That’s why if s so important that Shonda Rimes’s talented team has managed to break into the upper ranks of mainstream television where she competes and wins in the big leagues against teams comprised of mostly white men. We’re not talking about great writing here, after all, few examples of actual literature, say like “The Wire,” “Twilight Zone,” or “Frank’s Place,” ever make the cut in Hollywood—ever. To be sure, Shondaland has rewritten America’s cultural history so black women with talent don’t always have to take off their clothes in order to make a living in front of white audiences. And maybe, possibly in those years when Nicki, Rihanna and Beyonce have seen their lumps replace their lean, “Shonda Rhimes, International” will cast them in supporting roles in 2040 as mothers of wannabe hip-hop artists.

Philly loves ‘How to Get Away with Murder!’

New Shonda Rhimes drama is most watched program of the night

Shonda Rhimes has another hit, and Philadelphia is all in!

“How to Get Away with Murder” is the latest drama from the can’t-miss producer, and the debut ratings show a promising run. The show, based in Philly and starring Viola Davis, recorded an 8.2 rating in the key demographic – Women 25-54. Comparatively, “Parenthood” (NBC) only earned a 1.7 rating in the same demo. In the household demo, “Murder” was the highest rated program of the night (13.4), even besting NFL Football on CBS (11.1).

“We are thrilled to know our viewers tuned into this program” said President & General Manager, Bernie Prazenica. “Shonda has a proven track record of compelling, gritty writing. And having the backdrop of our city is a win-win for us. We expect the ratings to grow even more because of word of mouth.”

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