Friday, February 02, 2007

BHM Part I: You Didn't Just Walk Into Mordor

[I decided to do a four-part series for Black History Month on each Friday of this month. Part I explores how far African-Americans have come, Part II explores the New Racism, Part III looks at things holding African-Americans back, and Part IV looks at heroes (with a weird twist). I make no apologies if this offends anyone; it is my opinion, and I refuse to apologize if someone feels I have stepped on toes when I haven't...]

One of the problems with the fight for Civil Rights is that people tend to forget how much has been won. Occasionally, you need to pause, smell the flowers, and see how far you've come.

And African-Americans have come a long way. Prior to the Civil War, owning a black slave was a mark of a successful plantation owner; if you owned a hundred or so, you were really successful. Admittedly, they had no rights and were only counted as 3/5 of a person, but it was a start...

[The jerk in me needs to point out three things: 1) Slaves weren't just black, 2) Less than half the states had slaves, and 2) Black slaves were actually considered an investment, and were thus treated better than most slaves. Compare to the treatment of Central American natives or the Irish...]

The South would fall to The North in the Civil War. In a lot of ways, this saved The South; their dependence on their agricultural base would have caused problems. At the same time, the newly freed slaves needed to fit in; rather than acting in its own best interest, Southerners needed someone to punish, and so they punished blacks. Voting rights were restricted, Jim Crow laws were created, and life was not fun.

Fortunately, wheels had already been set in motion. The Northerners started passing laws and constitutional amendments to safeguard black rights, and to get them on as even a footing as they could. Although they had to renege on the forty acres and a mule, the basis for civil rights had been created. If the US had not been hit by a depression in the 1880's, it would have been interesting to see what could have happened.

After the depression, the US was hit by a few major wars, suffrage, and another depression. During this, racism thrived; it festered in the dark even as blacks started doing well. By the time of the Harlem Renaissance, from 1919 to 1930, blacks had realized that staying in the South would be a bad thing, and so moved on, literally and figuratively. I think it can be reasonably argued that,if the Great Depression and WWII had not happened, the great civil rights battles of the 1960's would have been fought in the 1930's. Blacks were successfully challenging stereotypes, as well as creating some incredible strides, showing that they were no longer merely ex-slaves.

Nonetheless, the events did happen, and so the major civil rights fights happened in an already nasty couple of decades. Not only did the US need to deal with civil rights, it also had to deal with Viet Nam, the sexual revolution, the first major peace protests, and disco. In this, they had to deal with their own inner problems, such as the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rise of black militism, which, combined with the “Uncle Tom” politics (ostracizing those that wanted more for themselves or their families) actually set the movement back.

Think about this for a moment from the side of the authorities: You have all this civil unrest happening, the constant threat of nuclear armageddon, and even a president quitting amid scandal. The 1970's was not a great time to be a politician. Mistakes were made, as they were bound to be. Somehow, blacks survived all of this, and it actually somehow moved forward, even after hitting the road bump of “Sir” Charles Barkley, who wasn't a role-model.

However, the respectablity of gangsta rap and the inability to give up the word “nigger” threaten to undo a lot of what went before. Worse, the damage that black leaders did by pointing out that school is not just a waste of time, but can actually be dangerous, created a nasty side-effect: In a world where education defines your job, blacks were losing ground. Which, of course, was blamed on “institutional racism” rather than the attacks on the school system. Just as blacks are on the cusp of political greatness (which includes a possible black woman running for president in the next decade), they are holding themselves back...but that's for Part II...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Most Annoying/Brilliant Marketing Ever!

[Bear in mind; part of the idea behind this blog is marketing! So, I guess I need to do something about that every so often...]

Whatever Daniel Radcliffe (you know, the guy that plays some wannabe wizard) is paying his marketing guy, is definitely worth it. Radcliffe is going to be making two appearances, and they arguably the best two ideas ever. Or at least in the Top 100;-)....

The second is his guest spot on Extras. In it, he plays one of the most obscene boy scouts ever, who tries to pick up anything in a skirt. Regardless of whether or not you find it amusing, that you have an actor who is well-known for playing a straight-laced boy wizard showing up and doing Benny Hill stylings is going to be a great boon to his career, especially when it hits Youtube. Any time you have an actor that, to at least some degree is purposely going after his own career, especially with a few more movies in his hit franchise still to film, it can be interesting. With the sheer amount of popularity that the HP series has going for it, this (hopefully) one-shot appearance is great.

Then there is Equus. Equus is one of those plays that has a tradition: All the characters involved (except for the psychiatrist) usually do the role fully nude. For most actors, this would mean that the internet would be filled with pictures of the naked actor. The actor would have absolutely no control over his image(s), especially if it was in public. Even if they tried enforcing copyright laws, the image would spread across the net like wildfire.

Well, Radcliffe has a unique situation, and he's taking full advantage of it. Specifically, he's 17. Yes; he's a minor doing full-frontal nudity! Not that I'm trying to encourage this, but, in terms of image control, this is a seriously brilliant idea! Look at it for a moment:

1) No adult site (such as sites that archive nude celebrity photos) can carry the pictures as they aren't allowed to have pictures of nude minors. Even if it may be legal, they have a chance of having their IP's being yanked. That is, if they post even a bare butt, odds are good that they will get nailed for child pornography.

2) "Boy-lover" sites (those that say that they appreciate the nude youth as a symbol of beauty) won't allow those pictures in order to avoid the issues of child pornography. Even reasonably innocent pictures usually don't stand the occasional purge on image-holding sites. In short, the pictures won't show up there either.

3) Nude pic on a discussion board? Not likely; TOS's usually stop the posting, and they have special reason to avoid copyrighted material (it's easy to track). A nude pic of a famous minor would result in the poster being banned and the post deleted.

4) Fan sites are usually hosted on free web hosting services that don't allow nude photos or copyrighted material. The website would get nuked once someone complained about it.

Bottom Line? If Radcliffe stops Equus before he turns 18 in July, and anyone posts a nude picture of Daniel Radcliffe while he's performing Equus, then that person/site will not only get his IP nuked, but face possible charges of child pornography as well (assuming the images were being used for titillation or similar uses; I'll get back to this in a moment!). Even worse for the person, Radcliffe doesn't need to file a civil suit; the authorities are the ones enforcing it, not a reasonably regular person. That is, anyone notifies the authorities about the pictures, then they may be going to jail.

In short: He is doing a major nude role, and not having to worry about most of the consequences!

Yeah, I know I'm simplifying the laws a bit; Fair Use still applies, and using the images for art appreciation reasons may mitigate the penalties a bit (ie, make them go from criminal to merely civil). Also, I know nude pics of kids in movies make it online all the time (do a websearch for "devon sawa" "now and then" sometime). What I'm trying to point out is, to a limited degree, Radcliffe limits the availability of the pictures (let's face it: Someone will post the pictures somewhere!) and forces the authorities to enforce the situation. By taking advantage of the fact that the better sites police themselves, and that the lesser sites will get nuked, it's it'll be interesting to see what happens when the play opens...