Category: popular culture

The Help: as good as Hollywood gets on race

By Alan Bean

I wanted to like The Help, Hollywood’s adaptation Kathryn Stockett’s popular  novel.

Having read the reviews, I was pretty sure what I was getting myself into.  I did like the movie–as a movie.  Given the limitations of Hollywood storytelling, The Help was an enjoyable slice of popular entertainment.

Reviewers often refer to the movie as a “surprise success;” which is odd when you consider that the book was a big hit, especially with women, and the movie appears to be a faithful adaptation.  The middle-aged black woman standing in line next to us assured us that the movie got it right–she was seeing the film for the second time.

The Help is a chick flick.  There are few male characters (none of any consequence) and the audience was at least two-thirds women, most of them middle-aged or older.  The movie reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes, a film about women in the South that centers on a particularly shocking image that is funny because it is shocking (humor is rooted in surprise).  I won’t spoil the story by telling you about the shocking image in The Help, but it definitely made the story go. (more…)

Tina Dupuy: We Get the Media we Want

Tina Dupuy

By Alan Bean

Tina Dupuy is a Los Angeles-based comedian and freelance writer.  She thinks we get the kind of media we want.

“If we wanted a somber and serious Edward R. Murrow to deliver the important news of the day – we’d all tune in and the ratings would be gangbusters. But we don’t. Most media criticism comes from the assumption that we want Murrow but we get TMZ – instead of the empirical (and slightly embarrassing) fact: We want TMZ.”

The rest of her column is pasted below. (more…)

The Problem with Pornography

By Alan Bean

This site has had little to say on the subject of pornography.  Our primary agenda is shutting down the machinery of mass incarceration; a subject far removed, one would think, from a discussion of popular culture.  But if Robert Jensen is right, pornography is fundamentally about patriarchy, and patriarchy is about hierarchy: the powerful maintaining a dominant position over the powerless.  So maybe there is a connection, and not just because, as Jensen suggests, there may be a link between the explostion of internet pornography and sex crimes.

As Michelle Alexander suggests, we can’t reform the criminal justice system until we move away from the cruel and punitive public consensus driving the prison boom.  How do we move from a society built on a foundation of hierarchy, control and domination, to a society rooted in equality, love and conversation. 

The piece pasted below is a conversation between Robert Jensen, a fifty-two year-old journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and a twenty-four year-old writer for UT’s F-Bomb blog who keeps trying to argue for a kinder-gentler form of pornography.  Jensen argues that the social impact of the porn industry has changed radically in recent years and doesn’t think that’s a good thing for women or for men.  Jensen, by the way, is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, so he’s given this matter a great deal of thought. 

The Problem with pornography?

FBOMB: If you could briefly describe, what is the problem with pornography?

Robert Jensen: Well, let me first sort of step back. There has long been a conservative, typically religious critique of pornography that poses the problem of pornography as being in conflict with what is traditional family values, which is sexuality confined to a heterosexual marriage. That’s the critique you’ll hear most often in the culture is that conservative, typically religious critique. The feminist critique of pornography approaches it from a very different perspective and says that, in patriarchy, in a society structured around male dominance, one of the ways that dominance is reinforced and perpetuated is in men’s sexual use and abuse of women. One way to say this is, in patriarchy women are routinely presented to men as objectified bodies for male sexual pleasure. One of the vehicles for the routine presentation of women to men as objectified bodies for male sexual pleasure is what I would call the sexual exploitation industries: prostitution, pornography, stripping. These are ways that men buy and sell primarily women’s bodies. Pornography, like prostitution and stripping, is one of those methods of buying and selling women’s bodies. So from a feminist critique, the problem is the way in which those sexual exploitation industries reinforces male dominance, and leads to predictable consequences, primarily for women and children. (more…)