Monday, January 3, 2011
Much Ado About Nothing: Faux "Controversy" Over "Inappropriate" U.S. Navy Video and Chris Rock's "Disrespecting" of Oprah Winfrey
Getting my swagger back...
There are two non-story, non-events that will be making their rounds this week across these Internets. The first is the obligatory "outrage" (isn't the sentiment "outrage" all too common these days? both overused and overwrought?) over Chris Rock's playful banter and humor at the expense of Oprah Winfrey, the most high mammy and emotional surrogate for white suburban women everywhere at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.
Despite, or maybe precisely because of the protests, the jokes were quite funny to my ear.
Moreover, we got to see a panoply of black folks--including President Obama and the First Lady--presiding over American's highest acknowledgment for career success in the arts, culture, and letters. Talk about the power of symbolism and the deep upset faced by whiteness as the heliocentric center of our political and social universe. I can almost envision the bile filled faces of the Tea Party brigands as they attempt to watch said award show--their throats full of acidic rage that a bunch of black folks have some small degree of ceremonial and symbolic power.
This is where our attention should be focused. Not on some tendency to waste capital on a not always necessary habit of grievance politics. Truly, as Dick Gregory said a few years ago, black folks got to stop looking so mean and miserable all the time and learn how to laugh.
The second non-issue of the new year is the "scandal" over the release of a music video by Captain Owen Honors Jr., the Executive Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Apparently, the XO on that ship had a great sense of humor and would sponsor skits and assorted escapades to raise the morale of the crew.
In the doldrums of the new year's news cycle, more politically correct types are crying foul over the "homophobic," "sexist" and "misogynistic" (again, the latter being one more overused word in the lexicon of the present) overtones of the video. But, I think this hints at a general misunderstanding of military culture, and of the particular traditions of the U.S. Navy.
For example, I wonder how many of those who doth protest too much have ever heard of King Neptune's Crossing the Line Ceremony when Pollywogs become Shellbacks-- a mad and near debauched rite of passage for Equatorial virgins in navies the world over?
I am a pragmatist. As such, I am more than a bit sympathetic to Captain Honors' plight.
Consequently, I am more interested in the readiness of the ship, her performance on patrol, and the Enterprises' ability to bring the pain when need be, than in some civilians' understanding of what is (or is not) proper behavior for a bunch of folks stuck in a tin can, circling the Earth for 6 months at a time (and yes, please spare me the letter of the law that is the U.S. Military Code of Justice talking point).
But also being the random soul that I tend to be, I am most impressed by 1) how computing power has grown such that on a laptop one can make a video for free that would have cost many thousands of dollars even a few years ago; and 2) the selection of music featured on the XO's video. Captain Honor and his production team seem to have no small amount of blue eyed soul.
The soundtrack of the XO's movie night video is mixtape worthy. One suggestion though: How much more perfect would the XO's movie have been if Loose Joints' house classic "Is It All Over My Face?" was one of the featured tracks?