Monday, October 19, 2015

News Brief 10.19.15

"Homeland is racist"

"Maggie," you might want to ask me, "why are you showing me a grainy screencap from Showtime's award-winning series Homeland in this news brief?" Well, dear reader, a picture tells a thousand words, but this one's words happen to be in Arabic. Specifically, the graffiti on the wall in the background of the picture, which declares "Homeland is racist." And it aired on national television. And the actual showrunners of Homeland did not realize this. The showrunners, who have been criticized over Homeland's entire run for their portrayals of Muslims and Middle Eastern people in general, can't understand enough Arabic to recognize their show criticizing itself in a silent, artistic act of protest.

I have no lost love for Homeland, a show that I've watched too much of considering how wholly and repeatedly it has disappointed me, so believe me, this is one of my favorite news stories of the week.

The story goes like this: Heba Y. Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone, three Egyptian artists, were hired to put up Arabic graffiti for an episode of Homeland and decided to "hack" the series. Amin's full explanation has photos of all the phrases they put up. They call themselves the "Arabian Street Artists" as a unit responsible for the graffiti hacking. This name was chosen because, according to them, the Homeland showrunners were specifically looking for, quote, "Arabian street artists" to put up "authentic" graffiti. In Amin's own words, "It was our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself."

Homeland is racist
#gasewsew (a reference to the Egyptian Abla Fahita puppet on spying)
Amin's post explains her motivations better than any news outlet's summation, certainly far better than any comment I could make. This section in particular stands out to me: "The content of what was written on the walls, however, was of no concern. In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanizing an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees. The show has thus created a chain of causality with Arabs at its beginning and as its outcome- their own victims and executioners at the same time."

The showrunner's response pales in comparison: "We wish we’d caught these images before they made it to air. However, as Homeland always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can’t help but admire this act of artistic sabotage." Yes, naturally, this show about a white lady warring against decidedly-brown-and-Muslim terrorists is all about being subversive. This show which uses said white lady's myriad of mental illnesses only when convenient for the story and a punchline or excuse otherwise is subversive. This show featuring a scene where a CIA operative who wears a headscarf is forced to remove it in order to prove her patriotism, screamed at by an older man as she silently cries, is subversive. This show that promotes itself with images like this is subversive:

Good riddance. If only it had happened sooner.


* * *

Can Someone Get Phil Collins? Two Worlds, One Family

I really like cats. I’m also kind of allergic to cats, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing a bed with two of them.

He thinks he owns the place.
You know who else love cats? Koko, the gorilla we all know and love as our primate friend who has learned to communicate through sign language.

On her birthday, July 4th, Koko was gifted with a litter of kittens to play with (this is something the Gorilla Foundation has been doing to teach Koko empathy). A video was released recently of her playing with the kittens and the internet couldn't be happier. To tie it all off, Koko was allowed to keep two of the kittens. One of them was called Ms. Gray, whom Koko fell immediately in love with, and the other was called Ms. Black, whom immediately fell in love with Koko. They're now a happy family.

The awesome thing is that this isn't the first time Koko has had kittens to take care of. In 1983 she adopted a kitten that she named All Ball because she thought he looked like a little ball. She grew attached to All Ball, but unfortunately he was found in a car accident soon after he was adopted, breaking Koko's heart. Koko was struck with grief, signing words like bad and sad, and eventually expressing herself through actions similar to a human's cry. 

After two years, Koko was ready to adopt another kitten, Lipstick. Not much information is available about lipstick, but eventually Koko adopted a third kitten called Smoky whom passed away of natural causes after 20 years. There are countless pictures of Koko with these cats and they're just adorable. 

Koko shows us that animals really do feel. It's amazing to see such a big and strong animal take care of a smaller and more fragile one; it's poetic in a sense. I hate to use the word humanize in this context (what makes us the comparable species?), but, for lack of a better word, these pictures humanize animals. When people think of gorillas they see big monsters, but I mean look at this:

- Christian

                                                                    Celebrity Madness

I'm just wondering, what is it going to take for us as a culture to stop worshiping celebrities? Are we going to have to actually elect a celebrity for office? Lindsay Lohan just announced on twitter, in what seems to be (hopefully) a publicity stunt, that she and Kanye plan to run for president in 2020.

Before I go judging I want to take a step back and ask myself some questions. First of all, how much time are we spending on the promotion of these people? 

At the same time, I have to assume that we are not talking about it enough-- because if we were to put it into perspective, it is simply not a thing that should be relevant. If we were really talking about how ridiculous it is that these people are theoretically trying to traverse their status as symbols of pop-culture and delve into professions that are meant for public service, if we did not see them so lightly and simply laugh and look away and took this to offense-- would anything change?

I think that a very interesting thing is happening in terms of who we consider for presidential candidacy and more importantly, who considers themselves capable of running a country. Who we allow to believe this about themselves gets into dangerous territory-- whether we allow them to continue saying what they do because it causes offense is slightly less severe. (We are a "free country", after all, but the freedom of speech, certainly in this case, often gets twisted in on itself.)
But whether or not we take it to offense probably tells more about us than about them. Whether these people are serious or not, I think that we are seeing a parody of what has always been-- and, appropriately, a parody shows people the brutal and honest truth amplified, like a caricature of a person with an exaggerated facial feature that is unbecoming, to say the least. 

I would like to believe that Donald Trump is actually a parodical genius and is holding a mirror up to all of the most hideous aspects of the Republican party on purpose. Whether or not he knows it is happening, that is what we are seeing, and that I think may count as some sort of backhanded success.


No comments:

Post a Comment