Saturday, February 18, 2006

Your Fifteen Minutes of Hate

On the way home from work yesterday afternoon I was listening to NPR. The good folks of "All Things Considered" were interviewing Sam Jackson about his latest movie Freedomland.

I turned on the radio midway through some answer between Jackson and Michelle Norris about costar Julienne Moore. None of this was especially attention-grabbing until Jackson started talking about how African Americans are especially adept at acting differently, depending upon whom they are around. He noted that working professionally as an actor, and in the media, he acts a certain way--a markedly different way than how he acts amongst his friends. He speaks differently, chooses different words, conjugates differently, and so forth.

This, I realize, is not breaking news. Heck, even I do that . . . act differently at home or with my friends than I do with my bosses at work. It's all part of being professional and operating in a formal setting. Its a crucial skill of adulthood that is learned. But, Jackson's race colors his mention of this topic, and please note that I am not imposing that interpretation upon what he said, that is how he meant it to be understood.

This is proven by the "anecdote" that he proceeded to tell Norris, about being stopped by police and threatened earlier in his career. Sometime after Pulp Fiction came out (to my mind, but not to his, the beginning of his stardom and fame) he was in a play and was talking with friends outside the theater after a night performance. Someone must have seen Jackson and his friends talking in one place at night and called the police, reporting that African Americans with guns and bats were loitering too long in one place.

The police rolled up, shone lights and pointed guns into these innocent people's faces and started yelling at them to get down on the ground. Once it was clear that they weren't dangerous at all and had no weapons of any sort, the police (rather than apologize and admit their mistake) told them to move on, disrupting them even further.

Jackson calmly and matter-of-factly told this story as if it is a way of life, and I guess for African Americans it is a commonly heard story. I know this sort of thing happens, but to hear him explain it so calmly, so resigned (and with a bit of time and distance) just made me ashamed. I wonder when we might ever be able to get past these sorts of basic mistakes of race.


In other angry news, have you heard of American female snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis? She was a VISA spokesman before the Games started, but now she ranks alongside Bode Miller as one of the sorriest excuses for Americans since Benedict Arnold or Joseph McCarthy.

Jacobellis was solidly in the lead in the finals of this Olympics sexiest event--snowboard cross. Americans had already dominated the snowboard halfpipe event and one of Jacobellis' teammates had won the men's final earlier with a dramatically late lead change and triumph. So, all was good. Jacobellis was ahead with one jump to go, the second place boarder was far behind, heck the other two finalists had fallen down.

On the last jump before the finish line, while soaring in the air (catching BIG air, as the kids like to say) Jacobellis grabbed (tweaked) her board (deck). Was she showboating, hot dogging, adjusting for a gust of wind? It doesn't matter, apologists . . . she failed (gacked), she fell, was passed, and settled for silver rather than Wheaties box and Gold.


One more instance of arrogant Americanism run amok. One more example of "Mission Accomplisheditis." One more stain on the Red, White, and Blue. Why must we give the world opportunities to hate us so?

But it wasn't bad enough for her to be the top story all day at and to be the one tape-delayed item that everyone wanted to watch when tuning in for the 8 pm broadcast. She also had to do the march of shame, appearing in the NBC studios to be grilled by Mr. Bob Costas, to relive her youthful exuberance, to explain her shame, to dissect it for those of us up at 11:15 pm on a Friday night in the Western Hemisphere EST zone.

So, has Lindsey suffered? Not until Colbert makes "hot doggery" next Monday's "WORD."

So, how can Lindsey recover? There's only one route, in my opinion that leads back into the loving embrace of nonathletic America. She's gotta Dan Jansen us.

You remember Jansen right? He was a speedskater. He was favored in Calgary (1988) but the emotional blow of his sister's recent leukemia death distracted him and he fell in two separate races. In Albertville (1992) he stumbled in one race, finishing fourth. After being hounded by the media for days a shell of his former self finished 26th in another race. In Lillehammer (1994) he made a mistake in the 500 m race and ended in 8th place. Haunted by his demons (with the initials NBC, probably) he laced up again for the 1,000 m race. All was going well until he once again made a minor slip. But MIRACULOUSLY, he maintained his balance and his pace to win the gold and set a world record. Norwegians set themselves on fire in an ecstasy of joy and athletic achievement. NBC went insane with glee. If you don't remember this, it's cool, he's got his own website.

So that's what Jacobellis has to do. She's only 20 years old. She can qualify again for Vancouver 2010. She must then fail again, possibly falling inresponsee to the death of her dog. She must face the cameras and explain that she had learned a hard lesson in 2006, was playing it safe during her final race and was momentarily distracted by the short-haired collie that was accompanying one of the well-meaning Canadian spectators. It reminded her of Fluffles and she slipped. People will shake their heads and be sad.

Then Jacobellis must qualify again for the 2014 Games. (She'll be 28 . . . a stretch, yes, but one all the more heartwarming when placed in the capable hands of NBC videographers.) Here she will easily win and just for fun will successfully pull off her flubbed trick jump in the last moments of the race. NBC's RobobCostas will remind her of her 2006 mistake, but the twinkle in his cold electronic eye will signify that all is forgiven and that all the world loves a successful scamp.

Go for the Gold (again) Lindsey! Just make sure you make it mediaworthy!


David said...

I ended this post on a satirical note, but I really was adversely affected by Sam Jackson's conversation on NPR.

Oddly, however, after discussing this very serious topic, he moved on to another movie he's doing this year.

Snakes on a Plane is what is sound like, but Jackson claims he was hooked once he read the script title. He says that he often likes to do these sorts of films that are mindless and full of popcorny fun.

More power to him . . . I guess.

lulu said...

Everyone, I'm sure you'll want to know that I tried to respond to this post and was brutally rebuffed. But I forgot something important, so I'll try again.

Does anyone else think that figure skaters are showing just too much ass these days? Some of them should just START with a G-string (which would match the cheap, stringy blonde dye jobs that many of them are sporting) and end the exquisite creepy crawl and involuntary winces during lifts and spins that show-off this, er, trend at its worst. Do these gals really think it looks good??? And it IS a choice, because some of them spare us the unwanted show and manage to maintain the elegant nature of the sport. I mean REALLY.

David said...

Congratulations Lulu . . . that is the best Dick Button impression I've heard yet.

And, I must say that HE is the hands down BEST reason to waste time watching figure skating. A more bitter and angry commentator, I can't imagine.

And, here is the comment that you couldn't put in the system, but you emailed it to me. So, I'll put it in for you:

"I thought that was Lindsey in that obnoxious Visa commercial! Now I'm even more satisfied that she blew it. When you mention people hating the U.S. for our cockiness, I thought the same thing. To me, her board grab was the same sorry animal as those ridiculous end zone celebration dances, and I love it when it comes back to bite them on the ass, as it were.

And I'm really, really sick of hyperexposed-hippie-who-shills-for-Nike Bode Miller. After he lost (again), Stevie asked me if I was sad because "our" team lost. I told him that, sure, it's kinda fun when the U.S. wins, but I like it best when nice, decent underdogs win. When Switzerland wins because some pouty sell-out got "caught up in the moment". When some guy executes the Super G perfectly and triumphs over his bloated, beer-drinking, sell-out opponent.

God, I hate the Olympics this year. And could they have any more commercials???"

lulu said...

Thanks, Burb! Always covering for my human errors.

And thanks for the props! I LOVE Dick Button! I keep waiting and hoping for him to say something about the outfits. The other commentator--I forget her name--FINALLY called one of the Rooskies on her totally Vegas Baby! stripper-like barely-boob-covering outfit last night. But she (the commentator) could have gone much, much further. I can SENSE that they want to say more than "she's pushing it with that [trampy] outfit", but don't want to call even more attention to this terribly disturbing issue. So much more disturbing, even, than lingering racism.

David said...

Thanks for the hard effort to pull the discussion where it ought to be--on the racism issue that motivated this post in the first place.

Unfortunately, writing about racism isn't fun and I don't do serious as well as (I think) I do comedy. I guess I need lessons from Chris Rock on how to make observations about racism funny and useful. Of course, I'd rather we didn't have to bring it up at all, but "what can I do? I'm only one person!"

David said...

I tried to post another comment, and WHAM!!! Shut out AGAIN! I am filling in the little whacky word thing and saying “login and publish”. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

Here’s my latest commentary:

If you want funny observations about race, you need to ask David Brent. Here, in all their enlightened glory, are the lyrics to "Spaceman":

Spaceman came down to answer some things,

The world gathered round from paupers to kings,

I’ll answer your questions, I’ll answer them true,

I’ll show the way you know what to do,

Who is wrong and who is right?

Yellow, brown or black or white?

The spaceman he answered “You’ll no longer mind...

I’ve opened your eyes, you’re now colour blind”.

See? Racial.