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This Week’s Love/Hate Relationship With Black Pop Culture

19 June 2009 8 Comments

You know it’s a rough one when I have to hold off on talking about loves and hates because I just can’t find enough to love. But oh well.


I’ve always believed that one of the biggest sitcom television bamboozles was the replacement of the original, BROWN, sassy, theater-voiced Aunt Viv with the bland, ALMONDY, acquiescent, merely capable Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. At first glance it’s not a big deal that Janet Hubert got the boot and Daphne Maxwell-Reid started running things, but a closer analysis shows an obvious image fail on the part of the show’s writers. The old Aunt Viv was a history and literature professor who always wore flowing robes, while the new one pretty much stayed at home with Lil Nicky and wore too many applique sweaters – change the actor, folks, not the character’s entire personality. Now, Hubert is preparing to release a book with the behind-the-scenes scoop on the switch and, most of all, on Will Smith and his sabotaging ways. Should we be surprised about any of this if we recall her interview with Sister 2 Sister last year? Tell that story and do the damn thing with those cheekbones, Aunt Viv, I love you for it.

I’m tired of blatantly racist comments and the phony forced apologies that come along with them. In response to a Facebook post about the escape of a gorilla from Riverbanks Zoo last Friday, GOP Old Fart Rusty DePass posted “I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors – probably harmless”. Wow, that is a real knee slapper! Because its always clever to compare black people to apes and especially appropriate when referring to the First Lady of the United States! The whole story would be so whatever if not for the fact that in defending himself De Pass claimed that Michelle had publicly stated that she is descended from apes (obviously like the rest of us – sorry folks, it’s scientific fact). No such Michelle Obama quote has been found, but even if she did remind this old codger that such a thing as evolution exists why would he then translate that to the core of her being and contribution to society? Holla at ya’ boy Charles Darwin about that and leave Michelle out of it. I’d have so much more respect for this type of thing if De Pass had really gone ALL IN on his apology with something like “I’m old and such comments used to be funny and still are behind closed doors to many people. I’m like the old guy in the Saturday Night Live writer’s room that keeps suggesting rubber chicken jokes. I am the Commodore 64 of public discourse and have diarrhea of the mouth. Please forgive me.” I hate the old “I didn’t mean to offend and am deeply sorry.” Deeply salty is more like it. Hate.

Over a month ago a woman suffered a serious beatdown after her co-workers locked her inside of their beauty salon and basically did the Cha-Cha Slide on her dome. She was reluctant to report it to the police but of course a video of the attack ended up on YouTube and became part of a recent local news report related to the investigation. There’s a great deal of wiggle room here when it comes to ‘deserving’ a beatdown or not, and I can only imagine the type of trash talking that goes on in a beauty salon that could lead to this, so I hate to make sweeping condemnations. HOWEVER these are grown-up, adult, females. Some have children, husbands, nice skin, or weaves secured with mere bits of string – this means NO FIGHTING! It’s disgusting, is not cute, sets a poor example for other black women, lacks dignity, and I hate it.

Reality TV has gone way to far into the bowels of things I just can’t care about even if I am forced to at least cursorily follow black gossip blogs and scan BET once in a while. The combination of the two had me watching the preview of Tiny and Toya, an upcoming reality show featuring on Tiny (T.I.’s wife) and Toya (Lil’ Wayne’s babymomma). I can’t put my finger on what isn’t quite right about the dynamic on this show, but I’d love to see BET veer away from making ‘black versions’ of previously successful reality shows and do somethin’ else. I don’t think I can hate or love this, I’ll just wait and see.

That Thin Line: Well, The United States Congress finally decided to apologize for slavery, an absolutely anticlimactic event that I could have sworn happened like a year ago. Part of me says wow, our government can actually admit that it facilitated hundreds of years of something so grotesquely wrong? That’s huge. Another part of me says “where’s my check?” This country needs to face up to the fact that slavery created a pattern of disadvantageous situations that have led to lower-than-deserved wealth among slave descendants, and I’m talking strictly in Adam Smith terms here – no Commo, no Socio. Over $1.6 billion was dispersed to Japanese internment camp ancestors, and while being interred obviously stinks, having an entire country built on our backs only to face Jim Crow afterward was no picnic either and therefore I WANTS MY RECOMPENSE. Its really easy to be the most powerful country in the world when your infrastructure was built on slave labor, so let’s not get so hot on ourselves before we tally things up, old U.S. of A. Even if some slipshod calculation is performed and I only come off with enough loot to buy an iPod Touch, at least allow me the 40 acres and a mule level of autonomy that would let me donate those funds to the public school system, sickle cell research, or even the Jodeci revival committee if I so choose. I’m loving that the discussion is at least open, but hating that all I’m getting is a pile of “I’m sorrys” that I don’t know what to do with.

By the way, not to be totally negative but Kwanzaa is NOT a black holiday. In fact I dont consider it a holiday at all and think it’s total garbage. It’s not quite the time of year for my anti-Kwanzaa rants but today marks the 144th Juneteenth Celebration, so do something authentically slave descendant today like talk to an older person about how blacks were treated in their day, get in the kitchen and whip up a family recipe, use a bunch of black folk slang, or just think about what it means to be slave descendant in America today. This is the only holiday we have that focuses on who we are instead of who we wish we were, so let’s work that, shall we?


  • slb79 said:

    did you just say “almondy?” lol


    i think i don’t really care about this janet hubert thing. it’s sour grapes almost two decades too late. will’s a glory hog? YOU DON’T SAY! most a-lister actors are. it’s why they’re a-list.

    everyone concedes she was the better aunt viv and that replacing her was a mistake. other than reaffirmation of that, i’m not sure what she’d like to gain. tell-alls have flopped with stories far more salacious than this. i just don’t think it’ll sell well.

  • BlackWomenBlowTheTrumpet said:

    Hey there Thembi!

    Thanks for sharing this one!

    Juneteenth is a holiday I just do not want to celebrate… we want to celebrate that black folks remained slaves because they were never told that they were legally free? Really? I don’t understand that one…

    As for the dish on Will Smith, she can forget that… Will is in his 30s and was a teen when he started on that show…does she think that we CARE what he did when he was a teen? Really? I won’t be surprised if her book gets much fanfare and winds up being a no-seller.

  • Thembi (author) said:

    Juneteenth is not to celebrate that black folks remained slaves longer than they were supposed to, rather to celebrate black independence which occured on June 19th, 1865. The fact that it was supposed to happen in 1863 is just part of history and not part of the reason for the celebration itself.

  • jazzfan360 said:

    THANK you for calling out Kwanzaa. I appreciate whenever anyone does that.

    And Daphne Maxwell-Reid can more than acquit herself in the right setting (and had been part of Frank’s Place, let’s not forget), so I don’t hold anything against her personally or as an actress, but this rests squarely on the producers. How that role fell to her I’ll never understand. The recast made absolutely NO sense, and yes, you’re right, I never even saw past that till just now to realize they changed the character’s ENTIRE personality. (And damn those applique sweaters, too. Ugh.) I don’t know that I can really blame Reid for how bland the character became, since she was utterly miscast in the first place and if I were in her situation I wouldn’t have really had a clue where to go with the character. She was always just kind of there. Good producers don’t let that ish happen to their shows.

    Though she’s a really great actress and will always be our Aunt Viv, from all the things I’ve ever read (and wow, especially that link you provided), Janet Hubert really does sound like she could be very problematic and temperamental to work with. One really needs to learn to let things like that go. It wasn’t attractive or helpful or sympathetic when Jennifer Holliday did it over the Dreamgirls movie, and it’s none of those things here either.

  • Kjen said:

    Great post!

    Hmm, Janet has to dish on Will – frankly, it’s her book’s best selling point. And as I always assume that an actor that is out of sight is dead broke, I understand why Viv is stumping so hard about her mistreatment on a show that ended over 10 years ago.

    LOL @ the beauty salon antics. Any time I hear another grown up bemoan their “lost youth” I laugh. I know that under the right circumstances everyone is capable of uncovering their inner 10 year old. It just sucks for the assault victim that in their youth, her co-workers were nothing but bullies.

    Holidays. Don’t care. After learning about the true circumstances of Thanksgiving, the birth of Jesus, the origins of Santa Claus, and Valentine’s Day I don’t care if the reasons behind Kwanzaa seem insincere. Doesn’t it prove how American, African-AMERICANS are by following the tradition of other ‘fake’ holidays?

  • linda said:

    This is the most racist sight. Why are you guys so filled with hatred. Stop saying it is them whites-take responsibility for your life and yes I am black.
    It really is old news to feel sorry for yourself and blame being black for your life is hard.

    You are your own worst enemy.There is no them only you can change your life.

  • kellybelle said:

    I wish Original Aunt Viv would get some therapy so she could learn to let that go!

    And, as someone in the greeting card industry, I would LOVE having Juneteenth cards instead of Kente-covered Kwanzaa cards (“Don’t you all celebrate that? It’s Black Christmas!”). Hmm…let me see what I can do….

  • Donnydiva said:

    I’m still thrown off by the Tiny and Toya show myself. I haven’t seen it yet but am confused as to why Toya is on it She’s not Lil Wayne’s current wife or girlfriend, so I’m not sure her relevance. The life of Lil Wayne’s baby momma? I’m sure it wasn’t her idea, but who cares. As far as BET goes, I think they use the formula of waiting until a show is successful on another network to do something “strikingly” similar wayyy to much.

    The original Aunt Viv made more sense as far as he attitude and also she fit in more physically as the parents of the three children (esp Carlton and Ashley).

    And on a last note, I’m tired of racist comments and half assed apologies when they should of had more sense than to say what they said anyway. Everyone has opinions and no one should be naive enough to believe that people don’t make certain comments in their own circles about different races, but what did he think would happen after saying it publicly. After Obama’s election people don’t even care about covering up their racism, some of them are mad and talking reckless because of it.

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