Thinking of Us or, Why Thinkpieces Give Me Heart Palpitations: A Personal Essay

Pop culture wise, 2018 has been Black as fuck.

I’m sure we’ve had Blacker years, but I bet that 2018 will rank highly among them. Music was good, strides were made in television, and the movies? LAWWWWWDD THE MOVIES!!!! If we weren’t the central focus of the narrative, we were definitely up in that bitch somewhere.

The beautiful thing about this Black Entertainment renaissance is that it causes discussion. People from all different walks of Black life gather in spaces both private and public to discuss their thoughts and feelings on the art they just witnessed, engage in fierce debate about whether or not something is a classic just 24 hours removed from release, or get upon their contrarian high horse to shit on anyone who dared like this mega-popular event and berate them for being sheep. It’s wonderful because it can be fun, and it can be downright annoying, or you could occupy that space in the middle. General indifference is an option as well.

While I’m glad that there is discourse about art, especially when it comes to discussion about those -isms that really keep us all from enjoying life to its fullest – necessary discussion that needs to be had – somethings don’t require, aren’t ready for and sometimes shouldn’t be given extensive critical thought. Some of these things are as shallow as a kiddie pool, some of these things are incomplete and others have been analyzed to death and can’t offer us new insights into ourselves. Thinkpieces and theories have become a staple of online discourse and I won’t lie and say that I don’t enjoy reading or composing them occasionally, but it can be a bit much.

The highly anticipated trailer for Oscar winning writer-director-comedian Jordan Peele’s follow up to 2016 tour de force Get Out premiered in the predawn Christmas morning. Us is a family film, if your family is getting chased and lit up by dopplegangers of themselves. Set to an eerie remix of, of all things, the Luniz’s seminal work “I Got 5 On It”, the trailer is an exercise in creepy.

I was legit creeped out watching that trailer.

Any way, once it was over, as I anticipated, the thinkpieces would come about before midday. You have a Black family (a dark-skinned Black family at that) vacationing in Northern California, they look affluent enough, the husband wears Howard University sweatshirts, the teach their kids the classics and the mother keeps a close, keen eye on her children. Yes, a great shout rose from the collective consciousness of the Woke and this idyllic view of Black family life being tormented by something other than white people.

What we got made me take a nap. When I awoke from that nap, the realization of what I had seen loaded into my brain and I sat up, exclaiming, “I know kung fu!” I don’t, but you get the point. I learned that “I Got 5 On It” wasn’t just a song about going “half on a sack” of some Indo’ weed, but a call from the ancestors to always offer our brothers and sisters in the struggle the five fingers of our hand to get ahead in this racist American society, something something, Five Percenters something something. That the film is a revenge plot on the talented tenth and suburban Blacks (probably the very people I am ranting about). That Jordan Peele is automatically unqualified to give us much of the discourse he’s given us with this trailer and Get Out because he’s a seemingly unproblematic biracial Black claiming man married to a seemingly unproblematic white woman (I ain’t dug into her background nor do I care to).

Point is, there is only so much that we can get from a two and a half minute trailer, combined with what the director himself has said the themes of the film are. I’m going to take his lead on this until I actually see a final cut of the film.

Us and Black-specific culture isn’t the only instance of this though, but it is the freshest. We get this type of speculation with nerds a lot as well. I saw so many thinkpieces and theories popping up with the drop of the Avengers: Endgame teaser that my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I had to get knocked silly to get them straight again. “Tony said ‘Rescue’! Pepper Potts is going to save him!”, uh uh, “Ant Man is a Skrull, there’s no way he got out the Quantum Realm!”, uh uh, “It’s in the past!” I saw someone break down the reveal of the movie’s title at the end of the teaser, indicating that the stylization and fonts used were indicative of certain events in the past MCU (the snap, the Infinity Stones, etc.). I need another nap thinking about it.

Look, I’ll admit that this is all deeply personal. I like to be told things. I did all my critical thinking in high school and college and when I try to apply much of it to everyday life I end up being disappointed or looking like a fool critically thinking about why Chik-fil-A breakfast is the GOAT fast food breakfast (their biscuits taste real). So when I see people engaging in a two and a half minute trailer, I feel a bit guilty that I’m not engaging in a two and a half minute trailer outside of, “Holy shit, this looks interesting, I will wait for it to come out.” Like me not engaging it further is a waste of my education and not just me wanting to be taken on a journey without expectations.

Then I remember the pretentiousness of a lot of these people. Don’t get me wrong, I can do pretentious. These people are on a whole different level with it, and that turns me off from trying to be one of them. None of the markers that these people celebrate – including thinkpiecing media to death – makes them that important. The rest of us who don’t want to engage in the pretentiousness aren’t any lesser for it either.

In conclusion (wink, wink), Black Entertainment has had a banner year in 2018, and looks to be making strides well into the ‘19 and the 2020. While discussion about Black art (as well as any other art) can be beneficial, sometimes it is taken too damn far for the sake of being taken too damn far.

The 2019 Bored Ambition Master Plan

It’s finally the end of 2018 and a few days before my 30th birthday, and as many of my ilk – the goal oriented yet jaded, underemployed super millenials- have done or are in the process of doing, I have devised my master plan for 2019, the list of hopefully attainable goals that I will achieve within the upcoming 365 days. Because I am such believer in sharing is caring, I am going to outline to you all what exactly those goals all, so that maybe you, my audience, can keep me accountable, because remember, these goals affect the trajectory that this site will go in.

Without further ado:

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#InternetKilledtheVideoStar Vol. 4- California Love Part 1

Let me preface this by saying that after almost 22 years of this song, I cannot stand it anymore.

I’m from California, I live here. I can do without hearing this song ever again in my life.

Even on the rare occasions that I do decide to be amongst the peons, if it comes on, I’ll groan but dance. But in my personal time (which is all of my time, quite honestly), fuck no, I will turn the radio off, change the channel if they play a snippet, if the video happens to play on those rare occasions someone plays videos, I will turn. I cannot willingly do it.

Even when pulling up the video for this song, I put it on mute. I didn’t listen to it. I refused.

With that being said, the video is dope as fuck.

What was dope about it?

The Mad Max post-apocalyptic aesthetic full of Black people having one massive fight in the Thunderdome, yes, the actual Thunderdome from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Because people don’t ever think we’ll make it to the future. Our ancestors were the first, we just might be the last. Also, because Hype Williams had the juice.

Hype Williams. Hype Williams had an amazing run. He’s still doing the damn thing, but that initial run, my God.

That Jada Pinkett Smith gave them the idea.

That this video has a “To Be Continued…” at the end of it, and the shit was actually continued.

You know how many videos there are with a “To Be Continued…” at the end and they don’t get continued? I really think motherfuckers were putting that at the end of their videos thinking they were doing big things and they weren’t doing anything but annoying the fuck out of people who expected a continuation of some sort.

The casting: Chris Tucker when he was still funny. Tony Cox, George Clinton, because funk will survive the apocalypse and Roger Troutman on the talk box.

All in all, I cannot stand the song anymore, but this video deserves props if only for the visual.

 

#InternetKilledtheVideoStar Vol. 3: Human Nature

Sorry, this ain’t about the song written by the Honorable St. Michael Joseph, of the Gary, Indiana Jacksons, First of His Name, Last of His Kind, Walker of the Moon, Ruler of the Neverland Realm.

Instead, we are visiting another song with the same name by the Honorable Madonna of House Mononym, Appropriatress of Vogue, Master of Disguise, Queen of Titillation, Mother of Gaga. Let’s look at “Human Nature.”

This video stuck with me as a child. You got pale ass Madonna rocking black cornrows akin to an extra in Hellraiser, wearing black leather getting groped and felt on and giving us soft BDSM vibes. As a child too ahead of the curve, I liked it.

Then I got older and listened to the lyrics and they were Madonna’s “Fuck you!” to everyone who criticized her brand of sexual display from the SEX book and her previous album Erotica. I felt those lyrics because I understood where she was coming from, and I still do. As a society, we are too hung up on a biological urge and how it’s done and who it’s done with.

And then I got even older and realized that Madonna was given a lot of leeway in the early 1990s, while Janet couldn’t even show her face in public for a while after her titty came out at the Super Bowl in 2004 and I got a bit angry.

But I think that justice usually comes slow, because Janet is out here having babies at 50 and still looking like she’s 35, and Madonna is angular.

I know, misogyny and ageism isn’t cute.

Point is, this video was dope for it’s time. It’s showing it’s age now, or maybe I just know more. The Bedtime Stories album did produce two of my lower end of the spectrum favorite songs in “Take a Bow” and “Secret.” While the song itself is nothing too remarkable, this video, again, struck a cord with my pre-perverted mind and it has a place in my mental Rolodex of why I got into the arts.

 

#InternetKilledtheVideoStar Vol. 2: Virtual Insanity

This is the song that predicted all of this shit. Tell me, I challenge you, that we are not living in a world of virtual insanity.

Granted, Jay Kay, the lead singer of the funk/acid Jazz band Jamiroquai wasn’t really getting into cell phones and computers and all of the goodness that we enjoy today, but the song invokes feelings of a changing world, a changing atmosphere.

And the video was mind blowing.

This video had people so confused, asking so many questions, wondering about the very fabric of space time, that the director Jonathan Glazer released a video explain the techniques he used to make things that were moving look like they weren’t. This is one of the videos that I will site as sparking an interest in visual arts when I was a kid.

The video is the perfect compliment to invoke the feelings of, “Something’s not right,” that the song discusses in its lyrics. Bask in this 21-year old visual.

Dear White People: Or How This Movie is Cutting Me Deep bka Identity Crisis

So I finally saw Dear White People.

Geeked. It was a good film.

Took me back to college. Maybe because I kept to myself so much, I didn’t have a similar experience at UCLA. BUUUUUUUTTTTTTTT…. that is not to say that shit didn’t happen. My hair was a point of conversation at many, many, many, many points, so many points that it was uncomfortable. Dear White People, we are not basic animals at the zoo. Don’t touch us. Not our hair, or back, or even our hearts. Just don’t.

Outside of the racial elements, it also touched a lot of other human nerves. Particularly with identity.

I’m concerned with my identity. It could be due to ego. It could be due to a genuine curiosity and an anthropological mindset, if that’s the discipline I’m looking for.

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