Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Storytelling

Someone once said to me that she liked reading obituaries because they were the only thing that ever told any person's complete, or nearly complete, story. On a macro scale, that's very true when you look at the history of the world and the history of America (the kind you learn in school), especially when you look at the story of Black folk and LGBT/SGL folk.

It becomes really important that forgotten or overlooked groups tell their stories. Arguments about their validity or how well a particular story represents this type or that are relevant, but what is more relevant is that the story is told.

Sure, conservatives would like us to believe that their worldview (Christian, middle class, White, heterosexual) is the only one that counts, and so feel-good words like "family friendly" and "decency" are thrown around. People want to believe they are good, even when they aren't. People want you to believe they always do the right thing, are polite and considerate -- in another post I'll share my experiences of using mass transit while in a cast and walking with a cane. So, anything that detours from a sanitized, homogenous worldview is deemed indecent, bad, even when it's something as benign as lesbian parents in Vermont featured on a PBS show for children.

Thank God for cable t.v. A pay-to-watch option, cable t.v. has created opportunities for stories that might never see light to do so. Some stories aren't for everyone; I don't think that grisly crime scene shows are for children, but your kids shouldn't be watching t.v. after 9pm, they should be in bed. And, yes, shows with sophisticated sexual themes should be aired after 10pm, for the same reasons. Don't watch if you're offended, but don't tell me I don't have the right to. I need to know that a story of interest to me is available. And so, kudos to (in no particular order):

1. Showtime's "Queer As Folk" and "The L Word." No, as a Black lesbian, I don't see myself in either cast, but I see myself occasionally, and people I know. The characters shouldn't be seen as gay everymen or lesbian everywomen. For the most part, they're composites, but at least they're showing some aspect of lesbian and gay life that might not ever be seen.

2. The movie "The Ski Trip" and the Logo comedy "Noah's Arc." Both feature all-Black casts, with Black gay storylines. Again, they're not me or my friends, but they're people I know, and both are Black stories that manage not to feature gangstas, drug dealers, baby daddies, and people who can fluently speak Anglo, Afro, and Homo (props to Craig Harris for the lingo distinctions!). Sidebar props to Viacom for creating Logo, an all-queer, all-the-time basic cable station. Access to queer-positive programming may keep some kid in the heartland from feeling isolated.

3. Cartoon Network's "The Boondocks," shown as part of their Adult Swim programming. Adult Swim cartoons, including made for Fox's "Family Guy," "American Dad," the hilarious "The Oblongs" and other off-the-wall shows like the surreal "Squidbillies" (featuring trailer trash squid) fuse political commentary and pop culture to form a strange yet tasty hash. "The Boondocks" is a 30-minute vivification of cartoonist Aaron McGruder's syndicated strip, featuring Freeman brothers Huey and Riley, who live with their sometimes cuckolded, but never punked grandfather Robert, BKA Granddad. "The Boondocks" is the thing that White America feared the most -- a full-out fun-fest of the shit Black folks think and speak among themselves, but probably don't share with White people. And all the nice White kids who wear their pants down low, sit on gentrified stoops with their Black homies smokin' blunts, and disturb the peace with their wack-ass rhymes can now adopt Huey and Riley's funny-as-hell philosophies, peppered with gem sayings like:

Game recognize (sp) game, and you lookin' kinda unfamiliar right now.


If you have Cartoon Network, make yourself stay up on Sunday nights and watch "The Bookdocks." Better still, if you have TiVO or DVR, record the series so you can relive moments like Granddad's visit to his town's country club, ruined by Huey's announcement that Jesus was Black and Ronald Reagan is the devil, or Riley's amazement at how when White people speak, they take the time to say the whole word.

The bottom line is that we don't live in a melting pot (I'd like to shoot whoever said that), we live in a salad. Storytelling, good, accurate, honest storytelling has to include all of our stories, and even if they're sometimes a little off kilter, they still need to be supported. Even fair-to-middlin' depictions of our lives need to be supported for they'll plant the seed for even better depictions in the future.

1 Comments:

Blogger It's Me, Maven... said...

Thanks for the reminder re: Boondocks! I told ABB about it, and then promptly forgot about it for myself and my OWN viewing!

Re: Obits... they tend to be what I refer to as the (albeit morose) "Alternative Pages." You need a job? A home? A new spouse? The obits have it all. Tacky? True! Some folks in NYC check them out for possible leads on finding an affordable and newly available apartment.

4:29 PM  

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