October 14, 2008
Barack & Curtis: Manhood Power and Respect
A short documentary by Byron Hurt examining the contrasting styles of manhood exhibited by Barack Obama and Rapper/Mogul Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent.
Director's Statement from Byron Hurt
BARACK & CURTIS: MANHOOD, POWER, AND RESPECT
September 16, 2008
I am proud to be a part of the Black Masculinity Project, a project of the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). Like many other filmmakers who applied for this, I was required to submit to them three ideas for a short documentary (10 minutes or less) that examined various aspects of black masculinity. Of the three ideas I had, NBPC chose the one that was actually a last minute idea.
The idea for Barack & Curtis came to me the night before NBPC's deadline. I conceived the short doc just as Barack Obama was emerging as a presidential front-runner. I thought, "Why not create a short doc that discussed Barack Obama's masculinity in a way I had not yet seen." I wanted to make something that was topical, clever, fresh, unique, and off the beaten path. A political junkie, I was intrigued by Obama's rise to political rock stardom. The more I watched Obama stumping on the campaign trail, the more I found his cool presentation of manhood interesting and refreshing. On the surface, Obama's manhood appeared to be the polar opposite of the stereotypical images of black masculinity we've come to expect from hip-hop and popular culture.
When I tell people about Barack & Curtis, most people's first reaction is laughter. Or, they'll say, "I know who Barack is, but who's Curtis?" After I explain who "Curtis" is and what the piece is about, people generally say, "Wow, now that sounds interesting. I can't wait to see it!"
"Curtis" is rapper/mogul Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Why would I compare/contrast the masculinity of Barack Obama, an "upstanding" statesman-like presidential candidate, with 50 Cent, a "lowly" gangsta rapper, right? Well, because Barack Obama is THE MAN right now, who is shattering so many myths about black masculinity, and because 50 Cent, who was just named Forbes Magazine's top-earning rapper, currently embodies gangsta hip-hop masculinity like no other. Both are successful Black men. Both are rock stars. Both are admired and feared. I thought that juxtaposing the two in a short doc would make for historic level conversations.
I'm very happy with the final product, but I have to admit, I wish I could have made a much longer piece. I interviewed a lot of heavyweights who really know politics, gender, and hip-hop. Unfortunately, because the online piece had to be limited to 9 minutes and 58 seconds, I couldn't include them all. The piece you will see in October merely scratches the surface, and is a subject worthy of more time and attention.
The Black Masculinity Project and Barack & Curtis are scheduled to premiere online the first week of October. I want you to see some of the material that hit the cutting room floor, so I will release some of my favorite interviews and clips leading up to its launch. The first one starts this week.
I hope you'll watch Barack & Curtis online and then forward everywhere. Help spread the word by posting it to your blogs, social networking sites, websites, and listservs. Talk about it with your friends, co-workers, and family.
One final note: Barack & Curtis is in no way intended to create a negative association between Barack Obama and 50 Cent. Anyone who would suggest that mis-understands what my piece is all about. Furthermore, anyone who uses Barack & Curtis to smear Barack Obama in any way, is either ignorant, or morally bankrupt. In no way do I want to damage Barack Obama's historic presidential campaign. In no way am I suggesting that Barack Obama is down with G-Unit or is a gangsta rapper cleverly disguised as a presidential candidate. Neither is Barack & Curtis intended to glorify 50 Cent. Instead, the piece is my attempt to humanize 50 Cent, examine two very different Black men who express their masculinity in two very different ways, and who took two very different paths to achieve manhood, power, and respect.
In the end, I hope Barack & Curtis spreads all over the world over the Internet, igniting a powerful online conversation about Barack Obama, 50 Cent, and the range of black masculinity in between.
June 26, 2006
A Television Producer and Feminism?
One of my favorite TV/Movie creators is Joss Whedon (Buffy-The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity, writer of Toy Story). His creations are fun, smart, at times heart-rendering (see the second season of Buffy), and contain deeper ideas that are real, not just thrown in for the sake of being "deep". And Mr. Whedon, while in college, minored (I believe) in Women's Studies; thus, his strong female characters (as well as one of my only and favorite "pro-feminist" male characters: Oz on Buffy). Joss Whedon's creations also bring out a lot of smart people writing about the his work - and the ideas contained within. There are annual symposiums and conferences at colleges chewing on his creations. Which leads me to the excellent post below at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty:
via Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty - The Politics of Firefly and Serenity
June 16, 2006
Books On How To Get Women
Luke over at Real Men Are Not has a really awesome post clearly illustrating the various, easily found, pieces of popular culture that reenforce male rape fantasies. From "come-on" ads on late night television to prime-time "reality" shows to main-display books, the idea that men want (and should want) "easy" women to do whatever they want is literally everywhere.
via Real Men Are Not - Pimp Your/My Oppression
June 14, 2006
The Sacred Feminine
I read the Da Vinci Code last year and was fairly-well entertained. But mostly I was impressed with Dan Brown's blatant attack on church doctorine (I also understand that the book was purposely kept in the fiction/fact gray-zone as a form of protection). In all of the written material that I either read or glanced at I was surprised that I didn't read more about the concept of the "sacred feminine" that is illuminated in the book (perhaps I didn't read the right material). The post below is an example of what I was looking for:
via Men Can Stop Rape - The Da Vinci Code and the Sacred Feminine
May 30, 2006
Males In G Movies
The folks at the great organization Dads and Daughters commissioned a study to look at the portrayal of males in G-rated movies. The resulting report is called "G Movies Give Boys a D". The report: "analyzes how male characters in G-rated films outnumber female characters by a lopsided margin, are seldom in significant relationships, and are more likely to be physically aggressive". You can read the full report below (you'll find the link to the report on the right-side of the page).
May 24, 2006
Burger King's "I Am A Man" Commercial
There has been alot of "buzz" recently about the new Burger King commercial that takes Helen Reddy's song I Am Woman, and turns it into I Am Man. On one level, one can dismiss this as simply a silly commercial. But, I love the process of dissecting different forms of media and seeing what the underlying messages are. Especially in a commercial such as this which re-uses many other messages that we see in media all the time. And that is when we need to be critical about media - not a single commercial, but when there are numerous messages that together sink deep into our collective psyches. The links below (and links wihtin the posts) do a good job of pulling apart this commerical - not only looking its anti-feminism stance, but at its, ultimately, anti-male stance.
via Alas, A Blog - "I Am a Man" Burger King Commercial
via Third Estate Sunday Review - Shame of the Week (Musical)
May 23, 2006
Comic Stips That Explore Masculinity?
Here is a post from the new blog I mentioned yesterday - Masculinities in Media. I particularly appreciate this post because I am a fan of graphic novels and comics. I've found that the best ones read more deeply into the issues of our day (both political and personal) than many novels, of which I read alot of too. Patrick, in his post linked to below, points to several comics that pick-up on themes important to a site like this.
via Masculinities in Media - I Love Comics
May 12, 2006
Gender Roles on Two Great Sci-Fi Shows
I am a part-time "geek" - one who loves a good sci-fi movie or TV show. I also do social justice work to challenge sexism and violence against women as well as working for the movement to offer alternatives to traditional models of masculinity. It is not too often that these two worlds of mine meet. But below is a post that takes a brief look at gender roles in two very good sci-fi shows (both, I highly recommend) - Firefly and Battlestar Gallactica (the new version). Take a look:
Mad Melancholic Feminista - Sci-Fi and Gender Roles
April 28, 2006
Masculinity on The Simpsons
I've often wondered - does the TV show, The Simpsons, play up on stereotypes in a way that is thought-provoking and helps viewers deconstruct some of these issues, or is it just using these stereotypes for laughs? I haven't decided, yet - at times it seems like both.
Below, two pieces look at stereotypes about feminism in a particular Simpsons episode.
via Real Men Are Not - Masculinity, Patriarchy, and Stereotypes About Feminism in The Simpsons
April 17, 2006
Angry Man Sitcom
File this under: I can't believe where television is going (not a new refrain, but one that keeps coming as more and more stupid ideas for TV shows get realized)....a new sitcom on CBS - The Angriest Guy in Suburbia
via Rebel Dad - Not Angry. Yet.
via The Futon Critic - Development Update
April 14, 2006
Men and Madison Avenue
At some point in the not-too-distant past, advertisers realized that by focusing on creating images for the "ideal" woman and tailoring products to build on that image, they were only targetting nearly half the population. Now men are as much the target of Madison Ave - and coincidently, once "women's issues" such as eating disorders have increased dramatically for men.
The post below highlights a book (VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework, and Commitment by Neil Chethik) that tries to undo the Madison Ave version of men: boys who don't grow up.
via Man-O-Pause - Men Growing Up To Be Boys
March 28, 2006
Marketing Cleanliness To Men
There is a link below to a short piece on marketing a cleaning product toward men. The most disturbing thought is the tag-line: Take Back The Shower". A re-working of "Take Back The Night". Let's hope not...
via Feministing - Marketing Cleanliness To Men
February 21, 2006
B-Boys Will Be Boys
A few months ago, I posted a piece about the Byron Hurt documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes: Masculinity in Hip-Hop Culture. Below is an interview with Byron and it illuminates more about his latest film. Beyond Beats and Rhymes premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year and will play on PBS some time in the future. As soon as we find out the date, we'll post it here.
via Pop Matters - B-Boys Will Be Boys: An interview with Byron Hurt
February 07, 2006
Gender in the Gaming World
The world of gaming is huge. If you include video games, the gaming world takes in more money than movies and music combined in the entertainment industry. The stereotype is that only awkward, socially-inept males are absorbed in gaming. Two articles below explore the issue of gender and sexual orientation: one breaks the above stereotype, the other looks at the issue of sexual orientation in the World of Warcraft (the largest on-line game).
December 09, 2005
Beyond Beats and Rhymes
Here is a description about a documentary that sounds very interesting. I'll try to stay on-top of its airdate on PBS and alert you here:
Beyond Beats and Rhymes examines representations of manhood, sexism and homophobia in hip hop culture. Conceived as a "loving critique" of certain disturbing developments in mainstream rap music culture from a long-time hip hop head, Beyond Beats and Rhymes features highly revealing interviews with famous rappers such as Fat Joe, Chuck D, Jadakiss and Busta Rhymes, along with cultural commentary from Michael Eric Dyson, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Kevin Powell, and Sarah Jones. The film also features on-the-street interviews with aspiring rappers, as well as interviews with young women at Spelman College and hip hop events. Beyond Beats and Rhymes is co-produced and edited by Sabrina Gordon and is executive produced by Stanley Nelson, the renowned documentary filmmaker (The Murder of Emmitt Till, Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice) and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation's Genius Award. The film has been funded by the Independent Television Service and the National Black Programming Consortium.
The 2006 Sundance Film Festival has selected Beyond Beats and Rhymes for this year's festival in Park City, Utah, January 19 - 29, 2006. After nearly five years of fundraising, research, pre-production, production, and post-production, my Thanksgiving holiday was filled with excitement and gratitude upon hearing this news Friday morning. This news comes on the heels of receiving word that the Emmy award-winning PBS series Independent Lens has also selected Beyond Beats and Rhymes for a national television broadcast. A PBS airdate has yet to be determined.
November 21, 2005
Marketing and The Mindless, Low-Brow Male
Over at RationalRevolution Geoff Price is amassing a series of articles on understanding Capitalism. The link below will lead you to the fourth article which focuses on Capitalism, culture and society. He gives a thorough the history of Capialisms impact on culture and society - right up to present-day advertising and popular culture. Near the end of this piece he targets advertisers and TV sitcoms who cater to and help encourage an image of men as simple-minded:
There is also the depiction of men as mindless, low brow consumers, whose only interests in life are to drink beer, ogle women that are way out of their league, and watch football on TV all day. In everything from commercials to sitcoms, and even TV dramas, men are overwhelmingly depicted as primal in nature, with very basic needs revolving around food, sports, women and alcohol. Men are often shown standing in awe at some new product, speechless with jaws wide open, like... umm... duh...
It struck me as to how true this was. If you watch a lot of television (and I don't recommend it) you end up feeling like all men are Homer Simpsons.
via rationalrevolution.net - Understanding Capitalism IV
October 13, 2005
This could be the first place you heard about this...and also the last.
Well, since the term "metrosexual" is SO yesterday, someone has come up with a new term to describe a type of man - Ubersexual. Now this term may be of interest to pro-feminist men. According to the press release below the term refers to:
men who embrace the positive aspects of their masculinity or "M-ness" (e.g., confidence,leadership, passion, compassion)without giving in to the stereotypes that give guys a bad name (e.g.,disrespect toward women, emotional emptiness,complete ignorance of anything cultural outside of sports, beer, burgers, and athletic shoes).
Sounds kind of interesting, huh? Bono is named, in this press release, as the "Ultimate Ubersexual". I'm down with that, too. But then things start to fall apart: in the top ten list of Ubersexuals, you've got both Donald Trump and Arnold Schwarzenegger. You've begun to lose me there. Then, in a section of this piece entitled: Metrosexual or Ubersexual? How to Spot the Difference, you've got this bullet-point:
Both treat and respect women as equals, but the uber considers other men, not women, his best friends
I can't agree with that. Finally, it all becomes clear when one realizes this "news" piece is the product of an advertising agency.
So be wary if some product manufacturer comes to your men's center or group looking to sell you the latest in their exclusive ubersexual line...
via prnewswire - Bono The Ultimate Ubersexual