No Concessions | Wonder Woman

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My introduction to the Wonder Woman universe was the syndicated 70’s series starring Lynda Carter. I watched in amazement as Diana Prince – in a twirl of light – would transform into her alter ego, the super heroine Amazon. With her bullet-blocking wrist-lets and Lasso of Truth, she fought for justice.

Naturally I was excited to hear WW was finally hitting the big screen. After decades of defunct attempts and that horrible NBC reboot, the first female superhero was going to tell her story. And despite doubt patriarchy conjured at every turn, Wonder Woman exceeded expectations commercially and critically.

First off Gal Gadot was great. The best part of Batman vs Superman continued her streak, doing the role justice. She was equally strong-willed and naive as she entered a world more complicated than the home she knew. Her chemistry with Chris Pine was on point, as he never seemed to outshine her. As Steve Trevor he played greatly as second fiddle to her protagonist.

The fight scenes were awesome and accurately spread out. The opening battle on Themyscira was brilliant, pitting our Amazons against their first sight of man. Also enjoyed Diana’s battle within the village, where she triumphantly leaped into a church steeple taking down a sniper.

As for the villains, they weren’t as menacing as I’d hope. Dr. Poison didn’t have much of a backstory, and neither did her German counterpart. Other than being a part of the Nazi regime, they were pretty basic. I guess this is because Aries remained the ultimate adversary.

I did side-eye the depth of representation. There were WOC on Themyscira, but minimal. I think more time on the oasis may have opened opportunities for more appearances. Also once in London, very little people of color in general. Hopefully we see a stronger effort in the sequel.

Overall I enjoyed the message of hope in the face doubt. Love in the time of war. D.C. hit it out the park, hopefully this continues with the winter debut of Justice League.

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Courtesy of variety.com

 

 

Hate Me Now: Olivia is COMMAND Now

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Last week’s two-hour finale of Scandal felt like the beginning of the end. And that’s because it was. After six seasons Shonda Rhimes’ birther of live-tweeting prime time will air its final season in the fall. What better send-off than the show’s hero living long enough to transition to a villain. Olivia Pope forever relinquished her White Hat when she summoned newly-appointed Vice President Luna Vargas to take her own life. That’s right. The former #Gladiator-in-chief pressured the second-highest powerful individual in the land to commit suicide. A somber tribute to her husband – the late president-elect – whom she had assassinated. Because you’re nobody ’til somebody kills you.

Granted Olivia’s track record isn’t clean. We’ve witnessed her the past five seasons fix an election, carry on an affair with the president and murder a man with a metal chair. But in fairness, he had it coming – and these other acts were for the greater good. Regardless of her methods, Olivia always retreated back to her haven of light whenever her gut tip-toed too close to the darkness. But this time Olivia didn’t retreat. She dove in head first, swimming, treading, inviting the darkness to dwell within. The White Hat is dead. Long live Command.

I believe Olivia was destined for diabolical greatness – it’s hereditary. Both Rowan and Maya are evil personified. Cold, calculating parents who taught their only offspring to want nothing but the best. Liv’s thirst for power had always been evident. She possessed the Force, stemming her Jedi mind tricks with Pope and Associates. But the closer she was to the White House, the stronger the dark side begged her to loose her defenses.

Her aligning with the Empire was first evident when she and Fitz went “public.” She never really loved the man; she loved the access he possessed and worked her black girl magic on him like white on rice. The lust surfaced again in the attempt to cast Mellie as the first female president. She could taste the blood in the water. Now that the mantle is finally hers, nothing and no one wills stand in her way.

I adore this newly, self-aware Olivia. She’s embracing the monster within. She sees the blood on her hands and isn’t washing them off. She’d rather licks her hands clean, enough for her next target.

N.O.T.: Chewing Gum 2

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So I finished Chewing Gum series 2 in one sitting Sunday afternoon. I sat alone in my house, scream laughing at my television as Tracey seductively danced in a homeless shelter’s bathroom before vomiting all over her now ex-boyfriend. I haven’t laughed that genuinely since Happy Endings. Not only is it HIGHlarious, but the genius that is Michaela Coel writes all of it herself, flexing the totality of her #BlackGirlMagic. The tale of London’s last two virgins and their misadventures is witty, heart-warming and flourishes a spectacular latter 90s and early 2000s soundtrack.  Continue reading →

No Concessions: Oprah & the HeLa Cells

Saturday night HBO premiered the Oprah Winfrey-led film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, based on the New York Times best-selling book. Lacks tells a particularly American story of race and healthcare as a freelance writer seeks to uncover the untold life of medical science’s most valuable patient. What she and the youngest Lacks child discover is just how strong familial ties are bound against time and space.

 

Just who was Henrietta Lacks you ask? She was an African American woman whose cancer cells were taken for research by John Hopkins Medical School. After passing from cervical cancer in 1951, her cells remained in Hopkins possession for years to come, enabling them to finally sustain cells’ outside of the body. Known as HeLa cells, they became the basis of almost every major medical advancement including stem cell research,  cornea replacement and even AIDS research. Her family was never notified nor compensated for the use of their mother’s cells. A hospital is not obligated to receive permission from family or kin as long as the deceased patients’ name is changed. Henrietta Lacks became Helen Lane, and the rest became untold history.

Fast forward to a little over a decade ago, when Rebecca Skloot (Rose Byrne) comes across Lacks’ identity and wants more information about the woman who changed science in America. This leads her to Deborah Lacks (Oprah Winfrey) and her siblings, all in their early 50s and 60s, residing in Baltimore. The film traces Skloot and Lacks’ eventual friendship in uncovering the truth of what happened to Henrietta. It also chronicles the unhealthy distrust African Americans have of our medical system.

Running a little over a hour and a half, the film moves pretty steadily, using flashbacks of memories to re-tell the Lacks’ lives without Henrietta and what other perils plagued them. Winfrey is incredible as Deborah, a passionate woman who’s determination for truth has left her physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. By the time Skloot found her, Lacks had experienced a devastating mental episode, leaving her body stricken with innumerable ailments.  In many ways Oprah reminded me of her character in Beloved haunted by the search for something, someone stolen from her.

The cast was stellar with Hamilton’s Renee Elise Goldsberry (fresh from her The Get Down gig) portraying Henrietta in flashbacks. While Winfrey owned every scene she was in, two actors challenged her force. House of Cards’ Reg E. Cathey shines as Winfery’s youngest brother. The two share a special bond because of the ugliness that defiled their childhood. Second is John Beasley as a cousin who in a pivotal scene, rocks viewers souls as he deescalates a maniac Deborah.

Where I thought the film lacked in more flashback scenes, it made up for in its underlying, harsh reality — systemic racism infects everything. The film highlights the abusive relationship African Americans have with the healthcare system. Lacks’ story is one of many in which white lab coasts have treated black bodies like they always have — as property to scratch and prod for personal gain. Tales of black people disappearing from the streets of Baltimore to the clutches of John Hopkins are supported by tragedies like the Tuskegee Experiment — in which black men were unknowingly infected with syphilis and not treated, to view the disease’s effects on the human body. More recently discovered, PoC women being sterilized by abortion clinic professionals. They even covered the disheveled state of mental health — which still seeks major reforms — especially for people of color.

As I digested the magnitude this woman’s black body made in our country’s healthcare system, the medical advancements she created to heal millions of Americans as her children suffered from disease, I couldn’t help but associate this real-life drama with Jordan Peele’s metaphorical statement of appropriation with Get Out. Peele’s antagonists heinously kidnapped blacks’ bodies to replace white ones. Henrietta was secretly hijacked to save millions in a white-supremacy-laden nation. Just as the tale of Katherine Johnson and Hidden Figures laid dormant for ions, there’s no telling how many more narratives sit unknown on the shelves of history.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is available via HBO or HBO Now. The book is offered wherever best-sellers are sold.

 

Rewind: DAMN.

In 2006 hip-hop experienced an identity crisis of sorts. One of its most prolific stars declared the musical genre dead. Nas’ Hip-Hop is Dead was rap purists’ declaration that lyrical superiority and artistic expression were being squandered for success by any means. Being a newly self-proclaimed hip-hop head my freshman year at IU, I wholeheartedly agreed. Blogging by day and student-ing when I got the chance, I consumed every morsel of music and media. With my 13″ Dell laptop and textbooks in a Jansport backpack, I was a prescribed member to the music’s “Blog Years.”

This timeline saw anyone with WiFi access become an artist, fan or critic, at the speed of light overnight. In its infancy – pure brilliance – which beget classic moments.  From Kanye’s “G.O.O.D. Friday’s” to The Weeknd’s House of Ballons, this shift of power somewhat eliminated the gatekeepers between artist and fan, allowing the undiscovered and unheard a way to reach the masses without a key to the industry. It was also the period Soulja Boy and The Pack rose to infamy, birthing copycats and replicas of what some viewed as sub-par.

In retrospect, hip-hop was not dead. It was very much alive. The once viewed fad was establishing its staying power and future growth. Nas’ sentiment, in many ways, acted as an accelerant, igniting fresh new voices to continue the tradition of storytelling through prose. The fire grew so large it lit a young match from Compton, California, a region that had not wielded it’s hip-hop MjÖlnir since Tupac’s passing. This young padawan of the force was none other than Kendrick Lamar. Continue reading →