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In Adult Video Online, Does Diversity Sell? April 7, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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I’m assisting a lecture tomorrow on the adult entertainment industry for a course at Penn, so I thought I’d write a quick blog. Note: most links NSFW. Thanks to Queerty, Fleshbot, MOC Blog for linking.

Sean Cody, the king (or among the kings) of amateur gay, and gay-for-pay, video online, has recently included a couple of black men on his site. Sean Cody is infamous for his almost religious devotion to featuring only white performers, though he’s not the only one. Bloggers from Unzipped, Fleshbot, to Men of Color Blog were understandably flabbergasted — and delighted — at the recent shift.

I wonder: Does the change have anything to do with Sean Cody’s possibly declining numbers?


On Cable, Long Live the Anti-Hero March 29, 2010

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Originally posted at SpliceToday. Comment there!

When The Sopranos concluded in 2007, a number of media critics signalled “the end of an era” where television shows looked for complicated “heros,” or “anti-heros,” to helm television dramas. Of course, many more critics credited The Sopranos with the revival of  serialized, “quality television,” television as cinema, full of complex characters and morally ambiguous plot lines; this remains true today.

More than ever, the anti-hero, in specific Tony Soprano-esque ways, is very much alive.


White Supremacists Are Back (On Television)! March 20, 2010

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Thanks to Racialicious for reposting this!

This post suffers from a disease characteristic of most lifestyle/entertainment news: two’s a coincidence, three’s a trend.  Blame it on my past as a reporter. It’s an illness not easily cured.

I don’t know precisely what caused it, but white supremacy is back on television! Of course, by “back” I mean white supremacists have returned as villains in several cable dramas, most recently on FX’s new drama Justified, another FX series Sons of Anarchy and in Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming – and extraordinarily expensiveBoardwalk Empire, premiering this fall.

Color me naïve — it’s a color I’ve worn before — but I always thought serious consideration of white supremacy was a no-go for television: it would alienate liberals and minorities and wouldn’t win anyone else. But the search for more provocative programming to cut through the TV clutter, along with the general tendency among certain cable networks – the premium channels, along with FX, TNT, AMC, etc. – toward “cutting edge” narratives, has allowed some room for the KKK and their ilk.

Heather Havrilesky at Salon contextualizes it well: “Since these shows revolve around likable but deeply flawed, not-very-good guys, the actual bad guys have to be very, very bad, indeed, straining during most of their time on-screen to embody pure evil.”


Why Has Showtime Abandoned Gays? (Death of the “Gay Show,” Part II) January 19, 2010

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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Showtime went from the Queer as Folk channel to the home of such butch programming as The Tudors (however awesome it is). This essay was originally published at SpliceToday: comment there!

I’m continuing my discussion of the state of gay representations on television with a look at Showtime’s evolution in original programming. (UPDATE 3/23: On last night’s premieres of Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara, Showtime showed a bit more gay: Marshall, Tara’s gay son, started dealing with politics at school; on Jackie, the narrative suggests Thor, the other, uglier gay, might take Momo’s place as “gay best friend.” Signs of change or too little too late?)

We only need to look at Haaz Sleiman, television’s hottest gay character, who is on the job hunt, cast off Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, to see what has happened to the network.

Showtime once was the gay network. Remember five years ago, during that brief period when it housed the two most sexually explicit gay dramas ever—to this day—on television, Queer as Folk and The L Word? Bravo was also a gay network, with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and Logo was starting up, but Showtime was where the action was.

Not anymore. (more…)

Where Did The “Gay Show” Go? (Part I) January 16, 2010

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I’m assisting my advisor, Katherine Sender, on an undergraduate gay media course here at Penn, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of gay representations, particularly on television, for decades the chief battleground for gay media advocates.

Right now, gay characters are in abundance, but series focusing on sexual minorities are a dying brand, relegated to gay networks of lesser quality, Logo and here!.

We live in an odd time. (more…)

“V” From Fascists (1983) to Obama (2009) November 24, 2009

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V airs its winter finale tonight before resuming episodes in March 2010.

If you haven’t seen ABC’s V yet, I’ll spoil it for you: the Vs symbolize President Obama. Countless articles have spelled it out: io9, Chicago Tribune, BreitBart, and Entertainment Weekly, among many others, have already foregrounded the debate.

It’s very obvious. In the first episode, we learn that the Visitors bring hope and promise change; they’re all attractive; they have a sleekly designed spaceship (and probably a nice website too); they’ve got young people excited about the movement; they are of peace in a world racked by war; they come at time when we need them most; they’re a global phenomenon; the press is in their pocket; they are God-like and pose a serious threat to Christianity; most obvious of all, they want to bring “universal healthcare” and “clean sustainable energy.” This should all sound painfully obvious, unless you slept through 2008.  What’s the problem, then? Well, underneath it all, the Vs are reptiles who want to eat and destroy us!

There’s just one wrinkle in this theory: V is a series based on a NBC miniseries of the same name written and released during the presidency of conservative icon Ronald Reagan!

If we see V as an anti-Obama series now, what was it back then?


Rethinking “Post-Racial” November 20, 2009

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Organizing for America | BarackObama.com_1256938818070

I’d originally planned to do reams and reams of reading on this, and an extensive literature review, but I’m so busy writing, curating, filming, editing and researching other things I won’t get to it for another year, and I don’t want to cite some theories and miss others. Eventually I will have to do a full lit review on this, tying in key works from the critical race theory, etc., for my dissertation. When that happens, I’ll update or redo this post.

The subject has been bothering me to such a degree that if I don’t write it now, I’ll implode.

Now the question:

What does “post-racial” mean and why must we move past it? Come take a ride with me…


“Precious” Isn’t the First Naughty Black Film November 16, 2009

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Originally published at Splice Today. My first post about Precious here.


Precious has arrived! For anyone following the film world, the push for Precious, at first titled Push, began months ago, in the beginning of the year. It has been a long haul. Some of us are tired.

Now it is here and is bound for Oscar greatness, unless you take Armond White seriously. Precious is brilliant and moving, entertaining and important; you should see it, and keep your eyes on Mo’Nique. While there might be some backlash as a result of the Oprah and Tyler Perry hype, I imagine critics will still lavish it with enough praise to carry it to the Academy Awards in fine shape.

Back to Armond White. White, the enfant terrible of film criticism, finds in Precious a kind of bamboozle. White:

“Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious. Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show. Offering racist hysteria masquerading as social sensitivity, it’s been acclaimed on the international festival circuit that usually disdains movies about black Americans as somehow inartistic and unworthy.”

White wants to revise black film history to include lowbrow schlock that nonetheless portrays black people as happy deviants, not real deviants—or something like that. The truth is his argument isn’t very good. His criticism of Precious is old and predictable, even though he masks it under the guise of going against the mainstream.

The truth: Precious is just one film in a long history of black movies that go against “responsible” images of black people. (more…)

Ellen, the Academy, and Improving Media Criticism November 15, 2009

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In the academy and in the humanities, we’re trained to be skeptics. It’s almost part of the job. When it comes to representation, the idea that what we see in the media is a reflection on the real world, the academy is still way behind the times, something I’ve written about before. Skepticism has turned into blind cynicism, and it makes us look silly.

One point some academics — who shall remain nameless — are very reluctant to concede is whether mainstream America can accept openly gay celebrities. The pessimism continues to this day. While there’s plenty of evidence this may be warranted, especially concerning gay (and black gay) men and Hollywood cinema, Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi’s relationship is the glaring exception.

But I still hear scholars and people on the left say all the time that Ellen “isn’t really out,” that she whitewashes her image, etc.

This simply isn’t true. (more…)

“Precious” and the Fight Against Representation October 20, 2009

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Mo-Nique and Gaboury Sidibe play two very troubled individuals in Precious.

Mo'Nique and Gaboury Sidibe play two very troubled individuals in Precious.

I saw Precious Wednesday (it’s accomplished, bound for Oscar greatness), but I’ll hold off on film criticism and instead talk about what I think the film means, and what I think it does for black cinema, a field I’m still learning about, so I would love comments and suggestions.

My thrust is simple: Precious is another shot in the fight against representation. Yes, “representation.” That big word that still refuses to go away in discussions about culture. Representation is what happens when media — television, film, web, books, music — come to take on cultural meaning. Images come to “represent” various things in society: gender, race, professional positions, etc. Courtney Cox comes to represent older women who desire younger men (Cougar Town); Steve Carell represents the small town businessman (The Office). Everything you see on a screen is a representation. Simple.

What’s wrong? Well, nothing can really represent one thing if it isn’t exactly that thing. Simple again. Not even our politicians can, in an intellectual sense, represent us. They can represent a majority or a plurality, but not all of us. Same with cultural representations. They are always imperfect. Some representations get a pass because they’re “positive,” but getting a complete pass is rare. (It’s still a minority of people who don’t like The Cosby Show, at least until recently. However much it skewed representations of black people, or, as Herman Gray argues in Watching Race, supports a conservative discourse, it’s still a “nice” representation. Most people give it a pass, but not everybody).

I’m getting to Precious, bare with me. (more…)