Category Archives: Distractions

In Praise of Fish Mooney

The TV show Gotham is not without its problems, especially concerning its treatment of women.

Poison Ivy and her accelerated maturity, which seems to have been done to usher in the sexpot aspect of the comic book character at the expense of her intelligence, is just one example. It was entirely unnecessary and the result has a Lolita-esque quality that is uncomfortable viewing, especially in the year of our Lord 2017, with the pussy-grabber-in-chief and Weinstein story swirling.

Poison Ivy is meant to be sexy but also smart – and the latter has yet to manifest. Watching the Selena Kyle character unfold, who will one day become Cat Woman, however, is a nuanced and layered affair that firmly lays the groundwork for who she will become, in a neat parallel of Bruce Wayne’s journey. There are other women, and unusually for a television show, most of them get a chance to be real heel, even if it’s temporarily (and wear some amazing outfits/makeup in the process. I have to say, being bad comes with some great eye shadow and dark outfits with brilliant textures).

But the star, for me, is Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney.

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She isn’t canon – she was created for the show, one of the many villains of the Gotham underworld, not one that comes with any comic book mythology, and the show’s resistance to exploring her back story was a bit annoying -but she instantly becomes one of the most memorable.

She is one of my favourite TV characters of all time. Fish Mooney, as played by Jada with a relish that reminds me of Jada earlier in her career, is wily, witty, strong but nurturing. It’s a reminder that although Will Smith gets most of the shine, there are two acting powerhouses in that marriage and quite frankly, I think Jada has more range.

So often, the strong woman in a TV show can be a bit one-note, but Fish is like a jewel turning in the sun that captivates as it catches the light. It’s great writing, of course, but Jada plays the part with ferocity and tenderness that makes her an utter scene stealer whenever she is on screen.

Fish is a survivor in a world where the supernatural rubs shoulder with reality all the time – in fact the one time she does get superpowers briefly, it almost seemed lazy.

It’s no surprise that the character’s constant resurrections are the result of popular demand. My favourite one is at the hands of Dr Strange in a process that robs previous characters of their memory, allowing the Dr to craft a persona for them. Fish, however, comes back to life and instantly knows who she is. She will not be told, owned or controlled.

Her unapologetic realness is a #Blackgirlmagic all day long.

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Here My Dear

2017 is many things so far, but for me personally, it’s the year (ok, I started this towards the end of last year) that I take care of myself.

Not in a New-Years-Resolution-Fitness-Craze sort of way; more of a commitment.

Committing to my health spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally.

Committing to living the life I have, not looking backwards and being trapped in nostalgia or straining forwards waiting for it to “begin”.

Committing to the people in my life by showing up and allowing myself to be seen; and taking the time to see, listen and love my family, friends and colleagues.

Commit to doing all the things that I’ve been putting off out of fear or waiting to have someone to do them with.

Aside from all of that, I’ve been watching, listening to and reading some new stuff – new to me, so don’t stone me for being late to many proverbial parties.

Baggage Reclaim: A site that’s about all things relationships. Not just romantic relationships, I hasten to add. Natalie Lue writes with wit, kindness, humour and directness about self-esteem, love and life. It’s therapeutic.

Very Smart Brothas: Sharp commentary that makes me laugh darkly at least once a day because: truth. eg Dear White People Who Write Things: People Who Voted for a Blatant Racist are Fine With Racism (It’s Not That Hard).

Tiny Letters: Yes, I know everyone has been all about this for maybe two years but it’s a great email newsletter from all your faves. Bim Adewumni, whose own one (entitled …fuck is this? ) is fantastic and here she’s compiled a handy list of some other good ones. 2017 may be the year I start my own.

This Is Us: Listen. I am not a sappy person. (start of this post notwithstanding). I like to think of myself as a soft boiled egg: yes, a little gooey on the inside but there’s a robust buffer and a resilient shell to crack through first. I like my TV sharp and either funny and dark (Crazyhead), action-packed and dark (Banshee) or somewhat creepy and dark (Penny Dreadful). Throw in the odd trashy drama (Nashville – but I blame my love of country music for this) and I’m set. What I do not do is sweet. This is Us is sweet and funny and has me all up in my feelings every damn episode. It’s about a family and all the frustrating/beautiful/slightly bonkers things that families do. It’s also a wider commentary on society, race… there’s a lot, okay. And it undoes me every time.

Podcasts: I’ve added Melanin Millenials to my listening mix. Right now, my favourites are the Baggage Reclaim podcast (linked to the aforementioned blog), NPR’s Code Switch podcast (filling that chasm left when Melissa Harris Perry departed our screens) and Death, Sex and Money (Presenter Anna Sale has a gloriously intimate interviewing style that draws the best out of her subjects and one of the loveliest presenting voices to boot).

Music: Lee Moses is on repeat for me right now. His track Bad Girl is raw soul.

 

 

 

 

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Magnificent Seven

t-magnificent-seven-remakeI love Westerns. It’s probably because of my favourite films when I was young: Giant. Blazing Saddles and the Magnificent Seven. The soundtrack to the latter never fails to fill me with childish excitement.

The remake by Antoine Fuqua is great. But it’s missing something. The older version was slower, perhaps even dragged in places, but it had a slow burn to it that the slicker new version is missing.

the-magnificent-seven-poster-2_1200_1778_81_s-720x720Nevertheless, it’s still moving. There’s something noble in the story and I think that’s part of the romance of this classic underdog tale.

Denzel Washington reprises Yul Brenner’s role brilliantly. Chris Pratt tries to play it mostly straight, though he is still funny. Lee Byung-hun is a brooding Billy Rocks and I must admit, it’s nice to see a diverse cast**

The part I really loved is that at the end, the Black guy, the Mexican and the Native American make it out alive. (for a change).

**mmmm some stereotypes there particularly for the Native Americans…but I would say character development on the whole was a bit underserved. It felt a bit rushed to get the seven together so that there could be more time for battle scenes, whereas the original I think was just long and spent a lot of time with brooding cowboys.

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Lovin It

So, it was the weekend of love. I had a weekend full of friendship and culture – including the movie Freeheld and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the National Theatre. Here are three things that gave me the warm and fuzzies:

One The reaction to Justice Scalia’s passing, in particular this response to the GOP’s rush to declare that the current, democratically elected POTUS is somehow ineligible to nominate his replacement:

Two Saturday Night Live, “The Day Beyonce Turned Black”.

Three 

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou.

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Vicennial Hot 8

Yes, it’s that time again. I’m going to post about Hot 8 Brass Band. They’re touring right now, supporting their Vicennial album and 20 years of great music. You can listen to 30 second snippets of their new album, which has remastered favourites like Sexual Healing and some good new tunes, here.

Or if you’re really lucky, you can catch them tomorrow night in Cambridge, supported by the effervescent, lively and irrepressible Brass Funkeys, who I heard for the first time earlier this year at a brass band bash at Shoreditch Blues Kitchen.

So much good music.

So much work the next morning. 😦

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Funky Does It

Every so often, I make a decision that makes me feel very grownup. In this case, it’s to purchase an LP player. And start my own vinyl collection. My dad had one, and perhaps there’s a weird nostalgia fuelling this – but the music I grew up listening to and that I love just sounds different on records. A little more raw and immediate.

I am always on the hunt for a good music podcast (like Breaking Bread, which I go on about ad nauseum) and have now belatedly alighted upon the Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on 6 Music. (glad we saved it).

Thanks to the show and the latest offering from Breaking Bread, my list of songs that need to be played out loud and old-school keeps growing:

  1. Little Richard – Get Down With It

2. Monica – I don’t know Nothing Else to Tell You but I Love You

3. Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band – PIMP

 

 

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Funny Ladies

Unusually for me, I’ve barely been to the theatre this year, but I have been reading a lot more, especially books by comics.

In my enthusiasm for all things Parks and Recreation, I dived gleefully into Nick Offerman’s (he plays anti-government moustacheod Ron Swanson) memoir, Paddle Your Own CanoeIt was ok. His rants were not as interesting as his revelations about learning his trade in theatre and comedy. I’m currently reading Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please (also Parks and Recreation) and I’m struck by how much hard work goes into making comedy seem effortless*

I was also struck by how, like so many industries, most people know each other, they have networks that go way back. It has been interesting to read these memoirs and Tina Fey’s hilarious and heartwarming contribution, Bossypants, and notice how all the professional networks intertwine. (and how, too, these networks can sometimes be monochrome). It reminds me of why I believe in and am proud to be part of the Media Diversified project, committed not only to diversifying the media but building a platform, networks and collaborative projects for people of colour.

And since I’m talking comics, a couple more books I have on my list:

  • Is everyone hanging out without me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I’ll probably check out her new book, Why Not Me. She’s not without controversy, but she’s a trailblazer.
  • Self Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler, who also has the interesting podcast Girl on Guy.

*Comedian Mindy Kaling has written a great essay on confidence, entitlement and hard work. In sum:

“Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.”

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In Praise of Brothers with no game

The internet has been great for flattening (up to a point) the inequalities in media access for marginalised groups – perhaps a better way of putting it is, platforms like Twitter allow a space to reply but also to champion different agendas. But it’s not all reactive.

The internet is also a site for creativity and audience building. I first got into Black web series with Issa Rae’s funny and witty series Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, charting the (mis) adventures of J, an awkward Black girl. It has a great cast of quirky characters and some sketches that are (too) true to life.

Then I discovered the British comedy Brothers With No Game. Better than Entourage and with a specific British flavour, it’s a comedy series about four guy friends who have no game. Everyone has *those* dates, and BWNG unpacks it all in snappy 12 minute episodes. It can also be unexpectedly touching, dealing with issues such as unemployment and heartbreak – all from a guy’s perspective. And unlike Entourage, it manages to do it without being sexist and the female characters are allowed to develop personalities, with the women on BWNG an essential part of the story.

One of the female characters who appeared in a couple of episodes, Venus, went on to star in an eponymous show on dating and London life, Venus vs Mars, picked up on Sky Living. I really enjoyed it; it has a similar humour to BWNG; warm and engaging, with plenty of in-jokes that you just don’t get on mainstream TV. There are other shows in the BWNG stable, it’s great to see the outfit championing strong content, particularly from women.

So, I suppose this post is in praise of BWNG in particular and Black-produced web series in general. My favourites:

One. Brothers With No Game:

Two. Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl:

Three. Venus vs Mars:

Would you recommend any more?

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Shut up and Dance with me

A little whimsy. A mash-up of some great movie dances. (I said I have writer’s block, not that I’ve lost my sense of humour)

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In Praise of Alias

EydThh2AG5A.market_maxresI’m rewatching Series 1 of Alias. I remember loving this when it first came out in the….90s? *frantically googles* No – it was 2001, according to the good people of Wikipedia.

I’m struck by how it stands the test of time. Strong, well-rounded female characters, tight storylines (at least in the beginning) and a strong supporting cast with black characters that aren’t expendable or one-dimensional.

And the outfit changes! The wigs! The running down corridors!

JJ Abrams at his best. Plus a great cameo from the inimitable Gina Torres, one of my top 5 talent girl crushes (and since you ask, the other four are Serena Williams, Angela Bassett, Sanaa Lathan and Aisha Tyler).

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