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‘The Story of Skinhead’ is must-see TV
11.04.2016
04:14 pm

Topics:
Fashion
Race

Tags:
reggae
Don Letts
England
skinhead


 
My personal experience with skinheads—a “run in” you might call it—was brief, lasting mere minutes, but it was a memorable occasion…

The year was 1983 and I was a 17-year-old lovesick dickhead living in a south London squat who wanted to impress this super gorgeous goth chick I knew. My choice of attire has always been more to the preppy side, but I realized that if I was to have any chance with this beautifully morbid creature, I needed to switch up my look from Brooks Brothers to something a lil’ more Peter Murphy. So I hennaed my hair black and spiked it up with hairspray, wore eyeliner and makeup and donned a black trenchcoat. The object of my affections was not in the least impressed with my new look, but that’s beside the point.

Later that night, right after the pubs had shut, I was going home, alone, rejected and dejected, on the London subway, and feeling like an idiot. The goth look I’d worn for all of maybe five hours just wasn’t me. When the train stopped at Leicester Square, a massive rush of people crushed into the train, including a gang of eight very large, very fearsome, very mean and very fucking drunk skinheads. They were with their girlfriends, who were also wearing boots and braces. All had the “Chelsea cut” that female skins wore. The girls seemed even harder than their boyfriends, and just as ugly.

One of the female skins noticed me and pointed out the “goth poofter,” suggesting that her boyfriend and his pals should kick my faggoty ass. They jeered at me, brandished their fists at me and let me—and every other passenger in that subway car—know that they were going to beat me within an inch of my life. If I was lucky. Suffice to say that my life might’ve changed course dramatically that night had things turned out differently.

My first instinct was to piss in my pants or start crying like a baby begging them for mercy, but I decided that hoping for some cops to magically appear and save my quivering hide was probably a better strategy. Then the train conductor announced over the intercom system that we’d be stopping at the next station, and that the train we were on was being taken out of commission so all the passengers needed to exit and wait on the platform for the next train to arrive.

This was not necessarily good news, I thought.

I mentioned how crowded the train was. When this positively bursting-at-the-seams car cleared out a bit, I made to exit in the opposite direction from where the skinheads had been taunting me when the biggest and meanest one of them stomped right over and drew his arm back to wallop me with a haymaker. Had his punch connected, I’ve no doubt that he would have knocked me unconscious and probably broken several bones in my face. But he didn’t connect. He barely grazed my forehead and I felt his fist rush by me like a gust of wind as it just barely missed cracking my skull into several pieces.

The platform at the station was even more densely packed than the train had been. I needed to find some cops—and was frantically trying to push my way through the sardines, followed closely behind by this drunken, bloodthirsty skinhead wolfpack—but there were no London bobbies anywhere to be found. I kept moving, hoping something would happen when the train turned up. Standing still and waiting for them to catch up to me wasn’t an option, and there were several yards between us. I plowed onwards.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lamentations: Stunning stained glass windows of black lives by Kehinde Wiley
10.26.2016
10:54 am

Topics:
Art
Race

Tags:
Kehinde Wiley


 
Kehinde Wiley has been collecting laurels for over a decade, for his amazingly vivid, large scale, ultra-realistic portraits of contemporary African-Americans in an epic style that nods to Barkley L. Hendricks, but with much heavier doses of old-master grandeur, appropriating for everyday people the majesty of Renaissance nobles. Though on paper it seems like a simple conceit, his gifts as a painter render it spectacular, and his body of work taken as a whole raises powerful points about race, social class, and the true meaning of “nobility.”

Given his obeisance to Renaissance tropes, stained glass windows would seem an obvious medium for Wiley to explore, and this has in fact happened. An exhibit currently showing at Le Petit Palais in Paris features six Wiley stained glass works and four paintings. It’s the artist’s first French solo exhibition, and is loaded with religious imagery, including a couple of pietàs that MUST be intended to recall America’s hideous and apparently unswerving habit of murdering young black boys. Interestingly, the paintings are being shown among Le Petit Palais’ 19th Century collection. The exhibit is titled “Lamentations,” and is scheduled to run through January 15, 2017.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Ass-kicking ‘Faster Pussycat’ heroine Tura Satana during her younger days as a burlesque dancer


 
Bad girl rule-breaker Tura Satana’s name is pretty much synonymous with the film that propelled her to fame as the ass-kicking, man eating “Varla,” Russ Meyer’s 1965 Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. And if you know anything about Satana’s background you already know that she lived up to one of her famous lines (which I’m riffing on here) in the flick by never trying anything. She just did it.

Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan in 1938 (or 1935 according to some sources) both of Satana’s parents were performers. Her father (who was part Japanese and part Filipino) was an actor who appeared in silent films. Satana’s mother performed in circuses as a contortionist and was of a mix of Native American and Scottish descent which further contributed to Satana’s exotic and unique look.

After moving to the U.S. in 1942 when Tura was only four, she and her father were sent to an internment camp in California for Japanese-Americans where they lived for two years until they reunited with her mother in Chicago. As the feelings of resentment toward the Japanese were still high following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 Tura (as well as other U.S. residents of Japanese descent) was the object of harassment and routinely subjected to bullying at school. At the age of ten Tura was brutally gang-raped by a group of teenagers. Despite her age and the horrific magnitude of the crime the five assailants were never prosecuted for the despicable assault. As a response to help protect his child, Tura’s father apparently tutored her in various martial arts such as Aikido and Karate so that she would always be able to protect herself. According to Satana herself for her portrayal of Varla she drew from the internalized rage from her rape which would further immortalize her face-smashing character in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.
 

Tura Satana as ‘Varla’ in Russ Meyer’s ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’
 
At thirteen, her parents entered her into an “arranged” marriage with a family friend John Satana that would end only nine months later while Tura was starting her career as an exotic dancer. Not long after her marriage ended Satana found her way to the city of broken dreams, Los Angeles and was quickly discovered while performing her special blend of burlesque dancing mixed with martial arts moves. She got her first acting role in the 1959 ABC television series Hawaiian Eye. This led to many other acting roles one of which was with one of Satana’s rumored love interests, director Billy Wilder in 1963’s Irma La Douce and a role that same year opposite Dean Martin (where she played a stripper) in Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed. And if super-groupie Pamela Des Barres is to be believed (detailed in her 2008 book Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies), it was Tura herself who taught The King, Elvis Presley (another of Satana’s boy toys) his signature dance moves. 

Satana ditched her dance routines when California changed the laws governing exotic dancing which allowed clubs to require dancers appear topless and instead turned to straight jobs such as nursing, and in her later years even working as security detail for a Hilton casino in Reno, Nevada under the name “Tura Jurman” after marrying former police officer Endel Jurman in 1981. I’ve posted a variety of incredible photos of Satana from when she was known as “Miss Japan Beautiful” (a nickname that would follow her throughout her career) that were taken during her days as a burlesque dancer for you to oogle below. I’ve also included footage from Tura showing off her dance moves in the 1973 film The Doll Squad. Naturally since this is Tura Satana we are talking about, please assume that many of the images that follow are NSFW. Much like the woman herself.
 

Tura Satana in ‘Burlesque Magazine’ when she was only nineteen, 1957.
 

 

 
More Tura! Tura! Tura! after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Get Out’: Jordan Peele’s new horror-comedy is REALLY going to piss off racist Republicans
10.05.2016
01:24 pm

Topics:
Movies
Race

Tags:
Jordan Pelle


 
That grand guy, satirist, novelist and screenwriter Terry Southern (who wrote, among other things Dr. Strangelove, Barbarella, The Magic Christian, Candy and Easy Rider) reflected on a two-month assignment working as a fiction editor at Esquire magazine:

“...before my tenure was done I had so refined my critical faculties that I could reject a story after reading the first paragraph. Then it got to be the first sentence. Finally, I felt I could safely reject on the basis of title, and at last on the basis of the author’s name—if it had a middle initial or a junior in it. Under this system I lost a few things by Vonnegut and Selby… but I never claimed it was perfect.”

I feel the same way about movie trailers: If they don’t grab me by the first 30 seconds, I mean, why should I bother to watch 90 minutes if this is all they got?

Something tells me that even Terry Southern—perhaps especially Terry Southern—would wholeheartedly approve of this outrageous new trailer for Jordan Peele’s upcoming horror comedy Get Out. The film will drop—like an atom bomb if this hilariously tweaked trailer is any indication—in February of 2017.

Just watch it.


Watch it now.

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Answering the Call’: Filmmaker returns to Selma, AL to see what’s changed—and it’s not enough


 
Despite legitimately heartening developments like the legalization of same-sex marriage, it gets easier every day to arrive at the cynical conclusion that social progress in the United States just might be impossible because the troglodytes have at last reached critical mass. Look at something as fundamental to democracy as the vote: since the Supreme Court’s shocking 2013 evisceration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, new onerous and racially-applied voter suppression laws are being trail-ballooned to take the place of long-outlawed tactics like poll taxes and literacy tests, all to ensure that African Americans can’t vote in significant enough numbers to topple white hegemony. And if people of color are excluded from the voter rolls, they can’t serve as jurors, ensuring not just the continuation but the strengthening of our nation’s enduring tradition of judicial outcomes that are skewed dramatically against non-whites.

(Before some “Party of Lincoln” troll points it out: yes, the Republicans used to be the somewhat less racist major party. That changed in 1964 and it’s been the party of white bigotry ever since. You’ve had 52 years to figure that out, and if you haven’t yet, you need to permanently shut your wronghole.)

The long and the short of all this is that if things continue going south (seewhatididthere) America might experience another Selma.

There’s a good reason that Selma, AL became a significant locus in the Civil Rights Movement, especially as regards voting rights. Selma in the early ‘60s was half black, but only 1% of black citizens were registered to vote. It’s not that they were disinterested. Besides the literacy test, Klan violence and other extra-legal disincentives to registration were widespread, and the registration office was only open two days a month, at difficult hours. By 1964, when serious voter drives were happening in black communities, a judge actually enjoined against organizing. The official nationwide desegregation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did little for voting rights, so activists organized a march from Selma to Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery. That march took place on Sunday, March 7th, 1965, and due to the unhinged brutality of the attacks on demonstrators by state troopers and county deputies, all basically acting under the aegis of the notorious segregationist Governor George Wallace, that day is forever known as Bloody Sunday.

Two weeks later, on Sunday the 21st, the march was attempted again. This time, the National Guard protected the marchers from violence by county and state authorities (and enthusiastic amateurs). About 3,000 people started the march in Selma—many of whom had traveled from around the country, shocked by the images of Bloody Sunday they’d seen in the news. By the time the marchers arrived safely in Montgomery, the demonstration’s population approached 25,000. The Voting Rights Act passed and was signed by President Lyndon Johnson later that year. And every hero who shed blood in the name of equality on Bloody Sunday was spat on by the SCOTUS in 2013 when they rendered that law utterly toothless.

To tie that history to contemporary perspectives on voting rights in America, documentary filmmaker Brian Jenkins, previously known for the vinyl-freak ode Records Collecting Dust (which you’ve perhaps read about on this very blog), has made Answering the Call. Jenkins’ uncle John Witeck was among those who heeded Dr. King’s plea for support in March of 1965; he marched on the so-called “Turnaround Tuesday” march on the 9th, and remained in Selma for other protests leading up to the final march to Montgomery, an experience which wound up catalyzing a lifetime’s work for social progress. For Answering the Call, he returned to Alabama with his nephew and a camera crew.
 

 
The doc doesn’t just trace the history of black disenfranchisement, it’s engaged in the now. With a racially-charged (to say the LEAST) presidential election fast approaching, the issue has reached new heights of urgency, and it’s amazing to hear the Secretary of State of Alabama letting NASTY racist dog-whistles fly so freely while discussing the franchise. I’m perpetually, existentially disheartened that we still have to be struggling over the exact same shit after half a century—Alabama’s Constitution remains loaded with segregationist provisions. They’re currently unenforceable thanks to federal laws that supersede them, but given the right SCOTUS, that could change shockingly quickly.

Asked for a statement on the film, director Jenkins responded to Dangerous Minds in an email exchange:

Only 60% of eligible voters in the United States will turn out on election day for a presidential election (even less for midterm and primary elections). I’m sympathetic to the 40% who choose not to participate but I’d like to pose the question, “If voting doesn’t matter, then why is the Republican Party working so hard to keep us from the polls?” Whether it’s gerrymandering, voter ID laws, eliminating early voting and same day registration, or switching up polling locations at the last minute, the GOP has made access to the polls a primary target and priority since the election of Barack Obama.

I had the chance to sit down with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and discuss the controversy surrounding the state’s voter ID law and it’s recent decision to close 31 DMV locations across the state—which made it even more difficult to register and vote in Alabama. Voting is a right guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. So to hear a Secretary of State refer to this right as a “privilege” is deeply troubling and wrong.

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Of Skittles and Skypes: Shocking codewords ‘Racist Trump Twitter’ uses to avoid account suspension


 
This fucking election. I’ve heard that exact phrase so much more this year than I ever have before. The rise of Trump’s racist, sexist, illiberal id within the Republican Party has been depressing to watch. We’re all holding our breath to see where all of that unruly anger goes after (please God) Trump loses the election on November 8. 

In the meantime, the mainstreaming of Trump (our own American Mussolini®) and his politics of racial resentment, the KKK’s David Duke (whose name I’ve heard more in the last week than in the previous 20 years combined), and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon has also meant an inevitable education in the loathsome habits of the overtly and proudly racist part of America that is normally kept under wraps. I don’t want to know this stuff, but have learned about it via a sort of toxic, brain-damaged cultural osmosis.

So here’s something I learned this year. In white supremacist quarters the number “88” has special significance, because “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet and so it can be taken to mean “HH” = “Heil Hitler” (also “8” kind of looks like an “H” if you think about it). It took the political rise of Trump to bring that to my attention. Fun stuff!

If you see the number 88 being thrown around by people who probably hate blacks and Latinos, it’s not an accident, it’s a dog whistle to the people who (wink) think of themselves as understanding the “true America” in which immigrants and blacks always win and white people and Christians never get an even break.

You may have seen the triple parentheses, also called “echoes,” around people’s names, which look like this: (((Martin Schneider))). That’s white supremacist code for “Jewish.” (Fortunately, Twitter users are now adopting the practice voluntarily in order to defuse it of its meaning.)

And the innocuous word Skittles is a racist dog whistle because that’s what Trayvon Martin had on his person when George Zimmerman shot and killed him for no good reason.

Some of you might recall that Trump’s son Donald Jr. recently unveiled an ugly metaphor having to do with the number of poisonous Skittles could be in a bowl before you’d make a decision to stop eating them, the idea being to communicate the advisability of a zero-tolerance policy on Muslim immigration.

That metaphor has roots in Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher—in more recent years the concept has been used against Muslims and black people using M&Ms as the candy, but the switch to Skittles was surely done as a conscious shout-out to Zimmerman. It’s astonishing how few news reports noticed this aspect of the metaphor, but the governing logic of an effective dog whistle is that most people—non racist people—can’t hear it.

On Saturday Buzzfeed ran an item by Alex Kantrowitz alerting “normals” to some new codewords the white supremacists on Twitter are using to evade detection. I heard about it via this tweet from Alex Goldman, who describes the groups using the terms as “Racist Trump twitter.”
 

 
Here’s the ugly list of words and their “true” meanings among white supremacists. Notice the presence of that loaded word skittles to mean Muslims or Arabs:
 

nigger = google
Jew/Kike = skype
Spic/Mexican = yahoo
Gook/Chink = bing
Muslim/Arab = skittle
gay (men) = butterfly
lesbian = fishbucket
tranny = durdens
liberals/dems = carsalesman
conservatives = reagans
libertiarian = a leppo

 
Here’s Kantrowitz on the reasons for the subterfuge:
 

The code appears to have originated in response to Google’s Jigsaw program, a new AI-powered approach to combating harassment and abuse online. The program seems to have inspired members of the online message board 4chan to start “Operation Google,” using Google as a derogatory term for blacks in an attempt to get Google to filter out its own name. The code developed from there.

 
This is obviously an elaborate game of whack-a-mole, but just because it’s kind of futile in no way diminishes the importance of letting some daylight in on these creeps. If they have to go through a hundred iterations of inventing some whole new elaborate code to enjoy their twisted, simple-minded hate among themselves, then maybe eventually they’ll get the message that society is not going to put up with it.

Here’s an example of the code in use. It don’t get a whole lot clearer than this, does it?

 
Here are a couple of other examples:

 

 
Ugh! This fucking election? How about This fucking country???

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ralph Bakshi’s animated assault on racism in America is still an uncompromising gut punch
07.11.2016
11:37 am

Topics:
Animation
Movies
Race

Tags:
Ralph Bakshi


 
A subversive and satirical re-imagining of Disney’s Song Of The South transplanted to Harlem, Ralph Bakshi’s incendiary masterpiece Coonskin exploits and eviscerates grotesque American racial stereotypes with a politically incorrect, profane and vicious sense of humor. The film’s hyper energy is emphasized by Chico Hamilton’s percussive score and the mix of animation and live action set the tone for films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Despite its innovative visuals, there’s nothing slick about Coonskin. The movie has the perfect low-budget skeeziness of a Dolemite flick. And casting Barry White as Brother Bear/Samson and Scatman Crothers as Papa Bone adds layers of pop cultural resonance that continue to reverberate even today. (Did Rick Ross cop his fashion sense from Samson?)
 

 
Released in 1975 to a firestorm of controversy, it took Coonskin several years before the film found an audience that could appreciate it as an edgy aesthetic experiment and a powerful social statement. Wu Tang Clan had plans to re-make it and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, released 25 years after Coonskin, echoes Bakshi’s brutal take on the pervasive, ages-old racism that permeates American popular culture. Al Sharpton and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) went apeshit and picketed Coonskin before anyone in the organization had even seen the film. (Sharpton quipped “I don’t need to see shit to smell shit.”) Bakshi had hired a number of black animators to work on the film and the NAACP felt it was an important work but still Sharpton couldn’t resist the opportunity for some press. New York City theaters were smoke-bombed during screenings of Coonskin. Nationwide theaters panicked and cancelled bookings.The film’s distributor Paramount Pictures eventually freaked and pulled it from circulation. The positive reception from critics didn’t make up for the fact that most audiences, both black and white, just didn’t get it.
 

 
Quentin Tarantino has championed Coonskin over the years and provided some critical insight into Bakshi’s methods. Tarantino describes the film as…

... hands down the most incendiary piece of work in the entire (blaxploitation) genre. Using negro folklore and slave tales of nonviolent resistance, along with the White American/European media’s racist caricatures of the past (i.e., Disney’s Black Crows, Warner Brothers’ Coal Black, every James River pickaninny that smilingly stared back from grocery shelves, the spaghetti benders of Lady and the Tramp, and the Jews of the Nazi Party-produced The Eternal Jew), Bakshi, with zero timidity, challenged his audiences’ sensibilities in ways that made all the other blaxploitation titles seem like the wish-fulfillment fantasies they were.

In fact, the only voice of the time that had a symbiotic relationship to Bakshi’s work could be found in Richard Pryor’s monologues. To discover that the two gentlemen were friends, and Pryor was a huge fan of Coonskin, comes as no surprise. An America that considers Blazing Saddles and All In The Family stinging racial satire is an America not ready for Coonskin.

 
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Kill the f*ckers: ‘White Man,’ Suicide’s BRUTAL sonic attack on white supremacy
06.23.2016
10:17 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Race

Tags:
Suicide
Alan Vega
Martin Rev


Alan Vega, 70s, photo by Paul Zone

I plan to stand behind my front door clutching a baseball bat for the duration of this year’s Republican National Convention, but if I were headed to one of the “First Amendment zones” in Cleveland next month, I would carry a ghetto blaster that played nothing but Suicide’s “White Man.”

Born Boruch Alan Bermowitz in 1938 and married to a Holocaust survivor during the sixties, Alan Vega knows whereof he sings on “White Man,” an obscure late-period Suicide track that deserves a wider hearing. While Vega denounces the legacy of white supremacy in the barest language there is, Martin Rev’s music—drums, a single guitar chord through a tremolo effect and a three-note bassline, punctuated by keyboard noises—corresponds to an inner state between trance and fury.

So far, “White Man” has only been officially released on the DVD One Day + Live at La Loco / Paris, a pro-shot live show from January 2005 supplemented with interviews. (A used copy from Amazon will set you back about $5.) Though Suicide has been playing the song since ‘98 (according to this fan’s timeline), they left it off their last album to date, 2002’s merciless post-9/11 nightmare American Supreme.
 

 
It just so happens there’s video of Suicide playing “White Man” in Manhattan right after the 2004 RNC. The performance falls flat, but Vega’s ad-libbed tirade is much clearer than on the Paris tape:

White man
HRRRRAARUUGHGH white man
Goin’ ‘round the world
Killin’ everybody with a different color skin
Yeah, it’s the American race
Yeah, kill the fuckers

White man
You’re a fucking diseased fucker
You’re a fucking cancer
White man
HUH!

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
This may be the most racist, sexist, violent video game EVER (and it’s almost 35 years old)
06.16.2016
11:51 am

Topics:
Feminism
Games
History
Race

Tags:
Video games
Custer's Revenge


 
Despite exaggerations to the contrary, very few video games actually portray sexual assault. Sure, there’s a ton of murder, and definitely lots of gendered violence, but games that write in actual sexual violence are quite rare, which is actually sort of surprising when you learn about Custer’s Revenge.

The game, which came in in 1982 for the Atari 2600 and cost a whopping $49.95 (making it the priciest of Atari games then on the market), had a very simple premise: you are a naked, erection-wielding General Custer and you must avoid a volley of arrows in order to to rape a Native American who is—as indicated by the cover art—tied to a pole. Yeah, that’s it.

Custer’s Revenge was an early attempt to create and market “adult” video games, but promotion was difficult, especially since Mystique, the publishers and developers of the game, made it very clear that the game was “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS.” In order to drum up publicity, Mystique actually showed the game to women’s and Native American groups, who were quick to give them free press with outraged protests. Feminist Andrea Dworkin even argued that Custer’s Revenge “generated many gang rapes of Native American women,” a claim that is difficult to prove, to say the least. Compared to say Pac-Man, the best-selling Atari 2600 game of all time, which sold 7 million, Custer’s Revenge was small potatoes, only selling 80,000 total. Regardless, the backlash most certainly helped move copies that might have otherwise simply collected dust on the shelf.
 

 
So how does Custer’s Revenge hold up nowadays? Despite the stomach-turning “plot,” the game actually manages to be so very comically low-rent that it falls very short of anything that is actually visually lurid. I mean you really have to use your imagination to connect those abrupt little pixels to the historic atrocities of the sexual violence and genocide exacted against Native Americans. They just didn’t quite have the technology to really depict any detail at the time, a fact which allowed game designer Joel Miller to maintain plausible deniability, claiming that the woman was a “willing participant” (this despite the game’s title and cover art). Nonetheless, Mystique later released a companion game, General Retreat, featuring the Native American woman attempting to rape Custer under cannonball fire, which, I guess, was an attempt at equality?
 

Ah, such innocent times! When the libidinal horrors of entertainment were technologically limited to blocky little boners and booties!
 
It’s possible that protests eventually staved off sales of the game, but what’s more likely is that no one really wanted to play it. PC World magazine named it the third worst game of all time, adding to the obvious objections that it was extremely difficult to play and it just looked terrible. The underground infamy of of Custer’s Revenge outlasted the game itself, inspiring a much more graphic remake in 2008, which was notably protested by a indigenous activists, including a female game designer and a video game journalist. Eventually pressure from activists got the game removed from the internet in 2014 (though I doubt too many people felt its loss).

More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Movin’ On Up’: How the Black Panthers invented ‘The Jeffersons’


 
Somewhat like top basketballers before Michael Jordan (thinking of you, Dr. J….) the reputation of Norman Lear’s sitcom The Jeffersons suffered somewhat by poor timing and the shows that came after it. Cheers and Seinfeld are regularly lauded as among the greatest sitcoms of all time, but The Jeffersons, whose impressive 253 episodes were spread across a whopping 11 seasons (1975-1985), never seems to get mentioned with the same respect.

If you eliminate animated series and long-running staples from the dawn of TV history, the longevity of The Jeffersons puts it in a special category with Two and a Half Men (262 episodes), Cheers (275), M*A*S*H (256), Frasier (264), Married ... with Children (258), and Happy Days (255).

At a minimum, The Jeffersons is arguably the greatest put-down show of all time!

And it never would have happened but for an intervention by the Black Panthers.

Norman Lear, creator of a fair portion of the most successful sitcoms of the 1970s, including All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, and Maude, is the subject of an upcoming PBS American Masters telecast under the title “Just Another Version of You,” which is expected to get a theatrical run in the summer before appearing on PBS affiliates in the autumn. Since the 1970s Lear has become more or less synonymous with the introduction of ethnic diversity in American TV as well as the foregrounding of what might be termed a liberal consciousness in televised comedy.

Remarkably, the creation of The Jeffersons was a direct outgrowth of an intervention staged by three members of the Black Panthers political organization at some point during 1974. A trio of pissed-off revolutionaries went to Lear’s office to complain about the “garbage” they were seeing on TV, specifically Lear’s show Good Times, which ran from 1974 to 1979 and focused on a black family in the projects of Chicago. You wouldn’t think that the Black Panthers would object to a popular sitcom calling attention to poverty in urban America, but they wanted to see a broader palette of Black America on TV.

Last weekend Lear visited Dan Harmon’s weekly podcast Harmontown, which is taped live every Sunday at the Nerdmelt Showroom in Hollywood, to promote the American Masters documentary and shoot the shit with a well-known showrunner (Community) from a more splintered era of TV programming, namely, ours. Harmontown tapings are usually attended by GenXers and Millennials, so the appearance of the 93-year-old (!) legend of TV was an unusual event.
 

‘Good Times’ aired on CBS from 1974 to 1979
 
At about 42 minutes in, Harmon and his sidekick Jeff Davis engaged Lear on the subject of the beginnings of The Jeffersons:

Harmon: There’s this anecdote, about ... three Black Panthers show up, and come to your office and say, “We want to talk to the garbageman! I wanna talk to Norman Lear, the garbageman!” And they storm into your office, and say, “Good Times is bullshit” ... They read you the riot act ... You credit that moment as starting us down the road towards The Jeffersons. ...

You’re still listening! You’ve already proven that you’re the king of television at that point, and people are barging into your office to call you a garbageman, and you listen to them! And took their feedback and made another great television show, that was great from another perspective.

Davis: What was the Black Panthers’ [complaint]? ... Because they were living in the projects, because they were downtrodden?

Lear: Their big bellyache was, why does the guy have to hold down three jobs and occasionally—in an episode, it almost seems like he’s looking for a fourth—he’s so hungry to make some money to support his family and why can’t there be an affluent black family on television? ... They were pissed off that the only family that existed, the guy had to hold down three jobs.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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