The Problem(s) With the Skittles Comparison

The Problem With the Skittles Comparison

In the recent immigration debate, I’ve seen/heard this argument:

skittles

Here’s three points against that argument. (Feel free to try these at home or on facebook!)

  1. People are not actually candy.

This fact alone should be enough to disprove the argument, but just in case, please proceed to number 2.

2. In this argument, you only risk your own life.

This argument proposes that you could make yourself seriously ill or die if you take the chance and reach into this bag of skittles. But again, since it’s a bag of candy, you are the only one taking a risk here. You can always buy another bag of skittles.

But for the 65 million refugees out there, the risk is real. Not taking a chance on the overwhelming majority who are seeking to escape prosecution and war is putting them all in danger. It’s not just your life.

3. Skittles Are Delicious.

Have you had some recently? I’ve tried all the flavors, wild berry, sour, tropical…they’re all different and all delicious. I’ve still many flavors to try and I hope to do so as soon as possible. The world is full of skittles all of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Each one I encounter expands my view of the world and makes it more beautiful. I think it might do so for everyone else.

In conclusion, the skittles metaphor attempts to reduce an extremely complex subject into a meme by removing humanity. If we truly want a better country for ourselves, we must lead off by thinking of what others can bring. We’ve had refugees that have contributed greatly to our culture like that little known Albert Einstein. Opening up the door to others can open up doors for ourselves as well.

So the next time someone uses this meme as a comparison, bring up these points, remind them of E=MC2  and tell them to enjoy a damn bag of skittles.

Advertisements

I’m Black and I’m…Quiet?

It’s weird…I didn’t see any police being attacked by Beyonce albums today. Could this be because Beyonce’s halftime show was not just about inciting violence against police officers?

No, that’s crazy.

Beyonce’s halftime show was big and energetic, with crazy costumes and gravity itself tripping on Beyonce’s dance moves.  But it was the theme of her halftime show that was the most talked about. The outfits that paid homage to the black panther movement. The word negro sung repeatedly in front of a stadium full of people. And the main song of her act, “Formation” connected to a music video that depicts a New Orleans cop car underwater. Many critics put the pieces together and drew their own conclusions.

Since I believe in the freedom of speech, I’m highlighting my favorite comments, and adding my own commentary:

From Former Mayor Giuliani,

“I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive,” – Giuliani

(Because Negro is a secret code word for attack, obviously)

To Facebook commenters:
“Rise above and stay above the strife. For a girl who grew up in a privileged, wealthy family, she has no business pandering to those who didn’t.”-facebook commenter

(If you have money, you can’t comment on society. That’s just how it goes.)

And as of now, there’s even  petition to ban Beyonce from performing:

In Beyonce’s newest music video which was just released, she is shown drowning a police car. Her video is disgraceful. Why should she be able to perform on the same field as the great men of the New York Mets?

(The first thing I think of when I see A New Orleans cop car underwater is Hurricane Katrina for some reason. But I can see why you would confuse that with drowning.

P.S. And I’m a huge Mets fan from Queens but I’ve never heard anyone refer to them as great men. Thanks!)

 

Overall, I love that this is such a big topic. Because every article, good or bad, about Beyonce’s performance has the potential to bring more attention to issues affecting the black community. But the thing is-none of the above critiques were ABOUT her performance-just the content of the performance. Which is troubling. If kids of any race, creed, or orientation are seeing that an international celeb is being criticized and potentially boycotting for trying to make a statement, they may become more fearful of expressing their own strong opinions. What’s the point if people are going to shut it out?

Fortunately, I have no doubt Beyonce will take this all in stride. She’s Beyonce. But it bothers me tonight. Will I get attacked for making a Facebook status about blacklivesmatter? Could a tweet about the black panthers get a police officer angry at me?Will this article get me banned from my local Trader Joe’s? The fact is: at the end of the day, I”m going to say what’s really on my mind.

If I’m quiet…who’s going to make jokes about the Mets?

(And commentary about blacks in society.)

 

Throwback Tuesday: Changes from ’05-’15

A few days ago, Avatar the Last Airbender celebrated its 10th birthday! And I didn’t even get it anything nice.

airbn

Except making six friends watch the entire series.

That got me thinking, what other things have changed since 2005? Turn on Feel Good Inc. and throw on a tweed jacket as we travel back to ’05!

THEN AND NOW 2005>2015

                                                Video Streaming

Then: YouTube , is launched in the United States.

Now: YouTube is the reason I don’t also pay Time Warner for cable.

The Pope

Then: The beloved Pope John Paul II passes away. Pope Benedict would take over for him that year.

Now: After Pope Benedict resigned, Pope Francis took up the mantle of pope. He is quickly stacking up to become a beloved Pope himself. The pope is known to be humble, accepting of different types of people and a generous man.

  Cruise

Then: Tom Cruise ‘Jumped The Couch” on Oprah while expressing how much he loved Katie Holmes.

Now: Tom Cruise is still jumping off of stuff…just usually on movie sets. Katie Holmes gets to appear on a lot less magazine covers.

                     Same-Sex Marriage

Then: Oregon announced a county would begin granting licenses for same-sex marriages. The Oregon Supreme Court nullified nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples.

Now: Over 30 states allow people of the same sex to be married. Issues with the LGBT community are being talked about more. Even the President of the United States is openly in support of the right to marry…and applauded a certain Avatar-based-cartoon that had two prominent lesbian characters.

                                                                Bike Racing

Then: Lance Armstrong wins a record seventh straight Tours de France before his scheduled retirement

Lance Armstrong probably wishes he retired a long, long, time ago.

                              Comedy

Then: Jul 15th – “Wedding Crashers”, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, premieres

Now: I determine who is most likely to get a kidney out of my friends by how many quotes they can name from Wedding Crashers. Also, Bradley Cooper’s doing a lot better than Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson combined.

Stephen Colbert

Then: Oct 17th The Colbert Report first airs.

Now: :/

What We Watch

Then:

  1. American Idol (Fox)
    CSI (CBS)
    3. Desperate Housewives (ABC)
    4. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
    5. Without a Trace (CBS)
    6. Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
    7. Survivor: Guatemala (CBS)
    8. CSI: Miami (CBS)
    9. House (Fox)
    10. Survivor: Panama (CBS)

Now

Empire  FOX

Gold Rush  DSC

Scandal BET

Grimm  TNT

Suits USA

The Bachelor  ABC

The Walking Dead

Better Call Saul AMC

Chicago Fire  NBC

Arrow  CW

What We Attempt To Sing-Along To

Then: We Belong Together
Now:Uptown Funk!

Can you paint with all the colors in your mind?

Disclaimer: This blog post is not primarily about Pocahontas, but also, kind of all about Pocahontas. Allow me to explain.
About a year ago today, I was putting the finishing touches on my first play. It takes place in the future, and at its heart, is a long allegory for Alzhemiers’ disease. I remember swinging by the office of an old professor of mine (just by timing. The man is in better shape than me.) and telling him all about my play. We discussed themes, length and that one joke I put in there about buzzfeed. But the thing that sticks out the most was when we talked about the characters’ themselves.
Specifically, their colors.
It kind of went like this.
Professor Man: …Are your characters any particular ethnicity?
Me: With the exception of Cheng, I wasn’t really specific. I thought they could be played by anyone.
Professor Man: Interesting…do you normally create characters like that, or are they usually the same race as you? (Black/Puerto Rican)
That was the big question that got me to think: what color do I create in? When considering characters for stories, what do they look and sound like? I went back and look at the last seven or eight ideas I created. In all of those stories/plays/dark musicals, there was at least one black or Hispanic character. And if they weren’t the lead, then the lead character had no defined race, and in some cases, not even a defined gender. But even if it wasn’t explicit on paper, when I imagined those faceless leads: they looked a lot like me or my sisters.
The reasoning for this is pretty obvious. I want to picture myself as the intelligent badass who has unlimited resources and allies in my fight against evil, or the ridiculously strong, yet sensitive leader of the group. But then that got me thinking: If my mind works like that, does the same go for all other creators? Is our own color our default setting for a story? More often than not, I think that’s the case.
Black directors are expected to direct movies about black characters. The script should also be adapted by a black writer. This is not to say it’s a bad thing whatsoever. Or to say that this is always the case. Taylor Hackford gave us a fantastic movie about Ray Charles, and he was a white director. But nine times out of 10, there seems to be a societal expectation that a black director would be by the camera. Which is again, not nearly close to being a bad thing: except that minorities are just that in Hollywood.
In every area of entertainment be it directing, acting, screenwriting, or anything else, you will tend to find more Caucasians than people of any color. If my theory from earlier is correct, and artists create using their “color” more often than not and apply to Hollywood, that would lead to one conclusion: We will continue to see more films with white male leads. Now, I know I’m not blowing off the lid of any big conspiracy theory here. You could have guessed all of this from just looking at the Academy Award selections this year. I bring this up because maybe the reason we don’t see different cultures represented more often is not because of bigotry, but because of difficulty.
Let’s go to Pocahontas again. Although Disney skimped on some of the details, they had to do more than just make up a story from scratch. They had to research culture. They had to take create complex animation to accurately capture bodies and shapes in the correct way. They even met with an Algonquin nation in Virginia to get a better idea of accuracy. Yes, they took liberties with the material, but you cannot deny that they put in the effort to understand Native American culture before they were able to make the story they did…and it paid off.
So why don’t more artists do this? Controversy. Although I wish I could remember the exact book, I remember that a man of Asian descent wrote a book about the experience of being a black maid in the south through the 1800’s. Some people were upset because they felt that there was no way that an Asian man was qualified to tell that story. But did the people who criticized him read the book? Or see what his primary resources were? I don’t have those answers. But I do know if Michael Bay offered to tell the story of Malcolm X, we’d hear similar rebuttal. (and see lots of explosions)
Again, I know I’m not breaking new ground here. It is clear that minorities are still just that in American media. And that stories about them should be treated with honesty, dignity and by people who truly understand their experience. Realistically, it’s going to take many, many, many years before Hollywood can say there’s a completely equal number of artists creating in a rainbow color coalition of people that covers every gender, sexuality and race. But maybe the path that leads there is proving that we want to see our entertainment in every color. Go see Milk. Take your friends to Selma. Flip a coin on Tyler Perry. If Hollywood sees a demand, they will respond with a supply of different movies, which in turn will lead to wider minority representation, which in turn, leads to that beautiful rainbow I talked about earlier.
Artists often create in their own image. I’m no exception. If we want to see more colors out there, we need to take the artist by the hand, lead them to new culture, point and say,
“You can paint with these colors too.”

Black and White History

Happy Black History Month! In order to kick it off, I thought I’d go with something near and dear to my heart: acting.

No Romeo and Juliet here. The type of acting I mean is the type that everyone does. The choices in personality, hobbies and people that we make every day. As you’re well aware, in many places, America especially, you’re expected to make certain choices based on your economic status, gender, location and of course, race.

And I think that’s bullshit.

As a black/puerto rican man, I’ve been expected to do everything from freestyle rap on the spot (give me 2 minutes at least), dance the bachata (give me at least 6 to remember the steps) and know every rapper in the game (I honestly listen to more Rise Against). But the biggest  thing that I’m expected to be: black.

What does that mean? Depends on the person. Some people expect me to use certain slang, others expect me to be a legitimate threat. When I use certain vocabulary, some people say “i’m acting white”. This is always surprises me, because I haven’t tried out miming in at least 18 years. And this phrase horribly disregards every experience I’ve had leading up in my life to a single moment and reduces it to one factor: my race.

We’re in 2015, and I have no definite solution to this occurrence. All I can say is that there are people who look past race to judge character in my life, and for every person that has done that and continues to do so, I thank you. So until the rest of the world comes around, the best thing to do is to channel those feelings of frustration and ignorance into something better.

Like a poem.

Without further ado, please enjoy:

Red, White, Blue, Yellow

They want me to be “white”, America

My grammar must be exquisite.

I always need to speak in full sentences.

I should wear a suit and a tie everywhere I go.

But when I dress and talk

The way you would have me

I am told:
“You speak well for a black man

But we know what you are.

You should be that instead.”

They want me to be “black”, America.

A loose flow of words

And short phrases

Barely

Connected

Through a couple of rhyming verbs.

Things you heard

A million times before

But you know the score

So homie, don’t be sore

When I bust these rhymes down like a door

And−

“What was that? No more?”

Hey!

Is this your way

To say

“Stop tryin’ to be black.

That’s not what you are

You’re better off actin’ white!”

I’m not white, America.

But I am Puerto Rican!

Mi gentes?

They want me to be Hispanic, America

To speak Span-Ish

To dance the bachata

To listen to some salsa

To make some arroz con pollo

To say me jamo

Excuse me, me llamo…

Que tu dices?

“No, no, no, papi. Tu no comprendes es-pan-ol.

Be…” something else?

So what’s my choice, America?

Black, White, Hispanic, Jamaican, British, Russian, Irish?
How about a human being, America?

A being that speaks in full sentences,

Although, from time-to-time my grammar will slip

And dip

Into a rhyming pattern.

One who can say hola

And yo.

And hello.

To be who I am,

Not just what you want to be, America.

Unexpected Lunacy and Return

Hey, 2015! It’s good to see you!

So, first off, I’ll lead off with an apology. I had no intentions of taking another big hiatus without at least a heads up.

Not this.

                                     Not this.

But, as life does, unexpected things came up at work and I did not even have enough time to think about a blog post, or to give a frame of time for a return. So for that, I’m sorry.

I am now back in full force, and ready to get going again. With a new year comes a new announcement:

This blog will double as an advice column.

Yes, Dear Arete (Like Dear Abby! Get it? …Okay. The jokes have not improved) will be fueled by questions, serious and completely comedic. So you can ask Arete something like:
How do I help a friend who has been distant lately?

or

How do I help a friend who has been listening to dubstep lately?

I’ll answer a question each week on Thursday. Tuesdays will be more of the old stuff, opinion pieces and occasionally some more artsy things. If you would like to submit a question, comment under this article, or, if you would like to remain anonymous, send an email to: AreteAdvice@gmail.com

And that’s about it! I’m excited for this year, and what it may bring. Hopefully it brings/has already brought some good things for you! And if hasn’t, today’s a good day to start working your way to the goodness. And speaking of goodness:

Goodness, it’s good to be back.

P.S. So Good.

Silly America, Defying Censorship Is For Cartoons

The average cartoon takes a harder stance than SONY did this week. How? Let’s rewind the clock.

Over the past two months, North Korea has been lobbying threats against SONY’s The Interview. It’s not hard to see why. The plot, if you haven’t heard about it 1000 times in the last few days, revolves around two bumbling reporters being sent to a country to assassinate Kim Jong Un. Ignoring the big problem with that plan (a huge power vacuum, for example), it created a bigger real life issue. North Korea refuses to stand for this movie’s release. As a result, threats were lobbied, movie theaters folded, and SONY was unable to release the movie on its intended date.

Many people, including yourself, had different views of what this meant. I was of the opinion that if SONY truly wanted this movie to happen, it would have pushed past is difficulties. Some of my friends thought that this was just a huge marketing ploy for publicity. (The leaked emails for realism?) And others simply didn’t care. The one viewpoint I didn’t agree with was the one that said America had become too full of “fear” and “cowardly” because of the actions of ONE COMPANY (not completely American owned). To me, it implied that there was no one left willing to make a statement with their art that may be unpopular.

Except cartoons.

This week, Nickelodeon series, “Legend of Korra” wrapped up its series run. The show revolved around a heroine named Korra that could control four elements, and was tasked to saving the world from war and destruction. It was a finale full of explosions, danger and surprises. But the biggest surprise for fans came in the last two minutes.

(If you are a Korra fan that did not view the finale, everything in bold is full of spoilers. I will leave everything clearly marked so that you can avoid them. Watching your back, because I hate spoilers as much as you do 😉 )

In the closing minutes of the show, Korra and her close friend Asami decide to go on a vacation together to another world (Long story). As they head toward the portal that will take them there, they hold hands. Pretty standard stuff for a female friendship. But in the last moments, they face each other, hold both hands and look each others’ eyes longingly before the show fades to black. Based on this description alone, you could easily dismiss it. However, there is a wedding not five minutes prior to this moment in the same finale. And the fact that the two women hold hands like they’re exchanging wedding vows in the last shot would be one heck of a coincidence. Not to mention, the creators just confirmed it. (http://bryankonietzko.tumblr.com/)

So to sum up, they got away with a serious depiction of a non-heterosexual couple on a channel geared towards kids this week. That’s pretty impressive.

SPOILERS END HERE

Cartoons have been doing this for years now. The average episode of animaniacs got away with a whole lot of adult jokes. See this “fingerprints” scene for more evidence:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xmAC9Qu908 Shrek made a joke about a small guy “compensating for something” and there were no riots. Even Frozen, the biggest animated movie sensation since Lion King, got away with a “foot size” joke without parents going crazy. Yes, compared to the interview, these may seem like small jabs against limitations in comparison. But the main difference? These cartoons got out and were released to wide audiences.

Is that to say you have to play small in your art to get it out? No. Team America got away with killing Kim Jong Il years ago, albeit in puppet form. Back then, there wasn’t huge backlash because the puppets appeared to be juvenile and non-threatening in all the previews. It was only after the movie’s screenings that people realized what it depicted. Contrast that to The Interview, whose marketing strategy was built upon yelling and calling attention to its controversy. Is it so surprising that someone would yell back? The Interview has a lot to learn from cartoons. They can challenge the normal established boundaries and still get viewed. And that viewing is valuable real estate.

Think about where cartoons go. Millions and millions of viewers through Netflix, cable and dvd sales. And most importantly, tons and tons of kids. If you can get more adult messages across in those innocuous mediums, you could be a force for change. This is getting beyond the “foot size” and “compensating” jokes. We’re talking about the comforting message that Korra provided. The empowering messages Frozen can teach. “I’m so ronry” from Team America! When you create for kids, you create for the next generation of builders, thinkers and leaders. And if you push the envelope a little while doing so, maybe those kids will grow to take more risks too.

This week, a couple of comedians failed to release a movie in theaters. Maybe if it had stronger support from its parent company or a subtler approach, it could’ve gotten out. I don’t know for sure. But what I’m sure of is that a children’s cartoon took a huge risk this week that should have people cheering. And if not cheering, at the very least reducing the silly notion that “terrorists” can stop art. If a creator wants her or his content out, they’ll break the rules, operate within the rules or work on the line in between. The cartoon sound effects are optional, but there’s no denying…

An big audience might appreciate it.