In A State of Emergency: Why Trump 2016 Isn’t A Laughing Matter Anymore

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Dystopian plots have interested me since I was a kid.

I like thinking through the social issues presented and considering their impact on humanity as it is explored through character story-lines. Contemplating how humans might respond to one another when confronted with a lack of resources is an endlessly fascinating subject. Just consider that the last movie of The Hunger Games installment is projected to make $121.5 million in box-office revenue this opening weekend. The Twilight Zone, a show I’d often watch growing up, explored dystopian communities and cultural norms in many of their episodes and in high school, I dog-eared the pages of 1984 and Lord of the Flies. Most recently, I’ve followed The Walking Dead series week to week because their attention to character development within the dystopian narrative is extremely compelling.

Lately however, I don’t have to watch tv or pick up a book for this kind of entertainment. I can just observe our current political atmosphere and reflect on Donald Trump’s increasing popularity in the polls. I’ve hesitated to write or share any content referring to Trump’s run for presidency because I know contributing to his visibility ultimately benefits his campaign and I didn’t want to give Trump the value of being taken seriously.

After reading the xenophobic comments he made in a Yahoo News interview published yesterday however, I’ve begun to take him seriously.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures, including warrantless searches and identification registries, in his plans to increase surveillance on Muslim Americans and mosques. His comments cited that “we’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.” When he was later asked to clarify his interview comments and distinguish how Muslim databases (a system he “would certainly implement” upon election) would be different from requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany, he evaded the question by repeatedly saying “you tell me” several times before finally walking away.

Prior to this moment, Trump’s hate-speeches against Latino communities and his obscenely reductive platform on immigration issues were guised as a patriotic call for nationalism and called good sense by Conservatives. His recent comments surrounding how the US should respond to Muslim communities in light of the recent terrorist attacks committed by Daesh, however, are so blindingly racist and xenophobic that any semblance of a nationalist or patriotic guise no longer exists for Trump or his incendiary statements. Trump is a grim example of someone using a combination of their privilege, ignorance, and wealth to postulate hate speech and encourage white supremacist ideology. Hate crimes across the US have been directly attributed to Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric with increasing frequency.

Conservatives can’t cling to Donald Trump as a pillar of American values when he rejects the protection of individual liberties and rights that all Americans – Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, or otherwise – are entitled to. He rejects basic foundational principles the US was founded upon; principles the Constitution is purposed to uphold today.

History is going to look back on this time and ask why we didn’t hold Donald Trump, a widely popular figure within American culture at this time, more accountable. How did we allow presidential campaigns to get this surreal? And why did we, the American public and media, remain complacent in addressing and silencing hate?

Will this be our shame?

The Legacy of Harris Wittels: Comedian, Writer, Friend

Have you ever heard of Harris Wittels?

As I was reading through my open browser tabs this morning (my lazy way of bookmarking sources around the internet I want to return to), I rediscovered an episode of You Made It Weird, a podcast series hosted by Pete Holmes that Wittels was featured in last November. I didn’t recognize Wittels’ name until I read the description and remembered that one of the writers of the popular NBC sitcom, Parks and Recreation, had passed away earlier this year. That writer was Harris Wittels.

From onset, the conversation between Holmes and Wittels is unapologetically dark and honest. The podcast feels like an invitation into their conversation as friends, one of familiar ease peppered with inside jokes and personal details. They’re both engaging as they discuss their attempts to grapple with the reality of death, finding purpose in life, and the tyranny of addiction while skillfully using humor to break the tension time and time again as the discussion progresses.

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Wittels shares his engrossing journey as an addict at length and brings depth to the retelling of his experience with addiction as a son, artist, boyfriend, and friend. You get the sense that Wittels is speaking about his experiences from the safety of his distance to them but learn that he’s a month into the infancy of his sobriety at the time of production. Yet he explains how he became a part of drug culture and progressed from recreationally using prescription painkillers to shooting up heroin with ease.

I’ve never been a witness to addiction in another person’s life.

I recommend listening to this episode if only to hear a first-hand account of the complexities surrounding addiction and the journey to sobriety. However, if you already understand this from personal experience or in witnessing someone you know live in that reality, you don’t need a podcast to associate you with addiction’s capacity for destruction.

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Throughout the episode, Wittels remains disarmingly candid in the way he shares the decisions he made under the impetus of drugs; a will born out of the resistance to experience withdrawal or the emotional fatigue of life. He also shares the financial, relational, and emotional tolls that the fight for sobriety would cost him. Wittels would continue this fight until his overdose earlier this year.

Wittels’ laughter, as it bursts throughout his conversation with Holmes, reminded me of a friend I used to spend many of my high school days with; someone I used to share jokes with while exchanging adolescent loneliness for the comfort of friendship.

They both have the same easy giggle.

I didn’t personally know Wittels and I’m not entitled to any memory of him.

Still, I am saddened by his loss and the thought of the people he brought energy, laughter, and the comfort of friendship to. Professionally, Wittels was an integral contributor to crafting the familiarity that so many audiences felt towards the Parks and Recreation cast, the same magic that made my friends and I fans of this clever and often heart-warming show. He engineered many of the jokes we retell to one another to make each other laugh or remind ourselves of the outrageous enthusiasm with which Leslie Knope would live her life. The impact that Wittels’ instinct for humor and creativity had reaches further than he could have possibly imagined.

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The loss of any person to the tyranny of drugs is terrible. Listening to Wittels’ experiences as shared in his own voice, however, is not a legacy to the way in which his life ended. Instead, it is an intimate reflection of the value the people in our life hold and our endless responsibility to reclaim our purpose, as well as that of others, from the damages or discouragement we’re subject to as members of this world.

Before closing the show, Holmes extends a genuine word of comfort to Wittels, one that is almost awkward in how authentic of an attempt it is to reach across the divide and say to someone who has just shared their experience of extraordinary struggle, “please feel included, and welcomed, and loved in this reality… you’re not alone.” He explains how he’s observed that his efforts to create, do stand-up, and tell stories are collective attempts at communicating this same eternal message to another person, and reminding himself of this message, too.

Wittels’ embraces the moment and adds in his own reach across the divide by reminding Holmes of that time they played music at his party, “one of the most fun memories ever”, when Holmes was on bass.

As you listen to his story, and even read these words now, may you be reminded you’re not alone.

In Defense of The Bedford Stop

Earlier this week, I discovered The Bedford Stop, a reality series on Youtube set in Williamsburg “about Brooklyn girls avoiding reality.” I watched the 16:56 minute pilot episode upon reading a review of the show featured on The Gothamist.

Written by staff writer, Lauren Evans, the article begins humorously enough as Evans discloses the Vicodin haze she’s watching the show under while recovering from an undisclosed medical ailment. Her disposition towards The Bedford Stop begins open-mindedly, musing over how she doesn’t expect to hate it when a Schedule II narcotic is keeping her company. As the review progresses, Evans dismisses the show’s merit, referring to the viewing experience as “viscerally repellent.” She closes the article with a series of open-ended questions; asking what kind of audience exists for non-substantive productions like The Bedford Stop and what appeal it carries to anyone considering to watch it.

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Visitors to The Gothamist appear to agree with Evans’ sentiment as many have linked to clips of the show in their comments as further evidence of the despair that Williamsburg “culture” finds itself in. A debate whether the show is actually a parody or not has since dictated the discussion.

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What both visitors to The Gothamist and Evans miss in their reviews is that the very mystery of whether it’s a parody or not hints at the genius of the show’s creators. The Bedford Stop understands that reality TV, at its most lucrative, finely balances the line between truth and the aggrandized, seamlessly weaving fiction with non-fiction for the entertainment of their audiences. This formula allows the viewer to immerse themselves within the plot of the episode, regardless of how absurdly it may evolve, and inspires familiarity with the characters while they engage in larger-than-life theatrics like Teresa Giudice and NeNe Leakes, two of the most famous reality tv show celebrities featured on the Real Housewives series, have demonstrated throughout their reality tv careers.

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In the pilot episode of The Bedford Stop, Olena Yatsyuk, is introduced as a main character and reality tv wildcard trope. In evidence of such, the episode revolves around her decision to hire professional photographer, Max Schwartz, to take a Tinder headshot for her. Yatsyuk is later featured in a scene where she delivers an expletive-laden tirade over the fact that Melissa, her roommate, didn’t say hi to her at Brooklyn Bowl. Despite these obvious exaggerations of character, the cast of The Bedford Stop appear to be living a life very similar to that of most modern young transplants living in New York City today; dating, nights out with friends, petty disagreements, half-hearted excuses explaining they can just work out “later” and continue enjoying happy hour for now. It simply magnifies these day-to-day life scenarios in order to bring the reality tv show essence full circle, or full production rather.

The About page on the Youtube Channel of The Bedford Stop doesn’t provide any clue into whether or not it’s real, but I hesitate to believe it’s entirely authentic because of how unapologetically it perpetuates the stereotype of New York City’s most cartoonish (and perhaps most unequivocally villainized) caricature – The Hipster. In my five years of living in New York City, it’s been my experience that people who are rosé-drinking, trust-fund Hipster archetypes are quick to downcast their own privileged nature, masking their eau d’yuppie stench by pretending to be one of the “original” locals at Pete’s Candy Store or Barcade. Furthermore, The Bedford Stop is littered with background props cementing the cartoonish Hipster stereotype it wryly pokes fun at, like the posters of Lana Del Rey (saint of the American Apparel buying, Urban Outfitters sporting collective within Millennial culture) that decorate Olena’s room.

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For the cast of The Bedford Stop to reveal themselves as actualizations of Williamsburg stereotypes for public consumption would mean subjecting themselves to the abasement of the online community (much of which has already unfolded). It would also demonstrate a rejection of the social capital made possible when we subscribe to our modern culture’s “too cool but effortlessly so” brand of popularity. Effectively, it would be an admission of their tragic existences as the collective punchline of Hipster jokes that comedians across New York City have been recycling since 2008.

In contrast to these assumptions, The Bedford Stop demonstrates several clues that their cast is in on the ruse.

Most notably in the way the editing and narration resembles MTV’s hit reality TV series, The Hills, which has been openly discussed as a show succeeded by its scripts and fabricated drama. Even our introduction to Alex, the main protagonist who recently graduated from FIT and moved to New York to pursue her dreams, parallels Lauren Conrad’s move to Los Angeles for a fashion internship at Teen Vogue.

The success of The Hills was attributed to the instincts of the editors in post-production and how compellingly the conventionally attractive cast capitalized on relationship drama at the behest of producers. Similarly, The Bedford Stop takes a cast of friends and shows them navigating through situations most New Yorkers of Millennial or Gen X age would recognize while exaggerating them in ways that demonstrate their absurdity (like paying to take headshots for Tinder when everyone knows you only take headshots for LinkedIn and if it’s not that stuffy, you can use it on Tinder to suggest you’re a legitimate Adult ™ person but even then, it’s weird.)

Magnifying the tedium of everyday life in a way that both entertains and solicits “are they serious right now?” reactions from audiences is the same formula the Kardashian family used to build a multi-million empire on the back of a reality tv show sharing their intimate lives with the world; their show premiering it’s 11th season on November 15th. Clearly, the creators of The Bedford Stop are capitalizing on all of the elements that make fictional “reality” tv shows a success. Perhaps they know that The Hills maintained a steady viewership of approximately two million viewers each week and are repackaging this winning formula for a modern audience, one that just so happened to grow up debating whether Lauren or Heidi was the justified one in the deterioration of their friendship.

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However, these clues demonstrating the show’s ingenuity seem to be lost in the online community’s reception towards the show.

Simone Wilson at The Patch refers to the characters as “enemies in their [sic] adopted habited”. Her review grows increasingly irritated as she refers to one of the characters as “the real demographic threat … that background chick with the caked-on bronzer, the job in ‘merchandising’ and the vocal fry that could kill a Kardashian.” From reading a collective of reviews written in the same vein of disdain, it’s obvious that the visceral response of the online community is to reject the show and the experiences of it’s characters altogether, when I would argue that this impulse to do so implies how much we refuse to accept these characters as reflections of ourselves.

David Colins at Brokelyn in contrast seems to understand the hyperbolic nature of the show, and employs the same theatrical exaggeration by referring to The Bedford Stop as “the most incredible and important piece of New York City media of the 21st Century.”

In the way the show’s creators have successfully managed to generate attention, I suspect they understand that Brooklynites love discussing their borough and themselves far more than anything else. This evidence is demonstrated by the way the local media community has bashed the show, reviling the bottom-feeding hipsterdom The Bedford Stop represents while distinguishing their own exceptionalism against the experiences of these characters. The commercial success of shows like Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty, and 19 Kids and Counting further demonstrates a viewer’s voyeuristic desire to validate and comfort the superiority of their own lifestyles by watching lives outside of what we’d be willing to associate ourselves with in person. Maybe the creators of The Bedford Stop (and with the native Spotify ad, I suspect there are more than we realize) understand, like many TV executives before them, that people are attracted to shows that inspire them to reflect on the distinction of their own existences apart from the protagonists on screen while maintaining an anonymous distance.

Bobby Finger at Jezebel understands this phenomenon as shared in his retelling of his own meta experience after watching The Bedford Stop.

“After finishing its pilot episode, I questioned my own existence as a human being who lives in New York among other human beings who are capable of creating, filming, starring in, editing, and uploading something as simultaneously miserable and captivating as The Bedford Stop. Are they really here? Are they really real? Are they living and breathing in my reality? And, more importantly, am I?”

In his article, he also refers to the show as “simultaneously miserable and captivating”.

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His choice of words hints at the sheer level of marketability there is for “non-substantive” tv.

Rating statistics reflect 37.7 million American viewers have watched a reality television show in 2015. Consider that The Bachelor, which will premiere it’s 20th season in January, successfully pulled in $187.3 million dollars in ad revenue in 2015, while it’s counterpart, The Bachelorette, averaged 3.2 million viewers per week. Human nature is naturally curious and our meticulously data-mined research on the nature of our entertainment choices reveal that we love to peek into the lives of strangers beyond our present day-to-day reality.

Gabriel Bell at Nylon points out that the key elements making The Bedford Stop so notable are how it isolates a sense of familiarity from the viewer by representing semblances of their own experiences on-screen. “What’s important is that The Bedford Stop is an amazingly accurate, dare we say, trailblazing look at what is happening in the neighborhood—a documentary series so unblinking and honest that the viewer feels transported into the lives of the people who define the area now.”

Perhaps the criticism of The Bedford Stop feels like criticism against my own existence.

The very nature of which is stereotyped because I live in a rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn, yeah, and maybe would live in Chelsea if I could but I’ve never considered it because my level of income in New York City contrasted with the expense of living here is a laughable subject. The truth is I do find a great sense of familiarity in the cast of The Bedford Stop, if only in that I was immediately reminded of my own conversations with friends who despite being kind, complex, and interesting people can also be vacuous in their comments about how they can “taste the difference” from Whole Foods produce and produce at a perfectly decent alternative. And similarly, I can be obnoxious in my refusal to take the train home after a certain hour despite the fact that my budget for Ubers is maxed out this month. Again. These are the priorities I live with as I go about my day to day life in NYC and the fact that The Bedford Stop captured modern life in New York City so accurately encapsulates the privileges associated with being a young, unattached professional living here.

In the closing of her review in The Gothamist, Evans suggests that if The Bedford Stop doesn’t resemble your life, it’s because your existence is based on more substantive experiences than getting a professional photographer to capture a headshot for you to use on Tinder. Her assumption fails to consider the tedious minutia of life that think-pieces across the Internet are devoted to; reflecting on largely arbitrary subjects like caring about how many followers you have on Instagram, whether you should make-out with a stranger on the first date, or what Disney princess iteration of a hot dog you resemble the most. As it stands, people are attracted to content that makes their own human experience feel validated. And The Bedford Stop fits the bill.

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All of this leads me to wonder where the authority of residents who lived in New York when it was “the old New York” begins and ends. When do they become caricatures? Card-carrying oligarchs scuffling around who complain about the neighborhood changing while ignoring the socio-economic trends that have lead us all here? Maybe The Bedford Stop doesn’t entertain or amuse local New Yorkers who knew Williamsburg before it was WILLIAMSBURG but for some kid in Iowa dreaming of making it to a world beyond the banality or prejudices of his hometown, the fantasy projected in this Youtube series is as good as the real thing.

Alternatively, I’m willing to believe that the cartoonish stereotypes of both the Hipster and Crochety Old New Yorker do exist on both ends of the spectrum. But then there’s my old boss, a woman of color who has owned property in Brooklyn for 30 years who enjoys the coffee shops and added amenities that gentrification has brought to her block. Or my dear friend, a local artist and Millennial with no assets of her own who prioritizes the conveniences that modern technology afford to us while making under $48k per year and paying $500 in Student Loans on top of her rent and regular expenses each month. Multitudes exist everywhere. This isn’t news. But distinguishing ourselves from the cast of The Bedford Stop, in the way the internet community has scrambled over itself to do, feels disingenuous. Especially when I recognize so many overlapping themes surrounding our collective experience in New York City, mapping across race and socioeconomic status.

Ironically, Lauren Evans own by-line states that she lives in the “baby-pampered paradise” of Park Slope “despite my [sic] distaste for children.” Before Park Slope became the BabyBjorn enclave she despises today, it belonged to working class Irish and Italian migrants and soon after transitioned into a white family-oriented, middle-class thereafter. Do we all eschew the residents immediately before or directly after us? Is that our inheritance as New Yorkers? If it is, I can come to terms with the fact that we’re all somebody’s punchline. But dismissing a show that subverts the Hipster stereotype into an identity you’re forced to consider your own experiences and existence against? The way the internet is falling itself to do over The Bedford Stop when they may very well be in the onset of commercial fame?

Well, that’s missing the point.

A Sneak Peek Into Viceland

Have you ever watched a Vice documentary? I’m inclined to assume everyone has but that’s because I run in the very demographic that creates and consumes the content that Vice produces.

Vice originally launched as a government-subsidized magazine in 1994 when it was still titled Voice of Montreal. In 1996, the publication changed its name to Vice and has since evolved from a subculture indie magazine stocking the shelves of American Apparel to a $400 million dollar media conglomerate. Not bad for a ‘zine.

Between its Youtube popularity, digital news site, HBO-produced series, and Viceland, its newly announced network channel, Vice has been a craftsman of new opportunities for audiences to engage with hard-pressing issues. Viceland will be launched in February 2016 as a partnership with their $250 million dollar investor, A+E Network. A huge part of its notable success has been the freedom with which Vice reports on stories that are ignored by other media outlets. Essentially, its willingness to take risks like pushing back on a government illegally detaining one of their journalists, or creating shows about weed culture, the culinary adventures of a rapper from NYC, and the (often dangerous, often painful) day to day life reality for members of LGBTQ communities in different countries has paid off in dividends as people continue to tune in.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Vice’s story-telling and brand evolves with this significant new foothold in the market. Their sneak peek for the network in the video below is worth-watching and made me in awe of the complex, often unseen reality for people living all around us. Humanity is pretty incredible. And Vice knows it, too.

Drones and Drinking – Do Not Mix

Over the weekend, I attended the Maker Faire in Queens with a free ticket given to me by one of my more industrial pals.

I didn’t know what to expect.

My interest in emerging technology and innovation is pretty casual. I’ll adopt it once it’s mainstream but to give you an example of my limitations with the subject – I *just* started using Siri and she’s more reminiscent of a manager I used to have that resented my requests for support than my personal assistant, so I avoid speaking with her…… I’ll most likely discuss this with a counselor someday.

ANYWAY – the Maker Faire (does anyone else feel like it should be called the Maker’s Faire? Possessive form? No? OK – I digress) was a number of different things.

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It was an exposition showcasing new advances in technology, innovation, and design that attracted walks from all backgrounds and professions – Even a few Burners. It was an opportunity to wait 45 minutes in line for some excellent pupusas that I would’ve gotten a lot sooner if the booth’s staff had a coordinator. And it was an experiment in how far into Queens the 7 train actually goes.

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There were drone races, 3-D printing machines, micro-chip jewelry pieces for sale and miniature rover vehicles entertaining hoards of children with chases throughout the grounds. I felt like I was experiencing life as it had been imagined by George Lucas, especially given R2-D2’s spontaneous appearance.

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All in all, the Maker Faire is exactly the sort of event I’d like to expose my future hypothetical children to so they don’t end up experts in pop-culture like me. A+ parenting skills were evidenced in every parent that took a field-trip to the ends of Queens in hopes to expand their little ones’ knowledge and curiosity towards the world.

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I enjoyed the event but there were so many kid-oriented activities, I couldn’t help but feel that I would have appreciated it more as a mom. Whether I wanted to check out a merchant’s booth or not was irrelevant, I felt funny about standing over crowd of children – none of which belonged to me, so my friend and I just putz’d around. Someone gave me a free frisbee.

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I learned that they’re making a FitBit for your dog’s tail in case you’ve run out of ideas for what to spend your money on. Clearly, technology and I are pretty impartial towards one another but if they invented a robot that could do your laundry and fold it too, I could change my disposition.

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After the fair, I returned to my minimally-responsible Millennial life by heading over to the adult playground known as Williamsburg. A few friends and I reunited at Berry Park and later paid a $20 cover to hang out on Output’s rooftop because that’s a thing I do now.

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My lovely friend Jenna (who’s visiting from Florida) and I ended the evening dancing to a great mix of old school and current hip-hop at Kinfolk with some really interesting characters.

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The clientele there included a pair of really lithe, handsy female models that seemed to be in an open relationship with the equally handsome fellow accompanying them, a guy that kept pretending he was the star of his own hip-hop video on the dance floor and didn’t know how to respect a woman’s boundary for space, as well as a really fun gay couple that endeared everybody with their superior dancing skills.

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We ended the night with a cab ride home through the historically Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods which were also turning up on Saturday in full religious garb and all. It was quite a time.

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I think I’ll stay kid-free a little longer.

Hack your oculus with a glimpse of the future


Have you guys seen this video?

A team of student programmers (with endearingly adolescent voices, I may add) created a project called Brand Killer, “a technology demonstration that envisions a future in which consumers can use augmented reality to opt out corporate influence.”

The concept of this technology is radical to imagine considering the amount of ads we are bombarded with when we try to read the news, commute, or visit our doctor’s office. Both our culture and economy are built on the back of corporate influence and if you believe that’s an overstatement, consider the millions of dollars worth of advertisement slots that are purchased during Super Bowl weekend alone. Now imagine that you could purchase a cereal, or drink, or car without seeing the brand associated with it.

Would you opt out?

If this technology were to expand and allow you to “hack your oculus”, what would you delete?

Currently Cultured: A Win for The Virgin and The Marginalized | The Golden Globes 2015

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Did you guys watch the Golden Globes on Sunday?

A few friends and I sat around the TV with snacks and wine, cheering on our favorite contenders and wishing Amy and Tina could steal all of the airtime they were so compliantly sharing.

Earlier this year, I dove headfirst into the subject of pop culture, following the Internet’s commentary of it all which made watching the Golden Globes this year infinitely more fun. For better or worse (and it does get worse), pop culture is an integral cog in the engine of our social atmosphere. It’s influences creates narratives for the stories we internalize. I’ve grown more aware at how uniquely important these messages in shaping our experiences and ultimately, what kind of lives we believe are possible for ourselves.

My favorite winner at the Golden Globes this year was 30-year-old Chicagoan, Gina Rodriguez, who recognizes both her responsibility to these messages and the privilege she has in being a part of their craftsmanship. I enjoy the divinely original plot line of the tv show she stars in, CW’s Jane The Virgin, and the relationships that unfold among her Latino TV family are often reminiscent of my own. This familiarity is a unique thing to experience while watching American television.

Rodriguez’s award acceptance speech brought an added level of kinship as she acknowledged a community of Latino actors often stereotyped into maids, lawn care specialists, and trophy wives, as ones who deserve to be cast as the heroes of their own stories.

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In her role as Jane the Virgin, Gina Rodriguez has pioneered the story of a young woman who is thrust into a life-altering situation and consistently succeeds in her own way beyond it. She’s feisty, endearing and above all, vulnerable with the full experience that her character would journey – Making Jane the Virgin not only a delight to watch but also, an intensely personal character. Which one of us hasn’t had a dream diverged in our twenties? Maybe not due to being accidentally artificially inseminated (….) but a dissatisfying job, or health concern, or cross-country move. Jane the Virgin suggests that one can navigate life’s uncertainties with honesty and a steadfast commitment to one’s own dreams, even if those dreams change along the way. This is a message worth carrying into homes across the country and a character worth watching which leads me to the point that, whether they are familiar to my own experience or not, trailblazers in television matter.

There is no clearer example of this than in that of Nichelle Nichols’ breakthrough role as Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer on the original 60’s Star Trek television series.

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Nichelle Nichols was one of the first African-American women to be cast in a role beyond the stereotypes available to women of color at the time. She considered leaving Star Trek after one season and changed her mind upon meeting Martin Luther King Jr. who praised her character and urged her not to “abdicate her position.” Nichols remembers King pointing out to her that she was, “changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be.” Rodriguez shared a similar sentiment with Buzzfeed news decades later when she said, “If you start to see yourself in the worlds of television and film and on billboards and in magazines — everything we’re driven by as a culture and a society — you start to think, ‘Why not me?’” And this adage remains true.

Nichols continued her role on Star Trek and in 1968, shared what is remembered in history as the first inter-racial kiss on national television, merely ten years after Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space, praised Nichols as one of her role models and said it was Nichols’ representation of her likeness on on Star Trek that she lead her to believe she too could orbit space someday.

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I would be amiss not to mention Laverne Cox, an American actress and pop culture favorite best known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix original Orange is the New Black, for which she became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category. This milestone occurred merely four months prior to 15-year-old Leelah Alcorn’s suicide – Which Leelah explained in her last blog post that she was driven to by the pain of growing up in a community lacking acceptance towards transgender individuals. Laverne Cox has spoken openly about Leelah’s untimely passing, acknowledging the power that representation has for young adults in relieving the burden of their differences.

It is my hope to live in a world where media reflects the myriad of opportunities available to the diverse. What would we learn about one another in watching the experiences of people different from ourselves play out on screens in front of us – That they are human? That they are exceptionally talented? That our capacities for loss and for love are not unique to one race, orientation, or gender? The spectrum of representation I am imagining may not happen anytime soon, but if the Golden Globes (which brought attention to the issues explored in Transparent, Selma, and The Normal Heart) is any indicator of trend, I’ll keep watching until it does.