What a year!
Perhaps my favorite entertainment event was watching President-elect Obama, Michelle Obama, and their two young girls accept the mantle as
Aside from the reality TV of the presidential campaign, a hard act to follow, I enjoyed Dark Knight for its grand visions and virtuoso acting and for its small moments too. My favorite example of a minor character triumph in the film is: Chaos Junkie/Terrorist Joker rigs two boats to explode at midnight (or some nefarious deadline). However, he gives folks on each boat a detonator and says if they blow the other boat up first, they can save themselves. Not surprisingly, people start thinking about pressing the button, wiping out the other boat, and saving themselves. One boat has convict passengers. A large black man in bright orange evil, an obvious gangsta who has previously played in high-action violent sprees, offers to do what a white guard can’t. White guy gapes at him, so relieved that this evil Brother will do the nasty, namely blow another boatload of humans away to save himself, his boat. Guard is relieved that he doesn’t have to sacrifice his humanity to save his skin. Let a thug do that! He hands the detonator over. Gangsta black man tosses the wicked device into the water and goes off to meditate/pray, saying, “this is what you should have done a long time ago.” He refuses the Joker’s premise, refuses to play in the Joker’s terror narrative. Gangsta feels connected to the other boat suffering across the water and knows that sacrificing them won’t save him. Indeed he celebrates their shared humanity in the face of brutal terror.
Dark Knight is full of such intriguing moments and along with Wall-E and Iron Man keeps you thinking and entertained simultaneously.
Twilight wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I almost didn’t go see it, but I reasoned that if I can stand adolescent male fantasy, I should certainly be able to sit through adolescent female fantasy. Twilight had enough teenage angst to keep me engaged. Kudos to Catherine Hardwicke, a blockbuster director now. Twilight, the film, and the Stephanie Meyer series of novels that it is based on called to the academic in me. I want to look at Bella and Buffy and Vampire lust/love. Meyer’s books are now on my to-read list.
Twilight is supposedly what teenage girls want—look how popular it is! Popular forms tell us a lot about our collective desires and fears. I study Blackface Minstrelsy which was wildly popular for almost a hundred years and still has profound influence on musical and storytelling forms today. (See among many, Secret Life of Bees and
Nicole Kidman’s character in
Two wonderful documentaries that I saw this year from the Media Education Foundation which explore the commodification of youthful desire in popular culture are: Sut Jhally’s Dream Worlds 3--Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video and Byron Hurt’s Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes, an examination of manhood, sexism, and homophobia in hip-hop culture.
Young Adult Fiction dazzled me this year. My favorites are: Gifts, Voices, and Powers by Ursula LeGuin, Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. These books offer delicious writing and challenging stories—great reads! LeGuin, Okorafor-Mbachu, and Doctorow do not flinch from the horror and beauty of the societies we have created. The authors all focus on the powers we wield as agents of change even in deeply oppressive circumstances. They are bold, audacious books, offering a marvelous view of young people engaged in the glorious and difficult adventure of reinventing the world.
A playwright and professor of theatre at Smith College, Andrea has written, directed, and performed in many plays. She is also a novelist. In 2005 Aqueduct published her novel Mindscape, which was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and named to the James Tiptree Award Honor List.