You Want me to Thank Who, Now?

thanksgiving-mealI’m pretty sure at this point in our lives we’ve encountered a news site, blog post, or chatty person telling us not to celebrate Thanksgiving, because it perpetuates the myth of friendly colonists that made nice with the indigenous people of North America. We know this isn’t true. Enslavement, rape, disease-ridden blankets, and the robbing of their native language are only among the few of the tortures Native Americans faced upon the arrival of the colonists. Yet America finds it totally o.k. to acknowledge a day for families and friends to come together, to indulge in a feast of food, to close banks, schools, and many businesses for the day, and worst of all, encourage us all to be “thankful” for what we have. Many people choose to blindly consume until lethargy on this day, marking the importance on a feathered bird and disregard how this day even came about.

But to be completely fair, most of these articles/posts/soap box speeches have been from people who are not of Native American descent. I wouldn’t imagine any Native American individual would argue that the seizure of their land was a good thing, but there’s light to shed on the truth to Thanksgiving. Did pilgrim and native sit down after a collaborative harvest season to enjoy their splendor? No, but there is history of civility amongst the two communities (at least at the beginning) where the English relied on the natives for survival, and the natives aided in their survival.

Many Native American communities acknowledge Thanksgiving in a similar manner to the Euro-American holiday, but the idea of thanks is conceptualized differently. There’s a Christian back force behind Thanksgiving, which isn’t present in Indigenous celebration. The latter gives thanks to where we came from and we they are, namely in mother and mother earth.  Rather than celebrating a Thanksgiving, there is a state of thanksgiving in a spiritual sense that does bring together communities and families (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com). However, this is not to say that every person of Native American descent it pro-Thanksgiving. There are many whtumblr_mdwao0B9Hj1qj171uo1_500o refuse to celebrate the day, and instead use the time as a Day of Mourning.

Now I’ll pose a few questions for you. What do you make of the day? Do you have a family get-together that’s unrelated to the American Thanksgiving? Do you refuse to recognize the American holiday and take the side of anti-Thanksgiving? Do you acknowledge the fact that this country was built on the aid and eventual abuse of the Indigenous populations? How do you define the day now? A day of mourning? A day of commemoration? A day of honor? A day of condolence?

With the acknowledgment that this country was built from the spilled blood of the indigenous, we breathe life into their descendants. We give them back a stolen story, and although nothing could ever make right the horrible wrongs that occurred, we can give them the respect they deserve.

It’s Time to Look for a Costume!

Happy October everyone! With its horror movie marathons and creepy decorations, October stands as my favorite month of the year and I always get over excited when it comes (I mean come on, I wrote a zombie blog for crying out loud https://cccspeaks.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/lets-talk-zombies/)!

And I, like most of you, am already planning what costume I’m going to put on to go Halloween parties, trick-or-treating (hey, it’s free candy!), and when I visit the Hollywood Halloween parade. And even though I try to change up my costume idea every year, all the other costumes seem to stay the same.

An overly colorful blanket and sombrero combo with the person holding two bottles of tequila.

A tiny inaccurate Native American dress with an over-the-top feathered head piece.

A loose representation of a kimono with a person wearing white face paint.

Someone wearing robes with a wrapped up towel over his head with fake bombs strapped to his chest.

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Cultures are supposed to be celebrated and marveled, not adorned for cheap giggles. When we put on a costume that mocks a cultural heritage, we rob that culture of its worth, because we are disregarding that there are people identified within the culture and we are now using their identity as a physical mask.

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There are PLENTY of other choices of costumes besides the one in the offensive aisle. If you really can’t think of anything else then I recommend you go Charlie Brown style and wear a bed sheet over your head. Yea, you might get rocks instead of candy, but if I see you out there with an offensive costume I’ll give you a long uncomfortable disappointed look, and that’s much worse.

James Franco, BOOM! Roasted!

A panel of comedians got together to roast James Franco in what was called his punishment for the Oscars. Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogan, Andy Samburg, and Bill Hader were amongst the team of roasters who took jabs at Franco’s career choices. As the night grew on the jokes got a little more edgy and uncomfortable, as comedians began to attack each other’s gender, sexuality, and ethnicity.

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I then had this moment of realization where I saw how prevalent hateful comedy can be. A few weeks ago I went to the Laugh Factory in Hollywood for my first comedy club experience. Aside from a two drink minimum the night was pretty nice… except when comedians started to bash other cultures. With the exposure I have now to cultural sensitivity I felt incredibly uncomfortable sitting in a crowd of people laughing at jokes about a cultural community.

Now I find myself questioning the whole world of comedy. Why is there so much racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia in the stand-up comedy world? Why are people so receptive to these types of jokes? Why is it so enjoyable to laugh at other groups of people?

     Aziz Ansari was the only person of color on James Franco’s Roast  panel, so of course his Indian heritage was brought up for humor multiple times. I’m confused as to why being Indian has so much comedic appeal. James Franco was constantly insinuated to be a gay man, and apparently being gay is incredibly funny for some people.

     What I see is the covert traces of xenophobia people are instilled with. People who appear different or foreign are more likely to be subjected to ridicule and comedic punishment, just because we’ll reject people who aren’t a part of “us.” And of course there are the instances where people make jokes about their own culture, and they use the argument that because they identify as the culture, then they can make fun of it. There’s a documentary titled “Why We Laugh,” which explores the internalized oppression that stem from the historical use of comedy to demean and comically lynch the African-American communities during the minstrel times. You should definitely watch it; it’s here in the Cross Cultural Centers waiting for you.

     Honestly, whenever I watch a comedy show and a person brings up a xenophobic joke, then their entire set is already ruined for me. I find humor in the every-day humor that’s universally known (watch any of Ellen DeGeneres’ stand ups if you want to know what I mean). And being even more brutally honest, I just assume racial, sexist, and homophobic jokes are a marker for a cheap comedian who can’t think of any clever joke. Don’t be that cheap comedian without a clever joke.

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You Are What You Watch

      This summer’s 30th annual OutFest is in the middle of its amazing screening! OutFest is an independent organization that celebrates the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities by showcasing stories that reflect and represent LGBTQ stories on screen. While watching some of the short films created by LGBTQ youth I couldn’t help but wonder why theatres weren’t full of these funny, quirky, provocative stories. I received my answer during a panel of screenwriters discussing sexuality and queer influence in horror pictures. As director of the upcoming Carrie movie remake (which I am SO excited to see!), Kimberly Pierce, put it: movies are created to make money.

     Now I find some sort of explanation for the stream of movies that are coming out that I absolutely loathe. The majority of people will pay to see movies about pretty people with meager romantic problems, cars going really fast with explosions and gunshots, and waking up in Vegas with a hangover. Gone are the days where movies were rich in story and provided provocative critical examination. I find the fact that movies are now created for profit disheartening, because now it seems like movies are here only to satisfy the stupid-humor craze young adults feel and want to pay for.

      ImageSo why not take a break from that movie with all those actors you’ve seen too many times and watch a movie that tells a story about a culture? Independent movies show the stories of cultures that people feel need to be shown. Franchised and box office movies create barriers that ethnic cultures can rarely breach. OutFest removes the heteronormative barriers that have prohibited LGBTQ movies from being seen. These stories of heartache, love, humor, and family within the LGBTQ community are now able to be seen by whoever has the willing mind to watch them. These films are also beacons of hope for youth who don’t see themselves represented in blockbuster films. Take some time out of your schedule and take a look at what OutFest is screening. If you’re still in the mood for some independent cultural films, be sure to keep in contact with the CCC! Independent Visions screens cultural, edgy, riveting films that challenge the viewer to critically examine their social landscape. 

-Cvidale