Culture, Culture, and Culture – Things On My Mind Series, #6

The Brady Bunch contributes to the erasure of women of Color. According to the overwhelming majority of historical evidence, in real life situations, “Alice” (Ann B. Davis) would have been Black or, given its setting in California, Mexican, Chinese, or Japanese. Alice effectively erases important issues of sex, race, and class and the related intersectionalities and positionalities. 

Lately, I have been really interested in the ways in which movies and television shows use mirrors to emphasize when a character isn’t being completely “pure.” I am also more and more interested in how films establish metaphors and symbolism. For example, in a recent film I watched, a siren could be heard every time this certain character, a woman, appeared on screen. (Sadly, I can’t remember which film it was!)

It has been on my mind the degree to which fictional characters have very, very limited existences. For example, take Skeeter in The Help (2011). Skeeter only exists to the degree that the writers and directors specifically create her and that we specifically see her or hear about her. Skeeter does not exist as a baby or as a middle-aged adult. Skeeter’s total existence is limited to far less than two hours. 

An idea inspired by a Facebook post by Professor Michael J. Dumas: Irrational, racist, and persistent comments by Republicans and other hard-core conservatives that said Senator and then President Barack Obama was born outside of the United States ironically helped increase Obama’s popularity by constantly reminding people that his biological family did not experience the horrors of Southern enslavement. A Black man with ancestors who were enslaved would not have won the presidency because people are especially afraid of violent Black men seeking revenge over enslavement.

The Christian theological perspective that once created you live forever–first on Earth and then in Heaven or Hell–is interesting and is fairly new, when looking at history in terms of millions and billions of years. Where is free will if you are forced to live forever?  On this note, the opposition toward abortions many Christians have is less than a half-century old, and is also interesting–and irrational–given that Christian theology says all of the “babies” would go to heaven — if they lived out their life, a good number would go to Hell. It’s yet still more interesting when we acknowledge that roughly 30 percent of all pregnancies end in a natural miscarriage. Interesting too is the evolution of the idea of Hell and how most “theology” about Hell is not at all Biblical but stims from art, philosophy, and literature. Hell–and Heaven–when viewed historically, are places created by humans to scare and control people. 

The movie Forrest Gump (1994) could not possibly be made today. The national consciousness is completely different. The early 90s manifested a rare optimism, one that was never really unjustified.

The UrbanDictionary is a wonderful resource–one that scholars should embrace, especially when it comes to understanding culture and identity AND knowledge that is unstable. For example, this past semester one of my students emailed asking about the difference between “pansexual” and “bisexual.” This student explained that they wanted to use more credible sources than those easily available online. I explained that for new and contested terms like this that online sources are some of the best places to look! I also explained that words take time to develop meanings.

Why are some academic, nonfiction articles or monographs impossible to understand and remember? The writer: does not actual understand the ideas they are writing about, does not want others to question their ideas, does not want their ideas accessible to non-specialists or  the general public, does not know how to write, did not consult various people for “additional sets of eyes,” and/or did not do true, serious global editing.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda