In a complex and dangerous world, the allure of the simple is addictive. But the habits of typecasting can offer us little wisdom. We must educate ourselves to understand these habits, and to demand public discussion that is based on knowledge, understanding, and a belief in the possibility of egalitarian community. Without this, democracy cannot exist.
Join Typecasting authors, Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen, in an ongoing discussion of the influence of stereotypes, past and present, and strategies for combating divisive ways of seeing.
The Lafayette Bakery in Greenwich Village, New York, has a new item on sale, called the "Drunken Negro" cookie, which the baker appears to have dedicated to the newly inaugurated President of the United States, Barack Obama.
As reported on by Rod McCullom in The Daily Voice, "The bakery owner, Ted Kefalinos, claims it's 'just a fun face.' But
news reports say he's used the 'N word' with customers when hawking the
cookies and made vague, ominous hints of assassination 'They're in honor of our new president,' the baker reportedly told
several patrons. 'He's following in the same path of Abraham Lincoln.
He will get what's coming to him.'" This comestible threat may be novel in form but its hateful genealogy is bloody and unmistakable.
Meanwhile, this bizarre response to the Obama presidency may call for an addendum to Newton's Third Law of Motion: To every action there is an edible and opposite reaction.
The polls have just opened and no results are in. Given the luxury of not knowing for sure, S&S proposes that we may be talking about the "Obama Effect" for years to come.
This would be a break from the so-called "Bradley Effect," a concept dating back to Tom Bradley's bid for California governor in 1982. At that time white voters told pollsters that they were voting for Bradley, an African-American, and privately voted for his white opponent. Sometimes called the "social desirability bias" it hearkens to a time when the notion of what was socially desirable was inextricably linked to entrenched racial divisions.
This year another trend may play out.
Stereotypical Big Lug: A Right-Wing Staple
We propose that in many areas of the country where voting for a black candidate might not be acceptable if vocalized to some voters' peers, a number of them may outwardly claim to be supporting McCain, or to be undecided, but in the privacy of the voting booth they will vote for the candidate who they see as having their social and economic best interests in mind: Barack Obama.
If this plays out, public race politics will have given way to the unspoken assumption that race doesn't outweigh more tangible issues of interest. Today's definition of what is socially desirable may be linked to the economic chasm that has opened up between the very rich and everyone else.
Democracy rests on social and economic justice, and the urgency of this issue in the current milieu may have beneficialy altered the shape of the mental universe in a society too long divided, and manipulated by, the smokescreen of racial and ethnic identity.
Oliver Stone's seemingly endless waste of time focuses in on a grim and still-present period—one that has seen a disastrous seizure of government, and a systematic destruction of civil liberties—and transforms it into an aimless and tedious melodrama. From beginning to end, it runs on empty.
There are no ordinary people here. Not even "Joe the Plumber," who might have made a telling cameo appearance as the stereotypical stooge who confuses his own self-interest with the interests of a power elite that could care less about him.
There are no sentient victims, only mutilated props.
There is no recognition of the growing legion of human casualties, at home and abroad, that has piled up in the wake of 9/11, at least "9/11" as packaged and promoted for public consumption.
The primary "collateral damage" in this movie takes place in the theater, among members of an audience being battered into a state historical amnesia about the moment they are living through. From a director who has made heightened public awareness his purported stock-in-trade, this is unacceptable.
Most people who have remained conscious over the past eight years, who have followed the wholesale disfigurement of a nation—its people, its economy, its global reputation, and its murderous foreign policy—by a cabal of anti-democratic thugs, know far more about Bush and his presidency than this insipid psychodrama comes even close to offering. There are no instructive insights here. Nada!
"W" doesn't deserve too many words, so I won't mince them. It is a near-total trivialization of stuff that is too important, too dangerous, to reduce to a personalistic Oedipal drama which falls flat from beginning to end. Given the ruinous scale of things wrought on his watch, who cares if W has a "dad" problem. Many sons (and daughters) do, and suffer, with a far less calamitous effect.
The United States, and a world that has suffered dearly under the Bush regime, is invisible in "W." The people and corporations that, behind-the-scenes, have profited from Bushism (and Reaganism, first Bushism and Clintonism for that matter), are nowhere to be seen. In this flick, the unseen engineers, the corporate interests and ideologues who engineered the takeover—beginning with the "Reagan Revolution"—are out of the picture. This is a clock without a mechanism: a sequence of scenes lined up, signifying nothing.
The stakes are too high, and Oliver Stone has done nothing to contribute to an informed political dialog that is so essential at our pressing historical moment.
It's not pro-Bush. But in its shortfall of substance, it's vapid cluelessness about the world at large, it participates in a creepiness that has overtaken the mental environment.
Don't bother. You must have something better to do with your time. I did. I missed the third game of the series.
The current New York Observer offers a vivid and telling example of the ways that a repertory of familiar impressions, drawn from popular culture, can be employed to summarize—in an instant—the temperamental contours of a presidential election: excitable Kirk vs. cerebral Spock.
While the cartoon resonates in many ways, it also reinforces an 'us' and 'them (the curmudgeonly uncle vs. the chilly, and distant alien) vision of candidates. Given conventional stereotypes of "the other" as driven by unrestrained passions (see image, below, from 1980s Animale perfume advertisement) which must be restrained and confined, is this a sign of progress?