Exclusionary TV: Whites Only Television? MADMEN, PAN-AM and REVENGE

Provocative title huh?

Well, it’s not quite as provocative as it seems. The premise of this article isn’t that shows such as MADMEN, PAN-AM, and REVENGE are in and of themselves bad or bigoted shows.

They may in and of themselves be good shows. But shows, dramas or scifi or action, that are predominantly White, when not off-set by any shows that are predominantly Black or colored, true to the definition of predominant… create an environment, a medium, that is about the ascendancy, importance, influence, authority of force of one group.

In such an environment it is impossible for me to buy into, relate, follow, view, or otherwise enjoy such shows. Now in an environment where a show such as PAN-AM is counter-pointed with a show on The forming of AIR JAMAICA or the Black Stuntmen’s Union or the Black Coyboys’ Union or any adventure or thrilling show with a predominant cast of color; then PAN-AM rather than being indicative of a color and ethnic bias in every show in tv, can be seen as one voice in a chorus, rather than the same voice, everywhere.

So that’s the problem I have with shows such as MADMEN and REVENGE they paint everything with the same trite and pale brush (take the series REVENGE, based on a book by the son of one of the most famous Black men, and the cast is all white. Explain that to me? Along with that it always rings false that we have yet to see a THREE MUSKETEERS that represents the ethnicity of the author Alexandre Dumas, or the ethnicity of the inspiration for all Dumas’ heroes, namely his father, France’s most famous and most feared soldier, the elder Alexandre Dumas, (inexplicably called Thomas-Alexandre in recent writings), the Black giant, the warrior Moor, Napolean’s most feared and brilliant General. The COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO is directly inspired by how his father was betrayed by Napolean, imprisoned, and killed. And rather than anyone ever tell that story, it becomes in REVENGE about a blond woman, mad about something. Forgive me if I have no interest in that retelling.)

So, What’s the solution?

We’ll get to it. First indulge me, with a brief trip to yesteryear.

In the late 50s, into the 60s and 70s television and cinema in the US, and indeed throughout the Western World, made great strides in becoming more representative of the class struggle going on throughout the world.

That’s a fact, it just is. So let’s begin there.

As countries from Congo to Cuba to Korea to the West Indies to Brazil all were dealing, at various stages, with the shattering of traditional Colonial ties. With populations of repressed people, embracing the concept, both with artistry and arms, of “not eating at another man’s table” but creating their own table.

It was a staggering period not just of revolution, but potentially evolution… for the world and the west.

Rather than mass media that explored and showcased only the fantasies and the fears of the white and the male you began getting shows that took place in a world reflective of the movements changing the landscape of our cultures and our time. Civil disobedience, and sit-ins, and Black power, and Native American rights, transcendentalism and free love, sexual and religious experimentation, and of course war and the search for peace and self identification.

And all these growing pains, all of this stew of change, could be seen in the entertainment of the age.

DANGER MAN, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, PROFESSIONALS, GOOD TIMES, SANFORD AND SON, the rise of Soul Cinema, and the rise of Hong Kong Cinema, and Neo-Realism in Italy, and the New Wave in France, and the didactic films out of Russia, and Brazil, and Cuba, and Senegal, all of this making its way to newly born film studies programs in the states that gave birth to a whole generation of entertainment makers excited and influenced and inspired by this time of change and challenge.

So suddenly you had Patrick McGoohan in the DANGER MAN TV show 50 years ago globe-trotting and going to different countries and different people, and exploring issues of colonialism, and civil war, and terrorism, and governmental oppression, and doing this with a changing ethnically diverse cast. Dealing with issues of Middle East tensions and modern slavery. And this kind of informed and humanistic film-making came from the creators down. And all the shows of that period, while not DANGER MAN ground breaking, to greater or lesser degrees were that informed and representative of a culturally diverse and changing world.

Move the clock forward 50 years, and suddenly you have no community owned or locally owned cinema, much less production companies. That’s not an accident, that’s a very pointed, and very considered monopolization and marginalization.

You have the end of virtually any locally or regionally owned newspaper, radio, or television station. So you get the end of people and community created movements, and art and music, and you get instead corporate construction of reality and ‘art’ in things like AMERICAN IDOL and its ilk.

You have cinema and television that is in retreat from ideas… like diversity and the rights of man, and instead seeks a return to the exclusionary, blinders on, cinema of the 50s. Not just in terms of content and cast in front of the camera, but talent and crew behind the camera.

As, in reality, the mad military war machine of billionaires undoes the local determinism of countries like Haiti and Liberia and Libya, so too is our entertainment,no less the tool of billionaires, undoing the strides made toward multiculturalism. A return to “Whites only” television from MADMEN to PAN-AM to REVENGE.

And those shows while they hold no interest for me, would be fine if they were counterpointed by an equal number of US made shows with a majority of Black or Brown or Asian or a combination thereof, of actors in front the camera, and talent behind the camera.

And the talent is there, as screenwriters such as John Ridley discuss in numerous interviews. Even more talent than was available in the 60s and 70s is available now, the difference is, the cinemas are bought up, the advertising is cost prohibitive, and quite frankly the doors are closed.

In the 60s and 70s, Hollywood saw the need for an influx of diversity to save them from the rise of Independent Cinema (an outgrowth of viable and healthy local cinemas, local determinism), and there were a good number of people in the studios who were happy and excited for that diversity. They were part of the changing times, and part of changing it.

Today Independent Cinema has no way into the theaters, because the locally owned theater circuit, and indeed the community controlled mass-media circuit that served America, particularly Black America from the 20s to the 70s, has been bought out, legalized away, and generally dismantled.

For what was gained, more was lost in the compromise of integration.

The problem with the doctrine of separate and equal, was the fact that is was NEVER separate and equal, it was always separate and UNEQUAL. The Black Power movement and Black Panther movement was about making it SEPARATE AND EQUAL. Was to make the lie into the truth. And that is the reason we have integration today. Because the idea of separate and equal, scared the powers to be to their very soul.

They saw in the more moderate integration model of Martin Luther and his ilk, a compromise that could become a massive victory. They retreated from Separate and (Un)equal and embraced Integration of a sort, “you can now use our Bathrooms, you can now to an extent come into our house, but… you have to lose your house. You have to lose your radio stations, your movie theaters, your stores, your farms, your wallstreets, your sports teams, your attempt at self determination”.

Of course it wasn’t presented like that, but a few decades later that’s absolutely what has happened. The thriving economic base of Black America that thrived even under the odiousness of Separate but unequal, wherein they could still provide for themselves and be self sufficient, has been completely gutted under the together but even more UNEQUAL system of integration. And that robbing of local determinism has extended to all America. Has shown itself to be the most significant volley in a class-war that has America trillions of dollars in debt, and slaved, to corporations gross and immoral.

And television and cinema is the clearest example of this wholesale pillaging of a peoples economic potential.

So that’s what I see when I see shows like MADMAN or PANAM or REVENGE or SMALLVILLE (past season 4) I see prejudice and bigotry and class warfare… codified.

So you have a television and a cinema environment that has turned back the clock, and is again solely about showcasing the fantasies and the fears of the white and the rich, to the exclusion of all else.

It bores me to go backwards. To learn from the past is a great thing, to repeat the past is not. And we have a whole generation of studio execs and heads, who think they are doing something new by embracing the old, and all they are doing… is wasting time.

In a multi-cultural society, an increasingly multi-cultural society, these dreams of exclusion cannot stand, they will become unsatisfying, they always do. And in the end we will have to waste years just getting back to the same point of diversity as the 1970s. Getting back to the starting point from which we should be… evolving.

So let’s cut out some of the time wasting. Contact these studios signing off on this exclusionary television, the creators and producers, twitter them, facebook em, call’em, even write em, let them know the show doesn’t represent you, and to create a show that does. And let the advertisers know, say “this show boycotts me and mine. Since you are asking me to support your product, I want you to produce a show that supports me.”

It’s economics people. For all their crushing of competition, ultimately the decision makers and gate-keepers still need to create a product you want to buy. Let them know they are failing at that mandate.

Let them know you want to see more shows, that are both smart and diverse.

Day Break – The Complete Series- Do not buy the 2disk version, get the 4 disk version

55 Degrees North – Series One & Two – 5-DVD Box Set ( Fifty Five Degrees North ) ( 55 Degrees North – Entire Series 1 & 2 ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2.4 Import - United Kingdom ]

Kidnapped – The Complete Series

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (Slimline Packaging)

The Philanthropist: The Complete Series

Kings – The Complete Series

Blood & Bone

I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition

Let them know you want to see more DAY BREAK with Taye Diggs and Moon Bloodgood, more 55 DEGREES NORTH with Don Gilet, more KINGS with Eamonn Walker more BLOOD AND BONE with Michael Jai White, more James Purefoy and Jesse L. Martin in THE PHILANTHROPIST (the spiritual descendant of McGoohan’s DANGER MAN); more shows that look forward to solutions, rather than backward to evasions.

Challenge the creators, challenge the studios, challenge the advertisers, challenge the performers, and challenge yourself to go not marching backward, but to go forward… into the mystery. And ultimately we will as cities and a nation, have to eschew outside control, and embrace again local production of items and local determinism.

And it starts as simply as recognizing and calling out the prejudiced the exclusionary and the destructive when we see it.

Here endeth the lesson.

BEST AND WORST DVDs OF 2011!

‘Nasty things [Orchids]! Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.’
— 1946′s THE BIG SLEEP

“When one tries to rise above Nature one’s liable to fall below it.”
— Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in Robin Chapman’s THE CREEPING MAN

Like most people I like lists. As a writer, perhaps more than most.

Hence with everyone tossing out their best of 2011 lists I thought I would compile my own rather eclectic list. But this being a best and worst list, if you will. The main thing to note about my favorite and least favorite things of 2011, are that they are largely things made in previous years and I discovered in 2011. But that said there are some actual 2011 produced items.

Okay, onto the list:

My Best and Worst DVDs of 2011 (Best meaning I enjoy it and I’m glad I bought it, and worst meaning I disliked it, and it was a waste of money):

BEST
Day Break: The Complete Series – Taye Diggs – Dvd Set- One of the first DVD sets I purchased in 2011, and a year later still one of the best shows I saw all year. Not just one of my top ten of 2011, but one of my top ten of all time. I love this show. Have bought it as presents, and everyone I buy it for loves it. Just one of the best shows I’ve seen in years! Essential DVD. There are two versions however, make sure you get the 4 DVD BCI set, and not the poorly compressed 2 DVD set being put out by moneygrubbing scumbags like Navarre and MillCreek, it’s a crime how awful their version looks. Unfortunately the 4 DVD set appears to be super hard to find since BCI went out of business. Versions of it are not even on Amazon. This is a gorgeous looking series and deserves to be on Bluray.

The Hire BMW Films Clive Owen – BMWFilms.com Presents The Hire

Doctor Who – The Complete Third Series- This was the series at its best. The current, Matt Smith, Doctor is okay, but his companions of Amy and Rory are unwatchable. Just nail on chalkboard annoying. Very bad writing throughout, so re-watching the third season keeps me happy until Dr. Who gets good again. – Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series

Detective Story (DVD)
Takashi Miike, Media Blasters -Detective Story

The Prowler (DVD)
Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell, Katherine Warren, Emerson Treacy, Joseph Losey, VCI ENTERTAINMENT -The Prowler

WORST

Chaos Starring Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Ryan Phillippe, et al. (2008)

BEST
Let Me In (DVD)
Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Kodi-Smit McPhee, Matt Reeves, TCFHE/ANCHOR BAY/STARZ

Black Dynamite (DVD)
Michael Jai White, Scott Sanders – Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]

The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin (DVD)
The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin

WORST

Footprints on the Moon ( Le orme ) ( Primal Impulse ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - United Kingdom ] (DVD)
Florinda Bolkan, Klaus Kinski, Ida Galli,

Stagefright (DVD)
David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Martin Philips, Michele Soavi

BEST

Undisputed II – Last Man Standing (DVD)
Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins (II), Ben Cross – Undisputed II – Last Man Standing

Rififi – Criterion Collection (DVD) – Rififi (The Criterion Collection)

Darkness (Unrated Version) (DVD)
Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen- The ending is a mess, but there’s enough good in this film, that’s it’s a keeper and I see myself rewatching

The Girl By the Lake (Sub) (DVD)
Toni Servillo, Valeria Golino,

The Russian Specialist (DVD)
Dolph Lundgren – The Russian Specialist

Sauna (DVD)
Ville Virtanen, Tommi Eronen – Sauna

WORST

The Killing Machine (DVD)
Dolph Lundgren

The Tournament (DVD)
Robert Carlyle, Kelly Hu

BEST

Delirium (DVD)
Mickey Hargitay, Rita Calderoni- US language version is surprisingly far superior to the Italian version, and the US dub, better acted, and just a longer, better cut of the film. – Delirium

WORST

From Within (DVD)
Steven Culp, Adam Goldberg

Fangoria Frightfest Presents – Fragile (DVD)
Calista Flockhart, Elena Anaya

Belly of the Beast (DVD)
Steven Seagal, Byron Mann, Monica Lo

BEST

Splinter (DVD)
Paulo Costanzo, Shea Whigham – Splinter

Boss (DVD)
Fred Williamson, D’Urville Martin – Boss

Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye (DVD)
Jane Birkin, Boschetti, Bruno – Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye

British Horror Quadruple Feature (Frightmare / House of Whipcord / The Flesh & Blood Show / Die Screaming Marianne) (DVD)
Penny Irving, Pete Walker – British Horror Quadruple Feature (Frightmare / House of Whipcord / The Flesh & Blood Show / Die Screaming Marianne)

WORST

The Nameless (DVD)
Emma Vilarasau, Karra Elejalde, Tristán Ulloa, Toni Sevilla, Brendan Price, Jordi Dauder, Núria Cano, Isabel Ampudia, Carles Punyet, Aleix Puiggalí, Susana García Díez, Pep Tosar, Xavi Giménez, Jaume BalaguerÃ-
A great begining, stylish film, but like most Balaguera films falls apart at the end, becoming just inane

BEST

Watchmen (Director’s Cut + BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (DVD)
Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Malin Akerma- Don’t be fooled by the 9 million other versions, this is the version to have. And one of the few Blurays I think enough of to own. –

Tombstone – The Director’s Cut (Vista Series) (DVD)
Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer- This is the version to have, with excellent commentary – Watchmen (Director’s Cut + BD-Live) [Blu-ray]

Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition) (DVD)
William Petersen, Kim Greist- This is the version to have with excellent commentary – Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition)

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (SLIMLINE) (DVD)
Patrick McGoohan- One of my top ten DVDs of the year – Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (Slimline Packaging)

Johnny Staccato starring John Cassavetes – 3 DVD Box Set! (DVD)
John Cassavetes – Johnny Staccato starring John Cassavetes – 3 DVD Box Set!

Farscape: The Complete Series (DVD)
Ben Browder, Claudia Black- One of my top ten DVDs of the year, The Bluray is not worth paying more for. Video Improvement by all reports is negligible.- Farscape: The Complete Series

Brotherhood of the Wolf (3 Disc Collectors Edition) (DVD)
Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel- This is the version to get! – Brotherhood of the Wolf (3 Disc Collectors Edition)

Robin of Sherwood: Set Two (DVD)
Jason Connery

Kings – The Complete Series (DVD)
Ian McShane, Christopher Egan – Kings – The Complete Series

WORST

Justified: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Timothy Olyphant- Talk about overrated. Was bored by the whole season

Alexander the Great (DVD)
Richard Burton, Fredric March- Not a bad film, but ultimately pretty forgettable

BEST

The Philanthropist: The Complete Series (DVD)
James Purefoy- Lasted only seven episodes it’s one of my favorite television shows. Just brilliant – The Philanthropist: The Complete Series

The Well (DVD)
Richard Rober, Gwendolyn Laster

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (DVD)
Belafonte, Inger Stevens – The World, the Flesh and the Devil

Dead Man’s Shoes (DVD)
Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch

WORST

The Dark Hours (DVD)
Kate Greenhouse, Aidan Devine

BEST

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue) (DVD)
Sam Peckinpah- One of my best deals of 2011. 4 Peckinpah movies, full versions with commentaries for under $15! – Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

WORST

Isolation (DVD)
Essie Davis, Sean Harris, Marcel Iures, Crispin Letts- This started out great but lost its way

Community: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Joel McHale, Chevy Chase- Had 2 great episodes, the others just annoyed me

Dexter: The First Season (DVD)
Michael C. Hall, Erik King- CSI meets Hannibal Leckter. Just find the main character/premise not something I want to root for support, plus find the supporting characters annoying as hell

BEST-

Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season (DVD)
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul- Rarely does a show live up to its hype. Wow, was that good – Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season

Kidnapped – The Complete Series (DVD)
Jeremy Sisto, Timothy Hutton- Another brilliant show, unfairly cut short. Just when you think its losing its way in the middle, wraps up with a powerhouse couple of episodes. Plus it stars Delroy Lindo. The only reason I picked it up actually, and he’s great. Wish the DVD had commentaries, but that aside is just a must watch and must own series – Kidnapped – The Complete Series

Well that’s it for my best and worst DVDs of 2011. If intrigued by any of my recommendations please use the links as purchases through them help to fund and keep this blog going. Thanks and enjoy!