05th Aug2006

Affirmative Action Gets Supernatural: The Winston Zeddemore Story

by Will

“It’s either French, or you’re speaking with clicks!”

Winston-Zeddemore_opt

So, I’m gonna go for the double-whammy this time. For me and my constituents, I present the pop culture post. For any stragglers from the Reappropriate set, I give you the racism post. All wrapped in one. The topic of today’s post? Winston Zeddemore.

Yes, Winston Zeddemore, played by Ernie Hudson (voiced by Arsenio Hall, natch!), is also known as “The Black Ghostbuster”. But to look at most of the promotional pics of the Ghostbusters movie franchise, Mr. Zeddemore is given the short shrift. Now, growing up, I was much more well-versed in the animated Ghostbusters universe than the movies. Sure, I’d seen the movies, especially Ghostbusters 2, since Channel 5 showed that piece of shit every 6 weeks. In any regard, I lived for the cartoon. There was more attention given to Slimer, Egon was an alibino, and they even explained why/how Jeanine had changed over the years (best.episode.ever).What’s not to love? But as I got older, it became harder to watch the cartoons. Even learning that they were written by J. Michael Strazcynski, of Babylon 5 fame, was not enough to keep my attention. Plainly put, I had outgrown The Real Ghostbusters.

Not willing to give up on my past so quickly, I turned to the motion picture Ghostbusters universe. A darker place, where Slimer only had cameos, The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man was NOT an adorable mascot, and the black guy was just background scenery.

Now, let’s get something straight. I didn’t grow up wanting to be Winston. Nope, I wanted to be Egon, and if not him, then Peter. But I was glad that there was a Black guy. Sure, he didn’t do much, but he was there. Kinda how Indian kids must’ve felt about Haji in the Johnny Quest cartoons. His presence was enough for me. At least, in the cartoon. But the movies were a different story. As far as the movies, he was simply a precursor for Morgan Freeman. All the fool did was drive the damn car! As I’ve aged, it’s become clear that Winston Zeddemore was nothing but an affirmative-action hire.

I doubt you’d find anybody who, following a Ghostbusters viewing, would proclaim Winston as a hero to them. Nope. Nobody. Not even that crackhead on the corner. In fact, here’s a crackhead’s interpretation of Ghostbuster cool factor: “Muthafucka wit da glasses? Dat fucka was smart, son! Bitch who looked like dat dude from Groundhog Day? That playa was hilarious, son!”

I’ll bet it even extends to the supporting characters: “That bitch from Aliens? I’d hit dat. The bitch who answered the phones? I’d hit dat twice. Even that muthfucka from Honey I Shrunk The Kids was dope, yo.” (PLEASE, somebody find me a crackhead who references Honey, I Shrunk The Kids!)But ask the crackhead about Winston. “The brotha? Man, all that nigga did was drive the muthfuckin’ car.”

Face it, in the movie universe, there is no important role for Winston. I was reading the wiki entry for the movie, and they claim that Winston was supposed to be hired earlier in the film, but they waited until later because they wanted to show that the 3 guys had really fallen off their game and needed the extra help. “Extra help”?! All he did was DRIVE THE CAR. And it wasn’t even a cool car, like K.I.T.T. Don’t get me wrong, I’d go for a ride in the Ecto-1 in a heartbeat, but the thing was a repainted hearse with a siren on top. Not an ambulance, like some people believe, but a hearse. That’s some morbid shit. It gets worse and worse for poor Winston. The man is a glorified funeral director, driving around a bunch of crazy White guys who “bust” ghosts.

I think that was the most interesting aspect of Movie Winston: He didn’t even really believe in ghosts. He just needed a quick buck. The dude had been an NYC firefighter, and if ya ask me, he left that line of work not a minute too soon (OK, so it was 15 years sooner than he had to, but you get the point…). But he was of the mind of, “You crazy White dudes are gonna pay me to put on this jumpsuit as we ‘bust ghosts’?” He figured he needed to get while the gettin’ was good. Which, I guess, is still bad because it paints him as some layabout who’s out for an easy dollar. I don’t think he even realized he was strapping a nuclear reactor to his back.

But even outside of the storyline, my disdain extends to the real world aspects of the movie. Ernie Hudson gets next to no billing for that film. It’s Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and in some cases even Annie Potts and Rick Moranis. “Ernie Hudson” is only listed when EVERYBODY is listed. He’s like right above the Gaffer. And I can’t look at him, to this day, without thinking, “Man, those dudes didn’t treat you right.” I mean, I guess he knew what he signed up for, and I’m glad he never had any of those popular delusions of “I’m opening new doors for the depiction of Blacks in film.” Hell, if he’d just been “Angry Black Guy”, a cliche we all know and love (Hi, Sam Jackson), he would’ve made more of an impact than “The black dude who drives the Ghostbusters around.”

The original script was written with Eddie Murphy in mind, but prior commitments prevented that. Now, I wonder if they would’ve shoved Eddie in the same role, or if he would’ve been “Wise-cracking, jive-talking, streetwise Black guy? Maybe he’d put a banana in an exhaust pipe, and then run off to China as they clean his royal penis. I wonder if Ernie Hudson wakes up nights, terrified by how badly he failed to fill the shoes of Eddie Murphy. It makes one wonder “what might have been”. Almost as much as the fact that “Beverly Hills Cop” was written for Sylvester Stallone, but that’s a story for another time…

12th Jun2006

Happy Loving Day, Race Traitors!

by Will

“…a job a million girls would die for.”

Happy Loving Day!

For the uninitiated, June 12th is Loving Day, which commemorates the 1967 Supreme Court case of Loving vs. Virginia, which legalized interracial relationships. For those of you who know me, this is the law that has kept me out of jail MANY times!

Now, you may laugh, but to most Black athletes, this day holds more importance than MLK’s birthday and 4th of July put together. Just ask Kobie. Or OJ. Hmm..I’d better come up with some better examples next year.

Anyway, go out and celebrate your right to intermingle. Christy, kiss a black guy! Becca, eat a black and white cookie! Devante, watch Soul Train just for that Asian chick! Rejoice, for this is your day!

11th Jun2006

Say Hello To My Little Friend!

by Will

“A computer actually does real work. ‘Nigger technology’ lets dumb niggers talk to other dumb niggers about dumb nigger shit. Nothing important was ever typed with thumbs.”

As many rappers will attest, I’ve discovered that the only way to properly watch “Scarface” is while holding a gun.

A few weeks ago, I sat watching the movie, thinking to myself, “Something is missing in this equation.” I looked over and saw my Nerf N-strike pistol, complete with adjustable laser sight.

Well, I quickly palmed my firearm, and began to twirl it for the remainder of the film. And I must say that, for those 2.5 hours, all was right with the world.

31st May2006

The Racial Incident

by Will

“An inch. It’s small and it’s fragile and it’s the only thing in the world that’s worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I know every inch of this cell. This cell knows every inch of me. Except one.”

This is my 500th post. Normally, when a blogging milestone comes along, I try to see what kind of adventure life will throw at me that deserves documentation. I look for crazy people on the streets, weird pop culture references, or just hidden stupid tales from my life that might give you a chuckle. Well, this is not that post. This may be the most serious post I’ve written. It’s something that I need to share, in print, because I really haven’t been able to vocalize it properly. So, please bear with me, and then we can get back to the regularly scheduled programming.

In the 70’s, Bill Cross created the “Cross Model of Minority Identity Development”. I’m not going to give a lecture, but he basically said that minorities lived in a cocoon until they experienced an encounter which changed their worldview. This encounter is different for each person, but they’re never able to look at the world the same once it happens. I’m sure that the people in the Africana department, who always joked that I was “so white”, would be glad to know that I’ve had my encounter.

Recently, I accompanied a friend as they visited with family. Now, I was apprehensive because I knew that one relative would be present, and this particular relative has never been even remotely welcoming to me. In the past, I would vocalize my apprehension beforehand, which would result in a possible argument, and more unnecessary tension. But this time, I decided to keep it inside and hope for the best. It was all in my head, right? This guy didn’t dislike ME. He just disliked everyone because he was an old curmudgeon. My friend even told me this. So, I figured I was the victim of a sense of age discrimination. Mr Smith was too old to learn new people, so I had missed the boat. That’s fine. But there were too many clues that he was going out of his way to dislike me. Especially when I’d see him meet other people, for the first time, and be friendlier than a whore on payday.

I met Mr. Smith over a year ago, and I can say that the “relationship” has degenerated from “nothing” to “malice”. When I first met him, I went to shake his hand, and he just kind of grunted at me. “He’s losing his hearing,” my friend reassured me. It was a lot of work for him to interact with people. Umm..OK. I grew up with old folks, so I could understand that. But then, for the first time, he used what would become his signature move: the disappearing act. Whenever festivities end, he has to go to the bathroom. And he pretty much stays until he thinks I’m gone. Oh, it’s all in my head, you say? Then, why is it when I leave, he’s peering out the window at me, sullen? He ain’t my daddy, so I know it’s not him longing for missing out on my childhood. I turn and wave, but he continues to glare. I’ve put up with this on a handful of occasions, but recently, he upped the ante.

Recently, as I was saying, I went with my friend to visit with Mr. Smith. We entered the house, and I immediately felt uneasy. Mrs. Smith was there, and she was quite friendly. I reached to take her hand, and she kissed my cheek. “This might not be so bad,” I thought, as my anxiety slightly waned. Then, Mr. Smith appeared in the doorway. I let him greet my friend first, since they were relatives, but I was determined to make this guy like me. I stepped forward, extended my hand, and asked, “How are you, Mr. Smith.” His mouth kind of twisted as he looked at my hand. Now follow this sequence. He hesitantly shook my hand, wiped his hand on his shirt, and proceeded to go wash his hands in the bathroom. He shook my hand and washed it off. HE. FUCKING. SHOOK. MY. HAND. AND. WASHED. IT. OFF.

I have NEVER…I’ve been all over the world, and dealt with a lot of things. I have a house in Alabama, I grew up in a white Republican church, and my fucking college essay was about my experience being black in the former Soviet Union, but I have NEVER encountered an asshole such as this man. And what gets me is that I can’t even begin to describe what he truly is. I feel almost as if there is no word to describe how this man has treated me. I didn’t want to “play the race card”. Maybe the earring scared him. Maybe my goatee threatened him. But I never wanted to zero in on it being about race.

The worst part, and the reason I have difficulty discussing it, is that it hurt me. It didn’t anger me. It hurt me to my core. I have never been shone as “dirty”. I have never had the most self-esteem, but in one gesture, I was made to feel like half a person. And it hurts. I can’t even be mad because there’s too much emotion for it to be simple “anger”. For years, I’d think of J and wonder, “Why is he SO mad? What could have him so angry?” But, not to put words in his mouth, but maybe he’s NOT angry. Maybe he’s hurt. Maybe he’s seen hands washed so many times that all he can feel is hurt. It’s worse than any break-up, worse than any mourning.

Mr. Smith doesn’t even know me. I am an Ivy League graduate, who’s never done drugs, never been in any sort of trouble, and I’m good to my friend, his relative. But instead, I’m just some dirty nigger. “Why’d you say ‘nigger’, Will? Why not ‘black person’?” Well, I ask you, is there a distinction to a racist? I could go off and defend my country, something that I know means a lot to him, and I’d still be that dirty nigger.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering, “What happened next?” Well, nothing. I mean, I wish I could’ve done something, but it’s one of those “hindsight is 20/20” moments. You’re so stunned by the sheer audacity, that you kinda have to catch your breath. Minutes later, we left. My friend apologized for Mr. Smith’s actions, but it wasn’t their place to apologize; they didn’t do anything. I’m sure they were embarassed and whatnot, but they were not to blame. Nor could I convey what I was feeling. Nor would an apology even suffice, from any party involved.

I’d heard these people were out there, but I wondered “why?” What makes a person so nasty? Sure, you may not care for people. Hell, I dislike everyone every now and then. Sadly, it’s human, but I make sure they never know it. Feelings pass, but this gesture was uncalled for. Would it have been so hard for him to grin and bear it? I’d have been gone in minutes. Is that the legacy he wants to leave behind? Most of his relatives seem shocked by these actions, so what is it about me, what do I remind him of, to make him act this way? Am I worth him ruining the positive image that he’s cultivated amongst his loved ones for so long? Mainly, where does something like this come from?

I don’t mean to be melodramatic. Most of you who know me know that I can be quite the drama queen. But in all honesty, my world hasn’t been the same since that day. It still hurts, but it also doesn’t. I kind of can’t feel. I try to put on a happy face, but it’s forced, and the people close to me keep asking, “What’s wrong?” The problem is that many of them would not be able to handle the truth. And I can’t really discuss the matter without wanting to cry. Sure, not very masculine, but you have no idea what that’s like. And if you do know, then, I’m sorry. I never knew. But I know now.

02nd Apr2006

At Least It Wasn’t A Whatchamacallit Bar…

by Will

“Shamokin DAMN!”

WTF is up with the Hershey’s Dark Chocolate commercial? I can’t believe that guy asks, “Is it a friendly dark chocolate?” No, it’s a militant dark chocolate that’s gonna mug you at the ATM.

09th Mar2006

A Tuscaloosa Anecdote

by Will

“We have come to terms.”

So, I’m trying to find my “voice” again, so this isn’t really an official post. Anyway, I was getting sick of y’all leaving me “Why don’t you post yet?!” messages, so I figurd I’d throw you a bone.

While packing up to move recently, I found a few things that reminded me of a funny situation a few years ago. You see, we were on vacation in Alabama, and one day we happened into an old-time “five & dime”. This was the kind of place that sold you Coke in glass bottles, and actually refilled them if you brought them back. I mean, this place was straight out of the Andy Griffith Show. All that was missing was the lunch counter with the “no coloreds allowed” sign.

Anyway, I am always in the mood to spend some money, and I was about to have a field day in this place. I have this funny tendency to buy shit I neither want nor need; the point is to simply spend the money like it’s a shopping spree or something. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to ‘Bama, but there ain’t much there worth spending money on. I was about 10, so I had every action figure that was popular at the time. There shouldn’t have been anything to impress me in this time capsule of a store. But that didn’t stop me.

I proceeded to buy a pack of those green army men. You know, the kind that were only played with by kids in the ’60s and the poor kids of today. But that was nothing compared to what else was in the bundle.

I had a wrist-mounted dart launcher, a bow & arrow set, and to top it off, four lone ranger masks in different colors. I was just a stupid kid who liked junk, so imagine my surprise when I got to the counter and the owner looked at me funny. “Oh, no,” I thought. “I’m about to be the next Emmitt Till.” He cocked his head, looked at me, and asked, “You ain’t about to get into no mischief, are you now?” I looked at the items on the counter, and it was like everything was suddenly crystal clear. What the Hell had I been thinking?! I was buying weapons and masks!

And to top it off, not only did I look like some kind of junior criminal, but I was a low-rent one at that. At an age when most kids would have bb guns and spray paint, my militia was shaping up to be something out of “Howdy Doody”.

I looked him in the eye, smiled, and gave him my most sincere, “Oh, no sir. Not at all.” He kind of gave me another once over, and proceeded to ring up the items.

My mother had watched the entire exchange, and when I was done, I noticed that she looked upset. I thought she was on my side, and I was thinking, “That guy just asked me that ’cause I was Black.” But no, she came off with the patented Black mom response: “Boy, why you gonna buy some fool stuff like that? You got enough junk!”

By that point, as you can figure, I didn’t even want the stuff anymore. I had succeeded in wasting the money, and in one person’s eyes I was a thug, while in another’s I was a fool. Not the best end to that standoff. Oh well…

I thought of that story ’cause I found that dart launcher the other day. It makes me laugh at how stupid the entire exchange was, but I also thought about how I probably couldn’t even get away with that today. I mean, back then, it was a simple shop owner, making sure I wasn’t gonna be spreading terror to the quiet burg of Tuscaloosa. But today, if I tried to buy such stuff, I might end up on some kind of list.

The thing I always think about, though, is why he thought I was going to do something bad. I mean, sure, I was a little fat kid, in Alabama, buying weapons and masks, but WHY did that have to be a bad thing? I could take the racial approach, but I feel there are so many levels to it that sadden me. I mean, maybe I was going to do something GOOD with those items. Or maybe I just wanted to play. I guess I’m kinda blown that we’re always quick to assume something bad, but we never even entertain the idea that something POSITIVE might be afoot. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, after all these years, I’m really sorry that I went back and robbed him…

12th Dec2005

RIP Richard Pryor

by Will

“…Dead Honky!”

It’s a sad weekend in the world of comedy, for Richard Pryor has died. Yeah, I could go on and on about how he was a pioneer for Black comedians, yadda yadda. But I’d rather point out that he was the only redeemable part of “Superman III”. And now Gene Wilder will never work again. It’s kinda like what happened to Spade when Farley died.

Anyways, I hate that all of these relics of my childhood are passing. First, Mr. Miyagi/Arnold, and now Richard Pryor. I swear, if I hear that Sloth from “The Goonies” is dead, someone’s gonna have to talk me down from a ledge!

21st Nov2005

Dr. King Wouldn’t Like This Joke…

by Will

“Avian flu? There’s so much to worry about these days. I wish we could go back to the ’50s, where all I’d have to worry about are “coloreds only” water fountains…”

13th Nov2005

There Hasn’t Been A New Christmas Song In About 15 Years

by Will

“Nobody wants a ‘Charlie in the Box’.”

So, I recently returned to my former part-time work at Toys “R” Us. Why? Because I need the money. But I felt like a sell-out going back, seeing as how I swore I never would. Anyways, life’s a ‘yatch sometimes. That’s not what this post is about. This post is about the fact that TRU’s radio has switched over to non-stop Christmas music and it makes me wanna blow my brains out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas music. I was almost a Christmas baby. But I can’t deal with the music continuously. Why? Because they’re all the same song. In all honesty, there hasn’t been a Christmas song to make a dent in recent pop culture since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Prior to that, it was all that jazz about Grandma and the reindeer. My point is that the Christmas music industry is a big pissing contest. A sense of “Who can alter ‘O Holy Night’ the most?” And most Christmas songs are like the National Anthem: Yeah, it’s your time to shine, but the more you mess with it, the worse it’s going to sound.

It all goes back to “The Christmas Song”. I want to bring up a little reverse affirmitive action here. Everyone talks about Elvis stealing music from Blacks, but we did it, too. “The Christmas Song” is a Mel Torme song, but most people don’t realize it since you can’t scratch your balls in December without it sounding like Nat King Cole singing that blasted ditty.

It just comes down to the realization that “Christmas song” and “originality” can never be used in the same sentence. They are all the same. So, unless you’ve got an original song, I don’t wanna hear it. Something about Santa and Jesus saving the world from Nazi aliens on Christmas Eve. Now, THAT’s original.

10th Nov2005

Super Sabado Sensacional!

by Will

“‘Iraq’ is Arabic for ‘Vietnam’.”

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it boggles the mind.

So, I was just watching Telefutura (formerly known as Telemundo; when did THAT happen?) and they were dancing. But IT WAS THE NEWS!

Aye, Dios Mio! Donde esta? Come on, people! What is with the dancing? I get that you’re a rhythmic people, but let’s dial it down a notch. You dancing while telling me about that train crash ain’t gonna lessen the blow. It just makes you seem insensitive and it makes me hate you.

But I guess that’s moot since they never cover real news anyway. In the world of Spanish television, there seems to be nothing but singers and soap stars. These shows spend an hour just showing video footage of Lorenzo Lamas leaving a restaurant. Yup, the Renegade himself. Oh, and don’t forget the soccer, I mean “football”. GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!

Well, gotta go. They just stopped dancing, and I think Angel’s about to introduce some footage of Ricky Martin buying soap.