Eiffel Tower and Sky

I could’ve titled this essay “The Dark Side of Paris,” but I’m no Jackie Collins, and despite my penchant for black eyeliner, I’m not a whore.  This isn’t meant to be any kind of travelogue.  The tone of this memoir starts off on a bitter note because I decided impulsively to see Paris after the life of someone close to me ended.  And, just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, spiteful colleagues sent me on my way, not with a “Bon voyage!” but with mean-spirited comments about how nervous and lonely I would be, how I “should’ve waited until you landed a boyfriend first,” and with questions concerning why I would “want to go there anyway.”

These colleagues, all of them White and female, had just returned from leisurely vacations in various European countries.  Those misguidedly envious women couldn’t have been more off-target because not one of them could ever know what it was, and still is, like to be Black, American, female and alienated in the United States.  Therefore, it stands to reason that they also could never have known what it was, and still is, like to be Black, American, female and traveling solo in a foreign country.  I ignored the naysayers and traveled to France by myself, with nothing to prove to anyone.  Once I reached my destination I was alone, but not left alone.

However, my negative experiences – and my positive ones – as a solo Black American woman traveler in Paris were so far beyond my racist-conditioned, jealous, clannish colleagues’ imagination that they reached an existential level.   In our department, I was the token Black journalist.  In the U.S., I was, and still am, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in female form.  But in France, I was a very visible woman.

In the late 1990s, after returning from a weeklong trip to Paris — my first trip to France — I was still tingling from the erotic sights I’d witnessed in the “City of Light,” hereafter occasionally referred to as the “City of Enlightenment” for better or worse. When I say “erotic sights,” though, I’m not referring to erotic movies, of which I’d seen not a one during the trip, but everyday tableaux, such as many couples of various persuasions and ages smooching and caressing each other.  They openly expressed their love and lust in parks, in subway cars, in alleyways, and in restaurants; fed each other chocolaty, sticky sweets in pâtisseries; and stole moments on the lower and upper quays of the Seine in full view of videocamera-equipped tourists on passing bateaux-mouches (“fly boats”).

Other erotic sights were the outdoor sculptures in parks such as the Jardin de Tuileries, and the seminude and nude imagery on billboards and subway posters that would be considered obscene in the U.S.  Oh, and I can’t forget the erotic overload of the Pigalle district, which made New York City’s former red-light district pale in comparison to the point of seeming like the Disneyland that it is today.  Add to those images the sounds of French in various tonalities and dialects from the mouths of descendants of West African countries and of Algeria — and, booyakah!  My worldview began expanding through the language of other people’s love and lust.

In addition to the sensual sights and sounds in Paris, there were the not-so-subtle encounters I had, which only make me smile awkwardly from the safe distance of years gone by.  They were encounters that continue to find their way through my consciousness and defensive filters in composite form in some of my short stories.  Thank goodness, I’d carried several small notebooks and many rolls of camera film with me on my  journey to the City of Enlightenment.

For example, there’s the motorcyclist who couldn’t care less that he was on his way to work when he swerved to a screeching stop.  He wanted to burn rubber, and I’m not talking about his bike’s tires.  Picture it:  I’d just turned a corner in a high-rent Right Bank district, and was wearing shades and an all-black outfit except for a leopard-print chiffon scarf that was flowing behind me à la Isadora Duncan.  I didn’t mean to strut but I was trying to walk briskly in new ankle boots, to get to a fashion show on time.  (Printemps, one of the city’s two famous department stores that had their origins in the late 19th century — the other, Galeries Lafayette — still hosts a free, fantastic fashion show every Tuesday morning.)

At the time, I wished that I’d studied a bit more French because all I understood from what the guy said beneath that helmet, with a strong undercurrent of testosterone, was: Mademoiselle, vous êtes quelques chose (“Miss, you are something“).  As for those ankle boots, they’re the same pair I was wearing when I slammed a foot into that pillar in Le Panthéon on the Left Bank two days prior to the motorcyclist’s seduction.  You can read about that mishap on my “About” page on my Negrotica WordPress blog (http://www.mujerotica.wordpress.com).

I could go on and on about my encounters in the City of Enlightenment, but I’ll share just a few more: about the sexagenarian security guard who was somewhat working at the American Express building (the same building where iconic scenes in the Audrey Hepburn-Cary Grant film Charade were filmed).  The gent was almost stereotypically French.  Think of the horny animated skunk “Pepé Le Pew.”   When he – the White security guard, not the skunk – stepped forward to grasp my brown hand (well, orange; I was blushing all over), he bucked his eyes and suavely propositioned me near the lobby.

In a seamless Bogart move, Pepé slipped me – no, not a mickey, but something symbolically close – a discount ticket to some bullshit tourist film.  Then in a liquorice-smelling breath akin to absinthe, he half-whispered to me in Franglish that “yerrrize arrre zo beeyooooteefuuulll” and that they reminded him of Josephine Baker’s.  Well, I did take that as a compliment because La Baker left racist America for France, and France — not just Paris — loved her back and loved her not just for her artistry but her Blackness.  I also have an overbite similar to hers, but if the old French guy made reference to that, my beginner’s French didn’t pick up on it.

Pepé Le Pew got a leetell clozerrrr to me, so close that I could taste his spittle.  His hand moved to my hand, and I was in utter shock because in the United States, I was used to White people wiping their hands on their pants and, in the case of White women, their skirts.  So I watched as if it were some other Black woman’s hand that Pepé was groping.  I watched a gradually reddening, spotted hand moving up, beneath the cuff of my pea coat sleeve.

The heat from the “security” guard’s body must’ve sparked my neurons because my French lessons came back to me all of a sudden, and I warned him: “Pas touchez, monsieur!” in near-perfect Parisian French.  I swear I sounded better than Thandie Newton in that needless remake of Charade, titled  The Truth About Charlie, with a miscast Mark Wahlberg.  Before I could shout, “Au secours!”  Pepé suggested in a surreptitious, spy voice that I meet him back at “L’Américain Express” after the film, “pour un café, Mademoiselle Baker.”  At this point in the story, I’d just about had it with the Josephine Baker references.  I love her, but I couldn’t get past the scene of her topless, though iconic, performance in film documentaries.  Banana dance, ma derriere!

I also was regretting that I hadn’t stood in line for another crêpe instead of craving a visit to the American Express building like a true fan of Charade — and I don’t mean the word guessing game.  I wanted to pull this perv’s ear (“sounds like … rat”) because I was no easy chick.  But I did take the easy way out and lied en anglais about looking forward to mixing coffee and cream.  I then jetted off to see the film and, two hours later, made sure to merge with the crowd in case Pepé was looking for me.  Thank God that Paris had lots of Black people (most of them immigrants from West African countries, Algeria and the French Caribbean), or else I would’ve stuck out like a blemished grain in a pot of white rice.

Ahhh, but this Paris memoir isn’t without a twist.  While it’s true that many nationalist French people despise Algerian immigrants and Algerian descendants born in France just as much as, if not more than, West African immigrants and West African descendants born in France, I found myself caught between empathizing with the non-Whites’ plight and despising their men for objectifying me as much as their White French counterparts.  I mean, I got rather pissed off when a Black French guy in a navy blue pinstriped business suit stopped me in the middle of the sidewalk on my way up the hill to Montmartre’s vineyard, undressed me with his eyes while speaking in rapid-fire French and then, when he could see that I didn’t understand anything he was saying, insulted me in even more-rapid-fire French.  To add insult to injury, he punctuated his monologue with a very guttural “Umph.”

Before Le Suit turned on his stacked heels, I rolled my eyes at him as if to dismiss him with, Moi aussi. Merde.  It may not have been proven that the rolling of the eyes is West African in origin, but I think it is.  If that’s true, how ironic that said body language could exist today through practice by descendants of survivors of the African Holocaust, yet be a trait that is much-maligned here in the U.S.

Again, it’s the curse of being a cinema buff.  Why?  I was headed to Montmartre for only two reasons:  to photograph the old vineyard’s exterior (Clos de Montmartre) and to walk the same winding streets beautifully filmed in two of my fave retro films:  Paris Blues and Un Homme et Une Femme (A Man and A Woman).  If I’d wanted to be chatted up and spat out by an upwardly mobile Black professional, I would’ve just vacationed in a major urban city in the U.S. — that is, after having a very expensive lacefront weave sewn into my hair and learning how to flip it like Beyoncé, getting my nails air-brushed, losing 30 pounds and undergoing liposuction, getting breast implants for double-E effect, getting a Brazilian and buying post-waxing pain medication, threading my eyebrows until they’re em dashes, and losing any trace of facetiousness exemplified by this paragraph.  Me, bitter?  No.

Again, the phenotype of the French male chauvinist didn’t matter, but having an interest in independent cinema did.  While walking back to my Left Bank hotel from indie moviehouse L’Arlequin — the name that filmmaker and comic genius Jacques Tati bestowed on the Art Deco-era theater when he acquired it in the sixties — on the rue de Rennes, I was trailed by a van filled with Algerian male youths.  The rue de Rennes is a very wide street running the length from Boulevard Saint Germain and Montparnasse in a trendy, artistic district called Saint-Germain-des-Prés; the street (or rue) can fit a huge number of cars — especially the tiny ones in Paris — but on this night, it seemed like the rickety van was the only vehicle on the road.  There were five or six young men in the vehicle and they were quite vocal.  This was a nightmarish version of the experience I’d had the evening before, in which a pair of White French sailors had catcalled me as if I were a prostitute.  I’d been minding my business, dressed down like any of the Parisian college students, while on a self-guided tour of Montparnasse.  An avid reader, I desired to trace the bold footsteps of literary giants and American expatriates such as James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Chester Himes, and of the “Lost Generation”‘s Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller and others.

Back on the rue de Rennes, I was terrified but managed to smile in a relaxed way as the van rolled on.  My blue denims were too tight to enable me to run.  As I contemplated the many ways I could die after they pulled me into the van, I wondered if they thought I was a Parisienne or an American — as in U.S-born, not Mexican or Canadian.  (As long as they didn’t think of me as the Ugly American; I saw plenty of those idiots.  One couple, clearly from Central Queens — I could almost pinpoint their neighborhood, Forest Hills, perhaps — couldn’t even figure out how to exit the friggin turnstile.  Can you spell “Paris guidebook”?  When they appeared terrified and looked in my direction, I wanted to pretend to be a Nigerian Parisienne so badly, but I couldn’t get the accent together in time.  Besides, I was on the verge of laughing … at them.  The couple was middle-aged, but not septuagenarians, and the woman was struggling with her “PARLAY-view FRONT-say.”  So I stopped her from further self-humiliation and, in the thickest Central Queens accent I could muster, I told her: “Look here, youze guys.  Insert the ticket in this way, and wait for it to pop up.”)

I walked fast, fleeing (but pretending not to be) my would-be Algerian-French captors.  I concluded that the young men probably hated both Parisians and Americans, so I said nothing.  I suddenly became religious and invoked a prayer, then fixed my line of sight straight ahead.  Somehow my mind drifted to the sensation of sinking my Josephine Baker front teeth into the juicy ham and cheese crêpe I had stashed in my backpack.  OK, there were two huge crêpes in there — WGAF?

The young men were shouting all kinds of remarks as their van occasionally swerved near the curb.  Perhaps they smelled the crêpes and were angry that I didn’t want to share them.  Perhaps they drove off when they figured that I was struggling to walk fast as part of a nightly exercise regimen.  Yes, that’s it.  They thought that I was a Black Parisienne, and they actually were trying to incite me to join them in brown solidarity.  By the time I reached my room in a very American (read:  inexpensive) hotel, I nearly swallowed one of those crêpes whole.  All was calm.

Three days later, I would watch CNN in horror as a group of Americans were killed amid the Pyramids in Egypt.  I know I’m way off topic here, but I will never forget being afraid to look American (whatever that is) when I walked through the Paris streets the next day, French military everywhere with their big guns out.

Apparently, being a lover of visual art was also a curse of being a solo female traveler — of any “color” — in Paris in the late 1990s.  Merde, I couldn’t get past the Black Parisian security guard near the entrance of Musée d’Orsay.  There was only one damned hour remaining to see the works of Monet, Cézanne and Picasso.  I was on a packaged tour and had to coordinate the museum visits by arrondissement so that I could hop from attraction to attraction while using a three-consecutive-day, unlimited metro/bus pass.  After spending much time at Musée Rodin, I ventured over to the Musée d’Orsay to see Cézanne because:

1)      While Le Musée d’Orsay didn’t contain the largest number of Paul Cézanne’s works, it had more than, like, three of them, so I took a shot.  (Atelier Paul Cézanne – the Cézanne Studio Museum – in Aix-en-Provence, does not contain the Impressionist’s works but has preserved his rooms.);

2)      I figured I had time to visit the Musée  de l’Orangerie, which houses a larger collection of Claude Monet’s works (I never made it; next time I’m in Paris I’ll go, or I’ll take an inexpensive day-trip to Giverny by bus); and

3)      I already had a few hours penciled-in (there were no PDAs then) to visit Musée Picasso (Ideally I needed a half-day after getting lost through the tiny, narrow – read:  medieval – streets of the must-see district of Le Marais.  Taken another way, I was so busy marveling at the beautiful, ancient buildings – actually, for Paris, 14th-century buildings, not 17th– through 19th-century edifices, are ancient – that I easily lost my way.  After going back in time at Musée Picasso, there were trendy boutiques to browse and ethnic cafes and bakeries to resist with their calorie-adding aromas.).

I also love the work of another modernist, the great surrealist artist of Catalán heritage: Salvador Dalí.  The Espace Dalí-Museum, in Paris’ hilltop village of Montmartre, was the first museum devoted to the works of Dalí.  A return to Paris warrants a visit to this museum.  I missed my chance during my trek to Montmartre because I went on a Monday, a day when many museums in Paris are closed.  Again, that damned, three-consecutive-day, unlimited metro/bus pass.

I shouldn’t complain, though.  When visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art five years ago, I acquired a ticket to a touring Dalí exhibit that was sold-out.  It was a total fluke.  I’d planned only to flit through the museum in the hour before closing time, knowing I easily could return to Philly.  If I hadn’t been standing there near the front desk pouting and watching all the Dalí exhibit-goers filing their way toward the special space, I wouldn’t have caught the attention of the front-desk guy.  As it turned out, a married couple with a name like “Peabody” or something or other, couldn’t make the exhibit, so the front-desk guy gave me one of their coveted tickets after I handed him the PMA general donation of $10. He could’ve pocketed the $10 bill for all I cared.  The point was that I was in like Flint!  Well, wrong simile there, but you catch my drift.

As for that dream trip within France, it may never come true if I don’t take driving lessons really soon.  See, the thing to do is rent a car after departing from the TGV.  For example, Atelier Paul Cézanne is in the region known as Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and it’s not exactly a few feet from the train station.  I also desire to see three museums in the South of France:  Musée Matisse de Nice, The Chagall Museum, and the Picasso Musem in the city of Antibes.

Getting around and staying in all those cities, not accessing the museums, is where one’s wallet takes a hit.  It takes a big bank roll to afford to stay and dine at a luxurious hotel in the French Riviera, too.  I wouldn’t go to the South of France to do the Novotel thing.  I’d be better off waiting for Vegas to reproduce the French Riviera the way it has done the Eiffel Tower.  But wait, Vegas — not the off-peak flight fare — isn’t cheap, either!

And yes, if I ever get to the South of France and nearby Monaco, I will be compelled to walk the same hallowed grounds that Alfred Hitchcock, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant strolled in To Catch a Thief.  I will not be compelled, however, to step foot into the Monte Carlo Casino, which, I’ve read, drips in opulence, and which means I’d be broke after tipping the doorman.

That’s why these wide-eyed fantasies are called dreams.  Pipe dreams.  As in I’d have to be inhaling from one of those funny, colorful pipes to think I’ll really ever again have the kind of job where I can earn enough money to save for a trip to California, let alone France.  As for luxuriating in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the French Riviera proper, and (hah!) the principality of Monaco one day?  As that West African Parisian suit said to me in Montmartre:  “Umph.”

Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve


It’s no new news that media types weigh heavily in the court of public opinion, but now the ad whores have gone too far.   These media hounds continue to bait many people — well, those imbeciles incapable of forming their own opinions about a megapopular entertainer — into ganging up on Mo’Nique.  And why?  The media morons and their mindless disciples are taking an uninformed moral high ground in criticizing the outspoken comedienne, talk show host and, now, Oscar-winning actress for her lifestyle choice — namely, for the decision of Mo’Nique and her husband, Sidney Hicks, to enjoy an open marriage.  And to that I ask:  WTF?

This is an outrage.  Some members of the public euphemistically have leveled whorish labels on Mo’, and that ain’t nice.  However, the first part of my blog entry today is addressing another, mo’ recent criticism:  one that may appear trivial to people who choose to ignore the contributions of the many Black actresses who blazed trails in the 20th century.  I’m leveling the label of “trashmouth” on the big-haired celeb who was talking ish about Mo’Nique.

I wish I knew trashmouth’s name, but I had been channel surfing, so WGAF.  But this big-haired trashmouth, during a post-Oscars fashion roundup co-hosted by loudmouth Joan Rivers, criticized Mo’Nique for wearing a flower in her hair.  Another celeb (not Rivers, though) seated near the big-haired trashmouth informed her, and with a serious face, that Mo’Nique was paying tribute to Hattie McDaniel — the first Black actress to win an Academy Award.  This comment, for some incredulous reason, incensed Mo’Nique’s big-haired detractor, who then uttered something stupid, insensitive and unscripted.  Here I paraphrase:  She [Mo’Nique] should’ve worn a sign saying that [about Hattie McDaniel], then.  I’ve set words in boldface where the big-haired trashmouth emphasized what she believed to be funny.  Again, I ask:  WTF?

As I said earlier, I had happened to be channel surfing anyway, so I just took my surfboard to more-tolerant waters.

Now that I’ve gotten that nonsense off my chest, I want to congratulate Mo’Nique upon learning last night that her talk show has been renewed for another season on BET.  I do have issues with certain shows on BET, but no more issues than I have with other media networks for the ways in which Black people are portrayed.  However, I’ve been enjoying “The Mo’Nique Show” tremendously and daily.

In the nearly six months that “The Mo’Nique Show” has been pumping up the airwaves, the formidable, sexy and congenial host has shone the light not only on the hottest new stars but also on those unsung heroes who eventually make it to glory on TVOne’s “Unsung” series.

I’m also very happy to see Mo’, a full-figured woman, blaze some trails of her own:  for example, showing America that there’s more sexiness to feast one’s eyes upon when the vision is that of a plus-size woman.  Witness:  “Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance.”  There’s no runway too narrow for the various sizes in which beauty strikes a pose.  I can hear the song parody now, and this is dedicated to the abundantly voluptuous among us who have lots of confidence to match our great sense of humor:

Ain’t no catwalk frail enough,

Ain’t no spotlights dim enough,

Ain’t no boa tight enough,

To keep me from youuuuu!

And don’t think for a moment that Mo’Nique’s outspokenness on the issue had no bearing on all those wonderful Playtex 18-hour Bra TV commercials.  The first time I watched one of those bosomy ads, I thought it was 3D television, no glasses required.  All I can say to the growing trend is:  Mo’, you go, gurrrl!  (I’m still waiting for the day that those deep-pocketed Madison Avenue execs will make us women giddy by promoting name-brand athletic supports for “full-size” men.  Now, when that day comes, I will invest in a durable pair of 3D glasses.  I’m not anti-feminist; I’m pro-penis.)

For those of you experiencing facial tics every time you see Mo’Nique shake that hair she bought (yeah, yeah, I know the jokes about weaves are old now, but I’ve got to say it:  unbeWEAVable!), stay tuned after “The Mo’Nique Show.”  The weekly parade of wigs on “The Wendy Williams Show” is off da hook — well, in this case, off da mannequin.  lol

Now, I wish that Wendy Williams would keep those wigs to a minimum — or perhaps I’m just envious that I can’t afford any of them.  Then again, I love Wendy for joking about her fab wigs (and her “big girls”) in ways that bring her statuesque self down to the same level as everywoman every day on “The Wendy Williams Show” on BET.  How YOU doowin?

Wendy is an excellent interviewer, a skill that has transferred very well from radio.  Also, any Jersey girl who includes a disco ball in her show’s décor, and a glamorous costumed fan as a permanent prop, is someone who’s — as Janet Jackson once sang — all right with me.  Wendy is, like, Donna Summer, Tyra Banks, Rolonda Watts and Lynda Carter all rolled up into one Badmamajamazonian.  I mention Lynda Carter because Wendy’s show kicks ass in the ratings and because she digs Wonder Woman, as do I.  Don’t believe me?  Check out Wendy’s mug — no, no, I mean her actual mug — when she sits down to discuss “Hot Topics” (the actual title from the gossip portion of her show).

But don’t you dare call “The Wendy Williams Show”  a low-rent “Oprah,” else I’ll spin on the spot and whup your butt with my Wonder Woman belt.  Cue Wendy’s music:  Oooh-wup, oooh-wup!  Oooh-wup, oooh-wup!

Another BET show that’s growing on me is  “The Family Crews,” and that’s saying much because I usually shy away from reality shows.  OK, I’ll admit that I started watching “The Family Crews” and “Kendra!” (yeah, that’s right; I’m admitting to watching that E! show) because the real-life hubbies — Terry Crews and Hank Baskett, respectively — are hellasexy.  And no, I had known nothing about Terry Crews’ former NFL career prior to watching “The Family Crews.”  I had remembered Terry from “Everybody Hates Chris,” Chris Rock’s autobiographical TV sitcom (which runs in syndication on BET), and from the sidesplitting farce White Chicks on the big screen.

In the satirical and Chris Rock-narrated “Everybody Hates Chris,” Terry portrays Chris’ dad; in White Chicks (2004), he plays a Black dude who’s sociopathically fixated on White women.  The scene in White Chicks where Terry starts singing lyric-for-lyric with the song “A Thousand Miles,”  by Vanessa Carlton, is one priceless moment, for that song is treated in this farce as an anthem  for the young White women his character desires.  However, after “A Thousand Miles” became a theme song (no matter how briefly) for NYC’s annual walk to fight breast cancer, I no longer laughed during scenes where the song played — that is, whenever I’d watch the film on cable television.

Getting back to “Kendra!” … Yes, Hank Baskett’s the reason I was drawn to the show in the first place. … No, I don’t “follow football” — only the balls, er, the ball, if I happen to be channel surfing on a lonely Monday night.  That’s exactly how I found out about NFLer Henry “Hank” Randall Baskett III.  And, just as Mo’Nique has her detractors, I’m sure that Kendra Baskett (née Wilkinson) has her criticizers, too, but if the latter watch “Kendra!” they’ll see the former Playboy model in a new light.  This season on “Kendra!” there’s sure to be lots of touching, funny moments as in the March 14 season premiere, which showed mama Kendra and papa Hank enjoying their newborn son, Hank IV, whom they also call “Lil Man.”

In the last season of “Kendra!” of which I viewed only one episode — in which both the pre-wedding drama and the actual wedding were filmed — I found it verrrry interesting that Kendra decided on her brother, and not Hef, giving her away.  Oops, I hope I haven’t spoiled anything for those of you out there who want to watch reruns of last season’s “Kendra!” before you catch up on the new season.  Gotta love that theme song … and the way Hank wears those sweatpants.  In a twist on those Hormel TV commercials, all I can say to the way Hank strikes a “low” profile is:  Go TEAM!!!

Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve

The following is a re-edited version of a comment that I posted on a thread which was flimsily connected to a review of the multi-Oscar-nominated film Precious.  But, first, some shout-outs:

Congratulations, Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, on your Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, portraying “Precious”!  Congrats to director Lee Daniels on your Oscar nom for Best Picture after taking a chance on Sapphire‘s book, Push (and on an untrained actress for the lead role)!  Congratulations to screenwriter Geoffrey Feltcher on your Oscar nom for Best Adapted Screenplay!  Congratulations to  Mo’Nique, on your Academy Award nod for Best Supporting Actress, and for the prestigious awards that you already have won!  Mo’Nique, you totally inhabited the role of the frighteningly troubled character “Mary Jones,” and hopefully you and the rest of the ensemble cast in this poignant Lee Daniels film will open up more dialogue on incest, which, in terms of what is discussed openly, is the most tabooed form of rape.  Mo’Nique, sista gurrrl, you make us “full-figured gyals” and us “skinny bitches” — to use your ironically affectionate term — proud no matter where we reside, no matter what color “we is,” and I have followed the rise of your star faithfully.

Dear readers, you will note that I have omitted the name of the website in the comment that follows.  I review films on a regular basis on that website, and I really don’t want to distract you from the sensitive topics discussed herein.

I welcome your comments because, good people, we need to get to a point where we realize that we are one race:  The Human Race.  Race, especially as that word is (mis)used in the United States of America, is a sociological construct that continues to erode (but not destroy) people’s spirits and divide our nation — and not just into two parts:  black and white.

No, “race” is dividing people into bits, which is crazy because we are all one people, one species.  As a long-ago friend used to joke with me (repeatedly, especially whenever someone in the media said something inane and “racially intolerant”), and here I paraphrase:  When the aliens come down from some other planet, all of us humans will be clinging to each other for dear life.  If that paraphrased comment doesn’t grab you, watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original or either of the remakes — though I’m a fan of the 1978 remake, with Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum) and you might find yourself chucking those Ambien tablets.  Eeeeeeuuuuuuhhhhhh!!!

Well, I hope to find discussions on [———-] with regard to Precious that open up the dialogue on incest — incest that occurs in families of any “race,” ethnicity, color, etc., and no matter where this heinous crime occurs on Earth. If it weren’t for the real-life girls who were incestuously raped — girls who form a composite for the character that writer Sapphire created in her 1996 debut novel, Push, a character who is called “Precious” — then there would be no movie to riff off of into various subjects here on [———-].

So let’s keep in mind that, yes, it’s important to bring to light (pardon the pun) the sometimes-subconscious, sometimes-conscious decisions to cast lighter-complexioned Black actors and actresses in heroic/savior/well-educated/sophisticated/affluent roles, and darker-complexioned Black actors and actresses in criminal/villainous/illiterate/crass/scatalogical-mouthed/buffoonish/poverty-stricken roles.  And the way that we (and by “we,” I am referring to any of us who can write a book, play, screenplay, and/or direct a movie, TV show, teleplay or theatrical play, no matter what phenotypes we possess) can change these unjust portrayals — portrayals that do not reflect the realities in Black neighborhoods, families, schools, etc., across the United States of America, in other parts of North America and on other continents — is to create more-realistic characterizations.

This is not to say that the publishing, television and motion pictures industries have not made progress.  This also is not to say that we as social beings are not getting “there.”   After all, for a film such as Precious — I mean, really consider the nature of the movie from the context of the plot and the relationship between the title character, an abused and illiterate teenager, and her abusive mother, Mary — to even make it to 18 theaters is a near-miracle.

Then consider that for this amazing, well-acted film to make it to those 18 cinemas and gross so many millions of dollars is history-making.  This achievement of Precious, and of Sapphire‘s book Push, is proof-positive that none of us Black Americans can say any longer that people who are not Black or who are not Black American will want to see a predominantly Black cast in a story containing a universal theme.  That mind-set is passe (je desole, my French readers, I can’t get the acute accent over the “e” in passe, nor over both “e’s” in desole).

People — and I mean all of us of the rainbow — let’s get it together.  True beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (Did y’all ever check out that “Twilight Zone” episode???  You know the one.  In many episodes of “Twilight Zone,” as in many episodes of “Star Trek,” the writers used a parable framework, so you can find lots of issues regarding diversity, the spectrum of beauty, various kinds of tolerance, etc., in the many excellent episodes.)  Ah, but beauty is also in the eye(s) of the beholder when said beholder is the person looking in the mirror.  Why?  Beauty also is inside of us, spiritually.  If you (yeah, you) don’t feel beautiful inside, you just might act ugly on the outside — i.e., in how you present yourself to the world.

I wish I knew how to post photos on my blog — ah , but then I would need to deal with copyright (hmmm, something I will need to research sometime soon).  I wish I had photos here because of what I am about to share with you.  I don’t care if a nose is flat, pointy, broad, pug, quaintly upturned, short, long, has a bump, is broken in a few places, has naturally flared nostrils, has naturally pinched nostrils.  I don’t care if lips are thin (yes, yes, yes, George Clooney, Jimmy Smits, Colin Farrell, Guy Pearce, William Petersen and Hugh Jackman), barely there lips (R.I.P. Christopher Reeve — yeah, Superman, you were yummy back in the day, also in Somewhere in Time!), evenly thick lips (Plant one on me, Idris ElbaSimon Baker, Blair Underwood, Laz Alonso, Melvin Van Peebles, Costas Mandylor, Allen Payne, Gary Dourdan and, oh yes, Mekhi Pfifer!), sextra-thick lips (Ooh, ooh, baby, LeVar Burton — where you at, “Geordi La Forge”?  [Trekkies will get that one.]   Talk to me, Richard T. Jones and Daniel Sunjata!), lips thinner on top than on the bottom (Pucker up, Wesley SnipesAdam Rodriguez, Allen PaynePooch Hall and Harry Connick Jr.), lips thicker on top than on the bottom (forever yummy Laurence FishburneDenzel Washington and Cory Hardrict), pouty (Al Pacino, Michael Ealy and Johnny Depp).

[ANOTHER SERIOUS ASIDE TO THIS DIRE DIGRESSION FROM THE PRECIOUS REVIEW:  I feel compelled to comment on the notorious “one-drop rule,” and please do not construe anything I say in this aside as self-hatred as a Black person or as I prefer to identify:  a human of the African Diaspora.  The U.S.A.’s “one-drop rule,” which would have singer-songwriter-musician Alicia Keys, singer-actor Mariah Carey, actor-model Halle Berry and actor Wentworth Miller (“Prison Break”) labeled “mulattoes”; and (who knows how deep the pigment goes?) maybe even musician-actor Harry Connick Jr. and musician-activist Sheryl Crow and President Jimmy Carter, labeled “octoroons”!

And I’m not one of those people — just about all “races” are guilty of what I’m about to say — who utter that when Black and White mix, the children are always so beautiful.  Could we please stop perpetuating that myth?

This “racist” one-drop rule is part of the reason that I still cannot find a job (the other reason being a lousy economy), thanks to job boards requiring that I self-identify on applications or else suffer the consequences when I show up at the interview and objectively identify [O]therwise, phenotypically speaking.

Funny how the “one-drop rule” doesn’t work in the other direction:  If a Black American person has a drop of Northern or Eastern European blood — don’t get me started on the complexities, in terms of perception of Western European ancestries — or a drop of Asian blood, no matter what country on that continent, said Black American person doesn’t automatically get called White or Asian.  You know, the more I think about those job applications, and the box labeled “Other” on other kinds of applications, the more that box is what I would want.  The reason is, to be brown-complexioned and have any kind of texture between soft&curly/wavy (a/k/a “good hair” in the lingo of Black people who self-hate) and coarse&curly (a/k/a “bad hair” in the lingo of Black people who self-hate) makes one an “Other” in the United States of America.

I have spoken with many other people from various cultures and discovered just in the past two years that recent immigrants from the subcontinent of Asia and from the Middle East — but this is not a blanket statement about all people from those parts of the world — dissociate themselves from brown-complexioned folks like me even if they are browner than I.  So, absurdly, that would make a Black person (no matter what complexion) who is  a descendant of the African Diaspora  an “Other” like no “Other.”]

As you can read from above — well, the text above the lengthy aside — beauty is diverse.  If we all looked the same all over the world, how boring a visual that would be!

Please allow me to continue this dire digression from the Precious review:  Could we as Black American people (because I think we are the only people doing this — and if we aren’t, then I’m calling out everyone) STOP using such derogatory terms as swirl,  jungle fever and oreo, all of which perpetuate prejudices against interracial couplings and self-identification?

And, I realize that this is off-topic, too, but could we as Black American people please stop creating other terms and phrases whenever any of us have some kind of accomplishment.  I, for one, hated to be called a “White girl” whenever I was successful in corporate America; just as I abhorred being called “corporate.”  One of the Black people who labeled me “corporate” also called me “high yellow” often.  “Yellow” and “high yellow” are just as extremely offensive as “darkie” and “blue black.”  How I abhor colorism, whether it is practiced by Black people or non-Black people!

And “talking ‘White’ “?  WTF?!  Let me get this straight (and don’t start breakin’ on my relaxed hair because I said that):  Because I strove to be upwardly mobile, was it really necessary for someone to call me a “buppie”?  Heck, I was living paycheck to paycheck and wearing the same three suits.  I had the fashion know-how — and the congeniality to seek help from various, trendy sales associates — to coordinate various blouses and skirts with those suits.

All of us should lift ourselves up and increase our tolerance or else the only race that exists anthropologically speaking — the human race — will not survive into future millennia.  The fate, in a macrocosmic sense, of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their subsequent generations depends on how we change our attitudes today and going forward.

Thanks for putting up with my verboseness, dear readers of the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog.  The Divine/Creator/God didn’t give me a calling as a writer and amateur anthropologist and sociologist for nothing.

Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve