The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Friday, January 02, 2009

Answers to the "Zion" questions

Answer's to the "Zion" Questions:

1) Nothing is "wrong" with Clint Eastwood. I think he is an extraordinary talent, and arguably the greatest star Hollywood has ever produced. I see everything he makes or has appeared in (almost). But I think he is typical of a white males born before 1950: they aren't even aware of the degree to which they make certain assumptions about the natural order of the world. In his entire list of movies, I can think of one, count 'em one, black man of reproductive years I'd want my son to be: Mario Van Peebles in "Heartbreak Ridge." All the others are thugs or dead. He excuses not showing a single black man in his Iwo Jima films and justifies it by saying he was focusing on the four non-black leads. This is EXACTLY the problem: if he focused there, it never even occurred to him to diversify the thousands of men in the background. His unconscious mind was on clear display. I don't expect him to change: like I said, I think he is magnificent. But he wouldn't be the same were he thirty years younger. He just wouldn't.

#

Christian, you keep talking about sex degrading women. The only thing you need to understand is that I don't see it that way. I see sex as a celebration, as one of the very best things in the world, and an artistic depiction of it is as beautiful as anything else one can put on the screen. You disagree, and I get it. I honestly think you are going to have to deal with this in yourself, or it will cripple your ability to have a long-term, passionate, committed relationship. You seem really ripe to have a Madonna-Whore dichotomy in your life, and I worry for you.

2) Fishburn seems energetic...but notice that his career is declining (happens to many) so that he is now doing television. I suggest that his weight-gain is unlikely to be a positive influence on his life and career. Because it takes little time (but considerable discipline) to control this aspect, for him to let this happen suggests that there is something inhibiting him from operating at his highest level. The movie industry is IMAGE, guys. And Fishburn excluded himself, by actions or inactions, from an entire class of films and roles. No, I don't see this as healthy. Something is wrong.

3) Jews are certainly disproportionately represented in Hollywood. Not sure why, but I've never had a problem about it. And what line about blacks and Jews? You're making an assumption that I would automatically know which line you're talking about, and I don't. My sense is that Jews have been VERY important in the civil rights movement, and have been for decades. Now part of that is the "Canary in the Coal Mine" phenomenon--that is, that before anyone comes for the Jews, they'll rip blacks apart first. That by protecting our rights, they are in effect protecting their own interests. I call that enlightened selfishness. I did know Jews who were for Obama. I know Jews who know middle-class blacks, so if you know "no" Jews like this this speaks more about your circle of acquaintances than it does about the Jewish community per se. Are Jewish people racist? A percentage of every group is racist. Are they more racist than Gentiles? Gentiles like to think so.

4)video and blog post. Lynn pointed me to a video where black women complain about the rudeness of black men. I feel their pain, and here are my thoughts:

a) There is nothing they say that I haven't heard white women say about white men.

b) There genuinely IS a little more tension and hostility between black men and women.

##

I think that the origin of it, frankly, is slavery and the subsequent position blacks found themselves in in America. I have seen, felt, and heard echoes of an "if you assholes had killed every white man who set foot on our continent, we wouldn't be IN this ill shit" attitude all my life. As sexual desire has modified prejudice somewhat for black women (note the number of non-white women who are sexual in 100-million movies) there is a notable lack of high-performing black men in the business world and academic environments. Let alone the prison statistics. Black women find themselves without an equal number of appropriate black potential partners. Frankly, that makes black women a "bargain" on the dating market, because all of the cultural iconography, for hundreds of years, has said that white females are the most desirable thing on the planet.

Man, is there ever some resentment boiling there: black men fearful that there IS something wrong with them, and expecting black women to respond with them even if they are "Scrubs" without money, jobs, or a future. Sorry, that just doesn't lend itself to a genteel and polite sexual approach. On the other hand, I am pissed off at the number of black women I've heard suggesting that it is BETTER for a black woman to date/marry a white man than for a black man to date/marry a white woman. I understand it: every group wants to keep all the power for itself. Black women would like the right to date who they want...while simultaneously guilt-tripping black men into wanting only Sisters. It is exactly the same sexist bullshit black men spouted in the 60's, and it turns my stomach.

##

Anyway, mating rituals among the angry, poor, shattered self-image folk of the world is never pretty. You can't get anything from someone else that will make up for the emptiness inside you. This stuff will all work out, in time...but the pain ain't over yet. But as for the video: I had to laugh at the woman who says that she doesn't see white guys staring at a white girl's ass. No, they stare at her breasts. I mean, the whole joke is that white girls don't HAVE much ass. There is a whole episode of some low-class WB coon comedy here, I'm sure...

35 comments:

Christian M. Howell said...

Clint Eastwood's job is NOT to have black men in his movies. He had a black partner in one of the Dirty Harry movies, Morgan Freeman had an Indian wife in Unforgiven. In Alcatraz, his only actual friend was black.

Spike acts too much like a race baiter for my tastes.

As far as Madonna-Whore please don't attempt to analyze me. I believe fully in sexuality on display, but sex is not sexuality.

If you look at it as a type of cinematic image all sex scenes are the outdated Movement Image. That's why James Bond has PG sex scenes, it disrupts the narrative from Time to Movement.

I feel sorry for you that you come up with these crazy conspiracies instead of putting your money where your mouth is. You want black men in sex scenes make the movies yourself.

And I feel sorry for your daughter as I guess you would tell her it's OK and not "degrading" to perform a scene like that in Monster's Ball.

Christian M. Howell said...

Oh yeah and Space Cowboys has a black man as NASA's number one astronaut pilot.

Menduir said...

In my experience, white immigrants have (in general) stronger negative attitudes about race than those born in the United States. How do you think immigration will delay the changes you expect when American whites born before 1950 start to die off? or do you think it will accelerate those changes because fewer whites are immigrating?
~ Jas.

Michelle said...

On 3)

Some black people are Jews as well. Really.

Pagan Topologist said...

Steve, I watched something on PBS (I think) on New Year's Eve. A lot of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who had been in the movie industry there came to Hollywood in the 1930's. So, there was a large population of Jews there, who may well have naturally hired others that they knew over the years. This seems to me to be a reasonable explanation for the unexpectedly large proportion of Jews in the film industry.

Steven Barnes said...

1) Eastwood's job is to make movies. His black partner in "Magnum Force" got blown up. Dead, remember? Morgan Freeman died. Alcatraz, a lifer removed from genetic competition. You ain't making a case. I never said Eastwood should do X or Y. I just said he was typical of a generation, and that when that generation is gone, things will change.
2) Most Bond movies are PG-13. They keep it that way as a marketing decision for both violence and sex, for worldwide distribution. And all of them have sex. When you cut it down (as in "Living Daylights") the movies bomb.
3) What conspiracy? I've never suggested anything was a conspiracy, and I defy you to prove me wrong. I said that certain things are the result of innate, unconscious human tendencies. "Crazy"? My, you can dish it out but not take it, kid.
4)"Monster's Ball"? Did anyone defend "Monster's Ball"? That would be a good example of a sexual scene I found absurd, and negative. That hardly means that the love scenes in thousands of other films are not valid and positive.
5) Didn't remember the black astronaut in "Space Cowboys." Don't remember a single action or a line of dialog. If that's all you can come up with...then I think you've made my point for me.

Lynn said...

Thanks Steve.

Your comment about slavery being the origin of the problem reminds me of something I've read in more than one place: that a person who has been abused or oppressed will try to abuse or oppress someone else just so they can feel they have power over someone. Even someone who only feels abused or oppressed will act the same way.

I've lived in the south most of my life so I know what I'm talking about when I say that behavior that urban Blacks have a reputation for is equally common among poor rural whites. Abuse of women, child abuse and neglect, out of wedlock births, substance abuse, poor work ethic, high crime rate, you name it. Honestly, I see more white faces in mugshots on the local news than black ones.

About the woman who said white guys don't look at white girls' asses: I thought that was pretty funny too. Of course white men look at women's behinds. Maybe they're more subtle about it; I don't know. You certainly see plenty of unsubtle white-girl-ass close-ups in the movies.

Steven Barnes said...

Oh...and I have no idea what Morgan Freeman having an Indian wife has to do with anything.
##
BTW--I don't try to psychoanalyze anybody. Not qualified. I am the kind of person who takes a look at what people say about their careers, bodies, and human relationships and note the connections between those things and the results they get in life. I speculate based on a lifetime of doing this. No offense is meant, but that's just the way I am, and I see no reason I should change.

Ronn said...

Only a 'little more' tension between black men and black women?

My family is 90% female and when the tribe all gets together, you can cut the tension with a laser beam. I think there is a very specific reason why family gatherings only happen once a decade not everyone always shows up.

Marty S said...

As a Jew, I don't buy your canary in a coal mine argument. Personally I believe that when Blacks are totally accepted as equal in this society Jews still won't be. We already have a Black President, and I'm sure before long we will have a female President, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a Jewish President.

Anonymous said...

"I had to laugh at the woman who says that she doesn't see white guys staring at a white girl's ass."

It's not just about white guys or black guys. Women do the same kinds of things. They do. I watch and I notice. I have stared too, and I'm not any kind of perv. It just is what it is. It's a people thing. Black, white, man, woman... doesn't matter.

Steven Barnes said...

We saw a Jew run for vice-president, and come very close. I'd not be surprised a bit by a Jewish president. What segment of American public life do you feel Jews are under represented in, statistically? I mean a segment where you WANT them to be represented.

Lester Spence said...

i ran into a graduate student who was doing fascinating research...she examined the relationship between the gender ratio of a given geographic area, and the tendency for (black) women to engage in risky behavior. and this research was personal for her because she found herself making a lot of choices she would NEVER have made but felt she had to in order to keep a (black) male partner.

of course she found that the greater the disparity, the greater the risky behavior. in economic terms because black women have preferences for black men, and there are more black women than there are black men, it is a sellers market....the sellers (men) dictate the terms.

how do you think this might effect how black women feel about black men?

Christian M. Howell said...

My point is that complaining about what white men don't do for us makes you sound like a whiner.

At the same time most black film makers expose the same cliches about black families rather than just making something positive up. The Huxtables worked for years.

If we just make Boys in The Hood and Do the Right Thing, then that's what Hollywood will push.

If all our sons are thugs then how can we expect to be treated as more on screen.

This country just has too many problems to worry about whose having sex on screen.

I know I've had more women than several guys put together and I hate the thought of sex in cinema.

http://revealingofthesoul.blogspot.com

I just put up a nice post on why I don't think it works cinematically.

Josh Jasper said...

In the office where I worked, there were two black women working alongside me. One as a co worker, and one as my boss. Both were single mothers. The co worker was consistently on the phone with either her child's father, yelling at him, or her unemployed boyfriend, yelling at him. She eventually broke up with him. Neither of them were all that happy with the men in their lives, but the co worker was a lot angrier than my boss.

The question I'd as is, where are men learning about how to relate to women, and are black men learning anything different than white, Latino or Asian men.

Personally, I think men are being taught to treat women like bowling trophies - the more you "have" the more you get to display as having "had", as if it were a competition.

Men like Steve, who want to find someone to be with for life, and raise a family with aren't the people who brag about it. They don't have to, they realize that the game is meaningless, and a distraction from the importance of building something permanent, rather than a constant game that goes nowhere.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Christian: I know I've had more women than several guys put together and I hate the thought of sex in cinema.

Christian - this kind of self-defense is part of what makes me uneasy. You have repeatedly said that - while part of your objection to sex in cinema is that it takes you out of the story - another part is that you see it as degrading to the actresses involved. At the same time, you have repeatedly cited the number of women you've slept with and the interesting things you've done in clubs as evidence that your own relationship to sex is just fine. Sorry, that does sound a bit Madonna/Whore to me. Would you seriously think it OK for me, as a woman, to brag about how many men I've had? Or what I've done in clubs? Or do I, as a woman, sound better sexually adjusted when you know that I haven't had more men than even the average woman - let alone more than several women put together - and that I've never had sex in a club?

I don't see anything wrong with disliking sexual explicitness in movies - I myself have some boundaries there, and some levels of sexual explicitness that I'm not willing to watch. And the sex scene in "Monster's Ball" has its own problems independent of what you think of sexual explicitness. But I do get the feeling that you're promoting incompatible sexual standards for men and women - ones that make it hard for both to be able to hold their heads up and be respected. If I made your boast, it would just make me "the village bicycle."

Josh: The question I'd as is, where are men learning about how to relate to women, and are black men learning anything different than white, Latino or Asian men.

That's part of the question. But the other thing is, black men seem to treat me better than black women describe themselves as being treated (and I believe the black women who say they're getting different treatment) - so there may be more complicated lessons going on than how men learn to treat women in general.

Mike Ralls said...

To me the biggest indicator that a sub-group has been fully accepted by the dominant group is the intermarriage rate between the two groups. No other way shows what the dominant group really think in their heart than the % who are willing to (theoretically) spend the rest of their life and create a family with the sub-group.

Jews are married to non-Jews about 50% of the time in the US (On a personal note: my wife is culturally Jewish). Blacks are married to non Blacks at a rate of 4.6%. This is a bad sign for Blacks, a worse sign than it looks because the collapse of marriage among blacks (the majority of blacks no longer get married and in the inner city marriage as an institution is practically gone) means that this statistic actually looks _better_ than it is.

My personal bet is that we will ultimately (assuming no Singularity or Nuclear War or whatever) see a large % of the black community fully assimilated into mainstream American society (mainly those Blacks who do get married today) and they will intermarry non-Blacks at current Jewish or Asian or Hispanic rates, but that there will be a substantial plurality or even majority of Blacks who never marry anyone and produce generation after generation of single-parent children; mainly with other blacks. That's been the case for the last 30-40 years and I don't see what's going to change it in the short term. I think this sub-group will remain separate and have worse quantifiable statistics (crime, income, etc) than the general population. It wouldn't surprise me if in 2067 (100 years after Loving vs Virginia) there was a large Black vs Grey (Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, all mixed together in various degrees) divide.

Mike Ralls said...

>Men like Steve, who want to find someone to be with for life, and raise a family with aren't the people who brag about it. <

To be fair, Steve was actually quite promiscuous in earlier years. He's not today and hasn't been for at least a decade (IIRC), and while I'm sure his psychological growth played and important role, I don't think you can entirely discount biology as 45 or 55 just isn't the same as 15 or 25. I don't know that many 45 or 55 year olds who brag about how many women they get. I'm sure they are out there, but not in the same numbers as those 15-25.

Shady_Grady said...

And I feel sorry for your daughter as I guess you would tell her it's OK and not "degrading" to perform a scene like that in Monster's Ball.

Does this really advance any sort of debate or understanding?

Lester Spence said...

Mike you make a provocative claim.

But I'm not sure if you're taking class properly into account. The rates of marriage and single parenthood are decreasing and increasing respectively, but they are doing so particularly among whites. I expect the current economic circumstances will hasten this dynamic. Given that blacks are the lowest of the larger non-white groups on the social hierarchy, I THINK that what we've seen with them is a floor. They (we) can go lower, but not much.

But whites can and will go much lower.

This doesn't suggest a black group of poor non-integrated folk, and a colored group of integrated folk...but something else.

Marty S said...

This might be off topic, but since Clint Eastwood has been discussed, my wife and I saw Gran Turino this afternoon and both of us gave it an A+.

Althea said...

From a writer's point of view, if a sex scene advances the story or a character, be it novel or screenplay, then by all means, put it in there. An example of where there should have been at LEAST two sex scenes was the remake of Shaft.

Who's the black private dick
That's a sex machine to all the chicks?
SHAFT!
Ya damn right!

For Sam Jackson not to get any booty didn't make any f*&^$@in sense.

Another example is in the novel I'm writing now. I have a sex scene near the beginning of the book. The main character is not a happy camper with her man's performance, but she is keeping her mouth shut about her dissatisfaction. She's willing to be unhappy in that area of her life. Later on, someone else takes her to another level sexually. She's then open to receiving pleasure. That's a small part of her character arc. It's important, and is a part of her development as a human being.

That is part of Steve's point. Sexual behavior reveals character. Period. What you do at night (and how you do it and with whom you do it with) is not separate from what you do during the day. We are holistic beings, and EVERYTHING we do, say, and think reveals our personality to other people.

And how we individually react to those images of sex, sexuality, however you want to say it, reveals something about us as well.

Sex in movies will never be outdated until people stop having sex. Don't see that happening in this millennium.

Stories, regardless of medium, reflect the human experience, and sex is a part of that experience.

We all want to see ourselves reflected back to us. I loved Wonder Woman as a kid, but it was Eartha Kitt's Catwoman that made me believe I could be a superheroine. My behind was planted in front of our 8-inch black and white TV anytime she appeared in an episode of Batman. And whatever you think about Halle Berry, I applauded her effort in the Catwoman movie because as a woman of color, I knew where she was coming from.

And I LOVE Alias and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I was like "WTF?" I needed to see a sister kick some ass. So I'm writing her myself. My fictional creation is a whole woman, and whole women embrace their sexuality. So you damn skippy my girl will be getting down.

And to me, Steve is saying that he wants to see himself on screen reflected back to him. (That's my interpretation anyway). What is so hard to understand about that? I get it. That can't just be a black thing. Isn't that what everyone wants? Validation of their humanity?

Help me out ya'll.

Althea

Mike Ralls said...

Lester,

> The rates of marriage and single parenthood are decreasing and increasing respectively<

Is that new data? The last I heard was that children in married-parent families went from 68% in 1998 to 69 in 2002 and there was a more substantial rise among black children during that same period. It's possible it's dipped since then, but I haven't seen that data.

> I expect the current economic circumstances will hasten this dynamic.<

I don't see why that would be the case. If we look at the last period in which marriage rates took a nose dive (roughly from 1965 to the early 90's) it rose irrelevantly as to weather there was good economy or a bad economy. By contrast in rural states like Maine, Montana, and Idaho, the out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans remained low. There wasn't less poverty there, but rather a cultural difference where traditional, mainstream norms held firm in a way they did not in the inner city. The data points to marriage rates being dependent upon culture, not economics.

> They (we) can go lower, but not much.<

The problem I see is a feedback loop. Those born out of wedlock are more likely to have children born out of wedlock. Having multiple generations used to growing up without fathers, results in a culture that feels no shame about having children when its members are not married, which means it's members are more likely to have children out of wedlock. How does one break out of that loop? And given that for whites, marriage is still the norm and for blacks, it is not, I see significant and deeply rooted cultural differences remaining between the two groups indefinitely. If the majority of one group is raised in one type of family, and the majority of another group is raised by a different type of family that shows very different quantifiable differences in social conditions, how could the two groups be anything but different?

Now, it's possible that the white illegitimacy rate could double to match that of blacks, but I don't really see that as likely nor do I see any strong trends in that direction, either statistically or culturally.

Most of my data on black marriage patterns came from "Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age by Kay S. Hymowitz" which I have taken notes on here if you are interested;

http://mikesbooknotes.blogspot.com/2007/03/marriage-and-caste-in-america-separate.html

Marty S said...

Mike: I'm not sure the intermarriage percent is a great measure of overall acceptance. There are eight times as many Blacks in this country as there are Jews. If many of the people who are bigoted hate both Jews and Blacks, then the pool of people who are non-Black and non-Jewish who would consider marrying a Black or Jew would be similar in size, but a Jew would have better odds of actually meeting and marrying one of these people by eight to one.

Josh Jasper said...

Mike Ralls - To be fair, Steve was actually quite promiscuous in earlier years. He's not today and hasn't been for at least a decade (IIRC), and while I'm sure his psychological growth played and important role, I don't think you can entirely discount biology as 45 or 55 just isn't the same as 15 or 25.

Mike, there's a difference between having a variety of sex partners, and seeing them as some sort of bowling trophy. You can have the first without the second.

If we're using Steve's current status as a standard, I'm promiscuous. But All the same, when I was 18, 25, 30 or whatever, the number of sex partners I had didn't involve me talking about them as if they were points of status to be shown off as a way of pointing at how big a man I was.

I don't think biology makes us play those games. I agree it has us attracted to more than one person as a sex partner, but there's no "don't treat sex partners with respect" gene or sequence of hormones. That's a part of our culture(s) and needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I have to agree with Christian-it is not Clint Eastwood's job to showcase blacks in his movies. If he wants to focus on 4 non-blacks in his movie, I have no problem just as if Spike wants to focus on non-whites in whatever films he makes. Spike is STILL bitter that his film lost to Driving Miss Daisy.
I thought the film he made with Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman (where MF narrated) was great. He doesn't have to put ANY body he doesn't want to but as soon as he does, you want to complain about the per was son died or on death row.

Also, the reason Living Daylights sucked was not because they dwindled down the sex scene. Give me a break. No one was buying Timothy Dalton as Bond. Also, Bond's sex scenes are all of 2 to 3 minutes tops so what exactly is so enticing about that? Like Christian said-if you want to see black men having sex so bad, make your own movies or go rent a good porno.

We have enough negative images of Blacks in film and TV to be focused on how we aren't having sex in $100 million grossing films. I guess Black men having sex in films grossing $1 to $99 million is not enough.

Worry about adapting the Tennyson Hardwick novels on screen so he can have all the sex he can since he is a former gigolo. And I happen to love the series and I hope it does see the light of day.

Althea-i hear you loud and clear and yes as a black woman, I would like validation on the screen and you know what? With Tyler Perry I am somewhat getting that and I hope more filmakers come out with the focus of showcasing us as people and not objects. My point is my validation is not validated just because a black person is having sex in a $100 million grossing film. How about us stop being portrayed as sex objects, maids, single mothers, gang bangers, juvenile delinquents, and hoochies?

We have Black men having sex in films under $100 million correct? Now If there was a void in blacks having sex, then that would be one thing. But that's not the case. Most films don't even gross $100 million and for the few that do (and I say few in comparison to the # of films that come out in total), if a black person is in there and doesn't have sex, it's a problem? How we are portrayed as a people OVERALL is the problem-not black men having sex in some $100 million film.

Menduir said...

I'm not sure I understand the importance of the numbers.

Regarding the $100,000,000 level for movies: assume $10.00 per ticket, one ticket each, that's 10 million people. Out of a population of 300 million, assuming just the USA, that's 3.33% of the country's population who actually go to a movie, probably less since few, if any, movies make that much without people seeing it multiple times.

I'm not sure whether the behavior of such a specific 3 percent of a country's population is a good barometer of the country as a whole. I understand that *something* must be used as a source for conclusions but I'm not clear on why movies should be that source. Can anyone expand on why that particular 3 percent is so important?

~ Jas.

mjholt said...

Re: Will Smith getting laid: how about Independence Day? Beautiful girlfriend/wife, charming child. Nothing on screen, but this is sexy, loving back story.

Steven Barnes said...

It continues to fascinate me how people literally can't hear from hearing what I say, no matter how many times I say it. Almost funny.
1) I don't complain about Eastwoods use of blacks. I never said he should do anything different. I said that the way he uses them reveals his racial issues, which are deeply embedded in white males of his generation. Agree or disagree as you like, but try addressing my actual point, eh?
2) The 100 million mark is the sign of wide cultural acceptance, and therefore reveals the unconscious preferences of the population. I lose count of how many times people say: "if you want to see it, why not write it yourself..?" I never said I don't see it. I said that until I see black males having sex in the same proportion of their movies that white guys do, I'll know that that "invisible hand" is still operating. Not once, ever, anywhere, have I suggested that white people SHOULD do anything different. I say that they WILL once more of the older generation has died off. Very different premise.
##
You need to ask yourselves: what in the world is it that keeps you from actually hearing what someone says? I 100% promise that this has negatively affected your lives in other arenas.

Josh Jasper said...

Steve - Lots of people see pointing out areas where there's a racial bias as complaining. If you say "Hey, here's an area where white people get treated one way, and black people get treated differently, and here's why I think it's happening" they instantly read it as a protest, or whining. It stops them from having to look at the issue, and makes it about a personal criticism of you.

Mike Ralls said...

>Mike: I'm not sure the intermarriage percent is a great measure of overall acceptance. There are eight times as many Blacks in this country as there are Jews.<

Well, in rough terms there are about as many Hispanics as there are Blacks, and Hispanics marry non-Hispanics at about a 50% rate too.

Anonymous said...

Josh I disagree because as a black woman I see the disparities on how whites are protrayed in films and TV as opposed to blacks. Some peoples' points are those disparities exist but to be laser focused on blacks having sex in $100 million films is the absolute LEAST of the problem. That is addressing the issue. The problem is not Clint Eastwood's generation because if his generation were to die off, the problem would STILL exist.

I respectfully disagree with the notion that $100 million is an indicator of "wide cultural aceptance". Then that would mean that a film making lets say- $50 million to $99 million is not widely accepted culturally. Like someone pointed, ANY film reaching $100 million is the exception not the rule.

"I said that until I see black males having sex in the same proportion of their movies that white guys do, I'll know that that "invisible hand" is still operating."

Wait-black men are having sex in almost all films that feature black males. what films are you talking about-the general films or the $100 million ones?

Or maybe the bigger issue is how many of our films are getting out there as opposed to white filmakers?

Lester Spence said...

Mike R.

> The rates of marriage and single parenthood are decreasing and increasing respectively<

Is that new data? The last I heard was that children in married-parent families went from 68% in 1998 to 69 in 2002 and there was a more substantial rise among black children during that same period. It's possible it's dipped since then, but I haven't seen that data.

I should have been more explicit here. From what I understand the rate of single parenthood among white women is increasing greater than the rate of any other racial demographic. See this report:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr51/nvsr51_12.pdf

While the birthrate for single black women is decreasing, the birthrate for single white women is increasing.

Further from what I understand the rate of marriage among whites has decreased as well. I haven't been able to find anything to support this though, so it might just be me.

> I expect the current economic circumstances will hasten this dynamic.<

I don't see why that would be the case. If we look at the last period in which marriage rates took a nose dive (roughly from 1965 to the early 90's) it rose irrelevantly as to weather there was good economy or a bad economy. By contrast in rural states like Maine, Montana, and Idaho, the out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans remained low. There wasn't less poverty there, but rather a cultural difference where traditional, mainstream norms held firm in a way they did not in the inner city. The data points to marriage rates being dependent upon culture, not economics.

Mike, can you tell me where Kay gets her information from here? I looked at your website and Kay does nothing more than say what you said. I don't have any idea what the numbers are here...the black population in the states you mentioned has never been particularly high.

> They (we) can go lower, but not much.<

The problem I see is a feedback loop. Those born out of wedlock are more likely to have children born out of wedlock. Having multiple generations used to growing up without fathers, results in a culture that feels no shame about having children when its members are not married, which means it's members are more likely to have children out of wedlock. How does one break out of that loop? And given that for whites, marriage is still the norm and for blacks, it is not, I see significant and deeply rooted cultural differences remaining between the two groups indefinitely. If the majority of one group is raised in one type of family, and the majority of another group is raised by a different type of family that shows very different quantifiable differences in social conditions, how could the two groups be anything but different?


I believe that blacks operate as America's canary in the coal mine. Whatever challenges that blacks face will inevitably be faced by non-blacks. The increased rate of white out-of-wedlock births (that occur at the same time black out-of-wedlock births decrease) indicates that the gap is narrowing. And whether the causes are cultural (it's becoming less stigmatized) or economic, I see this pattern picking up.

Now, it's possible that the white illegitimacy rate could double to match that of blacks, but I don't really see that as likely nor do I see any strong trends in that direction, either statistically or culturally.

I don't see the trend reversing, particularly given the current economic circumstances. Blacks have had to deal with significant unemployment, particularly among males, for decades. Whites have not. I expect the trend to pick up in rural areas, and suburban areas. Unless more resources are put into family planning.

Most of my data on black marriage patterns came from "Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age by Kay S. Hymowitz" which I have taken notes on here if you are interested;

http://mikesbooknotes.blogspot.com/2007/03/marriage-and-caste-in-america-separate.html

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

You need to ask yourselves: what in the world is it that keeps you from actually hearing what someone says? I 100% promise that this has negatively affected your lives in other arenas.

Steve, I think you're only half right here.

What I think I hear you saying, about the black men having sex in the movies thing is: 1) That you're using this measure to make an inference about white people's attitudes. 2) That you're using films as your data point because that's what you know. 3) That you're using films that make over $100 million because you believe a film can't reach that amount of sales, in the US, without a significant audience among white people (and the measure's supposed to demonstrate something about white people's attitudes), while a film can make a more moderate profit even if not many white people at all see it. 4) That the measure is whether black men have sex at all, with women of any race. 5) That you're picking "gets laid" (whether with PG fade out conventions or more explicit R ones) as your measure because it's an objective measure, but that black men, in $100 million + movies, see less romance/sex/action of all kinds than white men. 6) That this is supposed to be a measure of how far white people's attitudes have or haven't changed, not a demand that we all go out and watch any movie in which Will Smith gets laid.

And, assuming I've understood you right, then, yes, it looks as if other people are consistently misunderstanding you in various ways (the sex has to be interracial, that you mean this as some sort of lobbying effort to make $100 million + movies serve up more sex scenes with black men, etc.).

But part of the reason people aren't hearing what you mean them to is that you clearly care a lot about seeing stories in which black men get to be fully sexual. You care about movies, and it's only natural you do; you wouldn't be a writer if stories weren't important to you. And sex is an important part of your self-image: when you describe that pyramid of goals to which we should all aspire, you talk about a happy and fully sexual marriage or relationship, a healthy body where you can look in the mirror and see yourself as someone worth sleeping with. And when you talk about movies like Hancock or I Am Legend, you're not just making some neutral observation about white people want to see; you're also unhappy at seeing plots that go out of their way to thwart the character that looks like you from getting laid.

And that's natural, too. Sex, and how we're seen sexually, is important to nearly all of us. But in different ways. I totally take for granted that people who look like me will be abundantly shown naked, in bed, and otherwise as objects of desire, that movies will routinely revolve around the vital importance of getting the character who looks like me (or at least the character that looks like my somewhat younger self) in bed. So, though I'm fine with PG-13 and R level sex scenes, and would happily watch any black guy who's cute in such a scene, it's only natural that my personal buttons with movies are more with other things than with who doesn't get laid (and I know you don't expect me to have the same personal buttons as you, or I vice versa). And likewise others in this thread have different buttons from either of us.

I think at least part of what's happening is that you're both trying to make a particular intellectual point and making it in an area where you have strong feelings, and some people are attending more to the strength of your feelings than to the specifics of your point.

Steve Perry said...

As a writer, if somebody doesn't get what I meant when I wrote it, I see three reasons:

1) I didn't explain it properly.
2) I did, but they didn't get it because of something in their mindset. Could be they have their own axe-to-grind, lack of experience, or maybe just dull wits.
3) Some combination thereof.

I generally default to #1; because I can try to fix that.
But sometimes, no matter how simple you make it, some folks aren't going to get it.

Words on paper or on a screen are, at best, a poor means of communication. That's the nature of the medium.

When write a book, I have two criteria I like:

1) Did I tell the story I wanted to tell?
2) Did I tell it well?

If i can answer yes to both, then I'm good, no matter how it does commercially or critically. I realize that some of what I offer is not going to find a large audience by its nature, so that's not what aim to hit.

If you offer a post and nine of ten people get it, then you probably are okay that it's not your fault the last guy didn't get it.

If nine out of ten don't get it? You have to re-examine your offering. They could all be wrong, but you know the old saying: If somebody calls you an ass, you can ignore him. If ten people call you an ass, you might want to consider getting a saddle ...