Taking a chomp out of the mess that is US politics, one issue at a time...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Props to Sarah Marshall

I just have to commend Universal Pictures on their advertising strategy for the new movie, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Due to the elementary-type slogans, such as "My mom never liked you Sarah Marshall", my boyfriend and I braved opening night last night to go to the Grove and see it. The unique advertising strategy has caused quite a stir in Los Angeles this past month and the movie definitely lived up to the hype. It's hilarious! I'd recommend it to everyone.

On an even cooler note, the director and main actor came to the theatre before the showing, wasted and taking pictures of the audience. It as quite a night!

The advertising strategy is the most interesting aspect of the movie for me. Recently I was talking with a peer about the need for unique and outlandish advertisements in our current society where we literally are bombarded with ads every second of the day. The Figueroa Post goes on to say that Universal Pictures hoped that this innovative strategy would leave LA and the rest of the country scratching their heads, wondering "who the f$%& is Sarah Marshall". And it did just that. Kudos Universal Pictures!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Vogue Racist? I think not...

Controversy hit the fashion world this month when Vogue released it's April cover: Lebron James striking an animalistic pose with a basketball in one hand and model, Gisele Bundchen, in the other.

Critics have likened the pose to King Kong, claiming that Lebron James is purposefully portrayed as a crass black man, lusting after a white woman. (NBC Sports) The blog, Of Ignorance, sites some comments written condemning Vogue's choice of cover. One commentator states, "Lebron is straight up perpetuating a stereotype (that of the brutal, wild savage)". Another commentator goes on to say that there are plenty "of black high fashion models" that could have been pictured next to him instead of the white Gisele. What?!?! The same people who are claiming that Vogue is racist are not OK with cross-cultural photographs? If that's not racist I don't know what is...

With the exception of the previous critique, I'd have to admit that commentators are expressing their outrage at the cover because they are genuinely concerned with the possibility that it was intentionally published to be racist. Unfortunately, I think their concern is only stirring up controversy where there should be none. I genuinely do not think the cover was shot to be racist; I actually appreciate the rugged athleticism of Lebron next to the strong, beauty of Gisele. They are both amazingly successful in their respective fields and a perfect mix and match of athletic bodies for the "Shape Issue".

So what exactly does this have to do politics?

The controversy that Lebron and Gisele's differing skin colors has created can be likened to the race aspect of the current fight for the democratic nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both have faced good and bad publicity based on their skin color; it has gone so far as to have determined Democratic votes in some primaries (or at least appeared to based on exit polls). However, like the Vogue cover, I think it is not their skin colors that should be analyzed and compared. I will only go so far as to say that electing Barack Obama as our next president would be a positive sign that our nation as moved passed the atrocious time when African Americans were slaves and not allowed to vote. Beyond that (and I don't think that should be the deciding factor for any voter, I mean Hillary would represent immense steps forward in the feminist movement), I see no reason to even recognize the different ethnicities of Barack and Hillary. Unfortunately our country is no where near the point where we can turn a blind eye to skin color and acknowledge a human being for their accomplishments and beauty outside of race.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Controversy Stalemate

Reviewing the past week and the democratic primary battlefield brings little excitement.  There were no primaries, no heated debates, no groundbreaking sex scandals, or NAFTA conflicts.  On the whole Barack and Hillary are at a controversely stalemate, not necessarily a good thing in this drawn out primary race, where holding voters' interest may be just as critical as staying in the race.

But wait, Obama said what?

At a fundraiser in San Francisco last week, Obama attempted to describe the plight of blue collar workers in bible belt states to "latte-sipping" Californians.  He said that "jobs have been gone now for 25 years".  He said that as a conseqence they've gotten bitter and turned to "guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentimant". (ABC News

And, in the midst of a "dirt-less" week, Hillary jumped on this right away, claiming that everyone she encountered in Pennsylvania was "resilient", "optimistic", and "positive".  In essence, she twisted Obama's words from one's that were meant to inspire to words that critique blue-collar workers.  And the funny thing is, Obama is right.  Blue collar workers have seen a dramatic decrease in available jobs in the last 25 years and the government has been hesitant to offer any assistance to laid-off factory workers losing their jobs to 3rd world countries because it's in the interest of big business.  And there has been a corresponding increase in "the recruitment of hate groups such as KKK" (The Rail-Splitter).  

Hillary's accusation of Obama's elitism is coupled with her announcement this week that the Democratic candidates in the past election (i.e. Gore and Kerry) were out of touch with their constituents.  The Democrats lost in 2004 because they couldn't relate to voters?  I find that hard to believe, considering the white-collared, Texan who did win.  

Basically, Hillary claims to relate more to blue collar workers and the common man than Gore, Kerry, AND Obama.  In the words of The Rail-Splitter, "Give me a fucking break".  This, coming from the woman with +100,000,000 in taxable income (The Rail-Splitter).  The same woman refusing to show tax records and ready to invest millions of her own money in a faltering campaign.

So congratulations Hillary.  Way to stir up the pot and get people talking.  Let's see how far this ludicrous accusation gets, how far the media blows up a simple speech to condemnation of working class families.  If anything it's entertaining, right?

Friday, April 4, 2008

2008 Olympics: Supporting Inhumanity in Beijing?

Bush is arguably facing his last major, controversial decision as President of the United States:

Do we attend or boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China?

On one hand, we need to protest the lack of human rights and absolute contradiction to democratic values that China represents. And unfortunately, contrary to guarantees that China would be gladly open their doors and use the 2008 Olympics to end hundreds of years of injustice and intolerance, China seems to if anything have worsened its religious and cultural intolerance as the games approach. Luke Thomas, an active member of the China Freedom Blog Alliance and supporter of Olympic Watch, warns Americans about participating in the 2008 Olympics in the current state of China:

"Please be aware that the Olympic Games will be held in a country where there are no elections, no freedom of religion, no independent courts, no independent trade unions; where demonstrations and strikes are prohibited; where torture and discrimination are supported by a sophisticated system of secret police; where the government encourages the violation of human rights and dignity, and is not willing to undertake any of its international obligations.

Please consider whether the Olympic Games should coexist with religious persecution[,] labor camps, modern slavery, identity discrimination, secret police and crimes against humanity."

Thomas goes on to summarize the countries where China has been responsible for the genocide of entire nations of people. Some of these include Burma and Darfur, with the most recent atrocities being seen in Tibet. And while the Olympic Charter approved Beijing as the home of the 2008 Summer Olympics, they did so with the understanding that China would live by the self-created slogan, we live in "one world" with "one dream". However, Of Ignorance recently posted that China has officially banned filming from the infamous Tienanmen Square due to recent social unrest. This comes as a blow to many foreign activist groups who planned to make the Olympic games their stage in a quest for equality and humanity.

So the pervading question remains, do we attend the 2008 Olympics and indirectly support China's inhumanity? Or do we boycott them, breaking ties with a country avidly buying up our debt and crushing hundreds of young athletes dreams of a gold medal. Nancy Pelosi offers her advice in an interview with ABC, "I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table."

And I agree with her. Looking past our financial dependence on China and boycotting the Opening Ceremonies sends the message that as a country who embraces democracy and touts tolerance of all, we do not tolerate the injustice that currently defines the domineering Chinese government.  However, when it comes to the actual sporting events, that's all they really are. Having American athletes compete in events against other countries is simply a competition, not a symbol of unification and support. We don't need another Moscow. It is unnecessary to ruin the years and decades of hard work that Olympic athletes have put into the upcoming summer simply because the International Olympic Committee had overly optimistic reformation dreams for China.

This idea of a partial boycott seems to be rippling throughout democratic nations around the world.  The question in most of the European Union is not whether they will boycott the Olympics, but how far they will take that boycott. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has already asserted that she will not be attending the Olympic Games and I'm sure many leaders will follow in her footsteps. (ABC)

Bush's upcoming decision is going to be extremely controversial, and probably more than some realize. Already over the weekend there were demonstrations in San Francisco, most notably the continuation of the Human Rights Freedom Torch Relay, a peaceful protest started in Greece to protest the lack of human rights in China. It will be interesting to see where America falls on the boycott continuum and whether or not Bush attempts to make a stand for human rights and justice.