Celebrities: Diversifying Power

15 07 2009

I just wanted to make a note of the Forbes top five influential women in media: in order, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tyra Banks. I am impressed that of those five, two are African-American and one is lesbian.

Of Forbes’s top 100 celebrities, the top five include Angelina Jolie, Oprah, Madonna, Beyonce, and Tiger Woods; you don’t get a white dude until #6, Bruce Springsteen, who beats Steven Spielberg at #7, and then it’s Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Kobe Bryant to round out the top 10.  So of the top 10 most powerful celebrities, five are men and five are women.  It’s like the general population is also half male and half female!  Amazing!  And, interestingly (to me), four of the top ten are African-American or mixed race.  Again, it’s almost as if a significant portion of the US is not white!  Astounding!

I’d like to see what smarter people with economic training have to say, but I’m struck by the methodology for calculating the Celebrity 100:

The Celebrity 100 is a measure of power based on money and fame. Earnings estimates, which include income from films, television shows, endorsements, books and other entertainment ventures, are calculated between June 2008 and June 2009. Figures were rounded off where appropriate. Sources include Billboard, Pollstar, Adams Media Research, Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen BookScan, Nielsen Media Research and SNL Kagan. Fame is calculated using Web hits on Google Blog Search, TV/radio mentions on LexisNexis, overall press mentions on Factiva and the number of times a celebrity’s image appeared on the cover of 25 consumer magazines.

Which 25 consumer magazines?  What’s the demographic for each of them?  I’m just wondering about using magazine covers to gauge fame when as far as I know, magazine subscriptions have been dwindling.  I assume we’re talking about magazines like People, Vogue, Cosmo, and other checkout-line staples, where anyone who buys groceries ends up seeing the faces on the cover.  But I’d like to know more specifically which magazines count and which don’t.  Rolling Stone probably does, I would imagine, but how many magazines are included in their list that target Latin@s, for example, which make up a significant portion of the population?  Does Forbes, as I suspect they do, privilege magazines targeted at middle-class white women?

The list of the 400 richest Americans is more revealing, though: there are only four women in the top 60, and it’s not until you hit #60 that you finally see a face that isn’t white: Patrick Soon-Shiong, just ahead of Steve Jobs.  Don’t worry, white dudes: you’ve still got wealth and power locked in, in spite of the way you’ve voiced your fears over the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor (*cough*LindseyGraham*cough*).


Dollhouse 01×07: Echoes (SPOILERS)

28 03 2009

HERE is the Whedon I’ve been waiting for!  This episode grabbed me from the beginning.  It’s a premise that makes sense (except I kept wondering how her stockings stayed up), with emotional stakes that matter, and FINALLY we get the character conflicts that the show has been building up since the first episode.  It’s a shame that the first half of the season was so dreadful.  This is making even that part of it worthwhile.

Except — holy crap, why did it have to be the black guy who turned out to be the murderer?  Seriously?  Throughout most of the show I was so impressed that a black guy was cast as one of the grad students, and then he turned out to be less than honorable.  GAH.  They gave him a halfway decent motive — he wants to help his mother — but that doesn’t solve the problem.  And the fact that he is set up to become a new doll at the end of the show doesn’t really make it any better.  Is there a larger point here about certain experiences of black masculinity?  I’d like to think so, to see this as a condemnation of the structures that force young black men into untenable choices.  But I’m not sure that we get enough information about and sympathy for Sam’s character for that to be the best interpetation.

Still: best episode yet.

Dollhouse 01×06: “Man on the Street” (SPOILERS)

21 03 2009

… I don’t even know.

So now we’re supposed to feel empathy for the client whose fantasy involves nonconsensual sex with a woman brainwashed into believing she’s his wife, rather than nonconsensual sex with a woman brainwashed into believing she’s doing a one-night stand?  That seems even SKEEVIER, somehow.

Also: what kind of idiot is Ballard, talking specifics of his cases with his freaking neighbor? Of course she’s a Doll — I wondered about it when we first met her, then decided she wasn’t, but as soon as we discovered her apartment was bugged it was clear she’s an active — but even if she weren’t, Ballard is a PRIZE MORON to talk to her about an open case.

I also can’t figure out what we’re supposed to think of the framing device: which of the various perspectives are we supposed to agree with?  Our very first woman-on-the-street is an African-American woman — the only African-American that I recall seeing in the entire framing device — and she talks about this being slavery and nothing but.  Her blurb coming first indicates that hers is the perspective we’re meant to believe.  And yet by putting the word “slavery” in her mouth turns it into a racial thing, and I can tell you exactly what much of America will do with that statement: dismiss it because “black people are always making everything about slavery.”  (I can’t tell you how many times I heard that growing up, from people inside and outside the family.)  Also, they couldn’t do something LESS stereotypical than the Sassy Black Woman?  So while on the one hand I completely agree with that perspective and commend them for starting off with a black woman at all, on the other hand, there are still some highly suspicious racial issues going on in this show (also with Topher’s Asian-American lab assistant — have we even gotten her name yet?).

And yet the show ends with Echo apparently asking to go back to Joel Miner.  Whedon spent much of the episode showing us all the ways in which the Dollhouse is evil (and it is!).  This episode in particular focused on the issue of consent, particularly with the awful, vaguely pedophilic rape of Sienna by her handler.  But ending the episode with a close-up on Echo and Miner’s clasped hands, after that weird interchange between Echo and De Witt, ends up sanctioning Miner’s particular fantasy.  Don’t worry, that ending says, Echo wanted to go back to him!  Look, nonconsensual sex is okay in marriage because the guy will win her over with his sweetness! And… no.  Just no.

Dollhouse 01×05: “True Believer”

19 03 2009

The jury inside my head is still out deliberating on Dollhouse.

My major problem with the show since episode 1 has been the preposterousness of the premises.  I can’t figure out why anybody would pay the enormous fees to do most of the tasks that Echo has been hired to do.  However, needing to infiltrate a cult, while still seeming wildly improbable, strikes me as somehow less wildly improbable than some of Echo’s other missions (such as BEING A MIDWIFE, wtf).

So: cults are creepy, as we all know, and yet no cult could be as creepy as the Dollhouse, or the dark potential of Whedon’s own ambiguously misogynist narratives, in which Echo gets hit or shot at or otherwise hurt every week, all in the name of… showing how bad misogyny is?  (SPOILERS behind the jump) Read the rest of this entry »

Dollhouse 01×03 and 01×04: “Stage Fright” and “Gray Hour”

7 03 2009


  1. Why on earth would anyone hire one of the Dollhouse actives to be a midwife?  This makes no sense whatsoever.
  2. Why can’t anybody just use normal security measures?  Why use Echo as a bodyguard when all Rayna’s manager really needed to do was find the Kevin Costner to Rayna’s Whitney Houston?

I liked “Gray Hour” a lot better than “Stage Fright” — in fact, I like “Gray Hour” better than any of the episodes so far.  (SPOILERS BEHIND THE JUMP)  Read the rest of this entry »

Scrap that reading list

6 03 2009

I was away from the internet for a few days, and when I returned, it had all gone to hell.  Again.

I no longer plan to read Elizabeth Bear’s Stratford Man books because of her unconscionable behavior in this post.  Unfortunately, I can’t return those books and get my money back.  So instead, I plan to follow Avalon’s Willow’s excellent suggestion: sell them (and a few others) and donate the money to Verb Noire, a new press for writers and characters of color.

And I want to be clear about some things.  I am white and privileged; I try to be conscious of and fight against the racism that permeates my environment, but I know that I fail sometimes.  And I am sorry for that.  I hope that I learn better, but — and this is important — I don’t believe it is anybody’s responsibility but my own to teach me how not to be an asshat.  I need to learn.  I need to try.  I need to make the hard decisions, adjust the ingrained attitudes, and be an adult about how I write about POCs.

My promise here is that I will always work toward that goal.  And when I screw up, I will not do what Elizabeth Bear has done: trivialize, insult, marginalize, alienate, and try to silence POCs.

I will listen.  I will research.  I will learn.

Dollhouse, 01×02, “The Target”

22 02 2009

The good things first: this episode was MUCH better than last week’s. The tension felt more real, and so did the basic premise (for a world in which people’s personalities can be wiped, anyway).  We get the first hints that the brain-wipes don’t always go as well as planned, and we find out some of the backstory.

I like the character of Boyd more and more, and Topher, albeit funny, grows increasingly creepy.  I’m intrigued by Alpha.  I’ll keep watching next week.

BUT… I am still really worried by the depictions of women in the show.  (SPOILERS after the jump!)

Read the rest of this entry »