Tag Archives: Barbie

The Fundamental Things To Fly

When Rick tells Ilsa that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world and that she must get on that plane the audience holds its collective breath. Will she stay in Casablanca or join her husband to fight the good fight? It’s a suspenseful few moments; this romantic struggle. To this day, my stomach clenches with anxiety; will she really get on that tiny prop plane during such a thick fog? For me any follow-up film wouldn’t answer romantic questions but instead whether Victor, Ilsa and the pilot got there in one piece.

Ordinarily travel in film was depicted (and often actually was) kind of glamorous. There was a (relatively) brief period of time during which air travel was regularly available and pricey. People dressed, not to teach yoga, but to travel. There was such a thing as ‘travel outfits’ that did not include a u-shaped pillow (presumably for the neck but identical to a hemorrhoid pillow.) We can all agree those days are over. But what has taken its place? Slowly but surely you can (or will be able to) buy or finagle your way into civility. There are ways to avoid the TSA hall of mirrors screening. Cavity searches and arbitrary confiscations can be bypassed with elite registration. You needn’t wait at the gate/Ellis Island Great Hall if you pay for V.I.P. status with an airline. You can eat cubed cheese behind closed doors, for a price. Passengers can pre-board as V.I.P.s as well. Pre-board? Why would anyone care to sit in a can longer than necessary? Well, claiming space in an overhead bins is a sweet (and at times elusive) victory. Airlines now charge passengers for the opportunity to have one’s luggage damaged, stolen or lost. Those bins fill up fast and with items you wouldn’t think could fit through the aircraft door let alone a bin.

So if you’ve paid your additional memberships and registered accordingly, you have gotten onto the airplane in a civilized manner. You’ve still carried your bag like a sherpa and purchased your own magazines, newspapers and meals. But you haven’t stood on endless lines or worse, in large unwieldy clusters. You’ve not been checked for scurvy or glaucoma or had your name changed. No, you and your burlap sack of boiled potatoes and sausage are seated comfortably with your worldly possessions within eyeshot. You are seated comfortably, aren’t you? Okay forget about your legs for a moment; you’re okay right? What’s that? You’ve no sensation in your shins? No, I’m sorry those seats (with extra legroom) in the emergency row cost extra. That’s right you get to pay for the privilege of agreeing to assist 150 people out of a crashed airplane. Now just sit back and try to relax. Here, have some recycled air. Your air blower doesn’t work? Let me see if I can flag an attendant to help you. Hmm, all I seem to see is people wearing jeans and bright pink tops. There seems to be a woman in an electric pink housedress maybe she can help. It would appear that this Delta flight is not only cross-listed with Alaska Air, KLM, Bob’s Plane, but with Barbie Air as well. (*Note-flights are now cross-listed like college courses. Don’t ask why; don’t even think too much about it, just check and re-check which terminal has your plane.) Wait it seems it’s not Barbie Air. No, it’s a charity campaign. Yep! If you act now not only do you enjoy the posh pleasures of flying in a can, providing your own meals, entertainment, and blankie, you have the opportunity to donate to the charity of your airline’s choice!

No doubt the airline is looking for some good will. You know what might create some good will? Have the attendants wear uniforms. Don’t have the pilot stand in his shirt sleeves (and white plastic sunglasses) showing the attendants photos of his wild antics last night as passengers are boarding. Be on time and be nice. Stop making the seats smaller and closer together. In fact; stop making the seats. There should be two classes; first class (for which a ticket is never less than $5,000 each way) and upright. Yes, upright. Just straps us in like parachuters. You could fit a lot more people in that way and eliminate the need for any bathrooms! Flying is already like riding the subway in so many other ways; I say take that last brave step for mankind. Nothing will create goodwill faster than just getting me there in one piece after such a harrowing experience. I’m willing to wager that Ilsa and the pilot of that prop plane are probably the ones that lived happily ever after.

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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Travel


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Race From The Top


It’s delicate to talk about race. It’s downright incendiary to do so about a race outside of one’s own. Of course it’s the 21st century and we should have matured beyond this point by now. We think nothing of discussing religion, politics or sex at the dinner table or loudly into our phones on public transport. But race? Well, that’s a horse of a different color.

Race matters, as does religion. Many people define themselves by, well by their people. When asked to describe themselves in three words, many will default to; race/religion, gender, politics (or romantic affiliation depending on context/election year.) How we define ourselves is based somewhat on our affinity to a minority group. If one is a white Christian male, he may define himself in terms of profession or hobby. For truth be told, the majority venture through life a bit differently than anyone in an underrepresented group. (It can be confusing to consider women, who are 51% of the population as “underrepresented” but when we do so, we are referencing their position in society.) In the broadest terms, a white Christian male experiences, on the whole, fewer incidents of exclusion. They likely don’t have shop owners looking at them askew, or taxi drivers refusing their fare. They don’t have people assuming they’re the nurse (versus the surgeon) or the flight attendant (versus the pilot.) They don’t look upon the White House Christmas/Easter celebrations, year after year after year, and think; “Where do I fit into this Christian country?”

Almost any minority narrative is peppered with “where do I fit in.” We look at the culture as represented in entertainment, commerce, and leadership. We seek something familiar, someone with whom we can identify. With each decade our popular culture becomes incrementally diverse. If we were to grab the television remote today, and try very very hard, we could probably find positive depictions of more than the majority race. We may even find gay and lesbian people/characters who weren’t playing the perennial punch line. Women are more prominent in serious roles on television. But without a lofty film career or British citizenship on their resume, they are still mostly (two packs-a-day, dabbling in harmful behaviors) underweight and equipped with perfectly symmetrical faces. But they do vary in shades (if not body type.) The lighter darker skinned woman is much more prevalent on the small and sometimes larger screen. Many primetime dramas have a principle cast that includes women of (near of far) eastern, Latina or African American background. Most (if not all) are quite light. You can’t say the same for men of color in television or film. We could all probably rattle off at least a dozen high-powered/profile big box-office actors who are on the darker side. Some of these accomplished actors also wear the mantle of sex symbol. Can we think of even one actress with dark skin who is a) big box-office or b) a sex symbol? (This question is not rhetorical, please post comments.)

Recently the casting of a (n unauthorized) film about Nina Simone was leaked. Ms. Simone was a breath-taking talent (and civil rights advocate) and a dark skinned woman. The actress selected is Dominican/Puerto Rican and quite light skinned. While color blind casting can work, it does not when the subject matter is inextricably linked to race. Most likely there is no grand conspiracy at work here. More likely it is a general industry consensus that lead actresses need to appeal to the majority white male. Walk into any hair salon in any neighborhood and ask the women of any race, religion, and ethnicity if they would throw Denzel Washington or Jamie Foxx out of the bedroom. Go ahead, I’ll wait. But women, to be considered desirable by popular culture, must look somewhat related to Barbie. She can be Barbie’s tanned cousin, but her features (i.e., hair, face) must still look as if they belong on the Mattel family tree.

The good(?) news is that we have made some progress in the area of dark skinned leading men (no doubt Sidney Poitier was getting very lonely.) But the much more disturbing news is that women must still conform to a perceived majority male ideal. Is there any market research to bear this ideal out? Or is it simply that there are just a handful of people in any real power in Hollywood and what we see is in fact their own personal preference? Dark skinned actors are fine, because these male producers (probably) don’t want to sleep with them. They want to hang out with them (because in their worldview of race, this will make them cooler.)

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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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