Monthly Archives: February 2012

Commemorating 9/11 NFL Style

As I promised a few weeks back, it finally might be a good point to talk about some of my recent research in more detail today; especially since I’ve been “forced” by no one else than Mr. Gil Rodman himself to present at this Wednesday’s  WNR, so in a way I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone here. And you may consider yourself lucky to get an exclusive preview (but be warned: it’s a rather lengthy entry).

September 11, 2011 marked the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It was a “day that has been documented, dissected and debated unlike any other in human history” (Farhi, 2011). Brian Williams expressed the looming gloom that evening on NBC’s Nightly News: “as hell rained down on earth from the sky and changed all our lives forever … tens of thousands of people gathered to mark this darkest day in modern American history” (NBC Nightly News, 2011). Through various mass media outlets, the tributes, reflections and searches for a deeper meaning “poured forth in a kind of collective media-fed group therapy” (Farhi, 2011).

In an article for Harper Magazine, David Rieff (2011) concludes that this creation of “large scale solidarity” reaffirmed group loyalty rather than the establishment of historical accuracy with consideration for this event in all its moral and political complexity. Where were you that day and what do you remember?

And while I purposely shunned the media for most of the day to escape American television networks’ presentation of more than 75 hours of news programming (Hale, 2011) in the form of live broadcasting, documentaries, memorials, and dramas, all connected to the event; in the end, I could not escape it at all. While watching NBC’s Sunday Night Football, I was exposed to a carefully crafted pregame commemoration ceremony representing a unique instance of sport rhetoric functioning as an extremely persuasive vehicle for sustaining and extending a culture of militarism in U.S. society.

Butterworth and Moskal (2009) argue that American identity is constituted in and by a culture of militarism, “wherein Americans are implicated in a structural relationship between government, the military, and entertainment industries to the extent that it has become functionally impossible to live outside the rhetorical production of war” (p. 413).

As I watched roaring images of the Sunday broadcast of the National Football League, with the unrolling of an American flag the size of the entire field, NYFD fire fighters, NYPD police, and members of the armed forces lined up between football players, Robert DeNiro eulogizing civilian victims, a member of the Army Band performing Taps, hyped up crowds chanting “USA, USA!,” George W. Bush walking out on the field to flip the inaugural coin, and a highly emotional performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” – I was wondering what all this could possibly mean, ten years after September 11, 2001.

So I started doing some research on the development of what late General Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961 termed the development of a military-industrial complex.

With broad technological, societal, and geo-political changes that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, mass media have been increasingly drawn into an alliance with military interests, which has since been described by varying terms, such as “the military entertainment complex,” “militainment,” “the military-industrial-media-entertainment network,” or the “military-information-entertainment complex” to name a few.

For Nick Turse (2008) in The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives, today’s excessive high-tech military complex reaches deeper into American lives and the American psyche than Eisenhower could have ever imagined. The by-products of the corporate-military-entertainment merger, intended to project a hip image, are startling: from NASCAR and rodeo events which widely portray sponsorship by branches of the armed forces; recruiting campaigns that use the latest social networking technology (, Facebook and Twitter pages) to capture the attention of teens; to the involvement with popular (civilian) brands, such as Disney, Starbucks, Oakley, or Coca-Cola; “Just like the fictional Matrix, the Complex is nearly everywhere and involved in almost everything, and very few people aren’t plugged into it in some way, shape, or form” (Turse, 2008, p. 17).

September 11, 2011: A Game Day Like Any Other?

So how do the NFL’s commemoration ceremonies fit into this? An official press release by the NFL (2011) announcing the commemoration ceremonies for September 11, 2011 affirmatively read:

        The games and broadcasts on that opening Sunday will unite fans to recognize those who lost their lives, honor the     families who lost loved ones, and salute the American spirit, the early responders on 9/11, and other heroes that contributed to the nation’s recovery. The schedule of games for that day was designed to appropriately commemorate 9/11 on a national level and what it represents to Americans. (para. 1-2)

In my paper, I’m specifically looking at pre-game broadcasting as well as the pregame ceremonies and halftime shows held during those shows. Here, I briefly want to look at NBC’s Sunday Night Football to show how these crafted pregame commemoration ceremonies created an extremely persuasive vehicle for sustaining and extending a culture of militarism to desperately garner support for two largely failed wars, and to reassert national identity through excessive displays of patriotism and hegemonic masculinity.

I’s strongly encourage you to look at two clips here (one from the gre-game ceremony, the other from the half-time show) as they are pretty indicative of what was going on during the NFL’s commemoration ceremonies on September 11, 2011.

It is troubling to realize how citizen identity is re-constituted by the military-entertainment matrix of NBC’s Sunday Night Football – where an assimilation of the citizen by the military apparatus takes place and citizens are seduced by an entertaining war spectacle: “Citizen identity becomes a battle space to be micro-managed” (Stahl, 2010, p. 38). The MIME-NET attempts to absorb citizen identity into passive, assimilated consumers of war by expanding a culture of militarism via vehicles such as the NFL’s 9/11 commemorations by providing a “distraction from the real thing” as sports writer William C. Rhoden (2003) emphasizes.

It further plays a central ideological role for mobilizing and reasserting patriarchal values that construct, mediate, and maintain hegemonic forms of masculinity and femininity. Boggs and Pollard (2007) argue that “With few exceptions the military has been a domain of patriarchal, masculinist traditions—social hierarchy, violence, conquest, sexism, homophobia, gun worship—and the United States has never been one of the exceptions” (p. 37).

By conducting a critical discourse analysis it becomes clear that the commemorations held by the NFL to honor the victims of 9/11 are one of many components that feed into the expansion of the MIME-NET. The NFL’s commemoration ceremonies are largely a spectacle of the culture of militarism, produced in part by militaristic messages from sponsors, advertisers, and broadcasters functioning to instill one-dimensional “support the troops” rhetoric to reassert national identity and support for the war, while also relying on hegemonic masculinity portrayals.

I argue that by seizing the NFL, as can be seen especially with these commemoration ceremonies, the military expands the already familiar conflation of sport and war, and simultaneously trivializes the seriousness of war as it emphasizes the seriousness of supporting the American military: “This rhetorical division offers a delimited conception of appropriate American identity, thereby normalizing war in general and endorsing the ‘war on terror’ specifically” (Butterworth & Moskal, 2009, p. 411).

We should ask ourselves what the balance is likely to be between the costs of remembrance and its benefits. I would argue that these ceremonies nourish flawed illusions about our ability to accurately remember with severe socio-political consequences: “After all, to remember may not just mean to grieve; it may also mean to harbor a vision of securing justice or vengeance long after it is time to put the guns away” (Rieff, 2011, p. 48). The process of an encroaching militarization of public space and our everyday culture has clearly been in the making for over a decade now, if not since Operation Desert Storm. Instead of seeing increasingly critical stances and voices raising concern about this, it seems as if the majority of the American public silently watches and consumes militainment without much hesitation.

While I regard Giroux’s (2010) claim that “The glorification of military values is quickly approaching the level of fascist idealization” (p. 195) as slightly exaggerated, I do agree that “Militarism in this scenario diminishes both the legitimate reasons for a military presence in society and the necessary struggle for the promise of democracy itself” (Giroux, 2010, p. 195). Critically examining these one-dimensional sport/war tropes in the NFL’s 9/11 commemoration ceremonies demonstrates that engaged citizenship in a functioning democracy needs to be aware and demand a critique of a militarization that threatens and works to eliminate those public spaces necessary for democratic debate and discourse. By exposing hegemonic portrayals of masculinity that are patriarchal at root and by disclosing the empty, jingoistic patriotism that is so pervasive in these broadcasts, we can attempt to lay bare and resist a culture of militarism.

If this has caught your interest, than you may want to consider swinging by the Department of Communication’s WNR (Ford Hall 225, B 10) tomorrow at 12.15pm – hope to see you there!

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Did Manet invent the Video Vixen?

Mhm after WordPress told me that completing my fifth post symbolizes an important benchmark in the blogosphere (me thinks Jonathan Sterne’s blogging 101 that “Like restaurants, most new blogs fail within a few months”), I was already afraid that I may be starting to run out of steam this week. After frenetically pondering over possible blog topics, something finally crossed my path today that might be worth exploring a bit: let’s talk about the objectification of women – booom.

Now for Critical Media and Gender Women Sexuality Studies scholars – yeah those are the ones that proudly call themselves feminist, or as Ricky boy would say “The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness” – the objectification of women through the male gaze (I somewhat talked about this in the Gaga post) is really nothing new and exciting.

In my own research, for example, I’ve mainly engaged with this topic through looking at the degradation of females in Hip-Hop videos, specifically the emergence and portrayals of the “video-vixen;” A video vixen as defined by is “Not to be confused with the video ho, the video vixen is a woman of a different and astonishing nature. A video vixen is not thought to be easily attainable even though her skin bearing appearance may lead one to assume otherwise. Video vixens are known to cause premature ejaculation. See Maya” (one may assume this definition was written by a male?). You may take a look at one of those “problematic pieces” by accessing Gucci Mane’s latest song: “I’m in love with a white girl”

However, what some of you may not be aware of is that the objectification of women actually dates way back prior to the internet, soft-porn music videos, camcorders, and photography to colonial times and French impressionism – wait what?!

Let’s explore this idea a little more thoroughly. In the context of my African American Studies class, I’ve lately been reading a lot about the double colonization of African women, firstly by white colonialism, and secondly by black masculinity. O’Brien (2001) notes, women are placed “at the bottom of a hierarchy of value through the gendered response by the black man to his own racial oppression” (p. 100). Those two oppressions are thus irrevocably intertwined: the more feminized the black man is by white men, the more he is made inferior, and the more he needs to re-assert his masculinity and superiority over the black woman.

Hence, what Western women consider to be feminism is actually much different from what many African women aspire to. Over the past three decades many scholars of the “third world” have actually created their own version and concepts of feminism, described by such terms as “womanism” coined by AliceWalker, or STIWANISM (social transformation including women in Africa) coined by Nigerian scholar Molara Ogundipe-Leslie to provide an understanding of feminism in the African context.

So how can we trace the origins of female objectification? You may have come across the name Sara (Saartje) Baartman before. Born in 1789 in the Eastern Cape of present-day South Africa, Sara migrated to an area near Cape Town, where she was a farmer’s slave until she was bought by William Dunlop, a doctor on a British ship. At age 20, Saartje headed for London with Dr. Dunlop where, it was agreed, that they would get rich by displaying her body to Europeans, catering to Europeans’ sexual fascination with aboriginal peoples.

When Sara left the shores of Africa, little did she know that she would fuel the racist notions of black inferiority and black female sexuality in Europe. Dubbed “The Hottentot Venus,” she was exhibited as a freak and, in the process, juxtaposed against white ideals of superiority and sexuality. Prancing in the nude, with her jutting posterior and extraordinary genitals, she provided the foundation for racist and pseudo-scientific theories regarding black inferiority and black female sexuality. Due to agitation by anti-slavery advocates, she was later taken to Paris. Saartje’s predicament embodied issues of racism, sexism and colonialism.

After years of prostitution and poverty, she died in 1816 only to have George Cuvier, Napoleon’s surgeon-general, cast her body dissected in wax and articulate her skeleton. Her organs, including her genitals and brains, were preserved in bottles of formaldehyde. Her remains were displayed at the Musée de L’Homme in Paris until 1974. In May 2002, her remains were finally brought home to South Africa after nearly 200 years of humiliation and abuse. I don’t think there’s another example that is as stark in objectifying women …

However, we should not simply see this as a black-white dichotomy when it comes to objectifying women. Being a vivid lover of French impressionism (yes, I’m one of those kids that have been dragged into the “high temples of art” at an early age by their parents in order to get “cultured”) it may come as a surprise to you that painters like Édourard Manet were just as equally engaging in objectifying white women in the mid 19th century. In particular Manet’s painting “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe“ (Luncheon on the Grass) is exemplary here.

And Manet doesn’t stand alone, the next time you visit the Art Institute of Chicago or D.C.’s National Gallery of Art take a second look at paintings from Degas, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and the likes. After all, “Vixens” existed long before they made it into Hip-Hop videos.

But hey if you’re tired of your current grad school, college student life, or your job, and need a change will give you hands-on advice on how to become a video-vixen, check it out! 😉

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How Gaga stole Bill’s Pussy Wagon

This will be an interesting one and I swear that it is not my intention to turn this blog into a venue for pop music criticism … but since we had a rather interesting discussion around Lady Gaga in one of my grad seminars last week, I somewhat feel the urge to weigh in on this. Now first off, let me tell you that I personally feel rather indifferent towards the whole Lady Gaga phenomenon/hype whatever you want to call it.

Surely, Lady Gaga (birth name, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in case you want to know) has been pushing the boundaries, playing with her supposed “illegibility,” and stirred some social anxieties ever since the release of her debut album “Fame” in 2008. She’ been a favorite among parts of the LGBT community although that relationship was severely complicated after her release of the single/album “Born this Way” – leading back to heated discussions whether homosexuality is something you are born with due  to certain biological and physiological determinants, or rather a socio-psychological development .

Further, her use of the term “Orient” was viewed by many as problematic and racially insensitive –

Don’t be drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient

Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby, you were born this way

In his famous book “Orientalism,” Edward Said argued that the Orient signifies a system of representations framed by political forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and Western empire, whereby the Orient functions as a mirror image of what is inferior, alien and “other” to the West. Thu, the Oriental represents a sweeping generalization and as a stereotype crosses countless cultural and national boundaries. I could elaborate on this more but this is somewhat beyond the actual point I want to get to.

In the past few years, Lady Gaga has also entered the realm of academia and has been taken up by numerous scholars. There are now several online journals, such as Gaga Stigmata, that deal exclusively with the Gaga phenomenon. This is interesting to me in itself, since I’m still struggling to really see her novelty or provocations as something extraordinary exceptional that would deserve so much attention …

One particular post on Gaga Stigmata, which was authored by Jack Halberstam titled “You Cannot Gaga Gaga” (published in April, 2010) really caught my attention and was the focal point of much of our class discussion. In this post, Halberstam is clearly very – let’s say enthusiastic – about Gaga by providing a thorough analysis of her “Telephone” mini film/video (directed by Jonas Ackerlund)  employing a Deleuzian reading of affect and flow.

First, Halberstam argues that the push and pull of the game of telephone resembles the rhythms of hetero dating whereby Lady Gaga and Beyoncé decide to unleash themselves from the tyranny of the phone – “instead of hanging on the telephone, they become the telephone.” Secondly, and even more provocatively Halberstam inscribes an act of castration whereby the phone symbolizes a dick they are about to rip off: “Oh yeah baby. Your phone is going to be off the hook, your land line is now cordless, your cordless lost reception, your mobile is turned off, your girlfriend is turned on and she is escaping in a pussy wagon with another woman!”

After watching the video a couple of times, I honestly have trouble following this particular reading. While I Halberstam certainly provides some interesting interpretations of the telephone, what slightly startles and disturbs me, however, is the overt neglect of some pretty obvious shortcomings of this clip: while Halberstam praises the use of female body builders and female body artist Heather Cassils in the clip, asserting that this “gives sisterhood a brand new name: NOISE . … The prison yard kiss with Cassils, in particular, reminds the viewer that this is a queer sisterhood, a strange sisterhood and one which is not afraid to flirt with some heavy-duty butch-femme, S/M dynamics;” there is no mention at all of how the jail scene (which comprises the first 4 ½ minutes of the entire clip) highly eroticizes the prison as a fun dating, stripping play-ground for wards and inmates alike.

Further, while Halberstam exalts in Gaga “camping camp, she is dragging drag, she is ironing irony (ok…ok), she has done it, been it, worn it. And be warned, don’t call her, she’ll call you!” what really annoyed me most in that clip is the EXCESSIVE use of product placements visible throughout: you find anything from Virgin Mobile, Samsung, Polaroid, Miracle Whip, to Wonder White Classic bread just to name a few. Also concerning the originality of the clip, I clearly preferred Uma Thurman’s vendetta against Bill in the original Pussy Wagon

Lastly, and I think this goes back to questions of the phallus and the male gaze, I have the feeling that this clip is actually very much re-invoking a heteronormative matrix: as Beyoncé and Gaga are dancing their way through the second half of the clip in numerous short, tight, and lascivious outfits, they seem to work awfully hard to keep that heterosexual phallic, male gaze engaged by putting on a pseudo soft-porn/lesbo show. But please  judge for yourself  on how Gaga stole the Pussy Wagon …

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Super Bowl XLVI or how Madonna went M.I.A.

Super Bowl XLVI – kinda the same procedure as every year and this time really none of the teams present incited my fandom (as my friend Erin said: “Who would you root for when the Red Sox are playing the Yankees?” I suppose you try to go with the lesser evil here). So yeah rather an unexciting game, but at least a close one! But why do Critical Media scholars watch the Super Bowl anyway? Of course, because we love to analytically dissect those commercials and half time shows, duhh!

And who did we have the pleasure of seeing?! The queen of pop herself – Madonna honored us with a rather extravagant halftime performance. But good lord, was it boring! Now I didn’t quite get the Roman/ Gladiator/Spartan stage setting in the beginning (although there sure was some eye-candy provided with these hypermuscular bodies) when Ms. Ciccone made her entrance carried on some sort of throne performing her all-time classic “Vogue.”

Musically, she provided a nice overview of her oeuvre: her song “music” was accompanied by a crazy-ass tightrope walker performing all kinds of stunts, before she danced with LMFAO to “Party Rock.” Then it was time for the presentation of her new single “Give Me All Your Luvin” with a much anticipated girl power performance accompanied by Nikki Minaj and M.I.A.

And while the song does not really personally get me too amped up, the most exciting thing of the evening might have been M.I.A.’s slight “finger malfunction” that was not caught by NBC’s delay system which has been in place ever since the infamous Nipple-Gate of 2004 involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (those were still the fun days!). Lastly, and probably most captivating was the performance of “Like a Prayer” with a huge choir and Cee Lo Green.

After 12 minutes, it was clear to me that this was one of the safest, moderate, and yes really unexciting Madonna performances I have witnessed. What happened to the days of cross controversy or “Like a Virgin”? Everything was sung in full play-back mode and Ms. Ciccone seemed a bit insecure during some of those dance-moves, but hey she’s 53 – take that youngin’s – so overall a very kid-friendly performance, very much what the NFL wants to see. NPR’s Linda Holmes takes a slightly different take on this: “What it takes to Last”

And here is where I’d briefly like to consider a few “political economy” aspects of this incredible Super Bowl staging: first, for Madonna this performance is part of a massive, cross-promotional marketing scheme to push her new album MDNA set for release at the end of March; second, some of you might have noticed that NBC’s “The Voice” second season premiere was set right after the game, and go figure but Cee Lo is probably the most popular judge on the show.

Third, concerning the “finger malfunction” in which the screen briefly went blurred in a late attempt to cut out the camera shot. Does the Federal Communication Commission really believe that it needs to “protect” viewers at home from endangering content? To me it seems utterly ridiculous that a NBC spokesperson had to apologize saying that “The NFL hired the talent and produced the halftime show. Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers.” A spokesman for the NFL, Brian McCarthy was quick to state that “The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans.”

Lastly, did you guys see the “world peace” letters at the very end? All I could really think of is … wtf and please pardon my language. Where did that come from? After all, the NFL is one of the military’s main staple to increase an ever expanding culture of militarism with extensive patriotic displays of flag waving, honorary ceremonies for active duty personnel and so on … and they really want to promote world peace? Come’on now … this rather reminded me of the typical beauty pageant question regarding World Peace.

I will definitely come back to this at some point in more detail to talk about some of my research on the NFL’s extensive 9/11 commemorations … but for now enough thoughts on the Super Bowl – peace out!

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A “New Day” for Hip-Hop Fatherhood?

So, being an avid Hip-Hop [and music] fan (which might come to a surprise for some of y’all), I could not resist investing (yes, I actually bought the CD on Amazon and I only do that for selective products) into the latest Jay-Z and Kanye album entitled “Watch the Throne.”

I know what you probably think right, ahh just another one of those white girls diggin’ some beats – but my love for the “ghetto” music actually dates way back to my “unruly” teenager days (I hope my sarcasm is somewhat apparent here). And I owe Hip Hop a lot – believe it or not it helped me, for example, to “master” English (yes, and add a great repertoire of all these derogatory terms and cuss words to my vocabulary). And because I love it so much and have a totally irrational (?) relationship to it, I made one promise – I would never academically approach and write about it.

Well, I’m somewhat breaking this rule today because I was really “intrigued” by one particular song on “Watch the Throne” called “New Day,” which has Jay and Kanye talking and passing on values to their future children (if you’re a follower of the tabloids then you know that Miss Ivy Blue Carter has made it into this world shortly after New Year’s, although she shut down half the birth unit of the New York Hospital much to the dismay of other parents).

Now “New Day” is not of extraordinary lyrical mastery but the beat (produced by WuTang’s own RZA) is great and the song speaks to the important issue of African American fatherhood – the construction of (hegemonic) masculinities as academia would call it. So here are some of my thoughts on this song with a bit of theory back drop.

First off, to fulfill my academic duty here, let’s briefly reconsider African American fatherhood from a Critical Media Studies perspective.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that images of Blacks in the media historically have remained largely invisible, marginalized to the point of insignificance, or been limited to specific stereotypes. Oftentimes powerful media images, if interpreted within the preferred reading, work to strengthen the justification of a general societal fear of Black men and portray African American females as angry, raging “welfare queens.” Hence, what was/is strikingly absent are any substantial images that signify Black masculinity in a positive, healthy, or productive manner. Now, admittedly Hip Hop hasn’t done much either to actively try to “change” this negative image.

However, leaving the Cosby days behind, in recent years two Black families on reality television shows appeared, which similar to Jay and Kanye’s “New Day” may provide us with another platform for examining constructions of Black fatherhood. In Run’s House, we can see Joseph Simmons (Rev. Run) of Run.DMC presiding over discussions about education, empty nesting and child anger management together with his wife Justine and their five children. Here’s a trailer from Season 4.

Snoop Dogg’s (Calvin Broadus) Father Hood presents the West Coast rapper literally as a “father from the hood.” His show clearly is a somewhat antitypical representation of family life, given that  obscene language, references to illegal drugs, and memories of confrontations with the law are all very much present.

Interestingly, both Simmons and Broadus state that their portrayals are stimulated by wanting to show a positive familial side of rap music. Depicting Run and Snoop as black fathers present in the home and engaging with their children, can clearly be seen as an attempt to remediate some White stereotypes of absent African American fathers. What is strikingly absent, however, is any discussion of racism, economic distress, or other societal barriers. Instead, both build their plots around family success, humor, and harmony.

But back to “New Day,” which is a little more outspoken here as Kanye touches on what it means to be black in America and have an “ego” (some of you might remember his Katrina-rant: “George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people” ) and humorously with a lot of truth raps that “I mean I might even make him be Republican, so everybody know he love white people.” What a great verse if you consider current GOP primaries …

Much like Run and Snoop, Kanye  goes on to give his son some good advice on finding that special girl by never letting him “leave his college girlfriend” and not getting “caught up with the groupies in the whirlwind” and never ever “let him hit a strip club, I learned the hard way, that ain’t the place to get love” – sounds like he’s speaking from experience here …  Kanye also seems well aware of the pressures African American females are facing referring that “And I’ll never let his mom move to LA; Knowin’ she couldn’t take the pressure now we all pray.”

Similarly, Jay-Z takes a moment to reflect on his own father’s absence throughout his childhood and how he plans on being a better parent even

If the day comes I only see him on the weekend
I just pray we was in love on the night that we conceived him
Promise to never leave him even if his mama tweakin’
Cause my dad left me and I promise never repeat him

Super prevalent in this song is also an upward mobility theme, as both Jay and Kanye emphasize how important it is for them to make sure that their children “have an easy life, not like Yeezy life; Just want him to be someone people like; Don’t want him to be hated all the time, judged; Don’t be like your daddy that would never budge.”

Snoop, Run, Jay and Kanye clearly enjoy profitable careers confirming Jhally and Lewis’ (1992) concept of “enlightened racism” – reinforcing the notion of social mobility by achieving “the upper echelons of the middle class.” One of the core elements of enlightened racism is acceptance of the desirability and accessibility of the (myth) of the American Dream, which rests within the assumption of equal opportunity; what is left un-interrogated though is how opportunity is largely negotiated through socioeconomic status. After all, we’re dealing with the Black 1% (I highly recommend a great post from Mark Anthony Neal on “What’s the Deal with Russell Simmons? Deconstructing the Black 1%”)

Jay also reflects on the issues of celebrity stardom: “Sorry junior, I already ruined ya; Cause you ain’t even alive, paparazzi pursuin’ ya; Sins of a father make your life ten times harder.” It’s really interesting to me to hear how both are very determined to pass on values to their kids to lead them on a “righteous” path:

Teach ya good values so you cherish it
Took me 26 years to find my path
My only job is cut the time in half
So at 13 we’ll have our first drink together
Black bar mitzvahs, mazel tov, mogul talk
Look a man dead in his eyes so he know you talk truth
When you speak it, give your word, keep it

Now lastly, one thing that sticks out though, of course is a very gendered discourse here since they are only talking about their future sons – where them girls at?! – which brings up back to accusations that Hip-Hop is chauvinistic, misogynist, and perpetuating patriarchal structures … and it sure is.

However, I think the value from this particular song stems more from these artists critically reflecting on their own absent fathers and how they picture themselves to raise their children.  I’m sure Ivy Blue probably has Papa Jay already totally (w)rap(p)ed around her finger …  nonetheless, what is undoubtedly gained from these “alternative” and “different” depictions are different insights into the construction of African American masculinities and fatherhood.

A nice live version from Montreal in November may be accessed here.

If you want to read an “academic” piece African American/Hip-Hop fatherhood, I’d recommend Smith’s “Critiquing reality-based televisual Black fatherhood: A critical analysis of Run’s House and Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, 25(4), 393-412. doi:10.1080/15295030802328020

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