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January 19, 1995 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-19

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Hooks, sinking
What does it mean for me to be a
white woman in a society where rac-
ism permeates every crevice of life?
How do I experience and cash in on
white privilege everyday? How do I
reconcile being from inner-city De-
troit and now living in the majority
for the first time ever?
These are questions that ran
through my head as bell hooks spoke
in the Union Ballroom Monday as
part of the Martin Luther King cel-
ebration. As she was talking about
hite supremacy and the perpetua-
tion of racism in this country, I






couldn't help but interrogate my own
role in that perpetuation.
What left a great impression on me
was hooks' optimism. Ithasbeenalong
time since I have heard a speech or been
involved in aconversation about race in
which the feeling was optimistic rather
than pessimistic. Usually, the cynic in
me comes out and the spirit of hope
which for the most part burns brightly
within me dulls.
What has prompted me to write
this column days after the MLK cel-
ebration, is the plea from hooks for
hose of us who understand the notion
of a "beloved community" based on a
shared vision to give public testimony.
So, I intend to do that through an inter-
rogation of my white womanhood and
how that has shaped my life.
Being born in downtown Detroit
to parents who engaged in the civil
rights movement and activism of the
'60s, has always given me a unique
sense of my race. In fact, I can hon-
estly say I never fully understood
what it meant to be white until I moved
to Ann Arbor.
With this understanding came a
whole new experience of pain and
responsibility. I realized that I cannot
sit quietly by as racism rears its head
and be content to cash in on the ben-
efits which my skin color grants me.
I have to think beyond my comfort
evel and challenge even those things
which may make my life more difficult.
Imustdothis in order tomake life better
for all us, not just whites or Blacks.
And often this means feeling an
incredible weight upon my shoulders.
But a little of that weight was lifted
as I heard bell hooks talk about how she
believes that not every white person is
doomed to live a life ruled by white
*supremacy. This is a concept that I have
believed for a long time but have never
heard anyone express before.
Hearing hooks put into words ideas
that most of us avoid voicing at all costs
gave me a hope that if a dialogue can
begin we will have a chance to change
the world. She argues we will be able to
do this if we continue to recognize and
analyze our differences. It is within this
that the hope of racism ending and
Ocommunities being built will occur.
So, what I am trying to do with my
life, and I encourage all of you to do
with yours, is to come to terms with
what my whiteness and my woman-
hood means?
I recognize that as a white person,
I am allowed to travel anywhere with-
out the fear of being stopped because
of my skin color. I am able to apply
for a job and not feel that I will be
denied solely because of my race. I
can do whatever I want without being
categorized by my skin color.
As a woman I must identify with
the violence that is inflicted upon
women simply because they are
women. I must identify with the abuse
heaped upon women who assert them-
selves as strong and independent. I
ust realize that all women's struggles
are my struggles.
And whether I believe that these
are issues that should exist is not the
point. They do exist, so they must be
faced. They must not be ignored. They
must not be feared.


Pulp Fiction is like godlike, my little frugal gourmet, my petit four of death, my little daisy.


1994 has come and is now thankfully gone. The
cultural vacuum which continues to engulf our nation
struck no more resonant a chord than in the cinema. Now
more than ever the ability for major studio filmmakers to
take chances, to produce art rather than product, has
dissipated. 1994 was the biggest grossing year at the box-
office, besting last year's totals, yet doing so with an
alarmingly lower quality of films. Sequels, star vehicles,
derivative remakes and film versions of television shows
or pulp novels all dominated the major studio roster of
films in 1994. The ability of Hollywood producers to
package films for other markets-whether they be Happy
Meals at "Rockdonalds" or "Lion King" underoos-begs
the question: are these foremost films or commodities?
Two films this year did manage to succeed at a level it
is rare a work of art can--to work themselves, both almost
instantaneously, into our collective cultural fabric. 1994
may well be remembered for no more than these two
pictures: "Pulp Fiction" and "Forrest Gump." These two
vastly different films each polarized audiences, each
forged an army of loyal devotees as well as a large crowd
of dissenters, yet neither was ignored.
"Pulp Fiction" stands as the year's finest cinematic
achievement. A film rare in its ability to combine uncom-
promising inventiveness and sheer audience pleasure,
"Fiction" was a rare gem in a year marred by inferiority.
Writer-Director Quentin Tarantino successfully wove three
crime vignettes with a Wellesian narrative structure, scath-
ing dialogue and a remarkable ensemble cast (highlighted
by the "comeback" of John Travolta and the coming-out
of Samuel L. Jackson) to create a film of boundless
"Forrest Gump," the story of a man-child drifting
through over 30 years of both American history and his
own personal relationships, left the most indelible mark
on our society a film has made since perhaps "E.T."
"Gump" was regarded by some as a masterpiece of the
human spirit and others as the hollow celebration of
disenchantment, but it was always regarded. Unfortu-
nately it was too often regarded as the former and not the
The appalling lack of originality is probably more
responsible for the overly exaggerated to nearly mastur-
batory praises languished upon the likes of "Speed," "The
Lion King," "Red Rock West" and "Four Weddings and
a Funeral." Each were entertaining, nominally quality
films, yet none are worthy of being considered amongst
the year's top tier pictures.
There were, despite the sea of mediocrity, a handful of
truly marvelous films, most of which went unseen. Fore-

most amongst these was the brilliant documentary, "Hoop
Dreams." Along with "Fiction," "Hoop Dreams" stands
head and shoulders above the remainder of this year's
films. A five-year project, "Dreams" records the hopes,
dreams, and influences - negative and positive - on the
lives of two Chicago NBA hopefuls . What results is a
masterstroke of revealing the depth of the human charac-
ter and the disparity of the inner-city.
Ironically, and due to the alarming lack of quality
original material being produced, four of the five of the
year's other high marks are dramatic renderings of actual
people and events. Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" celebrates
the autonomy of the world's worst filmmaker and, in the
process, the desire for purity for which each artist strives.
"Heavenly Creatures," a true-life story featuring a pair of
hyper-imaginative New Zealand teens who commit ma-
tricide, "Quiz Show," and the hypnotically original biog-
raphy "32 Short Films about the Life of Glenn Gould" all
had reality as their basis. Only "The Shawshank Redemp-
tion," an engaging film derived form a Stephen King
vignette can place itself amongst this year's film elite
without a foundation in reality.
Disturbing once again is the utter lack of quality
women's roles in the film industry. Meryl Streep and Meg
Ryan both were hailed for working against type in "The
River Wild" and "When a Man Loves a Woman" yet each
film is simply bland. Jodie Foster's pet project, "Nell," is
at its most basic level a two-hour Oscar clip. Demi Moore
again proved to be more cleavage than actress. Only Linda
Fiorentino's displaced femme fatale in "The Last Seduc-
tion" provided a well-rounded female lead in a quality
A small ray of hope for the future of cinema was the
inability for studios to forecast what was to be successful
and what was not. Former cash cows, such as Kevin
Costner, Macauley Culkin, Julia Roberts andEddie Murphy
all saw their films deservedly bomb. Similarly, much
hyped projects such as "Love Affair, " "Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein," "Junior" and "Wolf' all sank under the
weight of their own pretension and pointlessness.
An audit of the quality of the pictures of 1994 must
conclude as a distressing reminder of simply how much
the Hollywood system consists of businessmen first and
artists second. In an institution in which the bastions of
creativity ideally outreach the culturally bankrupt rush for
prophet it appears that more and more the latter is succeed-
ing. The public, more willing to see "Stargate" than "Quiz
Show," may well live to see the disappearance of the "Ed
Wood"'s in favor of a steady diet of "Dumb and Dumber."

If the year 1994 has taught us
anything, it's that the world has be-
come fully submerged in the usual
middle-of-the-decade stagnation, and
the world of music seems to have
been affected even more than usual
by this drought.
In the alternative mainstream, the
year started off slowly, with artists
such as Beck providing a convenient
"next big thing" for the music indus-
try to latch onto. The term "slacker"
seemed to be in vogue even more than
when it was associated with "grunge,"
and, as has become the routine, the
music was regarded by the mainstream
press as "the voice of the apathetic
Generation X," or something moronic
like that. More people started paying
attention to other so-called "slacker"
bands like Pavement and Sebadoh
than ever before, until it became clear
that these bands weren't as willing to
play the label game.
However, to say that any event in
1994 was more significant to music
than the puzzling (or was it?) suicide
of Kurt Cobain would be laughable.
No matter what you thought of the
man's music, you could never deny
that there was something totally genu-
ine about him, and it was extremely
sobering to see the explosive result
when that attitude was mixed with the
fake, prepackaged world of the com-
mercial music industry. It was a failed
experiment, and one that music fans
aren't likely to see again anytime soon.
Cobain's death was just one event
that happened on an April afternoon,
but so many things changed drasti-
cally after that. The whole "slacker/
grunge" movement was suddenly re-
placed by a sort of "'90s punk rock"
movement, whose commercial face
was provided by bands like the Off-
spring and Green Day. With heavy
support from "alternative" radio and,
of course, the great god MTV, a new
scene was quickly born.
However, unlike the scenes be-
fore it, which seemed to come along
by accident, the new punk explosion
had a distinct aura of corporate mas-
terminding behind it. The cries of
"sellout!" rang loudly and more in-
tensely than even the similar (though
unfounded) backlash that Nirvana had
experienced at first, and it was clear
that while artists like Beck and Pearl
Jam had earned at least a reluctant
respect from even their harshest crit-
ics, Green Day and Offspring seemed
to generate as many bitter enemies as
they did devoted fans.
1994's biggest concert was, with-
out a doubt, the 25th anniversary of
Woodstock, but whether it was a suc-
cess or not has remained a mystery.
Detractors of the show pointed to
corporate sponsorship, insane ticket
prices and a general feeling of con-

trivance to the whole event, while
others saw it as an important cultural
and musical event.
Lollapalooza was back for it's
fourth go-around, and it featured ei-
ther its best or its worst lineup ever,
depending on who you asked. If there
was a change from previous years, it
was the increased attention given to
the second stage, which featured an
incredible lineup including Stereolab,
Rollerskate Skinny, Guided By
Voices and the Boo Radleys making
appearances for various chunks of the
tour. The Boredoms also made a name
for themselves in being the most un-
derground band ever to appear on the
main stage, but the rest of the bands,
cut from various cross sections of the
alternative (L7, Breeders, Nick Cave),
mainstream (Smashing Pumpkins,
Beastie Boys) and rap (Tribe Called
Quest) scenes, either sucked or rocked
the house, depending on your musical
Many of 1994's best moments
came from new artists, rather than
older, more familiar faces. The so-
called New Wave of New Wave
slowly crept its way across the Atlan-
tic and infiltrated the American mu-
sic scene with the sounds of bands
like Oasis, Suede, Echobelly, Elastica
and especially Blur, who scored a
minor hit with "Girls and Boys," one
of the most blatantly '80s-revivalist
songs of the year.
Rap began to break even more
new ground in 1994 with the "G-
Funk" sounds of Warren G, Snoop
Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre. With these
artists, their troubles with the law
became an integral part of their im-
age, as much as the music itself. Not
surprisingly, this more serious image
has increased it's popularity signifi-
The year's most anticipated al-
bums came from R.E.M. and Pearl
Jam, and, in general, fans flocked
dutifully to the record stores to launch
these two records to the top of the
charts. Both albums, however, signi-
fied something of a change in direc-
tion for the artists, and longtime fans
were somewhat taken aback until
MTV and commercial radio picked
out the most accessible bits for easy
The end of the year found MTV
buzz bin favorites such as Weezer,
Portishead and Veruca Salt making
serious headway in the mainstream
area, and it looks as if power-pop and
punk lite will be the sounds to watch
out for in 1995, at least for the imme-
diate future.
All in all, the best thing about
1994 was that it showed us how
quickly music trends can give way to
one another. If nothing else, it gives at
least some hope for 1995.

I~;S e- - .!9t ixbr

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