Archive for Lady Gaga

Death or Glory: The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling

Posted in comics, race with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

Who needs regressive storytelling when you can have politically progressive heroes and innovative villains?

Above is a mesmerizing rendition of the Hood, the main character, behind Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ new and highly lauded superhero noir series (Marvel Comics). Unfortunately, DC comics suffers tragically from a lack of imagination, and heralds instead its own bygone era of heroic representation, embodied by great white heroes.

In the last 5-10 years, I’ve grown pretty excited at the emergence of a new cohort of black and brown superheroes in the mainstream comics world. Nevertheless, unlike Marvel, DC has begun to roll back franchise after franchise, opting to shelve brown and mixed-raced inheritors of heroic mantles (often in bang!-yr-dead permanence), in favor of bringing back the euro-descendant old skool. Even when such returns require inexplicably miraculous, zombie-like resurrections.

lady gaga telephone comic

Ultimately, my issue isn’t so much that there needs to be some untethered prominence of brown comic characters, (again, Brubaker is doing some of the most interesting writing and he’s dealing with white folks of questionable ethics. Even Lady Gaga features Beyoncé once in a while). Rather, to resort to dredging up old white heroes and placing them back in their old roles is not only socially suspect in sidelining brown characters, but its creatively stifling and essentially a sign of intellectual weakness in the ranks of DC.

reposted from Bleeding Cool and comics alliance:

In [last May’s] comic book solicitations, Ray Palmer made a return to comics as the Atom, following in the footsteps of characters like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen in what Chirs Sims likes to call “regressive storytelling.” These are stories that look to the past instead of the future, setting things back to the way they were rather than progressing them to what they should be next, rendering huge swaths of their fictional universe irrelevant because they didn’t star the One True Version of a character.

“The Good Old Days” have become a driving force in the comics industry in particular and DC Specifically (and Geoff Johns even more specifically, as DC’s Creative Director who is personally responsible for regressing Green Lantern, Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Hawkman, Aquaman and others), and it’s all built around a desire to recapture a feeling these creators got when they were kids. But there’s an unintentional side-effect to all this regression that often goes ignored: The piece-by-piece white-washing of the DC Universe.

It’s been a running gag among my friends that in comics, only white Americans ever find meteors, get splashed with chemicals or get visited by spacemen, everyone else (from Jack O’Lantern to Black Bison to the Gaucho to Apache Chief to Samurai and so on) has to have a power that relates to their race or their country — specifically, the broad stereotypes drawn from white Americans’ perception of their race or country. It’s almost inescapable, and it reinforces the idea that non-white characters are defined solely by their ethnic differences.

But Ryan Choi, as the Atom, was a character that actually had a character, and was one of the few Chinese-American characters in comics that didn’t have powers relating to Kung Fu dragons. He was just a guy with super-powers that was filling a role that nobody had bothered to do anything with in years.

And now he’s been shoved into limbo so that Ray Palmer can come back, reduced to a gentrified footnote so that the DC Universe can a little bit more like it did in 1978.


Below are no fewer than Twenty-Two Legacy Characters who have been offed by DC writers and editors:

1. Amazing Man II (William Everett III) African-American. Killed by Mist (Caucasian).

2. Atom (Ryan Choi) From Hong Kong. Choi was severely beaten and murdered by Deathstroke (Caucasian) and his band of Titans. The mantle he inherited from Atom II Ray Palmer (Caucasian) has now been passed back.

3. Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) Half-White, Half-Asiatic. Cassandra is still alive but has been replaced by blonde hair, blue-eyed Stephanie Brown (Caucasian).

4. Black Adam (Teth-Adam). Inheritor of the power of Shazam. Former member of the Justice Society of America turned genocidal madman. The wizard Shazam (possible Canaanite) has turned Tenth-Adam into a statue.

5. Cheetah III (Sebastian Ballesteros) Argentine. Killed by Cheetah II, Barbara Ann Minerva (Caucasian).

6. Dr. Midnight (Dr. Beth Chapel) African-American. She took up the mantle of the original Dr. Mid-Nite (Caucasian). Slain by Eclipso. The legacy of Dr. Mid-Nite has now been passed on to Dr. Pieter Cross (Caucasian).

7. Eclipso (Alex Montez) Latino. Commits suicide to stop the original Eclipso from taking over his body. The Eclipso entity goes on to possess Jean Loring (Caucasian) and back to original host Bruce Gordon (Caucasian).

8. Firestorm (Jason Rusch)
African-American. When the original Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond, Caucasian) was killed, his powers were passed to Jason Rusch. During Blackest Night, Black Lantern Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond) forcefully merges with Jason Rusch. Now Ronnie Raymond is alive and permanently merged with Jason Rusch creating a new, white Firestorm.

9. Green Arrow (Conner Hawke) Mother is half-black, half-Korean. Father is white. When his father, the Green Arrow Oliver Queen (Caucasian) came back to life, Oliver decides that both he and his son can share the Green Arrow title. However, Conner gets turned comatose by Dr. Sivana. Conner comes back to life and abandons the Green Arrow identity. Now Oliver Queen is the only Green Arrow.

10. Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) Half-Irish, Half-Latino. Once Green Lantern Hal Jordan (Caucasian) came back from the dead, Rayner loses his place spot as the Green Lantern of Earth and his membership in the Justice League of America.

11. Guardian (Jake Jordan) African-American. Jake Jordan was given the title Guardian by the newspaper Manhattan Guardian which purchased the rights from Project Cadmus. He is replaced by clone of the original Guardian Jim Harper (Caucasian).

12. Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders)
Latino. Kendra gets killed by Black Lantern Sue Dibney. Then gets brought back to life as the Golden Age Hawkgirl Shiera Hall (Caucasian).

13. Hawkman (Katar Hol, post-Zero Hour) Half-Cherokee, Half-Thanagarian. Banished to limbo. Katar Hol becomes reconstructed as the Golden Age Hawkman Carter Hall (Caucasian).

14. Hero (Hero Cruz)
Latino/African heritage) Keeper of an H-Dial previously used by Robbie Reed (Caucasian), Chris King (Caucasian) and Vicky Grant (Caucasian). The only H-Dial currently in use is the one belonging to Robert Reed.

15. Isis (Adrianna Tomaz) Egyptian. Instilled with the powers of the goddess Isis, Tomaz tried to use her abilities to reform Black Adam and become a superhero. After being fatally wounded by the Horseman of Apokolips, she tells Black Adam that his violent ways were for the best. She gets resurrected and sexually assaulted by Felix Faust. The wizard Shazam (possible Canaanite) has turned Isis into a statue.

16. Jai West (Half White, Half Korean) Son of the Flash (Wally West, Caucasian). Jai gained super strength powers thanks to his connection to the Speed Force he shared with his fraternal twin sister Iris. However, their connection to the Speed Force was altered by Reverse-Flash (Caucasian). Only Iris West (the more Caucasian looking twin) gets to use the Speed Force. Iris becomes the super speedster Impulse while Jai currently sits around playing video games.

17. Osiris (Amon Tomaz)
Egyptian. Shares the powers of Black Adam (Egyptian). Osiris sought to be a superhero, even going as far as joining the Teen Titans. But after accidentally killing the Persuader (Caucasian) to save his sister’s (Isis, Egyptian) life, he became shunted by society. He was later killed by the Horsemen of Apokolips Sobek. Osiris came back to life at the end of Blackest Night and joined Deathstroke (Caucasian) and his Titans in killing the Atom Ryan Choi (from Hong Kong).

18. Son of Vulcan (Miguel Devante
) Latino. When the original Son of Vulcan (Johnny Mann, Caucasian) died, he passed his mantle onto Devante. Miguel joined Titans East only be attacked and left comatose by Trigon.

19. Tarantula (Catalina Flores) Latino. Flores adopted the Tarantula identity to honor the Golden Age hero Tarantula (Jonathan Law, Caucasian). She sacrifices herself to in a battle against a small army of super villains over a Neron created “Get Out of Hell Free” card.

20. Tempest (Joshua Clay) African American. Killed by the Chief (Dr. Niles Caulder). His name gets taken up by Garth, the first Aqualad (from an offshoot race from Atlantis).

21. Wildcat (Hector Ramirez) Latino. Former boxing protégé of Ted Grant (Caucasian), the original Wildcat. Killed by Killer Croc in an underground fight club. The mantle was reverted back to the original Wildcat Ted Grant.

22. Wildcat (Yolanda Montez) Latino. Fought crime as the second Wildcat. Slain by the original Eclipso. The mantle was reverted back to the original Wildcat Ted Grant (Caucasian).

Seeing them all in a list, with their respective fates enumerated makes me feel some kinda way about these literary shifts.

Up Up and Away?
Sunshine Superboy


Fame Monsters: Going Gaga for Talent Shows, Reviews, and Bad Hotels

Posted in anthropology, art & music, celebrities, feminism, humor, politics, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

who dat??!

“The last thing a young woman needs is another picture of a sexy pop star writhing in sand, covered in grease, touching herself. My image was an issue at my record label. I fought for months and cried at meetings. I got criticized for being arrogant because if you’re sure of yourself as a woman, they say you’re a bitch, whereas if you’re a man and you’re strong-willed, it’s normal.” -the LADY

People. I’ve put off writing this post about Lady GaGa for a while, since there seems to always be something new accumulating in our era of viral video and always a new juicy tidbit to incorporate. Two occasions finally pushed me over the edge and I can’t hold back any longer…

Southern Hemisphere (but something is missing...)

First, by the time I finish writing this post Black Maps will have already hit a quarter of a million views since launching in January, 2009!!! This is an incredible triumph for me and commemorating it with a Radio GaGa post seems fitting. I’ll be my own fame monster yet, dammit! Some combination of dedicated viewers, rabid googlers, and geeks for buffy, science, and maps has kept my daily hits floating (around 600-800 these days) even throughout my dry spells of blogging… like when I’m writing papers or traveling to the Southern Hemisphere (which I do de vez en quando). This is my 114th post, BTW…

Second, next week’s episode of Glee is gonna be entirely themed around Our Lady of Gaga– and I can’t let Glee beat me to the punch. (also, glee? gaga? already??! can we say too soon?! didn’t they JUST do an amazing Madonna episode? please don’t go and ruin it by jumping the gun you guyz 😛 )

and thus I present to you…
Fame Monsters: Talent Shows, Music Reviews, and Bad Hotels

So my place of work has been completely overcome with gagamania for going on a year now…, and given that we’re a crunchy non-hierarchical collective (average age of our staff… early 30s?), I can understand the disbelief when our recycling person showed up today and was like “Jeez! Even YOU guys?!” as “telephone” was bumping in the back of the store. He launched into a cranky tirade about how his gym blasts nothing but Our Lady of Gaga, and he just doesn’t understand how everyone is brainwashed into listening to the pop-cacophony and what the deal with all this?

I’d break it down like this. Nobody gives a frack about Lady Gaga. Her songs are mediocre when it comes down to it (they grow on you like all pop songs, I enjoy them now) and her voice is on par with your average American Idol tryout. But but BUT, if you just stop there then you’re missing the anthropological phenomenon that has become the House of Gaga. Its not about her, per se, its about the project of Lady Gaga…

Here we have a female bodied drag queen, which is short circuiting a few mainstream culture braincells right there, and her ability to be a high-femme chameleon is like a flux capacitor for whatever subversive dreams or subcultures teenagers, queers, capitalists, curators, feminists or glitteratti are trying to ignite. And it works, cuz she’s all about all of it.

Apparently her live shows (in addition to having dazzling choreography and special effects), is like a motivational speech for kids who feel like they don’t fit in. She tells people they should never feel too fat, or too weird, or too feminine or too masculine, and that they are beautiful (and then breaks out into song).

So the thing is… we don’t need Lady Gaga as much as we use “Lady Gaga,” and we use her to inspire us to do incredible things that we always had the power to do (think ruby slippers).

we instrumentalize Lady Gaga to believe in our own fabulocity.

Exhibit A. This kid is thirteen years old, performing at his middle school talent show, and he will take over the world in fabulous kate bushian ways!!!

Exibit B, LGBT and Queer activists in San Francisco parody Bad Romance in a piece of brilliant guerrilla theater aimed at Boycotting the Hyatt and other “Bad Hotels”:

They are calling on folks to support Hyatt and other hotel workers across the country in their quest for jobs with respect and dignity, decent wages, affordable health care, and safe working conditions.

Exhibit C, Glee:

who knows what Will Scheuster will prod them with this week? I hope the writers let Kurt shine!

Exhibit D, Newsies bring the ruckus through a retro-new york Bad Romance danceparty!

Obviously examples abound. The viral videos are endless. We’ve all seen the army battalion lip-sync implicit protests to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (meh, armies…), the bedroom best friend sing alongs and all the rest of it. There are also plenty of blog deconstructions, and I don’t need to get in on that (I do it in the student lounge at grad school, which is more than sufficient thank you very much).

lady gaga or a drag queen? obvies, its both!

Oh, except that can we just say that (prison industrial complex notwithstanding), making Beyoncé a homicidal boyfriend killer in favor of lesbian affections was a triumph I didn’t think we’d see from the hip-hop R&B charts for a while (I mean, OMG, Queen Latifah is still closeted!!!)

Anyways, I think the lesson is clear: at a certain level, we’re all drag queens!

I’ll leave you with the best review I’ve read anywhere of the Fame Monster (just a snippet, the full awesomeness is something you’ll just have to surf to yourself).

If we can define good pop albums the way Howard Hawks famously defined good movies- that’s three great scenes and no bad scenes- then Lady GaGa’s The Fame Monster is certainly a good pop album. At least three songs are great, the rest aren’t bad, and at only 34 minutes long it never threatens to wear out its welcome. It’s shamelessly sleek, glossy and digital, but with enough heart, humor and horror that it is far from soulless. The only significant problem I can hear is that its tracks are in slightly the wrong order.

It starts with the current mega-hit “Bad Romance,” a move that might have made more sense if not for the last track, “Teeth.” One of the album’s fun n’ catchy fillers, “Teeth” throbs with four-on-the-floor stomp and neo-burlesque brass as Lady GaGa entices the men in the house to show their proverbial fangs. It sounds like a slow-burning fuse that’s supposed to psyche us up for a big-ass pop explosion, and for some reason it’s anti-climactically placed at the very end of the record.

So after my tenth spin through The Fame Monster, I shuffled “Teeth” to the top of the order and it worked much better. Besides, a song as show-stopping as “Bad Romance” deserves at least one opening act. The profusion of succulent hooks, the Amazonian-cyborg lust and the near-operatic drama would have been enough to cement this song’s status as an instant classic, yet Lady GaGa goes the extra inches when she delivers one of the most deliciously reprehensible lyrics that will ever infect the Billboard Top 40 (”Want you in my room/ while your baby is sick.”) [editorial correction, its actually this whole Hitchcock thing: “I want your Psycho, your Vertigo schtick. Want you in my Rear Window, baby, you’re sick.” -SS]

If “Bad Romance” has any warts, they’re the moments when she insists on reminding us in plain English that she’s “a freak bitch, baby.” Well duh- she made that crystal clear with that sick baby lyric. I’m nit-picking, though. Criticizing Lady GaGa for her lack of subtlety is kind of like complaining that Andy Warhol didn’t use enough earth tones.

Be Fierce+Embrace Yr Inner Drag Queen
(let her crawl out),
Sunshine Superlady

“Oops… I said it again”: Pop Stars and Their Window into Our Racism

Posted in celebrities, humor, politics, racism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

yo, I know this is old news, but I wanna post this during this lull of feet-in-our-mouths cuz Its not even about John Mayer and racist crap that Pop Stars spout…
The thing that really gets a lot of people of color and anti-racist organizers miffed is the useless circus of inane conversation ostensibly about “race” but actually about whichever celebrity blabbermouth in question. (oh right, sometimes I forget how broad the blackmaps audience is: We’re talking about this bloke to the right, who writes pop songs and won a Grammy a minute and a half ago (who hasn’t??!). He famous also infamous for his utterly brilliant tweets (!) and for being an ex of both Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson, and no there’s no reason for you, or any of us to care, but he’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone recently, and apparently some people in the world give a damn about who he is. Great, we’re all caught up!)

The lightening-rod of so-and-so actor or such and such politician said some racist bullshit (surprise…) serves as a big distraction not to mention a misframing of what racism really is and how it operates. This isn’t the place/time to belabor the theoretical pillars of racism as a legacy of institutionalized inequality.

Nevertheless, I think its a quick and important intervention to just point out in those moments when the media zoo gets all fired up about our unspoken consensus on being non-racist (!), (as opposed to being anti-racist?!), that its not about individuals, or even the things they may do or say, but a historically entrenched system which carries global momentum in dispossessing groups of people through the clever metrics of colorism and ethnic scapegoating. And its gonna take people getting organized in a big way to overturn those patterns. No paparazzi-flanked apologies are going to liberate people of color and white people who are all bound up in these systems of oppression. Least of all, since capitalism has everything to do with it, and lets not forget, pop stars looooooooove capitalism.

We dont’ have to hate them for it. We can enjoy goofy 3-D flicks and guitar hooks even as we begin to piece together how capitalism is operationalized by racism (and vice versa). Lets just keep these things in mind as we co-opt GaGa Radio tunes as inspiration and fuel for our movements.

oh, and for the record, John Mayer is a douchebag.

Up up and Away,
Sunshine Superboy