Black Snake Moan
I still haven’t seen it, so I can’t judge whether I’d agree with what my colleague Lakshmi has to say about it, but she’s about as sharp a cultural critic as they come and this review make a point that’s broadly applicable in a lot of areas of pop culture:
But if movies do indeed reflect our shared consensus about right and wrong, then Black Snake Moan speaks volumes about twenty-first-century America, where tying a woman to a radiator to cure her of "nymphomania" is deemed merely provocative, controversial or, at worst, tasteless. The problem isn't that we are more sexist than racist as a society. It's that race and gender are far too often pitted against each other, and one can be used to justify sins against the other. We can bomb entire countries in the name of rescuing women from Islam. So it is that Brewer uses our racist past to offer us a nice excuse to overlook--nay, relish--his blatant misogyny. And that ought to be reason enough to send the entire nation to rehab.
I think this “pitting against each other” point is spot on and is the cause of a lot of moral quandaries, chiefly, for me, my very complicated relationship to hip hop. I do think that aggressively misogynstic and sexist imagery, stories and pop cultural products have really exploded in the last few years in a way that blatantly racist pop culture is still (thankfully) unacceptable. But the catch is that a lot, though clearly not all, of the Maximization of pop culture (which Ariel Levy has written a whole book about) is impossible to separate from the ubiquity of hip-hop’s influence in pop culture and the rise of the strip-hop genre that is monomaniacally obsessed with women’s degredation. But at the same time, I’m inclined to think that while the commericalization of hip hop is emeshed with all sorts of complicated racial dynamics with a long historical pedigree (white stereotypes of black masculinity and over-sexualization), it is on the whole a very real marker of racial progress. Thoughts?