The Importance of Independent Truthful Media Outlets

Democracy Now, Free Speech TV, WCPT, Previously TV, Windy City Times. What do they have in common? They are all independent media outlets that operate outside of corporate influence.

I’m sure there are more like this across the country, however, it’s telling that these are the only ones that I could think of without doing any additional research. As more and more media outlets get swallowed up by corporations such as when CNN/Turner Broadcasting was first sold to Time Warner and later AOL its is so important for independent media outlets to have a voice in our national discourse.

The amount of misinformation that the media spews daily is mind-boggling and when people can’t trust what they are hearing, seeing or reading how will we be able to make informed decisions. The bifurcation of media is also a problem and today is a great example of that. On the Huffington Post (liberal leaning) main page they highlighted the fact that 7 million people signed up for Obamacare while over at the Drudge Report (conservative leaning) they showed the Obamacare website as inaccessible. If people only read the homepage of either website they will either believe that Obamacare has 7 million signups or that Obamacare is a failure due to system overload at the Obamacare website. The lack of nuanced reporting and the gotcha article title descriptions has clouded real reporting.

I worry that future generations will not be able to sift through the noise and find out the truth of any story as more and more corporations swallow up independent media outlets around the country.

 

The awesomeness that is Sleepy Hollow

When I first read about Sleepy Hollow this past summer I was drawn to the show for so many reasons including my love of history and science fiction/fantasy as well as fish out of water stories. The show hits all the right notes with all of these aspects of storytelling, however, the best part of the show is how the creators/writers have crafted every character.

What I mean by this is that the lead characters Ichabod Crane (played by British actor Tom Mison), who is a white man, and Leftenant (what Icabod calls her) Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie), who is an African-American woman, are treated equally with compelling back stories and each of them getting to be each other’s heroes/sheroes throughout the season.

In the interest of full disclosure I am a white woman who happens to be a lesbian.

On most shows the African-American characters are given supporting character status but this show bucks that trend. It took me awhile to realize this but in one of the scenes in the 11th episode “Vessel” this past season (the one where Macey is being rescued by a demon who has possessed her) the only white person in the scene is Icabod. The rest of the characters are African-American: Abbie, her sister Jenny (played by Lyndie Greenwood), and Macey’s (played by the Hunger Games Amandla Stenberg) parents Captain Frank Irving (played by Orlando Jones) and his estranged wife Cynthia (played by Jill Marie Jones). Most shows would never dare to show that many strong African-American characters in one scene.

Asian-Americans and Latino-Americans also have representation on the show with Officer Andy Brooks (played by John Cho) and Detective Luke Morales (played by Nicholas Gonzalez). So far there haven’t been any LGBT characters but I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t happen in the second season beginning this coming fall.

Ichabod’s wife Katrina (played by Katia Winter), Abbie’s mentor Sheriff August Corbin (played by Clancy Brown) and Icabod and Katrina’s son Jeffrey/Henry (played by John Nobel) round out the rest of the cast (they are all white) and everyone’s stories for the most part are woven seamlessly into each other.

Only a few other shows get this kind of integrated casting correct which is a sad comment on our media culture. They are Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Orange is the New Black, and The Fosters.

Recently the writer/creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy received the Diversity Award from the Directors Guild of America and she expressed her irritation that there even needs to be a diversity award. More of her comments can be found here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/shonda-rhimes-diversity-award_n_4674147.html.

While shows like Sleepy Hollow and the others I mentioned above should be applauded for their inclusive nature I feel like we shouldn’t even be talking about this anymore, however, just like with LGBT representation in the media we will never achieve full parity until the executives in charge of the networks, cable outlets and movie studios get their heads out of the sand and realize that it is 2014 and they should wake up to the reality of the world around them.

The Fosters on ABC Family, marriage equality and visibility

On the second episode of The Fosters a conversation took place between Lena (one of the mom’s on the show) and one of the new foster kids that Lena and Stef (Lena’s partner) took in. Jude (the foster kid who is 12) asked Lena if she was married to Stef. Lena explained that they weren’t legally married, however, they were married in their own hearts. Jude commented that being married in their hearts is the same thing. Now I don’t expect a 12 year old boy to be able to grasp all of the ways that his statement was false on a legal front. I am glad that the show addressed the fact that since they live in San Diego and same-sex marriage isn’t legal in California because of Prop 8 that their relationship will never be treated the same way as an opposite sex couple’s marriage is treated.

This brings me to the current debacle going on in Illinois regarding marriage equality. The IL House, specifically Rep. Greg Harris (who is openly gay and the bill’s sponsor) didn’t call the vote for marriage equality on May 31st as promised. In numerous conversations with LGBT leaders since the IL Senate voted to approve marriage equality I have gotten nothing but encouraging news that the bill had enough votes and that it would pass. I am so disappointed with LGBT leaders in IL since I did my part to reach out to my state representative Alan Turner who eventually came out and said he would vote yes on the bill. Recently, I read a great editorial hereĀ http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/EDITORIAL-Marriage-and-Equality-A-Way-Forward/43240.html and I agree wholeheartedly with what Tracy Baim had to say.

In her editorial Tracy explains that the only way forward is through grassroots activism. Another example of grassroots movement that worked was when American women got the right to vote.

Without the likes of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and other members of the National Women’s Party protesting outside of the White House (during World War I when Wilson was president) demanding the right to vote with signs that said “We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement” we wouldn’t have gotten the right to vote in 1920. They got arrested and were sent to Occoquan workhouse. Alice went on a hunger strike and the prison officials force fed raw eggs to her so she would stay alive. That action along with continued protests and media coverage shamed the Wilson administration to act. If it were left up to the likes of Carrie Chapman Catt (who spent time currying favor with Wilson and who disagreed with Paul and Burns tactics) we would’ve waited even longer for the right to vote.

We need the same kind of commitment now to achieve full LGBT equality nationwide.

My thoughts on the FX show “The Americans”

I was a weird kid. Weird in a way that I was acutely aware of the world around me at an early age. I became obsessed with the presidency and politics in general as early as January of 1980 when we were vacationing in Florida at Disney World. (I was almost 9 years old at the time.) We were in our hotel room and President Carter’s State of the Union address was on TV. Instead of playing with my younger siblings I sat there mesmerized by the TV and what Carter was saying. Fast forward to early 1981 where I distinctly remember watching President Reagan being sworn into office and minutes later the hostages getting released from Iran. I was also aware that the show Nightline was created just to update Americans about the hostage crisis. (This was before the advent of CNN BTW!) I really don’t know where this interest began, however, I do remember my parents having the news on everyday and newspapers and magazines in the house.

Which brings me to the show “The Americans”. I personally love it. I’ve never really seen Keri Russell in anything else before so she is a revelation to me as Elizabeth Jennings. Matthew Rhys, on the other hand did a fantastic job playing openly-gay Kevin on “Brothers and Sisters” and does a marvelous job here as Phillip Jennings. Others have written great reviews about the actors and overall storytelling but what gets me excited is the portrayal of historical events within the context of the show. Last night’s episode (which centered around Reagan’s assassination attempt) brought me back to my childhood. Again, I remember Reagan’s assassination attempt as if it happened last month.

I really can’t wait to see this show delve into other historical events in the 1980’s. Since Phillip and Elizabeth (Keri’s character) have a 13-year old daughter Paige and a 10-year old son Henry it will be interesting to see which pop culture events and fads the show chooses to portray. I did notice that Paige was reading a teen magazine in the scene with Phillip in the diner. Nice touch showrunners! I also appreciate the period details. I know that some viewers and critics have noted that some of the fashion and hairstyles are not as period as they could be but that is not as important to me as them getting the vehicles, decor and technology (or lack of it) correct.

The flashbacks to Phillip and Elizabeth’s younger years are fascinating. The show does a great job showing the stark environment that was the post WWII Soviet Union era. I wonder how much we are going to see of their past as the show goes along?

It’s weird to think that this show is set a little over 30 years ago especially since one of my friends is only 28 years old.

Some other musings…

Do the Jenning’s have a VCR? We were the second family on the block to buy one in 1978.

Will Paige beg her parents for a Walkman?

Will Henry convince his parents to get him an Atari game system?

How will Elizabeth cope as she witnesses the Soviet Empire crumble?

Will their kids ever find out who they really are and if so what will their response be?

Will they eventually defect or will they be jailed?