Art, Music, & Pop Culture

Nancy Drew and the Syndication of White Savior Feminism

By Kirsten Ginzky

Relatable-yet-superhuman, Nancy Drew has been an enduring cultural icon, debuting in 1930 and starring in hundreds of books along with films, television series, and video games. When I was introduced to Nancy in 1998, I devoured every volume of the yellow-spined mystery series that I could get my hands on. The heroine is a spunky, prodigious girl detective who solves hundreds of cases, succeeding when lawmen cannot. Nancy is sarcastic, confident, and an ace at evading the many criminals who tail her powder blue Mustang convertible during high-speed chases. In the early 20th century, the Nancy Drew series was lauded as presenting “an amazing alternative to the career choice of secretary and milliner that other children’s books provided” (Paretsky, 1991, p. 9). The syndication of the ‘Nancy Drew’ archetype created a significant blueprint for modern American girl and womanhood – one that helped inspire a model of empowered womanhood that dominates 20th and 21st century American life with a Who’s Who of public figures including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Laura Bush, Barbara Walters, Nancy Pelosi, and Sandra Day O’Connor (Murphy, 2009; Shipman & Rucci, 2009) citing her as an inspiration. Viewing Nancy with an intersectional lens complicates this narrative: aspirational, independent, but never rebellious, Nancy Drew is a thoroughly modern product, created through a fine-tuned capitalist production and distribution model. Her actions and beliefs reflect both traditional middle-class values and the expanding role of American youth and women in the wake of the Progressive Era. The books affirm WASP superiority and the original editions, revised in the 60s, are rife with racial stereotypes. A contemporary reader could easily dismiss Nancy Drew as an upper-middle-class ‘white savior.’

Hip Hop: Art, Culture, and Politics

Professor Sarah Hentges University of Maine at Augusta College of Arts & Sciences Hip Hop is an umbrella term for art, music, dance, literature, identity, style and politics. We will begin to understand the art, culture, and politics of Hip Hop by looking at the movements and politics that inspired the birth of Hip Hop as a form of art and music. We will consider the art and aesthetics of Hip Hop and the musical styles that made Hip Hop music possible. Students will create a piece of art or music inspired by Hip Hop. The ways in which Hip Hop speaks to youth and speaks about oppression, violence, identity, culture, and power will also be considered. We will then explore Hip Hop as a form of cultural politics and activism toward social justice. Students will create art or music toward Hip Hop inspired social justice. Finally, we‘ll consider the…

Heroes and Villains: Is Hip-Hop a Cancer or a Cure?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFas9cd8ZZ8 When we prostitute things like misogyny and violence for the sake of entertainment, we perpetuate villainous ideas as heroic. Hip hop is one of our generation’s perpetrators, but is also the art form that can turn this ship around. Lecrae is quickly developing into one of the biggest music stories of the year and his Cinderella rise has been noted everywhere from RollingStone, XXL Magazine, Vibe Magazine, The New York Times, The Atlantic, the cover of The Huffington Post to industry trades such as Billboard Magazine, Variety and Vulture. His performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, perfectly timed with his album’s release, had fans buzzing as he performed multiple hit records from Anomaly. He’s performed at the BET Experience, co­hosted The Dove Awards, co-­headlined the highest ticketed tour in the country (Winter Jam) and received a nomination for Best Impact Track at this year’s BET Hip Hop…

A Hip Hop Head’s Response to Wynton Marsalis

By Langston Collin Wilkins

Jazz musician, critic, and educator Wynton Marsalis recently sent shockwaves around the music world by making some inflammatory comments about hip hop music. In a conversation with Washington Post columnist Johnathan Capehart for the Cape Up podcast, Marsalis not only took hip hop music to task for its use of the words “nigga” and “bitch” and depictions of misogyny and violence, but ultimately suggested that hip hop music is “more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee” and said that fans of the genre should get their “heads examined.”

Queer and Trans Youth and the Transformative Power of the Arts

By Sojn Boothroyd

“Making art is the place I felt most connected to myself and to the mystery of creation. I felt powerful, like a superhero—like no one could touch me or hurt me in any way.”—Jayden

Jayden was a participant in Queer Teen Identity Formation and the Arts, a qualitative research study I conducted as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2009. Eight individuals living in different geographical locations who engaged in the arts as teens and identified as trans, queer, pansexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning participated in the study. During the interviews, they talked about their experience identifying as queer and trans teens, what that entailed, and how engaging in the arts affected their lives at that time. The participants responded in writing to an email questionnaire and chose pseudonyms, used here, to keep their names confidential for the study.

Build Bridges, Not Barriers: Black Panther and the Enduring Chasm between Africans and African Americans

By Stephanie Shonekan, Art, Music, and Pop Culture Contributing Editor

“The wise build bridges, the foolish build barriers,” King T’Challa tells the United Nations at the end of Black Panther. This sentiment resonated with me throughout the film. I was not thinking of the different world powers coming together on an equal footing to help each other and share resources. This is improbable and untenable in a hierarchical world where we still consider some countries third world and some first world. In this light, T’Challa’s statement is simplistic and cheesy. But as I thought about the relevance of this statement for the chasm between Africans and African Americans, it grew in profundity. 

Hollywood Won’t Save Us: Instead, Let’s Build a Revitalized Radical Feminism

By Barbara Ransby | Truthout

With the rise of the #MeToo moment and the #TimesUp campaign, Hollywood has discovered activism, and with it, a new lexicon and fledgling new identity. This is potentially a blessing and a curse for those of us who have been fighting feminist and anti-racist battles long before “intersectionality” was uttered from the stage at the Oscars, long before activists formed a phalanx of silent sentinels to serve as props for celebrity performances. This scene was politically counterbalanced, by the way, with a celebratory tribute to war and militarism. But this is the world we live in. And like with every industry and institution, there are a handful of genuine change-seekers in Hollywood — people who have risked their careers and livelihoods to wage uphill battles for greater justice in the arts and media. And we have to give them the opportunity to be better allies going forward, in the spirit of Eslanda and Paul Robeson and others. How do we do this work, and dance this dance, with greater attention to the principles that ground us?

Black Panther and Unforgivable Radicalism

By Christian Rozier

Without an image of tomorrow, one is trapped by blind history, economics, and politics beyond our control…Only by having clear and vital images of the many alternatives, good and bad, of where one can go, will we have any control over the way we may actually get there in a reality tomorrow will bring all too quickly.”—Samuel R. Delany

Bubbling up from the primordial soup of the Mississippi Delta mud, warbling and otherworldly notes of transcendence emerged from the dusky throats of sharecroppers and the guitar strings of convicts to transport the spirits of their communities to some dimension of eternity in which they were momentarily and ecstatically free from the daily humiliations and hardships of daily life.Delta blues musicians including Geeshie Wiley and Charlie Patton used their haunting voices to construct rocket ships to a new promised land. Earlier, enslaved Africans in 18th century New Orleans gathered each Sunday in Congo Square and with drums, bells, and bodies, conjured chariots for their spirits to escape the temporal and touch the eternal plane. From Alice Coltrane to Octavia Butler, George Clinton to Janelle Monae, the Black Imagination is the principal scaffolding of liberation. As Clinton and Eddie Hazel remind us, first you gotta free your mind, and your ass will follow.

Afrofuturism

Course Description: Afrofuturism is a black aesthetic practice that combines elements of African mythology, science fiction, African Diaspora history, magic realism and political fantasy in black expressive texts across multiple media and artistic forms. Rooted in the generalized practice of “imagining otherwise,” Afrofuturism expresses the concerns, experiences, and longings of black people throughout the African Diaspora. Considering such practitioners as W.E.B. Du Bois, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, Wangechi Mutu, Wanuri Kahiu, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Janelle Monáe, this course analyzes the various ways in which African Diaspora cultural producers – writers, visual artists, musicians, and filmmakers – use Afrofuturism to critique racial asymmetries in the present and to imagine as-yet-unrealized, free black futures. Our investigation starts in the early twentieth century and proceeds into the current moment to trace the distinctive development, thematic concerns, and multi-dimensional genres of Afrofuturism. As we traverse the past century, we will attend to particular…

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