“What if Friends, but with black people?”
August 11, 2017 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Jay-Z released the music video for his latest, 'Moonlight' - starring Jerrod Carmichael, Lil Rel Howery, Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Issa Rae, and Tiffany Haddish. And Hannibal Buress. Directed by Jay-Z and Master of None's Alan Yang. (there is also a version with outtakes)
posted by cendawanita (2 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I was actually enjoying Kesha's album, which dropped today as well, but this came to my attention thanks to BMD's Siddhant Adlakha's piece on it as a thirdworlder person: Jay-Z’s MOONLIGHT Video: On Whiteness As American Export:

“What if Friends, but with black people?” works as an idea in the context of the mainstream, i.e. the shows that are most widely seen in the U.S. as well as the most widely exported. It remixes an idea to fit a modern and previously unseen standard of diversity on the global stage, and to the eyes of both American audiences who constantly see themselves and those on the outside who saw Friends as an entry-point into American culture, it’s a brand new image – only that, too, is something of a cultural myth. Ask most global Friends fans about the group’s living situation in any given season, and you could probably get a detailed rundown. Ask them about a show like Queen Latifah-starrer Living Single (which may soon return to television), and they aren’t likely to have heard of it, myself included until recently. It was not, after all, marketed to the rest of the world. But ask most African Americans who were around in the ’90s, especially African American women, and it’s a different story.

[...] A recent innocuous conversation proved to be a microcosm for this long-standing phenomenon, at least as it exists on this side of the world. An acquaintance referred to the term “Slay” (in the context of an A-list celebrity outfit) as “Buzzfeed speak,” since that was her mainstream exposure to what first began as a drag term before making its way into AAVE, a dual cultural osmosis that had obscured its origins. African-American Vernacular English is the genesis for a whole host of popular online colloquialisms – “bae,” “fam,” “stay woke,” what have you – before being adopted by the largely white “mainstream” populace of influencers, until they're eventually rejected or used ironically by white folks who inadvertently decide what language is or isn’t acceptable in the popular discourse. The “clapping hands” emoji interspersed with words in a declarative statement has grown into an in-joke on Twitter, but it too has its origins in a real-world AAVE. That watered-down end result is also the version of any element of black culture (or any non-white culture) that inevitably travels elsewhere in the world through American or other mainstream media, something bastardized and contorted through the eyes of those unconnected to it as they have no context or reason to view themselves through a racial lens, not unlike most Hollywood portrayals of people of colour until quite recently.

[...] Black entertainment and culture have always been there, providing a platform for the historically white American mainstream to launch off and market itself to the rest of the world, and perhaps the reason the in-story experiment comes off as so trite (and is eventually lampshaded as such) is because the mainstream itself has started to shift. Whatever undeniable impact Friends once had, the culture has since moved on. It’s being rightly left behind by a global entertainment zeitgeist expanding in consciousness, and what is perhaps most subversive about the experiment is that it still looks to Friends as the norm. While there is still much to be said about anti-blackness as a global postcolonial constant (India, for instance is not without fault), people are beginning to see changes in mainstream entertainment, with the likes of Star Wars and soon Black Panther dismantling the myth of black non-marketability.

But the frustration of the black artist persists. Even those in the video, while given a mainstream platform akin to the white stars of yesteryear, must contort themselves into the image of a white America to make a statement, in a series unlikely to be even half as successful.

posted by cendawanita at 11:05 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


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