WTF is Real Fake News?: The Mashup of Reality and Satire

We lack a shared reality thereby making it impossible to ridicule the absurdity of reality.

Although the “golden age” of satire may differ for different people (research for golden age of satire focuses on mid 18th century texts), some have argued that the Trump presidency will usher in a golden age of satire due to his over-the-top persona and absurd approach to politics. Given this reality, satirical outlets must step up their game to one-up (or trump) the absurdity of reality. In fact, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have sworn off parodying Trump “because satire has become reality.”

South Park’s Creators Have Given Up on Satirizing Donald Trump (The Atlantic)

We are clearly in a unique satirical age, although I don’t believe that this is because of Trump, rather Trump and our current satirical environment are both outcomes of a flood of information, one of which we are often ill-prepared to make sense of, and one where  “truthiness” (2005) is the ultimate evidence; things that make us feel good and think less are clearly “right.”

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This emotional response is not a new phenomenon (it is the combination of human psychology, the digital and social media environment, and our seemingly pervasive reliance on media for entertainment, information, and habitual use), it still results in a satirical environment that seems to “transcend, fracture, subvert, circumvent, interrogate and disrupt, hijack and appropriate modernity and postmodernity.” In short, we are in a metamodern satirical age.

As someone who was raised on Comedy Central, Adult Swim, Frank Zappa, and SNL, written a Love Letter for Jon Stewart, and taught a course on satire and diversity at Syracuse University, I have observed 5 major trends in the current overlap between satire (i.e., the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues) and reality (i.e., the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them) that, IMO, do not bode well for us as a collective community.

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Mary Tyler Moore: The Exemplary Disruption of the Single City Girl now available at flowjournal.org

https://www.flowjournal.org/2017/02/disruption-of-the-single-city-girl-archetype/

This weekend, I met Jay Sandrich, director/producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Cosby Show, A Different World, SOAP, Benson, Empty Nest, It Takes Two, The Tony Randall Show, Golden Girls, and more. He liked my essay, but thought it was a little “too intelligent.”

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In 2004, I moved to Los Angeles at 22. Fresh from undergrad and newly thin, I imagined that men would be knocking down my door and my life would be filled with dinner and dancing. I had no idea where this expectation came from, but I was excited for my life in the big city. I would be a Single City Girl. In 2016, I taught a 5-week course investigating the role of the Single City Girl in mediated representations of gender, class, and race. Entitled #singlecitygirl and only featuring a generic description, the class was filled almost immediately. Comprised of almost all women, many of the students expressed their excitement over the term “Single City Girl” and had their own definitions and exemplars. For these young women, being a Single City Girl meant being independent and embracing life to its fullest. The Single City Girl archetype had come to define their expectations of life, even if they did not know from where it came.

The longer version of the paper is available here: The Archetype of the Single City Girl (Ongoing)

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What is Blackness?

To be presented at the CAAR (Collegium for African American Research) 2017 Conference in Malaga, Spain (Jun 13-16) in the panel, “Voices of Black America in the Diaspora: Comics, Cookbooks, & Film.”

The experience of being Black is more than just that of racial identification, it is a culture, a community, and an identity that varies between individuals. Although it is commonly used as an umbrella term for individuals of African descent, it can have different meanings in different countries and at different times. Blackness is simultaneously category, a group, and an identity. It is defined by having certain Afrocentric features (e.g., dark skin, curly hair, wide features). It is also defined by being a part of a group that is defined by these features, along with a common history and experience; however, one need not necessarily exhibit these features or report these experiences to be a part of the group. Finally, it is also defined by the extent to which any of these things matter to an individual; scholars have investigated this identity construct has been investigated by many scholars (e.g., nigrescence model, Cross, 1978; Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity, MIBI, Sellers, et al., 1998), but these measures do not define Blackness, but rather measure participants’ agreement with the certain dimensions of Blackness, which are often couched in American Blackness.

The ever-evolving African diaspora and generational changes demand a new investigation into our understanding of Blackness and the diversity of Blackness. Instead of couching questions and research in preexisting concepts of Blackness, the current research is an exploratory investigation into definitions of “Blackness” through open-ended interviews. American participants (N = 35) were asked to define Blackness in general, their personal Blackness (i.e., “my Blackness”), the future of Blackness, and the role of media in establishing and promoting Blackness moving forward; responses were coded for themes and analyzed for differences by age and gender.

Although participants provided a varied definition of Blackness, a clear theme emerged that Blackness involved an awareness of one’s history, a shared experience, and a comfort in one’s current skin with an idealized hope for the future. Furthermore, Blackness was defined as creative, resourceful, beautiful, ingenious, and diverse. Generational differences also began to emerge in participants’ contextualization of Blackness; many Baby Boomers were quick to dismiss the younger generation’s understanding of blackness, claiming that their Blackness was “no longer important.” However, several Millennials described their Blackness as dynamic and intersectional; for them, identities were no longer hierarchal (e.g., “Black or”), but integrated (e.g., “Black and”). Furthermore, this intersectional understanding of Blackness was aided by the proliferation of digital and social media; in the current environment, individuals no longer needed to rely on mainstream examples and models of Blackness (e.g., television, film, music); instead they could seek out models that represented their unique Blackness and carve new spaces for new definitions of Blackness (e.g., Afropunk, Queer Blackness, Black Twitter). The current research begins to address the evolving definition of Blackness and Black identity in an increasingly intersectional, globalized, and interconnected community. By understanding new concepts of Blackness, researchers, scholars, and media professionals can develop more nuanced understanding of identity and global culture.

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Summer 2016: Cuba, Japan, China

Check out my trips to Cuba, Japan, and China this summer. 2016 may have sucked but my travel this year was AWESOME.

Photo Book via Shutterfly

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Is Color-Blindness Possible? Racial & Experiential Effects on the Neural Substrates for Motor Empathy (PSYC 555; Fall 2008)

I received some tragic news this morning. Bosco Tjan, one of my former USC Psychology Professors, was killed by a student in the Psychology building on campus yesterday afternoon. I am stunned, shocked, and missing my Trojan family.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-usc-professor-killed-bosco-tjan-20161203-story.html

As an academic, I find solace in reviewing my work for his fMRI class in 2008. Our final project, titled: “Is Color-Blindness Possible? Racial & Experiential Effects on the Neural Substrates for Motor Empathy” was presented exactly 8 years ago today, and is even more relevant in 2016. In short, we found that actions performed by a race congruent actor are interpreted as communication, whereas actions performed by a race incongruent actor involve more sensory motor processing. You can check out our entire presentation below…

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