Our reviews and recommendations of what to be reading, watching, playing or listening to.
GO OUTSIDE THIS SUMMER! A LIST OF PLACES YOU CAN VISIT IN THE CITY
Now that most of us are or getting vaxxed and the summer is around the corner, it is a great opportunity to have a productive and fun time. New York is an iconic city filled with entertainment, art and culture. Although it can get pricey, here are some recommendations to make the most of your summer:
The High Line is always free, and often has public installations and events.
The main branch of the New York Public Library, at 5th Avenue and 41st Street, is beautiful and impressive, filled with interesting art installations and exhibitions.
Poets House! Free, air-conditioned and poetic.
Hitch a ferry to Governors Island, where you will find river views, grassy lawns, free bicycles, and cool art installations. The round trip is $3.
Take the Roosevelt Island tramway, at E 60th Street and 2nd Avenue, and enjoy it’s Upper East Side views along with the Island’s greenery.
Green-Wood Cemetery (historic battlefield & burial ground), a sprawling, lush cemetery that was once the nation’s most visited tourist attraction besides Niagara Falls ( source: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/ )
The Bronx Zoo is free on Wednesdays with reservations.
The New York Botanical Garden is free on Wednesdays with reservations.
Go to the beach! Coney Island is popular, of course, but nearby Brighton Beach or Manhattan Beach is less crowded and neighbors some excellent Russian and Turkish restaurants.
The 9/11 memorial isn’t free, but the outdoor memorial fountains are, providing profound and serene scenes.
Visit Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you can spend time with the extravagant views of the Manhattan skyline.
MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) is always free for visitors under the age of 16.
The Whitney Museum is free for students and visitors under the age of 18.
On Saturdays, the Union Square Greenmarket is always surrounded by cooking demonstrations and other farmers market goods.
Go to the many parks in NYC including: Bryant Park, Central Park, Washington Square Park, Tompkins Square Park etc. and spend valuable time with friends, family or by yourself!
REVIEW OF "THEM"
Amazon Prime Video premiered their new controversial series, “Them” on April 9th, 2021. Produced by Lena Waithe, this anthology series takes place in 1946 and follows a black family who relocates to East Compton from a small town in North Carolina. The family undergoes a series of traumatic occurrences spanning from white supremacy and racism to supernatural symbolism. Little Marvin, the creator of the show, took inspiration from his own experiences with racism, from racism seen in society, and from racism represented in the media. While also taking into account the history of racial discrimination and the use of religion to oppress black, indigenous, and Asian communities, Little Marvin crafted a story that openly criticizes white supremacy and institutionalized racism.
As the plot of “Them” developed, viewers were exposed to insightful social commentary on racism through a multifaceted lens. Though the series is centered around racism as a whole, it focuses on American history and the practices used to subjugate African-Americans; one practice being religion. In the past, as white supremacy grew and developed, Christianity did as well. Africans, Indigenous Native Americans, among other races, were heavily pressured and essentially forced by colonizers to convert to Christianity. Often manipulating religious texts and core values, white colonizers used Christianity to mislead black people and scare them into thinking that liberation equals sin. “Them” highlights the use of Christianity to preserve the “hierarchy of races” and the power dynamic between races. In addition, the creator and producer emphasize the systemic isolation of black families by means of threatening the family structure. For example, slavery and mass incarceration, both affect(ed) predominantly black and brown people and warrant the separation of families. Family structures were torn apart when their loved ones were sold or killed in slavery, and similarly, family structures are torn apart when black and brown people fall victim to the prison industrial complex. In “Them”, the family members are separated by their own mental and, in cases, physical trauma - mostly if not always attempting to weaken the bond between the family. White supremacy perpetuates the pervasive belief that to be white is better, a consequence of the undesirable nature of living while black. This belief has and continues to fuel the hatred of black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC). “Them” demonstrates racism and its fundamental core - white supremacy and the pursuit of power.
Lena Waithe explored the history of racism and the many similarities seen today, capturing immense parallelism. One unique thing about this production is the little contrast of racism between past and present. The suffering of the Emory family was expressed to be as brutal and inhumane as slavery was. One can infer that the similar magnitude of trauma between time periods was used to call attention to the traumatic aftereffects of years (and cont.) of systemic oppression. Episode 9 highlights extreme parallelism, this episode in the anthology is very different from others and takes readers back into history. Essentially, episode 9 creates a story behind and provides an explanation for the intense racism in East Compton. Hundreds of years ago, Christians who fled their home due to persecution took asylum in East Compton. They developed the area into a village and one day, reluctantly, took in a black couple who had trouble with their travels. Initially, they were subtle with their racism and made snarky remarks, however, they soon expressed full-on racism and began to proclaim black people as demonic and evil. This explanation is very condensed, however, the episode basically demonstrated how unfair villification, discrimination and blatant hatred has grown and progressed and is still present in many aspects of society. Furthermore, parallelism in this show depicts generational trauma within the African American community. The comparisons account for fear and anger held towards white people and explain certain behaviors prevalent in the black community. On a whole, parallelism in “Them” highlights aspects of racism in both past and present and expresses its impact.
“Them” has received many mixed reviews, while some find the series to truly highlight the extent of racial oppression in America, alternatively, others believe that the series unnecessarily and too graphically depicts black trauma. The explicit and disturbing depiction of violence against black people and black trauma is in massive quantity. After watching the series, some have been left puzzled at the violence, deeming it avoidable. Angela Bastien, a writer for Vulture has characterized the series as “degradation porn” and says in her review “I am comfortable calling it one of the most anti-Black pieces of pop culture I’ve seen in the last few years, one that left me spent after the grueling process of watching its virulent imagery.” To the contrary, others believe that the process of eradicating racism and working towards a non-racist society is not one that is particularly “comfortable”. They maintain the mindset that being disturbed by the truth and understanding gravity of racism in both past and present is necessary to being an anti-racist. One interesting thing worth mentioning is that more millennials and gen-z believe the former and baby-boomers and gen-x the latter. It makes one wonder about generational differences between the black community.
In summation, “Them” exposes viewers to numerous angles of racism and provides commentary on the different ways racism has impacted African Americans specifically and society. Little Marvin and Lena Waithe openly criticize white supremacy, those who uphold it, and demonstrate ways in which BIPOC are affected.
This series is only available on Amazon and viewer discretion is heavily advised. If you decide to watch, please read up on the series and pay attention to things that may trigger you. Though this series is extremely penetrative and insightful, it may work towards the detriment of people who are struggling or easily impacted.
THE GROWING GAME OF ROBLOX
“Roblox is a free, multiplayer, social gaming platform where you play 3D games created by users.” “The site allows users to “Imagine, socialize, chat, play, create, interact, and relate with others in many ways.” The Roblox Suite allows gamers to create their own game or create another world with friends or 'virtual explorers.'” But what does that actually mean? In Roblox, there are a plethora of options to choose from, starting from obstacle courses to team based competitions, to even fun “horror” games. You can not only play these games, but you can also create more games with Roblox Studio, which is free of charge. The tutorials for making games and things of that matter are all free on YouTube. Not only can you create games, but you can also create clothing in the Avatar shop. Although clothing is not free, it is pretty cheap most of the time if you look in the right places, and plus it's not mandatory.
During quarantine we all ran out of things to do, being bored of our daily habits, we turned to entertainment. Once we ran out of shows to watch on Netflix and we had finished binging our favorite series for the 10th time in a row, we turned to games. There are a lot of good online games, however there are much fewer free video games. Roblox is one of the few multiplayer games that are free and well-known. So, you can easily make an account, and later invite your friends to play with you. There are a variety of games as discussed before and it’s quite fun to play with friends in a voice call. There has also been an increase in Roblox content in different platforms, including Instagram and TikTok. There have been so many meme accounts dedicated to giving comedic content about Roblox to their viewers, even just plain Roblox meme accounts. Plus with the variety of items in the avatar shop, you can dress however you would like, causing some accounts to be dedicated ro Roblox fashion. There have been Roblox storytime accounts where they share both comedic and just interesting stories with their viewers. Since Roblox had a variety of ages playing Roblox, it wasn’t just random 6 year olds playing Roblox, making it easier for newer players to get into Roblox.
The Roblox community is quite the interesting one, there is such a wide variety of groups in Roblox that it would take a while to describe each one, I’ll be discussing the more well-known ones. The more comedic side of Roblox usually comes from people that are fans of the well-known YouTuber, Flamingo, previously known as AlbertsStuff. Flamingo is well-known for trolling, comedy, and overall fun gameplay of Roblox. Thus, his fanbase is also well-known for trolling and comedy, and they are the majority of the people that make those memeable screenshots you can see when you search up “Roblox memes”. They are also known for having odd, meme-able, and overall weird avatars. Some dress up as ramen noodles, french fries, a Pepsi bottle, Takis bag, and other random things. Another part of the community is the normal side of Roblox: it is more relaxed and usually players just enjoy the games and making friends. Not much is said about them, but they are chill, and some good friends. There are some more types of groups but they are more divided into what types of games they play, so I would rather discuss that.
THE RACIAL BIAS OF AMERICAN AWARDS SHOWS
The American entertainment industry is known for its diversity, as artists of all races perform on stage together. So why has America failed to reward performers of color for their outstanding performances in major awards shows? The Grammys, Oscars, Golden Globes, etc. have been called out on various media platforms for their ignorance toward artists of color; despite these artists’ obvious successes which sometimes outnumber their white counterparts. There is an evident gap between artists who are rewarded and those who aren’t, showing the discrimination of these awards shows that has been piling up for decades.
The Grammy Awards was first started in 1969 as the Gramophone Awards and presented by the Recording Academy to artists who have recognizable achievements in the music industry. However, its system has become known for faulty hip-hop categories that do not nominate or award Black artists who truly deserve recognition. For instance, in 2014, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’, “The Heist” won 2013’s best rap album of the year over Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” although Lamar’s album was regarded as one the most poignant and influential albums of all time and had won a Pulitzer Prize. Another Black artist known to have been “snubbed,” is Beyoncé for her album, “Lemonade”. Acclaimed as one the decade’s most powerful and culturally significant albums, “Lemonade” lost to Adele in 2017. Adele herself regarded this as nonsensical and reportedly snapped the award in half to share with Beyoncé. Many other Black artists have lost against white artists who they have surpassed in listens, Youtube views, and rankings on several worldwide music charts. This conveys the Grammy’s racial bias as they fail to acknowledge the influence Black people have had on music.
Bestowed by 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Golden Globes has claimed to celebrate successes in international and American film since 1944. However, the award show has been receiving backlash for its lack of inclusivity, especially in 2021. Fans and social media users have expressed their anger towards the fact that the HBO and BBC series, I May Destroy You did not earn a single nomination, despite being nominated for two Critics Choice Awards and winning breakthrough series at the Gotham Awards. The series was created by Black actress and screenwriter, Michaela Coel, who plays the main role of a woman suffering from the trauma and realization of sexual assault. These nominations and awards mainly went to films and dramas staffed mostly of white people such as the Trial of Chicago 7 or Promising Young Woman. Although these performances are deserving of their success, it is important to note that the 2021 Golden Globes only had four Black people awarded during the ceremony. In 2020, the Golden Globes only awarded one person of color from the film selection. In the 71st Golden Globe Awards in 2014, there were zero POC TV winners and in 2002 there weren't any nominations at all for any POC.
At the Oscars or the Academy Awards ceremony, people in the film industry are awarded for artistic and technical merit. It is regarded as the most prestigious award in the media industry globally, but it is not shy of backlash due to the racial bias it has displayed throughout the years. Even in years as recent as 2016, only white actors were nominated and many actors of colors were “subbed,” despite their performances and successes. The entire leading cast of the highest grossing music biography Straight Outta Compton, was black and they were not nominated. In the 20th century, this racial discrimination was very apparent because from 1975-1981, only white actors were nominated until Ragtime actor Howard E. Rollins Jr. was nominated. Hispanic actors are also underrepresented at the Oscars as over the past 30 years there were only 17 nominated performances by Hispanic actors. In addition to this, only three Asian actors have been nominated in the past 25 years. Although most people consider the Oscars to be an award show that rewards international films, the first international movie to win Best Picture or a major award was a South Korean movie, Parasite, which won in 2020, almost a century after the Oscars started.
The Oscars, Golden Globes, and Grammys have different associations full of people that decide who wins the awards. These associates have been facing backlash due to their evident racial bias. For the Grammy awards, the Recording Academy Voting Members are music industry professionals from diverse backgrounds. The Voting members go through a process of nominating and finally voting for which artist can win. However, as shown before, a certain bias can be displayed. Artists such as Tyler, the Creator called out the Recording Academy for boxing Black artists into categories such as rap or “urban,” rather than allowing them to fit into general categories such as pop, which is mostly awarded to white artists. The Academy is also criticized for their genre placement, as pop or country music has dominated the album of the year category. The last time that an album was neither pop, country, nor rock and won album of the year was 17 years ago. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a non-profit organization of almost 90 international journalists that conducts the Golden Globes ceremony. The members choose a winner of a certain category from a list of nominees by a popularity vote. They have been criticized for the lack of Black members in the association. While the association does have a lot of people of color, there are no Black members present. The HFPA responded to this by saying they will require at least 13% of the future membership to be Black. The members have also received criticism about their attitude. Those who have interacted with them describe members falling asleep during screenings, hurling insults at each other in conferences, and engaging in personal feuds. These behaviors only prove them to be ineligible of awarding the right artists, as their personal disputes are displayed in what is supposed to be a professional environment. A HFPA representative seemed to have acknowledged this and claimed that the conflicts arose from strong opinions. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the organization that votes for the Oscars winner and they are a professional honorary organization. As can be shown by the Oscars’ winners, they are criticized for the lack of diversity within the film industry and have acknowledged this by making a “plan” to require certain Oscar nominees to meet certain diversity and inclusion standards.
These awards shows pride in being globally recognized, as well as globally accepting, yet it is evident that they fail to display this through winners or nominees. The Oscars, Grammys, and Golden Globes are only a few examples of several awards shows with similar conflicts. The HFPA, Recording Academy, and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are seen as eligible to decide who wins these awards, but they have proven the opposite with their choices and attitudes. Through these awards shows regarded as the most popular, the racial bias of America is evident as people of color are disregarded despite their talent and successes.
MEME CULTURE AND COMMUNICATION
Memes. The Google definition of a meme is “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by internet users,” however what do we use memes for in this day in age? We use memes to communicate our ideas, opinions, and current events. Although memes were previously used for a laugh, like the ‘E’ Markiplier meme, or funny cat memes, memes about current occurrences are very common, a great example would be big events during 2020 in general. The wildfires in California were memed, the possible ‘World War’ was memed and finally the whole pandemic was memed.
"Me laughing at these WW3 jokes but lowkey scared" "me and my friends 2 days into 2020: 'Get in Loser, we're getting drafted'" "Me laughing at all these World War 3 memes vs. me when I get the draft letter:" .
All these memes were a response to the fact that we were barely 2 days into 2020 and the danger of a possible World War was a possibility. Although this was a short trend since eventually we saw that we were not going to war with Iran, it did show that young people were scared. More specifically, young people that were more likely to be drafted, like people from low-income families, minorities, and simply people who aren’t eligible for military deferments because they aren’t rich and white. Although these young people could simply tweet ‘hey, I’m scared I might get drafted’ nowadays we use humor as a coping mechanism and World War 3 memes are a perfect example of that.
During early times in the pandemic people were making light-hearted memes about the pandemic, like one where someone created a tinder profile for the Coronavirus virus, writing “New in town, looking for some fun. Currently traveling around China and planning to travel all around the world soon! I love being outdoors, crowded places and food markets…” .This was before things got serious with a lockdown and people having to wear masks and social distance. However once March came and things started to get serious, almost all of the popular memes were about the pandemic. A lot of people were still using humor as a coping mechanism and making a joke about their worries and thoughts. One of the scariest things during the early stages was just going outside, as shown by a meme saying “This reboot looks scarier than the original:” Then showing a picture of a movie cover with Will Smith where he is holding a gun and looking like he is surviving the apocalypse with the title saying "I am Going To Costco" . On the other hand, some were still not taking the pandemic too seriously and were making memes about the laws being put in place. For example, one news article’s headline was “Austria bans all gatherings of more than five people” and so someone screenshotted it and then put a screenshot of The Office, where the people in the image are all in a standoff with finger guns, with the text: “families of six:”.
Although these are only some examples of the way we have used memes, we can see how current generations are using memes from these examples.
Memes are very easily available to everyone and since current events are being spread through memes, they make themselves both useful and harmful when it comes to the general populous' knowledge of what’s happening in the world. Not only that but memes have become important even to big companies that are trying to use memes as a form of advertisement. Memes have established that they are here and here to stay, whether for good or bad. Although memes can be used in all of these positive ways, memes can be used as misinformation and they can spread negativity and hate. Memes can be and are being used as a way to spread the racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination. However you can not deny the fact that memes can be used as a way to combate said racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. Although memes have been thought to be a waste of time, I hope you see that the current generation, and all other following generations are going to be using memes as a form of communication of ideas. Memes are most likely to be as powerful as speeches in the sense that the ideas they spread will spread quickly, and not only that but they will reach even more people. In this day and age we should utilize memes as the powerful form of communication that they are!
THE PROMISED NEVERLAND: REVIEW
The Promised Neverland, a dark fantasy type anime and manga, originally written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu was recently released on Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. Although The Promised Neverland is more dark it has something for everyone - wholesome moments, gore, romance, and mystery. It’s an overall well-rounded anime. It’s community of fans has been growing ever since its release as an anime, and its fan base is going to keep growing.
We are introduced to the main characters in the beginning scene, a red/orange haired girl called Emma. Emma has a very bright and cheerful personality, and we learn that she is quite athletic. We are also introduced to Emma’s best friends: Norman and Ray. We learn that Norman is the smartest out of the bunch, a calm natured person, and usually the one gives orders to the trio. Ray is also very intelligent but doesn’t usually participate in any of the athletic activities although he is athletic. He is quite cunning and very skeptical of everything and is willing to sacrifice himself for the wellbeing of his two friends. Isabella is the ‘Mama’ and acts as a caretaker for all of the kids there- some of her better known qualities are being quite intelligent and dominant.
It starts off with the main characters talking about how they wonder what life was like beyond a gate that they are seen near. They then flash forward to the present and we see the main characters once again near the gate, but now they are wondering the same thing with their fellow peers. However, this time they talk about a “Mom” and how they love her very much, we later learn that she is a caretaker called Isabella. We learn that they are all orphans and are living in a secluded orphanage with a very privileged life; they have a lot of food, great shelter, clean clothes and an education. They seem to live a perfect life with the exception that they have no freedom in the outside world and are not allowed to go outside unless they are adopted. When one of Norman and Emma’s siblings leave the “adoption center” to go to their “adoptive family” they notice that their sibling let their toy bunny on the table and so they decided to try and give it to her so she could take it as a reminder of the adoptive center.
In general, the theme from The Promised Neverland is one of loss of innocence, after breaking through the facade of being in an ‘orphanage’ we begin to see the sick reality of it all. Emma, a caring, joyous, and selfless person begins to see how twisted her world actually is and is deeply impacted by it however, she still rejects being selfish and plans to save everyone from dying. This sort of resilience is what made this anime even more gravitating because we all love that hero that goes against all the odds.
Overall I really enjoyed The Promised Neverland since it has an amazing and well-thought out plot, as well as lovable (and hateable) characters. Emma’s character development resonates with a lot of people and their experience with reality. A lot of people have a hard time dealing with reality and although Emma did too, she kept trucking along. It kind of inspires you in a way to see someone work so hard to save her fellow siblings when it seems impossible. Even if you have never tried anime before, this can be a great one to start since it has an interesting plot with some amazing art. If you are looking for a dystopian anime with a morbid twist, this may be the one for you.
ENTERTAINMENT IN THE COVID AGE
As we know, COVID has left us with plenty of time on our hands. In the past few months, people have used this free time to engage in hobbies they love and to discover new ones. This included things like baking, learning a new language, and reading books that you’ve had on your mind for a while. But one hobby has been a mainstay in this new quarantine culture: TV & Movie streaming.
The risk of contracting COVID has caused public gatherings to go by the wayside, including going to movie theaters. To circumvent this significant roadblock in showcasing content, the Entertainment industry has taken to other measures to get their content to viewers. When it comes to movies, two avenues have been taken when releasing content, both having to do with streaming. The first method includes exclusivity deals - notably, Wonder Woman 1984 was made exclusive to one streaming platform, HBO Max, as well as having showings in movie theaters. The second method consists of non-exclusive simultaneous releases, in which movies will be available in theaters and on streaming platforms on the same day, similar to Fandango Now.
When it comes to how we consume content, streaming services like Netflix, Disney +, and Amazon Prime have kept many busy with their exclusive content and popular titles. Until we truly grasp how to overcome the virus in this country, the theater experience will have to be relegated to our laptops and bedrooms.
Brynne’s Streaming Picks
The End of the F***ing World
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME
There exists no other document in American history that is as important as the constitution. There also exists no other document as deeply flawed and problematic. This piece of paper has caused such widespread ideological differences since it was first written in 1787. In her (mostly) one-woman show, writer and star Heidi Shrek exams this document with a fine-toothed comb. Harkening back to the speech competitions that Shrek participated in throughout high school, this theatrical masterpiece attempts to examine the loopholes and restrictions the constitution contains. The show has recently been made available on Amazon Prime - arriving in the midst of the presidential election and providing the perfect opportunity for American’s to examine their relationship to their rights. In such a turbulent time in modern history, this show gives the opportunity to examine how the American political system has repeatedly disadvantaged the most vulnerable minorities.
The play opens on a relatively blank stage, set to resemble an American Legion hall - the walls covered with images of men in various military uniforms, a podium in the center of the room, and minimal decorations. Shrek takes the stage wearing a casual outfit of jeans, a blazer, and boots, emblematic of the casual relationship she forms with the audience. This play is anything but traditional, with Shrek spending most of the 100 minutes speaking directly to the audience, at times acknowledging the seeming lack of organization that accompanies the candid, conversational nature of the play. Anyone watching the play will sense the warm, welcoming feeling that is created through Shrek’s humorous reenactment of her high school self, wide-eyed and enthusiastic, discussing the brilliant merits of the constitution.
What makes this play so brilliant and effective is Shrek’s ability to shift from a humorous tone to a distinctly serious and at times distraught, or even angry tone. The solo nature of the play also aids the audience in understanding that the effects of government corruption and power placed in the wrong hands affect everyone that lives in this society. By talking about things so deeply personal, such as Shrek’s history of family abuse and male dominance, she is able to draw in the audience and illuminate the everyday impacts of such a quintessentially American piece of history.
At the end of every performance, Shrek brings one of two young women, who rotate depending on the show, out onto the stage to perform a live debate over whether to keep or abolish the constitution. This conclusion is such a lively, welcoming experience after the rather deep tone of the previous material, and always incites laughter and amazement in the audience. The live debate gets the audience participating, with people being encouraged to cheer or boo in support of the two debaters. To conclude the debate, an audience member selects the winner, allowing the viewers to contemplate what they would have done if they were the one having to make the selection.
With the show now available on AmazonPrime, it is more widely accessible. In the time of coronavirus, it feels comforting to be able to return to the theater from the safety of your own home and experience a piece of art that makes you discuss and debate these issues that are so important. Even after the play ends, you will be left with the lingering contemplation that is felt after viewing such a strong piece of theater - how has this single piece of paper had such a strong and stifling hold on American politics for over 200 years, and is it time to make a dramatic change to resemble the ever-changing world?
CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
If you’ve ever listened to music or been a fan of a popular music artist, there is a chance you’ve heard about the term “cultural appropriation.” Cultural appropriation is an inappropriate presentation of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one culture of society done by members of another dominant culture or society. It can be seen in fashion, make-up, literature, and other types of media, but most people see it in music. Therefore, the cultural appropriation present in music is important to address because people of many different heritages listen to music from popular artists and it is necessary to not disrespect them by using their customs inappropriately.
In the music industry, most artists are not aware of the complexity of the culture they are appropriating when they do certain dance moves, sing lyrics, wear a type of clothing, or showcase a stage prop. This was evident when Selena Gomez donned a bindi in her MTV Movie awards performance for her song, “Come and Get It” or when Iggy Azalea’s music video for “Bounce” featured her wearing a bindi and a bridal lehenga with Indian women as her back-up dancers. These two artists who do not come from Indian or Hindu backgrounds are clearly disrespecting the culture by wearing bindis, which are colored dots worn on the center of the forehead by Hindus to represent the point at which creation began. The bridal lehenga Iggy Azalea wore holds cultural significance because the lehenga is a type of clothing usually worn by women of South Asian descent. The Universal Society of Hinduism responded to Selena Gomez’s performance of “Come and Get It,” saying that the bindi she sported is not meant to be used as a fashion accessory as she was dancing seductively during the song, which misrepresented the use of bindis as they do not have seductive connotations behind them. Hindus have faced religious persecution and systematic violence many times in history, which came in the form of forced conversions, documented massacres, demolition and destructions of educational and religious facilities. The artists who appropriated traditions from the religion are obviously not aware of the religious oppression Hindus have faced as they mock the culture and use it for aesthetic purposes.
Despite the way these artists are sexualizing religious and traditional wear, most people or fans of the artists fail to see the problem behind the appropriation. The artists and the fans see what they are doing as cultural appreciation, which is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their knowledge and connect with others with that cultural knowledge. When Selena Gomez responded to the backlash about her MTV performance, she stated she learned much about Indian culture and Hinduism and it was “cool” to incorporate what she “learned” into a performance.
There were also many ignorant fans of Lady Gaga who, during her release for “Aura” in 2013, trended the hashtag, “BurqaSwag” on Twitter. The song, “Aura,” was initially titled “Burqa,” which is a garment worn by Muslim women that covers their body from head to toe. The hashtag wrongfully portrayed the song in a positive light by showing that Lady Gaga was telling Muslim women to embrace their sexualities by wearing burqas. In reality burqas are worn for Muslim women to conceal their sexualities in public and the hashtag only worked as a way to sexualize these garments more than the song already had as the lyrics read, “Do you wanna see me naked, lover? Do you wanna peek underneath the cover?” The ignorance shown toward Islamic tradition is evident here since Lady Gaga is obviously not a Musim women and is not educated on the significance of a burqa and the horrid oppression Muslim women have to go through because they wear burqas in public. The hashtag also showed the mob mentality of fans who blindly follow the celebrities’ actions without holding the artists accountable for their wrongdoings.
In general, cultural appropriation comes from a power dynamic, as stated by medium.com’s section on “5 Things You Don’t Realize When You Defend Cultural Appropriation.” All the artists mentioned above come from American culture which has not experienced much oppression compared to Indians, Hindus and Muslims. Most people who defend artists who have appropriated use the excuse of how those from minority groups also use their artists’ culture, whether that be eating cheeseburgers, straightening their hair, or even speaking English. However, people of different customs do this to fit in with the American culture that is considered the norm. It is essential to their survival and acceptance into America because displaying their cultures through their persona can risk them not finding secure housing, jobs, and other opportunities. That is not “appropriation,” but assimilation, which is the process of a minority group or culture coming to assume the customs of a majority group. This assimilation can also be seen in the music from other cultures, such as in Bollywood. Most of the Indian performers wear jeans and shirts, rather than their traditional clothing to appeal to mainstream media, which would have originated from American customs as that is the norm.
In conclusion, the cultural appropriation seen in the American music industry is something that should not become the norm. Artists should also start to educate themselves on the different cultures of the world. After all, the least American pop stars can do for their fans who support them is respect the backgrounds their fans come from.
UNUS ANNUS: A CHANNEL TO REMEBER
Unus Annus. Latin for one year. Memento Mori. Latin for remembering that you will die. Unus Annus (pronounced Unuhs Ahnnuhs) was the name of a YouTube channel that was created to be deleted in one year. Unus Annus was hosted by Ethan Nestor from Crankgameplays, playing Unus, and Mark Fischbach, or as he is better known: Markiplier, playing Annus. The channel was created on November 15th at 3:00 am eastern time and ended on November 14th at 3:00 am eastern time (because it was a leap year). The main purpose of Unus Annus was to emphasize that people have a limited time on Earth and that we should appreciate it. The first video ever posted on the channel was titled Unus Annus and explained what they were going to do, along with showing the standard of their videos. They began their channel with their now-iconic hand pose and signature full black/white suits. They explained that they were going to do daily videos for a year and then delete all of them in the end (hence Unus Annus). There were to be no reuploads, no going back to see what you missed, simply remembrance.
Unus Annus videos varied from serious videos with Mark and Ethan explaining that there wasn’t much time left in Unus Annus’s lifetime to them making a video titled We Explore the Most MYSTERIOUS Mysteries of our Wildy Mysterious Mystery Moon of Mysteries. So, as you can see it was a very diverse channel, they did whatever they wanted, because in the Unus Annus timeline they only had one year to live. Pre-COVID-19 Mark and Ethan did all sorts of things, they purged their sins with a neti pot (an instrument used to flush out mucus from your nose with water), were hot dogged to death, tried to summon a ghost, cooked a full family meal with Play-Doh, did some helium therapy, acupuncture, were hit with a paintball gun, and made their own sensory deprivation tank. These are just a few of the glorious 369 videos(there were 369 videos because of other short announcement videos) that Unus Annus made in their lifetime.
Many inside jokes occurred within this channel's lifetime, even some unexpected lore. One video named Crushing Watermelons Betwixt Our Mighty Thighs was where one of the other characters in the Unus Annus universe was created, the Melon Man. Melon Man was an inside joke in the Unus Annus community where Ethan went crazy inside the video trying to break apart the watermelon. In Mark Conquers His Fear of Night Swimming Ethan also creates another character, the Gongoozler. Now the original definition for the word ‘gongoozler’ was someone who likes boats, but in Unus Annus it is a mighty scary sea creature, played by Ethan. In the Unus Annus community, we call Mark and Ethan different things, for example, I have seen people call Ethan, Eef. This is a reference to one of their videos Mark Teaches Ethan How To Read With Hooked On Phonics where they have a parody of learning to read. In this video, Ethan is asked to spell his name and since this is a comedy video, he spells it as ‘Eef’. Other than that nickname we don’t call anyone else by any other nicknames than Unus and Annus. This really brought together and made this channel special, the community really helped Mark and Ethan achieve their goal.
Unus Annus truly did make an impact on most people. They created a whole community out of this channel. The recognizable black and white spiral and outfits made this community really latch on to the yin and yang of the whole thing. I saw many, many people be inspired by Unus Annus and they began living their life with more zest. People became aware of the fact that although we are all going to die it doesn’t mean that we have to get all depressed about it. Although Unus Annus did emphasize that experiencing grief and going through all the stages was important, they also emphasized that you should experience life to the fullest even if you know you are going to die. People drew marvelous fan art with symbolic meaning just using the black and white features of Unus Annus. People created close-knit communities and it even influenced things outside of Unus Annus, in their own channels people began referencing Unus Annus and simply bringing more people to the community.
Now all of these fun things had to end at some point and Unus Annus made their own reminders about it in video form. They made several videos like There’s Still Hope, The End of Unus Annus is Almost Here, This is Goodbye, The Truth of Unus Annus, Being Brutally Honest With Each Other, Saying Goodbye To All Our Guests, and finally the last ever-presence of Unus Annus, Goodbye. During videos like these, they always reminded their viewers about the constant presence of the time ticking away. They always found a way to add that type of mystique to their videos. With them wearing these full black and full white suits it really added that sort of formality, about how there wasn’t much time left. They kept adding the ticking sound of the clock, and some music that they used all throughout their serious videos. The music was like a serious version of the jeopardy music it reminded you about time passing by and it was quite pensive too. It kept that theme going and made us remember the purpose of the channel and really see how long we had. During The Truth of Unus Annus Ethan and Mark kindly took us through the stages of grief. Denial: Unus and Annus were both shouting saying things like “but a year is such a long time, how is it over so quick?” Anger: we can see both of them screaming and crying furious tears, angry at the world, shouting and cursing. Bargaining: Unus and Annus were both saying things like “just give us a little more time” and “2020 wasn’t what we planned for” but the clock doesn’t stop ticking does it? I mean even though 2020 wasn’t what anyone planned for, it still happened. A year is a year, and that was the deal. Depression: they begin calming down but not in a good way, we can see them crying and doing the child’s pose. Finally, Acceptance: where we see both of them on the side of their custom casket (half black, half white) while finally well, accepting their own deaths. This was a lot of closure not only for us but for themselves.
When the day came to say goodbye to Unus Annus, I attended their final moments on their live stream titled Goodbye. It was quite the experience, in the room where they live-streamed their final moments there was half of the room with a backdrop that was painted half white and half black. There was also a spiral and an old fashioned TV with the classic timer showing how much time was left. A ton of people were in the waiting room alone and in their final moments there were over a million people. Which was quite an incredible feat considering they were ending their live stream at 3:00 am Eastern time and in some countries, the live stream ended when people were waking up. Seeing in live time the way that people were there for their final moments, was quite inspiring. Something interesting that they did was that in the live you could not go back in the live to rewatch what you missed; if you were late then you missed it. It was very Unus Annus of them to do so and it really added to the message they were sending. They checked social media for fanart and rewatched their favorite videos from the channel. The editors made reels of their own edits which they are most proud of. Lastly they said their goodbyes to everything and explained what they were going to do and how. Being there especially in the last few minutes in Unus Annus’s lifetime was both exhilarating and frightening. Seeing the screen to delete the channel where it said “Are you sure you want to delete the channel Unus Annus?” with the options “Delete” and “Cancel” was even more of an interesting experience. Seeing the clock go 00:00:00:03, 00:00:00:02, 00:00:00:01 and then the screen goes black. It was amazing seeing them go through with their promise of deleting their channel after exactly 365 days. After my brain registered that Unus Annus was gone I started refreshing the live and sure enough, the YouTube error screen popped up. I went to the channel site and just like promised Unus Annus was gone. Even the merch site is gone, if you go to https://www.unusannus.com/ you will see that all it says is “RIP” with the classic “00:00:00:00” and of course their logo. Even though Unus Annus has ended I think that makes it even more important to remember if you were a part of it, or wonder if you were not there. Unfortunately it is too late to experience what Unus Annus was, but you can at least learn about it through the wiki.
Author’s Note: There have been reuploading of videos by a channel called “Unus Annus Archive”. These are simply reuploads and go against Mark and Ethan’s wishes. Please do not watch them, it goes against everything Unus Annus represented, Mark and Ethan are already working hard to take them down. If you want to see what they were like simply visit their wiki, https://unus-annus.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_All_Unus_Annus_Videos