- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005

We ‘don’t understand’

“I operate on my passion and sometimes I’m naive, I don’t think about the consequences.

“I was quite taken aback by the controversy and fierceness of the reviews about a character we don’t really know too much about. …

“Sexuality is a large issue in America right now, but it isn’t so much in other countries. There’s a raging fundamentalism in morality in the United States.

“From Day One, audiences didn’t show up. They didn’t even read the reviews in the South because the media was using the words: ‘Alex is Gay.’ As a result, you can bet that they thought, ‘We’re not going to see a film about a military leader that has got something wrong with him.’

“America also doesn’t understand ancient history in the way Europeans do.”

Director Oliver Stone, last week at the London premiere of his film “Alexander,” which cost $150 million to produce but sold just $35 million worth of tickets in U.S. theaters

Feminist fat

“America’s obsession with fat is increasingly colonizing the cultural imagination, and not just on sadistic reality-TV diet shows like ‘The Biggest Loser.’

“There’s also been a lot of fat on the New York stage lately. … ‘The Good Body,’ Eve Ensler’s one-woman show … Ensler yanks her blouse up and waistband down, and there in all its naked shame is her dirty little secret, a small pot belly. …

“Can you be a fat female and also an object of desire? … Ensler, a self-declared radical feminist, works herself into intellectual knots trying to come to terms with her own bodily obsessions. … [T]here’s a hard truth that Ensler can’t bring herself to acknowledge about women’s situations today, including her own: There’s simply an irreconcilable contradiction between feminism and femininity, two largely incompatible strategies women have adopted over the years to try to level the playing field with men. …

“Femininity is a system that tries to secure advantages for women, primarily by enhancing their sexual attractiveness to men. … Completely successful femininity can never be entirely attained, which is precisely why women engage in so much laboring, agonizing, and self-loathing.”

Laura Kipnis, writing on “Navel Gazing,” Jan. 5 in Slate at www.slate.com

Hip-hop sideshow

“Hiphop may have begun as a folk culture, defined by its isolation from mainstream society, but … its folksiness was born to be bled once it began entertaining the same mainstream that had once excluded its originators. … [F]rom the moment ‘Rapper’s Delight’ went platinm, hiphop the folk culture became hiphop the American entertainment-industry sideshow. …

“Oh, the selling power of the Black Vernacular. Ralph Ellison only hoped we’d translate it in such a way as to gain entry into the hallowed house of art. How could he know that Ralph Lauren and the House of Polo would one day pray to broker that vernacular’s cool marketing prowess into a worldwide licensing deal for bedsheets writ large with Jay-Z’s John Hancock? Or that the vernacular’s seductive powers would drive Estee Lauder to propose a union with the House of P. Diddy? …

“Twenty years from now, we’ll be able to tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren how we witnessed cultural genocide: the systematic destruction of a people’s folkways.”

Greg Tate, writing on “Hiphop Turns 30,” in the Jan. 4 issue of the Village Voice

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