21st Century Modern Day Icons

by B.J. Delas Armas on 6/10/2008 09:04:00 AM 0 comments Print this post

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This is what my mail from the Southern California Library Reads:

"Now Emory Douglas, former minister of culture for the Black Panther Party, joins us in asking you to make a financial contribution so we can continue to provide meaningful access to the lessons of those who have come before us.

In January of this year, Emory Douglas came to the Library for the first time to facilitate an all-day graphic arts workshop for social justice organizations from around Los Angeles."

Much much later in the letter:

"At the Southern California Library, Emory Douglas is not an icon. He is our brother. His life and work are an important part of our collective struggle for justice. We are proud to call him a friend."

You know, I like the way this lettter is written. They do not objectify their person. He is subject amongst them.

An accomplished person not being held up as some holy, untouchable object, but as a living, breathing subject.


Something quite different than a culture of the objectification of relatively non-accomplished celebrities.


There was an article on Alternet a few weeks ago justifying the media's extensive coverage of celebrity lifestyle and gossip.

Essentially, the article says that celebrity gossip is a guilty pleasure from which insights of life can be drawn out. The argument was that there is value to celebrity gossip because it is where the people's interests are and it's really a medium where people discuss their values. It's not dumb; it's democratic because anyone can offer their judgment, their stories on a subject without being reemed for lack of knowledge. Talking about these celebrity stories are like a real-life modern-day greek tragedy full of interesting story lines, twists, and turns. Kim Kardashian, a living, pulsating Venus de Milo.

Celebrity gossip is where the people are and what they're interested in, but I can't get over the fact of how that this is all been such a construct. I am NOT trying to be an intellectual snob or some super-moral puritan who avoids all vices, but I feel like the media has so much power, it could bring light to so many other worthy things.

A commentor named Tom Degan on the website wrote:

"During the era of the Cronkites, the Murrows and the Severeids, our parents and grandparents had a pretty good idea what was going on with respect to affairs of state. That is no longer the case. The deregulation of the FCC a generation ago has had a dreadful effect on the American electorate. Think about it for a minute. A quarter of a century ago, CBS was owned by the Paley family. Today it is owned by Westinghouse - an arms manufacturer.

Why aren't the American people outraged by this turn of events? Because they've been so dumned-down since the dawn of the Reagan Revolution, they don't know any better. It's sickening.

Thank God for sites like AlterNet."

I do see value in celebrity gossip being a connective tissue for people, but I wish we would draw storylines on stuff that actually affects us. Stuff like the life of graff artists, or the fights to save rent control, or the drama behind the privatization of water. Why couldnt struggles for justice be the connective tissues, the addictive things?

What strikes me is that the news used to be a public service, but now its only objective is market driven and now practically all entertainment-related. I gleaned this from a Dan Rather interview on PBS.

He had this to say about news journalism back then:

"...the central thing that impressed me was their spirit of mission. They saw their work -- their life's work -- as something bigger than themselves. ... To do quality news of integrity in the public service. ... And that permeated the halls of CBS News. You could smell it, see it, hear it, feel it. The strongest early reaction was, what a powerful sense of mission these people have."

Its like the media is our moms and dads who threw out the vegetables, fish, rice, grains fruit from the diet so we could just have chocolate cake and ice cream all the time. Celeb gossip is a piece of that chocolate cake and ice cream. As the kids of these proverbial parents, we don't really know any better except that it tastes good, so we just consume it till it makes us sick.

Were happy to keep following these icons and use them in storylines to discuss with people. Were happy to hold these objects of discussion, these icons up as things to criticize, emulate, criticize, but ultimately as mediums to secretly admire and follow. It's as if these objects aren't people who eat, breathe, shit, and fuck like other people do, but walking statues to be watched. Obviously it's gotten to the point where magazines, TV shows, and uh...careers are being built on feeding this objectification.

This objectification is very appropo. We have objectives to meet. We have objects of desire. Object, object, object. We like to criticize and follow these other things, live vicariously these icons, these objects, things we abuse or worship. Celebs lives are those very objects, which the media has warped us into wanting and craving...objects.

Why don't we care much about...subjects? What do we do to live on our own subjectivities, subject to criticism both self and outside? What do we do to honor and care for the subjects of our lives, the people actually doing things you see everyday? What do you do for your moms, your dads, your brothers, your sisters, your friends?

Abstract Rude take us out...

Hi,Mom!~A Prayer For World Peace~ ft. Abstract Rude (Kero One Remix) - Nomak

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