Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Bitches Ain't Shit." My take on Imus and Vonnegut

This entry may piss some of you off. But. Free speech and dialog are important and I do invite you to read and use the comments and talk it over. Don Imus is an old addled fart who thinks he is funny and entertaining. And for 30 years, he's been paid by people who think he's funny and entertaining... Wanda Sykes said it best the other night when she was on one of the late night shows. She was shocked, because she thought he'd been dead nine years already. So she was shocked not at what he said, but that he still existed.

Now, that's funny.

Imus spoke in a "comedic" way when he called the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy headed hoes." I do believe he was under the impression that he was "hip" and "street." He looked at the Rutgers girls and thought they looked ... hardened, instead of like a bunch of scholar-athletes.

He chose unwisely. He really should have said that they look like a bunch of tough thugs... which is what he meant, I do believe. Thing is, he didn't. He talked like he was street. Unfortunately, his skin is the wrong color. And now he's done. He's screwed. And that's how it is.

But if Dave Chappelle wants to make fun of white people all day every day for 50 million bucks, he's lauded as a "genius" by everyone on the planet. And I can be offended but no one is going to listen to me because that genius is a genius and I'm just a fat white girl. Whatever.

I don't think the man should have lost his job. Not over this. Dude has said a lot worse in the past 30 plus years of his broadcasting career, but this one was an easy throw down for those looking for a reason to go after him.

I only wish that if free speech is going to be done away with for Imus, that the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson would go after BET and MTV and rappers who say things like my quote of the moment up there (do go read all the words because they are amazing). Because Imus calling the girls a phrase he heard uttered in a Spike Lee movie (uh, School Daze, hello!) Dr. Dre and Snoop have said a whole hell of a lot worse.

Free speech though, is free speech. If Dr. Dre wants to write the classic ode to smacking women around and ditching them after porking their asses, "Bitches Ain't Shit," well, he can. God bless him for it. And if Ben Folds wants to do a cover version of it on Piano, well by all means. And if Imus wants to shoot his mouth off about everyone, whatever.

Context is everything. And Imus' own webpage on the MSNBC website states it is a comedy show. Comedy. Entertainment. Context. Just like Dave Chappelle. Just like Chris Rock. Just like Howard Stern. He is not a news caster. His schtick for the past 30 years has been just what it was the other day when he uttered the three words of his undoing, and they weren't "I love you."

Free speech is free speech. And as objectionable as some people found "nappy headed hoes," it wasn't uttered in malice, it wasn't combined with a threat, it was just a stupid thing to say.

I don't want to go on and on and on about it. But I do find something slightly ironic and not in the Alanis Morrisette sense.

Kurt Vonnegut died today at age 84. I remember being about 13 and reading Slaughterhouse Five and not getting it. I remember devouring all of his books through high school, and going back to the slaughterhouse and then "getting it." I read Vonnegut, Heller, Bellow, and Bradbury like it was my religion for a while. And these crotchety old white and Jewish men taught me a lot about who we are, from many different angles.

I remember reading that Vonnegut was labeled "obscene," and his books were banned and burned across the country. [sidebar: Hello Farenheit 451 from Mr. Bradbury. Most of the links I found for F451 were Spark Notes or Cliff Notes versions of the book. But I have to point you to this article from Houston TX from Jan 2006 where a parent wants Farenheit 451 banned from the school district because it has objectionable language in it and offends people. End sidebar]. The ACLU stepped up to defend Vonnegut's right to free speech... and now he's remembered as one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century.

I am not saying Imus will or should be remembered as a great thinker and writer. Dude invented Moby Worm and it came and ate my High School one day in 1982. But he should be allowed to not have his career burned in the town square. To quote Vonnegut himself:

"Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae."

Replace listener with "people" and novel with "radio jerk commentary" and I think you've got the situation clearly defined as I see it.


One last thing before I go. I'd really like the iPods of all the girls on the Rutgers Team.

I bet you some nominal amount of money that there are some songs on each of them that make "nappy headed hoes" look like Biblical passages of psalmic praise and love. I doubt they are listening to John Denver. And not because he's white. They're not listening to Charlie Pride either. Dimes to dollars it is 50 cent, Jeezy, Dre, Tupac, and other folks whose songwriting skills have a lot of "Niggaz" rhyming with "Triggaz."

And I apologize right now to the one person I know who reads this journal who is African America for using the Nword there. But I put it in quotes like "NWA" would have on their album cover. Hope you don't hate me for using it, and we'll rock out like mad at the Guster show.

That's it. I'm off to re-read some Vonnegut and think about free speech. And if you disagree with me, I encourage you to use the comments. Because if I disagree with you, I will lovingly address that and will always fight for your right to say, think, believe, and do what makes you happy and brings expression to your life.

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