Tag Archives: apology

Violence And The Feminine Mystique (This Is Why We Can’t Have Terrible Things)

Well, readers, it’s another sweltering day in June, and here in the trenches of the culture war accusations of “misogyny” and “political correctness” are being fired back and forth. And what’s that out there in the middle of the no-man’s land? Well, it’s the photo that started this latest skirmish:

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Image retrieved via Telegraph.com, fair use

That right there folks is a billboard for X-Men: Apocalypse, and it’s got more than a few people upset. So much so, in fact, it’s being reported that Fox has issued an apology for the ad– caving to arguments made by some that the advertisement promotes misogyny.

And in all fairness, they are some compelling arguments.

Now ads featuring violence towards women exist, as evidenced in Jean Kilbourne’s famous documentary Killing Us Softly. Critics of this ad have cited (though I am paraphrasing for the sake of space) that the inundation of these images in our society leads to the normalization of violence. Show enough ads featuring women getting choked out and people will start assuming that it’s the natural way of the world.

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Image retrieved via BusinessInsider.com, fair use

Even if the person doing the choking is the bad guy (and Apocalypse is), the simple fact that it’s a yet another man committing an act of force on a women should be enough to elicit outrage from us all.

Like I said- a compelling argument.

Let me tell you why it’s bull****. Continue reading

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“Kimmy Goes to a Play” as a Conversation Between Tina Fey and Asian American Activists

The culture war is a conversation.

While it is ultimately a conflict, more often than not this takes the form of ideas and criticism being slung back and forth across the trenches. To be heard is a minor success, but to be actually understood is victory.

Within this conversation it’s undoubtedly artists, especially those who have garnered celebrity status, who have the most powerful voices.


In 2014 the eponymous host of The Colbert Report featured a segment on his show about “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. Given his popularity it reached far and wide, and was eventually viewed by a Twitter activist who created the hashtag #CancelColbert in response.

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As it was meant to call attention to and ridicule the outrageous fact that a national sports team is named after an ethnic slur the response was out of line. It was a classic case of [obvious] satire being taken the wrong way, but by inadvertently contributing to what has been dubbed “a fake year of outrage’ this person’s misstep resulted in others who campaign for better representation and the like being worse than silenced, which is to say, ignored.

Despite calling out from what is ostensibly the same side, the misstep of a single loud voice meant that others were unheard.


The exchange between artist and critic is rarely ever an even one, and only becomes more difficult given the sensitivity surrounding such personal creative endeavours.

Lena Dunham is the star and creator of HBO’s Girls, and received enough disapproval about the lack of diversity in a show set in New York City that she was asked about it by NPR. She responded that “[she takes] that criticism very seriously,” and that very same year had Donald Glover playing Hannah’s Black boyfriend on the show.

While the presence of Sandy on the dramedy was a beneficial one, with arguments between the two capturing the tension that can be present in interracial relationships [including such exchanges as: “I never thought about the fact that you were black once.” / “That’s insane. You should, because that’s what I am.”], Glover’s character faltered in that he was very much a response to criticism. Continue reading

2 Broke Girls, S5E16 “And the Pity Party”: A TV Review

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You know what I realized after two whole weeks off of writing reviews? I don’t have to watch these episodes anymore! No, I don’t mean that the show is ending. 2 Broke Girls has actually been renewed for a sixth season alongside a slew of CBS’ other programs. What I mean is that a quick visit to their website will tell you everything you need to know about the next episode.

All of the images I use for the banner graphics above my reviews are taken from slideshows on CBS.com, which are always accompanied by captions. This week’s, for example, contains such gems as:

  • Randy’s therapist breaks some bad news to Max.
  • Max drowns her sorrows in tiny bottles of booze.
  • Max listens to what Sophie’s guru has to say about her recent breakup.
  • Max, Caroline, and Sophie return to Brooklyn after an extended stay in Hollywood.

You could also just read the synopsis given underneath the very first promo photo, which tells us that:

The girls near the end of their Hollywood adventure, which finds Caroline signing away the film rights to her life story while Max deals with the fall-out after her L.A. steady, Randy, breaks up with her via his therapist. Plus, Sophie continues to try everything she can to get pregnant on the next episode of 2 Broke Girls entitled “And The Pity Party Bus.”

Which isn’t to say that other TV shows don’t also use similar write-ups to hype their upcoming episodes, they do, but they also tend to preserve a bit of the mystery. A conflict is typically mentioned, as opposed to the conflict [Max gets dumped!] and the eventual conclusion [the girls return to NY!]. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you could skim a dozen or so photos instead of tuning in for twenty-something minutes of TV every Thursday night. You could always just do that and then read my reviews! Continue reading

Unofficial Fame Day: Shep Smith

We make an effort here at Culture War Reporters to not only decry travesties but to celebrate advances in art, politics, music, and media. And in this day and age, the presence of an honest journalist isn’t so much an advancement as it is a flippin’ miracle. That such a journalist should emerge from the McCarthyite dystopia that is FOX News is more baffling still.

But lo and behold-

Shep ****ing Smith.

Now granted- Smith’s been around for a while. His career as a journalist started clear back in 1985, and Shep’s been a top-rated newsman since the mid-90s. Still, it would be a decade later, during the “war on terror” that a change seemed to occur.

What (if anything) prompted it, I do not know. When exactly it happened- who can say? Perhaps it had been building for a while, but whatever it was, Shep Smith frickin’ lost it.

In the best possible way.


Now that clip was from 2009, by which time the debate on America’s use of torture (“enhanced interrogation”, to use the official term for it) had already been going on for some time. Again, the exact causes of Shep’s outburst are a mystery to me, but it really doesn’t matter.

This, people. This is the kind of stuff we need more of. Continue reading

“Sorry” Means Nothing Unless It Comes With Real Change: On Truth and Reconciliation in Canada and Beyond

Last semester, I took a course called “the Dark Side of Sorry”, which examined the Sorry Movement in Australia and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Canada. Since it was a literature course we spent part of the semester reading books that dealt with the effects of colonization in those three countries.

The novels we read explored the effects of apartheid in South Africa, the Stolen Generation in Australia, and residential schools in Canada on the lives of specific characters. In contrast, our critical readings examined the way each of those countries dealt with those events after they were nationally, and internationally, condemned. I want to touch on a few of the criticisms that were raised through our critical readings and discuss why those arguments are particularly relevant today.

South Africa

“Suffice it to say that none of these unconventional projects was intended to lead to any gross violation of human rights […] It can, however, be argued that they did create an atmosphere conducive to abuses.”

– from the apology that F.W. de Klerk, the last South African leader of the apartheid era, gave to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.While de Klerk apologized for apartheid before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he later “withdrew from the commission, saying he had no need to apply for amnesty as he hadn’t committed any crime.” In an interview in 2012, Klerk pointed out that he had not apologized for “the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states”. He also stated that, not all aspects of apartheid were “morally repugnant”.

After apartheid was finally overthrown South Africa attempted to bring healing to a divided nation through their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was meant to be an act of restorative justice, rather than retribution.

In many ways the TRC was a success. For example, it unearthed the truth about many missing persons, allowing families to finally discover what happened to their loved ones. However, there were also many criticisms against the South African TRC, some of which I’ve outlined below.

1) The TRC didn’t differentiate between violence committed by “an illegal state” and “the combatants of a just war”.

“… from the moment the Commission chose to define violation of human rights in terms of individual acts, it ceased – politically and historically – to be viable: ‘There is,’ write Kader and Louise Asmal and Ronald Suresh Roberts… ‘simply no proportionality between the two sides of the struggle, a fact that is lost on the commission’s decision to individualize it’s definition of a gross human rights abuse'” (171).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

2) Racial wealth equality was never really on the table.

“Let one’s fantasy roam a little – what really would be preposterous or ethically inadmissible in imposing a general levy on South Africa’s white population? … such an offer could originate from the beneficiaries of Apartheid themselves, in a voluntary gesture of atonement – it need not be a project of the state. Is such a genesis – from within the indicted group itself – really beyond conception?”

– from “Reparations, Truth and Reconciliation” by Wole Soyinka

3) The TRC remained so focused on the horrific crimes that were being confessed during the hearings that it overlooked the general state of apathy that allowed apartheid to exist for so long. The crimes presented at the TRC trials stood out as “outrageous” acts, and they drew “the nation’s attention away from the more commonplace violations” (162).

“Spread accountability too wide by flattening out the differences between the state and its opponents, then oddly, symmetrically, it will also start to shrink, as the crimes of apartheid becomes more and more the acts of individuals, [and] less and less the machinery of the unjust, and illegal apartheid state” (168).

– from”Apathy and Accountability” by Jacqueline Rose

Australia

“We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.”

– from the official apology given by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in February 2008.

I knew the least about Australia’s history, out of the three countries we studied. From what I understand, race relations in Australia were fairly similar to here in Canada, where indigenous peoples were restricted from public areas, treated like scientific specimens, and removed from their families “for their own benefit”.

In May 1997, the Bringing Them Home investigation shocked the Australian settler community by publicizing these historical injustices. It also prompted the Sorry Movement and Sorry Day, which has been held on May 26th since 1998. Below are a few observations critics have made about settler Australians’ “Sorry” response.

1) The Sorry movement is entirely settler-centred.

“These revelations brought about a form of ‘bad conscience’ in the settler Australians… [and] present[ed] them with a vision of a nation improperly formed. They experience the unsettledness of losing their sense of innocent national selfhood. For settlers so afflicted, the postcolonial apology becomes a lifeline to the restitution of a legitimate sense of belonging” (243)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

2) The Sorry movement backfired politically for indigenous Australians.

“The era of reconciliation has coincided with a post-native title backlash in which many sectors of Australian society, not least the powerful mining lobby, have responded negatively and often hysterically to the overturning of the doctrine terra nullis (land belonging to no one) and the common law recognition of native title… Federal Government policy, attentive to the electoral and economic implications of such a backlash, has responded by cutting funds to key indigenous organizations and eroding the gains secured through the Native Title Act and subsequent native title adjudications.”  (234)

– from “Apology in Postcolonizing Australia” by Haydie Gooder and Jane M. Jacobs.

Canada

“The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.”

– from the official apology given by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June 2008.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a Canadian who isn’t familiar with the trauma residential schools inflicted on Indigenous communities across the country, but for those of you who are not Canadian I’ve included a short video below that sums up some of that history.

In 2008, Canada instituted our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed survivors of the residential school experience to speak out publicly. Unfortunately, there were several elements of the TRC that many indigenous spokespersons found problematic.

1) The term “reconciliation” misrepresents our history.

“Re-conciliation refers to the repair of a previously harmonious relationship. The word choice imposes a fiction that equanimity is the states quo between Aboriginal people and Canada.” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

2) The majority of the damage had been done by Christian organizations, yet the reconciliation movement rests upon Christian theology and terminology.

“Whether the choice of this world [reconciliation] … is an accidental inheritance, it is ironic, if not sinister, that survivors of religious residential schools … are asked to participate in a ritual that so closely resembles that which abused them” (35)

– from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

3) The Western understanding of apology allows us to move on, without necessarily doing anything to rectify our mistakes.

“Cree artist, poet and oral historian and theorist, Neal McLeod explains that there is no equivalent in the Cree language for the Western notion of an apology. The closest equivalent to ‘I am sorry’ is nimihta tân, which means ‘I regret something’.  McLeod explains that the word used in reference to the residential school experience is ê-kiskakwêyehk, which means ‘we wear it.’ This is a profound difference. It is visual and visceral rather than abstract. It describes a recognition and acceptance that cannot be washed or wished away.” (36)

 – from “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” by David Garneau

4) The government continues to protect perpetrators.

“While many truth commissions are granted judicial powers to subpoena witnesses and the ability to ‘name names’ of perpetrators, the Canadian TRC has neither of these powers.”

– from “Truth, Reconciliation and “Success” in the International Context” by Dr. Rosemary Nagy

5) Activists are worried that nothing will actually be done about the commissions recommendations.

The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission came to a close in June of this year, making many of the critiques we explored in this class particularly relevant. The TRC commission concluded that residential schools were an act of “cultural genocide” and put forward 94 recommendations for the Canadian government. Several weeks have passed and Canadians are now asking, is our government going to act on any of them?

In Conclusion

It’s hardly surprising that the one thing in common with the national apologies offered by political leaders in each of these countries is their attempt to distance themselves from the atrocities that took place. The Canadian and Australian prime ministers attempted to do so metaphorically, by referring to the events as a chapter which could be left in the past. In contrast, de Klerk’s non-apology seems to reflect a more blatant refusal to fully accept responsibility.

However, these apologies are certainly better than nothing at all. In fact, many indigenous peoples in South Africa, Australia and Canada have celebrated their country’s national apology as a hard-won victory. But shouldn’t we strive for something more than “better than nothing”? Especially when a a public apology eases settlers’ consciouses and allows us to overlook the systemic problems that led to these injustices in the first place?

“How can we overlook the fact that those admitting to guilt and professing regret continue to occupy, and to speak from, a position of dominance, so that to read abjection or loss of power in their situation would be to misread not merely power relations but the nature of the political apology itself?”

– from “Righting Wrongs and Rewriting History” by Rajeswaru Sunder Rajan

The Internet and Mob Justice

On January 16th, a pet supply worker was fired for a racist tirade on a blog. On the 13th of the same month, Iron Mountain Daily News blacklisted a freelance writer after she was revealed using racial slurs. On the 11th of this month, a juvenile justice employ in Kentucky was fired for racist and violent postings on his Facebook wall.

Nothing surprising at first glance.

With ever-increasing social consciousness and public focus on modern-day racism in the past year, it’s nothing shocking that a person would be fired for getting caught making bigoted claims. Only these folks weren’t caught– they were exposed.

Continue reading

Shame Day: Shia LaBeouf

Writing the first Shame Day of 2014 is a difficult position to be in. The topic must be the source of some terrible wrongdoing, but must also have committed that wrongdoing in a way that truly incenses us as decent human beings. All that being said, let me present today’s subject, Mr. Shia Saide LaBeouf.

Now rest assured, dear readers, I have reasons for targeting the former child star and lead in Disney’s Even Stevens and repopularizer of the word “no.” Believe me, I wouldn’t willingly put myself through having to check and recheck that I’m spelling his surname correctly otherwise. To begin with, midway through December of last year he released a short film titled Howard Cantour.com.

The film follows the titular Cantour, an internet film critic, and received a pretty hefty amount of critical acclaim. Not only that, but it starred my number one favourite stand-up comedian who almost exclusively jokes about food, Jim Gaffigan. It was also a near shot-for-shot adaptation of the comic Justin M. Damiano, by Daniel Clowes.

Continue reading