Sunday, April 22, 2007


No, I'm not talking about the Bush Adminstration and the cadre of bizarre GOP knuckleheads who want to pee all over Earth Day and global warming/climate change/Al "I'm getting as fat as Ted Kennedy" Gore. I'll let Sheryl Crow, Tom McGraw & Faith Hill carry that fight. Rather, though I don't usually promote scholarly monographs and papers, journal articles or items such as law reviews on this blog (unless it's my own stuff, fanboys & girls) I invite you to buy Dr. Gerald Powell's A Rhetoric of Symbolic Identity, an Analysis of Spike Lee's X and Bamboozled. Click on the title for a link to, or go to While X was seen as Spike's opus, "Bamboozled" was a very nuanced work even though the images slapped you in the face. Recall, a black TV executive, under pressure to produce a black "hit" and, having his more cerebral work shot down for something resembling a "Madea" sitcom (see how this presages the present issue?) comes up with an idea to revive old-time minstrel show/black face/ tap-dancing comedy (complete with Savion Glover!). The show even has a house band dressed in chain-gang, 1920s vintage attire! Among whites AND blacks, the sponsors--the show becomes a runaway hit! Complications follow...

Dr. Powell is a Ph.D in Philosophy (Howard University, my spouse's alma mater) and resides here in the nation's capital. He taught at St. Joseph's University in Indiana and is now with Coppin State University in Baltimore. He argues for a new rhetorical analysis of African American culture, and uses the study of the good, bad and ugly of Spike Lee's vision as the test case. Traditional tools of rhetoric are being molded to fit this new ethos, and it's about time. What's good for white geese isn't seen as good for black ganders, and it would have been cool to see academics like Dr. Powell on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. when the Imus thing broke, rather than the right wing turds like Hannity or Glenn Beck versus Snoop Dogg. Better still, Oprah should have had Dr. Powell on the panel with folks like Russell Simmons regarding contemporary Hip Hop's sickeningly bling/prison/gangsta/sex/bitch/ho/stripper ethos rather than "Mr. Toad" Stanley Crouch. hahaha

Whether you understand the arcane language of philosophy, arts & communications or not, this is a must read, for it will definitely help you build a framework for understanding the equally complex issues of race and culture in this country.


Snowman said...

I'm not familiar with "Bamboozled." I'm not a Spike Lee fan.

Can one get this book at university bookstores as well?

Don't forget to pass the word about the Annapolis Book Festival in May!

Pebbles Flintstone said...

Relevant indeed. Thanks to Dr. Powell for inviting us to examine these issues through the prism of these two films. Whether we choose to believe it or not, we all need to examine and reexamine how we view race. In this day and age, it appears we need to deconstruct our notions and re-build our idea of what we think is true.

Bravo for the recommendation!

scott bean said...

I hated philosophy in college so don't try to spoonfeed it to me now. However, the subject matter looks interesting.

nabila j said...

I love your characterization of Stanley Crouch as a "toad!"