Archive

Monthly Archives: September 2013

Two Sundays ago when Nina Davuluri of New York won Miss America, the racist backlash on social media sites like Twitter was not surprising.

Miss Davuluri is the first Indian-American to win Miss America. Exactly 30 years ago Vanessa Willaims for the first black woman to win.

Crystal Lee, Miss California, was the runner up was also Asian-American.

However on September 15th Miss America was called anything, but her new title. People went to twitter to discuss their hate for the 24 year-old winner. Comments like, “And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.” or “9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?

Or even the most grotesque by comparing her to the terrorist’s group Al Queda, “Miss America is a terrorist. Whatever. It’s fine.

These tweets and more only show that many racist Americans don’t know the different between someone who is Arab and Indian and that they love linking terrorism and 9/11 to things that have nothing to do with one another.

People forget that the internet is written in ink. Once you put it out there, it’s kinda hard for it to be erased.

Another image that got circulated around a lot that night was this:

#MissKansas a real miss America ” @nateypoo14 this is why everyone is freaking out over #MissAmerica

To be honest, I forget how big pageants are America. With shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo, beauty pageants are as American as apple pie.

However American is code for white by many people. Use I am technically American, but society pictures an young American girl as blonde, blue, just fresh out of college working where she is. Not me and not Nina Davuluri.

This got me to thinking about the concept of the girl next door.

According to Urban Dictionary, The Girl Next Door is someone who is “someone you could bring home to your parents”or a “sweet, virginal, pure girl who you always admired, but could never actually go up too.”

I most admit The Girl Next Door concept is problematic because it place the Madonna/Whore complex on women. That women can only be one way or another, either prude or a whore. However woman of color rarely have the opportunity to be placed on such a pedestal. They are usually overly criticized, objectified, and sexualized. So being seen as “pure” or “virginal” is usually out of the question.

Women like Nina Davuluri could never been seen as the girl next door in a mainstream concept, even though she has the qualities of one. Miss America is supposed to uphold this idea. A beautiful, smart, and sweet unattainable woman. However her “otherness” cancels this out.

Her racial and ethnic background shouldn’t exclude her from this term (in reality we shouldn’t put such general labels on anyone) or from her being America. Racists White Americans forget that America is melting pot and that there is no one way to be American.

Julie Chen revealed on the daily talk show “The Talk” that she had undergo surgery to enlarge her Asian eyes. Chen, an American news anchor and and producer for CBS. She has done everything from CBS Early News to Big Brother.

While working as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio, Chen’s boss allegedly told her that she would never sit at the anchor desk due to her Chinese heritage. ” ‘Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton?’ ” she recalled him saying. ” ‘On top of that, because of your Asian eyes, sometimes I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera and you’re interviewing someone, you look disinterested. You look bored.’ “

via The Hollywood Reporter

Here is another woman who was openly criticized for not looking American enough.

Even though she was born in Queens, New York, because she is of Chinese decent, this erases her Americaness.

When asked about her opinion on Julie Chen’s surgery, this is what Nina Davuluri had to say “Unfortunately, I don’t agree with plastic surgery, however, I can understand that from her standpoint,” she replied. “But more importantly, I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door, and the girl next door is evolving as diversity in America evolves. She’s not who she was ten years ago, and she’s not going to be the same person come ten years down the road.”

Regardless of how you feel about plastic surgery, to see someone change their looks to appease people’s racial insecurities is upsetting. As someone who hopes to work on TV one day, maybe even on screen, the idea that you may have to change your natural looks to fit into a more European Beauty Standard just be successful in this line of work is frustrating to say the least.

Women like Nina Davuluri and Julie Chen, are reasons why I want to work in media. To show that woman of color come in many different molds.

We can talk about how beautiful Nina Davuluri is, but we can also talk about how smart she is. Right now she is going to use the money she won with Miss America to apply to medical school, in hopes to become a cardiologist. Davuluri graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science, earning Dean’s List, Michigan Merit Award, and National Honor Society Award honors along the way.

Is she the girl next door? Maybe or maybe not. But she’s our new Miss America and she really can be whatever she wants.

“Statement Making Compton Tee”: http://www.forever21.com/Product/Product.aspx?Br=F21&Category=top&ProductID=2000074051&VariantID=

“N.W.A Muscle Shirt”: http://www.forever21.com/Product/Product.aspx?Br=F21&Category=top&ProductID=2000110593&VariantID=

“Ice Cube Cropped Sweatshirt”: http://www.forever21.com/Product/Product.aspx?Br=F21&Category=top&ProductID=2000110158&VariantID=

Hip-Hop has been commercialized for years now. There’s no denying that. Your parents or grandparents probably know a few Biggie or Tupac lyrics, or at least are aware of who they are.

The know Jay-Z as the rapper and the business man.

They know that people couldn’t stop talking about Kendrick Lamar’s verses on Control.

Like any other genre of music, portions of Hip-Hop is mainstream cool.

People have been complaining that hip-hop has been completely white-washed. Thanks to the popularity of rappers like Macklemore and Iggy Azalea. However you feel about them, you can’t deny the fact that in mainstream pop music they have become the faces of new hip-hop. Easily digestible for people who may not have been raised on rap and hip-hop culture. They also have crossover appeal because of their whiteness.

As someone who listens to all kinds of music, I find it refereeing to know other people who a diverse taste as well. This summer I went to an old school hip-hop show and was surrounded by a bunch of white fans who were rapping along to the MC’s like Big Daddy Kane and Naughty by Nature. Hip-hop has become universal and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However my biggest problem with Forever 21’s N.W.A shirts is because of lack of knowledge of what the words and faces on those shirts mean.

For one, N.W.A stands for Niggaz Wit Attitudes. N.W.A was popular rap group that rose in the late 80s in Compton, California. They were considered the pioneers of gangsta rap on the west coast. Their music, heavily criticized at the time for being violent, disrespectful to women, glorifying drugs and other criminal like behavior. However it was also a response to what was happening around them at the time. Drugs, crime, poverty, and violence was what consisted for people living in urban areas. They were able to take what was going on at the time and talk about it on a worldwide stage. Folks who lived in urban areas all over the the nation was able to relate. This is at it’s core what made N.W.A great and want makes them a legendary group in hip-hop.

So why can’t pretty young blonde girls not wear a N.W.A shirt? The majority of buyers at Forever 21 probably know nothing about N.W.A. The fact that the website’s models are conventionally pretty, skinny, blonde, white girls who are wearing these shirts seems ironic. A group that almost 20 years ago who would have never cater to this audience is now being sold at a store where 13-18 year old girls could spend all of their allowance.

I wonder what was going through the heads of the designers at Forever 21: How can we sale edginess and Miley Cyrus to our preteen set?

Hip-Hop and Black Culture will always be discussed and dissected. Because it’s not created in a vacuum, black people aren’t the only ones who will appreciate it. However how can we distinguish between appreciate or appropriation?

What do you guys think, do you believe Forever 21 was right for having white models wear N.W.A shirts or do you think that they should of used black models? Or do you think they should have never made the shirts in the first place?

 

 

 

Four people were killed and eight more were wounded Monday at the Washington Navy Yard when gunmen armed with assault rifles barged inside and opened fire, officials said.

Police shot one of the intruders, who later died of his wounds, the Associated Press reported.

The other was believed to be pinned down in the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building, besieged by police, according to local media.

Two police officers were reportedly among the wounded, including a Washington D.C. cop who was hit twice in the legs and was evacuated by helicopter.

The other victims were all said to be civilians who work at the base in southeast Washington, local media reported.

It was not immediately clear who the gunmen were, but everybody from SWAT teams to the Marines were on the scene and overhead a half-dozen military choppers were circling the base.

Navy yard workers interviewed by CNN said they were fired on in a hallway by a rifle-toting gunman who opened fire without any warning.

“He was tall,” Terry Durham said. “He appeared to be dark-skinned.”

“He was a tall black guy,” said her co-worker, Todd Brundage, who is also black. “He didn’t say a word.”

The New York Daily News, “Deadly Washington Navy Yard Shootings” (via inothernews)

With her second full length album finally released, The Electric Lady, we see Janelle Monáe continuing with her android Cindi Mayweather concept, that had helped her become a musical powerhouse. This is the 4th and 5th Suite of her concept album.

Ms. Monáe has been on my radar for years now. The first time I heard her EP The Audition and then her “official” EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), I was blown away by her voice.

Her whole concept is loosely based on the 1920’s film Metropolis, was different and interesting. With heavy influences from Afrofuturism and science fiction, there wasn’t a sound like this happening in mainstream R&B. She excited me, but part of me felt like she wasn’t going to crack into the Top 40 Pop scene. Three years later, Monáe’s debut album appeared. The ArchAndroid was her follow-up to her first EP. It still continued with her android concept, as the 2nd and 3rd Suites.tumblr_mst7rc3kt21sttfo1o1_500

From there her music exploded. You couldn’t get away from her. Performances at The Grammy’s. Becoming a Covergirl. Becoming a fashion ‘it’ girl because of her “uniform” of black and white tuxedos and Pompadour hairstyle. Hit songs with bands like Fun. 2007 me wouldn’t believe this would be happening, but I was sure glad for her success.

This summer can be nicknamed the “Summer of Reminiscence”. Two of the most popular songs of the summer of 2013 had hints of this retro 70s feel.

With Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell, even down to the minimalist music video screams a throwback to the era of disco. Then there was Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I, minus all the controversy of the song (from the anti-feminist lyrics and video to the alleged ripping off of Marvin Gaye), we can all admit the song has a certain disco-esque feel to it. Maybe Pharrell is the one to thank?

There have been countless other acts that came out with music this year with the same feel. Artists like Empire of the Sun, Justin Timberlake, and even Bruno Mar’s single Treasure, all remind me of a decade long before me.

So The Electric Lady coming out at the end of the summer seems like the perfect ending to a funky summer.

An eccentric musical landscape, The Electric Lady combines the futuristic sounds of Cindi Mayweather’s fight for survival in a apocalyptic time, while reminiscing of the Motown-esque sounds of the past.

Musically, this album pulls from many different inspirations. Also having many heavy hitters on her album also bridge together many of these themes. The Jazz of Esperanza Spalding, the funkadelica sounds of Prince, the soul of Erykah Badu, and neo-soul pop of Solange and Miguel, meshes together musical melting pot.

She also works with the band Deep Cotton again, who help produced her album.

The songs where Monáe’s voice really shines, is what makes this a great record. Don’t get me wrong, songs like “Dance Apocalyptic” or “Givin Em What They Love” make me want to get up and dance like the badass rocker I like to pretend that I am. Janelle Monáe gives 5ft girls like myself the confidence to act like we’re 6ft tall. Check out her recent performance on The David Letterman show where she rocks the funk out:

Standout Songs:

“Electric Lady” (featuring Solange)

“Givin Em What They Love” (featuring Prince)

“Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” (featuring Esperanza Spalding)

“Ghetto Woman”

“Can’t Live Without Your Love”

“It’s Code”

“PrimeTime” (featuring Miguel)

Overall, this has been one of my favorite records to come out this year. It’s nice to see an artist you’ve been following for a few years now grow into this mega star, without completely selling out creatively.
What makes her special for weird black girls all over the world, is that she is apologetically making art. She doesn’t fall along one label. She’s fun. She’s fireceless. She’s funky. She is the goddesses of weird black girl coo.

The Art Beat Presents: In the Artist’s Corner.
Every week, I will interview interesting and talented folks who are passionate about their craft and trying to make a difference via whatever vehicle they choose.
This week I’m interviewing poet, Giovanni Michael Garced. I discovered the young writer in the poet circles on Tumblr last year and fall in love with his writing, as well as his halo of hair. As an aspiring poet myself, I’m always in awe by people my age who have the wisdom of writers in their prime. Already selling his second chapbook, Sunflower Calligraphy, Garced is already on his way to become someone we will be talking about for years to come.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Giovanni Michael Garced. I am a 20 year old writer/performer/idea-haver from Miami. I am a natural hair and mango enthusiast. I am nomadic and like laughing a lot.

When did you get into writing poetry? When did you get into performing?

I started writing poetry in middle schools trying to get girls to like me. Got more serious once I got hit in the face with a lot of sadness and reality. I began performing my Junior year of High School.

Who are some of your favorite writers?Gio1
-Pablo Neruda
-Andrea Gibson
-Lemony Snicket
-Buddy Wakefield
-Lupe Fiasco
-Immortal Technique
-Blu
-Samantha Turner
-Ariana Brown
-Warsan Shire
-Christopher Nolan
-Shonda Rhimes
-Coldplay
-Anis Mojgani
-Pedro Pietri
I think I gave too much. But there are many many many more I have to read and some I couldn’t think of on the spot.
What inspires you to create?
The light in me? There is God in me trying to be heard. There is a quote from Sylvia Plath : ” I write because there is a voice in me that can not be stilled”. So like I create because there is a light in me that can not be stilled…or dimmed or put out. You get what I am saying. Creating gives me purpose and that’s what I want to do with my life. Create. Also giving sound to the silences within myself and those around the globe.

Talk about your newest chapbook, how long did it take to create and how do you feel about it?

Well I’ve been trying to make this ever since I put out my first one. I knew once I dropped the first one I wanted to make a second one. So from idea to materialization it took about 9 months. It was very slow because of a lot of things I was going through. Barely writing for 7 months. Not performing for like 7 months. Personal mess that held me hostage. Things like that. I pushed through a lot of walls. Like every writer in regards to their own work, I hate it. [laughs] Well not really, I’m just very critical of my work and overly humble to the point where I’m rarely satisfied with what I put out. But the bright side to that is it keeps me hungry. I do feel good about the rawness of it. A couple of the poems are drafts. Bare in mind no poem is ever finished but those couple of poems aren’t as close to completion as the others. And I just think it’s cool that I can share seeds with people. So hopefully the next time they see it they will see a forest. I am happy that I put it out and left a piece of me on this earth that will live forever. Writing makes humans immortal.

What are you currently in love with, in regards to these topics: music, films, books (can include comic books/etc), tv shows, or anything related to art)? 

-Scandal,
-Scandal episode “Seven Fifty Two” was the best form of media I have ever seen in my life
-I’m really in love with The idea and characters for this movie I am working on
-I’m really really in love with all the ideas swirling in my head for movies/shows/plays I want to make
-Shingeki No Kyojin( Attack On Titian)
-Breakout by N.E.R.D.
-Women of color killing it in art in general
-Pharrell’s voice on some soul stirring instrumentation
-The potential of Earl Sweatshirt
-Making beats
-Lose Yourself To Dance (feat. Pharrell) by Daft Punk
-Sleep. (sleep  is performance art)

-The third part of the Modern Marvel beat by Mos Def

Besides writing and performing, are there any other creative or non-creative outlets that take part in?
I paint sometimes. I’m half okay. I like doing hands on visual art. I used to draw a lot when I was younger. I make beats or I try. It’s fun. and stressful.
Procrastinating.
image (4)What’s one of your favorite pieces you’ve ever written?
Alzheimer’s with Samantha Turner. That piece let me know that I can die and know I served the purpose of art. To genuinely move someone, move a stranger. My words are in those people’s blood. And that energy will always exist. I realized that when a stranger ran up to us and just sobbed in our arms and wasn’t able to speak through her tears.
I know you was a mentor for young and aspiring writers/performers, tell me a little bit more about your experiences with that?
Ah, that was crazy. It was testing because I never thought mentoring is something I could do. It was especially testing because I was working alongside my own mentor. I’m going to throw one of my comparisons/metaphors that probably don’t make any sense to any one but me. He is like the ocean and the kids are fish. and I was rain. How does rain find a way to nourish/stimulate/affect the fish you get me? so that was an adventure in it’s own to find a balance. I learned a lot about myself.  I learned that there is not one kind of mentor. I learned that I’m not the mentor I was trying to be and learned that that is okay. That wasn’t something I could give. Something I learned to accept. I found my role and found the seeds in them as individuals and as a group that I needed and was able to water you know. It was a real nice feeling seeing them on stage knowing I was a part of that journey for them.
If you have to give one piece of advice to anyone trying to become a writer/performer what would it be?
EXPOSE YOURSELF TO OTHER WRITERS/PERFORMERS
EXPOSE YOURSELF TO OTHER WRITERS/PERFORMERS
EXPOSE YOURSELF TO OTHER WRITERS/PERFORMERS
Gio2That’s just what helped me and opened my mind. Reading and watching all these different people. You can’t be that one dude in the cave drawing maps of the world. Something that big will have many interpretations and those views will help your sight grow. When I opened myself to others I learned so many things and my writing grew so so so much. Light feeds off light.
 
Anything else you would like to add for folks to know?
Yo it’s ya boy, you already know what it is. Giovanni Michael Garced in the building.
Sunflower Calligraphy is my second chapbook. It came through the fire. It’s a big part of me that I want to share with as many people as possible. I want my art to travel everywhere I haven’t been and can’t travel to yet. It’s Important for writing and all the voices we have inside to travel. I want to spread everywhere. Creating this helps me do this. Check the links, purchase a book or watch me do things behind a microphone.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thanks so much to Gio for being my first interview for In the Artist’s Corner. I hope to continue on with this segment with others like him in the future.
If you like what you read please check on his work below for more information:
Alzheimer’s By Giovanni Michael Garced and Samantha Turner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8kYOe-uwjw
The Cliche Break-up Piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIZjtgSgn0E

A lot of words are being thrown your way about the situation going on in Syria at the moment. You will hear terms like World War III, chemical air strike, air strike, civil war, etc etc.

Here is a short break down of what’s going on and the different point of views that are out there about Syria.

Last night, President Obama gave another speech about the situation in Syria; he still believes we need military action to intervene. He continues to try to ease the minds of many Americans who are still unsure of military action,”I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria,” he said. “I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan…This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad’s capabilities.”

A Link to transcript

On August 31st, President Obama first came out and said that he believes we should go into Syria, but he decided to leave the decision up to Congress. A bold move that both people on the right and left are surprised about. Some say its sign of weakness from our President. Others believe it was a way to give him more time to figured out the best course of action.

His speech came after a deadly attack a week before in Syria where almost 1,400 people were killed, mostly of women and children. Millions have been displaced since the start of this war.

Link to video of bombing (Warning: Graphic Video):

Some people believe the president seemed very passionate about our need to intervene, calling this an humanitarian effort.

Others believe he is too busy playing on the emotions of American citizens by constantly bringing up how many children have lost their lives. And that this is distracting from the fact that our country can’t afford to end up in another war.

However after last night’s speech, the President has decided to prolonged Congress decision on whether we should attack Syria.

The History

To fully understand what is going on Syria, you need a backstory. The country has been at war with itself for almost two years now. As of August 2013, more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has been in power since July 2000. He was reelected as President in 2007 winning 97% of the vote.

Before him, his father Hafez al-Assad, ruled Syria from 1970-2000.

In the March of 2011 there was a political and violent uprising, after a group of children and teens were arrested for writing political graffiti. Dozens of people were killed after government forces cracked down on demonstrations. These demonstrations sparked multiple protests in the country, which lead to the government trying to appease their highly upset citizens. They announced salary increases for their state employees to lifting Syria’s long standing emergency law and the licensing of new political parties, anything that would make the protests and demonstrations to stop.

From there, the next two years consist of more deadly unrest from the people, failed attempts of al-Assad trying to bridge back the government and it’s people, other organizations like the European Union and countries like Turkey to place sanctions against Syria due to “the continuing brutal campaign” by the government against its own people, and the U.N Security Council trying to send military observers for 90-day mission, but failed after three days due to the increasing violence in the country.

Back in April of this year, U.S Secretary of Defense Chunk Hagel announced that the U.S had allegedly found evidence of a chemical weapon called sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale. Sarin is clear, odorless, and tasteless liquid that once is evaporated into a gas can spread out the environment. Not immediately deadly, but long lasting contact of the chemical can lead to death. For more facts on Sarin, read more here. It wasn’t until the alleged that surfaced August 21st of chemical warfare that backed up Hagel statements.

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry declared that U.S. intelligence information has found that 1,429 people were killed in August 21st chemical weapons attack in Syria, including at least 426 children. According to CNN, Kerry announces that samples of blood and hair taken from eastern Damascus have “tested positive for signatures of sarin”. He backs President Obama and agrees that military strike should be our course of action.

For a more detailed timeline of the Civil War in Syria, check out this “Fast Facts” sheet created by CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/27/world/meast/syria-civil-war-fast-facts/index.html

Russia and Other International Responses

Recently Russian has proposed for Syria to surrender their chemical weapons, “to thwart U.S. aggression,” to be put under “international control”.

Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia has essentially agreed to take control of their chemical weapons, a move the French aren’t too happy with. The French have proposed a solution to the U.N Security Council that would force Syria to give up their chemical stockpile, but not to the Russians.

During President Obama’s speech Tuesday night he mentions this new agreement, “It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed,” Mr. Obama said, “and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments.”

On August 29th, The U.K Parliament voted against any military action in Syria. With this new proposal on the table,  British Prime Minister David Cameron had agreed that his country would join forces with President François Hollande of France and the U.S. in putting forward the proposal.

This proposal could lead to the end of the possibility of U.S attack on Syria.

Where Most of America Stands

In a recent poll done by the Associated Press, only 1 in 5 Americas believe that if we failed to respond to the chemical weapon attacks in Syria will lead to an all out War amongst other rogue governments.

An excerpt from Associated Press on September 10, 2013:

The poll of 1,007 adults nationwide found that most Americans oppose even a limited attack on Syria – likely with cruise missiles – despite Obama administration warnings that inaction would risk national security and ignore a gruesome humanitarian crisis. And a slim majority – 53 percent – fear that a strike would lead to a long-term U.S. military commitment in Syria.

Link to article: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_UNITED_STATES_SYRIA_AP_POLL?SITE=NVLAS&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Most Americans do not agree with the President, many are also pretty undecided about the entire situation. We see the same division amongst party lines as well.

AP’s poll shows that only 53% of Democrats, 59 percent of Independents, and 73 percent of Republicans believes congress should against the strike in Syria. Only a quarter of democrats believe that an attack will cease any other world leaders from engaging in chemical warfare.

Where Congress Stands

Allowing Congress to decide whether we should take military action was a political move by the President. The jury is still out if this was a good decision or not. Congress is just as divided on Syria as the American people are.

According to The Washington Post,  Congress is pretty much divided on the issue:

Where the House stands on Syria:

119 – Against

119 – Leaning no

169 – Undecided

26 – For strikes

Where the Senate stands on Syria:

18 – Against

10 – Leaning no

49 – Undecided

23 – For strikes

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 3.37.50 PMScreen Shot 2013-09-11 at 3.38.06 PMScreen Shot 2013-09-11 at 3.41.53 PM

So What Should We Do?

Above is just an outline of some of the major points about the situation in Syria.

What I suggest? To research for yourself what’s going on. I’m not here to point you in the direction of what we should or shouldn’t do.

All the light night talk show hosts, political talking heads both the left and right, and our government officials will tell you what they think. Take the time out and decide for yourself what you believe and then come to your own conclusions.

Even if your conclusions are still undecided.

Lately there has been this craze for everything nostalgic. Kids born in the 90s are clamoring to prove that their decade “did it better”. However most children born in the 90s can only really remember from ‘96-‘99, nearly half a decade is lost from us. A true 90s kid was born in the 80s, but this is an argument for another time.

The 90s seem like it was a long time ago, but in really it’s only been 14 years since the end of the decade.

So another essay on the importance of a popular 90s TV show seems redundant. However I’m here to say, this isn’t about how ground breaking this show was, but how many important life lessons this show taught.

Unlike most of the animated shows in the 90s, Hey Arnold was able to teach important life lessons without being completely cheesy. Anyone remembers the Sailor Says segment at the end of every Sailor Moon episode that aired in the early 90s?

Yeah that kind of cheese.

Children shows in the 90s felt the need to have an educational component to their shows, for better or worse. As an adult who still occasionally watches animated shows I find myself missing that cheesy life lessons portion of the show. Adventure Time may have many great life lessons tied into their psychedelic show, but there’s nothing like Hey Arnold on television right now.

Two years ago I remember discovering Hey Arnold on Netflix. This was before the whole The 90s Are All That aired on Teen Nick. Hey Arnold hadn’t been in syndication for a few years now and it was cool to reminisce on a childhood favorite. As I sat there binge watching an “old” Nick classic with my then boyfriend, remembering how hip Arnold was by listening to Jazz music and having the coolest bedroom for a 4th grader, how Stoop Kid finally left his Stoop but he clearly wasn’t a kid but more of a high school dropout who had a serious mental condition that wouldn’t let him leave his Stoop, to how hopelessly romantic, but also how derange Helga was. She was very poetic for someone her age.

Re-watching as an adult made me realize how serious this show would get. There was a reason why my mother would watch the show with my brother and me when we were kids. It hits you somewhere that many other children shows just didn’t.

Comparing the show to others that were on the air at the time, some would have said it was too low key. In reality it was a show that was always consistent and was kids and adults could relate too. Hey Arnold has been a mainstay for The 90s Are All That block for the last two years. Occasionally I find myself watching the reruns late at night.

There are three episodes of Hey Arnold that were and still are extremely important to me:

Arnold’s Christmas: The Episode where Mr.Hyunh reunites with his long-lost daughter.

Synopsis: The boarders decide to have a secret Santa for Christmas. Arnold ends up having Mr. Hyunh as his secret Santa and isn’t sure what to get him. Mr. Hyunh is little down, since the holidays remind him of his lost long daughter, Mai. He goes on to tell Arnold about how he was separated from his daughter during the Vietnam War. And all he wants for Christmas is to see her again. So Arnold goes on this crazy adventure to find her in the city’s records.

Now holiday specials are always good episodes, but this one was one of the more memorable ones.

We all know that Arnold was a special kid. He’s supposed to be the voice of reason amongst all the characters on the show. There is a reason why people go to him for advice. He seems to always know the right thing to say. He is also willing to go above and beyond for the people he cares for.

So his not so little quest to find Mr. Hyunh’s daughter was one that only Arnold could do. To locate her he ends up striking a deal with the city’s archivist that if he gets all of the items on his Christmas List, he would help locate Mr. Hyunh’s daughter. Arnold and Gerald end up on this crazy adventure on https://i1.wp.com/images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090212151929/heyarnold/images/a/a3/Arnold%27s_Christmas.jpgChristmas Eve to complete this man’s shopping list. However they can’t find these very popular boots that are sold out all over the city. At the same time Helga is looking to find the perfect gift for Arnold. She just received the boots Arnold is looking for from her parents for Christmas. When she see’s how much

he wanted to make Mr. Hyunh’s wish come true, she secretly gives up her shoes so she can locate Mai. Both Arnold and Mr. Hyunh are surprised when they see Mai at the door for Christmas.

Now anyone with a soul had to shed some tears from this episode. The reason why I list this episode as important is because of a few reasons. For one it was able to depict a historical moment, talking about the Vietnam War for instance. Culture is referenced in Hey Arnold, but race was never talked about however.

We also see how innocent and pure children can be. Even though Helga can be mean-spirited and selfish at times, she still cares for others. In this case she loves Arnold. Her love for Arnold affects other people because Arnold at his core loves to help others. If it weren’t for Helga’s love for him, he wouldn’t have been able to bring happiness to Mr. Hyunh. In the end it was seen as Christmas Miracle, but in reality it was all about the goodness of others. These are simple morals we are all taught as children, to help out our fellow-man. It’s the simple lessons like this that hold strong sentiments in life. Adults should be required to watch this episode so they can be reminded that there’s more to life than material items.

Ms. Perfect: The episode where you found out Lila is poor.

Synopsis: Lila is the newest student to the school. Helga and the girls decide to bring her into their group as their little “pet project”. They end up finding out that Lila is a little “Ms. Perfect” and starts to excel at all of the girl’s special talents. She also gains the interests of Arnold, which angers Helga. The girls decide to pull a number of pranks that all go ire. Finally they pull the perfect prank against Lila, which forces her to stay home the next day. When the girls go over to her house to drop off her homework they realize that Lila comes from a poverty-stricken home. Her home is in shambles, they barely have enough food to eat, her father is jobless, and it’s never mentioned if her mother is in the picture. https://i2.wp.com/images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110202142808/heyarnold/images/f/f9/Ms._Perfect.jpg

Having a show that is placed in urban landscape means poverty has to be talked about. Rather than sugarcoat poverty on a children’s show, Hey Arnold was able to bring this to light. In the U.S, we have the 2nd highest rate for child poverty out of the 35 richest countries. Almost 22% of children live in poverty in this country.  More than one and five children in the U.S face hunger.

We also see that her father was jobless. Currently are national unemployment rate is 8.7% according to Gallup.com.

Just to give you more of an idea of what our economy is currently looking like: From 24/7 Wall St, “The Labor Department released its weekly jobless claims at 323,000 in the past week, versus a consensus estimate of 330,000 from Bloomberg. The prior week’s report was revised to 332,000 from 331,000.”

Of course the majority of the episode is about being the new girl, the interactions between girls and how we’re conditioned to believe we’re in constant competition with one another, and the cliché never judge a book by it’s cover. On the outside Lilia seemed like she had it all together. Like many students in this situation, they feel the need to put on a front that their home situation is better than it really is. Focusing on other things helps them cope with the reality. Sometimes it’s getting good grades and sometimes it’s dating a new boy. These “distractions” come in all shapes and sizes.

Poverty, unemployment, and hunger were and still is a major issue in our country, to see a popular children’s show showcase this allowed other children living in similar situations to relate. It also allowed children not living in these similar situations understand that not everyone lives the same life as them.

Pigeon Man

Synopsis: Arnold’s carrier pigeon, Chester, is sick and he decides to go the Pigeon Man to see if he could help. He is a legend in the neighborhood, but no one actually talks to him. Arnold discovers that Pigeon Man, also named Vincent, lives this life because he finds a home with his birds while humans constantly disappoint him. Which they prove at the end of the episode.

This was an episode that was personal to me. In my old childhood neighborhood we had our own pigeon man. He would sit by the bus stop and feed the pigeons all day. My brother was a friendly child and would always stop and say hello to him. I, on the other hand, seldom said anything to the man. He scared me. He smelled and looked like he wore the same thing all the time. Growing up, I was an extremely introverted child and was scared of everyone and everything. To some people I appeared to be a rude child. Our Pigeon Man believed this to be true and would say mean things to me. In retrospect he was probably teasing, but as child and not fully understanding sarcasm it only made me scared of him more.

https://i2.wp.com/images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090212154911/heyarnold/images/c/c6/Pigeon_Man%2C_episode.jpg

So what does this have to do with Arnold’s Pigeon Man? Everything! It wasn’t until I re-watch the series that I realized both Pigeon Men have a lot in common. In Hey Arnold he looked for peace and humanity in these birds that he couldn’t find in normal society. He was shunned because he found a family amongst those birds. He took care of them, like they took care of him.

Arnold was able to reach out to this man when no one else would. He showed him that not all people were terrible. However, when some of Arnold’s friends go up to the roof to where Pigeon Man lives and ruins his bird coops, he is completely angered and disgusted by what happened.

“Of course they’ll come back: They’re birds. I trust them. I understand them. It’s people I don’t understand…You see, Arnold, it’s time for me to leave here. Some people are meant to be with people, and others, like me, are just different.”

As an adult you realize how terrible this world can be. We make fun of people who lose themselves in a fantasy world. We make fun of people who rather live outside of the cultural norms. But here is a man who was happy living with birds, who was happy taking care of birds. Through the lens of a child, you feel a sense of sadness for the Pigeon Man. He was happy, even though he was living with birds. Through the lens of an adult; you feel a sense of pity. All you can think of is that this man needs help. A child can feel for this man, an adult can only think. That’s the scary part about growing up. You lose the ability to relate to others. Children can relate to talking lions, superheroes, and pigeon man because no matter how bizarre their get up is, they’re all still people (even the talking lions) with feelings.

There are countless episodes that could be mentioned. This show was able to weave together many issues children in the inner cities went through. It captured a voice that many children shows failed to create.

From poverty, class, privilege, gender roles, death and lost, alcohol abuse (if we used Helga’s mom as example), mental instability, and so much more, this show made this all easily digestible for young children through the use of colorful and memorable characters. It instilled good morals, while also being entertaining.

Hey Arnold was not a perfect show; sometimes I wished it tackled race or maybe sexuality. But it did teach you how to be a better person.