If you needed any confirmation of the massive power of the internet, you need look no further than Hollywood right now.
The impact of a strike by television and film writers was becoming more evident as the walkout entered its third day.Filming stopped on the popular NBC sitcom "The Office" because star Steve Carell refused to cross the picket lines of striking writers, a producer said Wednesday.SOURCE
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is striking and the Entertainment Industrial Complex is about to come to a screeching halt because anybody with eyes can see that the internet will eventually eclipse televisions, radios, and movie theaters as the prime sources of our entertainment.
Y'all remember this post ( "How Long Could You Go Without Cable? 381 Days?")I wrote encouraging folks to give up cable television for 381 days(the length of the Montgomery Bus Boycott) to avoid giving Viacom mandatory subscriber fees when you pay your cable bill that they in turn use to fund lovely cultural gems like Flavor of Love, I Love New York, and Charm School? I basically said in that post that anything you can get on cable television, you can get on DVD or the internet. In fact I only watch TWO shows live on television, Brothers and Sisters ( I love that Walker family) and The Game. Everything else I could care less. Why? because I am not a slave to television networks. None of us are. We've been liberated by webisodes, I-tunes, and Net Flicks(TV show DVD rentals). Not to mention online recaps, like those at Television Without Pity, that are so detailed and entertaining that I would rather read the recap of the show than actually watch it.
You need look no further than the Writers Guild of America strike to see confirmation of my assertion that quite frankly, you don't have to watch TV anymore. In fact, a whole lot of folks, particularly the young ones that advertisers LOVE, are relying increasingly on I-tunes and the internet for their "television" entertainment. Motions pictures are still lagging because of the massive amount of memory and streaming involved, but TV viewing on TV is basically going to eventually become obsolete. All of our TVs will actually be computers with broadband access. We'll be able to pick and choose what we watch and when we watch it.
Well in a world where everyone is viewing "TV" on the internet, these writers are going to be up a creek because right now they aren't getting paid for "webisodes." Apparently the TV studios are trying to pass off internet episodes as promotions for the episodes broadcast on the television. IE, when I watch entire rerun of Heroes online, that is supposed to induce me to set aside my time to watch the same show at a time and place of the network's choosing. Um yeah right. The opposite is true, as more and more shows are now offered on the internet, I have been liberated from the TV. That is bad news for folks who make their money off of residuals because apparently they aren't getting paid for the internet version of these shows, which in most cases is the only version of the show that I watch.
How this Affects the Negative portrayal of African American Women in Popular Culture
We should be overjoyed that folks are willing to strike and basically shut down television production because all of this is a harbinger of things to come. This isn't just about convenience of being able to watch my favorite shows whenever I want to be able to watch them, but a loomnig revolution in who decides which images of Black women.
Um Gina, how so? Well indulge me if you will.
In a world where most of the media that is available is on the internet . The cost of entry into television will basically be reduced to the point that individuals like you and me will have the ability to create our own broadband channels that means original "TV" series or webisodes written, directed and produced by people all over the world. We have already seen this happening, except the gap in production quality between our independent productions and what the big entertainment Goliaths produce will increasingly close to the point where you wont be able to distinguish a webisode produced by NBC, CBS, or ABC from one produced by me or a group of high school kids somewhere.
Yes, it's true. look at what Symphony and I did with the Dunbar Village case. We both basically became video producers with some web-based video editing software. In a little over a month 40,000 people have seen Janjaweed in America. 70,000 have seen Immoral Indifference. That's 100.000 folks who now know about Dunbar Village. Now keep in mind that it took my SIX MONTHS to hit 100,000 unique visits to this blog. I have had over 110,000 views of the two videos I produced in basically a couple of hours.
It didn't cost me anything BUT my time because I used open source graphics editing software and a web- based video editor ( that means the software was FREE. FREE. FREE!- legally). Imagine what I could do if I took a class and devoted some real time and pried open my pocketbook.
Symphony's video, Dunbar Village has been seen all over the world and has been featured on the local news and in newspapers and other than y'all, nobody knows who we are.
Imagine using the same tools to produce entertainment instead of PSAs? Sure lots of what we produce will be absolute crap, but no crappier than what the Entertainment Industrial Complex is shoving at us right now.
So what should you do? Well I suggest that all of you frustrated folks who, like myself, lament the negative portrayal of African American women dust off the cobwebs and go out and grab a minicam and start shooting original content that is original and entertaining. Get girded for battle because if it is easier for us to get competing images about who we are widely distributed, the internet is also going to ease the ability of those who want to continue to degrade and objectify us. In the War on Black Women in popular culture, it isn't enough that we complain about the negative images, but we have to provide competing content and quite frankly go toe to toe with the BET and VH1s of the world.
If you are unhappy with BET's lack of public affairs programming, produce your own. We basically do that every Thursday at 8:00PM on the Black Womens Roundtable. It is the Black Blogosphere's version of The View's hot topics except people all over the world are tuning in. Look at the Enough is Enough Campaign, if CNN won't provide video, no problem, they took video and put it on Youtube . Get out a camera and go out and talk to people about current events and throw it on Youtube or Brightcove.
We can't continue the abdicate responsibility to immoral entertainment empires to produce images of us. One of the ways to battle offensive expression is with more expression. For every Flavor of Love we ought to have an equally entertaining response. Millions of responses. For every idiotic rap song extolling the virtues of preying on your own people to make a buck, there has to be a response. If we are going to battle for the hearts and minds of the generations behind us, we are probably going to have to enter the realm of the Entertainment Industrial Complex, THAT's where the battle is being waged against us. We can't just shoot documentaries and PSA's but dramas, comedies, reality television, serials, news. The internet not only democratized information, it has apparently democratized popular culture in a way that basically dilutes the power of this small group of gatekeepers who have been deciding what we get to see about others and ourselves.
Get off the Sidelines
So dust off the handicam. Get yourself a minicam or go to your local public access channel and check out the real thing ( depending on where you live rental is free with a membership), put up an ad looking for actors, and start shooting and throw it on YouTube or Brightcove. Maybe you can write, but can't direct or act, well put up a post on the internet, I am pretty sure you will find people willing to collaborate with you and vise versa. We don't even have to be in the same room to make this happen. If we want to see something different, we are going to have to produce it ourselves and the internet is going to help us do it.
That is why you shouldn't be surprised if right after they release the movie version of the biography, "Confessions of A Video Vixen," you see me put up a biography of my own called "Get Those Church Folks Off My Lawn!: The Debra Lee Story" or a claymation movie of the life of Harriet Tubman. I'm serious. No. Really. I'm serious.
Don't just talk about it, walk about it. Start creating!
Let that marinate!