Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Amy Winehouse. Old Timey Negro Stereotype or Just a Typical White Hollywood Bad Girl?

I read a post on Stereohyped the other day titled Amy Winehouse: When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong. Oh-mah-gosh I love the title of that & the post is good too. It's in response to a Salon.com article about how Salon James Hannaham author thinks Amy Winehouse's behavior is akin to stereotypical Black behavior. Huh? But reading the actual Salon article further I can't fully agree with Stereohyped on this one. Nor do I fully agree with every word in the Salon piece either.

Though I'm no fan of Amy Winehouse, I find it odd that because of her singing "style" and the words in her lyrics, she was called in the Salon article a "hip hop potty mouth." Jeez are rappers the only ones who swear?

And though I disagree some with Lauren in her post on Stereohyped about the gist of the Salon.com article I do agree with her that Mrs. Winehouse embodies more today's white Hollywood bad girl than the "soulful negro" stereotype.

What the Salon.com article was getting at (I think) is that Amy is trying to get famous and rich by being the white girl whose "Black" in her soul. She's feeding off the white liberal imagination that loves a magical negro or Black & oh-so-soulful muse, to inspire them to heights of human understanding they can't possibly posses due to a skin color & background that has limited the depth of their...well depth.

And we know some guilty feeling white liberals who love nothing more than someone whose actually white but can "represent" like the soulful negro, or any "urban" individual. We've seen this before with the likes of Eminem, Janis Joplin and even Bob Dylan. James Hannaham in his Salon piece I believe was trying to convey that by Winehouse playing into the white but has authentic feelings and experiences like a name-your-minority, she become successful and a hero to those who need her to be a great white hope and to those who would rather be in denial about their own addictions.

Take for instance Mark Morford who wrote an article several moons ago about how wonderful Mrs. Winehouse is for just saying NO to rehab. Because apparently it is better for her to waste away soulfully than lose her street cred and clean up her act. Dear god what would she sing about then and how would she fulfill his idea of "keeping it real." It was in fact that particular post by Morford that has kept me from reading his ramblings any further.

My hope for Amy is that she cleans up her act in whatever way works best for her (this doesn't necessarily mean rehab, I never went). Then she needs to explore her heart, looking for the ways she's used certain ideas about certain races to benefit her career. Next I'd have her work with a voice coach to explore her talent and let her really keep it real, not because of her problems and imagined "street cred" but because of her strengths and willingness to be herself.

My hope for us all is the same as my hope for Mrs. Winehouse: To love, be loved and in the words of Joss Stone, have a right to be wrong.


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