FEAR THE WALKING DEAD? No, More Like F**K THE WALKING DEAD!

FTWDOkay, so we’re only two episodes in to Fear the Walking Dead, the prequel to The Walking Dead, and I’m already done with this show. There are plenty of reasons to skip this show, but at the end of the day, in two episodes they’ve managed to introduce three black characters, and kill all of ‘em off. Even The Walking Dead, which has killed it’s fair share of black folks, didn’t start off this fast and furious. I could give the show points for introducing some brown folks, and not killing them just yet, but the show still sucks on so many other levels that there’s no point in defending it.

As it is so far, Fear the Walking Dead has introduced a black guy who turned out to be a drug dealer, another black guy who was a recycled character from Lean on Me, and then there was the poor sap having the relationship with that girl that may or may not be bi-racial (but clearly he was being punished for having a relationship with someone who was not black). Hey, at least he got the opportunity to die off-screen (you think we’ll see him again as a zombie?). I get it…in a show about the zombie apocalypse, a lot of motherfuckers are gonna have to get offed. The problem is that we as black folks have been getting killed as a means of advancing the story for far too long. Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead are guilty of confusing diversity with disposability.

I’ve written about this subject at great length in my essay “Why’s the Brotha Gotta Die?“—which is part of my book Becoming Black: Personal Ramblings on Racial Identification, Racism, and Popular Culture. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

Planet of the Apes served as my introduction to the Disposable Brotha when I was five years-old. By the time I was in high school, I had seen some of the most traumatic on-screen deaths of Black characters ever witnessed. I was emotionally devastated when Duane Jones was shot to death in Night of the Living Dead. I was dumbstruck when Jim Kelly was beaten to death in Enter the Dragon. Paul Winfield being eaten by deadly cockroaches in Damnation Alley and Yaphet Kotto getting torn apart in Alien both left me sick to my stomach. The culmination of these on-screen deaths, as well as all the others I witnessed, was a bitter cynicism that continued to grow, giving way to mantra I found myself repeating over and over again—“Why’s the brotha gotta die?” It has taken me decades of watching and studying film, immersing myself in the art of storytelling, and simply living life as a light-skinned Black man in America, to fully understand the cause, effect, and meaning of all the deaths of Black actors (and occasionally actresses) that have been portrayed in motion pictures. And now I am prepared to answer the question—Why’s the brotha gotta die?
Ultimately, the answer to this question is tied to the ideological constructs of racial identification. To that end, this particular question—seemingly posed with tongue firmly planted in cheek—is not unlike so many other questions asked about race. And to be sure, this is a question about race. After all, as an audience we are asking specifically why the African American character seems to die so often. So, whether we want to or not, we must discuss race, and understand that the answer to this particular question requires a working understanding of both the history of the United States, as well as the American film industry. The understanding of these two subjects brings us to two of the fundamental truths of the Black experience in America. The first of these truths is the forced enslavement of Africans and their descendants, which is the key defining factor in the formation of ideological constructs that serves as racial identification in America. The second fundamental truth are the racial ideologies that emerged from slavery, filtered through biased perceptions of history and mass media, to create a mythology of racial inferiority and superiority.

You can read the entire essay in my book, Becoming Black: Personal Ramblings on Racial Identification and Popular Culture, available from Amazon.

Share Button
Posted in Race Matters, RANTS & RAVES, TELEVISION review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

T-Shirt Confidential #12

confidential 2Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.
ÿÿ

ÿÿ

Originally posted as T-Shirt of the Week: WEEK 12 (September 2, 2007)

Okay, once again you may notice that I am not actually wearing this week’s shirt. The reason should be obvious enough: I’m a bit too husky to wear such a tiny shirt. I can’t tell you how depressing it is to know that I was once able to wear this shirt without my belly hanging out from the bottom, which of course forces me to acknowledge how much weight I’ve gained over the last two decades. But that’s a story for another time. Continue reading

Share Button
Posted in T-Shirt Confidential (formerly T-Shirt of the Week) | Tagged | Leave a comment

T-Shirt Confidential #11

confidential 1Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

DCFC0164.JPG
Originally posted as T-Shirt of the Week: WEEK 11 (August 26, 2007)

The idea for T-Shirt of the Week started about three months ago. I was attempting to clean up my bedroom—a miserable wasteland of clutter and junk that never seems to go away—when I realized that I had way too many t-shirts. It’s no exaggeration when I say that there are several hundred t-shirts in my collection, which I know is far more than any person needs, yet I still have them. And as I went through the dresser drawers that were crammed full, and I started pulling shirts out that I intended to give to charity, I began to realize that every shirt had a story, and that those stories spoke volumes about my life as well as me as a person.

If you checked out Week #5 then you know that in the past I have bought shirts because I loved the design, and then never actually worn the shirt. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but it has happened more than once. Case in point: this Bruce Lee shirt that I have had for over ten years [NOTE: Now it is more than 18 years], and never worn a single time [NOTE: I still haven’t worn this shirt].

I was walking down the 8th Street in New York City, most likely headed to Gray’s Papaya Prince on 6th Avenue and 8th, where you can get two hotdogs for $1. When I lived in NYC, and whenever I visit, Papaya Prince is always a major staple of my diet—not the healthiest choice, I know, but the hotdogs are Kosher. Anyway, the point is that I was on the south side of 8th Street, which is unusual for me, because I almost always walk on the north side. (Don’t ask me why, because the answer is so ridiculous it will make me seem even more “eccentric.”) As I was walking down the street, either going to Papaya Prince (or possibly Tower Records on Broadway), I passed a shop with this shirt in the window. Being a huge fan of Bruce Lee, as well as someone who appreciates a nice graphic image, and last, but certainly not least, a person with an odd addiction to t-shirts, I had to have it.

So, that’s the story of how I came to own this shirt. I’m not sure when I bought it, but I do know it was in the mid 1990s (most likely 1995 of 1996). I showed it to my cousin and my friends, and everyone agreed it was cool design, and then it went into a drawer—having never been worn—where it sat for over ten years until I pulled it out a few months ago [NOTE: It went back into that draw, where it continues to sit, never having been worn].

Sadly, there’s no great story about the shirt. I saw it. I bought it. I never wore it. I wish I could say that I was wearing it when I met the love of my life, or that I was wearing it that time I got into a fight at Fat Burger in Los Angeles, or that all of my friends have a shirt with the same design, and we would sit around wearing them watching Bruce Lee movies and getting drunk. But there’s no story like that. I don’t even remember the shirt I was wearing when I got into the fight at Fat Burger. The only shirt that me and my friends all had was a Batman design, and that one isn’t with all the other Batman shirts in my collection (yes, I do categorize my shirts. Fuck you for laughing). And I have not met the love of my life.

So, there is no funny story to go with this shirt—no classic moments in the life and times of David Walker that can be directly linked to it. I don’t look at it and think, “I used that shirt to wipe up the mess after I gave some chick a pearl necklace.” (That shirt will be coming later, no pun intended). At the same time, I realize this shirt says as much about me as all the others. Maybe even a little bit more.

Since this is the story of my life as told by the t-shirts I have worn, or, more appropriately, the t-shirts that I own, I won’t let this week’s column degenerate into some sort of therapy session. But I will say this: T-Shirt of the Week started out as a bit of a joke three months ago when I was cleaning up my room. It was never my intention to give it this much thought. Now, however, as I rummage through drawers and duffle bags and boxes filled with t-shirts, I realize that this little project of mine runs a bit deeper and has greater resonance for me than was originally intended. Seriously, this was just meant to be a joke!

Share Button
Posted in T-Shirt Confidential (formerly T-Shirt of the Week) | Tagged | Leave a comment

An Open Letter Regarding SHAFT

Numerous people have reached out to me about my thoughts on the new Shaft movie, which New Line Cinema recently announced would be more comedic in tone. Here are my thoughts…

Shaft01-Cov-F-SubGreenDear New Line Cinema (and producer John Davis),

Let me start by saying that I never expected anyone to get in touch with me about the new Shaft movie. Likewise, I don’t have any interest in getting involved with anyone who doesn’t understand or respect Ernest Tidyman’s character, so even if anyone involved in the new movie got in touch with me, it probably wouldn’t go well. As it is, with the recent announcement that the creator of Black-ish has been hired, and that a comedic approach is going to be taken, it is clear to me that New Line is more interested in shitting the bed, than making a good Shaft movie.

glyph winnerWhen I first reached out the Chris Clark-Tidyman, the widow of Shaft creator Ernest Tidyman, it was because I wanted to see a character that I grew up with, translated into the world of comics. It was important to me to do justice to Tidyman’s creation, and to the character itself. At the risk of bragging, I did just that. I dropped the fuckin’ mic with the award-winning Shaft comic book, and with all humility, I did a pretty solid job on the novel Shaft’s Revenge—the first Shaft novel since Tidyman’s The Last Shaft, published back in 1975. All of this is my way of saying that I care about the character, I understand the character, and as anyone who has read my contribution to the legacy of character can tell you, I got that shit right. So, please, listen to me when I say, “Don’t make this a comedy. It will suck. It won’t make money. And in doing so, it will ruin the chances of there ever being a decent Shaft movie in the remainder of my lifetime.”

There are several valid reasons to back up the fact that taking the comedic approach is wrong. Let’s start with the reason that means the most in Hollywood—money. While comedies do well, the sort of comedy you’re likely to make does not have a good track record. Low Down Dirty Shame (1994) made $24 million, Undercover Brother (2002) made $39 million, and Bait (2000) made $15 million. There are, of course, exceptions, like the Bad Boys movies, which made just under $400 million collectively, but c’mon…can you really conjure the magic of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, and hope for that kind of hit? I don’t think so.

At best, you’ll likely put out a film like Black Dynamite, a movie that has already done what you’re setting out to do. Black Dynamite, despite its cult status, and the animated show that I love—which again, has already done what you want to do—earned less than a million dollars at the box office. Let that sink in—less than a million dollars. By comparison, The Equalizer earned over $190 million globally, and it was a serious action film, with a black man in the lead role (which is what Shaft needs to be).

Layout 1As of this writing, in the month of July 2015, more than 100 people in the United States have been killed by the police. That’s not the number for the year-to-date, but just one single month. And that doesn’t include people like Sandra Bland, who died while in custody. Police brutality has reached epidemic proportions, and white supremacists seem intent on pushing this nation toward a violent and deadly racial conflict. Last month, an armed white man walked into a church, and massacred nine black people. Not since the 1960s has there been more of a need for a black action hero—one that can provide a cathartic escape from life’s day-to-day horrors, and deliver the sort of wish fulfillment that cinema is intended to do. Not since Ernest Tidyman created John Shaft back in 1970 has there been more of a need for someone just like him. And yet your solution is to take the most iconic hero in the history of black popular culture—something that is missing from the cinematic landscape right now—and turn him into some kind of comedic figure. Congratulations for your forward thinking, New Line and Mr. Davis. Because God knows that what black people—as well as the rest of America—needs right now is ANOTHER black man cracking jokes to distract us from all that ails us. We can leave the superheroics to the white guys, but the black hero can only be heroic if he is wrapped in a comedic package. I believe I speak for many people when I say, “No thanks, and fuck you.”

It is clear to me that you have no real concept of the John Shaft character, or why he and all the other black action heroes that emerged in the 1970s were so important to so many people—myself included. This new movie, if it goes the way it is headed, will be terrible, and I will do everything in my power to see it fail, because you deserve no less than that for taking something beloved by so many, and making it something it was never meant to be.

I could go on, but I’ve said enough. Other than the very sound advice to not make a comedy, you’ll get no more free advice from me. If you decide you want to make a serious attempt at producing a good Shaft movie—one that makes money and launches a viable franchise—you know how to find me (I work for one of you sibling companies, DC Comics, and the good folks at Dynamite Entertainment, which published Shaft, also have my contact information). Until then, I will continue to write Shaft comic books and novels that are true to the character, and you can keep taking a shit and trying to tell us all that it is chocolate pudding.

Sincerely,
David F. Walker

Share Button
Posted in NEWS & UPDATES, Random Nonsense, RANTS & RAVES | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Blaxploitation Archive – DEATH OF A SNOWMAN

death-of-a-snowman-01Back in the early days of home video, when studios were much slower to release new movies, and video tapes were usually rented at grocery stores, there was a glut of exploitation titles to choose from. These were all flicks that had come out in decades earlier, and many of them were released on video under alternate titles. This is especially true of select blaxploitation titles—movies like The Bus is Coming became Ghetto Revenge, while Force Four, Charcoal Black, Brother on the Run and Savage became Black Force, Black Rage, Black Force 2 and Black Valor, respectively. And then there was Death of a Snowman, one of the few blaxploitation films to boast of being an international production, which found a home on select video shelves under the titles Black Trash and Soul Patrol. Continue reading

Share Button
Posted in BLAXPLOITATION Archive | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

T-Shirt Confidential #10

confidential 2Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

DCFC0158.JPGOriginally posted as T-Shirt of the Week: WEEK 10 (August 19, 2007)
By comparison to the other shirts that have been featured in T-Shirt of the Week, this one may seem a bit boring in appearance. But as is the case with many things in life, appearances can be deceiving, because this shirt represents one of the more interesting chapters in the story of my life. This is a long one, so be prepared.

Prolog: By the late 1990s I was financially bankrupt, literally. I had spent ever penny I had, and charged even more pennies that I didn’t have, while I was in Los Angeles trying to make my blaxploitation documentary. Seriously, I was so broke and so in debt that in 1999 I was forced to declare bankruptcy. Because of my dire situation, if someone offered me a job that seemed remotely legal, I would take it.

Knowing the situation that I was in, my good friend Bryan offered me a job writing press releases for this huge spring break event in Daytona Beach, Florida. A plane ticket to Florida was provided for me, as well as a hotel room and the promise of money, so I hopped on the first flight to Daytona Beach. Unfortunately, it turns out that the people that had planned this big event, which included a concert by Wyclef as well as another one with Scarface, were complete idiots.  Long story short—since this is just the intro to the actual story behind this shirt—the assholes who put on this spring break event lost a ton of money, and ended up not paying anyone the money they were owed. Myself and five other guys wound up fleeing Florida in a stolen rental van, while I eventually made my way back to Portland, but without getting paid.

Story of the Shirt: While there’s more to that particular story—including Nigerian gangsters, a surreal conversation with Wyclef, and one of the worst cases of diarrhea I’ve ever had—the facts I’ve just recounted are the most important for setting up the story surrounding this shirt. You see, because of the fiasco in Florida, Bryan felt he owed me. So when the Stand Up for Steel tour started, he called me because someone wanted to document the whole thing. Continue reading

Share Button
Posted in T-Shirt Confidential (formerly T-Shirt of the Week) | Tagged | Leave a comment

BAMF’s Movie Poster Hall of Fame – ROBO-C.H.I.C.

robo-chic-posterThis poster violates two rules of the Movie Poster Hall of Fame…First, it isn’t an illustrated/painted poster. Second, it isn’t even technically a movie poster, so much as a video release poster. And yet, here it is, because it is superfuckingawesome.

Share Button
Posted in Movie Poster Hall of Fame | Leave a comment

T-Shirt Confidential #9

confidential 1Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

DCFC0152.JPGOriginally posted as T-Shirt of the Week: WEEK 9 (August 9, 2007)
Journey with me, if you will, back to 1984. I was a sophomore at Madison High School in Portland, Oregon, where Van Halen’s aptly named 1984 was one of the most popular albums and only a handful of my fellow students understood the significance of the year as it related to George Orwell. Ronald Reagan was getting ready to win his second term, beating out former vice president Walter Mondale, who made history by having a woman as his running mate. And while all of this was going on, I was getting ready to turn 16, and trying to figure out how to score with chicks.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that when it comes to the pursuit of poontang, I have come up with some pretty crazy ideas. But it was during my sophomore year that I came up with one of the most ridiculous. Don’t ask me exactly how the idea formed, because it was one of those things that just appeared in mind one afternoon, as if by magic. All I know was that I was sitting around—probably thinking about girls or comic books, since that was all I ever thought about—and it suddenly dawned on me that if I wanted to be around the hottest girls at my school, I would need to be on the volleyball team. Continue reading

Share Button
Posted in T-Shirt Confidential (formerly T-Shirt of the Week) | Tagged | Leave a comment

T-Shirt Confidential #8

confidential 1Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

DCFC0146.JPGOriginally posted as T-Shirt of the Week: WEEK 8 (August 5, 2007)
Here’s a shirt I haven’t worn in many years, in part because I’ve gotten a bit too husky for it to fit that well, and also because it’s a 50/50 cotton and polyester blend, and I really hate how those feel. But I love the design so much, and there’s such a great story surrounding the shirt, that I can’t get rid of it.

The time was either 1994 or 1995, and although I can’t be sure which year it was, I’m inclined to think it was 1995. Me and one of my best friends—Ron, the guy who’s into chaining girls up and spanking them—drove up to Tacoma, Washington, for a Free Leonard Peltier rally. For those of you that don’t know who Leonard Peltier is, he’s a Native American activist and member of AIM (the American Indian Movement) who is currently serving multiple life sentences for the murder of two FBI agents. During the 1970s AIM was very active in fighting for the rights of Native Americans, including issues dealing with land rights, healthcare and poverty. AIM had become engaged in a deadly conflict with supporters of the U.S. government, which including fellow tribesman, and much of the violence was being played out in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. During this time there were more murders in Pine Ridge per capita than anywhere else in the United States. On June 26, 1975, members of AIM got into a deadly shootout with two FBI agents. Despite evidence to the contrary, Peltier was convicted of the murders.

Since this column is about t-shirts, I am not going to go on at length about Peltier or his case. If you don’t know anything about this complex subject, I suggest you read the books Agents of Repression and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Also check out the documentary Incident at Oglala. All three of these sources can better educate you than I can.

So, Ron and I were in Tacoma for the Peltier rally. Our friends Julie and Dena had joined us for the event. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I had a great time. I had attended similar events in Portland, but this one was different. There were more people, and what felt like a greater sense of community (although maybe that was just my imagination). As it turned out, there was a big powwow going on in Tacoma that day, and some people at the rally invited us. We went to the powwow after the rally, and that’s where I got this shirt. In no way, shape or form does it convey the seriousness of Peltier or his plight, but it does serve as a great reminder of that weekend. For the record: I do have a “Free Peltier” shirt as well.

After the powwow in Tacoma we drove up to Seattle, where Julie and Dena spent the night at the apartment of Gabriel, a mutual friend from college. Ron and I crashed out at the apartment of a chick named Tanya, who interestingly enough lived in the same building as Gabriel, just down the hall from him. Tanya was this hot redhead from Canada who I met when she and her “husband” had been in Portland. Tanya was married to Mike, who was an amateur boxer, so she could stay in the country. I met them one night at a club, when Mike was in town for a fight. Tanya invited me to the fight the next night, and the only reason I went was because I was hoping that somehow we might end up back at the hotel having sex. There was no actual plan for this, just the desire on my part. Unfortunately, Mike got his shoulder fucked up in the fight, and I ended up driving him to the emergency room where I kept Tanya company for several hours. All hope for nookie was left in the ring, where Mike had dislocated his shoulder.

Tanya and I stayed in touch after that, so when Ron and I came up to Seattle, she let us stay with her. At that point in my life I had never met a woman that I wanted to sleep with more than Tanya. Unfortunately, my spine was even less developed than it is now, so it never happened. Of course, during this particular trip she had a boyfriend who simply called himself “X.” This cat was so black he was blue, and he had that harder-than-you stare down so well it almost intimidated me.

At this point it should be noted that I had been up for over thirty hours, and was exhausted. But rather than go to sleep, me and Ron went to some club in Seattle where my friend Daniel’s band Hitting Birth happened to be playing. After that we crossed paths with Tanya and her friends. Even though I was sleep deprived, I was the only the person who was sober, so I ended up driving the group of us back to Tanya’s, where we partied some more. One of her friends was trying to get me to drive her home, and, I suspect, have sex with me. But at that point I had been up for 36 hours, and I couldn’t be sure if this woman was really coming on to me, or if I was just delirious from lack of sleep. So instead of driving this woman to the other side of Seattle, and risk not getting sex as well as being up for another hour or so, I did something I had never done before in my life, I opted out of potential poontang in favor of sleep. I’ve never done it before, and I hope to never do it again.

And that is the story surrounding this shirt.

Share Button
Posted in Random Nonsense, T-Shirt Confidential (formerly T-Shirt of the Week) | Tagged | Leave a comment

BAMF’s Movie Poster Hall of Fame – GONE IN 60 SECONDS

gonein60secondH.B. Halicki’s original Gone in 60 Seconds (not the terrible remake starring Nicholas Cage) is a pretty crappy movie. But you gotta appreciate the poster.

Share Button
Posted in Movie Poster Hall of Fame | Leave a comment