TrickrTreat: Miley, My Little Pony, or Thug Notes?

“The next time you try to seduce anyone, don’t do it with talk, with words. Women know more about words than men ever will. And they know how little they can ever possibly mean.”
― William Faulkner

“That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”
― Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

So I have been busy writing articles about digital seduction versus blogging or vlogging of late. I’m hard at work trying to get my social capital in academia on.

Seduction, blurred privacy, and unpaid labor in networked publics have become new themes in my research on the convergence of marginalized black girls and YouTube’s music media economy. It’s odd how curiously similar this work is to my previous research on black girls’ game-songs and popular songs by male artists over a 50-year period (Gaunt 2006, Gaunt 2011). I’m gonna try to treat you and trick you with this post since it’s October 31st and I’ve been feeling quite “witchy” all week (apologies to my students).

So, why not mess around and blog for Halloween this year; seduce my readers/audience with my own little trick or treat post. 

 

Vanilla or Chocolate, Choose!!

Which of these three things arouses your curiosity the most. I have a YouTube discussion related to each: (1) Miley Cyrus and twerking?; (2) Unpacking My Little Pony Toys?; or (3) Wisecrack’s Thug Notes on Thriller?  You got 10 seconds before the beat drops . . .

TRICK? … OR TREAT?: A HAPPY DANCE

DJ: Hold. Up. 
Crowd hollers: WAIT-AH-MIN-IT!!!!

 

TREAT: The trick would be Miley, but this is actually about me writing on the love and theft of twerking!! The symbolic “beat drop” for any researcher is when you spin a publication in a refereed journal. BAM!!! My article on YouTube was published in September 2015 just after my birthday!! {{{doin’ that happy dance}}}. #getitgirl

MaryJ gif

YouTube, Twerking & You: Context Collapse and the Handheld Co-Presence of Black Girls and Miley Cyrus

Journal of Popular Music Studies

Journal of Popular Music Studies
Volume 27, Issue 3, pages 244–273, September 2

 

Hope you can enjoy this first treat with me. There’s not a lot of articles about marginalized youth and convergence with legacy media in digital media studies; let this make your reading list before everybody else sees it. You can download the article and if you care to share it with colleagues or any grad/undergrad students studying sociology, anthropology, ethnomusicology, intersectionality, and media studies, please do!  Hey, and if you use the piece in your class (1) let me know here, and (2) share about it on Twitter, Facebook or other social media #blackgirlsmobility. Let me know if you love it, hate it or wanna drop it like a Little Pony unboxing video.

TRICK? or TREAT?: Hands Tied!! #theunboxingvideoonrace

THIS ONE’S A TRICK: My students started vlogging two weeks ago, which is what I am becoming known for  as a teacher and researcher. Their little haters are driving up their anxiety because of the awkwardness of digital self-presentation; watching yourself on the screen of your webcam and YouTube causes stage fright in your own bedroom or house. It doesn’t help that I’d never offered a course with personal vlogging during a fall semester before; freshmen and women are deep in that awkward stage of their first semester in college right about now with midterms. I didn’t see that coming. #notetoself. I need to pay attention to that in the future. It’s only the 2nd full semester I’ve experimented with student vlogging during my intro course. The summer classes of 15-16 students in 6 weeks had few distractions. This was like an off-line example of colliding contexts or “context collapse“.

Ideas for this post emerged last night while creating a playlist for my intro students on how to vlog like a pro. In my search, I discovered a video from earlier this year titled the 10 Richest YouTubers uploaded to the channel WatchMojo.com (Feb 15, 2015).  So go figure…All the richest YouTube vloggers appear to be white males except for one. The #1 channel that profits from YouTube monetization features a female voice and white female hands unboxing Disney Collector toys. I swear!! I need to stop teaching and start unboxing toys but being black I’d probaby need to wear white gloves in my videos. Watch Lisa Nakamura’s TEDx talk on five types of online racism including the “plain old racism” from a Stanford study of products sold on Craigslist by white or non-white hands).  Hmm. Is that why MJ wore white gloves and socks? #blackhandsdontsell

Because I am doing research (and not because of FOMO), I watched FunToyzCollector (fka DC Toy Collector) unbox MLP Rainbow Dash Hair Case Radz My Little Pony Kinder Surprise. Her voice is…yeah, it’s obnoxious. It’s like listening to a white suburban adult (with no kids) do that baby-talk thing to a toddler; it’s steeped in a creepy, saccharine-sweet quaalude of consumption. #gagging

While the personal identity of the creator remains anonymous, the channel branding is clearly on fleek as a YouTube space. I bet the top the YouTube Kids spaces. Think of the parents and kids who “ooh” and “ahh” adding toys to their birthday and holiday gift shopping lists. I should see how’s commenting on these videos and check out the thumbnails for the users to see how diverse it is.

Uploaded just a week ago on October 20th, the Rainbow Dash Hair Case unboxing video already has over 300,000 views. Maybe this segment of the blog should really marked as a treat rather than a trick. Why? The seductive ecosystem of user-generated content and its convergence with consumerism is pernicious…but it’s free. There’s a saying in the tech world: “If it’s free, you’re the product.” {{teeth glint DING!}} As Joshua Meyrowitz wrote back in 1985:

The products are the viewers who are sold to advertisers. The more viewers a program [and now a YouTube channel] draws, the more money advertisers are willing to pay to have their message aired. Because of this system, network broadcasters have little interest in designing programs that meet the specialized needs of small segments of the audience. (Meyrowitz 1985, 73; under “The Merging of Public Spheres.”).

When TV was owned and run by people “masquerading” (given the Halloween theme) or performing in their roles as major corporate media execs, it was difficult to challenge. It’s even more pernicious when ordinary people masked by branded channels sell toys to your kids in an age where entitlement meets the arousal of your personalized mobile experience in an attention economy.

TRICK or TREAT?!!!

LAST TREAT!!: After searching for videos and stumbling upon unboxing videos for My Little Pony, this is the treat I seduced you to wait for if you read my Halloween musings thus far. I found a YouTube video that both pleases and toys with the seduction of our attention creatively. This one leads you through a sort of intellectual fun house to places you’d never expect but delights anyone like me interested in black music and the archeology of sound and history. It the Wisecrack channel’s release of the

Halloween Special – The Genius of Michael Jackson’s Thriller

It was released only two days ago so it’s fresh content. Michael Jackson was my Beyoncé in my first year of college. Thriller was the ultimate music video seduction back in my young adulthood. Well I was only 16 in my first year of college. That was like yesterday cuz you know good black don’t crack. #timespacecompression. OK, ghouls and boils, that’s enough. This vlog is long enough. So let me leave you to your Halloween candy and this videos from Thug Notes. It’s classic literature cliff notes read by an “original gangster”. Some consider it among the best educational spaces on YouTube.

Bye for now!!
#cuevincentprice
#ghoulishlaugher

“How Can I Have 1.9 Million Followers and Feel…This Alone?”

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair

The intrinsic troublesome and uncertain quality of situations lies in the fact that they hold outcomes in suspense; they move to evil or to good fortune. The natural tendency of man is to do something at once ; there is impatience with suspense, and lust for immediate action.      – John Dewey,  “The Quest for Uncertainty” (1929)

Assata Shakur

The Lust and The Salary It May Depend On

A fellow black feminist scholar pointed this video of by a so-called professional twerker who appears to be “white,” and claims to the the “most famous booty shaker.” Why? Because she earns 6-figures making videos on Vine. When non-black women make this symbolic move and earn capital, I wonder if they ever consider that there are ethics involved in how their moves will impact those who came before them. It’s never necessary if those who came before are black and female.

While I am expanding my research to include videos by non-black teens and adolescents, I’ve chosen to limit my study to YouTube though I’d surely would have as much to figure out and analyze if I expanded the data set to video from WorldStarHipHop, Instagram and Vine. I want to thanksto Qiana Curtis for bringing this video/short film on the professional twerker to my attention on FB.

The line that strikes me most in the 4-minute short film I used as the title of the post. Does one have to make 6-figures to learn that money can’t buy you love or eliminate the animosities of race? Jessica says as her voice starts to crack as if performing on cue for the camera, “How can I have 1 point …. nine million followers and feel…this alone?” Generation Like meets the chicken that always comes home to roost in the old and new attention economy of the entertainment business.  (Check out the PBS documentary of the same name if you haven’t already. What are Teens Doing Online?).

 

This copy about the short film appeared below the original FB post:

Twerking 9-5: ‘Vine’s Most Famous Booty Shaker’ earns 6 figures

Jessica Vanessa is a professional twerker, who’s making big bucks by shaking her booty…in fact, she makes a 6-figure sum by shimmying her bum!

22-year-old social media superstar Jessica captivates audiences from around the world with her hypnotic assets. The former teaching assistant is now paid by companies to mention their products to her 2m online followers, who tune in to watch her twerk, jerk and crack jokes in comedy short videos on Vine.

Jessica now makes more money from a six-second Vine vid than she did working for four months at the nursery. It seems her bottom is taking her to the top!

Barcroft TV bring you a new short film every weekday – from the fascinating to the funny – plus two amazing full-length television shows every week.

#Twerking #Twerk #JessicaVanessa #JessiVanessa #Booty #Bum #Squats #Fitness #Dancing #Buns #VOTD #Video

Can Twerking Be Your Profession?

I don’t study adult twerkers and while Jessica Vanessa calls herself a “professional twerker” some critics/haters might consider the moniker an oxymoron. There are those who will liken it to “sex work” though there is no sexual touch or intercourse involved. The visual economy of twerking flips is like a free “peep show” that lures advertisers to solicit Vanessa’s “assets” to sell products.

In American culture and society associating earning money with having a profession is a common practice. If I earned a living off of making music, I too would call myself a professional. Google defines the term as:

pro·fes·sion
prəˈfeSHən/
noun
  1. a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.
    “his chosen profession of teaching”
    synonyms: career, occupation, calling, vocation, métier, line (of work), walk of life,job, business, trade, craft;

    informalracket
    “his chosen profession of teaching”
  2. an open but often false declaration or claim.
    “a profession of allegiance”
    synonyms: declaration, affirmation, statement, announcement, proclamation,assertion, avowal, vow, claim, protestation;

    formalaverment
    “a profession of allegiance”

 

The Oxford English Dictionary, a definitive and professional arbiter of definitions in the English language, defines “profession” as:

A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification:
his chosen profession of teachinga lawyer by profession

This definition gets complicated when it comes to mixing work with anything sexual…outside of hollywood or any industrialized complex of music, TV or film. Then your profession is questioned….rappers, DJs and dancers esp. from hip-hop included.

For me, the question keeps coming back to who profits from the social or economic capital of the cultural performance known as twerking? A cultural practice that began with black dance behaviors outside the marketplace dating back to New Orleans in the late 1980s and linked culturally throughout the African and Afro-Latin and Caribbean diasporas for decades if not a century.

The fact that race is never mentioned in the short film seems curious to me. The following viral meme from 2012 suggests that race was attributed to the before Miley Cyrus took it to the top of Google searches. But such practices in dance and music have always been extracted from the rich bottom of black creativity in our culture for centuries. Erasing the contestation is troublesome but such practices go beyond the hood.

Meme - So this is what Negro Girls Do

Questioning Who Profits

I was chatting with Hannah Giorgis after inviting her to speak to my students yesterday and we both dwell in and pondered a few related questions. Most of the ideas of these questions I attribute to Hannah. I embellished on them. She’d probably say my previous blog post on who profits from the counterfeit culture of stereotypes about black girls inspired some of these ideas:

  1. How are people who do not identify, who are not socialized or perceived to be, black girls affected by black girlhood? Do other girls or transgender folk get to explore sexuality through its prism or as a way into and out of popular adolescent/ youth culture?
  2. What does it mean to put symbolic elements of black girlhood upon yourself (without the symbolic codes of skin color and its incumbent stigmatization)?
  3. What does it mean to adopt (as well as adapt to) “black femaleness” and at any moment back away from it, return it, shed it when no longer value-able?
  4. What does it mean to have black girlhood imposed upon you because you look the part because of skin color even though you didn’t necessarily sign up for the part (Cue music: “Mama’s always on stage“)?
  5. Can these tensions be in conversation with one another in our contemporary discourse or debates or must we always take sides (black or white, booty or not)? (Cue music: Which side are you on? #michaelbrown #ferguson)
  6. Ultimately, who is profiting from black girls twerking on YouTube (way back in its beginnings in 2006) as a performance?A performance that can “make it rain” in 6 figures for some and not others (particularly not adolescent/teen black girls themselves)?

The questions need to be lived with before we simply jump off on some conclusion or result. There’s research and study to do first. I’ll leave readers with this. Some  commentary about a bell hooks talk at the New School earlier this week. In a piece called “bell hooks Was Bored by ‘Anaconda'” featured in The Cut, writer Kat Steoffel wrote:

According to hooks, reducing female sexuality to “the pussy” raised questions about “who possesses and who has rights in the female body.”

the booty is a more visible, PG-13 stand-in for female sexuality, easier to represent (and sell) in pop culture, but freighted with more racial connotations.  A booty-centric vision of female sexuality, hooks explained, asks, “who has access to the female body?”

Broadcasting while your twerk has consequences and differential consequences for non-blacks than for black girls themselves. There’s a lot to unravel before or while shaking your butt in the webcam.

Captain Kirk and Uhuru Watch Miley Twerk on Robin Thicke. #MileyVirusAlert

//

I missed this during the meme cycle last August. A friend posted this on the FB wall and I need to keep it for research purposes. Will share in class today.

The Miley Virus of twerking factors in my work. Yes, it’s shaking or rocking the hips back and forth (one gesture in twerking) and yes she’s doing her best to back that thing up (but she ain’t got that thang). It makes my work fun and complicated though and I thank her for that. I also appreciate that she’s doing what Brittany and JT did to divorce their childhood from Disney. #onceyougoblackyounevergoback