Tuesday, April 10, 2007
In Revolution Televised: Prime Time and the Struggle for Black Power (2004), Christine Acham argues that, in the 1970s, African American actors and comedians brought cultural revolution to the mainstream in primetime via network TV. Even before reading through her interesting takes on Soul Train, The Flip Wilson Show, Sanford and Son, Good Times and The Richard Pryor Show, I already agreed with her. For one thing, I watched all of these shows (she gives more examples, like Julia, which I didn't see as a kid) and felt not only entertained by them, but also changed in some way.
Gil Scott Heron's awesome "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" (1970) raps mordantly -- and exhuberantly -- about an actual non-commericalized revolution in the streets, but, as Acham argues, commercialized venues like TV brought racial/cultural revolution to a much wider audience. She points out how insurgent players like Red Foxx, even under contraints of G-rated TV, managed to drive home a number of things about the contemporary USA that we all needed to hear -- and still need to hear.
Another thing Acham points out is how vapid mainstream TV became regarding race (and class) after the 1970s. It took HBO to restore some balance, to find that edge again. She quotes Chris Rock, perhaps the strongest inheritor of the 1970s TV "upheaval:"
People think the difference between HBO and regular TV is that on regular TV you can't curse. No. You can't *think* on regular TV. It is against the law to have an original idea. That's not like HBO. (Revolution Televised, p. 175, emphasis added).
Luckily, filmmakers like Craig Brewer are also working in the same direction as HBO.
Today's Rune: Harvest.