spideymark

University-Style Notions of Race Creep Further into Popular Culture

In this modern collegiate age where every possible sub-division of the human race has to have a “safe space” in which to properly commiserate with those of like hue, various arenas of popular culture are following suit.

This past week, for example, it was announced that the new comic book version of Marvel’s Spider-Man will be a biracial — black Hispanic — teenager.

This isn’t all that big an announcement by itself, of course (the character, Miles Morales, was established already as an alternate reality version of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler); what was most interesting were the comments of his co-creator, Brian Michael Bendis:

The enormity of Miles Morales’ place in comic book history didn’t really hit Bendis, a father who has two kids of color among his four children, until recently. His 4-year-old adopted African-American daughter found a Miles Morales Spidey mask in the toy aisle of a department store, put it on and said, “Look daddy, I’m Spider-Man!” he recalls.

“I started crying in the middle of the aisle,” says Bendis. “I realized my kids are going to grow up in a world that has a multi-racial Spider-Man, and an African American Captain America and a female Thor.”

Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they don’t look like those heroes but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask.

“Our message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else.”

This is very intriguing for two main reasons.

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Lessons from Motown: How music smashes cultural barriers and unites us all

After 7 years in college and grad school studying the subject and almost 20 years learning to be a performer and composer, I am still completely fascinated by music and its impact on society.

It’s a necessarily abstract art form, yet it can evoke vividly specific emotions and memories. It can be entirely wordless, yet effortlessly tell elaborate stories and carry incredible drama. It’s inherently ephemeral, yet a single concert can haunt a person for a lifetime.

I’m not usually one to quote poets, but in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”

Well said.

I think it’s because of this universality that music fosters a level of inclusiveness far ahead of every other aspect of human culture. Unlike the visual, film & television, and other types of performing arts, creating great music all but requires a blindness to everything that isn’t about the sound.

To make this point a little more meaningful, I want to play a little game. I’m going to ask you to listen to some great music. Then I’m going to ask you what may seem like a few really dumb questions. Okay?

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