Just before the Star-Spangled Banner ceremonially started Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, a minute long commercial with a message of “unity and positivity” kicked off one of the most commercialized events on the planet. No, the NFL did not welcome back Colin Kaepernick. And PETA did not join forces with Tom Brady to promote veganism (is Tom Brady even vegan?). Rather, Atlanta hometown sweetheart Coca-Cola was promoting diversity and inclusion in their Warhol inspired advert “A Coke is A Coke.” The company is purported to be rolling out the red carpet for everyone, including rival Pepsi. As other companies like Nike and Gillette join the social justice crusade with their own campaigns, is this the dawn of the ethical corporation? But, is this really about changing minds and perceptions to create unity?
Selling Diversity, Unity & Social Justice Part I: Social Justice For Sale
A few weeks ago, after being dismayed at finding my rain gauge broken after a particularly bad snowstorm, my teenaged daughter asked me when I became interested in stuff like rainfall amounts. The question was not snarky; it was a genuine interest in what happens to certain adults who do not grow their own food that they begin to have conversations about the amount of moisture falling from the sky. And I get it. I can remember as a teen hearing adults talk about absolutely boring things (Insurance! Advanced dentistry! Mortgages! Their joints!) and wondering why everyone seemed so intrigued. Was adulthood, after all, merely an extended stage of pain, weather-watching, and paper-shuffling? (I’ll leave it to you to answer that). Continue reading “Am I Middle-Aged?”
When I was a kid, “Guess Who?” was a very popular game with me and my friends at my after school program. It was always a pretty quick game, which had friends gathered around while waiting for their chance to play the winner. Perhaps you recall the game — two players, each choose a yellow card, which had the picture of one of the faces on the board, and take turns guessing which card the other person has. While each of the pictures has a name on it, players can only ask yes or no questions about physical appearance: hair color, hair style, age, etc. Continue reading ““Guess Who?”: A Game of Differentiation”
In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “boy, that escalated quickly.”
I began writing this blog post the day after a video featuring Covington high school students taunting a Native American man went viral. When I returned to the piece a few days later, the story had blown up like few that I can recall in recent memory. The initial narrative, which was clipped from a 2-hour video, posted on Twitter, and seized upon by the press, created the perception that the high school boys had surrounded Nathan Philips (e.g., see this NYT piece), an Omaha elder and activist, sparking outrage across the media spectrum. At the center of all this was the image of a young man in a MAGA hat (pictured below) starring smugly at Philips as he played a drum song (see Leonard Peltier’s explanation of the song here) . Continue reading “On the Tyranny of Individualism: MAGA boy, Media, and the Drum”
During last year’s Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life revival on Netflix, I kept hearing viewers basking in acknowledgment of a reference lost on me. In the scene, a wealthy and recently-widowedWASP declutters her mansion while wearing uncharacteristically casual clothes. The woman is in crisis and ready to make a change. She marshals some hired help to move large objects in her mansion while she scrutinizes the smaller items.
At one point she says, “If it brings you joy, you keep it. If it doesn’t, out it goes.”
With renewed attention on harassment, sexual assault, and the importance of consent, the classic Christmas song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has generated renewed debate. Incorporating what we know about literary meaning, they are both right and wrong.
Detractors, including some who have convinced radio stations like one in Cleveland to ban the song, have suggested that it is a “rape anthem,” recognizing in the dialogue one partner pressuring the other to spend the night, despite the person continually saying “No.” This failure to take “no” as a final answer renforces, for those opposed to the song, “rape culture.” Some defenders of the song argue that it is a celebration of women’s sexual liberation when viewed in the context of its recording, when social retribution for spending the night with a man would be fierce. (See one early version from the 1949 movie Neptune’s Daughter below, including a gender reversal in the second half.) Continue reading “Whose Meaning? The Debate over “Baby It’s Cold Outside””
You will likely remember the (somewhat) recent restoration of Ecce Homo in Spain that resulted in a rather different representation of Jesus in the newly finished product. It quickly became a meme and has since been circulated widely on the internet. It came to mind after seeing this following video about art restoration. Take a look:
The video takes us through the process of the restoration of Mother Mary to demonstrate the ways in which art is maintained to last. But as I was watching the video, I began to wonder when restorations are considered to be good and necessary and when they are considered to be destructive. As shown in the video, much care is taken with the restoration process — every detail attended to with great care. While the finished restoration of Mother Mary is, to the casual observer, far more similar than that of Ecce Homo to the worn image we see in the beginning of the video, are the restorations of the two all that different, practically speaking? Continue reading “A Good Fake or a Bad Fake?”
Recently on Twitter, I was reflecting about the everyday encounters where the study of religion (and really “religion” as identity formation) becomes a topic of conversation.
In case it’s TL;DR, the long and short is that I’m convinced that there’s plenty of opportunity for scholars to contribute to public discourse if we hold vigilant in our commitment to observation and intelligibility. To me, the minute that we insist upon our expertise at the expense of our willingness to explain our point is when we’ve shifted a potential exchange with someone into an effort to change the other.
And while I prefer to see change as a social fact rather than an intrinsically bad thing, there is something disturbing about clearly veiled efforts at affecting change. They are all well and good when they go unnoticed, like the way I hand my kids a sealed salt shaker when they want to add more seasoning to their food. But when we know how this works, we label these acts differently–manipulation, lying, bait-and-switch, etc.
The following three-part series provides a first-hand account of one stop on Jordan Peterson’s recent 45-city tour promoting his bestselling book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, with popular political commentator Dave Rubin. In part one I provide some background on the Peterson phenomenon, followed by a detailed account of one of his rallies in part two. Here in part three I offer some thoughts on how we might situate this phenomenon within broader cultural trends, with a tidbit on my own experience sitting in on a few of Peterson’s classes during my undergraduate years at the University of Toronto.
Are there 3 things that I leaned from attending a Jordan Peterson rally, as my title suggests? Perhaps, but in the world of YouTube algorithms it’s all about what gets clipped and what gets clicked.  I’ll leave it up to others to determine who “changed” whose life, who got “destroyed,” or whether anything was “calmly dismantled” here–be it feminism, the “radical left,” or Peterson himself. Continue reading “3 Things I Learned from Attending a Jordan Peterson Rally, Part 3”