Does Rape Have a Color? Woody Allen, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby and the Racial Politics of Sexual Abuse

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Like so many over the past weeks, I have been following the Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen conflagration that re-exploded in the media on February 1 with Ms. Farrow’s open letter to the New York Times. In the letter, Farrow accuses Allen in graphic and heart-wrenching detail of sexually abusing her when she was seven years old. This information wasn’t new since Maureen Orth at Vanity Fair had covered the story extensively when it first broke in 1992, but Farrow’s letter triggered new interest in the case, even beyond that of Orth’s November 2013 follow-up interviews with the entire Farrow clan. Apparently unable to stay silent amidst the firestorm, Allen followed Farrow’s letter one week later … [Read more...]

Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform: Best of AHA 2014, Part 3

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Over the past couple of decades, categorizations like “military history” have undergone numerous permutations. Georgia State’s John Southard ruminated on the state of the field for ToM in 2012 and ToM devotes an entire page to the subject. (There’s even something for the Civil War buffs. ToM has even posted some original research in the area of the military and postwar suburbanization.)  Historians like Roger Lotchin, Ann Markusen, Carol Lynn McKibben, and Andrew Myers have offered new insights into the ways military installations in the South and California have interacted politically, economically, and socially with local cities, towns, and suburbs in which they are located or abut. The … [Read more...]

Letting Go Never Seemed So Hard: Frances Ha, Blue Jasmine, and Colliding with the Realities of Life

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ToM Best of 2013 Watching people unravel, whether in film or life, can be a shocking experience. In America, we like to see people hit rock bottom, repent, dust themselves off, and climb back to respectability. Such stories offer a clear narrative arc that at this point seems scorched into our serpentine subconscious. In real life, the fall, the brushing of dirt off one's shoulders, and rising again hardly seems so clear. Sometimes you don't even realize you’re falling, or that what you are holding onto—a moment, a person, or relationship—no longer exists.  This past year witnessed two films that documented the fall of two very different, yet very similar women in Frances Ha and Blue … [Read more...]

Plan Ahead: A Historical Look at Rape Insurance in Michigan

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It’s a day that ends in “y” so there’s been another strike by the increasingly insane Republican Party against “ObamaCare” and women’s reproductive freedom – this time in Michigan. As reported initially in the Detroit Free Press, a Michigan state law just went into effect that will require women to purchase additional insurance if they want abortion coverage. In other words, girlfriends, be prepared for all possible consequences of rape, incest, birth defects, dangerous pregnancies and anything else you can think of! I mean, as a woman, you should expect these problems anyway. Don’t worry, though! We have in no way entered a bizarre dystopian universe already envisioned by Margaret Atwood … [Read more...]

7 Books to Make You Grateful for Your Own Family on Thanksgiving

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Visual media have the advantage of providing quick comfort; if you need a change of mood or just an easy distraction, a TV show or a movie or even a YouTube clip can get the job done without too much effort, so long as said visual media is not designed by Ingmar Bergman or Lars von Trier.  Earlier this week ToM offered up its suggestions for films that touch on the variegated vicissitudes of family, on the theory that watching Pan's Labyrinth or Rachel Getting Married might put the craziness of one's own family in gratifying context.  Books, however, don't offer the same kind of instant remedy.  As Meatwad once said, "Books is from the devil, and TV is twice as fast!"  However, we humbly … [Read more...]

Film Turducken: Movies to Help You Survive the Trauma of Thanksgiving

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Get your turkey on! Few holidays embrace gluttony and laziness like America’s premier competitive eating contest that is Thanksgiving. Most of us end up watching old movies, playing board games, or simply tying one on while we witness yet another set of NFL games meant to hypnotize us with promises of Black Friday sales and family bonding. ToM wants you to enjoy your turkey, cranberry sauce, and Uncle Dan’s homemade brew while considering the plight of Detroit families of the 1980s like Mr. Mom’s Jack and Caroline Butler; or maybe Thanksgiving with the family just reminds you of being trapped in the middle of the Spanish Civil War with a cowed mother and a sadistic stepfather. In that … [Read more...]

When the Netflix Bingestrution Model Goes Wrong, or Why did Everyone Stop Talking about Orange is the New Black

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When Orange is the New Black first became available on Netflix, one could almost feel the wave of deserved critical praise that washed over podcasts for months afterward. It was like riding the Tidal Wave roller coaster at Six Flags Great America--exhilarating, breathtaking, and then, over.   Most critics felt obliged, rightly so, to only address the first couple episodes lest they ruin anything for those of us struggling to play catch up. “Orange burns with the kind of laughter that usually only comes after tears; it's audacious, shocking, intimate, and intense,” applauded Grantland’s TV critic Andy Greenwald. Normally a curmudgeon on the topic of the Netflix bingestrution model, … [Read more...]

Living on Noir Borders: Race, Sexuality, and Law Enforcement in Touch of Evil and Crimson Kimono

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“It has been argued that Touch of Evil is not so much the end of film noir as it is the beginning of a new kind of border film,” argued Kelly Oliver and Benigno Trigo in their 2003 work Noir Anxiety.[1] Indeed, much of the classic noir period, spanning roughly from 1941’s The Maltese Falcon to 1958’s Touch of Evil, seemed uncomfortable with borders. Racial, sexual, and moral boundaries all seemed blurred and dangerous.  However, borders change. What once might have been a space seen as problematic or dangerous can, in a short period of time, become normalized. For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, gay rights let alone same sex marriage appeared to have been located on the outer limits of … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Halttunen on Confidence Men, Painted Women, and Borrowed Watches

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We begin our annual Dog Days Classics series this year with a reflection on the work of Karen Halttunen.  Past entries have looked at influential works by Barbara Fields, Giovanni Arrighi, the Roberts Caro and Wiebe and many others. In spring 2005, I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, just a few months out from passing my oral prelim and beginning my dissertation research on Progressive Era higher education and intercollegiate football.  I was also getting ready to teach my first stand-alone course, Civil War and Reconstruction, in the upcoming summer term.  I realized that having grown up in central Illinois in a working-class family that rarely traveled, I had never … [Read more...]

Waters of Community, Waters of Hostility: The Messy History of Urban America and the Municipal Pool

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[Editor's Note: Just in time for summer heat waves, this is the first in a series of posts in the upcoming weeks on the swimming pool in American life.  For those interested in cultural history of the backyard pool, check out ToM's RR via @KCETDepartures - "A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of the Swimming Pool in Southern California"] “Caddy Day,” read the Bushwood Country Club Swimming Pool sign in the 1980 comedy Caddyshack, “Caddies welcome 1:00 – 1:15.”    In the roughly five minute scene, the Bushwood Country Club grudgingly hosts its lowest rung of employee: the caddies.  As the motley crew of lower middle and working class white kids, the group’s ethnic population … [Read more...]

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