Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: a message for the aliens, Titanic conspiracy theories, the conclusion of Thirstmas, and Disney World shade.
I am a bad uncle because I didn't send my nephew his Christmas present in time. He lives in South Carolina and I live in Baltimore and I don't understand the rules of time & space and also I thought as a family we weren't doing gifts this year (which, of course, means everyone is buying gifts just not telling anyone else about it. I don't know why I pretend to be shocked by this ruse. I'm standing in a mall food court, my arms full of bags, texting my brothers about how "presence is presents enough." I am the Ivanka Trump of my family; I am complicit.)
Anyway, my present won't get to South Carolina in time so now I have to pretend that I celebrate Kwanzaa and this talking Spider-man doll is a representation of Kujichagulia. I may have to buy a daishiki. Not for the Kwanzaa thing specifically; just because I'm really in Dutch Wax Prints this year. Anyway, it's a lot of work.
My nephew is mixed and I think a lot about what his experience of race and culture will be and what the world will be like. My sister-in-law is white and my brother is black. In fact, all the in-laws in my nuclear family are white. An editor asked me once if I ever talked about the dynamics of interracial relationships with my brothers at all and honestly, I really hadn't. We're too busy lying to each other about buying gift cards for each other.
I don't even know what I'd say. "So, these white people, right? Where do y'all keep the butter? The fridge or the counter?" Sometimes I think it's funny to talk about the things that David does that confuse me, but he does the things he does because he's a person not necessarily because he's a white person. Nevertheless, I make the jokes because I am, as may recall, complicit. In all things. I'm part of the problem.
We were at this Christmas party the other night where there were five interracial couples! FIVE! I have never been around that many interracial couples in my life. Two of them, including David and I, were same-sex couples! What kind of world was this?! I was agog! Every time another one walked in the door, I would just stare at them like I was on some sort of prank game show. But then I had to stop staring because when you're an interracial couple or a gay couple, people staring at you is rarely a rewarding experience. I thought about shouting "I approve of this! That's why I'm staring! Where do you keep the butter? Have you heard about Meghan Markle?! Girl, we princesses now!" but I suspected that might not be received well. I'd had a glass of mulled wine so I just mulled it over.
The party hosts were a white, heterosexual couple who lived in suburban, tree-lined neighborhood and had two high school-aged kids. I tell you this because if I was hearing about this event with FIVE interracial couples I'd be imagining that party scene from Philadelphia or the Whitney/Brandy Cinderella, not a Christmas cookie party hosted by a pastor and the head of a non-profit.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I'm always surprised to find myself comfortable or even seen. When David and I first talked about having kids, I told him I didn't want to be a unicorn family. I don't want to be the only back person on the block, I don't want to be the only gay couple on the block, and I don't want to be the only interracial family on the block. That's hugely important to me. The thing about home is that is has the potential to make you feel like you belong; that's important to me. It's a high bar for a community, though. When you search for "Bennetton Ad Boulevard" on Zillow nothing comes up.
Still, I think it's out there. I was at the Post Office and I saw an ad campaign featuring a two children who were clearly mixed, though it wasn't immediately clear what their racial composition was. I loved that. I wish all ad campaigns featured people of ambiguous heritage. We don't need to ask for people's papers. We need to ask who they are and what they want to do in the world. And if we're going to be taking in messages from ads anyway, why not take in the message that the "average" American family is blended in some way, that the "average" American skin tone is a shade of brown, that the "average" American experience is diverse, in as many ways as diversity can present itself?
I wanted to take a picture of the ad, because the kid reminded me of my nephew a little bit but I'd left my phone in the car because I didn't want to lose my place in the podcast I was listening to. And yes, I know that's not how it works. And no, I don't intend to modify my behavior based on the facts.
Later, I was in Pottery Barn shopping for frames when I came across this frame and its sample photo:
Look at this adorable interracial, same-sex couple trying to get me to buy a photo frame at a suburban Pottery Barn!! I'm obsessed with them! (I mean clearly. I took a picture of a picture. I'm really doing technology right. Next, I'll print it out and mail it at my Diversity Post Office.) They look like a couple I'd definitely follow on Instagram even though couple Instagrams are annoying. I'd break my rule for them. I got a little emotional seeing this. Not because they look like me and David, but because they look like our world, the real world. They look like the future. They look like the present.
I mean, look, obviously capitalism is bad and advertising makes you want things you don't need like a Special Edition Kwanzaa Spider-man. But representation is good. Representation changes the world. One picture at a time, one couple walking into a cookie party at a time, one child at a time.
This week's columns are (not to over-stretch the metaphor) a mixed bag. But, in a way, they're all about visibility: what we see, what we hear, what's real to us. There's the terrifying Trump animatronic at Disney World, which is the first instance of robot shade; there's an array of Thirstmas dudes; but first... a message to our friends from above:
Here's how you know that 2017 has been a complete dumpster fire: On Monday the New York Times published an article about secret government investigations of UFOs and no one is even talking about it. There is actual video of a little alien bean flying through the sky and everyone's like "Can you not? I'm trying to figure out if I have to declare my children as employees so that I don't lose the house on this tax bill." Nobody has time for alien stunt queens in 2017. Try again next year. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
The Abercrombernaut hands her something that is clearly not a blue jewel that would violate copyright but rather just another blue jewel. "Oh, it's beautiful," Britney says. "But wait a minute, isn't this..." (Definitely not the Heart of the Ocean.) "I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean at the end." Any old lady. Any ocean. No harm intended. Void where prohibited. He responds, "Well, baby, I went down and got it for you."
And that is the line that has confused me for 20 years. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Yes, even 20 years after its premiere, Titanic continues to fuel debate. Shout "There was room on the door" in a crowded bar and watch the entire place take to fisticuffs. Alas, as the elder Rose knows all too well, we cannot change the past. We can, however, debate it ad nauseam. Armed with the knowledge that there was room on that door *ducks flying chair*, here's a definitive ranking of Titanic's characters based on their door-worthiness. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
What's amazing about this is that it absolutely looks like someone whose face is just about to be melted by the opening of the Ark of the Covenant and also, it is incredibly accurate. That is impressive. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
IMPORTANT JOURNALISM! An extensive examination of all things thirst-worthy in the world of entertainment. Forget parched-ness in a pear tree, if you've been good this year (and especially if you've been naughty), treat yourself to a wide variety of Hollywood hotness.
Day 7: John Cho! [READ]
Random thing from the Internet...
I think my favorite Christmas carol is specifically Celine Dion's rendition of "O Holy Night." If I was a drag queen, I would exclusively perform to this song. All the time. Just wandering around your forth of July barbeque, collecting dollars whilst lip-syncing impossible high nights about the thrill of hope and whatnot. Here's a live version of Celine singing it. (The huge note is at minute 4:03.)
Mix it up!