I honestly really loved the Dirty Computer video, I even watched it twice. I found myself fist-pumping with her feminist lyrics. I find her views very important, and her activism very powerful, because of her intersectionalism. She is a black, queer woman, and therefore one of the most discriminated against members of American society. The empowerment in her video was clear and powerful. I also thought it was cool how she incorporated some very relevant, current events pieces. One of the girls’ underwear read “I grab back” in reference to the counter-activism to President Trump’s remarks about “grabbing women by the pussy.” These specific pieces of activism in Monae’s video give even more power to the work– there is no question as to what she’s advocating for and against.
Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer is set in the future. It is a time where differentiating qualities are not valued. If you are “dirty” you get stripped off your memories of the past and become “clean”.
Continue reading “Afrofuturism in Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer”
Janelle Monáe’s emotional picture “Dirty Computer” tells the story of a soulless totalitarian society that forcibly strips it’s so called “dirty” members of society of their freedom, individuality, or anything else that makes them unique. Monáe’s character, Jane 57821, attempts to break free from this society and it’s repressive, homophobic beliefs by asserting her individuality, which makes her the enemy of this regime.
Monáe creates this story by using futurism and dystopian sci-fi conventions that reflect a possible future society, and by doing so she also speaks to the present about the state of contemporary black life, feminism and queerness. Monáes lyrics are in many ways applicable to the present, as evident in the political statements made in the song “Screwed”, and the messages about contemporary racism and feminism in “Crazy, Classic Life” and “Django Jane”. By framing such politically relevant lyricism with the theme of escaping the clutches of a repressive society, Monáe is alluding to the necessity for a cultural shift that promotes individuality, pride, and love in order to overcome many of today’s issues that stem from recent political developments, such as increased racial tension, sexism, and homophobia. Moreover, she is toying with the idea of this futuristic repressive society to send us a message about our contemporary life. In one sense, she perceives this future as a science-fictionalized version of what is happening today, and in another sense she is also suggesting that the future is yet to come; that our contemporary state of life can be improved by a cultural shift that promotes love, unity and individuality.
However by looking through both of these lenses simultaneously, we are able to see Monáes discontent with the current order of society and how certain groups may be frequently marginalized due to the tensions of our political climate. The recognition of such issues may well have been a goal in the production of this album, and we can only hope the cultural shift it is trying to insinuate thus follows.
Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” blends sci-fi and non-linear storytelling to tell a powerful afro-futurist story. The movie tells its story through a changing timeline that shifts between the main character Jane being trapped by a unnamed entity in some facility where they plan on erasing her memories, thus “cleaning” her and ridding her of the status of a “dirty computer”, and the memories that are cycled through and deleted of her’s.
“…we must move against not only those forces which dehumanize us from the outside, but also against those oppressive values which we have been forced to take into ourselves” (Lorde, 2)
For this blog post, I primarily want to deal with this quote from the Lorde piece we read. There is a lot to take in, both in Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae and “Learning from the 60s” by Audre Lorde, so I figured it was best to concentrate on one connection for a brief blog post.
While speaking on Malcom X at Harvard in 1982, Audre Lorde foregrounded the imperative of intersectionality in social movements. Whereas most people maintain several complex, interacting identities, popular discourse often fails to account for more than one at a time. Lorde, however, distinguished herself as a fierce advocate for acknowledging, validating, and incorporating the variation of identity and experience within the black community, particularly as it pertains to gender and sexuality. In defining her politics, Lorde invoked her own identity, making it a corroborating point in the case for intersectionality: “As a Black lesbian mother in an interracial marriage, there was usually some part of me guaranteed to offend everybody’s comfortable prejudices of who I should be,” (4). With this statement, Lorde speaks to the importance of recognizing how various social identities can reach a nexus point in one individual.
In Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe employs an Afrofuturist narrative arc to epitomize Lorde’s doctrine of intersectionality. Continue reading “Janelle Monáe Learned from the 60s: Lorde’s Legacy in Dirty Computer”
In my youth, I grew up with women. My mother, grandmother, and the majority of my teachers were women. In particular, a number of them were poor, some openly and others not LGBTQ and/or people of color. Yet I, for a long time, took no part in wanting to think about it. For me, I had internalized a sense of want in masculinity because for so long, being blue was pushed upon me. However, I would argue that I have improved from that stage of hypermasculinity and Audre Lorde’s “Learning from the 60s” and Janelle Monae’s album Dirty Monae remind me why us boys have a lot to learn from as Monae puts it the “pussy riot”. Continue reading “Oh Lorde, Us Men Gotta Be More Pynk”
I have long struggled with the concept of Afrofuturism although I have had it defined for me several times. I think that the issue for me is understanding the real world application* of the Afrofuturist philosophy. I warn that I will present no answers here, indeed I possess none, yet I will ask quite a few questions. Additionally, I hope I do not offend any Afrofuturists or anyone for that matter, with my questions–they come from a place of ignorance not malice.
It can be understand that human beings by all means are social creatures. In fact isolation, particularly extreme cases, it has shown to cause debilitating affects. As such, it makes sense we form communities to face precarious situations and the excerpt of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and short story “Non-Zero Possibilities” connect back to this concept of: community and belief. Furthermore its connection to community and belief are important aspects to afrofuturism.
For this weeks post, I wanted to expand upon what I began last week about Sun Ra’s Space is the Place, which was about the depiction of white and black men in the film. However, now I would like to discuss how the movie reflects Snead’s ideas about repetition in black and white cultures from Black Literature and Literary Theory (a concept I am particularly interested in). In Space is the Place, science and technology play key roles, but they are represented in various ways. Sun Ra often discusses his own science. For example, his theory of “transmolecularization” as a way to transport black people to his planet. This theory itself stands as an example of the concept in black culture; Snead asserts “[i]n black culture, the thing (the ritual, the dance, the beat) is ‘there for you to pick it up when you come back to get it’. If there is a goal in such a culture, it is always deferred; it continually ‘cuts’ back to the start…” (Snead, 67). While Ra’s science may be an advance, it is still done with the notion of the “cut” in mind; one of Sun Ra’s goals is to ultimately transport black people back to a time before the taint of the white society on black culture, and the new science helps accomplish this.