The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have barely begun and torrents of criticism are pouring forth from all directions. I certainly would not consider myself a dedicated enthusiast to the Games, but over the past few days I have been taken aback by the cloud of negativity surrounding the coverage of the Olympics in Sochi. Just below the #Sochi2014 hashtag on Twitter is its unhappy counterpart, #SochiFail.
But what, exactly, is everyone complaining about?
My feelings on these issues cut two ways: anger, followed by disappointment. Like many people, evidently, my initial response was anger towards Russia, and Putin as its leader. Why host the Olympics if you can’t provide enough functional toilets? Why enact brutal anti-gay policies just as the international spotlight is swinging your way? Why Sochi, if the region is politically unstable and prone to terrorism threats? (There’s so much else going on right now, too: Ukraine, Syria.)
The more I reflect on these emotions, the more they give way to a deeper sense of disappointment. The Olympics is a tradition where people come from all over the world to compete, but also to meet each other, make friends, and share cultures. Sure, I want America to win the gold in hockey, but remember that incredible moment in Vancouver when in overtime, on their own soil, the Canadians pulled off a fantastic win? Those are the moments we love at the Olympics - pure joy and celebration, as medalists and athletes come together to shake hands, to hug, to laugh, to cry. For a few weeks, people around the world share the common experience of watching the Olympic games.
I don’t want that tradition to falter at Sochi this year. The Olympics should be about putting aside the things that divide us, and I hope that the Winter Olympics can still bring us together. I don’t want Sochi to fail.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
—Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reading Letter from a Birmingham Jail is always a positive, inspiring experience.
Trey Radel was caught purchasing cocaine in D.C. through an undercover federal drug investigation on October 29th. But then…
[Radel] didn’t think to tell House GOP leaders of his problems. He had the gall, as the Naples Daily News reported, to go ahead with a $1,000-per-platefundraiser in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 5. He gave an interview Nov. 13 to The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold in which he actually talked about the need for Congress “to start making the adult decisions.” Please. But then it’s probably too much to expect self-awareness from someone who doesn’t see the contradiction between his actions and requiring drug tests for food-stamp recipients.
Only after he had no choice but to go public did Mr. Radel ’fess up. Then came the requisite apology, contrition to family, announcement of a “leave of absence,” donation of his salary to a charity and entry into rehab for substance abuse.
Too bad there is no clinic that treats abuse of the public trust.
When I first saw Lily Allen’s new music video, Hard Out Here, I was torn. Allen was obviously trying to point out the ridiculousness of other pop music videos: sex, objectification of women and minorities, money, drugs, the list goes on. My problem was that her video didn’t look all that different. I have issues with Lady Gaga for the same reason - how is she advancing equality when her music videos are so sexualized? Just because you wear untraditional costumes doesn’t mean you are liberated from pop culture’s sexist background. (Yes, I know that she is an amazing advocate for LGBT and other issues. Yet I continue to struggle to admire her.)
Reading the responses to Hard Out There, everyone was applauding Allen for her groundbreaking message. I went on with my day, wondering if I was just too prude to get it - as far as I could tell, the video sure didn’t look, or sound, like it was addressing exploitation, racism or sexism.
This article from The Atlantic (by Noah Berlatsky) put my discomfort into words:
Whether it’s Lady Gaga commenting ironically on fame or Britney commenting ironically on, um, fame, the videos are only popular if they adhere to the formula of the thing they’re satirizing, like a tamer Weird Al with more booty-shaking. And so, helplessly, Allen has reproduced Cyrus’s unpleasant racial politics without understanding what those politics are, or how her stated theme of sexual objectification might have something, somehow, to do with representations of black women’s bodies.
Berlatsky also points out what really drives Lily Allen’s image at the end of the day - sales.
There are things Allen could have done if she was really committed to skewering pop. If the idea is that the white guy is in control, she could have had him manipulating dancing puppets, with no real dancers anywhere in sight. She could have aging white guy asses shaking in slow motion, for that matter, while black women in business suits look on in appreciation/disgust.
But then you’re getting weird and maybe actually not sexy, at which point your status as marketable commodity starts to come into question.
To be clear, on a final note, everyone is free to dress, behave, and sing however they want. I have no problem with that. What frustrates me is that (in my opinion) if we want to have a real conversation about the prevalent cultural issues in our society, we need to remove some of the distractions for a moment. Watching people be objectified is not a great way to address objectification, etc. I wouldn’t expect people to take me seriously if I was twerking all the time. Maybe Lily Allen shouldn’t either.