Representation matters

The last several years has seen a shift in both the type and the quality of Hollywood films featuring African-Americans. For years, I have felt like there has been a very narrow range of movies featuring the experiences of Black lives and I’m not the only one. I’ve long wished we could see less comedy and trauma/suffering movies and more science fiction or fantasy or period pieces or thrillers. Seeing the wider range of stories and genres covered by the likes of Hidden Figures, Girls Trip, Moonlight, BlacKKKlansman, Straight Outta Compton, and Sorry To Bother You has been a joy.  These were all critically acclaimed and financially successful films that centered the experiences of Blacks and cast Black actors in leading roles.

For myself and many African-American moviegoers, one film has stood out from the rest. Not because the others listed (or those absent) are sub-par movies, but rather, because the Black Panther was the kind of movie we have long thirsted for. The first Black superhero of Marvel Comics got to headline the first Black superhero movie from Marvel Studios, with a Black director, a predominately Black cast, diverse presentation of Black bodies, an Afrofuturist aesthetic, complex nuanced characters largely devoid of stereotypes, a rich backstory, and a massive budget. A monumental box office hit, the movie shattered record after record on its way to a final global tally of roughly $1.3 billion. The movie was a critical hit with audiences across the globe, most especially with its target audience: those of African descent.

Image of actor Chadwick Boseman dressed as the Black Panther, (except for his helmet), gazing upon his hands.

In a country that has devalued Black lives since it began and has a long history of criminalizing Black bodies, it makes a certain amount of sense that our lives, experiences, and stories are rarely centered in Hollywood. After all, most of the people who have been involved in the industry were socialized in the United States. As such, they have been influenced by and have aided in the perpetuation of stereotypes and prejudicial beliefs about African-Americans. These racial stereotypes are present all throughout  the media, including the film industry and can affect the emotions, cognition, and behavior of viewers. Especially worrying is the effect of racial stereotypes on children of color, whose encounters with racism and discrimination can have a detrimental impact on their self-esteem and identity, as well as their physiology  (media depictions of racial stereotypes have an impact on adults as well). When a movie like the Black Panther is released, it has an impact, as noted by Yvette Nicole Brown in the Nerdist’s Impact of the Black Panther :

It’s a game changer in a way that I don’t think we can even quantify.”

and Dr. Erlanger Turner in his article on the importance of the movie to the Black community:

Many have wondered why “Black Panther” means so much to the black community and why schools, churches and organizations have come to the theaters with so much excitement. The answer is that the movie brings a moment of positivity to a group of people often not the centerpiece of Hollywood movies. Plus, what we know from the research on RES [racial and ethnic socialization. Read more on that here. –Tony] is that it helps to strengthen identity and helps reduce the likelihood on internalizing negative stereotypes about one’s ethnic group.

As illustrated by the following series of Tweets, Black moviegoers were not the only racial group in 2018 who were impacted by a film that centered their lives and culture:

Continue reading “Representation matters”

Representation matters

I think I’m done listening to Delilah

Image of radio host Delilah with curled blond hair, and left hand on left hip, in a black dress in front of an iHeart Radio emblazoned wall in Las Vegas
(image courtesy of Billboard)

Over the last few months that I’ve been jobless, I’ve spent many a night at home. I tend to keep the radio on to have some background noise bc I don’t have a television in my room and I don’t like having the volume on my computer turned up bc too many sites auto-play videos, which gets old fast. The only radio station I’ve listened to that I can regularly pick up out here in the middle of Nowheresville, USA is a local station that’s part of the iHeart network, and features Delilah Rene Luke. ‘Delilah’, as she is known to listeners, has been a radio personality since 1974, when she was 14. Her enormously popular, eponymous show (which has roughly 8 million listeners) begins at 7 pm CST and runs til 11 pm CST and is notable both for the atmosphere Delilah has created and her callers. She gives the show a relaxed, down home feeling, full of support, encouragement, hope, and words of love.  One of the hallmarks of the show are her listeners, who are encouraged to call or email the show to share their lives with her. They share stories of hope, joy, sorrow, and frustration. Every night, upwards of 50,000 people call hoping to talk to the famous host, but usually only 50-70 actually reach her (she screens the calls herself). Typically, the caller will request a song to be played as a dedication to a friend or loved one, but on a fairly regular basis the caller asks her to pick a song for them.

One particular segment of the show (one I suspect is quite popular) is the equivalent of the ‘Dear Abbey’ advice column. She selects a caller asking for advice on a subject, and a short time later, she offers her words of wisdom for the caller. In the time I’ve been regularly listening to her, I have heard Delilah offer a lot of advice. It didn’t take me long to notice a heavily religious slant behind not only her words of wisdom, but behind the whole show. Only recently did I learn that she is an Evangelical Christian. Discovering that was a light bulb moment. It explained why her guidance frequently came across as being of questionable merit. Rather than offering solutions to her guests that were based in reality and had evidence to back them up, her advice frequently, but not always, turns out to be some variant of ‘gods got the wheel’.

I usually tune out her recommendations when they are too god focused, and pay more attention when she offers up her personal, less divinely inspired solution for how a caller should handle a situation.  On occasion, I’ve written about her advice on Facebook. Sometimes, her wisdom is tolerable or even reasonable:

(note: The four sets of quoted material below are all reproductions of my own posts from Facebook)

Dude seems to be flailing in his search for an answer. On the one hand, he characterized his wife as “playing the role of the Wicked Stepmother to a T”.
On the other, he said his son is a teenager now (a recent development) and teens are “cr*zy anyway”.
So he seems to be blaming both of them, I guess. At any rate, he doesn’t know what to do, so he figured to call a popular radio show host with a hotline to god.

(not seeing any special qualifications that she has for solving his family problems. Yes, she’s a mother with several children, but without being part of their family and seeing the nature and extent of the tension, it’s really hard for anyone to say “AHA, here’s your problem”. In addition, I don’t think Delilah is a qualified therapist, so her advice wouldn’t necessarily be derived from evidence-based solutions)

To her credit, she noted something of importance–Dude referring to his wife as “playing the role of the Wicked Stepmother to a T”. Without saying “Dude, that’s a sexist stereotype. You really should treat your wife with more respect than reducing her down to a stereotype”, (which is totally something I would say, though there might be a little bit more ::ahem:: coarse language (“might be”? Ha)), she basically said IF she’s acting in this way and it’s not just his perception (or his son’s or both of theirs), then he needs to act to protect his child. Not having any further information–I don’t recall him mentioning any particular abuse his son experiences from her, for instance–I’m not really sure what he can or needs to protect him from. That’s a teensy quibble, not a significant problem, given her lack of information.

She then went on to say basically, that if it’s just his perception (or his son’s) and that’s not actually how his wife is acting, then they need to find a good family therapist. Which is what I think she should have started off with, TBH.


Sometimes it’s the most unhelpful, facile advice. The kind that would make you want your money back if your therapist offered it:


The fact that she is so beloved and respected (her Wiki page says upwards of 8 million ppl listen to her each week) amplifies the problem, bc listeners will hear her “encouraging” advice about drug addiction–‘move on, leave it behind’ (spoken, at least, with a note of care, rather than dispassionately)–and take that to heart, rather than seeking assistance and answers that have an evidence based approach to handling complex issues like grief and addiction.



Other times her suggestions are less compassionate and more authoritarian leaning:

On tonight’s episode of ‘No More Advice Delilah, Please’,
the radio personality gives her motherly advice to an 18-year old high school senior who is dating a Hispanic guy roughly her age. His parents have met her and are perfectly fine with their relationship. HER parents, OTOH, are anything but fine with it. Apparently her parents don’t want her dating outside her race. The issue at hand is that they have been dating for a while and she has had to lie to her parents about where she’s going and what she’s doing and she’s tired of doing that. She’s a star athlete, with great grades, is active in her church, and does community service work regularly. She feels she is a great child and that lying to her parents is antithetical to that status. OTOH, she cares deeply for her BF and doesn’t want to end the relationship. So Delilah, please tell the world:


If you know anything about the advice offered by Delilah, then you probably have some idea of the answer.

First of all, Delilah characterized the parents and their opposition to interracial relationships as ‘absurd’.

And. That’s. It.

I was screaming at the radio for her to call it what it is:

She couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. Way to beat around the bush.

The advice she offered kinda pissed me off too. She said “you live at home you have to follow the rules set forth by your parents”. Now, I get where she is coming from on this, and ultimately there is a lot of truth to that. Despite being 18 and an adult, the woman does live at home with her parents and is still in high school (I’m guessing this is a past episode or that this piece of mail came to Delilah after the school year ended), so her parents’ rules do have to be acknowledged.

But where I think Delilah went and gave her trademark bullshit advice is when she told the woman “you have to respect your parents’ rules and be honest with them”. Ummm, no. She is not required to respect her parents’ racism. And be honest with them? She’s an adult. If she wants to lie to her parents bc she is in a relationship, that’s her call. It’s not their business anyways.

Delilah basically told her to stop lying to her parents and suspend her relationship until she moves out of the house.

Me? I’d have given her advice on how to effectively hide the relationship until such time as she no longer lives at home (which might not happen immediately after high school and even if it does, going to college often happens with some kind of support from parents and that could be threatened). I’d have supported the woman and said she has every right to be in a relationship with the person she chooses. I’D HAVE FUCKING TOLD HER THAT HER PARENTS’ RULES ARE RACIST AS FUCK. She sent a letter asking for support and instead, Delilah tells her she’s up shit creek without a paddle for who knows how long.


Here, have another one of my “favorites” (where the word is spoken with as much contempt as possible):

Dude calls in to complain that he invited his mother to his college graduation months ago. She invited his father whom he did not want there.

Delilah tells the guy he cant change his mom from being codependent (dad is apparently toxic and emotionally unavailable & Delilah is somehow qualified to decide the mom is codependent over a phone call with the son). Nor can he change his father.

So her advice?

Forgive the father or the resentment with eat you alive.

There’s that toxic religious bullshit again.


Perhaps it _can_ consume you, but that is not a destined outcome and treating it as such is, once again, bullshit advice from Delilah.



Then there’s the counsel she gave a caller on tonight’s show. This crap took the cake and moved me firmly into the I don’t just dislike her and think she needs to be off the air, but I despise her camp:

Continue reading “I think I’m done listening to Delilah”

I think I’m done listening to Delilah