2016 was my Year Of No White Men. I did not engage with (reading, watching, etc) any culture in which the prime authorial voice was a white male.
Ground Rules and Exceptions:
- Prime authorial voice differed by genre: playwrights write plays, but Directors are the prime voice in film.
- I did not apply this rule to News or to Music, except in the case of attending live music or purchasing new music.
- I granted exceptions for compellingly representational culture: Ghostbusters was co-written and directed by a white man, but the focal point and raison d'etre was so fully women that I excepted it. Same with Fantastic Beasts: this is JK Rowling's universe and her screenplay, so she is the author, even though a white man directed.
What I learned:
1. Hollywood is awful. Any number of weekends Lovah & I simply could not find a film playing in Boston that qualified. We saw maybe 10 films in theatres this year. It became so bad I started to look out for upcoming NWM films to have them on radar. This became a running joke as I have been pitching HIDDEN FIGURES as a film to watch since July. And it's awful that 2016 is supposedly much better than 2015. (I'll grant you it is for actors; but NOT for directors).
2. Education in this country is worse. We all know education, particularly of our history, is slanted and exclusionary. However, constantly reading alternative versions or writers who called this out ripped the scales off my eyes. For continued awareness of just how bad it is (and it's not getting better), I highly recommend: Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and The Indigenous People's History of the United States.
3. TV is Woke. Y'all there is so much great TV being made in the #YONWM. Highlights for me: Atlanta, Fleabag & Crashing (both created by powerhouse writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge); Luke Cage, Veep (another exception: created by a white man but feels so necessarily for and of Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
4. "Do You Miss it?" Most asked question of the year when I told people about this project (all truth: typically from white folks) was "Do you miss it." No. No I don't miss reading or watching white men. We are everywhere. I hear the thoughts of white men every waking moment. It feels good to step out.
5. More Live Non-Theatre. I see a lot of theatre. This year, not so much. (This was half my schedule and half b/c ppl doing white men). Two huge highlights were live performances outside the realm of theatre: Trajal Harrell's Paris is Burning at Judson Church, dance performance at the ICA. And Jenny Lewis' Rabbit Fur Coat concert at the Wang (Thanks Jessie!). I truly hope to keep expanding past theatre in 2017.
6. Money Talks. I bought books, music, art, and paid money to see things this year. All totaled i spent something in the range of $650 - $800 (this is not counting tickets to Hamilton which I bought in 2015). That's a good bit of cheddar and it's good to know where that's going.
7. Share & Declare: My favorite part of the year was sharing what I was taking in. Sometimes through conversation, sometimes through my many Facebook surveys, sometimes just on the train. Not that this changed the world, but the number of people who wanted to hear about the Project, or what I was reading was pretty great.
But my favorite reactions were on the trains. I counted 5 people (all white) who saw me reading "Indigenous People's History..." and wrote down the title. My favorite was one week in November: one day a dude on my commute saw me reading Amy Schumer's The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo. Next day, same dude saw me with THe Autobiography of Malcolm X. The head-tilt made my whole year worthwhile.
What we read, what we declare, and what we spend our money on is infectious. Other people take note (especially in the time of algorithm shopping).
It's your culture. Absorb it Wisely.