Friday, June 12, 2020

we wouldn’t go to the cops

Chris dances and mouths along to "Then He Kissed Me" and she dresses in black and white, which is an easy segue into her later dancing and singing--"Babysitting Blues"--at the Silver Dollar Room. Which, out of all the various messages one could take from this film regarding the "urban" world, is maybe the worst. I say maybe because the car theft ring is a pretty bad thing, but feels more opportunistic and less systemic. Wandering into a blues bar and immediately owning the stage when forced to perform--that's got bigger implications. Again, maybe.


Albert Gene Drewery, better known as Albert Collins or the Ice Man, plays himself. He's the guitarist/singer running the stage at the club. Playing more like a nobody in a small club than who he really is (even thought he is credited as self... on IMDb; he is not in the cast list at the end of the film). This same year, he had been the musical guest on Late Night with David Letterman and in 1988 he would perform in a group with B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Meanwhile, white girl shows up while babysitting kids who live in suburbia with frickin' Norman Rockwell paintings (or at least Saturday Evening Post covers) on their living room wall. It's white as white can be, and Chris may be just babysitting but she's right out of the white Chicago suburbs herself. Brenda compares their lives to Dairy Queen with just one flavor, and they need to get out of it.

And, what does the white girl do in the city?

She not only performs to a very enthusiastic black audience in the club (and an enthusiastic white audience watching the film), she befriends a black car thief, outwits the black and white heads of the car theft ring, and stands up to street gangs on the subway. Plus, while the movie makes a nice point of her white suburban boyfriend being a two-timing asshole, it offers up George Newbern as college white guy savior. Basically, it tries to have its cake and eat it too.
 
 
 
 
 
Apropos of nothing, I offer up the following from Riobueno (2012) regarding Hemingway (I'll explain the connection in a moment):
Ernest Heminway and the white, male characters he crafted have become synonymous with Canonical literatire's misogyny, racism, and in general a troublingly nonexistent concern for minorities, or anyone that is not white and male.
Chris may have a gender-neutral name, but maybe it's progressive that she presents female and does the aforementioned performing in the blue club, standing up to gangs on the subway, and whatnot.While there doesn't seem to be a Hemingway High School around Chicago, there Ernest Hemingway graduated from Oak Park High School. Chris says she's from Oak Park when she's on stage at the Silver Dollar Room, and both Brad and Brenda wear Hemingway High jackets.

And then there's this bit from Johnson (2018):
Oak Park likes to think of itself as a little bastion of diversity, a belief rooted both in its current demographics and in the town's remarkable maneuvering to fight the "white flight" that was going on in neighborhoods all around it in the last 1960s... 

There was an active Ku Klux Klan chapter in Oak Park. The homes of some early African American residents were firebombed.
Because this notion that the city is dangerous and there are, you know, different kinds of people there, isn't reserved for films. White suburbia freaks the fuck out when that "other" tries to move in. And, everything in the film about "the city" being dangerous is rooted in that.

But, white girl's bad night is upended all over again when her boyfriend went out with another girl (and lied about his sister being sick), because in the world of family-friendly comedy, a cheating boyfriend is equally as bad as black people and other strangers trying to kill you.
WORK CITED
Johnson, S. (2018, September 26). "Story of Oak Park fending off 'white flight' is told in frank detail in at new village history museum." Chicago Tribune.

Riobueno, M. (2012). "Injustice Everywhere: Hemingway's Struggle with Race, Gender, and Aesthetics." FIU Digital Commons.

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