The Privilege Denying Dude Meme Lives On!

So Diana Lopez about two weeks ago decided to create a meme (several examples surrounding) called Privilege Denying Dude, that according to Colorlines writer Channing Kennedy

stand[s] out [because] he directly, and strikingly, parodied the frat-boy culture that fuels much Internet comedy in the first place—privileged, incurious, and ready to educate you about what your problem is.

And the Bitch Magazine blog writer Kjerstin Johnson said this meme

shoveled smarm back in the face of the privileged cluelessness that litters YouTube and social-justice blog comment threads alike (not to mention IRL).

There were over 1,500 PDDs created on the Tumblr feed…and the photographer of the original photo has contacted several sites that put up meme-ed versions — and some have taken down the photos or replaced them with alternatives.

According to Jezebel, the reason for the not-quite takedown requests had to do with the terms of service for use of the original photo because the:

photographer argued that the use of the photo violated the content licensing agreement, and said the model [“young fashionable man” in the iStockphoto database] had been insulted for being associated by those messages.

Tiger Beatdown put the terms of service /contract/copyright issues into a Kanye West style ALL CAPS snark rant:




Thankfully, there is at least one volunteer to be the PDD — the dude in the sweater (and for some reason, the actor Ryan Gosling has also joined him).

But regardless of the original legalities (or not) of the original photo, this meme will live on, in the way memes do, because the purpose of this meme is to not to pay attention to law and attribution, but to share and share and share … something that is funny because it is what so many non-privileged people experience.

Because despite Audre Lorde’s statement about the masters’ tools on the internetz sometimes privilege can be taken down using its own tools:

Somewhere, deep down, all of us thought that we knew exactly what Privilege Denying Dude would say. We’d had that fight; we’d heard that excuse; we’d read that column. We knew Privilege Denying. We saw this dude’s face, and we knew exactly what it would say. But to have it meme-able — to have a lovable little puppet who could re-iterate everything that had ever made us angry, in bold white font denoting its inherent ridiculousness — was a boon we had not foreseen. Because it was stupid. It was quick. It was funny for approximately five seconds, which is as long as it took for us to scroll to the next post. IT WAS INTERNET.

Being a Princess Doesn’t (Have To) Mean What You Think It Means

I’ve thought about princesses more in the past week than I have in a couple of decades. I read an essay on  this morning, “There are no Black Kate Middletons” in which writer Helena Andrews laments the lack of black celebrities with which Black women can project their fairy tale fantasies, a la British princess-to-be Kate Middleton.

My first thought when reading the article was “who cares! there are better things to be than a British royal anyway”  But after reading the article again I realized I may have missed another of Andrews’ points: that black women must always consider their burden of race and (often) class, even in fantasy. Her case in point, the recent Disney film, The Princess and the Frog, which features a black female waitress who works and saves money to fulfill her dream to be a restaurant owner.  Andrews says:

As an adult I recognize that the fairy tales I told myself as a kid don’t always come true. That being a “strong black woman” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. That there are indeed many cracks in that stank face. That the bitch armor — chinks and all — is no lasting replacement for a knight in shining armor. Nevertheless, I was excited last year when Disney released The Princess and the Frog. Black women and girls everywhere were overjoyed that finally they’d get to see themselves on the big screen. But the movie didn’t tell your typical princess story… Of course, when we get our princess, she’s pushing a broom and counting her pennies. “It serves me right for wishing on stars,” Tiana laments once she’s transformed from a waitress into an amphibian. “The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work….”

Continue reading

Is the Golden Age of Blogging Over? Part Two

We’ve talked about blogging’s premature death announcement way back in 2008, and it’s interesting for me to read how I felt back then about the future of blogging as I set here in the present. Back in 2008 I said:

Clearly, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, who needs a blog to get your ideas across, right? [but] blogging has evolved as a medium, as all media do. I don’t think this evolution will affect the old workhorses of the so-called “blogosphere,” the ones who started blogs back in 2002 or earlier, who now blog out of habit, or because they have something new and creative to share, or they have an audience of friends and acquaintances and random people who read regularly.”

In some ways i was pretty wrong and Paul Boutin, who wrote the original “Blogging is Dead” article for Wired was more spot-on than I ever thought. Long gone are the days when having “blogger” on your resume was a mark of shame. Check out the reports from Technorati’s 2009 “State of the Blogosphere Thousands of professional and semi professional bloggers are making a living through their blogs in ways unheard of back in 2002. Meanwhile, hobbyist bloggers have updated less and less, moving to microblogs like Twitter and Tumblr to express themselves.

This evolution has fundamentally changed what it means to be a blogger, with new bloggers jumping into the fray with the intent of making it a career direction, rather than something to do for fun or as a hobby. Which is fine, I am personally thrilled there are opportunities for individuals to create careers from their passion.

On the other hand, those bloggers that have no interest in monetizing their blog, and simply want to create a platform for their own creativity are now the outliers. Expression and inspiration threatens to take a back seat to SEO strategy and personal branding. Again, not a bad thing for professional blogs, but it is a bit sad to see the end of an era, where anyone with an original voice and a personal passion could build an audience through serendipity.

Still, I disagree that old school bloggers should hang up their hats, or that new bloggers shouldn’t bother. There is still room for original voices and new ideas in the blogosphere; it just means that hobbyist bloggers may have to work a lot harder for an audience.

Is the Golden Age of Blogging Over? Part One

Considering social media avenues (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr) getting attention and stories about “the death of blogging” starting about five years ago, is blogging, as the kids say, so over? (Editor’s note: The kids don’t really say that).

What blogging is has changed over time — moving from the simple logging of events to serving as an online diary to many different things — a meld of personal/professional writing, updates about a specific fandom, group blogs around a theme, and a means of reaching out to users/customers.

But many have also stopped blogging. Some blogs have stopped because of too much personal information being found out by employers or others, some due to lack of interest in the topic, some because the purpose blogging served in their lives is now filled by social media, as well as other reasons.

Perhaps the naive high point for blogging was when Mimi Smartypants got a book deal for the first couple of years of her blog. But other bloggers didn’t get similar deals (but she *is* still blogging).

And blogging is hard work. Even if one doesn’t post everyday — or week, blogs require the maintenance of  new posts, through coming up with new ideas, and writing those posts. We’ve certainly struggled with keeping The Learned Fangirl on-point, relevant, and interesting over 175 posts in the past three years.

So many blogs have fallen by the wayside over the years, including some of my favorites, including Sivacracy, where Siva Vaidhyanathan described the end of his blog thusly

So why am I suspending this blog? Mainly, it’s a distraction from my day jobs. I have a massive and painful book deadline coming up. If I continued to blog daily about the election and the state of the world and everything else I would drive myself and everyone around me crazy.

Plus, this is less fun than it used to be. Back in 2004 it seemed fun. Blogs were the bomb. Now, I think my blogging voice is hoarse. And I am tired.

More recently, Bitch PhD also closed its doors. But most blogs fade away when they die, to be sucked into spambotland.

In a followup post, we’ll write about the change in the economics of blogging.

Nine Inch Nails fan video project rebrands as pan-fandom collective

Interesting news for both fans of NIN and followers of fan culture, fan-works and ownership. The grassroots fan organized video production collective This One is On Us made some waves for their organization and dedication to documenting Nine Inch Nails last tour with high-quality video and audio recording. As mentioned in a TLF post from last year, this was done with the  approval of Trent Reznor, who loosened venue taping policies so that fans could participate. And as we presented at MIT, Nine Inch Nails has been highly supportive of fan remix/reuse.

With NIN on an indefinite hiatus, the TOIOU  fan community has announced a “rebranding” of the collective, now with  a broader, pan-fandom focus. The organization will no longer be NIN specific, based on the collective’s early draft of a mission statement, that states:

We aim to restore live music as a shared, passionate entity, and work with those who embrace new media and the realities of the Internet to build on their relationship with fans through collaboration and to create unique documents of their live events. Providing organizational, technical and financial support, we encourage fan communities to plan and execute first-rate film and audio recordings, and turn the resulting content into professional quality releases.

In addition, the organizers intend to formally establish TOIOU as a non-profit organization.

Interesting news, and worth watching. TOIOU was able to exist and succeed based in part because of the unusually collaborative and open relationship between Reznor and his fans. If TOIOU is to take this model and attempt to replicate it in other music fandoms, particularly for mainstream, big-ticket musical artists with particularly devoted live fanbases,  but a more restrictive approach to fan relations. I expect challenges for the group in future.

Metallica and their historically tight rein on fan-produced live recordings comes to mind because the band has been charging members for high-quality recordings of live performances for years now (yet they have also previously made money from fan recordings). Will TOIOU become a sort of fan advocacy organization? One that assists  fan-producers with the infrastructure support to pull of what the NIN fandom did? The current draft of the mission statement seems to imply this, but it is, admittedly, a work in progress.

YouTube has become a sort of live music library where fans (including myself) may share and upload videos of their favorite musician’s latest performances. For live music junkies there’s opportunity in this.  For record labels and big-ticket live music  promoters, there is a perceived threat. TOIOU has a lot of work cut our for it, but I am excited to see where it goes next.

Guide for the Perplexed: Heavy Metal 101

Last week I (Keidra) participated in Heavy Metal 101,   part of a monthly series organized by Chicago creative collectives Homeroom and You, Me Them, Everybody. Thanks to Fred Sasaki for the invitation, Nell Taylor for the introduction, and co-presenters Michael Robbins and Bryan Wendorf for a great conversation. It was a blast.

Inspired by the interest we’ve had and the success of that event, we at The Learned Fangirl decided to start a new series of posts on varied aspects of fandom for beginners. We are calling them “Guide for the Perplexed” and my (tequila fueled) Heavy Metal 101 PowerPoint presentation will kick it off.

Some readers may already know that I have a long and passionate history of metal fandom, most notably recounted in an essay I wrote for Bitch Magazine a few years ago. Since that essay was published, my metal fandom re-emerged stronger than ever, and I hope to explore some aspects of metal fan culture a bit further in subsequent blog posts.

Paycheck or Passion: What Makes a Creative Effort Worthwhile?

It’s November; ’tis the season of month-long marathon creative endeavors, such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) For NaNoWriMo, participants aim to complete an original novel-length manuscript within a month.

NaNoWriMo has existed for over a decade now and has grown into a subculture of sorts, spilling into offline participation and local chapters that meet at coffeeshops and restaurants to write and cheer each other on. For some, I suspect the in-person community of NaNoWriMo means as much, if not more, than the creative process of writing.

Salon writer Laura Miller took aim at NaNoWriMo a couple of days ago, an anti-NaNoWriMo screed which derides the process as a breeding ground of sub-standard literature, filling amateur novelists with false hope of publication and a potential audience.

Miller may indeed be correct in her assumption, but here’s what bugged me ab0ut her rant:

… NaNoWriMo is an event geared entirely toward writers, which means it’s largely unnecessary. When I recently stumbled across a list of promotional ideas for bookstores seeking to jump on the bandwagon, true dismay set in. “Write Your Novel Here” was the suggested motto for an in-store NaNoWriMo event. It was yet another depressing sign that the cultural spaces once dedicated to the selfless art of reading are being taken over by the narcissistic commerce of writing. (italics my own)

While I am sure far too many NaNoWriMo participants use the exercise as a (possibly) misguided springboard into pro writing. But it’s troubling to me that Miller can’t fathom the idea that not all participants in NaNo (or writing in general) participate with commerce as an endgame.

It troubles me, but it doesn’t surprise me. Creative expression in general -writing, visual art, photography, music – seems to be regarded as culturally useless unless attached to some kind of commercial goal. The process of creating  art or media just because is not applauded, only evaluated for its commercial potential. Miller’s thesis is rooted in the mass-media mindset of “professional creatives create, consumers consume and never the twain shall meet.”

Consumption of  “professional” creative work is valued and rewarded more than creative play. That is just a fact.

But why is a writer (or artist or musician)  not perceived as “real” or “legitimate” unless they are being paid to perform or share their work?  Why are they derided if they don’t care about being paid? Why is the emotional currency of creating and sharing creative work  – not valued unless it is professionalized?

For a number of NaNoWriMo participants, the process, not the result, is the true currency. The opportunity to stretch a creative muscle, meet new friends, freely write smut for their own amusement (oh wait, i guess that was why I did NaNo last year.) It’s about passion, not commerce.

Miller misses the mark on another point: creatives do consume. I don’t know any writer, amateur or professional, who is not an avid reader as well. Most musicians are music geeks, most filmmakers are film buffs. It’s more than condescending to tell individuals to “sit back and let the professionals do their job” rather than engage in a pastime they take pleasure in.

So write on, NaNoWriMo’s! Creative expression should belong to everyone, not just for those who wish to earn a living from it.