You might know the stories of Malala Yousafzai, Anne Frank, Jazz Jennings, and Joan of Arc. But have you heard about Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee who swam a sinking boat to shore, saved twenty lives, then went on to compete as an Olympic swimmer? Or Trisha Prabhu, who invented an anti-cyberbullying app at age 13? Or Barbara Rose Johns, whose high school protest helped spark the civil rights movement? Tavi Gevinson started
Native American sisters Jude and Shoni Schimmel are champion basketball players. The young poets of Muslim Girls Making Change compete in poetry slams and lead workshops. Tavi Gevinson began blogging about fashion at age 9 and went on to cover Fashion Week in New York at age 12 and create a very popular magazine for and about teen girls, and then go on to act in movies and on Broadway. Marley Dias began the #1000BlackGirlBooks movement at age 11 and wrote a book of her own at age 12. And S.E. Hinton ignored the teacher who told her she was not a good writer. The book she wrote at age 16, The Outsiders, is beloved by generations of young readers.
The book is engaging and inspiring — highly recommended for readers of all ages and genders.
What do “Wall Street” and the “Star Wars” saga and, seemingly, about half the movies ever made have in common? They are about fathers. In “Wall Street,” Charlie Sheen plays the ambitious Bud, who respects the integrity of his blue-collar father, played by his real-life father, Martin Sheen. But Bud is dazzled by the money and power and energy of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). The movie will up the ante with Bud’s father’s heart attack as we see him struggle between the examples and guidance of these two male role models.
In “Star Wars,” Luke (Mark Hamill) does not know until halfway through the original trilogy that (spoiler alert) the evil Darth Vader is his father. He was raised by his aunt and uncle, who are killed very early in the first film, but the father figures who are most meaningful in his life are the Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Like Bud in “Wall Street,” Luke must choose between the good and bad father figures. Like Luke, Harry Potter is raised by an aunt and uncle, but he finds a true father figure later. For Harry, it is headmaster Albus Dumbledore. In opposition is He Who Must Not Be Named. Like Luke, Harry has the opportunity for great power on the dark side, but he lives up to the example set for him by Dumbledore.
The first stories ever recorded are about fathers. The central human struggle to reconcile the need for a father’s approval and the need to out-do him is reflected in the “hero of a thousand faces” myths that occur in every culture. In Greek mythology, Zeus is the son of a god who swallowed his children to prevent them from besting him. Zeus, hidden by his mother, grows up to defeat his father and become the king of the gods. Ancient Greece also produced the story of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, and The Odyssey, whose narrator tells us “it is a wise man who knows his own father.”
These themes continue to be reflected in contemporary storytelling, including films that explore every aspect of the relationship between fathers and their children. There are kind, understanding fathers whose guidance and example is foundation for the way their children see the world. There are cruel, withholding fathers who leave scars and pain that their children spend the rest of their lives trying to heal. There are movies that reflect the off-screen real-life father-child relationships. Martin Sheen not only played his son’s father in “Wall Street;” he played the father of his other son, Emilio Estevez, in “The Way,” which was written and directed by Estevez, and which is about a father’s loss of his son. Will Smith has appeared with his son Jaden in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “After Earth.” John Mills appeared with his daughter Hayley in “Tiger Bay,” “The Truth About Spring,” and “The Chalk Garden.” Ryan and Tatum O’Neill memorably appeared together in “Paper Moon.” Jane Fonda produced and starred in “On Golden Pond” and cast her father Henry as the estranged father of her character. Jon Voight played the father of his real-life daughter Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider.” And Mario Van Peebles, whose father cast him as the younger version of the character he played in “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song” made a movie about the making of that film when he grew up. It is called “Badasssss!” In the role of Melvin Van Peebles he cast himself.
Director John Huston deserves some sort of “Father’s Day” award. He directed both his father and his daughter in Oscar-winning performances, Walter Huston in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and Anjelica Huston in “Prizzi’s Honor.”
Some actors known for very non-paternal roles have delivered very touching performances as fathers. Edward G. Robinson is best remembered for playing tough guys, but in “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” he gave a beautiful performance as a farmer who loves his daughter (Margaret O’Brien) deeply. Cary Grant, known for sophisticated romance, played loving – if often frustrated — fathers in “Houseboat” and “Room for One More.” “Batman” and “Beetlejuice” star Michael Keaton was also “Mr. Mom.” Comedian Albert Brooks is a devoted father in “Finding Nemo.”
There are memorable movie fathers in comedies (“Austin Powers,” “A Christmas Story”) and dramas (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Boyz N the Hood”), in classics (“Gone With the Wind”), documentaries (“Chimpanzee,” “The Other F Word”), and animation (“The Lion King,” “The Incredibles”). There are great fathers (“Andy Hardy”) and terrible fathers (“The Shining”). There are fathers who take care of us (“John Q”) and fathers we have to take care of (“I Never Sang for My Father”). All of them are ways to try to understand, to reconcile, and to pay tribute to the men who, for better or worse, set our first example of how to decide who we are and what we will mean in the world.
Why Fact-Checked Journalism Matters — Interview with Newsman Tim Ortman
Posted on May 24, 2018 at 8:00 am
Tim Ortman, a former cameraman and producer for every major U.S. television news network and the Foreign Press Corps, believes that too many people, especially younger people, are making the mistake of relying on social media as trustworthy news outlets. His new book, Newsreal: A View Through the Lens When…, is filled with stories about his experiences as a newsman in the years when there were just four television networks, with enormous budgets and loyal viewers. And he addresses the impact of cable news and social media on the news, on us, and on our country. In an interview, he discussed fake news, social media, and confirmation bias, and the vital importance of objective, demanding news outlets in a democracy.
Is there more fake news now or are we just more aware of it? Or more able to make it go viral so that it reaches more people?
During the time period Newsreal, A View Through the Lens, When… takes place, there were only four major American news networks and the reporting was factual and straight-forward. Today, what is referred to as fake news is flourishing online. Social media sites often regurgitate news reports from legitimate news sources (IE: NBC News, NY Times, etc.). These reports are then redistributed, often times anonymously, by a mysterious network of trolls, bots and algorithms. With no journalistic oversight, the initial reports become so layered with opinion and conjecture that it no longer resembles the original real news story. This sort of delivery method allows for the viral growth, and subsequent distortion of stories that may have started as genuine news by a real news source but morph into little more than misrepresentation and opinion.
What are some of the indicators of a reliable news source?
Ownership. If a news organization assigns its own reporter or correspondent to write or broadcast a news report, both the company’s and reporter’s name are ‘on the line’, responsible for the validity and accuracy of that report. This ensures that a thorough vetting process is run where facts are checked and sources confirmed.
The President and many other public figures accuse the mainstream media of bias. Is that fair? What is the best way to evaluate those claims?
Donald Trump is the President of the United States (POTUS). It is the job of the news media to report on the President. Almost every President in our nation’s history has taken issue with some story, report or coverage they received. It is inherent with the job. And yet, almost every President in our nations history has recognized a strong and uncensored press is a cornerstone of our Democracy. Two term President George W. Bush (43) was the recipient of much unflattering yet honest coverage while in office. After leaving office, he said, “Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive. And, it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”
Is there a risk that relying on media sources, even reliable ones, can perpetuate echo chambers and confirmation bias?
We are fortunate to live in a free society that offers us a plethora of reliable media sources. I’ve traveled to numerous countries devoid of that privilege. With so many sources operating in a 24-hour news cycle, echo chambers are inevitable. As news consumers, it’s best to aim for a balanced diet of news and information as opposed to gorging on one site, paper or channel. This can help reduce the craving for conformation bias.
What is fake news, and is that term mis-applied?
I mentioned online fake news previously. However, my intentional misspelling of Newsreal was intended to address the all-too-popular use of the term “fake news” as it’s been applied to print and broadcast journalism. I don’t buy it. It is intended as a smokescreen; a diversionary tactic to distract the viewer/readers attention away from a story that’s not flattering or complementary, but at its core, factual and correct. By applying the label “fake news,” the aim is to lessen or totally dismiss a truthful report. Truth can be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but that doesn’t make it false or fake. As news consumers, we have become too quick to believe in this artificial labeling.
How has “liking” and “retweeting” affected the dissemination of news stories, both legitimate and fake?
I can only speak to legitimate news and the business of fact-based news should never be a popularity contest. Likes and dislikes have absolutely no place in the delivery of unbiased journalism, and for good reason. Reporters should be free to report the truth regardless of how it will be received. The search for truth can sometimes be a circuitous path. What may seem like an unpopular story initially can develop a ground-swell of support once all the facts are on display. Real news should not be packaged to appear more appealing or ‘liked’.
What is the biggest threat to independent news media?
The external criticism of the news media has little affect of true journalists. They louder the outcry, the more emboldened and dedicated the journalistic community becomes. The real threat comes from within when corporate policy dictates what is and what isn’t news. We saw this with the Sinclair Broadcasting Group scandal where the media giant, who owns 173 television stations, forced anchormen and women systemwide to read an on-air script prepared by Sinclair management. This blurred the line between the company’s beliefs and independent reporting.
Why do you call your time in the business the golden era? What did we have then that we no longer have?
The big-three networks (NBC, CBS and ABC) made their profits from their prime-time line-up with shows like Cheers and Seinfeld. Profitability wasn’t the guiding principle within the news divisions where news coverage was viewed as a civic obligation or “higher calling.” Anchormen were more trusted than Presidents and audience ratings were twice what they are today.
Additionally, each network had news bureaus in every major city and capital around the world. This made for very powerful yet very agile global news operations that could mobilize to cover news wherever and whenever it happened.
Where will our children get their news when they become adults?
Tough question as I have no idea what the news landscape will look like in the future. I only hope that as the next generation turns off the TV and turns on other devices, the content being viewed includes a healthy dose of news and information from around the world. We are the most powerful nation on earth. We owe it to ourselves, and to those Americans who came before us to be the most well-informed nation was well as the most powerful.
The Real Rainbow: “black-ish” Inspiration Dr. Rainbow Edwards Barris on Parenting, Marriage, and What You Don’t See on TV
Posted on May 22, 2018 at 8:00 am
Last weekend at DC’s first-ever Momference, doctor, mother of six, and inspiration for her namesake character on the hit television series, “black-ish,” Rainbow Edwards-Barris described a conversation she had with one of her sons after he was less than polite to her friend. “I told him to treat a girl like she is treasured and honored and honorable,” she said. “It is important to instill in my boys especially.” The Momference was a truly inspiring event “designed to Engage, Equip and Empower the melanated, millennial mom.” I wrote about it for Medium. Edwards-Barris was one of the highlights and I had a chance to talk to her one-on-one about her new book, written in the voice of the character she inspired, Dr. Rainbow Johnson, portrayed by Tracee Ellis Ross.
Dr. Barris told me that she recently discovered notes she had made nine years ago, long before “black-ish,” with some of her thoughts about parenting, and that helped her begin to think about what she wanted to cover in her wise, funny, and inspiring book. I asked if she ever found herself doing something her mother did that she swore she would never do, and she admitted she had finally resorted to a “Because I said so.” But “I corrected myself. I went back and told him I made a mistake. I said, ‘You’re teaching me as much as I hope I’m teaching you.’” She said that her husband, Kenya Barris, asked how she would feel about a storyline on “black-ish” about the Johnsons having marital problems. “I was very supportive that it show this side of the couple, so people know they’re not alone. No one’s life is perfect. Couples go through tough times but it is not not repairable, not something that can’t be overcome, not something that can’t be a lesson.” The book gives you “the episodes you don’t see on television, and it gives you Rainbow’s perspective.” Both Rainbows.
No relationship is more primal, more fraught, more influential, more worried over, more nourishing when good and more devastating when bad that our connection to our mothers. Mom inspires a lot of movies in every possible category, from comedy to romance to drama to crime to animation to horror, from the lowest-budget indie to the biggest-budget prestige film. A lot of women have been nominated for Oscars for playing mothers and just about every actress over age 20 has appeared as a mother in at least one movie. From beloved Marmee in “Little Women” (three great movie versions and a new miniseries coming to PBS) and Mrs. Brown in “National Velvet” to mean moms in “Now Voyager” and “Mommie Dearest.” Oscar winning classics and neglected gems, based on real-life like Sally Fields in “Places in the Heart” or fantasy like Dumbo’s lullaby-singing elephant mom, these are all must-see movies.