ABC’s ‘Life on Mars’ Rewrites Black History
By: Tolu Olorunda
Staff Writer – YourBlackWorld.com
In approximately 42 minutes, Life on Mars, a new ABC TV series, sought to do the impossible: Rewrite Black history. On Nov. 6th, ABC broadcast an episode called, Things to Do in New York When You Think You're Dead. The premise of this particular episode was centered on emerging racial tensions within Black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods, following the death of a 9-year old Black girl –believed to have been murdered by a Puerto Rican man. This watered-down version of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was, I presume, intended to promoted dialogue around issues of inter-racial fellowship. Unfortunately, such megalomaniac decisions by big-media companies have only, historically, intensified the problem. It’s like MSNBC claiming its exploitation of incarcerated inmates in the Lockdown series is only a means to an end of educating younger people of the dangerous and horrific conditions of prison life. Or worse, BET intimating that its obsession with the American Gangster series is a way of informing young Black and Brown kids of the history and peril of gang deathstyle. In short, such inference is devoid of logic.
In the ABC-produced episode, the infamous Black Liberation Army made a cameo. This time, neither Mutulu Shakur nor Geronimo Pratt was featured. Instead, ABC, in true corporate fashion, hired a couple of hefty looking Black men, whose portrayal as thugs with no conscience goes against everything the BLA really stood – and still stands – for. Those who know the history of the Black Panther Party are profoundly aware of the strict level of discipline exhibited by both the BLA and the BPP. But ABC wouldn’t take this into consideration. Why would they? Aren’t lies the new truth? Throughout the drama-filled episode, the fictional Black Liberation Army conducted themselves like rogues. ABC’s version of the inner-city missionaries seemed to be more obsessed with street justice and irrational conclusions, than the liberation of their people. With ABC’s ongoing revision of history, it seemed appropriate when a high-heel-mini-skirt-wearing “sistah” was trotted out as the legal representative of the arrested BLA members. Once again, it doesn’t take a fifth grader to track the inconsistencies involved in this farce of a show. ABC’s depiction of Black Panther Party female members, à la Saffiya Bukhari (God rest her soul) and Assata Shakur, as scantily-clad-Hip-Hop-video -eye-candies is a spit in the face of history. No doubt, this was intentional. Sensationalism (otherwise known as, distortion) in Hollywood has always received the green light (Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is a picture perfect example).
In the infantile mind of ABC’s production staff, Black liberation is acceptably reduced to an over-saturation of Afros, the word “dig,” and street-thuggery. Isn’t it interesting that the same media outlet (ABC) which commissioned the demonization of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright – for his gospel of Black Liberation Theology – saw it fit to rewrite the entire history of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s?
Worse than the blatant alteration of history is ABC’s cavalier attitude toward escalating tensions between Black and Brown communities, which has played itself out dramatically in recent history. ABC’s exploitation of the conflict between Black and Brown communities is, sadly to report, normative in the media beltway – especially at moments with healing on the horizon. The media has a long tradition of inflaming rising heights of racial tension. Right-wing ideologues like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage and Michael Reagan have built successful careers of doing just that. It is no wonder that the same white-media, which revels in indiscipline and self-absorption, is, at this moment, declaring to the world that Black people have overcome every impediment that might seek to limit their progress. One Newspaper would even declare racism a “myth.” Such hubristic calculations by the same people who advertised slave auctions on their papers is to be expected, but a non-reaction from the progressive Black and Brown communities would only lend credence to cooperate networks such as ABC, in prolonging the accepted tradition of rewriting and redefining history. To put it bluntly, big-name media is like cancer in the lungs of a new born: No good shall come out it.