Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who Is Venus Flytrap?

He's not speaking in a dungeon, really. It only looks that way because my camera is cheap and crappy.

The world needs more Tim Reids. Tim Reid was an articulate, insightful, thoughtful black man before Barack Obama made it fashionable. Long before Obama rose to rock star status after the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Reid quietly laid part of the path for him by chipping away at overt and covert racism through television and film. Reid has made it his life's work to bring real African-American people to us through his characters. Real people with real problems, joys, sorrows and triumphs. People that aren't based on exaggerated stereotypes and white perceptions of how black people "should" be. People that don't demean themselves by taking the path of low self-expectation. People that don't spend their energy denigrating themselves or others. People who, in short, don't cater to the lowest common denominators of our society, whether they be racist, misogynist or otherwise unable to see and respect our shared humanity.

Tim Reid was here at the store last night, and it was a rare treat to hear him speak. He spoke about passion and integrity in art and life. He spoke about the responsibility he felt to use his art to add something to the world. He lamented the lack of moral compass in today's artists, particularly comedians. He talked about the way young comedians of the hip-hop generation (whether black or white or whatever) spend a lot of time and energy trying to come up with new ways to be shocking, but not much time inventing new ways to be FUNNY. He talked about how our political correctness has taken a lot of the fun out of our culture.

What struck me maybe more than anything about his talk was that his voice was the same one in his memoir. The same quick, mildly self-deprecating wit came through in person as did in the book. Normally when a celebrity "writes" a book, they do little besides allow limited access to the person who REALLY writes it, and provide a name to stamp on the front. But Reid managed to once again, tell a very compelling story in his own voice in his memoir and, by doing that, has once again given us a real person to admire.

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