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Thursday, Apr 1, 2010

As filmmaker Kimberly Reed appeared on Oprah to discuss her film Prodigal Sons, a banner ran across the screen reading “Kimberly—born a boy”. With its soft purples and powdery feminine font this caption drew a soft, but immovable line between the purposes of the guest and the host on the show. While Oprah focused on Reed’s gender change as a personal journey that all can take heart from, Reed takes a far broader approach to transformation. In fact, one of the most important aspects of Prodigal Sons is that transgender issues are not the sole focus of the film. While exploring her gender is central to the film, Reed places her own transition against that of her adopted brother Marc—a man whose history of brain trauma and memory loss gradually destabilize him even as astounding secrets from his own past come to light. What unfolds is a tightly crafted story of how identity is formed and frayed and how families bind those identities with love and struggle. Oprah’s focus on the other hand is with “Kimberly—born a boy”. She questions Reed’s inner life as both a boy and a woman and talks with Reed’s mother and high school friends about their surprise at Reed’s revelations. While Oprah is always sympathetic and never once condescending, these are the same questions that have been aired and answered since the first transvestites and transgendered persons appeared on TV talk shows. From Donahue to Sally Jesse Raphael to Jerry Springer, the questions remain the same and the fascination with transgender issues stays fixed and immobile, in need of a transition itself.


Giving Oprah her due, her emphasis on Reed’s transformation matches her oft-espoused philosophies of self-determination in a more palatable fashion than the complexities of Prodigal Sons. Oprah goes so far as to advise viewers who may find Reed’s gender switch strange or even repulsive to look into their own lives for the self that needs to transform. Couched in such benevolence, it’s hard to fault Oprah for the focus on the simplistic and more sensational side of Reed’s story. Thankfully Reed’s elegant self-possession speaks as much about her comfort with the intelligence and complexities of her work as it does about her gender. To see Reed talking with Oprah is to see a confident woman who made a challenging film. To see Prodigal Sons is to see a film that tackles the inter-relations of gender, mental illness, and family love. In doing so, it may be the first documentary that places transgender issues on equal and normative footing with all other aspects of identity, memory, and self.


For more on Prodigal Sons and Kimberly Reed on Oprah, go to: oprah.com.



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Thursday, Apr 1, 2010
by PopMatters Staff

Mos Def makes a “super” appearance on the hip children’s TV show Yo Gabba Gabba. Somehow this just doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch.


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Wednesday, Mar 31, 2010

Glee returns to the airwaves 13 April and Fox released this latest promo that showcases star Lea Michelle’s take on Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”. While Glee has plenty to offer to those who aren’t into musical theater, it’s hard to blame those who knock the show right off the bat. You may want to give it a shot, even if it’s not your thing. It’s a cheeky high school satire in the vein of Election, it just happens to heavily feature its cast singing pop songs a cappella. It’s understandable, however, if outsiders can’t help but Fox’s continued insistence that the show is a “phenomenon” a bit grating.


Tagged as: fox, glee
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Wednesday, Mar 31, 2010
The coming attractions are misleading, but big things did happen.

In the beginning of this week’s episode, Sarah met one of her daughter’s teachers, Mr. Cyr (Joan of Arcadia’s Jason Ritter). After borrowing some nicotine gum, he mentioned Amber was one of his best students and raved about a book report she wrote. Later on, she discovered that Amber plagiarized the report that she wrote on the same book when she was in high school. Furiously declaring that she “ran out of punishments in Fresno”, Sarah then went to tell Mr. Cyr what happened. After she heard him speak so admirably about a report that her own teacher once lambasted and offer Amber a letter of recommendation for college, however, Sarah changed her mind. She did demand that Amber rewrite her report and “not let us down”, though.


Meanwhile, Julia dealt with a different problem with her daughter. Sydney has been playing with Racquel’s equally obnoxious daughter, Harmony, who won’t let her be the princess. Instead, she’s always picked to play the servant, the maid, or the cook. (I, for one, dealt with a similar problem when I was her age. Being of an independent spirit, I solved that by hanging out with the boys instead.) Anyways, Julia’s plan to get Sydney to stand up for herself backfired. Does this mean they will address Racquel and Harmony’s snobbishness in another episode?


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Tuesday, Mar 30, 2010
by Andy Edelstein / Newsday (MCT)

With April Fool’s Day arriving Thursday, it’s only right that we take a look at the five most foolish things we’ve seen on TV this season.


The Jay Leno Show (and NBC’s decision to eliminate 10 p.m. ET dramas) — No need to elaborate — this may actually go down as the most foolish decision in network-TV history.


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