TikTok is that app that is sticking to the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and this time it’s because of the threat of a TikTok ban from President Trump. I’ll be honest, when I think of TikTok I do not think of the ban as the first problem facing this app. Why? Because while I applaud TikTok for democratizing online virality and being a new frontier, it’s quickly become as toxic as some of the more established social media platforms.
Some of the toxic behavior on TikTok is evident. This infamous behavior includes popular TikTok creators caught partying in a pandemic, to the many irrelevant feuds between its creators. I respect TikTok for giving a new generation of creators of different backgrounds and identities space. However, I do not agree with how TikTok has been slow, and sometimes absent, to protect or elevate its Black and BIPOC creators when their culture is constantly being appropriated.
What I want to discuss is the countless examples of cultural appropriation of Black culture, and BIPOC culture, when it comes to what has made these top creators the, “top.” Again, I understand the need for apps like TikTok which can be used as tools for socials change, we need to also hold its creators accountable to the same degree we hold other influencers to a standard. I operate within the framework that the personal is political. You don’t need a formal training in star studies or rhetorical criticism to understand that concepts like the commodity fetish, cultural appropriation, and the navigation of race exist in celebrity identity. Think of Kim Kardashian and her many call outs for cultural appropriation.
One of the most political tools we as humans have is our bodies. The way we walk, our dance, our fashion, our bodies have access to languages with its own sets of grammar and style. When the Black Lives Matter movement broke into TikTok there was an outcry that was long overdue. Black TikTok creators and Black culture was being blocked, not shared, and diluted. And non-BIPOC creators and non-Black creators steadily grew their influence appropriating Black culture.
Instead of a TikTok Ban Let’s Talk About Cultural Appropriation
The reason I'm writing this is because I continue to see dance and music that is localized and born from within Black culture being appropriated for the growth of non-Black TikTok creators. In case you're wondering, I am Latino and part of the Latinx community. I raise this point because know the importance of speaking out when I see actions that need to be called out - called out. I also know a thing or two about media representation because I both work in the entertainment industry and my undergraduate training was in rhetorical and media criticism, with a focus on new media. Yup, I have a lot of big words in my vocabulary always ready.
The post that sparked this piece was a duet by two TikTok dancers, Tony Lopez (@tonylopez) and Sarah-Jade Bleau (@sjbleau). As I scrolled threw the comments I saw dozens of people saying how, "cool" they looked and praising them. My problem with the duet and their performance of the song, "100 Racks" is that along with being remixed to have a Caribbean inspired beat the dance itself is stolen from Caribbean culture. I recognized these movements because many of my peers in college studied Caribbean dance and the same movements, gestures, and facial expressions exist in that medium of performance. Both TikTokers call themselves dancers, but what I ask is, "Where is your credit to this dance's culture?" On both creators accounts I have not seen any nods to Black culture which they heavily profit off of. There's a clear difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation and my gut tells me this is blatant appropriation. Without pointing to Black creators who may have first performed the dance, or the sources where they learned some, young people seeing this duet might just think it's just a, "cool looking" dance.
Well sorry to break it to you, the dance performed by not only these TikTokers but by any of your favorites are rooted in oppression and acts of protest. These dances convey a history, meaning, and culture that non-Black creators and non-BIPOC creators are profiting off. The consequence of this dance is that it leaves Black creators without credit and without their own culture to celebrate because it could be seen as out of trend by the time they do it.
The TikTok ban has scared many creators into pushing their fans to other social media platforms to help them maintain influence. In trying to funnel their fans into different content channels many creators are also still maintain their regular posting schedule. In writing this piece the words like patriarchy, heteronormativity, and commodity fetish rolled off my tongue on onto the page. Like all platforms, TikTok has space for transgressive representation. But the problem is that the performance part of TikTok, I’m talking about dance, is being ignored. Altering appearance through getting dressed is just one part of how creators can negotiate their representation in relation to race, class, and gender.
Writing is a process that for better or worse defines who I am. And my writing has cemented itself in themes of identity, politics, and media. I write because I want to be heard. TikTokers do what they do because they want to be seen. I admire the young creatives, younger than me and I'm only 23, who built a platform for themself on TikTok. I also understand that the TikTok ban poses serious questions about free speech. Yet, with the worry that President Trump's ban can impose we need to also look internally at the issues happening within TikTok itself. We need to ask, "How can we hold these TikTokers accountable?" YouTube has gone ahead and demonetized problematic creators. We need TikTok to release guidelines that actually curtail behavior that's problematic and insensitive. Whether it's banning creators or something of that nature - a change in TikTok culture needs to happen.
My writing is not shy of presenting the personal as political. I’m usually pushing out criticism sometimes on the most personal texts; the embodied. Our bodies are rhetorical, and people often forget. Writing about film, the grammar of a TV show, or the cultural appropriation in a TikTok dance has as much merit to raising social consciousness as the person writing for the 15th time about Shakespeare’s sonnets.
I'm curious to know, what are your thoughts on the TikTok ban? Can you think of any examples of the cultural appropriation I'm talking about? Let me know in the comments below or tag me on social media @Willsshowem
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post!
Over the last few years Hollywood has had a rude awakening to the cries of audiences, industry insiders, and creatives saying, “Representation matters!” I am Latino and I have a dilemma with both my passion and profession in the media industry. I love this year’s 2020 Emmy nominations, but I’m also disappointed to see that no Latinx series, talent, or stories were recognized by the TV Academy’s members. It’s very important I make this distinction because people don’t know who or how shows get nominated, and I’m here to tell you how exactly it goes down.
My opportunity to start working in the entertainment industry came after the watershed moment of #OscarsSoWhite back in 2017 when I became part of The Academy’s Academy Gold Internship Program. This was quite literally my golden ticket into being in the know within entertainment. From movements like #MeToo and Latino leaders called for a boycott of Paramount studios after seeing a lack of Latino representation in film, I heard it from within the industry first.
2020 Emmy Nominations: Latinx Shows and Acting Absent
As I advanced in my career, I had a front row seat to other landmark movements calling for representation. And as these moments unfold, they offered both hope and heartbreak to young people like me, BIPOC people, in the entertainment industry. Today another heartbreak moment came when no Latinx show or acting nominees were announced as part of the 2020 Emmy nominations. It saddened me because as a Latino, a storyteller, and a young person in this industry, it was another moment that affirmed that our voices are constantly muted.
Don’t get me wrong, I was proud to see that this year’s Emmys nominations showed progress in both its nominees and its announcement. The iconic Laverne Cox hosted the 72nd Emmy Awards Nominations Announcement that was live this morning Tuesday, July 28th at 8:30 AM PT. To see her reading these nominations, and then be nominated, was special. Then there was the recognition of BIPOC talent across leading actor and actress nominees as well. My heart has a special place for Zendaya and HBO’s Euphoria; Sandra Oh and Killing Eve; and Regina King and HBO’s Watchmen. Honestly, this is a strong class of contenders that speaks to the diversity of talent, stories, and voices housed on the silver screen.
But again, the vote was absent for Latino acting roles. It should be noted that Nadia Hallgreen, director of Becoming; Brian Lazarete and James Lee Hernandzes of McMillion$; and One Day At a Time in the category of Best Multi Cam Editing are part of the 2020 Emmy nominations. The pundits, including myself, felt Rita Moreno had a chance. Starz’s Vida had begun its final season, and most Emmy voters have love for a swan song of a season. This year’s nominees are a sobering reminder that voters, like those in the TV Academy, do not always vote solely based on press and rave reviews.
I know that politics that play a huge part in how voting works. There are explicit and implicit rules we follow in FYC campaigns, yet it comes down to who is in these groups with the power to vote. If this moment in time has taught me anything it’s that simply existing in the entertainment industry as a Latino may not be revolutionary enough. From seeing no acting nominees for Latinos, to having done research and learning of the dismal Oscars won by Latinx filmmakers, I know my work in this industry is just beginning.
In order to get nominated for an Emmy, you must be voted on by your peer group in the TV Academy. That means that behind-the-scenes either not enough Latinx people are in these groups or their stories are being seen as, "too ethnic." I know this because when I worked on my first Latinx directed, produced, and story, the studio tried to pigeonhole it to the U.S. Hispanic audience. I hate to say it but as an insider I know that Latinx stories are seen as different. This country's rhetoric has made it clear how it feels about BIPOC people; we are not welcome.
Seeing and hearing how voters address, or do not address, Latinx films and shows can be disheartening. But it's a reminder that I as a Latino creative, and part of the Latinx audience, must speak up but also show out. We need to tune in to Latinx and Hispanic shows. We need to support Latinx stories and talent by buying tickets and growing their influence. If we want the industry to change and things like the Emmy nominations to reflect America we must be inspired and empowered to be that change. These are my behind the scenes thoughts.
Let me know, who are your thoughts on the 2020 Emmy nominations? Comment down below or let me know by answering on socials and tagging me @Willsshowem
Thank you for reading these Words by Will! I'll see you in the next post.
HOW I Made the decision to study abroad in england
In these difficult times that we’re living through I often reach for a journal full of pages and photos that captured one of the happiest times of my life. This journal is from my experience studying abroad. The polaroids and ticket stubs taped in these pages remind me that my time abroad will always be with me. I will forever be grateful for the forces that helped me find both Norwich, England and the University of East Anglia (UEA). Because while my time in Norwich was short, a piece of my heart will always be in England.
From the seminars taught by leading scholars to the nights getting ready for a Damn Good Tuesday, I cannot write enough about why UEA was perfect for me. While the educational and extracurricular opportunities at UEA ended up enhancing all aspects of my life, I went there almost by accident. Honestly, I studied abroad on a whim!
1. How Study Abroad Benefited Me – Teaching Me to Be a Better Listener
Before I even studied abroad, one of the benefits that became clear is that I became a better listener thanks to anticipating my international experience. Of all the spontaneous decisions I could make in my life, perhaps the best I ever did was deciding to leave the country! So extra, and so very on brand for Will Samayoa. My second year of college, a private liberal art in Upstate NY, I was eligible to study abroad. I attended a 1-on-1 meeting with my college’s study abroad officer to find out what program would suit me. Obviously, the meeting was very productive because I not only applied to UEA, but it was my only option.
Again, before I even studied abroad, I was becoming a better listener. In meeting with the study abroad officer I did come in with points, but I also heard her advice clearly. She told me about the unique character of not only the international partners but also of the cities we’d be living in. “Big but not too big,” she said when talking about Norwich. “Great media programs and renowned professors.” I did more than just research the numbers and sites, I heard from her testimonials of students who had ventured before I did.
In case you may not know, I went to college with a clear vision of working in the entertainment industry. I never wavered in my passion to work in media and I even meticulously designed a master plan to on how to major in writing & rhetoric with a media minor. The study abroad officer knew this, she admired my focus, and she said, “You need to go to Norwich!” I left this meeting and then went to meet with my professors and advisors. I wanted to genuinely hear them. And when I told both my writing and media faculty that I wanted to study abroad at UEA it was resounding, “Yes, Will!”
2. Study Abroad Benefits - Teaching Me How to live in the moment
Since my semester abroad, I stay living in the moment! Before I studied in Norwich, England I had no international experience. While I studied abroad, I learned how to live in the moment meaningfully. Whether my flat mate invited me to go grocery shopping or I was just invited to join a study group, my time at UEA helped me learn how to say, “yes” to new experiences. Little did I know that in my full-time job after college traveling and having those, “OMG” moments would become my new normal.
Studying abroad benefited me in that I learned how to be present in the most spontaneous and amazing moments ever. I can vividly remember every detail of the Oscars red carpet (oh yes, I was at the 90th Academy Awards, more on that later) because I learned how to live in the moment in Norwich. Without studying abroad, I don’t know that I would even have this blog! Yes, that’s right. This blog and my love for social media flourished while I studied abroad.
Part of how I learned to capture the moment was by starting to play with writing and media. The details in my daily walks from the Ziggs to my seminars in places like the Enterprise Centre stay with me. As many moments as I could capture in words or pics I did. This helped me remember the name and pronunciation of every classmate I met. My time abroad pushed me into the unknown, but the city and people of Norwich welcomed me. My best advice is that if you travel abroad worry less and celebrate more. Celebrate yourself, your work to get there, and the moment.
3. Study Abroad Taught Me How to Embrace and Appreciate Different Cultures
I wish that everyone could study abroad because I think it could help people learn acceptance and tolerance. While I was at UEA I listened to voices from people all over the world. From classmates to strangers I met through everyday tasks, I learned how to listen, embrace, and truly celebrate diversity.
In my case, I was an American student studying British media. I figured that I was not an expert in not only these programs, and I was fine with that. Much like my point of learning to listen, I learned how to listen to voices different from anything I ever heard. What I read and saw was unlike anything my studies in America had shown me. In these seminars I had peers from different countries, different ages, and beyond different life experiences from my own.
Needless to say, my study abroad experience benefits include learning how to embrace and celebrate different cultures. I truly became a global connoisseur of media. My latest work trip included working on world premieres at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The films and storytellers I met came from places like South Africa, the Philippines, China, Canada just to name a few. Thank you UEA for teaching me how to respect and cherish different cultures! I’m a better person and storyteller for it.
4. Everyone Should Study Abroad and To Know Why International Students Matter
When I was in college, I remember an established discourse about international students. Candidly, it's not always a fair one too. But being in the U.K., I was considered an international student. I found this super interesting because I consider myself the "norm" and here the norm has nuance things that made me stick out. "Oh, you're so American," I heard.
What does this even mean?! What do you mean I have an accent?! Wait why is everyone driving on the other side?! There are dozens of questions I asked myself. Learning how to embrace different is important. But actually, feeling different is an even better learning experience. At UEA I stood out and I learned how to honor my identities, as an American, as a Latino, and as a son of an immigrant family. I saw how my friends and faculty made my voice matter.
That’s why I came back to the States knowing that international students’ matter. Students from abroad at universities and colleges bring their own insights and experiences that can enrich us. And this is a dialectic relationship.
5. Study Abroad Taught Me to How to Be Okay Being Alone
As much as I write and talk about how my study abroad experience helped me develop friendships, I’m grateful for the personal growth as well. A lot of my fear in studying abroad came from how I went alone at first. In my study abroad program there were a total of 4 of us from my home college. Granted these 4 people would grow to be some of my lifelong friends, there was a 48-hour period where I was alone in Norwich. No one lived on my flat yet and there was no one I knew yet.
I was lucky that UEA lead some mixers for international students. Because in attending these mixers I met more people who would become travel companies and confidants abroad. But I couldn’t always be around people. My flat mates had their commitments and I had to also find a daily rhythm. My days outside of class were long and I found how to fill them with my own company. Whether I went to the gym, read outside, or wrote my blog at a coffee shop, I was as happy being alone as I was in a crowd.
Studying abroad taught me how to be alone but not be lonely. What I believe is that studying abroad in Norwich, England changed my life for the better. I'm proud to write this blog and reflect on my time at UEA, the friends I made, and the experiences that have defined my life.
I'm curious to know, did you study abroad? Or have you traveled abroad?
Let me know on social media where you went! Share this post and tag me with your answer on Instagram/Twitter @ Willsshowem
Here's to #UEADoesStudyAbroad and #VisitingUEA
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post
Alright we have another Twitter trend that I cannot wait to cut to the chase about. Did you see what I did there? Ahh, sweet puns, the icing on the cake of language. Okay, enough of that! Let's get to today's topic.
The recent, "everything is cake" meme popped up almost out of nowhere. In trying to do some research I could not exactly pinpoint how this meme started. What I do know is that the video screenshot below has been one of the most circulated posts under the trend. With almost 30 million views it's safe to say you may have seen this on your feed under the hashtag #cake.
The responses to this meme have been hilarious to say the least. From people breaking their electronics saying, "not everything is cake" to others joking about our planet being a hyper-real cake, Twitter is having a field day.
This post is dedicated to the recents meme about, "everything is a cake." It's a meme where people joke about how objects that don't look anything like care are actually a pastry. Again, I cannot track where the trend started but I'm sure there was some kind of visual element. I can see the allure of this trend because who doesn't love a good baking show? Whether it's The Great British Bakeoff or Cake Boss we're inherently fascinated by the artistry that goes into making cakes.
This trend takes that interest and just hyperbolizes it by focusing again on hyper real images. Like that cake actually did look like toilet paper! And that flower pot, wow, who knew you could do that with cake?!
However, things have gone somewhat dark in the everything is cake fun. There have been posts ranging from people questioning if they're just cake to cutting their friends to see if they're cake. Below are some screenshots on some of these reactions and responses that kind of went the dark humor route.
I think that trends on Twitter are special in that the most random things can be sensational. The cake meme on Twitter blew up, but for the most part I've seen it stay in the realm of Twitter. Currently I'm following some trends to write about but this one did deserve it's own sweet post.
Let me know have you seen or heard of this trend? And what's your favorite #cake? If you come across a trend or meme you'd like me to react to tag me! @Willsshowem
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! I'll see you in the next post.
It takes a lot to break the internet but leave it to the Smiths, in this case Jada Pinkett Smith, to reign over Twitter and usher in one of the greatest new memes of 2020. Over the weekend of July 10th, Twitter blew up as news broke of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith both confirmed her connection to American singer August Alsina. We know it was a romantic relationship because it was confirmed by Alsina himself.
However, the best part about all of this media frenzy that’s come out isn’t really the details on The Smiths personal life and history. No. The real nugget of this whole moment is Jada Pinkett Smith uttering the instantly iconic phrase, "I got into an entanglement.” This right here this is what we’re here to talk about. Because as soon as Pinkett Smith said this Twitter and TikTok wasted no time in low key airing their own laundry and their own entanglements.
If you head to Twitter and type in #entanglement I guarantee you will find a rich set of memes, GIFs, and edits that leave you in tears. In trying to write this post I got sucked into #entanglement and I had to pull myself out. One could say I was in an entanglement with Twitter… See I was in an entanglement with my phone, but for Millennials and Gen Z what they think this word means is a bit different from what I mean.
Below are screenshots of some of my favorite memes:
One thing we have to discuss is while entanglement actually means one thing, the connotation that’s circulating is coming from the context of Pinkett Smith’s utterance. While the denotation of entanglement just means being tied up in a complex situation, the way #entanglement is being used refers to a relationship that’s either romantic or sexual. It took Urban Dictionary almost no time to answer people’s question of, “What does entanglement mean?”
We have to remember that Urban Dictionary is crowd sourced platform, meaning that people can create their own definitions and others vote on it. Essentially people are creating discourse, yeah, sorry for the big words, on words that already exist. It's actually so interesting to think about how we're making meaning around things that already exist... Anyways here's what UD has has their top definition for the now infamous word.
Some of my favorite ways I’ve seen people say that they were in entanglements is in memes about them avoiding work, talking about their hookups, or just as excuses for almost anything. If I were to tell my boss, whose much older than me, that I missed a meeting because of an entanglement I don't think he'd question me. It would essentially mean the same as I was busy with something else. However, if my friend asked me why I didn't reply to them and I said, "I was in an entanglement" it would totally mean something else. "Spill the T!" is probably how my friend would respond.
This is all to say that it should come as no shocker that words definitions sometimes don't translate across generations. I am in Gen Z and I know both what this world actually means what what Jada Pinkett Smith's entanglement means. Just know how you're using this word and who you're using it with. Because you don't want to have to untangle yourself out of some drama should you say you're in an entanglement. But now the question arises, how do you know if you know if you're in one of these complex situations?
How do you know if you're in an ENTANGLEMENT?
When people my age are talking about being in entanglements with their hookups, or exes, or friends with benefits, it's more of a play on the complicated depth of Pinkett Smith's statement. I think that if you're in an entanglement you know it. You know when you're in a bad relationship. And just like The Smiths talked about their issues and getting out of it, if we feel tied up in a mess we have to undo it too.
While people are parodying Pinkett Smith’s line I must say that I respect her and Will Smith for being honest and open the way they have. Talking about relationship issues and marital issues, especially in such a public way, takes guts and real courage.
We can all keep saying that we’re in #entanglements but it’s worth remembering that sometimes we also do need to get untangled back up.
Let me know, did you know what entanglement meant or did you have to look it up? Or, what's your favorite #entanglement meme? If you liked this post make sure to share it and tag me @ Willsshowem so I can entangle you in a social media shoutout!
Click below to head back to the main blog - PS this is the first post in a new section I'm dedicating to pop culture/social media/and trendy topics!
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post!