CULTURE

The Best Twitter Reactions to Gina Rodriguez Saying the N-Word

As the controversial Jane The Virgin star faces imminent cancelation, Twitter remains the real winner.

It seems Gina Rodriguez is disrespected black culture once again.

The controversial star of Jane The Virgin came under serious fire earlier this year for comments many viewed as anti-black. She is regularly accused of pitting Latinx and black actresses against each other, and her apologies always seem to ring hollow. Now she's in the headlines again, this time for saying the N-word while rapping along to a song. The video, posted to her Insta story, was quickly deleted and replaced by an awkward apology.

The apology was, once again, met with serious criticism. As Rodriguez faces imminent cancelation, she is also being dragged left and right on Twitter in the most hilarious way possible. Below are some of the best memes to commemorate this strange cultural moment.











TV Features

RIP Naya Rivera: The Specific Importance of Santana to Femme-Presenting Gay Women

Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.

As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.

My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.

Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.

In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.

Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.

Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.

As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.

As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.

Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.

But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.

GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com

If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.

But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.

Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.

If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.

"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."

While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."

Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."

Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.

Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.

Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be

CULTURE

Cultural Appropriator Ariana Grande Ironically Sues Forever 21 for "Misappropriating" Her Image

Forever 21 already has a fraught legal history regarding knock-offs and violations of labor laws, in addition to numerous culturally insensitive products. But crossing the "7 Rings" singer may be their most public faux pas yet.

The only thing Ariana Grande and Forever 21 have in common is their love of cultural appropriation. But now it seems that Forever 21 has culturally appropriated Ariana Grande, and she's pissed.

To be more precise, Forever 21, the unofficial sponsor of Jersey Shore fashion and what 10-year-old girls think grown women wear, has been accused of misappropriating Grande's image. The 26-year-old singer has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the failing retailer, alleging that they hired a look-alike model and recreated distinct imagery from her "7 Rings" music video in order to promote their garbage, sweatshop-made clothing. Documents filed in California federal court detail that Forever 21 reached out to Grande for an endorsement deal, which "never came to fruition because the amounts that Forever 21 offered to pay for the right to use Ms. Grande's name and likeness were insufficient for an artist of her stature." Considering the fact that the company is expected to file bankruptcy soon, it was desperate enough to skirt around trademark laws and use Grande's likeness anyway.

Forever 21 already has a fraught legal history regarding knock-offs and violations of labor laws, in addition to numerous culturally insensitive products. But crossing the "7 Rings" singer may be their most public faux pas yet. "Rather than pay for that right as the law requires, Defendants simply stole it by launching a misleading campaign across its website and social media platforms primarily in January and February 2019," details the full complaint. "The campaign capitalized on the concurrent success of Ms. Grande's album Thank U, Next by publishing at least 30 unauthorized images and videos misappropriating Ms. Grande's name, image, likeness, and music in order to create the false perception of her endorsement."

Ariana Grande sues Forever 21 Evidence cited in the lawsuitNew York Times

In response, Forever 21 released a statement disputing the allegations. Despite Grande's lawyers claiming that the featured model is "strikingly similar" to the singer, the model's "uncanny" resemblance really lies in the way she is posed. Forever 21's ads clearly mimic the nauseatingly neon aesthetics of Grande's "7 Rings" music video, from the model's fashion to the set design. However, the clothing company denies the similarities and simply states: "We are hopeful that we will find a mutually agreeable resolution and can continue to work together in the future."

"Oriental Girl Necklace" sold by Forever 21 in 2011 Forever21

This type of lawsuit has plenty of precedent, with Kim Kardashian, Katherine Heigl, Vanna White, and Bette Miller among those who have sued companies for misappropriating their public images. Celebrities have the right to sue companies for using their likenesses without permission under laws like the "Right of Publicity": an intellectual property right that defends a public figure's "protected attributes" from being exploited for commercial gain without their consent. But the trick to winning these kinds of cases is proving that a celebrity's image has been damaged. Unsurprisingly, most cases settle out of court rather than go to litigation.

Real shirt sold by Forever 21 Her.ie


"Navajo" print...you get the point. Forever21

While Grande filed for $10 million in damages, the matter will probably be settled for an undisclosed sum. Perhaps she'll imitate Katherine Heigl, who sued Duane Reade for $6 million in 2014 after the company posted a paparazzi picture of her leaving one of their chain stores to their social media accounts; their settlement allegedly required Duane Reade to make a sizable contribution to Heigl's charity foundation.

Considering Grande's support of Planned Parenthood, perhaps some public good will come of this meeting of cultural offenders. Before (hopefully) filing bankruptcy, Forever 21 could empty its coffers to fight recent oppressive abortion bans and fund reproductive rights programs. Or they could just pay Ariana Grande more profit for wearing "culture as a costume." After all, it must be difficult to have her identity be co-opted for the sake of trend-setting and capitalist gain, but then again: irony.