Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Melissa Harris-Perry.

I have a mad lady crush on Melissa Harris-Perry, y'all.

I can't remember the last time I actually watched weekend news shows of my own volition since hanging out at my grandparents' house when I was a kid, lounging on their earth tones couch post-church and pre-Sunday supper, where George Stephanopoulos occasionally graced the TV when there wasn't any good golf on. But I have been DVRing both of Melissa Harris-Perry's Saturday and Sunday morning shows on MSNBC for the last few months, often to Kathy's annoyance/teasing. You see, both of these shows are two hours long, and accordingly, they usually end up clogging at least 50% of our DVR space, since I don't usually have time to watch four hours of Melissa Harris-Perry each week. But oh, how I WANT to! I've been trying to keep up lately, and it feels like such a worthwhile pursuit.

There are so many things to like about Harris-Perry, the most obvious being that I tend to agree with almost every single thing she says. And I know that probably sounds a whole lot like preaching to the choir, and only hearing what one wants to hear, and other things that aren't actually helpful in the world, but I believe there's actually something important about hearing what one wants to hear. Because a lot of times, not everybody actually has the chance to hear what they want to hear. And especially when she covers tough topics, which she does every week, and which she does well, I end up feeling both fully outraged and almost physically comforted by the eloquence of her words. And that balance of outrage and comfort, or hope, is so important and necessary, particularly when you've weathered another week of hearing people stay stupid shit on the Internet, or when you start thinking about Congress too much, or something.

And when I say that I agree with almost everything she says, I mean that she is staunchly progressive while being critical of both parties at times, and that unlike a lot of leftists I hear recently, she is able to be just as passionately thrilled and joyful about wins as she is angry about the losses, which is truly refreshing to see. And in every single show, she speaks up not just for African Americans, but for social justice as a whole, across seemingly all minority lines: she is a staunch feminist and mentions the fight for queer rights at least once a show. 

She is constantly speaking up for the poor. She is constantly talking about voting rights.

She restores my faith in both humanity and progress, even when I only watch her show for ten minutes.

Also, last week she wore tampon earrings. I mean, how could you not be in love with her.

Her guests are almost always super smart scholars, but she does try to include at least one or two dissenting, conservative voices into her discussions, and interestingly and importantly, they are almost always conservatives of color. (The education guy she often has on who loves testing and who believes in a magical equal playing field really gets me going.) And I don't know if there's some type of debriefing or rehearsal that goes on before the show (there must be), but even when there's a disagreement between guests, the tone of her show is almost perfectly civil, with each speaker only speaking when addressed, and with only the very occasional talking over one another. While on the one hand, this might hold back from some really honest discussions, the respectful, controlled tone actually can encourage good discourse. And maybe it's sad that a news program where guests are allowed to speak without being interrupted or shouted over actually seems remarkable?

Another favorite thing is that MHP also tries to have people who are on-the-ground affected by the news as guests, as well, and specifically, children. For instance, she had a panel of black youth discussing the Trayvon Martin movement a couple weeks ago, and I always remember one heartbreaking segment about botched international adoptions where she included an African teen that suffered through such an ordeal. She always treats them exactly as she treats the scholars and adults: like real people worthy of respect.

But the best parts of her show are just when she lets loose on her own, such as her Letters from Melissa, or her "Wow, Seriously?!" segments. OMG, whenever she does either of these, I want to get a bowl of popcorn and sit as close to the TV as I can. Here's this last week's letter, just because it's the most recent, but they are ALWAYS SO GOOD.

She actually praises Boehner here. See? Calls it like she sees it.

Then there's the fact that she constantly refers to herself not as a journalist, but "just" a teacher, as she teaches at Tulane in New Orleans during the week, commuting each weekend to NYC to tape the show, on top of having a husband and a daughter, a schedule that I literally cannot even comprehend. But I love that she lives in NOLA, I love that she prefers to call herself a teacher, and maybe it's the teacher in her that allows her to explain things just SO PERFECTLY. (Sidebar: I just looked her up and she is teaching a course at Tulane this fall called Feminism and Hip Hop, DROOL JEALOUS DROOL.) See: this heart achingly wonderful and true Footnote (HER FOOTNOTES ARE ALSO SO GOOD) after the George Zimmerman decision where she quotes W.E.B. DuBois and addresses the concerns of all minorities when she explores the question: "How does it feel to be a problem?" (UGH THIS IS SO GOOD IT MAKES ME CRY EVERY TIME.)


SUPERFICIAL TIME OUT: Also, how does she look SO GOOD each week?! After commuting from New Orleans? And she has the tiniest lisp, which is SO LOVELY AND SEXY SOMEHOW?!

BACK TO MATURE TALK: And while she addresses topics across the spectrum each week, from economics to immigration to education and civil rights and back, she also ends half of her shoes with one-on-one interviews or commentary about African-American arts, from Broadway and ballet to books to pop culture icons. One of my faves is her piece earlier this year about the Harlem Shake, where she lays the cultural appropriation smackdown:

Aww, no good.

I have probably talked about Melissa Harris-Perry enough, but in essence, girl is hot.

PS. Dad you would like her, you should watch.

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