By Liz Laribee
Director, The MakeSpace
I stumbled onto the concept of intersectionality later than I’d like to admit. I had already earned a degree, I had already learned how to do my own taxes, I had already learned that it’s totally within your right to turn down brunch invitations when you have no reason beyond not wanting to go. But there is always more to know, and one of the most meaningful sources of knowledge in my recent years has been an expert on emancipatory politics: bell hooks. hooks has published over thirty books on how different societal factors “intersect” to create systems of oppression within American culture focusing largely on race, gender, capitalism and class domination.
This focus became the impetus for a strange comedy project I undertook last month: Saved By The bell hooks. It’s a website that applies the writing of bell hooks to stills from the wildly popular 90s sitcom Saved By The Bell. The idea was to let the incredibly far-reaching critical theory of hooks’ words interact with a very familiar and nostalgic staple of my own childhood. When the site reached 20,000 followers in a matter of days, I began to understand that I had accidentally struck a chord.
On a similar note, Danielle Henderson is the creator of Feminist Ryan Gosling, a website that “pairs dense academic theory with pop cultural references” and which had gained much traction as a comedy piece with critical social implications. In fact, a study at the University of Saskatchewan is currently investigating her work to determine what the specific conduit of Ryan Gosling means to the subject matter of feminist theory. Says Henderson of her accidental fame, “There were a few points where I realized this project had shifted into something else entirely. It was featured on Jezebel the day after I made it, which brought a huge audience to the site and made me realize that I wasn’t just talking to the 5 people in my cohort anymore.”
Henderson now writes for several publications on pop culture through the lens of race, gender and class and identifies her practice of daily advocacy as “connecting people to the kind of work they want to do. Women, anyone who identifies as trans*, and communities of color often have a hard time making money from their creative efforts. Their work is appropriated before they ever see a dime, or they feel like they’re creating in a void because they don’t have a visible platform”
The hope is, of course, that leveraging humor against the cult of mass media consumption can identify new platforms for under-told stories. To bring the conversation into different spheres. To dissolve the idea that what we see every day can be separate from what people write in textbooks. And that we can all keep learning.
Read the full interview here.
Liz Laribee is a writer, artist, and community entrepreneur. In addition to helping establish numerous projects centered on arts advocacy, she has exhibited work in a range of regional galleries as well as in national and international print media. She recently launched Saved By The bell hooks, a website that applies the critical theory of bell hooks to images from the hit 90s sitcom Saved By the Bell. She lives in Harrisburg, happily, where she was honored by YWCA Greater Harrisburg as an Emerging Leader at their 2014 Tribute Women of Excellence event.
Danielle Henderson writes about film, television, and pop culture through the lens of race, gender, and class. She is a former editor and current staff writer for Rookie, and a book based on her popular website, Feminist Ryan Gosling, was released by Running Press in August 2012.