Monday, April 20, 2009

Film: 'Bama Girl

'Bama Girl follows University of Alabama seniors in their campaign to be elected homecoming queen. It ended up focusing on Alpha Kappa Alpha member Jessica Thomas, an African-American who had set her sights on being the homecoming queen since her first year in the university.

I saw the movie as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers when Rachel Goslins screened her film in Augusta, GA's Imperial Theatre.

I had held a lot of anti-white fraternity/sorority life ideas since my undergraduate days. I used to repeat phrases like "buying friends" and "muffies and buffies" (before Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Now I've mellowed a lot since then, and I realized that people participate in white fraternities and sororities for a lot of different reasons, and I should not just judge people right off the bat. In addition, I did not spend my university life feeding the poor, so it's not like I was really that morally superior to people who spent their time dressing for socials and singing arcane songs.

But some of those anti-Greek ideas still remain, and I did not think I would be sympathetic to any students who cared about homecoming (I have yet to buy University paraphenalia such as sweatshirts), much less actively campaigned to become homecoming queen. As I watched the film and learned about the Machine's efforts to coordinate the white Greeks' votes behind a candidate and Jessica Thomas's gathering of her friends and supporters, including one who worked in an electoral campaign for the mayor of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I asked myself why could not these people work to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reduce carbon emissions and demand an end to the prison-industrial complex and the war on drugs.

But if I go beyond my crass Marxism, I admit to myself that this coalition building and canvassing is training for lives of public advocacy. While I may scorn university bodies such as student government and homecoming, I have to admit that those activities are an effective introduction to corporate and government work.

My other problem with the homecoming queen (and king) is its sexism. A quick search on the term "homecoming queen protest" came up with the following headlines:
I don't remember even hearing about a homecoming queen election at the University of Virginia, and fellow alumni told me that University of Virginia did not have a homecoming queen.

In addition, I have come to believe that part of being an "ally" with the "oppressed" is respecting the goals they set for themselves. While I may not consider an African-American winning the homecoming queen election at University of Alabama to be a milestone on the road to ending American white supremacy, obviously some African-Americans have considered things like homecoming queen elections important.

The film itself is humorous, gentle in its treatment of the people who appear in it and short enough that my interest did not stray.