New Apple Commercial Features Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson Hanging …

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple Music debuts ad starring Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington and Mary J. Blige.

One of the most memorable moments of last night’s Emmy Awards was not onstage at the Microsoft Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, or outside on the apparently sweltering and crowded red carpet.Ever dreamed of heading to your favorite pop star’s house to listen to a bunch of old songs and let out some stress with a little dancing, and then gossip and maybe open a bottle of rosé and scroll through strangers’ Instagram accounts? The ad played at least twice during the three-hour ceremony, and in the midst of phone commercials, credit card commercials, and even Jon Hamm’s voice selling us Mercedes-Benzes, it stood out.

In a clip directed by Selma helmer Ava DuVernay, which debuted during the Emmys telecast tonight, Scandal’s Kerry Washington and Empire’s Taraji P. In the ad, (the first of three that will be rolled out over the course of the week), Washington and Henson arrive for a hangout session at Blige’s house and notice she’s blasting Slick Rick. Blige enthusiastically explains that she’s using Apple Music’s “For You” device which recommends what songs you’d like based on your history and likes. As Washington says, “It’s like you have a boyfriend that makes you a mix tape in your laptop.” What follows is an impromptu dance party in Blige’s living room. This ad would be utterly unremarkable if it starred any other three women—the dialogue is fairly banal, and streaming-service recommendation algorithms are old news.

It offered a glimpse of the three of them laughing, talking, and sharing music in what seemed like the most natural mode for them all possible—one can only assume that they really are friends, that they really do love music, that they really all laugh like that. And the fact that it had such a memorable, arresting quality was no accident: The spot was directed by Ava DuVernay, the celebrated director of “Selma” who was noticeably snubbed by the Oscar nominations earlier this year.

If there was a single takeaway from the night, it is that black women are being supported on television right now in a way that they aren’t in cinema. A record three black women won Emmys last night: Viola Davis, for lead dramatic actress in “How To Get Away With Murder”; Uzo Aduba, for supporting dramatic actress in “Orange Is The New Black” and Regina King, for supporting actress in the miniseries “American Crime.” Davis and King are industry veterans—Davis has been twice nominated for an Oscar, and King has worked as a performer since she was a teenager.

Henson, who was also in the Apple ad, was nominated alongside Davis for her starring role in “Empire” (and gave Davis a congratulatory hug and a standing ovation). Washington wasn’t nominated, but she was sitting in the front row, sobbing; “Scandal,” when it debuted, was the first network drama with a black female lead in almost 40 years.

With DuVernay behind the camera, they were offering up an alternate, or maybe future, reality—one where it isn’t shocking or surprising or even noteworthy to see three women of color having a good time while another woman of color directs from behind the scenes. The job of hosting an awards show is often quite thankless—the format and the crowd are constraining, and because it’s live, there is always some awkwardness.

He did stumble a bit in the opening monologue, primarily because the audience wasn’t really having it—when he poked fun at the industry, the crowd of well-heeled Hollywood insiders couldn’t quite take it. Samberg thankfully doesn’t have the temperament for mean-spirited comedy, so he just skimmed past their discomfort and into the safer realm of broad political humor and song-and-dance comedy. (It might have made for an edgier evening if he’d pushed his audience harder, but who wants to watch an edgy awards show?) The crucial thing that Samberg and his team—the writers from IFC’s cult hit, “Comedy Bang!

The heaviest part of the broadcast was the part HBO is probably still celebrating, even at this hour—the heaps of awards for the network’s “Veep,” “Olive Kitteridge,” and “Game Of Thrones.” HBO swept all three categories, which is both surprising and a kind of telling phenomenon. (There’s more TV than ever, but maybe viewers stick with brands they know; conversely, maybe HBO is just very, very good at reaching Emmy voters. And “Mad Men,” in its final season, finally won an acting award—for Jon Hamm as Don Draper, an award a very long time coming for a very deserving actor. And in what was a canny touch, the awards broadcast featured a lot of clips from nominated shows as the intros and outros to commercial break, which offered both a taste of shows you might not have seen and a fond memory of shows you were hoping would be recognized. It meant that even shows that didn’t win felt suitably recognized—Amy Poehler was so present during the ceremony it would be possible to overlook that she didn’t win for the final season of “Parks And Recreation.” “Veep”’s sweep was a reminder of the contradictions at the heart of the entertainment industry.

While the Hollywood establishment is unabashedly (and at times irritatingly) down-the-line liberal, when it comes to their own industry, they find it harder to be progressive. “Veep” is a brilliant and wonderful show, but much of the reason it’s a hit with Emmy voters is because it’s cynical about politics and lampoons politicians, taking specific pains to dissect the idiocy of the American system of government. It’s harder to take a joke when it’s directed at yourself, of course, but even Samberg’s delicate little quips about the wage and age gap for women in the industry seemed to be too much to handle. TV found it easier than ever in this awards season to enjoy the fun of it all, and much of that has to do with making space for creation and expression and representation instead of keeping the awards, the money, and the prestige concentrated at the very, very top.

It’s no surprise that this lighthearted broadcast was on Fox—the network has made a major push for diversity, and all of its shows, from “Empire” to “New Girl,” emphasize a certain amount of campy or screwy fun. The Apple Music ad made me think of a movement (and hashtag) called “carefree black girls.” It’s assigned to images or other media of black girls and women in situations of unfettered enjoyment, whether that’s a group of young women looking fabulous and laughing or best friends eating ice cream or a toddler with a huge smile and bows in her hair or Solange Knowles riding a yellow bicycle.

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