At around noon yesterday, the 35 Denton Music Festival (“Best Ever, Fest Ever!,” proclaims their informative new slogan) posted the following meme on its Facebook page:
I had a hard time finding the source, save for an example on the popular Meme Generator website. You can even see their logo in the corner:
I’ve admittedly used Meme Generator for personal idiocy, mostly featuring the less sacred icon of Bane. I immediately took a screen shot on my phone, because I knew this post was not going to last long. Sure enough, at least one Facebook user complained about the meme, and within moments it was gone. I was not fast enough to get a shot of the comment, but there was also this on Twitter.
This stuck with me and here’s why. Whoever made this thing felt it necessary to equate Dr. King with the fictional characters, Shaft, of the Shaft novel and movie series, and the slightly more timely reference to Django, the title character from Quentin Tarantino’s recent film, Django Unchained. The Shaft character is a private detective with a propensity for violence, and Django is a freed slave who goes on a killing spree. Martin Luther King Jr. on the other hand, is very high up on the tragically small list of the world’s greatest ever pacifists, but I guess in 2013 in order to make him “cool,” he has to be a hip killer from an exploitative film featuring black people. Or “Blaxploitation” as the oft-controversial genre is widely known, though some influential voices are less thrilled with the whole idea than others.
This is nothing short of a bafflingly juvenile and offensively misguided moment of ethnically-charged connect-the-dots, in order to promote a for-profit music festival. I understand irreverence, even taken to extremes, but you’re really going to use the phrase “dream bands” in relation to the “I Have a Dream” speech? How many hands rubber-stamped this banana peel of a promo at the 35 Denton offices, one has to wonder. Literally, the only thing Martin Luther King Jr. has in common—even the myth of the man—with Django and Shaft is that he happens to be black.
It’s too bad that 35 Denton doesn’t take place a few weeks later on March 31, since that’s Cesar Chavez Day, now a national holiday thanks to the Obama Administration. They’re missing a golden meme opportunity to compare the worker’s rights advocate to Pedro De Pacas and this little guy.
I contacted 35 Denton about the source of the meme and the decision to pull it, but have to yet to receive an answer as of this posting.
UPDATE: I just received a statement from 35 Denton Creative Director, Kyle LaValley:
This post went live without going through the proper channels of approval in our social department and was removed by our team within five minutes of posting. We sincerely apologize to our audience for any offense this may have caused.
Though LaValley states it was “five minutes,” you can clearly see that the post had been up for at least fifteen minutes in the first image.
Photo at top: MLK via