I discovered this digital Polaroid during an encampment cleanup off Sepulveda, put it in my pocket and forgot all about it, then re-found it in the laundry.
For most of us, Van Nuys means an affordable ranch house. But for others, Van Nuys means my weekend at the bail bondsman or my frustrating encounter with the Building Department. Then there are women for whom Van Nuys means my summer sweating for Leon at the Travel Inn.
You might presume (as I did) someone was awfully eager to pose them on the bed like chattel. How we feel about the picture depends on who we think the photographer is. We assume a male. Polaroids are keepsakes. But what if one of the women took the picture and it was meant for each other, the pose taken ironically, an artifact of their sisterhood in the fleshy trenches?
How did the picture make the journey from the motel room to the Favela? Through whose hands did it pass? Maybe no ones. Maybe one of these women is living in a tent next to the 405 right now. It would be the simplest explanation, but doesn’t feel like the right movie to me.
Media scenario: Up and coming starlet makes out has sex with boyfriend in a Mercedes with the door open on a busy street next to a studio in the entertainment capital of the world. In the middle of the day.
Workers in adjacent office building suggest the couple get a room. They don’t.
Someone calls the police to complain.
Police arrive, tell them their performance is interfering with business. Ask for ID’s.
Actress refuses to comply with the request. Police detain her.
I have a publicist, she warns.
The officer has encountered many people with publicists. They show ID when asked, he explains.
Boyfriend begins taping incident for Facebook.
‘I serve freedom and love, you serve detainment.’
Viral marketing ensues:
The police presumed she was a prostitute because she was black!
You won’t believe what the LAPD did this time!
They think black women are streetwalkers!
Django Unchained actressarrested handcuffed in front of her workplace! For kissing while black! Authorities investigating…
From Buenos Aires to London, the pistons begin turning the great cam shaft of public outrage. Ferguson II! Or Trayvon III, if you prefer, but without the chalk outline on the sidewalk. Even better, a sex angle. A showbiz angle, too. The trifecta! Get this girl on the set! We can all be outraged together, without guilt. No one has to take shelter in his ideological bunker. A freebee. The promise of weeks of good cable TV, sexy B-roll footage, and pop culture Deep Think explaining What It All Means.
Grab your remote. Start clicking those links. Why not? It’s not like there’s an election going on. Or a war. To be more precise, a resurrection of the Conflict Formerly Known as the War on Terror authorized by a Congressional Resolution denounced by the President before he was President, which will have war-like features but none dare call War. No wonder we love the tabloids.
Here’s the bottom line: LAPD as a matter of departmental policy does not make prostitution stops off a black and white patrol car. All interdiction is handled through vice, working undercover in unmarked vehicles. Two overt acts are required to bring departmental action. Consequently, patrol cars roll past working hookers on Sepulveda every day, in full regalia, leaning into car windows…and don’t even give them a glance, much to the consternation of residents of Van Nuys. Which is to say, there is pretty much no chance uniformed LAPD officers rolled up on Ms. Watts in the teeming slum of Studio City, across the street from Trader Joes and Laurel Tavern and just up the block from CBS studios and said to themselves: ‘hmmm, black lady/white man having relations…if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck…cuff that b***h.’
But here’s what’s interesting. In Django, Daniele works at a brothel called the Cleopatra Club which offers pretty young black women up to wealthy white men who first arouse themselves by watching gladiator-like death matches between black slaves. At the coup de grace of one of the more brutal scenes of recent American cinema, she coquettishly spills her gumballs across the floor in a kind of sexual release, a moment worthy of an essay of its own. Back into the pop culture ether went Daniele Watts, and now this sudden reappearance two years later, accusing Los Angeles of treating her like the character which launched her career. Which for the moment, has resurrected it.
Is she acting in one of these photographs or both of them? I say it’s all performance art.