Nigerian ‘Oprah’ Launches Network

Mosunmola "Mo" Abudu's new venture will target Africa's growing middle class.

Mosunmola "Mo" Abudu (YouTube)
Mosunmola "Mo" Abudu (YouTube)

“A woman who could be considered Africa’s Oprah Winfrey is launching an entertainment network that will be beamed into nearly every country on the continent with programs showcasing its burgeoning middle class,” Michelle Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday for the Associated Press.

Mosunmola ‘Mo’ Abudu wants EbonyLife TV to inspire Africans and the rest of the world, and change how viewers perceive the continent. The network’s programming tackles women’s daily life subjects — everything from sex tips to skin bleaching.

” ‘Not every African woman has a pile of wood on her head and a baby strapped to her back!’ the glamorous Abudu, 48, told The Associated Press from a hotel’s penthouse floor against a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and high-rise buildings flanked by palm and almond trees.

” ‘We watch Hollywood as if all of America is Hollywood,’ she said. ‘In that same vein we need to start selling the good bits of Africa.’ . . . “

As for Winfrey, OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, released a ratings report Tuesday showing a more than 30 percent growth in viewership, its best quarter yet, Whitney Gaspard reported Thursday for Essence.

“OWN’s successful quarter is due in part to Winfrey’s partnership with Tyler Perry,” Gaspard wrote. “Last October, Perry announced that he would team up with the media mogul to produce two new shows for the network. Perry’s scandalous new drama, The Haves and the Have Nots, premiered in May and set a new record for OWN. The show earned 1.77 million viewers during its first episode making it the highest rated series premiere in the network’s history. . . .”

“The Lone Ranger” Flopping at Box Office

The critics and the bean counters are in agreement: “The Lone Ranger” movie flopped in its July 4 weekend opening, its portrayal of Native Americans quite beside the point.

Not that that portrayal isn’t important. “The bottom line is that Tonto is probably the only Indian that a lot of Americans are going to meet,” Theodore Van Alst, who directs Yale College’s Native American Cultural Center and has studied the depiction of Indians in film, told Dan Zak this week in the Washington Post.

But this Tonto won’t meet as many as the producers hoped. “The train wreck was supposed to stay on-screen,” Michael Cieply wrote Friday for the New York Times.

“Walt Disney Studios spent the July 4 holiday watching its expensive action western, ‘The Lone Ranger,’ disintegrate in a box-office collision with a strong performance by the goofy little animated heroes of Universal Pictures’s ‘Despicable Me 2.’

“By Friday morning, ‘Despicable Me 2’ had taken in $59.5 million at the North American box office since its Tuesday night opening, according to an early estimate by, and appeared to be headed for five-day total of $115 million or more. Its projected total is sure to more than double the five-day take for ‘The Lone Ranger,’ which by some estimates is expected to take in less than $50 million for the holiday, after collecting just $19.5 million in domestic theaters since Tuesday night. . . .”

He continued, “Critics were harsh. The film scored 37 of a possible 100 on the service, and A.O. Scott, reviewing for The New York Times, called it ‘a frantic grab bag of plots and themes, a semester-long Westerns 101 college course crammed into two and a half hours and taught by a professor whose lecture notes were rearranged by a gust of wind on his way to class.”

Referring to Johnny Depp, the film’s star, Cieply went on, “The audience, meanwhile, turned away from a film that seeks its appeal in Mr. Depp’s wisecracking reinterpretation of Tonto, the Native American sidekick to John Reid, the Lone Ranger who has loomed large in American pop culture since the broadcast of a radio drama in the 1930s. The masked ranger is played by the actor Armie Hammer . . . .”

The film’s creators consulted Native Americans in making it and said they gave the Tonto character, played by Depp, greater prominence than they did the Lone Ranger.

I wanted [Tonto] to be no joke,” Depp said in Rolling Stone. “First of all, I wouldn’t f**k with someone with a dead bird on their head. Second of all, he’s got the f**king paint on his face, which scares me … I wanted to maybe give some hope to kids on the reservations. They’re living without running water and seeing problems with drugs and booze. But I wanted to be able to show these kids, ‘F**k that! You’re still warriors, man.’ “

At Depp’s request, proceeds from the film’s $1,000-per-ticket gala premiere last week at Southern California’s Disneyland resort supported the American Indian College Fund, Zorianna Kit reported Tuesday for Reuters.

How the Indians are represented matters. Paul Chaat Smith, associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian and author of “Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong,” told the Washington Post’s Zak, “It’s more important to us than it should be. I don’t know what other minority group takes so personally or invests so much of their hopes in a commercial vehicle. I used to think it’s a bad thing and I just wanted us to get over it and say, ‘Christ, it’s just a movie. Have fun or don’t see it or whatever.’ But it does then become a conversation — the amount of calls the museum is getting about [‘The Lone Ranger’], for example — and therefore it’s an opportunity to advance the conversation.”

LeAnne Howe, a Chocktaw and co-editor of a recently published collection of 36 reviews on nearly a century of films that have portrayed Native Americans, spoke with Craig Chamberlain, social sciences editor of the News Bureau of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“What makes this film unique for moviegoers is that Johnny Depp was officially adopted into the Comanche Nation in May 2012, in a ceremony in Lawton, Okla.,” Howe said. “It is a case where art becomes life. Depp plays Comanche and is then adopted by respected Comanche elder LaDonna Harris, founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity. . . .”

Yet “Disney’s spin doesn’t convince Hanay Geiogamah,” a Kiowa tribe memberMandalit del Barco reported Tuesday for NPR. “Frankly, the UCLA professor is offended. He says Depp joins a long list of white actors playing Native Americans in the movies, including Burt Lancaster, Robert Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Burt Reynolds.

” ‘He could have, had he wanted to, cast himself as the Lone Ranger, and put a qualified, capable Native American actor … of whom there are quite a few now, in the role of Tonto,’ says Geiogamah, who used to head UCLA’s American Indian Studies program.

“Geiogamah doesn’t like the way the 2013 Tonto talks. ‘That sort of monosyllabic stuttering, uttering. Hollywood Indian-speak.”

“And he doesn’t like Tonto’s new getup, either. ‘We’ve got Johnny Depp with a taxidermied crow on top of his head and painted to the nth degree with paint, and he looks like a gothic freak.’

“Geiogamah says no authentic Native American goes around wearing war paint outside of ceremonial pow-wows, and certainly not day and night in the Wild West frontier.

” ‘There’s no way you can look at this and not say it’s odd, unusual, strange, arresting, startling,’ he says. ‘It’s a major setback for the Native American image in the world because that’s how millions of people will think American Indians are now. . . .’ “

JJ Duncan, How to Talk About the Problems with Johnny Depp’s Tonto Without Sounding Sanctimonious

Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press: Will Disney’s new Tonto be any better? (May 12)

Adrienne Keene, Native Appropriations: I saw The Lone Ranger so you don’t have to

Wesley Morris, Grantland: How the West Was Dumb: The Lone Ranger and mega-budget dreariness

The Onion (satire): Ecstatic American Indians Praise ‘The Lone Ranger’ (June 19)

Lily Rothman, Time: Johnny Depp as Tonto: Is The Lone Ranger Racist?

Rotten Tomatoes: The Lone Ranger Reviews Critics Crush Johnny Depp’s Lone Ranger, But Public Mostly Likes It

Journalists at Egypt’s Largest Paper Said to Detain Editor

“A source from Egypt’s largest newspaper, Al-Ahram, said on Thursday that journalists have detained Editor-in-Chief Abdel Nasser Salama, demanding his removal, the Cairo-based website Aswat Masriya, part of a Thomson Reuters Foundation initiative, reported Thursday.

“Salama was appointed by the Mohamed [Morsi] administration that was ousted by the army and popular demand on Wednesday. . . .”

Meanwhile, “Al Jazeera has demanded the release of a top staff member who was detained when Egyptian security officials raided the Mubasher Misr channel, shortly after Mohamed Morsi was ousted as president,” the network reported Friday.

“Three other television channels, all deemed to be pro-Morsi by Egyptian authorities, were also shut down on Wednesday in a move condemned by rights groups and journalists.

“Mubasher Misr’s managing director Ayman Gaballah remains in custody. Four other staff members have been released.

“Global press news agency Associated Press Television News (APTN) was told not to provide Al Jazeera with any footage of the demonstrations in Egypt or any filming equipment, while the Cairo News Company was warned against providing broadcasting equipment.

“Al Jazeera Media Network’s acting Director General Mostafa Souag condemned the actions, saying ‘regardless of political views, the Egyptian people expect media freedoms to be respected and upheld.’ . . . “

American Reporter Won’t Venture Into Tahrir Square

Kimberly Adams, an American freelancer, explained on American Public Media’s “Marketplace” Thursday why she was covering the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square from a hotel balcony 18 floors up.

“You might think, why not just go downstairs? Here’s why. More than a hundred women have been violently sexually assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in these protests, and foreigners (check) and journalists (check) tend to be targeted by what many report are organized groups of men out to assault and rape.

“I’m a freelance journalist, which means the various news organizations for which I work don’t have any obligation to protect me or help me out if something goes wrong. Other female journalists covering these events try to bring a man with them or go in a group, but sometimes, not even that is enough, as other women have discovered in previous protests.

“There are laudable attempts by groups like Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) and Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (@OpAntiSH), which through their very brave efforts were able to intervene and rescue many women over the past few days of demonstrations.

“But for me, yesterday wasn’t worth the risk. . . .”

Al Jazeera: Egypt: Mayhem, Morsi and the media (July 6)

Committee to Protect Journalists: Egypt’s army must exercise restraint with state media

Interview with Kimberly Adams, “Marketplace,” American Public Media: Egypt’s interim government faces tough economic issues

Reporters Without Borders: Call for Fully Civilian Government That Respects Basic Freedoms

Frank Smyth, Committee to Protect Journalists: Attacks in Egypt highlight risk of covering protests

Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers: Egyptians defend military as Morsi remains in custody, top Brotherhood officer seized

Earlier: First, Egypt’s Army Went for the News Media

Blackmon Offered New Role as N.Y. Station Cancels Newscast

In the nation’s No. 1 media market, “Fox-owned WWOR/Channel 9 has cancelled the news,” Don Kaplan reported Thursday for the Daily News in New York and by Jerry Barmash Wednesday on his Tuned In blog.

“Effective immediately the [Secaucus, N.J.]-based channel will air a magazine-style show produced by an outside company, called ‘Chasing New Jersey,’ in place of its daily 10 p.m. news, the station’s only news telecast,” Kaplan wrote.

He added, “Co-Anchor Harry Martin may return to sister station WNYW Fox 5, reports the industry website [TVSpy], while Brenda Blackmon has been offered a new role producing and anchoring occasional specials for WWOR.”

Blackmon joined WWOR in 1990 and says on her web page, “Brenda has done it all: reporter, film editor, film photographer, talk show host for television and radio, show producer, writer, and TV anchorwoman for decades. . . .”