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December 14, 2005

Tookie’s Celebrity


A reader sent me this image from an article in yesterday’s Salon (The Execution of Stanley Tookie Williams  – link).  The reader wonders:

Is Snoop promoting himself using a convicted man, or is Tookie trying to save himself by using Snoop? Or both? Is this some kind of nexus of whoredom?

The BAG wonders whether this comment is “on the money,” overwhelmingly cynical or something of both. 

Certainly, many issues and interests converge here.  This is a social justice story evoking the intractable problem of poverty and violence affecting so many black males.  Obviously, it’s a death penalty story.  The episode was also celebrity laden — and primed for ratings. (Notice the title of this December 1st MSNBC article : Stars rally around Stanley Tookie Williams: Snoop, Jamie Foxx and others hope Schwarzenegger will stay execution.)

But, let’s consider the picture.  Do conflicting agendas ultimately diminish what, at the “top” or manifest level, seems like a felt and touching image?  Is there any argument that there isn’t also a “middle” layer involving an intentional act by Snoop Dogg to frame a persuasive argument for the cameras.  And finally, going by my reader, could you also suppose a “bottom” layer in which Snoop himself is an object of endorsement?

How do you parse it?

(Image: Unattributed.  December 13, 2005.  Home page.)

  • mugatea

    Snoop & Tookie bizzy have an influence on tha nizzext generizzle of urban males.
    They bizzle have an impact on our culture via personal experiences of life on tha streets.
    “nexus of whoredom?” … its a bigga issue than pimps n’ hoes.
    Why M-to-tha-izzust we as a society kizzay someone fo` a crime they commited a bitch of a century ago?
    How much did tha State of California spend on tha legal fees ta kizzay this man?
    Was it wiznorth it? Do we all feel betta now? I thizzay not.
    Tookie should hizzle S-P-to-tha-izzent life in prison, no diggity fo’ sheezy.
    But kizzle him on tha cracka dime? Nasty.
    No diggity Tookie should have been in prison fo` life fo` whizzat he did.
    The cappin’ of da killa made me aware of Tookie’s work like this and like that and like this and uh.
    Tha cappin’ of tookie makes this east coast white mizzy interested in tha wizzle he did in prison, sho nuff.
    His books is now of interest ta me n’ shit.
    If cali had not have iced him, I would have not known a thing `bout him.

    • Joelbaez34

      you cant fucking spell u dumbass

  • redjellydonut

    It seemed a sincere and modest expression of helplessness to me. On its face, it reflects Snoop’s powerlessness to do anything for Williams except show the world his picture. In this image, I don’t see Snoop Dogg, multi-millionaire rap icon, I see Calvin Broadus, a black man who, despite his wealth and celebrity, can’t do a goddamned thing to help Williams. There’s something poignant about the object he uses to make his case. It’s a snapshot. It’s not a portrait, it’s just a snapshot, out of focus, taken on the go probably. Looking at the snapshot, you can almost sense Williams fading away, out of sight and thought. Snoop’s one moist eye seems to stare accusingly at someone or something. Impotence and anguish.
    From that initial response, you can start layering on postermodern interpretations. I don’t see any point in doing that…the picture speaks for itself.

  • momly

    I think there are too many emotions swirling around the death penalty for any two dimensional image to adequately express them all. I think what you bring to the issue is what you see in this case.

  • ummabdulla

    Hmmm… should I embarass myself and show how out-of-touch (and/or old) I am? I thought the guy holding the snapshot was Eddie Murphy. (Not the one in the snapshot, though.) OK, I’ve lived outside the U.S. for a long time…
    To be honest, I don’t know much about this. Suddenly, Tookie Williams’ impending execution was the top story on the BBC World news, although I don’t remember hearing anything about him before that. And now his story will disappear again – at least from the international news.

  • jt from B.C.

    Parsing escapes me;
    but how are we to understand the murder of one man or of many; as errors or tragedies ?
    Is it ironic that this photo was shown on the day Stanley Williams was killed for killing four people and George Bush said 30,000 Iraqis had been killed!!
    George please ask Colin Powell or Tony Blair how Mr. Roberts screwed up so badly in Iraq ( est 100,000 deaths) while being so precise in the Congo?
    October(2004) a study..The Lancet..about 100,000 civilians..killed in Iraq since U.S.-led coalition in March 2003.
    Mr. Roberts..survey in which he used methods akin to those of his Iraq study.”Tony Blair and Colin Powell have quoted those results time and time again without any question as to the precision or validity”.

  • SaintWaldo

    There’s no money trail, so what’s being pimped? The photo Snoop is holding is a polaroid. It’s an intimate item. Polaroids are not publicity items; they are personal. They may certainly be used for publicity. Publicity itself is neutral; it’s intent that holds bias. The question is, “What is Snoop publicizing by showing this intimate article?” The photo shown doesn’t seem staged for publicity; it looks like a photo Snoop wanted of an idol. In the news photo, Snoop is revealing his idolization of Tookie, his experience of actually meeting him, attempting to show Tookie as a human, and capable of connecting with other humans, and therefore, hopefully, viewable by others as capabale of redemption. Snoop isn’t selling records, or himself. He’s trying to save the life of someone he obviously admired. What, exactly, does this “pimp”?

  • MrFlaherty

    I always read this site, and enjoy it greatly. I thought I would help out with a little knowledge on this one. Usually I find you all to be well informed, but in this case I think you are trying to hype something which is genuine.
    Snoop was a Crip back in the day before becoming a huge star. I heard rumors up until a few years ago that he was still involved with them to some extend. Tookie was a founder of the gang. It is a gang. I’m sure they all care for each other.
    Tookie worked as a reformer of inner city kids, trying to keep them out or get them out of gangs. Snoop has recently reformed himself, in his own wierd way, and I am certain his feelings for Tookie are genuine.
    My semiotic analysis of this photo would be that sometimes it is difficult to seperate the celebrity from the real person, with real feelings. I’ve never seen Snoop look that sad, and I never will, because that is a photo of Calvin Broadus, and someone he admires is going to be killed by the state.

  • readytoblowagasket

    The answer seems to be: overwhelmingly cynical. In the end, no one saved anyone.

  • error27

    It’s a very personal picture.
    Williams is old man. He’s wearing a sweater. Sweaters are not intimidating. Both of them are being brave about something that is very sad.
    Is Snoop so insensitive he would use William’s death to promote his records? Is the photographer insensitive to take this personal moment and sell the pictures? Are we the insensitive ones to not understand that Broadus feels sadness the same way we do…

  • lytom

    One wonders about redemption and jugment and the power of pardon.
    And the hope!

  • Aaron May

    As many of the commenters have pointed out, this photo reveals a window through the Snoop persona. Through this window we see the all too vulnerable Calvin. Let’s also not forget, in the early years of Snoop’s fame he too faced a murder rap, giving him an all too real emotional link to t\ Mr. William’s plight.

  • John

    Two very different people living in two very different worlds, looking to obtain legitimacy by association. Both, probably have honest and sincere emotions for the other. Both stand to gain by associating with the other. Sad, without a doubt.

  • B

    I just see Snoop using a dead man walking for personal gain.
    On that note… I jsut wish we could have tortured that racist unapologetic scum Tookie. He deserved death. Lets see how many Snoops and Susan Sarandans show up to protest the execution of Scott Peterson.

  • Lisa

    Wow. Nothing brings out the creeps like the death penalty and race.
    Nice, B. You’re a real class act.
    Back on topic, I am not a big fan of Snoop Dogg. But this does seem to be more of a portrait of Calvin Broadus than the star persona Snoop. I like it. It’s a good photo. It says a lot about this particular issue.

  • KevinNYC

    “Snoop was a Crip back in the day before becoming a huge star. I heard rumors up until a few years ago that he was still involved with them to some extent. Tookie was a founder of the gang. It is a gang. I’m sure they all care for each other.”
    Snoop used to be signed to Death Row Records which pretty much was an offshot of the Bloods in LA. Suge Knight, the head of Death Row was affiliated with Mob Piru Bloods street gang in LA. Tjen came the time of the Tupac and Biggie Murders. When Snoop left Death Row, he said he feared for his life. He suppossedly has moved away from the gang lifestyle after that.

  • Stefanie Marra

    I am a 9th grader at FHS in Illinois. My english Teacher Mrs. olsen back then Miss fritz was miss Illinois. She visited tookie. She has pictures and letters. But that whole snoop thing is that supposivly snoop was apart of the gang. they were friends. And yes tookie died an honest man in my opinion but think about it. do you think with all those fallowers that he himself actually killed anyone. tookie tried to help kids in the end. and my teacher loved that i love that. snoop was in many gangs but because of he is a celebrity, no one accuses him? thats stupid but tookie wasn’t using him.



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