MONDAY MARCH 21, 2016
VOLUME 105 ISSUE 49 www.UniversityStar.com
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R O J MA DARYL ONTIVEROS MULTIMEDIA EDITOR
DJ Khaled performs March 18 inside Austin Music Hall for Mass Appeal’s showcase.
DJ Khaled performs and Snapchats at SXSW By Anna Herod NEWS EDITOR @annaleemurphy
The king of Snapchat took South By Southwest by storm Thursday night as the festival showcased the past and present of hip hop at Austin Music Hall. DJ Khaled made his SXSW debut after a series of showcases featuring Ezzy, Boldy James, Bas and more. As Khaled performed for a roaring audience, he warned the concert-goers he had a few surprises in store for Texas. Khaled’s first special guest was Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean of the Fugees— but the
DJ didn’t stop there. “They don’t want me to have more surprises,” Khaled said. “So let me have more surprises!” The crowd went wild when “Watch Out” began booming from the speakers and rapper 2 Chainz emerged from backstage. Members of the audience began crowd surfing, jumping and dancing as the two performers electrified the room with energy. “Follow me through the pathway to more success,” Khaled said between songs. “If you want to hear some more keys put your motherfuckin’ hands up. Another one!” As Khaled yelled his signa-
ture phrase, 2 Chainz continued the performance. “This was great and there were a lot of great surprises that came with DJ Khaled,” said Nony St. James of Dallas. “It was definitely worth the wait, because we waited three hours. We came at like 3.” Nearly seven hours after entering the venue, St. James stood in the front row during the concert, dancing and rapping along to every word with DJ Khaled and his surprise guests. St. James said she not only enjoyed the headliners, but the older rappers as well. Smif-N-Wessun, Buckshot and Rock—former members
of Boot Camp Clik— performed multiple songs in honor of the late rapper Sean Price. Price was a member of the popular 1990’s New York rap group. “Your favorite rapper is a fan of us,” said Steele of Smif-N-Wesson, as he acknowledged some of the younger fans may not know who he is. “Sean P. was the craziest motherfucker in the Bootcamp Clik and he was taken way too soon. This is for him.” During the tribute, the artists rapped Price’s songs and had the crowd join with them in a celebration of their friend’s birthday as a cake was brought on stage.
“This isn’t an R.I.P.,” Steele said. “This is a happy birthday.” The tribute continued for nearly an hour, but the crowd’s energy never dulled. “I thought (the tribute) was really good,” St. James said. “I wanna say that my favorite part was probably them mixing the old with the new, so that was great.” After performing with DJ Khaled, rapper Nas closed the show on a high note. Houston resident Carlos Charles said the only reason he came to the showcase was to see Nas perform. Charles grew up in England, and moved to America when he was in grade school. Listen-
ing to Nas’s “Illmatic” gave Charles his first taste of hip hop. “Around middle school his album was very influential for me,” Charles said. “It just made me think different. I had never seen Nas, and I don’t listen to hip hop too much, but he was one of the ones who was an icon when I did listen to it.” During the finale, the spotlight shifted to the balcony on the left of the stage. Nas pointed out notorious rapper Lil Boosie was at the SXSW concert, enjoying the show. “Lil Boosie in the house— it doesn’t get more fucking gangsta than that,” Nas said.
SXSW Takeover kept Michelle Obama’s keynote discussed audience guessing until global education of girls the end By Anna Herod NEWS EDITOR @annaleemurphy
Four hours before doors to Austin Music Hall opened, hundreds of eager fans lined up around the building in anticipation of South By Southwest Takeover. Rapper Travis Scott was set to headline the event, but as the line began to form, Scott tweeted he wouldn’t be able to make it to the show. While some fans thought Scott may make a surprise appearance, others were excited to find out who would fill the rapper’s empty slot. “I’m just coming out here to show Travis Scott love at this particular function and just the positive energy of SXSW,” said concert-goer Blake Human of Houston. “If Travis Scott doesn’t come, I’ll still be okay with the positive energy. Besides him, I’m most excited for Flatbush Zombies because they get super hype and I like energy.” Hours of the concert passed without audience members knowing who would close the show. As he hyped the crowd with his set, DJ Wonder teased by saying the fans wouldn’t want to miss the finale.
Although Scott couldn’t make the show, his fans seemed to be equally excited to see rapper Kevin Gates take the stage. “Kevin Gates is the next big thing,” said Imoh Edohoukwa, electronic media senior who was the first SXSW badge holder in line for the event. “I saw him last year, but he’s more well known this time around. He connects with fans like no other because he’s real and you feel like you can relate to him.” Gates gave a passionate performance. In between songs, the rapper opened up to the crowd and told them how he struggles with depression. The moment of vulnerability proved not to dampen the mood of the show because fans were crowd surfing and dancing a few songs later. “The first time I was on this stage, nobody knew who the fuck I was,” Gates yelled to the crowd. “But now, there’s not one person who doesn’t know what the fuck it is.” Newcomers to the rap industry showcased their work all night, and some received a better response than others. Rapper Liam Tracy performed early in the
See TAKEOVER, Page 2
By Anna Herod NEWS EDITOR @annaleemurphy
Girls facing adversity around the world cause more than 62 million classroom desks to remain empty. First Lady Michelle Obama is trying to fill those empty seats. Because they do not have access to education, more than 62 million girls around the world often fall victim to violence, trafficking, early marriage and working at a young age. First Lady Michelle Obama served as South by South West’s music keynote. Other speakers such as Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, actress Sophia Bush and songwriter Diane Warren discussed Let Girls Learn, an initiative launched by the President and First Lady to support the millions of girls who are absent from the world’s classrooms. “(Change) usually starts with something that moves you personally,” Obama said. “For me, having 62 million girls not get an education— that’s personal.” An additional year of education increases a woman’s income by up to 25 percent, and children born to educated mothers are twice as likely to live past the age of 5, according to statistics cited by Let Girls Learn. Globally, there are mil-
DARYL ONTIVEROS MULTIMEDIA EDITOR First Lady Michelle Obama speaks on stage during the opening keynote to South by Southwest’s music festival.
lions of girls who drop out of school when they start menstruating because there are often no bathrooms at the institutions in impoverished areas, the First Lady said. Obama said she often hears stories of children not receiving education because the nearest school is miles away, they have no safe transportation or their families cannot afford to pay fees. “They have limited resources,” Obama said. “All of these stories generate the same kind of anger, and
that sense of unfairness and inequality that makes you wanna move.” The panelists agreed motivation to create change normally comes from a pivotal moment one experiences personally. For Latifah, the catalyst was seeing her peers getting hooked on cocaine when she was growing up. Latifah was motivated to create an organization called Students Against Crack with her friend and mother. Similarly, childhood adversity in Obama’s life sparked a passion within her to help
others, and it continued to burn as she took on the role of being a public figure. As a young black girl growing up in the south side of Chicago, Obama said she encountered many people who doubted her ability to get into a respected college and succeed in life. As First Lady of the United States, Obama is passionate about making sure young people know they are capable of defying anyone who doubts them.
See FLOTUS, Page 2
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TAKEOVER, show, and struggled to get any energy from the crowd. Despite a “you suck” chant from the crowd, Tracy asked the audience multiple times to lift their hands and jump— to no avail. Tracy said he was losing his voice, and exited the stage. Of all the perfomances,
from front Flatbush Zombies stole the show. The crowd went wild as the three-member group delivered enthusiasm that filled the entire theater. Kayla Thompson, Austin resident who waited in line for five hours, said she liked the event for the most part. Although she originally came
to see Scott perform, Flatbush Zombies gained a new devoted fan. Thompson’s favorite part of the show was the surprise finale. The lights in the venue cut off as the final showcase performers left the stage. The room became illuminated as Maybach Music
artist Wale emerged from backstage. Wale has collaborated with artists such as Amy Winehouse, Rick Ross and 2 Chainz. Wale only performed two songs before diving into the crowd. Fans passed him around, and he eventually fell to the ground. Security
rushed to remove the barricades in front of the first row to retrieve him. Coming back from the fall, Wale went back behind the barrier, separated himself from the crowd and climbed steps on the back of the structure so he could interact with fans. The rap artist signed
hats and other merchandise handed to him, all while smoking a blunt an audience member passed him. “I didn’t like that Travis Scott cancelled his performance at the last minute, but I love Wale,” Thompson said.
“To be kind every day in some small way, to be compassionate, to show that sort of love can be your way,” Latifah said. “(Obama) thought of an idea and thought all of these different ways to attack a grand idea. You can do the same thing by simply showing love. Sometimes that can be a challenge, because generally you have to start with yourself. Show yourself some love, so that way, you can kind of put that out there to the
world and be compassionate to others.” The world can only benefit from having a woman’s voice be heard, Latifah said. “When (Missy Elliot and I) talk about what’s missing in hip-hop, women is what’s missing in hip-hop,” Latifah said. “Women is why we’re not getting as rich of a diverse sound in music as we should. Whenever you remove a woman’s voice from anything, you are lacking.”
Obama agreed lack of variation among the voices heard is an injustice to society. She said those who have access to a seat at the table where decisions are made have a responsibility to ask themselves if there’s diversity around it. “I’m always of the mindset that we reach better answers when we have a broad array of voices—when we have women at the table, when there are minorities,” Obama
said. “So, if you’re a man at the table and you look around and there are only men at the table, then you should ask yourselves, ‘How can I do better?’ because there are a lot of men-only tables going on around this country and around the world, and the only people who can change that are the men at the table.”
“What I will miss most about being First Lady is you all—the young people that I get to interact with everyday,” Obama said. “The young people in this country keep me inspired because I see myself in them—in you all. I see that little girl in the south side who was told she couldn’t. I see the kid with doubts, and I just know that if I can be here, and do this, and have gone to great colleges and had all these wonderful experiences,
you can do it too.” An audience member asked the panelists how he could best serve as an ally in the fight for women’s rights and equity. Obama said the best way to support the 62 million girls who cannot receive education is to support the initiative by donating or taking a pledge. Latifah said one does not have to live in the White House in order to implement change throughout the world.
“What I will miss most about being First Lady is you all— the young people that I get to interact with everyday.” —MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES
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Kerry Washington dicusses social media during panel By Kelsey Bradshaw EDITOR-IN-CHIEF @kbrad5
Often, when a woman of color is in a movie, it is considered an “activist moment,” but Kerry Washington wants to influence change. “Inclusivity is about multiple voices at the table, and social media has made the table bigger and much easier
to get to,” Washington said at South by Southwest Interactive Festival. Washington, who plays Olivia Pope in “Scandal”, said women don’t often get to be leads of their own stories, and social media has given her the ability to inspire change. Without Twitter, “Scandal” wouldn’t have had a second season. Had she not livetweeted the first season of
the show, no one would have continued to watch. Washington said Twitter has been a news outlet for her to check daily. She only tweets about the things she cares about, like the Black Lives Matter movement. “The ability that social media has to give a voice to the voiceless is very important,” Washington said. But, social media has its
downsides as well. Washington, who had a baby last year, has chosen to keep her personal life private on social media. The actress’ popular Instagram account includes photos of her outfits, manicures or events she attends, but none of her baby. She said people tweet all the time asking where her family is on social media. But, Washington doesn’t regret
the decision to keep her personal life private, especially with the amount of internet trolls she encounters daily. Washington deals with rude people on the internet everyday. When Washington gets hateful comments, she thinks of people like Beyoncé or Oprah, who deal with hate and manage to continue changing the world. “I don’t scroll down and
read comments because people are so mean,” she said. Washington mentioned she doesn’t tend to block people unless they say something like, “I want to rape you and send you back to Africa.” “I don’t believe in responding because I don’t think I have the tools to transform someone’s ideology,” Washington said.
A few fashion favorites: SXSW music edition By Anna Herod NEWS EDITOR @annaleemurphy
South by Southwest attracted people from all walks of life who fall somewhere along every portion of the style spectrum. Whether the festivalgoers were in Austin for the interactive, music or film portion of SXSW, the city was filled with distinctly styled crowds. Below are some of the most stand out looks from the action-
packed week. Emily Walker attended SXSW with a group of 15 friends after commuting from England. Walker caught the eyes of crowd members at SXSW’s daytime concert stages as she went from one event to another, leaving a trail of glitter behind her. “(My look is) tropical,” Walker said. “My friend made this head piece. She’s called Twinks Burnett. She’s a designer and stylist in London and you should check
DARYL ONTIVEROS MULTIMEDIA EDITOR Mariah Vega at SXSW Music.
DARYL ONTIVEROS MULTIMEDIA EDITOR Emily Walker poses at SXSW Music.
her shit out—she’s amazing. This is a headpiece that she makes and sells for festivals.” Walker’s tropical two-piece outfit was created by Laura Ralph, a designer located in Oxford. “She’s really cool,” Walker said. “I kind of stumbled across her stuff like a week before I came here. And then (I’m wearing) all the glitter because glitter is marvelous and I feel really fucked up
right now. Like not drunk, but just really tired from the past couple of days.” Mariah Vega was one of the first people in the VIP line for Thursday’s SXSW Takeover, a high energy hip hop concert. The mixture of textures and colors showcased her edgy style. Vega said she recommends mixing interesting fabrics to add another element of appeal to an outfit.
J.J. Abrams didn’t talk about Star Wars when he was at SXSW By Kelsey Bradshaw EDITOR-IN-CHIEF @kbrad5
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” grossed around $2.057 billion globally and $900 million nationally after its December release. J.J. Abrams, director of the Star Wars reboot, didn’t talk about the movie at South by Southwest.
All Abrams had to say was “BB-8 was a puppeteer character; he was in all of the scenes physically,” and “humanity” had to be added to the movie after it was filmed. Other than that, Abrams discussed technology and how it has changed the movie business. Spoiler alert: technology is pretty great. Abrams said smart phones are the “nightmare of every
In the Mercantile Building
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story teller” because filmmakers are afraid the movies they make will be watched on a tiny screen. The biggest challenge of new technology is “hiding it” in different scenes, he said. Abrams touched on diversity in Hollywood. Multiple actors and actresses, including Jada Pinkett Smith, decided to boycott the Oscars on account of there being few
people of color nominated for any awards. Because of this, Abrams said he changed the hiring criteria at Bad Robot, his company. When having an open call for auditions, Abrams said the candidates are representative of the country they are in. He wanted to give “people who aren’t the usual suspects a chance.”
DARYL ONTIVEROS MULTIMEDIA EDITOR Hugh Mathews of Pretty City at SXSW Music.
“It’s just everything I like to wear all put together,” Vega said. “I like to mix lace and floral with more edgy styles.” Texture seemed to be a popular theme at the festival. Hugh Mathews of Pretty City, an Australian band which performed three shows at SXSW, said texture is actually more important than color. “Texture is more important than color because texture draws your eye in, and color pushes your eye
away,” Mathews said. “Color reflects light, whereas texture sucks your eye in.” A pair of Chelsea boots, black skinny jeans and a denim jacket with “something silly” on the back of it are items everyone’s closet should have, he said. “There are no boundaries—women’s clothing, men’s clothing—it’s all up for grabs,” Mathews said. “That’s important.”
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‘Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America’ is not the race conscious film America needs By Brandon Sams OPINIONS EDITOR @TheBrandonSams
In the time of Black Lives Matter and polarizing political figures like Donald Trump, racism is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. In the new documentary “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America,” musician Daryl Davis pathetically attempts to have a worthwhile discourse on racism, but just ends up making a fool of himself. The premise is great: a black man stands against the terror of the Ku Klux Klan in spite of its history as a conquering force, changing minds in his wake. However, the execution and the reality of the situation is a lot less triumphant. If there were one
word to describe the film it would be “wretched.” Davis takes director Matt Ornstein across the country from California to Alabama, as the musician interacts with his KKK friends, some of which are former members while others remain active. The fact that Davis calls one man, a proud Imperial Wizard of the KKK, a “friend” is enough to stop viewers in their tracks. The mere mention of the three letters sends chills of trauma down the spines of those unfortunate black men and women who have experienced the Klan’s presence. Davis’ attempt to redeem the terrorist group’s members seems to be one born out of trauma. Filmmakers and Davis make it no secret they are out to answer the ques-
tion: “how can you hate me when you don’t know me.” However, the only question they seem to be resolving is how to properly validate a predominantly white audience. Davis is a smart man, so conceivably this is all a methodical move—even the dubious parts of the film potentially painting Davis in an entitled light. The potential of the film was quickly repressed after Davis made his way to Baltimore and spoke to a group of Black Lives Matter activists. After short discussion, an argument ensues, undoubtedly the most heated moment in the film. Davis ends up calling one BLM activist “uneducated,” illustrating his elitist, classist attitude. It was at this moment in the documentary Davis went
from a tragic character of the great Greek tradition, befriending those who loathe him, to an unlikeable figure. The dichotomy between Davis’ interaction with Klansmen and Black Lives Matter activists was an interesting diversion from the typical narrative. Here viewers see Davis’ usual easygoing demeanor turn into a spiteful, angry one. Ironically, being among men who wish his expulsion from America fails to conjure up the same amount of rage as a black person confused about his methods and motives. His rude demeanor toward the black activist who sought to question why Davis, as a black man, decides to make friends with the paragons
of torture and terror in his community was unbecoming. At that moment I was immediately turned off from Davis. The fact that the film centered on his voice and experiences only sought to exacerbate the films diminishing light. Viewers are left thinking perhaps Davis is not the person to lead the conversation, as it becomes increasingly clear he still has much to learn. Thankfully, cinematographers Sam Gezari and Peter Castagnetti were able to save the overall experience of the film. They capture beautiful moments in the film, including the unapologetic essences of the KKK members as they stand around burning crosses. The powerful images of a black person standing
with, not against, the KKK are sardonically biting, if not exquisitely divergent. Despite what the title suggests, there is nothing accidental about Davis’ almost cartoonish genteel attitude toward the KKK. If anything, the only accidental courtesy shown throughout the film is his initial reaction to the Black Lives Matter activists. The line between hobby and activism is a convoluted one in the case of “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America.” In radical discourses on anti-racism the time of conceding to the distraction inherently embedded in the racism of those in power is long gone. Apparently, Davis didn’t get the memo or perhaps he never cared to check.
Black Lives Matter activists address new solutions to old problems
DARYL ONTIVEROS MULTIMEDIA EDITOR Chas Moore, Black Lives Matter activist and Austin Justice Coalition member, speaks at a Black Lives Matter interactive panel March 15 at South by Southwest. By Anna Herod NEWS EDITOR @annaleemurphy
In recent years, news programs across America have come to be increasingly filled with reports of unarmed black people being shot by police. The trend triggered protests from Baltimore to Texas, and the news was soon filled with fatal shootings, stories of protests and riots as activists were reinvigorated in their fight against systemic racism. Chas Moore and Fatima
Mann, Black Lives Matter activists and Austin Justice Coalition members, spoke at South By Southwest Tuesday as an opportunity to discuss the movement, address new solutions to societal racism and talk about what it means to be an ally. Moore said the Austin Justice Coalition is working with black youth to educate them about finances so they may succeed economically in the future. “When you go to these black rap shows (at SXSW), it’s 80 percent white people because it’s 80 percent white
people who can afford these prices,” Moore said. “You have all these black people that live in Austin who are dying to go to these shows on the outside. That’s part of the problem. What can we do to provide the economic resources to have these black people in these black spaces?” In modern society, people often deny racism exists even though it is alive and well, Moore said. Today’s racism comes in the form of police brutality, economic marginalization and overall lack of opportunity.
“This is because they can’t see (racism) the way our grandparents did,” Moore said. “It was different when you was sitting at a counter and had people spitting at you, and cussing at you, and hanging you, and lynching you and burning you.” Moore said black people are sometimes blamed for the racism inflicted upon them, when it should be placed on the system instead. “You got negroes like Don Lemon who say we’re getting shot and getting killed because we don’t know how to talk with proper etiquette, or that our pants are too low, or all this nonsense,” Moore said. “What he’s not understanding is that racism now is like sugaring a cake—you can’t see it, but you can taste it.” People of color have to prepare their children to take extra precautions in life, especially with law enforcement, Mann said. She asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they had ever been given a speech on exactly what they should do when pulled over for a traffic stop. After hands across the room rose into the air, she asked the audience to look around. Mann noted that the majority of people at the panel who received this speech growing up were people of color. “People that look like
(Moore), that look like my father, that look like my brothers—some of them don’t know if they’re going to walk back into their homes just because of how they look,” Mann said. “You have mothers saying prayers, sisters saying prayers—hoping that, hell, that I can come home because they’re killing people that look like me too.” The activists asked attendees why they decided to attend the Black Lives Matter panel. One audience member said she wanted to learn how to be a good ally for the movement. Mann said the key to being a good ally is speaking up for people of color and those who are not heard by all of society. “Allies, I think that you got to put up or shut up,” Mann said. “We can’t keep on waiting for y’all to get that our lives matter. We know our lives matter. We don’t need y’all to tell us our lives matter. We just need y’all to start acting like it and tell other people that our lives matter so we can actually do something.” Tony Weaver Jr. said he attended the panel to hear the perspectives of like-minded people. “I think the panel was an absolute amazing opportunity for people from all different backgrounds to come and learn more about Black Lives Matter movement,”
Weaver said. Weaver said becoming an ally of the movement can be daunting for some people, since it is so complex. “If you want to get involved, it’s a little difficult, especially if you’re not a person of color, because you’re like, ‘I want to be a good ally but I don’t know how to do that,’” Weaver said. “So, I feel like the panel was an excellent opportunity to do that for people to come and learn what they personally can do to help move social progress along.” Renee Miller said the Black Lives Matter panel was the only one she planned to attend at SXSW, and she was “insistent” on being there. Miller said the event helped her realize the importance of separating the history of black people in America from the history of black people across the world. “Black history doesn’t start on the shores of America,” Miller said. “I hadn’t thought about separating that out from the systemic issues that black people face in America, especially for younger generations and how to explain that to younger generations. It’s really hard and really confusing to think when you’re a kid that, ‘well my skin color is a problem but I’m not the problem.’ It’s hard not to internalize.”
POTUS stops in Austin for tacos and technology By Kelsey Bradshaw EDITOR-IN-CHIEF @kbrad5
The leaders of Texas have suppressed voters in Texas and it is up to the people to fix, President Barack Obama said at South by Southwest Interactive festival in an interview with CEO and Editorin-Chief of the Texas Tribune Evan Smith. In what might of been his last visit to Austin while in office, Obama spoke on using technology to encourage more civic participation, including voting. “The folks who are currently governing the good ole’ state of Texas aren’t interested in having more people participating,” Obama said alluding to Texas’ harsh voter ID laws, the most restrictive in the country. The law requires most citizens to show multiple permissable photo identification before their election ballots can be counted. Texas voters aren’t allowed to register online, because the secretary of state requires a physical signature on registration forms, a problem Obama said was the cause of the state’s low voter turnout. Texas ranked second to last
among the 12 states that have already held presidential primaries with only 21.5 percent of those 18 or older voting. “It is much easier for us to order a pizza or a trip than it is for you to exercise the single most important task in democracy,” he said. “Look, Texas is never going be an early adopter of what I’m talking about here, but over time, pressure builds for us to create systems that make government more responsive and make it work better,” he said. The president declined to comment on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple dispute over whether or not the tech company should have federal access to a person’s private phone, like in the case of the San Bernadino shooters. He did say, however, the he didn’t think the government should be able to go through people’s phones all “willy-nilly.” “(We) have to make decisions about how do we balance these respective risks,” Obama said. He added that unemployment rates are down to 5 percent. “Thanks, Obama,” he quipped. When Smith said that they
President Barack Obama arrives at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport March 11.
were out of time, Obama responed by saying, “I’m the president, so I’m going to take one more question.” Obama, in the last year of his time in office, said that being president has been the greatest honor of his life. “It’s not like I’m going to stop being involved in pro-
moting the best, most prosperous, most peaceful, most tolerant, most ecologically responsible American that I can,” Obama said. “I’ll be sitting in an audience with you. And I expect you to step up because the country needs you. If the brainpower and talent that’s on display today
and throughout the conference takes up that baton, then I’m going to be really confident about the future of this country.” Obama’s SXSW appearance was the first time in the festival’s 30-year history that a sitting president attended and spoke. Before his
LAUREN HUSTON DESIGN EDITOR
panel, he picked up lunch at Torchy’s Tacos ordering a Democrat, Republican and Independent taco. Before leaving Austin, Obama spoke at a Democratic National Committee reception and a private event in Tarrytown before flying to Dallas.
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Monday, March 7, 2016 | 3
‘Beware the Slenderman’ masterfully critiques the repercussions of modern-day meme culture By Brandon Sams OPINIONS EDITOR @TheBrandonSams
“Beware the Slenderman” is a haunting documentary that takes viewers into the minds of children infatuated and eventually consumed by the forces of digital enclaves. Director Irene Taylor Brodsky seeks to answer the question veiled in the burrows of the justice system: what do we do with children who commit heinous crimes? The film details the impact Internet meme culture has on impressionable children in contemporary society by focusing on the near fatal influence of one particular popularity: Slenderman. Slenderman is a faceless, rail thin and abnormally tall figure with elongated limbs. He is often described as the modern-day boogeyman. Slenderman originated on the comedy website Something Awful and since then the stories have taken on a life of their own, often involving stalking, abducting and terrorizing people—namely children. Brodsky decided to waddle down a primrose path to tell the story of 12-yearolds involved in an alleged
murder plot: Anissa Weier and Morgan Geysers, girls who couldn’t decipher fiction from reality. The two allegedly conspired to murder a friend all in the hopes of being welcomed as one of Slenderman’s “proxies.” Going through the psychoses of the young girls and furthering their humanization seemed to be common themes. The film includes personal interviews with the parents of both alleged perpetrators as well as some experts on Internet culture such as famous scientist Richard Dawkins. Brodsky does as any filmmaker would and shifts the blame away from the underage girls. She focuses more on environmental stimuli and mental predispositions that lead the girls to the notorious assault. It was clear she did not want to paint these girls as monsters, but as victims of a society that often lets the Internet become a stand-in for the imaginations of children. The girls may be the ones sitting in a courtroom waiting to be convicted, but the narrative Brodsky sought to depict was more an indictment on society for failing Weier and Geysers. If not in a court
of law, then in the courts of moral and civic duty—we are to blame. There were points throughout the film, namely the ominous musical score and the inclusion of art and edited photographs of Slenderman, where I understood completely how this figure could frighteningly captivate the minds of children. The decision to make Slenderman featureless allows people to cast whatever fears, anxieties and traumas they have onto the character. He serves as the embodiment of one’s terrors. The Internet is a dark place and often forces osmosis between material and impressionable minds, especially those of children, like never before. While the overlying message pondered who to blame and what to do with children who commit heinous crimes, the answer seemed to be a bit less explicit. As the credits rolled the question remained unanswered, perhaps deliberately. Viewers are left contemplating the veracity of Brodsky’s claim—maybe society has failed the next generation. It was society who neglected these children right into the arms of the Internet,
PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUND & VISION
symbolized by Slenderman, so society must climb out of the self-inflicted abyss. The way Brodsky critiques
modern culture without being accusatory is characteristic of a masterful documentarian. “Beware the Slenderman”
is a film worthy of universal praise, and one everyone needs to see, before it’s theoretically too late.
‘Newtown’ spotlights community healing after unthinkable tragedy By Brandon Sams OPINIONS EDITOR @TheBrandonSams
“Newtown” is a devastatingly beautiful documentary that will break your heart and expose your mind. Director Kim Snyder takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster detailing a town’s collective healing after an unforeseeable tragedy rocked the community. Newtown is the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which took place Dec. 14, 2012 and left 28 people, including 20 children, dead— rocking the nation.
From beginning to end, sniffles echoed throughout the theater. “Newtown” is not for the emotionally fragile. The documentary takes viewers into the daily lives of those most affected by the actions of a crazed gunman. The structure of the film plays more like a eulogy as opposed to a screenplay. The primary subjects of Snyder’s artistic genius are Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan; Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel; and David Wheeler, who lost his son Ben. Snyder deliberately chooses to not name the killer, high-
lighting the importance of the children’s memory and the community in grief. It was an impactful choice because far too often films seeking to tell the stories of calamity focus on the monsters. Snyder’s choice to take a different route streams into the resilience of a group of parents and people who will be connected forever. As the film follows those families in transition, the trauma of that December night is never too far away. In one emotional scene, Hockley sits in a car speaking about her activist work. The mother breaks down talking
about how being away from home is enjoyable because for a brief moment she can pretend Dylan is home safe . While the political undertones lie relatively dormant, they are perceivable. Snyder delves into some of the parents’ gun control activism, namely Hockley and Barden. Throughout the film the gun control message neither wallows nor overpowers the narrative, it simply is. “Newtown” does not seek to be an explicitly political film, nor is it. However, portions unrepentantly advocate for a continued national conversation on gun control.
Outside of the mourning families, the film also focuses on those living with survivor’s remorse. One neighbor recalls going to the school after the tragedy. She vividly describes the conflicting emotions she experienced when reunited with her son whereas her neighbors stood childless. She broke down. Lead composer Fil Eisler perfectly captures the complexity of the film, as it varies between shock, sadness and hope. The score sequentially follows the stages of grief, mourning and works in tandem with the way director of photography Derek
Wiesehahn captured every moment. Pitch-black screens separated scenes and interviewees, as if to offer a moment of contemplation, reflection and ease for the viewing audience. Editor Gabriel Rhodes mixed and matched the scenes together perfectly to create a sequential, almost episodic feel. “Newtown” epitomized what everyone says after tragedy strikes: “never forget.” The only difference is Snyder will make sure it holds true for a long time.
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