Comedy is a prime weapon for devaluing and belittling marginalized bodies. Laughter aimed at an oppressed person because of their oppression intensifies and isolates the victim, and emphasizes their status as an outsider. I don't have to tell you this – if you're interested in feminism, you've probably had these jokes aimed at you and your body. Oppression is a serious topic, and jokes about it must be carefully thought out.
In analyzing comedy shows, how do I differentiate between actions that reinforce the ism at hand, and actions that superficially reinforce but actually subvert or critique the cultural assumptions the characters live with? When is a show making fun of oppression, and when is it making fun of oppressed bodies? Is there a difference? How do you tell?
I like cartoons, and watch several less-than-feminist animated series, but as far as Family Guy goes, I watched my last episode years ago, fed up with its recycled gags and the way it confused political incorrectness with edgy humor (has somone already made the joke "So crass, so old" about Fox's new "So brash, so bold"? Probably?). But the show, and creator Seth MacFarlane's spinoff shows The Cleveland Show and American Dad are, incredibly, still airing. Of course, to sustain the same offensive jokes over the course of three very similar shows and numerous seasons, its creators have to devise punchlines that are equal parts lazy and offensive, and most recently, at the expense of trans women in Sunday's episode, "Quagmire's Dad."
Hi there! I'm Rachel McCarthy James. In most internet-type contexts I go by RMJ. I write and edit the recently-revived feminist blog Deeply Problematic, and I'm here to talk to y'all about some TELEVISION. Read on for some thoughts about Television, in general!
Today I focus on Nicki Minaj, a female rapper who is part of Lil Wayne's Young Money crew and has recently gone solo She's been on my radar for some time. Jonah Weiner recently wrote a Slatecolumn about her. Jay Smooth and Maura Johnston had in an interesting exchange about her for NPR. Apparently this Web site gets several searches for her as well, so she's clearly someone we should be talking about.
Today, I thought I'd turn our attention to Showtime's The L Word. I'll admit that the Los Angeles-based ensemble dramedy created by Ilene Chaiken was marred by over-the-top situations, uneven character development, hackneyed writing, a bevy of skinny femmes, and racially problematic casting decisions. It also featured one of the worst theme songs ever, which was written and performed by BETTY.
However, until the final season I was hooked. I started watching with my girlfriends in college toward the end of Sex and the City's run on HBO (L Word fans may recall that the show's original tag line was "Same Sex, Different City"). I was invested in many of the L Word's characters and their long, interconnected histories with one another. I appreciated the incorporation of lesbian icons through dialogue or cameos, and the attention drawn to lesser-known cultural practices like Dinah Shore Weekend or the prevalence of lesbian nuns. I liked the sex, even though it was often of the lipstick variety. Most of all, I enjoyed the role music played in the women's lives.