In the first post in this series, I looked at how white and nonwhite characters in representation and death on the Island at the center of Lost. While the Island is the focus of Lost, flashbacks and other off-island plots are the main way in which the show develops individual characters, and these stories deserve individual analysis.In this post, I'll be looking at the other narrative side of this complex show: off-island action, in flashbacks, flashforwards, and sideways flashes, with help from my friend and fellow Lost fan, Renee Martin of Womanist Musings.
Representation is not necessarily anti-racism, and Lost's framing and depiction of nonwhite characters is often violent and damaging. A pertinent example of this in the current, last season came two weeks ago in the episode "The Candidate", in which Sun, Jin, and Sayid–three out of four of the remaining characters of color from the original cast - were killed within the span of a few minutes so white characters could live.
It may be a bit late in the "Tuning In" series to reveal this, but, like some music critics, I watch Fox's American Idol. I still follow it even though the past few seasons have been lackluster. I caught the end of the first season, which Kelly Clarkson deservedly won (cue "Since U Been Gone" and rock out), but remained a hold-out for a few years until my partner got me following Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice's season four tête-à-tête.
However, I have a love-hate relationship with the program. Many of the contestants bore or irritate me and the winner is often not who I'd choose. It also frustrates me that the competition can seem a bit racist. The wrongful ousting of Tamrya Gray and Jennifer Hudson make this evident, as did Jordin Sparks's season six win, which came after darker-skinned contestants LaKisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle were voted off.
In addition, I think the show needs to end. Simon Cowell is leaving. Episode premises and possibilities for new mentors have been stretched. Idol Gives Back continues to bloat on its own self-importance despite its purported altruistic intentions. I've also seen far too many Ford music videos (though I did perk up when last season's group did a rendition of Lykki Li's "I'm Good, I'm Gone," as my synapses fire when indie and mainstream music culture coalesce).
This season has left me with little to latch onto. In a season that's been defined by artists packaging themselves as hipster- or indie-friendly, the majority of these contestants have demonstrated for me how disappointing it can be when underground music is co-opted by the mainstream. That many of these bland artists were pretty white women with little staying power is even more disheartening. Ellen DeGeneres has offered some perceptive advice. There have been a few noteworthy guest performances, including Lady Gaga's pared-down "Alejandro" and Rihanna's "Rock Star," which made me want to teach her how to actually play the guitar. Beyond that, there's the lone female contestant in the top three who I hope takes over the title on May 26th.
A few days ago, the Hollywood Scoop reported the same crew behind HBO's boys & toys hit Entourage were cooking up another show for the network. This one would be a spin-off of Entourage, but this time based around women in Los Angeles. The only report is that it would be like Entourage meets Sex and the City - which is a bit confusing because it's all the same show. However, I'm looking at this development a bit more skeptically than usual.
Trouble is, HBO already aired a different show that the Entourage crew executive produced. It was called How To Make It In America, and if we've learned anything from the treatment of female character Rachel Chapman (played by Lake Bell), we know that a well-written woman is hard to find.
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?