It's hard to imagine that anyone in the audience for TLC's Toddlers & Tiaras has a deep passion for child beauty pageants. Okay, maybe there's a small contingent of fans who like frilly dresses and are impervious to real-time psychological trauma, but most can't help but be appalled by pageant parents' (read: moms') obsession with their children's ability to impress strangers who have god-only-knows what issues of their own (read: judges).
Well, my time here has come to an end, just in time for the new season of 30 Rock to premiere and me to consequently be able to get my Tina Fey on without thinking to myself, "Why do they keep implying there's something wrong with Liz! Liz is awesome! I call misogyny! Why does Scott Adsit's wife have a stupid accent and why are they talking about her not having any sex drive as if it was always the woman's fault if the dude has an affair? That's not subversive funny!!" Instead I just ate my sad-single-lady dinner pint of Phish Food with my furry feline and laughed to my blackened little heart's content and ignored problematic storylines.
But the curse is still upon me.
Case in point: I have been watching Friday Night Lights this week because a friend turned me on to it. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am only halfway through the first season. I watched most of that with said friend after we wore through the soles of our shoes walking the entire perimeter of Vancouver over last weekend. Friend is (at least) a proto-feminist, but I think I annoyed the hell out of her by consistently pointing out that the entire conceit of the show is drenched in white male privilege. I mean really, the base assumption of the thing is that all the white kids are good at heart but the real drug abusers and anger therapy-needers are the blacks and the Latinos. (It came complete with a depiction of a Latino lying about hearing a racial slur to get a white kid in trouble when in fact the racial slur came from a black guy because we know blacks are the real racists, natch.) The show is not wholly irredeemable - indeed I am continuing to watch and perhaps it will get better. But between the lack of meaningful screentime given to the female characters and Very Special episodes about racism in which the fundamental theme is that "white people don't mean any harm," it's never going to be the kind of show I can love in an unqualified way.
Sorry for so much Mad Men, but as my blogging stint approaches its end, I wanted to complete my little triad on the women of Mad Men - and I'm a little worried lately about Joan.
I'm worried because the last time we saw her she was no longer wearing that hairpiece and her walk was more tentative than usual. I'm worried because she married that frat boy douchebag which everybody says is so 60s of her except, I don't know about you, I seem to know a lot of otherwise redeemable women who married fratboy douchebag. (Some of them even had humanities degrees!) Most of all, I'm worried because Mad Men has tucked her away into some kind of "lost causes" sock drawer in terms of both screen time and character development.
Now, let me be clear: I have a difficult relationship with Joan, and more particularly with the way the show holds her up for us to fetishize. She's sooooo curvy! Look at her red hair! She wiggles so elegantly! I hate that the show uses her to do a lot of ass shots that, uprooted and placed in the context of a Gossip Girl or a Desperate Housewives, we would simply call gratuitous and let it be a day. I hate that Mad Men gets a pass on them because Christina Hendricks is gorgeous. I mean, she is gorgeous, but even though she is not a stick figure and there is value in having a woman like that be extremely sexual on the small screen, it still saddens me that she gets pigeonholed as the "bombshell" who is there for contrast with "plain" Peggy. The show, in other words, more or less leers at her, all the time and unapologetically - much like Roger does!
This morning, professional wrestler, Cyndi Lauper video star, and feminist antihero Captain Lou Albano passed away at the age of 76. For you youngsters out there who may not be familiar with Captain Lou (or even for those of us who are), you will absolutely not regret taking 12 minutes out of your day to watch this epic Lauper/Albano collaboration video, "Goonies 'R' Good Enough":
The epic tale! The always-confusing facial rubber bands! Captain Lou! Cyndi Lauper! The Goonies! It doesn't get any better than this, folks. That is unless you consider Captain Lou Albano's staging of a pro-wrestling event wherein he and Cyndi Lauper battled on MTV over sexist remarks called The Brawl to End it All a better story.
Now that The Simpsons has sold feminism the fuck out, I'd like to give props to one cartoon I can still count on. I'm talking about South Park, which, after 14 seasons, still offers up some of the finest social satire ever to grace the American airwaves.
Okay, so maybe it's not perfect. The main characters, Stan and Kyle, are baby bros who use words like "gay" and "pussy" as derogatory slurs, and Cartman's bigotry would make Archie Bunker blush. But as the boys navigate their world, they encounter a lot of hypocrisy—including sexist behavior. And when the writers bring their social scalpel to these situations, the results can be hilarious, heart-breaking, (potty-mouthed), and yes...feminist.
Don't tell Trey Parker and Matt Stone I love their pro-woman work, because they try hard to make sure every group gets ruthlessly ridiculed (it's how they avoid hypocrisy.) So until they animate Susan B. Anthony sniffing glue, let's celebrate some episodes well done. Enjoy!
Yesterday, my bf emailed me an article from the consistently obnoxious and terrible men's site askmen.com. Apparently, the hard-hitting journalists working over there were interested in determining the Most Influential Man of 2009, and the winner (chosen through a reader poll) was Mad Men's fictional philanderer Don Draper. You know, because television characters should really be the most influential people in our lives.
At any rate, my beau found the news of Draper winning this award even more ridiculous and upsetting than I did, so I asked him to write a brief response to the article from The Male Perspective. Read it after the jump!
Pete Campbell is a rapist. On Sunday night's episode, he met a young au pair living in his building and helped her out of a difficult situation with her employers. He propositioned her; she refused. Later that evening, undeterred, he knocked on her door, forced her to let him in to avoid a scene, followed her into her bedroom, closed the door, and kissed her, leading her towards the bed. Apparently, for some people, this wasn't clearly a rape. I'm here to tell them: it was.
Pete Campbell is a rapist. I've heard some people say that Mad Men is a show about nuance, shades of grey, and therefore Pete Campbell Cannot Be A Rapist. (As if there was no such thing as a rapist in serious, well-developed drama.) I think these people are doing a very superficial read of Mad Men. I don't think the writer or director of this episode was the least bit confused. The au pair is slightly afraid of Pete throughout. She doesn't want him in the apartment. She recoils when he kisses her. That she submits, ultimately, is irrelevant to the question of whether Pete rapes her. She didn't want to sleep with him; she made it clear; he didn't care. He wanted to have sex, and she was there, and she owed him, in his mind. So he raped her. End of story.
Pete Campbell is a rapist. What Mad Men is being subtle about, when it shows us an episode in which a character rapes someone for no reason better than boredom, is the fact rape doesn't just happen in alleys. It doesn't just come from total strangers who leap from bushes. It doesn't involve kicking and screaming and clawing his eyeballs out, because that would only get you in even more trouble.
The general consensus at the end of Parks and Recreation last season was that the show was a sometimes funny, sometimes not, could be better Office knockoff (which was itself a knockoff). Well, times have changed.
It's a new season for Parks and Recreation, and if you haven't been tuning in yet you are missing out on a giant feminist treat: Deputy Director Leslie Knope. Knope, played by Amy Poehler, has really found her feminist (and hilarious) stride this season, and it is awesome. Check out this clip from last week's episode, wherein Knope judged a local beauty pageant and tried, in vain, to champion a "not hot" candidate:
Other than Jon, by and large, I have never been much of a watcher of late-night TV. This is no doubt a function of my demographic. I'm too young - I grew up post-Carson. I'm also entirely too cynical to enjoy most celebrity interviews, because much of the time I'm thinking, "It's really bizarre that Kirsten Dunst is this inarticulate," or, "Why hasn't Jared Leto showered?" There are too many books in the world to read, too many blogs to surf, too much sleep to be gotten for me to watch these people night after night, even in the age of the DVR. And I've written in this space before about my suspicion that there isn't any grand standard of comedy anymore, and it seems to me like the non-Comedy-Central contingent of these shows still seem to harbour delusions on that score, of being the Great American Comedian, and so I just kind of tune them out.
So when this hullabaloo about David Letterman getting his pecker in his payroll started to kick up on Friday, readers, I yawned. Having spewed venom all week over Roman Polanski and his defenders (Pedro, why, why??!!!), I was worn out. Besides which, other than the extortion part, there seemed very little scandal in this scandal; the ladies involved were of age, and none appeared to be claiming coercion. I'm not wild about professional men viewing nubile young women in the workplace as their rightful spoils, but I've been in enough exhausting conversations with male friends about such situations ("why do you want to Stand In the Way of Love?") to know better than to spend much time arguing with them about it. I suppose Regina Lasko, Letterman's longtime girlfriend, feels somewhat differently about it, but I can't see how I or anyone else can be of use to her if we take to the soapbox to pontificate at length about just what a horndog she's married.