Today, Oprah will be airing an interview with Mackenzie Phillips. Who is that, you say? She is a former child actress who also, coincidentally, happens to be one of the many children of the late John Phillips of The Mamas and Papas. Like most former child actresses, her personal life has been a slow-moving disaster of epic proportions - just last year, at 48, she was busted for cocaine possession. At an airport. This being more or less par for the course in former child actress terms, one might wonder why she is getting the entire hour of Oprah to herself. Wonder no more; E!Online is reporting that Phillips will reveal that she was raped by her father at 19. Phillips also calls the relationship "consensual" at some point, which Anna North at Jezebel neatly deconstructs here.
I'm not so much interested in the horrific details of what happened to Phillips, personally - I wish her excellent therapy and hopefully some peace since justice for these things isjust a word and not a realistically attainable goal. But I am filled with seething anger that these traumatic events are being turned into yet another ratings/YouTube bonanza for Oprah. Oprah thrives on this stuff, of course, even though nowadays her show lies somewhere in a no-woman's land between 20/20 and infomercials. It's the big confessional interviews, though, that are her particular specialty. She just got done with that huge Whitney Houston bonanza, and is currently "interested in" Jaycee Dugard (cringe). She gets them because she's Oprah and she milks them because she's Oprah and good goddamn it annoys me.
Because I live in Brooklyn and I like books, it's been hard to escape the name Jonathan Ames, but I haven't, admittedly, read him. His popularity among a certain set of people has triggered the contrarian in me and I gracefully skirt his work in bookstores and magazines alike. You see, Ames is the kind of person who, the Village Voice tells me, does delightfully irreverent New York things like attend charity events of which he can say, "It's to raise money for Chihuahuas." He names his protagonists after himself. If you've caught my drift, this is the kind of writer who I worry is so well-regarded because he represents a certain kind of trendy New York existence in which everyone nurtures a delightful hip Zooey-Deschanel-esque quirk so that they may safely inhabit a world without regard to responsibility or the dreary business of doing things that are true or meaningful. Or, um, wage-earning.
Someday I shall have to test this prejudice of mine out by reading his books, obviously. For now, HBO has obliged me in delivering a version of Jonathan Ames (penned by Jonathan Ames and called, of course, Jonathan Ames) in thirty-minute morsels (called Bored to Death) to confirm my prejudices. While I've only watched the one episode - which aired last night on HBO but which you can get from OnDemand or, I believe, as a free podcast on iTunes - thus far it has done nothing to alleviate my concern.
But how shameful is it, how absolutely insane is it, that the major discussion about “standards” for broadcast television today always takes place in the context of “indecency” – and in particular, that women’s bodies are “indecent”? I mean, I don’t know about you, but the only think I found shocking about Janet Jackson’s breast-exposure on live television was that metal thing she had on her nipple. Christ, wouldn’t that hurt?
My point is that I don’t think the half-second or so of nipplage has done nearly as much damage to “the children” (always so undefined) as the notion that crazy people who think Barack Obama is a secret Muslim are deserving of more than two seconds of derisive airtime on cable and network news.
Like many a thinking lady I watch the Daily Show mostly for Jon. When it is on hiatus, and it always disappointingly seems to be on hiatus when America goes a little mad in the late summer (2005: Katrina, 2008: Sarah Palin, 2009: Health Care Nonsense), my evenings seem even less magical than they usually are. I am the kind of woman, you see, who would go for Jon - funny, informed, irreverent - over a Brad Pitt in a second. I know I am not alone in this.
But as happens in any relationship, sometimes Jon does things that well... piss me off. See, every once in awhile, his show displays all the symptoms of having been written by Liberal Dudes Who Don't Quite Get It - It usually being women, or women's rights, or women's issues. The show likes to trot out Samantha Bee and Kristen Schaal every once in awhile, but in general it seems rather complacent about its overall dudely tone. And it's easier to take some times than others.
Ah, the VMAs! Pop spectacle at its finest! If, by "finest," you mean "most spectacularly overhyped and therefore ripe for viewer disappointment." Which is what I mean, actually, so I'm good. And today, in my quest to provide you with the least timely post on the VMAs EVER, I present you with three defining moments. Which is most disappointing? That is for you (by which I mean "me," since I am writing this blog post) to decide!
Betty is enslaved, while also being the slave master. This is what I hate about her. She wants freedom and agency when it is convenient. She wants to come down off the pedestal, but she seems unwilling, at least at this point in the narrative, to give up the privilege that comes with being idealized.
I, too, have been bristling at Betty's bad behaviour for some time. I don't think I'm alone in that; there has been something altogether vicious about the way the show has been writing her character of late, something biting and mean about every word that comes out of her mouth. Until about the middle of season two, I could have chalked this up to what I personally felt were the subpar talents of January Jones, but she has grown into Betty's shoes. And in that context I'm starting to blame both the viewers and the writers for all the vitriol hurled Betty's way.
Due in no small part to a summer-long marketing campaign complete with the newly-de-rigeur Twittered event, everybody's been talking about the new show called Glee. Produced by Ryan Murphy of Nip/Tuck fame, it lets everybody live out that fantasy high school experience of gaining fame and popularity while joining - I know you're in suspense - the Glee Club. Glee is the hot new thing so far this season, and has given work to some pretty darn good performers, including Lea Michele (late of Broadway's Spring Awakening), Jayma Mays (completely adorable if hurtling towards Poor Man's Red-Headed Zooey Deschanel territory) and Jane Lynch (who should be in everything ever).
The pilot episode aired in May this year, and felicitously closed with a rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" that rescued it from eternal association as the song that accompanied the letdown of The Sopranos' concluding moments. Unfortunately, if the second episode, which aired last Wednesday, is any evidence, it's all downhill from here. The advertising campaign, as is so often the case, is far more clever than the show itself.
I don't really watch American Idol. I did tune in for an episode or two last season, when everyone on the planet was going nuts over the fact that Adam Lambert, a more-or-less openly gay dude and confirmed musical weirdo, had an actual chance at winning it. Unfortunately, the episode that I tuned in for was the one where he sang "Feeling Good," a song I have always really loved coming from Nina Simone, and around the time he hit that bizarre three-year-long air-raid-siren high note ("feelAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGG") I was like, "oh. Good for you, Adam Lambert! Allow me to support you through the use of the 'mute' button."
So, no. Aside from seeing the clips that everyone else sees (because they are everywhere, and there is no way not to see them) I'm not a fan. Still, the news that Ellen DeGeneres is going to be replacing Paula Abdul as a judge in the next season of the show is interesting.
Earlier this morning in Istanbul, Turkey nine women were rescued from a fake reality show set where they had been held captive for two months. The women each responded to an ad for a new season of the Turkish version of Big Brother, and signed contracts stipulating that they would live together in a villa and be forced to pay a hefty fine if they wanted to leave early.
Now, there are a million things that are f@#%ed up about this story. These women were held captive against their will and threatened when they tried to leave without paying a fine to their captors. They were told to wear bikinis and "fight" with one another by the pool, while four men filmed them. They were on camera 24/7, even while changing. They weren't allowed contact with the outside world, not even with family members. However, the worst thing about this awful situation is that it is disturbing because the footage was not aired on national television.
Think about it. If this exact same scenario had played out with the footage being aired as a reality television show, no one would think twice about it. We have officially reached the point where just about anything goes, as long as it will be viewed by millions of people. (In this particular situation, the footage was aired only online, though the women were told it would be aired on TV.) Take the cameras away, and this is an incredibly upsetting kidnapping story. Bring the cameras back, and it's good television.
I haven't been writing about Mad Men too much because I am trying to let it simmer for a while before I make any pronouncements of quality. I will say that I'm still waiting for the good stuff, and that while I'm moderately optimistic that it's coming, this has, thus far, been a strange season for Mad Men's women.
Take Peggy, for example. You already know that I have a fondness for awkward young women on television. It comes from a sense of solidarity with the future name-taker who hasn't yet seen just how many asses she'll be able to kick someday. So it will come as no surprise, I think, when I tell you that I'm on Team Peggy in the Mad Men universe, hoping that she will ultimately triumph over the men who decided what she was before she had the chance to discover it herself. I have always preferred her awkward ambitiousness to Joan's swagger and tart remarks - there was a sense of the outsider to the former, and a refreshing sort of self-awareness.