This Monday's episode of Gossip Girl stirred up controversy when a menage-a-trois was featured--the act was last on a list of fifteen things to do before you graduate from college. Teasers for the episode had the Parent Television Council ("Because Our Children Are Watching") up in arms, calling airing the subject matter "reckless and irresponsible." The scene ended up being pretty tame, but is still making OMFG waves where parents are concerned. But is there a right way to watch it?
As Sesame Street turns 40, the media is brimming with think pieces about the groundbreaking show. From its educational impact to its unprecedented portrayal of racially diverse urban life, the show changed the face of not just children's TV, but the medium of television in general.
There's a lot to talk about when we talk about Sesame Street, and people are doing just that. Time magazine postulated that Barack Obama is the first "Sesame Street president," writing that "The Obama presidency is a wholly American fusion of optimism, enterprise and earnestness — rather like the far-fetched proposal of 40 years ago to create a TV show that would prove that educational television need not be an oxymoron." (The show's creator, Joan Ganz Cooney, is happy to support this theory, saying "I like to think that we had something to do with Obama's election). NewsweekponderedSesame Street's global reach, reporting that among the world's Sesame-friendly regions are Kosovo and the Palestinian territories; the South African SS features an HIV-positive character. And New York magazine revealed that 75-year-old Carroll Spinney, who has played Big Bird for all 40 seasons, spends his days with one arm raised above his head, manipulating the puppet's eyes and beak and not even once grumbling that he could be playing shuffleboard on a Carnival cruise ship.
And then there are the videos -- like "Women Can Be," a hilarious feminist ode to the world of beyond-nurses-and-ballerinas careers that I was reminded of this morning, courtesy of my friend Tina. (Rita Moreno, voicing the surgeon, is especially awesome.)
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.