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Major letdown

September 24, 2009

Ever get bummed out when you start to notice body negativity and sexism in entertainment you really enjoyed? It’s happened a few times to me lately:

– After this post on Feministe about Tina Fey, I began to recognize Liz Lemon’s treatment of Cerie on 30 Rock as slut-shaming.
– Reading Waiter Rant and expecting hilarious new stories of self-entitled customers getting their comeuppance (like the blog), I got very detailed and objectifying descriptions and assessments of fuckability of every woman he met, including his teenage and 20-something coworkers.
– On Hell’s Kitchen, Gordon Ramsey frequently refers to the women competitors as “stupid cows,” and makes comments about their physical appearance.

I still love Tina Fey and 30 Rock, and I really can’t get enough of Hell’s Kitchen. I tossed Waiter Rant aside and I probably won’t finish it. Maybe this post is the (much) shallower version of Becky’s fantastic When Activists Say It’s OK. It’s not that I feel betrayed by these media exactly, but it bums me out to have to sacrifice my ideals a little bit to enjoy these things.

What about you? Ever given up any kind of entertainment (or felt uncomfortable with your enjoyment of any entertainment) that didn’t represent your values?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    September 25, 2009 6:51 AM

    That’s exactly the way I feel about Glee! I posted a while ago about the not-so-subtle ableism (they called him a cripple again in episode 3, in case you were wondering) in that show. In the most recent episode, there was also a racist/classist joke something along the lines of garbage men = poor, all garbage men = Mexicans, and therefore garbage men need money to buy tacos to feed their kids. I’m not going to even try to break that apart because it seems like the racist assumptions are pretty obvious. Granted, it was a thoroughly unlikable character making this joke, but I think mos people are just laughing at the joke, not at the racist person who made it.

    I’ve also been having the same feelings about The Biggest Loser. But, I have to go to work soon, and there’s a lot of baggage to unpack there, so perhaps I’ll make a whole post about it later.

    • Emily permalink
      September 25, 2009 10:17 PM

      I’ve got to disagree with you a bit on this whole Glee thing. I also have some problems with Glee, but not with the jokes like these. Jokes like the cripple joke and the taco joke are supposed to be funny because they’re more jokes about the character who’s making them than about their actual topic. The jokes tell us more about how we’re supposed to think about Sue and the Cheerios and the other people who make them–these are not things these characters say to be funny, but because that’s what they think. I think the taco joke in particular was this kind of joke because whoever said it just mentioned garbage men needing to buy tacos as if it was something obvious–it even took me a minute to get the joke, which wasn’t “lol, all garbage men are Mexicans who, of course, only eat tacos”, but rather, “lol, the character who said that is a racist moron”. The show’s main joke is that this is a backward, racist/classist/homophobic community full of losers, and that’s what we are supposed to be laughing at. (Although I take your point that some people may be laughing at the taco joke for the first reason, but I really don’t think that problem is particular to this show.)

      My real problem with Glee, which is why I still feel that it is a “major letdown”, is the degree to which the secondary characters are (somewhat offensive) stereotypes. The Glee club’s members include Mercedes, a loud, sassy black girl, Tina, a quiet Asian-American goth and Kurt, a lisping, sashay-ing gay boy. I cringe every time Mercedes says “no you didn’t” or Kurt mentions Liza Minelli: it’s offensive and lazy that the non-white and non-hetero characters are reduced to stereotypes while the main characters (who are white and heterosexual) get to explore different facets of their identities. (That’s just the way of the TV world, isn’t it?) A few story lines in the last few episodes have given me hope that we might see Kurt, Mercedes, Tina and some other characters developed past their stereotypes, but I’m not that optimistic.

  2. Ashley permalink
    September 25, 2009 9:19 PM

    Watching lots and lots of older movies, movies that come from a “different time” when things weren’t very equal in terms of gender, race, class, etc., I experience this from time to time. It can be upsetting but it can also create opportunities to examine how things were, how they are now, what’s changed, what is still kind of the same and so on. Andreas and I will often comment on and discuss these things while watching; for me, usually, it doesn’t take away from the film itself. For example over the summer while watching It’s a Wonderful Life: when Jimmy Stewart discovers that had he never been born the horrid fate of his wife is that she’d become *gasp* a glasses wearing, frumpish SPINSTER! Things like that. Andreas and I talked and laughed about what and outdated mode of thinking that is or should be. However despite this I still really enjoyed that movie. So I think that with this particular example, that of old films, it’s a bit different than say, referring to something that is current, something that is being written and produced now; most people expect that kind of thing from old films (which makes it wholly satisfying when you watch one that is far ahead of its time in terms of social issues).

    Seeing as I don’t watch television I can’t site any examples from current programs but it does remind me of something I wrote about recently after a very hardcore, several-day long Sailor Moon binge. As an adult watching now I find the way the main character becomes a simpering, dependent wimp (which, granted, isn’t too different than how she acts normally) when it comes to her boyfriend highly disturbing, so much so that I actually drew several parallels between their relationship and that of our currently most popular glorified abusive relationship in fiction directed towards young girls, Bella and Edward. Happily enough however I can’t say that this hasn’t left any lasting bad impressions on me.

    So anyway. I’ve rambled on enough. Great post!

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