Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Unemployment Chronicles: Things I have realized from watching TV

From American Idol to the shows where people compete to become a dancer on a cruise line, it seems all of these shows have bizarre fashion and hair stylists who make-over the contestants to look like nothing resembling people on the street. And the contestants are forced, by contract, to go along with the bizarre styling choices of the show's staff. If not true, the only common denominator for people (specifically dudes) who make it on reality game shows is that they all use spackle to hold their hair-do's together and, in their regular life as the guy who re-fills the lettuce at the salad bar at Applebee's. Also, the Hollywood approved "urban" outfits that one normally only see on commercials.

All Soap Opera characters are dangerous to themselves and each other.

In the past decade, Jerry Springer has done nothing but up his game exponentially.

The Writers Guild strike has left the evening TV schedule a lonely and bleak place for the remainder of the summer.

I don't care if Astros games are occurring on the West Coast. I don't want to start watching a game at 9:15pm.

When it comes to new episodes, Mythbusters is on an erratic and unfathomable release schedule.

Not all reality shows about people chasing ghosts around in empty houses are equal.

The non-romantic pairing of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin is the best pairing on TV comedy today. Except for maybe Tracy and Kenneth. Also on the same show. So, hey, an episode of 30 Rock is a pretty good bet for your TV dollar.

"Raiders" holds up a lot better than "Temple of Doom". There are a lot of problems with "Temple of Doom", from mild racism/ white man's burden type stuff, to the inane antics of Kate Capshaw as wacky vocalist, Willi Scott. One wonders if Spielberg weren't so enamored of Capshaw, would he have left so much of her in the final product.

The new ads they have on during day time TV shows and late, late night TV shows make me want to go to technical college and fulfill my destiny as a 20-something woman in scrubs handling charts.

American Idol is rigged. For no apparent reason. Well, not entirely rigged, and I think I know why they want to manipulate the results to an extent. And his name is Taylor Hicks.

There is an amazing amount of TV on each day wherein they discuss the ongoing lives of "entertainers" whose work I have never seen or heard.

Somebody, somewhere is excited about the "Sex in the City" movie, but we don't know who that person is. I assume its the same people who sit home with their cats pretending that the show reflects their lifestyle in some way. Who will rent the movie or buy it at Target.

The dogs don't really watch TV. Even when you explain the plot to them.

All Lifetime Network movies were filmed between 1991-1994 and star women who look sorta familiar, but you can't place.

Telenovella actors have taken vaudevillian melodrama to a whole new level that American soap actors can't even begin to match. It's almost like a life or death struggle to see who can chew the most scenery.

And, hey, feel free to add your own observations.


Anonymous said...

OK, I'll bite. Mild racism in Temple of Doom ?

Having seen it numerous times I am trying to think where you are going. The little Asian sidekick with the strong accent ? Not sure how that would be racist. Because the hero who comes in to save the small village and its kidnapped children happens to be white ? That's a prety big stretch. That would be like saying Amistad was racist for choosing McCaunaghy to be the lawyer for the captured Africans because he was white.

So, educate me....donde esta el racismo ?


The League said...

Hey, I didn't even get into what a step back for women action characters I thought Willie Scott was after Marion Ravenwood.

I don't want to get all RTF 101 on you, but a movie is generally considered to be a negative portrayal of a people when the people are portrayed entirely as (A) sadistic, mindless cultists, or (b) childlike, superstitious, primitive, and completely helpless to take any action on their own until the white hero descends upon them to rescue them.

This is usually defused by presenting the characters as more than caricatures and expanding upon the humanity and situation of the characters in general. That was more or less the revelation of the characters in Amistad... that their cargo were actually humans and not just some bunch of things that looked like people. (My memory is hazy. It's been 10 years or so.)

And, yeah, parts of Short Round's portrayal as the adorable sidekick who continually messes up English colloquiallisms might be considered questionable as its practically all we know about Short Round. Short Round comes from a long line of ethnic sidekicks in pulps and serials who are mostly meant to be adorable and childlike in the eyes of the white protagonists and audience.

Now, the fact that Short Round is actually a kid gives the film a bit more leeway, and why I wouldn't immediately tag that portrayal the same way I would if Short Round were an adult. After all, kids in movies tend to be there for the cute factor, anyway.

I don't think Spielberg and Lucas were doing anything intentionally or had it in for the Indian people. A given Spielberg's filmmaking legacy, you aren't going to catch me calling him a racist.

Unfortunately, American movies have a pretty long tradition of coding Americanness and White-ness with heroism and everything else as not necessarily criminal, but certainly intellectually and morally inferior.

Now, what I would argue against my previous statements would be the following:

Indiana Jones is complicated by the fact that it is set in a very different time period from our own and contains adventures in lands which are not populated with white folk. Our protagonist, who represents the intellectual known of western/ American/ whiteness is going into the unknown and, as the plot requires, faces villains in those far off lands.

Indiana could be less white, but that's a casting choice, and not necessarily inaccurate for American university faculty in the mid-1930's. Further, it would be weird if the locals were all suddenly a bunch of white folks in the rainforests of India.

Moreover, does that mean you can never cast someone of an ethnicity other than honkee as a villain?

The trouble with the PC police in critical analysis is that it wouldn't be much of an adventure if our ethnically diverse and non-threatening cast were just hanging out in modern day suburban Dallas and looking for The Hidden Treasure of Plano (hint: it's at the Home Depot!).

It's also, of course, a weird double standard to consider the Nazi's an okay target for Indy's pistol as their generic Nazi-ism makes them legitimate cannon fodder in American eyes. By and large, Indy's German and French villains are seen as Indy's equals, especially Belloq.

Much of that perceived equalness is from the context of understanding the Nazi's and the true threat they represented, which is largely external to the movie, but nonetheless can be considered common knowledge.

I also don't think it's a mistake that Indy's villains are the evil (and European) Commies in Crystal Skull.

Mostly, the film could have been developed a lot better. Raiders and Crusade both seemingly make and attempt to dodge these issues. The other Jones movies have a larger scope to the stories with larger casts of (at least how they're played) ethnically diverse characters. I think, mostly, the story was just weak, and it gives the viewer an opportunity to start wondering about the environment of the story in which only Indy and the British colonists and their assimilated forces are able to keep the world from being overrun by the cruel, sadistic forces of evil hiding in the places of power in the East.

Simon MacDonald said...

Dude, I have 3 letters for you...PVR. Buy or build yourself one and never be bothered by the banality of network TV again. Plus you'll never miss another Mythbusters.

Short Round is indicative of the 1930's attitude to minorities and is consistent with other movies and books published at that time. Try reading Will Eisner's "The Spirit" for some truly shudder worthy racial stereotyping.

Anonymous said...

Did you mean DVR, Simon?

The League said...

I have read some of the early "The Spirit" work, and, yeah, the character of Ebony is very much in the Steppin Fetchit vein. It's not merely the visual appearance of Ebony, but the entire make-up of the character that's caricature.

Frank Miller has reportedly found it so difficult to update teh charatcer, he will not appear in the upcoming movie.

It is hard to reconcile works we enjoy and respect with racial attitudes of their time. I still remember watching the 1940's era movie "Holiday Inn", and the shock I felt during the "President's Day" sequence. Nobody is TRYING to be offensive. That was the social norm of the time.

I'd like to think in 2008 we've come along a bit, but any progress we've made also didn't happen over night.

What I don't think is a fair argument is that because a movie takes place in the 1930's (and I don't think this is what Simon is saying), the creators should go back and fel free to add the Steppin Fetchit charatcters, nor should they white-wash race relations of the time.

It is worth noting that Lucas took a huge amount of heat when Phantom Menace was released for a lot of the coding that was used on the various non-white-guy aliens. He took a lot of heat, and tried to argue, but in the end... I think the critics were kind of right, despite Lucas's better intentions of trying to demonstrate a pluralistic society.

The League said...

Perhaps PVR is some bizarre Canadian thing I'm not familiar with?

I do have a DVR. Unfortunately, we also burn through whatever was on the night before pretty quickly. It's also why I bemoaned the Writer's strike as having left the summer programming schedule as a vast wasteland. There's not much to record.

Michael Corley said...

Not all ghost shows are equal. My wife and I were sucked in instantly to Ghost Hunters, so naturally thought the others would be of similar interest. Nay, and many times I say Nay, they bore me so.