Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Studio XY

I realize I've been MIA for awhile, and there's a lot of really interesting/horrible things going on in the news right now (from Bush's appointment of anti-sex education, anti-birth control Dr. Eric Keroak to oversee the nation's family planning programs, to a US soldier confessing to the gang rape and murder of a 14 year-old Iraqi girl). The Nicaraguan president has banned all abortions in the country, Robert Altman died, Murtha lost the majority leader position, and Trent Lott made a 'comeback' as minority Whip.

So what am I going to talk about? So much has gone on and I'm going to talk about...TV. Something's bothering me about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The dialogue is wonderful - Aaron Sorkin is a genius when it comes to snappy, fast paced dialogue and realistic conversations. I know some people have complained the show is too preachy, others that the show-within-the-show isn't funny enough. I have slid to both sides of both of these arguments. But my problem after seeing Monday night's show? The show is too sexist.

I know. It seems predictable. But I can back myself up, at least if the show continues in the direction it's headed. Let's look at the female characters in the show:

1)Lucy (Lucy Davis) is a minor role so far. She plays a staff writer on the show, whose insecurities two episodes ago made her write a horribly unfunny revenge sketch aimed at her boyfriend with whom she'd just broken up (a fact that the head writer immediately guessed, accepting her tears and hug with a roll of the eyes - "women," the audience can imagine him thinking). She is insecure

2) Jeannie Whatley (Ayda Field) is a secondary character on the show. She is known around the set as a gossip (Monday's episode had her spreading information faster than the internet) and a slut. She is insecure.

3) Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson), a major role and star of the show-within-the-show, is supposedly 'extremely talented'. This past episode, she debated doing a lingerie spread...for the whole episode. Who did she debate it with? Two of the secondary characters. Sorry - two of the MALE secondary characters, who enlightened her with the real reason the magazine wanted her. Hayes then meets the head writer (an ex-boyfriend) who, despite his neurosis and complications, is able to lay out her real motivation for doing the spread, which then leads to the obvious conclusion that she shouldn't do it. Problem solved in one minute! No problem! Neurotic ex-boyfriend to the rescue! Oh, and her bra was showing above the neckline of her dress for half of the episode. Somewhat insecure.

4) Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) is the studio exec. This character is the one the stings the most. In the pilot and first few episodes, this character was independent, strong, sexy, and confident. She didn't have an ego, but she knew how to get things done. Sure, we need to see humanity in this character. But the show put her in her place fast. They gave her an ex-husband who has been spilling dirt about her in preparation for an entire book full of sex clubs and other fun odds and ends. This has led her to become frazzled and unsure of herself. She spent an entire episode asking Harriet Hayes to be her friend. Her job is in jeopardy because of the ex-boyfriend, and the tears have been coming more and more frequently. Her subordinate, the director of Studio 60, talks to her as if he were the dominant one. As do all the other male characters. She is now completely insecure.
And those, ladies and gentlemen, are the women of Studio 60. See how they glow? I do enjoy the fact that not all the ladies are skinny and gorgeous, but that is little consolation when they are all blubbering fools. I realize I did not give much attention to the nuances of Paulson's character, but I believe that the character is inconsistent and find it hard to nail down what those nuances are. The best I can say is that she's wishy-washy.

I'm not ready to give up yet. But this was on my mind. I still think the show is smart, but I'm a little disenchanted.


In still other news, I had a student tell me that he heard someone on the radio today saying, "I'm the decider!" He thought it was funny because it sounded like apple cider. Odd.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fighting Machismo with Skirts and Ribbons

Okay, this is interesting. According to Guardian Unlimited, "a Spanish town council is to fight machismo on the streets by decreeing that half of all road signs and traffic signals show silhouettes with feminine attributes, such as a skirt, ribbon and ponytail, instead of just the striding man."

This is ridiculous. Fighting machismo? This is like mandating the the stick figure in Hangman have a pretty pink bow and high heels. The walking man is androgynous and anonymous. To the right is an actual Spanish walk sign. How do we know that it's not a woman? She could just be flat-chested and a little bulky. I think the ponytail and skirt are more offensive than the innocuous 'striding man'.

I do have to include, however, some good things going on in Spain. According to the same article:

"On taking office, the Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero,made sure half his cabinet was female and the Socialists pushed through a law last spring giving preferential treatment to firms appointing women to their boards. Last year, the government added a clause to civil marriage contracts that required men and women to share the housework and childcare."

Though it's sad that this level of equality has to be put into a legally binding contract, the US could probably benefit from that kind of attention and care. Obviously, though, that kind of thing can go too far, as is evidenced by the ponytail lady.

Also interesting was the obvious bias in this article. The walking men were described as
boxy male figures" and "those smug little crossing men." Smug? I have never been waiting to walk and thought, "Gee, the profile of that walking man has something haughty about him. He looks a little too pleased with himself. Look at the way his legs stretch like that. And all those lights around his outline? Who does he think he is? Where's my walking girl in a skirt and ponytail? That would be much less offensive."

At least I don't think I have. Anyway, there's my rant for the day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BCOO: Survivor

Nope, not the TV show. Though this book by Chuck Palahniuk did satirize this nation's (most industrialized nations') ridiculous propensity for glamorizing and idolizing random people.

The book was fun, rough, gritty, ridiculous, and interesting. I laughed and cringed my through it. I had a great time and can't wait to read more Palahniuk stuff (he lives in Portland, incidentally).

There is too much there to describe, and it doesn't do the plot justice. Basically, a boy 'bred' in a death cult tries to survive in the world, until he ends up the last survivor (or so he thinks). Surrounding him is a lot of despair, suicide, and murder. He moves from a member of the cult, to an undocumented house cleaner whose earnings are kept by the cult, to a house cleaner who gets to keep his earnings (after everyone in the cult kills themselves), to an accused murderer, to a religious idol, and then back to an accused murderer.

The book is structured backwards, though in number and premise only. Tender tells the story to a black box, alone on a plane that he's riding till it runs out gas and crashes. In that sense, and in the sense that we begin the book on chapter 47, page 289, the book is backwards. I'm not sure, but it feels a little gimmicky. I think it's the only think I didn't completely love about the book.

And now for my favorite part: quotes. Keep in mind that Palahniuk is sardonic and irreverent. I love it.

(Tender's brother telling him about 'the outside world' just before he leaves the cult compound): People used what they called a telephone because they hated being close together and they were too scared of being alone.

The girl last night, the only other remaining survivor of the Creedish church district, she ate dirt. There's even a name for it. They call it geophagy. This was popular among the Africans brought to America as slaves. Popular probably isn't the right word.

The same way every generation reinvents Christ, the agent's giving me the same makeover. The agent says nobody is going to worship anybody with my roll of flab around his middle. These days, people aren't going to fill stadiums to get preached at by somebody who isn't beautiful.

According to the journalist watching the director watch the agent watch me watch the TelePrompTer, according to her I'm very happy and fulfilled now that I'm free of the Creedish Death Cult.

So there's a little taste. It's really wonderful, and definitely worth a read.
Next, it's another John Irving: A Prayer for Owen Meany. I've just started it, but as of now, it feels like a dessert of whipped cream right after a really juicy steak. Of course, the steak had some gristle, but that's what made it so much better. It all feels a little watered down, in other words. I miss the bite and nagging pinch of Palahniuk. I realize it's completely unfair to compare them, but there it is. I've done it. I'm unfair.

What's even more unfortunate for my comparison - Irving's novel involves a religious figure. But I'm sure I'll get into it. I hope so, at least.
IN OTHER NEWS: Yay for all you voters out there. Liberals - things are looking up! And Rumsfeld is leaving! Wooh!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kerry the Klown

Okay. Kerry can't tell a joke, won't apologize for the misunderstanding, and Republicans rejoice and cheer.

This veteran of the Vietnam War said, in a speech that was supposed to be about education, that if you don't study hard and get a good education, you could end up stuck in Iraq. Oh, so funny. The soldiers in Iraq are stupid! Wait. What? Cue the uproar.

What was actually written for Kerry to say(and what Tony Snow couldn't seem to figure out), was that if you don't study hard, etc., you could end up getting US stuck in Iraq. Like the president did, right? Oh my dog! So funny! Ha! The president sucked in school. He's stupid. Ha ha.

Ah, what might have been (if it had actually been a good joke as written). Kerry's omission of 'us' gave the Republicans just what they needed. Forget about Cheney's bad jokes abour armor for the soldiers in Iraq, or Bush's bad joke about having 'too much fun' in New Orleans, which he made in a speech directly following Hurricane Katrina. Kerry left out 'us'! And his joke came out as an offensive cut to the people risking their lives for nothing (my opinion, of course).

Yes, you've all heard this before. So why am I writing this? Well, because I heard the news from my 12 year old student at 8 am the morning after he made the remark. Only this is what she said: "Did you hear that John Kerry said the troops in Iraq are stupid?"

I was so flustered. I didn't know what to do. This is a private tutoring company I work for. These people are paying A LOT of money to have me and others like me tutor their kids. So here I'm thinking: How much of my opinion can I let through without her talking to her parents about this?

I couldn't help myself. I said, "I'm sure he didn't say that. Who told you this?"
"It's on the news and stuff."
"I don't think that's true. You should probably check that."

And then we went on with our work. I was too flustered to add that Kerry is a veteran and that it is possible to support our troops without supporting the president or the reason behind the war. I wish I had known about it beforehand - my RSS feeds failed me!

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting and sad. Sometimes, I just don't want to know who the parents are of the people I'm teaching. I'm scared.