Pop culture, we sometimes have a stormy relationship. I really do love you; you are actually my reason for living.However, like all great loves, we have our differences. Lately there are some things that have really been irking me. Sit down, some of these may be hard to hear.
Gripe #1 I’m tired of people complaining about the Kardashians, asking “why are they famous?” “Why do we care that Kim was at the White House Correspeondents Dinner? Why should she get so much money for getting married?” “Why do they get paid $40 million to continue their show?”. Look, I don’t particularly enjoy the Kardashians. If I met one of them, I highly doubt we’d be friends. But let’s stop acting like we are all above them, because I’ll tell you what: the reason that they are so famous is because WE MAKE THEM FAMOUS.
E! doesn’t just give out $40 million willy-nilly. Keeping Up with The Kardashians is one of their highest rated shows ever. Statistics have shown them that people will still watch them for three more seasons. So, instead of making the Kardashians out to be the worst people in the world (maybe they are? Who’s to say?) confront the people in your life who ARE watching this show and ask them what they get out of it, and convince them not to watch. That’s some real grassroots activism. Without the audience, they WILL go away. Example A: Paris Hilton.
Gripe #2: Not every television show has to MEAN something. Sometimes it’s there just for entertainment. Still, that doesn’t mean that a show with “no higher meaning” has to be total crap- television is storytelling. And there are great stories to tell, despite not having to represent the struggle of the underclass or explain race issues.Take, for instance, HBO’s new show Girls. I have NEVER in my life seen more “thought pieces” and critical responses to a show about privileged young people. I mean, seriously, since the beginning of time there has been shows about the privileged and the white (where’s the socioeconomic criticism of Happy Endings or Modern Family? And so on?). Girls is blamed because there are no people of color. Girls is blamed for showing bratty characters. Girls is blamed for not having sexy enough characters; at the same time it is blamed for the sex being “too realistic.” Girls is blamed for having “fat” characters.
Let us all remember: Girls is written and created by Lena Dunham, a twenty-five year old white woman from a privileged background. So she is writing what she knows. She’s not trying to represent America or make a statement on race. She is merely writing about someone she personally relates to, and no one is claiming the characters or saints. Nor should they be…flawed characters are always more interesting.
Gripe #3. For a country that is supposedly well advanced, we are still incredibly squeamish about sex, despite spending gabillions of dollars on pornography that we look at shamefully in secret. Game of Thrones, for example, shows tons of graphic (hetero) sex. I can start to hypothesize why….because it shows the attitudes towards woman as sexual beings during that time period? Because sex sells? Because they can?? (It’s not tv, it’s HBO). I have no problem with watching sexual activity on television, but sure, it can be a bit obnoxious when it’s there for sex’s sake, and not truly part of the story or characters. [Don't even get me started on the train wreck that is True Blood.]
My problem is when all this sexual material is in such close proximity to graphic, senseless violence. We all know the hypocrisy of the ratings system- show a boob, there’s an uproar, show massive slaughter of people, just put a slight warning in front of it. When the two shall meet, there becomes a problem for me. Does the enjoyment we feel while watching sex somehow diminish the dislike we should have for such violence? Does it help to lower our inhibitions about violence? It’s a slippery slope.
As the hilarious and insightful comic Doug Benson once tweeted, “There was so much sex and gore in Piranha 3D, I didn’t know whether to masturbate or masturbate.” All kidding aside, he makes a really good point. And the creators of the Piranha franchise certainly are capitalizing this.
Male viewers who are turned on by a woman in a skimpy bikini are suddenly seeing that same woman being torn literally in half. That must be the strangest erection ever.
Gripe #4 The ratings system is antiquated and hypocritical. I know, I’m not telling you anything new here. But the recent documentary, Bully, which intended to enlighten people about the perils and human suffering caused by bullying, was given an R-rating because someone says “fuck” just a few too many times. The same thing that happened with The King’s Speech. A man trying to overcome a stutter who barely even TOUCHES his wife during the whole movie could not be seen by teens because he also says “fuck” eight times in a row. Meanwhile, a movie about kids murdering each other for sport gets a PG-13 rating. Seems legit.
I can’t even fathom how this rating system is even still in place. It’s not like anyone hasnt tried to disassemble it. The great documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated shows how it may not be going anywhere for a while.
Gripe #5 Can someone please explain to me why watching couples argue and belittle each other is supposed to be entertaining….much less comedic? Have you ever been in a room with a couple that are bickering? It makes me want to put a gun to my head. In The Honeymooners, Ralph Cramden threatened physical violence (“to the moon, Alice!”)and where we are not at that point now, watching the couples on Modern Family fight week after week kills my soul. The show Whitney should practically be called “Men are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, and We Fight About It A Lot.”
Couples are way more interesting when they are positive and are fighting for something together. is there a better couple this season than Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope, who have fun together and are also passionate about winning the city council election?
Pop culture and its critics, I hope you will pull your crap together and stop harping on stuff that really doesn’t need attention as its getting. Let’s focus on keeping great shows on tv and not letting things like Work It ever happen again. -Robin Hardwick