Note: This article touches on slut shaming, body shaming, homophobia, and ableism.
I love swearing. It’s a weekly miracle that my essays don’t include “totally fucked” or “fucked up and bullshit” in every paragraph. If I were reborn as a linguist, I would study swearing and cursing. I watch documentaries about cursing, I play a lot of Cards Against Humanity, and this interview with Melissa Mohr, the author of Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing is my favorite episode of Slate’s just-nerdy-enough podcast Lexicon Valley. If you’ve been in the audience when I give a presentation, you probably (despite my efforts to the contrary) heard me swear five or six times. I would hate to live in a world without swearing because it would be fucking dull. Unfortunately, my (and most English-speaking people) love of swearing comes into direct contradiction with inclusionary social politics. I need a new arsenal of swear words that punch up and tear down destructive stereotypes. Every time I swear, I want to be totally confident that I’m offending the right people. (more…)
Or, Tosh.0 is Racist, Classist, Homophobic, Sexist, and Just Plain Gross
I’m not really sure where to begin here. Tosh.0, the Comedy Central hit show hosted by Daniel Tosh, is so rife with sophomoric dick jokes (I prefer the classy kind) and heteronormative swill that I contemplated not even writing this post. Unlike Ellen or even It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Tosh.0 is meant to be (as far as I can tell) the refined distillation of a 14-year-old-white boy’s id. The show is half sketch comedy, half sitting with your younger brother while he guzzles an energy drink and laughs at youtube videos of bums fighting. Jezebel has already written about his “lightly touching women’s stomachs while they’re lying down” campaign, and his fat-shaming caption contest. Both posts deserve your attention, the former for its righteous anger, the latter for its history of the image used in the contest. I went through several pages of videos, looking for good examples of the “-ists” I listed above, but each one was so jam-packed with privilege and hate that I couldn’t pick just one. But if, you have never seen the show and need some mental flagellation, here’s a sexist one about MMA fighting; something called “fat girl gymnastics” (fat shaming with bonus racism); a video that’s actually titled “Racist Moments Montage“; and an even more racist one called, “stereotypes are not always true.” I understand that Daniel Tosh is a comedian, and to argue with one usually means you have already lost the fight, but I think there is a fruitful discussion to be had about how a public figure engages with his or her audience and the sort of behavior they encourage. (more…)
[SPOILER ALERT: details about the first episode of Sherlock“A Study In Pink” are discussed below. The ending is not totally given away, but major story details are revealed.]
A few weeks ago, I challenged Kurt Anderson’s claim that cultural progress and innovation had stagnated in the last twenty years. Anderson, I contend, has ignored new mediums (the Internet), re-invented genres (hip-hop, electronic music), and new cultural stereotypes (geek chic, hipsters). But what ties all of these things together is the central thesis that consumer technologies are just as much cultural artifact as clothes or music. No where is this more obvious and brilliantly executed than in BBC One’s updated interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Set in present day London, “Sherlock” is a reinterpretation of the most famous Holmes mysteries and does an excellent job of translating the Victorian source material into a modern drama. That translation includes dress, idiomatic expressions, and vehicles- but it also includes cell phones, restrictions on smoking, and the War on Terror. Sherlock is a uniquely 21st century show that could not have taken place in the early 2000s or the 90s. (more…)
Manic Pixie Dreamgirls in Hollywood Films
A couple weeks back I posted about Steven Greenstreet’s video titled “The Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall St,” linking it to an emerging media trope called the “Manic Pixie Dreamgirl.” The phrase, coined by Nathan Rabin in his review of the 2005 film Elizabethtown, has quickly become a powerful reminder of the androcentric manner in which female characters are so often constructed in media texts.
I also connected the media trope to an emerging cultural stereotype about progressive young women. I argued that the manic pixie dreamgirl trope is largely a stereotype about young, progressive, non-conformist women who speak out of turn, defy normative conventions in self-presentation and behavior, and largely serve as “inspiration” for (white) male leads to step forward and grab life by the horns, assuming their rightful place as heirs to power. (more…)