September 22, 2014 | Television
I want to work for John Oliver. Do you think he’s hiring?
I want to work for John Oliver. Do you think he’s hiring?
She had me at, “I call bullshit” (on p. 14 of the Introduction.)
“She” is Jennifer Pozner, and the book is Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV. This is actually the last book I read last year. Yes. I’m that far behind. So let me get to it.
Pozner set out to explain our “social beliefs” and how networks, advertisers and media owners exploit them for profit through reality television — and what we can do about it. I must say, she did a mighty fine job.
She drags reality television, kicking and screaming, out into the light of day and shows it for what it is. I can’t help but think of this page of photographs of women arrested for prostitution.*
On the surface, reality television looks all sparkly and pretty and maybe even a little princess-y. (That’s my nod to Peggy Orenstein. More on her book in a later post.) Or, at the very least, clean and presentable. It’s all the soft lighting, candles and makeup. (Well, until we get to Jersey Shore.) In the harsh sunlight, though, reality television looks more like the last picture on each row of photos (their eighth arrest) than the first.
Pozner doesn’t admonish anyone for watching reality television. Instead, she wants to educate everyone about media literacy, critical thinking and healthy skepticism.
She covers everything from “twisted fairy tales,” in which humiliation is the flip side of “happily ever after,” to supermodel shows, eating disorders and battered self-esteem.
She mentions a red-carpet moment at the 2009 Emmys, where Ryan Seacrest told Jenna Fischer, “Congratulations on being a size 0,” as if that were a laudatory achievement — disappearing into nothing. (Now I know why it bothered me so much how Seacrest fawned all over Jennifer Hudson this year, after she showed up everywhere thinner than ever, thanks to a contract she signed with a weight-loss company.)
Pozner only mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer a couple of times in the book, but I knew she was a fan, believing Buffy to be a strong, positive female character. A feminist, even. Wow, I thought. I’ve never had the slightest interest in watching that show. I was far enough removed from high school that a cast of high-school students had little appeal. (OK. So that doesn’t explain why I enjoy Glee now, although there is a tiny Joss Whedon thread there, I suppose.) Besides, I cut my eye teeth on Stephen King. I figured I’d had enough ghoulishness to last a lifetime.
But the topic kept popping up, and I started to wonder, should I at least watch one episode.
Nah. Why should I? I don’t need to waste my time on that. (*cough*)
Apparently, my possessed dvr had other ideas. (Yeah, I think I’ll start calling it Christine now.) I sat down one night in my comfy chair, checked my list of recorded shows and chose RuPaul’s Drag Race. (OK. Now you know. RuPaul is my guilty-pleasure TV.) There were several episodes, so I thought I’d settle in and catch up. Guess what came on? Buffy. I swear. On every single RuPaul show. Somebody thought I should watch some Buffy, so I did. And I could see what Pozner was saying.
She also covers everything else — from embedded advertising to unapologetic misogyny, racism and violence. She watched hundreds of hours of reality television … so I don’t have to. She went behind the scenes to explain how things work and whose interests drive reality television. Guess what. It’s not your interests. She ends with a section of media literacy and a ton of great resources.
It really is a must-read.
“If we care about independent thought, artistic integrity, and cultural diversity, we must demand that programming improve, not accept its erosion with a yawn.” (p. 295)
I have a confession to make. I watched Sarah Palin’s Alaska on Sunday night. I couldn’t help wondering, who’s footing the bill? TLC? Sarah Palin? Alaska tourism? Because, dang! It can’t be cheap to hire fishing guides to take you salmon fishing or rock-climbing guides to fly you to the “top of the world” (Denali National Park and Preserve).
In any case, it showcases the beauty of Alaska very well.
Something bothered me, though. There was a segment with Sarah at her home with her daughter, Willow, and Willow’s friend, Andy. They walked into the kitchen, and Sarah asked Andy if he was hungry. No, I just ate, he said. Then Sarah inexplicably said that maybe Willow should cook him something for lunch. (Hello? He said he just ate.) Andy put down Willow by saying he wasn’t sure he’d want to eat that.
Did Sarah get all mama grizzly on him and defend her daughter?
She put down her daughter too. She said, yeah, you’re probably right.
Wow. She showed her own daughter absolutely no respect.
Respect? Pffft! I don’t need to respect my children!
Actually? Yeah, you do. So they know what being treated with love, dignity and respect feels like when they go out in the world and make friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, work colleagues, etc. Because if they’re raised with disdain and disrespect? That’s what they’ll know. And that’s what they’ll find.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s what happened next.
Willow went upstairs. Andy started to follow her. Sarah stepped in and told Andy he wasn’t allowed upstairs with Willow, that he’d have to wait for her downstairs. Sarah went back to work at her desk in the kitchen. Guess who snuck upstairs. Right under Sarah’s nose and for all the world to see.
That’s right. Andy showed Willow no respect, then he metaphorically thumbed his nose at her mother in her own house.
Some might say Sarah got what she deserved. Maybe. But Willow didn’t. A child deserves to be treated better than that.
I just went online to check and … what?!? The last show we watched was The Last Show of the last season. Wah! I guess you can’t miss what never will be, but we’re disappointed there won’t be more new Himmelblå stories. *sad face*
I just read Heat Wave (on Kindle) by Richard Castle. Like the show, the book is campy and fun. The “daring duo” cops (called “Roach” in the book) are funnier on the show, though. There’s another Castle book coming out in September. I might just tune in.
We finished watching Season 1 and Season 2 of Himmelblå, a Norwegian television series about the people who live on Ylvingen, an island in northern Norway. The show makes good use of very strong dialects. I would probably miss a lot if it weren’t for the Norwegian subtitles. But what a great show! Can’t wait to watch more. Season 3 is showing in Norway now. While we thought we’d wait for the next DVD, we might actually lose patience and try to watch it online.
… or does Yahoo!’s Year of the Ox ox resemble Noggin’s moose?
Taking his defense to the airwaves rather than his impeachment trial, Gov. Rod Blagojevich lashed out at his accusers Monday and revealed he had considered naming Oprah Winfrey to the Senate.
So I was on Twitter, and I said I didn’t watch The Today Show, and I said something not terribly flattering about Ann Curry. Before the end of the night? The Today Show was following me on Twitter. Do you think they really care what I have to say … or are they just pulling an Abraham Lincoln on me?
That’s what President George W. Bush said after ducking shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist.
See? Everyone’s a comedian. Maybe he’s lobbying for Amy Pohler’s old job on Saturday Night Live.