Sunday, January 29, 2012

TV: Covering for their own

Noting the lousy sales for Ani DiFranco's new album, yesterday Kat pointed out that many reviewers are reviewing Ani's politics and not the lousy album she produced. Which had us thinking about how politics allows bad shows to be treated as if they're wonderful. We could have grabbed one last week; however, it was a 'to be continued' and we wanted to be fair.


Let's start there, with 30 Rock which has a great many problems even before you notice that Tina Fey's unable to lose the pregnancy weight. We first checked to see if NOW had called 30 Rock out. Of course not. Even worse, GLAAD praised it.

But GLAAD is a useless group, one Anne Heche rightly attacked when their spokesperson called Ellen DeGeneres ABC sitcom "too gay for TV" on Jay Leno's show. For those whose memories don't stretch back to the late 90s, Ellen had come out of the closet on her self-titled sitcom and in real life. It was the cliff hanger for season four. Season five was what happens after you come out. And what happens after you come out is, apparently, GLAAD trashes you as "too gay." However, if your program includes homophobia, GLAAD praises you, as they did 30 Rock.

For those who have forgotten, Tracy Morgan let his homophobia and sexism run free over the summer. As we noted back in June, Tina Fey's response was to compose a comedic essay, turning the whole thing into a joke. Only we weren't laughing. We take homophobia and sexism as serious as we do racism whereas Tina's only concerned with racism.

And that's why her show has been so homophobic as we have repeatedly noted over the years. The only way to be gay on her show is to flounce in a stereotypical manner and you're never part of the group, you're either a nemesis or you're a one-episode character. And because you're gay -- or, rather, because you're gay on a homophobic show -- most of your comments will revolve around sex.

But not to worry, GLAAD has never called out 30 Rock. Ever. And, in fact, they praised them, their Herndon Graddick did, declaring of the episode we're focusing on for this piece, "I thought it was hilarious. We've been called worse than trash bag manufacturers and look forward to seeing the second part next week."

Yes, Tracy Jordan (Morgan's character) does call Glad the trash bag company to apologize when one of his homophobic rants outrages the LGBT community. Presumably Graddick saw the entire episode (he does insist he's eager to the see the second part, doesn't he)?

What's the message of the "People Are Idiots Too" (that GLAAD praises)? That homophobes are lovable. "He really is a good person," Liz (Tina Fey) insists to a group of stereotypical gay men protesting outside NBC.

It gets worse.

Confronting Tracy not on his homophobia but on the problem he's caused for the show, Liz asks him if he knows how many of his co-workers are gay? She then points out an open door at people passing by, "Him, him, her when she's drunk, I genuinely don't know."

Of the four people only "I genuinely don't know" applies to a series regular. She's referring to Lutz. The two gay men? Extras we've never seen before as is the woman.

And, excuse us, but gay "when she's drunk"? What kind of comment is that on lesbians or homosexuality? Is Tina Fey suggesting sobriety as a "cure" for being gay?

But apparently, because a man with GLAAD found it hilarious, it's okay.

Just like it was okay for GLAAD to declare Ellen "too gay for TV" when Ellen was under fire from idiots who insisted that the show be pulled because the actress and the lead character were gay. Yeah, that's GLAAD, never helping the LGBT community, never standing up for the LGBT community. During the same period, GLAAD rushed to inform America that Mel Gibson wasn't a homophobe. (We all now know better though some of us knew better in real time.) Why, GLAAD wanted you to know back then, Mel was genuinely surprised that anyone found anything in Bravehart homophobic.

Yeah, GLAAD, and D.W. Griffith was surprised people called out the racism in Birth of a Nation, so what's your damn point?

Repeatedly, GLAAD has been in the business of picking on the unpopular while excusing and ignoring homophobia from the popular and powerful.

30 Rock offers no regular gay character, re-enforces stereotypes about the LGBT community repeatedly, turns "gay" into a joke repeatedly (we covered the program's homophobia last February) and GLAAD's just happy to giggle along with the show instead of issuing demands such as the need for a regular gay character. What a pathetic organization.

On the 30 Rock episode, Matt Lauer appears at one point to read a statement from Liz where she says he's "not hateful," Tracy's just an idiot. Which leads to Tracy tossing a flat screen TV and forming a protest led by idiots. And it's time for more hilarity.

The reality is that Tracy Morgan and Tracy Jordan's statements were hateful -- Jordan's far less because he didn't threaten to kill anyone. And the reality is that they were never dealt with, they were just swept aside with, "Tracy's so stupid but he be lovable."

Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin were dismissive of the outcry over the summer. (Alec denies he was dismissive.) But there was one cast member who didn't dismiss the remarks. Does anyone remember that?

Cheyenne Jackson. Though he plays straight Danny, Cheyenne is out and openly out in real life. As it has been on TV since at least the days of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, sitcoms are more than happy to hire gay actors to play straight (Sheila Kuehl), they're just not big on including gay characters in the mix.

Most critics are referring to the "two parter" of "People Are Idiots Two" and "Idiots Are People Three" but actually it was a three-parter. "Dances Like Nobody's Watching" kicked things off with Tracy upset that Liz wasn't paying attention to him and warning that he would do something crazy to get attention. The other episode that's aired is "The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell." What do all four episodes have in common?

No Cheyenne Jackson.

Where's Danny?

Is Danny not being used because the actor wouldn't be a dancing monkey and pretend that homophobia was okay or funny?

It's a question people should be asking.

They should be also be asking why 30 Rock demonizes gay men, portraying them as willing to marry and deceive a woman to advance, of being a backstabber incapable of having friends, of being devious and . . . Goodness, we're getting to 1950s stereotypes of gay men, aren't we. But GLAAD never says a word.

Did you know that GLAAD joined in the dog pile on Work It? That they declared the show "harmful"? Their action alert included:

While the show’s pilot does not explicitly address transgender people, many home viewers unfamiliar with the realities of being transgender will still make the connection. As the ad states, by encouraging the audience to laugh at the characters’ attempts at womanhood, the show gives license to similar treatment of transgender women.

“This show could contribute to the high levels of job discrimination that transgender Americans face and will give license for people to mock and ridicule those whose gender expression might not fit with what society considers the norm,” said GLAAD’s Acting President Mike Thompson. “The media should use this as an opportunity to address the huge number of inaccurate or offensive images of transgender people in news and entertainment today.”

Oh, "home viewers unfamiliar" might be deceived into believing these two straight men were trans? Anyone mistaking them for "trans" would actually be mistaking them for gay because their working knowledge would be so small, a reality GLAAD ignores.

Seeing a man on TV dress as a woman and be mocked for that, be made fun of, called a "shh-man" and worse? Seeing him hire someone to sit on him for sexual pleasure? Seeing him put a woman on a leash and walk her through a dog park while he is dressed as a woman?

It's strange that GLAAD never objected to any of that -- either for what it implied or for what impression it might leave with viewers. All of those things? They didn't happen on Work It. They happened on 30 Rock. That's Paul, Jenna's sometimes boyfriend. Who on top of everything else is a sexist who is fond of saying "as the man in this relationship" -- while in full drag.

It's not funny. And, again, it goes to how the Republican Tina Fey (Republican until the last decade, of Republican parents, and only a nerdy Republican would have been in college worshiping Amy Grant) portrays gays and trans-genders and cross-dressers and more. But GLAAD will look the other way every damn time. 30 Rock will get away with one insulting stereotype after another and GLAAD will never object.

Before we move beyond the issue of homophobia, we need to note our agreement with Marcia (see her "The joke that is Sundance") that there is no justification for Robert Redford's film festival hosting an event in which Morgan was given the Spotlight Initiaive Award. It hasn't even been a year since Morgan's homophobic and sexist remarks surfaced and all he did after that was p.r. to save his own ass. None of which warrants an award.

But then 30 Rock's racked up a ton of awards and it really hasn't deserved them either. Used to be, the show's tired jokes were recycled from season to season. So you'd get, in season five, Matt Damon's character saying that as a pilot he got a discount at Sunglass Hut and this seasons you get Criss (James Marsden) telling Liz, "I called Sunglass Hut and got my credit limit raised 80 bucks!" But now the rip-offs come much more quickly and within the same season. For example, on the first episode of this season, Jack (Alec Baldwin) riffs on Liz secretly wanting to see Gary Marshall's New Year's Eve -- riffs at length. Then, three episodes later, 30 Rock opens with a trailer for MLK Day.

They really don't have anything left and are just spitting out their own fumes these days.

And that more or less describes Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!

The last months have not been good for the program. There was, for instance, Amy again chatting up her good friend and frequent guest Juan Cole on live TV and radio when Cole lets slip that he's a CIA contractor and Amy fidgits nervously to avoid exploring on air what she already knew. There's been criticism from CounterPunch's Alexander Cockburn, "On Amy Goodman's Democracy Now one was far more likely to hear CIA-consultant Juan Cole issuing fervent support for the entire intervention than rather any vigorous interviewing of informed sources about what was actually happening on the ground in Libya."

Last week, Glen Ford joined the growing chorus calling out Democracy Now! when the show wrongly reported of a protest against Barack Obama, "A crowd of around 100 protesters with Occupy Wall Street and other groups demonstrated outside of the Apollo" ("Headlines, January 20, 2012). At Black Agenda Report, Ford explained the crowd was about 400 and called out "the left flank of Obama's apologists and protectors" including Amy Goodman's show, "But Democracy Now!, whose politics has undergone a palpable turn to the right during Obama's time in office, told its audience that only about 100 people protested, when in reality, the MoveOn section of the demonstration alone approached that number. In this sense, Democracy Now! is worse than the police at reporting demonstrations it doesn't support."

Interestingly enough, Amy Goodman wasted three pages (147-149) of her Exception To The Rulers (copy and pasted with help from brother David Goodman) denouncing NPR and The New York Times for undercounting the crowd at an October 26, 2002 protest. NPR would go on to correct their error on air. A week after her error aired, Amy Goodman has offered no correction. But then she's always been too busy pretending to be Last Journalist Standing to ever issue needed corrections.

Last week came the most telling and embarrassing Democracy Now! moment of all. The morning after the State of the Union Address was delivered by US President Barack Obama, Amy invited Ralph Nader on her program to join her in whoring for Barack.


Ralph rattled off about "lawless militarism" in the speech, that Barack's unable to use the word "poverty," that Barack "says one thing and does another," etc. Goody Whore then asks him what to tell people who ask, "What is the alternative here? Mitt Romney? Newt Gingrich?" Like a cheap whore, Ralph Nader replies the answer is to put pressure on Barack and whimpers about the pressure from the corporations on Barack.

The whole thing was an embarrassment and this publication will never again encourage anyone to ever listen to Ralph Nader again. Nader wants the microphone, so he'll whore now.

We're not in the mood.

The entire segment was a testimonial. The Obama campaign used testimonials in 2008. They were often successful at them. They put lipstick on a bunch of cheap hookers in the summer of 2008 who would lie that they were for Hillary but were for Barack now (we called out one whore who delivered that performance on Democracy Now!, where all the frauds eventually go). This testimonial relies on the premise that you will relate at the beginning and therefore buy into the conclusion: So it starts with the expression of outrage and then ends with a sigh of 'oh, well, what can we do?'.

The testimonial exists to strip you of your anger and your power and turn you into a meek little lamb shuffling off to slaughter.

That it would come from the mouth of Ralph Nader is beyond disappointing.

Let's deal with the what-can-you-do aspect first. What can you do? You can vote a protest vote which does include voting for whomever is on the GOP ticket. You should not, however, try to protest vote by writing in the name of another Democrat. As we reported in 2008, writing in the name of a Democrat (such as Hillary Clinton) in many states will result in your vote being counted for Barack.

In addition, you can protest vote by not voting. That's the option that we're currently entertaining. (We're not advising anyone else to follow our lead, we're merely disclosing.)

You can also vote for a third party or independent candidate.

Have you ever heard of those?

See, we thought every adult knew about that option but it's one Ralph Nader failed to mention on Democracy Now! despite the fact that he ran for president in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Yet now all he can offer is "put pressure" on Barack?

He never thought that was good enough or an answer when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House. But suddenly it's the answer?

Despite being repeatedly attacked for it, Ralph Nader didn't cost Al Gore the 2000 election; however, none of those attacks on him could have done more damage to Ralph than what he did on TV and radio last week as he refused to suggest that voters even consider a third party or independent candidate. Elaine shared her outrage on Friday. She voted for Ralph in 2008. She'll never do so again. She feels betrayed and, judging from the response to her post, she's far from alone.

Tina Fey and Amy Goodman are two of the most overly praised and petted on the left. Both had some early work that demonstrated some promise; however, that promise long ago flickered out and, even more disappointing, they've become guilty of the very things their supporters supposedly oppose. How sad that what they'll protest from others, they'll accept and applaud from Fey and Goodman.
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