Sunday, December 07, 2008

TV: The Fairy Tale

What an interesting week for women. Senator Hillary Clinton spoke on Monday about her decision to accept president-elect Barack Obama's Secretary of State offer and she got attacked repeatedly throughout the week culminating in Saturday's nightmare (we'll get to it) while a spoiled princess decided, even though she's never held elected office, that she should be appointed to the US Senate. And no one said "boo" about that.

Where to begin, where to end?


How about by noting the fact that the press will smear Alaskan governor Sarah Palin every chance they get. They will, in fact, invent things to attack her with. But weren't they strangely silent following Tuesday's election?

We'll join Marcia in noting Fox "News" because the non-reality based community has seized the mainstream. This is Saxby Chambliss, re-elected to the US Senate Tuesday, speaking, "Sarah Palin came in on the last day, did a fly-around and, man, she was dynamite. We packed the houses everywhere we went. And it really did allow us to peak and get our base fired up. I mean, I can't overstate the impact she had down here. When she walks in a room, folks just explode. And they really did pack the house everywhere we went. She's a dynamic lady, a great administrator, and I think she's got a great future in the Republican Party."

The week would end with tired Sarah Palin jokes on broadcast TV. The same broadcast TV that never saw fit to explore Palin's power -- the power they keep insisting (despite all evidence to the contrary) she doesn't have.

Think about that. Think about how they call her an idiot and say she has no influence. They say that about this woman who's been elected to the office of mayor and governor, this woman who was John McCain's running mate this year and their ticket received 46.3% of the popular vote. This woman, who has achieved on her own, is to be mocked, ridiculed and attacked; however, Princess Brat wants to be in the Senate and that's supposed to be okay?

Tina Fey lost another 200,000 viewers Thursday (down 200,000 from the last broadcast) on 30 Rock but more are paying attention to her insane claim that there was nothing sexist about her portrayal of Sarah Palin (one she rushes to tell America that she didn't write! It was Seth! she insists). Tina stammers that saying what she and the program did was sexism was absurd. No one objected to Dan Ackroyd doing Nixon!

Nixon wasn't running for office (or in office) when Akyroyd portrayed him. But was SNL not sexist in 2008?

Hmm . . .

Our personal favorite 2008 skit was Mac Daddy John which aired this fall. Andy Samberg, wearing a wig similar to the one he wears when playing Rahm, sat in a chair by a fireplace for a cold opening, shirt unbuttoned to the waist, stroking his chest hair with one hand while sipping on a glass of booze with the other.

Andy: Hey there, America. Have you forgiven me yet? You know you will. Sooner or later, everyone forgives Mac Daddy John. So I cheated on my wife? So she has cancer? It was in remission! Then. And I said I'm sorry. Don't you love me, America? I just wanted to be president. Real bad. So bad. When I want something, I want it full out. I want it bad. I want it hard.

As the camera zooms in on Andy, we hear a zipper opening.

Andy: Come on, Mac Daddy John needs your support. I got cravings. I got needs. I got [licks lips] wants. Oh-yeah. So I can't be in the Oval Office? It's cool. Mac Daddy John does his best work in the boudoir, you feel me, America? You want to feel me? You want to show some love for me. Come on, baby, I feel bad for what I did. Spank me.

The skit ends as a woman, with a baby on her hip, walks out insisting he's late with a child support payment.

That was so funny and proof of just how non-sexist Saturday Night Live is. They had spent months and months with that sexist stereotype of Hillary as power-mad when, as America would learn over the summer, the power mad person was John Edwards. Conducting an affair while on the campaign trail. Lying about it. Hiding behind his wife's cancer. There's nothing that piece of s**t wouldn't do to become president.

And by doing that skit, SNL proved that they weren't just attacking every woman in a position of power, they would attack men as well and, if a man disgraced himself, they would go after him. With the same anger and scorn they'd aimed at Hillary who, for the record, didn't disgrace herself.

Oh wait. That skit never aired.

That skit was never written.

Hillary was a power-mad bitch in skit after skit but they took a pass on John Edwards. On the entire story. Now when a sitting governor had a sex scandal, SNL was all on it with multiple skits. But a man who has now run for his party's presidential nomination twice, who has been a vice presidential nomination? He's not news. His having an affair and running into a men's room to hide from The National Enquirer isn't comedy gold?

Saturday, Amy Poehler returned to SNL for a brief spell. How brief? That's up to NBC. Her sitcom has no slotted premiere as of yet. That's because NBC has seen 30 Rock lose viewers every week this year and is a bit nervous about another SNL show. So while she waits (and hopes) for NBC to announce an air date, she rejoins SNL allowing it to have two female cast members (eight male cast members).

She opened the show on Saturday and guess who she played? Hillary? Right.

As a bitch? An angry embittered bitch? Right.

And, though the real Hillary has gone out of her way to be positive about Sarah Palin from across the aisle, it was time for the 'fur to fly' as Amy declared, "The question is is my new job better than being governor of Alaska? Yes. Yes, it is."

Amy's Hillary then declared that she wanted to "reflect on Governor Palin's historic" achievement for a moment and, without even a beat, yelled, "Moment over!"

It was time to bring Darrell Hammond out of moth balls so he could do the bad parody of Bill Clinton he does so poorly and Amy's Hillary would declare, "Like vampires, the south and Britney Spears, we will rise again."

Goodness, the way they rip apart Hillary, you'd think she was caught cheating on her cancer-ridden spouse, wouldn't you?

It was time for Fred to do Barack again. What's the point?

That's not intended as an insult to Fred. He does Barack very well. But as we've noted here for a year, they don't write skits for Barack. Barack can't be the butt of the joke. Seth won't allow it.

So there was Hillary ripped apart in the program's first moments and, in the first half-hour, we'd later get Barack. "When I accomplish a mission, there isn't going to be a banner. I'm just going to do it," insisted Fred's Barack in a sketch that had him repeatedly stating, "I keep it cool." Was their laughter? Not really.

Why would there be? Bob Hope did harder hitting political comedy. It's so embarrassing that people on SNL are beginning to joke Seth Meyers goes home each night, puts on a taffy blonde wig, a mole and deep red lipstick, while sighing, "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to a photo of Barack.

Saturday Night Live made its name mocking politicians. They made it through 2007 treating Barack with kid gloves and they'll no doubt make it through the end of this year doing the same as well. Don't you try to argue for comedy because Seth will get angry and threaten to show up pantyless and in a white dress.

Sexist Tina Fey wants to argue that Saturday Night Live is fair and plays it fair. What world does that nut case live in?

Amy and Darrell did the cold opening.

Then Chicago Trash John Malkovich was brought out. Who? Exactly. Never carried a film, has no career today. Lacks heat, lacks sex appeal and needs to trim both the hair on his head and the eyebrows. But while once-regular hosts like Candice Bergen and Lily Tomlin aren't invited on, while a woman under 28 still has a better chance of being the host than a woman over 35, there was tired John Malkovich. The man whose chief purpose in life appears to be making William Hurt appear soulful.

Instead of a monologue, he read a story. No, it wasn't funny. The skit fell flat especially at the end. He wasn't funny.

This was followed with a skit starring Fred (Kristen offered two brief appearances and lines) for fart strips -- Breathe Right from the makers of Breathe Easy.

Then it was time for an office party skit. Four men, two women (Kristen and featured player Casey). Followed by Fred as Barack. Four men with lines in a skit that features no women (Vinny Vedecci interviews Malkovich). A digital short starring Kristen (Virgania Horsen Pony Express). Casey and four men in a family skit about twins getting a calculator. (No, it wasn't funny. And a skit featuring Andy that fails to give him even one solid line will always be a badly written skit.) "Weekend Update with Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers." Yet, strangely, despite the introduction, Seth gets to speak first. Joining them are three men. Only Andy is funny. (That could become the mantra of the show: "Only Andy is funny.") Displaying the sexism he's quickly become so noted for, Seth read his joke about a husband and wife team of robbers: "The way it worked was he would rob the homes and she would stand outside saying he was doing it wrong."

How very sad for Seth? He's rather young to be playing it like a crusty, 54-year-old living in 1962. More ugliness from Seth in the story about Laura Bush missing the staff. Background there, the First Lady was asked who she would miss when they leave the White House in January? Her comment have been read (and this is how the joke went) that she's Marie Antoinette. Another reading could argue that she was naming the daily staff to recognize them -- the team that keeps the White House running and receives so little praise. But Seth knew where he wanted to go, Laura Bush was saying they would miss "basically anyone who has put their nuts on their tooth brushes." Yes, in Seth's world, everyone has "nuts." That certainly does explain those persistent rumors of him picking up a transvestite at Hangar Bar.

Next up, a skit called "The Lost Works Of Judy Blume." A male announcer for the skit? Judy Blume and a male announcer? Three women and John Malkovich have roles (a fourth woman shows up later in the sketch but she has nothing to do but sit around). The biggest female role goes to? Did you guess John Malkovich? Is there something really insulting about a spoof of Judy Blume's work featuring a man playing a young girl?

Andy and another male star in a digital short, a music video that already is or will be all over YouTube entitled "Jizzed In My Pants."

John Malkovich reprises his Dangerous Liason's role for J'acuzzi -- a theatrical adaptation set in a hot tub. Two women and John and Andy. (Andy's wearing shorts, for Andy lovers. You have to look closely.)

And that's it. Tina Fey says SNL is not sexist.

Though women make up over 50% of the US population, they had 12 speaking roles to men's 23 speaking roles in the broadcast and only the digital short with Kristin was female driven. In all other skits, the women were the support, existing to set up the punch line or to be the butt of the joke. The strongest female role was, in fact, Gertie -- from the Judy Blume skit and played by Malkovich.

But Tina wants to insist SNL is just wonderful and amazing and fair and non-sexist. Tina, your daughter's going to have to live in the world you're offering denials for.

And that's probably the most interesting thing about the week, some of the ones on TV doing the most damage to women are, indeed, women. Some are named Tina Fey, some are named Campbell Brown. Brown hopes (as does CNN) that she can ride a wave of disgust over the rampant sexism on display in 2008 to success. But Campbell really lacks the basic understanding to grasp what is sexism. Ed Rendall made an intentionally mocking statement about single people. The point was not that a female governor did not have a life because she was a woman. That's not Ed's style and that's not what the remark referenced. But there was dipsy Campbell yammering on about the 'sexism.' We sometimes joke that she's part of a ploy to falsely cry sexism so that real sexism is ignored.

After the election, Campbell took to the airwaves to talk about Sarah Palin. (Yes, we are coming full circle from our beginning.) And a number of indignant drive-by readers e-mailed to say we highlighted Katie Couric's remarks about sexism and we even posted a video of Katie's comments! We, they argued, just like Katie better.

Actually, we do like Katie better and we know Katie. But Couric offered a strong statement against sexism, a strong statement in support of women. Campbell? Her argument boiled down to: 'Sarah Palin's an idiot but if the GOP's unhappy now, they're the ones who picked her!" In Campbell's mind that is a strong statement against sexism. In few other minds, but in her mind, it is.

2008 has been an appalling year and you need to take what's been done to women (repeatedly) and ask what it says about everyone. We're not referring to the motives of those launching the attacks. We're talking about the attacks themselves. For example, Palin, a popular and successful governor, is to be ridiculed as an idiot because of how she speaks? She speaks in a folksy manner. You don't have to like it. You can even send it up in impersonations. But to call her stupid? What does that say the Egghead opinion is of people who stammer, or stutter, or dropped out of school for financial reasons? Marcia pointed out the strong support from her grandparents that Palin has. They like her. They won't vote for her but they like her. As Marcia expressed their feelings, "They're making fun of the way she speaks? I understand what she's saying. She rose to become the governor of a state and they're belittling her. Imagine what they would do to me." Yeah, imagine that.

Because women are the canary in the coalmines. Hate and prejudice aimed at all women could never be aimed at any group of straight men without being called out. It is in navigating how much abuse it can get away with towards women that society sets down its markers for others. And week after week, that remains one of the biggest lessons of 2008. It's not a 'happy' one. We use "interesting," an interesting lesson. And as a society, we can accept it or we can work to change it. We can take offense to the fact that a woman who has never held public office thinks she can bypass the voters and the campaigns to be appointed to the Senate on nothing but her family's name. We can take offense that women like Hillary and Sarah who have worked to get to where they are repeatedly get ripped apart, have their motives and actions questioned. Because a woman who does is always more threatening to our society than a princess who waits to be rescued. The same fairy tales generations grew up on are being retold but presented as fact.

And no one says "boo" about that. As Holly Near has warned, "The war against women rages on, beware of the fairy tale" ("Somebody's Jail," Show Up).
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