Sunday, February 06, 2011

TV: Oh those hateful little things

There's a lot of hate in TV. That's surprising only if you forget how many people there are in TV. Or if you're one of those who insist upon glorifying them -- especially if they're on 'your' 'team.'


That's how, for example, we end up with the sexist Michael Winship treated as a hero. We've noted his sexism many times before. One example can be found in "TV: Bill Moyers Locker Room." Winship's sexism was most obvious in those weekly commentaries he used to write that ended up posted at Bill Moyers Journal. With that show thankfully gone, he now has to find new places to trot out his loathing. As Ruth noted Friday, these days he dog-walks his crazy at The Huffington Post.

That's where readers could find his "For the U.S. in Egypt, Blowback Is a Bitch" last week. How old is Mikey Winship? We foolishly thought he was a fifty-nine-year-old adult despite his obvious immaturity; however, titles like that make us seriously wonder. And we wonder about the state of political discourse that this is the best a professional writer -- one whose sexism is known and document -- can come up with.

And his use of "bitch" in the title of a political essay reminded us another infamous hate-filled personality, Tina Fey. We'd told ourselves we'd do our best to ignore Fey in 2011 because, honestly, life is too damn short. But then incidents like the following exchange in Thursday night's broadcast of 30 Rock take place.

Liz: But let's get back to the interview.

Carmen: We're done with that portion. I thought it would be a fun visual if we got some B-roll of you taking sexy pregnancy photos where you bare your stomach like the pregnant bitch that you are. What do you say?

Liz: Let's take some pictures.

We're not real fond of political articles by sexist men that use "bitch" and we're even more offended by the exchange quoted above.

"Bare your stomach like the pregnant bitch that you are"?

For those who missed the episode, Liz pretended to be pregnant to cover for Avery. The episode was written by Matt Hubbard so Tina Fey might pretend that gives her an out but it doesn't.

There's no hiding behind anyone.

That was offensive. And what's really sad is it was hardly the worst portion of Thursday's show.

Here we've long called out using gay as a derogatory. In April 2009, Susan Donaldson James (ABC News) reported on how anti-gay taunts led to the suicide of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. Last year, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network attempted to educate on the bullying and released several PSAs such as Wanda Sykes explaining that "that's so gay" was not funny or needed and that people need to "knock it off." We'd pretty much assume thinking people of the left had received the message.

So imagine our surprise when, shortly after hearing that nonsense about bare your stomach, the following took place on 30 Rock.

Jack: Avery and I want the baby's middle name to be Elizabeth after you.

Liz: Oh, Jack, that's so gay balls.

How is that even funny? It's not. But it is harmful and this from the woman who wants to play superior to others?


And let's be really clear that 30 Rock's been on an anti-gay kick all season five. Not just this episode. There's again been the in-passing joke that "Topher" (James) is gay. And that might not be so offensive were it not for the fact that this show with such a large cast has no out-gay characters who appear regularly.

There is Devon Banks (played by Will Arnett) who was gay and in the closet. And a fool. In a wider range of characters, that might not be a bad thing. But when gay is always to be ridiculed, it's part of a pattern. Maulik Pancholy's Jonathan may or may not be gay (he worships his boss in what appears to be a sexual way -- such as when, episode three this season, Jonathan was giddy that he and Jack might stay overnight in DC and end up sleeping in bed together and what if they forgot to bring t-shirts . . .)

An out gay character in a single episode this year (episode 11 of season five) was D'Fwan. He was Angie Jordan's effeminate hair stylist whose sole purposes consisted of flaming and uttering three lines. And, when Jack offers Angie her own reality show, allowing Liz to ask if D'Fwan can be on it and having Angie respond "Mmm-hmm, with his even gayer boyfriend."

Gayer? Really?

Does NBC realize how likely 30 Rock is to pull an Amos & Andy? Meaning how, in ten years, stations may avoid airing the show due to progress in society and what is so obviously hateful stereotypes.

Now when Jack's mother Colleen (Elaine Stritch) appears and makes one of her invariable homophobic remarks, that can be dismissed with the reality that the woman's over 80 years old and Colleen's a joke -- an increasingly tottering one this season. So when she digs into the obvious homophobic remarks so often that even "What are you smiling at, you fruitcake?" (episode 10 of this season) seems homophobic, you just write her off as someone with a foot in the grave (and wish that make up and wardrobe had some sense -- don't put black eyeliner around an eighty-six-year-old woman's eyes and give her face no color while also dressing her in bright red -- she looked like death warmed over). But when the lines come from Liz, it is especially offensive.

Jack warns her, in episode eleven of season five, that if she wants to tangle with him, she better know this isn't his first rodeo. To which Liz responds, "Well I've been to a rodeo too. It was a cat rodeo. At a gay guy's apartment." What?

At a gay guy's apartment?

That added to the humor how?

Or was gay supposed to be the 'joke'?

Season five has been a non-stop parade of homophobia and it's appalling. It's far from the only problem the season's suffered from but it is the most appalling and it's about time Tina Fey was held accountable for what her show's consistently preaching. And, Tina, Comcast takes diversity a little more seriously than does GE.
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