Wednesday, July 14, 2021

TV: Truths -- partial and whole

Truths. They're seldom pretty. If they were, everyone would flaunt them.

Instead, most people work overtime to conceal them.


Let's start with Aaron Mate. We've been very clear both here and at THE COMMON ILLS that Aaron has our sympathies and that the lies and attacks Ana Kasparian and others at THE POST-MENAPAUSAL TURKS have carried out are unseemly and reflect more on the attackers than they do on Aaron.

We've defended him and will again. But we speak to actual journalists -- not podcasters. And we're aware that they had great sympathy for Aaron. The sympathy has weakened. They're tired of him "making himself the story," exact words from two journalists -- print journalists. They're referring to his constant appearances on various programs including Jimmy Dore's where Aaron talks about . . . well, himself. We're not questioning his right to defend himself but we are noting that when he makes himself the story reporters lose interest. And so do viewers if we can judge by the stats at THE COMMON ILLS where various YOUTUBE videos get reposted and in e-mails to both that site and this one.

We see the point many are making. We have another point though. Glen Ford of BLACK AGENDA REPORT. He told truth when it was uncomfortable and did so on the laughable DEMOCRACY NOW! Amy Goodman was pimping the White House and the administration's talking points. Glen didn't play. The result? Glen got banned from the show. He hasn't been on since 2012.

What else hasn't he been on? Aaron Mate's THE GRAYZONE.

That's an issue to us. And as Aaron speaks of being wronged, while we agree with him, we're aware that others were wronged as well. And if you're not using your power to help others who were wronged it just comes off a little self-focused, a little self-centered -- honestly, a little vain.

for a while i'm speaking
you know how much you hate to be interrupted
maybe spend some time alone
to fill up your proverbial cup
so that it doesn't always have to be about you

-- "Front Row" written by Alanis Morissette, first appears on her SUPPOSED INFATUATION JUNKIE

Aaron is Jewish which is an ethnic minority. It's not really a minority in left media. Glen Ford is African-American. Sabby Sabs and Niko House raised an important issue in the video below last month.

Why aren't people stepping up? Why does Sabby have to make that video in 2021? Shouldn't inclusion -- at this late date -- not require reminders? 

All women and men of color are grossly under-represented in our left media.

And when a White male host does bring on a person of color, it usually appears they are brought on to back up whatever racial belief the host has. So if the host believes, for example, that African-Americans don't like Jiffy Peanut Butter, the guest was selected for that reason. It's not as though people of color get to come on to talk about war or other issues -- despite the fact that there are many experts on war and other issues besides race.

If you've had Ajamu Baraka on as a guest, we're not talking about you.

But most of you haven't, have you?

Let's move over to more truths. Tina Fey.

30 ROCK debuted the same season as that awful Aaron Sorkin show. We advised you to watch Tina and skip the gas baggery. But then, some feel, we turned on 30 ROCK. Did we turn on it? The first season was amusing enough but we lost one actress and no one was added. What we'll accept in a first season is much different than what we'll accept many seasons later.

This comes up due to GIRLS5EVA -- Tina's new sitcom for PEACOCK. It is often entertaining. But. It. Has. So many. Problems. So many.

First up, Busy Phillips. She never should have been cast. She was tired by season three as a supporting player on COUGAR TOWN. She has one voice and one reaction. She does it into the ground. The writers didn't help her by trying to write depth for the character. Busy can't do depth. Busy can't do much of anything. She can't, for example, sing. That is a problem when she and three other women make up a vocal group. When she signs, her voice gets hard and she bears down. It's not musical. And maybe if she were an actress, that wouldn't matter so much. But her experience in single cam comedies has not helped her. When she knows the camera's on her, she acts -- or offers her attempt at acting. But when the camera catches her in a wide shot? She is not in character.

Busy was a very poor choice in a series that smartly cast singers Sara Bareilles and Renee Elise Goldsberry in other roles. They sing very well, no surprise, they also act very well. Rounding out the main cast is Paula Pell who makes up with energy anything she might be short of on vocal range.

Leaving aside Busy, the show has many other problems.

The main one is Tina Fey.

The girl group from the '00s has a male manager, has a male songwriter that they want to reboot them, has one male after another. Paula's Gloria is the only one either not married or not sleeping with a man in any of the episodes. But do not think that Paula being a lesbian means she gets to sleep with a woman because that's not happening either. She's exiled into that soft space of nothing -- when liberals want to prove how woke they are by doing a token but not letting her have the same experiences the other characters have -- see the third season of CHARMED, for example, or any 90s drama or sitcom.

As we watch Girls5Eva be defined by men -- husbands, the manager, the dee jays, the audience, the everything -- we naturally had to look at the credits.

Along with Tina, there are five other executive producers. Only one, Meredith Scardino, is a woman. So much for 'grrl power' or even 'girl power.'

Tina and The Token -- if it were a sitcom, it would pretend that it's sexism was actually ironic humor.

Tina thinks that's being inclusive and she is a sexist who never wants to cop to that reality. But it's in her work over and over. Take season four of 30 ROCK and the episode "Dealbreakers Talk Show No. 0001." There is no excuse for what happened in that episode and it just goes to how obtuse Tina actually is. Her character Liz has written a 'book' entitled DEALBREAKERS that has sold very well to non-readers and Jack wants her to do a talk show entitled DEALBREAKERS. Working on the talk show means Liz will have to delegate her responsibilities as producer of TGS to someone else. At the writers meeting, she offers it to Topher then retracts it, offers it to Lutz and then goes elsewhere to writers in the back who never speak -- as she identifies them -- but they don't want it. So she gives it to her last choice . . . Frank.

Anyone else see the problem?


The only woman writer under Liz. And she's actually in that episode. She's at the table, in fact. And Liz never offers it to her.


It was those moments and so many others that led us to turn on 30 ROCK.

We spoke with one of the producers of GIRLS5EVA who felt "Dolly Parton" and Vanessa Williams mitigated the problems we saw -- "at least a little bit."


No, not at all.

Dolly Parton? That was so awful that we had honestly planned to ignore it all together. But since a producer of the show raised the character . . .

Tina Fey's really not much of an actress. She can sometimes deliver funny lines. Even that ability fails her when she attempts to play Dolly Parton. Dolly is not really Dolly It's a hallucination. So we don't really see how that ups the number of women on the show. Then there's Vanessa Williams. She appears on two episodes at the end -- due, we're told, to criticism like we've made above.

Vanessa's wonderful in her role as the new manager but we should note that the old manager -- the old male manager -- is still around. Will Vanessa be in season two?

A lot of things need to be fixed in season two. They have Sarah's character now writing songs and that's good because it makes the women a little less dependent on men. And let's be clear that they should have noticed how many men they were adding every episode in a cast already overflowing with men -- the dee jay, the Instagrammer, the two co-hosts of the reality program, the man who answers the phone at a TV station, the man . . .

We're especially bothered by the lack of lesbians. They brought on a gay male Instagramer but Paula's character being out means nothing? If one of Destiny's Child members came out today, it would still mean something, all these years after the group disbanded. But apparently, it means nothing -- not even worthy of a remark when they are on THE TONIGHT SHOW with male host Jimmy Fallon, backing a male rap star.


Dave Karger is gay. The TCM host never had to come out. And we don't mean that in a mean way. He's very comfortable in his skin. And he's our favorite TCM host (we also like Alicia). He knows movies. He loves movies. Even when we're tired and sick, he's someone we can always watch without groaning -- and TV being a visual medium, we should note he's a cutie.

So it upsets us that we have to write what we're about to write. TCM recently aired the documentary THE CELLULOID CLOSET based on the work Vito Russo did for the book. And Lily Tomlin was given a lot of credit for her narration and co-producing the documentary. Too much credit.

Dave is a nice person. But history is history. THE CELLULOID CLOSET addresses the history of how the movies have embraced -- in the silent days -- gay portrayals, then demonized, then . . .

And if history matters, we feel it does, than honesty matters.

Lily was supposed to come out. That was the deal on her narration. She would publicly announce she was a lesbian at the release of the 1996 documentary to grab more attention for the project. Many people involved in the project did not want a closeted actress acting as narrator to this film addressing gay portrayals in film.

Some were very vocal to the gay press. Some, for example, gave interviews calling Lily out and noting that for years you could see classified ads in THE ADVOCATE offering Lily's pubic hair for sale. It was not a pretty period. It is, however, reality.

When Lily tried to pass herself as always out, we called her out on that. And one of the reasons was her refusal to come out to promote THE CELLULOID CLOSET.

We like Lily. And she's out. Has been since 2000 when she spoke to US magazine.

But how much different might the lives of many other people have been if Lily was out much sooner Especially since she and Jane Wagner were partners?

Queen Latifah recently came out in an underscored manner. Some have trashed her for waiting so long. We're not going to trash her.

It's easy today to wonder why someone doesn't come out?

But Queen Latifah wasn't born in the last ten years.

She was born in 1970. She was raised when being gay was a disease -- a mental illness. She grew up when gay bashing was considered fun and natural. She was raised in the Black community which, to this day, struggles to deal with its own homophobia. She didn't Richard Chamberlain it. Her career wasn't over when she came out. She has a CBS TV show (THE EQUALIZER) that she's the star of, for example.

We hope that she feels free as a result of her recent coming out and we hope her stress is less.

By the same token, we understand that Lily grew up with even more baggage having been born before Queen Latifah. We don't want to shame Lily and we certainly don't hate her. We love her as a person and, as an actress, we think few will ever shine as brightly as she has.

But when she starts stating that she was basically always out? We have a problem with it. It's not honest. More to the point, it doesn't convey the struggle that LGBTQ activists have had to endure. People today can be fluid. They can be who they are in whatever way. That's wonderful. But it's a new development. And to really appreciate where we are as a society today, we need to grasp how far we've come.

That's what makes truth important: The value it conveys of humanity's long journey towards progress.





Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }