gambitch - now available in blue Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Last night I went to watch kids do the usual. (If you've been a regular reader of my blog - is there such a thing? - you'll know what I'm referring to. If not, I encourage you to either skip this altogether or read my archives.)
The thing with the final stage in a knockout competition is that they end up turning into rather drab affairs with rather strange regularity, with both sides either becoming uncharacteristically cagey - for fear of making the first mistake - or seriously fluffing their lines.
To quite an extent, last night was probably yet another case in point.
Now I know everyone else has been gushing with polite, if sometimes empty, comments about how everyone was good and all that. We do these things, it is normal and necessary for politeness and courtesy when we are at public functions. I don't blame people for doing it, but my face is rather plaster-unfriendly. So I'm going to do the unpopular thing here and play the resident Joe Grouch. Which means I'm going to tear off my mask of politeness here - as I often do - and look at things from the perspective of an old, bitter, hardened Vietnam vet. (Well, not really. I was born after Vietnam, and I never went to war. But you know what I mean.)
Last night was horrific.
It wasn't all bad, of course. There were areas of redemption - or good things, as people prefer to call them. They had good style, blah blah blah, and that's good and great. But this isn't something really challenging. It's not level 101, maybe, but I think it's level 201 at best. And there are still the 300s and 400s to aspire towards. If those redemptive areas were all there was to it, the bar's been set rather low.
With the first game, it was seriously jaw-dropping how a popular culture discourse could be so bereft of examples and iconic references to popular culture. The only plausible explanation I could come up with is that the discussion was about television, not movies or music. You could listen to music while you're studying or surfing the Net, and you go out to watch movies with friends because it's a social thing. But television is rather more difficult because there's homework and such (and let's forgive these kids for one thing - they're only 16 after all, and over here they lose lots of time to school-related stuff).
But when we're talking about reality television (and that's what it was about), maybe I'm asking for too much, but I was expecting mentions of Omarosa (from The Apprentice) and Jerri and Colby and Rupert (all from Survivor) and, of course, Jonathan (from The Amazing Race). Of course, who can forget Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich? Arguably the most successful crossover professional reality television contestants, and loved and hated in equal measure by opposing sides on TWoP's forums. Okay, so maybe the kids don't have the time to read TWoP (and again, I forgive them this because it does take lots of time). But these are all iconic representations of the "bad, bad people" reality television has churned out. You can't go through the whole thing without mentioning them at all, ever! Except they did last night, and I think it all suffered for it. As a consolation, Hatch got a mention.
On the flip side, it took me 35 minutes before I finally heard American Idol. Up until that point I was literally going "what the...?" in exasperation. A reality television show discussion and you miss out the paradigm example of a good reality TV show that has made stars out of real, ordinary people, in a positive way? And instead falling back on such things as "in 1948 we had Candid Camera"? Sure, the other side was surprisingly sloppy and that gives an excuse to sneak one in the back door like that, but I'm not sure that was the best call.
Oh, and to all the people who were obsessed by the sex factor (Temptation Island and Joe Millionaire did get the mention as the paradigm examples of reality TV promoting promiscuity as 'normal'), here's a little useful fact to think about. The five nominees for the Emmy Award for Best Reality Television Programme were The Apprentice, The Amazing Race, American Idol, Survivor and Last Comic Standing. The other four are quite famous, so I'll just briefly explain the last one. Basically it's the stand-up comedy version of American Idol. And while sex jokes aren't entirely non-existent in stand-up comedy routines, that's not all there is to it, as even Drew Carey will tell you.
I'm not going to go into particular length beyond what I've already said here, because adding more is just going to make this a long rant. The point I've to make about last night is very simple. If you want to talk the talk, the least you can do is fake it like you know the subject. That's always the problem when it comes to international politics, economics or abortion. But it's even more embarrassing if you sound so nerdy you really seem to have no life. Political apathy leading to disinterest and non-knowledge is one thing (and I think it's bad, but that's another matter), but when you can't even shine in a discussion on Omarosa and Rupert, rather than Condi and George, you need a doctor. Or a self-planned backpacking trip.
(Footnote: I won't write about the second match here. There's not much of a point, because the problems with that one were less basic. Plus, if you're really interested in an analysis, you know how to get me. And I've got breakfast coming along.) gambitch [
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
So I've been a little lazy and haven't updated for a week. My fault there, then.
Which is by way of saying that this particular entry will be long, rambly and unsingular in its focus. Like so many of my other posts. Nothing new there, but it's a style thing.
It'd be nice to state, of course, the most important thing that happened last week on TV - Lynn and Alex were eliminated from The Amazing Race at the end of the India uber-leg. I've never really been a fan of theirs - although I know a few people who were. To me they were horrible persons on so many levels. First of all, they were so stereotypically gay it was disgusting. Now don't get me wrong, I'm okay with people being homosexual as long as they don't start showing an interest in me - in which case it starts getting creepy because I'm simply unattractive as a fashion object. But there have been wholly normal-looking homosexuals on this show before. Quite a number of them, in fact.
We've had Aaron (of Aaron and Arianne in Season 3), who for the most part was best friends with his female race partner who just can't get around to dating because he's gay and she's straight - and Arianne has said before that kinda sucked for her. Aaron wasn't a good racer in the sense he didn't have the mental constitution, but he came across okay on television without his homosexuality being played up that much. We've also had Ken (of Ken and Gerard in season 3), who's a fun guy but could do serious business when it came to racing. We've had gay sons racing with parents for a couple of seasons, and for the most part what got played up was the parent-child dynamics. Then of course there was the famous Reichen and Chip, who loved and respected each other so much they married each other (never mind the post-Race divorce). They were solid, competent racers who people hated for a couple of dumb antics early on, but they proved they were an alpha male team more than they were a homosexual team.
All these examples - and there are more - do go to show that there are lots of homosexuals out there who don't have to be seen in that weird light, who can in fact easily show how otherwise normal they are. Of course there was this gay team that somehow decided they wanted to go shopping in Hong Kong mid-race, but they generally went down well as fun-loving folks who endeared the average audience - and they survived that leg rather comfortably too! But you could be homosexual and likeable, and all these racers had contributed to that movement to give homosexuals a chance for public acceptance on what are mostly society's standard terms.
Lynn and Alex, sadly, have not. They were very Mardi Gras in the way they carried themselves, and they seemed to enjoy it so much they refused to even try to get out of it. When the preview shot for these two has them spring out of changing rooms and checking out each other's clothes, that's a setup for showing their superficiality. They're very much about giving away Mardi Gras beads and throwing flowers at Indian crowds, and the not-so-occasional gay joke too. And what did Lynn say he missed most about home? Moisturizer. In that classic stereotyped-as-gay tone, oh puh-leaze!
And that's only half of it. Lynn and Alex also had a clear hatred of Rob and Amber which never went away. I mean, really, calling Amber names that suggest she's somehow ill is out of order. Calling any woman you hardly even know names is out of order, even if she's not an ordinary woman. And in some way Amber Brkich is not an ordinary woman - she's a contestant in another reality game show who clearly made good television, which is why she and Rob got pulled into this one - but that doesn't make her fair game for insults.
And they hate Rob because he's this master manipulator who cheats and is morally bankrupt when it comes to playing the game. Great, except for two things. One, as I've said before, Rob's not that evil, he's merely playing the game and he happens to be pretty good at it relative to the rest of the field. He may have honed his craft on Survivor, but anyone who hasn't gone through that could just as easily play the game very well after watching the show for a few seasons - just ask Colin and Christie and, to a lesser extent, Adam and Rebecca.
Two, for all that moral high ground they're claiming over Rob and Amber specifically, it does not seem to be beneath them to do all the things Rob does, because when Rob does it, he's an evil cheat, but when Lynn and Alex do it, they're just being sneaky and clever. I'm sorry, you two, but that's just not making much sense to me right now. Refusing to let Rob and Amber get on your totally empty minibus? Telling that woman in Francistown not to lend Rob and Amber the same mobile phone you just borrowed? Sure, I might do that myself if I was on The Amazing Race, and that's not going to make me the next Mary Poppins, but that's the way it is if you're taking the game seriously. And if you take the game seriously enough to do those things, why can't you accept that Rob and Amber won't just lie down and let you walk all over them? Oh, the hypocrisy and double standards of it all.
I would have thought I had seen the last of these two, but I should have known better. These two days, I've been reading the showbiz gossip pages in the newspapers, and to my absolute horror and disgust, I get two interviews with Lynn and Alex, and yet more of just how obsessed they are with Rob and Amber. They just won't get over it, eh? And doesn't that say something about them?
So anyway, they're gone from the show for a week now, but obviously they refuse to go away quietly and with grace, like how many of the teams in the past have done. Heck, even Ray and Deana have made up and are setting themselves up for marriage. So much for all the TWoPers who still want Deana to run away from the man. Ray's not the greatest competitor, and he definitely needs to learn to take care of the girl a bit better, but he didn't stink up the show the way Jonathan did last season, and compared to Lynn and Alex, the not-very-young (although he refuses to admit it on the show) man is still a better person - flawed, but unmalicious and definitely not petty.
What happened on the show this week, then? Oh, they've detoured back west towards Istanbul, Rob got screwed over for playing the game too hard for his own good, and Ron and Kelly came in last and got stripped of pretty much everything. But they weren't eliminated. Ron shouldn't have too many problems with losing his possessions - he's an army guy who's done his time in Iraq, so he's roughed it out before - but it will be interesting to see how Kelly deals with having nothing. She won't do all that badly, I should think, since she's less of a princess than Flo and Kendra, although she has serious problems with that blabbering mouth of hers. She's no Christie, I think, but on the other end of the beauty queen scale, she's no Nicole either. She'll learn to take it in her stride, so late as it is in the race.
It looks like they're going even further west next week, since we get a sighting of those famous red London double-deckers. There's even a Roadblock designed around them, and I hear it's tough. Isn't it just grand now? gambitch [