Naomusings

My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Postmodern Snobbery: We’re All Snobs about Different Things

snob

Here’s the truth. We’re all snobs.

I mean, some of us are less snobby than others.  Many of us try our best to be open-minded.  But when it comes right down to it, all of us have some thing that’s important to us, and we look down at certain other people when they don’t share that thing.  You may be an open-minded person, but admit it, on some level, you’re a snob. Because, as much as I hate to admit it, so am I.

People have always been snobs. The curious thing about today’s snobbery is that we’re surrounded by diverse people with different and conflicting snobberies.  It used to be that people belonged to tight-knit groups where community members looked down at the same kinds of people.  Sometimes those people belonged to a different race or religion, or maybe those people drove the wrong kinds of cars or let their daughters act the wrong kind of way.  Of course, this sucked for the people in these groups who didn’t conform to the norms of group snobbery.  But for those who did, there was a sense of belonging.

These days, it’s rare to be part of a homogenous group and have no contact with people from different groups.  We come into contact with people with different snobberies every day.  The good thing about this is that this makes us more open-minded.  The difficult thing about this is that no matter what we do, we’re bound to trigger someone’s snobbery.  That’s not always bad, because it makes us build a thicker skin, but there are sometimes that I find these conflicting snobberies downright exhausting.

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Why I No Longer Love the Bachelor, or, I Give Sean and Catherine Six Months

no rose

Annnnnd we’re done.  I don’t even want to count the hours I’ve spent this year indulging in my guilty pleasure, The Bachelor.  I started this season with a long post explaining Why this Feminist Loves The Bachelor.  It’s great ironic fun, I argued.  It’s a satire of gender roles and whiteness and dating rules.

Now that this season is over, I think I may be ready to take that back.  This show is just plain sadistic.

From a feminist perspective, I don’t think that this show does a great disservice to women and gender roles (although it doesn’t exactly help). While there are certainly “true believers” who watch this show, I firmly feel the main reason The Bachelor has been so successful is because it’s so fun to mock.  If you don’t believe me, just visit the snarky, hilarious weekly Bachelor recaps by Kristen Baldwin at EW.com, and the hundreds of pithy remarks in the comments section.

So I’m not terribly worried that this show is brainwashing Americans into thinking that women need to be sniveling, powerless, male-dependent half-wits.  We know better than that.

What I am worried about is that this show messes with the minds of real contestants for the purpose of persuading them to “fall in love.”  It’s good TV when women are crying hysterically for some guy they met a few weeks ago, and this show is all about good TV.  I recently read a Psychology Today article that discusses the manipulation techniques used on The Bachelor to persuade people that they are actually in love with the stranger for whom they are competing, and it made me feel bad about actually watching this garbage.  Producer Mike Fleiss is an evil genius.

Yes, these people know what they are getting themselves into.  They are young, attractive people looking for adventure and fifteen minutes of fame.  Or so I keep telling myself.  But they also are real people who get badly hurt.  The whole premise of this show is built around rejection, which, if memory serves me correctly from my dating days, is one emotion that really, really sucks.

This week, I watched Sean turn down Lindsay at the “altar,” and she was crushed.  For real crushed.  And then I watched Sean propose to Catherine in what was, in TV terms, a beautiful proposal.  But it made me feel sad, because chances are extremely high that these two seemingly nice people don’t have a chance.  (Only three marriages have resulted in 20-plus seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.) These two people knew each other for a period of weeks before he proposed, and the day before the proposal, Sean was still saying he was equally torn between Catherine and Lindsay.  Does that sound like a solid foundation for a marriage?  Combine that with the fact that these two people apparently have nothing in common, other than being very good looking and “goofy” (or so they claim).  Catherine’s a Seattle vegan with a nose ring.  Sean’s a conservative Christian boy from Texas.  Not that people with those characteristics can’t possibly make it, but the pairing doesn’t scream “perfect match.”

I give it six months.  If that.  She strikes me as a former high school nerd who can’t believe that this “beefcake” (which she called him a zillion times) is actually into her.  Puppy love.  I predict two seriously broken hearts.  Because they do seem like unusually nice and genuine people who someone stumbled into a reality TV nightmare, I actually feel bad for them.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up watching this garbage.  But I didn’t get much pleasure out of watching the proposal tonight, and I think the sadistic premise of this show may finally be too much for me.

Food TV, Sex, and Hunger: The Entertainment Value of Basic Needs in the First World

First World Problem:  not enough butter in the fridge to make a hummingbird cake!

First World Problem: not enough butter in the fridge to make Paula Deen’s hummingbird cake.

According to the United Nations, about a billion people on the planet Earth—or one out of every seven of our fellow human beings—do not get enough to eat. Some of these people live in my community. My daughter’s second grade teacher provides snacks every day because she knows that some of the kids really need a snack.

And yet, here in the First World, we just love using food as a form of entertainment. Between the Food Network and Top Chef and all the hours we spend reviewing and reading about restaurants on Yelp, food isn’t just nutrients—or at least for us First World denizens with cable and high speed Internet.  Food is fun.  We even call ourselves foodies.

I suppose it’s no surprise that humans have turned one of our basic needs into entertainment. We’ve done the same with sex.  For most animals, sex is exclusively a procreative survival mechanism.  Humans are one of the only species for whom sex is recreational.  And oh, how recreational it is.  If we’re not currently doing it, we’re just an Internet click away from seeing someone else doing it.

Food and sex are certainly our two most pleasurably awesome basic needs.  There’s a reason why there’s no Water Channel or Air Channel. (The Oxygen Network doesn’t count.)  I suppose there is a Shelter Channel, in the form of HGTV, where First World people expound on the need for granite countertops while many of the world’s citizens are homeless or close to it.  But mostly, it’s sex and food that top our media representations of basic needs.

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My Annual Science Fiction Convention Angst, or, Is it Normal to Not Fit in Anywhere?

dalek

This weekend, my family and I are heading to MarsCon, a local science fiction convention.  So it’s time for my annual “I don’t fit in anywhere” existential angst.

So, here’s my experience with sci fi conventions.  They’re fun. They’re more my husband’s thing than mine, since he’s the true fan.  I am only a lowercase-f kind of fan of some science fiction books, movies, and TV shows.  I am not a true part of “fandom,” the subculture (and in some cases, the lifestyle) that’s formed around the love of this genre.

So I go to sci fi conventions, and sometimes I have fun.  And a lot of times, I feel sad because I don’t fit in.  Here’s a subculture that many people gravitate towards because they feel like they don’t fit into mainstream society.  After feeling like outcasts in high school or work or wherever, they’ve found a group where they do fit in.  So here I am, wandering amongst the outcast subculture, feeling exactly like I did when I was in middle school—like an outcast.

I do have friends in fandom, and I’ve met some great people at conventions.  I’ve also encountered people who have been standoffish towards me—in some cases because they lack social skills, I suppose, but in other cases because they feel like I don’t fit into their “I don’t fit in” culture.  I’ll never forget sitting down with a group of people at a convention, and an acquaintance said to the group with genuine disdain in her voice, “She’s more normal than the rest of us.”  I was officially snubbed by the geek in-crowd.

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