Naomusings

My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

Archive for the category “Reality TV”

Make the Pridelands Great Again: How Scar Overthrew the Kingdom By Mobilizing the Hyenas

antelope.png

Hey, antelope comrade, the system is rigged.

 

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called the Pridelands, which was ruled by an elite group of lions. The lions, who represented a fraction of one percent of the kingdom’s population, controlled about 40 percent of the resources in the kingdom. They also frequently ate members of the middle class, like antelopes and elephants. This didn’t sit well with Simba, the bright young heir to the throne, so he asked his father King Mufasa why this seemingly oppressive practice was acceptable.

“It’s okay, Simba,” explained Mufasa. “It’s all part of the Circle of Life.”

“The Circle of Life?”

“Yes, son. You see, it may seem unfair. But when we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life. So, you see, Simba,” said Mufasa, “all lives matter.”

Simba was still skeptical. “But Dad,” he asked, “there are so many more of them than us. Why don’t they rise up and overthrow their oppressors?”

Mufasa laughed heartily. “You’re so funny, son!” he exclaimed. “Come, let’s go practice your pouncing skills on our humble and terrified servant Zazu.”

But there was one member of the lion elite who wasn’t so happy with the Circle of Life. That was Scar, the king’s brother. Scar was socially awkward and kind of funny-looking, so the other elite lions scoffed at him. And things were getting worse for Scar, because these days, the female lions were finally getting more power. There was talk of a young lioness named Nala becoming the leader someday, which enraged Scar, because his position in the lion patriarchy was the only thing that kept him feeling superior. On top of that, Nala wasn’t even a 10!

Unfortunately for the other lions — and for the kingdom as a whole — Scar was a sociopathic narcissist, so he devised a plan.  He started hanging out with the hyenas, who lived in an elephant graveyard that once housed manufacturing plants.  The jobs had moved to other lands, though, and the hyenas were poor, desperate, and despised by the rest of the Pridelands. In fact, disdain of the hyenas was one of the things that kept the middle class antelopes and elephants from overthrowing the lions, as they were easy scapegoats. “It’s the fault of those hyena scavengers!” cried the lions when resources were scarce, and the middle class animals believed them — and felt better about themselves because at least they weren’t as lowly as the hyenas.

Scar started holding rallies in the hyena lands. “If you help me become king,” he declared, “I’ll bring jobs back! Stick with me, and you’ll never go hungry again!”

“Hooray!” cried the hyenas.

“The lions want to make Nala the queen,” said Scar. “She’s the one responsible for the loss of your jobs because of trade deals she made with other lands.”

“Eat her up!” cried the hyenas.

“Ah,” said Scar below his breath, “I love the uneducated.”

So, with the help of the hyenas, Scar killed Mufasa and sent Simba into exile, and Nala returned to her inferior place in the patriarchal system. Unfortunately, Scar had no government experience or diplomatic skills, so the kingdom eroded into disarray. Of course, he abandoned his promises to the hyenas, who were as hungry and despised as ever.

We know how this story is supposed to end. Simba returns to the Pridelands and takes his “rightful” place as the king. Nala becomes his queen, and someday, she or another elite lioness might be the leader of the Pridelands.  The hyenas rebel against Scar and kill him, but after he takes over, Simba doesn’t provide anything better for them. The Circle of Life continues, and the elephants and antelopes continue to be dinner.

But maybe there’s an alternate ending. Maybe the antelopes will have some meetings, and start saying, “Hey! The system is rigged, and it’s the lions who are doing the rigging!” Maybe they’ll demand real change from the so-called Circle of Life. And maybe they’ll realize the hyenas are allies, not scapegoats, and maybe they’ll work side by side to create a truly democratic and egalitarian Pridelands.

Maybe. Or more than likely, the antelopes will go back to reality TV, Facebook, and other forms of Hakuna Matata. But maybe, just maybe, the antelopes and the hyenas will have their day.

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Jill Duggar and the #YesAllWomen Hashtag: Why Christian Patriarchs Don’t Own Women’s Bodies Either

lily

This week, two seemingly unrelated incidents happened in the world of female sexuality and the media.

On May 23, 2014, a 22-year-old man named Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California. According to his autobiographic manifesto, Rodger’s killing spree was motivated by the fact that women had been rejecting him sexually. It seems that he literally felt entitled to access to the bodies of these women, a belief that was reinforced by the”men’s rights activism” rhetoric he was reading.

In response to Rodger’s killing, women all over the world started tweeting their own experiences under the #YesAllWomen hashtag. Their point: Rodger’s killing wasn’t the case of an isolated nut job. Women everywhere encounter men who think that they are entitled to access to women’s bodies. Here are just a few examples of the many, many tweets:

yesallwomen

 

Meanwhile, on 19 Kids and Counting, a small act of rebellion was committed by Jill Duggar, the 22-year-old daughter in this very public right-wing Christian family. You see, at the time of filming, Jill Duggar was courting a young man named Derick Dillard.  (They are now engaged.) In the Duggar family, daughters are not “allowed” any physical contact with their suitors other than a brief side hug.  Frontal hugs are off limits. Couples are “allowed” to hold hands after their engagement, and are “allowed” to kiss for the first time at their wedding ceremony.

And yet, on 19 Kids and Counting, there was a small, but perhaps not entirely insignificant, act of rebellion. Derick returned from a long trip abroad, and Jill was there to greet him at the airport with her entire family. Derick and Jill eagerly approached each other from opposite sides of the security barrier. Jill ran a little too far into the security zone, and the alarm went off.  This turned out to be a unusual moment of spontaneous reality TV gold, because as the buzzers went off, Derick and Jill dove in for an actual frontal contact hug. Her parents were none too happy.

Now, please let me get this straight. There is nothing wrong with a woman choosing to abstain from sex, kissing, or anything else before marriage.  The #YesAllWomen tweeters would most certainly agree.  A man is not entitled to any physical contact with a woman that she does not want to share, whether those reasons have to do with her religious beliefs or something else.  A woman’s body belongs to no one but her own self.

But that’s what’s so disturbing about 19 Kids and Counting (and about the Quiverfull movement they belong to and other similar movement) is that the message is not that women own their own bodies and control their own sexualities. The message is that their fathers control their daughters’ sexuality until these daughters are “given away” to their husbands, who then take control.

Think I’m exaggerating? The degree to which the Duggars, and especially Jim Bob, exercise control over their daughters’ dating experiences is comprehensive. Jim Bob must approve all “courtship” partners for his adult daughters. No, we’re not talking about a dad setting limits on who his 15-year-old daughter can date. We’re talking about 22-year-old daughters needing permission. Once a daughter is dating, or even engaged, Duggar girls are never allowed to be alone with their boyfriends. Ever. They always have to have a parent or another sibling along as a “chaperone” to make sure that no physical contact outside of a side hug ever occurs.  These girls are not even allowed to have private phone conversations or texts with their boyfriends. To promote “accountability,” the entire Duggar family has access to the texts exchanged between Jill and Derick.

Now, you might ask, isn’t this a choice that Jill is making actively?  She is indeed an adult, and if she wants to kiss a boy before marriage or send private texts, what’s stopping her from doing so?

This is absolutely correct, technically. However, the cost of a Duggar child going against the teachings of their parents, and against the entire community to which they’ve been exposed, is enormous. The Duggars have gone through great pains to make sure their children have limited exposure to any ideas outside their own — including to the more mainstream Christian lifestyle choices that the majority of American Christians make.  They are all homeschooled.  None of the adult children have left the house to go to college or to get a job, except for the oldest boy, who’s married.  The family only socializes with other families with very similar values. The Internet is censored to about 70 websites for the younger children and for the adult children, which means no access to “subversive” ideas. So yes, Jill Duggar could leave the house and go to college and kiss boys and even wear pants (which the Duggar girls do not), but the Duggars have gone through great pains to make this level of free will enormously painful and unlikely.

And the children — including the adult children — rarely leave the house alone. There’s no, “Mom, I’m going to the mall with Katie.” The Duggars always bring a sibling along to make sure they act in accordance with their parents’ wishes. A few years ago, oldest daughter Jana left alone to speak at a retreat for young Christian women, and her parents made a big deal about how proud they were to send their daughter off alone into the world for the first time.  Jana was 22.

I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with parents teaching their daughters about sexual morality, and that there is nothing wrong with teaching the belief that sex (or even kissing) should be reserved for marriage. Every parent teaches their children about morality, myself included, and we all hope these lessons will stick. And when our children are growing up, we can indeed impose rules about things like dating.  I’ve already had a conversation with my eight-year-old involving a skimpy purple bikini. She was none to happy with me when I refused to buy her the bikini.

But when our daughters grow up, they can wear whatever purple bikinis they want, and they can make their own decisions about sexual morality because they are the owners of their own bodies.  And yet this is exactly what Jim Bob Duggar, and others in the Christian patriarchy movement, are trying to prevent. Just look at the recent popularity of the Purity Ball, a ceremony in which an adolescent girl literally “entrusts her purity” to her father, who is tasked with protecting it until she is married.

Attempting to control women’s bodies and women’s sexuality is wrong — whether we’re talking about a rapist at a frat party or a father who goes through great length to control his adult daughters’ sexual choices. In this way, Jim Bob Duggar isn’t all that different from Elliot Rodger. Eliot believed that he was entitled to make decisions about how women expressed their sexuality. Jim Bob feels the same way about his daughters.

The Bachelorette: Haiku Recap for May 27, 2013

roseDesiree proclaims,
“I feel like Cinderella!”
A million tears fall.

Shiny silver dress!
Bangs: like Sean, a memory.
Des: dressed up for love.

Meet the new suitors!
Bryden: Montana Marine.
Will: token black guy.

Drew: fan of hair gel.
Nick: Chi-town magic tailor.
Zak: Naked Texan.

Robert: spin that sign!
Mike: dentist, blinding white teeth.
Brandon: has baggage.

Twenty-five bachelors
All here for the “right reasons.”
(Ha ha ha ha ha!)

Time for the limos.
Humiliation contest?
The contenders are:

Zak, minus his shirt.
Diogo: armor? Really?
Nick: token poet.

Dr. Larry: rrrrrrip.
Kasey: hashtag #wtf?
Jonathan: horny.

Ben brings his cute son.
Questionable parenting,
but he gets a rose.

Cocktail party time.
Zak takes off his pants this time.
Potential husband?

“Fantasy suite time,”
cries Jonathan. “Love tank full!”
Des: “Begone, frat boy.”

Rose ceremony.
Sorry, rejects. Journey’s done.
Next week: more fun, Des!

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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