Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Media Watch

Greetings, ducks! This week here at TSA we're going to try something new and different--recurring theme columns! Today will be the inaugural Monday Media Watch.

Over the weekend, in between writing SQL specifications, I managed to actually watch some TV (other than Buffy DVDs, that is.) In fact, I caught Mike Judge's 2006 internet cult fave Idiocracy.

I'm mostly confused by Mike Judge--I was in college when Beavis and Butthead first came out and was never really impressed by watching a couple of barely-articulate slackers make fun of music videos. (I mean, I wasn't even a fan of that in real life.) But after that came King of the Hill which might as well be a modern-day Leave it to Beaver--Hank Hill's solidly middle-of-the-road conservative values always win out in the end. In some ways it's similar to Parker and Stone's "common sense" values on South Park, although without that show's audacitous offensiveness and sometimes spot-on satire. But both are similar in the way that the "common sense" approach that always manages to win out looks suspciously like the point-of-view of middle class white privilege.

(With some caveats: I liked Judge's Office Space for its gleeful and accurate satire of the mindlessness of modern corporate existence, and the South Park movie's general gleeful destruction.)

Idiocracy probably had visions of being a satire, and its vision hits some easy but satisfying targets: a Costco the size of a city, every conceivable surface--clothing, furniture, even the flag--covered with advertising slogans, cable TV hitting the lowest possible common denominator (the Violence channel has a show called "Ow! My Balls!" consisting of an hour of a guy getting hit in the crotch.) Much of this is chuckle-inducing, greatly enhanced byLuke Wilson in another of his startled shlub turns.

Other jokes, however, have a cringe factor. Judge ferociously attacks the pornification of American advertising by showing us a world of franchise sex: Starbucks gives hand jobs, H & R Block offers "gentleman's tax planning" and there's even fried chicken with "full release." All of which might have gone off better had not the other main character (played by Maya Rudolph) been--a prostitute.

And that leads us into some other troubling matters. The English language, we are told, now resembles a mix of "hillbilly and Valley Girl slang," but there seem to be a preponderence of hispanic names and "accents" around to demonstrate how much stupider America is in the 26th century. And yes, there's a black president--but one who comes off as just another bunch of 21st century stereotypes: he's a former wrestler and porn star. (In fact, the three main African-American characters are: a porn star, a prostitute, and a pimp.)

Not surprisingly, the movie ends up validating a white male slacker as the only reasonable character--and hey, given that Mike Judge is a white male slacker who made very good, I guess I can't blame him. But Idiocracy has developed some kind of hip-cult status on the Internets, and I have news for you guys: it ain't as transgressive as you think.

While I was watching Idiocracy, I got treated to the usual series of ads catering to the doucheoisie that Comedy Central routinely runs. (It's much worse on both CC and Adult Swim late at night, when the ads for the local stripper clubs run.) One of those included the newest Burger King Late Night series, in which their "King" character plays a prank on a sleeping person--in the spirit of this:

Except this one apparently was set in a woman's dorm (or at least a house with female roomates.) Sadly, the video isn't up yet, but what happens is that they do the old "shaving cream on the hand, tickle the face" gag--the woman wakes up and slaps her face to brush away the "bug," only to smear shaving cream all over her self.

But here's the part that makes this ad even douchier than normal--she wakes up and sees a strange man wearing a bizarre mask on his face. And screams. Well, no shit! I mean, this is the start of a slasher/rape nightmare, and I'd scream too. And I know that makes me a Humorless FeministTM, but give me a break--it's bad enough that this forms the plot of every cop show on TV, do we really need it to sell burgers?

There was, however, one ad I did like:

I can't say I'm a huge fan of the Progressive ads--I don't own a car, so I'm largely indifferent to them--but I love how she totally rocked this guy back on his stereotypes. Rock on, Flo!


  1. Comedy is such an interesting thing. If, like me, you consider it an artform (no matter how successful it might be to each of us as individuals) then it seems wheel-spinny to analyze it.

    It seems to me that comedy is a viseral thing. If you don't like it, maybe it's no different than not liking a painting.

    I co-wrote a musical about Britney Spears, which we premiered last August at The New York International Fringe Festival. And even though we made Britney into our musical theatre heroine and was mostly sympathetic with her, people latched onto to the idea that we were be mean and inapproriate.

    I wouldn't have written it any other way. Were we to say: We think this is a good theatre piece, but since some people may be offended we shouldn't do it?

    In case you're curious:

    I feel there are more pointed target in the media to expose. Why pick an artform and target that?

    How about LOGO's 365 Gay News? It's supposed to be a serious news program, and we still get the scary music and a presentation that is nothing short of Current Affair.

    Isn't something like that a true media target?

  2. I have no explanation for this, but I thought Beavis & Butt-head was pretty funny, in small doses. Yet I didn't so much as smile at Idiocracy. The bits that approached satire -- Costco, The Violence Channel, the "but it has what plants crave. It has electrolytes" bit -- yeah, smirkworthy. But not *funny.*

  3. I did enjoy Idiocracy, though I also had about the same issues with the movie as you point out. It really is sad how often good ideas end up being tarnished by "white Joe-six-pack saves the day" all the time. I have a great appreciation for the Flo commercials. Probably the only commercials on TV I like.

    Off topic, I was just introduced to your blog. Definitely like what I'm seeing so far.

  4. I've just installed iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.