Monday, September 26, 2011

TV's New Fall Season: Hollywood's Sidebet

The Washington Times has a post up about TV's New Fall Season and how it consists of mean women and weak men. To summarize the story (go ahead, read the whole thing), men are mostly weak and loserish, unless they are hot studs, and women are "sassy" and "empowered" who sleep around a LOT, with the few men who are sexy (dominant, assertive Alpha A-hole men). There is a reason for that. It sells. TV is basically a land of commercials, wrapped around a few minutes of entertainment. Oh, yes, basic cable channels, and HBO/Showtime/Cinemax (commercial free) derive most of their money from cable subscription fees, not ads. And the commercial free channels like HBO get all of their money from subscription fees. But that is changing. Time-Warner cable is now offering a package excluding ESPN that costs around $30-$40 a month, compared to around $73 a month. Continued growth will rely on not a bottomless pit of cable and satellite rights fees passed onto strapped consumers, but ads. Even P&G is prepared for the "hourglass" shaped consumer demographic, lots of really poor people and a few high-earning consumers.

What is wrong with America (and the West) is nothing less or more than its consumer culture, which based almost entirely on the female consumer has pushed bad behavior to the limit, while trying its best to eradicate the best of female actions.


Most women, most of the time, in the West, have been fairly conservative. Yes movements like the Temperance Movement, Prohibition, and the like have catered to the desire to tell other people how to live their lives, something of overwhelming emotional value to upper class White women in America. But most women most of the time were focused on saving money, preparing for household expenses, improving the lives of their children, and wanting a better life for their sons and daughters than they themselves had. This made women in the West a mostly conservative force, wary of great social change, and deeply invested for the most part in their children. Yes there were bad mothers, and bad fathers, but for the most part the nuclear family and very limited consumer spending held back the forces of rapid social decay. This at a time when most women did at least some work outside the house, and for farm wives in particular, labor alongside men in many times and places. In the Depression, women worked even more outside the house, part-time, to keep households together.

Here is what the Washington Times had to say about the new Fall Season:

Unlike their broke, wimpy male counterparts, the women on these shows are mostly strong and self-sufficient, and critics describe them with glowing words such as “assertive,” “edgy” and, heaven help us, “sassy.” However, what these women actually are, generally speaking, are utterly awful human beings. They may be inspired by “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw, but they act like Samantha, openly bragging about how badly they treat men. They make the sorts of crude jokes that are rightly decried when men make them on prime-time network TV, yet are celebrated for women as signs of emancipation. “Whitney,” “Are You There Vodka?” and “2 Broke Girls,” for instance, all have one-line zingers where the punch line is “vagina.”

The male characters are largely relegated to being ornaments, comic foils or villains. Those that aren’t wimps or fools are dashing rakes - embodiments, in a way, of the old virgin/whore dichotomy turned upside down. In Fox’s “New Girl,” which premiered Tuesday at 9 p.m., post-“Glee,” star Zooey Deschanel’s character has to find a new apartment because she catches her boyfriend cheating. Similarly, the titular “2 Broke Girls” become roommates only because one catches her “sleeps until 4:00” boyfriend cheating on her, and the other has a father who goes to jail for his Bernie Madoff-like crime.

TV’s women of fall, on the network sitcoms especially, are vain, selfish, shallow and controlling — a generation of “Mean Girls” grown, not surprisingly, into mean women.


You see this stuff because advertisers like it. And they like it because they have done quite a bit of market research showing that their female target audience, younger women, like it too. A lot. The ads on these network shows are in support of the idea that women are empowered, Sex in the City types, who can sleep around, with dashing rake-hell men, bond with lots of "you go girl" female friends, and dismiss the 90% of the male sex that lacks the sexiness required.

CBS's "the Good Wife" has a flavor of it, a glamorous depiction of the sexy betraying bad husband (but one that every woman wants) and an older woman still turning heads. A prime-time soap opera.



There is nothing wrong with consumerism, as long as it is not taken to excess. But the storylines blend seamlessly into the ads, of a society defined by consumption and where the type of consumption determines the type of person the lead (female) characters are: beautiful, glamorous, important, because they are consuming a particular type of man, or for the younger set, hot, sexy, desirable because they have the hottest bad boys and sleep around a lot.

The problem with all of this is that the consumption at some point has to end. No one save the very rich can live a life of consumption without saving. The entire "model for life" promoted by the entertainment wrapping the commercials does not work, for much of anyone outside of say, Mick Jagger, for very long. Sleeping around a lot guarantees sex with Alphas, but not commitment, and a life of single motherhood at best, not the fabulous families envisioned in Sex and the City. Most straight men are not falling over themselves to be the fabulous gay boyfriend of some new girl on the sexual marketplace. Most women who sleep around can get easy sex but little commitment from any worthwhile man. Most women past the age of forty don't turn heads, they make men want them to move, so they can see the hot young thing behind them.

Nothing in America's culture will change until and unless its consumer culture changes. This means ad-supported TV, which influences pretty much every part of society due to its massive reach and its stature of the bread and butter of Hollywood (movies are glamorous, TV production pays the bills). All that is a chicken and egg riddle.

Women in the past were naturally conservative because life revolved around marriage, kids, family, and above all, saving for that life. Savings, and the most prudent, cost efficient consumption meant women were an innate force for conservatism. Seizing the "Commanding Heights" of culture and politics and society: Professional White Collar White women, is not easy given the profound shift to consumption and not saving.

Steve Sailer noted this commercial:



"Suzanne Researched This," about how buying a McMansion is possible by bullying your fat stupid and weak husband. Notice there is nothing about value and saving. Indeed the consumption is all about overcoming the dumb husband, who is not able to see how cool the granite counter-tops are.

In some ways, this culture is the bill due from a near 70 years of uninterrupted peace and security, built through the Cold War duopoly of nuclear weapons and force, the stability from two coalitions desiring to minimize conflict. Allowing consumption to run rampant. The sort of broad social change brought about by television, rising wealth levels, easy contraception, urban anonymity, and highly personally mobile society. All of which seems to be coming to an end.

What is interesting about the CBS show "Person of Interest" is not just how masculine it is, but how it points out that the very technology that allowed anonymous, urban living is now taking it away. Surveillance cameras, massive government and commercial databases, plus of course Facebook, Google, and the rest leave bare most lives to anyone with any determination to pry them open. For any purpose, any time.



Yes there is the obligatory "Good female Black cop" to meet diversity quotas, but she's mostly irrelevant (and shown to be fairly useless, as she does nothing to stop crimes from happening). The producers, JJ Abrams and the brother of Chris Nolan, Jonah Nolan, talked about the approach in London and New York.

Which brings us to the latter show, "Person of Interest." Much is made, fairly directly, of the impact of 9/11 and how the attack made people aware that their lives were not as safe or secure as possible. While there is no footage shown, 9/11 changes the lives of the two male lead characters forever. And the technology used to combat terrorism is inevitably used (in the show, for good) to combat lesser crimes, in fact stopping them before they start. With two completely disconnected from society men, aiming to "be there in time." While flawed in execution, the concept and what the show is about, is so striking.

Inevitably the society of the Good Wife, 2 Broke Girls, and Are You There Vodka, Its Me Chelsea cannot co-exist with that of Person of Interest. Something has to give. And what will give is which ever notion is proven strongest. By ongoing events. TV currently holds that the future is mostly known. More of the same, a big fabulous party thrown for everywoman who can pursue granite countertops, or a fabulous life in the big city, or be sexy well past forty, if she's just fabulous enough. Because security and safety and things like water, power, electricity are all assumed. And that therefore there is a large appetite for shows depicting fabulous consumption in fabulous manners by fabulous women.

The minor side bet, made by some interesting people in Hollywood, is that this is not the case. That society will enter into a prolonged period of shortages, of water, of power, of food, of basic safety, and there is an appetite for shows about broken men finding redemption and meaning (and lawful revenge) by stopping worse things before they start. Basically a whole-hearted endorsement of pre-emption in crime and anything else because … technology gives us the tools to understand and predict behavior much more thoroughly.

Color this the Moneyball of Crime Dramas. The show is not about consumption, or money, sex and power. It is about above all an idea, that imperfect though it may be the way to stop horrible things (and take a moral revenge for 9/11) is to intervene with all the tools used to fight Al Qaeda. Not to put them aside in favor of Hope, Change, and fabulous girlfriends and clothes and men. But to use them, wisely, because there are many, many bad people out there.

That this show was made at all, much less that CBS put it on, is staggering. Yes Hollywood is mostly betting on Sex and the City. But it has made some interesting side bets.



14 comments:

jules said...

I'm cynical as always. Joel Surnow was interviewed on PJTV for the Kennedys and he said management wanted to kick him out during the 2006 elections because they were afraid of having a conservative running a high profile show. Not saying Abrams and Nolan don't have pull but the show could just as easily go Buffy/BSG in a few years. If I see Jane Espenson anywhere in the credits I'm gonna reach for my browning.
What's funny is the Kennedys got more emmy nominations than that liberal shitbag of a show, The Wire. Producers run show business and showbiz awards.

I'm not a writer, just a film school dropout, but I would tap into the mentality of decay. Think Korean war, Truman's defense budget cuts, not some apocalyptic zombie/muslim/chinese future or a utopian terraforming feel good story. A literal Terra Nova set in post-decay America.
Katsuhiro Otomo's (Akira) Freedom Project miniseries was about just that, except he was more interested in a story about reviving the Apollo space program. The Apollo rocket is now a lost technology, much like Roman concrete or Greek Fire. What if things like GPS, nuclear power, diverting rivers & bridge-building went that way? How would society rebuild itself?

Sorry, my inner geek is showing.

Anonymous said...

any seeming anti-pc themes in hollywood are probably accidental and will be short lived. they either don't get that theres huge money on the table or they dont care. audiences want "traditional" male characters and plotlines. the hollywood liberals are overestimating their majority.

breaking bad took a major pc turn just as it really broke out, which coincidentally made the show worse (skyler as a major character, operating the business and now becoming just a walking stereotype of modern female fantasy. she has it all, kids, tons of money, alpha husband with constant drama in the relationship, she fucked the hot young boss on the side and then bailed him out from the IRS by being hot and slutty with the agent.. i mean give me a break

jules said...

Really? I saw the first season of Breaking Bad and kinda liked it. I was waiting for the final one to come out to get the box set. You just saved me a ton of money.
Btw, Breaking Bad's just another in a long line of TV shows where the worst kind of people are protagonists (sopranos, boarwalk empire) but a documentary about Dick Cheney who served in the govt. for many years is about "the most evil man to have ever lived".

Whiskey said...

Anon interesting point about Breaking Bad. Yes Jules that's a good point about bad men as the leads. More feminization -- the monster women can "tame" and hate to love and love to hate etc.

As pathetic in its own way as the butt-kicking babes with a taste for nerds and blowing stuff up.

jhbowden said...

Anon, in Breaking Bad, Skyler is a character we're *supposed* to hate, just as we're supposed to like Saul, the sleazebag lawyer. Why? Just as Saul is the comic relief, Skyler is a lightening-rod for the frustrations of the viewers. BB is an intense show, and needs outlets so the intensity isn't redirected back right at the protagonist(s).

Think about shows that don't have these elements. Lost, for example, completely cratered in its last season for many reasons, one of which was that the writers killed off the major annoying characters, trying to please the audience by keeping the popular characters around. This seemed like The Cool Kids Club, and any frustration created by the developing plot -- those moments when you want to yell YOU DUMBASS at the screen as complications are introduced -- had no place to go but back at the protagonists themselves. While, if Ana Lucia was still around acting like an over-the-top tough dike, or if Michael was still constantly yelling for Walt every ten seconds, the plot, despite the lameness of the final concept, would have moved forward far more smoothly.

In short, it is important for a story to have characters to hate.

Anonymous said...

Terranova was awful. Its high-tech overpopulation might have been thought daring in 1972. The New Earth was a watered-down Bradbury's Mars combined with Dinotopia.

It was stupid: a child leaving a polluted cityscape who had never seen clouds or an orange then hand-feeds dinosaurs.

Aside from the military dictator (why?) only women were competent (and he had an armored--why--hot chick standing beside him). In the future, boys are whiney lovers ignorant of dinosaurs and technology (I guess it is the future). For some reason, punishment for birth of a forbidden child falls on *males*.

Barf. Gave up after the first hour.

njartist said...

Yea, Terra Nova was awful: I cannot stand idiot, rebellious teenagers or women when there is serious danger; they are dangerous baggage and need to be brought into line immediately either by being left behind or being allowed to be killed off. Except for the alpha dictator, the males were less than the women; and of course the dictator's daughter is the secondary alpha "male."

jerry said...

Hey Whiskey, got any thoughts on the casting of Morgan Freeman in the movie Dolphin's Tale? You really thing that market demand is the main driving force for this sort of casting?

Jack said...

Whiskey, I think you can rest easy that "Whitney", "Are you there Vodka" or any other new sitcom will be off the air in 6 months. The only sitcoms that have succeeded recently that I can recall are "How I met your mother" (young singles in NYC but pretty pro-relationships) and "The Big Bang Theory" (pro-nerd). Too many cable channels, etc. now, mostly geared towards the same vapid females as these new sitcoms. They won't succeed.

Commander Shepard said...

"breaking bad took a major pc turn just as it really broke out, which coincidentally made the show worse (skyler as a major character, operating the business and now becoming just a walking stereotype of modern female fantasy. she has it all, kids, tons of money, alpha husband with constant drama in the relationship, she fucked the hot young boss on the side and then bailed him out from the IRS by being hot and slutty with the agent.. i mean give me a break" -Anon


On the contrary Skyler's behavior is an indictment against women. She's a walking stereotype but not for the reasons you believe. Her buffoonish ideas have ALL backfired and now they may very well cost Walt and his family their lives. Breaking Bad's writers should be applauded for portraying Skyler as an idiotic and foolish woman.

Zenster said...

To summarize the story (go ahead, read the whole thing), men are mostly weak and loserish, unless they are hot studs, and women are "sassy" and "empowered" who sleep around a LOT, with the few men who are sexy (dominant, assertive Alpha A-hole men).

What you have just described is around 90% of soap opera plots.

Even P&G is prepared for the "hourglass" shaped consumer demographic, lots of really poor people and a few high-earning consumers.

They had damn well better. Much of political America has designated the Middle Class ($50K - $100K annual income), as their most dangerous enemy. It is the domain of the educated voter and few, if any, modern candidates truly appeal or even cater (/pander), to such a constituency.

What is wrong with America (and the West) is nothing less or more than its consumer culture, which based almost entirely on the female consumer has pushed bad behavior to the limit, while trying its best to eradicate the best of female actions.

I can only refer you to "The Handbook of Human Ownership - A Manual for New Tax Farmers", a superb lecture by Libertarian, Stefan Molyneux. An excerpt: (Video time point ― 56:40)

In our constant quest to perfect human ownership we have found a far better way to break these family bonds and substitute allegiance to ourselves in the form of patriotism and or religiosity. (Ahhh … ) It’s one of these beautiful win-win situations that come along so rarely. Listen, first we raised taxes to the point where it became very difficult to maintain a reasonable lifestyle if one parent stayed home with the children. We also funded feminist groups to the tune of billions of dollars, one of the greatest investments we ever made, to encourage women to abandon their children and enter the workforce.

Not only did this help break the parent-child bond but it also moved women’s labor from non-taxable to taxable, a delightful coincidence of self-interest and practicality for us. With both parents working all we had to do was create a few scares about the quality of childcare allowing us to move in to control can regulate that industry and remaking it to serve us best.

In some countries like the United States, children are effectively removed from parental care by the state within a few weeks or months after birth. In other countries parents receive direct subsidies to stay at home which is quite funny when you think about it and there is precious little room for humor in much of this.

We take money by force from the parents, keep a large portion for ourselves, use another portion to run up debts that their children will somehow have to pay off and then dribble a few pennies down to the mother who then feels that we are somehow doing her a great favor by allowing her to stay at home. (Giggle) Ah, it’s a delicious irony that everyone remains so totally blind to reality that they run to us to protect their children from all kinds of harm while we are the one selling off their children’s future through national debts. It really is like hiring a thief to guard your property.

The amazing thing is this is all so completely obvious and never ever, ever, ever spoken about.


This fundamental erosion of the Nuclear Family helps to drive consumerism (e.g., "guilt-edged giving"), juvenile crime, state indoctrination (i.e., public schools) of Cultural Marxism and a host of other posionous anti-cultural engines.

A prime-time soap opera.

While, perhaps, not the very first, "Dallas" certainly was one of the earliest if not most popular of this emerging and devastatingly mindless genre.

Zenster said...

There is nothing wrong with consumerism, as long as it is not taken to excess. But the storylines blend seamlessly into the ads, of a society defined by consumption and where the type of consumption determines the type of person the lead (female) characters are: beautiful, glamorous, important, because they are consuming a particular type of man, or for the younger set, hot, sexy, desirable because they have the hottest bad boys and sleep around a lot. [emphasis added]

If you think it's bad now, just wait. Disruptive Technologies like the hard disk video recorder make it easier than ever to skip advertizing content.

Look for industry counter-moves such as central plot characters touring a sponsor's factory and other shameless ploys that will make current product placement practices look noble by comparison.

Steve Sailer: In some ways, this culture is the bill due from a near 70 years of uninterrupted peace and security, built through the Cold War duopoly of nuclear weapons and force, the stability from two coalitions desiring to minimize conflict. [emphasis added]

Another built-in and highly toxic feature of the Cold War's decades-long "peaceful" stalemate was the breeding up in American youth of a monumental sense of entitlement. This unjustified and baseless motion of self-worth has permeated all corners of modern society.

As one wag put it:

Never has there been a generation so full of self-esteem … nor for so little reason.

When coupled with America's already existing obsessions over unearned wealth (e.g., the lottery or game shows), and unmerited fame (e.g., Paris Hilton or Regis Philbin who are merely famous for being famous), it forms an almost unbreakable triumvirate of deadly influence on sound decision making, critical thinking or the conservation/preservation of functional morals and ethics.

Because security and safety and things like water, power, electricity are all assumed. And that therefore there is a large appetite for shows depicting fabulous consumption in fabulous manners by fabulous women. [emphasis added]

Look for all of that to change in a very bad and hellish way. The Pale Male™ has now been designated as this world's biggest collective enemy since the black plague. As White males are continually demonized and marginalized, look for their innovative and stabilizing role in global prosperity to diminish even further. Think, "Atlas Shrugged", by Ayn Rand.

Zenster said...

jerry … got any thoughts on the casting of Morgan Freeman in the movie Dolphin's Tale? You really thing that market demand is the main driving force for this sort of casting?

Permit me to refer you to the rather caustic but spot on analysis of this at SBPDL (Stuff Black People Don't Like):

Two White Dudes Invent Prosthetic Tail That Saves Winter the Dolphin’s Life; Morgan Freeman to Portray those White Dudes in “Dolphin Tale”

Anonymous said...

In case you haven't notices, FX has been cleaning up the ratings this season with shows like It's Always Sunny, Sons of Anarchy, The League, and American Horror Story. Goes to show that male-oriented, quality shows are still being made.