Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Illegal Alien Protests in LA: Here to Take Over

In National Geographic's "Dog Whisperer," star Cesar Milan deals with unruly dogs with simple body language of domination. His message: "I'm here to take over." It is that simple. He does take over. By simple domination. The recent illegal alien protests on July 29 in LA, seen also here, and and here.

These protests, including the recent one on August 26, 2010, that shut down most of Century City (over the firing of 16 illegal alien janitors), are a message of simple dominance. Illegal aliens are here to take over. In the July 29th protest, illegal aliens protesting Arizona's new law, shut down the entire Westside for over 6 hours. The LAPD was not allowed to arrest the folks blocking the streets, until near gridlock was achieved on the Westside.

The message was not really about Arizona's law. Or the firing of janitors. It was about control and dominance. The message being, "we're here to take over."

As California slides ever more into Mexifornia, the message of control will continue until total domination is achieved. By one side or another. This is of course, replicated on the national level.

Just as Cesar Milan's message to dog owners is that there can be only one pack leader, so too can there be only ONE dominant ethnic group in control. As followers of the "the Dog Whisperer" know, the fight for dominance can be protracted, and exhausting. White middle class men, and working class men, and less attractive White women, are well, screwed when dominance changes. Because they are last in line, and last for everything, when goodies are handed out. Attractive women can trade on their sex appeal, but that has a limited shelf-life, even if women over-estimate the time they can trade on it. But for the rest, switching to living in Mexico, which is what is happening, gives no benefits. If White Americans wanted to live in Mexico, they would have moved there.

Mexico is falling apart. The Drug Wars have expanded into all aspects of Mexican society. The Financial Times reports that:

There used to be a time when the municipality of San Fernando in north-eastern Mexico was known for farming, fishing and a quiet way of life. Today, it is associated with death.

This week, a young Ecuadorean with bullet holes through his shoulder and cheek told the story of how he and his travelling companions on their way to the US in search of work had been kidnapped in San Fernando by the Zetas, one of Mexico’s drug cartels.

“They pulled us out of the truck violently and demanded money,” he told authorities after managing to escape, according to local press reports. “They said that they were Zetas and that they would pay us $1,000 every two weeks [if we joined them] but we didn’t accept and they opened fire.”

Mexican authorities confirmed the account when they discovered in a remote and semi-derelict grain warehouse 72 bullet-ridden bodies with their hands tied and eyes bandaged. Among them was a woman in the final stages of pregnancy.

Also notable:

Even Monterrey, the country’s industrial centre known until recently for its peaceful lifestyle, has been upended. The past few months have seen an increase in so-called “narco-bloqueos” or impromptu roadblocks by drugs gangs to create maximum chaos in the city and thwart local authorities’ attempts to keep the peace.

Things got so bad this week that Coparmex, a national confederation of 36,000 businesses that account for one-third of Mexico’s economic output, demanded that federal, state and municipal governments fulfilled their obligations to protect citizens

The same article noted the Narco-Speak changing the face of Mexican Spanish:


Students of the Spanish language and Mexican culture alike can add a new module to their classes: narco-speak. Mexico’s drugs cartels and the chilling violence they have inflicted on the country, have spawned a new lexicon to describe objects and activities that were barely known in the country just a couple of decades ago.

Cuerno de chivo

Before the rise of the cartels, the term “cuerno de chivo” used to mean just that: a goat’s horn. Today, only the most isolated from current affairs and popular culture would confuse it with anything other than an AK-47 assault rifle. The nickname comes from the weapon’s distinctively curved ammunition clip.


In more peaceful times, the word “levantón” usually meant a round-up of suspects by police or other security forces. Today, it means only one thing: kidnapping of one or more rival gang members with the express intention of torturing and then killing them.


More often than not, a “manta” in Spanish was something your grandmother might have made to cover your bed. Nowadays, it is a scrawled message or warning – sometimes in blood and often pinned to a dead body – from one armed group to another.


Remember the “plaza”, that sunlit square complete with bubbling fountain in the middle that forms any self-respecting image of a Mexican town? Today, it means a local territory for dealing drugs.

Dar piso

The literal translation of “dar piso” is to “give floor” (to something). Today it means to kill someone or to “take them out”.


Perhaps the most flexible term in the new vocabulary is the prefix “narco”.
Try “narcocandidato”, the term for describing a corrupt politician. Or “narcofiesta”, a party of rabble-rousing music, pretty girls and plenty of white cowboy hats held by and for drug traffickers. Then there is the somewhat older term “narcocorrido”, a ballad whose lyrics are specifically about mafia culture.

Not particularly a culture that has a powerful attraction for most White folks. It is not as if the Mexican-ization of California and America brings wealth, prosperity, and security to the existing White (former majority) population. It brings decapitations, kidnappings, and murders on a mass scale. As the article notes, since January alone, 7,500 murders have occurred in Mexico. This number dwarfs the number of deaths in IRAQ which is a near-active war zone beset by jihad and Iranian inspired and Al Qaeda inspired attacks (around 3,600 or so by Iraq Body Count). If White Americans don't want to live in Iraq, they want to live in even more violent Mexico.

Mexicans won't stop the behavior found in Mexico, that's reshaped the language, simply because they cross the border. Indeed, the actions already speak of dominance. Not persuasion. Simply the statement that they are here to take over.

This is guaranteed to provoke a fight. Demographics may indeed suggest an eventual victory by Mexicans. But never in human history has the message "we're here to take over" failed to provoke a brutal fight for control and ... dominance.
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Amexica: "We Didn't Cross the Border, the Border Crossed Us!"

In the movie "Machete," Jessica Alba exhibits her Latino solidarity, saying "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!""

According to Wikipedia, Jessica Alba is the daughter of a Danish and French-Canadian woman and a Mexican father. Her husband is Cash Warren, who is the son of Michael Warren (Officer Bobby Hill on "Hill Street Blues.") Alba's character in the movie echoes the views of most illegal aliens and their apologists: America does not have "borders" (unlike Mexico which DOES) and it is "racist" to think America should.

But as Whites decline, to inevitable minority status, and Amexica rises, the same can be said for Whites. "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us." Which has an entirely different meaning. Whites have by executive (inaction), and elite dictates, been shoved into Mexico, in the space of twenty years.

Amexica has its attractions. For illegal aliens, their children, and Latinos (nearly all of whom are Mexican descent), Amexica means social and cultural domination. Little American English spoken, mostly Spanglish, with Mexican culture dominating. By moving here en-masse, illegal aliens (and the differential birth rate among their descendants) have created Mexico inside America, replacing it. But it leaves those who never wanted to live in Mexico stuck. And angry. With no real recourse.

The largely White America could endure half a million war dead in WWII. Go to the moon, in less than a decade, after Kennedy's speech. Because the mostly White America generated enormous wealth, used very little welfare, and had tremendous unity. Even with the stresses of the Vietnam War, America could still mount a major space exploration program and do what no other nation has done since: walk on the moon.

As America has turned into Amexica, it has gotten Mexico's space program, and will get slowly, but surely, Mexico's military. Amexica generates Mexico's wealth, and Mexico's middle class. It has Mexico's racial tensions, and elite-populace wealth divisions. But the major impact of Amexica is the sudden immersion of the ordinary White populace into Mexico.

Unlike the illegal aliens who crossed the border illegally, in defiance of US immigration law (even if the US government refuses to enforce it seriously), US Whites did not move anywhere. They did not leave their country. But effectively, the border crossed them. They now no longer live in America. Merely Amexica. Where the language spoken is not the English they grew up with, but Spanglish. Where they are a minority, discriminated against, outsiders. Expected to generate all the wealth while sitting in the back of the bus.

Jessica Alba, Robert Rodriguez, and Michelle Rodriguez, became wealthy superstars, courtesy of the White audiences that embraced them. Robert Rodriguez made "Spy Kids" which while not a likely AFI "Greatest Movie" award winner, paid for his mansion and allowed him to date Rose McGowan. Michelle Rodriguez is likely best known for her roles in "Avatar" and "Lost." Alba regularly graces the pages of Maxim Magazine, and was made wealthy by White audiences. In short, these folks are the most assimilated, and embraced, by White America, that Mexican ancestry Americans can be, and Amexica still outweighs their affections for the people who they share ancestry with (in Alba's case) and made them wealthy and famous.

But the people who can really, truthfully say "We Didn't Cross the Border, the Border Crossed Us" are ordinary White Americans. Who in one generation effectively now live in a variant of Mexico.
...Read more

Monday, August 30, 2010

When Did TV Get Girly?

While there can be no question as to the female-orientation of today's broadcast TV, just examine the Emmy Nominations for "Glee,", the question arises, when did TV get so girly? The answer is, 1978.

Wikipedia has a fascinating set of pages detailing the television schedules for the broadcast networks going back to 1946! It can be seen here. In time for the new fall television season, it was time for a pro-forma approach to determine the number of hours devoted each broadcast day in prime-time to shows appealing to men and women. While a real analysis would require a different approach, detailing the actual hours, of male and female skewing programming, a pro-forma approach, using the published Fall schedules of the broadcast networks (excluding mid-season replacements and the Spring schedules) at least gives a sense of what the broadcast networks believed would be popular. Even if they did not in fact turn out to be popular.

This was how I constructed the chart above. Taking each Fall Season, I created a spreadsheet that broke down each season by Day, Male Hours, Female Hours, and total hours, and then summed up the pro-forma (what the season would have looked like had there been no cancellations or mid-season replacements) Fall Hours for that Season. Taking the years 1975-2009, produced the pro-forma chart. Comedies, unless they were uniquely male-skewing (such as "Married With Children" were put in the female bin). Shows that had no real data on how they skewed, were rated as male or female skewing according to IMDB.com or Wikipedia descriptions. Dramas that featured lone male protagonists, in competition with other men, or trying to achieve a goal, were rated as male-skewing. Those with extended families, more female characters, were rated female-skewing, in accordance with Ed Bernero's dramatic formula for male and female orientation. Thus, the "A-Team," "Miami Vice," "the Six Million Dollar Man," "the Rockford Files," the 1977 Patrick McGoohan series "Rafferty" (a fore-runner of "House M.D.") were all classified as male-skewing. While "Little House on the Prairie," "Medical Center," "Beacon Hill," "the Life and Times of Grizzly Adams," and "the Waltons" were all put in the female-skewing box.

A few oddities stand out. Monday Night Football, on ABC, kept Monday Nights more male-skewing, for years, as other networks sought to counter-program with shows such as "the Invisible Man" (1975, not the recent Sci-Fi series), "NBC Monday Night at the Movies" (I classified movies as male-skewing), and "the White Shadow." Counter-programming efforts on Mondays (to retain male viewers) seems to have ceased around 1994. Sundays remained the most male skewing night on TV, at, near, or slightly above parity with female skewing hours, until the 1998-1999 Television season, when the hours went from 7, and 11, for male and female skewing hours, in the prior season (1997-1998) to 5 and 13, respectively (no doubt influenced by WB adding three more female-skewing broadcasts that year). Even in 2009-2010, when the WB (and UPN, which did not broadcast as a network on Sundays) ceased operations, and the replacement CW broadcast ended, the near parity between male and female skewing shows on Sundays did not return. Fridays and Wednesdays, also competitive to male-dominated, remained fairly male-skewing through the late 1980's, when each day began to fluctuate between male and female skewing hours, settling in the early 2000's to near total domination of broadcast hours by female-skewing shows.

Beyond gender, looking at the schedules, its amazing to see considerable efforts put into Fridays and Saturdays, now considered dead zones (with only Fox showing first-run content, and at that, cheap reality shows like "America's Most Wanted" and "COPS" on Saturdays). Shows like "the Rockford Files," "the X-Files," "Early Edition," "Nash Bridges," "Miami Vice," "the Pretender," "Mary Tyler Moore Show," "the Bob Newhart Show," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "L.A. Law," and "Spenser: For Hire" ran on Fridays and Saturdays. Days now considered dumping grounds or places where no new content (only re-runs) are shown at all.

The state of Network TV is fragile. Much of the revenue the networks receive is from part-ownership or full ownership of Cable TV channels. Even channels not getting much viewership (AMC's "Mad Men" receives less than 2 million viewers for most of its episodes), get lucrative payments from cable and satellite operators, just for carrying the channel. Now that is under pressure, as the Financial Times reports.

The cash-strapped young are leading those shunning cable subscription. The sector lost more than 700,000 subscribers in the US in the second quarter of the year – its worst loss ever, according to SNL Kagan, a research company. This was partly because of competition from satellite operators and telecommunications groups such as Verizon. But new streaming or “over the top” services such as Hulu were also a factor, says Mariam Rondeli of SNL Kagan. “There’s definitely some substitution taking place.”

In a lasting, deep recession, as now seems inevitable, TV networks offering, free, over the air content, with no monthly payments needed, and convenience, simply turn on the TV, and set the VCR or DVD recorder or DVR to record the show, with a minimum of fuss and hassle, SHOULD be the winner over cable. But increasingly, the consumers TV wants the most (cash strapped, early adopter technology-friendly 18-34 consumers) are opting to watch on Hulu or Netflix or other streaming content websites:

Maddy Cross likes to watch television but like many American teenagers she does not bother to use a television set. The 18-year-old drama student will shortly leave her home in Santa Monica, California, to study at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. There was a time when a TV was an essential fixture in any student’s room but Maddy has no plans to take one with her

“I’m moving into a dorm and we decided there wasn’t any point in getting one,” she explains. “We can watch everything we want on our laptops using Netflix and Hulu, which means we don’t have to buy a TV or pay for cable.”

Needless to say, many 18-34 year old consumers dumping broadcast and cable TV viewing for online substitution, which is cheaper versus the monthly cable or satellite bill, means far fewer viewers for ads, creating a vicious circle for broadcast TV, which is already far older than executives would like. Older, more affluent consumers being of less interest to advertisers, who are convinced that brand preference and buying patterns are set in the ages of 12-30 or so.

In a study released by analyst Steve Sternberg, ABC's median viewership aged one year last season -- to 51. CBS also grew a year, to 55. NBC gained two years, to 49. And Fox stayed the same, a relatively nubile 44.

Compare this to a decade ago. ABC was 43, CBS was 52, NBC was 45 and Fox was only 35.
Only young-female targeted relative newcomer The CW has as median age under 40 -- 33 -- a figure its more or less maintained the past few years.
"Ten years ago, there was still a relatively wide age disparity among the then six broadcast networks," Sternberg noted.

Other points of interest:

-- Comedies tend to be the youngest-skewing shows. In the fall of 1999, there were 45 broadcast sitcoms. Last fall there were just 20.

-- Conversely, procedural dramas are among the oldest-skewing genres. A decade ago, there were only five. Last fall there were 20.

-- The oldest-skewing broadcast shows include: ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" (57), CBS' "The Good Wife" (58) and "NCIS" franchise (57).

-- Among the youngest: Fox's animated comedy block (30-32) and "Glee" (38), NBC's Thursday night comedy block (35-40).

Even with a price of "free," broadcast TV cannot woo viewers versus online, which has replaced cable as an opportunity and threat. Note that Hulu is part-owned by Fox, NBC-Universal, and of course, ABC. Will Comcast, once it takes control of NBC, pull the plug on its participation of Hulu? Will this simply shift viewers into more "guerrilla" forms of viewing TV content online (equivalent to the late 1990's Napster explosion before Itunes made MP3 downloads safe, legal, convenient, and cheap?)

Nevertheless, it is clear that since the late 1970's, TV has become dependent on female viewers. Outside of sports, mostly college and professional football, TV has nothing to offer male viewers.

HBO, and other premium channels, face a challenge. Netflix is offering streaming options, far more convenient, and cheaper, than HBO. Which according to the Financial Times story above, has approximately 30 million subscribers, Netflix rapidly challenging them (see accompanying chart from the FT story above). Indeed it is likely only a matter of time before Netflix, Apple, and other streaming content services start creating their own content, both to get it more cheaply, and to create more popular content. While people have proven they will pay for stuff like "the Sopranos," or even "Tru Blood," the entry of lean and hungry competitors like Comcast with NBC, or Netflix, or Apple, or any other number of competitors, seeking to maximize revenues, demands logically, more broadly appealing content. One aimed at men as much as women.

“Cable will go the way of the landline phone industry,” predicts Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “It is nothing more than an empty pipe which the internet will replace.”

Moreover, since Hollywood is basically integrated, with most studios supplying content to networks they own and operate, all money tends to flow and ebb together:

Netflix, by contrast, costs $9 a month and subscribers have access to thousands of hours of on-demand film and TV programmes. Mr Sarandos says he is prepared to “write big cheques” to strike fresh content deals with studios, producers and pay-TV companies, using the money saved on postage as customers shift from its DVD subscription service to streaming.
This is music to the ears of Hollywood studio executives worried about the decline of DVD sales, once the most profitable revenue stream but now in steep decline, falling from $14bn at its peak in the US in 2004 to $10.87bn in 2009 [emphasis added], according to Screen Digest, a research company.

With DVD revenue down, Blu-Ray no real replacement, cable service down, and pay/cable TV revenues down Hollywood has serious challenges:

In the second quarter of 2010 paid TV subscriptions fell for the first time ever, with cable taking the biggest hit, according to the research firm SNL Kagan.

A weak U.S. economy is the main reason the firm cited for the dip in subscriptions, as more consumers look for ways to cut down on monthly expenses. Last year's digital TV conversion may have also played a role in lower growth rates with some people canceling service after promotions on new digital TV packages ran out, the firm said.

The entire paid TV industry, which includes cable, satellite, and phone companies, lost 216,000 customers in the second quarter. A year ago, the industry gained 378,000 new customers, according to SNL Kagan. Six of the eight largest U.S. cable operators reported their worst quarterly video subscriber losses. In total, cable lost 711,000 subscribers in the quarter, the firm reported. Meanwhile, satellite providers DirecTV and Dish networks added about 81,000 new paid TV subscribers. And phone companies, Verizon Communications and AT&T also gained 414,000 new subscribers

To add to the mix, Google plans a pay-TV service:

Google’s YouTube video site is in negotiations with Hollywood’s leading movie studios to launch a global pay-per-view video service by the end of 2010, putting it head-to-head with Apple in the race to dominate the digital distribution of film and television content.

Google has been pitching to the studios on the international appeal of a streaming, on-demand movie service pegged to the world’s most popular search engine and YouTube, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.

Google will use its search technology and YouTube to direct viewers to the new service, which is likely to launch first in the US, with other countries added over time, the people added.

“Google and YouTube are a global phenomenon with a hell of a lot of eyeballs – more than any cable or satellite service,” said one executive with knowledge of the plans. “They’ve talked about how many people they could steer to this . . . it’s a huge number.”

Meanwhile, Hulu plans a $2 billion IPO, and Netflix, Amazon, and Apple are all offering or about to, streaming video showing movies at reduced rates (all around or about $5 for newer titles) at the same time as DVD release and cable pay-per-view. [Watch, clever hackers will battle studios and streaming content providers over copy protection and "ripping" streaming content to hard drives for viewing later, over and over again.] Obviously, TV series will be in the mix. It would not be hard, indeed, to envisage a landscape where serial entertainment is entirely streamed, and TV is merely the province for live sports events, American Idol, and the like.

Creating broadly popular, balanced programming appealing to both sexes, with dramatic elements that hook men (lone heroes overcoming obstacles to "do the right thing" and in competition with other guys) and women (families, relationships, etc.) ought to be the no-brainer. It is certainly a way to avoid cannibalizing existing revenue, in pay/cable TV, and over-the-air viewing. Over-the-air TV is free. Cost to consumers: zero, excluding a TV set which almost everyone has. This is so obvious a response to cash-strapped consumers, that Hollywood's integrated response: 3-D movies that mostly flop, betting everything on new technology (Blu-Ray, now streaming), can only be explained by a consistent failure by nearly all executives in understanding their customers and marketplace.

Since the late 1970's, advertisers, the people who pay TV networks for their content (it is not the audience) have abandoned men in search of ever more focused content towards women, believing that women make 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions. TV networks (really just divisions of integrated, massive media companies such as NBC-Universal, or ABC-Disney) responded by purchasing cable networks and reaping carrier fees by cable operators once cable and satellite TV offered competitive threats. Hulu and other streaming content operations (CBS has its own streaming content on its website) are merely a continuation of the cable strategy.

Yet it is likely that the wallet of consumers will finally bring a halt to the madness, decades long, of ignoring and abandoning the male viewer in TV and depending on advertisers paying a premium to reach young women 18-34.

At best, streaming operators such as Hulu are offering $9 a month charges. That's a fraction of the revenues accruing to cable channels owned by networks, for example ABC Family Channel, for subscriber access. The money generated by streaming content won't replace lower advertising money (as the prized 18-34 demographic downsizes) nor will it replace lost cable channel carriage fees. Meanwhile large fixed costs of maintaining both broadcast and cable channel networks remain.

A Republican led Congress, meanwhile, determined to punish a left-leaning Hollywood and make consumer friends, could mandate ala-carte pricing for cable channels. Pay only for what you need, which would kill many of the channels. Including LOGO, the various Lifetime channels, Oprah's new channel, BET, Bravo, TLC, and many others that very few watch. Perhaps Obama would veto it, but he might also sign it. It is a definite risk, and even a veto might draw a bipartisan over-ride on a "safe" issue designed to respond to consumer wallets being stressed by the recession.

Eventually what we will be seeing is broadcast/cable network combinations file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as parent companies run out of cash to operate them. Even mega media companies cannot run huge operating deficits forever. Comcast-NBC is probably the most likely one, given the parent vulnerability to cancellation of cable service and "guerrilla" TV watching on the internet. Viacom/CBS is another, given the extraordinary dependence on the business acumen of Sumner Redstone, and the inevitable fall-out in the battle for corporate control when he is no longer active as the CEO and largest voting-rights shareholder. While Fox was able to run a deficit of over $1 billion for the first ten years of its existence, neither the WB nor UPN could exist on their own for longer than that, even in the relatively better economic climate of the late 1990's and early 2000's.

It is not inconceivable that neither NBC nor CBS would exist five years from now. In that case, the reason would be, what happened in 1978. When the broadcast networks decided they could get along without men. Its been a long run. But that bet seems to have run its course.
...Read more

Sunday, August 29, 2010

When TV Was Special

Whiskeys-Place praises Television a lot. Because Whiskeys-Place agrees with Newton Minnow:

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

This was from Minnow's speech, "Television and the Public Interest." In it, Minnow argued that as the public airwaves were turned over to the broadcast networks (valuable radio spectrum), they had a public interest to provide a common culture that produced a broad, middle class sensibility with limits on what was acceptable and that the American public deserved better than what it got.

If Television was a "vast wasteland" in Minnow's time (1961, when he gave the speech), it is far worse today. The stupid game shows (this time on prime-time), unbelievable families (ABC's "Modern Family" and "Desperate Housewives") are still with us. But blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, are all pretty rare. "Miami Vice" had more memorable scenes of violence than what is seen today, which is mostly female-oriented boundary pushing in sex and relationships. CBS's "the Good Wife" plans a boundary pushing oral sex scene that along with various depictions of sex since the early 1990's, would have been impossible in Minnow's day.

Western bad men and Western Good Guys are of course, gone and long gone, from Television. As are private eyes and gangsters. Commercials now for Viagra and Extenze and Flow-Max push and then destroy the boundaries of good taste:

Minnow's wasteland now looks like, if not paradise, then a nice neighborhood fallen into ghetto despair. [Minnow's last name was used as the "S.S. Minnow" by TV producer Sherwood Schwartz in "Gilligan's Island."] Where you can see this effect the most, is the lack of any enthusiasm by anyone for the new Fall TV season.

It used to be, that TV networks would pump their Fall schedules in fairly massive publicity campaigns. As recently as five years ago, supermarket parking spaces were painted over with words "reserving" them for "Desperate Housewives," and supermarkets and drugstores had fairly massive displays for the vampire TV show "Moonlight" with Alex O'Loughlin and "Lost." Even eggs would have TV show markings in a bid to gain viewer attention. Newspapers would routinely pick winners and losers, with TV critics urging viewers to tune into particularly well made or entertaining shows. Early fall would feature a Friday night given over to previews of coming shows, with most shows debuting in the second or third week of September.

Now, pre-season NFL games are awash in previews for shows very few of the predominantly male viewership will watch. "Chase" or "Undercovers" or "Outsourced" will appeal to the football watching crowd? Really? It seems NBC can't even find advertisers this Summer, and is reduced to running its own promos.

Gone too, are the practice of the "Summer Burn-off," where TV shows that filled their 13, or 22-24 episodes, but were canceled, end up running during the Summer. Where those that loved the show could watch, and tape (and illicitly trade tapes) of a show that just did not catch on. Now the "Summer Burn-off" has been replaced by the DVD release, to recapture whatever revenues, which is perhaps more viewer friendly but has less spirit and sense of fun.

TV at its best could create tremendous excitement. Think of how many catch phrases, and sayings, from Television entered popular culture: "Dyn-o-mite!" "Whatcho Talking About Willis?" "Heeyyyyyy!" (with two thumbs up), "Not that there's anything wrong with that," or "Master of his own domain." It did so because Television had the one thing that movies, for all their bigger budgets, lacked.


Television had time, time to explore the comedy of characters and situations. Time to explore the dramatic possibilities and characters in dramas fully. Sometimes, as with say, "Wiseguy," there was only a season of possibilities, and everything else was treading water. Sometimes, as with "the A-Team," every episode was the same, but like comfort food, mashed potatoes and gravy for the mind. Sometimes the extra time, created something magical, as with "Babylon 5" or "Seinfeld" or "Miami Vice." From "the "Summer of George!" to "And so it begins," and "Where in the Bahamas?" the phrases and images from moving slowly enough to build to the moment remain affectionately in the memory of those who followed them.

A movie has only two hours, at the most, to tell its story. There is no way, that even "Il Postino," a very masterful film, could present the power of time and place in the way that both "Northern Exposure" and "Twin Peaks" could for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, respectively. A TV series has the ability to run say, 5 minutes of wordless action, in "MTV cops" with "Miami Vice," overlaid by the latest 1980's hit, because there's plenty of time. Nearly 17 hours for a 22-hour episode run, even more if a series runs to a full 24 episodes, which lamentably only "24" and the Star Trek series have done in recent years.

Time, and time responsive to the seasons, is what makes Television special. Even a serious show like "Life" had a Thanksgiving themed show, while "Chuck" had one also on "Black Friday" (the shopping day after Thanksgiving that puts most retail operations in the "Black") and Christmas and Halloween. Making the characters on TV experiencing seasonal time in the same way the audience does (a nice trick to produce emotional bonding, and it works). Only the release of the action films "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon" during the holiday season allowed for that emotional bonding, almost no other film series has even attempted that TV-derived trick.

Comedies, with more limited budgets and a need to compete with more choices, tend to play the seasonal game more than dramas. Indeed episodes centered around Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, and to a lesser extent Easter, have mirrored the real-life actions of viewers getting together with friends and family to celebrate.

All of which made the anticipation of the Fall Season, well special. Which shows would be actually, good? What new things were coming in returning shows? After the slow season of TV repeats in the Summer, new entertainment choices would abound, like the food available in the market before global shipments of refrigerated air-freight obliterated seasons in a never-ending sameness.

Now, only Football, with the NFL commercial celebrating the opening of the Season, has managed to generate any real excitement. It is not just NBC, no one really cares about the new shows from CBS, or ABC, or FOX, or CW. Why would they?

The sad sameness of "Dancing With The Stars" to "America's Got Talent" and the rest of the boring, reality-show idiocy, from "Jersey Shore" to "Real Housewives" make Summer fare indistinguishable from that of the Fall, Winter, and Spring. While everything exists in a vacuum, where there is no time, or awareness of time. For the reality shows, or the audience with them. Like a Vegas Casino, devoid of windows and clocks. Without time, either the evolution of characters and situations, or repetitions of comfort food for the mind, or even just mirroring the time-experience of the audience, Television became nothing special.

And far more of a wasteland than in Minnow's day.

...Read more

Saturday, August 28, 2010

NBC's Fall Schedule: the Fantasy Failure

NBC's Fall Schedule is doomed to failure. Doomed because it pushes fantasies that even the mostly female audience of NBC knows are wrong, and isn't interested in anyway. The fantasies are that women can kick ass BETTER than men, that Outsourcing is fun (and foreigners are better than Americans), and that Blacks are monogamous, Obama-like super-couples. None of these are likely to be successful, though the latter is likely to be the least worst failure. A complete break-down of why the shows were constructed as they were (and what it tells us about what elites
believe) and why they will inevitably fail.

First, the Jerry Bruckheimer produced "Chase," about a US Marshal hunting fugitives (a slight variation of USA's "Plain Sight" about a female US Marshal in Albuquerque, New Mexico, supervising the witness relocation program there). USA's works better because it hits the things that women are concerned about: families (the US Marshal has to juggle her own family), romance in a workplace devoid of it, acting as surrogate mother to the families she must supervise, and so on.

With "Chase" we get the following:

Message: men are not needed in their traditional role of physical confrontation because women can do it better. This feeds the desire of the elites to fervently believe, as a religious article of faith, that there are no differences between the sexes, except anything men can do, women do better. Not the male US Marshall is sort of wimpy, not particularly masculine, and the female Marshall acts tough and can physically beat a man considerably larger, and very fit, in a street fight. Thus the proper role for the sexes are: wimpy, feminized men who support "Yo Go Girl!" the new female ass-kickers, a very few Alpha dominant males, a bunch of hyper-masculine bad guys who are "sexy" and for women, masculine, tough ass-kicking as actual, physical empowerment.

A few late 1990's shows pushed this theme: "Xena: Warrior Princess," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Alias," perhaps "Firefly." None did particularly well, drawing at best cult audiences. In a deep recession, depression, female audiences don't seem to respond to ass-kicking heroines that much. "Salt" has only done (at the time of this writing) about $110 million domestically, after nearly a month's release, according to Box Office Mojo. "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" has done nearly $300 million domestically, with a release date of June 30, 2010, only a month more than "Salt." The former movie costing a lot less to make, as well.

Women just are not that interested in kicking ass. Or acting like men, despite the elite messaging that they are well suited for it. Still if the show had pushed the romance angle, like "Buffy" did with "Angel" … the romantic bad boy killing people the heroine loves, and won't sacrifice, hoping to "change him" then of course the show might have a chance. Since that's not in the offing, its likely a goner, as is the "La Femme Nikita" remake (again!) that promises if anything to get less of an audience than the TV version on USA did (which wasn't much). At about three times the inflation adjusted cost.

[Note, by the way, the implicit message. All crime is done by middle class White guys in their thirties or so, the victims all White families in their homes. Instead of the depressing reality, not the only one, of Black-on-Latino violence, or the racially motivated workplace killings in the Omar Thornton case and Beat Whitey Night at the Iowa State Fair, racially motivated mob violence at well, the Iowa State Fair. How much of an audience for Elite dogma remains is an open question, even among the target audience of White females ages 18-34 that broadcasters love.]

Then there is the question of the social message in kicking-ass itself. At the Denver Post, Lisa Kennedy asks if the ass-kicking women send a dangerous message:

It's hard to recall which image of female mayhem startled us most.

Was it a 12-year-old in "Kick-Ass" named Hit Girl using Britain's favorite c-word — and we don't mean cancer — before wreaking havoc with a knife and a spear on a roomful of drug dealers?

Or perhaps it was "The Losers" stars Zoë Saldana and Jeffrey Dean Morgan's incendiary reprise of the jaw- dropping, physical throwdown of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."

Or maybe it was super-spy Evelyn Salt. Well, actually we've come to expect Angelina Jolie's characters to take it — and mete it out — like a man.

The winner most likely was the scene of thin- as-a-rail, sulky-as-a-teen heroine Lisbeth Salander exacting apt and shocking payback on her rapist in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Yes, as Julia Roberts' Liz Gilbert eats, prays, loves her way around the globe, a burgeoning number of female characters on big and small screens aren't merely kicking butt. (And we're not talking catfights.) They're also taking the sort of beatdowns once reserved for male action heroes — or abuse victims on Lifetime television.

And it appears these visions of beauty and brutal force are here to stay. When the big- screen action abates for award-season seriousness, the small screen takes on the mantle. On the CW, there's the latest reboot of the assassin saga "Nikita," starring Maggie Q. In NBC's "Chase" and USA's "Covert Affairs," lead characters Annie Frost and Annie Walker clearly get their guns, their martial arts training and their savvy spunk. On Fox's "Fringe" there's FBI agent Olivia Dunham. Every network's gotta have one.

Images of a kind of physical equality abound. But in a world in which American women are still prohibited from combat units and physiology insists guys remain physically stronger — damn that upper-body-strength divide — are they even accurate?

"The essential question is, 'Whose fantasy is it, and how does it bubble up onto the screen?' " says critic Jennifer Merin, president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

After all, many of these images are intended to hook a young-guy audience. If young gals come along for the ride, all the better. And most come from male moviemakers, TV producers and writers. Quentin Tarantino has been a one-man factory of kick-butt queens.

If anyone was aware of the rough-and-tumble tussle between culture, mythos and gender, it was Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Though he died in 2004 of a heart attack, his posthumously published blockbuster novels "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" — called the Millennium Trilogy — have been made into Swedish-language thrillers.

Here are some opening words from the final volume:

"Historians have often struggled with women who do not respect gender distinctions, and nowhere is that distinction more sharply drawn than in the question of armed combat."

The clever thing about the titles of Larsson's trilogy is that Lisbeth Salander is no girl (though she's hardly a woman in the way pop culture so often envisions female heroes). She is a gifted computer hacker with a photographic memory, a fondness for goth-punk garb, and a traumatic past. In the Swedish film adaptations, she's portrayed with smarts and glower by Noomi Rapace.

The titles also speak to the fable-quality of the enterprise, to the Little Red Riding Hoods of the land, who can no longer rely on the Woodsman to keep the wolves at bay. In "The Girl Who Played With Fire," Lisbeth even wields an ax.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is the trilogy's co-hero. He is not the cavalry so much as an example of the ways in which men, too, are changed or challenged, complicit with or damaged by misogyny, be it systemic or familial.

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire" have been engines of ticket sales at local art houses throughout the summer. In October, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is due in theaters. And American audiences can resume their travels with Lisbeth when the Hollywood version directed by David Fincher is made.

The "Girl" tomes unapologetically take on power and gender and the ways warped paternalism can make institutions brutal and men murderous.

Should we worry for young women thinking they can cold-cock a creep? Or should we cheer images that encourage them to imagine fighting back? (And shouldn't we wonder what lessons young men are taking away from those same images? For a multiplex tutorial on not hitting women, consult Sylvester Stallone's old-school action flick "The Expendables.")

Is watching U.S. Marshal Annie Frost — of the startling blue eyes and set jaw — take down a fugitive after a helluva battle empowering or delusional, dangerous or inspiring?

Should these images carry a warning — like Cesar Millan's "Dog Whisperer" or Johnny Knoxville's "Jackass" stunt outings? "Ladies, do not try these kick-butt maneuvers in a dark alley faced with a real assailant."

"I'm concerned about teenage girls who go and see 'Salt' or go and see Lisbeth in action and then think they too have that kind of prowess," says Merin, an admitted "dyed-in-the- wool pacifist."

"If young girls are being exposed to kick-ass queens and they think they can do that, there's a danger that they'll just get smushed."
[emphasis added]

Denver Roller Doll Bea Ware sees the dance between life outside our darkened caves of storytelling and the parade of pop-culture power players slightly differently.

"I think all the images of women on-screen being tough is empowering," she says.

As a blocker on the roller derby team, the 28-year-old civil engineer, whose outside-the- rink name is Jessica Rivas, knows a thing or two about getting smushed — but also about smushing.

"If I've learned anything in the rink, it's that I am constantly shocked and surprised at how much our bodies can take," she replies when asked if she balks at on-screen images in which women fight back — and win.

"I think there's something to our bodies as women that makes it possible to sustain what many people think we can't," she says. Of course, training helps.

"Once you have that experience of being hit or hitting someone and walking away from it, it's invigorating. It's a great feeling. Like you're truly alive."

But could she take on a guy bent on hurting her?

"Sure, I absolutely think that," she says.

"That's why if I had daughters, I'd encourage them to be athletes. So much of it's mental. Maybe even if that isn't the physical reality — who knows what the scenario might be? — just self-confidence you have is priceless. Especially in a situation where the decisions you make are vital. Maybe even the way you carry yourself makes you not a target."

She pauses, then adds with a laugh: "I would hope."

Stieg Larsson of course, was a lifelong Swedish Communist. Feminists in Sweden have succeeded in mandating that boys in Kindergarten wear dresses and outlawing peeing standing up. Meanwhile, as Sandra Tsing Loh noted, Swedish women are marrying Muslim men in record numbers. Men don't want to be gay, and outside nerdy fantasies of kick-ass women who like blowing things up, and computers, just like they do, most men find the traditional role of male hero (face the villain, get the girl) to be rewarding. Far more rewarding than being a broken, drunken journalist unable to do much of anything (the role for the male lead in the Stieg Larsson novels). Victimology, not so much. Larsson drank deep of feminism, and as such has no real appeal to men, or women, neither of whom find eternal victimization and gender mutilation to be a winning hand.

But women are not interested in being semi-Aspergery computer geeks, or gun-handlers, or ass-kickers. They'd rather have hunky, dangerous guys fighting over THEM as in "Twilight" or even "Buffy" than do the fighting themselves. Women are not particularly enamored of being an imperfect parody of men, any more than men are interested in being a poor copy of women.

And yes, women DO overestimate, constantly, their ability to handle dangerous men in a physical confrontation. A woman in roller derby is far different than a much larger, stronger man beating her. Any reasonably fit man can completely overpower even the most strong woman, even one taller than he is, with very few exceptions. Women like to think they don't need ordinary men around, to protect them, and can dally with dangerous, thuggish men (see: Rihanna and Chris Brown) but it simply is not the case. The dangerous thing about these female ass-kicking fantasies is that they play to inherent female bias: that they can "handle" thugs they find sexy and dominant, and that they don't "need" male help in providing physical safety.

Nevertheless, the roll call of female ass-kickers reads like box office failure: "Salt," "Kick-Ass," "the Losers," etc. Quentin Tarantino, is with few exceptions, not a name synonymous with box office success. Men prefer a girly, feminine woman all to themselves, not one that requires constant competition in their own field (ass-kicking) and thus available to only the most supreme ass-kicker (who generally is just this side of a villain if not a villain himself, see "Buffy" and "Twilight.") Women would rather go shopping that join "Fight Club."

So while NBC will doubtless contribute to the Kultursmog of our current elites, and try to push again the androgynous agenda of men becoming women and women becoming men, the network is likely to have few takers. Chase may linger on for a season, like NBC's "Mercy" just because there are few alternatives, but it is unlikely to be renewed. No matter how much the elites wish to transmute the sexes. A few more women will suffer serious harm from overestimating their chances with bad guys, but hey, what's a few eggs when you're making omlets?

Then there is "Outsourced":

Haha! Americans lost their jobs! America sucks so much, it has to "outsource" the "Middle American Novelties" call center to India. Audiences are invited to hate themselves, their nation, their culture, and adopt India's. Also, White People Suck(tm) and Non-White People Rule (also tm), both elite dogma. The script seems to be a mish-mash of Tom Friedman's "the World is Flat" coupled with Howard Zinn and the street sense of Malibu.

The disdain and hatred of the American middle and working class (the lone White lead has to move to India to merely survive and finds India "cooler" than the US, but without the smells, poverty, violence, and so on that characterize real India) just oozes out of the clip. So too, the message that "America is finished" and so too, most White people. Replaced by Indians, living in India (in the series premise anyway). This is NBC's most heavily hyped comedy. Promos run for it every broadcast of Sunday Night Football pre-season games.

Anyone who has ever dealt with an outsourced call center, struggling to be understood and to understand the foreigners in India, will be familiar with the premise. And they won't like it. People rarely buy national failure as something to be embraced and celebrated. Much less in a deep recession.

NBC gets the all-time Idiot Award for this show. Possibly the most sure-fire failure on the schedule, it meets the agenda of NBC having fewer White characters on the screen (which will make Maxine Waters happy, Waters recently criticizing NBC for not enough non-Whites on-screen and off). But it is unlikely to make anyone outside of Malibu, the Upper East Side, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Martha's Vineyard very happy.

Though sitcoms skew heavily female (as much as 80% in some cases), there is only one White female character. Not much for the women watching "Outsourced" who might aspire to actually work in a call center and snatch an up-and-coming management guy. While the series is trying to copy "Police Academy," it does so without being funny (the little girl voice is a direct rip-off) or even watchable. The entire series is a "joke" that US jobs went overseas and are not coming back, any more than American greatness will. This series is the most likely to be axed before mid-season.

Finally, there is NBC's "Undercovers," which asks the question, "how cool would it be if the Obamas were like a sexy, but bored middle class couple who became spies again?

The answer, not very. Again you have the geeky White guy, admiring the coolness of the Black lead. The message (not very realistic in a deep recession) that upper middle class married life without financial hardship or anxiety is "boring" and that only excitement through cheating death is worthwhile. Also, the Obama proxies are the epitome of suave confidence and sexiness. Sure, middle class White women might find Boris Kodjoe sexy, but no more so than Taye Diggs. If Taye Diggs could not make a success out of "Kevin Hill" on UPN, why would Kodjoe be any different? Particularly as Obama and Michelle Obama become more and more unpopular? And hard times and economic anxiety make middle class life a paradise lost, not something to be escaped.

Recently, Boris Kodjoe commented that "Undercovers" was the first Black Leads cast to appear on network television. Fred G. Sanford would like to have a word with you, Mr. Kodjoe. Seeing as How "Sanford And Son" was the #2 rated show, from 1972 to 1975. If not for Redd Foxx's departure due to salary dispute, and tragically early death, the show could have remained a top-ten show for a decade.

the Jeffersons was also a long-time top ten hit show on Network Television, and of course, Good Times, which gave us "Dyn-o-mite!" and J.J. (played by Jimmy Walker). Comedies, all, to be true, but network TV history did not start in 2003. More recently, Gabriel's Fire and Homicide: Life on the Street had Black Dramatic leads, unforgettable ones, from James Earl Jones, to Yaphet Kotto and the great Andre Braugher. There was even a Star Trek TV series called "Star Trek: Deep Space 9" that featured lead Avery Brooks, who had previously starred in the "Spencer: for Hire" spin-off "Man Called Hawk."

White audiences have laughed with and embraced talented Black comics and comic actors on TV. Their shows sometimes hitting as high as #2. [Note, the 1970 US Census reports that Whites were 83% of the population at that time. Groups not demographically threatened with replacement as the majority find more "give" in adopting popular culture figures from other races/ethnicities.] It is worth noting that "Sanford and Son" debuted in 1972, a mere eight years after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and was almost immediately popular. In dramas, White audiences embraced Captain Sisko, were indifferent to Gabriel Byrd, and liked but not strongly, Lt. Giardello and Det. Frank Pembleton and Det. Meldrick Lewis (the amazing Clark Johnson).

"Undercovers" is not even trailblazing considering the 1990's alone.

It is also likely to fail. It doesn't even seem remotely attractive to the middle class, mostly older, female audience that NBC is targeting (and that watches NBC). "Undercovers" is neither pure escapist and consumption porn oriented, with a hunky Master of the Universe guy to be won over (as in Sex and the City) nor does it have a "Twilight" ripoff as in "the Vampire Diaries" (which itself does miserable ratings but what audience it does draw, is mostly White tweens and teens). Most of the target audience would rather their fantasy be Kodjoe and an unlimited bank account, shopping in Beverly Hills, rather than Kodjoe and a gun, with fighting.

The one NBC show that does seem to have promise, but is likely to fail nevertheless, is "the Cape":

The reason this show is likely to fail, is that it is male oriented. And men just don't watch TV anymore.

While NBC pushes the fantasy that women kick-ass better than men, that outsourcing is good, and Americans should embrace national failure, and that the Obama Black Power couple is the wave of the "avoid Middle Classness" future (by kicking-ass again), "the Cape" is the only show, that seems to have a traditional, male hero looking to "make a difference." A show that would fit comfortably in the year 1965, or even 1989. But in today's elite, is a miracle it even got made.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Movie Goer: Failure of the Fan-Boy Comic Movie and the Gender-Less Movie Star

Failure is more interesting, often, than success. Success can happen for many reasons. A superior plan. Violent execution of a mediocre plan. Pure luck. Pathetic opponents. But failure, and failure repeated, can teach valuable lessons about the world. About what ... doesn't work. For this reason, the latest fan-boy comic book movie, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is pretty instructive about what does not work. Genderless leading men, devoid of masculinity, like Michael Cera, and fan-boy comic book movies.

"Scott Pilgrim" cost $60 million dollars to make (though some in Deadline Hollywood Daily have alleged it cost $90 million). Star Michael Cera earned reportedly, $9 million for the movie. The advertising campaign likely cost $40 million, ads were all over the place. The take? $10 million in the opening weekend, $21 million domestic, and $1 million world-wide. "Jonah Hex" cost $47 million, another $30 million or so to promote, and raked in ... $5 million dollars opening weekend, $10 million domestic. There has been no foreign release. "Kick-Ass" cost $30 million, another $40 million to promote. It pulled in $19 million opening weekend, $48 million domestic, and $47 million foreign. Even "Kick-Ass" is likely still in a loss, and probably will remain in a loss (recall that studios get 75% of the opening weekend, about 50% of the domestic gross, and who knows for the foreign gross). Some studios simply sell their entire yearly slate of movies to foreign distributors, for up-front cash payments, before the movies are even made. In that case, nearly all the foreign grosses go to the distributor, not the studio. This makes sense —the markets of China and India are only 3% or so of total box office revenue, globally. Not even the biggest studio has enough arms and legs to go out world-wide collecting from local distributors.

Clearly, the verdict is in. Fan-boy comic books, of limited, geeky appeal, don't do well as movies. The characters are not well known, don't have much of a hook, and are not very likable. In the original, comic version of "Kick-Ass," the girl the hero is interested in, is revolted when he tells her he's in love with her, gets her new boyfriend to beat him up, and sends him a picture of her performing oral sex on the new boyfriend. A girl to fight for, she's not. While that was changed, in the movie, there was enough total futility to the character (which was the point of the comic book) that audiences recognized it and stayed away. "Jonah Hex," an old-line DC comic book character, also failed. Josh Brolin did not play a girly-man, but the character was obscure and weird. Dealing with magic in the Old West. Not particularly compelling for audiences hungry for traditional, leading man bravery and independence. "Scott Pilgrim" got very positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (a review aggregator), with ratings of nearly 90%. Yet it did very poorly, the movie having no real appeal, mimicking the comic books structure of a video game.

Here again, the leading female character is a problem. The point of the movie is the hero (who is a 22 year old man dating a High School girl) "winning" the love and devotion of some rock star chick two years younger. Who has seven former lovers the hero must battle, including a woman. Scott Pilgrim is merely fighting to be "number eight." There is no point to the movie, it is as meaningless as a video game. No wonder audiences stayed away. Why is this? Because for the current comic book writers, women are an abstract theory, rather than a concrete reality.

Some comic book movies, that were based on obscure characters, like Hellboy, have done decently. So too, Spawn. It is not the obscurity that is the main issue, rather it is the writing that suffuses fan-boy coolness, of these comic books and movies. Instead of the genuine love for comic book heroes and stories, that Hellboy or even Spawn have, in spades. Superman is loved and known around the world, because he was created by two guys who loved the idea of a weird and wonderful pulp hero. They were not out to make art, or "kewl!" and edgy statements of ultimate hipness. They were not ultra-ironic, instead they were pulp energy fed entertainment without an agenda.

Meanwhile, gender-less Michael Cera, has proven to be a dud as a leading man. "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist," or "Year One," or "Youth in Revolt," have been failures. As much as Hollywood's agencies push Cera as the new type of leading man, audiences are not buying. Guys don't see him as a model to emulate, and women don't swoon over him. Surely whoever represents Cera has made a tidy profit for the films he has been in. But audiences remain unimpressed.

Nor have Hollywood's other gender-less leading men, such as Ashton Kutcher, eternal man-boy post thirty, or Jonah Hill, or Seth Rogen, or Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin), from the Apatow factory, nor Russell Brand, phony bad boy, or the crop of guys like Jake Gyllenhall, seen much success. Not even Brand, playing the rock star type, can muster up the danger and excitement of Mickey Rourke now, much less back in the 1980's, or for that matter, Don Johnson. No matter how many deals pushed through, how many magazine covers, interviews with various talk show hosts, audiences still demand their leading men have ... manliness. A bit of testosterone, danger, excitement, and independence.

It is inconceivable that an actor like Gene Hackman, or Paul Newman, or John Wayne, or James Garner, or Charlton Heston, could succeed in today's Hollywood. The very idea of manliness, particularly that of independence and no possibility of control and domination, is anathema to today's Hollywood. Filled as it is with development people, in TV and in movies, that are mostly female or gay. Both finding men who exhibit independence, ruggedness, and spirit, to be threatening. Better a pretty boy like Gyllenhall, or Matt Damon, who does not present any problems in independence and masculine stubbornness, than someone who can play tough.

Thus the failure of the traditional action movie, as Bruce Willis got too old, Arnold Schwarzenegger moved into politics, Harrison Ford stopped bothering to act, and audiences have been given ... Matt Damon. Or Jake Gyllenhall. Thus the need for comic book movies, which use well known characters to make heroics plausible. Even then, the winners have been men who whatever their acting gifts, at least play men: Robert Downey Jr, Christian Bale, Nicolas Cage.

The only actors keeping the traditional action movie fires burning, have been Jet Li and Jason Statham. Li is limited in his English, getting a bit old, and never really caught on with US audiences (he's surpassed Jackie Chan in Asia ages ago though). Statham, is not going to be doing Shakespeare any time soon. But he works hard, takes his roles very seriously, tries to learn every thing there is to know about action movies and get better each time. Vin Diesel, tries action movies from time to time, but has mostly moved out of them. The biggest action hit in ages, came out of France ("Taken") with Liam Neeson (not anyone's idea of an action hero, but definitely playing a man). The "Transporter" of course was written and produced by Luc Besson (writer/producer of "Taken") and filmed outside the US.

Simply put, the US studios have a masculinity gap. The leading men they produce, don't have any. The studios don't seem to be able to cast actors with masculine attributes, and the few that wiggle through the cracks (mostly foreign actors) are not snapped up. Damien Lewis had perhaps the most interesting and masculine performances by a lead actor in years, in "Band of Brothers" and "Life" yet no studio saw how effective he was and paid him to stick around in Hollywood to make Action movies.

Masculinity is a profound threat. At the core of Action Movies, are men who cannot be tamed, or made to submit. They may die (as Russell Crowe does in "Gladiator" or Gerard Butler in "300") but they die fighting, often beating their foes in the end. Hollywood finds that an ugly threat as much as audiences love that message.

The flip side of course to the gender-less leading man is the eternal girl-woman. Jennifer Aniston, in "the Switch" raked in ... $8 million the opening weekend, and another $2 million thereafter at the time of this writing. Audiences did not flock to see her character get pregnant by a turkey baster, artificial insemination, and form a "family" with the "nerdy best friend who loved her" instead of the masculine, socially dominant guy she pines for. After all, if Aniston's character tells the Bateman character (the nerdy best friend) that he's not "good enough genetically" to provide the sperm, why should female audiences root for her to succeed with him? But the larger issue, is what kind of woman lets her biological clock run out, not figuring out years earlier what kind of man she wants to marry and have kids with?

As much as female audiences turn out for Twilight, with an actual teen girl being fought over by two hunky guys, they don't turn out for a woman acting like a girl, without consumption porn (Sex and the City) and status-jockeying to round out the story, and a hunky Master of the Universe "Mr. Big" aka Chris Noth to be the prize. Jason Bateman is no one's idea of a dominant leading man. Nerdy is not sexy to women. Unless, apropos of Spider-Man, its matched with odd bouts of physical dominance and fighting to literally demonstrate the character is more dominant and thus a better mate. This is particularly true in drama, where fantasy instead of messy reality compromises reign supreme.

Hollywood will of course, go on cranking out Jennifer Aniston movie after movie, nearly all destined to failure. And Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Jake Gyllenhall, and Matt Damon will be Hollywood's idea of leading men, despite repeated box office failure, because making the deal and taking a percentage (for the agencies that rule modern Hollywood) is the entire point. Not actually making movies that people will pay to see.

Hollywood has become more and more like Goldman Sachs. Focused on a deal (where agencies get their cut, of lucrative paydays) all bundled up. Hence the shoving down the audience throat of a guy with no appeal, like Michael Cera. Who may be personally admirable or not, who knows (or cares) but lacks the masculine presence audiences want.

It was not always this way. Once upon a time (1980) there was a little film called "My Bodyguard" with Chris Makepeace and Adam Baldwin. The latter certainly not lacking in masculine presence (he anchors the male-skewing "Chuck" one of only three TV series not a gross-out animated comedy skewing male) or independence or authority. Or, perfect comic timing.

It is a measure of how feminized Hollywood has become, that Adam Baldwin is the anchor of the TV show "Chuck" (and it took Joss Whedon's "Firefly" to revive his career) instead of the movie star he should have been (check out his performance in "Full Metal Jacket.") That Damien Lewis is back in England acting on the stage, instead of making movies as the lead.

Why is this important? Because people get their ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, masculine and feminine, from movies and TV. With the collapse of religious attendance, highly mobile and fractured families, there is nothing else. A common culture that tells people, through stories, on how to behave, is how societies survive.

Right now, women attending movies have a flawed idea of masculinity. Men are either slobby idiots, gender-less nothings, or hunky-tragic bad boys who will be indeed, "all about them." Instead of messy, independent, stubborn, funny, flippant, often atagonistic, but capable of enormous efforts and suffering to protect the innocent or helpless, and do what is right. That message has been lost in the fear that a deeply feminized (and gay) Hollywood has produced with androgynous leading men and girl-woman leading ladies.

Young men have if anything, a worse time, being given false messages about what women like (androgyny) instead of what (most) women crave: masculine guys, not super-macho chest beaters, but men who are in fact men, not genderless clones, or pretty boy nothings, devoted entirely to some woman, under her control. This only guarantees for most, bitter failure when it must be avoided, and a pattern of resenting any and all cultural messages on the principle of being lied to the first time.

America, Hollywood, and the movies does not HAVE to be like this. As recently as 1980, a little youth film could be made about standing up for one's self, and what is right. Even if it means a fight is in the offing.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Maxine Water's "White Men Tax": The Outcome of Diversity

The LA Times has an article describing how the Dodd Financial Reform Bill has a requirement, inserted by Maxine Waters, the Democratic Congresswoman currently under ethics violations charges, establishing offices in each of the 30 financial regulatory agencies and departments to insure "diversity" in their hiring, that of their contractors, and those they oversee. The Federal Reserve, including all 12 regional banks, the SEC, and all other Federal Financial regulatory agencies, must establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. Banks and other contractors that fail to meet ill-defined targets for non-White and female hiring will lose their contracts, and may face unspecified penalties (the rules are still being written). Call it the "White Man Tax" or the reverse of the famous "True Romance" White Boy Day. This outcome will not be very good.

"This will destroy the financial industry," warned Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who was the Labor Department's chief economist under President George W. Bush.

"If the CEOs of American financial institutions have to be worried about the diversity regulations, whereas those in other countries are worrying about their profits, we are going to fall behind," she said.

Indeed it will. The costs of the "White Man Tax" are likely to be: failure to fund worthy new companies through venture capital or IPOs, "zombie" companies soaking up federal and private investment, and continued wild swings in the financial sector plunging America into constant recessions and costly bail-outs. With regulators even more clueless and ham-handed than usual. Why?

Because of the hard fact that there just are not many qualified women, and non-Whites, able to fill financial management and decision making roles. One might argue about WHY this is true, from lack of interest, or desire for more "healing" professions (Women make up 50% of the admissions to medical schools according to the AMA), or even considerable Black and Hispanic reading comprehension gaps, compared to White and Asian students. Those who already have talents, and interests, and experience in making money, have been swooped up by Hedge Funds, the most lucrative part of Wall Street. The rest go to work at places like Goldman Sachs, and to a lesser extent the Fed, or SEC, or other regulatory agencies (after which they leave and go to work for Goldman Sachs or other Wall Street Firms, lobbying their old workmates).

The new law allows each director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion the authority to develop their own standards, at the companies they regulate as well as their own agencies, and those they contract with. Conceivably, we could see (and probably will) 30 different standards, with a "rapid race to the bottom" to see who can invoke the most heavy "White Man Tax" that penalizes White male employment.

Already, the US Government has an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization that encourages the Federal Government to use women and non-White owned businesses (instead of those owned by White Men), along with the EEOC and the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which also implement a "White Man Tax" on those wishing to do business with the Federal Government.

The House Financial Services Committee added the provision in 2009 at the urging of Waters and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Part of the motivation was the limited participation by firms owned by women or minorities in emergency programs undertaken by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to address the financial crisis.

"The inclusion of minorities and women in our financial services programs is long overdue," Waters said, noting that only one of the 12 firms that the Treasury pre-qualified as fund managers for its Legacy Securities Public-Private Investment Program was minority-owned.

Waters also cited federal data showing that women made up 44.2% of the federal workforce in 2006, and minorities 28.3%. Some financial regulatory positions had lower figures: Just 35% of financial institution examiners were women and 18.7% were minorities, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

In 2008, white men held 64% of senior positions in the financial services industry, according to a May report by the Government Accountability Office.

The new offices, according to the provision, must "to the extent consistent with applicable law" consider the diversity of companies seeking contract work and, in some cases, their subcontractors. The provision applies to "all contracts of an agency for services of any kind" but specifically cites financial services such as asset management and programs dealing with economic recovery.


It could be years before the provisions kick in. Similar language was added to a 2008 bill mandating new diversity offices at federal housing agencies, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Those agencies have not yet approved final rules.

In Obama's America, a "White Man Tax" is a political winner. Agencies will compete to see who can construct the most punitive measures. But how will the mechanics work out?

First, Hedge Funds that are highly mobile, will move out of the US, to Switzerland or other jurisdictions outside US diversity mandates, but retaining the rule of law, contract enforceability, and decent living conditions. This will take the most talented people, managing the greatest amount of money, outside the US. The taxes they pay, will instead go to places like Switzerland. Pimco, based in Newport Beach, California, has $1 trillion in assets under management. They cannot afford (nor can any Hedge Fund afford) "diversity" hires who cannot do the job but have the correct skin color. Indeed they cannot afford anything but the best performance, since investors can yank out funds, if they perform poorly.

The "White Man Tax" will simply put the Hedge Fund business into Switzerland, or perhaps the Bahamas, or some other place outside the US.

Goldman Sachs and other investment banks, will simply move as many people and assets outside the US, to avoid the crushing penalty of the "White Man Tax."

As the Financial Times recently published, the "Intex" bond valuing computer software package ($1.5 million or so per company), allowed "simple" mortgage backed securities to be valued based on assumptions. This was the software used to value first corporate bonds, and then the mortgage backed securities.

In July a friendly banker showed me Intex in action. He chose a particular mortgage-backed security, entered its price and a figure for each of prepayment speed, default rate, and loss severity. In less than 30 seconds, back came not just the yield of the security, but the month-by-month future interest payments and principal repayments, including whether and when shortfalls and losses would be incurred. The psychological effect was striking: for the first time, I felt I could understand mortgage-backed securities.

Of course, my new-found confidence was spurious. The reliability of Intex’s output depends entirely on the validity of the user’s assumptions about prepayment, default and severity. Nevertheless, it is interesting to speculate whether some of the pre-crisis vogue for mortgage-backed securities resulted from having a system that enabled neophytes such as myself to feel they understood them. Certainly, like any language, Intex aided communication. If you were planning a mortgage-backed deal, you could construct an Intex file, make it available to potential investors, and use it to discuss the deal’s features, modify those features, and gauge investors’ interest.

The limits of the language came when mortgage-backed securities were repackaged into collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), complex debt securities based on pools of other assets. You could still run Intex, first for each of the securities and then for the CDO, but it could be a slow process. Often, CDOs included not just mortgage-backed securities, but tranches of other CDOs, each maybe incorporating further CDOs. This multiplied enormously the number of underlying mortgage pools, causing a single valuation run to take hours. (On occasion, each of a pair of CDOs would buy a tranche of the other, creating a “loop” that slowed analysis). Sometimes, users did little more than one run using the prepayment, default and severity rates judged most likely. Those (such as the rating agencies) that needed to do more nearly all took a fatal shortcut. Instead of analysing CDOs from the bottom (the underlying pools of mortgages) up, they shifted to a different mathematical language, which treated a CDO’s components (mortgage-backed securities and tranches of other CDOs), in effect, as if they were corporate bonds, with their properties inferred from their ratings. This often led to serious underestimation, especially by rating agencies, of correlation among these components.

The one bank I’ve found that did analyse CDOs based on mortgages from the bottom up was Goldman Sachs. It developed its own analytical techniques, and used a large “computer farm” in New Jersey to spread the analysis over multiple machines, so keeping the time each run took tolerable. Goldman’s Abacus CDOs – one of which was the flashpoint of the SEC’s recent investigations – were apparently analysed this way.

A bottom-up analysis was – and still is – expensive. It requires clever quantitative analysts, multiple computers and software developers able to “parallelise” a program so it runs efficiently on many machines at once. Nevertheless, if going beyond the limits of existing languages in this way helped Goldman take the crucial late-2006 decision to liquidate or hedge its positions in mortgage-backed securities (enabling it to survive the crisis almost unscathed), it was well worth it. I hope its competitors have learned the lesson: a limited language means a dangerously limited world.

While Goldman Sachs apparently makes a great deal of money on screwing its customers, detailed and rigorous quantitative analysis is what allows them to KNOW how to screw over their customers.

Can anyone see Goldman Sachs saying "aw hell with it, let's fire our White and Indian and Asian quant guys and hire Blacks and Hispanics off the street. What could go wrong?"

Instead, all the quantitative analysis, the trading desks, anything and everything at Goldman Sachs (and every other Wall Street Firm) connected with making money, will be moved to places beyond the Federal jurisdiction.

What will be left will be the dregs, the losers, the thinly capitalized, desperate for government contracts, barely ahead of the boiler room brigades, financial firms, loaded up with folks who cannot possibly do their jobs.

Meanwhile, the venture capitalist companies, that funded companies as diverse as Apple and Hewlitt Packard, will be hamstrung by the new rules that mandate, not the best analysts, but ones that are not White Men (or likely, Asian and Indian Men). This along with other measures hamstringing Venture Capital, removes an essential part of American economic advantage: easier capital for new companies with considerable upside. These companies are hard to recognize. For every Apple Computer in the rough, there is a Peapod, an e-Toys, a Pets.com, or a Commodore Computer. Companies with buzz and sizzle but little long-term upside.

What is likely, with the vast dilution of talent of Wall Street and Financial firms, is the herd mentality (already present) will follow those firms with most hype (and problems) and ignore firms that could create jobs and wealth and power. Zombie firms like, well GM, will be common (this already happened in Japan), not the least of which is this power extends to banks and bank loans. The "White Man Tax" is likely to penalize those firms that have the misfortune not to be owned or managed by non-White Men. Banks need Federal funds deposited, loans, and regulatory approval. Avoiding "the White Man Tax" is likely to be a key priority.

With regulators, already behind the curve because Hedge Funds pay the most talented people the most, the Investment Banks the next most, and regulatory agencies the least, the impact is likely to be catastrophic. The SEC clearly missed Goldman Sachs and other Investment Banks selling CDOs and other mortgage backed securities as investment grade while they were junk, on the basis of ratings by Moodys and others. The SEC allowed the ratings agencies to rate junk as gold. Because they lacked the people with the smarts to see that the bonds being rated as gold were indeed, junk. And provably junk.

If the financial crash was caused (rather than causing) the recession/depression, nevertheless the cost of the bailout was considerable. Preventing another one requires the best regulators that can be had, not the most politically correct ones. The talent pool of qualified Black and Hispanic and Female financial experts is very, very small. Akin to that of the qualified, experienced, and talented White or Asian NBA players. There are a few, but not many. The NBA is 80% Black, and no one calls for Affirmative Action for White players.

Maxine Waters is not proposing to replace Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom of the Lakers with White guys, on the theory that only racial discrimination could account for the Lakers not being mostly White, and that athletic talent qualifying for championship caliber play in the NBA is evenly distributed among all races. If she did, Lakers fans, including White ones, would laugh her out of town.

Financial firms will not fight this — they will simply move abroad. Banks will not fight this, they will simply comply and wait for the next bailout. Venture Capital is likely to move abroad, and focus on firms overseas that they can fund without having to pay "the White Man Tax." The real costs are likely to be paid by the US Taxpayer (with bail out after bail out coming after regulators miss the obvious, and banks play PC games), and the consumer and job applicant. While the cost will largely be invisible, it will nevertheless be present. Fewer jobs from fewer dynamic new companies looking to build staff and expertise, as private as well as public resources are funneled to "zombie" companies that have the correct amount of White guys (as little as possible) and the favorable view of the herd.

If there is one thing that stands out in "the Big Short" by Michael Lewis, it is that the people who correctly called the insanity of the housing market, and the even greater insanity of the CDO's based on subprime mortgages (sold as investment grade), were nearly all White men. John Paulson, Mike Burry, Steve Eisman, Gregg Lippman, who got it right, early, before anyone else did. Meanwhile, the infamous Wing Chau, happily bets billions on housing prices continuing to rise. Bloomberg has the gory details of the spectacular default, and the seemingly Affirmative Action derived career, of Wing Chau.

This is not because of racial superiority. It turns out, the kind of man who likes to obsess about numbers, their meanings, and how to find winning strategies in them, from baseball statistics, "SABREMETRICS" and Bill James type insights, to the stock and bond markets, are mostly nerdy White guys. The same type of people who thought that the way you plowed a field could be adapted to transmit video pictures like Idaho spud farmer Philo T. Farnsworth, produce guys who have an insight on what produces wins in baseball (not making outs) or destroys value in bonds (subprime mortgages). The kind of guy who can produce a 4.36 forty yard dash at the NFL combine, is mostly Black. Neither is "better." Terrel Owens is not the avatar of the Super-Race because he's very, very fast and strong and big. Neither is Jim Chanos a Superman just because he called Enron correct (and shorted it) and seems to be right on China.

White willingness to cede athletic dominance (the NFL, NBA, MLB, were all exclusively White in the Jim Crow Era) was not born out of guilt, as much as desire to win. Winning, after all, is what sports is all about. Institution of the "White Man Tax" and exclusion of White men in the most lucrative job sector, and the only one that has any promise of recovery (manufacturing, resource extraction, and most services are not coming back) any time soon, is not going to happen without social cost. White guys are not going to be rioting in the streets, but the willingness to cut slack, for those of other races, or women, is likely to be greatly reduced. Its one thing to play the "White Guys Last" card in good times, when jobs are plenty and wages rising. It is another to play this right at the start of the double dip in the recession.

The "White Man Tax" is not going to produce social revolt. But it will be one more outrage that White guys will take into the voting booth, producing a tribal reaction (non White male candidates will suffer) and inevitable reaction once the current Democratic majority is out of office or power. If there is a "White Man Tax" to be paid, why not a "Non White Man Tax" when power swings that way?

You cannot uncross the Rubicon. We have already established the precedent that White Men Finish Last in government preferences, have to give up their positions:

This... there's nothing more difficult than this. Because we have really, truly good white people in important positions. And the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions. And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions we will not change the problem.

We're in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power.

So... How many White men will step down, from the world of finance, so someone else can have power? Exactly. It is naked racial spoils politics, and like a bullet it cannot be called back. Already we can expect a purging of non-White guys when the pendulum swings. Since the rules have been established. Whoever has power purges the government and private sector of the "losing" race and gender. It is White men now. It will be (because it cannot be any other way), non-White men and women later.

This ends, that part of the American Experiment. The bullet just cannot be called back. In my considered opinion, we are about to find out, nothing less or more, than what an America looks like when the White population, particularly the White male part, has no racial guilt, nor aspirations of racial supremacy, nor even desire to rule over others, but is determined to be first in line for EVERYTHING. Because the only alternative is to be last in line. For everything.
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Monday, August 23, 2010

How Female Oriented Is Network TV?

Just how female oriented is network TV? Very. Almost all shows are oriented towards women, and almost none are oriented towards men. Don't believe me? Look below.

Recently, Ed Bernero sat down for an interview with Deadline Hollywood Daily, and was quite candid about how the business runs. Go ahead, read the whole thing, you won't find a more thoughtful and candid assessment of TV as a business and as as creative process. But Bernero had some strong things to say about TV's gender problem:

DH: When you look at the CBS lineup, I guess it’s the network that seems to have a lock on crime with the multiple CSI’s and Criminal Minds – but it’s controlled by two women, Nina Tassler and Nancy Tellem. And my understanding is that they are looking for more shows that have more female appeal. I just wondered what the deal is.

EB: That’s a point I’ve thought about a lot in developing over the last few years. Let’s see if I can say this without ending my development career. It’s very female, development. Development staffs are almost all female. It’s not that easy to get a male skewed show through development.

DH: Interesting.

EB: Most of the network television audience now is primarily women, but I think that’s because the shows are developed to appeal to women. I don’t know that there are too many shows that appeal to guys anymore. I’m not sure why that is, but I think that it may have something to do with the fact that most development staffs are women. I know it’s the case at CBS. I know it’s the case at ABC. Not that these are not brilliant women, but there’s a completely different sensibility in men and women, in what men watch and what women watch. Part of the erosion of network television is that men watch sports – there’s not that much on for them. There are not shows that have male themes. That’s all I want to say about that.

DH: And yet at CBS, besides the crime shows even the popular comedies are male-oriented, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.

EB: But Two and a Half Men is not male-oriented, it’s made to appeal to women. Charlie Sheen is playing a bad boy who can be changed…

DH: It’s got a lot of jokes that my husband likes.

EB: But it’s safe.

DH: What is male oriented?

EB: For example, almost all dramas are families, they are work families – ER is a good example, Criminal Minds is a good example. We have a character who is the mother, a character who is the father, a brother and a sister, we have the younger brother that everybody protects, we have the cute cousin…it’s very much a family, and I think that very much appeals to women.
You don’t see loners anymore, you don’t see a Mannix or a Rockford Files or something where it’s a tough guy standing against the world. It doesn’t appeal to women. Guys like a guy who stands up for right, and the Hawaii Five-0 that we were going to write, the issue was sort of like living up to your father, being a cop in a world where your father was a great cop, that’s really a male theme. Women don’t really compete with their mothers; men compete with their fathers. I know I had gotten into many conversations where people didn’t understand why it was important that the character be in competition with his father…men compete with their fathers.

DH: Men compete with everybody. Everything’s a competition.
EB: Right. Two and a Half Men is an example. Those two don’t really compete with each other. It’s not really two brothers living with each other, because two brothers living together don’t get along that well.

DH: Aren’t they like The Odd Couple?

EB: But The Odd Couple is different, because in the 1970s, the "Odd Couple" didn’t like each other. They competed with each other in ways that these two don’t. Because at the base of it all, they [Two and Half Men’s characters] really love each other.

DH: More like My Two Dads.

EB: It’s a subtle thing, but it’s very female-centered. Now, I don’t mean to say that I don’t love doing shows that women like – women like Criminal Minds, and women weren’t supposed to like this show. Our core audience is 35-40 year old women, who I think are an amazing audience. It didn’t surprise me at all, when you put on the show where those women are the primary targets of these monsters, and you put on a show where our team saves women from them every week, I don’t know how this couldn’t appeal to them.

DH: And women are very interested in character, as opposed to what you’re saying -- that sometimes men just like a straight-on hero who does it right.

EB: Yes, I think it’s extremely difficult to get a male themed show on television.

DH: The people who are running the networks are men, but the so-called creative executives, that whole level is mostly female.

EB: If you say this, make sure that you say that I’m not necessarily saying that’s bad…

DH: Just that it’s true.

EB: The TV audience is primarily female, so it’s not a bad thing…

DH: But if you have something that works on that male level, it’s hard to get it through.

EB: What gets made that’s considered for men – it’s really just T&A stuff. It’s not stuff than any guy I know really wants to watch, you know, the stuff with jiggling boobs and all that. Something with real sort of male themes and male strength and things I want to watch in a drama….

DH: The things men want to be respected for…

EB: Yeah, sort of the things that appeal to us, the things we compete for. Macho in a different sense, the kind of things that we think makes us a man. It doesn’t really exist right now. I really don’t want it to seem that I think it’s a problem that women are in development, I don’t think it’s as problem at all, I just think it’s an interesting time that we’re in. And maybe long overdue – maybe television for a long time was made for men and it’s long overdue.

DH: I’m hearing the hero thing, how important that is to men, it’s not just about being understood in a touchy-feely way.

EB: No, not at all, it’s more about being misunderstood, but doing right anyway -- it’s Rockford and Mannix and all that kind of thing. Those kinds of icons don’t exist anymore. But I also love Glee. I watch it with my wife; I loved Desperate Housewives in the first couple of years. It’s not bad, it’s just something that I notice.

Bernero confirms the obvious, women dominate network TV's development process, even if network chiefs are male. This domination of the development process prevents most male-oriented shows from being put forward as pilots which are then picked up. Women want different things than men do, in dramas. Absent completely are the loners who do the right thing because it must be done, and instead are the constant families making TV a dull, bland mono-culture. This is why there is no Rockford Files, no Mannix, no Maverick, with competition and toughness. Indeed the TV audience is profoundly female, and it may be why the excellent "Life" failed to find an audience, featuring a tough hero, in competition with his father, who tried to do the right thing, even though or especially because it was difficult. Not even a strong female character could compensate for the lack of the female-friendly TV family, a staple among the prime-time crime time shows like CSI'en, or "the Mentalist" or the other procedurals.

In an April post, TV By The Numbers ran an analysis of the male-female skewness of the broadcast networks, as reported by Nielsen, for Sunday-Thursday (no Fri-Sat shows). The results are at the link, and the table below:

1.00 = equal ratings for men and women 18-49

Below 1.0 = more men

Above 1.0 = more women

ShowWomen/Men 18-49
Family Guy0.68
Cleveland Show0.71
Dateline NBC1.00
Til Death1.00
Rules Of Engagement1.04
Minute to Win It1.06
60 Minutes1.07
Two And A Half Men1.19
Big Bang Theory1.19
How I Met Your Mother1.21
Accidentally On Purpose1.21
Celebrity Apprentice1.22
30 Rock1.27
Modern Family1.28
CSI: Miami1.29
The Middle1.31
Old Christine1.38
Survivor: Heroes v. Villians1.40
FlashForward 1.46
Criminal Minds1.57
Extreme Makeover Home Edition1.62
American Idol - Tues1.64
Marriage Ref1.64
The Good Wife1.65
American Idol - Wed1.67
Law & Order1.73
Law & Order:SVU1.84
Cougar Town1.89
The Vampire Diaries2.00
The Biggest Loser2.06
Desperate Housewives2.19
DWTS Tues2.36
Brothers & Sisters2.43
One Tree Hill2.50
DWTS Mon2.64
Private Practice2.71
Gossip Girl2.83
Fly Girls3.00
High Society3.00
Grey's Anatomy3.18
America's Next Top Model

From the post itself:

Note: The list contains the ratio of the ratings for women 18-49 to men 18-49 for the airing of each show in the past week with several caveats: (1) I took the ratings for both repeats and original episodes. Maybe repeats have a different gender skew than originals for the same show, but going back over more than one week was too much work. (2) We only see gender information for shows broadcast on Sunday-Thursday, so no Friday or Saturday shows in the list. (3) This is a ratio of the gender ratings, not the number of men and women viewers. There are slightly more women 18-49 than men 18-49 in the TV population, but the difference is so small I didn’t bother going through an extra step.

There are a few surprises. American Idol is not as completely female skewing as you might imagine (likely families watch together, it is relatively innocuous). Castle has the same male-female skew (very girly) as "Vampire Diaries" and "Parenthood" and "Mercy." The various crime time prime-time procedurals are fairly female skewing. Apparently, almost no men at all will watch "America's Next Top Model," the girly-ness outweighing any scantily clad models. Only "the Simpsons" and "Family Guy" are fairly male skewing, with "Chuck" and "the Cleveland Show" having more male viewers percentage wise than "24" and "Fringe" (which barely have more male viewers than female ones). There are only three perfectly balanced shows (as many men as women watching).

But most of the shows, 57 out of 63, are either balanced (only three are) or are female skewing. Only 6 shows are male skewing, and two of those, "24" and "Fringe" are barely male skewing. TV is overwhelmingly skewed towards women, something simply watching the ads will tell anyone.

Broadcast networks are completely dependent on women, and even if they wanted to, lack the development people needed (i.e. straight men) to shepherd anything remotely interesting for men through development and into pilot and then production. If and when, advertisers decide they need to reach men, they will reduce (though of course not eliminate) spending on broadcast TV. This makes the networks, already operating on slim margins, sitting on a time bomb. Just waiting for it to go off.
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