On the (Rest of the) Net: Galentine’s Day Edition.

vintage sexist valentines day card

Vintage Valentines Day cards that glorify intimate partner violence. [Sociological Images]

The Stella Prize’s 2014 longlist is out and the Australian Women Writers Challenge has a compilation of reviews of the finalist, including two of mine.

Woody Allen responds to the 20-year-old accusations that he molested his daughter, while Vanity Fair has 10 facts from the case that put the he said, she said in perspective. [NYTimes]

Down syndrome on Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchuck’s Glee and American Horror Story. [Bitch Flicks]

Marnie’s pretty girl problems. (Also this.) [LA Review of Books]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Cory-Monteith

Where does Glee go next after the tragic death of Cory Monteith over the weekend? [Vulture]

Furthermore, Monteith as Finn Hudson embodied the fear of failure and being stuck in a small town with little to no prospects. Drawing on his real-life experiences, perhaps? [The Atlantic]

Got daddy issues? The ultimate TV father/lovers. [Daily Life]

I went to a Lady Gaga variety fundraising night and wrote about it for TheatrePress.

Is news bad for us? It is if it comes from The Daily Mail. [Daily Life]

Homosexuality in hip hop. [The Guardian]

An advertising agency liaising with the Prime Minister’s Office and hip, young media brands, such as TheVine, offered an interview with the PM in exchange for free pro-Labor advertising. [SMH]

Pacific Rim—the latest in a depressingly long line of films—fails the Bechdel test, hard. [Vulture]

The Pixar Theory: why Brave, Toy Story, Monsters Inc. et al are all linked together as part of the same story as opposed to different ones. The mind boggles. [Jon Negroni]

The underlying religious messages in Man of Steel. [EW Pop Watch]

Oh, goody! I’ve always wanted a system to chart how slutty I am. Gives a whole new meaning to the “slut barometre” Alyx Gorman discussed on TheVine a few weeks ago. [Slut Formula]

Why paedophiles Peter Truong and Mark Newton give same-sex parents a bad name. [ABC The Drum]

Image via Mirror.

TV: Glee — Female-on-Male Molestation is, “Like, Every Teenage Boy’s Fantasy.”

glee ryder lynn molested

Apparently the episode in which Ryder and Kitty reveal that they were molested as children was made in partnership with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest Nation Network, although you wouldn’t think it from Sam and Artie’s reaction to Ryder’s confession.

“Some hot 18-year-old played with your junk? I’d kill for that!”

“Why are you ashamed of this?”

While their responses are typical of many of the attitudes surrounding female-on-male sexual assault, the fact that these were really the only strong reactions—apart from Marley, Tina and Mr. Schue’s meek protestations about it being “not cool”—before the show moved on doesn’t really scream sexual assault awareness.

Artie, Sam et al.’s feedback simply buys into the notion that girls who are sexually assaulted are sluts who wanted it (Kitty’s depiction on the show as a bitchy, sexually promiscuous cheerleader proves this, though in their defence I doubt the writers had this storyline in mind when they created her character) and boys are sexually awakened studs. Had the episode aired a follow-up scene in which Mr. Schue led the class in an after school special-esque speech about the detrimental effects of sexual assault and the accompanying attitudes surrounding it, it would have been schmaltzy and patronising as only Glee can be, but at least it would have taken a crack at dismantling such bias.

Elsewhere: [RAINN] Glee & RAINN Team Up for Episode.

Image via Wikia.

TV: Guns on Glee.

glee shooting star

Apparent gun-toter Sue Sylvester sums up the phenomenon about guns in school best with her monologue about why she allegedly teaches at William McKinley High School armed:

“In light of recent events, I feel more safe with it in my office… The safety net of the public mental health system is gone. Parents are too busy working three jobs to look after them. And the gun yahoos are so worked up about Obama taking away their guns that every house has a readily available arsenal.”

In light of such recent events—namely the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, but after the past week in America, pick your act of mass violence, any act of mass violence—perhaps it was too soon for Glee to touch on this topic, so artlessly, might I add. But, with the U.S. Senate vetoing the implementation of background checks for prospective gun purchasers and the call for teachers to carry firearms in the wake of Sandy Hook, we need to be discussing gun safety more than ever. It’s just that Glee, what with its disjointed storytelling consisting of one part Brittany-thinks-it’s-the-end-of-the-world-so-let’s-turn-this-into-an-after-school-special-about-the-importance-of-telling-our-loved-ones-how-much-they-mean-to-us, one part truly affecting ten minutes of the New Directions kids cowering in the choir room as a gun goes off, didn’t do the issue justice. As always, the show has so much potential but fails to live up to it.

Later in the episode, it is revealed that Becky Jackson was the one who brought the gun to school, which sheds light on Sue’s remarks about mental health. Becky was one of the suspects I had in mind as the events unfolded, along with dejected Ryder and conspicuously absent Brittany, who arguably would have been better choices but, being Glee, of course they took the easy way out: give the mentally disabled kid the gun. (Apparently this is going to open up a discourse about Becky’s condition and background but in all likelihood we’ll probably never hear about it again.)

The anticlimax of the shooting all being a big misunderstanding reminded me of Dave Karofsky’s suicide attempt and Quinn’s car accident last season: all had the potential to shock audiences and talk about mental health, but Glee chose the easy, happy ending instead.

In Sue’s closing statement as Principal Figgins fires her, she says:

“An entire career of doing the right thing—winning… I sent Cheerios off to the Ivy Leagues. I’ve educated girls who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. They’re mothers… Gold medalists… I’ve coached two Grammy winners. An internet billionaire and a lesbian secretary of state [Hillary Clinton?!]. But all I’ll be remembered for is this one thing? It’ll be the first line of my obituary.”

And in so doing, she makes a pertinent commentary on American culture: “winning” is the “right thing”, and in so many instances, this involves the use of weapons: war, the upholding of the second amendment, phallic sports equipment as artillery, masculinity in general… I’m sure Glee was not intending to make such a statement, and thus it seems a little disjointed.

Another point I also don’t think they were trying to make, but was quite timely and humorous, was that of the shooting making Sue’s obituary. Let’s be real: the only thing that’s making her obit is her homemaking skills.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “On My Way” Episode.

Elsewhere: [Wet Paint] Glee‘s School Shooting: Lauren Potter’s (Becky) Mother Opens Up.

[Daily Life] Defending Masculinity with Guns.

[Daily Life] Where Are All the Female Obituaries?

Image via YouTube.

TV: Glee — Chris Brown is a Guilty Pleasure.

glee guilty pleasures jake bobby brown chris brown

Last week it was SVU, this week Glee is undertaking the Chris Brown treatment.

While Chris Brown is hardly in the guilty pleasures league of Wham!, Barry Manilow and the Spice Girls—the other shameful secrets of the New Directions—it was nice to see Glee address the notion of “liking the art but not the artist”.

This is an issue I’ve been grappling with lately as I write some wrestling-related pieces; for all its racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism and promotion of a rigid type of masculinity, is it still okay for a level-headed person to like professional wrestling? Much the same, is it okay for someone who acknowledges Brown for the “douchebag” he is (“I don’t think that douche is a strong enough word to describe him,” interjects Unique) to still like his music?

I personally have a couple of Brown songs on my iTunes (purchased pre-Rihanna beating, might I add?!), and against my best efforts, I do quite like “Turn Up the Music”, but I refuse to pay for anything he’s selling and make it my personal mission instead to compensate him with as much bad press as possible. I have even been known to exit a pumping dancefloor when a Brown song comes on, if only for the principle of it.

In researching one of the abovementioned wrestling articles, I came across a couple of articles that really resonate with this idea. In an article about female stereotypes in video games, Anita Sarkeesian asserts it is “both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” Similarly, in her fantastic post about the intersection of rap, feminism and cunnilingus, which I linked to here a couple of weeks ago, Maddie Collier urges us to acknowledge the instances our pop culture of choice “sickens and disappoints us” in order to “fully appreciate the moments when it’s good and kind and real”. And the Social Justice League has a whole article on the topic.

After incurring the ire of the feminists, Jake decides to change his guilty pleasure song choice from Chris Brown to another Brown: Bobby. While this is problematic in itself—which Kitty and Artie point out to Jake, who’s apparently oblivious to the whole Bobby and Whitney thing—it highlighted the fact that it is “My Prerogative” to like problematic pop culture. Just as long as we’re acknowledging where it goes wrong, right?

But “does it really matter what a couple of high school kids think?” Yes. Because as avid pop culture consumers they’re shaping the attitudes of tomorrow. And unless we’re educating them in the ways of navigating pop culture safely, the seemingly widely held belief that hitting your partner is justified will continue on into the next generation.

Related: Special Victims Unit Takes on Chris Brown & Rihanna.

My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

My Weekend with Wrestlers.

Elsewhere: [Think Progress] Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes VS. Women Series is Up—And It’s Great.

[The Pantograph Punch] Eat It Up & Lay Wit It: Hip Hop, Cunnilingus & Morality in Entertainment.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

Image via Ch131.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Naked” Episode.

glee men of mckinley calendar ryder

glee men of mckinley calendar jake

glee men of mckinley calendar artie

Male body image was the word(s) in Tuesday night’s (excuse the one-day-lateness of this post, as I was all ready to settle down in front of the TV last night to watch “Naked” on Channel Ten, only to discover that Glee has now been demoted to Eleven on Tuesday nights) episode, in which Tina (she’s just a wealth of ideas when it comes to Blaine) suggests New Directions raise money for regionals by producing a “Men of McKinley” calendar.

Being the only non-able bodied man in the group, Artie is understandably perturbed, and defensively asks why the women of McKinley High aren’t being objectified in the calendar, also. Kitty rejoins:

“Girls are the ones that buy stuff. It’s a consumer-driven economy. Those Twilight books are poop on paper and we’ve turned them into a billion dollar industry.”

Yes, ’cause women aren’t capable of deciphering what’s drivel and what’s not. They’re also only capable of being objectified or the objectifiers, never the subjects.

Kitty makes a fair point, though, that hot, shirtless men are more likely to make more money for the club’s regionals fund that sexy schoolgirls. And, let’s face it, we get enough of that already.

None of the Glee men stray from the socially acceptable norm of what’s attractive, so that just leaves wheelchair-bound Artie to take on the body image issues that aren’t exclusively the realm of women, he tells Finn.

Wait a minute: wasn’t there an episode this time two years ago in which Finn was the one with the body hang-ups and Artie espoused words of wisdom for navigating the female gaze as a high school boy? While Finn might have grown up since then and Artie’s still in a wheelchair, it’s just another example of the lack of continuity and explanation in Glee.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have teenage Adonis, Sam, turning into an egomaniac when he receives an überlow SAT score and thinks he has to rely on his looks alone to get by in life.

Meanwhile in New York City, Rachel accepts a role in a student film in which she’ll have to be topless. She decides to do the nude scene, much to the chagrin of Kurt, who says Rachel’ll never be taken seriously as an actress. Supportive boyfriend, Brody, retorts that all the serious actresses have done nude scenes. Nudity=Oscar, as I’m sure Seth MacFarlane would concur

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Sadie Hawkins” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

Elsewhere: Two of the Boob Showings Referenced in Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” Song Occurred During Rape Scenes.

Images via Ch131.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Sadie Hawkins” Episode.

glee sadie hawkins dance

And that is: empowerment! Yay! ’Cause nothing is more empowering than a heteronormative school dance where the women ask the men to be their dates, right?

glee sadie hawkins too young to be bitter club

That’s according to Tina Cohen-Chang, at least, who comes up with the idea for a myriad of reasons: a prelude to the upcoming prom, an excuse to get close to gay crush Blaine, and something for her fellow “Too Young to Be Bitter” club members to get behind in their quest to become, um…, less bitter.

Coach Beiste is all for the dance, because Sadie Hawkins is a metaphor for empowerment, duh, as we’ve already established in the opening paragraph. But it’s not just about socio-sexual empowerment, Beiste says it’s also about gaining the strength to follow your dreams, as she did after her first Sadie Hawkins dance when she decided to follow her passion for football.

glee sadie hawkins lauren zizes

Beiste’s overweight and unconventionally unfeminine student counterpart, Lauren Zizes (who, by the way, hasn’t been seen since the end of season two. Way to go with the continuity, Glee writers), is part of the “Too Young to Be Bitter” club, too, and by the end of the episode has the courage to both ask Joe to dance at Sadie Hawkins and apply for a wrestling scholarship at Harvard. This, along with the other members’ success at the dance, apparently calls for the disbanding of the club because everyone’s empowered now.

But the undercurrent flowing through this episode was Blaine and Sam’s sleuthing regarding the Warblers: Sam seems to think the team is using human growth hormones because of their energetic stage presence, a video of Hunter Carrington allegedly ‘roid raging in a coffee shop, the Warblers’ suddenly larger physical appearance, and the testimony of former Warbler, sunshiney Trent.

Apart from being a suspiciously similar plotline to Pitch Perfect, it just goes to show that “Sadie Hawkins” was about completely superficial lipstick feminism and it was the boys who really saved the day.

Images via Ch131.

TV: Modern Family is Anything But.

modern family mud portrait

After a recent spat with my housemate about the apparent modernity of Modern Family, in which he defended the show for its gay couple with an adopted Vietnamese baby and a strong Latino presence while I cried stereotyping, I decided I should actually watch an episode or two of it before I denounce Modern Family as an archetype perpetuating farce.

Now, with three and a half seasons and some informed opinions under my belt, I can wholeheartedly say I abhor the sexist tropes of the fiery Latina, Gloria, and the shrill, controlling housewife, Claire, and Modern Family’s blatant racism, homophobia and slut-shaming. Let me count the ways…

Right off the bat in the sixth episode of season one, “Run for Your Wife”, there were some troubling stereotypes about stay-at-home mums. When the Dunphy kids head off to their first day of school for the year, mum Claire looks forward to some downtime to get started on a new book. Phil, who’s supposed to be the breadwinner of the family, is also home and wants to hang out with his wife. After blowing off some open-houses he’s supposed to be putting on as part of, you know, his job as a real estate agent, Phil gets embroiled in a mid-afternoon jogging race with Claire.

As a child who grew up with a stay-at-home mum, I can tell you that I never once saw her sitting down to read a book in the middle of the day or challenge my dad to a childish competition. There was too much cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and picking up to do. In fact, my dad was barely home and often working more than one job in order to put food on the table and keep us in a home one fifth of the size of the Dunphy’s, which is more than we can say for Phil who is rarely shown at work.

While the acting of Ty Burrell (Phil) and Julie Bowen (Claire) is something to write home (or at least the awards shows) about, their characters leave a lot to be desired. Phil is always dropping the ball (or getting it thrown into his face, as in “Door to Door” in season three) on being a functioning human being, let alone a good husband and father, and Claire often refers to him as her fourth child (she technically only has three: Haley, Alex and Luke). The trope of wife-as-replacement-mother is a tired one, but that doesn’t stop Modern Family for milking it for all it’s worth.

This brings us to Gloria, who is anything but. She’s young, sexy and, most notably, a loud, sassy Latin woman who’s always getting arked up about something. In season one’s “Up All Night”, Gloria’s son Manny’s dad comes to visit. While Gloria is now remarried to the older and dependable Jay, ex-husband Javier is a fellow fiery Latino who tries to make up for his absence by showering Manny with extravagant gifts. In the episode, Javier takes Jay and Manny to a baseball field in the middle of the night, and the next day comes bearing motorbikes. Gloria becomes audibly incensed that Jay’s falling for Javier’s tricks, like she used to, and storms off, yelling in Spanish. Every portrayal of a Hispanic woman in pop culture doesn’t have to be that of the “hot blooded” Latin mama; just look at the gay, Latina orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres in Grey’s Anatomy, a show that is far more modern than one with that word in its title, for example.

Speaking of the gays, what portrayal of contemporary American life would be complete without the requisite homosexual couple with an adopted Asian baby? Certainly not Modern Family, which turns the gay dial up to eleven with stay-at-home dad, former farm-dweller and part-time clown Cam, the uptight, dogmatic (unsurprisingly the brother of Claire) lawyer Mitchell and their über inappropriate ways. For example, in “Run for Your Wife”, Mitchell accidentally bumps baby Lily’s head against a door frame, and they take her to the doctor. The doctor happens to be Asian-American, so Cam embarks on a sermon about how he and Mitchell intend to raise Lily with influences from her Asian roots, completely disregarding the fact that the doctor was born and raised somewhere in middle America and identifies first and foremost as an American.

Later on, in season two’s “Unplugged”, Cam and Mitchell try to get Lily into a preschool. When they realise Lily’s going up against an adopted African-American boy with disabled-lesbian parents for the last spot at a prestigious private school, Cam flubs the interview by emphasising his 1/16th Cherokee heritage and speaking in pidgin English. As someone who is also 1/16th Cherokee, I’m sure you can imagine my offence at this.

Cam, as I’m sure you can imagine if you don’t already watch Modern Family, is the flamboyant half of the couple, and enjoys dressing Lily up as famous gay icons and encouraging her creative side. In the episode “Chirp”, in season two, Cam goes against Mitchell’s wishes and has Lily film a commercial for a furniture store. The ad is completely racist, using emphasised Asian accent voiceovers and Godzilla, and when Mitchell points this out, Cam uses the defence of hipsters the world over: “It’s ironic.” I suppose because they have an Asian kid, they’re allowed to be racist…?

While there are some redeeming qualities throughout the show’s run, such as the “Mother’s Day” (season two), “After the Fire” (season three), and “Schooled” (recently aired as part of season four) episodes which seek to unpack gay parenting and stereotypes of femininity, masculinity and homosexuality, it’s also rife with slut-shaming (Jägermeister is a magic potion that puts girls to sleep but instead of waking up “in a castle, you wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation” in “Moon Landing”, whilst Phil marvels in “Travels with Scout” that with his “emotionally distant father” it’s a miracle he didn’t end up as a stripper), homo- and transphobia (dad Jay insinuates that Mitchell is a cross-dresser because he’s also gay in “Starry Night”), and jokes about domestic violence (when Mitchell asks his dad to teach him how to fight in “Game Changer”, Jay asks if he’s having problems with Cam).

As I’m sure Glee can attest, an after school special-esque episode here and there doesn’t make up for Modern Family’s utter lack of modernity the majority of the time.

Elsewhere: [Chica & the City] Casting Call for “Hot Blooded” Latina Moms Makes My Blood Boil.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “On My Way” Episode.

Image via BuddyTV.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Makeover” Episode.

With the U.S. presidential election taking place one day before Glee’s “Makeover” episode—in which McKinley High’s class presidential election occurred—aired in Australia, Glee showed that it is capable of some self-awareness and social commentary every now and then.

Shades of Brittany’s bid for last year’s class presidency can be seen, but where that episode dealt more with the feminism of both the 2008 and McKinley’s elections, last night was about the celebrity culture that surrounds voting.

Blaine tries to make this clear when he admonishes Brittany for using her popularity to influence the glee club members to vote for her. “This isn’t a popularity contest; it’s about who’s got the best ideas.” That may be so, but the creators saw fit to milk this angle for all it’s worth with a “Celebrity Skin” by Hole montage.

While Brittany chooses to run with “part-robot” Artie, whom she forgot she dated several seasons ago and broke up with because he called her stupid, as her vice presidential candidate, a category which Sue Sylvester points out has been introduced “for no discernible reason whatsoever”, she suggests Blaine pick Sam as running mate. Sam assures Blaine he’ll bring in the “sympathy” and “not-gay vote[s]” because his family is on food stamps and he’s not gay: kind of like John McCain picked his “granddaughter” (according to Brittany) Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate in 2008 to seemingly ensure the “female” vote to no avail.

Brittany’s influence on her opposition seemed to work to her disadvantage, as at the end of the episode we see Blaine and Sam (“Blam” as they are collectively called on the congratulations banner) celebrating their victory. Blaine is experiencing some self-doubt and displacement at McKinley when Kurt is more focused on his new intern-career at Vogue.com with guest star Sarah Jessica Parker (who herself is heavily involved in politics and the campaign to get Obama reelected, serendipitously enough) than him, but Sam says being the school’s “first gay-guy president” whose place of birth is brought into question by Brittany is something to be proud of, just like Obama was America’s first black president whose birthplace was also called into question by a fellow “celebrity” perhaps bitter about Obama’s influence in Hollywood: Donald Trump.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Asian F” Episode.

Image via AllMyVideos.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Britney 2.0” Episode.

Did Glee really need to do another Britney Spears episode? As Artie pointed out, “we’ve scraped the bottom of that Britney barrel” but Britney’s made a comeback as judge on The X Factor broadcast on the same channel as Glee—Fox—so both shows are running with the Britney theme no matter how uninspiring she’s become.

Apparently New Directions “really came into your own during the last Britney week”, according to Mr. Shue, and what he says goes. Coincidentally, Brittany S. Pierce is undergoing a meltdown the same week the glee club resurrects her idol and namesake’s back catalogue. She’s feeling rejected by her long-distance lady love Santana, was kicked off the Cheerios and subsequently lost her high pony. Channeling Britney circa 2008, Brittany says if she can’t have her high pony then she doesn’t want any hair at all, and attempts to shave it off before attacking McKinley High’s resident paparazzo, Jacob Ben Israel, with an umbrella.

I appreciate the satire Glee is trying to undertake here, revealing that Brittany’s crisis—which culminates in Brittany getting busted for leading New Directions in a lip-syncing rendition of “Gimme More”, replete with Britney’s junk food of choice, orange soda and Cheetos—was her “intentionally hitting rock bottom… so I can make a comeback like Britney”, but they either push it too far bordering on racist, ableist, homophobic, sexist, inappropriate crap (case in point: resident Jesus-lover, Joe, singing Britney’s song about a threesome, “3”) or not far enough, as with last night’s episode as a whole.

Britney Spears’ tragic life is ripe for the picking—the recent revelation from former paparazzo turned Britney’s manager turned collaborator with Courtney Love on a musical about her and Kurt Cobain’s life together that Britney used to do crystal meth—so much so that Christie Whelan’s turn in Britney Spears: The Cabaret was the exemplar of how to do a Britney satire. Glee’s “Britney 2.0” was not.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Britney/Brittany” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Spanish Teacher” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Yes/No” Episode.

Glee: The Right & Wrong of It.

Glee: T.G.Inappropriate.F.

“This is a Story About a Girl Named Britney… I Mean Lucky!” Britney Spears: The Cabaret Review.

Images via Ch131.com.