As the new year fast approaches, it is time to review the Fall TV season for 2012. As noted by many, politics is not just politics, but well, culture. And there are some good and bad things to note in the culture of the Fall 2012 TV season. The good are that the sophomore season for both NBC’s “Grimm” and CBS’s “Person of Interest” shows promise, with some fairly interesting plot twists and adult discussion of previously forbidden topics (though larded over with a good heaping of political correctness and “diversity” fantasies). As well, National Geographics “Preppers” series shows how people are realizing that something is very, very wrong with America, though they don’t know what. Thus “prepping” for all sorts of laughable disasters instead of recognizing the insane fiscal and cultural and political trends heading for the abyss in modern America. The AMC show “Walking Dead” pulled in an amazing number of viewers for its midseason finale, breaking cable records and out-drawing Broadcast TV shows at the same time in the Adult 18-49 demo.
This (as Martha Stewart would say) is a good thing. As it underscores well, something is really, really wrong with modern America.
The bad is of course, a plethora of PC and “diversity” and multicultural idiocy, even among otherwise interesting shows, and a rather horrific view of technology and collapse prevalent in NBC’s “Revolution” which is a Hunger Games copy and hit among young women and girls.
“Person of Interest” continues to perform well, positing the reality of government non-stop computerized surveillance of ordinary people, which is the erasure of privacy and the ability of anyone (who can access the computerized surveillance) to act on it, for good or bad. Already State and Local Law Enforcement want access to years of SMS/Text messages for any kind of investigation they might deem necessary. A society that is cataloged and observed by any computer system, is vulnerable to massive abuse by anyone (including those not explicitly authorized, hackers or informal users) who has control of the system. Already the UK is looking at spending patterns with computer analysis to uncover “hidden” wealth and … tax it. As Western Governments run out of money expect more of this.
But brilliantly, and nowhere else, “Person of Interest” shows (as in literally, point of view “security” cameras) how the average person in any urban area is constantly surveilled and cataloged by computer systems. Giving immense power to those who can use that computer cataloging and observation, giving an “eye” that sees everywhere, all at once, never sleeping, missing nothing. Not every episode has been a winner, but overall the series, with gritty and upscale NYC location shoots, the amazing Michael Emerson (“Lost,”) and serviceable Jim Caviezel as the action lead put it far and above the usual nonsense on TV.
The show certainly is masculine. There is no romance or love interest, no “love triangles” as the two male leads exist in a world defined entirely by action in the present, and memories of the past. Unlike most other TV shows and movies, the second male lead (Michael Emerson), a semi-crippled and secretive software billionaire, is not portrayed as lesser or unworthy than the male action lead, when it came to past romance or current action. Even though he’s physically less able and fascinated by technology and computers. Usually on TV (and in most movies) a male character portrayed as a tech-guy is presented as a lesser, inferior man than the male action lead (unless the actor is Black). Here, the second lead is just different. Not an action man, but able to think and act under pressure and just (in his own way) as brave.
For this, the writing staff and show-runner deserve credits. I have not seen an alternative to male hunk/villain/gay/semi-gay roles for men outside of “Person of Interest” in TV for a long, long time. And that in itself (bucking the pandering to female stereotypes of men) is in itself brave, given that women make up about 85% of the TV audience or more.
NBC’s “Grimm” is also quite interesting. In the context of “magic” and fairy-tale creatures, the show does a good job of portraying a woman falling out of love with her boyfriend/fiancee and falling, Paula Broadwell style, for a man she barely knows but who orders people around.
The plotline is a “magic spell” removes the woman’s memory of her boyfriend/fiancee (lead David Giuntoli) and caused her to have intense sexual and romantic longings for his boss, who is a secret semi-bad guy. The utter failure of the lead’s attempt to be “nice” (and his nice-guy supportive beta maleness repulsing her) was well written. As was the simple urges based on “magic” (a good metaphor for “it just happened” female desire based on power and position and status). Written long before the Paula Broadwell/David Petraeus/Jill Kelley sex scandal broke, the story pretty much predicts the inability of a “nice guy” who plays by the rules and acts decently to compete with pure sexy dominance. Particularly since the girlfriend does not even know her fiancee’s boss.
While there is plenty of Dan Brown-style “Da Vinci Code” stuff going on, this fairly inventive look at female hypergamy and the implications (a race to the baddest between the lead and his rival) is pretty good. I have seen only in the second episode of this season’s “Person of Interest” an equally compelling portrait of female hypergamy and desire. [In "Person of Interest" the fat, non-attractive librarian helps conceal her fiancee's murder of a young girl because well, he's the only man who ever paid attention to her.]
“Grimm” wants to thrill its female audience with hypergamous action, while giving them an “out” of “magic made her do it” but deserves applause for at least showing how daily, dull domestic life can make a woman “forget” her attraction to her mate, and how a guy she doesn’t even know can sweep her off her feet if he has people following his orders. Of course that produces a “Highlander” (there can be only one) solution of race to dominance, but that makes good TV drama (one women love by the way).
For somewhat honestly showing female desire stripped of most niceties, “Grimm” also deserves applause.
Nat Geo’s “Doomsday Preppers” might be a big helping of Honey Boo Boo, in parts, but it shows that even ordinary people can realize that something is wrong with America. Of course, they panic over pandemics, meteors, and other fantasies. Instead of looking at Sandy’s impact, with many places in Long Island, Far Rockaways, and other outer Boroughs of NYC STILL without power, water, and police and fire services.
Modern infrastructure is amazingly fragile. Most power lines are strung along poles, not buried underground. Same with telephone lines. Cell towers can quickly fail even with portable power generators. Water and sewage require power. In a big storm (Sandy was only a Category 2 storm), even a place like NYC (or especially) can be without power and water and food and services for months.
Being prepared need not break the bank or be obsessive. Camp stoves, Camp lanterns, candles, ample supplies of propane or whatever fuel is used, extra batteries, solar/crank powered radios, canned food, water, etc. are not that hard to procure. The best solution is to leave if you have warning, and avoid being anywhere near the Sea or a river or lake.
For at least raising this, National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” deserves a golf clap at least.
NBC deserves a big fat raspberry for “Revolution.” Set in the post-apocalypse world where the power goes out after an EMP, and never goes back on, everyone wanders around with perfect makeup and designer jeans. Worse, is the anti-technology viewpoint of the show. This version of America is presented as a good thing, and when a steam locomotive is resurrected, the “heroes” destroy it to prevent technology from coming back.
This strand of thinking is deeply embedded (in ironically technology dependent Hollywood), and reflects its own deeply feminine orientation. Its no accident James Cameron, known for “writing strong women” and being “sensitive” is one of the worst offenders (“Avatar”) but the female loathing of technology (for empowering nerdy White and Asian guys) drives most of this attitude. Hunger Games was a hit because it provided a female utopia amidst the utopia. Endless and pointless relationship drama amidst a struggle to survive that is essentially “female” — being a media star. While Hunger Games 2.0 … uh excuse me “Revolution” avoids that Kardashian longing, the rest of it, technology as “evil” because it does not just give power to the physically strongest and hunkiest, is very, very female.
As most young White women face a life of well, being single all their lives (basically the Black female model) and living like Sandra Fluke or Lena Dunham, expect this to only get worse. Technology gives real, tangible, non-fantasy wealth and power, that you can actually grab a hold of, but only at a cost. That cost is guys who are mostly non-sexy, not dominant, focused on abstract thinking, cooperative behavior, and other male behaviors fairly repellent to women.
What modern media has done, and Television in particular, has been to give power back to women. Particularly younger women, beloved of advertisers. And since young women hold the keys to things young (and not so young men) want most of all: SEX!, well that dictates the culture’s tilt. Towards things they like: hunky dominance, Big Men, static societies (at best), anti-technology beliefs, and semi-princes and kings.
While the Fall 2012 TV season has some bright spots, overall the picture is bleak. “The New Normal” has redefined on NBC, what a “family” looks like: a gay couple raising a baby conceived with a surrogate mother, a trashy White woman secretly in love with a noble Black guy, where all straight White guys are villains. You can see much the same on “Modern Family” or really any sitcom. Family is for gay guys (or single women) and far more fun is had with being single and endlessly chasing Mr. Alpha.
But then, its a “Girls” world, where most of us just live in Lena Dunham’s environment (Betsy Woodruff’s review excerpted below).
But there’s an important difference between Apatow’s work and Dunham’s, and that is that Apatow tells and re-tells stories of growing up, while Dunham shows a group of women who stubbornly refuse to do so. Apatow shows characters learning the importance of responsibility and morality, while Dunham’s characters are largely devoid of the former and uninterested in the latter.
The show’s main character, played by Dunham herself, embodies all of this. In the first scene of the pilot, when her parents tell her they won’t be paying her bills any more, she loses it, and informs them that instead of pushing her out of the nest, they should be grateful she isn’t addicted to pills. Her friends are equally appalled by the prospect of a 24-year-old paying her own phone bills, and, for the most part, they’re equally reckless. For instance, in the second episode, one of them misses her abortion appointment because she’s busy having sex in a bar. And their romantic relationships — unsurprisingly — come in about every possible iteration of dysfunction.
t its core, Girls feels like a deliberate, dissective examination of a group of people who stubbornly refuse to grow up and are lucky enough to be able to pull it off. The main thing Dunham’s characters share is the idea that just because they exist, somebody else should give them stuff. In and of itself, depicting that isn’t at all a bad thing. Girls is an interesting project, it’s well executed, and it can be really, really funny. Look, I like Girls, and I’m excited about the second season.
But Dunham’s stupid little YouTube ad for the president might have ruined it all for me. That’s because she sounds like she’s channeling her character, Invasion of the Body Snatchers–style. They share the same baffling, naïvely egomaniacal understanding of justice — they both seem to think that because they exist, the universe needs to make sure that all the sex they choose to have is consequence-free.
You can almost argue that Lena Dunham sees President Obama as the perfect surrogate for everything missing in her characters’ lives: He’s their gentle lover, supportive parent, and empathetic friend. He’s special. He won’t let them down. He’s Prince Charming. And that kind of defeats the purpose of feminism.
No, the purpose of feminism is to maximize sexual opportunity for ordinary women with Alpha males. See Paula Broadwell, Marriage, redefinition of. TV in the Fall 2012 season shows just how far down that path we’ve come. Yes, Lena Dunham is as infantile and childish as Honey Boo Boo. Maybe more so, Honey Boo Boo is just a little child. Dunham is a grown woman. And that really is what is so striking about the Fall 2012 season. How bereft of anything sci-fi, and how focused on fantasy and wish-fulfillment (for single women only really) the shows collectively are, added all up.