Saturday, September 29, 2007

White Hot

After reading Stephanie's ravings about Chuck, I decided to watch the show's pilot episode tonight. I initially didn't want to watch it because of the picture the commercials painted: dorky guy, hot girl, guns and car chases. Not my bag, man. So I chose to watch it so I could share an informed opinion.

I'm really annoyed.

I like the concept of the show: an employee at Best Buy, er, "Buy More," becomes a human computer, and both the NSA and the CIA are after him. What I don't like is the basis for the casting choices, especially in the women's roles. It's great that Sarah, the secret agent, has agility, intelligence, and a challenging career. So why does she have to walk around in her underwear for two scenes? And it's great that she can dance. But why does her moves at the concert serve mainly to overstimulate Chuck? It wasn't necessary for her to gyrate like a stripper to toss knives at her assassins. Although Chuck creator Josh Schwartz wanted you to believe it was necessary. Was it also necessary for her to be white, blond, stunning, and borderline emaciated? I swear I saw her ribs while she was parading around her hotel room in her bra and panties.

I understand that white, blond, pretty, thin women actually exist in America. I have friends who fit this description. The problem is, they aren't the only women who exist in America. I think Josh Schwartz would prefer if they were the only women on the planet . . . but anyhoodle. Yes, Sarah Lancaster and Julia Ling were also on the show, and they both have dark hair. And Ms. Ling isn't white, as far as I know. However, both of them are really good-looking, and Julia's character had maybe two lines. Sarah Lancaster's character was somewhat more substantial, although I don't think she had any funny lines or any motivation other than helping her brother Chuck find a girlfriend.

Some people may say that I am overanalyzing a harmless, humorous show. Some people may point out that if I don't like Chuck, I can watch something else; there are other TV shows out there that speak to me as a clever, average-looking, nonwhite woman. Oh really? Which shows, besides Ugly Betty (who in real life is super cute), are those? I'd settle for one that addresses just one of those adjectives. Conversely, how many shows on television right now are made for, by and about dorky white guys who enjoy white supermodel-esque girls that exist mainly for their pleasure?

One of the reasons I'm perturbed is that I spent my Thursday night at a forum for women interested in getting an MBA. All of the women I encountered there were smart, driven, friendly people. They also all looked different, but they looked wonderful. They were different ages, shapes, colors and sizes. These were real women with a purpose, and none of them were being accurately represented in or acknowledged by our mainstream media. It makes me sick that all of the women in that room, and outside of that room as well, have so much to offer our society. Yet we keep getting the same detrimental message from our billboards, our magazines, our movies and our television shows: if you're not white, and if you're not hot, you probably don't exist.


Catherine Avril Morris said...

Yeah. Totally. And even as a white lady who considers herself attractive, though certainly not anywhere close to emaciated, I feel unrepresented in popular media.

Somewhat relatedly, I was just thinking yesterday about how "fat" has come to mean "not stick-skinny." You know, like how everyone, including the man I'm going to marry in a couple months, said Britney Spears was fat in her VMA appearance. SHE WAS NOT ANYWHERE CLOSE TO FAT. She just wasn't quite as teeny as she used to be. She's had TWO KIDS. Cut her a freaking break.

I was jogging around the lake with my friend who's a good 30 lbs. less and 4 sizes smaller than I am, and she was saying how much she hates her back fat--the fat on her back that pooches out around her bra. "Doesn't every woman have that?" I asked. She claimed no. I guess you could lose your back fat if you went down to starvation-level skinniness. And then you'd be squarely within the commonly accepted beauty standards! Score!

Except, I don't accept those beauty standards, so are they really that commonly accepted? The women I know are as you described your MBA friends, Bianca: all different sizes, shapes, races, and they're all beautiful and cool and important to the world.

So what's the answer to this problem? Stop watching TV? Or storm Hollywood and take it over? Wait, you're already doing that. :)

Stephanie said...
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Irwin Handleman said...

True, Britney isn't fat. However, if you're not perfect, you should not wear that outfit. And if you do, you're begging people to clown on you for not being skinny.

What about the fact that these women, after breaking into show business, are making themselves disgustingly thin? Are they being asked to do that? I don't know, but I'll say this:

A girl came into audtion for the lead role in something I worked on, and she was smoking hot. She got hired. 6 weeks later when production started, she showed up 15 pounds skinnier - he was emaciated and not hot anymore. We didn't ask her to do that, she did it.

Hey Bianca, do you have any comments about Isiah Thomas' claim that black men are allowed to call black women bitches but other people aren't? I'd like to hear your reaction.

Bianca Reagan said...

catherine, always so much to respond to. I have back fat. Not much I can do about it, except liposuction, anoxeria and/or bulimia. I don't like surgery or vomiting, and I do like to eat. Too bad for me.

stephanie, Mr. Levi looked cuter in Less than Perfect. I'm not sure why. Maybe because he was funnier in that show, too. He had to do a lot with a little. Now with his own show, he's doing not so much with 44 minutes to fill. Carrying a series might not be his strong suit. I liked him better as a devious supporting character.

Bianca Reagan said...

irwin, britney shouldn't have worn that outfit. However, the insults other people are casting should address her poor decision-making abilities, not her body.

The girl you mentioned probably has a eating disorder, or at the very least a dysfunctional body image. This is very common among both male and female actors, especially in LA. Even the highly successful ones are doing idiotic things to their body to fit someone else's idea of perfection. I don't know whose idea of perfection it is, though.

Hey Bianca, do you have any comments about Isiah Thomas' claim that black men are allowed to call black women bitches but other people aren't? I'd like to hear your reaction.

Well if Isaiah Washington (allegedly) says so... [rolling my eyes]

Dude, no one should ever call me that to my face. I know that people do it behind my back all the time. They have been doing that since middle school, if not earlier. Just let Mr. Washington (if he did actually make that statement) say that to me. It will not be pretty.

fyi, I don't condone the use of that word by any men towards any women. So, irwin, as a white guy, you had better not use that word when addressing me or my female compatriots.

Irwin Handleman said...

Sorry, but if you wear that outfit, you're begging people to make insults about your body. That's just reality.

And it's Isiah Thomas who said that - the President/Coach of the Knicks, not Isiah Washington. It's not allegedly either, it's from the videotape of his deposition.

You say "I don't condone the use of that word by anyone", but then add "as a white guy, you shouldn't use it...". It's a little contradictory.

Bianca Reagan said...

irwin, I can't read. All those Isiahs look alike to me. :)

Also, I meant my comment as extra-explanatory, not contradictory, with the emphasis on the male vs. female part. Meaning, it's not only black men who shouldn't call black women that. No men should use the word to refer to any women.

Furthermore, I think Britney would have gotten insults made about her body no matter what she was wearing on stage, because she is a woman. I'm not sure you're getting the double-standardness of the issue. Yes, the outfit was a bad choice, but that's not the point. Women performers have impossible physical expectations placed on them, where as male performers have very few. How else do you explain Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler and even Wayne Newton still jiggling their old saggy bottoms on national television, with little media criticism of their looong faded looks?

Irwin Handleman said...

And do you know who put those impossible physical expectations on them? For the most part, women do.

Women are the biggest haters of women there are. It's not guys. Just watch any reality show. As I've stated a million times, you take a show like "The Bachelors", and put all the women in the house and they HATE each other. You do "The Bachelorette" and put all the guys in the house, and they LOVE each other.

I used that actress as an example because she did that to herself, and every guy, every guy, liked her better before she lost the weight.

Bianca Reagan said...

Sir, first of all, see my previous comment about "missing the point."

The point is not "who" put the expectations on women, but the fact that they are there. Many of those expectations are fostered by the mainstream media, which aside from Oprah, is run by a select group of old white men.

Women are the biggest haters of women there are. It's not guys.

I would say that there are large groups of women and large groups of men that hate women.

Back to missing the point. The people on The Bachelor aren't very different from the people that I mentioned on Chuck: they are mostly white, young, pretty and emaciated, including the guys. These people don't represent the American population or the world population. They don't even represent the population of Los Angeles. It's not like ABC is selecting normal people/women for The Bachelor. They are picking certain body types and certain personality types for dramatic effect. You should know this; you have worked in television. The little people running around inside the box aren't really there, irwin. The women on TV do not represent All Women, and they probably don't represent the women that you know personally. Do the "men" on I Love New York represent you?

Like I said before, the actress you mentioned probably had an eating disorder. It doesn't matter how much you and your guy associates appreciated how she looked. One compliment, or even one hundred compliments, can't fix what is already broken inside that actress. Only she can fix it with time and probably with professional help.

Irwin Handleman said...

Ugh, we will never understand each other.

But let me just say this: thank God the Bachelor puts on women who don't represent the general population. You see, I'm crazy. I actually like to watch women who are hot. And the Bachelors are crazy too, cause they want to share a hot tub with women who are hot.

But thanks for telling me what I "should know".

Bianca Reagan said...

You're welcome, irwin!

I do understand you and what you are saying, probably more than you know. You are often intent on winning your arguments based on examples from your personal life. However, many of the things that I bring up are concepts that you have had no previous reason to think about from another person's perspective. I'm not saying you're self-centered and insensitive. I am saying that as a straight white male, most of American society is catered to what you supposedly like and what you want. Therefore you don't have to think about being systematically ignored and insulted based on your color, sexuality and gender. That's why you're getting confused and irritated. Not everything I say is a personal attack on your character or your actions. It's simply a discussion of controversial issues.

If you want to share a hot tub with the women on The Bachelor, I suggest you bring a supply of penicillin and Valtrex with you. said...

Well, I would argue that everything you think is based upon race, because that's all you think about. And not everything is about race. Whereas I try to see things not only from all sides, not just on race. Also, personal examples are probably a lot more reliable than abstract academic thought. Because obviously that kind of thinking can't recognize obvious facts, such as, men like to look at good looking girls, and Britney looked fat in that outfit.

You are not ignored at all. 10 percent of our population is African-American. It would be odd to have more than 10 percent of who and what we see on TV, movies, etc. be African American. However, it probably is more than 10 percent.

Bianca Reagan said...

Amy's brain today, if you're reading, and I hope you are, this where the patience you mentioned starts to wear thin.

irwin, this is a precise example of the situation I have been explaining to you. You assert that I only think about race when clearly you know that's not true. Have you read my blog? My first two posts ever were about Lance Bass and his gayness. The last two posts I made this week were about the Bush family, children's health care, and a comic legend whom I was first introduced to via Designing Women. I didn't mention the racial components of any of those subjects. Did you also miss my waxing prosaic on Ben Foster, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elijah Wood? How about the many paragraphs I have spent on Zac Efron and his High School Musicals? You've seen all of those posts, so you need to "keep it real" like Mr. Harvey. :)

You never think about race or gender because you don't have to. I do. Despite the fact that we are both bloggers in LA who often write about TV, we aren't equivalent in the eyes of American mainstream media. Therefore, I'm going to write about and talk about how I am oppressed in this country. You aren't going to write about that ever because you aren't oppressed by your race or gender, or by anything else that I'm aware of. It's that simple.

You can't think about things from all sides, because you don't know all the sides of an issue. I don't either. For instance, I never thought about the lack of desi representation in our media and pretty much everywhere else until I started reading Sepia Mutiny via Racialicious, which I started reading via Feministing. Then I started thinking about it, and hey, it was a whole new world.

The most telling comment you have made so far is alleging that I'm "not ignored at all." Who the bleep are you to say that? Have you actually done the research or read any of the studies about who is represented in our media and how those individuals are represented? It's not just about the 10 percent onscreen representing--or more precisely misrepresenting--the 10 percent offscreen. When I was in twelfth grade, I said to one of my friends, "There's no one on TV who looks like me and acts like me too." It's almost ten years later and that statement is still painfully true. Also, what about the "news"? There isn't any accurate percentage representation going on there. How many white male anchors does one country need?

I would ask you to name five women on TV who resemble me and whom I could relate to. But since you can't be bothered to read a book that illuminates my previous points about colorism in nonwhite communities, I will pose that challenge to my other readers. I would say that Janeane Garofalo embodies my internal characteristics, but I can't stand the violence of 24 (which she is starring in this season). So you all can pick another. I'll even spot you one: Vanessa Huxtable.

Thank you for your comments, irwin. I continue to enjoy them even though they often make me shake my fists in the air.

Irwin Handleman said...

Well, according to a study done in 2000, 50 percent of all reporters and anchors in TV news were women. So once again, it's in your head.

And Janeane Garofalo? Um, she hasn't even been on "24" yet. So does that mean you're just looking for actors whom you share political views? I thought you'd want to be represented by the CHARACTERS in shows. If you're looking for the actors, then I guess you're right, and Scientologists are way over represented.

And since I don't know the biography of most actors, I guess I can't pick one that believes in the same shit you do.

I'd like to hear some examples of how you've been oppressed. If you think I haven't gotten jobs in this business BECAUSE I'm a white male, you're just flat out wrong. And I don't care about this and I don't blog about it, and I don't want to be accused of crying about it, I only bring it up because you said I wouldn't know about it because I'm a white male and everything is roses and rainbows for me.

You know what? Life sucks for everyone. It's hard. And it's easy to blame stuff on the color of your skin or the type of genitals you have, but the truth is everyone has it rough because that's how life is. Blaming the mean, oppressive, racist world is the easiest thing to do. But most times, it's just cause life ain't easy.

I hate to tell you this, but the only color these media companies/producers care about is green. They do what makes money. Period. And they make gobs of it. If putting people in shows who were just like you made them an extra penny, they'd do it in a heart beat.

Stephanie said...
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Bianca Reagan said...

He did? I thought in Less that Perfect he played the guy who thought he was hot, but in reality was a dork. In Chuck, it seems like the show is making a campaign to show him as a dorky guy who would be cute if he took off his nonexistent glasses, changed his wardrobe and got a haircut. One of those She's All That makeovers.

Stephanie said...
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The Law Fairy said...

Sorry to butt in, Bianca, but I'm having phone issues so I don't have much else to do right now...

Irwin. Take two seconds to just consider the POSSIBILITY that you don't see every single side of every issue in life. Just maybe, there might be other perspectives out there that you haven't really given a fair shake. Maybe.

You know what? Life sucks for everyone. It's hard. And it's easy to blame stuff on the color of your skin or the type of genitals you have, but the truth is everyone has it rough because that's how life is. Blaming the mean, oppressive, racist world is the easiest thing to do. But most times, it's just cause life ain't easy.

This is one of my favorite non-arguments from people who prefer stuffing their fingers in their ears to engaging in dialogue. Has Bianca claimed that life is fair and great and wonderful for all straight white men, everywhere, because they are white and straight. Has she claimed that all women are worse off than all men? Has she claimed that all black people are worse off than all white people? That all gays are worse off than straights? (Hint: the answer starts with an "N" and rhymes with "go")

Life isn't fair. Um. Duh. What's that have to do with racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.? Because there is more than one problem in the world, we're not allowed to worry about any of them unless we worry about all of them? That's just plain silly -- nothing would ever get accomplished if we had that rule.

Have you seen the "n-word" episode of South Park? People like you need to watch that episode over and over and over until it sinks in: you don't get it. Period. You don't and you can't, and you need to accept that there are things in this world that you will never understand, because you will never experience them, and you will never have a comparable experience. Period. As a white man (I take it, from your earlier posts), you will NEVER experience sexism or racism. Period. (And PLEASE don't throw out the affirmative action red herring because if you honestly cannot see the difference between imperfect attempts to correct for inequality, and inequality itself... well, perhaps you're beyond help). You can accept this, or you can dig in your heels and insist that, because YOU do not live the experience of racism and sexism and homophobia, it does not exist. Yes, you can be empathetic (and should be). Yes, you can philosophically and intellectually learn to understand things like white blindness as part of your path to enlightenment. But you'll never REALLY understand what it's like to be a member of an oppressed class (absent some inconceivably MAJOR social revolution, or perhaps your rapid descent into absolute ruin, since the poor are an oppressed class as well). Pretending that you understand better than Bianca what racism REALLY means is like you trying to tell her (or me, or any healthy adult woman) what it's like to have a period. I mean, are you JOKING?

I hate to tell you this, but the only color these media companies/producers care about is green. They do what makes money. Period. And they make gobs of it. If putting people in shows who were just like you made them an extra penny, they'd do it in a heart beat.

You're absolutely right. This is the point. The reason the media under-represents people of color and average-looking women is BECAUSE we live in a racist, sexist society, and therefore people don't pay to see equality. I do hope you weren't trying to make the argument that, if that's what the people want and are willing to pay for, then there's nothing wrong with it. Because that's demonstrably absurd (if you disagree, then you should have no problem with Nazism or smut films).

The Law Fairy said...

Gah. I meant "snuff films," not "smut films."

Bianca Reagan said...

"Smut films" applies too, law fairy. Thanks for your supportive comment. You're super.

The Law Fairy said...

Back atcha, B ;)