As AMC’s Mad Men returns for its fifth season in just over a week (!!!) Slate’s Tanner Colby discusses how race has played a role in the show and how much it might surface in the upcoming season. In his second of two pieces, he makes a connection between the lies the characters live on the show and the lie of white supremacy in the American Dream.
Mad Men is a show about lies, the lies we tell about who we are and what our country is, and what happens when those lies fall apart. The whole idea of the 1950s, picket-fence, Ozzie and Harriet American Dream was a lie, a well-told tale conjured up by Madison Avenue to sell vacuum cleaners and automobiles. And the single biggest lie at the core of that American Dream was the myth of white supremacy, the delusion that allowed a nation of immigrants, outcasts, and orphans to galvanize their standing in a new social order where status and self-worth were rooted in the accident of not being born black. Who is Don Draper but a white man pretending to be a sort of white person he’s not, and who suffers a complete breakdown when that lie is exposed? And what could better symbolize the story of white America in the 1960s?
Apparently there’s “an unsettling new formula” in reality television: Trashing black women.
..put two or more headstrong African-American women in the same room, and let the fireworks begin. From Oxygen’s Bad Girls to Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, the small screen is awash with black females who roll their eyes, bob their heads, snap their fingers, talk trash, and otherwise reinforce the ugly stereotype of the “angry black woman.”
In her Newsweek piece “Reality TV Trashes Black Women,” Allison Samuels singles out the feud on this season’s Celebrity Apprentice between Real Housewives Of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes and Star Jones, the former co-host of The View. It’s an example of a “catfight” between two black women that’s “had viewers glued to their sets.”
But Samuels concedes that reality TV is “an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to stereotyping,” citing MTV’s hit Jersey Shore as an example. So, where’s the problem? Samuels quotes Celebrity Apprentice alum Holly Robinson Peete who may have the answer.
“Listen, there are plenty of white women acting a fool on television every night…But there’s a balance for them. They have shows on the major networks—not just cable and not just reality shows about them running companies, being great mothers, and having loving relationships. We don’t have enough of that.”
It’s the lack of a complete and diverse picture of black women – and I would add black men – on television that’s the problem. Showing people acting like fools on TV is fine. It can often be great television! But if a group of people is portrayed only one way across multiple channels without showing the diversity and depth of who they are, then TV as an industry, and not just one genre, is what’s really trashing them.
Super Bowl Sunday is a good time to think about the phrase, “As American as baseball and apple pie.” The phrase should actually be, “As American as football and apple pie.”
I’m not an expert on football, but there are probably a ton of reasons why it’s so appealing to Americans. One might be the combination of power and strength that is seen as representative of the ideal American male. Another, which I’ve written about, is the violence involved in the game.
The effect of that appeal is quantifiable: An estimated 100 million people will watch the Super Bowl. Yes, 100 million is the number that’s thrown around every year at this time, but think about that for a minute. That’s about one in three Americans who will share this event simultaneously. With media fragmented over different platforms, channels, stations and websites, it’s remarkable that so many Americans share this same experience at the same time.
It’s not just the Super Bowl that’s popular. Americans have been watching football throughout the season, too. This was the first year that every primetime football game won its time slot. And it’s not just men who are watching football. Women make up about a third of NFL viewers and Sunday Night Football on NBC was the third highest rated show of the season for women 18-49 years old.
There are probably more reasons. Scheduling probably helps: It’s easier to get an individual to watch the 16 regular season football games that are played on Sundays, than to get that same person to watch the dozens of basketball or baseball games that occur during the workweek. But it’s more than just scheduling that keeps Americans coming back to football.
What do you think? Why is football so popular in America? Are you going to watch the Super Bowl tonight? Why?
I mentally braced myself last night as I began watching the premiere of the U.S. version of “Top Gear.” Not only is the original UK version is one of my favorite shows on television, but it’s one of the most-watched shows on the planet with an estimated 350 million viewers. So, there’s a high bar for the American version to reach.
“Top Gear” is described as “a car show,” but it’s much more than that. It’s about travel, competition, ingenuity, all wrapped in a lot of wit and humor. There’s a lot of crashing and blowing stuff up, too.
What most intrigued me about the new show is when I heard “Top Gear” USA co-host Adam Ferrara say it’s “a glimpse into the male mind.” Sure, this could be a good way to brand “Top Gear” in the U.S. It gets framed as a man’s show. A place where “us guys” can be Men. (Cue the grunting and chest-pounding.) But the show in the UK doesn’t try to be hyper-masculine like some other shows geared toward men in the U.S. (“Ice Road Truckers,” “Deadliest Catch”). Women make up 40% of Top Gear’s audience in Britain. Ferrara’s statement could be a nod toward the often self-deprecating sense of humor found on the show. Perhaps not coincidentally, Andy Wilman, the executive producer of “Top Gear” in the UK told “60 Minutes” something similar about the show: “It’s a journey into the male mind, which, I believe, is a really, potentially, very funny place. ‘Cause, let’s face it, nothing happens there.”
“Top Gear” USA wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it was great either. There needs to be more personality from and better interaction between hosts Ferrara, Rutledge Wood and Tanner Foust. They didn’t seem comfortable with each other yet. The interview with Buzz Aldrin in the “Big Star, Small Car” segment was as horrible as that segment’s name. They should also have more fun with The Stig, the show’s racing driver, like they do in the UK, and include more basic info on the cars being profiled (0-60, horsepower, engine size, etc.). The Lamborghini segment at the end, though, captured a lot of what makes Top Gear great: cars, competition, good cinematography, story-telling and camaraderie between the hosts.
As far as insight into what goes on in the male mind, I’m going to give the show time. Top Gear in Britain is more than cars or the personalities of its hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. It’s their knowledge of cars, the world in which they travel and their way of explaining their adventures to the audience in a smart, funny and colorful way. If “Top Gear” USA adds some American-flavored irony and wit to the speed, competition and explosions, they’d have a show worthy of it’s British brother and paint a better picture of what’s going in the American male mind.
Did you see the U.S. version of “Top Gear?” What do you think?
It’s 1965 in AMC’s “Mad Men” and it has barely dealt with the issue of race. What’s up?
I love the show, but when the issue has come up, it’s usually regarding a client at the ad agency: How they will sell their products to blacks (“Negroes”), why clients won’t hire blacks, etc. There have been very few blacks or any people of color with speaking roles on the show that is set in New York City. In Season 2, Paul Kinsey did have a minor story arc that involved a black girlfriend, but blacks on the show have been mostly in the background: the Draper’s maid Carla, elevator operators or sandwich vendors.
Yes, the show needs to be realistic. The show is about sex, sexism and relationships. It would be tricky, but not impossible, to introduce the issue of race and intelligently combine it with sex: the ultimate taboo when it came to race. So, the writers need to be smart.
In the last few weeks, though, race has become more visible. In last night’s episode, “The Beautiful Girls,” it’s revealed one of the firm’s clients won’t hire blacks. Peggy raises the issue in a meeting, but she was quickly shot down. More importantly, though, she tells a guy at a bar, “Most of the things Negroes can’t do, I can’t do either.” It’s an acknowledgment that the fight for equality is about fighting both sexism and racism.
And then there was the mugger: The black mugger in the bad neighborhood whose face was obscured by shadows that demanded money and jewelry from Roger and Joan. It was disappointing that the first on-screen black character with a speaking part in weeks had to be a criminal. The obscured face made it clear the mugger was just supposed to be a faceless black man to Roger, Joan and the viewers. Was he supposed to be an Invisible Man?
I really hope so. I hope the writers and producers were doing something smart last night and not being lazy. “Mad Men” is an intelligent show. As it moves into the late 1960′s they’re going to have to address the changing nature of race in society and in the lives of the people at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, while continuing to substantively explore the sex and relationships of those people. I hope last night’s episode was the beginning of that.
With the pivot of a desk and a chair under our loft bed, I was able to turn storage space into a little office area. The transformation from storage to Dean’s Den, one of a few names Holly calls it, was unintentional. I just wanted a place to be alone so I could write.
When I Googled “man caves” I found a ton of websites devoted to the topic. There’s even a show on the DIY Network called “Man Caves” that I had no idea existed. The show could be called “Extreme Makeover: Dude Edition.”
That’s one reason why I’m not crazy about the “cave” part of the term man cave. The word doesn’t do justice to how huge and elaborate these space are. They’re tricked-out with all kinds of gadgets and amenities around certain themes like sports bars, wine cellars or recording studios. There are even basements turned into nightclubs, gun vaults and golf dens.
Check out some from the show “Man Caves:”
My area, though, is a workspace. I’m looking for a quiet place to work, not to play. When I read that one guy uses his man cave to watch television all day, I thought, “Nah, I’m not trying to make a man cave.” Which brings me to my second surprise in researching all this. Continue reading 'Alone Time In The Man Cave'»
It wasn’t so much that Tiger Woods didn’t win the Masters Golf Tournament on Sunday. It’s that wholesomeness did.
I was at the gym when coverage of the Masters was wrapping up on TV. When watching TV on mute (or close to mute), the images can speak to the viewer more than when the sound is turned up. At the gym, I was watching pictures and video of this year’s winner, Phil Mickelson, hugging his wife, Amy, who is battling cancer. (Mickelson’s mother also has cancer.) For someone who doesn’t follow golf and wouldn’t have been able to point out Mickelson if he passed me on the street, I was touched sitting there in the gym resting between my sets.
It was great video for the folks at the Masters and CBS, who broadcasted the event. The warm, fuzzy moment was great TV. After all the speculation about how Tiger might perform because of the scandal and the scandal itself looming over coverage of the tournament, it was a guy with a backstory that pulls at the heartstrings who won the weekend.
It would’ve been odd if Tiger won. The win would’ve been great for his career and a step towards the comeback of his image. A win is a win. In light of the sex scandal, though, Woods would’ve looked like an ass if he celebrated exuberantly with his trademark fist-pumping. His wife Elin wasn’t at the tournament. Even if she were, I don’t think there would have been a warm embrace.
All of this, of course, has little to do with actually playing golf. But how viewers feel about winners can impact how they feel about a sport. On Sunday, the golf world could put the scandal behind them – maybe even let out a sigh of relief – and have a feel-good moment.
Did you see the controversial Dodge commercial during the Super Bowl? Many people thought it was sexist. I thought it was whiny. Check it out.
The life of these guys are so miserable because they have to spend time with their mothers-in-law and take their wives’ calls? What assholes. These guys are whining about how whipped they feel because they have to watch “vampire shows?” Having to do those things doesn’t break down the American man. Feeling that those things do break it down is being whiny. It’s the opposite of the manly-man they’re trying to be.
I never understood the whole “life is over because I’m married” line of thinking. First, the reasons “life is so bad” always seemed lame, like in this commercial. And second, no one forced these guys to get married in the first place. So, conclusion: Stupid commercial.
A few weeks later, I noticed an ad for Dockers khakis that said “Wear the Pants.” I saw it and others for the same campaign in a few places in Midtown, but didn’t initially pay too much attention to them. Then I thought about “Wearing the pants” in light of the Dodge ad. It turns out the Dockers campaign is telling men to “wear the pants” to bring back manhood. Wearing khakis is going to bring macho back?
Most football fans are thinking about the match-up between the Saints and the Colts later today. I, not being a huge fan of the game, am thinking more about the Super Bowl commercial controversy. Don’t think that I dislike football. I enjoy a good competitive game as much as anyone, and I’ll probably watch tomorrow.
The controversy over what ads CBS has decided to show and what they rejected is important, though. Those decisions over what an expected 90 million people will see says a lot about CBS’s and the NFL’s points of view. It also says a lot about what they think the 90 million viewers want to see.
The network rejected ads from ManCrunch, a gay dating website, and the web domain and hosting firm GoDaddy, whose ads have been rejected from previous Super Bowl broadcasts. CBS has agreed, though, to air a pro-life ad from conservative group Focus on the Family featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. There have been sexy ads that have aired during previous Super Bowls, including some from GoDaddy, and there will surely be some this year. There’s very little flesh in either the ManCrunch or GoDaddy ads, though. This seems to be more about sexuality than straight-up sex.
In the ManCrunch ad, two guy’s guys are on a couch watching a football game. Their hands touch over a bowl of potato chips, they share a glance and then they start making out. It’s nothing racier than something you might see on a late night sketch comedy (and apparently it’s already been done there). Here’s the ad:
In the GoDaddy ad, you have a gruff looking footballer who retires, comes out of the closet after leaving football, is flamboyantly gay, and starts a lingerie line using GoDaddy’s services: