Tag Archives: Reality TV

The Supreme Court and Chrisley Knows Best: The Death of Social Justice?

4 Apr
Heads They Win/Tales We Loose

Heads They Win/Tales We Loose

While at first glance,The United States Supreme Court and the reality television show Chrisley Knows Best may seem like two very disparate platforms, they are sadly very similar when it comes to eroding social justice.

To my great sadness, Chief Justice Roberts and his inhumane colleagues voted to remove financial caps on donors to federal candidates.  Re-enforcing Citizens United, the Supreme Court has made it abundantly and painfully clear that money trumps democracy. The exceedingly misguided Chiefly On the Wrong Side of History Roberts tried to defend the 5/4 decision with a bastardization of the 1st amendment:

There is no right in our democracy more basic than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.

That would hold some truth if we had a categorically different distribution of wealth in the United States.  Fortunately, Justice Breyer offered an unprecedented dissent from the bench that perfectly captures the many inequities this decision puts in motion:

…the majority opinion is a disturbing development that raised the overall contribution ceiling to the number infinity. If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate.

Well done, Justice Breyer.  I’m at least grateful that four of the nine justices understands the power of money and how it ties into buying elections, continuing to disenfranchise already targeted populations, and fostering an increased cynicism in our election process.

So how does this have anything to do with the rather awful television show, Chrisley Knows Best?  Sadly, this show is about how money trumps all!  If you have enough money you can now buy yourself a television show and create more wealth while obtaining a bizarre and shallow status of “celebrity.”  This vapid tv show is nothing more than an obnoxious display of conspicuous consumption, misogyny, and a reckless celebration of bad behavior.  Are we really supposed to feel bad for a white 17 year old boy because his father put a boot clamp on his $100,000 Range Rover.  Really? What does this say about us as a culture?  While I am the first to admit that I enjoy what I call popcorn television, is there no limit to how awful the impact might be of pop culture?

What happened to a purported government that worked towards equity and removing barriers from voting? We don’t even seem to offer the pretense of equity and equality.  Now we just have huge For Sale signs tagged to elections.

What happened to television shows that were amusing and didactic both? Shows like Maude, The Jeffersons, and The Mary Tyler  Moore Show seem to have been replaced by the uber wealthy that can buy their own “Reality” tv show.  What isn’t for sale now?

Call to action: Here I invite all of you to recommend ways in which we can both collectively and individually works towards social justice — work towards making the world a better place for all.

Bigot of the Week Award, December 20: Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty (and his defenders)

20 Dec
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Long-time readers will know that I don’t watch much television. My husband and I have a few favorite programs but don’t keep on top of all the big shows. As a result, I barely knew what a Duck Dynasty was, much less who Phil Robertson might be. Sadly, this week he burst painfully into my consciousness, using his questionable celebrity to spew bigotry. In an interview with GQ, Robertson felt the need to wax homophobic at length.

Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong… Sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.

He then misquoted the Bible to substantiate his position. Just for fun, he also spent some time discussing anatomy. What hatred, ignorance, bile, and bigotry! What a sad abuse of power, especially power afforded on such a flimsy footing.

To their credit, A&E — the network that airs Duck Dynasty — has suspended Robertson indefinitely observing that:

His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.

While that was the right thing to do, I wonder does it address reparative justice?  And sadly, A&E continues to profit from the series in syndication. Even more regrettable,  Robertson immediately fell back on the faith defense, basically blaming Jesus for his ugly words and then saying:

I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me.

I’m afraid the ship has sailed on that one, Mr. Duck. Robertson should also take a careful look at the people who have stood up to defend him. Failed candidate, half-term governor, and perpetual pseudo-celebrity Sarah Palin and perpetual hypocrite Gov. Bobby Jindal both rushed to his defense, calling his suspension and outrage.

Both Palin and Jindal call it a violation of his First Amendment right of free speech, thus also demonstrating their fundamental misunderstanding of the law. As with Juan Williams and so many others, Robertson has the right to speak. A&E, as his employer, has the right to say that those words aren’t appropriate and to take action. Sponsors have the right to withdraw their sponsorship. Viewers have the right to turn off the TV. Actions have consequences, even legally protected actions.

As a gay man, I have to suspect that racism and misogyny are probably also issues that our Mr. Robertson is mired in along with his homophobia. I wonder what it would have been like for A&E to have addressed this problem directly on the show and then talked about reparative justice? What would it be like for Robertson to have to travel the country and witness how the LGBTQ population is targeted and how the LGBTQ population of color is targeted even further? What concerns me most is that here in 2013 we have further evidence of just how far we have yet to go around eradicating homophobia, racism, misogyny, and poverty.  Of course, this Duck Dynasty does not have to worry about poverty, for they have been wealthy stars because of “reality tv.”

Call For Nominations:

Yes, it is that time of year again. Here is the official call for nominations for 2013’s Bigot of the Year Award and Hero of the Year Award. Please submit your nominations now.

Creating a Contagion of Community

6 Mar

What must it be like to live in Clatterford? For those not in the know, this fictional British town is the setting of Jam and Jerusalem, a sitcom written by Jennifer Saunders (of Absolutely Fabulous fame). Aired as Clatterford in the U.S., the show is a touching look at life in a small village, mostly through the eyes of the members of the local women’s guild. The remarkable thing about Clatterford (other than the expected Britcom eccentricity) is the true sense of community. Even if they get on one another’s nerves, the citizens of Clatterford care for one another for no other reason than their shared community. They are neighbors, and neighbors care for one another. (In fact, the weakest relationships in the stories are those of family.)

I know that life in Clatterford is idealized, but watching it always makes me think about how fractured our modern sense of community has become. Michael and I are very lucky to have wonderful, supportive, caring neighbors. This has not been the case in every place that we have lived. Most of the people I know have at best a passing acquaintance with their nearest neighbors and no sense of a larger neighborhood or community. Many who do engage, do so as part of a fractious neighborhood association that obliterates any sense of true community.

Modern American life places a low value on work / life balance. For those who try to find a good middle ground, the life part often gets subsumed by rushing from obligation to obligation, not taking the time to get to know the people one interacts with as anything other than another Board member or soccer mom.

“Reality” television sets bizarre expectations for what it means to be a normal person. Communities are painted as hostile and competitive. People don’t matter unless they’re winning something and defeating someone else. Participation is reduced to an Oprah-esque purging, with each person waiting for their turn to mist up in the guest chair.

Online “communities” also contribute to this artificiality. FaceBook is a fine place to share passing comments with casual acquaintances or to post a joke or opinion. Among the farm animals, pointless dining updates, and inappropriate airing of grievances, however, there is very little real community. Internet communities are fine for what they are, and often let geographically disparate people share interests, but they are not a substitute for real human interaction.

In the places we can interact with real humans, half the people around us are texting, tweeting, and shouting into their gadgets. Caught up in a false sense of urgency, one can mistake the ability to be connected with the need to be, ironically failing to engage with the broader world one is actually in.

There are, of course, wonderful exceptions. It is heartening to see people like Zach Wahls take the time to engage with their communities and use voices for good. I am fortunate enough to work in a field that has community at its very heart. (In fact, the theme of this year’s Oregon Library Association conference is “Libraries build Communities build Libraries.”) Michael and I have been lucky enough to live in two supportive, engaging communities. It just feels like this is the exception rather than the rule right now.

It takes energy to be part of a community, but it is energy that is returned multifold. As winter wanes, let’s all use the new spring as an opportunity to get out into the world.

  • Turn off your television.
  • Walk away from your computer (For the record, I fully acknowledge the irony of posting this instruction on a blog.)
  • Leave your phone at home.
  • Find a place to gather with people and make the effort to actually talk to them.
  • Mix community and good works – volunteer!

Community is contagious. Let’s all try to be carriers.

P.S. – As an added bonus, Jam and Jerusalem has one of the most perfect theme songs in television. Ray Davies (of the Kinks) brilliant paean to community, The Village Green Preservation Society, is lovingly and gently adapted by Kate Rusby.

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