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Culture Clash of Entertainment

January 20, 2012

Editors note: For the purpose of this entry, reality based shows were not included in the mix since stupidity and misery of others cross every social divide and have always been and will always be of universal appeal. 

There are hundreds of television shows on every single day.  In fact, it would be quite cliché to say there is something for everyone on the dial.  There are widely popular shows, and there are minutely niche shows, and they are all on TV because it was predetermined that there was an audience for each one.  Story lines and settings vary widely, from crime scene investigations to uncharted islands, but in the end they draw their audiences, not through identifying with the story or the setting, but from identifying with the characters’ behaviors and interactions in response to the parameters set by the story and setting.

We know from decades of entertainment, that women (as a majority) will be drawn to romantically inclined characters, and men (as a majority) will be drawn to characters who are thrust into heroics.  We know that audiences respond better if they are drawn to these characters physically.  These are just simple socio-scientific congruences.  Today is a socially enlightened time, however.  We have created socially racial equality, social sexual equality, and we are now breaching social sexuality equality.  We have ostracized most of our disparaging terms and clichés from our language. Our American culture has made such strides in reversing our human errors of the past that the pool of corrective potential has actually begun to wade a bit shallow.  We’re running out of things to correct.

Sifted from this pool, each year, come several studies reporting the lack of non-white characters in “mainstream” television.  The GLAAD organization releases their “Where We Are On TV” study that criticizes television for not having enough gay characters.   In response to this consumer dissatisfaction, new TV networks have been launched that reverse discriminate for the benefit of those discriminated against.  The results of these station equate to dollars.  Now, Telemundo and Univision are the two highest viewed cable networks on television.  BET television followed MTV’s video format quickly, but now its success has parented its own original programming.  Martin Luther King III launched BOUNCE television just last year, also exclusively for black audiences, and has already brought in ratings that match HLN, BBC and Comedy Central.

It seems the argument is smacking network TV right in the face that diversity equals dollars; that people want it and will watch it in droves.  Surely, if these  minority exclusive cable stations can launch and retain such high viewership, then why should network television not also embrace the “now?”

This is why.  Good intentions are wonderful, and are responsible for millions of dollars of donations, but they’ve never been real great at creating and running a company.  Guess what?  Network television stations are companies.  They are big companies.  Big companies have big success.  When that happens, little companies always come in to steal away little pieces of the big player’s business by specializing.  Try to count how many theme parks sit within a 45-mile radius of Disney World in Orlando.  The success of Gatorland, however, should not say to Disney World, “We need more alligators.”  Additionally, when a business sells a product, and chooses to mass market its message, would it be more profitable to target the advertising budget towards 74% of the customer potential, or 16%?   Do you know what one of the most widely unreported census statistic today is?  It’s that 76% of the U.S. is white/caucasian.

Network television stations, for as much as you hear are losing audience, still have the lion’s share of the business, and it’s because they know who the majority of their customer potential can come that they know how to position their product to go and get it.  It might be deduced from this that the whole network TV business model is flawed by racism, and to that I might have to agree, but only because the entire entertainment industry is completely lead and conducted by sexism, racism and plain bias.  After all, the launch of Spanish and African American television stations proves that to be correct.  The very nature of the argument for more diversity on TV states that people want to watch characters that look like themselves, that Black people don’t identify with White people and gay folk don’t identify with straight folk.  BET stands for Black Entertainment Television.  BOUNCE TV’s slogan is actually “TV Our Way” 

There can, of course, be no argument that networks have made incredible progress in adding representatives from the various mixes of America.  And although  the Screen Actors Guild reported that in 2011 only 13% of characters on TV and film were black, one TV critic wrote of today’s TV characters, “there’s so many BBF’s (black best friends) around, you can divide them by types.”  And although GLAAD reported that in 2011, only 4% of characters on network TV are portrayed as gay, they also reported that ABC Family (cable) dedicated 55% of their broadcast hours to homosexual characters or positive references to the sexuality.

These criticisms continue to remain unfulfilled because of one simple reality, that no program or network will ever accurately represent you or your personal surroundings.  If you live in Los Angeles or New York (both headquarters of GLAAD), your gay lifestyle perspective will be overindexed.  If you live in Atlanta or Chicago, your African American perspective will be over indexed.  And if you own a news organization, and need to report on stories like these, you will likely be headquartered in New York, LA, Chicago, or Atlanta.

The real irony is that since TV is watched by the entire country, the hard line best case scenario should be real representation from all of the U.S., and as a country these are real the numbers: 13% of the American population is black; 75-80% is white; and compensating for honesty as well as a lack of an accepted universal definition, most studies put the homosexual population of the U.S. at 3-8%.  If you check those numbers against the above television studies numbers, this really shouldn’t even be a conversation.

Sharpening My 2012’s Resolution

December 31, 2011

Making grand New Year’s resolutions left my life nearly a decade ago.  They really are crap, and just not real. Signing up for gym memberships, going on diets, quitting addictions, taking up some stupid new hobby I once had a passing interest in… a brand new calendar on the wall is simply never going to be the catalyst for changing such in grain behavior, I don’t care how many adorable kittens are on it.

It is a time for some difficult transitions, though.  Last year’s budgets need to be overachieved, last year’s anniversary presents need to be outdone, and last year’s date needs to be purged from our minds as we date documents and checks.  Based on this acknowledgment,  I do use the annual calendar flip to modify a bit of myself.  The days building up to the first of the year I scrutinize my language so I can discern and start purging myself of the lazy gook that’s gotten lodged in there.  Speech becomes a bad habit.  Using words like “eipc” to describe anything we happen to be attending, and saying “late” as an abreviation for “later” somehow get stuck on our tongues and become part of who we are till we’re not even aware that we’ve become this massive tool version of ourselves.

So, here are the seven most annoying cultural clichés that I am completely done with, starting in 2012.  I will no longer:

  • Say “Sure,” before answering someone’s question.  Where did I pick that up?  I think I think I’m trying to say, “I understand your question,” but it comes out “sure.”
  • Respond to someone’s opinion or idea with “Perfect” or “Exactly.”   It just really wasn’t.
  • Advise my daughter to “watch her step” or “be careful” immediately after she has fallen and hurt herself.
  • thank someone “so much.” A simple thank you is good enough, damn it!
  • Respond to someone’s final point with “There ya go,” which really just means I stopped listening to you 2-minutes ago.
  • say “Bless you” when people sneeze. The offender is assigned to say “excuse me” after every other bodily function. Snot exiting the nose at 100 mph shouldn’t get a pass.
  • begin conversations with the word “so” like I’m reaching the conclusion of one.

…I sound like such an idiot when I do that.  Happy New Year!

Christians Are Irritating

December 7, 2011

 Top 5-reasons “born again” Christians are annoying and awful:

  • Their belief is based almost entirely on the way they feel, but expect everyone else to just buy into all of it and celebrate their way too
  • They all hang out together in their little groups where they sound like they’re each trying to be more Christiany than the next
  • When they talk to someone outside of the religion, they get all preachy and want to share their way of life with you
  • They’re always inviting their non-Christians to their little events and services where it’s awkward because they’re all dancing around, singing, hugging, praying and such
  • They flaunt all their little Christian symbols in everyone’s faces, displaying them on their cars and clothes

Top-5 reasons homosexuals who recently “came out” are awesome:

  • They know in their heart that the way they feel is right, and seek acceptance and acknowledgement about their life and community
  • They get together in groups of like minded friends, often sharing their points of pride in their community and lifestyle
  • If you are not gay and speak with someone who has recently outed themselves, they will offer to share with you how their life has changed
  • They welcome and invite all people, gay or straight, to participate in their parades and parties to celebrate their open sexuality
  • They are unabashed, and wear the rainbow and double gender symbols proudly so people know that they are gay

Many Forms of Pride

Is a Bag of Chips 1/2 Empty or 1/2 Full?

November 14, 2011

Bag of Chips 1/2 Full or 1/2 Empty?

It’s always been a favorite past time of current generations to make fun of the previous ones by mocking their complaints about the cost of things being so much less when they were kids. I have participated, of course.  Why wouldn’t I?  There was no concern of “turn about” from future generations because inflation has been raising the cost of things so consistently throughout my life, that I don’t remember what a pack of gum or a postage stamp even cost when I was a kid. So, I mocked and felt content knowing that the sarcastic lashings would never be returned by my future grandkids since I would never be able to make the cost comparison in the first place.

Karma, however, always lurks spitefully in the shadows, ever ready to serve up a Cool Whip topped bowl of just deserts.  For now it turns out that my actions will not be spared such a categorical dismissal by the fates.  I know this because lately I have found myself complaining loudly about, not an increase of things, but a decrease.

I think I first noticed it in bags of chips. You know when you first pop open a giant bag of chips, and it looks like someone has beat you to it?  The whole top half to third of the bag is completely devoid of snack.  Instead they packed it with air so you can’t do the squeeze test.  You know, back in my day, we used to get giant full bags of chips that would last for weeks!

Then I noticed it in the cereal isle.  I have a childhood memory of having to utilize a bear hug grip to carry a cereal box down the isle.   Now, I currently own many softback novels that are thicker than today’s box of Total.  “Why, when I was a kid, we needed a whole separate shopping cart just for one box of cereal!”

Bags of coffee went off the 16-ounce pound long before I was drinking it, but just the other day I caught 8 O’Clock Coffee brand even reduce from the new standard twelve ounce “pound” coffee bag, to a lacking 11 ounces.  I might have missed it except that when I open a bag of coffee, I pour the beans into a mason jar to keep them fresh. After the pour, I used to always have 6-8 scoops of beans left in the bag that would not fit into the jar. Then one day, POOF!  It’s a perfect fit.

11 Ounce Pound of Coffee

"Oooooooo! 8 O'Clock with your 11-Ounce Pound of Coffee!!!"

Coca-Cola? More like Joke-A-Cola!!

Coca Cola is the most recent product to drop. They began with a 10 ounce glass bottle in 1894. Over time they grew to 12-ounces, then 16-ounces and eventually a whopping 20 ounces of delicious soda.  Inside all of those graduating ouces, 1956 was when Coke introduced the 12-ounce can.  Today however, they’ve gone the way of the “Fun Sized” candy bar, introducing a meager 7-ounce can.  It sits beside yester-year’s 12-ounce can like two siblings with a decade seperation between them.   “Why, When we used to go camping, we didn’t bring canteens, we just packed one bottle of Coke, and we all drank from it for days!”

Some comfort comes in the observation that everything on this planet seems to move in cycles. The day becomes bright, then the night forces us back into dark; the Summer grows hot, before the Winter jealously steals away our warmth; and so in the first half of my life, packages of food grew bigger and bigger.  I lived in the magical time of 20 ounce soda bottles, king sized candy bars, Hungry Man frozen dinners, all of them sold in 24-packs at giant Costco warehouse stores. It was a great ride!

Now, that season has come to an end, and like the recoil of every other cycle on this planet, I am only able to recognize how things had been by holding them against how they are now becoming.  I already catch myself mumbling in the grocery isle to myself, “Aw man, look at this!” as I angrily put the food item into my cart anyway.  The day is coming, though.  I can almost see it even now.  I am in the kitchen of my daughter’s house “helping” with the Thanksgiving dinner, and she turns to me and says, “Dad, you can help by getting the cans of soup from the pantry and opening them up for me.”

I’ll look into the cupboard with a frown, seeing a food stock full of tiny cans and boxes, and my predictable grumbling will crank up once again.  I’ll talk incessantly about how things used to be bigger and better, how the same price got you ten times more.  And I won’t cease until I notice my grandchild in the next room is doing a spot on impersonation of me and my generation.

“You call this a pantry?  When I was a kid, you could fit eight of your pantries into just one of ours.  Why, when building a pantry, it was common practice for contractors to have the frame of a pantry built around a living horse, just to be sure it was big enough to store a week’s worth of groceries!  Look at this can!  How do you expect to feed all these people with what’s inside such a tiny little can?  Why in my day…”  

And that’s another thing.  I really hate kids these days!

ESPN College GameDay Comes to Wallstreet!

October 13, 2011

The news today is filled with theories, speculations and declarations about the motivation(s) behind a mass of mostly young people, who have come to gather in a privately owned park in the Wallstreet area of New York.
Members of the group yell at cameras, while others chant and sing songs.  The fact that they are all collected into one place seems to suggest that they are united under a single cause, but when the cameras point at individuals within the group, we hear very different reasons for their occupation. We see very different messages written on their signs.

While many on the “left” side of politics and media are timidly guessing at purpose while patiently waiting for a common message to be constructed from the group’s various parts, several on the political and media “right” have begun to offer criticism of this crew of rebels, claiming they have no unified purpose, painting them as good for nothing trust fund financed kids with nothing better to do.

I am reaching out to both sides of the interpretation in hopes of creating understanding for all.  I would have been confused by all of it as well, if it had not been for a similar event that recently came to Tallahassee, Florida’s State Capital, where I live.  The event is called ESPN College GameDay, and it’s the exact same thing.

ESPN College GameDay Comes to Wallstreet

ESPN College GameDay Comes to Wallstreet

During ESPN College GameDay, the cameras set up, and the fans turn out.  I suppose at first glance it doesn’t make any sense.  There is a guy screaming his pro-LSU Tigers message right next to a guy who is screaming his anti-LSU Tigers message, while right next to them is someone with a sign for the Washington Wildcats (a team that’s not even playing today) and next to him is a guy whose sign reads, “Lee Corso eats boogers!”  Some break from their individual protests to join a group who is unified in song, or another that is chanting defiantly.  While a vast majority are simply there because they want to be on TV and because one of the anchors who is covering the event is hot.  None of the differences matter for them, though because half of them are wasted on some substance, and all of them are just having a blast!

So, not everyone likes college football.  Does that mean that those people are supposed to deny humanity’s base need to hold up signs, sing badly and ogle at the hot news personalities.  Let ye among you who has not had these desires cast the first stone.

Slaves to the NCAA?

August 10, 2011

Are College Players Slaves?

This month (August), The President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert  has invited a cluster of University Presidents on a retreat before the college football season begins.  His podium points are that the retreat is to discuss a range of issues, but the one that has people talking is the regular “infractions” that translate to athletes accepting moneys for performance.  So, he would like to discuss how they can reclaim the amateurity of the NCAA football and basketball rank and file.

It is in the best interest of the NCAA and the University system to keep things the way they are, because of the following:

  • The NCAA doesn’t have to pay players a salary or bonuses like they do the coaches for their performance, even though the game they play is the source of millions of dollars in revenue.
  • The NCAA, in partnership with the University, retains sole rights to generate dollars from product endorsement of team/player images and symbols.  The players do not get a dime.
  • The athletes maintain the roll of performer and entertainer, while students receive free attendance to games as a perk of their tuition.  Alumni receive this same entertainment for the dollars that they give back to the University, none of which go to the players.
  • Dollars made from the players’ performance are used to further improve the University’s athletic programs so that they can attract and retain better players in following years and make even more money.

However, these traditions are so disgustingly degrading to the players, that some of the them have called it “legalized slavery.”  It’s an appropriate comparison.  After all, University football programs make tens of millions of dollars per year on the backs of their players each year.  Isn’t it about time that the players were compensated for their hard work?  Many say absolutely!

I say bull shit!

College football is an incredible opportunity, one that allows professional training and preparation for a career that starts at a million dollars or more right out of college.  No other program, not even one with a degree attached, offers this kind of incentive.  On top of this amazing income potential, many are compensated with scholarships that can total upwards of $20,000 per year,  higher for out-of-state.  Add free room and board, another average $10k per hear.  Meal plan, $13-15K per year.  Not to mention travel incentives for family.  So, now we are looking at students who are being compensated roughly $45-75,000 per year and calling them slaves?

What other program does this?  It is argued of college football that no other program creates such wealth for the school, so it should be treated differently.   However this is not entirely true.  Scientific research grants have been allocated to schools that are valued in the millions.  From its construction in 1990 to current date, FSU’s Magnetic lab has received over $900 million in state and private funds according to FSU’s 2009 report.  Meanwhile post doctorate opportunities coming out of this program begin around $55,000 starting salary.  So, where is the cry of slavery for the students who do the research in such departments?  Should these students not also be getting a sip of the gravy?

It can be argued of college football that only 4% of division 1 college players go on to play for the NFL, but so what?  Those are usually the 4% who worked the hardest and wanted it the most.  That’s just the way life rolls.  Who wouldn’t take a 4% shot at that kind of paycheck, anyway?  At its base, the slavery argument doesn’t even apply to those college athletes who eventually reach the NFL.  It only applies to the ones who weren’t good enough to make the cut.  The same players they stop talking about the moment the draft is announced.

I love watching sports, but let’s face it, these contests are as worldly irrelevant as fennel or Go-bot action figures, and sports talk even more so.  Just let the kids play.  They wouldn’t be complaining if ESPN hadn’t forulated the question for them in the first place.  Being the 19-22 year old kids they are, they know they’ve got  a pretty sweet gig.  It would be a shame if all this false concern ruined the whole thing for them.  Come
on, just play ball!

It’s Just Africa

July 12, 2011

Heard any good knock, knock jokes lately? How about this one?

“Knock, knock!” <Who’s there?>
“African.” <African Who?>
 “A frickin’ continent not a country damn it!”

The author of a new biography about our 44th President’s Kenyan father, Barack Obama Sr. (titled “The Other Barack”) was being interviewed on NPR today and told a story about the main character’s two sisters who ran away from home, only travelling at night to avoid being caught. In her explanation of the journey, she referred to the many wild animals that they were at risk of running across because they were travelling in Africa.  Now, I realize that this is a really bad example, because truly lions and horrible snakes run (and slither) across nearly the entire 11.7 billion square miles of the place, so author Sally Jacobs gets a pass here, but the rest of us really need to quit referring to this collection of fifty plus countries by using the same single identifier.  Africa.

When those of us titter about an exciting trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, do we announce we’re going to climb Africa?  Would it ever be reported about the current invasions of Libya, that America is currently at war with Africa?  Dreamworks titled their cartoon about Moses “Prince of Egypt.”  Shouldn’t it have been called “Prince of Africa?”

Such examples show that we are able to distinguish that there are borders serperating parts of the continent.  Then, why are we ok with such sweeping generalization in other references to the area?  Why is it that all of the United States’ black population is prefaced with the continental title — African?  Tanzanian queen bees were released in Brazil, but the whole continent gets blamed for the African killer bee.  The offense of hunger is attributed to the entire continent so that when George Michael serenades us to feed the world every Christmas, we are meant to assume that everyone is starving from Cape Town, South Africa to Casablanca, Morocco.

SIDE BAR: Regarding Band Aid’s “Do They Know it’s Christmas (Feed the World)?” here are just a few of the lyrics that are particularly touching:

“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time.”

He might as well have pointed out that there won’t be snow in Denver, Co. this 4th of July because December is part of that hemisphere’s Summer time.  Morocco, in fact, has ski resorts; South Africa bumps right up against the Antarctic, and Mt. Kilimanjaro is most times of year topped with a smear of the white stuff.

“Where the greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.”

How interesting that George Michael and the band think that they will be receiving a greater gift than life this year.

From Nationalgeographic.com http://on.natgeo.com/hyNUvQ

“Where nothing ever grows.  No rain nor river flows.”

Really? Then, what’s that    ————–>

“Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

They may, but considering almost 70% celebrate non-Christian faiths, the continent as a whole probably doesn’t really care.

We can probably place most of the blame on the 80’s for the United States citizenry being completely ignorant about the second largest continent on the planet.  It was in the 80’s, after all, when Jesse Jackson crammed the title of “African American” into our culture.  That was when Hollywood was singing at us and telethoning at us for money and food to air drop over the continent.  It was when celebrities declared “We are the world.”

Hopefully I’ll get to go visit the motherland some day and it will all make sense.  A friend of mine and I are talking about making the trip, you know, just throw a dart and go where it lands.  His name is Chad, but I just call him Africa.

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