Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Men Need to Get Over It (A Ramble on Women, Men, and Comedy)

One thing that constantly irritates me is seeing praise for women always come down to whether or not they're sexually attractive. A woman could do anything, anything at all, but praise for her is always going to come down to this: "[insert name here] is a world-class marathon runner, a local hero who finds homes for abandoned pets, a distinguished combat pilot and battlefield medic, a brave defender of a woman's right to choose, a Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist who helped bring down a corrupt administration, the woman who singlehandedly saved hundreds of nuns from a missionary fire, who had a number one single for 19 weeks, who invented a new kind of ultra-comfortable desk chair and found a way to build a computer processor so small you could accidentally blow it away, and now she's been nominated for a Nobel Prize for finding a cure for cancer... and she's damn easy on the eyes, too!"

Ugh. How diminunizing is that? All of a woman's accomplishments lead up to her being cute. Or sexy. Or, even better, when you have a woman who clearly isn't that attractive, but is at least very good at something, and the compliments all come down to how being really good at sports or comedy or acting or fighting fires also makes her sexy. Do men only know how to praise women by calling them sexy? Are all of a woman's abilities second to her physical features? Why is that complimentary?

The reason this has reached critical mass for me lately (because it's hardly new and it's always been annoying): Tina Fey. Either there's a Tina Fey backlash or there are just a lot of guys out there who don't like Tina Fey. But what I find really creepy and distressing is that the hatred a lot of people feel for Tina Fey almost always takes a sexual tone. I've read a number of negative reviews of 30 Rock or what have you that always seem to come down to how Tina Fey is almost offensively unfunny and, of course, not remotely sexy. Like that's the kicker: oh, and did I mention that I don't want to fuck Tina Fey at all?! As if that's the biggest insult you can lay on someone: your show is hackneyed, it's not funny, it's actually irritating, oh, and I don't even want to fuck you. Gee, hostile much?

There's this trend of hostility in everything involving the media right now, and it's making real communication, appreciation, and criticism impossible. You see it especially in fandom of just about anything. I'll give you a big example: Dane Cook. Dane Cook has a legion of fans. I didn't know who the guy was until some time in 2005. I checked him out; I wasn't impressed. I didn't think he was funny; I thought he was hostile and aggressive, but I didn't think he was funny. And I found out that going on the internet and saying Dane Cook isn't funny is a sure path to a storm of comments about how you're a fag if you think that. Did I get any criticism? Honest critical responses to my own? No. See, this is criticism: Personally, I like Dane Cook. I find his delivery funny, but I like this new comedy style of sort of over-talking a point. He's like an amusing, wry storyteller who shares his foibles for laughs. He may not be Richard Pryor, but I enjoy him. I guess comedy is subjective, but there you go. This is not criticism: Fuck you, fag, Dane Cook is a genius!!! And you're wrong, because look how much money he's made!!!!!!!

This hostility out there... I don't get it. I don't get how you not agreeing with somebody is some sort of threat to your personal well-being. If you're that attached to a comedian you will never meet and don't know personally and are not employed by, there is something wrong with your perspective that needs to be fixed.

So, back to Tina Fey. It's not really here nor there for the purposes of this post, but I like Tina Fey very much. I think she's funny, I think 30 Rock is hilarious, I thought Mean Girls was hilarious, and I find her in interviews to be very, very smart. I like the way she speaks her mind. I like that, during her Playboy interview, she blasted Playboy for helping to push an insensitively unrealistic view of women (the interviewer, typically, seemed offended). And, apart from that, I also find her very sexy. But, I don't know, if I were writing a post just devoted to how intelligent I think she is, would I need to mention that she's hot? Does that make her accomplishments more worthwhile? And, if she wasn't intelligent or funny, would that be excusable just because she's so hot? I mean, I think Amy Poehler's hilarious, but I don't think she's attractive. Does it matter? It doesn't stop me from watching her in stuff, because I think she's funny. On the flip side, I think Sarah Silverman is sexy as hell, but I don't find her funny at all. I don't watch stuff just because she's in it, because she doesn't make me laugh. Why does anyone's talent have a bearing on how hot they are? Or vice versa?

I don't know. By this point it's purely academic.

But I'll tell you what pissed me off. I read a blog post (that I refuse to link to) that just blasted Tina Fey for two things she said in a recent interview. The first was this: “I think male comedy is more boisterous. Usually it involves robots and sharks and bears. Female comedy is more likely to be about the minutiae of human behavior and relationships.” The blogger immediately took offense at that, assuming that Fey meant that female humor was smarter than male humor. I think what she really meant was that female humor had a different perspective than male humor. Probably, you know, a female perspective. Sure, she simplified it, but I think that's what she meant. Here's the part that's really hilarious to me, though: for decades, there was a mainstream opinion that women just weren't funny. That they couldn't do comedy because they weren't funny and incapable of doing great stand-up. And this blogger falls right back into that mode, telling Fey that he can't think of a single funny comedienne, so obviously female humor isn't smarter than male humor at all. It's pretty sad; also, it's hilarious.

The new stereotype men seem to be getting defensive about is whether or not male humor is stupid. Men freak out when you tell them that stuff, and it's hilarious. It's become quite trendy, I think, for women to point out that male humor celebrates juvenile behavior and childish attitudes. It's so trendy that sometimes women get it wrong. Knocked Up is a perfect example. Katherine Heigl lost any number of male fans (myself included, I admit) by slagging off the movie that made her a bankable movie star for, in her opinion, painting women as uptight shrews and celebrating drug-addled slackers and saying it's preferable to be a loser. And a number of people seem to be of that opinion. Which is, I'm sorry, an incorrect opinion. Whatever you think of the movie, that's not the point. The point is that it's not preferable to be a loser. Maybe the tone is just off, but it's basically another of Judd Apatow's chick flicks for guys. It's about finding yourself inside the Maxim culture we've lived in for the last 12 years or so, which writes off the most disgusting aspects of male behavior as the "truth" of maleness, as though we're all the same loser who loves bongs, beer, tits, sports bars, Girls Gone Wild, The Man Show, date rape, frat pranks, baseball caps, and Axe body spray or else, you know, we're not men. That shit pisses me off, and it has for the last decade. At some point, as some reaction to feminism, misogyny actually became cute, then it became acceptable, and now it's hostile and directed. Are we supposed to be the perpetual 25 year-old undergrad party animal? Because, I promise you, that just ain't a way to live. So now we live in a world where 1 of 4 high school girls has a sexually transmitted disease, because the Maxim culture and its creations, like that douchebag Joe Francis, have told girls that they're only worthwhile if they party as hard as guys, pound as much beer as guys, make out with girls at parties to prove how much fun they are, and submit to any guy who just can't keep his hands off of her, no matter how old or inappropriate. Yeah, I understand where Katherine Heigl is coming from, but she's wrong when it comes to Knocked Up, because that guy accepts his responsibilities, gets a job, puts down the bong, and provides as best he can for his new family. That's the message of that movie. The message of The 40 Year-Old Virgin is that being hung up on sex is no way to find happiness, because a relationship with a woman you love is more important. Even Superbad carries a point that the Maxim life is hollow and disappointing, and that everyone is more comfortable just being themselves. I'm sorry Parker Posey can't see that.

Anyway, back to Tina Fey. Here's the other part that made this idiot blogger angry. She's down on The Daily Show. When asked of she preferred laughter or applause, she said: "Laughter. You can prompt applause with a sign. My friend, SNL writer Seth Meyers, coined the term clapter, which is when you do a political joke and people go, 'Woo-hoo.' It means they sort of approve but didn’t really like it that much. You hear a lot of that on [whispers] The Daily Show.” And this guy goes fucking ballistic over it, calling Jon Stewart the "unofficial spokesman for my generation." I don't understand why it is that saying you don't like The Daily Show makes you an even bigger asshole than saying you don't like Dane Cook, but it sure does. I once wrote a post about how I don't like The Daily Show; that I thought it was funny back when no one was watching it and Craig Kilborn was hosting, but that once The Daily Show started to act like it was a legitimate news outlet, it started believing its own hype and playing to a specific audience who didn't necessarily like humor as much as they liked having their own opinions repeated to them. Sorry, but that's how I feel about Stewart. He's not necessarily unfunny, but he's not really that funny, either, and The Daily Show is a little too smug for me. But someone went nuts on that post and practically called me a traitor to my generation for not bowing down to hail the almighty Daily Show. Why this is such a big deal I have no idea, except that we're a culture of outrage right now, and the only way people deal anymore with differing opinions is to become outraged. As if me not liking The Daily Show or you liking it makes any difference for anything whatsoever.

And what really pissed me off is the smug, sexual tone of the post. The theme was, I'm not joking, that this guy certainly wasn't going to sleep with Tina Fey now that she's made him feel small and threatened by not liking the things he's into. Seriously. Like this is the biggest insult you could ever give Tina Fey: yeah, you're hot, but I'll never fuck you because you don't think Jon Stewart is a genius! Where the hell does that come from? How does that constitute a reasonable or even funny reaction? Ouch, look out Tina Fey, some blogger doesn't want to fuck you anymore. That must really hurt.

But that's where men still try to hurt women, no matter the subject. Another example: for some reason, there's this huge backlash against Diablo Cody for winning an Oscar for Juno. I don't know why or where it comes from, but there's a difference in saying she didn't deserve it and posting nude pictures of her and reminding everyone she was a stripper because you think that's something she should be ashamed of. I don't know why a naked woman is supposed to be such an embarrassment, anyway; the real embarrassment to me is that people in America are so freaked out by knowing a woman has a cooch (they can't even say vagina) that they think it's the ultimate way to insult her. Ha ha, you have the normal reproductive and sexual organs of an anatomically correct, biologically accurate person of your gender! Yeah! What the hell? Why is it that Diablo Cody is singled out in the first place? The real question here is not whether she should be embarrassed or not (and to her great credit, she wasn't), but why her detractors think it's appropriate to shame her in the worst way they can think of just for winning an award they didn't think she deserved? That's one step removed from I'm going to rape you to show you how much I hate your accomplishments.

The defense of that blog post is that it was tongue-in-cheek. But I don't think it is. That's not funny. Oh, Tina Fey hates male comics and my leader Jon Stewart, so I'm going to withhold sex from her is not really tongue-in-cheek, no matter how much the author tries to pretend it is. It comes out of a place of genuine anger; it's like tearing up your computer with a sledgehammer and then finding Bill Gates and raping him in the skull because you hate Vista: entirely out of proportion to the disagreement.

I think whomever wins the election is probably the least of our worries these days. There's something fundamentally wrong with the way we treat each other. That's my ramble.


Splotchy said...

Nice post.

I posted a jokey little thing about Diablo Cody a while back -- it still bothers me a bit -- I don't know if I was falling into the thought patterns of the blogger you speak of here. I went back and forth with it, but eventually decided to post it.

Just curious, what does Parker Posey have to do with stuff?

lastvisibledog said...

Yeah, you are entirely on the mark here, well written, well thought out.

I have noticed similar things not in regard to the guy/girl thing that you speak, but I think related, this place we have come where our entertainment is now something that defines us - so much so, that to not like something (or conversely, like something that someone else thinks of as stupid) is tantamount to a personal insult and deserves some sort of duel to the death.

I don't know, I just can't get that worked up personally about TV shows and comedians and whatever, but some people are so drenched in the popular culture that their vision of the actual landscape is obscured to a degree that they feel this is something that matters beyond its role as stuff that gets us through life a little easier. Considering some of the reactions I've seen by people in regard to disagreements about TV shows or movies, it's not hard for me to see how endless wars start over religious beliefs.

This is a lot of the reason I got rid of cable, stopped reading entertainment mags, stopped listening to the radio . . . I just didn't want to be part of this weird culture of obsession and hostility anymore.

Anyhow, you hit the nail on the head.

Phillip A. Ellis said...

I don't know if this helps, but I don't treat women like that. Growing up with a strong mother, two strong grandmothers, two strong sisters, strong cousins, and a strong niece, I have come to learn to accept women as people, not just someone who deserves a fuck if I like them, a rape if I don't. It is simple, really: they're somebody's mother, somebody's grandmother, cousin, sister, daughter or niece and, just as you should hate to see the same things done to and said about your relatives, so you should feel the same about other women, and, for that matter, for all people, irrespective of whether they are men, women, or transgender.

Jess Wundrun said...

Your ramble was well-conceived, planned and written. I, for one agreed with you completely until you started talking about Jon Stewart.

Then I realized that you are an enormous asshole with no taste in comedy whatsoever. I've never seen much of this Dane Cook person, but since you hate him, I'm sure that he's a genius because you obviously have too small of a dick to even comprehend good comedy.

Jess Wundrun said...

April Fool's, Samurai.

That was a great piece all the way through, (though I have always liked Jon Stewart. He used to have a show on the first Comedy Channel where he introduced short stand up clips. I digress).

I think it's like that all over. I used to spend too much time on a political blog that had both righties and lefties fighting it out.

If I was making particularly salient points, the nearly all-male rightwing reviewing stand of trolls would come back with: well I bet your fat, and you only post here because nobody will sleep with you.


I am waiting for that pendulum to swing.

SamuraiFrog said...

Splotchy: Ah, I didn't explain that. Parker Posey recently dismissed Superbad and Knocked Up as typical disgusting frat comedies that did nothing for our culture.

John: You nailed it there. I've argued a lot in the past that pop culture is important as an indicator of the populace; what they choose to celebrate, what they give their money to, what they turn into a phenomenon, says a lot about the culture itself. That's why Harlan Ellison used to review television shows. But the idea that the pop culture artifacts themselves are important is frankly ridiculous. They're just things and people get overly attached to them.

I just want to drop out of it more and more. I like my cartoons and Muppets and such, but there are more important things in life.

Phillip: I certainly don't either, though I see it a lot (especially here in a college town). I've felt this coming for a long time, ever since The Man Show came on. Respect, politeness, nicety... I live with those, especially with people I don't know very well. But in America there is such a sense of entitlement, and young men are encouraged to act that way; they've been convinced that the most stereotypical aspects of malehood are the truth of their nature.

Jess: Nicely done.

I see a lot of that online; hell, I've been on the receiving end of it, which is part of the reason I don't talk politics as much as I used to. Even the lefties will turn on you for not toeing the line eventually. And it all gets personal, which is ridiculous.

Don't hold your breath on that pendulum. It'll happen, I'm sure, just not soon.

lastvisibledog said...

I know someone who used to bully me into discussions about Lost just so he could yell at me because I was wrong, Lost sucked.

I tried to explain to him that I really enjoyed it and was perfectly content to continue enjoying it - and that I was also perfectly content to let him continue to not enjoy it. Further, I didn't see the point in arguing so intensely about a TV show. It really didn't matter.

But he just wouldn't ever let up.

As time passed, I kept finding him doing the same thing about other topics. More and more, I kept finding that I just had to avoid certain things for fear of him blowing a gasket, getting offended and insulting me.

Then I realized that the Lost thing was just an indicator of a much deeper problem in the person. The worst part of it is I recognize him in what you wrote here and all I can really offer is that what you talk about is an indicator of a much deeper problem in a lot of people having to do, I suspect, with a level of dissatisfaction about life, as well as an emptiness at what they do fill their minds with . . . plus a level of arrested development that seems all too prevalent in the US.

So, yeah, dropping out and stepping back . . . I have learned that speaking to crazy people is destructive. If you engage them in any way whatsoever - even acknowledging that you understand the references in their mad ravings - you are engaging them and inviting them to get in your face and scream. I got tired of that. Now you're getting tired of it. The cycle continues . . .

Brick said...

I like Jon Stewart, though your criticisms are not invalid. However, the people who feel the Daily Show needs militant defense have missed the point. I think the original idea is that the populace should not accept uncritically the words and deeds of their political leaders. If the audience has decided to replace that with uncritical acceptance of everything said on the Daily Show, then somebody has failed.

SamuraiFrog said...

John: Sometime I'll write about my brief involvement with Robert E. Howard fandom. Those people turned me off to fandom of any kind. I got involved in the same kinds of back and forths, and it just doesn't mean anything.

Brick: Perfectly spoken; that's what I've been trying to say and just couldn't figure out how to. But I'm going to quote that to about nine different people.

angry ballerina said...

Everyone has already pretty much posted my thoughts already on your post. It in a word, was fucking awesome. I wish I could say something witty and funny here, but, you know, I'm a chick, and you may not understand it because you have a penis.

(you DO have a penis, right?)

SamuraiFrog said...

I sure do, AB. Thanks for the "fucking awesome."

Swinebread said...

for some reason, there's this huge backlash against Diablo Cody for winning an Oscar for Juno

that truth proves your whole argument

Megan said...

Interesting. But isn't there a bit of a disconnect between what you say here, and the images that you post of the female of the species?

Of course we all like to look at pretty people. I just find it interesting that I had to scroll past "Mandy Pants" and Keeley Hazell to get to this rant.

SamuraiFrog said...

Swinebread: I don't know if it proves anything so much as I'm just confused by it.

Megan: I don't think there is a disconnect, really. In neither of those posts am I saying that their sexiness or gender has any bearing on their worth or talent. I think it's possible to appreciate a woman's sexuality or attractiveness without attaching a societal value on it or thinking it's some kind of accomplishment.

Megan said...

Ok, I guess I can appreciate that.

Sarah said...

I doubt Tina Fey cares what some anonymous jerk has to think about her physical appearance. She's married and has a daughter. She has a happiness these losers will probably never experience.

Great post, btw!

Charles said...

I disagree with some of your opinions and agree with others. So now I'm confused about whether I should hate you or love you. Damn! One-dimensional thinking is hard.

Anonymous said...

i for one would be down with skull-raping bill gates for vista. i think that's totally appropriate.

"I like Jon Stewart, though your criticisms are not invalid. However, the people who feel the Daily Show needs militant defense have missed the point."

i think that's absolutely right. hell, jon stewart himself doesn't even bother to defend "the daily show." whether on billO or taking on tucker, the first thing he does is throw "the daily show" under a train -- "We come on right after, I believe, puppets that make crank calls." you know?

SamuraiFrog said...

Megan: I just hope it doesn't come across as a double standard, because it's not meant to be one.

Sarah: I know! The idea that she would even give a damn is hilarious enough on its own.

Charles: Ha! Nice.

Anonymous: Yeah, there's a bit of a detachment from the objective of the show and the staunch defenders. I've always appreciated that about Stewart; it's funny that people on right wing shows try to tear him down when he's never made the claim himself that he's some kind of newsman.

The real question as it applies is, I think, why do people need everyone to agree with them so damn much?

Boo Ray said...

Yeah, Dane Cook just isn't funny. His material isn't coherent and he's not quick enough on his feet to improvise.

Is it cool to be a looser? It used to be that the jerk ass bully in high school was likely the looser fool at the 10 year reunion. That ain't cool.

epileptikitty said...

After reading Achewood (best online comic - Time Magazine) I realized: men are funny because we are so histrionic about our problems. Our tragedies are funny because we are disposable. It's ok if one of us bites it; humanity lives on.

A woman's tragedy is tragic because she is not disposable.

SamuraiFrog said...

Boo Ray: It depends on who you're dealing with. I see kids every day who appreciate the short term gain of attention far more than the idea that they could be successful. One of the more annoying things about teaching.

This seems to be an America where everyone's waiting to be discovered instead of making their own way.

Eplieptikitty: That's a fascinating way to put it, and I admit I hadn't thought of that before.