Skewed empathy in popular television
At first I avoided Breaking Bad, wary of its gut-wrenching violence (I always get way too attached to TV characters!) - but I eventually gave in, intrigued to watch what's being called one of the best television shows of our time. It's earned that moniker for a reason: I love that programs like Mad Men and Breaking Bad are so rich with deeply-layered meaning and pathos that the nerd in me wants to write an interpretive essay after every episode.
Yet articles like this one remind me how important it is to remain critical of even our favorite shows. Something can be well-acted and affecting while remaining imperfect.
Shows like "Breaking Bad" encourage viewers to relate to men who do truly unspeakable things (poisoning children) while judging their wives for much smaller transgressions (retaliatory affairs). If they stand up to the men in their lives, they're irritating obstacles; if they don't, they're hypocritical colluders.
I'm glad I'm not the only one who's been discomfited by this trend, particularly as seen on Mad Men. True, Betty has been hateful to her children, and that's enough to turn many of us off. But her adulterous one-night stand and second marriage are nothing compared to Don's womanizing - yet she is the one dubbed a "whore" while Don gets to traipse home when it suits him, still the beloved "Daddy" despite his myriad cruelties.
Even the creator of Breaking Bad, when interviewed for the article above, expressed confusion and dismay at the excessive vitriol Skyler garners. At first I was convinced that Betty and company only seem hateful because they're written and directed that way, but now I think maybe audiences are equally to blame for their lack of empathy toward female characters' decisions.
This article, another interesting read, is speaking to the whiteness of popular television, but it also reiterates to me just how many shows, though meant for co-ed audiences, feature male protagonists. Why if a television program, movie, or book has a female lead does it tend to be less popular, less desirable, or less acceptable for men to consume?
Keeping up appearances
An article about how ridiculous it is that Lena Dunham's physical appearance, and frequent nudity on her own television show, offend people more than her actions and words:
It makes me so angry that appearance is still such a qualifier for a woman's success - that people still think they can judge someone's worth based on their physical attributes. I'm just glad I was too young when Titanic came out to realize that people apparently criticized Kate Winslet's weight at the time. Considering elementary-school me thought her the most talented, beautiful actress in the world, what would that have done to my own sense of self-worth?
I wish it were par for the course that young adults grew up watching bodies of every shape, size, color, and persuasion on screens big and small. Something distinctly lacking from our cultural awareness is how different people can be under their clothes; it still surprises me sometimes how uniform the naked bodies in visual media are, which surely does more harm to self-esteem and societal expectations than can be traced.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second presidential term, and Michelle Obama . . . got bangs.
Again, a powerful woman - this time one who worked tirelessly for a year to effect policy change and her husband's re-election - has been reduced to nothing more than her physical qualities by the media's focus. So disappointing (though not necessarily surprising) in this day and age.
Rape culture and misplaced blame
Also so important to me lately are Hila's recent posts, particularly this one on rape culture. How devastating that women continue to be blamed for so many of the world's ills. That women are expected to change their personal behavior to compensate for the wrongdoing of others seems to me like putting a Band-Aid on a gangrenous limb, rather than getting to the poisonous root of the problem and hopefully making all of our lives safer, better.
Beauty hidden in plain sight
I'm always glad to find that I can still be surprised by the moving incandescence of words. Like when Odessa reminds me of this poem, and Rachel gently highlights the rich language latent in classic tomes. As W. B. Yeats said, "The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."
And so I try to sharpen my sensitivity to wonder by diving into books again, particular those that transport me to quiet, sad lives in another time, another land, lovely-gray and far, far away.
1) I still think it yields the best candy, no matter what else we love or hate about this holiday.
2) It also happens to result in great love-themed fragrances from my favorite indie perfumers. One has created a line based on the mystery of untranslatable words; oh how wonderful that with a twist of the imagination, these phrases can be translated, into scent, onto skin:
CAFUNÉBrazilian Portuguese: The act of running one's fingers gently and lovingly through a beloved's hair.(Black tea, toasted sweet tobacco, Sudanese frankincense, cocoa absolute, black pepper and vanilla infused coconut husk)
3) "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." —A. A. Milne
Image credit: "heaven on their minds 02" by Jonna7.