WTF do the Huxtables have to do with the DNC?

Seriously, if I hear one more talking head tell me the Obamas had to “rebrand” themselves into the Huxtables tonight…

They clearly attempted to show themselves as a relatable, average family. But the Huxtables? Really? Because the only way the American public could understand what a wholesome, loving black family is like is if they’re rebranded into the Huxtables?

Honestly, STFU, punditry.

Systemic, economic explanations of human behavior? BORING!

Courtney Martin at Feministing has this really troubling post about being contacted by a morning news program about a story on a social networking site for women looking for sugar daddies (ick, reminds me of this post). After telling the producer what she’d say about some of the social and economic factors that often lead women to seek financial support in men, instead of simply calling these women trash, as the producer wanted, Courtney heard nothing back from them. That just wasn’t good TV. They wanted something a little more… “feisty.”

This is not entirely unexpected, but so bothersome when you hear about how calculated TV news is in a real instance. News media must make money. Sensationalism brings in the viewers and the money. Blaming individuals and framing a debate as a cat fight is sensational. Legitimate, boring explanations that have to do with money and social inequality…meh, we’ll pass. This really is so frustrating.

With stakes like these in the mainstream media, it’s hard to imagine real social change being instigated in these traditional forums…This is part of the reason I’m so grateful for alternative media (like Democracy Now! just as an example), and especially for the existence of blogs. I know we always question just what kind of impact or influence blogs have, but just think where we’d be without them. Though the audiences for blogs are self-selected and certainly more limited than the audience that would be watching the morning news show Courtney was asked to speak on, the very fact that we can turn to Feministing to hear about this instance and to hear the very arguments Courtney wanted to share on TV is a huge step forward. It’s progress, and I think an essential part of the path to positive social change.

Dora the Explorer and the global economy

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Check out this wonderfully enlightening piece from Bitch Magazine about the socioeconomic realities of U.S. consumer relationships with Latina labor, in contrast to the unreality American parents love about the hit children’s cartoon Dora the Explorer. Here’s just a sample:

Throughout her adventures, Dora enjoys an unusual geographic mobility, crossing landscapes but never distinct borders, always returning home rather than staying somewhere new. Her animated domain is devoid of references to social class, labor, or a currency-based economy.

But in reality, Dora is less a global citizen than a global commodity, a marketing dream of multicultural merchandise that simultaneously appeals to Anglo and Latino parents and children. Ultimately, Dora is the product of a global television market and serves the transnational capital interests of Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon, and Mattel, whose subsidiary Fisher-Price makes Dora toys that are sold worldwide. As the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood documents, the Dora franchise has earned over $3.6 billion dollars in retail sales since debuting in 2000.

Dora’s starring role in the lucrative global television market stands in sharp contrast to the role real Latinas have played in a more literal form of television production, in which maquiladora trumps exploradora. First created in the 1960s, maquiladoras are foreign-owned Mexican factories in which imported raw materials and components are assembled into products that are exported for sale. Women constitute about 80 percent of the maquiladora workforce; according to Maquilapolis, a documentary by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, women are recruited because factory owners consider them docile low-wage laborers.

Ah, I just love hard-hitting, pop cultural criticism.

New MTV show to unspoil spoiled rich kids?

Latoya at Racialicious brings MTV’s latest “reality” tv endeavor to our attention:

Watching My Super Sweet 16 can give us a glimpse of “the good life.” Amidst the demanding divas and epic meltdowns that lead up to insanely over-the-top teenage birthday bashes, we get a look at the posh lives of wealthy families. And while we take that often envious look at how the other half lives, how many of us sit there wishing that these spoiled teens could be slapped with a serious dose of reality?

Wish no more, because they’re about to get Exiled! Fed up with their seemingly endless mooching, their parents have had enough of this Sweet 16 set and are ready to send them away to learn the lesson of a lifetime. They’ve arranged to place their children in remote parts of the world with host families who have never tasted anything close to the high society life.

A few years after tossing the parties that made them stars in their schools and fueled rivalries among the rich kids, you’re going to see some of the Sweet 16-ers you loved to hate the most — Ava, Sierra, Amanda, Bjorn, Marissa, Chelsi, Meleny and Alex — shipped away from their plush homes and easy lives and Exiled to foreign locations such as the jungles of the Amazon, the tundra of the Arctic Circle, the Andes mountains and remote islands in the South Pacific where they’ll have to live like local commoners with none of the amenities of their normally privileged lives.

So, here’s the thing, I’ve complained about a billion times about how MTV’s reality tv either shows the ridiculously fabulous and trivial lives of the wealthy or the “trashy” and drama filled lives of the lower-middle class (shows like True Life, Engaged and Underaged) with virtually no in between, where poverty and wealth are spectacles which really define the characters and plot.

This is something relatively new, of course. For a change, we’ll see these rich kids not getting everything they want. But I’m with Latoya in her first objection:

One, they are only gone for a week. A WEEK! How is a week going to undo a whole lifetime of obnoxious behavior?

This totally reminds me of those Spring Break trips college kids can do to find out how hard it is to be homeless, where they’ll live on the streets for that week. I’m sure it’s an eye-opening experience, but I don’t know why we should kid ourselves into thinking so short a trip to the “other side” will create anything close to actual empathy or down-to-earthness. I’ll be surprised if this Exiled show doesn’t embrace such a narrative…

Aside from all this, why do these awakenings have to take place in foreign countries with foreign families? Are we to believe there aren’t families in the U.S. these kids could live with to learn what its like not to have their usual amenities of privilege? Wouldn’t a week with the family who lives just on the other side of the tracks be an even greater shock to the system?

NBA Finals: Ratings, Rivalries, Rigging

Last year when the San Antonio Spurs took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, the television ratings were some of the lowest of all time for Finals games shown during primetime. But last night’s game three in the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics brought the NBA the highest ratings it has seen for an NBA finals game three since 2004, up over 40% since last year.

There are plenty of contributing factors that could be causing this rise in ratings: Kobe Bryant is a show stopper with a major fan-following from all over the country. The NBA itself has been hyping the nostalgia of the series based on the Celtics-Lakers battles of the 80s, and everyone knows viewers love a good rivalry. And maybe, just maybe, the Spurs were too boring to make anyone want to watch, and this ratings boom is simply a natural effect of not having the Spurs involved. I also have a theory that Jack Nicholson and the other celebrities the Lakers draw in provide some interest for our celebrity-obsessed culture.

Additionally, that record-breaking game three last night came on the heels of allegations from the jailbound former referee Tim Donaghy that the NBA told the referees to make sure the Lakers beat the Kings in game six of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, to bring about a game 7 — a game 7 the Lakers eventually won. While this news could certainly raise interest in the goings on of the NBA, it might also raise some doubts about the purity of the buildup to these finals and the neck-and-neck results we’re seeing now.

Kings fans may feel completely ripped off, but fans of other teams too may believe they have grounds to complain as well. For fans of teams from areas less populated than L.A. or Boston, this boom in ratings, as it coincides with allegations of NBA corruption, can give rise to some major conspiracy theories. Major cities like L.A., Chicago, Boston, and New York, bring with them huge populations of potential viewers and merchandise consumers, and since one of the major allegations against the NBA is that it fixed a Western Conference Final game to lift the Lakers over the Kings, many fans (especially embittered fans of the teams who didn’t make it to the finals and got knocked out by those pesky Lakers) might be tempted to jump to some additional conclusions about NBA corruption.

From a business point of view, given the option between, say, a Sacramento team, and a team like the Lakers, it’s clear one result would seem more profitable than the other. Just like, and I’m sure my fellow Jazz fans will agree here, when Michael Jordan, millionaire and marketing man’s dream, won his fifth and sixth titles, that was probably a more appealing result than giving those back-to-basics Jazz from a state with a total population of just over 3 million any title at all. This isn’t to say either of those Jazz-Bulls series was rigged or any games in the 2008 playoffs were rigged so the NBA could get this dream matchup… But the recent allegations make it seem more believable than ever before that it could have happened… Let’s just say I won’t be at all surprised if this series happens to go all the way to a much-hyped game seven.

Jezebel: right on double standards but wrong on solution

Slut Machine at Jezebel has a post about Tyra Banks’ recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, where, along with sharing some of her career strategies, Tyra reiterates that she believes her primary purpose in life is to help young women feel better about themselves. Is this the same Tyra I watch cycle after cycle as she tries to find the one girl who fits a narrow category of beauty most closely? The same Tyra who has told models who look perfect to me their ears stick out too much so they should be aware of this when they style their hair? Yes, it is. And it’s also the same Tyra, Slut Machine notes, who founded “Bankable Productions,” who is earning millions of dollars as a would-be Martha Stewart mogul (who yes, is relevant only because, like Tyra Banks, she is female and has used her name and her image and the TV to make money).

Slut Machine, however, thinks Tyra’s talk about helping people is more a calculated business move than a humanitarian’s confession:

It’s not so weird that we question whether someone is only interested in”instilling self-esteem in young women” when that someone built her empire on a competition-based reality show about modeling. What is weird is that Tyra feels the need to couch her seemingly endless career goals in humanitarianism, as though her ambition needs to have a heart as big as her weave. The answer is that she knows if she doesn’t say that shit, she’ll look like a money-grubbing asshole. The question, however, is: Why aren’t women allowed to be as shamelessly mercenary as men?

And yet, my question is, why are people (even feminist types, like Slut Machine) so unwilling to disapprove of shamelessly mercenary money grubbing, from men and from women? Or instead of arguing that Tyra should forget any do-gooding and just make money like the menz, why not argue that we start holding male money-grubbers to some minimum level of social consciousness?

Or in this case (since I think Tyra must be delusional if she truly thinks she’s doing real good for women by running a competition focused almost solely on external features, and I get the impression Slut Machine agrees with me), why not argue instead that if Tyra is actually sincere, she ought to reevaluate and recognize that there might be better (though perhaps less profitable) methods for helping the ladies…

Retro Recap: Millionaire Matchmaker

While I recognize that last winter’s reality tv doesn’t sound terribly retro, it is the material of a season already ended, which in show biz, is pretty out of fashion. And as there is a bit of a lull between reality tv’s spring cycle and the summer cycle (and therefore, I’m bored), I thought I’d take us back with a series on some of yesterday’s best and worst creations:

While trying to catch episodes of my Bravo-network favorite, Project Runway, last winter, I frequently stumbled upon something called The Millionaire Matchmaker, which follows entrepreneur Patti Stanger’s Millionaire’s Club, a dating service for – you guessed it – millionaires. Sounds simple enough and right on par with TV execs’ obsession with showing us the privileged but dramatic lives of rich people, right? But the show quickly reminds us there is no materialism like gendered materialism!

I was surprised to find that this Millionaire’s Club, is not, it turns out, simply a service for rich and powerful men and women to meet and search for the sparks of romance. Should I really have expected any gender neutrality when it came to a show about dating and money? What Stanger means by “millionaires,” is “millionaire men,” and when she says it’s her job to find them “love,” what she means is to find them hot women who are neither wealthy nor particularly successful. In fact, as I learned watching her interview potential matches for her millionaire clients, the opposite is desired. Stanger told one woman who introduced herself as a doctor to lose the doctor bit because “men don’t want to compete in the bedroom.” Wait, what does being a doctor have to do with competition or the bedroom? Kinky, Patti. Very kinky.

In addition to telling us what it is men want and don’t want, Stanger breaks down what women want, informing one client that no woman will want to date him because he lives in a modest home rather than a flashy apartment.

Are men really so put off by dating intelligent women? Are women really so vain? Why is the expected counterpart to a wealthy man a beautiful woman, rather than a wealthy woman? These stereotypes could be obliterated if people like Stanger didn’t insist on policing the gendered standards of success like it’s her job – even though, I guess technically it is.