Saturday, 24 January 2015

Do You Have Time To TV?: On Television Overload

Image Credit: Vulture
[click to enlarge]
Have you ever felt like there's just too much television to watch? I have, and it turns out, that's not just in my head. According to the research department at FX networks, there were "328 scripted first-run prime-time programs aired on ad supported or subscription-based broadcast, cable and streaming networks in the U.S." in 2014 alone. That's a whole lot of television. It feels like in the last couple of years, the number of "must watch" and critically acclaimed television shows has increased substantially, and the odds of missing the zeitgeist are high if you aren't paying rapt attention. How anyone could even attempt to keep up with 180 scripted show a year is beyond me, and that doesn't even take into account reality television staples like The Bachelor or American Idol.

Personally, as a teenager I never used to watch more than 2-4 hours of television a week. I kept up with 7th Heaven, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl. That was it. But when I got to college and I started having to watch everything online, I started picking up new shows to fill in the gaps in my boredom. I wasn't tied to the television anymore, and I could finally watch whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Being an international student in a new environment and away from everything that was familiar to me, it felt like a blessing to be able to stay inside, away from the hellishily cold tundra of Boston, and let myself be completely absorbed into all kinds of different stories, and no longer have any limits on time. I mainlined all of Lost, Ugly Betty, 90210, and Desperate Housewives in my freshman year alone. And that was before binge-watching even really became a "thing." When I discovered Hulu, it became so much easier to keep up with several shows at once, and each season I added new great shows to the roster. Some survived (Grey's Anatomy, picked up in my sophomore year) and some didn't (State of Georgia, cancelled my junior year) but there was always something new being recommended online as the new best show that I felt like I had just had to watch.

But right now, there's so much on my schedule that I spent all of the winter hiatus catching up on back episodes of pretty much everything from Homeland to American Horror Story to Arrow. Last year the fervor surrounding the imminent end of Breaking Bad left me feeling positively bullied into catching up. (I did, and it was great. #RIPHank) But conversely, it's made me realize that sometimes shows suck, and it's okay not to watch them even if everyone else still is. There's no point devoting hours of my life to television that I no longer enjoy. My new approach has been to put some shows on the "cancellation watchlist." Basically, those are shows I'll get into when they either naturally end or get cancelled. Top of that list is The Good Wife, and next in line is Shameless. Both Damages and Weeds have been on that list forever and I have no idea when I'll get around to them. For the shows that have only recently premiered, I've opted to wait out the season and watch them while they're on hiatus. Last week I finally got through Penny Dreadful (which I'll probably be dropping to be honest) and True Detective and Transparent are next on my binge list.

Since I generally prefer to align my critical focus on the intersection of feminism and pop culture, I often feel like there are certain things that I have to watch in order to be able to fully participate in conversations about how media influences our perceptions of the world. I feel like I have to be able to understand the reference points that television is using, so that I'm better able to critique them constructively. I resisted Game of Thrones for three seasons before I finally caved, but now I've realized that for some things, resistance in futile.

While I'll definitely be trimming my television schedule this year, I'm also going to be open to making room for great television. The Fosters is a show that I resisted watching because I thought my plate was already too full, but it turns out that the reason it has such a large fan base is because the show is genuinely excellent. (Seriously, go watch it. Right now) The same goes for Reign and Chicago Fire. And while I don't think I really ever have to get to everything that ever premieres on television, isn't it kind of awesome that there are so many options now? There's something for everyone, and there is a lot of choice. I can't really say that's a bad thing.

What about you? Do you ever feel bogged down by your television watching schedule? Have you ever dropped shows because you weren't interested anymore? Have you ever picked up shows because you felt left out of the conversations about them? Are there any shows you're planning to catch up on? Any shows you're sad to see go? Tell me about it in the comments.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Best of BattyMamzelle: Top 10 Essays of 2014

Best of BattyMamzelle 2014

It's that time again! The new year is upon us, but as is tradition, I wanted to take some time to look back at some of the essays I wrote last year that I'm particularly proud of or that I thought made a significant impact, in the spirit of feigned introspection. Quite a lot happened in the feminist blogosphere last year, and while I didn't write about all of it, I'm proud of the contributions I did make. Back in November I started my Masters Program in Mass Communications, and one of the things I've learned is that media is so important to the way we perceive the world. So while some might think my focus on "pop feminism" is trivial, I know that it's one of the most important battlegrounds of diverse representation in culture. So here, in descending order are the ten essays I wrote in 2014 that I consider to be my best, even if I am a little late to publish!

10. This Year In White Feminism: Greatest Hits of 2014 (Parts OneTwo)
The point of this post is simply to show that anti-intersectionality is a continued pattern of disregard for women of colour, and that when we bring this to your attention, we aren't making it up. White feminism loves to ask for receipts. It loves to gaslight and diminish us. It loves to pretend that our concerns are irrelevant or insignificant. Hopefully this list will serve as a reminder that black women, native women, poor women, trans women are feminists too, and we'd like to be allowed to be part of a movement that claims to advocate for our well-being.
9. Let's Talk About Robin Thicke's Manipulative Ploy To "Get Her Back"
It's lovely that Robin Thicke thinks his marriage is worth saving, but this is not the way to go about it. This entire album, the track names, the hashtag; if this is in fact a sincere effort to "get her back" it's basically a how-to on abuser dynamics. Rather than allowing Patton the time and space to decide whether or not to reconcile in private, with this album, Thicke has effectively enlisted the public to get on his side and pressure her into going back to him, and make her the villain if she refuses. "Oh, but he wrote a whole album about her! He's really sorry!"All while he rakes in the cash, and she loses her resolve to stay away from a man who cheated on her, publicly embarrassed her and ruined a decades long relationship.
8. In Defense of Kim Kardashian (And Her Vogue Cover)
Kim Kardashian might have become famous because of a sex tape, but she stayed famous because she parlayed that notoriety into "respectable" business ventures. She's a business woman; a fact that too many people seem far too reluctant to acknowledge. You don't have to like her, but you do have to respect her and her tactical acumen. Kim Kardashian is in the business of being a celebrity, and it's a game she and her family play very well. We created the demand for a celebrity just like her by continuing to consume what she creates. We don't get to then turn our noses up at her because she got good at getting us.

Monday, 29 December 2014

This Year In White Feminism: Greatest Hits of 2014 (Part Two)

And we're back with Part Two! This year was so awash with white feminist fuckery that I had to compile two lists! Isn't that just delightful fun? Thankfully I'm in a pretty good mood today because I finally got my copy of Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist and there's very little that can bring me down, but this post is already two days late, so let's get down to business. There's much more fuckery to mock and cry over. Don't forget to check out Part One!

11. Emma Watson Thinks Feminism Should Be Nicer To Men: Back in September, real life S.P.E.W. member Emma Watson gave a speech at the UN advocating for the HeforShe "Solidarity for Gender Equality" movement. The speech was a direct appeal to men to get involved in the fight for gender equality because of the varying ways that the patriarchy hurts men too. She asked me to think of their sisters, wives and daughters, and the mainstream media ate that shit up. But as good as Emma's intentions were (and I genuinely believe they were good) her speech once again asked us to centre men in a movement meant to benefit women. It also ignored an intersectional approach that would have focused more resources to help women of colour and poor and working class women, in favour of... making sure men felt more welcome. While I don't remember who said it first, (I think I first heard it from Roxane Gay, but if you know for sure, let me know!) [EDIT: I'm told it was actually Kelly Temple!] I think it's important to remember that men shouldn't be asking us to make feminist spaces more comfortable for them. They should taking the spaces they occupy in the world, and making them feminist. Emma's speech asked us to make nice with men instead of asking men to make nice with us.

12. Feminist T-Shirts Made by Economically Depressed Women of Colour: Speaking of intersectionality, while Hermione was asking us to be nice to men and posing for pictures, women in Mauritius were being paid a dollar an hour to fabricate the feminist credentials of many of our favourite celebrities. In other words, hundreds of women were being subjected to unfit working conditions and ushered into the vicious cycle of poverty, while Cumberbatch pointed at his face. Nice. This is one of the reasons that intersectionality is so important. While in the West we might think getting people to identify as  feminists is all it takes, there are women with concerns that are far more pressing; like earning a living wage. Parading their feminism does exactly squat for them, and shaming women who are living paycheck to paycheck for not wanting to align themselves with a movement that has yet to show that it is at all concerned with their interests in bullshit.

13. Lena Dunham Doesn't Pay: During promotion for her book tour, it was revealed that Lena Dunham was not paying the people hired to perform at her appearances, despite the tour being virtually sold out. But don't worry, she changed her mind after she was publicly shamed!

14. Annie Lennox Thinks Lynching Is Universal: Expertly following up her intersectional feminist fail, earlier in the promotion cycle for her new album, Annie Lennox discussed her cover of Strange Fruit, saying:
It's a human theme that has gone on for time immemorial. It's expressed in all kinds of different ways, whether it be racism, whether it be domestic violence, whether it be warfare, or a terrorist act, or simply on person attacking another person in a separate incident.
Ms. Lennox, I'm gonna need you to stop. Strange Fruit is not a metaphor. It is not a broad song that covers all kinds of injustice. It is literally a song about black people being lynched by white people. It's right there in the lyrics. There is zero room for interpretation. For a white artist to cover this song and then try to whitewash it's meaning is active violence against the memory of the African-American people who lost their life due to the deep seated racism of white Americans. There is no generalizing that experience. It is not universal. Annie Lennox can have several seats.