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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Losing Our Heads Over Stereotypes

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 17, 2009

Muzzammil Hassan was tired of the post-September 11th stereotypes of Muslims being put into play by the American media, and rightfully so. At a time when it was all too easy to believe that most of the world’s Muslims were a blood thirsty band of maniacs just looking for an American to kill and with American televangelists calling Islam Satan’s religion, Hassan started thinking about a way to make a difference, a way to project Islam in America in a more positive light. Being a media-savvy guy, he had an idea– an English language cable channel featuring positive Islamic stories and Islamic lifestyles. This is America and people believe what they see on TV; why not give them some positive Muslim imagery to combat the dark stereotypes?

Hassan launched the hopefully-named Bridges TV in Orchard Park, NY, home of the Buffalo Bills and not an area renowned for its inclusivity or deep thinking on racial issues. His programming choices were guided by his founding ethos of portraying Muslims in America as they are– your neighbors, your shopkeepers, your friends.

Mr. Hassan’s message of tolerance, inclusivity– really, sameness to every other American– took a slight detour late last week when Mr. Hassan turned himself in to Orchard Park police for the act of ritually beheading his wife– the mother of his four and six year old children– who was in the process of filing for divorce from Hassan. The beheading, which took place in the studios of Bridges TV, was portrayed as an honor killing in Mr. Hassan’s confession. Apparently the beatings that he was delivering his wife in the months before her ritual slaughter– the police had been called to the hosue several times fo domestic violence complaints– were also designed to increase Hassan’s honor.

This abominable behavior isn’t characteristic of the Islamic community in America; the people who engage in this stuff who happen to be Islamic are no less of a lunatic fringe than Christians who blow up abortion clinics and murder doctors “in the name of god” or Jews who become ensnared by the insane teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Now if only the guy who was working so hard to get the message of Islamic “sameness” in America out there wasn’t also the same guy who ritually beheaded his wife in an honor killing we’d have a much easier task of convincing the average Christian American that all Islamic Americans aren’t practicing a religion that demands killing pretty much everyone else. That slap you just heard was the entire respectable body of Americans who practice Islam doing a face palm over this thing.

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Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Human Rights, Jerks, Television | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

David Letterman At His Best

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 12, 2009

Joaquin Phoenix has apparently lost his mind but discovered recreational pharmaceuticals. The video is almost ten minutes; if you can’t watch the whole thing, watch a minute or two up front and cut to about 9.10, for Letterman’s money quote. Hysterical.

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Television | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Quoting the Wabbit, Ignoring the Backpack

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 3, 2009

“Eeeeeeh, watch me paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful, pachydermous, percussion pitch.” – Bugs Bunny

As the father of two preschool aged kids, I watch a lot of cartoons and kids’ programing… probably more than any of us should. Aside from the bland animation offered by the finest CGI labs in all of Seoul and Yokohama,  the scripts written by milquetoast scribners and then massaged to death by a battery of Ed.Ds on Noggin or PBS really stand out as a huge change from the cartoons and, ahem, educational programming of my youth back in the middle and late Seventies.

If I said “What’s up, Doc” you’re going to know who said it, even though Bugs first intoned that line nearly 70 years ago. Anybody willing to lay odds on how many people will recall who said “Swiper no swiping!” in 2079? Bugs, of course, was the proverbial quote mill– from “Ain’t I a stinker” to “Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricaseeing rabbit without a fricaseeing rabbit license?”. Why was a grey rabbit able to capture the vernacular and mood of his age in ways that we would never dream of letting Woo Woo Wubbzy or Franklin do today? Hell, someone opined that a Teletubbie was gay and we lost our collective minds a few years back; meanwhile Bugs told what, seven generations of kids, “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out alive”. What a bunch of ultramaroon’s we’ve become.

Maybe the golden age of Warner Brother’s cartoons coincided with an age where the words had more meaning than the pictures, an age we live in the mirror image of today. We do see echoes of Bugs’ smart ass ways in many of today’s feature length animations; watch Madagascar or Shrek and you’re going to come across a hell of a lot of double entendres clearly aimed at the folks paying for the tickets rather than for the little ones. Even that, though, shows a marked departure from the Bunny’s ways; when Bugs said “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?” or “Here I go with the timid little woodland creature bit again. It’s shameful, but…ehhh, it’s a living.”, you know the writers weren’t targeting Mom & Dad.

I’m not trying to say that there’s no good kid’s programming– Curious George is actually pretty funny on PBS in a very innocent way– but there’s nothing with the edge that Bugs or Woody Woodpecker brought to the small screen. It’s an interesting question to ponder– in an age where our children would rank as technological geniuses compared to kids of my generation or our parents’, have we dumbed them down so far sociologically that they can’t handle edgy humor? Spongebob is probably as close as we get today, but that doesn’t have anything like the wit of the original Looney Toons despite its crude humor. The Simpsons did a decent job in the early days of its run, but that’s another brand of cartoon entirely.

It seems to me that in the high-def colours of today’s cartoons we’ve lost the nuance that the black & white or scratchy Technicolor ‘toons of old were able to convey. Sure, Bugs didn’t have to deal with political correctness– every cop had an Irish brogue you could cut with a knife and was usually named Clancy– but it went beyond that. When Bugs talked, you learned something about the culture of the day the cartoon was shot– gritty, strapped, lush or worried. After watching Handy Manny on Disney today, I can only hope that my grandkids aren’t sitting around someday saying that you could tell anything about the culture of this decade by watching that.

“Well, goodbye… and don’t think it hasn’t been a little slice of Heaven. ‘Cuz it hasn’t.”

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Television | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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