Usually I look forward to September because it’s the time of all things new. Yet over the past few years my enthusiasm for this time of year has waned. At first I put it down to not having finished my dissertation. There’s no small amount of anxiety that comes with realizing that it’s the start of a new school year and I still don’t have my PhD in hand. But this year I realized it’s not just because I’m still a grad student, a significant part of my dwindling excitement has to do with a lack of decent entertainment. September’s the time of year when new shows start, new games come out, and the fashion industry offers us fresh, exciting ways to express ourselves. It’s almost like Christmas with all the anticipation and excitement. Yet lately, everywhere I look it’s the same old narrow vision of what is supposed to be interesting, appealing, edgy, beautiful, engaging, etc. This year I can’t help noticing that it is all…so…boring! It’s so tiresomely boring that this song by The Pierces seems to be playing on repeat in my head. I think we should officially make it the theme song for September 2011.
Now I wouldn’t say I’m bored by the same things they are, never having tried heroin or marriage, but I can’t help feeling as bored by the entertainment industry as they sound by NYC, girl-on-girl action, and ménage-a-trois’s.
There was a time when I used to love watching TV. At its best it can be fun and silly and interesting and an escape from all of the things you don’t feel like thinking about just then. Every year, though, the girls get thinner and more perfect (plastic) looking and their roles become narrower or are less developed. Every year white males remain firmly at center stage and, overall, the casts are so blindingly white it hurts my eyes. It’s all… so… BORING! Even shows that seem to be making honest attempts to move past these limitations fail so miserably it’s hard to care that they tried.
Take, for instance, The Walking Dead. This is a show that by all accounts I should love. It’s on a smaller network so it doesn’t have to be as conservative as the shows that run on, say, FOX; it’s a horror show and, for reasons that escape me, I like horror; and it starts off with a cast that is more diverse than your average big network show. There’s an Asian dude, an Hispanic family, an African American girl and dude, and then, of course, at least as many white people as all of the visible minorities combined. Hey, at least they’re making an effort.
But, predictably, the Asian guy is really smart and was a pizza delivery boy before the Zombie outbreak. The Hispanic family seems to literally be in the show just for colour and, by the end of the season, they go off on their own. The African American women dies at the end of the season but, of course, the Wise Old White Man is saved because we couldn’t have the Wise Old White Man die! That would be too sad. So what are we left with? Asian dude and Black dude. Of course, the two trigger-happy racist dudes are still alive so that at some point we can see their sensitive side and realize they’re really not that bad, despite being racist.
So Season 2 of The Walking Dead, which is set to premiere in October, is going to be a predominantly white cast focused primarily on the male characters with the female characters there to provide romantic conflicts, food, and a touch of sensitivity or empathy when it’s required. All I can say is… BORING! If the less conservative networks are feeding us the same old boring characters I really don’t have much hope for TV. When are producers and executives and writers going to realize that their audience is not going to be threatened by a little variety.
As for comics, to say that it’s the same old stuff would be an understatement. This year DC relaunched 52 titles, a good opportunity to introduce some diversity into their comics. I don’t usually read superhero comics mainly because they’re boring. They’re about underdeveloped female characters with overdeveloped bodies. Their breasts are too often the focus. And sometimes they’re barely more than sexbots. White males, of course, take center stage and visible minorities are nearly nonexistent.
But since this is 2011 and DC decided to relaunch their titles there must be a reason, right? RIGHT? I mean why relaunch if you’re not actually going to do anything more than rehash the same old characters? So I thought I would take a look at some of these relaunched titles only to find that the female characters are largely underdeveloped, their bodies are overdeveloped, their breasts are too often the focus and, in some truly dismal cases like Red Hood and the Outlaws, they’re mere sexbots. White males dominate and there’s very little ethnic or racial diversity. In short, it’s no different from what came before. What can I say other than…BORING!
Games fare no better. I played Dragon Age: Origins recently (it’s an old game by now I know) and while the creators get some points for having in-game dialogue that talks about how badly women are treated, they still couldn’t go so far as to actually dress the characters. I felt uncomfortable every time I had to enter into a conversation with Morrigan because her top is so low cut it’s hard to focus on anything other than her breasts. In fairness, they get it somewhat right in Dragon Age 2 since they actually clothe their female characters but, unfortunately, the cast is still predominantly white and the nonwhite characters are exoticized. What’s so sad is that by mainstream gaming standards Dragon Age is leading the pack in the diversity department.
For instance, compare it to Dead Island. Well it takes place on an island so lots of bikini clad babes. Then of course there’s the pesky fact that they titled one of their characters a “feminist whore” but hey, we shouldn’t get upset because that line of code was never meant to be released anyway. And really, is it any surprise that this happened in an industry that is so boringly, predictably misogynistic.
Fashion? … Boooring! I don’t even have to open a magazine to know that Vogue will feature impossibly thin white women with impossibly perfect skin and hair. And they’ll all be 16 or Photoshopped to look like they’re dressed up 16 year olds. Why the fashion industry thinks that putting clothing on a size 0 16 year old is supposed to make me want to buy clothes that would only fit a size 0 16 year old is beyond me. Every time there’s a scandal, like the current one over the Photoshopped Italian Vogue cover where the model’s waist would make a toothpick look fat, they trot out their usual flippant response. It’s art! It’s edgy! We’re pushing the boundaries of what’s aesthetically appealing. But really how can they say that when it’s more of the same? It can’t be edgy if it’s boring. It’s not aesthetically appealing partly because it’s boring. It’s so boringly predictable that I’m bored just thinking about it.
So, yeah I’m bored with it all. I happen to like people who look like human beings. When I stop watching TV, playing games and looking at magazines I notice how interesting and diverse people are, how their mannerisms, quirks, personalities and supposed imperfections contribute so much to their beauty, and how utterly boring the entertainment industry is in comparison. So instead of watching TV, playing a game, or reading Vogue I think I’ll sit on my balcony and watch real people going about their lives.
Sady Doyle’s comments on the new comedy show Whitney here.
What Fresh Hell is This? comments on the new Zooey Deschanel TV show New Girl here.
hld6 comments on the new Charlie’s Angels here.
Laura Hudson comments on the new Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws comics here.
An article on Italian Vogue’s cover here.
An atricle on Dead Island’s mistake and the gaming industry in general here.