Off Topic Messages

Triumph of the mean spirit

Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:39 am

Inspired by our jump the shark thread I decided to have a look at some of the comments posted on the official site. I was dismayed by the number of downright nasty personal attacks on actors and actresses on the sight. There were also a large number of posts that deconstructed some shows and the fans of those with glee. The point being in many of the posts not criticism but insult. A show that was particularly divisive was the (I thought) much beloved "Mary Tyler Moore Show." The show of course had numerous supporters but it seemed inspire, particularly against Moore herself- "skinny, ugly, wasp queen, never had an orgasm-" an antipathy equal to the love. Now, I realize, like any show, it is not everyone's cup of tea. It just the rancor I couldn't understand.

One poster had an interesting theory. This poster said some people hate the show because they view it as an unrealistic that a shy well meaning stammerer like Mary could ever be successful in the real world. Its struck home with me and I thought; "This is what we are."

Has anyone noticed how nastiness has become the center of our culture today? Despite all our efforts to be sensitive or tolerant or pc we're meaner than ever especially to the individual- groups are cut a break. I remember what a burst of fresh air "Married With Children" was when it came on the air, it was a break from the saccharin phoniness of your standard sitcom. I remember though being distressed later on in the show when the "laugh lines" in the show became more and more unprovoked insults- that often went to elaborate lengths- even more disturbing was the fact that more than laughs these lines elicited cheers. Make no mistake, these were mostly comebacks just insults for their own sake.

Over the years more and more sitcoms have followed this lead even a show like the seemingly good-hearted "King of Queens". Though friends most of the main characters don't seem to enjoy each other's company. They only do anything for a friend under extreme duress and again the unprovoked insults. Nearly all the top comedy shows- "South Park", "Chappelle's Show" use the put down as its premise.

Now, there's nothing wrong with a hard edge but meanness it seems is the center of popular culture. The reality genre is based solely upon it. American Idol gets it biggest audience from Simon's put downs of not gifted singers, many of whom are genuinely hurt by the comments. Fear Factor is based solely on humiliating its contestants as are shows like Comedy Central's Distractions. Other shows like "Survivor" thrive on people being booted off. The treatment of people on dating shows is deplorable. Too often the losers on these shows are treated as not even worthy of life instead of a bad fit for the individual.

Music lyrics still have an element of senitementality but in general the put down thrives there. The entire career of Eminem is based largely on (admittedly brilliantly) putting down other people. I remember a CNN show that Eminem would last longer than Elvis because he dealth with the real world and Elvis dealt with fantasy. That's one scary real world. The sex act is often described in the most aggressive and brutal terms by many performers as if there is no actual enjoyment associated with it.

Part of the large popularity of a guy like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly is the fact that they keep it real. Only keeping it real too often really means putting down people who aren't really in a position to answer back.

Any kind of demonstration of human emotion is treated as "phony, false, saccharine". Reading reviews in later years of "It's a Wonderful Life" it's almost always mentioned as good in spite of the syrup. Yet it's a not syrupy movie. George Bailey lives a pretty tough life filled with disappointment yet in the end his friends come through for him. The very idea that this could happen is considered syrup and unrealistic. Perhaps today it is.

Has anybody ever noticed the meanness of celebrity coverage and the fan response to it. The Britney Spears baby thing is a good example. Many who have commented on have used the occasion to decry her as talentless and actually wish misfortune upon her.

The horror movie has become an exoricise in sadism. Modern audiences are disappointed without gruesome almost clinical depictions of the violence.

Look at message boards as well. If you disagree with an opinion you're often "stupid" or a "jerk" or any other name that a person can come up with.

Like I said I don't oppose an edge at times and I at times fall into the trap myself. However, I don't know how humiliation became the central riff of popular culture. Why? Presumably we're richer than ever. PCism is supposedly rampant. More people in the United States at least have a piece of the pie. Yet, we're meaner than ever.

When I read Albert Goldman's "Elvis" one of the things that amazed me was the fact that Goldman put so much time and effort into someone he so disliked. Why bother? Today, I wouldn't be so amazed.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:57 am

LTB -

I hope this long posting means you are feeling better now !

As for this MB, it is only a handful on here who use words like "jerk" & "stupid" to describe their fellow posters, isn't it ?

You know the ones I mean.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:09 pm

I resent that Colin.........you stupid jerk :lol:

Thu Feb 09, 2006 2:14 pm

Scatter wrote:I resent that Colin.........you stupid jerk :lol:


Hmmmmm.....................

Guess I walked into that one.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:18 pm

LTB -
This is something that troubles me greatly. I guess it stems from living in a dog eat dog society or something, but culturally we've gotten mean as snakes. It's not enough to have a difference of opinion with someone. Now you've got to rip them a new a$$hole because of the difference. Civility has long gone by the wayside, particularly here in the U.S., and it seems as if we now prize the blunt, rude, semi-aggressive, NYC attititude.

Because of this I sometimes find myself pining for Norman Rockwell Americana. :)

Thu Feb 09, 2006 8:16 pm

I agree about the ugliness that has come upon people everywhere. TV, films and music DOES influence society. There's no doubt. As those mediums get ugly, so do we.
This is a major reason that I no longer watch TV except for news, some sports and Discovery, History and a few other networks. In fact, I haven't watched any particular show during its run for over 20 years! However, I do watch some TV shows that are released on DVD in boxed sets. I'm very selective. Even though I have enjoyed "House M.D.", look how mean this guy is to everyone. Criticism after criticism. But it is an interesting show and I do laugh at some of his comments.
The last show I watched with any regularity was M*A*S*H. This show has been criticised by many on this board mostly agains Alan Alda and Mike Farrell. But, at least this show had a morality message with nearly every show even during the last couple seasons when it wasn't its best.

jeff R

Thu Feb 09, 2006 8:21 pm

Didn't Jesus say something about in the latter days, hearts will grow cold
?

Plus, I notice, ever since Clinton got in office, White Trash crawled out of the woodwork. Springer...Povich...Tonya Harding...Pam Anderson....JLo....Paris Hilton
a skank pop culture.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:02 pm

You definitely have a point LTB. However, on a positive note, the most successful sitcom of the 90s, Friends, did manage to steer clear of that approach. The central characters all had respect for each other and treated each other with affection. There were insults, but they took the form of the usual good natured ribbing that occurs between friends. In fact, I'm quite sure it was/is so successful because of the lack of cynicism.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:07 pm

"White trash". What a disgusting term for human beings.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:21 pm

jeffreyjames wrote:I agree about the ugliness that has come upon people everywhere. TV, films and music DOES influence society.
There's no doubt.
As those mediums get ugly, so do we.


You may be mixing up cause & effect, there.

The media might be reflecting the changes in society.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:22 pm

MauriceinIreland wrote:"White trash". What a disgusting term for human beings.



trash comes in all colors, actually.


But some human beings do disgusting things.

just watch the evening news.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:53 pm

The Presleys were regarded by some people as White Trash. I even heard it just recently on radio!

So you just don't have to watch the stories on the news.

Ordinary hardworking people get called White Trash too...often just because they are uneducated and poverty stricken.

Have you seen those migrant working children being exploited in Texas...talk about the "Grapes of Wrath"!

I think it's disgusting!

Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:43 pm

Maurice -
I Believe it was Steve Dunleavy who referred to the Presley's as white trash. That's about the worst thing you can call a person in the south. As a Connecticut yankee I didn't realize what the term meant until I moved down here and a couple southern gals I worked with referred to someone as trash, and basically clued me in to exactly what it meant. I wonder if Dunleavy realized this? One thing for sure, if Dunleavy had called Elvis, or any southern guy white trash to his face, he would have been beaten to a bloody pulp.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:50 pm

Pete Dube wrote:...One thing for sure, if Dunleavy had called Elvis, or any southern guy white trash to his face, he would have been beaten to a bloody pulp.


Like a lot of words, its meaning has evolved.

I reckon Dunleavy simply meant that Elvis' family was dirt poor.

That's what it has come to signify in its modern usage.

"White Trash" a white family as poor as the poorest of their black neighbours.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 12:03 am

Colin -
Personally, I think Dunleavy did intend it in a derogatory manner, but may not have realized the full extant of what an insult it is to a southerner. Basically it means you're no account, shiftless, lazy, of lax morals, and ....... lower than low-life blacks. Sorry to have to bring the racial element in to this, but that is what white trash means to southerners.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 3:29 pm

Pete Dube wrote:Colin -
Personally, I think Dunleavy did intend it in a derogatory manner, but may not have realized the full extant of what an insult it is to a southerner. Basically it means you're no account, shiftless, lazy, of lax morals, and ....... lower than low-life blacks. Sorry to have to bring the racial element in to this, but that is what white trash means to southerners.


Yes, the words have shifted in meaning [to something not particularly derogatory] for a lot of people, but remain highly offensive to some.

This sort of thing is often the source of misunderstanding and hurt feelings between people.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:00 pm

today, that "trash" [in any color] is child abusers, dope-addicts, drug dealers, meth users, meth makers, heroin addicts, junkies, crackhouse vermin.

Who gives a damn if they get offended

Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:34 pm

They may be as you say GG but they are human beings!

jeff R

Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:42 pm

ah, well, then,

Those human beings doing drugs and abusing children are turning themselves into indisputable low lifes - period - and less respect and less compassion comes with it.


But whatthehell, as long as there's some dope addicts and child abusers who hate Bush and like gays - they OK in Doc's booK!
Last edited by Graceland Gardener on Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:08 pm

I believe either Marion Keisker or Bob Neal refers to Elvis' family having been seen as being (whisper) 'white trash" in the landmark 1970 Jerry Hopkins "Elvis" biography, an acknowledment that middle-class folks knew they were dirt poor and yes, had class prejudice. (Surprise.)

I personally grow tired of some of the over-reactions about language and think it should be applied equally but at the same time, words do have meaning and power. We do need to move past it. But it's hard to move past it when some people keep it alive, even those being oppressed by it, ironically.
**********************************************

'Bike, I recognize your concern to a large extent. The "Jump the Shark" site, like so much of the internet, is very unfiltered. I rather like the hyped-up, impassioned atmosphere sometimes but it does tend to make people yell at each other in print rather than have a reasonable discussion. (Bill O'Reilly is certainly an offender on one hand in his aggressiveness, but to me, he is trying to hold people's feet to the fire and makes for a fast-moving, "don't B.S. me" type of show.)

We've all seen it here on FECC - and fallen prey to it, too. But I can see past most of it. I also think the "shark" term inadvertantly leads to "shark-like behavior."

http://www.jumptheshark.com/

Pete, I don't celebrate the worst NY behavior, but I also understand our impatience with the laconic ways of the South and midwest. :wink:

But to LTB's more general point, I am disturbed mostly by the ugliness of today's culture.

You don't have to be a socially conservative guy to admit that grafitti isn't really art for the most part; that rap and hip-hop trucks in a lot of ugliness as do things like death metal and punk, and that our cynicism in entertainment has made it hard for even children's films to tolerate getting a "G" rating...

We are celebrating loutish behavior in the US today, to the point that melody is considered "corny." We need more melody today in our society. We need people actually humming or whistling a tune -not beat boxing down the street, in essence giving you the finger...
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:09 pm

What was this topic about again? :roll:

Geoff

Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:11 pm

"Triumph of the mean spirit"

Too many words for ya? :twisted: :lol:

Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:11 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:We are celebrating loutish behavior in the US today, to the point that melody is considered "corny." We need more melody today in our society. We need people actually humming or whistling a tune -not beat boxing down the street, in essence giving you the finger...



dude, that's heavy.

Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:16 pm

Well, I try. :wink:

And this is the sound today in much of America, as one walks down the street or more often driving by....

Bah- Boom...(insert rap...) And that's often a 1/4 mile away.

They say it's like an aural mugging.

Most of that "music" is like the soundtrack for a neighborhood I wouldn't want my dear and departed grandmother walking down the street around.

It's music to be mugged by. :shock: :evil:

Why? The total emphasis on the beat, getting beaten and giving a beating. It's almost uniformly thuggish in tone and attitude.

And they said this about rock in '56.

They'd take their words back today in comparison. And at least the lyrics and also the ballads had a way of softening the context.

Sat Feb 11, 2006 2:20 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:It's music to be mugged by. :shock: :evil:


Great title for a multi-artist CD compilation :lol: