A Series of Unfortunate Series

The watching of series phenomenon has altered the way we live. I fear that family life will never be the same.

First came TV dinners; then came social media and lately series; all transforming us from social, companionable beings into individualistic  fowl who pop into our chicken coops after dinner with the zeal of a greedy child hiding the Christmas chocolate back in the advent calendar.

I suppose I am speaking on behalf of all those with addictive personalities – you know who you are: you have to finish all the chocolate once it is opened; you can’t stop scrolling through Facebook/Instagram notifications, even though you are bored already with other people’s family outings/ neatly arranged meal/cocktail/ or random sunset; you just have to try once more to reach reach the next level on Candy Crush, and of course you who cannot stop until you have finished every season of a series.

Binge watching is the problem, not the series itself. I mean ever since Charles Dickens first began publishing his works in serial form, both weekly and monthly, readers have become used to anticipating the next episode.  Daily and weekly television programmes did the same thing. Who does not remember the excitement of the opening bars of the Dallas theme or the desire to know who shot JR?! Now, however, an entire season of a show is dumped on Showmax or Netflix (I don’t want to know if you are pirating your addiction) and we no longer have to delay gratification by waiting to see the outcome of the cliffhanger ending, because Netflix tells us that the next episode of Luther is opening in …7…6…5…seconds. And then you carry on, even if you really should switch off and go to sleep; have sex with your spouse; or have a conversation with a flesh and blood person. But let’s face it: Idris Elba. Well, Idris Elba:Image result for idris elba

Too much of anything is bad for you, my mother always said. And reluctantly even Idris needs to be switched off from time to time because as Aristotle pointed out 3000 years ago, true happiness should not be confused with pleasure; and just to be clear, series are ‘passing pleasures’ they do not give us deep, soul happiness. In fact the obsessive consumption of episode after episode can cause the same kind of sick feeling after you’ve polished off the whole Cadbury’s Milk Choccie.

It seems some shows also result in rather tumultuous emotions:Related image Game of Thrones fans are so devout that they gather in bars for ‘watch parties, causing some problems for HBO because they are publicly screening the shows, costing the channel revenue. But just look at the picture above – this is the episode when we discover how Hodor got his name – my girls wept for half an hour after that. I still think these cult parties are better than the habit most of us have of disappearing into our own territory to watch alone though.

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Such solo viewing of series has brought about a new form of cheating on your loved ones. My husband and I used to watch series together, but because one or the other would want to stop after a while (that would be him – he has more restraint), accusations of going on alone can rend a relationship asunder.   There’s actually a name for it, I kid you not: ‘Netflix cheating’ and any number of ‘scholarly articles on betrayal-by-watching-on. Such behind-his-back watching was found to be considered worse than sending flirty smses to someone else in one study. Seriously?! And yet this addiction for ‘just one more’ is so compelling …

Like all film media, we must always consider the hidden cultural messages we are being exposed to. There is your usual standard US propaganda in shows about law enforcement. And here I must pick on services like HBO yet again with the gratuitous sex and violence in shows such as Game of Thrones. Pause to consider that the target audience of channels such as HBO are 18-44 years and male and you get an idea whose interests are being catered for. This explains why there is so much hyper-masculinity and misogyny vis a vis nudity and the general way women are depicted. We become so inured to regular blood-spouting decapitations and debauchery that they begin to seem normal. And that is how stereotypes and implicit bias works, my friends.

Big Bang Theory has been accused of ‘the complicity of geek masculinity’ in reinforcing gender stereotypes, despite having as its protagonists ‘unconventional male characters’. So beware of those hidden biases when you watch your series and ensure you are not unconsciously assisting in the perpetuation of homophobia, hyper-masculinity and misogyny.

Of course one could avoid watching these shows, but – the FOMO darling! I just had to watch – and to be honest it was rather satisfying to see the chicks taking control. Now if I say ‘and there’s Jon Snow’ I shall reveal my own sad objectification of men. So I won’t say, ‘And then there’s Jon Snow.’

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At least with sub-titled shows, we also have exposure to other cultural experiences. We have been fascinated by Rita set in a school in Denmark and has shown some interesting contrasts to our educational offerings: small, glass-walled classrooms for one.

Then there is the Rocky-III phenomenon. Some shows go on longer than they should. They have a season or two, the producers are making money, so they carry on with further seasons which just just don’t have the same sizzle. Sometimes a story is exhausted after its initial telling. Then it should stop to avoid the soapie-type serial developing. Orphan Black,  for example, just got so convoluted and ridiculous that I stopped watching. Breaking Bad got it right. Mind you that was the most mind-blowingly brilliant show ever! As a work of art, it was sheer brilliance. And it ended. My daughter has been nagging me to watch The new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale which is also a superb piece of theatre and despite being rather dark it is compelling. This one at least has a screenplay for the new season written by the original author so there may be some integrity there, but I do hope it does not become like the sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird, which ruined the original.

Anyway I’m off to my own coop now to snuggle in and watch the next episode of my current show. “Winter is coming’ after all.

Musical Porn aka Misogyny in Music Videos

I found myself watching late night music videos at a local hospital  last week when my poor sister was admitted to the trauma unit at two am with an adverse reaction to her meds (She’s fine now.) The sound was turned off so as not to disturb the security guard’s nap, obliging us to watch what was effectively muted musical porn.

The first video which caught my eye was of a long-limbed, leotard-clad lovely who was essentially making love to air in the packing cases in which she was filming. She was all bottom and boobs, while simulating the seduction of a chair, the street and the bank of lockers the film cut to. I have no idea who she was or what she was singing (our dozing nocturnal protector had the remote), but my feminist radar was alerted even at that hour.  ‘Why do women do that, when they have talent which should sell itself?’ I wondered – and still do. I cannot fathom how we sisters allow the industry to dictate that that is how women should be depicted.

At the risk of sounding like the Mother Grundies who swooned with horror at rock ‘n roll, and knowing that dancing is as ‘they’ say a vertical expression of a horizontal intention, I’m not quite sure that even The Kama Sutra could have defined the plane of that young woman’s gyrations, even as I turned my head to one side while I watched, fascinated. I wouldn’t mind so much if the lack of attire applied to men also.

But men don’t do that in their videos. The next one I watched (with that thought in mind) was Shaggy, Mohambi, Faydee and Costi’s ‘I need your love’ (this one had subtitles) and while these vapid wannabe gangstas cavorted around on a beach and yacht in Spain, they were fully clothed, even though their shirts were suitably open to the waist and billowing in the breeze in an attempt to look romantic (a style spoilt by the sungees and bling – and the ungainly, wide-fingered gang signs.) The women draping themselves all over them were not.

‘Surely,’ my early-morning-outraged-self pondered, ‘it is not always like that in the industry. Perhaps I am being unfair. I should do some research before I criticise.’ So I sat down the other night and watched the official singles charts on http://www.officialcharts.com which is the first thing I came to when I googled ‘top ten music videos.’

Here’s what I found:

Eight of the artists were men (which says something in itself) and in all their songs they are largely clothed. The two female artists and the women in the men’s videos are all dressed as something out of S and M Weekly . The male extras, by contrast, even those in Rita Ora’s ménage à trois story ‘Poison’ wear outfits covering them (albeit slick leather). She, in the scenario of the fashionista lifestyle, prances around in the obligatory leather, but her boots would make any dominatrix green with envy and the slutty black dress, black bra and fur with the heavy make-up hardly create a demure impression.

The only other female singer featured was the Danish singer, MØ, who gyrates her way through temples and petal-strewn pools in a weird cross between bare-midriffed eastern garb and gym shorts, while Major Lazer and DJ Snake affect happy hippy personas. Again, the women were sexy undulaters, while the men covered themselves.

So if the women are depicted as candidates for Funky Babe of the Bike Club Monthly centrefold, what image are the men projecting?

At number one we have Lost Frequencies crashing his lunar module in full astronaut get-up (Where do they get these stories?!) and the rest are either urban nerd (Walk the Moon with ‘Shut up and Dance’), all white (Flo Rida, featuring Thicke and White) casual beachgoer with shorts, hat and trumpet (OMI with ‘Cheerleader’), nightclub star in tux with moon dance moves (Jason Derulo in ‘Want to want me’) and the rest are gangstas from the hood.

I found it rather telling that the songs which truly sickened me (‘Freak of the Week’ by Krept, Konan (There’s a dead giveaway!) and Jeremih (Why can’t they spell?) and ‘Trap Queen’ by Fetty Wap (Whaaaat?)) feature pre-homo habilises gesturing rudely at us, adorned in the standard hoodie, bling and dark glasses of the gangsta-hedonist.  Neanderthal Man would have been appalled by the misogyny and, in Krept and Co’s case, sexist racism depicted in these films. Where are all the folk ‘reporting’ these videos to YouTube for containing unacceptable content and messages. I felt physically ill hearing these two songs inviting a leotarded Asian beauty to be the ‘freak of the week’ and ‘[his]bitch.’ Fetty Wap brags about his chick cooking in the kitchen when she isn’t sitting on her ‘pretty little ass smoking dope.’

What is most troubling is that women have sold out to these images of our gender by allowing themselves to be filmed like this. Why are we not refusing to do this? Perhaps the same motivation that drives sixteen year olds to ask for plastic boobs for their birthdays or pose slithering on sea sand even in selfies and encourages parents to call their little girls ‘sexy’ makes talented female actresses, dancers and singers prostitute their image to debauchery. Is that the only way to get ahead, do they think? We were not upset for long enough that Miley Cyrus sold out to sleaze, I believe. It’s not sexy; it’s not liberated; it’s chaining all women to our unevolved brothers’ fantasies. It’s not okay.

There is much to be done, parents and teachers. I, for one, plan to challenge this ugliness.

With my clothes on. And Susie, the security guard, can keep the remote.