On Why I Can’t Stand Chelsea Handler (‘s Comedy)

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So, I have never been a fan of Chelsea Handler’s brand of ‘comedy;’ I don’t find shock-value comedy entertaining, and call me old-fashioned, but I think that comedians should find witty, unexpected, or dare I suggest, intelligent ways to recite their anecdotes. I also need to find something relatable in someone’s character, something likeable in a performer for me to root for their success. I have watched and read several of Handler’s works, and have found her to be lacking in all of the areas previously described. Recently, I watched her racism episode on her new Netflix series, Chelsea Does, and my opinions of her changed from a mild discontentment in regards to her brand of humor, to a general dislike of Handler as a person.

The Chelsea Does episode failed in so many ways for me; comedy can be used to address racism and discrimination when used appropriately ; satire would be my first (and possibly only) choice. The episode involved segments of multiple, well-known comedians to discuss racism within stand-up comedy and within the entertainment industry itself. This is not done well; hardly any of the comedians has anything of substance to say. I feel like there is no ‘real’ dialogue happening; each comedian is ‘on,’ constantly trying to one-up each other with their witticisms and shock value comments. I guess the lure of potential capital from their exposure on Netflix was too enticing to pass up for these comedians; they treat the time that they have on-camera as if there were an invisible brick wall behind them.

Another segment within the episode involves Handler discussing her comedy with a panel of academics and media-related personnel. I get the feeling that Chelsea was quite nervous to participate with the group, with good reason. A discriminatory comment against the Asian community is soon brought up, and Chelsea begins to laugh her own joke that was made in the past. Her laugh seems forced to me, like she is overcompensating, and attempting to defend her work by proving to the panel that she should be given permission to make these comments, because of how hilarious they are. Handler is later told: “[s]tereotypes are created for a purpose. They don’t fall from the sky. They always are attached to a political agenda. It’s about certain groups being able to dominate other groups,” which should be enough for most to reevaluate their standards. The only response that Handler can come up with is that African-Americans are known for being well-endowed;  therefore, stereotypes can’t be all bad, then… right? Her dim-witted remarks about genitalia are answered thoughtfully, and with more patience than what I would have been able to muster. Chelsea still doesn’t get it. Her general defense of her work is that she makes fun of ‘every group,’ so it must be OK.

I am really, really done with this chowderhead.

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Attention Men Everywhere: Kanye Doesn’t Like His Butt Being Played with, and Neither Should You.

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Recently, Kanye West was in a sparring match on Twitter with his ex-girlfriend, Amber Rose, who revealed that she has done some spelunking in West’s cave in the past. Kanye has since denied this fact, saying that he’s “not into that shit.” Ok, I get that anyone’s first reaction to having their sexual preferences and details about their private lives would be denial, but this heterosexual (and homosexual, in certain circles) revulsion of anal penetration seems to be a deeper issue for people. Enthusiasts of the binary system will see relationships in terms of  ‘penetrator’ and ‘penetrated’ positions, where the penetrated are usually considered to be weak, passive, and feminine. When I see and hear this attitude in regards to penetration, I get the feeling that the person saying it believes women to be below them, at least on some level.

In other cultures, men who have sex with men doesn’t necessarily mean that both are considered to be homosexuals; it is only the penetrated party that is considered to be gay, and in general, they will receive less respect for it. A study done at Yale University gives evidence that some heterosexual people will treat LGBTQ members differently, depending on which position (top/bottom) they identify with. Of course, discrimination against gender and sexual orientation are not new concepts. When people discuss gender stereotypes, they often will talk about how damaging it is for women, but men get the short end of the stick, too. It’s damaging for all genders for there to be a societal idea of how one should behave. Perhaps violent behaviour from boys and young men has increased because some ‘go along’ with what society is telling them; aggression is normal, and is often encouraged. Males who express emotion, who are thoughtful, and who hug one another freely are not the norm, and there are consequences for anyone partaking in this behaviour.

I guess my disapproval stems from two things; that penetration is considered feminine, and ain’t nobody want that, as well as the fact that some men feel like they can’t/shouldn’t explore their own bodies in private because of what society tells them. What is interesting is that it is not butt stuff in general that people find offensive; comedian Russell Brand made a remark during his stand-up routine in regards to the pleasure he experienced as one women was working ‘the front,’ and at the same time, one working [the hole]. From what I understand, male prison systems also have a system of submission that involves rimming. So a tongue is A-Ok, but a finger or a phallus is objectionable, I guess?

A YouTube video attempted to break down this barrier by having a heterosexual man use a vibrator, designed to stimulate the prostate, on himself in order to encourage a public dialogue on the issue. An article titled Why More Straight Guys Should Be Playing With Their Butts referenced this video, and described the situation, writing that the young man enjoyed the vibration, but “perhaps a little too much.” What the butts does that mean? This was supposed to be an article to encourage men to leave behind any kind of shame and societal nay-saying and they have a comment like that? Would anyone ever say that a woman was enjoying her vibrator too much? I don’t think so. It seems borderline ridiculous that men and women wouldn’t explore their sexuality in private because of fear and embarrassment they feel from society. Who knows, maybe guys everywhere are sticking things up their butts in their free time… I hope they are, if that’s what they want to be doing. I just really hate the shaming that is put onto consenting adults that are just doing what they do (or what they want to be doin’).

Playboy Will Soon Be Nudity-Free

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Get ready for a kinder, gentler Playboy. No more will the Bunnies be shaking and shimmying their mammary glands for the world to see…

Playboy was founded by Hugh Hefner, and first published in 1953 as one of the first mass-produced soft-core pornographic magazines. The magazine was once a huge seller, creating huge profits for the Playboy family by selling a lifestyle of leisure and beautiful women to its readers. The Playboy Bunny is arguably has one of the most recognizable logos in the world, but as technology has improved, the power of the Bunny hasn’t held up well in the face of (or other body part) more explicit material available to people for free.

Playboy began its modernization process in 2011, with the launch of its complete archives in the form of a web app. More was needed to boost popularity, as Cory Jones, one of the top Playboy editors realized. Jones is the innovator behind the new nudity-free Playboy, and hopes that popularity and subscriptions can be gained by losing the nudity, and therefore, the restrictions, and become a prominent member in the social media universe. The new, work-friendly version of Playboy that will be available next March, will continue to include lifestyle columns, celebrity interviews, as well as a new “sex-positive female” columnist.

Playboy will launch the new nudity-free version, with the hopes of gaining popularity again simply by increasing accessibility and visibility of the Playboy lifestyle will be enough to compete with the treasure trove of free explicit material found by those who seek it. The modernization process of Playboy seems to be decades overdue, with sales of the magazine plummeting in a negatively correlated relationship with more easily accessible pornography websites.

Come March, we will see if Hefner’s decision to steer Playboy in a more modest direction will have the desired effect on its prevalence, but the timing of the upcoming family-friendly experience seems suspicious when Mr Hefner is still trying to recuperate from the damage done to his character by his ex-girlfriend, Holly Madison. Madison details the years she spent living with Hefner at the Playboy mansion in her book Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, where she depicts Hefner as an old-fashioned, abusive misogynist. Details of how Hefner scored the physical appeal of the women that entered the house, the drugs he offered his rotating female companions and their ‘bedroom routine,’ as Madison describes it in the book. Nothing of what she writes may be shocking to a reader when they realize they are reading about the life of a multi-millionaire that has made his money by publishing pornography, but Madison’s book has some illuminating things to say about the sponsorship and endorsement aspect of Playboy.

The Girls Next Door was a program on the E! network that followed the lives of Hefner’s girlfriends. Madison writes in her book that the network was always mindful to portray Hefner as a doting, romantic gentleman that just happened to have three young women as his girlfriends. This portrayal of Hefner made it feel safe for the viewer to watch the program, and Hefner kept his sales of Playboy by representing himself in a flattering way to his public. Time will tell if the revamping of the magazine that will take effect in March will be a permanent and lucrative change, or if it will be a change that causes the Playboy Bunnies to permanently hang up their tails.

Hollywood Men Say the Darnedest Things (and Still Get to Keep Their Jobs…)

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English-born actor Daniel Craig has recently raised a few eyebrows by heavily criticizing the James Bond movie franchise in which he has portrayed the iconic character in four of the recent Bond instalments.

In a recent interview, Craig told a reporter he’d “rather slash [his] wrists” than reprise the role. He answered the question of who would play 007 next, by saying: “I don’t give a fuck.” Later in the interview, he said: “If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money.” Craig’s frustrations with the character have been noted by the media for many years; Craig was determined in earlier years to bring more “emotional depth” to the character, and explore the darker, convoluted aspects of portraying an assassin.

There are many notable cases of actors and actresses condemning their own projects to the media, and have suffered a backlash to their careers as a result. Katherine Heigl is an actress, who is reportedly difficult to work with, who experienced being ‘blackballed’ by producers after repeatedly critiquing the projects she had been involved in. Heigl called the film Knocked Up “somewhat sexist,” as it portrayed her female character as ‘uptight,’ and the male as a fun-loving goofball. She also dismissed the notion of winning an Emmy Award for the series Grey’s Anatomy because of its, as she describes it, poor writing. Heigl’s statements questioned the quality and political correctness of her projects, whereas Craig’s hyperbolic suicidal commentary is brash, and his petulant attitude regarding his future involvement with the Bond movies feels unnecessary. It will be interesting to see if Craig faces any repercussions over his interview, or if there will be a change in Craig’s status amongst movie producers.

 

Sex Sells, but Does it Convey Power for Women?

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Music Video Critique

California Gurls by Katy Perry is an upbeat, danceable pop song in which Perry has somewhat modelled the message of “California Girls” by The Beach Boys; the girls of California are all beautiful and perfect. Perry, however, includes hyper-sexualized notions of power in her song and video in regards to gender; women are powerful if they are sexually attractive, and likewise, can gain power from acting provocatively. With the rise of third-wave feminism, some female entertainers are becoming more sexually explicit in public. I argue that although sex is not shameful, providing people with explicit depictions of one’s body is a form of relinquishing power and only serves to reinforce negative stereotypes of women.

The video begins with a Candy Land- like game, with Snoop Dogg as the “Sugar Daddy,” who controls Perry’s moves as she moves through the game. The lyrics “warm, wet and wild” are accompanied with visuals of a dripping ice cream cone as well as Perry licking white frosting off a popsicle (subtle). Perry’s ascent to the clouds is when the video becomes increasingly sexual: Perry is nude except for a bit of cloud covering her backside. As the music video continues, there are lyrics that read: “sex on the beach,” where the word ‘sex’ is sung very breathy by Perry, possibly to draw attention to the word and also to possibly to induce images and sounds of sex for the listener. Speaking of sex sounds, Perry continuously makes ‘ugh!’ sounds and we see a three-dimensional popsicle quiver and then melt (oh so subtle). The finale of the video involves Perry ‘defeating’ Snoop Dogg with the help of her girlfriends, using two whipped cream bottles that appear to be ejaculating as Perry simulates manual sex (this video should really have a recommended age for it).

Perry seems to be trying to convey that women can use their sexuality as a strategy for gaining power in a man’s world. Being so ‘hot’ you can cause someone to reach climax is a must for women, apparently. Perry may view herself as a bargaining chip of some kind in the music industry; artists know that if they create a big enough buzz, they will command attention, which equals money in the entertainment industry.  Rogers writes in her 2013 article on The Guardian, that entertainers’ value is no longer solely attached to record sales, but from media sites, such as Twitter and music video hits. This new definition of popularity has changed the music industry enormously. More often, record companies are no longer interested in developing a performer based on musicianship; they build commodities, making the most amount of money possible. Female artists undressing, or being scantily-clad is not surprising anymore.

Perry is one of the many artists willing to undress to sell. She is hugely successful, but is perhaps not respected as a true musician. Some singer-songwriter females show that more women over men remove their clothing and act in provocative ways in the music industry, possibly to the detriment to the artist themselves. This may reinforce ideas that women are not ‘true’ musicians but simply marketing ploys, which reinforces the notion that when women build a career on their sexuality, the public does not necessarily take them seriously as genuine artists. Furthermore, removing one’s clothing in return for profit could be argued as a form of prostitution;  female artists presenting more and more outrageous things in order to maintain their relevancy serves as a negative stereotype that woman are not true musicians, that they are relying on sex appeal to sell records instead of musical talent. This sexualisation may also trap these females in a cycle, constantly having to ‘one-up’ each other to sell themselves. Contrary to what women may think, using one’s body and sex appeal does not appear to conduce power or respect. If one’s agenda is to solely gain money, though, this lack of legitimacy may not be worrying.

You Had Better Let Me Talk About Your Genitals if You Want the Job…

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Olivia Wilde was a recent guest on the web series, Watch What Happens: Live, hosted by Andy Cohen. She participated in a game, Plead the Fifth,where guests are presented with three questions, usually personal in nature, where they have one opportunity to ‘plead the fifth,’ and not answer the question they think is too private to answer. Wilde’s questions follow the usual pattern that the show follows in regards to a young, attractive females:  they are markedly sexual in nature. Surprisingly, the questions came from Wilde’s own fiancé; “What’s the wildest place you’ve ever done the deed?” and “Have you ever dipped into the lady pond in real life?” were the questions aimed to make Wilde squirm. The term “lady pond” used regarding the question of lesbianism is childish and a seemingly non-confrontational way of demanding an answer to an intensely personal, and from Wilde’s reaction, unwanted question. Unsurprisingly, this series, along with so many others, carries an faintly misogynistic air. Females are asked personal questions, seemingly for the host’s and audience members’ thrill of being privy to this private information.

Male guests being interviewed are not subjected to directly personal questions as such; when personal questions arise, the atmosphere is congratulatory, and not as prying when compared to their female counterparts. Actor Taylor Kinney and host Cohen discussed their ‘wildest’ Halloween costumes in a separate interview; the word ‘wild’ in the title of the web episode,  one may think that this man will be asked to regale the audience with an anecdote of some sexual experience. The ‘wild’ aspect of the episode was Cohen and Kinney describing Batman and pumpkin costumes. Similarly, John Stamos’ title of the video reads “John Stamos on orgasms, Dating Paula Abdul and Rejection.” One would think that he was going to be pressed to answer personal questions about his sexuality, but the question asked was how many orgasms has he given to a female have in one night. Women are subjected to invasive questions that seem to produce a sexual thrill from the host and the audience, especially judging from the two men’s expressions that were onscreen with Wilde when she was asked if she had ever participated in lesbianism. Understandably, a male host asking a male guest about his own personal sexual enjoyment may be awkward, but the disparity of the invasiveness of questioning when dealing with females over males is apparent and unfair.

Other women participating with the series have been subjected to the same uncomfortable questions. Lindsay Lohan was asked why she never wears bras, and was told by Cohen, “… it looks like you have beautiful boobs, by the way.” Lohan awkwardly gives a half-hearted chuckle and nod after Cohen’s statement. The only question that pushed Lohan to stop the polite and light-hearted facade, and refused to answer a question is when her personal information was given to the media without her consent. A list of her rumoured list of her sexual conquests was released, and Lohan says this list was made as a step in an AA program she had attended, and refused to answer any questions regarding it. There is a line for what is  deemed going ‘too far’ for some female celebrities; the personal questions being asked to many women seem to be in the same realm of Lohan’s personal violation, only the information is given voluntarily, albeit many times reluctantly, by the women themselves.

Actress Lea Michele was asked, in front of her father, how her ex-boyfriend and cast mate of Glee, Matthew Morrison was in bed in a separate interview.  Michele embarrassingly laughs and ‘pleads the fifth’ for the question. It seems like more actresses should demand better treatment and respect for their personal lives.  The questions are being asked by Andy Cohen, and by many other people like him, but it seems as though society should encourage women to stand up and say they are not comfortable answering the question, or in a utopian society, for that question to have not been asked at all.

Why I Hate Caveman Actors, and the Talk Show Hosts That Interview Them…

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Liam Hemsworth appeared to be ignorant over his co-star, and reported ‘best friend’ Jennifer Lawrence’s viral essay, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars?” in which she criticizes gender inequality in the film industry. Hemsworth, who appeared on the talk show The Project to promote his new film, The Dressmaker, appeared unconcerned over the outrage women are feeling from the recently hacked Sony list, releasing internal information that illustrates the discrepancy of payment in regards to men and women in Hollywood.

Lawrence recently composed a public essay, asking why producers deem her not as worthy as her male co-stars, and discusses issues that women in the workplace have been facing for years: the fear of being labelled as ‘brats’ for demanding equality, and more specific to Hollywood: fear of being black-balled by producers if a women is deemed taxing in the workplace. If Hemsworth and Lawrence are as close as they portray themselves to be in the media, it seems doubtful that Hemsworth had no idea Lawrence had shared her personal story of inequality.

During the interview on The Project, hosts Carrie Bickmore, Peter Hellier, Waleed Aly and Chris Bath each took their turn to stroke Hemsworth’s ego to the point that it became uncomfortable; Bickmore gushed over the privilege of sharing the same oxygen as the actor (seriously), and each host tittered at every bland answer given, seeming as though they were each waiting in line for a turn at the school dance. It is frustrating that Hemsworth, along with many other men in the media, avoided an opportunity, and perhaps even  responsibility of providing a meaningful response to the issue of discrimination to the hosts and viewers, seemingly because of his debatable charm. Hellier began the conversation:

“Is it true you and Josh [Hutcherson] made ten times more than Jennifer Lawrence [during the Hunger Games]?”

Hemsworth joked: “We teamed up and squeezed her out of the equation…”

Bickmore interjects: “Good on her for standing up for it, I thought her comments were spot on…”

“…What did she say?” Hemsworth asks, hesitantly.

‘”She was talking about the pay…” was all that was distinguishable before Bickmore dissolves into laughter.

“I think she got paid alright.” Hemsworth finishes, and the interview is over. It is unfortunate that there was no push for an serious answer that encompasses the gravity of the situation for women, and what is most infuriating, his lack of concern for the issue that is being laughed over. The hosts all share the blame for preventing any serious discourse with their unprofessionalism; they behave like overstimulated contest winners on the Oscar Awards Red Carpet, never having encountered a celebrity before.