Tag Archives: humour

John Safran: Misogynist Until Proven Otherwise

A few nights ago at the Standard, I found myself agreeing with a friend (Zoe, who else?) on the topic of John Safran’s Race Relations (you can watch the whole episode on the ABC website here). Despite my railing, it seems audiences love his personal-essay-on-screen style. Audiences are daft. For example, why do the opening credits imply that the show is going to help us with race relations, but the show itself focuses exclusively on Safran’s experience. Where are the Hindus, dammit?

Nonetheless, this is not the shows fatal flaw. No, the problem with Race Relations is that we have no idea what the man is thinking.

Safran, as many will know, has a very distinctive voice. A weedy twang that we’ve become accustomed to, whether interrupting the indignant stuttering of Father Bob on Triple J or in his previous incarnations versus God, racing around the world or hosting a music jamboree. It is somewhat ironic then, that most of what we’ve heard so far on Race Relations is Safran’s seemingly ironic musings on retro books about intermarriage. Episode Four was no different. The show opens with Safran holding up a book, and explaining its thesis: Asian women are more marriageable as they age better and stay attractive longer. Presumably, that’s ironic right? Presumably we’re supposed to laugh a bit and think, but of course race doesnt’ really have anything to do with longevity of attraction.

Safran then goes about asking four of his ex-girlfriends if they could request their mothers to make out with him, to see how well attraction ages. Logical, I know. Already in the series, Safran has run around like a naughty little boy stealing panties of ex-girlfriends so that he can sniff them blindfolded. He’s also already asked and procured a make out session with an Aryan woman in Anne Franks’ attic. With that in mind, we come to the living rooms of four mothers with their daughters, three of whom end up making out with John Safran on air. Like with most of the series, it’s essentially one sketch where the punchline is “it’s for research, right!”

The first woman hesitates, but agrees in the end. The next seems to consent a little more readily. The third’s reaction isn’t shown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the last mother, a traditionally dressed non-English speaking Japanese woman declines a kiss on the the mouth, but compromises with a kiss on the cheek.

We’ll never know how many women Safran approached, or how that third woman responded. What we can be sure of is that it’s totally unfair to be asked to kiss a documentary maker, and a former friend of your daughter while the cameras are rolling. Noone wants to be uncooperative, let their daughter down, or indeed, seem uncool on the television.

Now I’m not saying Safran and his team wouldn’t have respected the explicitly stated wishes of anyone they film. They probably did. The bigger issue is that which is less explicit. Did those women feel like props? Do they have partners who might have problems with it? Were they were given time to think about the request? How did the ex-girlfriend who completely freaked out mid-kiss deal with it afterwards? Do any of them regret it?

All this comes back to that problem I raised earlier: Safran’s lack of editorial voice. See, when you ask a rhetorical question like “do Asian women stay attractive longer?”, you also need to equip your audience with an easy and obvious answer. Aside from the one-sketch-ness of it, Safran fails to deliver thoughts on the matter outside “Yes! Definitely prefer the older Asian woman!”. In doing so, Safran fails to convince us that he’s thought about what he’s doing: a unsettling trait when what you’re doing is treating awkward sex acts with the same offhandedness as a lab experiment.

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Just to get warmed up again

As a throwback to the debate about strong female characters in this post, I thought it was worth putting up this comic (thanks Isaac). I’ll be doing a more significant post soon.

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Tight Tights

OK, so despite what I had promised to a certain somebody, this post won’t be about the patriarchal architecture that surrounds us in Western society. That one is in the works. This post, rather, is going to be about hosiery. True. Hear me out here people.

The post was born of a facebook wall-to-wall war I had with an old friend of mine regarding a facebook group he’d just set up, declaring “tights are not pants”.

Having been invited to the group, I declined and posted this on his wall:

“Dear Sir,

The image of your group depicts not tights, but stockings [the original picture was of a fat woman wearing stockings and a singlet top] — an entirely different piece of hosiery. Further, I take issue with the SUBSTANCE of your group. Of course tights are not pants. Neither are skirts, or shorts. Only pants are pants.

Also, I might point out that sentiments like yours are essentially anti-woman. Let people be! Sheesh.

Sincerely, Bhak”

I later went to to elaborate on the way groups like this, and indeed sentiments like these affect women.

Don’t you think there is enough pressure on women’s images already? Be skinny, but not too skinny, eat well, go to the gym, have tanned skin, don’t go to the solarium though, that’s for idiots who want to die, wear skirts, act like a lady, but not too short, you’ll look like a skank.

Founder of the group and said friend, Crook, hit back arguing roughly two things:

1) Calling it ‘anti-woman’ was an exxageration as the group was merely concerned with the classification of tights in a “functional sense”, and was also willing to look at inappropriate tights on men.

2) Placing this conversation in a gendered context was an abstraction as the group existed as part of an in-joke to try and establish support for different sides of this debate.

Here again (like Jermaine and Germaine), comedy can give us some clues into our own prejudices and assumptions. To me these strongly held stances against tights (and boy are they strongly held, even in blogs which I read daily), are essentially about economies of taste, about superiority, about retaining control over acceptability and ultimately about telling women what they can and can’t wear. Not cool.

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These Boyz Kill It

SPOILER WARNING

God I love Flight of the Conchords. Not to the extent the rest of New Zealand’s entertainment industry probably hates them, but I digress. If you’re yet to discover this delightful duo of dunces, let me recommend this clip.

I’ll mention at this stage that Season 2 of this series hasn’t been released in Australia yet, so the episode I’ve seen was essentially stolen. Though I didn’t download it myself, does that make it any better? Anyway, the rest of the episode goes to find Jemaine fall in love with the forbidden (and hilariously ocker) Australian girl he goes home with that night, Keitha. Keitha feigns reciprocity, tricks Jemaine into thinking they are eloping and then uses Jemaine’s absence as an opportunity to ransack the apartment he shares with Brett.

For as long as I can remember, being incompetent has been funny. Noone sympathises wih a winner, and that’s what this show brilliantly capitalises on; the whole first season has viewers edge of seats, phlanges crossed, hoping and praying the band will get a gig. Leaving aside the fact that a deal with HBO is a pretty sweet gig, Brett and Jemaine are giant losers and we love them for it. They’re also very straight, which in itself is of course unproblematic. My issue with this “dopey useless boy” caricature is not that it’s not an astute satire of masculinity, because it is. Rather, the issue is that it robs women in this program of the room for that kind of likability — they’re all relegated to either pathetic (sycophantic super-groupie Meg) or conniving (sex hungry, hostage-taking Keitha).

Where are the strong female characters in this show?

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This blog is a safe space for women and puns.

It seems everyday I am noticing things that, while seemingly innocuous, upon closer inspecting are distressingly woman-hatey (misogynist). Later that day, I will realise I am wrong, or perhaps overstating the case. In any case, these discoveries and the debates surrounding them tend to be inflicted on co-workers, so much so that one in particular has suggested these thoughts be bloggified. It is yet unclear whether this will make the issue better or worse.

More pertinently, I’ve recently had the realisation that I probably fall in the militant variety of feminists (I reckon if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem). It was a somewhat concerning realisation, as for a long time, I’ve taken pride in evenhanded, non-preachy and well-humoured opinions about most things. This is where the puns come in. I think it’s really easy when debating feminism (religion, poetry, science or the local elections) to lose perspective and distance. In the interests of this, I’ll be doing my best to look out for seemingly anti-feminist fings (books, video clips, news presenters, lamps) that might be read differently.

The final reason I’ve finally gotten a blog is, perhaps pathetically, school. Taking a Net Communications subject at UniMelb requires regular blogging within a closed network of subject-based blogs, so now I’ve got all these super-fast skillz ready to roll. It’s also forced me to look at blog theory (as well as other wanky intertubes theories), and got me real fascinated with a life 2.0 outside Facebook and YouTube.

Here goes!

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