Cougartown and Letterman
While we're reading good pieces from other places, check out the reliably hilarious Heather Havrilesky's rant on Cougartown, in which she bemoans not only how offensively bad the show is, but what great reviews it has gotten:
"If aliens learned about our culture by watching our newest television shows, they might assume that planet Earth was terrorized by predatory middle-aged women with hairless, bony bodies and the same blank expression on their overly Botoxed faces, a look of creepy awe at the joys of 20-something tenderloin ...
... the older aliens would already recognize that these "cougars" clearly serve as some sort of cautionary tale for female humans, a moralistic narrative that humans refer to, strangely enough, as a "guilty pleasure" — "guilty" in this case meaning "it makes you want to stick your head in the oven" and "pleasure" referring to the feeling humans get from having their fingernails ripped off one by one."
Clearly, I am among these addled critics, currently stooped over my desk, Heather Havrilesky perched on one shoulder and Adam Sternbergh on the other. Worse yet, I'm merely hostile-yet-wishy-washy about the sitcom, while other critics are filled with passionate intensity.
The bottom line is, I agree with all of Havrilesky's criticisms — yet the show is on a Season Pass on my TiVo. I think part of it is that I'm preternaturally drawn to almost all women's culture: fashion magazines, chick lit, rom-coms. Many, many of these things are Trojan horses for terrible mixed messages, bacterial breeding grounds for eating disorders and Rules-girl idiocy. But they're also a distorted, multi-layered mirror for women's actual lives, their anxieties and their fantasies; they're as much a part of women's culture as any Ani DiFranco album. Sex and the City grossed me out and depressed me initially too, and although I think Cougartown is not even faintly as good a show, I can't help but want to see where it's going.
Meanwhile, also over on Salon, Amanda Fortini has been retrospectively vindicated for her smart June article about Letterman's creepy gender issues — an analysis which scored some terrific and largely ignored points about the classist undercurrents of Letterman's Palin bits. Just because a powerful woman is a dangerous idiot doesn't mean the jokes about her aren't sexist.