I’ve been obsessed with the world of Avatar since it debuted in February of 2005. I remember watching it every week on Nickelodeon and replaying the episodes with my stuffed animals that I named after the characters. I didn’t reflect on why I liked it so much while I was kid, mainly because I mainly watched TV for its entertainment value. But for one reason or another, this show was special and different than the other shows I watched as a kid. It was so special, that I’ve re-watched it multiple times as an adult, and have watched the spin off series Legend of Korra as a college student (even though it’s just “kids’ stuff). Now that I’m older, I’ve had some time to analyze the show to find out why I enjoyed it so much as a kid and why I enjoy it so much now. Few TV shows that we watch as children have the power to transcend into our adulthood, but I can boldly say that Avatar is definitely one of those.
I was finally able to see one of the partially of feminist episodes of BBT last night. In this one, Bernadette is asked to be in a science magazine in an article highlighting the “Top 50 Sexiest Scientists.” Here’s a play by play of the episode. Penny, Amy and Bernadette, are talking about the article. Bernadette is excited to be in the article, but wants to know what her friends think. Penny believes that she should do it. She thinks that showing a little skin to get ahead is worth it. In her sales person job, flirting to make a deal helps her make more money than the other sales reps. Penny knows the patriarchal system is against her, so she uses it to her advantage. As a stereotypically beautiful blonde white woman, the system is more open to women like her. Rather than her sexuality being exotified or threatening masculinity, it’s welcomed. Amy, on the other hand, can't do that. She turns to feminism, rather than trying to navigate sexist society. She says that there wouldn’t be a Top 50 Sexiest Scientist article for men. Amy then asks, why do women have to objectify themselves to be seen in science magazines? Women should be appreciated for their intellect, not their bodies. Bernadette is right when she responds, why can't women be smart and beautiful? But unfortunately, no answer is given to her question. I would respond - women can't be smart and beautiful because we still live in a world which diminishes women's accomplishments and would rather look at their bodies. If we did have gender equality, and saw everyone as people, an article like this probably wouldn’t exist (and if it did exist, it would probably include all genders).
The Killing Joke comic, which was later made into an animated movie, is part of the Batman Joker saga. It’s famous for its ambiguous final panels, when Batman could either be strangling the Joker to death, or simply resting his hands on the Joker's shoulders. This is where some fans believe the comic gets its title. The Joker tells his last joke and gets killed, hence The Killing Joke. However, I always thought the killing joke was when Joker’s original self died. After his primary identity was stripped away due to suffering from one disastrous day, he turns into the Joker - a person who has no humanity left because the world has shown him no mercy. The Killing Joke to me, is how awful things were for him. His day turned into one of those days that are so horrible you can’t help but laugh because things are so unbelievable. The joke of his former life killed him, and turned him into the Joker.
I’ve been known to despise The Big Bang Theory (BBT). I originally liked it and watched the first 7 seasons with pleasure, but at a certain point, I realized that it was actually making fun of nerds rather than championing them. It also just turned in to Friends except they were “nerds.” However, there is one commendable aspect of the show that I discovered recently. I decided to watch the newest episode of Season 10 and I was surprised at how much the show has changed. Not just the premise and plot, but also how some of the characters and comedy has changed. The laugh track is still annoying, but some characters that I thought would never evolve did, while other stayed the same. The comedy is now more grounded in making jokes about each other rather than racism and sexism (though themes of that still run rampant throughout the show). I think what makes BBT everlasting and a staple in over 19 million viewers lives is how much the actors put into the characters, as well as the writers. Each character has their own profile. There’s no guessing game to who the character is. We know their likes and dislikes, their insecurities, and their strengths.
Can I just say that we’re more comfortable thinking of Jennifer Garner (essentially a 13 year old in a 30 year old body) in a thong than talk about menstruation? We could have taken the opportunity to talk about puberty and what it’s like to be an adult woman, but instead we see her/imagine her in "sexy" underwear? I guess that’s just because women are constantly being seen as sex objects, and periods are “gross.” All women really want to do is wear thongs when they get older, right?
The newest episode of CBS’ sitcom, Superior Donuts, recently aired an episode ridden with jokes about Asian women's' butts and Asian men being “tiny.” All of these jokes were said by the black main character Franco, who of course can’t be racist because he’s black, EH WRONG. Like I keep saying, just because you’re discriminated against doesn’t mean you can’t discriminate yourself. In fact, a lot of people who are underprivileged also have privilege, which blinds them to the fact they too have unconscious bias. Also, like I keep saying, CBS and other major cable networks, as well as Netflix (I’m looking at you Kimmy Schmidt), please STOP THINKING IT’S OKAY TO MAKE ASIAN JOKES. Not to mention Franco wore a Chicago Blackhawks jersey in one episode without making any mention that the Blackhawks logo is racist. Native American people are not your mascots.
CBS doesn’t know how to write east Asian characters, and I’m not even talking about 2 Broke Girls, I’m talking about Superior Donuts. Though I can stand the show, there are some extremely cringe worthy parts. The basic blonde woman, Maya, they use in order to show how our generation is making everything so PC and “difficult.” She’s even used to show how ridiculous fighting for feminism and racial equality is. “Donut holes really symbolize vaginas.” She’s well intentioned and I agree with a lot of what she says (not that quote, but other ones about how it’s sexist to call women “baby” or “honey”). But she’s made to sound so ridiculous and the other characters don’t like her that we in turn are told not to like her. Next, there’s Fawz, who’s an immigrant from Iraq. He’s a pretty solid character, but he too falls into being racist and sexist. But at the same time, he acknowledges that he’s racist, which is good, but he just doesn’t care. There’s also a female chauvinist pig white female cop, a Jewish white donut store owner, and a black male cop, but I wont get into right now. Lastly, there’s Franco, an African American guy who actually gives some really poignant points when it comes to racism and police brutality. And that’s the episode I’m going to talk about today. For all the shows flaws, it does talk about racism when it comes to Arab people and African American people. However, when it comes to Asian American characters the show falls extremely flat.
So, I got into HBO’s Westworld recently by a friend’s recommendation. When I first started watching the show I thought, why choose the Wild West? That’s so random. But as time went on I began to understand the setting more and more.
I’ve written before that I don’t like sitcoms. Mainly because they rely on a laugh track to make unfunny things, funny, and use manipulative music to make you feel things, you’re not actually feeling. Another reason I don’t like them is because they usually get their laughs from stereotypical characters (either racially or by sexuality, or gender), and the jokes are based around these marginalized “others.”
21 year old college senior. English major. Adopted from China as a baby living in the US ever since. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.