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.
Is it weird that some of our most patriotic holidays (Memorial Day and 4th of July) happen in the summer? Memorial Day isn't just about remembering those who fought, but about the unofficial start of summer. That means everyone can celebrate, right? Wrong. I guess it's better for these commemorative days to be associated with warm and happy feelings than actually reflecting on our actions as a global "super power." The 4th can’t really be avoided because history, but maybe Veterans Day/Memorial Day could have been in the winter to make it more of a somber holiday, where we really reflect on the army’s practices. Holidays like today and others make it hard to criticize our country and self reflect because if we discount those who died, it seems as though they died for nothing. And dying for nothing is a really horrible end for anyone. So we say they died “defending our country” and “we wouldn’t be here today without those who served,” but we don’t really know that. Just like we don’t really know if they died for nothing. That's an alternate history we’ll never get to live out, so I guess both statements “died for nothing” and “died protecting us” are kind of invalid? This holiday also goes without mentioning COs, it’s just to remember the “heroes.” Most go into he army with good intentions, but then the total institution of the military changes them for the worse or brings out qualities in them that they wish they didn’t know they had. At the same time, people go into the military for less patriotic reasons too, people who just like to be violent may join, just to be kill. Some people thrive, others don’t. It’s just a whole unfair system to not only those who fight, but the victims within the military and those who died as victims on the “opposing side.”
In an episode from Season 9 of The Big Bang Theory an Asian “joke” about Asian women was made that needs to be unpackaged. This joke can join the long list of jokes that I’ve already compiled this year. Kripke, a co-worker of the gang, was calling out to women online through Sheldon’s online live show, Fun with Flags. He said, “[looking for] Asians 18-24 no fatties.”
There are plenty of songs where singers (men and women) sing about unrequited love due to the parent(s) not understanding their partner. But there’s an overwhelming amount of songs where it’s the girl’s parents that are the "problem." She either has to runaway from them, sit quietly waiting for her prince to come, or her lover fights with her parents on her behalf. This can be attributed to the long-standing view that women are her parent’s property, only to be sold off as a burden to another man. Women were only valued if they were virgins and chaste, if they ruined that chastity out of wedlock, then they were subject to sever punishment or outcaste from society as a worthless. Thus, a woman’s parents would keep short reigns on their daughters to control her sexuality and their personal freedom. Though we have come a long way from these feudal practices, remnants of seeing women as property of their parents are rampant in today’s pop songs. There's some sort of romantic notion that a parent’s overprotectiveness could somehow equal love, rather than seen as a problem of adultism and sexism. Not to mention, women are only seen as desirable when the answer is no (whether it’s coming from the parents or themselves), which adds to rape culture. It tells others, that when a woman says no, she really means yes, and to chase after her (literally) more than ever.
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?
21 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.