Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Lifetime: Television for Idiots

What I’m about to admit may not seem very manly to many of you. In fact, it’s rather embarrassing, but please withhold your laughter until I’ve given a full explanation, and expounded on it a bit. I promise, it won’t be as bad as you think.

I’ve watched Lifetime Network. You know, Television for Women…Stop LAUGHING and let me EXPLAIN!

Occasionally (about once per week) I find myself in my sister’s living room, usually on a weekend. Now I show up to see my nephews (three boys on the way to being manly men!), and sponge a free meal every now and again. It’s really the only time I have with my family. Now, what happens is that usually my sister and mother are watching television whenever I show up (if the kids haven’t monopolized the television to watch 53 episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants), and they usually have Lifetime on. So, I’m kind of forced to watch it, since it ain’t my house and I don’t have control of the remote.

Two things immediately will strike any man who watches Lifetime for any extended period of time: first, the incredible number of tampon and birth control adds (not to mention the number of times I’ve seen Prozac, Zoloft, and 50 other medications hawked), and second, just how badly men come out looking on Lifetime.

Lifetime spends just about its entire programming day on weekends showing re-runs of “made-for-TV Dramas”. The central point of most, if not all, of these “made-for-TV Dramas” revolves around a woman (naturally, since Lifetime bills itself as Television for Women). The woman in question seems to always be played by Jaclyn Smith/Melissa Gilbert/Nancy McKeon, and my favorite, Lindsay Wagner. There may be another actress or two in there somewhere, but I admit to not paying strict attention. Anyway, Jaclyn/Melissa/Nancy/Lindsay always seem to find themselves in the same fix, as their characters always grapple with one of the following themes:

a) Cheating/Lying/Bigamist/Abusive husband
b) Adversity caused by tragic disease (Cancer, AIDS, Cerebral Palsy, Retardation and Down’s syndrome seem to be the favorite candidates for this).
c) Powerful, career woman struggles with the eternal question of “I have wealth and power, so what is missing in my life?”
d) Kofka’s eternal theme of “Little Man (or, in this case, woman) against the mindless bureaucracy”.

Four themes, four actresses. Occasionally, you get a mix of both: A mother of a child with leprosy wants her child educated in the same school as “normal” kids, leading to an epic courtroom fight for equal rights for lepers. Or, you might get a twist on a familiar theme: instead of the Husband leading a double life, the wife does, and she manages to have everything work out just right, vis-à-vis the family, the community perception, etc, which we all KNOW a man would never be able to pull off with such style and élan.

Now, you know me – I usually wouldn’t be caught dead watching this stuff, but I have to admit, it’s sort of interesting, and educational on certain levels. I mean, if anything, this sort of drivel demonstrates four facts about today’s modern woman:

a) She’s distrustful of men either because of similar experiences or because she’s been told to be.
b) She’s brainwashed into believing this sort of stuff happens everywhere, all the time.
c) Women will swallow (pardon the pun) anything, if it’s presented to them in the right way, that is, in a way that reinforces their pre-conceived notions or which celebrates their achievements.
d) If you tell them this is based on a True Story, they will believe it whole hog, neglecting to think for a moment that somewhere along the line, someone took artistic license with the story to make it more presentable/believable/palatable and ensure that the woman came out of it smelling like a rose.

And now I know why men and women don’t communicate as well as they should. It’s an insight that literally struck me as if a bolt of lightning from a clear sky. I will patent this idea, bottle it, and then we can all stop reading self-help relationship books, stop going to therapy and maybe even learn something that will enable us to lead happier, more fulfilling lives. Get ready for it, because it will be an earth-shattering observation – some people are just too stupid for their own good!

I watch my mother and sister sit and watch this crap on the screen and I get a kick out of just how revved up they get over the whole thing. They talk potential plot points and twists during the commercial. They give each other knowing looks and a sort of feminine “high-five” smirk when a man gets caught or a woman proves her superiority, as if they’re sharing some private joke with each other vis-à-vis the whole man/woman relationship thing. They sometimes even cheer when a particularly nasty male character (which accounts for about 85% of the male characters on Lifetime. The other 15% are what we real men would call “pussy whipped”), gets his comeuppance. It’s almost like watching a female version of the WWF. Jaclyn/Melissa/Nancy/Lindsay is taking a terrible beating from “Wife-Beater Jones”, who is just about to smack Jaclyn/Melissa/Nancy/Lindsay with a chair, when our bloody, groggy, heroine manages, with the last vestiges of her strength, to get up off the canvas and manhandle her opponent into a submission hold, whereupon he surrenders. Jaclyn/Melissa/Nancy/Lindsay takes home the championship, and the crowd goes wild!

Vince McMahon does this stuff every week, and we call it crap.

So, in my opinion, someone at Lifetime should get a hefty raise. She (I can’t believe a man would put this stuff on TV) has made the same leap of logic made by Vince McMahon, Josef Goebbels and Bill Clinton – give the people what they want, on a level from which they can understand it, and reinforce their preconceived notions, prejudices and secret fears, and you will make a ton of money. Lifetime makes a ton of money, obviously, because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be on television. Kudos to Lifetime! However, they should stop and look for a second at some of the damage they may be doing to people. If I were an alien, I’m sure that one of my first sources of information on human beings (ala E.T.) would be watching them on TV – to see how they communicate and interact with one another. If one of my first impressions gained from TV would be the nonsense on Lifetime (and the same could be said for WB, CNN, and about 30 other channels on cable), then I would probably be informed that human males are:

a) Disgusting
b) Immoral
c) Violent to wives and offspring
d) Stupid or at least shortsighted
e) Unreliable and undependable

In other words, I would not have a favorable impression of human males at all. But then again, that was the point, wasn’t it? It’s only natural that Television for Women would ignore or at least, marginalize, the better qualities of the human male. Unless it was shown in a form in which the male was either subservient or devoted to the female, or a laughably pathetic victim of her “superiority”.

This is what 40 years of “feminism” have brought us to? Women that are continually portrayed as victims, and as powerless and confused human beings? Even when a woman has power on a Lifetime show, she usually isn’t satisfied with it. I find the whole situation entirely laughable – here we are, decades after the “sexual revolution”, a time when women were supposed to “empower” themselves, and “take control of their own lives” and parading around, right there in their living rooms in full color and Hi-Definition, are Jaclyn/Melissa/Nancy and Lindsay, continually the victim of powerlessness, abusive men, “the system” and God knows whatever else in the way of perfidy and degradation, and they all find heroism in their victim-hood. What a seriously society-damaging and person-destroying message to be putting out over the airwaves!

Television for Women? More like Television for Idiots!

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