Friday, February 11, 2011

Television's Unspoken Rules

Certain things just seem to be required in movies and television these days. Hollywood has always had its unspoken rules, and they've evolved over time, from maximum breast size restrictions to minimum breast size requirements, from only allowing white people to play non-white races to never allowing white people to play non-white races. Here are today's most prominent rules:

1. Skinny chicks must carbo-load

Hollywood's real sorry for all the times it made you feel fat, and they're going to prove how sorry they are by employing actresses who aren't twigs. Oh wait, no, they're actually just going to use the same actresses, but show them pretending to eat a whole lot of pretend food. So instead of sending the message "Starve yourself so you can look like this," they're saying "Just give up now, fatty, no point in trying, it's all genetics. Skinny chicks don't get that way through careful diet and exercise, are you kidding? They eat just as many donuts as you do. The difference is, God loves them and hates you. Feel better now?"

I'm pretty sure it's an FCC violation to have a skinny chick on your show and not show her eating a Snickers at least once. And don't even think about showing her at the gym or passing up that birthday cake at the office. Is that a diet soda? I don't think so, better switch that for a bottle of pure corn syrup. Nothing promotes a healthy body image like images of a body that stays healthy through magic.

Worst offenders: Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and worst of all, Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached, where she not only sports the body of a ten year old boy, she also eats like one.


2. Everywhere in the world has the same weather as California

Let's face it: weather effects are expensive. I don't expect anyone to show rain and hail and blizzards without a really compelling plot-based reason. But many, many low-budget shows have managed to convey the change of the seasons. If you don't need to shoot any scenes outside, you can just show the characters wearing winter clothing or carrying umbrellas, for instance.

But we all know that the sole purpose of television is product placement, so over time more and more shows became set in California, where mini skirts and flip flops can be advertised by tan teenagers played by 30 year olds year round. It's a bit silly, of course, but it makes a lot of sense budget-wise, plus I'm pretty sure at least half of the world's population that matters really does live in California.

Then suddenly California lost its cool. Middle America made a comeback with W., red was the new blue, and the good folks in the television studios realized they could sell shit to these people, if they could convince them to stop watching Nascar long enough. Now every show takes place in Middle America, which seems to be the same place as Ohio according to Hollywood. Having never been to Ohio, everyone on these shows still looks, acts, talks and dresses like they are not only from California, but still living there. They're tan year-round, play football outside in January and hang out on the quad wearing shorts and tshirts during months when the real Ohio is buried under five feet of snow.

I think this is Hollywood saying "We're sorry we ignored you before. To make it up to you, we're going to make some shows about you. Well, not really about you, I mean, it's not like we're going to figure out what it's really like to be a 'LIMA loser,' whatever that means. But we will take the shows we were going to make anyway and say they're set in Ohio without changing anything else about them so that you can feel like you're part of America too."

Worst offenders: Greek and Glee, with Glee coming out on top due to their obviously enormous budget and total ignorance of weather patterns and high school sports seasons; plus Greek makes tongue-in-cheek references to the mysteriously California-like weather at CRU so it's actually kinda funny on that show.

3. The only consequence of poverty is occasional social ostracism

With the economy down, television producers are trying to reach out to "real" people by making shows about poor people. The trouble is, even though many tv writers started out poor, once they become rich they have a special surgical procedure done to remove the part of the brain that remembers what being poor is like. Plus, like we said before, television is all about the product placement. The result is school counselors who have a different Anthropologie outfit for every day of their lives, poor kids living in 4 bedroom houses who have no difficulty coming up with the thousands of dollars necessary to participate in costly high school sports, and car mechanics who can buy their sons all the Marc Jacobs leather satchels they can handle.

Worst case scenario, a kid might be made fun of for their supposed poverty, which the other kids cunningly discovered by...wait, how did they find out that the girl with a new car and a new outfit every day is the poorest kid in town? Did they dig through her trash for bank statements? Did they take a peek at her daddy's 401K during that crazy house party she hosted? Did they catch her shopping at Macy's?

Hollywood's message to us is "If you don't drive an Escalade, you're basically homeless and we pity you."

Worst offenders: Glee, Buffy, and the winner: Smallville for the $280 Nanette Lepore shirt Chloe Sullivan, the unemployed daughter of an unemployed and dead-broke ex-Luthorcorp employee, wore. But hey, at least she wore it twice. What a trouper! Designer hats off to you, Chloe.

Love always,

S. Misanthrope

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