All I want for Christmas is content that reinforces women’s membership in a permanent underclass

The Hallmark family of channels are the only non-news channels to have experienced significant growth in the past two years. You know the channels…with those made for TV “movies” featuring your favorite sitcom actresses from the 70s, 80s and… (written with the same feeling as when I hear Nirvana on classic rock radio) 90s.

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“Keep Christ in Christmas. And also, every aspect of your personal and professional life.”   -Candace Cameron Bure

The Washington Post attributes the Hallmark networks’ growth to the age of Trump, with female (and some male) viewers desperate for stress-free entertainment with happy endings. (This is what we at Boob Tubers call ‘I love calamari’ fare.) I’m with you, WaPoIt does seem to tie in with the age of Trump. But instead, it is the reinforcement, if not exaltation, of conservative values that I suspect is fueling this Nielsen fire. These movies are riddled with women that are being forced into metaphorical hope chests. Time and time again, we see women only achieve true happiness once they have:

  • Given up that big promotion to make time for love.
  • Moved back to their provincial, small home town, learning that the big city is no place for a real life…or for a woman!
  • Ditched their suit and tie fiance for the guy that works with his hands, like a real man, probably back in that provincial, small home town.

And it should be mentioned that by women, I mean white women. Despite all of the nostalgia casting, chasing ratings with the 18-49 demographic, nary a Mowry sister, a Lark Voorhees or a Kellie Shanygne Williams in sight. (If you cross-your-heart knew all four of these ladies and the roles they’re famous for without a Google, let me know. You get a prize.)

If this infuriates you, brace yourself, winter is coming. But for the Hallmark family of channels, winter starts on October 27, with the debut of Countdown to Christmas. This is a two month period in which there is around the clock programming set during Christmastime, and all of the conservative tropes reinforcing traditional gender roles you’ve come to know and love are presented through the lense of what a piece of garbage you must be if you don’t have the most magical Christmas ever. It can be a real nail biter to wonder if the perky, blonde heroine is going to leave her law career behind in order to be a receptionist at a Bed and Breakfast and get with Bucks County’s most rugged handyman. Maybe he has a troubled past, maybe he is a widow with two, precocious kids. But imagine the stakes of whether or not she’ll do it in time for their first kiss to be under the mistletoe at the town Christmas tree lighting? And imagine what a complete and utter failure you must be if your Christmas decorations/ blowout/manicure/life choices are in any way different, and therefore inferior, to hers?

Oh also, I watch the ever-loving shit out of these movies. All of them. I used to call it hate watching. But really, can you hate watch in the age of streaming? There’s no just happening upon something while channel surfing and being like, “Oh..haha…look at Danica McKellar, with her PhD in math…falling helplessly in love with that JCPenney catalog looking PTA dad.” There’s only very. intentional. watching. I’m chalking this up to our mission at Boob Tubers: “If you love something, you shouldn’t set it free. You should hold it to incredibly high standards and call it out when it’s being problematic.” I’m just…doing research.

As I post this, the Countdown to Christmas Preview Show is about to air on the flagship Hallmark Channel. Hosted by Candace Cameron Bure, this is a clip show previewing the 33 new Christmas movies making their debut this year. You know, one for each year Jesus was alive. If you think that’s a coincidence, time to wake up, sheeple.

Reading this on the heels of two depressing weeks hearing about women’s experiences  in the entertainment industry opening a Pandora’s box of abuse of women in virtually every profession, you might already be drunk. But if you’re not, this is for you: The Boob Tubers Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game. Come on, hate watch with me during this year’s Countdown to Christmas. And whenever any of the below tropes appear in a movie, take a drink. By the way, if that drink isn’t from great grandma’s eggnog recipe, the one that you make every year or it just wouldn’t be Christmas, presented with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top in the shape of the baby Jesus’ manger, then you are failing at life.

The Boob Tubers Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game

Take a drink when…

  • A precocious child is concerned with an adult’s romantic/sex life
  • A child who acts out after his or her parents have recently divorced or family has relocated, with parents whose reaction is to passively worry and plan the best Christmas ever instead of, like, getting him or her some therapy
  • A couple is dining in an absurdly fancy restaurant, as if the script was written by a five year old who doesn’t know what being an adult is, and that fine dining is now casual and microbrewery focused
  • A workaholic lead character, with a comical imbalance of personal and professional priorities
  • There is a vague portrayal of how the business world actually works works, almost as if it is being dumbed down for an audience of stay at home mothers. (Buy! Sell! I want to see those mockups by tomorrow morning! I don’t care if your fiance is taking you to the fanciest restaurant in town!)
  •  A person of color in the best friend/co-worker role
  • A person of color, probably elderly, extolling wisdom in a way that romanticizes (infantilizes?) their entire race
  • Another holiday or faith gets a token mention. Like Hanukkah! Or Kwanzaa!
  • A woman with absolutely no emotional intelligence, as manifested by her inability to realize a man is romantically interested in her
  • An establishing shot of a location, usually a city, clearly from stock footage
  • An engagement, or serious, committed relationship, before sexual consummation
  • The real Santa Claus appearing in the real world
  • The real Santa Claus appearing in the real world BUT he is only visible to one person (probably our female protagonist)
  • An adult or group of adults that are really, like really into Christmas
  • A workplace that takes Christmas and/or it’s holiday party really, like really seriously
  • An adaptation of a classic story (like A Christmas Carol) with writing and acting that would make Dickens roll over in his grave
  • An actress has hair and makeup in an instance where no self respecting woman would have full hair and makeup (Christmas morning, maybe?)
  • Good old country living is framed as the morally superior choice to city living
  • There is a subliminal or direct endorsement of Judeo/Christian values. This can be as simple as the casting of Candace Cameron Bure in the protagonist role
  • There is a painstakingly ritualistic decoration of a Christmas tree, and some sort of proclamation about this year’s tree being the best ever
  • Someone says “I just get carried away with Christmas. I can’t help it!”

 

TV writers continue to have no idea what “The New Yorker” actually is

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Ali Pfefferman is amazed that The New Yorker published such a piece of crap

Television writers are writers, so you might expect that they’d have some sense of how the larger world of literature functions, but Transparent’s attempt to put together a poem worthy of The New Yorker would seem to indicate otherwise. I’m three episodes into the fourth season of the show and so far, it’s continuing to deliver its particular blend of poignance and absurdity that can only come about via its messy, solipsistic characters’ attempts to self-actualize.

But a major plot point of the second episode, which ultimately drives Ali Pfefferman (Gaby Hoffman) to flee the country, rang pretty false for me. Ali finds out from her fellow graduate students that Leslie Mackinaw (Cherry Jones), the poetry professor with whom she had an affair, has, after years of rejection, finally published a poem in The New Yorker.

She reads the poem aloud, which is always one of those, “Hey! This is TV!” moments for me, like when someone’s phone number starts with 555. Below, I’ve reproduced to the best of my ability Leslie’s poem, which is apparently worthy of publication in one of the most respected and widely-read high-brow magazines in the world:

My Ali, My Garcon
Garcon. Garcon, you cried,
and I came running with my bad old knees.
Little white towel starched perfectly over my arm,
not knowing the mess that awaited me.
You were a child without a booster chair
wanting to play garcon.
You were so cute when you asked,
I said, ‘Yes ma’am, of course.
No problem, right away. ‘
I didn’t know that you had the intellect of a commoner,
the smarts of a wooden clog
Eclipsed by your pedigree
You stupid girl
You fraud
Your pussy ate the salad fork
then the dessert fork
then the fork-fork
You gorged, then walked away
farting flatware

I mean… you don’t have to have an MFA to recognize this as a truly appalling piece of writing, at once obvious and incoherent, not to mention the work of someone whose goal is to exact revenge on an ex rather than, say, shine a light on what it means to be human or even just craft a striking image.

Leslie is based on the actually good poet Eileen Myles, who really did strive for decades to break into The New Yorker. She did, in 2015—you can read the poem here—and while it might not be your cup of tea, there’s nary a “fork-fork” to be found.

The misfire of a scene reminded me of another show’s total failure to understand how getting into a prestige publication like The New Yorker works. In 2007, a first season episode of Gossip Girl featured proto-hipster Dan Humphrey having a short story accepted for the magazine’s “20 Under 20” issue. (Gawker has an “excerpt” of the story here. RIP Gawker.)

Perhaps even funnier than the premise of a random teenager getting into The New Yorker is the idea that they’d even have a “20 Under 20” issue, as though what middle-aged Upper West Siders really want isn’t medium-funny humor written by Frank Rich’s son or “Talk of the Town” pieces about what Judy Collins eats for breakfast, but an elevated version of Highlights for Children.

Anyway, we all know that when Dan grew up he abandoned his writing dream, got a job at Y Combinator, and today spends his evenings doing blow and cheating on Serena with women that look like his childhood friend and true love, Vanessa.

 

Kevin can stop. Like, now please.

Maude’s abortion. All American Girl featuring TV comedy’s first Asian American family. The Office dismantling the fourth wall with its single camera. For decades, sitcoms have been platforms for barrier breaking storytelling.

The start of the 2017-2018 fall season will be no different. Gone are the days of schlubby, male stars casting out of their league actresses as their wives. And here are the days of schlubby, male stars killing off out of their league actresses as their wives to make room for…different, out of their league actresses.

KevinCanWaitTonight’s Kevin Can Wait season two premiere takes TV’s recent tendency for nostalgia into uncharted and lazy storytelling waters in order to bring back the safe, comedic pairing of Kevin James and Leah Remini of King of Queens fame. Erin Hayes is no more as James’ wife, as “the character will have passed away and we will be moving forward in time catching up at a later date,” according to CBS programming boss Thom Sherman, giving the TV family “some time to cope with the death of their mother and wife.” And making it easier for James and Remini to move on in to bone-town in time for sweeps, no doubt.

Keep those rich roles for women coming, TV land. Erin Hayes, we hardly knew ya, but we can definitely tell you’re better than this.