Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Guest Blog: Jonathan on The Bad Girls Club

Please give a warm welcome to Jonathan, my partner in aspiring writerdom (and in bed). -Alanna

Watching the Oxygen Network’s “Bad Girls Club” the other night I had a minor epiphany.

All season I’ve found myself wondering what Tiffany is doing in the house with the other girls––each of the rest of whom regularly (glibly, defiantly –– it would almost seem proudly) seizes upon pretty much every opportunity to manifest her own variety of Bad—while Tiffany comes across as sort of decent.

Granted, as advertised (and emphasized excessively in promotional spots), she does have a bit of a temper, and evinces a general disinclination to suffer fools gladly or otherwise. But the critical distinction seems to be that, unlike her housemates, when Tiffany gets angry it’s not simply because she isn’t getting what she momentarily happens to want. She doesn’t seem to be governed exclusively by her passions.

Or maybe what I mean to say—since I doubt she has any sort of superhuman control over the source of her emotions—is that her behaviors don’t fluctuate straightforwardly with her moods; her actions aren’t stark translations of whatever she happens to be feeling. She thinks before she acts.

And maybe even this rational component to her behavior isn’t what I’m really interested in (after all, most of the other girls use their solo interviews to develop strident rational justifications for the parts they’ve played in a given episode’s mayhem) so much as the way she appears to think things through—the ideological or moral framework within which she seems consistently willing to assess her own position.

Not only is Tiffany the sole resident of the Bad Girl house apparently able to conceive of herself as a single moving part in a whole interpersonal network of variously competing passions and wants (rather than as the imperial nexus at its center), but she’s one of very few people I can think of off the top of my head who seem to give a genuine shit about anyone other than themselves.

Tiffany has a capacity—or maybe it’s an ingrained mechanism she can’t escape; in practice, though, does this really make a difference?—for genuine other-orientedness. She’s somehow able to resist the ubiquitous initial impulse in the face of a thwarted desire to find somebody to blame, to convert the tension that will inevitably arise between people who happen to want different things into a melodramatic saga of Good vs. Evil, with the latter category stretching to encompass anyone who fails to see things precisely my way, or, worse, stands between me and whatever it is I happen to want.

I.e. she’s apparently the only Bad Girl willing to step outside of a moral framework that essentially amounts to “Fuck them other bitches”—even when it means taking honest stock of her own behaviors. Time and again I’ve watched Tiffany withdraw from a heated (typically profanity-laden and variously-shatter-prone-Household-article-flying) Bad Girl interchange to attempt a disinterested assessment of the internal forces that might be motivating her initial response. And if she doesn’t like what she sees, she attempts to change the way she’s behaving—sometimes going so far as to apologize for an action she’s come to regret.

Is this just manipulative editing intended to add an intriguingly incongruous ethical layer to an otherwise unrelenting parade of vapidity? Could be. And of course I’m aware that the moral feature I’ve kind of laboriously pointed out here is the sort of vintage Do-unto-others-as-you-would-&c. stuff of Sunday School sessions that everyone has had hammered repeatedly (albeit ineffectually) into him/her at some point, sure.

But how often do you see people genuinely trying to think about what someone else might be thinking/feeling/wishing/wanting/&c.—particularly if this honest accounting might lead to wounded pride or inconvenience or real discomfort or some other form of unpleasantness for them?

Probably my biggest problem as an aspiring human, or at least the one I’m thinking of as I write this, is that I’ve never really outgrown a childish yearning for a moral cosmos that’s pretty much directly antithetical to the way humans actually behave. I like to imagine a world in which at the very least a few scattered heroes can act in Atticus Finchian accordance with principles that reach farther than the borders of their immediate self-interest. And if I’m able to catch even a glimpse of such a world in the Grand Guignol of Post-Millennial American Reality TV, then, well, I don’t know:
maybe there’s cause for a little hope.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vampire High!

Apparently it was necessary for officials at the Latin School in Boston to come forward and explain the fancy-pants school is not, in fact, experiencing a vampire infestation. As a Gawker commenter wisely observed, this is what happens when teenagers get their hands on all seven seasons of Buffy.

Next thing you know, students will be reporting classmates becoming invisible, devil dogs invading prom, and their graduation speaker turning into a giant snake. I can't wait to see the naysaying press release for each of those. The explanation will probably entail gangs on PCP.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obama's Predix

I am rather tickled that Obama took the time to complete his own bracket for the NCAA tournament. Hey President Hope, how the whole economy thing going?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lost 5x8: "LaFleur"

I found last night's episode of Lost particularly delicious because it was heavy on the Sawyer. But it was also an interesting experiment in several ways: a deviation from the show's recently action-y, time travel-y, format in which everyone is completely miserable and suffers from intermittent nose bleeds.

Brief recap: The episode begins with Locke disappearing into the well. There's a flash and a glimpse of a huge statue that some viewers think closely resembles Horus. That, coupled with the hieroglypics that would pop up back in the old button-pushing days, and Richard's apparent agelessness, makes me wonder if there's some kind of Egyptian mythology at work here.

There's one final flash, and our intrepid time travellers realize that that was the last one: Locke has succeeded. And where did the flash take them to? Why, the time of delightful muttonchop sideburns, giant collars, and groovy records: the 70s!

With Jack and Locke gone, Sawyer can finally run shit. He ably insinuates his crew in with the Dharma Initiative and even negotiates a difficult truce-breaking situation with Other Leader Richard, AKA Guyliner, AKA possibly the Egyptian god Ra. (My dumb theory.) Three years go by, in which Sawyer becomes Jim LaFleur, head of Dharma Security, all-around nice guy, and extremely schmoopy for Juliet, with whom he now lives. They seem like a really functional, happy couple, which means that as soon as they're reunited with the Oceanic 6 (which begins to happen at the episode's very end) Kate "Life Ruiner" Austen will promptly ruin their lives.

What intrigued me most about this episode was what it reveals about a philosophy that seems highlighted often on Lost: the power that comes with the possession of information; namely, the possession of MORE information than the other guy. Having hopped, skipped, and jumped through time, Sawyer & Co. have been privy to myriad aspects of the island's history that, to the folks comfortably settled in a linear time frame, they couldn't POSSIBLY know without some kind of amazing god-like abilities. Sawyer blows Richard's mind when he mentions the bomb they buried and Locke's appearance 20 years before, and by doing so diverts the Others and the Dharma Initiative from an all-out battle. It was a neat role reversal to see the Losties fucking with the Others' heads, instead of vice versa. And it also brings up interesting questions about where the Others got all their information that they used to torment the Losties with frequently throughout seasons 1-3.

Another nice touch: Sawyer names himself LaFleur, and the flower he gives Juliet after she successfully delivers a Dharma woman's baby seems emblematic of key personality changes: would he ever think to demonstrate respect and congratulations for something Kate did? No, they would just gripe at each other and be in a stupid love triangle with Jack. I don't think I will enjoy her return.