Calling Out Eminem?
Kicking off its yearlong effort to bring attention to discrimination and the power of hate, MTV launched its "Fight for Your Rights" campaign. The first of these efforts was Wednesday night's Anatomy of a Hate Crime, a docudrama exploring the events leading up to the murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard. The names of victims who died at the hands of hate crimes were broadcast by the network, replacing regularly scheduled programming from late Wednesday evening into the following afternoon. Besides good public service, what does this mean for MTV, its viewers, and the future of musicians like Eminem, the angry blond notorious for spouting lyrics about his hatred of gays and other disturbing acts, mostly violence against women? Potentially a great deal.
Not since the witch hunts of the McCarthy Era, when the Wisconsin senator was finally called out by a colleague, has a television network come so close to playing a very direct role in the calling out of a public figure, in this case, a celebrity. During the McCarthy era, television was the silent window onto the events. Today's MTV, which played a large role in promoting Eminem -- by putting his first single "Hi, My Name Is ..." into heavy rotation, creating a two-hour special upon the release of his second album The Marshall Mathers LP last year, airing a cleaned-up video of "The Real Slim Shady," and giving him top honors at the MTV Video Music Awards in September -- is in a unique position to take a stand against hate and homophobia by calling out one of their own. In the process, it would force the network to examine its role in the promotion of hate and its level of influence on its viewers -- something I admit I didn't give much credence to when I first started this TV writing business, but which I have come to realize is no small matter.
"The mission of the 'Fight for Your Rights' campaign is to give our audience the tools to fight discrimination in their communities and in themselves and to profile artists and young adults who are leading the charge against intolerance," said Brian Graden, president of MTV programming, in an article by David Bauder which appeared on Salon. Does this mean that MTV will directly lead the charge in the "music community" they've built, or is this just a gesture to try to appease the ever-growing critics of Eminem, whose bad press in turn taints them by association?
"I would be lying if I didn't say [this] wasn't something we struggled with," Graden said.
It's a struggle worth making.
Nowadays, it's standard for those of us who write about some form of the media to come up with those annoying top 10 lists. I say annoying because inevitably, something is missed or the cause of consternation. Out of curiosity, I scanned other top 10 television picks and found some interesting surprises.
More Top 10
To my delight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer made it onto nearly all the lists I reviewed. This includes picks by Matt Roush of TV Guide, Salon's TV critic Joyce Millman, Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker, and the results of a critics poll compiled by Electronic Media Magazine. While I ranked Buffy third, along with its spinoff Angel, Millman ranked it second (after The West Wing), while Tucker placed it fifth, and Roush and the critics poll placed it seventh and sixth, respectively. I'm thrilled the Buffster is getting her due after all these years of neglect and critical snobbery. On the flip side, I think Angel was sharper, edgier, and more consistent in its freshman year than Buffy in its fifth, yet it didn't turn up on any list that I saw. Bummer.
How could I forget HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm? Shame on me! This Larry David vehicle is an improvised comedy about the pitfalls of being Larry David. Luckily for viewers, there are many.
I've talked up both The Gilmore Girls and That's Life, but Gilmore Girls is the show that quietly made its way onto several lists. It appeared on a "Best of the Rest" list in TV Guide, but turned up number four in the critics poll and eighth on Bruce Fretts' list in Entertainment Weekly.
I was surprised to see Survivor on any list. Its finale episode turned up in the No. 1 slot on Roush's list and sixth on Millman's list.
Two -- count 'em -- two readers responded to my listing of that No Nonsense commercial as one of the top 10 things I'd like to see disappear from TV. You know the one: A married woman thinks catty things about her husband's young female associate in a throwback to 1950s era-style territorialism over that most precious of acquisitions -- a man! Brandy Credeur even went so far as to voice her complaint directly with the No Nonsense folks. Diane Warren, vice-president of marketing, responded to Credeur: "No Nonsense seeks to communicate that we understand women and how they think. Our research showed that revealing a woman's thoughts, even when the thoughts were not necessarily flattering, was an insightful and engaging way to make this point ..."
Nonsense From No Nonsense
Puh-leese! No Nonsense seeks to sell a product. And I'd like to meet the women included in the market research who didn't complain about pantyhose. Personally, I've spent my adult life avoiding jobs and situations in which I have to wear them. In the event that I do have to break down and wear a pair, I'm least likely to buy them from a company that has such an annoying and archaic portrayal of women. Credeur e-mailed her complaint to the No Nonsense folks at email@example.com.
Forget cable access television. Don't even try to apply for instant stardom on one of those reality shows. Why bother with all that when all you have to do is pull out your wallet! According to the Jan. 3 issue of StudioBriefing, ABCTVauctions.com, part of the Disney Internet Group, "is putting seats on ABC's Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher on the block beginning Jan. 12." Bids start at $500. Maher's view on this: "It's the perfect opportunity for the highest bidder to go on a televised, self-serving rant." Just what I'm dying to see. Rich people like Ross Perot and Steve Forbes trying to buy their way into my living room. Where's the remote?
Buy Your Way Onto TV
E-mail Belinda Acosta at firstname.lastname@example.org