Culture War Reporters’ Memorial Day Montage

War.

For the vast majority of the lives of every writer here at CWR, wars and rumors of war have been a part of daily life. As of 2013, over 43% of the US military is comprised of men and women aged 25 or younger, an additional 22% just barely older. The majority of this nation’s army are tasked with fighting in conflicts many are barely old enough to remember the start of. The once rare presence of a person in uniform has now become a commonplace in airports all across the continent, and for good or ill, the armed forces have become a major element in our culture, and we here at CWR have engaged the subject over and over again.

Today’s post comes to you on Memorial Day for Americans. In the spirit of the day, I figured we should take a moment to offer a review on the material we’ve produced on the subject of the military. The good, the bad, the ugly- altogether.

Why We Need Graphic Violence

Violence in media is often cited as being one of the chief sources of violence in everyday life. But is our paralytic fear of showing blood and gore actually a good thing? Here we argue that disturbing images need to be seen for us to be really and truly disturbed, and that there’s no better place to start than with war. How else can we measure the real cost?

Stars Earn Strips (Is A Terrible, Awful, Idiotic Abomination)

Fortunately cancelled after only four weeks of airtime, NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes stands as a demonstration of just how depraved we can be when it comes to exploiting the horror of war and our sympathy for folks in uniform. Here we break down every repellent detail of why this show (and shows like it) are as damaging as they are deluding.

No War, No More

During the height of tensions with North Korea during the spring of 2013, there was more than a little bravado on the side of Americans, mocking the little dictatorship and laughing at the prospect of bombing the country out of existence. Frustrated by the cavalier attitude of so many, we provided this reminder of the actual nature of war and conflict.

Shame Day: War As A Fashion Statement

Later that same year, Evan covered the trend on militaria as a fashion, targeting the ironic(?) use of Vietnam War caps specifically. Disrespectful to veterans? Trivializing of combat? Read on to see for yourself.

(Admittedly, the title’s probably a giveaway. It’s still a good piece- read it anyways.)

America Wants Dead Soldiers

In what was perhaps the most shocking titles ever given to a post here at CWR, yours truly argues that the sympathy offered the members of the armed services (especially on days such as today) are by and large crocodile tears. Actual gratitude to the men and women in uniform has a strange habit of disappearing when it involves any actual sacrifice or effort on our part. Read on to discover why.

The Black And White Of American Sniper [No, This Isn’t About Race]

While real support for the armed forces is no easy task, honest criticism’s no picnic either, as Evan demonstrates in his analysis of the reactions to American Sniper. Addressing the legacy of celebrated marksman Chris Kyle, we examine how quickly both history and our depictions of it can be distorted to complement our own views. If you look at nothing else today, look at this one.

When Patriots Inflate

Surprise!  There’s not going to be a lot of football in this post.  But I’ll work it in where I can.

I grew up within a thirty minute drive of one of the most deployed military bases in the U.S., so it’s safe to say that I’ve been exposed to just about every brand of hyper-patriotism in existence.  Every house on every street sported an American flag, and Memorial Day was actually more than just “Giant BBQ Day,” because everyone knew/loved somebody who was literally putting their life on the line for their country.  Because of this, there’s almost a sense of urgency to the way people there go about loving their country.  Basically, your friends and family may die for the USA at any point, so you need to love your country to pieces, because otherwise questions about the necessity of their sacrifice will eat you alive from the inside.

And you know what?  I get it.  I really do.  I know people who’ve lost parents, siblings, and spouses in the military.  It’s heartbreaking.  However, emotions only ever get in the way of rationality, and when you take all of that away, I can only reasonably come to the conclusion that patriotism–or at least, the inflated emphasis on it that I encounter daily–is straight up dumb.  I really could go on and on about this, but for now, I’ll sum up my problems with patriotism in a few points.

1. It’s Practically Nationalism.

In most cases I’ve encountered, the two are inseparable.  There’s a reason why synonyms of nationalism include both “flag-waving” and “jingoism.”  Sure, you can argue that the two are distinct; patriotism, at its core, is devoted love of your country, and doesn’t necessarily have to lead to all of the negative “us vs. them” bulls**t we so often see.  I’m not about to go the route of the “slippery slope” argument, but seriously, that’s a fine line to tread.

Most American patriots I know will throw around phrases like “the greatest country on earth” or “the city on a hill.”  It’s sickening, but we put up with it because, in our case, there either aren’t any major negative consequences (yet) or they’re so far removed from us as to be a non-issue (unless you happen to live in a country where we currently have boots on the ground).  It could be worse.  It could be ethnic nationalism, or religious nationalism. The fact is, inflated patriotism generates a pretty prime climate for that sort of nonsense to proliferate.  This would be forgivable if it actually did us any good otherwise, but… Continue reading

3 Questions We Need to Ask about FHRITP and Internet Justice

You may have seen the following video circulating on the internet. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I should warn you that it contains coarse language.

I absolutely love how CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt manages to professionally undermine this popular joke. She is bang on in identifying the blatant sexism of the comment, and the way it exudes disrespect for all female news anchors. This phrase, and the trend of harassing female reporters, is particularly frustrating because it falls into “legal no man’s land” and would be very difficult to prosecute. However, shortly after this video aired, one of the men who defends the FHRITP trend was fired from his high-paying engineering job for violating their code of conduct.

While I am frankly quite ecstatic that we no longer live in the era of “boys will be boys”, there are certain aspects of this case that have also raised up questions for me. I’ve shared those questions with you below.

At what point does internet justice become cyber-bullying?

The internet has been a major catalyst for feminist activism. For example, a wide variety of feminist issues that are not usually discussed by mainstream media have been able to gain traction on social media. As a woman, I’m so thankful for that. I’m also a big believer in creating stigma around certain behaviours, since it often seems far more effective than banning them altogether. However, I have noticed some instances where public shaming has become an unnecessary contest between shamers. Evan has touched on this in the past, but I also found some prime examples of this on the “Help Shawn Simoes get his Job Back” Facebook page. It seems that instead of liking it in order to actually support the FHRITP scapegoat, people have been liking it so that they can one up each other with their witty comments.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.59.41 PM Continue reading

2 Broke Girls, S4E22 “And the Disappointing Unit”: A TV Review

disappointingunit

Here we are at last, presented with nearly twenty-two full minutes of television to cap off the fourth season of 2 Broke Girls and set the stage for the fifth. As I’ve pointed out in the past few weeks leading up to this one there is a lot riding on season finales, so it really pains me to say that this one does not deliver.

In my review of last season’s finale I listed off the momentous events that closed off the show’s first two years, which are as follows:

  • Season 1 –  they meet Martha Stewart, a gigantic leap forward when it comes to them opening their cupcake store
  • Season 2 – the decision is made to open a new store in a hidden room adjacent to the rest of the diner [given their old location having a car in one wall]

I also noted the way that that particular season ended:

  • Season 3 – Max passes a US History final and gets her GED

Which, let’s all be fair, is and was not the biggest deal. I mean, yes, it’s great that Max now has a high school diploma, but what does it mean for her and Caroline moving forward? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. This season’s finale does at least include both girls, but can unfortunately be summed up as:

  • Season 4 – Max and Caroline remember that they have a dream of their own, ie. their cupcake shop

That’s right, it dawns on them that they once had a plan to start their own business, a plotline that can actually be traced back to the very first season. What’s really jarring about this epiphany is that they’ve been in possession of their very own cupcake shop with its new storefront from the beginning of Season 3 to the end of Season 4. To have that fact in mind and then hear Caroline say that they “haven’t abandoned it, [they] just haven’t paid attention to it in three months” only makes it that much weirder.

Even when looking back through the season any episodes that had to do with their business were directly connected to their new venture focused on apparel. The $10k loan that they take out doesn’t have anything to do with baked goods and everything to do with t-shirts. Then that was swiftly abandoned due to bad press and they began work at The High to do what they could to pay off the aforementioned loan.

Creator and executive producer Michael Patrick King returns to both direct and write this episode in the hopes of trying to put things back on track, and he really has his work cut out for him. On one hand he needs to bring the story arc of Sophie and Oleg’s marriage to a close in a satisfying manner, and on the other he needs to, as I keep saying, set things up for for the fifth season. King needs, needed, to leave us in a place where we’re counting down the days until we can find out what happens to Max and Caroline!

To skip over the wedding completely [some of it will make it into my Stray Observations I’m sure] it’s two airline hostesses who are the cause of Max’s realization, with one saying to the other:

“Bonnie, let’s admit it, we’re never going to go for our dream. [. . .] If we really wanted our own business we would’ve done it already. Just like Max and Caroline did.”

Which results in her rewarding them with coconut macadamia cake and rushing to the back to tell Caroline:

“We have our own business. The High isn’t our failure. We already have our very own failure- called max’s homemade cupcakes! And if we stay here we’ll be building someone else’s dream not ours.”

Having laid out exactly how it happened what I really want to get into is why it happened. Was it the writers’ plan all along to bring attention away from their cupcake shop so that they could have this sudden realization that they’ve been neglecting it? Why does it feel like it’s not just the characters who are backtracking but those in charge of the show’s narrative as well?

As someone who is basically locked into watching 2 Broke Girls until it’s one day pulled off the air I’m actually very invested in it being a good show. I do want to see Max and Caroline grow as characters and move in a particular direction and I’m disappointed that this season has been so centred on them losing their way. Or maybe, as someone stuck in a job he enjoys very little, I’m just making my own dissatisfaction with my current stage in life clearly apparent by projecting on these fictional characters. That being said just because their situation may be realistic and even relatable does not make it good television.

Having said all that, come back in the fall when I will be covering the fifth season of the show and however it unfolds. While this season has been a pretty shaky one I actually have some hope that the writers will be serving up something more cohesive given what Max tells her [only?] friend:

“Well, partner, after all we’ve been through this year, whatever comes next I kinda feel ready for it.”

Also, please feel free to make Caroline Boob Pic memes to pass the time between now and then!

Current Total: $3,261.

New Total: $89. Max and Caroline totally do what I predicted would happen two episodes ago and head off to Paris, France. Which explains why they’re back in the double digits when it comes to whatever this amount is supposed to represent.

The Title Refers To: The airport branch of The High and how it isn’t doing well. I’d really been hoping that this episode was going to be more Storage Wars-related.

Stray Observations:

  • I’m going to get this out of the way early, but we double down on the sexual abuse jokes [“I thought family style service was what I had to do with my uncle.”] when Han acknowledges it in a jab back at Max [“I don’t know what your uncle saw in you.”].
  • That doesn’t keep the audience from shrieking with laughter, however. They’re a lot more lively than usual, likely due to it being the last episode of the season.
  • “Wow, business is slower than the third season of House of Cards.”
  • Big Mary/John is back to talk about his sex life [surprise, surprise], this time sharing about his new Grindr account.
  • One of the stewardesses is played by Caroline Rhea, who was one of the aunts on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. What a great show.
  • Also their thing is high fiving and wow, it is too much.
  • As someone who has travelled a fair bit Caroline’s list of their establishment’s many services really got me:

“Welcome to The High, the finest in high quality desserts. We also have yogurts, cappuccinos, lattes, coffee, herb teas, or smart waters. And did I mention we’re a Boingo hotspot!

  • Evidence they’ve been neglecting their cupcake shop: Earl has a grow op in the closet.
  • Chestnut makes an appearance as the steed Oleg rides down the aisle!
  • And has to be decked out in pink ribbons, much to his owner’s chagrin. “I guess there’s a reason ‘horse’ sounds so much like ‘whore'”.
  • The waiter Caroline hired is named “Mohammed Mehdinejad” and keeps getting held up by the TSA. “This whole Middle East situation is just so inconvenient for me!” she says.
  • Pop Culture Put-Downs: a new feature that I hope to continue into Season 5, this episode featured jokes at the expense of: the Pitt-Jolie children, Anne Hathaway on The Tonight Show, and some woman named Meredith Baxter-Birney.
  • Max says “I’ve never been in coach” but we all know she’s flown on an actual private jet so don’t start with me about this it doesn’t make any sense-
  • Come back on Friday for a special exclusive 2 Broke Girls-related interview! You don’t want to miss it!

Can’t Hang ‘Em Thrice: Dzhokhar and the Death Penalty

Friday saw a federal jury sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the culprits behind the horrific bombing of the 2013 Boston marathon, to death by lethal injection. When I saw the headline pop up on my news feed, all I could think to myself was-

What’s the point?

Readers, no one- even the defendant- disputes Tsarnaev’s guilt. Tsarnaev’s cowardly attack murdered three innocent people and wounded over a quarter thousand others. That Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan (killed in a standoff with police shortly after the bombing) are monsters is likewise not in question.

But with all of that in mind- the guilt, the heinous nature of the act- what’s a lethal injection going to solve?

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the death penalty on this blog, but I think there’s hardly a better example of how fundamentally useful the thing is. And don’t for a minute think this is some bleeding-heart outcry against killing- I’ve got no problem with that, and I actually think we don’t resort to violence nearly as fast or often as we should.

I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

What are we trying to acomplish here?

It’s Not Justice

It’s not.

Tsarnaev murdered three people and mutilated hundreds of others. If we take a balance-the-scales approach to justice (which I don’t- but that’s another discussion), then we’d have to find some way of killing and reviving him three times and subject him to years of physical and emotional torture.

We can’t do that.

Morally or practically.

You can pick whichever you want, but it’s just not going to happen. If you want to you make justice your sticking point, then fantastic. And I don’t say that with an iota of sarcasm, I really and truly to laud that. But again, this isn’t justice. Continue reading

Recap Filler and What To Do This Weekend

Of the four posts that went up on the blog this week four of them were penned by yours truly. Alongside Gordon’s illuminating takedown of “career resource” website TheLadders and Kat’s experience watching a live production of The Phantom of the Opera I reviewed two items of pop culture:

  • the penultimate episode of the fourth season of 2 Broke Girls, a show that has tested every fibre of patience in my body yet still manages to amuse me just enough for me to keep going [the hundreds of site hits a day certainly don’t hurt].
  • the 15th issue of Ms. Marvel, a comic book that is as consistently good as the above is bad disappointing, in which a critically-acclaimed self-contained title threatens to connect more fully with the larger and more confusing universe it inhabits.

Just like any other piece of art it’s so easy to take what we’re given and simply let it entertain us. The truth is, however, that you don’t need to review a show for a living the sake of doing so in order to really engage it. We can always be consciously considering whatever it is we choose to get into, even if it’s to ask ourselves that most simple question: “What is the creator’s intent?”

Which is all to say that I don’t have it in me to write a third blog post this week, so this is me telling you to go out there and enjoy Mad Max: Fury Road. Not simply because it currently has 99% on Rotten Tomatoes but because it will make Men’s Rights Activists upset. Seriously, though, MRAs are actively campaigning against it, so what better reason to see it, possibly even more than once?

That’s all I have for you. Go out there, enjoy your Friday-

“What a day! What a lovely day!”

Ms. Marvel, #15: A Comic Book Review

msmarvel15So ends the three-issue story arc “Crushed” and any semblance of a relationship that Kamala Khan and family friend [not cousin/blood relative] Kamran once had, not with a bang but with a helping hand. Let me backtrack a little-

Really, this plot in this issue is fairly simple. As I mentioned pretty explicitly in my last review the newest character to be introduced is bad news, his closeness with our heroine seemingly acting as a way for him to more easily serve his master, Lineage. That’s where things get a little less simple, so I suppose I should backtrack yet again and try to explain what’s been happening outside of Jersey City for those of you who are only reading this book out of Marvel’s many, many titles.

To start with, on the recap page you may have noticed the final line: “These events take place between Inhuman #14 and the Inhuman Annual.” Continue reading