Call me curmudgeon — or maybe just a grown-up

I’m not sure if I’m really, really grumpy this week or perhaps I’m just making some decisions that are long overdue. I seem to be in the mood to stop experiencing some media that I used to like, and for me, that doesn’t happen often — I have a lot of bandwidth available for incoming material and I tend to keep going with stuff forever, or until it gets canceled. (Sorry, Jeanie Beker, I probably would have kept going with Fashion Television, but I’m not terribly unhappy that you’ve been canceled. Unlike many men, I don’t watch it in case there’s a see-thru blouse, and you’ve gone from 80% women’s/20% menswear to 99%/1%.)
What have I gotten over this week? Well,, a “light gay news” site that I used to like, lost me forever when they gushed over a photo-op they had with The Real Housewives of Vancouver. It’s not just that I strongly dislike the RHOV, although I certainly do. It’s that, as semi-alcoholic over-surgeried lazy wasteful sluts, they are the worst possible role models for anyone, including gay men, and I object to having them covered like “news” as if they were a bunch of fun gals who liked a few drinkies with their gay-boy BFFs. Their relationship to gay men is worse than merely fag-and-hag, it’s downright demeaning to the brain-addled sot who follows one of them around, holding her purse and her dog. Homorazzi never set out to be the New York Times, but there is a political limit and they’ve reached it with me.
Similarly, America’s Next Top Model lost me forever last night. ANTM has not only jumped the shark, Tyrant Banks has BECOME the shark, and the program has spiralled downward into an hour of her wallowing in her own crapitude amidst a swirl of naked product placement. Ordinarily, just about any “one by one voted off the island” competition program will interest me. This one, however, suffers from a fatal flaw. Many such programs are based on specific results. If you’re the first to build the fire or raise the flag on Survivor, you win the immunity necklace; the viewer can see the results. Yes, there are quite a few “off the island” programs where decisions are made by expert judges. For instance, Project Runway’s contestants are judged by people who have excellent credentials in fashion; Top Chef has top chefs, etc. But ANTM has had a disastrous rotation of judges — starting with the execrable Janice Dickinson, who seemingly made decisions based on her drug intake over the previous 24 hours — whose credentials may have been excellent but whose decisions seemed very arbitrary, and most of whom only lasted a couple of seasons amid reports of their leaving after having quarrelled with Tyrant. And the competitions themselves have descended from photography that was related to being a working model into — well, last night the contestants had to become part of a “rap group” and make a music video.
The program has always been a massive product placement opportunity for everything from Cover Girl to Target. Increasingly, though, Tyrant’s own pet projects have taken pride of place, and the contestants are expected to abase themselves in the cause of promoting her “novel” (one ghastly piece of prose I swear to never experience, based on what little I’ve been exposed to) or her blog or her website or whatever. Tyrant is fond of making up words and forcing others to use them “meaningfully”, starting with the portmanteau “smize” — smile/eyes — and descending from there. Last night, a young woman whom I considered to be the best contestant refused to participate in something that resembled an amateur strip club’s chorus line designed to illustrate the various forms of “booty tooch”, the less said about which the better. The mutiny was considered “disrespectful” — how it’s not disrespectful to force young women to illustrate various forms of sticking their asses out (literally) I have no idea — and the unique and talented AzMarie received the boot. As did Tyrant from my future programming requirements, thank you very much. When someone is ejected for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the competition, that’s a sign that this is not a competition, it’s an ass-kissing contest. I have more respect for AzMarie for refusing to pucker up than any of the others, and whoever wins will have won nothing worth the effort. Bye, Tyrant.
The biggest decision this week, though, was to delete the Toronto Globe and Mail from my future media consideration. That one was major. I have been reading the Globe for, God help me, 40 years, starting in high school when it cost a quarter. I’ve had my photo on their front page and they documented my first tattoo. I’ve published a thousand-word personal essay with them and it used to be my hobby to get a letter into the letters column once a week — I think I’ve managed a dozen with them. I had a long and personal relationship with this newspaper. But lately — it’s gone downhill. Last year, after an unbroken liberal/Liberal record of support for decades, they endorsed the conservative/Conservative candidate for Prime Minister. Their mystery reviewer, Margaret Cannon, has always been incompetent; I swear she only reads the jacket flaps. They’ve gotten rid of all their good editorial opinion people and replaced them with brain-dead hacks. Over the years, they’ve occasionally given space to people like the egregious Lorna Dueck, whose anti-gay Christianity is magnificently offensive, and the disgracefully bigoted pseudo-academic Margaret Somerville, ditto — but I stood it in the name of “equal time”. Lately, though, I’d been going through the online version daily and finding nothing, nothing, nothing. News off the wire, with right-wing editorial bias added in. Ghastly sycophantic hacks writing opinion pieces about how wonderful the government’s policies are. Reviews of books and movies that are nothing but rewritten PR handouts. “Supplements” that are massive product placement opportunities for financial products. And the letters column, which used to be a lively exchange of wit and intelligence, has descended to the level of — the Internet. I don’t know what it was that set me off, but I realized this morning that I was just flat-out wasting my time and had been for months. I stopped reading the print version some time ago when I found an online cryptic crossword that was better than theirs (right after they endorsed Harper); today, I deleted the online link from my bookmarks and I won’t be back.
This doesn’t worry me, particularly. I may be just being grumpy this week, but it’s more likely that it was simply time for me to move on. What does bother me a little bit is that I might be turning into one of those people whose biases I associate with being American, where I am refusing to experience any point of view that doesn’t precisely match my own. What? Not pro-abortion? Can’t have THAT in the house. (Although it’s a point of view that I usually associate with the far right in the U.S. Starbucks supports gay marriage? Can’t drink THEIR coffee, perhaps for fear of ideological contamination.) Usually I’ve kept myself honest by reading Canada’s OTHER national newspaper once every couple of months, the National Post, which is a little to the right of Attila the Hun. But now, I have nothing left except our cretinous and sub-literate local newspaper and online news, if I want to know what’s actually going on in the lives of intelligent literate people in my vicinity. Believe me, the Vancouver Sun and Breakfast Television are not going to fill THAT need.
I think what this means is that I’ll have to seek harder and work more diligently to find new sources of news and entertainment. Not necessarily ones that match my point of view precisely; that’s not what I require. But ones that don’t make me feel like I’m dirtying my hands in picking them up.

2 thoughts on “Call me curmudgeon — or maybe just a grown-up

  1. jawnbc says:

    Curmudgeon. 😉

    I’m actually grooving on this year’s ANTM because of the UK vs. US schtick. Which is great fun. Shame the BNP loon Louise stormed off, however.

    • Noah Stewart says:

      Oh, I have to admit that from time to time ANTM is fun. Maybe it’s just that Tyra is getting more and more transparent as her career grinds to a well-deserved halt — the edit that says “This week, THIS girl is on her way out” is a lot easier to spot. I think since her talk show crashed and burned, she has a lot more time on her hands to meddle with the outcome, and it’s that I don’t like. Plus, as I said, that she loves to divert the judging process by adding competitions that have more to do with Tyra than anything else. Jeff Probst may be a PITA, but at least once the casting is over he leaves the contestants alone (okay, barring pointed comments at Tribal Council that reveal his knowledge of things the contestants would rather he not know). Tyra acts like she’s entitled to hand-pick the winner and to hell with everyone else.

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