• I Sort of Liked Glee

    December 16, 2021 // 9 Comments »


    YouTube sent me down a spiral rewatching Glee clips. I am not a Glee fan per se, but it was one of a handful of shows I watched when my kids were in Peak Mode, old enough to be interesting as people but not old enough to realize I was not interesting. My kids are adults now; did TV help form them?

    It did. And what we all learned and especially how we learned it is a lesson on the failure of 2021 wokeness to achieve change and instead just piss people off.

    First a shout out to technology, which makes it a click away to rewatch most anything ever recorded somewhere. I remember visiting the Museum of Broadcasting in New York, with its vast video library, and walking away saying “Um, this is just YouTube but in a building.” So no flying cars in 2021 and no Jetsons-like meals in a pill, but I can watch TV from the 2000s anytime I want to.

    The odd collection of shows my kids and I watched together included Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Glee, Lost, and Survivor. This was before we owned a video recorder and way before on-demand TV, so each show had to be watched, together, at a specific time on a certain day of the week. Called “destination TV” today, this was important because it made the watching a communal event. Today much media is consumed alone, or “virtually together” by people in different places connected by some messaging app. It’s not the same.

    Of all the shows we saw together, in 2021 Glee struck me as the most influential. When it first aired it was thought of as, at least in a suburban way, edgy. I’m sure eyes all across Brooklyn are rolling but they miss the point. Glee being suburban was the point. It was edgy not because we didn’t already know gay dudes liked show tunes but because it took place in suburbia (Ohio for God’s sake) and was meant to be watched in suburbia by families together.

    And in the early 2000s in that context it was edgy to have a gay high school kid coming out, and two girls in love with each other without either of them looking like pitbulls with mullets. Better yet, for my prepubescent but paying attention to things kids, and their soon to be parenting teenagers parents, we had a chance to try out talking about things without wokeness being shouted at us and accusations that I was a patriarchal fascist. It seems trivial now when trans-everything is part of everything but even as a relatively open household we needed to wade in shallow waters first. It prepared us when things got more complicated. We were less successful in that regard watching Family Guy together.

    There was a lot of reality to suspend in Glee. It’s what made Glee more of a parody at times, and kept The Message from overwhelming every scene. Yes, a nowhere Ohio high school somehow threw together Broadway-level shows spontaneously. Never mind nearby there was a private boys school essentially the equivalent of a West Village bathhouse. It feels awkward today that the Disabled Kid was considered empowered by being pushed back and forth through the dance numbers, never mind that the actor who played him looked like he was 40 by the time the show ended.

    Showing how wokeness changed, despite the stunning number of LGB kids at this isolated school, it was only toward the end of the show’s run a transperson showed up, and with no fights with the lesbian community over TERF or whether to otherwise support trans inclusion in women’s spaces. Simpler times! Systemic racism seemed like a far away thing compared to whether the school would allow Lady Gaga songs on stage. Mr. Schuester, the club mentor, would today be hauled off by Child Services for his near constant groping of underage girls.

    And yeah, one of the actors was a real-life pedo (who killed himself) and another a drug addict (who killed himself.) Some of the actors who played gay and lesbian students were not gay or lesbian. Few wokesters of today would be happy with the base premise “of course we’re all minorities, we’re in the glee club.” All instant cancellation fodder in 2021.

    We do also need to overlook Glee’s disproportionate number of gays and lesbians in a small Midwestern town. Same for the disproportionate number of Asians and blacks there, and how when one actor left the show he was replaced by another new kid of the same demographic. The racial demographics of the real Lodi, Ohio, where Glee was set, show 97 percent white and zero Asians. I’ve been to Lodi; if it is not 97 percent straight people it is 97 percent people who pretend to be straight. Less than half population there in real life graduated from any high school, never mind one so devoted to the arts.

    But I get it, Glee was just a confection, a network mainstream TV show designed to sell stuff. But Glee was also proto-media, a hint of the agenda all media would assume in just a few years, albeit with a much blunter instrument.

    One of Glee’s best-presented story lines was about the redneck dad slowly accepting his gay son coming out. It was warm-hearted where it could have been like an AOC screed. Same for the various bullies who came to understand those unlike them. That seems a better way to influence rednecks than today’s version where some angry alliance would burn dad’s house down for being homophobic while Lin Manuel-Miranda “while not condoning violence” tweeted out his support for the violence.

    Glee’s message was consistently one of tolerance. Things would work out, there was no need to burn the place down over a bad pronoun choice. Radical intolerance expressed via cancellations, boycotts, and firings is never the solution for others’ intolerance.

    As cliched as that sounds, played out over time, it sings a lot better than tweets demanding death to all cisgender males will 25 years from now. “I’m better than you because I’m queer” isn’t any different than “I’m better than you because I’m not.” If you can’t see the failure of hypocrisy in modern wokeness you should go back and watch Glee again.

    Now imagine the bum-bum-bum Glee bumper music to end this.


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    Posted in Democracy

    False Media Reporting on Trump’s Request to State Dept for Info on Gender Equality Programs

    December 27, 2016 // 13 Comments »

    The Washington Post, quickly followed by the New York Times and NPR and many others, headlined a story that Trump’s transition team asked the State Department for a list of programs and jobs aimed at promoting gender equality.

    Rattled and Freaked Out!

    The Times, citing anonymous sources, claimed the request “rattled State Department employees concerned that the incoming administration will roll back a cornerstone project of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

    The Los Angeles Times quoted an anonymous senior State Department official as saying “People are freaked out.”

    The Washington Post reported another anonymous source (as these all the same person?) as saying the request is “stoking fears of another witch hunt.” The Post did not detail where the earlier witchhunt had taken place to make this one “another.”

    Reality: It’s Routine, Folks

    The tone of the articles was bombastic, and implied something unique and insidious was going on. By itself, the request means nothing. But in reality, the request is normal and routine.

    Every party transition in Washington includes information gathering; how else would the incoming staff know what they have ahead of them? Offices across the State Department (as well as every other cabinet agency) are flooded with demands for program and budget information, position lists, endless emails asking “Who handles this issue?” and “Where do things stand on Programs X and Y?”

    It is thus absolutely no surprise, and certainly not news, that an email went out to relevant offices in State asking about “existing programs and activities to promote gender equality, such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc.”

    The email also requested a list of positions “whose primary functions are to promote such issues,” though not the names of people in those positions.

    There are likely hundreds of identical requests, on different subjects, now circulating within State. I joined the State Department in 1988 and was employed through the transitions from Reagan to Bush to Clinton to Another Bush to Obama, and helped respond to such requests for information myself. In well-prepared offices, knowing such requests are routine and expected, the basic information would have been gathered even as the election was taking place. Somebody was going to ask.

    So Why is the Media Reporting Inaccurately?

    Assuming the anonymous sources cited by the media include someone other than a former intern’s roommate a reporter met on Tinder, why might the State Department people be “rattled and freaked out” by something so routine?

    The simplest answer is about half of the Foreign Service Officer corps has been with State for less than eight years, meaning they have never experienced a party transition, and have served only under the Obama administration. They have no experience with any of this, and likely have bosses with at best one transitional experience. Most of these people have never had their commitment to serving the executive branch, no matter who is in the White House, tested. And senior management not communicating with the lower ranks is a long-standing State Department issue.

    But the deeper explanation touches on the levels of hysteria across America following the failure of Hillary Clinton to get herself elected president.

    As an organization, the State Department went all-in supporting Hillary Clinton, slow-walking the release of her emails, using Freedom of Information Act and classification games to redact significant content, and generally doing everything it could to protect the former Secretary of State. Many of State’s gender-based program were signature initiatives of Clinton, and track with the personal politics of many State employees. They are (correctly) certain they and these programs are unlikely to find many new friends in the incoming administration.

    Bad Reporting With an Impact Far Beyond the State Department

    Nonetheless, the impact of the sadly low-level of mainstream reporting on details of the transition is serious.

    The seasoned reporters and editors at places like the New York Times know damn well what is and is not routine in a transition. Yet they reported inaccurately and bombastically nonetheless.

    The media is speaking to an audience predisposed to believe every panicky story that can be shoveled out (remember the apocalyptic tales from early November that Trump would never be able to fill his political appointee positions, or that the transition was fatally behind schedule? The unfounded rumors of mass resignations inside the Federal government?)

    The media’s near-obsession with inaccurate reporting on all things Trump, seeking to paint every detail of the president elect as not only negative, but pernicious, is in part what lead to the breakdown of accurate predictions right into election evening, and loss of credibilty by the media.

    More significantly, some notable portion of those who voted for Trump did so out of a sense of disenfranchisement, a disconnection between themselves and Washington DC. In the Internet age, debunking of inaccurate and/or misleading reporting, such as with the routine request for information above, are more widely available than ever.

    Thus, outside the Clinging-to-Clinton bubble, more people than ever have such resources available to them, and can thus more readily see through stories whose purpose is to tell “deplorables” that they voted wrong.

    For those Democrats and Progressives hoping not to repeat the election disaster of 2016 in the 2018 midterms, or heaven forbid, in 2020, such media coverage is excessively harmful. Like full fat ice cream, it sure tastes good now, but boy is it bad for you in the long run.

    Don’t believe me about the routine nature of the Trump administration’s request for information out of State? Believe this site instead.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy