Saturday :: Dec 11, 2004

Activating The F-Chip

by pessimist

There have been 'public service announcements' running all over the media lately alerting parents to the presence of the V-chip in their televisions and instructions on where to learn how to activate it. Friendly television moms like Katie Couric have been 'informing' parents about this, parent to parent.

Of course, no one ever suggest turning the evil Cyclops off!!! But I digress.

In the interests of keeping television viewers from seeing objectionable programming, This company has entered the market with a device to control access to a certain network known for its lack of 'moral values':

New Company Pulls the Plug on Fox News

The war between progressives and conservatives for control of Cable TV News is about to go to the next level. An upstart company has developed a filtering device that people can use to block the reception of the Fox News Channel in their homes. The company, Foxblocker, advertises that along with its eponymous product, which retails for $8.95, it will send a notice of purchase and use to Fox News' top ten advertisers for each unit sold.

Foxblocker's website explains that they obtained the inspiration for the product while watching the Robert Greenwald production of Outfoxed, a documentary that purports to show the rampant right-wing bias of the network.

Will the product have an impact? The answer is impossible to tell at this time. Fox Entertainment Group reported both an operating income growth of 58% and a viewership growth of 29% for the Fox News Channel in the third quarter, both strong growth numbers by any standard.

Let's see why this 'Foxblocker' just might appeal to Red Staters with 'moral values'.

There is this 'critically acclaimed' Fox show:

When FOX's critically acclaimed but short-lived series Wonderfalls premiered in March, it included a lesbian character named Sharon (Katie Finneran), who met and quickly fell for bisexual Beth (Kari Matchett). Despite a multi-episode courtship, however, we never saw the women kiss because, according to show co-creator Bryan Fuller in an interview with last March, "the network’s standards and practices have told us that we cannot have them kiss on-screen."

But when the FOX series North Shore featured a kiss between two lesbian characters last week [June, 2004], only a few months after Wonderfalls premiered, it became the most recent illustration of an inconsistent policy towards lesbian kisses maintained by FOX and the other major networks.

North Shore was allowed to put a lesbian kiss in its very first episode, and a few months prior to Wonderfalls, FOX's ratings-challenged drama Tru Calling featured a lesbian kiss in only its sixth episode. The year before that, Fastlane --yet another FOX drama struggling for viewers--featured a kiss midway through its first season (in a heavily hyped episode which garnered some of the show's best ratings ever).

FOX has a short but ambitious history of exploiting lesbian kisses for ratings, particularly during sweeps weeks.

Besides North Shore (2004), Tru Calling (2003) and Fastlane (2002), lesbian kisses between lesbian/bisexual guest stars, straight characters, or a combination of the two has also been featured on the FOX shows 24 (2001), Firefly (2002), That '80s Show (2002), Family Guy (2001), The X-Files (2000), Ally McBeal (1998 and 1999), and Party of Five (1999).

But the only kiss on FOX between an actual lesbian member of the cast and another lesbian was the 2000 kiss between Dark Angel's Original Cindy and ex-girlfriend Diamond (Tangelia Rouse), a one-time guest character who died tragically and painfully at the end of the episode.

And it doesn't end there. The latest uproar is about yet another FOX show:


MISCHA Barton's love lorn character on "The O.C.," Marissa Cooper, is slated for a lesbian love scene later this season, according to reports.

The girl-girl love scene is usually a guaranteed ratings getter — a lesbian kiss pumped up the ratings for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" a few years ago — so "The O.C." is going to try it too, says a report on the web site

A Fox spokesman for "The O.C." declined to comment on the report yesterday.

The ratings for "The O.C." this season — while solid — haven't exactly been through the roof and a lesbian storyline — or at least a main character experimenting sexually with someone of the same sex — could help matters.

Howard Stern had it right a few years ago when he said that "lesbians equal ratings" — the audience for "Buffy" shot when Alyson Hannigan's character Willow began a relationship with Tara, another witch (played by Amber Benson).

Since then, girl-girl love scenes have become more common on TV, so it was probably just a matter of time before "The O.C." dipped into the well.

Gay and bi-sexual characters have been scattered throughout primetime for years on shows like "Will & Grace" and others.

It is believed that Barton's character will just be experimenting with the fairer sex and not committing to a full-on romantic, sapphic relationship.

I guess we'd have to kill her off at the end of the episode like they did in Dark Angel or the 'moral values' wrong-wingers would get up set!

FOX isn't restricting its flaunting of 'moral values' to the television. They have even taken it to the Silver Screen:

KINSEY: RX for Sex

In the new film, Kinsey, openly gay Oscar-winning writer/director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) brings the professional accomplishments, adversities, and intricate personal life of this legendary American sex researcher to the silver screen.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight and produced on an indie budget (with financing from a British company), Condon says that Kinsey was a difficult project to put together, but in return he was blessed with complete artistic freedom. “There was never anybody saying to me ‘don’t show that’ or ‘let’s pull back on that,’” he insists. That freedom allowed for admittedly shocking full-frontal shots of vaginas and penises (including Sarsgaard’s) , not to mention simulated sex between Kinsey’s colleagues. Speaking of those fine young colleagues, was Kinsey’s real life team actually as hot as, say, Chris O’Donnell?

“They’re all very good looking Midwestern guys,” Condon laughs. “Yes. Very similar to the actors who are in the movie.” (Some footage of the actual team members at, er, work will appear on the Kinsey DVD.)

While Condon doesn’t flinch from depicting Kinsey’s gay affairs, they didn’t all make it into the film.

Condon was surprised by the extent to which Kinsey would “flirt with danger” [of being scandalized] in the homosexual world even after he became a national celebrity. To wit, he openly cruised gay bars and even a rather infamous Manhattan bathhouse. “He was pretty open in NYC’s gay world certainly and well known,” Condon explains. “Part of that was truly work, but I think he had a lot of different experiences. Gore Vidal used to talk about seeing him in famous gay bars at the time and there was a well-known bathhouse where Madison Square Garden is now. On 34th street, straight men would go between 5 and 6 p.m., before they got on the commuter train to go home. Kinsey went there a number of times.”

However, Kinsey’s homosexual experiences weren’t always exclusively for sexual sport. “Clyde Martin was what he called one of the three loves of his life,” Condon notes. “Clara his wife was the main one and then this other man, an unconsummated affair with a colleague [Ralph Voris] , in the middle of his life.”

This is also a time of strange mainstream sexual conservatism—Janet Jackson’s “Nipplegate” and Howard Stern’s admonishment caused a massive stir and brought much public attention to stiff federal fines for raunchy content on network radio and television. So were Kinsey alive today, he may well be fighting some of the same governmental forces that he did in the 1950s.

Like FOX should be facing from the Christian Coalition Crowd right about now?

“It’s interesting,” Condon admits. “Kinsey faced the last Republican Congress before the Gingrich Congress, the one elected in Eisenhower’s first term. That was really the McCarthy Congress and Kinsey faced investigation by that Congress. In fact, when the Gingrich Congress was elected in 1994 there was one congressman who tried to get an investigation going on him again, so I think he would have been facing some hardship right now, as are an awful lot of sex educators and researchers. Funding is slashed once again and it’s the same thing you see in the stem cell debate—people trying to impose morality on what’s supposed to be purely scientific.”

This should really get the 'moral values' types riles up!

While Kinsey is certain to open a whole new generation’s eyes to the accomplishments and legacy of this late, great sex educator, on a storytelling level it also makes one ponder the very nature of sex, love, and how the two can mix or clash.

Condon, who’s happily partnered, admits making the film made him think about those issues. “Yeah. I think anything to do with sex is pretty complicated,” he says. “Kinsey had this idea that a strictly monogamous lifetime marriage was a slightly unnatural state that didn’t exist anywhere else in nature.

How come Red State Christians aren't marching on FOX headquarters? What if we gave them the address and other contact information?

FOX Broadcasting Company 10201 West Pico Boulevard Bldg. 100, 3220 Los Angeles, CA 90035

Phone:(310) 369-3716
Fax:(310) 369-8733

Now, you Red Staters can express your displeasure with FOX programming just like you did all the progressive, anti-Bu$hCo messages during the campaign. You might also remind FOX that Rupert Murdoch's voyeuristic fatasies of watching lesbians make love is against God's Will, so don't make you watch it!

We KNOW you can do it! Maybe you can knock them off the air and replace their spew of filth with something like this!

At least we'd be rid of Hannity and O'Reilly!

But somehow, I'm sure this won't happen. As I've pointed out a couple of times above, those who 'break the rules' pay with their stage 'lives'. Hollywood wouldn't have it any other way:

Hollywood's Conservative Heart

I love hearing about the liberal entertainment industry -- especially how the offensive, decadent, evil movies and TV shows embody everything wrong with the country today; how all that sex and all that violence contribute to our moral decline. I quite agree. Most movies and series have a strong, subtle, negative impact on our society. This, however, is due to their conservatism. The joke's on us, the ones who defend freedom of expression for every last action flick and reheated sitcom, no matter how deeply stupid.

While Hollywood is liberal to a fault, its product is anything but. In fact, while agitprop "documentaries" may have gotten a lot of attention in recent years, mainstream entertainment seldom does anything but reinforce societal norms and teaches nothing but the sanctity of the status quo.

But what about all the sex! Look at all that antisocial teenager-enabling gore!

Sex and violence aren't abstractions -- they don't exist in some Platonic state, they happen in a context. And if we consider not the existence of sex and violence but their participants, their presentation and their outcomes, their reactionary nature becomes apparent.

It's not a question of sex on television but who gets to have it and under what circumstances, not a matter of violent action films but who makes it out alive -- and what he's allowed to do in his efforts to save the day and blow stuff up. The message being sent is undeniable and can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Mass visual media has always been regarded as somewhat progressive, perhaps at no time and no place more than the network series of the '60s. You may remember that a few years ago you couldn't turn on a TV without being reminded that tonight, at 9, NBC/Fox/ABC/The WB (but not CBS!) would air the first-ever butt shot/un-bleeped "shit"/two guys in bed.

One of the only things not trumpeted was the "first interracial kiss," for the very simple reason that they were about 35 years too late. On the good ship Enterprise, during the first run of the original Star Trek, Capt. James T. Kirk laid one on Lt. Uhura.

How forward-thinking, how wonderful, how liberal. Except for one small point: At the time, both of them were under a spell that forced people to behave in unnatural ways. And after they were released, they never looked at each other again.

Of course, the scene probably never would have been scripted at all had it concerned a black male superior officer and his white female subordinate.

That episode was part of a trend that has continued to the present day. Consider Bringing Down the House. The obvious pair, since they're the main characters, are Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. Instead Steve ends up with a nice WASP and Latifah with Eugene Levy (not that there's anything wrong with Eugene Levy).

Being relegated to the comic relief is the surest way to de-fang any potentially subversive situation. Levy's laughable, so their relationship is played for laughs, not sex. Because overweight lower-middle-class black women don't get to have sex in national-release films; they get to be the sassy sidekick.

For all the sex had on screen, there are relatively few characters having it, and they're all the same character.

Not the gay man, not the lesbian, not the un-pretty, not the dorks, not the old people, not the minorities, not the secondary characters. [Although FOX seems to be challenging this assertion! - ed] Only men get to enjoy sex without massive angsting or massive disaster ensuing; only the pure at heart get to fall in love.

If you break the rules:

* if you're a woman and you actually display any kind of romantic initiative

* if you're a dark-skinned sidekick with a crush on the blonde leading lady

* if you're an old man and instead of dispensing wisdom you look for companionship

You die.

Social norms tend to be enforced quite harshly in mainstream media. From the sex/grisly death cause-and-effect of horror films to the wasting illnesses of early melodrama, violence is never anything but a morality play. The only way a true innocent ever dies is as an object lesson for the hero, a reason for him to use deadly force guiltlessly at the climax. Of course, anything the hero does is justified, because he's the hero.

Anyone smelling a Bu$hCo justification for their heinous acts?

Almost every cop show on the planet, from Hill Street Blues to Law & Order, has dealt with a forced confession, tampered evidence, entrapment or perjury. [Torturing prisoners, anyone?]

Never once has a character expressed regret for their actions, or fear of anything but getting caught. [Justifying such actions in the face of Nuremberg and the Geneva Conventions?]

Nor has the show ever given the audience a reason to question our heroes' actions. [God told me to do it, so it's OK?]

So what could ever make the industry more progressive, when every narrative structure exists to reinforce the existing power structure? Believe it or not, more family values.

As much as screen couples have always been conservative, screen families have traditionally been liberal, because they have all been families bound not by blood but by affinity. The squad in war movies, the homicide department, the space station, the high school - all have a tendency to contain at least a few women and minorities, and the true emotional bonds of a given film or series can usually be found within this group -- which is, on occasion, strictly inhabited by members of the same sex (see above, re: Kirk/Spock).

We almost never see nuclear families, and if we do they are almost invariably damaged.

Writers seem to have a thing for awful fathers, prodigal brothers, drugged-out moms and promiscuous sisters. In fact, the work- or mission-based family often times functions as an emotional replacement for the dysfunctional, "traditional" family.

Somehow, I have a feeling that if the American Family Association knew, it'd start lobbying for more sex and violence.

So why doesn't this happen? There's no media coverage of this. If there were, the 'moral values' crowd would be all over it like those lying bastards Swift Boat Veterans For Truth were over John F. Kerry!

Certainly, the media isn't going to cannibalize one of its own lest they become tomorrow's entree: [From this previous link]

This inconsistent policy towards lesbian kisses isn't only practiced by FOX, of course: on every network television channel, you are far more likely to see lesbian kisses between guest lesbian characters, straight women, or a straight and gay woman than between lesbian characters who are part of the cast. In its entire ten-year reign, for example, NBC's Friends showed four lesbian kisses, only one of which was between lesbians (and it wasn't even between the show's long-running lesbian couple, who were never actually allowed to kiss on-screen, even at their own wedding).

Every one of the other networks has shown at least one kiss between actual lesbians in a relationship that spans more than one episode. On NBC, there were kisses between Kerry and Kim, and Kerry and Sandy, on ER; on ABC, between Bianca and Lena and Bianca and Maggie on All My Children, Jessie and Katie on Once and Again, Ellen and Laurie on Ellen, and Rhonda and Suzanne on Relativity; on CBS, between Stacy and her girlfriend on Nash Bridges (although this is one of the weakest, for Stacy's girlfriend only physically appeared in one episode); on The WB, between Willow and Tara on Buffy; and on UPN between Willow and Kennedy on Buffy.

"The networks are invariably run by conservative umbrella corporations that are not as liberal as the television employees," Fuller asserts. Nowhere is this more true than FOX, which is owned by conservative Republican Rupert Murdoch.

But while moral or religious issues may occasionally come into play, decisions about what to leave on the cutting room floor more often come down to dollars, and in the world according to FOX, a kiss between regular lesbian characters - characters with whom the audience has developed a relationship over time, has come to like, and perhaps even sympathize with - is clearly believed to be an obstacle to capturing the largest number of viewers and ad dollars, while a kiss between women who will never be in a relationship or whom the viewers will never see again is no threat to anyone, and can actually improve ratings.

Networks need to appeal to a broad swath of people in order to compete for advertising, so they're never going to be on the cutting edge of radical ideas. They simply can't afford to offend Middle America, and that's okay: that's what cable is for.

It's time for you 'moral values' morons to put up or shut up. You can't have it one way when the promoters or benficiaries are progressives and another when they are 'conservatives'. You can't claim that marriage is sacred and then drop everything to go watch Desperate housewives.

'Do as we say and not as we do' isn't going to cut it. You people are hypocrites, and I don't care how mad you get when the truth hurts.

Copyrighted source material contained in this article is presented under the provisions of Fair Use.


This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

pessimist :: 3:08 PM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!