Friday, December 09, 2005
The abuse of "social commentary"
I have become consumed with the San Francisco police department. As I'm sure you all have heard, they've recently gotten into some trouble with offensive videos that were made to “boost morale.” The videos show officers running over black people, objectifying women, making fun of the homeless and a variety of other unacceptable things. The videos attack the diversity that the city celebrates. The officer who directed the videos is flummoxed by the fact that it offended people. He said that if it did offend someone "he is sorry." But he is "not sorry he made the videos" only that they were released to the public. A recent statement says that the officers meant the videos to be "social commentary." People are going crazy over this. I understand the outrage. But I also understand how these officers can use this excuse. As someone who has always struggled with humor found on Reno 911 and the Chapelle Show, it makes me uncomfortable when people answer claims that their humor is offensive with the excuse of "social commentary" or "irony.” I will admit, I have watched both of these shows (and many others that often make fun of marginalized groups: Will and Grace, Family Guy, Simpsons) and laughed. However, I feel slightly sick about it. I really feel sick now that I see these officers using the same excuse that many comedians use. I would like to think that I am intelligent enough to realize the ridiculousness of people thinking that these stereotypes are real. I'd like to think that most of my friends do not form their opinions of minorities based on Dave Chapelle or Reno 911. I'd like to think that by watching those shows we better understand all the stupid people that exist in the world—not the minorities that are represented. But the thing is--not everyone is as smart as my friends or myself. There are people out there who watch these comedy sketches and think to themselves, "That's right! Those homeless people deserve to be run over." There are people who watch last week's Family Guy (which made fun of date rape) and laugh without giving pause to the fact that rape is not funny yet many people think getting women drunk and taking advantage of them is acceptable.

I have devoted my life (so far!) to studying messages, trying to understand the power of language and how words reinforce structures of power which subordinate women. By default I often study how "in" groups are able to define what an "other" is. So often the "in" group put these “others” on display, makes fun of them, and use them as examples of what not to become. That is NOT funny. It is NOT ironic. It is real and damaging. There are better uses (and needs) of social commentary than reinforcing stereotypes.

I'm still wrestling with these ideas. But I do know this, if humorous shows increase the liklihood that powerful people (like police officers) are able to make videos in the name of "social commentary," I will have no problem boycotting the "social commentaries" I once viewed as harmless and comedic.

Sunday, December 04, 2005
::Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millions of peaches, peaches for free::

I always watch my back when I am out and about in Athens. It is a very small town. I am always reminded by this fact. A couple weeks ago, I went to Jimmy Johns for lunch and saw four people I know. And, quite frankly, I don't know that many people. Both times I attended football games, I sat by students I have in class. I don't sit in the student section and the stadium seats about 90,000. So, the statistical likelihood of me sitting near a student is.....slim.

The weirdest evidence of this is my "friend" I keep running into. I met her first when we had technology training together for the building we both teach in. She introduced herself as "peach." Pretty memorable. Since then I have seen her approximately 7 times. The latest was the other day in the library. We shared an elevator. You are probably thinking "Kristen, you are probably just seeing many people who resemble each other. A campus that big? How could you see the same person?" But no. I know it is her. The reason? She has a bright yellow backpack with "Peach" sewn onto it. It makes me think, though. Maybe we see the same people ALL the time but if they have no distinguishable characteristics, we just pass them by. But, thanks to the yellow backpack and Southern name, I remember my Peach. She doesn't remember me, however. If only my name was Tangerine.

Thursday, December 01, 2005
This is what an *almost* genius thinks about:
Why does my coffee cup's handle get hot on some mornings but not others? This morning, I removed it from the microwave and it was cool. Yesterday, too hot to handle. In all my type A craziness, I microwave the cup for exactly the same amount of time every day.

Is Rick Springfield making a come back? He was on the Today Show.

Today I was putting stamps on all our bills. I put one of the bills in my mouth to stamp the others on the bottom of the stack. I forgot it was in my mouth. I went crazy looking for it. Under all the other bills, on the floor, under the shelves. I kept looking and looking for at least 1 minute....all with the bill in my mouth.

You know how gmail personalizes the ads and news stories that are found along side of your inbox based on the content of your email? That freaks me out. I don't want people reading my mail. If I did, I would support the Patriot Act.

I can't get enough of edamame. We eat it at Doc Chey's and found it at the store. I made it last night and killed it. I am addicted. It is probably weird to be addicted to soy beans.