I'm not usually one for print magazines. The targeted ones on design, photography, writing, technology... too specific to spend my $10 on when I can read it online for free. And don't even get me started on "women's magazines". Condescending, repetitive things designed to feed off and breed female insecurities. But I do remember, specifically, the day I picked up my first Bitch.
Opening the pages and reading the first paragraphs, was one of those moments. In the movies there would have appeared an angelic halo of yellow light, the choir singing its single note. Since then, Bitch has never failed to delight, enrage and empower me every time it arrives in my letterbox. It's that good.
This issue is no different. I haven't even gotten past the editors note and I love it. So much so that I wanted to post it online. Slightly ironic, considering the content of what I'm about to post: largely, the effect of the internet and social media on discussions of feminism. But hey.
From Bitch No. 48: The Make-Believe Issue, Sept 2010:Letter from the editor
It seems fitting to be publishing the Make-Believe issue of Bitch in a year when feminism has been at the center of a whole host of revisionist histories, fantasy makeovers, and Bizarro World co-options. That's also the reason that sitting down to write this editor's letter was kind of exhausting. Simply put: Too often these days, it feels that nothing can be argued with any nuance or lasting effect. Lively, reasoned articles about feminism and public policy are lambasted as liberal twaddle in comment threads that quickly descend into ungrammatical, all-caps ranting. Perfectly reasonable questions about, say, sexism in the entertainment industry are greeted with defensive rapid-fire tweets hinting that critics are just fat, jealous, or both. And backassward public figures whose sudden claiming of a feminist stance is completely at odds with their stated beliefs and political platforms are hailed as...well, I think you know where this one's going.
Not that nuance is itself a pie in the sky, but lately it seems to belong with the Great Pumpkin, eternal youth, and a passable substitute for butter as concepts that we occasionally entertain only to eventually dismiss. Some have submitted that this is the fault of a 24-hour media circus that baits readers and viewers with sensationalism and then quickly backs away from actual discussion. Others have argued that the world – with its bigger-than-ever gaps between haves and have-nots, more extreme highs and more dismal lows – is literally growing out of nuance. Still others shrug that with more people than ever able to interact with their fellow humans via technology, the numbers just ensure that more of the are inevitable going to be assholes.
At Bitch, in the small space we've staked out to discuss and debate the intersections of feminism (no matter how it's defined) and popular culture (which redefines itself yearly, at least), we strive for nuance, because without it we're just living in a noise machine. We print what we print knowing that people will disagree s often as they agree. Progressive discourse doesn't have to b a utopia of polite exchanges and mutual backrubs. But it also doesn't have to be the opposite. At least, that's what we'd like to think . But I'm sure you'll let us know if we're dreaming.
- Andi Zeisler
Politics as comedy: the lecture
Auckland University runs this really cool, free lecture series that I only managed to catch the end of, attending Lecture 5: Politics as Comedy. I was delighted to hear that they were going to focus on The Daily Show as a reference. And I must confess that part of my glee came from the fact that TV Studies papers were my favourites back at university, and I spend rather a lot of time watching TV (albeit usually online) and rambling on about my analyses of TV shows to anyone who will have the grace to pretend to listen. I often think that if I went back to uni to do my Masters thesis in anything it would be some kind of intersection between pop culture, tv and psychology - perhaps something like the cultural impact on group behaviour in reality tv shows. Or how female talk show hosts like Ellen and Oprah use humour to ingratiate themselves with their audiences. Yes, this is the kind of stuff I think about in my spare time. Perhaps one day I'll manage to extricate myself from advertising fully, and get these things written!
Anyway, having gone on a tangent, I'll now come back round to the intended topic of this post, which is, of course, the lecture I attended.
As the full lecture is posted online I didn't take many notes, but something that was said in the introduction I found interesting: A simple breakdown that tells us how comedy is created by politics in 3 key ways:
1) Politicians who unwittingly create comedy through their actions eg Chris Carter making a fool of himself recently with his 'anonymous' letter.
2) Comedy created through advertising and media reporting on politics eg the TV3 ads featuring Mike McRoberts tooling around like he's MacGyver, ducking bomb blasts as the soundtrack sings "They call me the seeker...". What... a joke.
3) A thirdly, intentional comedy created as a reaction to the news. Such as The Daily Show, and other 'fake news' shows.
I won't go into this third point as it was the topic of the lecture, but I urge you all to follow this link and read the lecture in its entirety, as it was really interesting. Certainly got the rusty cogs of my brain turning:
Politics as comedy