Monday, August 17, 2009

In defense of Archie

People almost nerdier than I have been all aflutter about the revelation that Archie Andrews is proposing to venemous Veronica Lodge instead of sweet Betty Cooper.

Oh, poor Betty! Long these 50 years has she pined over and fought for the attention of young Archie, the red-headded boy-next-door who is constantly torn between her and her snide, conniving, uber-rich best friend. She's sat idly by while Veronica lures Archie away with money, vamp, cold shoulders and warm embraces.

And all this time, Veronica has treated Archie shabbily, basically treating him like a lap dog she only wants when she can't have anyone else, and when it means taking him away from Betty. She's a tramp, a backstabber - in a word, a bitch.

But I don't feel bad for Betty. In ten years, at the Riverdale High reunion, Archie will be a beaten man and a shadow of his former self. He will be forced to give up his spine for this woman, who will give only terse, barked orders for him to fetch this, take care of that. He will have to give up his best friend, Jughead, because his eating habits and wardrobe aren't "Lodge" enough for Veronica or her father. He will never leave Riverdale, except on the rare occasion that Veronica lets him act as her valet when she travels.

Veronica, having finally won the Archie prize, will grow bored with him three minutes after they leave their wedding reception. She will have a torrid affair with Reggie, and when Moose comes in to town with his NFL team, she will pay off a few security guards to let her into his team's locker room where she will throw herself at him to no avail. She will have men falling over themselves to get at her, and cheat on Archie more times than she can count, and none of those men will fill the void left in her soul that used to be occupied by her best friend, Betty.

Speaking of Betty...

Betty will go on to college, out of state. Brown, perhaps, or Yale. There she will learn to forget Archie and that hussy Veronica, and will throw herself into public works and social science. At a rally for gay rights, she will meet a woman and do a little experimenting. After that falls apart, she will go to some hip little used book store and engage in a long conversation with a handsome young man. The conversation will start with universal health care and end in true love. Over the next few years, they get married and become respected - no, beloved - members of society. She gets a job with a public aid law firm and he works as a doctor treating the poor. They have a few kids and are happy. There is never any question about their love for each other, she has bliss at her side and that sniveling Archie in the far, dim reaches of her past.

So I don't feel bad for Betty. In fact, good for the writers for letting her off the hook to find something better. Had Archie proposed to her, she would have had to work twice as hard to get him through college. Writing his papers, helping him cram for tests, etc. He's a moron, a slow learner. She never would have been part of a healthy relationship. Veronica would always be lurking in the shadows, trying to sabotoge everything. Instead of working with the poor, she would end up working as a law clerk for fifteen years because helping Archie dragged her GPA down to a 2.5, so she never could get it together to take the bar.

In the end, Archie deserves Veronica. He's as rotten as the woman he married. Birds of a feather writhe in misery together. These three have known each other all their lives. If in all this time Archie can't see what a catch Betty is, then to hell with him.

Or maybe he does know. Maybe he's letting her off the hook himself, knowing he'll never be good enough for the likes of her anyway. I'd like to think so. Maybe Jughead pulled him aside and explained it to him, or maybe he got food poisoning at Pop Tate's and had a feverish epiphany.

No matter the means, the end is that the right girl won. And what better prize than to be free of petty fools?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's more about the action than the standing around looking sad

Five days a week I drive along about four miles of road that is flanked by cemeteries. I hardly notice them on the drive in because traffic is pretty light; we all glide right by. The drive home is a different matter.

We are bumper to bumper, no hope of getting around the 301 bus, sullen about our jobs and stymied by the traffic. Quite a few heads are turned towards the grave stones that dapple the grassy knolls on either side of us. Large monuments, modest head stones, and plaques flat on the ground that are only noticeable because of the plastic flowers standing vigil over them.

Every day my eyes slide across names, birth datess, and death dates of strangers. I wonder the usual questions. What kind of life? What kind of person? How the hell do you pronounce that name?

Then the news broke about the Burr Oak Cemetery fiasco. I noticed fewer people were just casually glancing at the cemeteries and more people were peering across the lawns to catch a glimpse of any wrongdoing. I didn't. Even if these cemeteries were caught up in the same dispicible practice, they'd have sense enough to cut it out until the whole thing cooled down.

Today something caught my eye. Various colors dotted the marble gardens and there was more movement among the trees. People were coming to these cemeteries to make sure their loved ones were resting in peace. Or, just as likely, to see if this cemetery was also up to no good, and to get money for it.

My skepticism was gearing up to reach 11. I shook my head, thinking of how quickly people try to capitalize on everything - even the death of their loved ones. All these people coming to check if they had a case against the cemetery's caretakers, under the guise of paying respects to Aunt Betty.

But I suppose there are some out there who are genuinely checking in on their families' remains. People who were reminded that even the dead could use our attention now and again, even as an afterthought. People who felt hindsighted love for the buried and nearly forgotten. People who cherished memories in private and were now forced to wonder if the last memory of that loved wouldn't be a kind smile or a fond funereal farewell, but the long and laborious fight to make sure the ones they love really do get to rest in peace.

And deep in my skeptical heart, I know that if I were to find out someone had desecrated my grandparents' graves, I wouldn't sue anybody. I'd fuck them up, but I wouldn't bother to sue them. My grandfather was buried in the mid-80's, my grandmother in the mid-90's. They both rest in Kansas, in adjoining plots that I haven't seen since the day we buried my grandmother.

So I'm trying to see the good in people, trying to see each new boquet of flowers scattered around the cemetery as an example of people who love the dead enough to leave the saddest memories alone and keep with them every day the best moments and sweetest thoughts.

I cook with my grandmother's bowls and pans, I keep my towels in a cabinet my grandfather made. I remember playing cards and watching Johnny Carson with the two most stable adults in my childhood. I'll hold on those memories. I'll remember those good, strong, healthy times instead of counting the years that I haven't stood beside their headstone to say words that don't mean as much as I want them to mean.

And I hope each person coming to check on their parents, grandparents, children, and friends will understand that in the end, it's still the thought that counts.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why "Drop Dead Diva" doesn't reel me in

Sure, the show was on Lifetime, but I figured I'd give it the benefit of the doubt and see how it was. After all, Margaret Cho was on it.

"Diva" is the story of some waif who dies and comes back as a fattie. Not a blunt, just a "plus-size" gal. When is Hollywood going to stop giving us this story? "Shallow Hal" tried to throw that same shit down my throat and it was just as disgusting coming from Gwyneth Paltrow. Is this supposed to make skinny people stop making fun of fat people, or is it supposed to make fat people feel ok about themselves? It fails at both goals.

In one scene, Jane (the plus-sized, smart one) is having a small meltdown in her office. Her assistant, played by an almost unrecognizable Margaret Cho, sternly tells Jane to sit down and put her head back. Jane begrudgingly obliges, and Cho sprays Cheez-Whiz in Jane's mouth.

What the hell? You've just told America that fat women only get upset because they want cheese! Which means any valid reasons we might have to get upset will be met with "here, honey - have some Muenster and relax."

Don't get me wrong, I love cheese and have beheld its healing powers. However, don't women of any size have problems enough having their opinions and feelings being taken seriously? Don't we already have to work hard enough to make sure people know we're upset for a valid reason and we aren't just PMSing? The next time I'm lodging a valid complaint with anyone - the car repair place, the landlord, the guy with the teenie peenie - I want to be taken seriously. I don't want to hear "psht, lady, eat a fucking donut and calm the hell down."

So will it keep skinny people from making fun of fat people? No. Nor will it make fat people feel OK about themselves.

It's made clear that you can only be pretty OR smart. None of this pretty smart girl nonsense. And forget finding a fat girl in the city who can't quote Shakespeare, it's just not done. So, fat ladies everywhere, embrace your arcane knowledge of the Civil War and proper preposition placement! It's ok that you're fat because you're really good at crosswords!

There are other things wrong with this show - for example, how come Jane went immediately back to work after taking a bullet for a co-worker? Why would her company let her come back that same day? I tell you what, if I took a bullet for a co-worker and I had to come back to the office for something important (house keys, whatever) and my boss and co-workers were cool with me staying the rest of the day I would fucking quit. "Oh, hey, Meg - how's the flesh wound? Oh I don't mean flesh like you're fleshy, I mean you are fleshy, but I mean...anyway, can you fax this for me?"

Also, how come Jane hasn't been back to her house? I'm guessing the writers on this show have her living with at least three cats.

But the biggest problem with this show is that it wants fat people to both be and feel accepted. If you make a show where being fat is the focal point of the show, then you will never achieve that goal. Just make a show that has some fat people in it, some skinny people in it, and so forth. Like in "Gilmore Girls," where Melissa Murphy played Sookie St James. Nobody ever mentioned her being fat. She never had a very special episode about heart disease. She just went around being Sookie - funny, cute, good at her job. Not the fat girl, just a friend.

So does it make fat people feel better about themselves? Not really. The skinny girl who is "trapped" inside the fat girl (anybody else see the poorly hidden Richard Simmons lesson here?) is constantly bitching about the fat girl's body. When Jane goes to visit Deb's old friend, the friend tells Deb that if the two went out for the night, Jane's body wouldn't get past the velvet rope.

Sure, there's a nice little lesson in there about standing up for yourself and being proud of who you are ("shoulders back, stick out the rack" or something), but really - there are better ways to get that point across than to bombard us with fat stereotypes and two-dimensional characters.

After all, we fatties prefer more robust fare - both on our plates and in our TVs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Up your nose with a rubber hose, Mr. Network Exec

Dear TV execs,

I understand that you have good reasons to pull shows after they have only aired five episodes. One good reason is low viewership. In this fast paced world where everyone's thoughts, actions and opinions can be broadcast to the world in a nanosecond, you are giving the world exactly one nanosecond to decide to watch the show and then you are giving the show the boot.

Some examples? Pushing Daisies. The Unusuals. Life on Mars. OK, so Pushing Daisies got about three nanoseconds, but you know what I mean. You don't give anyone a chance to know the show, you don't bother to look at how many people are really watching the show (on DVR, online, on their mobile devices), and instead of letting us make a decision on our own you just cram more CSI, Law & Order, and American Idol down our throats. Do those shows sell advertising space? Hell yes they do. But you are just shooting yourselves in the foot. You're missing out on whole demographics of people who would like something more filling.

Next season I'm not going to bother watching any new shows. If they're good they'll get canceled and if they're bad I'm sure they'll be on for four seasons and I can spend some quality time ignoring those shows while I watch Mary Tyler Moore, Good Times, and Bob Newhart.

Speaking of Mary Tyler Moore - did you know they weren't sure if they were going to have more than one season? They did, of course, have many seasons. The network decided to find a good time slot instead of just giving it the boot. Imagine what incredible shows we might have today had you folks not pulled the plugs so early: Freaks & Geeks, for one. It might have run its course by now but it would have found its way into the hearts of millions of viewers. What about My So Called Life? What about Dead Like Me?

And to the writers of the shows that are being picked up for this fall - what the hell were you fighting for in that contract strike a few years ago? The right to get royalties from Two and a Half Men? That show sucks. That's the legacy you want to leave? Next time you strike, ask for something good - like a guaranteed 12 episode run of a show so it has a chance to gain a following. Why are you letting them shit all over your hard work by yanking it so quickly? Some of you work very hard and very well and all you ever get is unemployed. But I digress.

Network heads, stop and ask yourselves why you are picking up a ninth - NINTH - season of Scrubs (which has long since lost its luster) and letting shows like The Unusuals fall by the wayside. Seriously? You're giving Samantha Who the boot and keeping Desperate Housewives? Seriously? Even after that season finale? And you're giving me three new episodes of Pushing Daisies after taking the show away so suddenly? Quit yanking my chain! Either giving me quality TV or don't - but don't keep tricking me into thinking you've come to your senses when obviously you haven't!

How about this - why don't you give bubble shows a summer run? I know most people don't watch a lot of TV in the summer, but that's because everything is in reruns. I would watch summer shows. I'm already looking forward to Monk and Psych. And I know I'm not the only TV addict who would be happy to curl up in front of the air conditioner and get to know a new cast and storyline. After all, what is DVR for if not to record the new stuff in the summer and watch it when you're ready to come in from the heat? But you don't have enough sense to use DVR to your advantange. This leaves me with one option.

I'm done with you. I'm not watching your new drivel this fall. I'm not going to watch something called Cougar Town. I'm going to fill my days with the current shows that I already watch and all the shows you'd never air these days: All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Golden Girls, and all the rest. Play your stupid nano games, I'm gonna go watch TV.