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Apr 4, 2011

Whatcha Gonna Do?

There are a pair of recent covers to magazines I subscribe to with headlines on them that are slightly bothering me. Now, I realize that you're first response may be, "You still read magazines?!?," but that's not really the reaction that I'm going for.

Have a look at them below, and click to open them in a new window if need be to see the portions I've highlighted.




Let's look at The Hollywood Reporter cover first, as it's the one that bothers me least. On it (and in the corresponding article), South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are described as "bad boys," with the usual historical journalistic breakdown of their rise to fame that comes with cover stories. How their typically-described "edgy" short Jesus vs. Santa was a viral sensation in the days before we commonly used the term "viral sensation." How South Park became a hit and the requisite look back at some of their most "controversial" episodes, with taboo topics such as Jesus, Muhammad, Tom Cruise's sexuality, and so on.

The main angle of the article, aside from the "what they've been doing" and "what they're doing now" portions, is that Parker and Stone have matured, have grown out of their rock star days and are now "middle-aged" family men who are surprisingly sweet and tender to be around. However, the chief purpose of the cover story - the reason for its existence - is to serve as an advertisement for their recently-opened Broadway show, The Book of Mormon.

I knew the tone and base story of Mormon prior to seeing the piece, but it was with some pause, then, that I read its description of the show - how it lampoons the Mormon church, touching upon - whaddaya know - taboo topics such as AIDS, religion, U2, and forced female circumcision, amongst other things. In other words, exactly the same style of humor and range of topics as all of their most famous works.

I give you the summary of the article for contextual purposes, but I needn't have read it to have been bothered - it only served to confirm my issue with the headline: What is it about Parker and Stone that make them "bad boys?"

As far as I can tell, not much of anything. Neither is known for habitual drug use. Neither has an arrest record that I can find. Neither is known as a wife beater or anything like that. No, they're bad because they dare to talk about subjects openly and freely that most wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. How dare they, those naughty boys? I realize that the term "bad boys" is used to pigeonhole Parker and Stone, and also to sell magazines. Everyone in the public eye, particularly in this day and age, must be compartmentalized and labeled with a catchy, easy-to-remember moniker. "Troubled pop star," "comeback kid," "polarizing politician" - all used to reduce complex people to identifiable, broad categories. Fighting the usage of said labels is futile, but can't I at least ask that they get them right?

**********************

The Tiger Woods/Esquire headline bothers me more but I can talk less about it, having not read the article itself. But the condescension of the headline is more than enough to warrant comment.

It states, "Hard as it is to say, it's time to forgive Tiger Woods."

It's safe to assume that the piece is about the public forgiving Woods - to allow him back into our hearts and homes, as a golf champion and marketing icon. WTF?! I hate to break this to the writer (or to you, should you feel the same way), but Tiger Woods didn't do a goddamn thing to me, and should be seeking not one iota of forgiveness from me. Now obviously, being a "troubled sports star" such as he is, and having gone through the very public ordeal that he's gone through, many people on his team and in marketing executive positions around the world would say that forgiveness from the public is exactly what he needs.

However true that might be from a dollars and sense perspective, just the thought that Woods needs to be forgiven for his actions really grinds my gears. He didn't cheat on me. He wasn't a potentially bad father to me. He didn't give me an STD (or not). And he didn't to it to you, either, unless you're a member of his family or one of his harem. Something something high-horse something something self-righteous ass. Woods owes the public nothing, and I want nothing from him (other than saving his sport, but there's nothing new about that...).


12 people have chosen wisely: on "Whatcha Gonna Do?"

Anonymous said...

yep

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Hi! Fletch...
Wow! You hit the bulls-eye without even using a bow and arrow with this post.

I must admit that I agree with every point that you make here and every word that you said, about the media and some in society and stereotyping.

Thanks, for sharing!
DeeDee ;-)

Nick said...

You still read magazines?

Univarn said...

Perhaps the "forgive Tiger Woods" article was directed at those who are still annoyed they weren't nailed by him?

The Film Cynics said...

You totally had me there - but I was picturing this going in the direction of Trey and Matt being painted as bad boys for the sake of publicist shorthand, whereas Tiger Woods is an actual "bad boy" but the term is inconvenient to his actual persona and is incongruous to his publicity strategy. Either way, I agree with you about the lazy and hamfisted way that the print industry tries to keep itself alive, but all media is desperate for that kind of attention and will do anything, say anything to get you to join in.

Thaddeus said...

You make very good points, and (unlike me) you keep it quite short. You also look a bit at the semantics here, but that's not your focus. Very nice!

Let's assume "bad boys" is not a reference to the "South Park" kids. The phrase sounds appropriate for guys who make fun of deaths callously and too early (Steve Irwin). I find them both to be quite funny (& probably jerks irl).

But it doesn't sound like the article addresses or says anything new about that aspect of them. It's poor writing, and normally your blame should be pointing to the writer.

Your instincts are right, tho, and both are just bad industry practices. "Bad Boys" is about tryinf to hype and stereotype everyone.

Tiger's headline is different, yet related. This is that particular mental disorder where the press/we talk about celebs as if they're people we actually know. "Chase! I'm Heather with Action 5 News! We heard you're having a baby..."

Angelina Jolie might smell bad, Malkovich could be a racist - I hope neither is true, but I just see their movies. And yet I have had problems cheering for Sean Connery like I used to before I heard he was a wife-beater (ditto Billy Dee Williams). When I was a kid, I chose my movies based on who the leads were, and that is personal, if one-sided.

It's an odd situation - what's required to promote a product? Expertise? An influential
opinion? The whole "branding" thing is about a company's promise: we build good X, take our word for it.

To some extent, lost promotion opportunities reflect the fact that his word has very publicly been proven false on a grand scale. Maybe that's the forgiveness from the article? He should be forgiven so companies can pay him tons to shill their wares?...

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I read the headline of this article and assumed that you'd be posting a Fletch's Favored Five Hulk Hogan Movies. I'd take a screen shot and circle your misleading headline, but that might be going too far.

Fletch said...

@ Anon - you rock.

@ DeeDee - Why thank you! Next time I might even use that bow and arrow...

@ Nick - Ass.

@ Univarn - If I still did the Comment of the Week, you'd definitely be a finalist...

@ Steve - Good point, and surely a direction that I could've gone. Tiger Woods might not even be a 'bad boy,' but at least he's closer to one than the SP guys. Still, I guess it's just a general annoyance with celebrity culture, but frankly, outside of the initial curiosity, I couldn't give a shit about whether or not Tiger is a good or bad boy. He's not breaking the law, his actions (theoretically) have no bearing on his performance (even though they kind of do) and most importantly, none of what he has done or will do affect me. I ain't forgiving him for shit because I never indicted him or anything.

@ Thaddeus - Haha - it ain't that short, is it?

The points you bring up about celebs and movies you chose as a child remind me of Tom Cruise. A lot of people are/were freaked out by the guy and thus display no (or less) interest in his movies. I might think the guy is a nutter, but that doesn't change the fact that I think he's a good movie star, and I would surely hope that I can separate the two when it comes to his acting.

That said, as you bring up with Connery and Billy Dee, some things are harder to ignore than others. I don't need to forgive Mel Gibson, either, but I do admit that I'll have a difficult time seeing beyond his trials and tribulations. They're just too overpowering and offensive to overlook, try as I might. I suppose the bar is set at different levels for everyone - I know some people that can't look at Billy Crudup the same way after his leaving his wife or whatever. I'm not sure I know enough about that situation to make judgement calls, so I don't.

@ Paul - Haha. Hey man, that's all on you. I can't help it if you see WWE in all things in life.

Red said...

Agreed for the most part on both parts, especially the South Park fellas. I would've loved to have seen the public reaction the these guys back in the 50s. What a mess that could've been.

I do agree that Tiger owes us nothing, especially since he didn't break the law like Billy Dee and Connery. I guess that's what happens when the media makes us believe that we are a part of these people's lives. I may hold Tiger to a bit of a lower standard now because of my stance on adultery, but like you said, he has done nothing to us and owes us nothing.

Fletch said...

@ Red - No shit, huh? I think McCarthy would have labeled these guys as, uh, Reds, pretty damn quick. Or something like that. Either way, they'd have been blacklisted or would have never gotten started.

Yeah, I've never been too big on celebrity gossip. I just don't give a shit about who's dating who or who's cheating on who or who's on drugs. And it's all so that we can tear people down and grant them comebacks - pathetic. By the way, I'm on record as predicting Lohan to be the new Robert Downey, Jr. within 10 years. Book it.

Red said...

Not if Emma Stone steals all of her roles. :)

Fletch said...

@ Red - Touche. I know you're half-joking, but to be honest, I don't think Stone has the chops that Lohan does - or at least could have if she weren't a fuck up. We'll see.