The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, June 17, 1999, Image 5

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Page 5 • Thursday, June 17, 1999
’rs: 7M
•joony toons
dpular cartoons produce more cynicism than change with snide social commentary
Jnd on;
lm isac^^’levision is un-
lostalgia; peniably a sig-
^ nificant part of
swingiinief can society. It is
themon slapegoat an d,
hascit se days, our fa-
jo. Thi> ite critic,
or the : Social criticism on
lough, avis ton, in movies
s probl 1 in all forms of en-
, is horteinmem is nothing new. However, the more es-
herp t Hshed satiric form of social criticism has given
fsuch, yt ( a slighting form of commentary. The “let’s
e 1 hard look at ourselves in the mirror” ap-
t | ler )ach is now replaced by narcissistic evaluation.
rjlh nost self-congratulating, criticism of society is a
:e — satire for the purpose of change is dead, ex-
( | ingad for sheepish self-mockery.
Examples of this are not hard to find, but the
>st blatant vehicles of this type of criticism are the
el to a:
Brian t
m^-time cartoons that have infested the net-
>rks. At their best, they are similar to the wickedly
lash in y “The Simpsons.” At their worst, they turn into
mane: ?e( j t . rs f or tired stereotypes, like “The P.J.’s.”
irriedi-. ca rtoons, though typically marketed for children,
ve always been harbingers of societal evaluation,
d Bugs Bunny cartoons are filled with war propa-
fda, and Betty Boop cartoons contain themes of
oial liberation and aggression by women.
However, no matter how suggestive the cartoons
B ■— and they were pretty tame by today’s stan-
■ — there were some things too sacred to be tri-
■ Hvith.
Not today. In their urge to knock everything
P B, to take nothing at face value, people have
pditied their tastes from the subtle to the arrant.
Not to say that shameless jibes aren’t funny,
eaily, after a decade, “The Simpsons” still packs a
inch. But even the best snide commentary doesn’t
k atch up to subtly satiric jokes. Certainly, flagrant
cracks about religion can make the most conserva
tive person laugh, but it is when the characters rep
resent the more mundane aspects of society that the
shows really hit their stride.
Take the “Family Guy,” for example. For all of the
crude jokes about sex, masturbation, race and the
Kennedy assassination (just a sampling of the jokes
from the first few shows), one of the funniest gags
all season was when Peter, the no-brained, lazy, TV
obsessed dad, is watching television and suddenly is
overcome with excitement — “Oooh, oooh, it’s the
biography of the other guy from WhamV’ Peter’s
character is our own; we are the ones who cannot
get enough of inferior diversions, televised or not.
Perhaps it is the need to be entertained, to be
shocked, that has changed social commentary from
a useful tool into fodder for water-cooler jokes.
Audiences’ shortened attention spans have
changed the way entertainment is marketed to the
public. Movie trailers, prime-time television adver
tisements — all are meant to tease and entice the
viewers into watching.
As self-involved as people are, shows catering to
their need to make fun of themselves in a quick,
wisecracking manner are definitely more popular
than those with plots containing the subtle intrica
cies of conventional satire.
The new sniping brand of satire is only good for a
cheap laugh. Shows like “The Simpsons,” “Family
Guy” and even “The P.J.’s” can bring in the viewers,
but their use of intentionally harsh humor will only
serve to make the public more willing to accept the
Selling out on social commentary and leaving
nothing sacred will eventually trivialize more than
just the cartoons themselves.
After all, a society that flippantly recognizes their
defects and shrinks from correcting them is one that
will make unnecessary behavioral allowances.
Social criticism and humor do go hand in hand.
Often, humor is the best way to get an audience to
Mark McPherson/Thi: BattaUON
listen about problems in society.
But cartoons and other mass audience forms of
entertainment have allowed the public to gorge on
criticism so much that it has become trivial.
As television critic Gregg Camfield wrote in New
Directions in American Humor, “Television rarely re
ally ‘brainwashes’ consumers into believing the
claims of commercial messages; instead it works so
insistently on breaking down any faith in the effica
cy of any kind of activity besides criticism that it
leaves audiences hungry enough to try, or buy, any
thing as an alternative.”
Consumer history has proven him correct. Criti
cism is a great instrument of change, but when
nothing is considered sacred, cynical passivity
creeps into that void. And, as far as cynicism is con
cerned, society’s quota is already full.
Beverly Mireles is a junior
microbiology major.
alls for R-rated movie enforcement confirms political stalemate
he battle
,een clearly
- " Political re
gions to the
irrors of re-
■nt school vi-
ence have
lit into two
stinct camps. On the one hand,
rsand^ere are those who believe guns
eto blame. On the other front,
is haveners are pointed at Hollywood,
he fut# The salient features of both
hools of thought are pretty clear.
I treat lose who blame the guns exon-
ate the media. Those who blame
ie Next o niedia exto i virtues of
-hard' n s. Consequently, the positions
jboth have been rendered logi-
basis.'diy and politically incompatible.
the type of stalemate that is cus
tomary in Washington.
Legislators themselves seem
consciously aware of the dichoto
my they have created. This week’s
move by House Republican lead
ers to cleave gun control from a
larger bill on juvenile crime per
fectly captures the spirit of divi
siveness so characteristic of the
school violence debate.
Not only do the Left and the
Right fail to meet in the middle.,
they refuse to even talk about the
media and guns except as entirely
separate issues.
But as long as both camps re
main so hopelessly intransigent,
the juvenile violence problem will
remain hopelessly intractable. At
the present impasse, every propos
al satisfying one group will neces
sarily displease the other.
Reaction to the Clinton admin
istration’s call for heightened en
forcement of the age re
strictions at R-rated
movies confirms
this bleak politi
cal truth.
of the right
to bear arms
were, of
course, de
lighted at
this crack
down on the
arts, not least
because it was
a token endorse
ment of one of their
biggest gripes. Spear
headed by the National Rifle
Association, gun advocates have
argued that instead of adding
more gun laws to the books, the
existing laws should merely be en
forced better.
What better way,
then, to attack the
media problem
than by in
creasing en
rather than
Not sur
prisingly, the
anti-gun lob
by was not im
pressed by this
logic. Predictably,
they have howled
and sneered at attempts
to enforce R-rated movies. Ar
ticles such as one that appeared in
The New York Times on June 15
have even interviewed underaged
teens vowing to break the 17-and-
under rule.
“Interviews with dozens of
teen-agers at movie theaters near
Miami, New York, Los Angeles
and Detroit indicated that they
had little trouble getting around
it,” the Times article said.
In its eagerness to point out the
wily ingenuity of kids who sneak
into movies they are not supposed
to see, the article stopped just
short of giving them ideas about
how to do it.
Media defenders have almost
gloried in the alleged impracticali-
ty of keeping kids out of illegal
movies. They seem to say, with a
collective thumb of the nose, “Just
try to enforce this, you ninnies.”
And so, alas, the stalemate re
turns. A proposal that pleased one
side made the other side chuckle
with self-satisfaction.
The political rumblings to
come on gun control will likely
follow the same pattern. No con
sensus will be reached, because
no compromise is given.
One of the camps must budge,
because meanwhile, as anti-gun
and anti-media adversaries stare
at each other across a political
gulf, the problem of violence re
mains unsolved. The comments of
15-year-old Amy Solomon to The
New York Times place the issue
squarely where it belongs.
In response to a question about
her thoughts on the violence in R-
rated movies, she said, “Violence?
You see it on the streets. ”
Caleb McDaniel is a junior
history major.
objecti' : ’
awl''» M
neratio 11
d creaking ties with
nt Brf® °
Hina harmful
, response to Tom Owens’June 3
- lumn.
Maternity leave
proposal flawed
In response to Tom Owens’ June 14
.^Surely, shutting the United
ates off from China would be a
sellose situation.
The United States would lose a
untry rich in history, art and phi-
-sophy, and China would lose a
untry from which it can learn
f i tter policies for human rights
W ld democratic government.
iP Owens’ stepwise plan to “avoid
, another Cold War” is remarkably
at 7pplar to what one might think
ire steps for creating a Cold
ares, br
Alexander Schwarm
Doctoral Student
What about the father?
A woman would not have to
feel the “sudden, unexpected mo
ment when women find their in
sides shredding the first day they
return from maternity leave, hav
ing placed their infants in a
stranger’s arms” if the kid weren’t
left with a stranger, but with a
stay-at-home dad.
Tonya Abna
Graduate Student
Owens dismisses all individu
als who are not economically well
off. Upper and middle class fami
lies would be the only ones who
could afford for a mother to stay
at home for five years without pay.
The working class must work to
In fact, Owens’ genetic argu
ment verges on Nazism. He im
plies that women who stay at
home are stupid and having more
children than women who work.
If he is truly interested in the
institution of families, he needs to
consider things like affordable
and on-site day care, paying fa
thers and mothers for family leave
and providing support systems for
new parents.
Katie Kendall
Carol Walther
Graduate Students
Megan C. Wright
Class of ’01
Hatred does not justify more hate
age of
the murder trial
of Jasper resi
dent James Byrd
Jr., it is impossi
ble not to notice
that the defen
dants have en
tered and left thei
jailhouse wearing bulletproof
vests. Obviously, there are mem
bers of the law enforcement com
munity who are scared someone
will mete out “justice” before
Lawrence Russell Brewer or John
William King are found guilty in a
lawful manner. The kind of think
ing that would lead to these ac
tions is not only illegal but is also
disgustingly hypocritical.
Before anything else, a few
facts need to be established.
First, racism and prejudice are
not good. In fact, they are bad.
The majority of Americans who
do not have eyeholes in their bed-
sheets agree on that fact.
Second, free speech and fair
ness, within reason, are good
things. The entirety of the United
States’ government is based in
part on those two principles.
Finally, there is a difference be
tween opposing something and
fighting against it. For example,
the Republican Party opposes the
Democratic Party, and vice-versa.
That’s not a problem until they be
gin actively fighting each other,
which leads to partisanship, politi
cized votes and the general break
down of government Americans
live with continually.
Simple opposition would, and
has, worked much better. For ex
ample, last year a Ku Klux Klan
rally held in Ann Arbor, Mich.,
home of the University of Michi-
gap, was being successfully ig
nored by the local populace, who
were doing a good job denying the
Klan the press it needs to get its
message out. This act of ignoring
was being aided by a peaceful ral
ly in another location, when the
“Smash the KKK” anti-racist
demonstration sparked a small riot
which succeeded only in causing
some minor property damage and
completely destroying the credibil
ity of the involved groups, the Na
tional Women’s Rights Organizing
Coalition and Anti-Racist Action.
And they gave the Klan some
good press. “Smash the KKK” did
not come out on top for one sim
ple reason: They became so deter
mined to stop the Klan that they
forgot that the ends do not justify
the means.
Organizers of “Smash the KKK”
defended their actions with some
rather blatant rationalization. Or
ganizer Jessica Curtin said, “all
hatred is not the same. The hatred
of the black community towards
the Klan is not the same as the
Klan lynching black people. It’s
worlds apart. ”
As a piece of propaganda, this
statement is quite good. As a fac
tual argument, quite a bit is left to
be desired.
How is an action (lynching)
equal to an emotion (hating)? Ms.
Curtin obviously believes she is
morally justified in her actions
and the actions her organization
took because their hatred is differ
ent. But there is no difference in
emotion, because hate is hate. The
difference Ms. Curtin was attempt
ing to highlight is that the Klan
has a longer and much more
bloody history than either “Smash
the KKK” or its parent organiza
tions. So far.
A group thinking their actions
are acceptable because their emo
tions justify them has led to moral
high points in history like the sack
of Jerusalem during the Crusades,
attempted genocide in Rwanda,
Bosnia and Germany, the Vietnam
War, and Japanese atrocities in
World War II. It has also led to the
bombings of abortion clinics, the
shootings of abortion doctors, the
militia bombing in Oklahoma City,
police torture in New York, the
dragging death in Jasper, and the
existence of the Ku Klux Klan.
Aside from the fact that extrem
ist movements like the Klan and
“Smash the KKK” are bred mostly
from fear, this kind of justification
is missing an extremely vital
point. Hate is hate. Violence is vi
By using the violence the Klan
uses, even against the Klan,
“Smash the KKK” became no dif
ferent, and just as bad, as that
which they despise most. By
shooting abortion doctors, ex
treme pro-lifers are taking a hu
man life, the exact thing they are
protesting. The hypocrisy goes on
and on.
One Ann Arbor resident told re
porters he was videotaping the
protest and subsequent distur
bance because, “I wanted to
record it and show it to my kids
later, to show them ignorance on
the side of both white and black.”
Chris Huffines is a senior
speech communications major.