A Feminist’s Dirty Little Secret: My Top 4 Mindless Television Habits

So far, my blog’s thematic approach is to critique feminist discourses. However, for the sake of blog #3 I’m going to take a break (kinda). I’m going to come clean on something. Whilst I am a self-proclaimed feminist and I am quite serious about anti-“ist” discourses of all sorts, I do like to take a break from what my pals call being ‘thinky’. Like many busy people, I need to take a break from ‘it all’. I sit my butt in front of Netflix and watch hours of endless no-brainer shows. When I do so, I grab some wine and hunker down to business and default to one of four fantastically indulgent shows. The following are the top four shows to watch when all you want is to escape and forget your reality for an hour or two.

Let me begin with the Reality Shows!

Say ‘Yes’ To The Dress (SYTD)

2015.04.04_SYTTD_HeroGahhhhh… How much I love this series! The original SYTD showcased the mecca of all wedding dress bridal shops, Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City – and has since extended its glamorous tentacles to capture the Canadian bridal market. I relish in the glitz, glamour, drama and occasional really really wrong “yes” to a dress. While the show is straight up Consumer and Disney feminism – I purposely shut off my analytical brain so that I can enjoy SYTD. The part of the brain I speak of makes me cringe towards some of these women, their friends and families who want their baby girl to be made into the princess that they are for the one special day in their lives. Moving on. At the end of the day, I love to watch the dynamics between the sales associates and their clientele who are passionate about making the bride beautiful. I love the total melt downs by the brides and at times unbearable mothers. I really enjoy Randy’s antics (he’s the quintessential gay fashionista on the show). I fully admit that if ever I change my mind about the supposed merits of ingratiating myself into the institute of marriage and buy that piece of paper –  I would absolutely drag my wedding party to Kleinfeld’s and try on every dress in the store!  Shhhh.

The Real Housewives Series (TRHW)

RHWOOCThe Real Housewives series makes me feel the dirtiest while I watch an episode. Every episode is like a train wreck that I can’t pry my eyes from. Shame on me! Although I have a pension for TRHW of New Jersey, NYC or Orange County – truth be told, I will watch whatever pops up on my screen to stream with ease. I love it all. This series is all about rich, predominantly white, American women who have either married in to, or inherited wealth; and rarely, but true in some cases made fortunes of their own. My favourite Housewife is Vicki from TRHW of Orange County. She is one of the ladies who made her wealth; unfortunately, she did come from a privileged background and married a wealthy man. I digress… I like her but for dichotomous reasons. On the one hand, after a brutal divorce from her first husband, Vicki went back to school and is now the President of her own insurance company. On the other hand, she is legit the craziest of the bunch which leads to some hilariously brutal and pathetic moments.

I tend to watch this series when I’m feeling sorry for myself because it reminds me how much better off I am than these ladies in many meaningful ways. Sure, I don’t have a yacht or the extra money for a $500.00 pair of stilettos, but I have a family that is down to earth, friends who don’t repeatedly stab me in my back, a career that makes me feel good about my contribution to the world, everyday. Without hesitation the series is Neoliberalism at its best. The show is packed with wealth, fame, fortune and most of all women who make their own so-called ‘choices’.

And now for the fictional shows!

Pretty Little Liars (PLL)

thI thank the fruition of this blog entry to a recent discussion with my good friend, Jessica who is also a 30-something-year-old closet PLL viewer. Jessica and I often joke that we have the TV viewing habits of twelve-year-old girls. PLL is the epitome of an accurate reflection of our viewing habits. The ABC drama’s line is “Never trust a pretty girl with an ugly secret”. The show takes us through the lives of four teenage girls, Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer who are suddenly left without their leader, Alison DeLaurentis. Ali was the leader who brought the four girls together before and after her death. From beyond the grave, Ali continues to manipulate the four friends through a web of secrets and lies. The girls are reunited a year after Ali’s death when they receive threatening texts from “A”. The show brings drama, romance, science fiction, mystery and horror. While the show is highly entertaining, I recognize that it is highly problematic. The show writer’s portrayal of relationships for example, Aria Montgomery’s character has a steamy relationship with her English teacher Mr. Fitz that begins in her junior year. Aria’s parents and school superiors know about the affair (um, Fitz is basically a pedophile), yet, nothing really happens to Mr. Fitz in way of, I don’t know going to jail? I know this is wrong, but it’s a juicy part of the story line. The show is also known for its outrageous stereotypes, often drawing on negative preconceptions and notions. Like calling a character that has a breakdown as ‘Crazy Mona’ or the fat shaming of Hanna are examples of some stereotypes that are thread throughout the series. The show does score high on showcasing real issues, like the modern day surveillance culture and what feminists call *The Bechdel Test.

*The Bechdel Test originated from the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985. The test is used to gauge gender bias in fiction. It includes a moment whereby there are at least two women, who have at least one conversation about something other than a man or men.

Drop Dead Diva (DDD)

Drop-Dead-Diva-design-drop-dead-diva-8481834-1024-768The show’s writers seek to answer; what would happen if an aspiring model (Deb Dobkins) and an over-worked, supposedly obese Lawyer (Jane Bingum) died at the same time? Further, what would happen if Deb’s soul entered Jane’s body? Entertaining concept, right? I have to admit, the show is pretty funny – Jane’s quirky male guardian angel for example is always getting into awkward situations as he tries to maneuver an unfamiliar world beyond heaven. After the first episode, it is quite clear that Deb ‘remakes’ Jane to some extent. We begin to lose old Jane to the old Deb. Some might say that the fat girl had to die in order to save the skinny model? Or rather, it seems that the writer’s plot intends for Deb to subtly ‘save’ Jane from her fat self. Throughout the first season, Jane becomes more like Deb’s ‘true skinny self’- she sheds weight, dresses more provocatively and wrestles with a love life (DDD scores quite low on the The Bechdel test). Setting this aside, I enjoy the occasional break into “Broadway-esque” song and dance, the quirkiness of the characters and of course, the oddball Client’s Jane defends along the way. It is light, fun and you don’t need to pay full attention, which is great if you want to multi task and give yourself a 30-minute pedicure.

So there you have it, if I had more time I’d discuss my absolute love and fascination with Entourage (maybe another blog post?)

I’m always on the look out for mindless entertainment. What’s yours?

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2 thoughts on “A Feminist’s Dirty Little Secret: My Top 4 Mindless Television Habits

  1. I broke my ankle and had two surgeries over the winter/spring and found myself watching far too much television and binge watched more shows on Netflix than I care to remember. While I could never get on board with any of the Real Housewives franchises I will admit to more than a few hours lost to the collections of Kleinfelds and the courtroom antics of Drop Dead Diva but my guilty pleasure is the Food Network. I even now will look in my fridge and play Chopped with whatever I can find. Giada vs Nigella – always Nigella she at least gives the impression of enjoying food and Alton Brown is just a funny guy with actual knowledge about the chemistry of food and Cutthroat Kitchen is the magic that happens when kids never really quite grow up and are able to let their imaginations soar and have access to lots and lots of toys.

  2. Hi Gina: You’re 100% right. ‘Thinky’ girls need a break from the stress of meaningful life issues and existential angst; from standing our ground on God knows how many fronts and being sucked into the vortex of myriad ‘hot’ political and social justice issues. Feminism and whatever ‘ism’ be damned, I loved and need my trash TV and I’m unapologetic on this score. Thanks to a perceptive bff who was smart enough to see through my bs and took note of my need to fully decompress, I’m an unrepentant fan of the Real Housewives of Atlanta and New York, Keeping up with the Kardashians …and at one point….[no clue why] TLC’s Gypsy Sisters. I also admit to dipping my toes for a time in Celebrity Rehab and [yes, of course] MTV’s Teen Moms and Jersey Shore. I hate to admit but I REALLY loved Teen Moms. I actually went on a mini-bender once, watching like 5 episodes back to back…and I had to work the next day. I have no idea why I did this….(!) I could not stop watching these chicks. Each one was worse than the next and one [Farrah], even has a sex tape out or something. Just cray cray stuff; the kind that is so far removed from my own reality that I feel I can indulge in it and never run the risk of ever finding myself acting or thinking the way they do in about 99.9% of the situations they face. I, too, admit to watching some of these shows to make myself feel better about the crappy day I had or the lame place I’m at in my life at that given moment. Arguably, you do gain perspective from seeing the way some of these reality TV stars live and the choices they made. You can’t help but compare yourself to them or your parents to theirs and see how unfair a comparison that is no matter how much the game is rigged so to speak. I say this because we all know a certain percentage of what you see is scripted and not taking place in the moment, as we are being lead to believe. But, the truth is I don’t care. The more drama, the better, including when it’s one of the characters having a happy moment [for a change]. I need that escape; the mega no-brainer and I appreciate every second I get to just set my stress aside and get swept along the current of Scott Disik’s latest attempt at sobriety or Teen Mom Chelsea finally meeting a nice guy and forgetting about her douchy ‘baby Daddy’ Adam [as she refers to him]. I actually cheered then. Because, though they are just part of reality TV, they are also people and as equal opportunity offender, I feel great cheering and booing them with the same enthusiasm. I have never watched Pretty Little Liars or Drop Dead Diva, Gina…I think I’ll give those a whirl some time soon. Thanks for sharing yoour secret indulgence; great to know I’m not the only one!

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