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“What’s Wrong with being sexy?” “No, sex*ist*”
Those of my vintage will recall these two scenes from This Is Spinal Tap:
There was something of a reenactment of that on The Project last night.
The Project, as Australians know and others don’t, is a talk show hosted by Australian Muslim public intellectual Waleed Aly, along with some people who aren’t Muslim or public intellectuals.
Waleed (who I see has now finally gotten his PhD) has been asked whether he thought he was slumming it by being on a commercial TV talk show. His response was that broadcasting on an ABC radio show was no less dumbing things down—broadcast media is not an academic monograph, no matter how high end it is supposed to be.
Still, you will occasionally note a flurry of consternation across his brow during The Project, typically at the comedian sidekicks trying to be funny. Although Waleed is a thoroughly modern and hip Australian (he played guitar in a Pink Floyd cover band for an industry award ceremony), you will occasionally see some cultural disconnects, other than his refusal to drink alcohol.
Last night, The Project featured the fuss around Honey Birdette. Honey Birdette is a lingerie store operating in suburban shopping malls. Honey Birdette uses provocative imagery in its shop windows, such as women in lingerie in a party with men in suits:
—and a petition has circulated that the imagery should not appear in shopping malls, where mums and dads have to explain “why are those ladies not wearing any clothes” to their seven-year-olds.
The obligatory child psychologist was interviewed, and then Waleed chatted briefly with his two comedian sidekicks, Meshel and Lehmo. Meshel concurred that she should not have to explain to her daughter the imagery as being illustrative of the evils of patriarchy, and flaunting the power imbalance between the lingerie-clad women and the suit-clad men.
A familiar flurry of consternation came across Waleed’s brow. “But… surely that’s not the point. Surely the point is that there shouldn’t be hypersexualised imagery in a shopping mall at all.”
Oh no, Meshel and Lehmo nonchalantly answered. If the guys were in Speedos, that would have been quite alright.
And co-host Natarsha Belling quickly threw to an ad break, as Waleed’s features contorted into a Study in Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot…
I feel like something similar is happening with the recent criticisms over Apu’s depiction in the Simpsons.
Have people not noticed Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, which pokes fun at white trash?
Or Homer Simpson himself, the very caricature of the ignorant, lazy, mostly-drunk middle-American white family man?
And on the Simpsons, it’s usually the two female leads, Marge and Lisa, who get the most compassionate depiction.
Seems there are three positions:
– you’re against all caricatures
– you’re OK with everyone getting a relatively-equal level of skewering
– you’re only OK with people in “positions of power” or “low social cache” getting a skewering