The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Desperate Housewives" and 400%

I have to admit to being unsurprised by the rather blanket denial that Obama is facing an unusual amount of antipathy--a 400% rise in death threats, people bringing automatic weapons to his speeches, denial that he is an American citizen, being labeled a "terrorist" and so forth. None of this matters if you are on a certain side of the racial and political fence. My blunt opinion: if you don't see that something serious is happening, here...you are dealing with a serious schetoma, a blank spot in perception created by fear, conflicting beliefs or stress. And if something horrible DID happen, you'd lie to yourself and say "oh, my. I never saw THAT coming." This is so sad at a time when we need to have all our wits about us. One thing I have to make clear: anyone who cannot see something as clear as this fact cannot be trusted to interpret statistics on things like Global Warming and UHC. You may be honorable and intelligent, but you lack clarity.

##

Remember that this problem lurks under conscious awareness. If you call this stuff to the attention of a Lucas or Joss Whedon, they fix it. They're good people. But the instant they go to sleep again...bang. And the basic state of humanity is to go to sleep.

Watching "Desperate Housewives" on DVD I just saw the exact same thing I saw in "Firefly"--exclusion of non-white males from the breeding circle. The families on Wisteria Lane are all beautiful, sexy, lithe, nubile...and white (one Latino family...but Eva Longoria would have to be a little darker for me to place her in the Non-white category.) Finally, in about episode 5, they introduced a black character, played by Richard Roundtree. Look at this from the reproductive point of view: Roundtree was at least 60 years old when he did this. In other words: no sexual competition for white men. And then a black woman appeared: a prostitute, a literal street-walker. No romantic competition for white women. Ah, the circle is complete. People who can't see that this is a HUMAN problem, that tribalism is wound deeply into the warp and woof of our nature, will try to say "it's Hollywood" or "it's white people" or "it's men" or whatever. The same kind of denial that allows people to look at yahoos carrying automatic rifles at a Presidential speech and say it has nothing to do with the Birthers and the "secret Muslim" assholes. You don't want to believe it because it serves you not to. Because he's not your tribe. On the level of the unconscious "zero sum game" of race and politics, all the assassination jokes make perfect sense. The SURFACE is "Firefly": race doesn't matter! We're all equal in this wonderful, terrible future!

But underneath, if you are watching, the exact same lizard-brain rises up: "if you are not my tribe, I don't care about your welfare. Your death may profit me and mine. You shall not compete with me for reproductive space." People won't cop to it, but that's what I actually see. It is the reason that the "if you remove minorities from the health care equation, we're doing fine!" argument makes sense to white Conservatives...and no one else. On a very basic level, we don't give a shit about the other tribe.

The question then becomes how widely we define "tribe." By nationality? Class? Race? Gender? Religion? Income? Political party? And if they are of your tribe, what do we owe each other? Most agree that education is in the commons...but not all. The argument now is about health care. And make no mistake: there are good, honest, honorable reasons to disagree with UHC or any other proposal that any politician on either side of the aisle suggests. The people who say everyone Republican is a racist are just exactly as asinine as those on the Right who suggest every Democrat is a Communist, or whatever else the insult of the day might be.

But in my opinion, refusal to look at a fact like that 400% increase in death threats gives aid and cover to the very worst elements of our society. Believing that this doesn't reflect an actual social problem is ignorance. Thinking that the attitudes behind this won't poison the political discourse, increase fear in otherwise rational people...you aren't doing yourself any good. Either you are deliberately obscuring the truth, or you actually can't see something that is hanging right in front of you. In that case, the temptation is to discount what you think about other subjects, since it seems that you are arguing backwards from a premise, the premise in this case being: "my side is just flat better." It can't hold more of negative X, even if it is clear that the other side has a surplus of negative Y. Your side is just better. Smarter. More Godly. Compassionate. Sexy. Whatever.

Recognize this? Of COURSE Liberals have more communists and socialists than the Right. And the right has more Racists and cultural elitists than the Left. Everyone on either side understands this truth about the other. Try finding someone who will admit to BOTH. And of course men are controlling...but so are women. And whites would like to dominate other groups. As would Asians, or blacks. And Americans think they are the best country. As does Japan, China, and anyone else whose ego hasn't been crippled. It's just the way most of us operate as animals. Hell, I'm quite sure dogs think dogs are the best, and cats think cats are the best.

That's all fine, unless YOU BUY INTO IT, or until it stops you from seeing the truth. Yes, I think the opposition to Obama is increased by racism. I think that only someone afraid that their arguments hold no real value could deny it: a fear that if THAT edge of the rug unravels, the whole thing will come apart.

Nonsense. Of COURSE there are valid arguments. The fact that I disagree with them doesn't mean that they aren't there, or even that they aren't correct. But there is a bloodthirsty little animal in human beings that would love for our enemies and adversaries to just be...gone. Whatever that takes. And it acts and speaks politely in public, even in conscious thought. And therefore will not believe the Birthers, the assault weapons, the "secret muslims", the assassination jokes, the "terrorist fist jab", postcards with watermelons on the White House lawn...why, NONE of this means anything at all! It's no worse than it's ever been, why, Bush put up with far worse!

(400%...)

ᅠBut the vixens of Wisteria Lane, and the slinky space cowboys aboard Serenity know this is bullshit. And the lizard brain grins its lazy, feral, hungry smile. And as they said in "Matrix" or the sacred scrolls of Tibet: while we sleep, the demons feed upon us. Right now, they're having a banquet.

24 comments:

Pagan Topologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pagan Topologist said...

This is a great post, Steve. I will only offer a technical quibble: A quadrupling of something is a 300% increase, not a 400% increase. The 100% is already there and 100% + 300% increase = 400% as much as before. Just as a 50% increase would be 100% + 50% = 150% of the original.

And, yeah, I have a hard time seeing conservatives as part of my tribe.

Mike Ralls said...

>Of COURSE Liberals have more communists and socialists than the Right. And the right has more Racists and cultural elitists than the Left. Everyone on either side understands this truth about the other. Try finding someone who will admit to BOTH.<

Yo. I've got no problem calling myself on the right, a conservative, or a Republican, but I still beleive that the right, conservatives, and the Republican party have more racists than the left, liberals, or the Democratic party (ditto on Commies for the LLD's vs RCR's). This is sad, and I regard it as something that must be overcome for the right, conservatives or the Republican Party to fully prosper, but it's there and I'm not going to deny it.

I also don't have a problem with stating that President Obama probably has a larger % of Americans willing to assassinate him then President Bush hard, largely because of his skin. Again sad, but the available evidence supports that assertion.

What I do have a problem with is pretending that there was not tons of hate directed at President Bush or that Obama doesn't have any advantages.

Christian H. said...

I think all of this is why I only believe in intellectual pursuits. If you spend 80% of your time perfecting your skills, you don't have time to be an asshole.

That guy worked his ass off to give people a ray of hope and look. Unfortunately I kno wall to well about how peopel will tear down somethign because they don't have it.

In most cases they didn't even want it (reading's gay, etc.) but will ruin it for you (can you say Rosewood?) if you let them.

To truly be a melting pot we have to find what's important and have everyone do it.

Obama made it clear. These kids will have to run the country one day and if they're all under-achieving whiners, our current state is NOTHING.

Nothing matters but hard work. That's why I officially have NO FRIENDS. Once people find out that I work all the time they run.

But just like with anything I busted my ass to be the best screenwriter I could be and now have A-List writers recommending my theories and techniques.

And as usual it's the one(s) with my work ethic.

Mike Ralls said...

>That's why I officially have NO FRIENDS.

Christian,

Jeeze man. I can understand where you are coming from, but you are bleeding all over your computer. Homo Sapien Sapiens are not genetically designed to be happy without friends. We are social, _pack_ animals. We need friends, and lovers, and family. We need to connect to other humans on levels above, "Did you finish the TPS report?" I've had times in my life when I too had NO friends, and it was a bad dark time and looking back on it I am amazed I got through it. Friends are great! Friends rock! Friends brighten your day! Friends are a desert topping AND a floor wax!

When discussing such a primal and deep subject as friendship, I think it is best to ponder the words of that great sage Wong, of the Cracked Magazine Website;

http://www.cracked.com/article_15231_7-reasons-21st-century-making-you-miserable.html

"The problem is you are hard-wired by evolution to need to do things for people. Everybody for the last five thousand years seemed to realize this and then we suddenly forgot it in the last few decades. We get suicidal teens and scramble to teach them self-esteem. Well, unfortunately, self-esteem and the ability to like yourself only come after you've done something that makes you likable. You can't bullshit yourself. If I think Todd over here is worthless for sitting in his room all day, drinking Pabst and playing video games one-handed because he's masturbating with the other one, what will I think of myself if I do the same thing?

You want to break out of that black tar pit of self-hatred? Brush the black hair out of your eyes, step away from the computer and buy a nice gift for someone you loathe. Send a card to your worst enemy. Make dinner for your mom and dad. Or just do something simple, with an tangible result. Go clean the leaves out of the gutter. Grow a damn plant.

It ain't rocket science; you are a social animal and thus you are born with little happiness hormones that are released into your bloodstream when you see a physical benefit to your actions. Think about all those teenagers in their dark rooms, glued to their PC's, turning every life problem into ridiculous melodrama. Why do they make those cuts on their arms? It's because making the pain-and subsequent healing-tangible releases endorphins they don't get otherwise. It's pain, but at least it's real.

That form of stress relief via mild discomfort used to be part of our daily lives, via our routine of hunting gazelles and gathering berries and climbing rocks and fighting bears. No more. This is why office jobs make so many of us miserable; we don't get any physical, tangible result from our work. But do construction out in the hot sun for two months, and for the rest of your life you can drive past a certain house and say, "Holy shit, I built that." Maybe that's why mass shootings are more common in offices than construction sites.

It's the kind of physical, dirt-under-your-nails satisfaction that you can only get by turning off the computer, going outdoors and re-connecting with the real world. That feeling, that "I built that" or "I grew that" or "I fed that guy" or "I made these pants" feeling, can't be matched by anything the internet has to offer."

Christian H. said...

I have co-workers. That's enough. None of you could possibly imagine what it's like to be me.
Everybody knows me but me - according to society. I have only wanted to help one person my whole life and that was recent. I don't know if it's my humanity poking through but I know that it only matters that it helps me be what I am.

Film making is hard, but I like hard. Damn, I'm still the same. Oh well, I'm happier than ever and I just became officially abstinent - meaning sex is another thing I don't care about anymore.

Maybe if I find that elusive PhD....

Marty S said...

Steve: I don't doubt that Obama gets more death threats than other presidents, or that the cause of the increase is his race. Assuming no repeat offenders the and that the 400% number is correct(a big assumption since the number comes from a single book's author and the book was published in August which means it was written much earlier) the number of annual threats would have been sent by one hundredth of one percent of the population. No sane person doubts there aren't a lot more racists than that in this country. So the additional death threats are coming from people who are not merely racists, but also nuts. I think that extrapolating from this that most of the opposition to Obama is race based is a big leap. Take myself for example. I oppose the majority of Obama's agenda, but I still think he makes a better president than Joe Biden would.This is because, despite similar philosophies, when push comes to shove I think he has the brains and guts to make better decisions than Biden.

Steve Perry said...

You know what I don't understand? People who will go into backbreaking contortions trying to defend racist, sexist crap. Who will, when it is pointed out, immediately leap to the "Yes, but --" defense that the "other side" does it, so this somehow makes it all right.

It doesn't.

What sad, stunted, pitiful humans beings they are, who see the status quo and think that everything is fine, we're all fine here, and what are all them women and nigrahs and gooks and other minorities bitching about?

What is a shame? That they don't seem to have any shame.

La Reyna said...

Exactly, Steve. There's a mindset among White men regarding sex, race, and sexual competition. They don't like to see Black men competing for women. That's why we don't see too many Black men in Corporate America.

The same men don't like to see Black men making it romantically with women in the movies. That's why you see White men with all kinds of women. However, Black men are seen with Black women in music videos, particularly hip hop because that's the only place where one could see Black men as erotic beings while that opportunity is denied in film, TV, and even plays such as Othello.

That's sad but it's the truth.

La Reyna

thetecdiva said...

Here is a link to the CNN broadcast of that STEVEN ANDERSON, psycho PASTOR in Tempe Arizona- A male that is praying for the President's death. I tell you I despair the human race, and I'm F$#@#%$ mad!!!

http://www.examiner.com/x-19632-Salt-Lake-City-Headlines-Examiner~y2009m9d1-Death-threats-to-President-Obama-have-risen-400-since-his-inauguration

Marty S said...

Just caught tail end of O'Reilly's commentary on Obama's health care speech."Its clear that something has to be done. That's the main thing he had to sell and he did it very well."
That puts O'Reilly where I and most rational conservatives are on the issue. We agree we need something better and we are not opposed to change. We just have different approaches to achieving the goal.

(Best Show)Watch said...

"Hi:

Two things

1) I’d like your permission to (re)print your article on The new adventures of old Christine
for our website

2) I was hoping we could use your ‘scribing’ talent for our website.

The Best Shows Youre Not Watching (dot) com [all one word]

The new adventures of old Christine is one of our featured shows. We’re hoping to round up a few people who can occasionally contribute perspective (via an article/blog) on the shows – maybe a recent episode, future direction, plot shortcomings etc.

What’s in it for you?
Primarily a larger audience back channeled to your blog. We don’t pay but the site has a lot of promise and we're pretty excited about getting it off the ground. Let me know what you think.

Thanks

Dan Moran said...

Send a card to your worst enemy.

Not likely. But I might send one to his attorney.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

"Republican party have more racists than the left, liberals, or the Democratic party..."

The American Right needs to purge itself of two noxious poisons: Racism and Christian Fundamentalism. Were conservatives to marginalize racial and religious zealotry, I could see myself voting Republican. While American Liberals are captive to their own debilitating delusions (i.e. Marxism and technophobic paranoia verging on the schizoid), IMHO, would-be Thoreau's and Che's are more palatable than latter-day Crusaders and disrobed Klansmen.

Anonymous said...

Well, in defense of firefly, its a huge leap over Wheadon's first effort: Buffy the vampire slayer. in firefly two out of the eight crew are black, three are female. and at least three are thirty plus years of age that's a better demographic spread than most other genre shows i can think of. How about the young slinky crew of the new star trek movie? Yeah i wont disagree the situation is broke, but i think Wheadon was trying his best to present a mix of ethnicity while still selling it. its unfortunate that the show was canceled so quickly. Langdon

Steven Barnes said...

"I think that extrapolating from this that most of the opposition to Obama is race based is a big leap"--
I agree, and I never said that.
##
Does Obama have advantages? Sure--being brilliant and an insanely good speaker are two of them. (Whether those will translate into being a good president is another matter). But race? I honestly believe that no one could believe his race was an advantage unless they know almost nothing about race relations in America. Now...having said that, the fact that he is who he is DESPITE the fact that he is black is an advantage--in the same way that wearing a refrigerator on your back can combat wind-sheer during downhill skiing. He stands out for being so remarkable...but you have to ignore the phenomenal amount of negative stuff he waded through to consider his skin color, overall, an "advantage."

Steven Barnes said...

Christian...if you have no friends, I fear for your screenwriting career. You have made enough comments suggesting a level of contempt for virtually everyone in the world--exactly who do you think will be a market for your perspectives? Truly, you'd have to be staggeringly brilliant to compensate for such misanthropy, and I don't see it--I see a very intelligent young man who doesn't love himself very much. You would be very well served to work on healing that, my friend. Then, you probably would have something very interesting to offer the world.

Steven Barnes said...

I know Whedon is/was trying. The point is that if you aren't conscious, you will slip into a racist pattern, because the default is tribalism.

Steven Barnes said...

BestShowWatch--

Yes. Please write me at Lifewrite@aol.com

Ethiopian Infidel said...

"None of you could possibly imagine what it's like to be me."

Nope, nobody can honestly enter another's head or heart. The flip side of individuality is some measure of irreducible isolation. Until the advent of neural interfaces, we're all loners. Deal with it.

"Maybe if I find that elusive PhD"

Anyone with an I.Q. above the mean can earn a PhD. The PhD's really a commendation for discipline and masochism. If you think you're alone now..

Mike Ralls said...

The advantage I was thinking of was having over 90% of the media who contributed money to the Presidential campaign giving that money to you versus the other guy. I don't beleive that any large group of people is smart or moral enough to allow their own own leanings to not shade how they present things if 90%+ of their coworkers also lean in that direction.

For example, in the realm of pop culture, off the top of my head, by this time in his Presidency George W. Bush had already been depicted as being stripped naked and forced to lick Magneto's boots on TV in an X-men comic. Nothing comparable has happened to Obama in a mainstream comic book, despite the fact that Obama is more unpopular now than George W. Bush was in Sep 10, 2001?

I'll also bet money that no motion picture will ever be released depicting the fictional assassination of President Obama while he's in office.

Christian H. said...

Christian...if you have no friends, I fear for your screenwriting career. You have made enough comments suggesting a level of contempt for virtually everyone in the world--exactly who do you think will be a market for your perspectives? Truly, you'd have to be staggeringly brilliant to compensate for such misanthropy, and I don't see it--I see a very intelligent young man who doesn't love himself very much. You would be very well served to work on healing that, my friend. Then, you probably would have something very interesting to offer the world.





My statements seemed pretty clear. You sound the women you talked abotu in your latest post. Can't see the forest for the trees and make assumptions.

I didn't say I was an asshole who walks around cursing. I said most people have too much time on their hands because they are not striving fro intellectual growth.

How many film makers (writers, directors, even actors ) aren't "well-liked" but still make tons of money? Can you say Michael Bay?

All you ever do is attack a talented balck male who has hi sown opinions and theories beyond your (or whoever's) chakras and crap.

I was ecstatic when I first came here. I thought, wow a black writer. Then the Sambo alerts; you being able to say whatever, no matter how STUPID, (when all of the 60 year olds die) and then I thought, oh well, hopefully he wears clothes that fit.

I'm embarrassed enough by Steppen Fetchit clowns WHINING about how some white guy isn't fair.

This is America - think about what Nicholson said in the beginning of the Departed and you will understand why I say you're talking out of the side of your face.

I'm sitting in an office filled with white people and have no problem getting along.

The term "friends" has different meaning for different, besides, screenwriters sit in a room by themselves and maybe get drunk with a FEW other writers.

I'd say I'll fit in rather well, thank you.

Christian H. said...

"None of you could possibly imagine what it's like to be me."

Nope, nobody can honestly enter another's head or heart. The flip side of individuality is some measure of irreducible isolation. Until the advent of neural interfaces, we're all loners. Deal with it.

"Maybe if I find that elusive PhD"

Anyone with an I.Q. above the mean can earn a PhD. The PhD's really a commendation for discipline and masochism. If you think you're alone now..





Geez not another one. If you remember my post about wanting to find a PhD you will see that I said having it not a measure of intellect but of discipline.

Some of the writers I have great discourses with would tell you that I'm very friendly until you call yourself playing me then you see the crazy Airborne guy.
The guy who has no problem going out with his boots on.

I think it's a shame that America is in the state it's in but that doesn't mean I'm going down with the ship.

I'm a firm believer in the "SAVE YOURSELF" school of thought. You want more blacks in films, make films abotu more mainstream fare.
You want more women in films make more movies about women and not "beautiful" women.

Imagine if Obama had just complained that things weren't fair and waited for some PAC to ask him to run.

He wouldn't be President now. He would be on a blog complaining.

Mike Ralls said...

"Good friends promise to be there for you, and their presence can actually help you live longer, researchers say."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4094632.stm