Friday, April 15, 2016

In Defense of "F.R.I.E.N.D.S."

This article has been making its way around social media, and I, being an avid Friends fan, was very intrigued to read this particular (and rather apocalyptic) interpretation of the show. If you're not interested in reading it, this is an abstract of the article:

Friends, author David Hopkins argues, is a Greek tragedy wherein Ross Gellar, family man, professor of paleontology, and all around decent human being, is doomed to an Oedipal existence in which his closest companions actively seek to thwart his intelligence and eventually create a person as simple as they are. By doing so, the show subliminally encourages us to the do the same.

Where I think Hopkins is hitting the nail on the head: Ross' job is regularly looked down upon. Whenever Ross talks about dinosaurs, his friends pretend to fall asleep, roll their eyes, or groan. The only character who seems to care about Ross' career is his short-lived girlfriend, Mona, who is very interested in his doctoral dissertation. I have often imagined that, if I were friends with them, I would be interested in Ross' career and he and I would talk about literature and science.

Hopkins mentions that the laugh track in the show limits our own ability to determine what's funny. While I agree with this wholeheartedly, Friends was not the first show - nor was it the last - to utilize the canned laughter and choreograph our responses.

Ross certainly does have a tragic hangup on Rachel. The causes are numerous and speculative, as nothing is directly stated, but certainly Rachel represents for him a teenage ambition to be noticed and loved by someone popular; this is perhaps an opposites attract situation; Ross ultimately sees in Rachel something good and worthy to be loved.

Where I think he's missing the point: Ross isn't the only intelligent one, even though he's the only one mentioned to have an advanced degree. Chandler, for example, is incredibly witty and shows
above average grasps of language and language manipulation by virtue of his jokes and sarcastic asides. In fact, Hopkins clearly hasn't made it all the way through the show because he is grossly oversimplifying the characters. He calls Joey "the goofball," Phoebe "the hippy," Monica "obsessive-compulsive," Chandler "sarcastic," and Rachel, "the one who shops." Although none of this is out and out wrong, it is, as I said, too general to be fully accurate.

Joey is the goofball and arguably of the lowest academic intelligence on the show. However, he possesses a more innate interpersonal intelligence and is one of the most loyal characters on the show. Phoebe is sort of a hippy, I would state that she's more a free spirit, equipped with street smarts and strong convictions. Monica is a bit OCD, but she's a very talented chef, a motivated individual, and fiercely competitive. Saying Rachel is "the one who shops" neglects the growth she makes throughout this show. Initially, she is a spoiled, daddy's girl who relies on her parents' money, but - albeit with a lot of luck and help - she climbs the career ladder and becomes a head buyer with a multi-national fashion company. Whether or not we like fashion, it's hard to argue that Rachel didn't grow to do well for herself.

While he doesn't directly assert that Friends is responsible for the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004, Hopkins heavily implies it, as well as implying that the majority of stupid things happening in America now (from social media politics to Donald Trump) are the direct result of Friends having been on the air.

TV shows, by virtue of being TV shows, tend to lack intellectualism. We, the audience, are not forced to think, imagine images, or connect any dots for ourselves. Suggesting that Friends is the reason Kanye West thinks he can run for president when many other shows perpetuate similar stereotypes against intellectual people is unfair, unfounded, and, in my personal opinion, unjust to this show that, at its heart, valued loyalty about all else.

Help Me Out Here: Am I Missing Something?

I came across the meme on the left on a university friend of mine's Facebook newsfeed and I'm having a really hard time comprehending this one. As I understand (and, please, please, please, tell me if I'm interpreting this wrong), I should support the Muslim county clerk's decision to deny a customer a marriage license on the basis that the customer is not wearing a hijab and that, in not supporting her - which, in this case, I don't - means that I'm supporting Christian privilege.

Firstly, is it not the same religious right of the woman customer to choose whether or not she wears a hijab? Secondly, is it not the actual job of the Muslim clerk to provide a service (be it supplying marriage licenses or something else) to the town she serves?

I do support the autonomy of the clerk to actively find someone else to help the customer. But if no one else can be found, the clerk's refusal, while religiously understandable, seems unethical given her job and the freedoms that are supported by the American Constitution, under which she serves, as a working person in America.

Please, please, please let me know where I'm going wrong. I feel like there's something simple that I'm missing, but I can't help feeling that this meme (as many obviously are being that they're, you know, memes) is grossly oversimplifying this issue and eagerly pointing the privilege finger. And I'll be honest, I point the privilege finger a lot because it's worthwhile and it is a privilege to be taught about privilege (or have your privilege checked) as opposed to experiencing a lack of it. So, I beg of you, tell me where I'm going astray in my logic. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Ranty Type Blog

So, I've been doing yoga everyday for about the last two months and today YouTube suggested I watch a video from a vlogger called BananaBlondie108. Mostly out of boredom, I clicked on it and trolled around her page a while. It didn't take long for me to glean her perspective: military veganism, high and mighty yoga, anti-everything that contrasts with that. I consider myself a very open person and refuse to believe that the choices I make with my life supersede and are more righteous than another person's. Similarly, I believe that the choices other people make are valid, but I expect that they garner the same respect I give to them. If you choose to be a vegan, that's great for you. If you choose to binge drink every Thursday, fine. If you collect firearms, please be responsible. It doesn't mean that I am under any obligation to do any of these things.

BananaBlondie108's videos - at least the ones I watched (and I didn't watch any in full because she annoyed me profoundly) - serve to enforce her cause. And this is her right as a person: she is permitted to have a belief (or many beliefs) that she validates. Just as I am, and just as you are. Where I believe she misses the mark by an astonishingly wide margin is in her blatant attack on anyone who does not follow her chosen lifestyle and in her propagation of the idea that only certain bodies can be healthy.

On her channel she disses Oprah, Weight Watchers, meat eaters, dairy eaters, people who don't do yoga, and in one tremendously offensive video, she uses her children to help her insult her overweight pediatrician. You can watch the video here, but I don't recommend it. In this video, made in the car probably on the way home from the pediatrician's office, both mom and children are on a rant about how they could possibly follow the advice of their overweight pediatrician. Everyone in the car agrees that the advice is sound, scientific, and based in medicine, but everyone in the car also agrees that the doctor doesn't follow the advice.

And just how do they know that? I hear you ask, as I did. Well, because isn't thin. In fact, in BB108's words, "Her (the doctor's) message would be much better received if she were an example of the advice that she's giving."

Now, of course, I wonder, did BB108 ask the doctor if she followed her own advice? Did BB108 ask the doctor what she normally eats in a day (not that it's any of her business)? No. She went out on a limb that reaches so far past the realms of science that it hits parallel universes in the head and just assumed - and continues to assume as referenced in a video recorded the next day - that the doctor couldn't be eating and living healthily because her body failed to look a certain way.

She did issue an apology video because she was "mortified" and because her "goal is never to offend people." Now, congratulations or whatever on apologizing, but I feel like she's gotten it wrong for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I continue to hear her say that she isn't "politically correct" and "abrasive," hinting that the only reason she's apologizing is because she called the doctor fat. Secondly, in her apology she continues to propagate the idea that, because the doctor carried visceral weight (weight around the midsection), she couldn't possibly be following the advice she gives, which BB108 classifies as the "truth of the matter."

One of the biggest issues I hold with both her initial video and her "apology" is the fact that she can't own up to the fact that her children hold the views they do because she has taught them as such. Several times in both video she alludes to the fact that even her children noticed as some sort of justification and validation of her assumption about this doctor's health. News flash: Your children learn what you teach them. So, for instance, when she refers to the doctor's "gunt" with her children in the car, you can bet that that's a word that's now in their vocabularies for the next fat child they encounter.

As a fat person, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to have doctors believe what you tell them. I also know how difficult it is to have people believe what you tell them about health. Because, obviously, fashion and the conflation of health and beauty are more valid than science and personal experience. Most people see me and assume they know about my health without knowing anything about me. I have to work harder to be validated and often am not. Once, I went to the doctor and I told him my workout schedule, which, at the time was 5-6 days a week, weightlifting, cardio (running and Zumba), and pilates. When I left the room, I looked at the chart and he wrote "3 days a week, low to moderate exercise."

I feel like I'm circumventing the point and maybe there isn't a real point aside from the fact that I'm annoyed by this video and the continuation of bad science in health related fields. If you're frustrated, too, misery loves company, so leave me some comments.