Monday, August 29, 2005

There are no women at CBS

I miss the 1980's. Shows like "Kate & Alley" and "One Day at a Time" glowed on my face during primetime. These were stories of women who had divorced their husbands, but kept going with their jobs and child-rearing and were doing just fine. "Who's the Boss" showed us a working woman with a son, and her male live-in nanny. The 80s were a time when we saw a small shift in the media's representation of the nuclear family. Of course, other than Claire Huxstable, only good, happy mothers were white.

These days, what shows do I have to watch?

ABC, also home to such classics as "Desperate Housewives" and "Wife Swap", presents, According to Jim: in which we see working man living with his housewife and kids, and the funny antics that ensue. There are a number of shows that follow this model, many of which are at CBS:

  • King of Queens: Working man, working woman, father in the basement, funny antics.

  • Yes, Dear: Working man, housewife with kids, working brother and stay-at-home sister-in-law next door with kids and available to babysit, funny antics.

  • Everybody Loves Raymond: Working man, housewife with kids, parents next door are available to babysit, funny antics.

  • Still Standing: Working man marries his high school sweetheart now a housewife with three kids, friend hangs around and is available to babysit, funny antics.

Shows like Law & Order give me some hope. Anita Van Buren is a black mother of two whose husband owns a hardware store. She works hard as a police lieutenant. However, we never see Lieutenant Van Buren bring in her kids when she doesn't find a sitter. I think there was one episode where she left early to pick up her kids, but for the most part her kids never get in the way of doing a fine job for the people of New York City.

This week, the media is working hard to present the two most important
issues of Americans today.

1. Hurricane Katrina.
2. Brad and Jen.

I don't read People or US magazines, but I do go grocery shopping, so I am a victim of their glossy, airbrushed covers. I don't read the stories, but it's hard not to be informed of celebrity culture simply based on the covers of these magazines. Because I have to buy food to put in my fridge, I'm aware of the fact that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston's divorce is final, and that Angelina Jolie just adopted another baby from some far-away country.

If I had been the editor of US magazine when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston broke up, I would have put a picture of Brad Pitt on the cover with a sharpie-drawn moustache and blacked-out teeth. The headline would have read, "Look at this Big Asshole!" And that would have been that. Instead, we are bombarded week after week with pictures of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. We see pictures of Jen all stressed out with headlines like "Is She Too Thin" and "Jen's Warning to Angelina." We see pictures of Angelina Jolie bouncing her adopted son on her knee, or bringing her newly adopted daughter home from the hospital, her hair in perfect arrangment. Paparazzi pictures show us the fabulous time that Brad is having with his new family.

The overall message from the media has been, "Poor Brad. Just look at that Jen. She has no mothering instinct at all. She's just a fruitless whore only interested in her career. Good thing he found Angelina when he did. She's got so much love to give those adopted kids of hers. Now he can be the dad he's always wanted to be."

Bullshit. BRAD LEFT HIS WIFE FOR ANOTHER WOMAN! In most cases, that's a really shitty thing to do. It's definitely a really shitty thing to do when the man LIES about his "friendship" with the other woman while he's still in his marriage. Instead of just chalking it up to, "Look at that asshole," we have to spend the next three months deciding who is the better woman, and likely concluding that poor Brad was right to do what he did.

Secondly, if Angelina Jolie were black and poor, she wouldn't be touted as the perfect multi-tasking mom with so much love to give. Instead, she would be a working mother with two children from two different fathers. Instead, she's the perfect white mom. I, too, could be the perfect mother if I had on-site daycare at my latest movie set and could afford million dollar homes, all the necessary medical care, and an army of nannies because I did two movies about a video game character.

Snark aside, I'm sure that Angelina Jolie is a fine mother. I'm sure she loves her kids. I'm just sick of hearing about it. Moreover, I'm sick of the media's guilt trip about not being one. I can't help but feel like we are back in the 1950's when the only choice for women is to have babies. Susan Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels in the book, "The Mommy Myth" explain the time warp best:

Feminism won; you can have it all; of course you want children; mothers are better at raising children than fathers; of course your children come first; of course you come last; today's children need constant attention, cultivation, and adoration, or they'll become failures and hate you forever; you don't want to fail at that; it's easier for mothers to abandon their work and their dreams than for fathers; you don't want it all anymore (which is good because you can't have it all); who cares about equality; you're too tired; and whoops--here we are in 1954.

Like Jennifer, I am a fruitless whore. I'm 28, single and childless working to get a PhD rather than a husband and house in the 'burbs. I wonder what kind of heyday the media would have with me if I were more famous. I probably wouldn't want to read that garbage either.

No comments: