Episode 32 – Doomsday Preppers

 

This episode: Doomsday Preppers, Season 3, Eps. 1-5, 9.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Flavor of Love, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.

This episode we hunker down in our cinder block fortresses, clutching our guns, gold, and MREs, for a good old discussion of the Nat Geo show Doomsday Preppers, which as the title suggests, focuses on mostly middle-aged and upper-middle-class white male Americans who are stockpiling food and water and devising gadgets and defenses to protect their families from ‘marauders’ and tyrannical government lockdowns.

We, of course, go into the usual stuff about the show’s concept and structure and go over our favorite moments from each of the episodes we watched, particularly expressing amusement at the ridiculous scenario in the season finale of a Russian invasion.  We also break down the prepper worldview, the role of class, and common themes in the show, as well as analyzing the coherence (or lack thereof) of many of the posited doomsday scenarios.  This leads into an article about the motivations behind the worldview and we have a lively discussion about whether the article’s critique of masculinity and prepping is right on the money or overly simplistic in its view of gender and culture.

Finally, we also have some HEATED DEBATE – OK, polite minor disagreements – about the authenticity of the show and discuss our differing reactions to the show and how we feel they relate to the show’s overall appeal to the larger general television-viewing audience.

Show Notes and Links

1:32 / Mike’s holiday gift for JS

2:20 / Introducing this month’s show

2:51 / The show’s concept and episode structure

5:59 / JS adds an important detail that Mike overlooked

7:42 / Episode 1 Highlights: Mike and Chad – ‘Mexican Muslim bioterrorist marauders’ and ‘democide’ (The ‘Kari Ann Peniche’ reference is from our previous episode on Catfish)

12:36 / Episode 2 Highlights: Curt and Rodney – questionable parenting skills on display in Oregon and Alaska

15:23 / Mike’s distinction between rational disaster preparation and ‘doomsday prepping’

16:08 / JS’s theory of the case: ‘playing Army’ for ‘big boys’

17:22 / Episode 3 Highlights: Tracy and Dan – Mad Max school buses and DIY solar cookers

21:24 / Episode 4 Highlights: Rob and Greg – ‘booby traps’ and ‘invisible tree houses’

22:33 / JS thought the way the show portrayed Rob as vulnerable and emotional despite his hyper-machismo was interesting and a little bit strange

25:04 / Episode 5 Highlights: John, Bret and Shane – dubious judgement, all the way around, even for these guys (Wikipedia article on Hurricane Ike)

27:15 / Mike’s quick hits for Episodes 6-8: civil wars, underground shelters, ‘alternative’ medicine aka bullshit, drones and domes, and yes…lots more killing of marauders

30:42 / Episode 9 Highlights: Joe and Mark – a wannabe dictator and ‘Red Dawn’ freedom fighters (JS mentions ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Road Warrior’)

33:48 / JS loved the ‘Trojan Horse’ plan to defeat the Russkies

34:32 / Mark, the protagonist, has his friends waterboard him, which was pretty amazing (Wikipedia helpfully points out that this is not to be confused with ‘wakeboarding’)

35:52 / If Mike watched this during the original airing, he would’ve thought it was an elaborate prank, but in a post-2016 world, he has to take crap like this seriously

36:40 / Debating how much the producers were egging on the protagonists and how authentic their beliefs were in the given scenarios

40:13 / Segueing into the worldview of prepping culture and the themes that cropped up in multiple episodes

42:37 / JS makes a comparison between the views of ‘extreme preppers’ and ‘conspiracy culture’

43:24 / Returning to the distinction between ‘normal’ disaster preparation and the ‘doomsday prepper’ identity depicted on this show

45:03 / Some other common themes – distrust of outsiders and foreigners and the incoherence of the scenarios (Hurricane Maria and the power grid, other hyperinflationary crises)

46:45 / JS thinks there’s a grain of truth to the ‘economic collapse’ scenarios and we debate a bit about the situation in Venezuela [A lengthy note from Mike on this section – just so we are clear: I didn’t do a good job foregrounding my argument – the claim on the show from many of these people who envision collapse scenarios is that it will basically be impossible to obtain any type of resources outside of what you grow and produce yourself and so the vast majority of people will have to resort to looting resources from others who kept stockpiles of food, etc – my argument was merely that no economic collapse could possibly be that bad, not that things were peachy keen in Venezuela or trying to minimize food shortages and production failings over there and say the govt was doing awesome]

48:04 / Mike thought the ‘Red Dawn’ scenario, even though it’s ridiculous, was actually one of the more plausible scenarios

49:42 / Mike was irritated by the show’s pandering – especially given that it was on National Geographic’s channel (He mentions scientific notation and Spike TV, which has apparently been ‘rebranded’)

50:42 / Segueing into the motivation behind the ‘doomsday prepper’ worldview – larger-than-life performance of traditional gender roles (Mike mentions our episode on Toddlers & Tiaras)

52:26 / These people are loaded with cash – which made Mike very unsympathetic (Mike compares this to Hurricane Katrina conspiracies)

53:44 / JS thinks that this is rooted in a ‘risk-averse’ psychology coupled with too much money

55:08 / Beginning our discussion of this month’s article: “The man-pocalypse: Doomsday Preppers and the rituals of apocalyptic manhood,” Casey Ryan Kelly, Text and Performance Quarterly, June 2016

56:18 / The thesis and themes of this article are similar to the one we discussed on our Highway Through Hell episode

56:53 / JS agrees with the main thrust of the argument, but disagrees with some of the specifics – thinks that perhaps these cultural qualities are not necessarily gendered in the way the author describes

57:59 / Mike’s defense and interpretation of the argument about gender this article (and cultural studies in general) makes and JS’s refinement of his counter-argument

59:21 / JS thinks that the prepper worldview is more rooted in economic conditions and the rise of the globalized economy, but Mike is skeptical of applying that argument to the people on this show

1:01:20 / Mike thought the article’s analysis of prepping as an expression of traditional fatherly authority was interesting

1:02:14 / JS picks up on an earlier thread about the centrality of self-reliance in the prepper worldview and we discuss whether self-reliance and dependence are gendered (Mike mentions the negative stereotype of the ‘welfare mother’)

1:04:12 / JS critiques the sub-argument about female preppers being ‘hysterical’ based on some counter-examples from the episodes we watched

1:05:55 / The article mentions some examples of questionable authenticity on the show (the examples are cited here and here) and we interpret what that means for the show’s authenticity overall

1:08:54 / Ending on the show’s appeal – is there a sincere appeal or is it entirely based in irony?

1:11:08 / Is JS the typical appreciative viewer of this show?  Is the typical viewer a prepper sympathizer or a rubbernecker? (Mike mentions Dual Survival)

1:12:28 / JS patiently listens while Mike goes on a rant about how living after the apocalypse would be pointless and how these preppers wouldn’t make it anyway

1:13:39 / JS announces next month’s episode

1:14:30 / Our usual announcements: contact us, rate and review us (and don’t forget to subscribe just because Mike forgot to remind you!)

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Episode 30 – My Super Sweet 16

 

This episode: My Super Sweet 16: Season 1, Eps. 1, 3, 5-6, Season 5, Eps. 1, 7, 9, and Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 5-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Catfish, Season 1, Eps. 1-4, 7-8, 13.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month JS is taking a breather, but we’re excited to have our returning guest, Dave, on the podcast to discuss the all-time ‘classic’ MTV show My Super Sweet 16.

We start with our own reminiscences of our unglamorous 16th birthdays before tackling the usual topics of concept and structure – of what ended up being two different shows with the same name, as we also viewed the 2017 reboot.  Then we discuss the show’s worldview and debate whether it is meant to condemn class inequities in America or whether it is a comfortable salve for viewers who would like to believe that they are immune to the behavior displayed on the show because they have superior ‘values’ imparted to them.  We also talk about how the ever-present categories of race and gender play a part in the stereotypes of class being disseminated by this program and wonder just how authentic the narrative of this show is in light of an interview and article we found – is it played fairly straight or going into scripted territory?

Our final through line is an ongoing comparison and contrast between the positive vibes and group hugs of the reboot and the temper tantrums and exclusive guest lists of the original – we speculate as to why MTV decided to change up their successful formula and decide which version of the show we personally prefer.

Show Notes and Links

1:28 / Your hosts’ memories of their ‘Super Sweet 16’

2:14 / Does Dave have any experience with ‘Sweet 16’ culture?

3:48 / The spread of episodes we watched and why we picked them

6:57 / The concept and structure of the show

9:10 / Many segments tended to reoccur, particularly as the formula became more established

15:11 / Hitting the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) for Ava and Audrey – our most stereotypical celebrants

18:44 / Discussing the role of the parents in the show

20:59 / The formulaic nature of the show and how the first episode of Season 1 hadn’t quite established it yet

22:10 / Comparing the original to the reboot – microcelebrities and positive vibes

25:27 / Returning to the worldview of the original run – is it celebrating or condemning wealth?

27:13 / Did the original series give its participants the ‘Villain Edit’?

30:08 / This show is part of a larger cultural narrative around gender and wealth (Dave mentions the movie Mean Girls)

31:15 / The role of diversity in the show – is it progressive or does it give a false impression of class in America?

34:11 / How race and gender plays into the show’s worldview and popular reception – focuses on safe critique of ‘values’ and ‘spoiled teens’ as opposed to structural conditions

35:24 / Some narratives in the show run counter to the ‘lax parenting’ critique

37:02 / The show both stokes envy and resentment of the upper class – encourages viewers to think they would be ‘better’ in the same situation rather than condemning the situation itself

37:45 / Contrasting the original worldview to that of the reboot (the Guardian article Mike mentioned is here; our episodes on The Fashion Hero and America’s Most Smartest Model)

39:52 / How compelling was the reboot compared to the original? (More compelling participants and narratives, but also lacked some dramatic tension and the rubbernecking entertainment value.)

44:07 / The reboot felt more authentic and less manufactured in its narrative

45:58 / Mike apologizes for his second ‘academic article’ fail

47:00 / Analyzing the original’s authenticity (or possibly lack thereof) – the Babe.net interview is here and the Houston Chronicle newspaper article is here

48:31 / Our previous experiences with the show and initial impression of its authenticity (Our TOWIE episode)

50:58 / Dave was struck by the lack of diegetic dialogue and fast cuts from one segment to another

52:06 / Mike was a little surprised by the claimed extent of scriptedness, etc; expected it to be more on the Survivor end of the spectrum than the Bridezillas end

53:07 / Is there a ‘damage control’ aspect to the accusations of fakery?

58:05 / Final conclusion – there is some inauthenticity, but not full-on scripting

58:45 / Discussing the appeal of the original show

59:27 / Mike notes that this show stopped running when the recession hit in 2008

1:00:36 / What is the appeal of the reboot and why did they change the formula?

1:01:35 / Mike thinks this is a conscious attempt by MTV to cater to the worldview of a younger, diverse, culturally liberal audience

1:04:00 / Which version did we prefer? (We come down of the side of evil over niceness – in true reality TV fashion)

1:07:03 / Ending with our favorite motifs – the exhausted boredom of the adults and mundane nature of it all

1:09:19 / Reminding our listeners about the next show Mike is covering with JS – continuing the MTV train with Catfish: The TV Show

1:10:05 / The usual spiel: contact us, rate/review, subscribe to us (or at least tell your friends!)

 

Episode 27 – Foxy Ladies

 

This episode: Foxy Ladies, Season 1.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next episode: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Season 22, Eps. 2-6, 8.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month we have a special episode as Mike made the trek across the country to visit JS and we decided to do a ‘live-in-studio’ episode (aka recorded on a mic sitting between us on a card table), so there’s a bit more ambient noise than usual, but hopefully the quality should suffice.

Anyway, this month’s show provoked quite a bit of divergence in opinion as Mike more or less enjoyed it for what it was and JS had to bottle up his disdain for a month and has some grievances to get off his chest.  That being said, we eventually get into the usual talk of concept and structure and give our opinions on the rather large cast of characters and their personal travails.  Then we discuss how this show interacts with class and gender, particularly in comparison to the other ‘occupational’ reality show we reviewed, Highway Through Hell.  This discussion then leads us to our article, which analyzes the relationships between masculinity, sex, and work.  We apply the theories of the article to the two different shows and delve into how the occupations they depict differ both in their ‘cultural cache’ and in the narratives that unfold for their different reality television audiences.  Finally, we end with why we believe this show failed to be renewed and how its attempts to straddle two different audiences might have fallen short.

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Welcoming you all to a very special live-in-studio episode

1:51 / Introducing this month’s show

2:30 / Our personal differences on the quality of this show

4:40 / The concept and structure of this show

6:08 / A brief diversion into JS’s favorite scene

6:55 / A low-rent Vanderpump Rules

7:35 / Our previous knowledge of the ‘bikini barista’ phenomenon

8:33 / What’s the appeal of a ‘bikini barista’ joint?

10:10 / A digression into food and their excellent website (no nudity, but prepare for some side-eye if you click on this at work or in front of Grandman)

10:51 / Mike’s experiences with Olympia, WA (Mike mentions Evergreen State College)

11:50 / Going over some of the themes for the various episodes

12:35 / JS makes a pitch for a new sponsor

13:27 / The owners of the chain are listed as executive producers

15:28 / Segueing into the cast of characters

15:43 / Kallai – single mother, veteran, manager, recovered addict

16:56 / Dalilah – other manager, relationship issues, history of DUIs

17:45 / Arielle – pastor’s daughter, single mother, boyfriend in jail

19:33 / Mike’s two cents on the characters mentioned

21:00 / A common thread (?) – questionable judgement

21:34 / Why Mike found Dalilah less sympathetic than the other characters

23:41 / Chrystal – recovering alcoholic, cosplayer, Etsy entrepreneur

25:40 / Arianna – newlywed, aspiring manager, most stable

27:53 / Paul and Yulia – owners (K-1 visas are a reference to our episode on 90 Day Fiance)

29:20 / Their story hits the typical beats of the ‘business owner’ narrative (our Highway Through Hell episode comes recommended as a companion to this discussion)

31:00 / The business expansion subplot

32:15 / Stephanie – operations manager, victim of a hatchet-job (?)

33:38 / Jaslin – the one whose name we couldn’t remember, put someone in a coma at 16

34:52 / Ashley – outlier, educational aspirations

36:42 / JS’s plausible theory on the transition from Ashley to Jaslin as the ancillary barista

37:13 / Mike enjoyed Ashley ditching Dalilah during the ad contest

38:02 / The photoshoot as an example of the disconnect between Ashley and the others (future orientation vs. orientation to the here-and-now)

40:42 / The social ties and the divide between ‘education’ and ‘here-and-now’ struck Mike as an authentic representation of this type of entry-level service-sector workplace

41:20 / Bringing Highway Through Hell back in – how representations of occupational reality TV are affected by gender

44:05 / JS would have liked this more if it did focus on the occupational aspects

45:04 / The issue of class (and financial compensation) in the level of ‘openness’ to having personal issues on television (ex. Ashley)

46:50 / We had a suspicion that the personal issues in both shows were similar, but that gender and audience shaped the narrative in terms of depictions of ‘work-life balance’

49:10 / Coming back and looking at the narrative in the finale in more depth

51:15 / The relationships that seemed more long-lasting and authentic worked much better in the finale’s narrative

53:32 / Transitioning to the article, “Masculinity, Labor, and Sexual Power”, Ann C. McGinley, 2013, Scholarly Commons at UNLV School of Law (Article mentions Hanna Rosin’s book The End of Men)

56:51 / Delving more into the topic of post-industrial transition (although Trump is going to bring back all the jobs!)

58:36 / The gendered nature of different occupations; discussing orthopedics and its connection to sport

1:00:44 / The idea of ‘head of household’ and ‘protector’ as last refuge of hegemonic masculinity

1:01:16 / Bringing it back to the show – huge contrast in both gendered aspect and cultural cache of jobs depicted in both Foxy Ladies and Highway Through Hell

1:03:27 / Disentangling the ‘bikini’ aspect from the ‘barista’ aspect in our cultural expectations; discussing the link between sex and work for working-class women (Mike forgot to mention it, but this even goes into ‘professional’ women – think of all the sexualization in pop culture around nurses, secretaries, etc)

1:04:41 / The double-edged nature of sex work (freedom to sell what you have on the market vs. commodification of women’s bodies)

1:06:25 / Returning to the idea of cultural cache of different occupations

1:08:15 / The skills involved in being a (bikini) barista – the ‘taste test’ segment of one episode (JS also briefly mentions his past working at good old Dunkin’ Donuts)

1:11:10 / Why wasn’t this show successful?  Bad luck or bad show?

1:12:28 / Vanderpump Rules as an example of this formula being successful

1:13:46 / Show likely was intended to be televised episodically, but doesn’t seem to have been picked up

1:14:19 / Where JS thought they went wrong – tried to straddle the audience of a ‘male gaze’-oriented show and a more ‘feminine’ show about women’s personal issues

1:16:14 / Mike thought the second-half shift to the personal was what made the show interesting to discuss

1:17:33 / Returning to gender and Highway Through Hell – imagining an attempt to pitch it to a more ‘female’ audience

1:18:04 / Final thoughts and last-minute grievances (our episode on Blind Date)

1:18:38 / Announcing next month’s episode

1:19:49 / Last call for our apathetic listeners to go vote on our listener’s choice poll

1:21:09 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate or review, and subscribe to us

Episode 23 – Highway Through Hell

 

This episode: Highway Through Hell, Season 1, Eps. 1-5, 10.  Watch it on Netflix.

Next episode: The Fashion Hero, Season 1.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

This month Mike and JS take their inaugural voyage into JS’s favorite reality TV subgenre with the Canadian show, Highway Through Hell, which follows the travails and triumphs of a ‘heavy rescue’ towing company that works a particularly treacherous yet important stretch of highway in British Columbia.

We go into the usual topics: concept, characters, authenticity, appeal, etc as well as discussing JS’s love for the ‘blue-collar’ genre and his experiences in a blue-collar workplace.  Mike, on the other hand, has some criticisms regarding the lack of interpersonal heft in some of the workplace scenes that take place away from the crash sites and the show’s overall worldview.  We also analyze the show through the lens of an article covering the linkage between ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and ‘occupational reality TV’ and discuss the role of nostalgia in the appeal of ‘men’s soaps’ as well as the shifting nature of masculinity in the post-industrial service economy.  Finally, there are some asides on the prominence of ‘car culture’ in North America and the interesting role that the ‘omniscient’ narrator plays in shaping the worldview of the show.

[Also, as a minor coda, Mike’s audio is a touch choppy in a couple parts for some reason.  Apologies and hopefully it will not be too distracting.]

Show Notes and Links

1:17 / Mike apologizes to our two listeners for the delay on the last episode

1:56 / Introducing this month’s show with some Wikipedia humor

2:49 / Does JS have a soft spot for this sub-genre?  (We mention the show Dirty Jobs)

4:03 / Our personal feelings on the show

4:45 / The concept for the show

7:37 / Discussing Jamie Davis, the owner (and implied POV character)

9:52 / Moving into the main employees

12:01 / Going over the ‘bit players’ and Jamie’s son, Brandon

15:27 / The tractor trailer drivers are a secondary character in the show

16:28 / Two modes of the show: Crash sites and workplace politics

17:18 / Mike thought the relationship aspect of the show was weak because the people seemed too one-dimensional for him to invest in (our episode on TOWIE is here)

19:08 / JS had different expectations, didn’t mind that it was focused on the work and the business

19:56 / JS’s experience with blue-collar workers and his theory as to why the show didn’t delve into the personal lives of the workers

21:53 / Delving into the authenticity of the show; there seemed to be a dichotomy between the crash scenes and the ‘office’ scenes (our Alaskan Bush People episode is here)

24:08 / Mike wasn’t convinced by the confrontation between Kevin and Jamie or the rivalry between Jamie and Al

25:33 / JS agrees the rivalry was exaggerated, but thought Kevin’s reaction jived with his experiences in a blue-collar workplace

26:56 / Mike can’t imagine having an outburst like Kevin at his job

28:03 / JS thinks that a good blue-collar worker can get another job fairly easily in the worst-case scenario of getting fired

28:56 / Are these types of outbursts just associated with blue-collar work or is Mike just very cautious in his disposition?

30:18 / This show hit the predictable narrative ‘beats’ in terms of a typical ‘blue-collar’ reality show (JS mentions Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers)

33:17 / Segueing into the article for this month: “The working class heroes: analyzing hegemonic masculinity in occupational reality TV”, Nathan Blair, The Plymouth Student Scientist, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2013 (analyzing the UK show Trawlermen)

34:45 / Talking about the concept of the ‘retributive man’ and how these shows recast working-class identity in terms of an individualistic masculinity (Mike mentions socialist realism)

36:52 / These shows praise working-class men in an abstract sense, but not in a way that would challenge the socioeconomic hierarchy

38:00 / JS thinks there is a certain ‘blue-collar mentality’ of wanting to ‘get things done’ without ‘asking questions’ that dovetails with the worldview of ‘blue-collar TV’

39:06 / Jamie as an ideal of both blue-collar worker and scrappy entrepreneur

40:21 / Jamie as someone who can appeal to both blue-collar and white-collar people as well as both the ‘retributive’ and ‘new’ man

41:44 / Mike was disappointed in how the show dealt with the emotional fallout of this line of work, thought the show pulled back when things got interesting (our Paris Hilton BFF Dubai episode)

44:00 / Brandon’s earrings: A subversion of traditional masculinity or an evolution of it?

46:06 / Blue-collar men and cultural conservatism

47:11 / The show’s unrelenting emphasis on stoicism

49:00 / Is the ‘retributive man’ ideal more closely linked to blue-collar men in the globalized, white-collar, post-industrial economy?

50:31 / Getting even more meta: How watching this for the podcast affected Mike’s viewing of the show

51:06 / The specificity of ‘car culture’ to North America (Although the amount of vehicles in the US and Italy is apparently much closer than we thought)

54:22 / How the highway-centric transportation system relates to the ‘heroic positioning’ of the show’s narrative

55:26 / Mike was struck by the visceral and spectacular nature of the crash footage, mentions J.G. Ballard’s Crash

56:45 / This show’s nostalgic appeal reminded Mike of Dual Survival

58:17 / Comparing and contrasting this show with Dirty Jobs

1:02:14 / Jamie as a modern version of the Jeffersonian ‘yeoman farmer’

1:03:20 / Circling back to the article: the linkage between the decline of traditional masculinity and the rise of the post-industrial service economy

1:04:50 / Discussing the role of the narrator and comparing the narrative voice to Bridezillas and Blind Date

1:08:46 / Circling back to the show’s appeal and our personal reactions

1:09:38 / Mike found this less offensive than certain other masculine reality shows, but brought some baggage that was shaped like a certain Orange-American

1:11:55 / Mike’s own worldview about work is the opposite of this show

1:12:43 / JS thinks there is a different sort of pride and tangibility associated with physical labor

1:14:39 / Introducing the next couple shows: Fashion Hero and The Four: Battle for Stardom (seriously, though, don’t watch the Four – it’s terrible)

1:16:45 / Sending us out with the customary announcements: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

 

Episode 21 – 90 Day Fiance

 

This episode: 90 Day Fiance, Season 4, Eps, 1-6, 14.  Watch it on Hulu.  Watch it on TLC.com (cable sub required).  Purchase it on Amazon Instant Video.

Next episode: Behind Bars, Season 1, Eps. 1-8.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

[A brief note from Mike: I had replaced my mic – fruitlessly, it turns out – and since I’ve had to record at my parent’s house with no immediate access to Audacity, due to a technical problem with my brand of mic and the Win 10 Creator’s Update, I didn’t realize my gain was too high.  I was able to more or less fix it in a similar fashion to our episode on Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai when I had a similar audio issue, but like that episode, the audio is a little shaggy at points.  My apologies.]

We are back with yet another reality TV extravaganza about the topic of love and romance (albeit a conception of ‘love and romance’ that may be a little bit more mercenary), this time with the infamous TLC show 90 Day Fiance.  With the assistance of an excellent article on the figure of the ‘mail-order bride’ in popular culture, we situate the different couples from each storyline within the dominant stereotypes of commodity, victim, or victimizer (or how, in some cases, they run counter to them).

We also discuss larger issues of different cultural definitions of marriage as either a vehicle for romantic love or as a straightforward legal and economic transaction, the show’s ‘male gaze’, and the show’s depiction of foreigners and foreign cultures.  Finally, we return to our usual staple topics of the show’s authenticity, worldview, and appeal, along with a brief discussion of the role of technology in facilitating (and ‘nurturing’) these long-distance relationships.

Show Notes and Links

1:15 / Mike floats an idea for a spin-off

1:52 / Introducing this month’s show

3:20 / The show concept and episodic structure

6:25 / Mike wasn’t bitter about purchasing this one (Mike mentions two lowlights – Monica the Medium and TOWIE)

7:23 / Our previous experiences with the show

8:36 / Introducing this month’s article: ‘Mail-order brides’ in popular culture: Colonialist representations and absent discourse, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 15, Issue 4, by Bonnie Zare and S. Lily Mendoza

11:02 / The stereotypes mentioned in the article: commodities, victims, and victimizers

12:07 / JS makes an amusing Freudian slip (the idiotic conspiracy theory Mike is making fun of is covered here by Snopes)

12:36 / Jorge and Anfisa’s storyline (Amy’s Baking Company is covered on our episode on Kitchen Nightmares)

16:44 / Jorge’s anti-feminism made him much less sympathetic

18:05 / This was the most stereotypical of the storylines

19:07 / Returning to the article – Russian women as “victimizers”

20:21 / Russian sex ratio imbalances (Wikipedia article and article on Russian-Chinese marriages)

22:02 / Discussing Jorge and Anfisa on the tell-all episode

23:24 / Matt and Alla’s storyline

27:31 / Contrasting cultural differences around marriage between Alla and Matt’s family

29:37 / Is Alla a “victimizer” stereotype like Anfisa or is this different?  Is the “victimizer” stereotype rooted in anxieties about the modern conception of marriage?

31:40 / The presence of the child makes the couple more sympathetic

33:20 / Chantel and Pedro’s storyline

35:40 / This storyline runs counter to the traditional ‘mail-order bride’ narrative

37:03 / Mike makes a brief digression to their storyline’s continuation on Happily After Ever

37:37 / Discussing the show’s ‘male gaze’ (particularly in regards to Chantel)

39:30 / Are we more sympathetic towards this couple because of our cultural bias toward romantic love?

42:15 / Returning to the article – this storyline runs counter to the racial and gender ‘script’ that the article references

44:06 / Although this storyline goes against the grain in many ways, the couple is still traditional in their conception of gender and marital roles

45:53 / Nicole and Azan’s storyline (we mention the websites OkCupid and Omegle)

50:34 / Mike was surprised that Azan was surprised about Nicole’s weight; JS has a personal story about online dating

52:44 / We thought Azan wasn’t someone who came off as “eager for a green card”

54:15 / Talking about the cultural differences regarding religion, public displays of affection and the role of husband and wife

56:17 / Contrasting the show’s depiction of their families

58:23 / Mike praises the show’s portrayal of Morocco and how it countered stereotypes of foreign countries as (to use the parlance of our racist prez) “shitholes

58:57 / Transitioning to the eternal question of authenticity; Mike contrasts the visual style of the tell-all episodes of the main series and Happily Ever After (the article Mike mentions about the ‘scripted’ line is here)

1:00:12 / Chantel’s meltdown on Happily Ever After (check the outro for the clip) and other over-the-top moments made Mike question some of the authenticity of the main series

1:01:32 / JS’s instinctive read on the show’s authenticity

1:02:44 / Mike gives some examples of possible producer manipulation (The reality TV deal Jorge and Anfisa supposedly inked is here and the $45,000 dress is covered here)

1:03:58 / Mike’s Grand Unified Theory on the show’s authenticity (Our episode of Bridezillas is here and an article providing more fodder for Mike’s theory on Jorge and Anfisa is here)

1:04:57 / A brief discussion of technology on the show, particularly the role of FaceTime and other video chats

1:07:32 / Closing with the usual discussion of the show’s appeal and our personal reactions

1:08:32 / JS thinks the show’s appeal lies in its generally authentic portrayal of both success and failure

1:10:35 / Mike thought the most interesting portions of the show were when the relationships were more ambiguous than the straight success/failure dichotomy

1:12:01 / Does this show have a message regarding these kinds of marriages?

1:15:58 / Debuting our totally original rating system

1:16:11 / Our upcoming episodes (our episode with Dave on Hell’s Satans is here and our first episode on America’s Most Smartest Model is here): The Fashion Hero and Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jail

1:18:49 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

Episode 20 – Blind Date

 

This episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

Next episode: 90 Day Fiance, Season 4, Eps, 1-6, 14.  Watch it on TLC.com (cable sub required).  Purchase it on Amazon Instant Video.

We make our triumphant return for Season 2 with another First Love episode, this time from Mike – Blind Date.  However, the love might not be mutual this time, as JS is left a little bit cold.  We delve into the usual topics: structure, concept, etc, before looking at the show’s humor and its reliance on stereotypes (with an assist from an excellent cultural studies article that examines how the show’s humor enforces cultural norms).  We then end with a discussion of the show’s appeal and how our differing expectations and dispositions may have shaped our enjoyment (or lack thereof) of this one.

Show Notes and Links

1:15 / Mike gets in one last joke about the dumb ‘War on Christmas’ while it is still seasonally appropriate

1:30 / Introducing this month’s episode

2:39 / Mike’s memories of the show as a kid (callback to Episode 1); here’s a ‘review’ of the porn site Mike mentioned for all you pervs (NSFW, obviously)

4:01 / JS had not experienced this show before, his first impressions

5:12 / A brief digression into the quality of the recordings on YouTube; Mike mentions the Fox Reality Channel and the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News

5:54 / The concept and structure of the show

6:50 / Mentioning the host, Roger Lodge

7:47 / The main strategy of the show – setting up incompatible couples; Mike mentions the dating service eHarmony

8:45 / The big draw – the animations and graphics

11:36 / The length of the segments and discussing the actual structure of the televised show (as opposed the curated YouTube version we watched)

13:29 / Transitioning into the humor of the show and its reliance on various stereotypes

15:25 / The stereotypes are often shorn of context – heavy amount of editing in these dates

16:36 / The people on this show are damned if they do, damned if they don’t by the producers

18:25 / Discussing the show’s usage of racial/ethnic stereotypes

19:05 / A lot of these jokes would get someone fired today

19:35 / JS lays out his main problem with the animations – too heavy-handed and intrusive

21:00 / Mike enjoyed the animations, but agrees some of the humor was problematic and offensive

22:22 / We liked the humor more when it made fun of people for what they did rather than who they were

23:52 / Mike was surprised by how many personal questions came up on these dates

24:55 / Talking about the heteronormativity of the show; Mike mentions Jerry Falwell and the term metrosexual

25:45 / Segueing into the article – Pop (Up) Goes the Blind Date: Supertextual Constraints on “Reality” Television by Justin DeRose, Elfriede Fürsich, and Ekaterina V. Haskins

26:47 / JS gives a quick summary of the article’s thesis, which references the concept of cultural hegemony

28:02 / Mike thought this article did a good job honing on the relationship between the stereotypes and the production humor

29:08 / Other stereotypes mentioned by the article beyond gender and race, how it narrows expectations to the median of a standard bell curve

30:40 / JS selected two lines he enjoyed from the article on the role of consumerism in the show

32:41 / Even with the consumerism, the show comes back to the idea of conforming to the norm (don’t be gaudy or a ‘gold-digger’)

33:39 / JS thought humor was too obvious or easy to be funny, but Mike offers a (qualified) defense of the humor as being a channel for genuine anxieties

35:32 / Delving into the specific dates and how they depart or conform to the mold

37:56 / JS goes into his favorite segment – was OK with show making fun of people who seemed terrible

39:54 / Talking about the selection of the contestants; we mention Survivor: Borneo as a contemporaneous reality show

41:45 / One episode where the ‘racial’ humor kind of worked – the Asian who thought she was ‘hood’

42:42 / Transitioning to the appeal of the show and why it was successful

44:07 / Mike thought the ‘lowest common denominator’ aspect of the show was a strength; gives additional context in the form of the show’s original time slot (aka not primetime)

45:00 / Comparing the humor of the show to Bridezillas

48:10 / How our different expectations shaped our enjoyment of the show (or lack thereof)

48:52 / Revisiting the success/failure dichotomy – Does JS gravitate more towards shows that celebrate success as opposed to relishing failure? (JS mentions America’s Most Smartest Model)

51:03 / Mike is probably the opposite – more forgiving of the trashy, mean-spirited humiliation fests

51:50 / Pitching the article again – we are hoping to incorporate something like this going forward (although we may not find specific articles for the likes of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai)

52:35 / Introducing next month’s episode

53:52 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 15 – Toddlers & Tiaras

 

This week’s discussion: Toddlers and Tiaras, Season 7, Eps. 1-5. Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Judge Faith, Season 2, Eps. 1-4, 7-10.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video. Watch it on YouTube.

This week we tackled the infamous TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras.  JS begins with an apology to our listeners and declares it the worst show he’s ever seen, whereas Mike offers a somewhat qualified defense of the show (though definitely not the people – who are the worst).

After our recriminations and the usual recap of concept and structure, we delve into the show’s point-of-view and how it is reflected in its editing choices.  We also discuss the topics of beauty and gender standards, how these pageants sexualize minors, ritualistic nature of beauty pageant culture, the links between beauty pageantry and social conservatism, and the role of social class and economics.  Of course, we continually return to how troubling this is as well as finishing up with an exploration of whether this show has any redeeming social value or is merely wallowing in salaciousness.

Show Notes and Links

1:31 / Introducing this week’s show (with bonus apology from JS)

2:21 / JS thinks this is the worst show he’s ever seen

2:52 / Mike explains why he didn’t think this was the worst (although the people are); mentions Monica the Medium and Keys to the VIP

4:41 / The concept of the show

7:08 / This isn’t the first ‘rodeo’ for many of these families

8:08 / Talking about the exception: single dad at first pageant

9:28 / Covering the awards ceremony (and the ridiculous award names)

10:40 / These parents don’t accept second place

12:00 / Delving into the pageant judges and directors

14:15 / Segueing into the show’s point-of-view; Mike mentions Bridezillas

14:52 / The editing choices were revealing

16:41 / Money is a frequent topic

17:13 / The motif of bribing kids with sugar and caffeine

19:33 / Parsing the difference between disapproving of the parents and the pageant

20:36 / Mike was rubbed the wrong way by many of the judges’ comments

22:27 / Mike’s theory of why the pageant footage is edited differently

24:02 / Talking about the intended audience; see our Finding Bigfoot episode for our take on the decline of educational cable channels

25:09 / Show possibly geared towards mothers; contrasting the appeal of the show to Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude

26:53 / How this show could potentially appeal to ‘pageant moms’

27:19 / Transitioning to a discussion on what this show says about beauty and gender standards

28:08 / The artificiality of the beauty standard was revealing

29:04 / The problematic message of adult beauty pageants is even more amplified when it involves children who cannot meaningfully consent

31:24 / The two objections to child beauty pageants: consent and sexualization

34:12 / The ritualistic aspects of child beauty pageantry; Mike makes a possibly melodramatic comparison to ‘female circumcision

36:17 / JS poses a question to Mike

37:38 / Coming back to traditionalist gender roles and the Southern regional aspect (Correction: one was also in California, but the larger point stands)

39:07 / The relationship between social conservatism and beauty pageant culture

41:45 / Talking about our (limited) experience with (adult) beauty pageants

43:24 / Discussing the role of social class and economics

44:40 / Mike noticed a positive correlation between wealth and winning

45:15 / JS begrudgingly gives the show his one kudos

46:06 / Returning to the vast amounts of money spent on the dresses

46:47 / Seems to be no real monetary return for these pageants

49:03 / Speculating (somewhat baselessly) into the economics of holding a beauty pageant

51:08 / We’d call it a con, but these parents seem to have no illusions of wealth

52:02 / Exploring the parents’ motivations: validation, living vicariously, and ‘winning’ (not ‘confidence’)

54:57 / Participation trophies are ‘ruining society’

55:45 / Does this show have social value or is it wallowing in titillation?

57:15 / JS thought the social value was held back by the fact that there are bigger problems in the world

59:40 / Mike wonders whether this dichotomy is so strict (Is there inherent tension between sensationalism and exposé?)

1:01:17 / Mike imagines the response to this show would depend on the viewer, which has disturbing implications

1:01:55 / Mike found the show both more interesting and more depressing than he expected, even if it wasn’t Edward R. Murrow; thought the show would be light-hearted camp

1:02:53 / Comparing this show to America’s Next Most Smartest Model and America’s Next Top Model; JS found how it puts children into an adult setting objectionable

1:05:12 / Announcing the next episode (You can refresh yourself on our Divorce Court episode here)

1:08:50 / The usual: email us, rate/review, and subscribe