Friday, April 29, 2011

The NFL Draft, The Royal Wedding, and America

I have no idea if these things connect. What I'm about to write may be the most incoherent, rambling, disconnected piece I've ever written. But there are two things that have been bothering me for the past twelve hours, and since I have not seen anyone else address them, I would be beating myself up if I didn't. Consider this part two in an ongoing series of "American Society Studies," along with Part 1 here, which I thought was good, but Blogger tells me no one has read.

Let me start with this simple fact. I hate Disney. I hate everything about them. I hate their attempts at globalization. I hate DisneyLand. I hate their films. I hate animation period. I hate that they control 16.6% of the world. Above all, I hate their ideologies, and hate that they have no shame in attempting to spread their ideologies. As you may or may not know, Disney owns ESPN.

So last night, when it started to look as though Mark Ingram was going to be picked (around 12-14), Suzy Kolber came on and said something to the effect of: "Mark Ingram figures to be picked soon. His dad, Mark Ingram Sr., played football in the NFL in the 80s, and is now in prison. I have a letter from his dad that I'm going to read to him on national TV."

Immediately this seemed very odd to me. And predictable. And exploitative. Why on Earth would Suzy Kolber have a letter or email from Mark Ingram Sr, and why would she be reading it on national TV, to his son, in front of millions of viewers? I couldn't wait for this trainwreck to unfold. Mark Ingram ended up not being selected until the late first round, so I had to wait an hour.

After he was selected, true to their promise, Suzy Kolber grabbed Mark Ingram, asked him a couple of generic questions, and then said, I have an email from your dad, and Ingram snapped his head a little bit in shock. Kolber read a nice letter that said how proud Ingram Sr. was of his son, and that he loved him, etc. Kolber then asked Ingram what he felt.

Unsurprisingly..............he broke down and cried. He put his head down, and the cameraman crouched down and zoomed in on his face. He said he missed and loved his father, and then walked off the stage. Chris Berman gave a voiceover "thats great."

I was sickened by this display. How exploitative could you get? And the fact that it was so pre-meditated too. Kolber announced she had a letter around pick 12, and then didnt read it until pick 28. So she, at the direction of ESPN/Disney, waited around for hours, knowing that they were going to read this letter to Ingram? And what the fuck did they think his reaction was going to be? If they had a prop bet on Ingram's reaction, wouldn't it look something like:

Cry -100000000000000000000000
Say "fuck my dad" +9999999999999999999999

So they had a piece of information that they knew would greatly affect someone, and purposely waited to release it so that he was on TV in front of millions of people. They couldn't have given him that letter in private, backstage, when he arrived at the building? They had to read it on TV? They had to take advantage of a 21 year old kid who was just drafted, so that Berman can say "that's great"? They were so steadfast in their way of doing this. Everything was arranged. They advertised that they had the letter. The camera moved down to get Ingram's reaction. They even held up the draft to do this (the Saints pick was in when they were at a commercial, then they picked, then the Bears pick was in as they were talkign to him).

I couldn't believe that they had done this. When I went online to see if anyone agreed, the twitter universe was lit up with how much it moved people, or made them cry, or how nice it was. How is that nice? People like seeing people exploited? You're at home saying you like that, youre saying "I love how they un-necessarily made that 21 year old kid cry." This was Disney's idea of a heart-felt moment, not too much unlike the countless ones we have seen through their catalogue of films.

This exploitation should come as no surprise, as Disney has had its fair share of contentions with portrayals of minorites in their films. The accounts are too numerous to go into detail here, and are subject matter for a wide range of other papers. But, think of films such as "Aladdin," "Mulan," "Remember the Titans," and "The Princess & The Frog," and we can see that they attempt to represent an entire race of people with one-dimensional, stereotypical characters. To them, Mark Ingram might as well have just been a character in a film of theirs. The problem is that he isn't in "Remember the Titans," and hes not some actor pretending to have a moment with Denzel Washington over the fact that his dad is in prison - this is his real life.

If you don't understand why I would have a problem with this, ask yourself this question. "If your dad was in prison, would you want to discuss it in any way, shape, or form on national TV?"

Interestingly, Disney has also been criticized for something else. Throughout their history, they have produced films where a low-class, low-income female works her ass off, struggles through the day, and sits patiently, waiting for a prince to come and rescue her from her daily drudgeries, so she can enter a high-class, high-wealth, sophisticated lifestyle. This should sound familiar to you because you grew up with all the films, and it is also the story of the Royal Wedding.

I'm not going to go into the actual story of Middleton and Prince William, because that isnt what is important. What is of more interest to me is how people have been reacting to it here in the USA. They see it as a modern, real-life fairy tale. That's fine, if that is how you want male-female relationships to be perceived. There has been TONS of feminist backlash against the Disney films for perpetuating hundred-years-old stereotypes of male dominance and female dependance, but I haven't seen anyone bring up that argument in relation to Middleton and Wiliam. If there has been such an argument, then I haven't heard it, but to me, I'm the first one.

And that isn't to say anything against Middleton. From what I know, I don't see her as a conniving, busted woman who was sitting around and is dependent on a man. She, and anyone, should be able to marry whoever the hell they want. Again, however, my concern is the reaction here in the States. I find it interesting, that in a post-feminist society, a society that produced the immensely popular and almost universally acclaimed "Sex & The City," that people still cheer on this old-fashioned chivalry/relationship. To me, I find it very hypocritical that people can feel empowered by "Sex & The City," and cheer on Samantha's sexual exploits, yet turn around and love that a commoner has ascended the ranks to royalty, simply by marrying into the family.

Why such a contradiction exists is baffling and would need more research (specifically into Sex&The City, which in full disclosure, I have probably seen a combined 100 minutes of). I would guess that it starts with the age-old stereotypes that Disney has instilled in us. Ya know, especially since we watch this bullshit when we're four years old, visit the theme parks, buy the merchandise, and are told that the Prince chooses the girl, and it could be anyone! That's what is so feel good about the Royal Wedding - as I said before, it could be read as a fairy tale come true. It also stands in opposition to the feminist/post-feminist texts and narratives that have been circulating for the past two decades.

My argument, I suppose, is that if push came to shove, everyone would trade places with Middleton (women that is). But same for men if I proposed the question "you could work hard for money, or you can marry the only-child-daughter of a tycoon and become the heir to the enterprise." Which are you going to choose? My argument is that feminists can say whatever they want; "Im independent, I don't need a man, Im self made," but they would all trade positions with Middleton (and if they wouldn't, where are they voicing their opinion on this). And im not picking on feminists, cause as I said, men would trade too.

And here's the point. That's America. People would trade their beliefs and values for money and fame. Seems obvious, but it's true. We saw it in the late 60s with the hippies. The same people who protested everything from the war to consumerism turned around and became lawyers and yuppies. People go on reality shows and degrade themselves for either money, fame, or both. You can preach any ideology you want, but if someone made you that offer to walk down the aisle with royalty, or a billionaire, or a movie star, I bet you would do it.

But why? What is America's obsession with money and fame? Again, a question that can't be answered in full here. But again, as a good start to research, I would imagine that Disney, (and Hollywood, television, the news, in general), perpetuate this desire. And if it isn't the media, it's the "american dream," "keeping up with the joneses," and whatever else that causes it, and the rest is a Domino Effect.

I knew that this was going to be a disorgainzed blog post. Two things though. 1) disney sucks, and 2) this will probably be the only blog you ever read that talks about the NFL draft and the ROyal Wedding in the same breath.

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