Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where Have You Gone John Bender?

So I've been watching Bachelor Pad. It is single-handedly the most confusing, thought provoking, unintentionally funny show I've ever seen. For those of you unfamiliar with it, allow me to explain......well, wait a minute. I can't explain. That is one of the great things about it. All I can tell you is what I observed:

1) The show would benefit greatly from having an opening where they show the people with their names. Remembering names was never my forte, but I've watched several weeks now, and I couldn't name anyone's name. I'm not saying they NEED to have an opening where Ramsay pretends to hit the contestants around on a pinball machine, but it wouldn't be a bad idea.

2) Everybody, especially the men, look the same (more on this later).

3) It seems to make up the "rules" as it goes along. I never know what the fuck is going on. Are they competing to be the final two? The final one? Are you better off being a flirt, or being mysterious? Sometimes one person gets voted off, sometimes two. Sometimes a team wins a week and receives immunity, sometimes only 2 people. It seems that host Chris Harrison makes it up as he goes along.

4) Did I mention Chris Harrison hosts?

5) The show would benefit greatly from a person who is "normal." Even by just going in and being normal, this person would appear like the biggest asshole ever - he would be the John Bender. [I can't find the subsequent scene where he tells Claire off, but you all know how it goes. "And as far as what's gonna happen when you and me are walking down the halls, you can forget it, cause it's never gonna happen. Just bury your head in the sand and wait for your fucking prom." "I hate you." "Yeah? Good."

I started to think about these people. The second thing I thought of was how people behave differently under the pressure of "hooking up." If you consider a show like "The Real World," where the cast mates are put under the same roof with the only stipulation being that they live together, you see that they go through typical trials and tribulations. That is - they fight, they go out, they get drunk, and one couple hooks up. But, all that they do and go through is more natural. When you put everyone under the same roof in "Bachelor Pad," the stipulation is that they have to hook up with someone else. Therefore, everyone is in "date mode," and therefore, acts like a total tool.

That brings me to the first thing I thought of though. That is, everyone is a total tool. I don't understand why people act the way they do in front of the opposite sex. The guys seemingly will do anything to get with one of the women (non of which are attractive). This basically means worshiping the ground that all the women walk on. Keep in mind that all these people are in their late 20s and early 30s. I think these people are stuck in the old fashioned: "I need to get married, have 2.5 kids, the white picket fence, work a shitty accounting job downtown, have BBQs on the weekend with the family dog, and go with the Joneses to church for Sunday mass." In reality, our generation (Y), marries in their mid-late 30s, goes back to graduate school more often to "achieve their dreams," doesn't believe in God, and doesn't eat meat (I can only prove the first two, the third I'm pretty sure of, and the last I made up).

Let me step back for a second though. I think we can all agree that Bender rules. He's the rebel. He gets in a fight(s) with Principal Vernon. He wears a flannel (which is still more popular than Claire's orange v-neck). He has long hair. He smokes weed. He rearranges the card catalog (having to learn the dewey decimal system in grade school seems like a wee bit waste of time now). And most importantly, he gets the girl.

So Bender is cool. Then why is there a shortage of such characters now (beyond the fact that he was so cool that no one can replicate his behavior). Why didn't "The Breakfast Club" inspire a whole generation of people to behave like Bender? If you're an impressionable male watching that film in 1985, which guy are you going to want to be like? Brian, who doesn't get any girl and has to write the essay for the group? Andy, who gets some nutcase who went through a makeover, and is emasculated by his father? Or Bender, who does what he wants, stands up to his parents/authority, and still gets (presumably) the hottest chick in the school? I would hope everyone would say Bender. Yet, there are no Benders in the world today.

If you watch Bachelor Pad, you will see the sorriest collection of men in the world today. They all weigh 150 pounds. They all have a fo-hawk that peaks in the front, right above their overly-wrinkled forehead. They all wear plaid shirts with ties with v-neck sweaters on top. Worst yet, they are all sorry, apologetic, whiny, pussies. If you haven't seen it, I can't even put it into words how bad it is. This might be an example though. If it helps illustrate, realize that before busting into this serenade, he presented a "promise ring" (his words).

The idea of the producers implementing a Bender character is what got me thinking about this blog in the first place. Why? For the age old question. Would women go for every single guy who wears the same fancy Ralph Lauren/Nautica apparel (or whatever men wear), and constantly sucks up to them, or would they go for the guy who wears a gray t-shirt to the elimination ceremony, belches in public and wants to watch football, and doesn't even want to go out with any of them? There isn't as much drama on "The Pad" as there could be, because every dork is exactly the same (see #2). Its like, will she go with 150 pound blond guy with black sweater from North Carolina, or will she go with 155 pound blond guy with Grey suit from Texas? Either way, everyone loses.

Before we go on. Let me clarify something. I am not naive enough to consider that the bros on "Bachelor Pad" are a 100% accurate representation of the male race in America today. I know that they are extraordinarily lame. Nevertheless, I think they certainly create or perpetuate an image of how men should behave.

Somewhere in recent history, men have seemingly lost their power. Adam Carolla wrote a book recently entitled "In Fifty Years, We'll All be Chicks." Admittedly, I have never read it. That being said, the title speaks volumes to me. And even if his book isn't exactly what I'm imagining, I'm able to glean enough from the title for my own purposes. In fifty years, a majority of us WILL be chicks.

Perhaps I'm assigning my own sexist connotations to the title and terminology, but oh well. What is the traditional ideology of a woman/chick? Sorry to say, but, emotional, forgiving, subservient, dependent. I'm not saying this has to be the way the world works, I'm just saying that's what I imagine Carolla means by "chicks." It's the stereotype. So, don't kill the messenger.

There are a couple of reasons as to why I think men lost our "upper hand."

A) Think of sit-coms in general. In 1950, we had "The Honeymooners," where Ralph Kramden repeatedly threatened to hit his wife so hard that it would send her "to the moon." More sanely, in the 1960s, Ward Cleaver came home every day to Barbara Billingsley, expecting a nice plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. He didn't threaten to hit her, but he expected his food when he walked in from his 9-5 job. Is this the way I want the world to work? No, of course not. This is ridiculous.

One of the more important shows of all time, and I'm not alone in saying this, is "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The show was sharp, clever, funny, and of course, presented a single, white, female protagonist in a prominent role in society. The theme song speaks for itself, "I'm gonna make it after alllllll!" (Having Ed Asner, Betty White, Cloris Leachmen, and Ted Knight [BUY BUSHWOOD!] doesn't hurt either.)

But now, consider the shows that my generation grew up with (1991 - ). With the exception of "Seinfeld," "Friends," and a few other anomalies, we we're presented with what? A nuclear family, where the father was dumb, blue-collar, interested in sports and drinking beer, and the wife was intelligent, peaceful, artistic, and always right. Most importantly, the man was subservient to the woman.

Think about the show "Home Improvement." In the show, you have the Toolman. What does he do? He's white, he's a man, he's blue collar, he loves cars, he loves fixing shit, he loves the Pistons, and he always puts his foot in the mouth and gets in a fight with Jill. Go through the list of episodes of Home Improvement, and tell me how many times in the end that Jill was wrong and apologized to Tim, and when the opposite happened. I would guess that out of the 204 episodes, the ratio of the apologies would be 4-200 Jill to Tim. In fact, one of the main recurring jokes is that Tim would talk to Wilson for marital advice. Wilson would tell him, Tim would fuck up the recital, and Jill would forgive him regardless.

Did this make the Toolman a bad father? No. He cared. He loved his family. Now, think of the shows (if you've ever seen them), "According to Jim," "Still Standing," and "Yes, Dear." (the last illustrates my point in its title alone). They're all the same. Don't remember which is which, or what the point of any of them are? You're not alone. They're all the same. They all feature a dumb, fat, male character who fucks stuff up and has to apologize to his wife. If Ralph Kramden tried to fix the sink, and messed it up, would he have to apologize to Alice? Sitcoms certainly have changed.

2) Women realized that men like getting laid so much, that they could act a fool, and men would put up with them....(this would be the joke I would make if I were a stand-up comedian. Unfortunately, it's kinda true too.) More seriously, consider......

3) Romantic comedies. What happens in rom-coms? A couple works through difficulties, falls in love, and gets married. Along the way, the man usually has to chase down the woman and set things straight. Ya know, she is about to take a big promotion, or move across America, and the guy has to stop her at the airport terminal, confess his love, pull out an engagement ring, and propose. Again, I have nothing against "getting married," but the rom-coms seem to perpetuate the idea of appeasing women. (sidenote - even a drama like "Good Will Hunting" has this theme. The only problem I have with this film is that Robin Williams and others force Matt Damon to live a traditional life. At the end, he is driving west to go see Skylar. In short, he is an independent, creative thinker, and he is conditioned to go take some lame job and develop a relationship with Skylar. I'm not even sure this is cool. Conversely, you have "Dazed and Confused," which came out three years earlier. In the end, Pink, Wooderson, Slater, and Joey-Lauren Adams drive in Wooderson's Chevelle to Houston for Aerosmith tickets. They are going the opposite of what Coach Conrad, O'Bannion, Benny, the old guy at the baseball stadium, and probably even Don Dawson want them to do. That is what makes the ending of Dazed so much better than Good Will Hunting, and such a better film overall.

Second off, when did rom-coms as we know them start? Kind of with Woody Allen in the mid to late 1970s (who was known as a neurotic, Jewish, weak, appeasing male.) After that, I'm not quite sure. It's safe to say, however, that they are a recent development (last 25 years at least......maybe with "When Harry Met Sally")? Before that, there of course existed screwball man-woman relationship comedies. "It Happened One Night" (1934), "Some Like it Hot," (1958), and "Pillow Talk" (1959), are all such examples of early "rom-coms." That being said, the men in those films do not bend over backwards for women the way that Matthew McConaughey does in his films. Actually, they try to deceive and trick women so they can fuck them (Rock Hudson does this in 'Pillow Talk', as does Tony Curtis in 'Some Like it Hot,' so he can bang Marilyn Monroe.) Therefore, they aren't traditional rom-coms, where the male changes to please the woman and court her.

When you combine those three factors, it is hard to put your finger on when men went from dominant to subservient. I don't know the exact date. I don't think there was one, but instead, it was just a gradual degradation.

The main question though, is what do women prefer? I think I have figured women out (I write this generic statement as a signal to women so that they can get ready to send me hate mail). I think women want both. Just like men, women are human. Therefore, they want power. They want power in the workplace, they want to earn money, they want the Mary Tyler Moore lifestyle of being an independent woman, and they even want power over a significant other. Therefore, they love that men grovel to them.

Consider this. On "Bachelor Pad," some woman (I told you, I'm not good with names), went on a skiing date with another guy, despite having a "serious" relationship back at the house. There, they spent the night in a log cabin, and made out by a fireplace (boom!). When she returns, she immediately tells her boyfriend that she kissed the guy. Does the boyfriend 'go Bender' on the chick, and tell her she's a slut/whore/bitch/C-word, and tell her he never wants to see her again? No............. He curses the guy's name, and becomes even more subservient to the chick. It's all the guys fault! He mumbles a bunch of shit in an attempt to be romantic, and pledges his allegiance to the woman. Am I the only one that is totally and utterly fucking confused by this?!?!? What the fuck would Paul Newman do to a chick that went away on a skiing trip and made out with another guy (ignore the fact that people in 1960 were cooler and didn't go skiing, and reality TV didn't exist).

She loved this. She started to cry over the fact that she had a difficult decision. Yes, the woman who betrayed her man and made out with another, cried as if she was the victim. That being said, could you blame her? She got attention from her original boyfriend as a result. Why wouldnt you cry to get attention? Why wouldn't you over-dramatize every daily occurrence at work to get attention from your boss, or your boyfriend at home? As long as men continue to give attention to the women, they will continue to do it. Why? They love attention, they love power. Men do too, women just get stuck with the stereotype. (There's an early episode of "Mad Men," set in 1960, where Don Draper implores women to go to the bathroom and cry in private if they're going to cry. I can't remember the episode or find a clip. If you're unfamiliar with "Mad Men," or their accurate representation of man-woman relationships in the early 1960s, watch this.

On the other hand, women still love to be catered to. They love the idea that they're a princess, and that they're special. See my blog post here, about the duality of feminist women (the Royal Wedding Part). Therefore, I revisit my original hypothesis from that post; women want to have their cake and eat it too. But regardless, what does that have to do with men and how they behave?

Men have become deathly afraid of women. Men have become the ones who are scared of being alone in their life. In 1960, it was normal for June Clever to study home-ec, know how to make a pot roast, make sure Wally and Beaver got off to school on time, and most importantly, made sure that dinner was on the table in time for Ward when he got home. Women were conditioned to be subservient to a man. Men were the breadwinners, women relied on the men. Therefore, men were in power.

Now, women want the power (even if they're not the breadwinner, which is fine - being in power doesn't necessitate having to be the breadwinner). That being said, women are new to power. They don't know how to handle it. They don't know what they want (stop me if you've heard that before). They're torn between wanting to be the powerful, in control woman, and being catered to. They give and they take. They want their cake and want to eat it too.

That isn't important to me though. What's important is how men react to it. Why is it that men have become a society of 160 pound guys who apologize to women when the woman makes out with another man? Why aren't there more John Benders in the world?

My ideas are as follows: 1) when women showed the slightest hint of power, men became so scared that they would not get laid, that they took the easy way out, and started to cater to women. 2) After that happened, our media (rom-coms and sit-coms) perpetuated the ideology that men should be subservient to women. Men are always dumber than women and should always be apologetic to them whenever things go wrong in a relationship. After all, women always know everything about relationships and how they work, and men don't. That's why everyone is 33 and not married, but is looking, right?

But my main question remains. I think a lot of this would be answered if "Bachelor Pad" introduced a "Bender Character" to the show. Which would they go for? Do the women really want the power, and therefore want the subservient, romantic, appeasing male? Or do they want the asshole, tells-it-like-it-is, jerk? I think that in the long run, marriage scenario (which "The Pad" is), women would go for a dork type who worships the ground they walk on. One night stand? Bender. The funny thing, however, is that if you polled women, 9/10 would say the former. Why? I don't know. They don't want to disrespect themselves? They want to elevate their status? Yet, we all know, the woman is eventually drawn to "the guy who treats her like shit."

Wait a minute.............why am I trying to figure out women?

1 comment:

  1. I was going to start to read this, then I saw how long it is. I'll tackle this monster in the morning.