November 17th, 2008


Girls Gone Mild

Over the past year or so, I’ve become quite a fan of the TV series South Park. Yes, I know I’m kind of late to the party. I’d seen episodes here and there over the years, but now it’s become a can’t-miss part of my TV viewing. I was very pleased to learn that older episodes are shown regularly on both Comedy Central (late at night) and Fox (though more heavily edited there), so I’ve been able to do a lot of catching up. I’ve also rented their theatrical release, South Park – Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, which is one of the most convulsively funny films I’ve ever seen.

Yes, it’s a TV show featuring incredibly crude-looking animation and little children who swear a blue streak. In addition, it gleefully skewers any available target, including things I hadn’t even identified as targets. Yes, they regularly take on the more obvious “edgy” targets, e.g., politics, religion, big business, and sexual taboos, but they’ve also taken on non-obvious targets such as the anti-smoking lobby and AIDS research. Overall, their political tone is not so much liberal or conservative; it’s more like somewhere between libertarianism and anarchy.

So why am I such a fan? Well, I wouldn’t call myself either a libertarian or an anarchist, but my appreciation is not based upon political philosophy; it’s based upon humor. When South Park is firing on all cylinders, it’s a brilliant, uplifting bacchanal of humorous invention. I will quote Jessica Rabbit from the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? When asked what she saw in Roger, she laconically replied, “He makes me laugh.” So it is with me and South Park.

But there is a price to be paid for watching those late-night reruns on Comedy Central. That price is the commercials. For a long time, one of their regular sponsors has been the sellers of the Girls Gone Wild videos. I must admit up-front that I’ve never watched one of their actual videos, so I’m a little hazy on the plot; it seems as if it may be a loose retelling of Fellini’s La Strada, with a nod to Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night. But I could be wrong; you can’t always trust the commercials.

OK, seriously, if you’re not familiar with the GGW concept, it appears to be a series of young women, either singly, in pairs, or in large public groups, taking down their tops and presenting their breasts for the appreciation of any interested parties. There also appear to be scenes of girl-on-girl kissing. A lot of it appears to be shot in bars, where there’s a lot of yelling and assorted frenetic behavior going on.

So what am I complaining about? Well, I’m not complaining about seeing pretty young women, that’s for sure. My problem is that all of this seems to be not the least bit erotic – and if it isn’t erotic, what’s the point? Let’s start with the girl-on-girl action. I’ve never understood why I, as a straight male, am supposed to be turned on by two women kissing. Not to get TOO graphic about my fantasy life, but when I fantasize about a physical encounter, one of the participants is almost invariably male – namely, myself. If two women want to kiss one another, I wish them well. I hope they do it artfully and enjoyably. If that’s what they need to do, I’m fine with them doing it while I’m in the room, for that matter. I’m not in the least offended by it, but neither am I particularly engaged by it; I feel distinctly shut out, as a matter of fact. Now if an on-screen fantasy depicts a man and a woman together, then I have a chance of feeling much more direct identification with the action. The real mystery here is this – why do so many men seem to find the all-female encounters so exceptionally hot? Is this really their taste, or are they reacting the way they think they should react to such a scene?

Then there’s the matter of all these boobs being bared for the camera. Once again – nothing at all against boobs. They can be perfectly lovely; captivating, even. Entrancing. I could add a bunch more adjectives, but you get the idea. But here’s the problem – context is everything. My notion of an attractive context for such a close encounter is NOT in the middle of a noisy bar, the woman being egged on by an obnoxious crowd and/or interviewer. Let me fill out that context a little more – the preferred context is NOT someone who is merely displaying herself for cinematic immortality; it’s a much more intimate environment, as well as a much more intimate motivation. Yes, there’s the final word – there’s no intimacy to any of this. In my book, when you take the intimacy out of eroticism, you’ve also taken out the eroticism.

So to recap – my essential problem with these videos isn’t related to any sort of prudishness; quite the contrary. My problem is that they fail as erotica, for me anyway. I have an image in my mind of the sort of person who buys these videos. I won’t describe them here and now, since it may be an unfair generalization, but it’s not a pretty picture. And in case you’re wondering, I’ve never been much of a fan of porn in general. It seems that the images I’ve seen on the page and the screen in that realm invariably pale in comparison to the ones I’m able to create in my own mind. In the theater of my mind, the acting, lighting, camera angles, and special effects are always perfect, thank you very much.
  • Current Music
    She Drives Me Crazy - Fine Young Cannibals

Maybe Not the Funniest Joke, But the Oldest

When I was growing up, the oldest person I knew was my grandfather; specifically, my father’s father. He was born in 1891 and served in Europe during World War I. He was an affable fellow who enjoyed a drink or five, and he knew a great many amusing songs, jokes, and anecdotes, many of which I assume I never heard due to my comparative youth.

As you probably know, I have been a student of humor pretty much all my life. At some point around my early teens, not long before grandpa died, it occurred to me to ask him to tell me the oldest joke he knew. Since he was, as I have noted, the oldest person I knew, I was excited at the prospect of hearing a genuine 19th century joke; not some stilted words being academically reported on a printed page, but an out-loud, dynamic retelling from the mouth of someone who was actually there.

I think Grandpa must have sensed the seriousness of my query, because he took a few minutes to carefully consider his reply. I suppose, in retrospect, he could also have been eliminating certain types of jokes from consideration, but I’m going to take him at his word. He finally said, “OK, here’s the oldest joke I can remember: A termite walks into a bar and asks, ‘Where’s the bar tender?’”

OK… I probably should have asked him to tell me the funniest joke he could remember. I know it’s not a great joke, but that’s not really the point. I’m just glad I went ahead and asked him, and that he took the time to come up with an answer. I think the historical value of that joke clearly outweighs any consideration of its humor value.
  • Current Music
    If I Laugh - Cat Stevens