Milton Bradley to kids: Plastic surgery is a normal part of life.

I played Life when I was little. It was kind of a fun game, especially because it had a little 3-D wheel and exciting little game pieces that set it apart from plain ol’ flat game boards. I know that the message of the original game was a little uncool; it revolved around going to college, getting married, having kids, and amassing a fortune with which you were expected to buy a house, insurance, and stock, all before retiring as a millionaire if you were lucky, or going bankrupt (and then what?) if you weren’t. Apparently, any experiences that don’t follow this trajectory aren’t considered “life,” or at least won’t make you a winner in the game of life. I suppose it was already gross enough that the game gave children the idea that life revolves around getting married (and being straight), having kids, and money (not to mention wearing pink if you’re female and blue if you’re male), but the new version really takes unthoughtful participation in American consumerism and general tomfoolery to new heights.

One of the squares on the new version of the board says, “Have Cosmetic Surgery, Pay $100,000.” WHAT THE FUCK?! Have we actually reached a point where a room full of adults, when trying to decide on what to add to a children’s game to bring it up to date, would land on plastic surgery as the best option? I realize that the practice of allowing yourself to be put under potentially lethal general anesthesia and cut open, rearranged, and stapled back together has become more and more mainstream in the last few years, but I wasn’t aware that it had gotten to the point where the general public didn’t think it was inappropriate to suggest it to children who are still too young to know that their worth as human beings will someday be decided by how many people want to fuck them. Fucking unbelievable. And not only do the Milton Bradley people think that having plastic surgery is a normal part of life, they also think that a HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS’ worth of plastic surgery is nothing to blink at. Do you have any idea what kind of damage you can do to the human body with $100,000? That’s enough money to turn RuPaul into Danny DeVito.

I should have seen this coming. Remember that show The Swan? In that show, the producers paid for several women to have multiple cosmetic procedures, starved them, forced them to work out all day for like 6 weeks, then put them in a beauty pageant to prove that all but one of them still weren’t good enough. Then there are shows like Nip/Tuck, which, aside from offending the senses with some of the worst writing in television history, attempts to make entertainment out of women who are so obsessed with increasing the number of men who want to have sex with them that they will put semen on their faces and have a million dollars’ worth of plastic surgery. Then there’s Dr. 90210, probably the creepiest show on TV, in which we get to see just how unethical and ego-maniacal plastic surgeons can get. That “doctor” can frequently be seen urging women to go with breast implants 2-3 cup sizes larger than the size they say they want, and he can also be seen pushing surgeries on body parts these women didn’t even know they should be ashamed of yet. I rarely hear anyone even mention how unbelievably creepy these shows and what they represent are, so I suppose Milton Bradley execs are just more in touch with where the general public is at than I am. They’re the ones with the marketing department and the focus groups.

So, I guess that’s it. It’s now officially pathological to not look like a porn star, and kids ought to get themselves prepared for the eventuality that they’ll need surgery to correct nature. Good looking out, Milton Bradley.

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Flomax to men: You don’t want to pee like a faggot, do you?

I’m of the general opinion that the pharmaceutical industry is fundamentally and systemically uncool. It’s pretty obvious that the aims of pharmaceutical companies are at odds with the general aims of Americans (and, I suppose, other people) when it comes to their health. We want to have fewer health issues, to cure ourselves of the the ones we do have, and to not have to spend huge amounts of money on drugs to keep ourselves from dying/being in pain/feeling like shit/going bald. Pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, want us to have more health issues, to take drugs to treat our health problems forever without ever curing them, and to go on indefinitely spending huge amounts of money on their drugs in order to keep ourselves from dying/being in pain/feeling like shit/going bald. In other words, pharmaceutical companies are in the business of inventing disorders and creating drugs designed to treat them over long periods of time. Long-term treatment equals long-term profits, while cures equal dick. Anyone who believes that there’s a pharmaceutical company out there looking for a cure for anything probably also believes that there’s opium in Jagermeister and that you can get high by following the advice in the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

Enter Flomax, the latest drug in a long line of elixirs designed to treat disorders that didn’t exist before the drug designed to treat them got patented. You know, drugs like Requip, for that terrible disease known as Restless Legs Syndrome. Do you know what Flomax does? It treats a disorder called BPH, which I don’t care to research because the symptoms are fucking unbelievably silly: waking up to go, stopping and starting, going often, and, the best one, WEAK STREAM.

Are waking up to take a piss, stopping and starting, or going often really so disruptive that we need a pill? I wake up to pee every night, and I didn’t even know I needed medical help. I wonder what else I put up with that’s slightly inconvenient that I ought to be taking a pill for. Is there a pill that will make my hair so impervious to tangles that I need not brush it? Something I can take that will arrest the growth of my toenails so I’ll only have to clip them once a year? Stopping and starting has never really been a problem for me, but I don’t imagine that it hurts, or that it even really matters AT ALL.

I guess going often would be a problem if one had to find a toilet every hour or so, or at least that’s what the Flomax commercial implies. The ad features a group of middle-aged men on a mountain biking trip, their jocularity heavily stifled by the fact that one candy-ass member of the group has to stop every hour or two to have a slash. Then they’re out kayaking because, you know, old dudes love to get together in groups of 8 or so and do some extreme outdoor sports. Imagine the horror of having to pee while out kayaking! The whole adventure would be ruined! Unless, of course, you had a penis or something. Maybe the only thing about being male that I envy is the ability to pee anywhere, anytime, without exposing your ass to the cold and the public, and without running the risk of peeing all over yourself. But apparently Flomax forgot that men have that ability and invented a drug that will regulate their weak little bladders so that they only have to pee when they want to. Because a real man is in charge of his bladder! Only girls and faggots let their bladders get in the way of their good times!

But Flomax isn’t all about curbing frequent urination. It’s also about preventing the embarrassment that comes with a weak stream. Real men are powerful, and what better way is there to demonstrate your masculine animal power than with a urine stream that kicks rocks up off the floor of the forest where you’re mountain biking or kills the fish in the water below your kayak when you aim your stream at them? You don’t want Jim coming over after you’ve just peed on a redwood and saying, “Bob, we’ve been friends for a long time, and I like having you out on these bike trips, but something about your stream is making me wonder if you’re man enough for what we’re trying to do out here.” Seriously, there’s a pill that makes the stream of urine coming out of the penis stronger, because a weak stream is so embarrassing that it requires medical treatment.

I don’t mean to get on a soap box or anything, but I’m pretty sure that there are a few actual disorders out there that warrant a little more attention than weak stream. You know, stuff like cancer, AIDS, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc. But then, this is the same pharmaceutical industry that has produced three drugs that allow old people to get boners and engage in sexual activity that might (and often does) kill them and has given us Botox and more baldness drugs than there are snarkily-named microbrews in Oregon. I’ll leave the interpretation to you.

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Larry Flynt isn’t a political hero, he’s an asshole.

I recently heard a disgustingly fawning interview with Larry Flynt on a left wing talk show, with a female host no less, in which he was made out to be a champion of free speech, and that’s all. There was no mention made of the horrendous shit his company pumps out, no mention of the fact that the only reason he fought for his “freedom of speech” in the first place was because it would allow him to turn bigger profits, and no mention of the fact that it has been repeatedly PROVEN that the kind of misogynistic bullshit he publishes contributes to increases in the numbers of sexual assaults on women and children, not to mention the general piggish attitude of most men – and many brainwashed women – in this country toward women and their right to sovereignty over their own bodies.

Well, fuck that. I don’t give a shit if Mr. Flynt and I agree that Jerry Falwell was an asshole. Falwell’s dead, and I am much less threatened by religious fanatics who most people consider insane than the ever more pervasive and mainstream porn industry. Am I really supposed to forget that Larry Flynt regularly publishes cartoons in his magazines that revolve around rape (by donkeys, no less), incest, and child molestation because some other group of assholes I don’t like are opposed to him? I’m not getting in with any strange bedfellows. Flynt is coming from essentially the same position patriarchal religious assholes like Falwell are when it comes to women: we men decide what gets done with them women’s bodies. Fuck the both of them.

And that brings something else up. What the fuck are these women thinking walking around with Hustler T-shirts on? Have they ever seen a copy of that rag? I know that pretending that smut peddlers are culture heroes can help a “chick” gain the approval and attention of the average gross asshole, but is that really the goal? Is it enough for you to have a few disgusting dudes pretend to like you (but only just as long as it takes to get you to take your pants off) because you’re pretending to be too stupid (or too deluded) to realize your entire gender is being degraded for men’s titillation? A boner is not a compliment, no matter how many times you have been told that it is. The fact is, any dude who is into Hustler (or porn in general), even if he’s unable to admit it to himself, has a low opinion of women and their place in the world and thinks our desire to be treated like human beings with autonomy equal to his own is unreasonable. No thanks.

And don’t even get me started on the idea of the Hustler coffeehouse, which I unfortunately went to for some reason when I lived in LA. I think the mainstreaming of hardcore porn through stores like the fairly posh Hollywood Hustler store and its attendant coffeehouse is worrisome, not to mention a cheat. What I mean by that is that, in the past, anyone who wanted to buy porn or the kind of humiliating “lingerie” that the Hustler store sells used to have to endure the shame of being seen going into a shady-looking store with no windows in a dodgy part of town. That seems fair to me, or at least a little closer to fair — a little humiliation as payback for creating demand in an industry that banks on women’s humiliation. But now it’s fucking COOL to go to the Hustler store, and all the same heinous shit is for sale there as at Dirty Dan’s Sex Shack, but with nice lighting, big windows, and lattes. But I digress…

Larry Flynt isn’t cool. He thinks a picture of a naked woman being turned into ground beef is funny, he thinks rape and child molestation are funny, he thinks women ought to be glad they have the opportunity to get treated like subhumans so that the kinds of shitbags who get excited by seeing people degraded can jerk off, he has no problem with the fact that most of his “models” (prostitutes, come on) have been sexually abused and/or have drug problems, and he thinks it’s intellectually honest to argue that any feminist (i.e. woman who doesn’t like to see other women abused) who dares to point out the noisomeness of what he does is “pro-censorship,” a bad word as far as he and 2 Live Crew are concerned. He even molested his own kid, for fuck’s sake.

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Who castrated Keema?

I watch The Wire. It’s an interesting story, it has some insightful things to say about some of the biggest problems in our culture and political system, and it manages for the most part to avoid excessive use of clichés and dumb dialog. But this is HBO we’re talking about, which means one thing: people are going to be getting naked and doing gross shit that makes you wish you hadn’t seen it. HBO is just plain incapable of producing a sex scene in one of its shows that doesn’t include some gross element of domination, humiliation, or borderline rape. People on HBO don’t have sex, they get banged, and the bangees are usually women, while the bangers are men. I suppose you could say that the women in Sex and the City were doing the banging, but I wouldn’t know because I’d sooner cut my own Achilles tendon than watch a single episode of a show that might as well have “Being a real urban woman means fucking as many strange men as possible while being independently wealthy and wearing shoes that increase your chances of breaking your ankle by 6000%” as its motto. And I suppose Oz did have that one female guard who forced some of the inmates to bang her.

But still, those are exceptions. Look at Entourage (Sex and the City for dudes), The Wire, The Sopranos, Rome, Deadwood, and whatever else is going on at HBO, and you’ll see that 99% of the sex scenes involve some woman being either forced to do something sexual or being used like a fifi bag and then treated like shit afterward. I suppose that’s not surprising coming from a network that thinks it’s being progressive when it hires the biggest swine on television (Bill Maher) to host its one political show. (Apparently it’s not only OK with the HBO execs that Maher is still telling Bill Clinton jokes in 2008, but it’s also OK that he’s overtly misogynistic and completely dismissive of the female guests on his show.) So I didn’t really expect much out of The Wire in that respect, especially since it’s a show about cops on a channel that allows nudity and swearing. I wasn’t surprised at all to see Bunk and McNulty banging away in nearly every episode, nor was I surprised to see Carcetti banging some political consultant while looking at himself in the mirror. It’s HBO. If there isn’t at least one sex scene per episode that makes me want to be celibate, there’s something wrong.

But there was a character in the first three seasons of the show that didn’t fit in so well with HBO’s sex scene SOP, Keema. She was also in the fourth and is in the fifth season, but whoever that woman is, she isn’t the Keema from seasons 1-3. First of all, the real Keema was gay, and not just sort of gay, really gay. Her gayness came up just as often as Bunk and McNulty’s interest in bar sluts did[1]. It wasn’t a secret: she had a partner, she had affairs, she looked at women with the guys. And that leads me to another interesting facet of Keema’s character: she partied with the guys and was one of them. I suppose it’s a little stereotypical that if a female cop is going to be accepted by the guys she has to be a lesbian, but at least she was being accepted as one of the guys and the show didn’t revolve around her constantly having to prove herself. (Too bad that part was practically science fiction.) Keema was a flawed badass, a real 3D character in a televised world full of female characters that are either shadows or caricatures. Until the end of season 3.

One of my favorite comedic exercises is to imagine that I’m observing a creative meeting for a commercial, television show, or movie. I recently pictured a meeting taking place about two years ago at HBO headquarters in which a numbers guy named Todd is talking to the writing team responsible for The Wire about their plans for the fourth season. Todd is saying, “Keema just isn’t appealing to a wide enough demographic. She’s too butch. We want our female officer to appeal to housewives and single women, not just black lesbians. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an anti-gay thing, it’s strictly numbers.” That has to be what happened because in the fourth season, and what I’ve seen of the fifth, Keema has been… well… uh… emasculated. In the fourth season she was shunted back from Major Crimes to Homicide, which meant that she would have to stop wearing Adidas track suits and sneakers and start wearing pantsuits and high heels. Not only that, she dropped the ultra-utilitarian ponytail for a shoulder-length minivan hairdo. The general effect was reminiscent of a Jenny Jones “Makeover My Butch Mom!” episode. Not only that, but she no longer had a partner, she stopped partying with the guys (even though she was now working among the heaviest drinkers in the precinct), she stopped chasing women, and she virtually disappeared from view. The only hint that she was a lesbian came when she visited her ex-partner in one episode, a scene that lasted maybe 30 seconds. To add insult to erasure, in the last episode I saw of the fifth season, she was carrying some kid out the back of a building in which a murder had been committed, leaving the boys to do the investigatory work while she stood outside playing mommy.

It’s pretty early in this blog, so I ought to say up front that I’m about as into gender roles as James Dobson is into abortion. I don’t like that word I just used, emasculated. I also don’t like the title of this blog, because referring to Keema as having been castrated means that only men are capable of being drunken, philandering badasses. Nor do I like the idea that taking care of a child is something that only women do. Very few entertainment sources, from music to movies to television to magazines to, to a lesser extent, books, allow men or women to tread outside the confines of the gender roles our society has assigned to them, so I get quite excited when it does happen and, conversely, I get irritated when I see a character who had been allowed to transgress the boundaries of “male” or “female” behavior get forced back into the gender-role box.

I’m not a lesbian (unfortunately), so I’m not going to take it upon myself to discuss the meaning of Keema’s de-lesbianification (or get too into the aspects of Keema’s character that were a bit stereotyped), but I am a woman who is tired of finding nothing to identify with among any of the female characters I see in the media, so I will say that I am disappointed that, once again, HBO has proven that it has little room for female characters who amount to anything other than brainless conglomerations of tits and ass designed to appeal to base male urges. (I don’t want to hear anything about Sex and the City here; those women were nothing but personifications of male fantasies, which is probably why they appeal so much to the kinds of women who aspire to be personifications of male fantasy themselves.) I’m not going to stop watching The Wire; it does have interesting points to make about our cultural and political condition, but I must say that I am disappointed to see one of the few media outlets with anything like a progressive slant prove my theory that the only way to be a liberal and not be called a faggot is to be a misogynist. HBO’s programming is yet another example of Playboy liberalism, in which there’s just no room for (real) lesbians or women with their own personalities and sexualities.

[1] HBO’s sexist stereotype, not mine. I’m not into the idea of bar sluts, or slutdom in general. Not only do they not actually exist – especially in the one-dimensional way that they are portrayed on film and television – but the idea that women hanging out drinking and looking for someone to have sex with is something shameful seems a bit unfair, no? I think anyone hanging out looking for a stranger to have sex with has lost the point of what sex is about, but until it’s shameful for men to do it, I’m not harping on women for it.

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