This is what it sounds like when doves condescend.

If you were faced with two doors to a shopping center, one labeled “Beautiful” and the other “Average,” which would you walk through?

In its latest inspiration-via-advertising campaign, Dove set up labeled entrances in Shanghai, San Francisco, London, Sao Paulo and Delhi, and filmed the results.

--Time magazine

Two doors labeled BEAUTIFUL and JUST KIND OF OKAY.  WOMEN approach, hesitate, proceed.

MAN: Excuse me! Why did you choose the door marked "Just Kind of Okay?"WOMAN 1:  It's closer.MAN:  But don't you see how beautiful you are?WOMAN 1: If I don't get this dropped off and make this call and pick up my kids in the next twenty minutes I'm screwed, so --MAN: But beauty is a spectrum...WOMAN 1: Dude seriously if you don't move I will end you.MAN: Go ahead.  --But you're beautiful.  --Never mind, didn't say anything.  --But you are.

* * *

WOMAN 2: I choose neither.MAN: You have to choose one.WOMAN 2: Why?MAN: -- Dove says so.WOMAN 2: Dove--?  Is this like, what, a soap commercial?MAN: It's -- no, it's a consciousness-raising kind of --WOMAN 2: That's like a big corporation or something, right? Who makes that, Procter and Gamble?MAN: Noooooo!... Unilever.WOMAN 2: This is bullshit, I'm going in one of those doors over there.MAN: --They're out of order.WOMAN 2: That person just went through one.MAN: Well. She -- is not beautiful.  On the inside. That is her cross to bear.

* * *

 WOMAN 3: Those are the only choices?MAN: They are!WOMAN 3: What about other stuff, like "smart" or "powerful" or "resourceful" or "funny?"MAN: That would be, uh, too many doors.  We're operating on more of a binary--WOMAN 3: I'm going to a different building.MAN:  But you're -- you're so beautiful!!  Why can't you see that like you're supposed to??

* * *

 WOMAN 4:  Do you have a door labeled "Unwitting Pawn in a Calculated Marketing Scheme?"MAN: That... would not fit on the sign.

* * *

The Man has a table set up with two choices: a beautiful doll or a pile of shit.

MAN: Excuse me!  Take a look at these choices... which one would you say most resembles you?WOMAN 5: Neither.MAN: But if you had to pick.WOMAN 5: I don't.MAN: But if you had to.WOMAN 5: I guess -- the doll.MAN: And... congratulations.  You... have acceptable self esteem.  I mean: you passed the test.WOMAN 5: Who are you people?MAN: We're people who care about how beautiful you should think you are.  ...And, and what soap you use.

* * *

The doll and the shit are hidden under boxes.

MAN: Just pick one.  No peeking.

WOMAN 6 picks -- they remove the box; it's the shit.

MAN: Ohhh, oh no, no!  How poignant and achingly sad!  Why did you pick the pile of shit? Do you not know how beautiful you are?WOMAN 6: It was under a box, I didn't know what it--MAN: You have so much unconventional beauty and you owe it to society to recognize that.WOMAN 6: Yeah, I know, I look pretty good.  Why do you have a pile of shit?  Who had to go and collect that?MAN: I'd rather not say.

* * *

Man with a SKETCH ARTIST.

MAN: Excuse me, miss, would you do me a favor and describe yourself to this man?WOMAN 7: Why?MAN: So he can draw you.WOMAN 7: Why?MAN: So you can see how you're a failure at feeling good enough about yourself and get a little cry-y and change your ways.WOMAN 7: How long is this gonna take?MAN: Not long.SKETCH ARTIST: About forty, fifty minutes.MAN: Not that long.WOMAN 7: And you're, what, a portrait artist?SKETCH ARTIST: Naw, I mostly draw people who've disappeared violently or who are suspected of crimes.

Woman 7 leaves.

MAN: Crimes like HURTING US ALL BY NOT BEING CONFIDENT ENOUGH, OF YOUR, YOUR BEAUTIFUL, Y'KNOW --SKETCH ARTIST:  You still want me to draw them like piles of poop?MAN: There's gotta be a better way to sell f'ing soap.

doors

 

Surrender TiVo

NBC, CBS, and SyFy have all announced new Wizard of Oz-themed TV projects, including a medical drama and an apocalyptic adventure. It won't stop there.  Behold, a preview of the new series to be announced at the TV upfronts in 2015.There's No Place Like HomelandAgent Dorothy Gale conceals her delusions about witches and tornadoes from the CIA so she can pursue her hunch that there's something fishy about that straight-arrow Nebraskan who just arrived home to a hero's welcome in a hot-air balloon.  Committed to exposing him as a terrorist, she sleeps with him for some reason.LollipopGuildTwo One Half MenHilarity ensues when a rakish, self-destructive munchkin moves in with his buttoned-up brother and together they navigate dating, the drudgery of working for the Lollipop Guild, and the challenges of finding bowling shirts in the right size.Gale's AnatomyThe relentlessly introspective large animal veterinarian Dorothy uses nonstop internal monologues to explore her conflicted attractions to her coworkers, who she's adorably nicknamed McShiny and McFloppy.Wicked Witch of the West WingA literate and talky drama of crone politics, with conflicts big (assessing whether an enemy's water reservoir construction is a civil project or a weapon of mass destruction) and small (what to do with one's broom during long corridor walk-and-talks).Tin is the New BlackA blinkered hipster learns about life in a minimum-security prison, but the voyage of self-discovery screeches to a halt when the prison commissary stops stocking oil and he spends the balance of his two-year sentence motionless.Mad MonkeysRetro style meets office politics as white-collar simians compete with each other for accounts, promotions, and the cutest bonobos in the secretarial pool. But the smoothest silverback of them all conceals a crippling secret: he started life as a poor and wingless lemur.HouseHouse is a brilliant and crotchety doctor and diagnostician who walks with a limp because he fell on a witch and crushed her to death that one time.witchDing Dong the Walking DeadMUNCHKIN CORONER: "She's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead. Also, she’s ambulatory and wanting to eat you. You might want to run." The others squint grimly at one another. RICK: "Can this wait, doc? The group’s kind of in the middle of a pretty big spat right now. "Walking With the StarsA panel of judges grades the efforts of celebrity scarecrows to cross the stage without falling down.  JUDGE BRUNO TONIOLI: "I have got hay fever!  You're like an orgasmic explosion of straw!  You may not scare any crows but you'll scare the competition if you keep walking like that, you bristly bundle of hotness!"Yo Glinda GlindaMagic, that voice, that hat, the freaky bubble, those weirdo friends — it's either a kids' show on Nickelodeon or something you recover from with Dr. Drew on VH1 (still in development).Dr. OzThe doctor behind the curtain prescribes green coffee beans to cure brainlessness, probiotics for heartlessness, red palm oil to restore courage, and socks filled with warm rice for a farm girl who just wants to go home. When these remedies seem to fail, Oz calls them miracle breakthroughs, releases a bunch of green fog, and cuts to commercial.Sex and the Emerald CityFour friends — the promiscuous Scarecrow, the cynical Tin Man, the uptight Lion, and Dorothy the shoe enthusiast — explore life and love in the green metropolis while rigorously avoiding its squarer, less viridescent boroughs.Melting BadThe wicked witch becomes an unlikely kingpin, building a thriving underground poppy empire to pay her dermatologist bills. Probably won't end well for her. "I am the one who knocks," she thunders, "because the bell is out of order!"Hunk DynastyWhile his sweetheart Dorothy is in a vague tornado-inflicted coma, red-state farm hand Hunk Andrews mines reality show hilarity from the building of a merchandising empire, focused primarily on sepia-toned vests and hats.  Quirky and heavily edited culture clashes abound: "Yeah, I told you, I am a friend of Dorothy —why you keep lookin' at me like that?"

Beat the Press

CHUCK TODD: Welcome to Meet the Press, Mr. Vice-President.DICK CHENEY: I don't have to exchange pleasantries or engage in any of the conventions of polite society.CHUCK TODD: Fair enough!  So, about the Senate Intelligence report concerning the CIA's use of torture --CHENEY: Not torture.CHUCK TODD: Sorry?CHENEY: Not torture.  I'm not going to sit here and pretend it's torture just because that's what you call it.  Would you expect me to play along if you started calling this table a potholder, or that thing you're wearing a suit?CHUCK TODD: Well... the fact remains that this report about enhanced interrogation techniques --CHENEY: Not that either.CHUCK TODD: What would you prefer we call them, Mr. Vice-President?CHENEY: I like to call them "Escalated Conversational Gambits."  They're like heightened icebreakers, really.  Just a way to get everyone talking.  You know how it is when you've got people in a room, nobody knows each other, it's awkward.CheneyCHUCK TODD: Especially if one of those people is strung up by his wrists, that can get really awkward.CHENEY: Yeah, I'll string you up by your wrists, Beanbag.CHUCK TODD:  I don't even know what that means but when you say even normal words they sound so abusive.CHENEY: It's a gift.CHUCK TODD: Still, surely you'd agree that some of these techniques are more intense than your standard party games.CHENEY: Maybe.  If you're a pussy.CHUCK TODD:  I mean, waterboarding.  Keeping a prisoner inside a coffin-sized box.CHENEY: Look, Hashtag.  When I was vice-president I spent several hours a day inside a man-sized safe.  Didn't affect me at all.  WHAT IS THAT, IS THAT A BAT? Belay that. False alarm.CHUCK TODD: But some of these other things... rectal feeding...CHENEY: I believe that was done for medical reasons.CHUCK TODD: What medical reasons?CHENEY: What am I, a doctor? I assume it was performed only with a prescription...CHUCK TODD: A prescription?  From a physician?CHENEY: Sure. Or, y'know, a torturer.  Someone with credentials.CHUCK TODD: But you wouldn't characterize any of these techniques as extreme?ChuckToddCHENEY: I don't know. Would you characterize that thing on your head as a haircut?CHUCK TODD: What's... wrong with my...?CHENEY: Listen, Safeword. You weren't there, I wasn't there. Were these things specifically "torture?"  Who's to say? Torture's in the eye of the beholder.CHUCK TODD: I think that's beauty.CHENEY: Tomayto, tomahto.  It's a slippery slope, Cakepop. Start down this road and soon any whiner can come along and say he got tortured.  I mean, look at yourself: is it torture that you have to go around wearing that sad little goatee?  Is that torture?  Is The Hague going to indict your Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler?CHUCK TODD: That was a long way around for that burn, Mr. Vice-President.CHENEY: You’re welcome.CHUCK TODD: No second thoughts, then?CHENEY: I'd do it all again in a minute.CHUCK TODD: Even when you consider the innocent people who were wrongly subjected to this treatment?CHENEY: I like to think they understand.CHUCK TODD: They almost certainly do not understand.CHENEY: But I like to think they do.  Look, Fruitsnack, this stuff wasn't torture. Torture is what the Al Qaeda terrorists did to 3000 Americans on 9/11.CHUCK TODD: Well, I mean -- no, it literally isn't, that was, y'know, murder. Like, mass murder.CHENEY: Agree to disagree.CHUCK TODD: Mm, but no, because, I mean, words mean stuff, and torture and murder mean different things, so...CHENEY: I've got my dictionary, you've got your wrong dictionary, can't we all just get along?CHUCK TODD: Not if we, I mean, want to communicate with each other...CHENEY: Look, I'm not running for anything.  I'm not a slave to opinion polls. I don't have to subscribe to "generally accepted" "definitions" of "words." The techniques on this list aren't torture because the Justice Department said they're not, and I also say they're not.  You know what they are? They're onions.CHUCK TODD: ...Onions?  Who says?CHENEY: I say.  They're locally sourced heirloom onions, mmm, delicious.  Not so scary now, are they?  Or how about this, you'll like this, Nougat: they're hugs.  The things on this list?  All just hugs.  Doesn't sound so terrible, does it?CHUCK TODD: But they're not actually hugs—CHENEY: Sure they are. I've said so. Three of four recent attorney generals agree with me.  These techniques are just different kinds of hugs.CHUCK TODD: Mr. Vice-President, I've experienced hugs—CHENEY: Have you really?  I mean, with that goatee?  It's just hard to picture.CHUCK TODD:  Actual hugs, I'm saying, are nothing like this.CHENEY: Then you've never had a Dick Cheney hug.  What do you say, Chuck? You want a Dick Cheney hug?CHUCK TODD: I do not.CHENEY: C'mere, Chew-Toy.  Let me give you a "hug."CHUCK TODD: No, that's okay.CHENEY: Alright, I'm goin' in.CHUCK TODD: Oh God no please SECURITY—!technical-difficulties

S*M*A*S*H-up

smash(FADE IN on the grungy 4077th S*M*A*S*H camp, a ratty assemblage of olive-drab tents and battered jeeps set in a dusty, scrubby valley.  A crooked post in the compound has nailed-up arrows indicating the direction and mileage to various destinations:  Chicago, Grover's Corners, Osage County, Avenue Q.  The P.A. crackles to life.)P.A.: Attention all personnel.  Due to lack of interest, this year's Broadway season will be canceled.  Also, Off-Broadway will now be Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway will be Off-Broadway, and Hoboken will be lower Manhattan.  That is all.(JULIA and TOM, exhausted in their stylish scrubs, partake of martinis at their makeshift still in their tent.)JULIA:  Fourteen hours of meatball workshopping.  Even my exhaustion is exhausted.  I can't feel my feet.TOM:  I can't feel your feet either.   I propose a toast: to this place.  To our life.JULIA:  Be it ever so humble, there's no place like development hell.(They down their drinks.  JULIA makes a face.)JULIA:  This tastes terrible.  I mean more terrible than usual.ELLIS:  I put ground-up peanuts in your martini!JULIA:  Ellis, damn it!  I'm not allergic to peanuts.  Stop doing that to everyone!TOM:  Little ferret-face.ELLIS:  Gotcha!  Heh heh heh heh heh.(RADAR enters the tent with a clipboard in hand.)RADAR:  Morning, sirs...TOM:  Radar, we just got out of workshopping.  If you try to send us back to that rehearsal hall I'll tie your boots to your nose hairs.RADAR:  Gosh, that's not friendly.  Nobody ever talks that way in Iowa.TOM:  What is this "Iowa...?"JULIA:  Flyover country.TOM:  They have theater there?JULIA:  Yes but they serve... food... at it.TOM:  Ugh.RADAR:  Captains, I'm just here to remind you that you're scheduled to give the leading ladies superfluous physical examinations at oh nine hundred hours.TOM:  ...But I'm gay.JULIA:  And I'm a heterosexual woman, and I only sleep with men with whom I have exactly zero chemistry.(With a weary groan, DEREK rises from a nearby bunk.)DEREK:  Oh bloody hell, do I have to do it all around here?  Tom, Julia, shall I just take everything off your plate?  I'll fix the musical, I'll woo the producers, I'll defile the leading ladies and while I'm at it I'll be the only one around here with even a modicum of personality?  Would that work for you?  Would that be helpful?(Beat.)TOM:  — Yeah, could you?JULIA:  That'd be great, thanks.RADAR:  Hold on.  —Choppers.JULIA:  I don't hear any—RADAR:  Wait for it.(Sound of incoming choppers.  Julia, Tom and Derek wearily stumble to their feet and scramble out the door.)P.A.:  Attention all personnel.  Incoming pages.  All available personnel to the rehearsal room.  Don't worry folks, you can sleep when you're dead or after "Phantom" closes, whichever comes first.(Cut to the rehearsal room, where everyone's in scrubs and masks, each at an operating table working feverishly on a script draft.)TOM: (to NURSE:) Highlighter.  White-out.  Could I get some suction here, this character arc is a disaster.  I'm going to have to resect the whole second act.(DEREK peers over JULIA's shoulder, watching her work.)DEREK:  Switching everything over to a male POV, eh?  Interesting technique.JULIA:  It always works.  It never doesn't work.  Could I get some more wrylies over here please?P.A.: Attention all personnel.  Due to conditions beyond our control we regret to report that a new play by Neil LaBute opens tonight.(RADAR enters.)TOM:  Radar!  Put a mask on!RADAR:  I have a message.JULIA:  If it's about my royalties, give it to me straight.  I can take it.RADAR:  Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake's plane... was shot down... over the Sea of Japan.JULIA:  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Is he dead?RADAR:  Worse.  He's in regional theater.DEREK:  That poor bastard.RADAR:  There weren't no survivors.TOM:  Keep working, guys.  These scripts are just going to keep coming and they're not going to revise themselves.DEREK:  Julia, that is really really great work you're doing there.  You've taken that mess of a wounded draft and turned it into one of the most brilliant scripts I've ever seen.  Pure genius.TOM:  Well, let's hear it out loud!JULIA:  Oh, okay, if you insist.  "Act One.  Lights up—."(CUT TO: the mess tent, some hours later.  Everyone sitting wearily around a table, drinking coffee.)TOM:  That was the most brilliant play I've ever heard, Julia.EILEEN:  It really was remarkable, Captain.JULIA:  Too bad no one will ever hear it aloud again.DEREK:  Why is that?JULIA:  Not sure.  But oh well.EILEEN:  Ugh.  Why is my coffee so gritty?ELLIS:  Heh heh heh heh.EILEEN:  Ellis!  Enough with the peanuts!ELLIS:  Gotcha.(EILEEN throws her drink in DEREK's face.)DEREK:  Blimey!  Why'd you do that?EILEEN:  It's my character trait.  Seriously, it's my only character trait.  Now I don't have a beverage in my hand any more and I feel myself slipping away.P.A.:  Attention all personnel.  Will Jessica and Bobby please report to the compound for this week's random distribution of background dialogue.  And it is requested that you kindly stop being more compelling than the main characters.  That is all.EILEEN:  This damn place.  How much more can we take?  We've lost so many loved ones already.  Frank, Leo, Dev... Julia's scarves... Theresa Rebeck... poor sweet Karen...KAREN:  I'm still here, I'm just right here.EILEEN:  All gone, all taken away in their prime and we may never see them again.KAREN:  I'm right here.  I'm literally in like every other scene.EILEEN:  Those poor kids.(KAREN gives up, slips into a Bollywood-tinged fugue state.)JULIA:  Well, it could be worse.  We could all have—gag—dramaturgs.TOM:  Ugh, dramaturgs.DEREK:  Horrid creatures.RADAR:  Yeah, I saw something about them when I was previewing our training films about communicable diseases.  Gross.JULIA:  Hey, you.  Yeah, you.  Iowa.  Who are you, anyway?  You're not a stage manager, you're not a dancer, you're not a designer.  You could be an actor except I didn't notice any listings on the call sheet for "Creepy diminutive wide-eyed manchild."  Who are you, and why are you here?RADAR:  I'm just someone who pays attention to what you do, and knows everything that's going to happen to you before you do.JULIA:  ...A critic?RADAR:  Nope.  The audience.TOM:  Well, that explains why he keeps getting smaller.RADAR:  —Hang on.  You hear that?JULIA:  Hear what?RADAR:  —Cancellation.JULIA:  I don't hear any—RADAR:  Wait for it.(Freeze-frame.  IVY belts "Suicide is Painless.")

Seth Be Not Proud

I’m not necessarily a huge Seth MacFarlane fan; it’s easy to feel indignant about a guy who’s made a gazillion dollars by essentially writing Simpsons fan fiction.  So I was expecting not to be impressed by his work as the Oscars host.  Okay, fine: I was looking forward to not being impressed by his work as the Oscars host.  I’m not proud of it, but there it is.  I was eager to get my reserves of Schadenfreude topped off, basically.And I wasn’t too impressed by his work, but not for the reasons you’d think.  I thought his comedy during the telecast was carefully and intricately crafted, attentively honed, and expertly delivered.  The only problem with most of it was that it wasn’t funny, but then most comedy is both unfunny and poorly crafted, so at least he was getting something right.  I was also surprised – watching it after the reviews had started coming in – that I didn’t even find most of it to be that sexist.In context, the much-reviled “We Saw Your Boobs” number, for instance, was constructed not to find humor in the fact that women take off their shirts in the movies, but in the idea of the Oscars, a celebration of cinematic accomplishment, being hosted by someone so boorish and clueless that he would build an elaborate musical number around women taking off their shirts in movies.  The fact that most of these movies were serious, even grueling pieces of art that don't eroticize their subjects thus underlines that cluelessness.  I knew ahead of time that was ostensibly the premise of the number and I went in expecting that framing device just to be a flimsy excuse for leering jokes about famous women’s boobies, but nope – the joke was, from beginning to end, about the crass oafishness of this Oscar host.  The bit went on way too long, obviously – it might have landed if it had been even more elaborate and abrupt in its brevity – but not knowing when to cut things off seems to be something that MacFarlane and the Oscars have in common.So if the “Boobs” number wasn’t really about women, or boobs, then why was it still problematic?  Because it was all about Seth MacFarlane.  The entire interminable opening routine with William Shatner was all about Seth MacFarlane, Oscar host, and his performance anxieties about being the Oscar host[1].  And there was literally only one person in that room who cared about Seth MacFarlane and his performance anxieties.  (Hint: he rhymes with Beth BacFarlane.)  A comic like Kathy Griffin makes her routine all about herself because her audience cares, rabidly, about her.   Seth MacFarlane doing a live, globally broadcast twenty-minute routine about himself and his legacy at the Oscars, by contrast, is the equivalent of forcing a billion people to watch your kids’ ballet recital on Youtube.  Nevertheless: complaining about the song for essentializing women requires that you ignore the entire context of the joke.Most of the lines that drew criticism were similarly defanged by context, by MacFarlane’s design.  The joke about Quvenzhané Wallis wasn’t about her sexuality; it was about George Clooney, and it was about arithmetic, and it wasn’t that funny, but it was a pretty standard-issue movie-star gag.  The joke about Rihanna and Chris Brown wasn’t endorsing or trivializing domestic violence; it was a familiar ripped-from-the-headlines ba-dump-bum punchline and it wasn’t that funny but anything that’s offensive about it can pretty much be pinned on Chris Brown.  The bit where MacFarlane mixed up Denzel Washington with Eddie Murphy was, again, about the pretended unenlightened cluelessness of Oscar host Seth MacFarlane, and it wasn’t that funny, but… you get the idea.I thought his joke about Zero Dark Thirty ("The film was a triumph and also a celebration of every woman's innate ability to never ever let anything go") was particularly interesting because it got reprinted a lot as an example of the show’s insensitivity to women.  On paper that line is particularly irksome in its reductivity: antediluvian Borscht-belt stuff about the female's predictably unstable temperament.  But in MacFarlane’s deft delivery it’s something else: as he puts it out there, his eyes widening in weary frustration, he fleetingly embodies a character who’s so preoccupied with his own troubled romantic relationships, and so convinced of his blamelessness in those troubles, that it subsumes everything else, even globally coordinated Seal Team Six operations.  For the duration of that joke, he is that guy, and that guy's blinkered worldview – not Those Darn Women – is what we’re meant to be laughing at.  It’s a comic technique that Steve Martin used to use a lot in his stand-up, and I actually thought MacFarlane’s construction and deployment of that particular joke was pretty masterful.Meanwhile, the Sound of Music bit was pretty much the funniest thing I’d seen on the Oscars in a long time.So, yeah: overall the show wasn’t great, and it wasn’t funny enough, and that thing with Mark Wahlberg and the bear was pretty awful.  But I went looking for sexism and didn’t find it – or, at least, I didn’t find any beyond all the usual piles of it that one always finds at red carpet Hollywood events.  I’m not habitually an apologist for this kind of stuff – let’s make an appointment to get together and rag on Daniel Tosh, I’d love to, anytime – but I do think comedy, well-wrought, is a vastly more intricate and complicated instrument than people credit it with being, and lifting lines from their conceptual contexts and ignoring variables like delivery and timing is typically a recipe for missing the point.



[1] All that second-guessing metacommentary and walking back of bits that MacFarlane did – “I thought we cut this joke,” “Oh no, that’s what we were afraid he was gonna do” – was also a part of this relentless self-absorbed self-awareness.  It reflected an anxious lack of the courage of his convictions, which is understandable but problematic, and it kept the focus of the comedy unremittingly on him and his performance, which is just not what the rest of us were interested in.