Monday, December 10, 2012

Women Aren't Funny?

*Warning - excessive, angry use of the F-bomb*
I've been listening to Tina Fey's book "Bossypants" on Audible lately. Like a lot of other people (massive understatement), I watched Ms. Fey on "Saturday Night Live" and thought she was great. Personally, I loved her even more when I discovered she was a writer on the show primarily. Then Ms. Fey (calling her Tina seems so impersonal, even though in my mind, we are already the best of friends and we laugh at our own inside jokes. Hey, Tina, remember that one time - right, sorry.) made several movies, created "30 Rock" and wrote "Bossypants." I found out she recorded it herself, instead of an established voice actor, and knew I'd have to check it out. TinaFeyBossyPants
Maybe it's naive of me, but listening to the chapter on how tough it was for Ms. Fey at Second City, not to mention some of the critical backlash she received at SNL, I was surprised. Aren't we in the 21st century? Is there still that tired argument that "Women Aren't Funny?" I honestly don't get it. Do guys think Women Aren’t Funny because they can’t relate to women? If that’s the deal, then I say too bad. Because women have had to sit through comedy from men’s perspective since cavemen were making fart jokes.
Tina Fey is one of my favorite actresses mostly because she's a writer, but also because she is far from perfect. I love how unique and yet how "EveryWoman" she is - not the most beautiful, thinnest, Greatest Role Model Ever (looking at you, Gwyneth Paltrow), but a snarky, funny, unafraid college girl from Pennsylvania who pursued what she wanted and worked hard. Talented, absolutely, but as far as I know, she didn't sleep her way onto SNL's writing staff (if she had, I'm sure she would have found a hilarious way to both comment on it and write a guide for the rest of us on How To Get Ahead at Work Through Sex).
I've noticed the same thing happen recently to Lena Dunham, an up-and-coming writer/director/actress of an indie film and of "Girls," a show on HBO. Dunham (we are not yet the best of friends in my head) receives more criticism for her weight and various tattoos than her show.
*Disclaimer - I've never seen "Girls", so I don't know if its good or crap or anywhere inbetween. I've wanted to check it out, but I'm not an HBO subscriber (I know, the shame). The previews I saw seemed interesting, though, and I was excited to see another woman writer break out (Woo, Girl Power! Spice Girls, it's all coming true!)
The most recent controversy I saw in regards to Dunham was over a remark in an essay she wrote - she commented "writing for money is weird." Apparently this offended people, especially in the (hushed deathbed voice) current economy. Why is this offensive? No clue. From what I read, it seemed like an offhand comment and she didn't expand further, so people are just taking this and assuming like crazy. If that's how she really feels, who cares? Maybe Ms. Dunham has wanted to write movies all her life and she still can't believe she's getting paid for it? Maybe she's in shock that someone would pay her over $3 million dollars for something that isn't even done yet? (Ms. Dunham wrote a book proposal that netted her 3.7 mil. Not too shabby for the fat, unattractive girl, internet snarks). For people to get their panties in a twist over a comment shows more about them than about Ms. Dunham - and since most of the articles giving her crap about it are written by other women, I think we can come to a conclusion. Bitches be jealous. Hey, girls, go ahead, be jealous. But don’t tear down another woman because of it – give her crap for poor writing or uncreative, awkward sex scenes. You know that shit could be so much worse and hilarious.
Criticism about a show itself (writing, plot, lack of diverse characters or character development) - sure. You can't be in the business and avoid criticism. But criticism in the guise of sexism (Fey and Dunham aren't funny because they're women, fat, ugly, blah, blah) - not cool.
My point wasn't to proclaim Fey and Dunham the Funniest Women Ever or declare Women Are Funnier Than Men. Hell, Tina and Lena (New comedy team!) are smart and funny enough to defend themselves and they have in various ways. I'm sure they couldn't give a shit and that further makes them awesome. No, the point is, Yes, women are allowed to be funny. No, not Allowed, even. Women ARE funny. Women are Fucking Funny. Its time for this to be acknowledged and for there to be different roles for all kinds of women. It's been time - we're so overdue, we're on a block table at the local butcher, cutting out our own comedy babies because we're sick of the idiot male doctor telling us, "The Baby will come out when its ready." Fuck you, doctor and fuck you, casting couches, producers, directors and studio heads. Bitches be Funny as Hell and, as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler proclaim, We Don't Fucking Care What You Think.
I'm exhaustified of the put-upon, gorgeous, stay-at-home wife/mother, married to a stupid schlub on a "family" sitcom. I'm tired of the put-upon, go-getter, anxiety-riddled single career girl who really wants to get married and have a family, but is let down over and over again by a guy who cheats/chooses a career instead/doesn't want to get married stereotype. We are more than a sidekick, we are more than a vagina dreaming about fertilized embryos - just because I'm a married mother of two, that doesn't mean I want to watch a show about a woman stressing over the same crap I do everyday. I liked "Sex and the City" because of its escapist nature. But I also didn't secretly want to leave my husband and kids and run away to New York, buy a laptop, and start dating a 18-year-old while wearing clothes 10 years too young for me. I'm a fucking grownup (whatever that’s worth these days – thank you, reality television).
But I'm ready to enjoy more great shows, movies and books from awesome, funny WOMEN – not as a new Wave or Era of comedy. That implies that Women in Comedy is a fad and will be over eventually. No, this needs to be the beginning of a new normal – funny People making funny entertainment. If there's criticism about what they create, cool. But reading crap about who they are and why that sucks doesn't contribute a damn thing to comedy or entertainment or even humanity.
Now, back to my audiobook and checking my phone for imaginary texts from Tina and Lena (new comedy team! I'm telling you - call me, NBC!).

Friday, December 7, 2012

Keep the "Christmas" in December

I love the holidays. Who doesn’t love extra stress about buying stuff you don’t need, planning for an extra-complicated meal that everyone disagrees on and the eventual disappointment in your in-laws, when you get another crappy sweater that’s two sizes too small? (I’m not vain in that way – I don’t care about the crappiness of the sweater. It sucks that she thinks I need to be two sizes smaller).

What I don’t love about the holidays? The retail world trying to convince me to begin celebrating a good 3 months earlier. Not just Christmas, either: the grocery stores are putting out Halloween candy at the end of August (You just know that's last year’s candy, trying to get pushed out the door for the new stuff). There are sales on kitchenware, ingredients and fancy paper supplies in September for Thanksgiving. In October, the malls are putting up their fake Christmas trees and turning their background speaker music to horrible Christmas Muzak. In freaking October! I know we’re in the midst of an economic downturn or whatever finance-speak is for a horribly managed government budget, but come on. Does business really go up if you start celebrating in June?

I refuse. For me, Christmas doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving and I keep it that way, no matter what my kids think (though, when they call me the Christmas Grinch, it does break my heart a little). What about Halloween? There is so much more than trick-or-treating on one day. There are scary movie marathons to be watched - pumpkin patches to visit, where you go on scary hayrides and pick out a pumpkin to carve - scary stories to tell before bed - elaborate costumes to put together to freak out the small children of your neighborhood.

Why are we giving Thanksgiving short shrift? I love Thanksgiving – spending time with my family in a confined space, while I yell at the Lions playing on TV and the house smells like turkey and gravy – awesomeness. It really makes me miss my family in Michigan, but I like to think that we are yelling at the Lions and being disappointed together, despite the miles apart. We participate in food drives and donate clothing to shelters for the upcoming cold months. We talk about being thankful - Baz is usually thankful for trains, Tom is currently thankful for the Redskins.

I do not participate in Black Friday. I was an unwilling retail drone who had to sell and take returns for far too long to EVER even consider shopping within a crowd of insane women at 1am on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Plus (and again, I’m Mean Mommy to other mommies who will Do Anything For the Fruit of Their Womb), there isn’t anything my kids want that I would wake up at 1am, go wait in line and fist-fight with other women for. The only thing I would consider would be food. If we were living in some post-apocalyptic future, where Black Friday shopping has turned into a reality show for families and the Moms are the stars, because we have to fist-fight for tv ratings and food for our families - then yes, I would fight in the middle of the night for food. But thankfully, we are not reality-tv ready and we also can afford food.

The husband and I have agreed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for our Christmas-decorating time. We get in a full month of holiday revelry and then we take the decorations down the Saturday after New Year’s. This way, we can fully appreciate the Christmas letdown and bitter resentment of no holidays or celebrations in January.

On Saturday, we unload all of our boxes from the attic and take them down to the basement. Baz’s interest is primarily the train we set up around the tree – Belle loves the ornaments and finding just the right place to put them on the tree. I make hot chocolate and we put on a great Christmas movie – this year, we started off with “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” (I forgot how much cussing there is in that movie. WOW.) Tom gets the tree set up and the lights hooked up – Belle and I get all the ornaments out and make sure nothing is broken or missing a hook, etc. Baz pretends to help and shoots covetous looks at the train in its box. We hang up our stockings on the mantel over the fireplace and add all of our Christmas snow globes and stuffed animals and nutcracker figures.

The kids and I trim the tree – I take a couple of breaks in the middle to take pictures for our calendar/Christmas cards (Tom thinks our camera hates him – I’ll expand on that later). After all the ornaments and the star are on the tree, Tom and Baz set up the train on the floor, around the tree. When the tree is done and the train’s set up, we sit back and admire the view. We drink our hot chocolate and finish watching the movie, all together in the basement. We usually have something special for dinner (Takeout, oh yea!) and that’s our Saturday After Thanksgiving. One of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Another favorite tradition? Giving gifts to friends and family. This is not the same as shopping. I don’t like shopping. It begins so nice and ends in a guilt-ridden shamefest. I love GIFT-GIVING. I get excited about how much Baz would love this really cool Lego set to build and how he will play with it for hours and I’ll break my ankles stepping on them. I found several different craft sets for Belle and I can’t wait to see what she will come up with – hopefully it won’t involve drawing on the walls or furniture (yes, she’s 9 and still wants to draw on walls and furniture). Tom is more difficult – not that he’s not into anything; he is just particular in his choices. He’s what my friend Red calls a “spoiled, only-child of divorce.” Tom knows specifically what he wants and has specific plans for those things - if what you find is off by just a small detail, the whole thing still Does Not Work. But I can usually come up with something and, if anything, I like the challenge. Investigating new techy things or puzzle books or other stuff he’s into – it’s kind of like a mystery.

We’ll spend the weeks leading up to Christmas doing our favorite things: watching our favorite specials together, listening to Christmas music, going to the concert at the kids’ school, thinking up gifts we would like to get for friends (usually involving something baked or special hot chocolate mix), baking Christmas cookies and reading our favorite Christmas stories. I like to take the kids’ ice-skating – Tom refuses to join in, claiming he can’t skate. But they can’t skate, either, so his argument is worthless. I take turns helping them around the ice and when we get home, I tell him I can’t make dinner while lying down on a heating pad. We keep coming up with weird little traditions and I love it because I had no traditions growing up and now – I have traditions with my family. Excellent.

So why would I want to hurry things up? Make Christmas start earlier and last longer? People, we’re talking about quality, not quantity here. I can only take 1 month of Christmas. I have nothing more to give – I can’t be festive and cheery nonstop for 4 freakin’ months! I can only love and appreciate human existence on a regular basis for so long. The entire month of December nonstop is enough. So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – I wish you and your family a happy holiday of whatever you celebrate. Christianity, Judaism, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Retailism, Genericaa – I hope its fun and tradition-y. Just keep it in December, so I don’t shoot anyone.