Pop Culture Detective Agency, on YouTube
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So, I guess this started in 2016. That is, the Pop Culture Detective Agency series itself, which started in 2016. (The series's YouTube channel description says "A series of critical video essays looking at media through a critical lens with an emphasis on the intersections of politics, masculinity and entertainment.. Hosted by Jonathan McIntosh.") I'd add that while the series mostly calls out negative things, it also commends positive things.
I first saw one or two videos from the series probably in early 2018, possibly late 2017, and eventually (still fairly early in 2018) I decided I should take a look at the whole channel. However, prior to the PCDA series, the channel includes some very short videos made as early as 2003 (and posted to YouTube in 2008). I just watched a few of them before deciding I didn't like them enough to watch any more of those old vids. (So it's possible there are some I haven't watched that I'd actually like if I did watch them.) The first video of any interest to me is Buffy vs Edward: Twilight Remixed (6:03, from 2009) which as you can probably guess, mixes scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight, to make it look like Edward is stalking Buffy, who is totes not having it. This was apparently kind of a big deal, so I'm a bit surprised that, as far as I recall, 2018 was the first time I ever saw or heard of it.
Then there's one where Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck (7:46, from 2010). Donald falls on hard times, and then hears Beck on the radio saying things that he thinks make sense. But in the end, it becomes clear even to Donald that Beck is full of shit. (Really I think it was clear from the start, but the way the narrative is presented, Donald can be forgiven for not getting it at first.) Then there are shorter vids I mostly didn't bother with. There's one outtake video (2:54, from 2015) I watched that's kind of amusing, which is based on a video on Feminist Frequency, called 5 Ways Men Can Help End Sexism (9:38). (After the outtake video, another vid started playing that I thought would be the one the outtakes were from, but it wasn't. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize that, though. The vid kept getting interrupted by someone responding to it in voiceover, and I assumed that was part of the actual video essay, which the video would then address. Eventually I realized the video wasn't addressing it, and it was actually someone legitimately arguing against the essay. Perhaps I can be forgiven for not realizing that right away, because the points being made by the voiceover were so obviously wrong that I thought they were just there to be discredited. Anyway, once I finally realized I was watching the wrong video, I stopped watching it and found the right one... which still isn't on this channel. Like I said, it's on Feminist Frequency... which is another series I should get around to watching someday.) After that, I watched a Patreon announcement from 2016 (6:26) that is an ad to support the (then upcoming) Pop Culture Detective Agency series. (That also happens to be what made me decide to watch the Donald Duck/Glenn Beck video, which I had previously skipped over.) I think everything after that will be actual installments of "Pop Culture Detective Agency." It will take some time, but I'm going to watch all of those and mention each of them here.
Pop Culture Detective Agency
There are a few videos about the animated series Steven Universe, which give positive examples of masculinity. But I'm holding off on watching them for now, because I haven't had a chance to see that show, and I want to avoid spoilers.
What Is Toxic Masculinity? (6:39)
This video does a pretty decent job of providing a basic introduction to the concept of "toxic masculinity": what it means, and what it doesn't mean. (Because a lot of misogynists insist on treating the term as if it means something that it definitely doesn't.) The video uses Biff from the Back to the Future movies as an example. (Some future videos in the series will go into more specific details about toxic masculinity, and related subjects.)
Military Recruitment and Hollywood (15:22)
This video focuses first on promotional tie-ins between the US Army and the movie "Independence Day: Resurgence" (which I haven't seen). It also mentions several other science fiction movies that use cross-promotion between the films and the US military. These promotions and ad campaigns are designed to bolster recruitment in the real world by making the military look good and exciting in a lot of ways, while avoiding any mention of the actual harm that can come to people who serve in the military, beyond the obvious threat of death or serious injury in combat, as well as real world moral implications of the United States's military actions around the world. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting to see a video about this kind of thing in this series, but I guess it doesn't really surprise me. And of course everything McIntosh says in the video is true, and barely scratches the surface of the problems with the military, but it does seem a little too one-sided. So I want to be clear that my own feelings about the US military are more mixed. I absolutely hate all the bad things about it that are mentioned here, but I certainly don't think it's all bad. Still, the video isn't really about vilifying the military, as much as it is about drawing attention to the insidious tactics used for recruitment and PR. And my feelings are decidedly less mixed about that: The military should not be doing entertainment tie-ins, nor should it be dictating how the military is depicted in fictional movies.
Donald Trump: The Sitcom Misogynist (11:57)
The video is not just about Trump's misogyny (though of course there's a lot of that). It's also about how media normalizes misogyny and makes it seem harmless, even when satirizing it. Examples include Jack from 30 Rock, Barney from How I Met Your Mother, Howard (primarily) from The Big Bang Theory, and Pierce from Community. (All of which is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. It's not like there's time to go into every character or show or movie or other form of entertainment that normalizes misogyny. That would probably take more like twelve centuries than twelve minutes.) I must admit, I enjoy a lot of that entertainment, but I like to believe that I am one of many consumers of pop culture who can find humor in something (especially when it's being satirized) and still have no trouble rejecting it in reality. And yet, I'm well aware that a lot of people are more likely to learn to embrace misogyny (and other terrible mindsets) when they see it portrayed in the media as normal, or funny, or harmless (or all of the above). So... I have mixed feelings. And this goes for a lot of the videos in this series. I want to be able to enjoy entertainment that doesn't make me (or many other fans) think or act badly in real life. But I also want entertainment to take greater responsibility for its potential effect on society. And, holy crap, the idea that any shows I like (or even love) could have had a hand in perpetuating the sort of mindset that made it possible for someone as reprehensible as Donald Trump to become President is just sickening.
The Stormtrooper Paradox (10:47)
This video has some interesting things to say about symbolism in general and stormtroopers in particular throughout the "Star Wars" franchise, but focuses mainly on Episode VII: The Force Awakens. It's well worth the watch, but in brief, the point is that through Finn, stormtroopers are humanized... but the movie fails to consider what that actually means for any stormtrooper except Finn. That is, the possibility exists for any one of the countless stormtroopers to find their own redemption, but instead the story continues to treat them as just faceless targets for the Resistance to shoot. Which is a sobering enough thought on its own, but the video actually goes beyond that to make it even more tragic, in relation to real world situations right here on Earth. But you'll have to watch the video for yourself, if you want to learn more about that....
Predatory Romance in Harrison Ford Movies (16:59)
The video examines problematic examples of supposedly romantic (but actually predatory) behavior by various characters Harrison Ford has played in his movies. It begins with Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back. Then there's the title character in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." All of those examples demonstrate the notion that when women say no (both verbally and through non-verbal cues), they don't really mean it. Then Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, an example that demonstrates how men can force women to give verbal consent, which obviously isn't real consent. Movies like these supposedly teach boys and men how to be "real men," and how to treat women. All of this is part of what is meant by "rape culture." The video then makes it clear that this goes far beyond Harrison Ford movies. It shows as examples "The Mask of Zorro" and "Spectre," though of course there are countless other movies that just as easily could be used. For a positive example of romance, we're treated to a scene from Frozen, between Anna and Kristoff.
Born Sexy Yesterday (18:13)
The video examines a trope which McIntosh says is very common in sci-fi (and other genres), but didn't have a name until he gave it one (the title of this episode). I kind of thought it must have had a name before, most likely on TV Tropes... but while that site does have a few articles that are BSY-adjacent, they surprisingly don't seem to have a specific trope about this. (At one point, he does specifically mention overlap with Manic Pixie Dream Girl.) Anyway, he starts by talking about a character from "Tron: Legacy" (which I haven't seen). He also mentions a 1950 movie called "Born Yesterday" (which I haven't seen), though that might be more about the idiom "born yesterday" itself than about the trope being discussed here; I'm not sure. As a "quintessential example" of the Born Sexy Yesterday trope, McIntosh uses The Fifth Element. But it's not just about women who were literally "born yesterday," but also any character with innocence and inexperience, and a lack of awareness of their sex appeal. (Because they're an android or alien or some being from a totally alien culture, unfamiliar with human [or white, European, or contemporary] ways.) Other examples include Splash, My Stepmother Is an Alien, "Sheena", Forbidden Planet, Enchanted, "Chobits", Outlaw Star (and "everywhere in anime"), and "The Time Machine", "Planet of the Apes", "The New World", "Stargate", Star Trek (frequent use of the trope), Star Trek: Voyager, "Cloud Atlas", "Sleeper", "Demolition Man", "The Mighty Peking Man", "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid". Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is given as an example of mutual exploration. Rare examples where the woman is more experienced than the man (which is usually meant more as a joke than as actually "sexy") include Pleasantville, "Starman", "Blast from the Past", and "Big".
Well, I can definitely say some of the examples that I am familiar with have bothered me in the past. And I'm sure I could think of others not cited here... though in some of my examples, the trope wouldn't really be relevant to the plot. (I mean, I personally think Tinker Bell- an example not mentioned in this video- was sexy as soon as she was born, but that doesn't factor into the movie at all.) Anyway, I haven't even mentioned any of the vague psychoanalysis of men's attraction to inexperienced women, so you should definitely watch the video to see what McIntosh has to say about that. And I could certainly say some of it would apply to me... up to a point. (But honestly, because of my autism and social anxiety and paranoia and various other psychological factors, I can't imagine that any degree of innocence in a woman would make me comfortable having sexual relations. At least I can understand how it would help allay a normal man's insecurities, even if I wouldn't want the kind of unfair advantage described in this video.) So, anyway... I agree that the trope is highly problematic. Even if it doesn't always prevent me from enjoying movies and shows that employ the trope.
The Fantastic Masculinity of Newt Scamander (14:32)
This video focuses on the main character in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," which I haven't seen. So, part of me thought maybe I shouldn't watch it, for fear of spoilers, but I did anyway. (And there were spoilers, but I didn't really mind.) Before I watched the video, I wasn't sure if "fantastic masculinity" would mean "toxic masculinity in a fantasy movie" or a type of positive masculinity that was fantastic (in perhaps a double meaning). Happily, it turned out to be the latter. McIntosh praises Newt Scamander's type of sensitive masculinity. He contrasts it to various characters from other movies and shows (including Harry Potter), but I don't feel the need to list all of them, or to go into detail about the good things McIntosh has to say about this character. So I'll just say the video made me eager to see the movie.
The Unfulfilled Potential of Video Games (12:47)
In this video, McIntosh talks about E3, and how disappointing it is that so many games are about combat. (In 2017, only 20 out of the 133 video games featured at E3 didn't include combat, which is similar to previous years. And even non-combat games can still be violent.) The point is not that combat games shouldn't exist, but that they represent much too high a percentage of the games that get made. That there can be non-violent methods of conflict resolution, and more games that don't necessarily even focus on conflict. Of course, the video does note that there are such games. And there's probably a market for more of them, so maybe someday the ratio of different types of games can become less skewed. Oh... and there's also a scene with Picard as Dixon Hill in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory (21:09)
As the title suggests, this video discusses misogyny in The Big Bang Theory. But more than that, it's about "adorkable misogyny," or misogyny perpetrated by geeks and nerds. It goes back to "Revenge of the Nerds" (which I haven't seen), and various other movies and shows with stereotypically nerdy characters. These include Saved by the Bell, Weird Science, Family Matters, Sixteen Candles, et al. But most of the episode focuses on Big Bang Theory, and explores the individual varieties of misogyny of each of the four main male characters. It really is disturbing how it's all played for laughs and dismissed as harmless or even endearing (specifically because the characters are portrayed as the opposite of the typical ideas of masculinity), when in fact it really is creepy and unacceptable (and not actually "adorkable" at all). But the video concludes with a few examples of shows that have non-misogynistic nerdy characters: Abed from Community, and characters from "Dear White People" and "Parks and Recreation" (neither of which I've seen, unfortunately).
The Complicity of Geek Masculinity on The Big Bang Theory (20:01)
So, this is the second video about "The Big Bang Theory," but IIRC, it's actually the first episode of "Pop Culture Detective" I ever saw. And now I'm watching it for a second time, for the sake of my review of the webseries. McIntosh mentions that fans of... well, the kinds of things that characters on this show are fans of... tend to dislike the show. Because it makes fun of them. I'm actually not sure how true it is that my fellow geeks dislike the show, though I assume plenty probably do. But I can't be the only geek who actually likes "The Big Bang Theory." And I rarely feel like the show is genuinely making fun of me, or people like me... even if I totally see how it can be interpreted that way. (I can even see how some people might find it impossible to interpret any other way.) Anyway, while the first Big Bang essay dealt with how the male characters on the show could be misogynistic toward women, this one deals with how the show can be misogynistic toward its own male characters. Because a lot of the show's humor derives from the fact that those characters fail to live up to traditional concepts of masculinity. The essay talks about a couple of types of traditional masculinity, the first being hegemonic. This, McIntosh says, is embodied by fictional characters like Conan the Barbarian, James Bond, and Captain America. (Though Captain America can also be used as an example of non-toxic masculinity.) The second type of masculinity explored in this essay is hypermasculinity. And McIntosh talks about how the men on the show compete, in their own way, over who comes closer to the ideal of manhood, despite their all having been bullied for their lack of said manhood. And how this competition can lead them to insult each other by comparing them to women, which is obviously misogynistic. (And of course, Raj is the butt of most such jokes. Which is even worse, considering he's Asian.) McIntosh also makes the point that despite women often being blamed for emasculating men, it's often men who emasculate each other. So, the way men treat men can be just as toxic as the way men treat women. But for those of us who live in the real world, it's not necessary for men to belittle anyone.
Wall-E as Sociological Storytelling (15:25)
This video, obviously, focuses on the movie Wall-E. The point McIntosh makes is that, unlike most Disney movies, there isn't really any villain, per se. What this means is, the plot doesn't rely on the idea of bad people doing bad things because they are bad, an idea which ignores societal context, and therefore essentially absolves societal institutions of any complicity in the evils perpetrated in the stories. Um... McIntosh also talks about the game Monopoly, which was apparently used as a sociological example by Allan G. Johnson in a book called "The Forest and the Trees." Because... people might act greedy when playing the game, because that's how the game works. But it doesn't necessarily say anything about them as individuals, in real life. However, real life itself has rules established by society as a whole, which can make it difficult for individuals to refuse to play by... but we can. McIntosh also mentions the movie "Idiocracy" (which I haven't seen, but want to, even though he says he despises it). Unlike that movie, Wall-E doesn't depict individuals as to blame for oppressive social systems of which we are a part. Rather, it gives us hope for challenging such systems.
The Case Against the Jedi Order (25:51)
This video focuses on the first six movies of the Star Wars franchise. McIntosh notes that in all six movies, almost all of the Jedi who are seen are men (and none of the few women Jedi who are seen get to do any talking). But the lack of representation for women isn't the point of the video. The point is that despite male Jedi seeming in some ways very different from the typical examples of toxic masculinity in pop culture, the philosophies and rules of the Jedi are often toxic in their own ways. For example, in Episode 1, young Anakin is shamed for missing his mother. That shaming continues in the next movie, and he is further forced to keep his love for Padme a secret. Yoda and Obi-Wan teach him to bury his feelings and become emotionally detached, out of fear that such attachments could be used to turn him to the Dark Side. However, it is in reality the very emotional detachment forced on him by the Jedi that actually leads to his turning to the Dark Side. Later, in episodes 4-6, the Jedi masters also try to teach Luke to bury his emotions, for the same reason. But unlike Anakin, who was trained by the Jedi since he was very young, Luke has emotional coping mechanisms that allow him to reject the advice of Yoda and Obi-Wan, and follow his heart in helping his friends when they need him... as well as ultimately refusing to kill Darth Vader. It's because he embraced his emotions instead of burying them that he remained free of the Dark Side's influence.
At the end of the video, McIntosh expresses some hope for the future of the franchise, now that it's out of George Lucas's hands, and because it now has a female heroine. It struck me as a bit odd that he sounded like he was talking about a movie (episode 7) that he hadn't seen yet, considering he'd done a video eleven months or so before this one, which was specifically about that movie (even if it focused on Finn rather than Rey). Incidentally, I also want to mention that I'm reviewing this video after watching it for the second time. I think this might be the second installment of PCDA that I ever saw (and surely not more than the third). And I probably first watched it when it was embedded in an article I read called Internalized Sexism and Star Wars: My Long-Overdue Apology to Luke Skywalker, which I definitely recommend reading, if you haven't.
Stalking for Love (23:51)
McIntosh begins by telling us how he used to feel about the movie Groundhog Day, and how he feels about it now. The problem he has with it is a problem I also had with it... although I give Bill Murray's character more credit for real growth than McIntosh does. Other movies that the video presents, briefly, as examples of the "stalking for love" trope include "You've Got Mail", 10 Things I Hate About You, There's Something About Mary, The Notebook, Big Fish, "Management", Wedding Crashers, "High Fidelity", "50 First Dates", Scott Pilgrim vs the World, "Dead Poets Society", St. Elmo's Fire, "This Means War", "Top Hat", The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Pretty in Pink, "Love Actually", Twilight. And some things lampshade the trope. An example is given as the Netflix series Stranger Things, which despite calling out the stalker behavior, doesn't subvert the trope. While most examples of the trope are supposed to be "romantic," there are examples where it's more realistically presented as the creepy (and illegal) behavior that it actually is. Examples of this include "Sleeping with the Enemy" and American Beauty. And I am leaving out several other examples the video gives of the trope, regardless of whether they're meant to be romantic or creepy. Because there are so many. (And I'm sure the video barely scratches the surface.) McIntosh also talks about how grand romantic gestures, which can be creepy if unwanted (despite the happy Hollywood endings) can be appropriate if they're done within an existing relationship, such as in Juno, or "The Big Sick". McIntosh also touches on how the people watching a movie can have knowledge that characters in the movie don't have. For example, in Say Anything..., we know that Diane wants Lloyd back, but Lloyd doesn't know that. Based on what he does know (that she has rejected him), his behavior is just as inappropriate as if her rejection were entirely sincere. There are also examples of women stalking men, as in "Sleepless in Seattle", "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend", "Scott Pilgrim vs the World", or "Wayne's World". And women in such stories are more likely to portrayed as "crazy," rather than romantic, which is a double standard. So... many movies and TV shows can have a negative impact by portraying attraction or obsession as true love. But McIntosh also points out that it's entirely possible to display relationships based on genuine mutual feelings, in an entertaining manner, within any genre. For example, Addams Family Values, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Fault in Our Stars, Before Sunrise. Well, I must say I agree with the point of the video, and have felt the same way about some of these movies, even if I still manage to enjoy (even love) some of them. Luckily, I'm able to tell the difference between fiction and real life. Unfortunately, it seems as if many people can't. So, I don't think movies with the "stalking for love" trope are just inherently bad, but I do think it's of vital importance to look at them as entertainment, and not a blueprint for how to be romantic. When someone tells you they're not interested, it's not an invitation to change their mind. Just accept the "no," and move on with your life.
1980s Movies That Shaped Our Humanity (14:00)
This video focuses on movies that McIntosh says foster empathy and solidarity. His main list of these movies includes The Journey of Natty Gann, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, "Amazing Grace and Chuck", Harry and the Hendersons, and "Batteries Not Included". (At the time I watched the video, I had only seen three of these movies. And of those, I only remembered two of them well. I really only remember the fact that I had seen "Batteries Not Included," but not anything about it. I have long wanted to see "Nausicaa," but I haven't gotten a chance yet. And I'm fairly sure I'd never even heard of "Amazing Grace and Chuck," but now I guess I'll put it on my list of things I want to see someday.) McIntosh mentions that this list is specific to himself, and other people might have their own lists of movies that affected them, whether in the 1980s or whatever era they grew up in. There are some other movies we get glimpses of in the video, both from the 80s and more recently, which provide similar lessons to the ones on McIntosh's list. There are also some movies that are glimpsed as counterpoints to the lessons of empathy and solidarity, but mostly this video is about the good that movies can do in helping to shape our worldview, rather than the bad.
Abduction as Romance (22:06)
This video starts out talking about the movie "Passengers," which I haven't seen. But I had heard, vaguely, about a deeply troubling aspect to the plot. I avoided learning exactly what that was, I suppose out of a habit of avoiding spoilers, despite the fact that what I had heard made me decide I probably didn't want to ever watch it. So... when I started watching this video, I decided I didn't mind being spoiled by it. And now I know what was wrong with the movie. But of course it's up to you whether you want to avoid spoilers, yourself. The video also shows examples of the trope from a bunch of other movies (some of which I've seen, and some I haven't), but I don't want to list them. I must have noticed the trope and been bothered by it in some of the movies I've seen, though I can't recall if I've necessarily noticed it in all the ones mentioned here. Anyway, McIntosh talks about how the abduction may sometimes be framed as rescuing someone, but while the "rescuer" and the audience may be aware of the circumstances, the abductee is not. And he makes some other excellent points, like the fact that it's normally white men in movies who can be given the benefit of the doubt, and rarely men of color. And that when women who have been abducted in these movies react in perfectly reasonable ways (fear and attempts to escape), they are portrayed as being unreasonable. And the fact that when romance develops between abductor and abductee, the man is just forgiven for his actions, or even thanked for them, rather than facing any sort of accountability. And that in real life, abusers don't just stop abusing their partners... at least not without a great deal of therapy and effort to change their behavior. And... various other points are made. Anyway, it's a really good essay.
How The Last Jedi Defies Expectations About Male Heroes (20:49)
McIntosh breaks down the reasons many male Star Wars fans were so angry about The Last Jedi. How they found it unacceptable that male heroes Poe, Finn, and Luke, each in their own way, had their respective character arcs seemingly challenged by women (Leia, Holdo, Rose, and Rey). He explains not just the reasons for their feelings, but the reasons those feelings were misguided, or just plain wrong. And how the story ultimately is about the male heroes becoming better versions of themselves. Unfortunately, I doubt that many of the people who hated the movie would be willing or able to accept the explanations set forth in this video. But hopefully at least a few would. As for those of us who already liked the movie and have no problem accepting women in positions of power or moral authority, it's still an interesting essay, well worth the watch. Not just for insights into this one particular movie, but, as the video's title suggests, ways movies in general can defy expectations by taking the story in totally different directions than what audiences have been conditioned to expect.
Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs - Part 1 Male Perpetrators (28:52)
(This is the first of two videos about male rape victims; the second will focus on men being sexually assaulted by women.) The video shows clips from many movies and TV shows with jokes (and threats) about men being raped by other men. I'll list these clips to show just how prevalent such jokes are, even in some "family friendly" entertainment. Movies include Guardians of the Galaxy, "Deadpool" (both 1 and 2), "2 Fast 2 Furious", Iron Man 2, "Sausage Party", "Horrible Bosses", "Dumb and Dumber", "Get Hard", "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny", Paddington, "Puss in Boots", the Looney Tunes short "Carrotblanca", The Mask, "Half Baked", "21 Jump Street", "Let's Go to Prison", "Little Nicky", Wedding Crashers, "Neighbors", "This Is the End", "The Cable Guy", "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay", "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry", "Eurotrip", "Anchorman 2", "Billy Madison", "Fletch Lives", The Maltese Falcon, 300, "Skyfall", "Withnail and I", New in Town, "Bad Boys II", "Vice Principals", "Naked Gun 33 1/3" "Death Becomes Her", "Dirty Grandpa", "Blue Bloods", "Friday After Next", "Cop Out", "Without a Trace", "Big Stan", "Inside Man", "Deja Vu", "Office Space", "The Ten", "Wayne's World", "Hard to Kill", "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls", Mallrats, "The Hot Chick", There's Something About Mary, "Hot Tub Time Machine 2", and "Bulletproof". TV shows include "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", Family Guy, Conan, Friends, "The Last O.G.", "Louie", "Real Time with Bill Maher", the 2010 Oscars, "Rick and Morty", South Park, The Cleveland Show, "Brickleberry", The Simpsons, The Powerpuff Girls, The Amazing World of Gumball, That 70s Show, Glee, Saturday Night Live, The Boondocks, "Skylanders Academy", Spongebob Squarepants, Malcolm in the Middle, "Law & Order: SVU", "NCIS", "The Mentalist", "CSI", "True Detective", The X-Files, "Criminal Minds", "My Name Is Earl", Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Key & Peele, and Seinfeld. (And I'm sure all this is far from a comprehensive list of movies, shows, and other forms of entertainment that has employed rape jokes.)
The essay touches on various aspects of this element of culture, including toxic masculinity, homophobia, racism, the prison system, etc. And it's not just about pop culture, but also real life. Terry Crews is shown more than once, in regard to his speaking out about his own experience of being assaulted. And of course, all of this is shown to call out the normalization of something that should not be normal, should not be dismissed, should not be made light of, and should not be accepted as a form of punishment (even for criminals).
How the Shawshank Redemption Humanizes Prisoners (26:09)
Well, this is not the second part of the subject that began with the previous episode, but that should be the next episode after this one. Meanwhile, this video is pretty good (as always). It focuses on the 1994 film "The Shawshank Redemption," which I haven't seen, but after watching this, I want to. McIntosh talks about how the movie didn't do well either critically or financially when it was first released, but gained a much better reputation in the years since its release. Part of the criticism of the movie was, as the title of this essay suggests, that it humanized prisoners, while many people at the time it was released had no interest in seeing prisoners humanized, either in fiction or real life. They wanted to believe prisoners deserved whatever horrible treatment they received. The video also talks about how most films set wholly or partially in prisons tend to portray the majority of prisoners as extremely violent, whereas the characters in this movie are, for the most part, just ordinary people, whose punishment far outweighs their crimes. The video also touches on the idea that prison should be more about redemption than retribution, and that there should be more services available after prisoners are released to help them reintegrate into society, rather than leaving them to fend for themselves in a society that remains oftentimes prejudiced against ex-cons. And how the prison industrial complex today incentivizes mass incarceration to use prisoners essentially as slave labor. And how, as opposed to the mostly white prison population in the movie, today the criminal justice system is stacked against people of color. While the essay mostly praises the more humane depiction of prisoners, it also raises a couple of problematic issues with the film, including the depiction of gay-coded characters to be a threat to straight characters. Anyway... there needs to be a lot of reform of the entire system, and this essay does a pretty decent job of explaining why.
Stranger Things and the Dangers of Nostalgia (24:34)
First of all, I'm disappointed that McIntosh failed to fulfill his promise at the end of the last video that the next one would be part 2 of "The Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs." So I'm still waiting for that one. Meanwhile, I'm disappointed that I can't watch this video yet, because it contains spoilers for season 3 of Stranger Things, and I've only seen the first two seasons. Until I see season 3, I won't have anything to say about this video.
Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs - Part 2 Female Perpetrators (35:34)
Well, I'm glad this episode has finally come out. There are clips from lots of movies and TV shows depicting men being sexually assaulted by women, mostly in comedies, but also sometimes in dramas. (And there is some overlap between parts 1 and 2 of this topic.) The movies include "American Pie: Reunion", "Police Academy" (1 and 2), "Get Him to the Greek", "Horrible Bosses" (1 and 2), "Anchorman 2", "Men in Black: International", "40 Days and 40 Nights", "The Tuxedo", Almost Famous, "Just Friends", "Minority Report", "Neptune's Daughter" (which includes both male and female perpetrators, against female and male victims, respectively, both involving the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside"), the short films "Red Hot Riding Hood" and "Little Beau Pepe" and "Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears", "Neighbors 2", "Top Five", Wedding Crashers, Gremlins 2, Rio 2, "Robin Hood: Men in Tights", "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo", "John Wick 2", "Super Troopers", Edward Scissorhands, "That's My Boy", "Bad Moms", "Bridesmaids", Sherlock Holmes, Ghostbusters, "Total Frat Movie", "Days of Thunder", "Disclosure", Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Batman Returns, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Moulin Rouge, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, "Dumb and Dumber To", "Norbit", Van Wilder, "Yes Man", "The Longest Yard", "Good Luck Chuck", "Three Men and a Little Lady", Pee-wee's Big Adventure, "Tomcats", Nacho Libre, "Easy A", and "The Little Hours". TV shows include "Rick and Morty", South Park, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", Archer, "Will & Grace", Family Guy, "Californication", "The Mindy Project", "Younger", "Peep Show", "2 Broke Girls", "Shameless", The Big Bang Theory, the TV movie Reefer Madness, "Louie", "The League", The Simpsons, Futurama, "The Office", Saturday Night Live, "Great News", "Paradise PD", New Girl, That 70s Show, Glee, "Riverdale", Doctor Who, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Married with Children", 30 Rock, "George Lopez", "Rescue Me", and "Kidding". I think the only positive clip was from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
The commentary talks about various problems with this (beyond the obvious fact that rape is always wrong, regardless of gender). One of them main problems is that men (and boys) are often treated as if they are lucky that this happened to them (if the perpetrator is conventionally attractive), because of the myth that men always want sex. Or that men should always want sex. Therefore, if a man (or boy) who has been raped has the appropriate reaction of being traumatized, he is often ridiculed for that reaction. The essay also talks about the trope abhorrent admirer, in which the perpetrator is not considered attractive. In this case, the victim is still often the one who is ridiculed, as if they "chose" to have sex with someone whom other straight men think they shouldn't have chosen. Of course, this also reinforces discrimination against women, as it suggests only conventionally attractive women should display any interest in sex. The essay also touches on the fact that some men may not want sex with a woman specifically because he is gay. And... there are various other aspects of the topic, but that's all I can think to say for now.
The Tragedy of Droids (35:38)
The essay focuses mainly on the role of droids throughout the Star Wars franchise, but at one point there's a particular focus on the movie Solo (which I didn't see until after I saw this). So there are some spoilers there. (Of course there can be spoilers for you for any number of movies or shows, if you haven't seen them. I was also spoiled a bit for the first season finale of The Mandalorian.) But it's not exclusively about Star Wars, it's about robots (and to a lesser extent, other species in fantasy) throughout the history of science fiction, and how they're a allegory for slavery in the real world. The question is raised of where the threshold lies between simply being machines, and being sentient. (So of course there's also some reference to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man.) There's also discussion of the inconsistency with which droids (or robots) are treated, depending on how important they are to the plot, or to the humans (or organic life forms) in the movies/shows. While some droid characters are meant to be cared about (even if they're still treated as servants and property and/or comic relief), many other droids are treated as completely disposable and without personality, both so we won't worry about their exploitation and so we won't care about their "deaths" (especially of enemy droids, as in the Star Wars prequels). Another problem that's discussed is that often it's made to seem there are only two possibilities: either robots continue to serve as slaves, or they revolt and become the masters of humanity. There is some hope, on the other hand, that a third option could be employed: droid liberation and equality, without either robotic life or biological life being masters. Anyway... it's all a bit more interesting and thought-provoking than I expected it to be.
Boys Don't Cry (Except When They Do) (27:25)
The essay discusses a narrow set of circumstances in which society deems it permissible for boys and men to cry, as well as circumstances in which they are mocked for crying, or in which male tears are played for laughs. It also notes how sadness can often be depicted as leading to anger and violence, as unhealthy ways of dealing with emotions. And it briefly touches on how women can be seen as overly emotional and lacking self-control when they express emotions in a healthy way... and how men who cry are often compared to "little girls". We also see a few examples of men choosing to reject the patriarchy's toxic concept of masculinity in order to healthily process their emotions. There are hundreds of clips from TV and movies demonstrating all these different facets of boys and men who cry and how they are perceived by others, so I won't try to list any of them. (Well, I was really pleased to see a scene from Avatar: The Last Airbender, since I'm such a huge fan of that show.) Anyway, as always, I think it's a good video that deals well with its subject matter. And I myself have never had a problem crying, particularly because I suffer from depression, though that isn't touched upon in the video.
The Ethics of Looking and the Harmless Peeping Tom (28:00)
"It's often said that cinema, by its very nature, is voyeuristic", begins McIntosh. He then talks about how men (in movies and TV) spying on women without their knowledge or consent can convey alarming messages, and how it is often perpetrated by "nice guy" characters. Some (but not quite all) of the clips shown include "Disturbia", "Fright Night", Star Trek, Stranger Things, "Hitchcock", "The Rum Diary", "The Return of the Pink Panther", "Deja Vu", "The Batman", "Rush Hour 2", American Beauty, "27 Dresses", and Back to the Future. A fair amount of time is dedicated to That 70s Show, with a particular emphasis on Fez's behavior, which is pretty disturbing. (I must have missed and/or forgotten more of that series than I thought, because I don't remember this. But I do at least vaguely remember thinking a lot about the show was problematic.) More clips include "Private School", "Animal House", "Porky's", "Revenge of the Nerds", Rear Window, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation", "Nowhere to Run", "Brainscan", Dirty Dancing, "Cocoon", "Dishonored", Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, American Pie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, "Stakeout", "The World Is Not Enough", "XXX", "The Covenant", "Bruce Almighty", Superman Returns, Smallville, "Kimi", "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", L.A. Confidential, "Under the Silver Lake", "Ghostbusters: Afterlife", Stardust, Spider-Man, "The Breakfast Club", Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek Into Darkness, "Marvel's Runaways", "Jungle Cruise", Herbie: Fully Loaded, "The Witcher", X-Men 2, "Leap Year", "Leverage", Warm Bodies, "Married to the Mob", Riddick, Explorers, "American Pie 2", "A Serious Man", "The Girl Next Door". He says the problem isn't sex or nudity in movies, but that voyeurism can be consensual. And some examples are provided, but I don't think I'll list them. I'm focusing on the non-consensual examples, and damn, there are a lot of them. I've left out a lot of what McIntosh says just to list clips, and I'm not nearly done yet. There's also Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Amelie. He talks about how it's not just the onscreen characters that are problematic; movies/shows are filmed specifically for the audience to engage in voyeurism. This can involve "the male gaze". More examples include "Sneakers", "Octopussy", Bates Motel, "Grown Ups", "Dreamland". And the perspectives we're sharing are those of the male characters. "Blue Velvet", "Pam & Tommy", "The Man with the Golden Gun". Despite the fact that actresses have consented to the way they're presented onscreen, it helps normalize nonconsensual behavior. "Superhero Movie", "Tommy Boy", "Wet Hot American Summer". It can also be problematic for the characters being spied upon to be conventionally unattractive (which reminds me of the "Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs, part 2" essay), as in "Roger Rabbit", or the victim to turn out to be a man (for the purposes of transphobic jokes), as in "Little Nicky". Some examples of voyeurism are portrayed as rites of passage in coming of age stories, including "Radio Days", "Saint Ralph", "The Get Down", "Inventing the Abbotts", "Chasing Wonders", "Malena", "Meet Bill", "Brighton Beach Memoirs", "Detroit Rock City", "The Virgin Suicides", "Summer of 84". He also talks about a TV show called "Ways of Seeing", but I didn't entirely get that. There's just so much being said about spying on women, power dynamics, etc., that I'm not even mentioning (which is probably good, because I don't want to spoil the entire essay). More examples include "Once Upon a Time in America", Twilight, "Are You Here". McIntosh also quotes an essay called "Intrusions", by Melissa Febos. There are some examples of movies in which women are portrayed as wanting to be spied on, including "Phffft", "American Beauty", "Staten Island Summer". There's also the false idea that men can't control themselves. And the false idea that men are the victims of women tempting them to watch. There's The Monster Squad, "Body Double", "Horrible Bosses", The Crush, "Carlito's Way", Top Gun, Superbad, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", "We're No Angels", Family Matters, "Big Time Adolescence", The Flash. There are also gender flips of the trope, which is just as bad, including "Shadow and Bone", Spider-Man: Far From Home, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Still more examples of men's voyeurism of women include "Euphoria", "13 Reasons Why", "Stargirl", "Sex Education", "Dickinson". One example of a guy calling out a guy for sharing pictures comes from "Normal People". And... yeah, that's more than enough listing of things. As so often is the case, it just feels like I should make clear, as the essays do, how horribly prevalent this kind of thing is. I swear I've left out a little bit, at least. But anyway... the point, is spying on people or sharing pictures they've shared with you, without their consent, is utterly unacceptable. And if you see someone doing such things, you should call that shit out.
Everyone Everywhere Needs Waymond Wang (18:48)
This is about a character from the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. There are clips from other movies and stuff, but I don't feel the need to specify any of them. It's mostly about showing typical Hollywood stereotypes of the ludicrous concept of alpha and beta males. Waymond initially seems rather like a "beta male", but by the end of the movie... our estimation of him changes without anything about him actually changing. And I guess that's all I want to say. But it's a really great essay about a really great character in a really great movie.
Marvel's Defenders of the Status Quo (21:58)
This video essay references countless movies and shows from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's about how heroes react to (evil) threats to the status quo but don't really try to achieve any meaningful change to the problems that are part of the status quo itself. That's pretty much it. It's not a very original point (and in fact McIntosh mentions a specific work that inspired this video). But it is a good point. It's not going to make me stop loving Marvel movies, though.
In Defense of Disney's Strange Solarpunk World (16:10)
This video is about how the movie Strange World fits into the emerging solarpunk genre, which is sort of an antithesis to the dystopian genre. The essay mentions numerous movies and other things that are examples of both the solarpunk and dystopian genres, and says that more of the former is necessary to spur people to action, as the latter may cause people to see a post-apocalyptic future as inevitable. But solarpunk provides hope that a better world is achievable. I don't want to say any more about the essay, as it involves a lot of spoilers for "Strange World", but it is, as always, truly excellent, and inspiring.
Searching for Humanity in Fortnite's Battle Royale (30:17)
This is about an experiment in the game Fortnite (which I've never played) to play without killing any other players. I'm not sure what else to say about it, except that there are comparisons to "Lord of the Flies" (which I have read) and "Battle Royale" (which I haven't seen, but have wanted to see for quite awhile). Even without knowing much about Fortnite, it's an interesting study in human motivations and tendencies.