Monday, November 17, 2008
What I Learned From Watching Bill Maher
Thanks to the heightened interest in the election I found myself watching more television news and political comedy shows than ever. Usually the bulk of my television watching habits encompass a smattering of a few weekly series, PBS and a LOT of cooking and design shows. I usually record them and transfer them to my laptop, edit and burn to DVD so I have a series of shows from chefs all around the world. I really like Australian Chef Kylie Kwong whose selection of seafood is prepared in ways I don't think I have the expertise to try yet.
I'm preparing for when I have my dream kitchen with a center island, 6 burner stove (Viking or La Cornue?), copper/aluminum cookware from France, built-in fireplace with bay windows overlooking the water and all the kitchen electrics to rival a restaurant. If you're gonna dream you might as well dream big, right? I think it's good to dip our toes in unfamiliar waters. We can't always hit the ball out of the park at first swing.
Which brings me to this week's episode. I find the comic funny at times and irritating at others, but he doesn't go so far off the ledge to turn me off completely. He has issues with how he expresses his disdain for the actions of people who are a. female and b. religious that he doesn't agree with. He tends to lump all people who have a religious tradition as being one in same and as overzealous. When he criticizes women he focuses it through a gender-based lens.
How many times do we make sweeping generalities of people we disagree with? Sometimes we're so focused on getting our point across and being right our reactions are unduly harsh. You lose people who might agree with you in theory but cringe at the heat of your anger about it. I also believe it displays an underlying problem of unresolved conflicts that have nothing to do with the matter at hand.
I also realized this show is meant for entertainment purposes. Not education. Not reform. Why didn't I realize that before? Well the host is intelligent and has a variety of guests representing both major political parties, journalists and celebrities. At the very least I get to see representatives from other states that I wouldn't be aware of otherwise. I think this is a great way to be an informed citizen. The thing that is missing is real public discourse.
When I hear the same Republican talking points from their assigned people even after the results of the election, it disheartens me. When I hear a celebrity who voted for Obama (as if that was some great thing they did) talk about how he had been leaning toward McCain because he's an honorable person (barf) and how he ran a noble campaign it really pisses me off. I want to remind them our President-Elect has had the largest number of death threats EVER and that's partially due to how the loser ran his losing campaign by calling for harm to his political rival. What honor lies in that?
Then I realize what's missing from the 3-panelist format are real people. People who have opinions that don't fit into the round hole. Real activists. Righteous anger vs. intimidation tactics. I then wonder why did I expect that from a television program and I don't have an answer for that. Then I remind myself HBO is owned by Time Warner and it's all corporate BS anyway. Our information is still being filtered and sanitized and I really want that to change. I don't want to rely on alternate sources with low wattage and limited coverage. I want some form of the Fairness Doctrine reinstated by the FCC. I want independent voices being heard. I want the path less travelled. We need it in our personal lives and we definitely need it in our gov't and media.
Now this segment between Bill and Sean Combs (whatever he's calling himself these days) was probably the highlight for me. There was a depth and a humility I don't recall seeing in this man before. He is certainly not someone I'd consider a moral role model by any means, but he surprised me. It just proves we have many facets to ourselves and there's always an opportunity to grow.