“Looking” for Identity: Gender, Sexuality, and a Brief History of LGBT America

looking-raul-castillo

When HBO premiered the first episode of its new series Looking in mid-January, the show, as noted by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour “launched a 1,000 think pieces across the internet.” While Looking remains a compelling, if admittedly “low key” viewing experience, noted one critic, the show’s existence points to a more complicated and nuanced reality regarding 21st century gay identity.  How did we get here and how have ideas about homosexuality and identity been formed? The answer, one might argue, hinges on a complex mix of personal and group agency, popular culture and public discourse, and government, local and federal, regulation. As established by Josh Sides in his excellent 2010 work … [Read more...]

Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves: Best of AHA 2014, Part 2

DC

In part II of ToM’s AHA 2014 coverage our correspondents begin with papers on the efforts of Latin American students, workers, and rebels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970 to use non-violent activism as a means to gain greater rights and autonomy in the face of increasingly repressive regimes.  We end with talks on media bias, conservatism, Rupert Murdoch/Fox News and the NAACP. What does it mean if we have more voices and greater diversity with those appearing in the media, but more and more of the airwaves under the control of fewer and fewer individuals? Remember, we went to the AHA so you didn’t have too.  For Part I of AHA 2014 - Bed-Stuy, The Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus … [Read more...]

Frank Costanza and the War on Christmas

frank-costanza-jerry-stiller-festivus

Bill O’Reilly recently thought he had liberals pinned in their remorseless war on Christmas: the namby-pamby secular humanists who insist on saying “Happy holidays” so as not to offend people of other faiths had no ground to stand on this year. Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving in 2013, meaning “There are no other holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year,” O’Reilly snorted.  Thus, there are no grounds to say “Happy Holidays” in December.  There is only one holiday, the mac-daddy of all holidays, the reigning champ—Christmas—and every right-thinking American has to say “Merry Christmas,” or else. Elsewhere on Fox News, Sarah Palin was squawking about how much she loves the … [Read more...]

Nothing Is Impossible, Except for Dinosaurs (and Smart Television)

Jack and Liz - 30 Rock

30 Rock is kind of like a microbrew. Ten or fifteen years ago, most Americans didn’t know there was an option beyond Budweiser or, if you were feeling really adventurous, Heineken.  Due to restrictive local regulations and the apathy of the American beer industry, we didn’t know that you could pack a lot more flavor (and alcohol) into a 12 oz bottle. But once you had a Ranger IPA or a Bell’s Two Hearted, why would you want to go back to Yuengling? The same goes for TV. The sitcom has rarely been celebrated as an artistic medium, with the exception of the occasional M*A*S*H* or Seinfeld, but a number of new, smarter shows hit the airwaves in the last decade. Series like Community and 30 … [Read more...]

A Mediating Mess: How American Post-WWII Media Undermined Democracy

kerry_mission

Editors notes: This review originally appeared in The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture (5.2, pages 254 - 257).  Unfortunately, in its original publication, the review  misidentified Professor Morgan as Edmund rather than Edward. These errors  have been corrected here. Apologies to Prof. Edward P. Morgan for the mishap. When the Swift Boat controversy engulfed the 2004 election campaign, America’s obsession with the Vietnam War once again reared its ugly head.  Democratic candidate and decorated Vietnam Veteran John Kerry’s staunch opposition to the war upon his return from deployment drew harsh critiques from conservatives in the early 1970s and in 2004.  The “swift … [Read more...]

The History Channel: Selling the Past in the Age of Reality TV

chumlee pawn stars

For a website dedicated to the concept of “historiography for the masses,” perhaps it was only a matter of time before the contemporary History Channel would be addressed. Once maligned for its excessive focus on World War II and military history, the History Channel of the past nonetheless remained fairly dedicated to its core concept. Historical documentaries, such as the Engineering an Empire series, The Crusades: Crescent and the Cross, The American Revolution, and Ancient Rome: Story of an Empire, tackled serious historical topics with sophistication and insight. However, following the tried and true model of channels like MTV and VH1, with their respective series the Jersey Shore and … [Read more...]

Long Island Ice Tea: Immigration, Gender, and the 2012 Presidential Debate

I believe that's my Holiday Inn suite sir

How in God’s name did we end up here?  Who decided to hold a presidential debate in the lobby of the Hempstead Holiday Inn?  And what are we to make of the two grey haired alpha males battling over who gets to sing “My Way” to this oddly accented (“Govna”) crowd of Long Islanders? Thank God moderator Candy Crowley handed out Mr. Goodbar-style beat downs on time management; Philadelphia’s Andy Reid ought to take notes. Once again, ToM’s editors found it in their narrow little hearts to throw me a bone.  Admittedly, I’ve never been one for town hall meetings, especially ones featuring questions from the most nebulous of all beasts, the “undecided voter.”  I have my doubts about these people … [Read more...]

Why Big Bird Matters

big bird on snl

Though placing a distant third behind Mom and apple pie, there’s still not much that’s more American than Big Bird.  Sesame Street represented a do-gooder legacy of the 1960s, proposing that mass media could do more than titillate, distract, and sell soap—it could educate our children and inculcate values of decency, respect, and mutual tolerance that commercial media neglected in the pursuit of profit.  Indeed, the widespread popularity of characters like Big Bird and Elmo represented a triumph of government—something publicly funded could be just as popular as anything privately produced, if not more so.[1]  It could even be the toy of the year, sought after by harried moms and dads in the … [Read more...]

Conventional Wisdom: Surviving the Political Theatre of Conventions

Chris Christie opens up for Opie at the RNC

Well, thank God football is back. Tony Romo took a dump on my beloved Giants but I’ve been so starved for entertainment I’ve been watching political conventions.  Last week, I listened to some trust fund lady talk about tuna fish sandwiches, basement apartments, and Harvard in one sentence as a plea to normality.  Tonight, once Romo decided to pistol whip the Giants' defensive unit, I turned on the DNC where the owner of Costco gave a speech that was the aural equivalent of shopping there: bulky and unexciting.  Excuse me sir, can I get the four gallon tub of mayo and your political remedy for a faltering economy?  At least it didn’t resemble the Klan rally of the GOP; all those women and … [Read more...]

Olympian Hate: One Man’s Discomfort with the Olympics

Football Night In America

So last Wednesday night, I was sitting in one of the swankier bars in my chosen city of residence, attempting to quietly and unassumingly drown the demons from my work week when lo and behold a cry of Game of Thrones proportions arose from the back of the bar.  Like a banshee unleashed from centuries of torturing the souls of mere peasants, the roar swept over the bar, dropping its happy hour petulance into my libation.  Amid the ruckus, I wondered what could have created such a commotion, an unbridled expression of joy: a fucking bronze medal in synchronized diving. Male, female, who cares. I repeat: synchronized diving. Far be it from me to dismiss the efforts of these athletes—undoubtedly … [Read more...]

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