Featuring special guest Black Dahlia Parton
The year 2000 carried with it so much promise: A brighter future, the end of the world as we know it, and widespread panic as people realized they will eventually have to differentiate between 1920 and 2020. Newspapers printed the last original Peanuts comic strip, the first long-term crew arrived at the International Space Station, and in the dark recesses of the fledgling internet, a site called Old Man Murray published the Crate Review System, a satirical video game review article.
The Crate Review System, also known as “Start-to-Crate”, made light of the most aggravating and persistent stain in the rich tapestry of video games: the ubiquitous crate. Every game has them, and to the sophisticated gamer, they stick out like a sore thumb. The Start-to-Crate system rated games based on how long it took for the player to find a crate. The longer it took, the better the game.
I had no interest in Peanuts at the time and didn’t give a hoot about the ISS, but I was a hardcore gamer and loved this article. Inspired by this jab at a beloved medium, I now propose the Start to Hate Review System. The concept is simple: Rate media based on how long it takes to encounter something bigoted. The longer it takes, the better the media. No surprise, the Crate Review System itself doesn’t fare well.
This system ignores content that is about bigotry–for example, the message in American History X is against white supremacy, so it might survive this metric unscathed. (Or it might not. I haven’t watched it in a long time and don’t feel like crushing my soul again to find out.) Instead we will focus on media where bigotry is present in the author’s voice. The Sound of Music gets a pass, Mein Kampf does not. (See? I took care of Godwin’s Law for you right at the beginning. Never say I don’t love my readers.)
In my reviews I will focus on transmisogyny and heterosexism, not because they are the most important forms of bigotry, but because I am affected by them firsthand and know them best. I’m going to pass over casual cissexism (like “vagina” as a stand-in for “woman”) and only count the more overt cases of hatred. Otherwise I’d only get to watch five seconds of any show. You might give the same media a different rating, and I encourage you to do so! Nobody owns the Start-to-Hate rating system. It’s open-source GYAAAAAHHHH WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU for the masses.
My partner in hate-crime is Black Dahlia Parton, who contacted me under the misguided notion that I have a solid readership and a strong work ethic. We all make mistakes.
Since this rating system was inspired by a video game article, it’s fitting we start with a video game:
Operation Flashpoint: Red River [link]
Offending moment: “Back then, the Afghans went crying to the Russians for help.” “Fags.”
Amy: Nothing promises an enlightened point of view like a console first-person shooter. Especially if it’s from the subgenre I like to call Bloody Screen, So Real*. I first played this game against my will as a QA tester. The second playthrough never happened, because I respect myself as an individual.
A mere thirty-one seconds in, we hit paydirt. Or shitdirt. Pukedirt? I don’t know what it is, but it’s some kind of dirt. And not the nutrient-rich, grow-some-petunias-in-your-wholesome-garden kind of dirt. It’s more like dirt directly adjacent to Chernobyl. This isn’t just shit, it’s mutated shit. As an added bonus, they slipped in a “tranny” joke a few minutes after the cutscene. They don’t mention “realtime in-game cissexism” on the back of the box, because they want to surprise you with that extra value.
BDP: I haven’t played any war games since Advance Wars: Dual Strike for the DS. I don’t like who I become when I play war games. In the tofuspace I get upset with my roommate when he accidentally steps on a snail. In Advance Wars I always pick Sami and flood the map with disposable infantry. I played in a tournament once, and the other person was playing tanks, and they were mowing over my guys but not getting far because they were surrounded, like maybe 15 to 1, by infantry and I just started shouting “CHOKE ON IT! CHOKE ON IT!”
Protip, babies: It is never, ever, okay for a grown person to scream “choke on it” to a 13 year old kid, no matter how public the setting or how obvious you make it you are not a man or in (obvious) possession of male anatomy.
Amy: I feel obligated to point out that the original Operation Flashpoint was developed by a different company called Bohemia Interactive Software. Codemasters owned the name and nothing else. Back then, Codemasters ditched Bohemia and went crying to their lawyers for help. Breeders.
The real Operation Flashpoint now goes by the name ArmA. It’s a military simulator with the same amount of overcompensatory HOOAH but slightly fewer tranny jokes (as of this writing). If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s worth playing on consensual terms. (Unlike Red River, which is arguably less humane than waterboarding.)
There is only one other possible interpretation of this game: It is a beautifully written piece of satire, but average gamerbros in the US are so ignorant none of them have noticed yet. Either way, I weep for my country.
* Duty Calls was a short parody game created to advertise Bulletstorm, a title that is notable in that it is actually worse than the games it tries to lampoon. Between that and Duke Nukem Forever, I believe we have solid proof the videogame industry has achieved the Machismo Singularity of infinite douchebaggery.
The Colbert Report: October 3rd, 2012 [link]
Offending moment: “You’ll not only have six-pack abs, you’ll have double-D breasts.”
Amy: As soon as he mentioned hormones, I started my mental countdown to “dude looks like a lady”. Stephen did not disappoint in his ability to disappoint. Lowlights include “dudes with breasts are funny” and the lingering feeling that I hate jokey cissexist liberals and never want to watch this show again.
BDP: You know what I’m “starting to hate”? White people who unironically refer to being part of the “Colbert Nation”.
Hundreds of years from now, historians will look back and say: we’re not sure who started it, but we do know that one group of privileged white men rose up to ironically chaff and deride another group of privileged white men. Many Eagle tears were shed in those dark, confusing days. It is unclear which group of white men had the power and which group of white men had slightly more power.
Look, I may be a simple country goth-cowgirl-social-justice-advocate-and-punk-frontwoman, but I do think that ol’ “well it’s comedy” excuse is a tad bit exhausted. That dog ain’t hunting no more. When the comedians are fulfilling the role of journalist, as darn tootin’ illustrated by Jon Stewart recently debating Bill O’Reilly, I think it’s fair to hold them to the same standards of journalism and human decency as those “real” journalists who don’t have a staff of English majors analyzing John Boehner’s speeches for zingers and fart jokes.
Amy: Even just as a comedian, tranny jokes are the epitome of laziness. They’re the old, rotting, pre-packaged meatloaf of jokes. Cis comedians who tell tranny jokes are like the neighbor’s dog that keeps shitting on your lawn. The poor thing is too clueless to know any better, but it’s still gonna get a newspaper roll to the head until it learns.
BDP: I’ve never tried it. The meatloaf, I mean. Shit, a newspaper’s like the least offensive thing I’ve been struck with in a bound position. Here’s a tip, kids: if your safeword is a word from the Bible, have a backup safeword in case you get hit with a Bible. She thought I was having a revelation or some shit.
I’m afraid to try meatloaf. It’s not just the whole “not eating meat” thing. I’m afraid eating it will undo me, as a person. I’ve never had this moment, I guess you’d call it an epiphany, where I realized I was on the wrong side of a fight. I have been as staunchly anti-everything that sucks in the world as I could be given the scope of my experience. And I’m not bragging about it. I don’t want a cookie. I’m actually a little sad about it. Get a group of queermos together. Take away the Doctor Who or menstrual blood art to distract everyone and someone always always always starts talking about what it was like before they “saw the light”.
“Oh my god I remember when it used to repulse me to see two men holding hands and I once pushed a girl into the wall in high school because she had a shaved head but look at me now.”
And you know what, everyone else starts fucking congratulatin’ and validating that person. Oh, good for you!
We occupy a society that values the atoner over the lifelong devotee. Where a Republican congressman who makes one off-the-cuff comment supporting gay marriage gets more exposure than the oeuvre of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
John McCain and Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin will, at the wane of their political careers, yield to progress and confess their lifelong support for LGBT equality, and twenty or thirty years after they’ve died history will remember them as brave mavericks who defied their social stratums to fight for equality.
If I have but a taste of that Hostess heart attack cake, I might just snap. Because to me, meatloaf is this avatar, a concentrated dose of the absurdity that serves as the backbone of American culture. And it will break me. Suddenly it will all make sense. Imperialism. Fossil fuels. Baseball. Exhausted by my anger and frustration, I will surrender. I will allow the American Way to flow through me, and I will become the Locutos of the community; the ex-Gay, the convert. I will become some dark and twisted version of “the atoner”. I will finally get that validation that those of us who entered the fight on the right side may never get.
And I don’t want that. I want to be buried by my real friends, my real family. My fellow queers. People who knew me as I was. Who know that my dying wish is to be buried with a giant stone horse head poised over my grave to scare me from ever coming out of the coffin, should I be reanimated.
So lead me not to temptation, and deliver me from that pound cake of rotting meat.
Amy: I never knew you had such strong feelings about meatloaf. I’m also not sure I can eat meatloaf ever again.
Maybe I’m overreacting. About the show, I mean. Not the meatloaf. Colbert plays a fake conservative, so it only makes sense for him to leverage questionable humor as he pretends to be the “bad guy”. The Daily Show, on the other hand, plays the straight man. If I want less bigoted humor maybe I should turn there.
The Daily Show: October 3rd, 2012 [link]
Offending moment: “It’s like telling the host of a dinner party, ‘I’m certain your wife is a female’. Saying it out loud feels wrong, no matter how large her hands are.”
Amy: Oops. How embarrassing. Same day, same tripe. He went with the “big hands” thing? Really? I mean, come on.
If their humor is anything to go by, cliches are in style now. I want to get in on this cash cow, so here’s a cliche opening of my own: If I had a dime for every time Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert made fun of trans people in the name of liberalism, I could buy Comedy Central, fire both of them, and then pay for med school tuition ten times over so the writing team itself could perform SRS on me.
Even though The Daily Show scored worse, in both cases it was Colbert who expelled the stink. I’m declaring Jon the winner by TKO. This supports my long-held belief that The Daily Show is less glitzy but slightly better than The Colbert Report, much like how a solitary turd is better than a turd on top of a Lady Gaga album.
Isn’t making fun of Lady Gaga itself a cliche, you ask?
No, it’s new and edgy. Just ask Colbert, he’s clearly the expert here.
BDP: Lady Gaga is the eggs of the LGBT community. You know how we’re always going back and forth on whether eggs are good for you or bad for you? I feel like we’re forever in this debate of whether she’s good for the community or bad. First she’s a great ally. Then she’s appropriating us. Then she’s one of us! Now she’s an Uncle Bruce or whatever the feminine equivalent of that is. An Aunt Sheila? I just wish we could make up our minds about her so I can go back to challenging Dan Savage to a fight and threatening to put guyliner on Ted Nugent.
Saturday Night Live: Daniel Craig [link]
Score: 11:49 (Note: Hulu cut the opening monologue, either because they hate their target demographic or they wanted to spare my suffering. Thanks Hulu.)
Offending moment: “I bet she’s got a big old penis under there, too.”
Amy: Today’s moral lesson, courtesy of SNL: Heckling women at a construction site is good fun, but only if it’s done right. Sexual harassment is a-ok, but a chick with a dick? That’s just too far, dude.
I have literally been threatened with physical attacks by construction workers. Literally. In real life and everything. Because they assumed I had a “big old penis under there”. Thanks for getting the whole country to laugh at me and all women like me, and to normalize this kind of harassment. Really appreciate it.
BDP: Once, in Oakland, I was in this corner store, a few blocks from my friend Miles’ apartment. I was somewhere between “dude, when you think about it, milkshakes are kind of backwards, in theory” and “oh my god I can’t feel my chin, I must have a ghost chin, I’m part ghost” on the scale of highness. I’m browsing for ramen noodles and diet coke when this guy in a wheelchair rolls up to me.
He gave me the up and down, saw I was wearing my cowboy boots and starts shouting “Hey cowgirl, hey! Sit on my lap white girl! Sit on my lap!” He was black, and I was so fuzzed out at the moment I was too worried about coming off as racist or ableist to assert my right to say “no” or “help”, because I’m an able-bodied white woman and deep down, I worry about that shit, because white women are taught in this society that it’s worse to be thought or called a racist than to actually be racist, and in that moment I simply did not have the clarity of mind to call myself out on my white woman tears.
Feeling there was no other option, like I should give him a reason to say “no” so I don’t have to, like the way you don’t want to go out so you just suggest to your partner/roommate a bunch of shitty ideas so they decide to stay home and watch Netflix, I lifted my dress to display the bulge in my panties.
Do people still even tuck anymore? I think I did it, once, maybe. I almost bought underwear that tucked for you, but if I owned a pair I would always worry in the back of my mind that one day I would shit my pants or some other emergency and then the only pair of clean underwear I’d have for the day is the magic tucks my dick underwear, and that’s just not a chance I’m willing to take.
Anyway, I show him my bulge, he looks up at me, or rather my eyes, because my bulge is also me, and then looks back at my bulge and says “I, uh, retract my statement.”
The moral of this story is: if she had a big ol’ penis down there, Daniel Craig, she would have shown it to you. If she was me. And high.
And what the fuck is wrong with that screenshot? IS HE FLEXING HIS NECK? IS HE FLEXING HIS NECK WHILE TALKING ABOUT A WOMAN’S THEORETICAL PENIS?
Amy: Mmm. Theoretical penis. *eyes glaze over for a moment*
Amy: In the sketch after that, less-than-sexy Bond girls try and fail to come-hither, because you should laugh at women you don’t find attractive. After parading several impersonations of “less than sexy” actresses, including Jodi Foster and Ellen Degeneres, the sketch culminates in a scene where the Bond girl is played by a guy in bad drag. CUZ DUDES MAKE UGLY CHICKS, RIGHT? HAR HAR WHERE’S MY GOLDEN GLOBES? GET IT? GLOBES?
The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and Saturday Night Live: A trifecta of quasi-progressive shitstains. According to the Start-to-Hate Rating System (patent pending, so watch out Apple), SNL is the best show of the three. Finally, conclusive proof there is no god.
BDP: Saturday Night Live gets my vote because it helped me through a period of confusion and uncertainty. I was at this place where I didn’t know if I liked girls, or guys, or both, and then one night I watched Julia Stiles host the show and I beat my meat like I caught it breaking into my car. Really cleared that up for me.
11 was a pretty good year.
Arrested Development [link]
Offending moment: Dude, like, gay people are so funny. But you can’t complain when we make fun of them because it’s ironic! Want some PBR?
Amy: Some of you may have been wondering, “Is my favorite shitty first-person shooter better or worse than Arrested Development?” Now you know. They’re both equally… whatever the hell they are.
BDP: Arrested Development is, in fact, a reality show for affluent white folk. Every episode the Bluths offend every non-rich cis white hetero within earshot and suffer no long-lasting consequences of their actions. In the episode where Lindsay Bluth kidnaps her mother’s maid (a woman of color) and forces her to clean her house, if you listen very closely, you will hear the very distinct call of that most elusive species of laughs, it’s-funny-because-its-true-chuckleguffawica.
Amy: I didn’t know how to rate this show, because it presents such a wide array of “ironic” humor that totally points out how tolerant we are because we don’t pull punches srsly bigotry is bad you guise oh by the way laugh at this racial stereotype. So I chose to not pull any punches myself, and went with the first lolwut I encountered. Spoiler alert: They eventually introduce a running gag where a character is called a “shemale”.
BDP: What really bothers me about this parade of tranny jokes is that it implies that trans women are inherently gross and disgusting, but as Steve Holt’s obvious attraction to Lindsay (who he believes is trans) shows, this is demonstrably false, across the board on most media. From trans porn to COPS, there is a huge demand for trans women’s bodies in media. I guarantee you one of the sex workers depicted in the opening credits of Law & Order SVU is intended to be trans.
That’s not because trans women are gross. When something is gross, you don’t try to fit it into every nugget of media you have. Trans women were on fucking Cake Boss, okay? OKAY? You don’t see trans women on Fear Factor. You don’t see them in Faces of Death. Let’s just admit this whole “trans women are gross” joke is a myth, perpetrated by the very demographic (cis het men) who desire and find us attractive.
In fact, to further prove my point, here are some messages I’ve gotten on my OkCupid from straight men:
“I really like a tranny who has a very dainty body and a huge dick. You seem a little husky in your pictures, I’m hoping your dick is proportionate.”
Did I mention that I’m listed as a lesbian?
“hey do you still get hard because I love it when a shemale comes in my mouth i’m also really attracted to facial hair on a woman”
And my account settings are such that straight people aren’t even supposed to see my profile?
“i wanna see who’s dick is bigger and whoever’s is biggest can fuck the other what do you say baby”
ADMIT YOU WANT SOME OF THIS SHIT, EVERY STRAIGHT GUY EVER.
Amy: ITS FUNNY THO CUZ THEYRE NOT REAL WOMEN. That’s the message every comedy show (and straight cis dude) keeps trying to tell itself until it becomes true. O EMMY WHERE ART THOU?
There’s a special circle of Hell for comedians who think “it’s ok to be a dick because I make fun of everybody”. (I’m an atheist, but I make an exception for Hell, just because I get mildly turned on by the image of Matt and Trey Parker, covered head-to-toe in fiery blisters, being force-fed the still-beating heart of Sarah Silverman by Satan himself.)
Amy: I learned a lot from this brief exercise. For instance, there is a reason I no longer watch television. Also, I don’t have to try to find cissexist content, all I have to do is hit “play” and it comes to me. Maybe this isn’t a symptom of a greater social disease. Maybe producers have a secret agenda to make life easy for sociologists. I don’t know, I’m keeping my options open.
BDP: Where are my fucking mango-flavored dental dams? I was promised mango-flavored dental dams.