Sunday, June 04, 2000


More real life than we need

        Television is no friend to women, according to two recent studies. One study says we are treated disrespectfully. The other says we are treated unrealistically.

        Hey, it's got to be one or the other, right?

        Teams of feminist analysts were asked by the National Organization for Women to rate programs, documenting incidents of violence, gender composition/stereotypes. “Most of the blockbuster movies chosen for airings in prime time appeared geared toward males, with glorified violence and degrading humor central to their content,” NOW reports.

        (Note to feminist analysts: assuming that glorified violence and degrading humor appeals to men is, well, disrespectful.)

        The other study, by University of Dayton scholars, scrutinized daytime soaps and found them to be unrealistic. This is shocking news.

        As it turns out the UD researchers were not simply reporting that All My Children's Erica Kane has made her way down the aisle seven or eight more times than the average woman does and that nobody ever has a bad hair day in Port Charles. The university study examined story lines about women's health.

        Even the most casual observer probably has probably noticed that soap opera women are more likely to be afflicted with amnesia than colorectal cancer.

        “Infertility, migraines, suicide, leukemia, eating disorders and cervical cancer are not dealt with nearly as frequently on soaps as in real life,” says Teresa L. Thompson, professor of communication at the university.

        (Note to UD researchers: Traffic jams, constipation, acne, stupefyingly boring jobs and male pattern baldness also are not dealt with nearly as frequently on soaps as in real life.)

        A recent unscientific study conducted on the couch in front of my television finds a disturbing trend toward more realism on the tube than I actually find entertaining.

        Something called Survivor makes me long for McHale's Navy reruns. It's supposed to be about real people — or as real as can be a person who agrees to go off to a deserted island with a bunch of strangers and no Port-o-Let. They are pitted against one another for a million dollars.

        Right away, you know this is real TV because all the best-looking people keep their shirts on.

        And the others don't.

        The 16 campers include Susan, a truck driver who is, like, hoping to be the first in line for rat stew. Richard, a corporate trainer, squints into the sun a lot and tells the camera what everybody is doing wrong.

        Rudy is a cranky ex-Navy SEAL who orders his team around with no apparent useful result.

        Ramona, a biochemist, gets seasick on the raft trip to shore and later speaks lovingly of the air conditioning she left behind. My personal favorite was Sonja, a 62-year-old breast cancer survivor and ukulele player. After everybody got through the early physical stuff — building latrines and flexing muscles — she struck me as the one who would could keep them all from killing each other.

        But Sonja fell during one of the physical competitions.

        Then her team was required to vote one member off the island. They could have bounced the thoroughly disagreeable Richard. They might have chosen Susan, who combs her hair with a knife. Or Rudy the 72-year-old barking SEAL.

        But this was real.

        Sonja was the first to go.

        E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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