Elections 2012, Coming This Fall to a United States Near You!

May is a bittersweet month; in the nice weather I can eat lunch outside and avoid my least favorite subway stations by walking, but at the same time I have to say goodbye to the vast  majority my favorite TV shows for nearly 4+ months (or indefinitely, RIP Chicago Code, we barely knew ye.)

Now the Glee kids are coming into town, stuff is happening on Bones (finally!), and as a sick reminder that I have only True Blood to look forward to in the coming months, the big four networks start to publicize their fall lineups by hacking down any under-performers and hyping pilot scripts in development.

But the biggest hit of the 2011/2012 season won’t be a sitcom or drama, like the newest J.J. Abrams venture or The Playboy Club on NBC (really NBC?).

It will be a reality show: The 2012 presidential elections.

As Benjamin Svetkey wrote about on EW’s PopWatch last week, despite the Republican’s weak field of candidates and President Obama’s return to awesomeness following the death of Osama bin Laden, the 2012 election still promises to be an entertaining one.

With this cast of characters how could America not be enthralled: Sarah Palin (and Tina Fey), Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and anyone associated with the Tea Party, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and of course, Donald Trump and that fox that lives on top of his head.

The 2008 elections were no doubt thrilling, with the candidates setting the bar high by poking fun at themselves on Saturday Night Live and appearing on everything from the national news programs in prime time to the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Late Show with David Letterman.  But America can do better.

November 6, 2012 is still 17 months away and there is plenty of time to comment on the dramas of the next presidential election, but with Obama already gearing up a new campaign, releasing not only his long form birth certificate but a video of his actual birth (which we can all thank The Donald for), and Newt announcing his candidacy via Twitter, there is no question that the 2012 election promises to be the stuff of  Hollywood legend.

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Never Talk Politics or Religion.

My Mom always said “never talk politics or religion in mixed company.”  Clearly TV show creators have never heard this saying.

In Season 5 of Bones, the forensic laboratory that provides the background for Fox’s procedural drama, goes about solving crimes with the aid of rotating interns, one of whom is a devout Muslim. In previous episodes the audience sees Arastoo Vaziri taking time from solving murders to pray; as a regular viewer of this show, I often felt that this depiction could be interpreted as the character putting his faith before catching the bad guy.  At a time when Americans are already wary of Islam, the portrayal of a Muslim stopping a criminal investigation so he can worship might not be the best way to encourage familiarity with the religion.  In a fit of anger Vaziri accidently drops his accent and it is revealed that he is not actually Middle Eastern but American-born.  The blog Muslim Media Review explains it best saying, “he reveals that affecting a foreign accent allows him to avoid questions from his mostly nonreligious colleagues about his religion. In other words, scientists would accept that a “fresh off the boat” Third Worlder would cling to archaic religious beliefs but they would be less tolerant of a religious scientist who grew up in the United States. The episode ends with a rather honest conversation about Arastoo’s religious beliefs and practices.”

What could have formally been percieved as a negative portrayal of Muslims became more of a question about the characteristics of the absolutist scientist/atheist.

If you have Netflix, you can view the episode here.

Bones was able to turn around their poor representation of Muslims but this is often not the case when TV shows are dealing with religion.  When it comes to religion, chances are, you will always be offending someone (perhaps sometimes on purpose).  In HBO’s southern vampiric drama True Blood, set in an alternate version of America where vampire’s have “come out of the coffin,” the Fellowship of the Sun mega-church leads the national conversation in anti-vampire politics.

If you are from the south, chances are, you have probably seen an ad somewhat like the picture to the left; mega-churches are a steadily growing enterprise throughout the US.  And we all heard Pat Robertson blame Hurricane Katrina on all the sin in New Orleans — it was God’s wrath and what not.  True Blood‘s creator’s certainly knew who they using as their frame of reference when they wrote the Fellowship of the Sun into the plot, but are the portrayals accurate?  As a liberal who has met my fair share of born-again Christians, I would say yes… to a point.  But this is perhaps when stereotypes go astray — by being too accurate.

Personally, I am a huge fan of True Blood and think the Fellowship of the Sun story arc was a fantastic addition to the second season.  Besides, its HBO, they push buttons.  Why else would you pay for it?