When Netflix and Chill Met Despina Stokou and White Lies
Obviously, many things crossed my senses last week. Two of such things stuck with me and somehow connect to each other – or rather it is time we connect them with each other. Two things that even the bluest of oceans could not cover up with serenity and peace.
One. I was looking at popular culture to find ideas for new artworks and finally figured out why I am appalled by “The Big Bang Theory”.
Two. I was looking at contemporary art to find ideas for exhibitions to write about on my blog and came across, once again, Despina Stokou’s works, i.e. her current exhibition White Lies at Derek Eller Gallery, New York.
Let’s talk about Sex―ism
Step by step, you might, you should, understand why today my writing tone is so somber, not funny and surely not cheerful. We’ll come back to that manner another time. On my mind right now are issues I am dealing with not only as human participant in this game called The World We Live In but as an artist as well. This is not a personal struggle, even though it can easily feel like it. This is a global struggle, or at least it should be. Looking at Despina’s art and reading her press release soothes me because it makes me feel less alone, but it also angers me because it so harshly reminds me that we still have to stand up against all this BS and that we as artists still have and see the urge to make artworks discussing that same BS. There are many, often interlinked, issues that keep our minds and creating hands restless. But because of my most recent research, let’s stay with one of those many for today: sexism.
Let’s Talk About You and Me
Ever since (hopefully before that, come to think of it) “Grab them by the pussy” got publicized, “everyone” has been freaking out about Trump and his sexist and misogynistic behavior – and rightly so. All the while millions of people – and I’m just going to throw this out there: including millions of those who are outraged by Trump’s sexist behavior and comments – happily keep on watching and laughing along TV series like “The Big Bang Theory”.
As an artist who utilizes figures from popular culture and mainstream media in her artworks, I’m always curious about hypes in this field and hence a few years ago watched some short clips of TBBT as well. But I was always in awe after seeing those snippets, I just couldn’t warm up to the show – but at the same time I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly caused that feeling. Eventually I just let the series circle out of my (oh so naïve) mind and artworks. As I said earlier on, recently I decided to look into this very show again and for the first time actually watched some full episodes. O.M.G.
Before I go on writing my heart out, let’s all keep in mind that I am talking about one of the most popular sitcoms in the US right now. A show airing for more than a decade. If you’re not familiar with the series, now is the time to google, youtube it and such.
Here’s Why I’m So Upset
When watching TBBT, it appears that the message throughout the show is this: as long as you are a nerd, due to the characteristics (read: stigmata) set upon you (not only by IRL prejudice but also distinctly by the show itself), you are not marked as sexual predator but sexual novice that deserves empathy. As a consequence you are deemed as “harmless”, meaning that due to your cute nerdy behavior you have received a universal “OK” to sexually harass, patronize and degrade women. (Hint: no, it’s not)
Or in other words, what such sitcoms show us is that as long as sexist behavior is aimed at making us laugh, it’s ok. As long as it is an overly dorky, sexually inexperienced person saying:
“You know, she [Marie Curie] was kind of an honorary man. She had a penis made of science.”
“A woman is like an egg salad sandwich on a warm Texas day. Full of eggs and only appealing for a short time.”
it’s acceptable, right?. (Hint: I don’t think so.)
I’m only gently touching the iceberg here. Yes, there is way more. And if you want (and you should) a more thorough view on sexism and The Big Bang Theory, have a look at the video The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory by Pop Culture Detective (aka Jonathan McIntosh) – and while you’re at it, also check out his follow up video The Complicity of Geek Masculinity on the Big Bang Theory.
It’s Time to Put One and Two Together
As important it is to call out people in our society for their sexist and misogynist behavior, we should not excuse such behavior just because it’s meant to entertain us. It is time to connect what we criticize in real life with what is causing some “good laughs” in popular culture.
The Silver Lining of This Blog Post
Today, I talked much about a TV series and my feelings regarding it and little about the artist and the artworks that motivated me to write down these thoughts. But I believe, that this is the power – and the beauty – of art. That it can inspire you, the contemplator, to question what you have long taken for granted or deemed ok, to start new discussions and to seek change.
What’s up Next?
For my own sake, yes, yes and of course yours as well, next time we’ll try and go back to a place of tranquility.
Alright, let’s have it out – your thoughts, please!
Don’t be shy and leave a reply!