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by Beth Greaves

6 Jul 2010


Family Guy is not what you think. That is, it isn’t if you think what I thought at first: a crude, tactless and brutal cartoon made solely to satisfy a primal juvenile need to laugh at the offensive. No. That is not Family Guy. Is Family Guy crude, tactless, brutal, offensive and juvenile? Often, yes. However, there is something much deeper going on.

To bristle at the ugly stereotypes perpetuated by this cartoon is natural. I cringe at their sly Jews, their effeminate homosexuals and every other offensive stererotype the show parades in front of us. Yet it’s not done in this manner out of racist or homophobic spite. It’s not a marketing tool to brainwash the public with xenophobia.

by Elizabeth Wiggins

2 Jul 2010


The phrase “the art world” can conjure vague, non-specific images: galleries, standing still and speaking in hushed tones, wine, pretension, and climate controlled rooms. For many, “art” in the “high art” sense is not a part of day-to-day life, except on the rare occasions a nearby city has an interesting or controversial exhibit, or when we’re invited to a friend’s art school graduation, and on such occasions, we take the time to browse and ponder art affixed to walls, pedestals, hanging from ceilings… 

Regular exposure to such “institutionalized” art requires, for many, the concentrated effort to go off the beaten path. Luckily for those whose museum attendance record is somewhat lacking, Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist brings that world into our living rooms in a recognizable, Bravo-styled format (Work of Art follows the successful Project Runway/Top Chef reality competition template).  What results is an art competition that marries the highbrow world of finer things with the lowbrow world of reality television for a slightly dramatic, generally pleasant evening of television.

by Crispin Kott

23 Jun 2010


William Shatner’s delivery has long been an over-tapped well of material for hack stand-up comics. But while Captain Kirk has gone under the microscope, his co-stars have often escaped similar scrutiny. For the purposes of this review, the regular crew of the Enterprise gets a pass. After all, they crammed a five year mission into just three seasons of television. Plus, a measured critique would also have to include Chekov’s wig and Spock’s goatee.

Instead, let’s focus on the co-stars, many of whom clearly relished their roles as intergalactic rogues, vagabonds and ragamuffins. So much scenery was chewed by bit players between 1966-69, it’s no wonder the series was forced off the air.

by Elizabeth Wiggins

21 Jun 2010


A tense moment in The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Growing up in New Jersey, jammed all the way out on the East Coast and in between a bunch of people, it’s hard to imagine what life is like in the rest of America. In school, the memorization of the capitals of other states mostly seems like an act of politeness. Sure, the capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne, but it’s not like that knowledge is being stored for an actual trip there. This dynamic of awareness of other place ‘out there’ and standoffishness (who cares?) works in both directions; while New Jerseyans have trouble imagining life elsewhere, the population west of the Delaware River has some ideas about how things go in New Jersey that relate to big hair and strong accents. Until recently, this was all residents of New Jersey had to worry about when defending themselves throughout the United States and abroad. However, the recent focus on New Jersey as a site to mine for reality television gold raises some questions about the tension between celebrating a local identity and engaging in troubling self-parody.

by Nathan Pensky

17 Jun 2010


The overwhelmingly positive media reaction to Betty White’s guest star appearance recently on Saturday Night Live seemed to be about two very different dynamics: A) Classic live comedy performance and B) Classic live variety performance. Because, really, watching Betty White perform at her age on live television was a lot like watching someone juggle a bunch of flaming bowling pins, except here the juggling represents being really, really old. That Betty White is a good comic actress is undeniable. But so is every SNL cast member. Television viewers’ fascination with White’s performance had to do not only with her spot-on comic delivery, but also with their anxious protectiveness of her legend status. The watchability of the actual telecast hinged in equal parts on these two feelings, as if the viewer was always caught between saying to oneself, “Wow, that was funny!” and “Wow, good job for actually pulling it off!” Viewers were concerned for White’s safety in the same way they would be for their own grandmothers, except instead of braving a particularly steep stairwell, White was looking slyly through a television screen and talking about her dusty muffin.

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