Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bringing Our Own Down (With LOTS of Help)

Two women were among the 12 finalists on Last Comic Standing this past Thursday night on NBC. Please note the use of the past tense in the previous sentence as one of them is already gone. Granted, Esther Ku came off as more annoying than funny, especially when trying to exoticize and play on her Asian heritage; it often came of as pandering rather than self-deprecating or satirical observations of race relations in America. But this is beside the point. The most troubling part was that the two women candidates, after seemingly pledging not to attack each other in the elimination round, did exactly that: they went after each other.

Here's how it works: in the middle of the show, the comedians all retreat to a confessional booth and essentially "challenge" one comedian they KNOW they are funnier than. The comedian who receives the most challenges must perform that night to stay in the competition. The chosen comedian chooses two comedians to compete against in front of a live audience; the audience then votes for the best comedian and the other two are sent home. Here's the twist: everyone sits together and watches the confessional booth videos. Can you say awkward?

This is where it got ugly on Thursday. Iliza Schlesinger totally ripped Esther Ku, who wound up receiving the most challenges. When it was time for Ku to pick her two opponents, she (obviously furious and hurt by Schlesinger) chose Iliza and ripped on her when doing so. It seemed so typical: women, as if they don't have enough obstacles, turning on each other. It seemed such a depressing thought until the realization that this was a television popped to mind. What we see isn't necessarily the whole story. Creative editing can easily turn molehills into mountains and legitimate competitions into stereotypical backbiting brawls.

Let's take the recent Jesse Jackson fiasco as an example. Jackson made a few unfortunate remarks about Obama recently during what he believed was a private conversation. Unfortunately, he had a mic on at the time and, unbeknownst to him, the mic was hot. To be fair, Jackson's remarks were completely uncalled for. But what keeps getting ignored is the fact that this happened on Faux Snooze, a.k.a. Fox News, a media outlet not necessarily synonymous with integrity. Why was Jackson's mic on during a private conversation? Why were his comments aired in the first place? What happened to off the record comments? But most importantly, how long will other pundits and media outlets spin this as major rift between two high-profile African-American leaders, even though Obama has already graciously and fully accepted Jackson's immediate apology? Will the American public buy this as an example of bringing down your own people, or will they look a little more closely at the circumstances behind the entire situation? Guess which way the media will spin it....

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