Thursday, February 17, 2011

Programming almost earned kudos for Matt and Crank even

For 15 Feb, we listened to a little more than two hours of Matt and Crank and about an hour to an hour and a half each of Chris Steele and JJ. 

Jumping right to the early evening (Steele) and late evening (JJ) shows, The Critics Page is a might bit worried.  Both played good music, good meaning it was rock music; the Matt and Crank promos (two different ones) were nuetral, nuetral meaning the clips didn't contain any sexist, racist, Islamaphobic, or homophobic connotations; and the DJs commentary between songs was also nuetral.  At least for Chris Steele, we thought he'd be talking about "chicks" again by now.  The five of us associated with The Critics Page has started a pool as to when we'll hear about the "chicks".  Mr. Steele, if you read this, please indulge us with some "chick" talk on next Tuesday's show.  This critic stands to win some beer money if you do.

Going back to the morning show, our critic, who usually does the recording, listened to the show with a bit of disappointment.  Crank opened the show with a story of how he helped another motorist get his car started.  Crank spoke honestly about his feelings of trepidation because he didn't know if the guy was going to jump him or if he legitimately needed help.  The twist in the story, of course, was the stranded motorist was Hispanic.  A listener could speculate all day if Crank would have the same feelings of trepidation were the stranded motorist a White person, but there would be no point.  It was the language barrier and the words the stranded motorist chose to ask for help that was the point.  The feelings behind the story Crank related are normal feeling every person, regardless of color, have probably felt when they have decided to stop and help a stranger.  We give ample credit to Crank for making it clear that his telling of the story wasn't stereotyping all Hispanic people as people who are likely to jump someone at four-thirty in the morning, but was to demonstrate how language barriers can lead to some misunderstandings.

The next segment had Matt briefly talking about a blind wrestler he had to wrestle when he was in the eighth grade as he led into the main point of the segment, the story of a legless high school student who was cut from the baseball team.  Granted, some of the segments were rather crudely expressed, but the whole fifteen minute or so segment talked honestly about disabled people and whether we should treat them as charity cases or as equals when they are in competition.

The next segment continued the story of the legless high school athlete and, again, with the honest and frank discussion minus any stereotypes of disabaled people or of people who feel the disabled should be treated differently.

Yes, at this point, the reader may aptly point out that this critic is not being politically correct and, instead, is being insensitive towards people who are not physically built the same.  There are no physically disabled people - only people who are physically challenged.  The choice of words has to do with an imaginary line we all draw as to what is and what is not appropriate and that imaginary line is never in the same place for any two people.  More on that in a bit.

The next segment was Robo News and the coming apocolypse now that some European scientists have decided to make a congregation spot on the Internet for all robots to share information they have learned.  Sky Net, anyone?  While this critic stands alone, even among those associated with The Critics Page, in thinking this news is not apocolyptic, their segment was presented with no stereotyping of anyone.  This critic, however, believes that once the robots get to talking to each other, they won't take kindly to the characterization that robots are out to kill us all.  Matt and Crank should approach their computers and home appliances with caution.

The next segment, which our critic did record and is provided below, consistd of a prank call made to a carryout restaurant.  The premise of the call is a person suffering from disassociative identity disorder (colloquially referred to as split or multiple personality disorder) tries to order food and gets in an argument with his other personalities.

This segment is one of the rare times the real talent of Matt and Crank as entertainers shines through.  If a listener missed their introductory portion of the segment and tuned in right on the phone call, one would swear they were listening to at least two different people arguing over the food they wanted to order.  At the moment you begin to imagine the two different imaginary characters and think you have them pegged, you get blind sided by the third imaginary character, a gay farm boy.  The unexpected is what makes a skit funny.  The segment was edgy and definitely pushed the envelope.  Sure, the imaginary characters portrayed relied, to a small degree, on stereotypes to help the listener develop a mental picture of the conversation, but one couldn't help but at least chuckle at the segment.  It definitely elicited a positive, two thumbs up from all five of us associated with The Critics Page.

Remember earlier the mention of the imaginary line we all draw as to what is and isn't appropriate?  The phone call prank illustrates just how differently the line can appear to some and how pushing one's entertainment and humor to that line can keep the audience on edge and thinking.

Matt gave an explanation prior to playing the call to set the audience up for what to expect.  He had to let the audience know that the caller was one person suffering from disassociative identity disorder else the audience may have thought the caller was two or three people performing the skit.  Undoubtedly, to some people, Matt and Crank crossed that imaginary line of appropriateness by making fun of people who suffer from a serious mental disorder they cannot control.  For the five of us associated with The Critics Page, sure, the set up crossed into that gray area of appropriateness/inappropriateness, but wasn't anywhere near the line, much less crossing it.

What did cross the line for us was Matt telling his audience to picture the personalities as a White farm boy and a Black guy.  We have questioned this before (see A shining glimmer of change overshadowed by a homeless Black guy) and still have to ask: Why a White dude?  Why a farmboy?  Why a Black dude?  Why even tell your audience what to imagine?  The race of the imaginary personalities had no bearing on the entertainment value of the skit.  Usually, when one has to specify the race of an individual when telling a story, the statement is made from a prejudiced or bigotted point of view.  Only Matt knows why he felt a need to tell his listeners to imagine a White farm boy and a Black guy  We don't know why, but interpret it as coming from at least a prejudiced point of view.  One foot went over the imaginary line of appropriateness/inappropriateness.

Another point could be made that a White guy doing a Black voice imitation is, in itself, racist.  There was a recent case where a witness against the defendant claimed she believed the caller (her only contact with the defendant) sounded like a Black man.  The defense lawyers objected on the grounds that one couldn't identify the race of a person simply by the sound of their voice and the objection was sustained.  A minor public uproar ensued over the notion that Black people sound differently than White people.  In a criminal court case, yes, that makes sense.  Voices can be misleading.  But in everyday practice, we do form images of people we can hear, but not see, and while it is stereotyping, we don't think imitating a "Black voice" comes close to crossing the imaginary line of appropriateness/inappropriateness.

During the skit, the White farmboy personality calls the Black personality a crackhead.  Matt's second foot is poised to cross the line.  Was this the reason Matt had to tell his listeners to imagine a Black guy so that there would be no mistake the Black guy is the crackhead?

Matt put his foot back down safely on the appropriate side of the line.  Had he had the Black guy offer to pay for the food with food stamps, or order a side of fried chicken and watermelon or used any other stereotype of Black people, we would've been blasting the skit as another example of racist commentary.

Matt took us to that imaginary line of appropriateness/inappropriateness and even took us one step over.  If Matt didn't tell us what race to imagine the different personalities, Matt and Crank would've gotten kudos for performing a talented, funny segment and this whole lengthy explanation would've been skipped.  You see, if he had said nothing and we imagined the personalities as a White guy and a Black guy, then we would've been guilty of playing into our own stereotypes and prejudices.  That is what makes the skit, in our opinion, edgy, squarely in the gray area of appropriateness, and extremely entertaining.  Maybe next time we won't be told what characters to picture as we listen and then we could say Matt and Crank kept both of their feet on the appropriateness side of the line.

Our critic was about to turn off the radio when Matt and Crank launched into a segment about the appropriateness of a twenty-four-year-old man having sexual relations with a seventeen-year-old "girl."  What would've been an otherwise entertaining two hours suddenly reverted back to the typical sexist arguments to make a point.

A seventeen-year-old female is, first of all, a young woman.  One finds girls in elementary and middle schools.  That debatable point in semantics aside, once again, Matt and Crank argued from the standpoint that "girls" are genetically programmed to seek older men who are good providers.  When a caller asked would they have a problem with a seventeen-year-old boy (again, semantics, but young man) dating a twenty-four-year-old woman, their response, after a bit of stuttering and mis-speak, was that yes they would have a problem, and even more so than the other way around.  They, after all, hold "woman to higher standards" and, because of a woman's ingrained desires, should be seeking a good provider and not a boy.  Holding women to a higher standard based on nothing more than they are women is the definition of sexist.  Playing the double standard card is the definition of sexist.  Claiming as fact that women are born with certain desirable behaviors is the definition of sexist.  That's three strikes and Matt and Crank are out.

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