Thursday, September 17, 2009

Civility: It's fine and you're stupid

I realize it may seem strange for one of the first posts on my comic book blog to be about something not particularly comic-book-y, but. You know. Whatever. It's my blog. Bite me.

A couple of days ago, USA Today asked "What happened to civility?", citing Kanye West's drunken intrustion during MTV's Video Music Awards, tennis star Serena Williams going all Anglo-Saxon on a judge, and finally Representative Joe Wilson's outburst during the President's address to Congress.

I realize I'm a little late to the party, but since I haven't heard or read it anywhere else, I wanted to ask - Does anyone else think we're seeing mountains but looking at molehills?

First, the VMAs have never been sleepy, polite tea parties. I haven't watched MTV in years, but upon hearing of the "controversy" West stirred, I could immediately recall a handful of VMA incidents as bad or worse. I remember Bobby Brown capping a performance of "It's My Prerogative" with "We the FUCK outta here" and the Beastie Boys likewise dropping an F-Bomb in a VMA performance of "Sabotage". Perhaps the VMA I remember better than any other was when Nirvana scared MTV shitless by opening what was supposed to be their performance of "Lithium" with the first few bars of "Rape Me", then performed the song they were booked to play, destroyed their instruments in a rampage that made their meltdown on Saturday Night Live pale in comparison, and taunted fellow pop stars Madonna and Axl Rose from the stage. You have to admit, compared to stuff like that, some poor little girl having her precious moment stolen from her doesn't seem all that newsworthy. I'm sure her bank account will console her.

Second, as far as the Williams incident is I the only person who remembers John McEnroe? I mean, let me clarify here, I know next to nothing about tennis. I know there's a ball, a net, and people generally wear white. But even I know about John McEnroe because his temper tantrums were so goddamn legendary that there was a while there when it seemed like just about every comedian in the world either had a McEnroe impersonation, a hefty cache of McEnroe jokes, or both. Now, I don't want to whip out the race or gender cards, but it's tough to avoid here. Considering the noise this incident caused, the fact that the "offender" was a black woman, and the fact that someone like McEnroe could practically build a career doing this without anyone predicting the death of civility makes me think Williams's race and gender have more to do with the reaction to her blow-up than people would like to admit.

Third and finally, there's Representative Wilson. No doubt, it was a stupid move. Considering the recent track record of politicians from his state, if I were in his shoes, I'd probably be shutting the hell up as much as possible. Not to mention what he said and the way he said it were both just so silly. "YOU LIE!" I mean, even if you assume Obama's wrong or lying about covering illegal immigrants, Wilson made it sound like Obama had some kind of nefarious plan. What could he possibly think the ulterior motive would be? Is Obama going to get all of the nation's illegal workers into hospitals so government doctors can build him a cyborg army?

Still, has anyone ever seen the Prime Minister's Questions on CSPAN? Oh. My. GOD. They make that speech look like gentle love-making. All they do is yell at the British Prime Minister. They ask him questions that have NO point other than to inspire the Prime Minister to answer in a way that makes everyone yell at him. And he always has a binder with him. It's nutty. And frankly, it's damn fine TV.

So, you know, everything's fine. Civility isn't dead, or if it is then West, Williams and Wilson are hardly the Horsemen of the Civility Apocalypse.

Though, looking at their names, they may be the beginning of a website address. Cool.


Dingles said...

I totally agree with you. And once again I fall back on the notion that everything is relative. Should we, in general, be more polite? Of course. But look at places like Iraq where people blow each other up when they disagree. If these 3 high-profile incidents are the worst of our nations incivility, then I think we're doing pretty good.

C. Margery Kempe said...

You have to admit, compared to stuff like that, some poor little girl having her precious moment stolen from her doesn't seem all that newsworthy. I'm sure her bank account will console her.

While you seem to see the gender and racial issues in the Williams story, what about here? Can you imagine West jumping up to take the mic from another guy? No, but when it some petite little girl who sings about princes and horses, no problem. The look on her face said it all -- kicked in her gut when the dream of her little life had come true (not to say anything about the quality of that dream or the wretchedness of her music).

I wish the real story had been picked up and promulgated instead of inflating West's importance: Beyoncé is a class act. She tried to give that young woman back what was stolen from her by another rampant egomaniac. Brava.

Mick Martin said...

I didn't know about Beyoncé's actions, which goes to support your final point.

As far as the racial/gender issues of what West did, I agree. There's no way he would've done that to a male performer. In fact, if he had done that to a male performer, the story would be quite different. If anything, it would be about how a male artist ALLOWED West to steal the moment from him.

But my only point, and race/gender issues aside I think it's true, was that what West did - as far as the civility issue is concerned - was not even close to as bad as the events that have occurred on that ceremony over the years, rendering its newsworthiness a mystery to me.

Dingles said...

Although I do see many points about race & racism, I don't think the Kanye West thing was sexist or racist, simply because Kanye has a history of doing this all the time.

The Wanton Gardener said...

Mick, I think you'd make a damn fine columnist. We have two free papers out here: The Stranger & the Seattle Weekly, which censor themselves a lot less than the "subscription only" Seattle Times. Reading your blog today was like reading one of their columns...I'm just sayin'.