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Quote of the day: “We’re approaching peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation.”

Ladies, please! We don't need to see THAT.

Quiz! Who said the following, in reference to the presence of women on television?

Enough, ladies. I get it. You have periods. … [W]e’re approaching peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation.

Was it?

  1. W.F. Price of The Spearhead
  2. Christopher in Oregon, legendary vagina-hating Man Going His Own Way
  3. Reddit commenter VjayjaysAreIcky69

Trick question! It was actually Two and a Half Men co-creator Lee Aronsohn, complaining to The Hollywood Reporter about the female-centric sticoms that have popped up of late. (There’s plenty to complain about when it comes to shows like Whitney and 2 Broke Girls, but “the main characters have vaginas” ain’t it.)

In a keynote address at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, Aronsohn also defended his show’s tendency to portray women in a less-than-flattering light:

Screw it. … We’re centering the show on two very damaged men. What makes men damaged? Sorry, it’s women. I never got my heart broken by a man.

So brave, Aronsohn, so brave, standing up to the Matriarchy like that!

On ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg lays into Aronsohn:

[H]aving to hear that ladies have menstrual cycles, take birth control pills, and enjoy sex is just unbearable, right? Because even though the number of female characters on television tends to hover in the low 40 percent range, we’re just saturated with vaginas, because god forbid stories about men and their ish don’t absolutely dominate the media? Because even though those shows Aronsohn’s complaining about have actually created more writing and directing jobs for men than women, and resulted in some really awful portrayals as a result, we couldn’t possibly let women come to expect that they’ll have access to stories both about them and by them, could we? Because where would that leave poor, suffering, disadvantaged American men?

And then she takes on the entertainment industry in general, for tolerating his troglodyte views:

[T]hat Aronsohn is dumb and woman-fearing enough not just to believe this, to blithely admit he believes it to a major publication tells you everything about how cosseted Hollywood’s disgusting sexists are. You want to know why we get what we get on movie and television screens? …  Because there are, apparently, no consequences in Hollywood for being perfectly open about how much you despise women’s bodies and the contours of women’s lives.

Maude Lebowski, what do you have to say about all this?

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Posted on April 2, 2012, in antifeminism, creepy, disgusting women, girl germs, I'm totally being sarcastic, irony alert, misogyny, oppressed men, oppressed white men, quiz, quote of the day, reactionary bullshit, vaginas. Bookmark the permalink. 184 Comments.

  1. RE: Falconer

    Saw Branagh’s Hamlet in high school. Very enjoyable, but oh god, does Branagh put the HAM in Hamlet!

    RE: TV

    I myself can’t really watch TV easily, because it is a black hole of all my attention. Doesn’t matter what’s playing, it could be a damn BANK commercial, I’ll still stare at it and have a really difficult time focusing on anything else. It’s TOO immersive for me. Like, sometimes that’s a good thing for me, but rarely. I’ve never been able to understand how other people can have it as a “background noise” thing. Augh, I’d go insane! (My aunts and uncles are like this; as a result I always navigate around their home so my back is to the TV as much as possible.)

    Internet is also distracting, but at least the pages (the ones I look at anyway) tend not to move, or make noise. So I can, y’know. NOT be completely devoured by it.

    Anyone who thinks TV is inferior to books has obviously never watched “Spirited Away,” after reading “The Haunted Vagina,” that’s all I’m saying. But then, I have to argue with pretentious brats who think comics are intrinsically inferior to prose.

  2. I had great fun assigning all the films in my intro to lit courses; plus the play! Three Hamlets! And my students would tell me that they would get teased at the video store, and have to show the syllabus to prove they weren’t trying to “cheat” in their English class by watching the film–this was in the 90s

    yes! i’ve never understood english teachers who see shakespeare as a thing that’s primarily there to be read. it’s a play! you’re meant to see it!

    and now a lot of kids have almost everything they’re reading available in some form to stream on netflix. when i was in theater history that service was still in it’s infant stages, but now i think i can find half my syllabus on there. just the other day i realized i can stream marat/sade.

  3. @Alex

    I’m not sure where you are, but if you have netflix available to you it’s pretty cheap and I think there’re no commercials (not sure).

    I remember seeing the Laz Buhrmann version of R+J in secondary school, after reading the play. I wasn’t all that impressed with the play, but the whole modern renditioning seemed so corny at the time, I couldn’t stop laughing. I haven’t rewatched it since, so I don’t know if I’ll have a more favourable opinion. But as it stands right now: dear God, was that cheesy!

  4. Studying Shakespeare in high school, we watched a stack of movies, sometimes studied along with the books or just as an example of how they sound to an audience. Most of us thought that R&J was fantastic (!! Mercutio in drag!)…although it got a bit much when our teacher would pause the tv whenever Leonardo came up on screen to sigh over the pretty.

    That said, I did have another English teacher talk about Colin Firth’s “crisp English chest hairs” while studying the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice in conjunction with the book. D:

  5. @Sharculese

    It depends on the objectives of the course. Students, both of the high school and university undergraduate levels, tend not to grasp a lot of what goes on in Shakespeare (and a lot of literature in general) on their first pass through it – they can follow the plot and enjoy the play, but they can get that just as easily outside the classroom. If your goal is to get them thinking/talking about the language of the play (most university English classes strive to teach close reading/critical thinking/analytical writing) I find that it’s best to make them go through it line by line (and make them watch it several times, and make them act it out themselves, and all the other things I would like to do if schools would only give me the time and resources to do them).

    Oh yeah, and printed editions of Shakespeare’s plays sold like hotcakes during Shakespeare’s own lifetime, so even people who had the opportunity to see a Shakespeare on opening night saw plenty of value in just sitting down and reading the darned things too.

  6. Creative Writing Student

    I’m just disappointed that schools aren’t issued human skulls when doing Hamelt. I had to improvise and do the ‘Alas, poor Yorkic’ speech to a whitreboard rubber.

    Also, I celeberated a friend’s brithday party, which explains the spelling.

  7. I’m just disappointed that schools aren’t issued human skulls when doing Hamelt. I had to improvise and do the ‘Alas, poor Yorkic’ speech to a whitreboard rubber.

    When I was like 12,my brother had this string of plastic skulls that came with one of his action figure monster guys and I tried to make them give the speech. No one else got the joke. I was such a nerdy child.

  8. I think there’s a lot of value to reading plays, especially stuff like Shakespeare and even some of the best of the modern stuff like Samuel Beckett, Suzan Lori-Parks, etc. You can slow down and take your own time, get every word. Anyway, the text is Shakespeare himself- everything beyond that is someone else’s contribution.

    And also, come on. High school kids pretty much don’t read unless you make them. It’s a matter of priority.

  9. Really, Dave? All high-school kids need to be forced to read? I know I hung out with the drama geeks, but no one had to make us to read.

  10. @Dave: Anyway, the text is Shakespeare himself- everything beyond that is someone else’s contribution.

    You don’t know much about the textual history of Shakespeare’s works, or what high school textbooks do to ‘em, do you?

    Also, how much teaching experience do you have?

  11. High school kids pretty much don’t read unless you make them.

    Kids these days, amirite?

  12. Creative Writing Student

    @darksidecat

    Dinky nerd five!

  13. I think there’s a lot of value to reading plays, especially stuff like Shakespeare and even some of the best of the modern stuff like Samuel Beckett, Suzan Lori-Parks, etc.

    What about David Foster Wallace? Do you like DFW, Dave? Blah, his writing is garbage. If he wrote a play, it’d be STINKO!

  14. @Katz: I know! Back in MY day, we slogged through two feet of snow wearing cardboard shoes every day after our cold oatmeal so we could carry our stack of books back to the library and check out more!

    These days, they claim to be reading books on this liddle screens, but comeon, there’s no way that makes any sense!

    Hah! *shakes cane*

  15. @Abeegoesbuzz: I see what you did there!

  16. Kids don’t read these days. REALLY. I have a few bookshelves that would say differently.

    And, yeah, they edit the shit out of Shakespeare to make him “okay” for teenage consumption, so the moral guardians won’t freak.

  17. It depends on the objectives of the course. Students, both of the high school and university undergraduate levels, tend not to grasp a lot of what goes on in Shakespeare (and a lot of literature in general) on their first pass through it – they can follow the plot and enjoy the play, but they can get that just as easily outside the classroom. If your goal is to get them thinking/talking about the language of the play (most university English classes strive to teach close reading/critical thinking/analytical writing)

    and yet, mysteriously, they remain plays. dramatic experiences first and ‘literary’ experiences second. no amount of co-option can ever change that.

  18. What about David Foster Wallace? Do you like DFW, Dave? Blah, his writing is garbage. If he wrote a play, it’d be STINKO!

    snrrrrt

  19. i got a question for people who say romeo & juliet is their least favorite. like i can see where you’re coming from, but you seriously think it’s a worse show than midsummer, where literally nothing is a stake because you know from the outset that magic is both the cause and solution to everyone’s problems?

  20. Creative Writing Student

    @Sharculese

    I don’t dislike R&J, I just dislike people who think it’s about ‘twu wuv’. They’re horny simpletons who met, married, and then offed themselves in the space of less than a week! As for Midsummer’s, I mostly like it because I guy gets turned into a donkey. I will admit the plot isn’t particularly deep, it’s mostly a vehicle for humour.

  21. I’m pretty amused by the “high schoolers don’t read” thing. It’s been quite a while since I was a in high school, but I promise that the five large bookshelves, one closet, several large patches of floor, and god-only-knows-how-many boxes that contain my collection of books didn’t just pop into existence when I turned 18.

    Also, there’s something extra silly about arguing that teenagers are universally anti-books in the wake of the Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter, which clearly all sold very few copies and were not at all appealing to the average 15-year-old. Clearly.

  22. I think there was a De-motivational poster pointing out that R&J was not that romantic because it involved two teenagers and six deaths.

  23. I don’t dislike R&J, I just dislike people who think it’s about ‘twu wuv’.

    Yeah, that’s annoying – I think (I hope) it tends to be people who’ve never actually read or seen the play, and have therefore managed to completely miss the point. Shakespeare isn’t exactly subtle in making it much less a “love story” and much more a “these teenagers are horny idiots, and yet they still manage to be smarter than their parents insofar as they are just fucking like horny idiots instead of killing each other over some stupid hand-me-down feud” story.

  24. Ithiliana- cardboard shoes? LUXURY! We’d have thought ourselves kings if we’d had cardboard shoes! We had walk five miles uphill through an ice age to get to a place where we could make shoes for ourselves out of cold oatmeal and our books were made of stone tablets and we were grateful to get it!

  25. As for Midsummer’s, I mostly like it because I guy gets turned into a donkey. I will admit the plot isn’t particularly deep, it’s mostly a vehicle for humour.

    it’s not that the plot isn’t deep (it’s a comedy, it’s not supposed to have a deep plot). it’s that at the outset, we know what causes all the problems (magic) and we know what’s going to solve all the problems (magic) what everyone does in the interim is kind of irrelevant. as a story, that can work, as a performance it can’t, because there’s nothing for the actors to strive towards.

    i had a professor back in undergrad who insisted that midsummer was obviously a masque and that shakespeare would be embarrassed to find out it was still performed today. he wasn’t a historian, and as such he didn’t really have any support for it, but when it comes to basic form I’ve always thought he was on to something.

  26. I liked midsummer more than romeo and juliet. Shakespeare is a master of cheesy and over the top, and that usually works better with comedy anyways. I particularly like Comedy of Errors, with its two sets of separated in infancy identical twins. That shit is better by far than any version of the Parent Trap, and I have seen every version because my cousin forced me to watch them.

    Also, we know the ending of a lot of comedy movies pretty well even now, and we still enjoy them.

  27. and yet, mysteriously, they remain plays. dramatic experiences first and ‘literary’ experiences second. no amount of co-option can ever change that.

    okay, i’ve calmed down and i feel like being less of a dick now. i don’t have a problem with english teachers treating shakespeare as ‘literary’ but first and foremost plays exist to be experienced. treating plays as literature tends to suck the life out of them: i read tom wingfield railing against his fluorescent tubes when i was eleven, but i didn’t really appreciate it until i saw john malkovitch deliver those lines.

    the literary value of a theatrically line is secondary to how it sounds in the mouth of the character who speaks it, and a talented actor takes the sum value of those lines, finds the progression from one to another, finds the growth of the character from beginning to end in a way that no mere reading and recitation can ever achieve.

    i’m fairly presentationalist in my approach to theater, and i loathe american fealty to stanislavski and the method, but i do believe that drama is achieved in the way the character is inhabited and become, and mere reading of the text, absent the other work of a skilled actor, will always be insufficient

  28. “and yet, mysteriously, they remain plays. dramatic experiences first and ‘literary’ experiences second. no amount of co-option can ever change that.”

    I have no idea what this even means but thanks for posting it anyway, I guess!

  29. Also, we know the ending of a lot of comedy movies pretty well even now, and we still enjoy them.

    that’s not the issue. we know by definition that a shakespearean comedy ends happily for everyone. that’s what makes it a comedy. my problem with midsummer is that we know from the outset why everything ends happily, and that the solution is simply ‘magic’.

  30. I have no idea what this even means but thanks for posting it anyway, I guess!

    look directly above this post

  31. I mean, Heminges and Condell just worked with Shakespeare and acted in his plays during The Bard’s lifetime, clearly their crazy scheme to get people to READ Shakespeare is utter silliness.

  32. I mean, Heminges and Condell just worked with Shakespeare and acted in his plays during The Bard’s lifetime, clearly their crazy scheme to get people to READ Shakespeare is utter silliness.

    this is the weirdest argument from authority ever?

    like cool, his actors had the brilliant idea to write his shit down. that was revolutionary and the world would be different without it. i’m not sure how that means they intended his works to be read and not performed, tho?

  33. While we’re talking about kids these days…

  34. maybe a better way of saying what i meant is that i feel like picking apart the text for its literary value is a really myopic approach and that readily becomes apparent as soon as you try to approach it from a dramatic standpoint.

    and yeah, that shit has it’s value, shakespeare was a master of language and style and all that, but more importantly, these are characters that don’t exist until someone breathes life into them, and we’ve erected a method of teaching shakespeare that robs kids of that fact.

    what i meant about co-option is that there’s a cultural tendency, that i think most teachers of literature reinforce, to focus on that literary aspect to the exclusion of all else, and to behave like that literary aspect is the be-all-end-all of the text.

    i remember when i first took script analysis one of the lessons was ‘you know how you learned about the thinker/doer dichotomy in hamlet? that is a shitty way of thinking about hamlet the man that’s only going to impede you in understanding who hamlet is” and being really resistant to it at the time because i was locked into that literary perspective on the character, and only years later, when i worked on a production of hamletmachine, realizing that that literary perspective really was impeding me and that i needed to abandon it.

    the literary world tries to hold a monopoly on shakespeare’s works that doesn’t belong to them and that’s actively holding us back, and that’s what i’m against.

  35. I agree with Sharculese-Shakespeare is boring as all get out when I read him but I can happily sit through any live performance and enjoy the play.

  36. that isn’t technically what i’m saying, but i’ll take it

  37. A month ago I sat through 5 hours of a very weird adaptation of The merchant of Venice, King Lear and Hamlet (mixed) in Hungarian subtitled in French.
    I’m still not sure what happened. There was a lot more nudity than I expected, but that’s far from being the oddest thing in the play.

    I wonder, are you all reading the text/watching the play in the original English? Because I tried to read a bit of it, and reading old English with my knowledge of modern English feels almost as trying to read Portuguese with my knowledge of Spanish.

  38. I have a really frought relationship with Romeo and Juliet. I love the language but I find it difficult because of the way romantic love is portrayed. The kind of love the protagonists share is, to my mind deeply unhealthy, and I dislike the way our culture interprets it as the epitome of that particular view of love. I’m pretty sure that Shakespeare didn’t intend for it to be interpreted that way but we have and to be completely honest I think it does us a disservice.

    Personally, I prefer, As You Like It, Twelfth Night (the one with Imogene Stubbs Helena Bonham-Carter) and Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh/Thomson version).

  39. Whoo Boy! Go to Paris for a couple of weeks and miss the fun.

    I’d reccomend “Contested Will” as a pretty good rundown of both Shakespeare in his time, and how he came to be what he is today.

    I am not a Shakespeare scholar. I am something of a student of the period, mostly in England (because it’s the stuff I can most easily read in primary sources).

    Theatre was a mixed bag. Actors were seen about as they are today. A dicey way to make a living, and one spent time with people of questionable morals. Because of how all the other trades were arranged, players had to have sponsors, or they were, “sturdy beggars” (think buskers in the streets).

    But they travelled. They did strange one-offs (see Will Kemps Nine Days Wonder, of which the language still makes reference). They had patrons. Not because giving cover to, “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men” was prestiguous, but because the Lord Chamberlain both wanted to be able to go to the shows, and needed to know he had a troupe he could command to perform if he needed to supply an entertainment.

    It was a trade. There were apprenticeships, and specialists (Kemp was a clown, Burbage was a dramatic lead). Shakespeare was famous in his day, and seen as a cut above the rest; even in his life, and most certainly very shortly after his death.

    By virtue of both that, and the lack of really intense interest in his life, right after his death, he has slipped into a strange place of icon; revered more for what he represents, than for who he was, and what he did.

    That the language hasn’t changed all that much* is part of it. That he was a cut above his peers is part of it. That Elizabeth I’s reign is seen as a bit of a golden age is part of it.

    That we don’t really understand the serious differences in mindset between the people of Shakespeare’s day and ourselves, and then (as is the case in most times) project our values to the things/people we read&dag; doesn’t help. We have (always) done this, but it tends to make us think we know what is going on, when we don’t. One of the classic examples of this is the bedroom scene in Hamlet; where he is beruking his mother. It’s said that his use of “you” is a censure, but that’s because we don’t appreciate the role of office, compared to that of family. He never, in the play, calls his mother, to her face, in the familiar. She was both his mother, and the queen.

    Those were important things to the people of the day. To have used the intimate would have been to make a very different statement, and Shakespeare knew it; which we no longer do. Some of the “lesser” playwrights didn’t know it quite so well.

    And Shakespeare was well thought of in his day. There were the “bad quartos”; stolen from the “roles” the actors had to read from (nothing but their lines, and cues to entrance) or written out from the memories of those who went to the show. There were the people who claimed they had really written some of the works now attributed to him; though those claims weren’t made until after he died, and the contest wasn’t really one that could be answered.

    It’s an interesting time, and far to large to sum up, well, here.

    (addendum; the need for patronage was to be able to rehearse. The theaters were in Southwark, and so outside the bounds of the City of London. It wasn’t so much the city which was the problem, as the laws against “sturdy beggars”. It took things like plague to get the theaters shut down)

    *Which is another long subject; compare Shakespeare to the modern day. Compare Shakespeare to Chaucer. Compare Chaucer to Beowulf. Note the difference in langauge. Then ponder that the time lag between each of the objects in those pairs is the same. The printing press has slowed the rate of change. Neil Postman argues, in “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, that literacy is failing, and the likelihood is language will again start to change more rapidly.

    Nicholas Ostler argues, in, “The Last Lingua Franca” that the net will actually do more for the ossification of languages; and the death of multilingualism; at the world level, but that’s the problem of reading too much… everything seems to interelate.

    &dag; (sadly I can’t seem to find; probably lost in a move, the book which discusses how much Shakespeare managed to catch the non-period thinking of Rome in the histories, all the while using the very different ways the Romans thought to illustrate themes of interest to his audience

  40. …I love Midsummer. It appeals to my fondness for absurdity and farces. I mean, the point isn’t the PLOT, the point is people getting in assorted bizarre situations (and also getting turned into donkeys by Oberon) (and also Puck). Puck is AWESOME, you guys.

    I personally dislike R+J because I was forced to read it on three separate occasions in school, and hence am ENTIRELY OVER IT.

  41. TGMoxley: I mean, Heminges and Condell just worked with Shakespeare and acted in his plays during The Bard’s lifetime, clearly their crazy scheme to get people to READ Shakespeare is utter silliness.

    Argument from what authority?

    I suspect, from my knowledge of the period, they were cashing in. He was a hot property, and there was money to made in selling books (the Elizabethan trade in printed matter was huge).

    The thing is… the plays aren’t poems. You want to take something apart for, “what it means”, read The Rape of the Lock, or Venus and Adonis.

    But Two Noble Cousins wasn’t about, “meaning”, it was about paying the bills by entertaining people, “speak the speech, I pray you.”

    Moving it to close reading is interesting, but it strips the context of playing from the work. The ways in which the players create the personae, and how those personae interact is what makes them work. I’ve seen more than one play on more than one night of the run, so that I could see how the differences between the shows affects the way the play plays out. When the lead is out of sorts, one gets a different play.

    Close reading is purely internal. All one gets out of it is what one can bring to it. That’s not what plays are about.

  42. When I was in high school, we had Antigone (Anouilh version) to read. So I read it, and I loved it. Then we studied it in class, dissected every metaphor of every sentence, and I hated it. Then water passed under the bridge and I came back to loving it. High school kids disliking the book they have to read in school is not the same as kids disliking books.

    In high school, we had a small network of a dozen of students who lend books to each to each other. Each day at 10 piles of books were exchanged, we sometimes had waiting list when the last issue arrived. We liked these books so much we read them in class of French and history (do you know how easy it is to read a book in French class when you’re supposed to study a book of the same size? Very) Sure, most of it wasn’t great literature, a lot of them were shojo mangas, a few SF novels, and some other novels, but they were books. Books that we read with pleasure, over and over. And I met so many Harry Potter fan (from “I liked it” level to “I devote hours of my day to Harry Potter-based communities and have met friends IRL through it” level) of my age that the idea that high school kids just don’t read.

    And for the idea that TV is intrasequelly bad: there are very good books that had very good adaptations, if only that. I’d chose an episode of Game of Throne, or The Perfume over many of boring classical novel I read trough school.

  43. I don’t get it. Do the MRAs think that a female can get pregnant with the used condom by shoving it up her vagina??? The biological part of this whole thing is what I don’t get, I mean this “sperm-stealing” female would have to be monitoring her fertility and then in that small time-span (relatively speaking of course) find a guy to have protected sex with her and then find a way to grab the used condom, bolt out of the door (while keeping the sperm in a hostile environment alive) and get to a professional to implant her egg with it. That’s kind of a stretch even for the most psychologically antisocial personality types. Wouldn’t it make more sense to find a rich guy to marry and then divorce for the alimony if this is all about hurting the men?

    I’ve been reading your blog for the better part of 6 months now and I have yet to find the answers to this question, either from here or from their various website. Although honestly I can’t stay on their sites for too long due to the possible aneurism from reading the inane babbling I see.

  44. Oh, dear. 40% of the characters on teevee are female and Aronsohn thinks we’re at the point of “labia saturation”?

    He doesn’t want to hear about our icky periods, but we’ve been hearing dick and erection and male-masturbation jokes day after day for the last 30 years without comment?

    What a sexist jackass.

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