Category Archives: problematic things I enjoy

Problematic Things I Enjoy – Beverly Hills 90210 (A.K.A. The Brenda Walsh Show)

OKay admission of a child of the 90’s – I used to watch Beverly Hills 90210.

Alright, that’s a bit of an understatement my mother still mocks the fact that I watched every episode of the early seasons and would rush out of conversations if it was starting. My main reason for watching this show was – Shannen Doherty/Brenda Walsh. I loved her. Most other fans of 90210 will admit that Brenda was one of the most interesting characters on the show. Her character arc had her going from a sweet girl from Minnesota to a manipulative liar to an animal rights activist. Her popularity was quite obviously helped by the off-screen tabloid appearances and rumors that spoke of major problems between Doherty and Jennie Garth, the actress who played her best friends/main rival through the four seasons she was on the show.

Okay so why is BH 90210 so problematic? 

The class issues alone are enough for a whole series of articles and while I vaguely remember them attempting in inject some class consciousness into the show it was never enough to take away the fact that like it’s successor Dawson’s Creek it was a show about pretty rich white teens that date other pretty rich white teens and have OMG!Melodramatic problems.

And then of course there’s the fact that anytime someone of a different race or class background or sexuality or ability level or size or etc. showed up it was always “a very special episode”. The show had almost no social consciousness anything that could have been a real learning moment was milked for as much meodrama as possible and stereotypes were relied on frequently to shortcut characters and plotlines.

The show was completely and utterly vapid, over-the-top, and had no connection to my life (or I suspect the lives of most folks) but there was something riveting about the show. Something that kept me tuning in for four years I’ve never been able to figure out what. (Some friends claim the joy is in watching the extreme lengths the writers had to go to to create problems for the pretty rich teen boys and girls and that is part of it).

Really I’m just waiting for “Compton”. The show about youth trying to get out of the ghetto, going to college, police harassment, gang involvement – kinda makes whether Dylan is there to meet Kelly or Brenda at the Peach Pit seem kind of like frivolous bullshit AND IT WAS but I still loved the show.

So yes there is a spin-off coming simply called 90210 (creativity does not live here). I’ve been less than enthused about it and hadn’t intended to watch it. That is until I heard that Miss Brenda Walsh will be returning to the show, now a famous theatre actress/director she returns at behest of fictional frenemy Kelly Taylor (play by real frenemy Jennie Garth) to direct the high school musical.

What sparks will fly?

Will Brenda and Kelly get into a knock down drag out fight about their ex-beau Dylan? (Yes please!)

When will the rumors of backstage fights begin?

Will the newbies bow down to the Queen of 90210, Brenda Walsh as they should?

How will Shannen leave the show this time in joy or anger? Well, some questions are rhetorical but you get my meaning.

There’s already been one cast member pushed out before it even began! Tori Spelling who played Donna Martin in the original show was rumored to be returning along with Doherty and Garth until she found out how much they were being paid. This is all rumors but it’s been reported that when Spelling who was being offered 10k-20k per episode found out Garth and Doherty had range of 35k-50k per episode. She demanded parity and the producers refused. While not Doherty’s fault it sure sets the stage for the drama of this new show. I’m in as long as Brenda’s there, once she’s gone so am I.

Problematic Things I Enjoy – I Kissed A Girl

Okay so the genesis for this (maybe-series of posts) post comes from my talk of Watchmen on Friday and the why I love it and think it’s a seminal work in comics despite my many issues with it in regards to race, gender and sexuality. So the point is to highlight something that is problematic but I still enjoy. Because we all have those things that we know are bad and have issues but that we like anyway. I think that it’s hard to be the “perfect” activist, you’re gonna like things that you know further an agenda you don’t agree with. I deal with this by dissecting and acknowledging the problems in the things because by doing so we can rob it of a lot of it’s power. When we know the message that’s trying to be communicated to us we can counteract it more easily in ourselves and friends.

Just my theory, you may disagree.

So the problematic thing I enjoy in this post is Katy Perry’s hit song – I Kissed A Girl. Oh beat and rhythm that I love is it possible to numerate all the ways the lyrics go wrong?

These lyrics froth with issues that include – a lack of female agency, a devaluation of lesbian relations and sexuality, treatment of women as only sexual beings unworthy of names, a continued preoccupation with what her boyfriend will think as opposed to what she feels like after this experience, the use of lesbian sexuality as a ploy to titillate therefore ignoring any validity in those feelings, encouraging bi-phobia and detrimentality to the acceptance of bisexuality as a valid identity choice because it can all be written off as experimentation. And possibly a lot more I haven’t picked up on yet, feel free to point them out, yet despite all this there’s something about the music and the sound of Perry’s voice (the deep tone of it) that I really like and I’ve been listening to the song on repeat.

If you haven’t seen it or heard it, here’s the video:

There’s something about the chorus and the way it’s produced that makes me want to move my feet even though I cringe at the calling of this other girl “an experimental game” and the continuing reference to “I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”. Now I’m sure some think it’s just a cheeky fun song and I should lay off but pop culture influences everything around us and we ignore the things that gain popularity at our peril.

Verdict: So problematic that I refuse to give her some of my hard earned money in any way but I’ll shake my groove thing to it in the privacy of my own room and discuss the problems with others who enjoy it.

Off-Topic but somewhat related Coda: 

Now for politics and validation of alternative sexuality I much prefer Jill Sobule’s song of the same name. The story of two married women who end up finding more pleasure in each other than in their loud, annoying, brutish husbands. They have agenc, they make the decisions and from Jill I can take it because she’s made a career of commentary and satire in her songs. Jill is mocking the belief that lesbianism is a fad or stage of development whereas Katy seems to mock lesbianism itself. Jill Sobule, in case you don’t know, is a brilliant sarcastic singer-songwriter who’s been around for years. She’s articulate, quirky, off-the-wall and always interesting her songs. You might know her songs if not her, she’s a two hit wonder in mainstream music hitting it big with I Kissed A Girl & Supermodel – a sarcastic look at starvation and obsession with pop culture and models particularly.
Jills Sobule’s – I Kissed A Girl