Television

That's the face I make when snide detectives blindside me with blackmail videos from my former career as an escort. (Screen shot from Elementary, season one, episode eight.)

That’s the face I make when snide detectives blindside me with blackmail videos from my former career as an escort. (Screen shot from “The Long Fuse,” S1E8, Elementary, CBS)

I’m a sucker for procedurals (while also being deeply ambivalent about them), so of course I was going to watch Elementary, CBS’s not-so-new-now take on Sherlock Holmes; I was immediately sold because female Watson. Played by Lucy Liu. And Jonny Lee Miller as a weird, twitchy, tattooed, recovering-addict Sherlock Holmes. I’m beyond over the BBC’s Sherlock, Howling Cabbagepatch’s shark-face, and the disappointing but predictable treatment of domanitrix Irene Adler—not really surprising considering the writers, but I digress.The formulaic nature of procedural mysteries is inexplicably soothing to me, and, however lackluster (and aren’t they the definition of “formulaic”?) they have the serious merit of being one of the only genres to consistently feature sex workers. Sure, they’re usually dead sex workers, but I don’t give up hope. The times they are a-changin’, and live lovable sex workers have carried their weight on some critically acclaimed cable dramas: Deadwood, Copper, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. I have faith that network procedurals will catch up soon.

In a way, Elementary has. For a procedural that features a sex worker body count of zero, the instances of live sex workers on the show are fairly high. I was alert from first watch: while the pilot didn’t have any dead sex worker bodies, I waited for the inevitable. As episodes went on I started to relax and feel hope, and then suddenly, in E08, “The Long Fuse”: Lisa Edelstein, aka Elementary’s first Sex Worker!!! made it through an episode unharmed. She was treated with sympathy as a working-class girl whose escorting career, after paying for grad school and a successful business, was now being used as blackmail against her by a creep who had violated her privacy and filmed their call. [READ MORE]

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swarovski.jpgI spent the better part of last June gluing rhinestones to this one wall in my apartment. At some point during the second week I started wearing a toolbelt full of E6000 glue, wadded up paper towels, sparkly bits and the syringes I use to control where the glue goes. I should mention that the toolbelt was being worn instead of pants as opposed to on top of pants. I should also mention that my apartment has horrible ventilation and I was probably kind of high on glue fumes. The glue fumes may have contributed to my decision to climb the radiator instead of using a ladder.

On the night of the 14th there was a knock on my door. The only person who knocks on the inside door is my superintendent. His name is Jorge. I yelled “Come in” and then realized that he might be upset about the fact that I was sticking things to the wall with heavy-duty glue. Fortunately, Jorge is a very special creature. He took in the whole spectacle, exclaimed “Oh my god!” and proceeded to gush in his Puerto Rican-Brooklynite accent about how much he loved where I was going with the concept. Then he ran upstairs and came back with a giant box of “Sarchovskys? Warsovskys? Whatevah. I thought you might be able to use them for your project.” See, at some point in the past decade someone had left a giant box of Swarovski crystals at his apartment. Happy Birthday to me. No, seriously. The next day was my birthday. [READ MORE]

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Futurama: definite contender for “greatest show of all time.” You already know it’s hilarious, but do you also know that it’s actually about sex work? Allow me to demonstrate with a series of GIFs, clips and humorous macros that I am convinced we can all relate to.
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 Few television characters embody the Douche Client more perfectly than Zapp Brannigan. You know the type: massive yet fragile ego that requires constant stroking, weird obsession with own perceived attractiveness, and a stable of skin-crawlingly irritating “seduction” techniques.

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Image via SocialistJazz

Image via SocialistJazz

When I heard about the Showtime Australia drama Satisfaction, set in a swanky Melbourne brothel, I think I elbowed an old lady out of the way to check it out of the library. Yep, library: they take sex work much less negatively in Australia than they do in the United States. It’s legal, although to varying degrees of decriminalization, normalization, and support depending on what state you’re in. West Australia, where I worked, had a variety of irritating laws designed to prevent women from working outside of brothels: they weren’t allowed to hire support staff, like drivers or security, and often had to file taxes in a totally ridiculous way. In Melbourne, across the country in Victoria, sex work is legally licensed and regulated by the state: workers have licenses, regular mandated medical check-ups, and can work independently or through brothels.

Satisfaction is a super swanky TV show about a super swanky brothel, and I absolutely loved it. I’ve never been to a Melbourne brothel, but I have to assume that the glittery hanging curtains, ornate gilt decor, and licensed bar of 232, the Satisfaction home base, are probably not par for the course. They smell more of “movie set designed to make you impressed” rather than “actual working brothel.” The script, though…the script treats sex workers as real human beings, with dignity and respect, facing a variety of issues unrelated to their jobs. Sometimes they hang out together after work; sometimes they have problems unique to sex work; but for large chunks of every episode, the show discusses human dynamics among a group of women who are working for themselves and doing it by choice. There is no coercion here, and the all-too-frequent stereotype we see on US TV (“Debbie couldn’t pay her rent, and now she’s giving blow jobs for crack in some dude’s Pinto!”) is notably, refreshingly absent. [READ MORE]

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FamilyGuyOvalOrificeMy generation has seen its share of dysfunctional cartoon characters. Many of us were raised on The Simpsons, which arguably paved the way for South Park. I recall South Park making a huge impression on television and popular culture, even though I wasn’t allowed to watch it when it premiered in 1997. Adults older than I are more likely to associate their adolescence with Beavis and Butthead. All of these shows have incited controversy at some point and all were popular. So it should come as no surprise that another occasionally controversial animated comedy would succeed with the same audience. But oh, it irritates me when people assume that I like Family Guy.

I have never felt comfortable with Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humor. And I’m not alone, judging by the reactions to the multiple gross sexist offenses during his turn hosting the Oscars. There is always something about his jokes that gets under my skin and causes me to consider the implications of certain statements.

For one, there are so many rape jokes. [READ MORE]

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