Shake that Bear: In Defense of BrickleberryBrickleberry’s Malloy cooks with AIDS
Leave it to me to be pissed off by a listicle. This morning I read an article on Salon titled “The 7 most offensive TV shows ever” a typical minimally researched Buzzfeed-y slideshow with a vague-yet-provocative, shareable headline. For purporting to be the definitive account of “ever,” the list doesn’t even cover the history of television. The earliest program is from the ’90s, so apparently Beulah was just fine, sorry NAACP. But anyway what annoyed me was the justification for the inclusion of the Comedy Central cartoon Brickleberry.
The line of thinking seemed to be that the inclusion of taboo subjects like violence, rape, stereotypes, racism, sexism, were fine as long as they were pursued for some end, which is left totally undefined. There’s an implication noble and ignoble intentions exist, Mad Men and Game of Thrones being examples of acceptable forums for the exploration of the forbidden while Brickleberry uses offense for the sake of offense and is therefore hollow and valueless.
I’m all for the existence of a spectrum of morality, and no doubt centuries of art criticism is based on assigning moral/societal value to works under the guise of objectivity. That seems to be the inherent problem with any form of criticism or journalism or human existence; we can’t get away from our own biases. But claiming that a critically acclaimed drama is ‘allowed’ to push boundaries, while a comedy show is too irresponsible to be trusted with that sort of power, seems like a flimsy argument even for a listicle. For one, it’s elitist, the only programs deigned respectable enough to push boundaries by critics are those with the critical stamp of approval, a concept of decency that just perpetuates its own taste and point of view.
Not to mention it completely ignores context. Lets remember one show includes a talking bear.
The article’s specific criticism is that the use of the taboo in Brickleberry is unacceptable because it is “nihilistic.” I realize nihilism is associated with depressed mall punks and the kinky Germans from The Big Lebowski, but I’m pretty sure the actual concept of nihilism is not exactly apathetic. In fact, I’m pretty sure nihilism is the view that some or all aspects of the human experience are a construction, therefore there is no absolute truth to be used as a barometer for human action or thought or achievement or morality, which is a pretty damn radical mode of thinking.
And coincidentally kind of similar to Brickleberry.
If everything is offensive then nothing is. Inundated by jokes about abortion, plot lines about bestiality, characters that so embody racist and sexual stereotypes that they become stereotypes of stereotypes, in Brickleberry all benchmarks for morality are lost, like a moral sensory deprivation tank. Whereas instances of rape in Mad Men or Game of Thrones are shocking because they mark a departure from the norm, the environment of Brickleberry creates a flattening effect. Brickleberry uses taboo subjects so excessively that events with a natural tendency to create dramatic effect are transmuted into neutral events merely in service to the plot. Bear rape and picking up the mail become equally mundane. It’s not amorality, but the experience of moral relativism. Societal norms about what subjects are approachable and how they can be spoken about are stripped away. Brickleberry isn’t celebrating rape or violence or racism, but it is doing a number on the hierarchical structure and labyrinthine code of ethics we must abide by in order to talk about them.
You don’t get a monopoly on meaning. I recognize taste is subjective, but too often people want to regulate who is allowed to say what and how it is said. Rape, violence, sexism, racism, homophobia are all unfortunate parts of the human experience, and dictating that only Kenneth Brannaugh in a powdered wig is allowed to mention them is like saying the patricians get to use 26 letters of the alphabet while everyone else gets 20.


Slammed: Inside Indie Wrestling

Slammed: Inside Indie Wrestling (2011)


Program for National Geographic Channel/NatGeo that depicts both Ring of Honor tryouts (led by an uncharacteristically sedate Jim Cornette) and preparations for an indie show at a VFW Hall in Manville, New Jersey by the promotion National Wrestling Superstars. Probably most notable for featuring a pre-TNA Shiima Xion/Zema Ion/DJ Z and former WWF Superstar Danny Inferno, the episode focuses on the familiar contrast of the hardships of finding fame (Xion) and regaining fame (Inferno) but I thought there were a few smaller, but more interesting aspects. Xion’s specific experience as a Filipino-American wrestler, and the pressures his career placed on his widowed, immigrant Mom was a slice of life I wish had been investigated more. Where Xion and his Mom pulled heartstrings, the relationship between promoter and commissioner duo “Dapper Johnny Falco” (half Jon Taffer, half Ed O’Neill) and Gino Moore (mulleted, wearing a windbreaker and a Bluetooth headset) was just bizarre. I’m at a complete loss of whether they were “real” people, or characters played-up for the audience. As usual, the business end of the operation neither seemed to enjoy wrestling, nor be making any money, and seemed to be propelled forward only by a hefty dose of masochism and contempt. The promoter and/or booker roles are such an incongruous aspect of wrestling, it was interesting to see some light shone on the local guys trying to put on the patchwork bingo hall shows. It was not necessarily a flattering light, but interesting nonetheless.

Other notes: small cameo from Anderson & Gallows as the big shot who can’t operate a GPS and drive the perpetually suffering Dapper Johnny Falco one step closer to a stress and corned beef induced heart attack.



When I was in third grade my parents took me to a sketchy, subterranean pet store off the food court in Hillcrest mall with no windows and a single, incongruous neon sign bearing some nondescript name like BJ’s Pet Emporium where I would be allowed to procure my first pet, a hamster.

Continue reading “Pearl”

Journal, Makeup

Halloween makeup, blood splatter nails, an ode to Gerard Way and Urban Decay’s Gash

Halloween zombie undead punk makeup

Straight up, Gerard Way’s eye makeup in My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” video was a game changer for me. By the time I was in my mid-teens I had every pot of silver-grey eyeshadow and every pitch black eyeliner that promised to stay on my inner rims that Sephora stocked, accumulated with the reckless abandon of someone desperately trying to spackle over a gaping emotional void and paying with their parents money.

Continue reading “Halloween makeup, blood splatter nails, an ode to Gerard Way and Urban Decay’s Gash”