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January 12, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, January 12, 2009 - SA

Manly in all the
wrong places

More and more channels
these days are develop-
ing specific niches, and
the program-_
ming that fits
these new
images tends to
be very strong.
But when
these channels
try to create
programming JAME
outside of their BLOCK
stated purpose in
order to appeal to
specific demographics, they often
create some awful programing.
While not every television show
targets a specific gender, they
almost all end up appealing to
one gender more than the other.
When one station compiles sev-
eral of these male-leaning shows
with shows that are purposefully
aimed at men, it's not surprising
that the channel attracts a pretty
homogenous viewership.
Two channels where this has
certainly happened are Comedy
Central and G4, For those who
don't know, G4 is a channel spe-
cializing in all things video games,
Internet, comics, gadgetry, and
sci-fi. It also airs reruns of "Lost"
and "Heroes." Basically, it's a
channel about everything I love.
As for Comedy Central, I'm going
to assume you all know what it is,
or, if you don't, that you can come
up with a pretty good guess. And
to those of you who are already
objecting, saying "The Daily
Show" and perhaps "The Colbert
Report" appeal to both genders
equally, you're probably right
about that. But for every "Daily
Show" on Comedy Central, there
are several shows like "Reno 911!"
These two channels appeal
mainly to men, particularly ado-
lescents and the adolescent at
heart. That fact isn't especially
shocking, nor is ita bad thing on
its own. But when these channels
examine gender-related viewing
trends and try to cater to male
viewers with shows outside their
pre-existing niches, the results
can be agonizingly poor:
From Comedy Central, the
obvious example is "The Man
Show," which aired from 1999
to 2004 - five years too many.
I admit that the show was, in
theory, supposed to be funny.
Everything on the show was
done in sketch-comedy form, but
because so much focus was put on
cleavage, no attention was given
to making the show genuinely
amusing. Plus, it was created and
originally co-hosted by the unfun-
ny-to-the-degree-of-inducing-
nausea Jimmy Kimmel ("Jimmy
Kimmel Live!").
To put it simply, "The Man
Show" could be the worst show
ever created by Comedy Central.
And I've seen "Strangers with
Candy," "Drawn Together," and
even, I'm ashamed to admit, "I'm
With Busey," featuringnone other
than the ever-bothersome Gary
Busey himself ("Maneater"). If
you haven't seen any of those
shows, save yourself the anguish.
If you have, you know I'm mak-
ing a very strong claim. "The Man
Show" was that bad.
For G4, the show I think best
exemplifies man-pandering is a lit-
tle less obvious. My choice is none
other than "Hurl!," a hybrid game
show created in 2008 that com-
bines an eating competition with
body-wrenching extreme sports (if

you consider getting rapidly spun

around an extreme sport). You can
guess from the show's name what
the desired result of juxtaposing
these two activities is. I'm aware
that the word "man" never appears
when describing what the show's
about, but it doesn't take a stretch
of the imagination to link exces-
sive quantities of food, athleticism
and vomit to a prdominantly male
audience.
And, of course, "Hurl!" is awful.
But honestly, I don't think there
could ever be a decent game show
where puking is the method of
elimination. So how did a show
this bad get aired alongside such
greats as "Lost," "Attack of the
Show" and the must-see Japanese
import "Ninja Warrior"? Ah, the
power of unchecked testosterone.
I don't have an ideological prob-
lem with the existence of shows
like "The Man Show" or "Hurl!"
If people want to watch that kind
of thing, I give them my blessing.
But I think that these shows have
a specific time and place, and nei-
ther Comedy Central nor G4 is that
place. But never fear. A safe haven
for this kind of programming does
exist, and its name is Spike.
From the moment TNN
announced that it was changing
its name to Spike TV, the network
began proclaiming itself to be
first channel aimed directly (and
unflinchingly) at men. This is
evidenced by current Spike shows
with names like "MANswers,"
"MuscleCar" and "Cock + Load,"
desiring instead to focus even
more closely on male-oriented
programming. The channel has
recently stopped airing classics
like "Ren and Stimpy" or "Robot
Wars," each of which would fit in
perfectly on more gender-neutral
channels like Comedy Central and
G4, respectively. And even though
I would've liked to catch reruns
of those shows, I approve whole-
heartedly of the decision to target
a specific demographic.
Vomit makes bad
shows worse.
When Spike abandoned some
of its more nerd-friendly and
comedic efforts, it was solidifying
its niche. On a channel designed
specifically for men- the burlier
the better - there's no reason to
air Nickelodeon shows or shows
about dinky little robots. Spike is
about men doing manly things,
like driving big cars, kicking peo-
ple in the ass (with Battle Pope),
looking at cleavage, eating and
vomiting. Comedy Central and G4
are not.
So to these two wayward chan-
nels, I say this: Sure, a lot more
men watch you than women. But
please don't act any differently as
a result. You are perfect just the
way you are. Comedy Central: You
and I have had some great laughs
together ever since I was just a wee
lad. And G4: Even though we've
only known each other a few short
years, we've already formed a truly
emotional bond over video games
and gadget news. So don't be jeal-
ous of Spike just because it might
be bigger and stronger than you.
When I need to be entertained, I'll
be visiting you two first.
Block has his first date with
G4 tonight. Tell him what to

wear at jamblock Stumichedu.

"Go ahead. Change my Depends."

Ending with a bang

In what might be his Torino" mocks more than forty
years of Eastwood's macho mov-
final performance, ies. In the film, he plays 78-year-old
Walt Kowalski, an old curmudgeon
Clint Eastwood is who wields a shotgun and growls at
minority gangsters to "get off (his)
legendary again lawn." Is old Clint just going for
laughs? Or maybe he's just attempt-
By BLAKE GOBLE ing to terrify viewers with his ste-
Daily Arts Writer reotypical masculinity? "Gran
Torino seems to beg both laugh-
Even people with little to no ter and terror, and that's probably
exposure to what Eastwood was going for.
Clint Eastwood "Gran Torino" is one of East-
know that "Dirty wood's most complicated, self-
Harry" and "The Gran Torino reflective and engrossing films. A
Good, The Bad melding of the traditional and the
& The Ugly" are At Quality 16 progressive in terms of filmmaking
macho, gunsling- and Showcase and screenwriting, "Torino" is an
ing classics. But Warner Bros. amazing apex for Eastwood. Along
how many people with "Milk," it is one of the great
really understand American films of 2008.
Eastwood beyond his trademark Ostensibly, the character Walt is a
1970s-era action flicks? racist old sonuvabitch. He's a veter-
Upon first glance, it seems "Gran an of the Korean War, a Ford Motor

Co. retiree and a recent widower.
To his disappointment, his son sells
foreign cars, his grandkids have no
decency and he's newly surrounded
by Asian neighbors. So, unsurpris-
ingly, Walt's a grumpy old man.
But when a Hmong teen named
Thao (newcomer Bee Vang) is dared
to steal Walt's prized green Ford
Gran Torino, everything begins to
change for Walt. What begins as
satire turns into a culture clash.
After nearly shooting Thao dur-
ing the attempted car theft, Walt
later saves him from the gang that
provoked Thao to steal the Tori-
no in the first place. In a strange
twist of fate, Walt later befriends
Thao and becomes a mentor and
protector for the young man, his
sister and his family. In turn, Walt
begins to learn about the Hmong
culture, and more importantly, he
starts to change. Sure, he fights
with his priest, his barber and his

own health, but by interacting with
Thao and his family, Walt reorga-
nizes himself for the better.
Walt later teaches Thao the
value of good, old-fashioned crafts-
manship and courtesy, which
are refreshingly simple themes
throughout the film. But Thao's
earnestness and sincerity teach
Walt about the need to confide in
others and not judge people simply
by their race or age. The themes
may superficially feel redundant,
but placed in a realistic 21st centu-
ry context, they feel new again.
Eventually, tensions escalate
between Walt and the Asian gang.
All the while, Walt does everything
he can to teach Thao what it means
to be a man. The film speeds up
to a heartbreaking climax. "Gran
Torino" showcases Eastwood's in
his supposed last acting role, and
naturally it offers a certain kind of
See GRAN TORINO, Page 8A

Forgettable sHaymaker!'
4just can 't find its target

By JEFF SANFORD
Daily Arts Writer
The Gourds are a band born out of the
proud Austin, Texas music
scene. And, like many of
their hometown brethren, *
the members take their Lone
Star tradition very seriously. The Gourds
Within the first seconds of "Haymaker!"
Haymaker! vocalist Kevin
Russell announces "Wake
up, we goin' to the country"
while his guitar unleashes some serious down-
home twang. Surprisingly, there's no follow-up
"yeeeeehaw," but the message is clear from the
beginning: as the title of the first song sug-
gests, the album is all about "Country Love."
But while this sort of mentality works a
special magic in the whiskey-soaked bars of
downtown Austin, The Gourds suffer when
their sound is taken out of the roadhouse and
constrained to an album. Outside of a live con-
text, there is no carefree bar ambiance or char-
ismatic stage presence for the band to fall back
on. Unfortunately, these things are essential to
the appeal of bands like The Gourds, who play
standard, jaunty blues tunes and don't have the

grace or originality to survive on musical merit
alone. Listening to Haymaker! is like listening
to a Soulja Boy song quietly at home - it just
doesn't feel right.
Despite the nagging feeling that some vital
component is missing, Haymaker! shows
fleeting signs of songwriting prowess. "Fos-
sil Contender" boasts a sing-along chorus and
showcases the strength of Russell's gravelly
voice that at times captures all the blue-collar
conviction of Springsteen. The band sows its
country roots on "All the Way to Jericho," a
swaggering gospel number that's endearing
enough to break up the monotony that defines
the rest of Haymaker!.
While there are moments where enough ol'
timey charm comes through to pique listener
interest, there are far too nany tracks that
seem to revel in the generic. It's difficult to sit
through long.stretches of Haymaker! without
the word "bland" constantly coming to mind,
and its just as hard to shake the feeling you've
heard this same freewheeling alt-country act
before. Sometimes it's possible to completely
forget music is playing at all - the deluge of
noise simply drifts into the background, but
not in a pleasant, atmospheric way. It's more
like how an incessant car alarm gradually

becomes unnoticeable.
Aftermore than a decade ofplaying together,
The Gourds are growing old and their chances
of making a real impact on music are slipping
away. Aside from being the apple of many an
Austinite's eye, The Gourds owe a great deal
of success to their irresistible bluegrass cover
All of the blue-collar
conviction of Bruce
Springsteen, with none
of the benefits.
of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice." It's a shame,
then, that they couldn't take the innovation
shown in that cover and apply it to their own
original music. They're clinging to some rigid-
ly defined mold, afraid to write outside of what
they think they should sound like. Unfortu-
nately, that's just what they need to do if they
want to progress in today's music world.

The Armenian Studies Program
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
is pleased to announce the annual
Dr. Berj H. Haidostian Memorial Lecture
to be delivered by
Dr. Gerard Chaliand
Author of History nfTerrorism Froim Antiquity to al Qsdda
(University of California Press, 2007) with A. Blin,
and
The Art of War in WorldlHistory (University of California Press, 1994)
"US Policy at the Periphery of Russia:
The Geopolitics of the World Today."
Looking at Ajhanistan, the Caucasus, Iraqandmore'
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Lecture wlthewehcast Live: hulv umty -1ive.rs.lt muich.edufasntasnb114(tietcx
7:00 PM
Michigan League (Hussey Room)
911 N. University, Ann Arbor
Armenian Studies Program Phone 7347630622
E 8 4S.nsiaty e, a:,,4.763.491
Sutn63sEmal:aren:astd:syith~d
Ann Arbor, M,148109 11065,5:

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