Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Even As a Liberal, I Can Admit PC Culture Is Ruining Comedy

Sorry for tricking you. That was a clickbait headline and this is a clickbait picture. This is really my Bachelorette Episode 3 recap. Sorry.
sorry. Photo via snopes
(Episode 1's recap is here.)
(Episode 2's recap is here.)

Episode 3 of The Bachelorette doggedly pursues the plot line laid down in Episode 2; that of The People vs. Chad. While it was my intention to ignore the ignoramus until he had been served his just desserts and shunted off the show, Chad left little cinematic meat on the bone and so we must reflect a little while on his cartoonish villainry.

We open on champagne flutes, half-eaten hors d'oeuvres, and men, all strewn carelessly about the grounds. The footage is meant to convey the messiness of the rose ceremony and intramural drama, but instead provokes questions about the Bachelorette lifestyle: who usually tidies up after the parties? Is there a chore wheel? Such domestic mysteries are left to audience interpretation as Chris Harrison, our waxen host, intrudes upon the scene to lay out the ground rules for this week's dates. One-on-ones now have more tension than Alex's dress shirts, as failing to obtain a rose means an automatic ejection. With that, Chase is dispatched to join JoJo on the first rendezvous of the episode.

Chase is a boilerplate hunk, a mathematical average of the other men in the mansion. When Hollywood eventually deems it time for a gender-swapped Austin Powers reboot, Chase will make a fine male Fem-Bot. He and JoJo venture into a yoga studio, where an instructor leads them through some pelvic and vocal warmups. The outing is an old Bachelorette fallback - a mildly exotic experience that allows our wonderbread-white contestants to roll their eyes to the audience. ABC's music reinforces how wacky the activity is, because it is from a different culture, because the show is tacitly racist. As they flail their limbs hesitantly, Chase and JoJo take solace in each other's discomfort, highlighting the abysmally low threshold hot people have for feeling weird. The instructor uses a silent, male assistant for a demonstration and his thousand-yard stare bores into the camera.

The way sweat merely enhances our attractiveness is, like, soooo awkward.
Photo via ABC
Following their brush with a different culture, the two adjourn to a special surprise that Chase has in store - live music. Amy and I crumple at the awkwardness of the setup - to us, nothing is worse than these "pathetic little concerts" (her words) performed by desperate groups to an audience of two. The camera swoops up and away from the revolving duo and languid crooning, as grateful to depart as we are. Chase gets the rose, but nobody cares.

The serenity of their date is juxtaposed with the crockpot of testosterone simmering back at the mansion. Chad, and his flunky Daniel, exercise outdoors, their bodies throwing the sun's light back up at it in anaerobic defiance. Their muscles are an affront to a God they neither recognize nor respect. The other contestants mutter about Chad's behavior, and when the men congregate, the agitation boils over into verbal scuffles. Chad, ever unwilling to participate in the rules of the Bachelorette universe, balks at attending a group date with "12 other dudes." Rodger Rodgers and the others make the extremely fair point that the mansion itself is home to many more than "12 other dudes." One person suggests Chad recuse himself, reminding him that "Chris [Harrison] said there's no rules." This is yet another mystifying comment on the uncertain autonomy of the show's contestants - how much freedom do the men really have?

In the end, Chad compromises by participating and sulking the whole time. The cadre of beefcakes is shuttled to a small blackbox theater. Amy and I grip the sofa arms in terror, praying they aren't about to perform improv comedy, then relax when the nature of the date is revealed - it's a sex-themed story-telling show. Far, far less embarrassing. ABC underscores the naughtiness with a lascivious bassline riff. While the guys brainstorm their anecdotes backstage, Evan confides to the camera that he intends to use his spot to submarine Chad. In Evan's words, "the man gloves might come out today," which is a saying used exclusively by Evan. Feel free to weigh in with your interpretation of "man gloves" - for me the phrase conjured something fingerless and leather, gloves you'd see on the frontman of an 80's hair metal band. I'm unsure what that says about me.
Vinny describes being caught by his mother and oh whoops shows off his body too how embarrassing.
Photo via ABC

Evan's apparel-based Rorschach test aside, the date goes remarkably well. Several of the men have a natural onstage charisma and good sense of humor - Amy and I were impressed with Grant, who seemed totally at ease regaling the audience with an embarrassing tale of being caught by the police. Rodger Rodgers leans too much on standup for our taste, and Chad, predictably, phones it in. Evan's monologue is a not-exactly-veiled insinuation that Chad is on steroids and a warning about the sexual side effects said steroids can cause. He's valiant but extremely nervous, and doesn't get the audience reaction he's hoping for. As he steps offstage, he and Chad have an altercation that leaves Evan's shirt ripped and Chad fuming about the allegations. "I'm not mad about what he said," he proclaims, massaging his knuckles. As he walks out, he throws a haymaker at the stage door.

Afterward, JoJo and her harem reconvene in what appears to be a frontiersman's Ikea, milling around wagon wheels and rough-hewn furniture. Multiple guys turn their conversations to Chad's violent behavior, while he stalks in and out of the room, like a creatine-infused dad who repeatedly wanders by "just getting something from the kitchen" to spy on his daughter and her boyfriend. His time with JoJo does little to redeem himself and he admits to resorting to physical altercations when he cannot figure out another way to confront someone. Chad's simian confusion when JoJo gives the group date rose to Evan is a delight to those of us rooting against him.

The second one-on-one date is with James Taylor, the self-deprecatory good guy. He and JoJo take a swing-dancing lesson with an elderly dancer, and he earns a few points with his cheerful enthusiasm in the face of ineptitude. While JoJo seems to harbor a soft spot for the underdogs, Amy and I spot the cracks beginning to form in the ice. She confesses that her hesitation with James is about "getting past the friendship stage," coded language in the Bachelor universe for discussing the friendly uggos that get wiped out before things get too serious. James savages his own looks while talking with JoJo, which must put her in an uncomfortable position: he's being unkind to himself, but he ain't wrong (relatively speaking, of course).

The episode concludes on a cliffhanger. Chris Harrison confronts Chad about his behavior but allows him to stay on, and Chad shows no signs of penitence. He lumbers back into the mansion as the others confess their concerns about him. On a positive note, Daniel, who seemed fairly clueless in episode one, uses the word "exacerbate" correctly. Perhaps there is hope after all.
He also successfully navigated a Hitler-Mussolini-Trump analogy. Great job!
Photo via ABC

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