Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

A Lifetime of agony

I can’t hold back any longer. I have to say it. I hate Lifetime.

There, I feel much better. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s just the way I feel.

For those who may not be familiar with it, I am referring to the American cable TV channel that bills itself as “television for women.” This moniker immediately raises two questions: 1) does this mean that all other television is for men? And 2) does this mean I am some sort of misogynist?

As far as I know, there is no channel that calls itself “television for men,” although some people might claim that channels like ESPN or the Playboy Channel fit that description. The problem with that view is that I personally know a lot more women who are into watching sports than I do guys who are into watching sports. I know this is a fluke and doesn’t reflect broader demographics, but think about it. Most spectator sports involve watching sweaty, dirty men, sometimes (but not always) wearing revealing clothing frequently coming into physical contact with each other. If this doesn’t sound like entertainment designed for heterosexual women and gay men, I don’t know what is. As for the Playboy Channel, well, if anything that is “television for boys” since most grown men I hang out with wouldn’t even think about watching it, let alone paying the premium to get it in their home.

So, I think most television is actually designed for “people” rather than for “men” or “women.” But I have no philosophical objection to channels specifically targeted at women, especially since there is plenty of bandwidth for lots of different specialized channels. No, my dislike for Lifetime has nothing to do with feelings about some imagined reverse sexism.

And my dislike for the channel doesn’t apply to every single minute of its programming. I actually enjoy the reruns of The Golden Girls. When that series debuted, it was a breath of fresh air to see light entertainment that didn’t revolve around teenagers or very young adults. It proved that gags about liver spots and menopause could be just as entertaining as a guy being a platonic roommate with two attractive women. I know the series gave my parents many hours of pleasure. I still remember when I called my mother down in California and she was in the middle of watching the very last episode of the series. She was practically in tears as she told me, “Quick, turn on your TV. Dorothy is getting married!” This seemed strange to me since it was a Sunday afternoon. In the background I could hear my father yelling to my mother (who never was too technically adept), “It’s on tape!”

No, the reason I detest Lifetime is the movies it shows. I’m not sure how many movies Lifetime shows in an average day, but I know they pretty much show one every afternoon at one o’clock Pacific time. I know this because every day I spend visiting my mother I end up watching one of these wretched things. And if these movies are truly representative of what women like to watch, well, then women are even harder to comprehend than I thought.

Lifetime movies always seem to be about victims. Sometimes these victims are children, but usually they are women. And they are usually played by Kate Jackson. Sometimes Kate (or occasionally another female actor) is being beaten by the rotten psychopath she has married. Or sometimes Kate is the villain and she steals another woman’s baby from the maternity ward. Sometimes it isn’t herself who is married to the murderous psychopath. Sometimes it is her mother or her daughter. But invariably someone winds up dead. All in all, these movies present a very sad view of women since they are constantly stalked, mentally tortured, mistreated and often killed.

And if “television for women” constantly portrays women as victims, you can imagine how men are portrayed. Usually, the main male character is evil beyond any character shading. The other male characters are usually police detectives or relatives who are totally clueless and keep telling the stalked female character she is worrying about nothing or she is overreacting or they can’t press charges because the husband or boyfriend who goes around with a sawed-off shotgun has broken no laws. What is particularly distressing is that a lot of the victims of abuse or murder or both in these movies are children. Oh yeah, and the movies are always “based on a true story,” which makes them seem like they’re important and worth seeing, but mainly this just makes you feel worse about the world.

I know a lot of the social issues that get raised by these true stories are important and need to be recognized and dealt with. But is there really an audience of women (the channel’s stated target viewers) who need and want a steady diet of this stuff? Does watching it actually improve anybody’s life? And what does it say about people (sorry, Mom) who watch this as entertainment? It certainly isn’t escapist or uplifting in any way that I can see.

Sorry, but after a few days of watching Lifetime flicks, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone movies don’t seem so bad after all.

Happy Halloween.

-S.L., 25 October 2001


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