One man's attempt at literacy

Tag Archives: Entertainment

People who have read my blog for awhile know that I love bad TV. Love it. To the extent that when I see a bad show on Netflix or Hulu, I will call people up or post on their Facebook saying “WE MUST WATCH THIS!” And then look even more awkward than normal.

It really is as good-bad as they say!!!

But the secret I don’t talk about that often, except with the people I watch bad TV with, is that there’s an art to making bad TV good. For instance, in Christmas I started at least twelve terrible Christmas/holiday movies, and only completed three of them. The other ones just weren’t badly good enough to be enjoyable. It turns out there is quite the science to making something that is as amazingly terrible as, say, Sharknado.

In this vein, I want to share my newest obsession: Breaking Amish. Breaking Amish is a TLC show — the same network that brought you My Big, Fat Gypsy Wedding, so you know it must be quality entertainment — about five young Amish adults (technically, four Amish and a Mennonite, which is slightly more progressive) who decide they want to experience the real world by moving to New York for various reasons.

At this point when I was explaining the show to my boyfriend, he said, “so it’s about their Rumspringa?” And I say, “What’s that?” He responded, “Well, the Amish are often encouraged to go experience American culture in their teenage years.” I looked at him blankly.

No, it’s not about their Rumspringa, Joseph! That’s not dramatic enough! It’s just them being rebellious and angsty because — well, just because! Anyways, it’s not about their Rumspringa. End of story! They’re just… They just decide to all go to New York at the same time! When there happen to be a film crew there! Duh. Stop being silly!

The first episode of Breaking Amish explores the five characters and why they decide to leave their community. I didn’t actually see the first episode, but you really don’t need to because most of these people will explain their motivations over, and over, and over every episode. The characters are as follows:

Rebecca: Rebecca is a young, insecure girl who hates pretty much everyone and wanted to see New York because her father was English (what they call non-Amish people). Or her mom was. I don’t know. She’s pretty boring, but she makes up for any hobbies or interesting quirks by being extremely judgemental and easily offended. Also, she has dentures.

Kate: Kate is a very pretty girl who seems sort of fun and completely insane. She likes to drink a lot and also likes to break into tears. She especially loves to do both of these things simultaneously. Her goal for leaving is to be a model, even though she seems to despise English people — though she had to leave the Amish community because they think that trying to be beautiful is bad and prideful, to the extent they have super creepy faceless dolls.

Not creepy AT ALL.

Abe: Abe is boring. I don’t know why he left the Amish community, but I’m assuming it was to stalk Rebecca, because, despite being awkward and quiet, he is also kind of a pervert. We’re talking if he lived in Japan he’d be buying panties out of a vending machine.

Sabrina: Sabrina is Puerto Rican. She left to find out more of her culture, which she does by working at a restaurant in Astoria, an area in Queens mostly known for having a lot of Greek people, so that makes sense. She is the Mennonite, so the journey is a little less daunting to her. Does she have a personality? Well, she’s funnier and kinder than the rest — which is not saying much. I suppose the best way to describe her is she is the most human of all of them.

Jeremiah: Jeremiah is the other male, and he is also a pervert. He likes boobs, and I’m sure he’d like monster trucks.

They all have plot arcs that develop throughout the season, too. Sabrina hires a PI to track her parents, which is full of lots of juicy tidbits that conveniently pop up every week or two; luckily, she only has drama at her job when she doesn’t have drama concerning her parents. Rebecca and Abe start dating each other; they are perfect for each other because their most defining characteristic is their mutual contempt for everyone besides themselves. Jeremiah quickly turns into The Situation from Jersey Shore. Kate does something with modeling, but mostly she cries a lot because she needs mood stabilizers.

As you can probably guess, this is all terribly, terribly convenient. Too convenient. So convenient that if it wasn’t scripted I’d say God has a plan, and his plan is to make people’s lives into hilariously bad television shows. But with so many reality shows being overtly scripted — I had a friend who knew someone on the Real Housewives of Some Place who said they made them redo scenes liking flipping over a table — the fact that Breaking Amish can embrace the fact it’s all being thought up by someone being paid in spare change and Oreos at the TLC headquarters actually makes it better than all the terrible scripted “reality” shows that have come before it. When Abe’s mom comes in the second episode to ask him back, we don’t roll our eyes; we cheer, because that same plot very well could’ve happened in last week’s Grey’s Anatomy.

As it stands, Breaking Amish has perfected the scripted-reality show formula because it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. There are no boring plots that demonstrate these are real humans because — admit it — at the time of this filming they are not; they are Amish dolls (with faces, thankfully) who are being paraded around for our entertainment. As long as we remember that, I am all too happy to eat a gallon spoonful of ice cream in front of the boob tube.


Totally belongs to Disney YORecently, one of my favorite comedy shows, Happy Endings, ended (unhappily, hahahaha PUN). This was a sitcom kind of in the vein of Friends, only I like it more. One of the best parts of Happy Endings is a certain character, Max Blum (Adam Pally). He’s a loveable curmudgeon who is chubby, hairy, and dirty, eats and sleeps most all of his days away, hates committing to relationships, and has no work ethic. Max is a slightly unusual character with all of this, but what makes him completely unique is that he also happens to be gay. In fact, Max is probably the single best gay guy I’ve ever seen in a show (not to mention one of the funniest characters), and it’s because he has such a huge list of vices.

You might think that me pointing to Max as the best gay character is preposterous, as he’s not even necessarily a good character with all of these flaws. You might say, “But there are so many other shows with better representations of gay men!”

There are, after all, many, more positive portrayals of homosexual men. You have Will and Grace, a show with two gay protagonists, where both are relatively successful, witty, well kempt, and fit. Will is masculine enough, and the other gay lead, Jack, is a sassy diva. The current gay comedy dream team, Modern Family, where Mitch is a successful lawyer and Cam is the stay at home dad. Both are witty, fashionable, and urbane. Again, Mitch is somewhat masculine (though still very effeminate) , and Cam is more of a sassy diva. Another show that only had a one season run in 2012-2013 was The New Normal, which is… Surprisingly similar. Both are clean, fit, and well educated. One is a masculine doctor, and the other is a sassy diva who is a producer for a musical TV show. There were also similar gay characters on Partners, but that was pretty bad so I didn’t pay attention.

All of these characters are very similar — they have good comebacks, and are intelligent, funny, clean, successful, kind, fit (generally), and metropolitan — but they’re all similar in good ways, really. Each pair follows a very similar trope, where one is vaguely masculine and one is vaguely effeminate, though both end up just being vaguely androgynous (which is not a problem). Their only flaws are also shared, being that they gossip a bit too much. That, admittedly, makes them pretty great, if a bit too similar. Shouldn’t I be praising Mitch, the lawyer, or Cam, the mom man who would sacrifice anything for his partner or child? After all, many gay people themselves have embraced the characters as being what people should look to when they think of LGBT people!

Greg, what is wrong with you?!

Liz Lemon/30 Rock owned by NBC and such DAWGMax is empowering — more empowering than any of these other characters — in the same way that Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s character on 30 Rock, is considered empowering: both, while they have some redeemable traits, also have many, many unique flaws. Liz Lemon is successful and attractive, but she’s afraid of commitment, is not afraid of devious action (including going to the AA meeting of the guy she likes to hear his secrets and using her power to create a fake job for a pregnant teenager as a ploy to get the baby), and is addicted to hotdogs.

What makes them both, somehow, role models, is that they are unique. Let’s get one thing straight: stereotypes are inherently bad — even if the traits that are pointed to are positive — because they create a narrow expectation of what is appropriate. It’s like how making a huge amount of  Black characters in movies the wise, friendly person who offers white people life advice doesn’t empower Black people; it makes it seem like there’s only one appropriate way for Black people to interact with white people. The same is true when you say that gay men need to dress well, be witty, and know the trendiest spots if they want to to earn a place on prime time TV.

Max is a character with just as many (if not more) bad traits as good ones, what with being chubby, lazy, moody, overly competitive, slovenly, insecure, afraid of commitment, etc. Surprisingly enough, this makes him an amazing gay character because he’s not at all what you expect from a gay character; he’s unique, and he breaks the mold from pretty much every homosexual in mainstream TV. Max’s faults end up being even more empowering for me, as a gay man, than any “positive” stereotypes from other gay characters.

It isn’t really acceptance to say, “I accept you as long as you fit into this box.” A box is, by definition, confining. In movements that are about embracing sexual/ethnic/gender diversity, shouldn’t there be just as much of an emphasis on embracing physical/mental/psychological diversity? The answer is, to put it as simply as possible, “Yes.”


Alas, friends, 2012 is almost over, and with the end of the year comes something truly disheartening: the end of my terrible holiday themed movie ideas. Let’s take a moment to recap the three so far:

  • iChanukah, an artistic movie about rebellion and disillusionment starring Lena Dunham and Andrew Garfield.
  • Black Christmas, a heartfelt family comedy with Martin Lawrence and Willow Smith.
  • Christmas is a Drag, an over the top ride with RuPaul, Rich Sommer, and BD Wong.

Now, to finish this I have a holiday romantic comedy, preferably from ABC Family, because they do such wonderful work, about New Years. It has everything you could want from a show in this genre: familial and romantic love, a good dose of terrible humor, an arbitrary deadline, and a talking dog.

Because, you know, nothing says holidays like a talking dog.

Save the Date

Melissa Joan Hart: number one bad romantic comedy actress?

Save the Date is the newest romantic holiday classic in the making from ABC Family, just in time for the New Year. Allison (Melissa Joan Hart, Clarissa Explains It All, Melissa and Joey) is in love with what she thinks is the best guy she’s ever met, and their wedding date is set for New Years Eve. But on Thanksgiving he reveals he’s decided to “upgrade” and leaves her for a younger, prettier ditz. Heart broken, she loses her normal pluckiness and zest for life, and is almost ready to give up on love for good — but luckily, being a spinster isn’t in her cards.

I’d bet you’d like to take him home for the holidays!

Allison’s dad, George (Tim Allen, Home Improvement, Toy Story), died 10 tragic years ago, but he couldn’t leave his little girl all alone. Little does she know, he’s been watching her in the form of her nine year old golden retriever — conveniently named “George” after her late father. George decides it’s his job to make sure that she finds the man of her dreams, who happens to be his ex-business partner’s son, Travis (Brian Austin Green, Beverly Hills, 90210), before the New Years rings in and she’s alone for good.

Don’t miss out on this wonderful movie, that will convince you a New Year is the perfect time for new love.


Mmm, head cheese.

In the spirit of the holidays, over the next three weeks I am bringing you, my sparse readership, a gift. A gift that will linger in your minds far longer than any other gift I would’ve given you would (for the record, alternate gift ideas included head cheese and whatever has been growing in my closet). That’s right: four — you read correctly, four!!! — of my famous movie ideas* to enjoy in the privacy of wherever you’re reading this from.

*All famous movie ideas copyright Relatively Awesome Productions, Est. 2023. Stealing any of said ideas will result in punishment as seen fit by the Honorable Justice Gregory. Continue reading