Amidst the celebration of Obama's victory last fall, some folks were already wondering what would become of so-called "liberal" political TV. Could Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher still work in absence of a rightwing boogie man?
The answer is "yes" for "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," which have always been more about humorously pointing out hypocrisy than slavishly following the Democratic Party. The same can be said for Maddow and Olbermann, who appear to be devoted to liberal principles, not simply Democratic figure heads. They don't pull punches for the right or left. And, of course, the Republican Party is still around--flailing and bringing the faux outrage and teabagging and getting all extremist. They may not be in power, but they provide plenty of fodder for liberal media and bloggers like me.
To my eye, only one of the shows that sustained me during the long winter of the Bush administration seems to be flagging--"Real Time with Bill Maher."
Now, I've always been kind of ambivalent about Maher, often finding his misogyny and libertarianism and extremist atheism and priviledged swagger a little tiring. Without the constant war-mongering, civil liberty crushing, English mangling and big business genuflecting of the Bushies, Maher seems adrift with more time to spend crabbing about his pet issues like atheism.
I don't begrudge Maher his beliefs, but it bugs me that many of his complaints about organized religion seem as irrational and extremist as the beliefs of the hyper-faithful Christians and Muslims, etc. that he disdains. There are many solid criticisms to be made about the impact of organized religion on our society, but Maher rarely makes them. Instead he rolls his eyes at people who "believe in talking snakes" or "who think they are eating Jesus' body every first Sunday." The fact that most mainline Christians do not believe in a literal translation of the Garden of Eden story and that communion in based on symbolism weakens Maher's uholier-than-thou snark.
But that's just a minor annoyance to this fairly secular blogger. Maher's interview with M.I.A. this past Friday typifies all the things that rankle about Maher and his show:
Hey M.I.A., I know you are here to talk about civil war in your country, but can I say how glad I am that you aren't all fat after having your kid. I hate fat chicks!
Hey M.I.A., what was up with all that dancing around at the Grammys, all pregnant and shit? I didn't know that pregnant women could do stuff in public. Mostly the only women I notice are twirling around a pole in Luccite heels or hanging out in the Grotto at the Playboy Mansion. Anyhoo...
Hey M.I.A., what do you mean we need more women in the rap game? Don't go talking that feminism shit on my show.
Hey M.I.A., remember when your home country was colonized by Great Britain and called Ceylon? Good times, huh?
Hey M.I.A., how come you're brown and have an English accent like Mick Jagger?
Hey M.I.A., in Sri Lanka, the Buddhist Sinhalese and the Hindu Tamils are fighting. I know you say this isn't a religious war, but RELIGION BAD! Clearly, this is all The Buddha's fault.
Hey M.I.A., don't bring me down by talking about your family's efforts to escape Sri Lanka when you were 10. All that talk about seeing Tamil men pulled from buses and executed during three failed attempts to reach asylum is ruining my bit.
Hey M.I.A., did you know Americans are really, really stupid? (And when I say "American," I basically mean those fat, slobbering idiots in the flyover states. Not hip, libertarian, vegetarian, weed-smoking, stripper-dating, cool, L.A. comedians like me. You can tell from this interview that I am really, really smart and knowledgable about world politics.)
See, my problem will Bill Maher is that for all his claim to being smarter and more rational and more enlightened the rest of us stupid Americans, he often reveals the opposite to be true.
Without our common enemy, Bill and I just don't seem to have a lot in common.