Dumb Preconceptions Supersized

Trio, a network I'm not in the habit of watching, is running a month worth (read that to mean 20 shows repeated endlessly) of primetime programming on Texas: America Supersized. We caught this last night while flipping around the upper reaches of the cable channels. I invite you to step right up for some penetrating cultural insight into the state where I live. After all, Blood Simple is an important record of Texas, or the Coen brothers' delusions of it. (Good movie, though.) That classic piece of 70s dreck, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, also gives you a vital glimpse into the depths of the Texas psyche via Jane Seymour in a cheerleading outfit: Boobies good! A sentiment unique to Texas, right?

Admittedly, those were easy targets. The two I've actually watched (haphazardly) were the title documentary and something entitled Fat City. Both were, in their own way, pretty damn funny. The first one has Christopher Hitchens wandering around Texas talking to people about Texas. Let me just state for the record that I think Mr. Hitchens is a smart guy and an interesting, although not always correct, writer. Having said that, he fails pretty spectacularly when confronted with Texas, as most Europeans do. A lot of Americans outside of Texas seem to think Texans all ride horses to work and have oil wells in the front yard. I don't expect Euros to have much more of a clue. Hell, I've lived most of my adult life here and the place freakin' baffles me sometimes. So he does the typical tourist crap, like buying boots and a hat, and ponders deeply on what Texas means to the US. I'm unsure of what his conclusion was, although I think he probably is too. It's hard to draw some larger message from any place with 25 million people. The funniest section was him going to the gun range with some Bubba wearing an anti-UN shirt. Mr. Hitchens looked thoroughly confused and/or frightened at spots. Other than that, it's a lot of the usual blather about frontier culture and cowboys and football and related crap. When you start nattering on about that nonsense, you're not engaging in groundbreaking journalism or filmmaking. It's a convenient narrative that's easy to use with Texas because the stereotypes are all true, to an extent, but just grabbing the obvious doesn't provide any insight. You have to spend a little more time and start digging around for the underlying contradictions and seeing if there's more to Texas than the tired stereotypes the East Coast has had for a century.

As a side note, Molly Ivins is not really a credible source anymore. She pretty much lost her damn mind when Bush got elected, like much of the left. (She also lost her chin in her neck fat, from what I could see.) She has spent so much of her career talking about how Texas fails to meet her vision of what it should/could/oughta be I'm not sure she actually looks at Texas as it is anymore. She's more concerned about what it isn't, and has been for a long time. She also fails to grasp the important fact that most Texans like the place the way it is.

The Fat City piece was more entertaining, but if you don't live in Houston it might not be. The filmmakers focused on Houston and why people here are so damn fat. I might try to argue the point, but a simple walk around town looking slightly down would be all the counter-argument anyone needs. It's pretty accurate, and pretty funny at times in the "hey, I've been there!" mode. Some of the restaurants they visit are familiar to me, so it has that weird feeling of watching something on TV that's real to you. It's also comical in that it's a dead honest portrayal of how a lot of people in this town are. My only other comment is not all Houston residents are fat, just a whole damn lot of 'em.

If you're interested, both of these will be repeated later in the month. If you're not interested, watch Kolchak: The Nightstalker instead.


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