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The PJ Tatler

Cinnamon Stillwell


August 8, 2012 - 2:27 pm

I have a confession to make: I watch a lot of TV, and I’m not going to pretend that all or even most of it is educational. This would hardly be considered unusual except that I’m a serious political person who does serious political work and people like us aren’t supposed to admit that we watch a good amount of—let’s face it—trashy TV. The way I look at it, we all need a little fluff in our lives, especially after a day spent reading and writing about the decline of Western civilization. And as the cliché goes: if you can’t beat them, join them.

Also, I’ve found that there are political aspects to even the most seemingly superficial of television shows. I’ve been taking note of political moments in non-political TV over the past several years, but, with some exceptions, have been hesitant to write about them for fear of incurring the scorn of my fellow politicos. But I’ve now decided to come out of the closet, so to speak, and share with the politically-minded a little glimpse into the netherworld of American pop culture.

Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • Fatima Siad, the second runner up from Season 10 of “America’s Next Top Model,” was a Somali-born Iman look-a-like whose teary-eyed admission that she’d been subjected to genital mutilation as a child brought a moment of moral clarity to a show that typically plays into liberal, multicultural pieties (when not dwelling on cat fights and “booty tooch” lessons).
  • Several installments of HGTV’s “House Hunter’s International” have been set in Israel, but none brought home the vulnerability of Israeli life more than the episode in which a young woman setting out on her own—but with her protective Jewish mother in tow—was shown a series of apartments in Tel Aviv all with one feature in common: built-in bomb shelters. It seems this is a staple of modern Israeli real estate, something that we in the U.S., even in the post-9/11 era, can hardly imagine. Talk about reality TV.
  • Season 12, Episode 8 of “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit” centered on the sexual assault of an FBI agent involved in an undercover investigation into a militia group. This of course led to a scene in which said militia members were protesting Park51 (the Ground Zero Mosque) while holding aloft anti-Muslim signs and screaming anti-Muslim slogans. The noble detective Olivia Benson argued with one of them, saying something like, “Whatever happened to religious freedom?” The implication being that only right-wing militia types and other bigots would protest the building of Park51, not those—including Muslims—with justified concerns over the questionable proclivities of its organizers or the lack of common decency involved in the idea of the project itself. Including any of the “Law & Order” franchises in this list is almost redundant since, as I’ve noted previously, the show is transparently biased, but it certainly is an unending source of material.

Although there are many more such instances I could come up with, I’ll leave it at that and stick to current offerings from here on. I hope PJ Media readers will tune in—pun intended—for future musings on the subject. What better way to watch TV guilt-free?

Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them. She was a political columnist for (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008 and has contributed to many websites, blogs, and publications. Several of her essays have been reprinted in high school and college textbooks. She is a San Francisco Bay area native.
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