UPDATE with video Bill Maher had something he wanted to say on Real Time to those who have blasted old TV shows and movies for their “un-woke” standards. Shove a sock in it.
Enough with revisiting things,” Maher demanded, as his final New Rules entry on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
“Stop being surprised every time you watch an old movie or TV show and find some of the ideas in it are – old,” the late-night host demanded.
He cited a recent article by Molly Ringwald that got a lot of attention, in which she revisited The Breakfast Club and her other ’80s movies, “and found them troubling in the age of #MeToo,” Maher said, scolding, “She said she was taken aback ‘by the scope of the ugliness’.”
“Oh please. They were teen comedies, not snuff films,” Maher snarked.
“She said, ‘It’s hard for me to understand how John [Hughes] was able to write with so much sensitivity, and also have such a glaring blind spot’.”
Maher wondered facetiously if we should “dig him up and yell at him.”
It’s nuts to blame someone for not being “woke” 30 years before “woke” became a thing, Maher insisted, adding, “I remember the 80’s. Being ‘woke’ means you had too much cocaine.”
More recently, 20 years ago, the jokes on Friends were “just funny,” He said. These days, however, “some millennials – some! I applaud the sane ones – find the jokes sexist, transphobic and fat-shaming.”
Maher came to the defense of The Simpsons producers who, last weekend, addressed the controversy about the show’s Indian-American character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who some have blasted as a negative stereotype.
In the episode, Marge Simpson read a book to daughter Lisa, prompting Lisa to remark that the “cisgender girl” heroine is “already evolved,” and “doesn’t really have an emotional journey to complete,” leaving the book with “no point.”
Countered Marge, “Well, what am I supposed to do?”
“I think we should listen to Lisa Simpson,” Maher urged of Lisa’s response to her mom: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do.”
“Exactly! What can you do?” an exasperated Maher asked, rhetorically. “Label us all degenerates for not already being who we would eventually become?”
Comedian Hari Kondabolu, whose documentary The Problem with Apu trigged a lot of talk on the topic when it debuted last November, had tweeted his review of Sunday’s Simpsons episode during and after that broadcast:
“The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress,” he criticized. He also had snarked:
“TO THE JOURNALISTS WHO HAVE ASKED ME FOR A PUBLIC STATEMENT ABOUT LAST NIGHT’S SIMPSONS EPISODE, I JUST WANT TO SAY: ‘Congratulations to the Simpsons for being talked about & being seen as relevant again.”
While not naming him, Maher responded, arguing, “if you spend your time combing through old TV shows to identify stuff that by today’s standards looks bad, you’re not ‘woke’, you’re just a douchebag.”
Big applause from his studio audience suggested they agreed.
“You can’t enjoy any music, movies or TV from ‘back when’ for any length of time without seeing something we just don’t do any more. But aren’t we adult enough to separate what we like about an old movie from what we don’t?” Maher continued. We can watch Big as a movie about a kid who becomes an adult, not as a movie “about a grown woman who fucks a 12 year old.”
“The most beloved and wholesome act in history was The Beatles but even they wrote ‘She was just 17, you know what I mean,’ which today sounds a little Roy Moore-ish,” Maher noted.
Mahrer knows that every generation could be called The What Were You Thinking Generation. He illustrated:
- In the early 1900’s, heroin was a children’s cough medicine.
- In the 50’s, amphetamines were sold to housewives as diet pills.
- We used to drive without seat belts.
- And drink while we were pregnant
- And litter indiscriminately – just throw shit out the window!
- We smokes on airplanes. We would board an enclosed aluminum tube, with old people and children and asthmatics, and light up a Chesterfield.
- We had pageants where we paraded women in swimsuits and judged them on their appearance.
“Oh wait – we still do that,” Maher conceded.
“And that’s the point. We’re never finished evolving,” he said, warning, “no matter how ‘woke’ you think you are, you are tolerating things right now that will make you cringe in 25 years: Beauty pageants, mass incarceration, putting our parents in old-age homes, how we treat animals.”
“One day your kids will grow up and ask you, ‘What’s Facebook and why were you on it all day? What’s a reality TV star and how did one become president?'” Maher forecast.
“We can’t believe people in old movies smoked. They won’t believe we put the cell phone in our pocket next to our nuts.”