You know how whenever a classic novel is made into a movie, the novel is reissued with a new, glossy cover featuring the actors from the film? I've never really liked those reissues (though I do own several of them), because they make it so much harder for me to remember how the characters looked in my mind's eye before the film version came along. Even when I really like the film, I'm bothered by these covers. There's just something way too literal and imagination-restricting about them. Case in point: I have a cheap, mass-market paperback copy of Sense and Sensibility which I purchased around the time Ang Lee's film version (starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) was released. I adore the film; it is probably my favorite of the recent Austen screen adaptations. But when I re-read the novel, I want to be able to picture Elinor Dashwood as someone other than Emma Thompson trying to look like she's twenty. With her picture on the cover, staring at me every time I pick up the book, I just can't do it.
That's really sort of a long and winding road leading up to what I really wanted to talk about, which is this cool slide show appearing in Slate today. I had no idea that some classics had been issued in the 50's with pulp-inspired cover illustrations. My favorite is the Moby Dick cover, which is brilliant in the way it gets right to the point of what the novel is actually about, plot aside. This illustration also made me consider for the first time ever the ways in which Moby Dick and Hitchcock's Vertigo are similar. That's a pretty neat trick for a mere book cover!
An interesting piece of research featured on the front U of M page today shows that regular viewers of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace tend to be less prejudiced against gay men. That alone wouldn't be such a big deal, if the audience comprised mostly people who were already not prejudiced, but the study also found that attitudes were influenced most among Will and Grace viewers with the least amount of prior direct personal contact with gay men.
Will and Grace is a show I've watched on and off over the years, sometimes finding it hysterically funny, other times finding it a bit too repetitive and reliant on broad stereotypes: fussy, shallow, pop-culture obsessed gay men and desperate 30-something single woman. I haven't watched regularly in a couple of years, lacking both the time and the interest.
But there is something that disturbs me in all of this. It isn't that people underwent what I would consider to be a positive attitude change by watching a show that I would rate as mediocre-plus. It's that the conventional wisdom that we're all too jaded and media-savvy to be influenced by what we see on TV is apparently wrong.
So I guess it's both heartening and slightly upsetting that a mere TV sitcom can make a measurable difference in the world.
In addition to ruffly pink things covered with hearts and flowers, this has got to be right up there at the top of the list. Um, ew. Icky on so many levels. Do these people know what M.I.L.F. stands for? Because if you read the shirt's message aloud and substitute the phrase for the acronym, it seems like any kid wearing it has been signed up for a whole world of Oedipal pain.
This shirt, on the other hand, is cute, funny, and clever enough to overcome its questionable level of taste.
(Oh, and sorry to disappoint some of you -- you know who you are! -- but the child really is purely hypothetical.)