American Exceptionalism and a culture of flopping

The NBA finals start tonight and while I am less than enthusiastic about the matchup, so much so that Chopped reruns might capture more of my attention, I am hopeful that the series will bring a lot of flopping.  Yes, flopping is what I am rooting for.  Besides the artistry and creativity, not too mention that talent required to deceive America’s best referee crew, the prospects of flopping will invariably send the NBA press corps into a tizzy. Fantastic.

The last couple weeks (and the season as whole) has prompted a series of hyperbolic, reactionary, and otherwise ridiculous columns on flopping. According to Ken Berger, “The NBA during the postseason has been as flop-tastic as ever.”  Calling for suspensions repeating acting on the job, Berger pins the game’s success on truthfulness and honesty: “ Nominal fines are doing nothing but encouraging floppers to do a better job of it so they don’t get caught. There’s only one punishment that will have any teeth with the players, coaches and front offices: suspensions.”

Israel Gutierrez seems to agree, equating flopping to cheating.

The label should push guys to keep it real.  Having the reputation as a flopper would seem to be a very unwanted label. Again, it implies you need to ‘cheat’ to succeed. And with all the other labels that get thrown around in the NBA (‘dirty,’ ‘soft,’ ‘choker,’ etc.), you’d think you’d want to avoid this particular one.

But the leader of the pack is Marshall Zweig, whose assessment of the fluidity between Hollywood and Springfield Massachusetts is so over-the –top I found myself wondering, satire.  But I think not.

The public is watching roundball criminals get away with their crime right in front of our eyes—and no one is really doing a thing about it. . . .   Fines and embarrassment are not working well enough. The league needs to up the ante. And it won’t do it unless we all get on its case. So make your outrage count.

Given the NBA discourse, and the tendency to imagine its (black) players as criminals in the post-Palace Brawl landscape, the link between flopping and criminality is striking.  And not a in a good way.

Despite the league induced panic, flopping isn’t anything new. In “Flopping in the NBA: A History of (Non)violence,” netw3rk makes this clear, seemingly reminding those who wax nostalgic that “golden age” of the NBA was defined by rampant flopping:

Flopping is to basketball as farting is to being alive; it’s annoying, ridiculous, and sometimes embarrassing reality, but a reality nonetheless. If something has been part of the game since the dribble, it’s probably more apt to refer to it as a tradition rather than a scourge.

While I don’t find flopping to be ridiculous or annoying, maybe these critics are onto something.  Isn’t flopping just another word for deception, lying, and otherwise exaggerating or making up for the sake of a particular point?  Flopping is something America has an endless supply.  Land of the free, home of flopping.  American exceptionalism at its best.  Yet, it seems a movement has taken hold in the NBA; whose got next?

One can only hope that anti-flopping movement takes hold throughout this nation

Will politicians (yes Michelle Bachman) stop flopping on the House Floor?

Does this mean politicians will no longer lament the end of civilization because mothers are working since flopping is bad?

Will politicians who blame moms working for the nation’s education failure face a fine?  The league office would surely be busy if it had to regulate the flopping of Washington, Wall Street, or Madison Ave.

And while I am talking about education, isn’t No Child Left Behind the ultimate example of flopping since it has left most children behind?

And if flopping is so bad on the hardwood shouldn’t we push to have it removed from the news arena.  I believe the “F” in FOX stands for flopping

The movement against flopping could cause more damage to advertising than the DVR.

Because aren’t commercials just flopping; deception, exaggeration, and in some instances lies to compel action from the consumer?  If flopping is bad in the NBA, surely we should rid society of this destructive and insidious influence in our everyday lives.

The examples of flopping are endless (and yes I am rhetorically flopping here).  From “the check is in the mail” to “sorry I was late there was a lot of traffic” (and are we really sorry) flopping is part of our daily praxis.  Some examples are harmless – acting like an opponent elbowed you in the face – whereas others can lead a nation into war.

Now that is some real flopping.

Super Spectacle: Race, Gender, and the Hawking of Products | The Feminist Wire

Super Spectacle: Race, Gender, and the Hawking of Products

February 15, 2012

By David J. Leonard

The Super Bowl is a spectacle. Whether talking about the pregame festivities, the hype, the halftime show, or the game itself, it is the embodiment of a spectacle. Its commercials, however, especially given the ways that gender, race, and sexuality are circulated, are the embodiment of our contemporary spectaclized society.

By spectacle I am not referring to the everyday use of spectacle as an important or memorable event that a sizable portion of the population views, but instead in the tradition of Guy Debord. Debord, whose Society of Spectacle identifies the dialectics between late capitalism and mass media in the production of mediated spectacles, highlights a condition whereupon the relationship between commodities and people take precedent over any other sort of relationship. According to Debord, “The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” While the game itself embodies this ritualistic process, the commercials themselves embody and perpetuate the spectacle. “Spectacles are those phenomena of media, culture, and society that embody the society’s basic values, and serve to enculturate individuals into a way of life,” writes Douglas Kellner. Mediated spectacles “dramatize[s] our conflicts, celebrate[s] our values, and project[s] our deepest hopes and fears.”

The spectacle of Super Bowl commercials are evident in the ways in which consumers’ relationships are defined vis-à-vis products. Similarly, the hype, and extravagance is evidence of the ways in which the Super Bowl and the commercials operate as “weapons of mass distraction.” Yet, the existence of a spectacle, illustrated by the presence of Flav Flav and Elton John in a Pepsi commercial, is not limited to size and scope; as Kellner reminds us with the ways in which mediated spectacles “dramatize our conflicts, celebrate our values, and project our deepest hopes and fears.”

The denigration and sexualization of women during the Super Bowl is indicative of the ways in which spectacles operate within our cultural landscape. From the first quarter right until the end of the game, the place of women is made clear: as sexualized objects whose presence figures in eliciting pleasure from the male gaze. Those women who cannot or refuse to reaffirm male sexual pleasure, who deviate from the standards of sexual beauty, are rendered undesirable. While not limited to the Super Bowl, the “Go Daddy” commercials embody the sexualized spectacle of the Super Bowl. Virtually naked women are represented as little more than eye-candy, existing in the mediated space, ready, willing, and able to appeal to the sexual wants of (white) young men. Women enter the spectalized space to provide pleasure to both the males in the commercial and those watching at home. Equally important, the two most visible women of these commercials are Jillian Michaels and Danica Patrick, whose physical strength and presence in the masculine worlds of physical fitness and car racing are muted because they don’t disrupt the dominant values concerning femininity.

There is something revolting about a corporate sponsor taking a woman who has made it in a highly male-dominated and masculine field, car racing, and putting her back in a woman’s rightful place: in a skimpy costume under the male gaze. (Chloe from Feministing)

Dramatizing conflicts about the purported breakdown of male and female spaces, reflecting both hopes and fears, all while validating patriarchy, Go Daddy is the quintessential spectacle. A commercial from Kia further reinforces the sexualized place of women within the male world of sports, celebrating a narrative of female subservience:

The ad from Kia sends a pretty clear message that men and women are totally different species with totally different dreamworlds. A woman dreams of riding across a meadow on the back of a white horse with a handsome fairytale prince under a rainbow sky. But a man dreams of driving a race car while Adriana Lima and thousands of hot bikini-clad women cheer him and Motley Crue plays, and something about a giant sandwich and a boxing match. And these two worlds are so separate and different that a Kia is the only thing that can bring them together.

The sexualized representation of women, and specifically white women and those luminally white ethnic bodies (Italian, for example), is as central to the Super Bowl as the teams themselves. The absence of commercials that turn women into sexual objects would be as impossible as having a Super Bowl without a football. This is evidenced by the barrage of commercials, including an NFL prize commercial that defines the American Dream through access to millions of dollars and scantily clad cheerleaders, and a Valentine’s Day commercial that depicts this holiday as a simple relationship based on exchange. The idea is this: men exchange gifts for sex (“Give and you will receive”). Or there is the Fiat commercial that treats women as if they are interchangeable with cars–both objects to be consumed, sexualized, and fantasized about by men.

Continue reading at Super Spectacle: Race, Gender, and the Hawking of Products | The Feminist Wire.