Elite Manhattan-Based Critic Can't Tell Regular Folks on TV Apart

Media-insider nepotism baby John Podhoretz, whose many professional duties include criticizing film for the Weekly Standard, alerts that publication's readers to a troubling development in the culture wars: His television is full of "white trash." This is the fault of "fancy high-end TV producers," and by extension Obama.

When, he asks, will the coastal snobs stop condescending to white folks from unfashionable states?

It is a remarkable fact about this new Golden Age of television, which began with The Sopranos in 1999, that its primary focus of attention is the population cohort known (with the exquisite cultural sensitivity we have all learned in the era of political correctness) as "white trash."

It's not always easy to tell when Podhoretz is being genuinely obtuse and when he is merely attempting to be ironic according to false premises about what his enemies believe. So let's set aside his inscrutable claim that calling people "white trash" is a mark of sensitivity, and simply note that Podhoretz himself calls them white trash throughout the piece.

And then let's move on to the fact that Podhoretz's thesis makes no sense at all. His definition of "white trash" is apparently more or less every white person who does not live in his own Upper West Side neighborhood. Here are some of the fictional characters he cites as embodying the "poor or lower-middle-class white person" on whose behalf the Weekly Standard's audience should be getting upset:

  • Tony Soprano, a millionaire who lives in a mansion in New Jersey.
  • Walter White, a middle-class schoolteacher.
  • Don Draper, a prosperous advertising executive who works in New York City.

Don Draper, you see, "was damaged forever by being born to a hooker in rural Illinois." And so that piece of back story means that a completely New York-obsessed television program, whose name is derived from that of Madison Avenue, is more evidence of the entertainment industry's hateful fixation on the "scum" or "neo-Neanderthals" who live in "the red state of liberal horror fantasy."

Someone around here is projecting a horror fantasy onto someone else, it's true. A helpful tip for critics: If you're constructing an ideological model of 21st century Quality Television and you have to leave out The Wire to make your point, your model is probably wrong.

Podhoretz is so eager to see Obama-era television as an all-out attack on Red America (wherever it may be), he digs up a quote describing a nation of "Zombies, the tea baggers, a growling mob of brain-dead idiots." And which contemporary TV auteur produced these remarks? "[T]he screenwriter Michael Tolkin, who is not one of those responsible for TV's Golden Age but is a representative Hollywood thinker."

So: not a TV writer, but a representative of TV writers. Sort of the way John Podhoretz is a representative of poor white America.

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