Saturday, January 07, 2006

Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee, I'm over on CMT

As I type this, CMT (that's right: Country Music Television) is airing the movie Grease (that's right: the 1978 musical starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travola) on a feature they're calling "Cowboy Cool Theater" (that's right: Cowboy Cool Theater).

At first I thought: This is troubling on many levels.

(That I'm home on a Saturday night is not one of them, however; I am not, as anyone who knows me or reads pretty much any other entries here, an exciting person.)

That I was flipping around the channels and could come across CMT is somewhat troubling. I do not mean to suggest the programming on CMT is bad; I will say only that the channel does not tend to appeal to my viewing tastes with much of it airs.

That a doo-wop laden tale of greasers was something they'd play on CMT (with elaborate choreographed dance numbers, and including the line "She's a real pussy wagon"--it's in the song "Greased Lightning", if you aren't familiar with the number, or haven't paid attention to the lyrics that closely) certainly stretches what I considered country music. While I know that contemporary country music appeals to more than just the "Blue Collar TV" viewer, and that (thanks in large part to Cowboy Troy) there's even ethnic diversity, I must admit, as I tried to determine a connection, I fell back on the notion of stereotypical country music audience, and alas, thought, Apparently they've run so low on shows to fill a 24-7 schedule that now anything that has very few black people qualifies.

(I know. I'm ashamed of how crass my mind can be in its initial reactions.)

Then it occurred to me: This is not a sign of some impending apocalypse. This is genius on the part of someone in charge at CMT.

Let's face it: there's very few actual cowboys left. It's just not a lucerative occupation. I'm sure there's plenty of CMT fans who fancy themselves "cowboys", and that's their prerogative. I will not say any more about that, except to suggest that if the title "Cowboy Cool Theater" appeals to you, you're probably not a real cowboy. Thus, they're not trying to appeal to actual cowboys with this feature.

To expand viewership and increase ratings, the network has to adapt to the times. And what is the biggest association with the word "cowboy" these days? That's right: Gay cowboys. Brokeback Mountain is, whether the stereotypical CMT viewer likes it or not, what the mainstream media is mentioning when using the term "cowboy" of late. Grease may not necessarily appeal to that stereotypical CMT viewer, but those who did see Brokeback may very well be open to a musical that has no horses. Also, those who saw Brokeback but were not previously CMT viewers might be more open to checking out the channel, especially if it's showing a musical they already know and like.

This could be the start of a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter/peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate moment that brings two worlds together.

And we've known for 27 years that Grease doesn't have that many black people in it. If it's not offensive as one of VH1's "Movies That Rock" then it's not fair to chastise CMT.

Anything, no matter how seemingly unlikely, that can make people a tiny bit more open-minded is something to be lauded. (Even if it does contain a slight irony: The movie adaptation of the original stage musical was censored of much of its sexual references--other than the aforementioned "pussy wagon" line, the only thing that stayed in, in a vague allusion, was Travolta rubbing plastic wrap on his crotch in a quick moment in the "Greased Lightning" number. Think about it.)

(What's truly troubling is that I knew that Grease trivia without having to look it up. Perhaps it would be in my best interest if this is some harbinger of the Apocalypse.)

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