This time on TV.
So, I’ve long been fascinated by the theological implications of booze. And I’ve also spent some time thinking about the ways theological conservatism (if that’s the right term) goes hand-in-hand with a heavily gendered view of drinking—one best summed up by Taylor Marshall’s insistence that “virtuous drinking involves male friendship, plain and simple.” Marshall writes:
It’s usually a time for men to remove themselves from the company of women that they love and sit together around a fire pit, in the darkness, or on the back porch. Some of the most meaningful conversations that I have had with my father, my brother, and my friends have been over a Scotch. Real relationships are forged. It’s a beautiful thing.
As I’ve made clear, I don’t think this way.
Which is why one of my favorite TV shows these days is Comedy Central’s Drunk History, in which comedian Derek Waters goes to the houses of his friends and fellow comedians, watches them get totally tight (to use Hemingway’s term), and records them recounting historical events with surprising detail and accuracy. The show mixes intelligence and silliness; it uses good actors cleverly, having them re-enact the scenes that the storytellers recount, often to hilarious effect. But another reason to love Drunk History is the way it treats women.
In this great post from a few weeks ago, blogger Amma Marfo writes that Drunk History is “the best place on TV to be a woman right now” for, oh, lots of reasons. First, while the show tells some familiar stories (the Alamo, Lewis & Clark), part of the its mission seems to be recuperating lesser-known pieces of history, and those often involve the stories of women that you don’t usually hear about—like Sybil Luddington, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Mary Dyer and Oney Judge.*
And on Drunk History women get to tell the stories, too. They’re authorities. Not just on “women’s history” or female characters, either. Marfo writes:
[A]lthough the story of Patty Hearst’s capture is told by a woman, so is the story about the pair of matches between Joe Louis and German boxer Max Schmeling. All narrators, according to Waters, are selected for their likeability and excitement about the story they’re about to tell. The show has featured several men who fit these credentials, but it has also selected some exceptional women to do the same. The result? Women are allowed and encouraged to be smart in a space that doesn’t typically allow for it.
Marfo points out that popular culture usually portrays drinking as a source for either danger or embarrassment for women; the hardcore (mostly) Catholic theologians I chase around on this blog portray drinking as a source of boys-only bonding, a place where men get to exercise, together, their right to determine meaning and value.
Those points are interrelated. A world where women can’t be drinking buddies is a world where women can’t be authorities. And what Drunk History illustrates, really well, is that a world that takes women seriously—as authorities and as drinking buddies—is a lot richer, a lot more fun, than one where they are not.
Anyway, in case you missed the link up there, you can find Marfo’s post here. Check it out!
*Don’t know about Sybil Luddington, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Mary Dyer and Oney Judge? Neither did I. That’s why I love this show.