Sunday, September 22, 2013

TV: The Tired and The Pathetic

Do you remember the Drinking Birds?  They were toys that would bend towards the water, like cranes, and then go straight up and then bend again.

We thought of them as we watched CBS This Morning last week.


Norah O'Donnell was asking Jane Fonda about the pay gap -- the differences in wages for men and women -- and how to address this issue that has been an issue for decades?

Jane did this weird backward and forward rocking (nine times in a row) while saying, "Yeah. How do we do it?  What do we do?"  She looked to Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan to answer the question Norah had specifically asked her leaving us to wonder, "Can she no longer even answer a basic question?"

A few weeks ago, we wrote a piece we didn't want to write.  But if you try to be a truth teller that means telling unpleasant truths and, equally true, it had become we either ditch Fonda or go down with her.  We wrote the piece.  And hoped that would be the last we'd have to comment on her.

Then she and her fellow Women's Media Center co-founders went on CBS This Morning.  And it was so screamingly bizarre.  [See Rebecca's "the 3 old biddies of women's media center" and Ruth's "How senile has Gloria Steinem gotten?".]  It was so bizarre that Jane's rocking/bobbing was almost normal in retrospect.

Here were three media savy women, leaders, feminists on network television being interviewed by Norah, Gayle King and Charlie Rose and what stuck us the most was how unprepared two of them were -- Gloria and Jane.

The more Gloria spoke, the less sense she made.  At one point, she was talking about how awful TV was in terms of presenting all women and presenting men of color and then she wanted to praise This Morning for having two women hosting (one of color) along side a male.  But something wasn't connecting in her brain and she worded it like this, "It has changed [representation] but not nearly enough.  I mean look at this show."

Moments like that -- senior moments? -- happened repeatedly when Gloria spoke.  As did our thinking of Fun With Dick and Jane, when Jane Fonda's character says, "Yes, Dad, I've heard that story before."

There was nothing fresh or new in her remarks.

Lifetime TV gets slammed a great deal.  That should actually happen a lot more.  Once upon a time, they had a talk show titled Attitudes and co-hosted by Linda Dano.  Attitudes actually brought Gloria on as a guest.  This was at a time when Gloria couldn't get booked for TV anywhere.  Gloria prepared for that lengthy appearance and she appeared before a much smaller TV audience than what tunes into This Morning.

She appeared to think she could wing it.  She so obviously couldn't.

Jane can wing it.  She didn't in the interview.  It was 9 to 5 all over again with Jane not wanting to outshine her female peers.

That left Robin.

And Robin didn't underwhelm or drop the baton.  She ran with it, she was the liveliest of the three.

She noted, "Women's Media Center was created by the three of us crazies to make women visible and powerful in the media."

And we don't doubt that she believes that.

We just don't think WMC has achieved that.

Only 25% of the guest on the Sunday chat shows, Norah noted, are women.

And WMC hasn't done anything to challenge that or anything else.

The Nation magazine has a female presence online.

You're welcome.

That wasn't WMC.  That was this site.  We went after them for their lousy representation of women.  We did so for a full year.  We ignored attacks, angry e-mails, offers of links and so much more if we'd only stop covering The Nation's lack of women.  At one point, we seriously considered it.  That was due to an e-mail insisting that women were being beefed up online.  So we gave it a bit and women didn't get beefed up.  So we didn't drop it.  We stayed with the topic, we shamed them for their awful record on women writers and now?

Today, you go to the website and you will encounter many women.

Again, you're welcome.

That's just one example.  We can provide many others.  We got a second season for a woman starring drama.   We did that by shaming a network exec here in our writing.  Another example?  Slut-shaming and other things were leading to undeserved attacks on the sitcom Whitney.  We were part of the group that stopped that cold.   That takes care of ABC and NBC.  And the third network of the Big Three.

A CBS higher up tells us we have made it very difficult for them to cancel shows starring women.

How did we do that?

By outlining CBS' long history of sexism, how it repeatedly has a pattern of attempting to destroy its hit shows starring women.

In fact, CBS underscores how useless WMC is.  When The New Adventures of Old Christine  got the axe, our readers weren't surprised because we had spent years going over how CBS disliked the show and was trying to destroy it.  After the show got the axe, Kari Lizer noted the sexism involved.

So you know WMC was all over it, right?


Lizer was advised by many (including her agent) to walk her statement back or CBS would ensure she was unemployable.  Our advice wasn't sought on that.  We would have said, "Don't walk it back.  CBS is full of bastards and they'll still go after you.  Amplify it, turn it into a routine.  NBC and ABC will be too delighted with the way you're smacking CBS around to worry what you might say about them."

Women eat s**t every day in the entertainment business and WMC has had nothing to say about that either.

Grasp that: "Women's Media" Center has nothing to say about that.  Women aren't doing very well of late on TV -- not even in sitcoms.  And where's WMC on that issue?  Where are they on any issue?

Gloria Steinem insisted, "We are introducing The New York Times and other media leaders to the Syrian Women's Peace Movement, to the Syrian Forum.  Which could be some of the solution."

The obvious reply is, "The solution to what?"

Because WMC -- and Fonda, Steinem and Morgan -- have refused to call out Barack's intent to go to war on Syria.

But the second thought that springs to mind is, "The WMC isn't even publishing currently.  Their most recent article is August 1st.  Do these women understand the power of the net?"

WMC isn't interested in going around The New York Times, they want to cultivate it.  Which is why the paper remains rotten.

Our third thought?  "You're welcome, Gloria."

It was so cute during the brief discussion of the Sunday chat and chews to hear Robin insist that men were in charge, they made the decisions behind the scenes.

On what shows?  We're thinking of Meet The Press under Tim Russert and the woman who produced the show.  We're thinking of how WMC couldn't even get it together enough to call out the fact that, in their 'historic guests' section, Gloria Steinem's name was mispelled.  We're the ones who take care of that too.

Again, you're welcome, Gloria.

We haven't changed the world, we're not pretending that we have.

But we can see effects we've had.  And we didn't effect change by playing nice with Charlie Rose or anyone else.

Second Wave feminism was loud and take-no-prisoners.  The Redstockings knew what they were doing.  Their demands became immediate goals and then came to be.

Gloria Steinem discovered feminism after The Redstockings were leading the way.

Gloria, since the Democratic Party's 1976 political convention, has clamped down on women's dreams and demands.  She's inserted herself as the buffer.

It's really time for her to leave the limelight.  And if you don't agree she's now damaging feminism, the 'logic' issues are only going to become more pronounced in the next years -- at which point, people will wish Gloria was urged  to step away from the stage.

As the interview wound down, Jane was talking up WMC and insisting its power was naming the problem.  "That's the first step," she chirped.

No, that's the coward's step.

When that's the only step taken, that's the coward's step.

'The problem is women aren't invited on enough programs as guests!'  That's a first step, yes.

It doesn't do a damn bit of good.  You need to name the shows,  you need to say which outlets are not booking women (or programming shows with women).

In fact, the first step actually is to stop being afraid of being disliked.

When you give that up, you'll find that you can speak any truth.  And when you're speaking real truth?  That's when you can start helping things change.

Until then?  You're just a make work project for three women to dabble in.

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