Sunday, July 01, 2012

TV: A week of hating women

"Oh, damn you girl, you went and messed up the world we had."  And didn't that seem to be the message from the media last week?

sonny & cher

"So welcome back everybody," Ann Curry declared Thursday morning on NBC.  "It's eight-fifty.  And this is not easy to say but today is going to be my last morning as a regular co-host of Today.  I will still be a part of The Today Show family but I'm going to have a new title and a new role. And this is not as I expected -- to ever leave this couch after 15 years but I am so grateful.  Especially to all of you who watch."

Ann Curry's not the first person to be fired from a job, she's one of the few who has had to make nice about it and announce and explain it on TV.

Think about it.  NBC took the axe to Harry's Law last May but they didn't make Kathy Bates stand before the camera and deliver the news of the cancellation.

The public shaming of Ann Curry, for those who missed it, started June 20th with the network using the whisper campaign to roll out the news that Curry would be leaving the morning program.  As the whispers grew louder, Curry had to go before the cameras without fail.  Live TV, no re-takes.

Rita Sherrow (Tulsa World) reported on Iraq War veteran Sgt. Stephen Crowley's attempts to convince NBC to keep Curry because of her reporting on veterans issues and because he felt a connection with her because of her reporting style.  He started a petition which 29,469 people signed on to.  It could have had a 100 times that many signatures and it, sadly, wouldn't have made any difference.

The reason Ann was fired as co-host was because ABC's Good Morning America has had several weeks where it has beat Today in the ratings.  The minute rumors that Curry would be ditched got press coverage, ABC suits felt they had the top spot for the rest of the year.


In 1989, Today co-anchor Jane Pauley stepped down for a number of reasons.  This followed the addition of third 'host' Deborah Norville to the show.  Audiences were bothered by Pauley's departure but they were especially bothered  by the 28-year-old Norville who did not appear to have any news skills.  The feeling was that Pauley -- who had wanted to leave -- was shoved aside for a younger woman.  The Kathleen Turner hosted episode of Saturday Night Live that year  (October 21, 1989) served up "All About Deborah Norville"  --  putting the players in All About Eve territory with Turner playing a conniving Norville.

As Pauley freely admitted then and many times since, she wanted out, expressed that to Dick Ebersol and that began his attempts to find the person to replace Pauley.  The Today Show was slipping as the handover from Pauley to Norville took place and the ratings quickly fell to an all time low where they'd more or less remain until Katie Couric replaced Norville several years later.

ABC expects a similar viewer loss for Today this go round.

Maybe that will happen.

And certainly an anti-women dynamic took place all week -- not just at NBC.

Nora Ephron died at the age of 71.  As Betty noted, despite having directed 8 films and despite being the second woman to direct a film that grossed over $100 million domestically at the box office (Penny Marshall was the first), "director" didn't make the headlines of The Los Angeles Times, Reuters or The Wall Street Journal.  "Writer."  Eight films to her credit as director and they bill her as writer?  Makes you wonder how they'll be with Oliver Stone's death.  Raconteur?

Ruth pointed out that when The Los Angeles Times went looking for great quotes from her films, they went crazy over the remarks made by males while ignoring the women.  One of the things that made her a shoe-in for the Crystal Award was her taking her hilarious and on the money critique of Oliver Stone's 'women' public when promoting her Sleepless in Seattle, noting of his JFK that maybe women never did anything in Oliver Stone's films because that's the way he grew up but, in her life, women were always active participants.

When Nora made those comments -- and did so with relish and humor -- Oliver was approaching god-like status in many circles due to JFK. (Specifically due to the press attacks on the film.)  He'd go on to  f**k up his career with Nixon and spend every film since trying to regain the magic.

Sadly, it wasn't just men who ignored the smart and funny female characters in Nora's films.   Women did as well -- AP writers and certain columnists.  And they loved making up and repeating outright lies.

For example?

Meryl Streep was neither Nora's surrogate nor alter ego onscreen.  Meg Ryan was.  Meryl?  Great actress, no question.  But Meryl's also got the man cred down, doesn't she?


Meg, also a great actress, gets trashed by men.

All you little back-stabbing girls who slighted and ignored Meg last week, here's the reality: Nora's two blockbusters both starred Meg.  Meryl starred in a bomb (Mike Nichols' Heartburn -- based on Nora's book with screenplay by Nora) and in a hit (Julie & Julia -- directed by Nora, written by Nora).  By contrast, Meg starred in Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail which were both directed by Nora (and co-written by her) as well as in Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally . . . which Nora wrote the screenplay to and in Diane Keaton's Hanging Up which Nora co-wrote the screenplay to.

Again, we get it.  It's safe to lie and claim that Meryl was the one.  It's acceptable to men to repeat that.

The same way it's safe to lie and claim -- as an Eastern columnist did -- that Heartburn failed because the divorce was too "fresh" for Nora to find the humor.  That's not only chronologically false, it doesn't even make sense as a good lie.

Heartburn is a 1986 film.  Nora and Carl Bernstein divorce in 1980.  In 1983, the novel Heartburn came out where Nora finds . . . yes, humor in the divorce.

Heartburn flopped for  a number of reasons.  Considering how off Meryl's performance is, it's probably smart to point out that the thing hampering the film was Carl Bernstein.  Not Nora's  love for Carl, but his threat of lawsuit.  He didn't give a damn about the novel.  He doubted she'd be able to finish it and then he doubted it would sell.  He was wrong on both counts.  But when it was being turned into a film, that's when he got worried.  And that's when new pages began arriving on the set the day of filming as everyone -- especially the studio head -- was freaking out over the prospect that Carl might sue.

Details like that got ignored as the age-ed girls posing as women tailored their copy to the whims of the male gaze.

Even more shocking was the failure of Ms. to write one damn word about Nora's passing at Ms. blog. As Elaine asked, "Hey, Ms. blog, WTF?" One of the few women directors the studio would greenlight dies and the feminist blog has not one word to say about her?  It's not like they weren't familiar with her.  Though she gets many details wrong (do they have no fact checkers at The Los Angeles Times?), we'll assume Mary McNamara knows somewhat what she was writing about when it pertained to her own direct observations such as this one: "When I worked at Ms. magazine, all the young second-wavers had well-thumbed copies of Crazy Salad Plus Nine, in which Ephron fondly, but ruthlessly, dissected Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Smeal and all those jostling vaunted mothers of the revolution, not so much cutting them down to size as making sure everyone understood that the women's movement was about actual women."


Eleanor Smeal might like to be in "Miami" -- Nora's essay on George McGovern's betrayal of women at the 1972 Democratic National Convention -- but she isn't.  Gloria is.  Marlo Thomas, Shirley MacLaine, Bella Abzug, The One Who Shall Not Be Named (self-proclaimed "mother of us all"), Jane Fonda, Germaine Greer, Shirley Chisholm, Martha Griffiths, Jane Galvin Lewis, Dorothy Height, Sissy Farenthold, Debbie Leff, Jean Westwood and Martha McKay are all in the essay.  No Eleanor Smeal.

And at Ms. blog, no mention of Nora's death.

You think you're just a fox and that's all that you got to be
Oh, well you might be a fox but lady that ain't enough for me

Last week saw the supremely tired Rolling Stone magazine generate talk with their list of "50 Women Who Rock" or something.  See, they have a product tie-in with Garnier Fructis so they had to do something featuring women.  They decided they'd list the fifty best albums by women.

Or something.

We've often heard Lindsay Buckingham, for example, dissed with the p-word by men who see it and anything female-related as the ultimate insult.  Maybe including a man on this  Rolling Stone list -- at number four, in fact -- was just another example of that?   Number four on the list is where Rumours resides.  Rumours was put out by Fleetwood Mac -- a five person band back then: Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie and Lindsey.  And while Stevie and Christine were the gifted songwriters in the band and while Stevie is a rock superstar, it is a band album and it is a band of women and men.

In other words, it doesn't belong on that list.

In fact, putting it there -- and putting Blondie's Parallel Lines at number 8 or The Pretenders self-titled debut at number 14  -- isn't a compliment to women.  The placement suggests that women only 'rock' if men are in the studio.  And maybe from the longterm women hater Jann Wenner, that was the point?

As Kat's "More crap from Rolling Stone" and Elaine's "F**k Rolling Stone and Jann" observed, Tina Turner didn't even make the damn list.

How do you do a list of women and rock and not include Tina?

Because you hate women.  Having hidden in a closet your entire life, you especially hate women who leave a husband as Tina did.  If you're a gay man dependent upon a woman to pretend you're straight, you tend to take high-profile divorce very seriously as Jann did and does.

Now some objections to the list are stupid.  For every solid complaint, there's some idiot offering that Celine Dion or one of her sisters on the Vocal Gymnastics Squad didn't make the list.  And they want to throw out album sales as if that would make a Queen of Muzak suddenly blossom into  a rocker.

But there was also solid criticism.  One of the best was noting that you can't do a best of on a list of albums.  (A) It's not fair and (B) it's not an album.  An album is a cohesive statement.

And the most cohesive statement anyone can make about Rolling Stone these days is: Cease publication.

Truly, there is nothing left for the magazine to offer.  Unable any longer to break news, they rely on these "list" issues that say nothing but try to find a group of popular entertainers that will get people talking in some way about the tired magazine.

Here's our suggestion: "Top 50 male rockers who gave Jann Wenner a hand job or let him blow them in the 70s to get coverage in the magazine."  That list would include a lot of names and, let's be honest, Jann may have moved to NYC early on but he never got over the So-Cal sound.

You're super fine and you blow people's minds I know
But will ya pardon me please if I don't stick around for your show?

A director dies and is billed as a "writer."  Not even a "screenwriter," mind you.   Rolling Stone can't find 50 albums that "rock" by women so they include albums by women and men in a band together.  And Ann Curry has to announce her own firing on live TV.

"And for all of you who saw me as a ground breaker," Curry declared,, "I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball over the finish line.  But, man, I did try."

Ann Curry is a ground breaker.  She is to be applauded.

NBC?  Not really at all.

What followed was the most awkward hug in television history.   If Phyllis George had had her way May 15, 1985, TV's most awkward hug would have taken place on The CBS Morning News.  (That's the broadcast where Gary Dotson faced Cathleen Webb who had falsely accused him of rape resulting in Dotson serving six years in prison.  George asked the two to hug at the end of the segment -- a request that was refused.)  Instead TV's most awkward huge took place Thursday between Ann and Matt Lauer.

If ratings are down for The Today Show, why would that be Ann Curry's fault?

Matt Lauer is 54 and looks 64.  The only reason the non-news personality Lauer worked on the show to begin with was that he was generic eye candy.  Women liked seeing him in the morning.  They're not so keen on that now that he's gone from balding to just bald.

The now four hour program also had problems in that fourth hour which repeatedly hurt the show by turning it into a point of ridicule -- most recently, Kathie Lee Gifford spoke to Martin Short about his marriage and his wife and apparently had no idea that his wife passed away in 2010.  That sort of thing hurts the brand.  So does editing a tape in a way that makes someone look racist which is what Today got caught doing this year as well

Yet when NBC wanted to find someone to blame, it was Ann Curry?

Oh, damn you girl, you went and messed up the world we had
And what I'm trying to say in my own sweet way is I'm mad

The song we've been quoting throughout this piece is Sonny & Cher's "Mama Was A Rock and Roll Singer, Papa Used To Write All Her Songs."  When Sonny Bono wrote the song, his future was in doubt.  He'd failed as a solo TV star and The Sonny & Cher Show was ending.  Music hits only seemed to come when paired with Cher  -- a fact that he seemed to acknowledge in the chorus of the song, "I can only sing in two part harmony."  Which is a great deal more self-awareness and honesty than NBC, Rolling Stone and various other outlets served up last week.

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