Media postsThursday July 28, 2011
Quote of the Day I
“That is why witnesses at the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media, and Sport, which summoned Rupert Murdoch and his son James to appear on July 19th, were so taken aback. Almost the first move of the father, as the session began, was to cup his ear toward an interlocutor, and, with that tiny gesture, he broke the spell—the wicked charms that he had wreathed around the United Kingdom for decades. Here was no beast, no warper of souls or glutton for companies; here was an oldster, tortoise-slow on the uptake, with head drooping, shoulders slumped, rousing himself now and then to make a point by slapping the table before him. Though meant to sound decisive, the slap reminded some viewers of a grumpy grandpa asking when his Jell-O would be served.”
--from “Hack Work: A tabloid culture runs amok” by Anthony Lane in the latest New Yorker
The Real Culprit in the British Tabloid Scandal
The scope of the phone-hacking scandal that killed one of Britain's oldest tabloids, and has knocked from their perch some of Rupert Murdoch's most high-flying executives, including Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton, keeps widening. Now Prime Minister David Cameron, who had a “cosy and comfortable” relationship with Murdoch's executives, meeting with them 26 times since May 2010. Now Scotland Yard, who apparently had evidence of the phone hacking back in 2006 but did nothing.
But the biggest culprit is hardly mentioned.
Not Murdoch himself. I'm talking about the people who actually buy this shit.
The tabloids do what they do, or did what they did (or will do again), for a reason: It makes money. People lap it up.
I remember working at a grocery store in the early 1980s and seeing people, mostly women, mostly fat, seemingly dim, who would buy one, two, five copies of U.S. tabloids like The National Enquirer, and its stories about celebrity scandals, real or made-up, and UFO sightings and the like. The whole thing made me shudder. What a waste, I'd think. How can you encourage that? I'd think.
I still think that. The tabloids may be intentionally appealing to the lowest common denominator, but it's our lowest common denominator. Save your outrage for the person next to you in the check-out line.
Married to the Beast: Andrew Sullivan and the Carrie Bradshaw of Websites
As soon as I heard about it, I had a bad feeling. She seemed too slick, he too homey. This feels wrong, I thought.
No, not Will and Kate. I'm talking Andrew Sullivan and The Daily Beast.
Sullivan was my main blog source for so long, a fiscal conservative who backed Obama early, memorably labeled Sarah Palin's nomination “a farce,” and gave us a blow-by-blow of the Iranian green revolution on a Saturday afternoon while the mainstream media slept. He was bald, bearded, British and frumpy, and thus seemed perfect for the Atlantic monthly site, which has something almost ink-stained about it. You get the feeling the folks there are still trying to edumicate us. You get the feeling its writers don't have to craft first sentences in accord with SEO best practices.
Not so the Daily Beast. It's a slick site whose slogan, “Read This Skip That,” borders on stupidity. It features slideshows, news on Will and Kate, forms of titillation.
You know the way Republicans are obviously privileged but portray themselves as put-upon? I get that same vibe, that same disconnect, but from a female perspective, on the Daily Beast. “Frat Culture's Woman Problem” in one corner, “What Turns You On?” in another. It feels like the Carrie Bradshaw of websites. It's all about her.
Here are the latest promiment headlines on the Atlantic site:
- Barbour Won't Run for President
- Is Congress Going Too Far to Protect Women in College?
- “Do I Have Knees?”
- America's Post-Ownership Future
- The Ongoing Disgrace of Gitmo
Here are the latest prominent headlines on the Beast:
- What Turns You On? New Book Finds Some Surprises
- Who's In, Who's Out? (At the Royal Wedding)
- Obama's Awful '70s Show
- Serial Killer Victim's Secret Life
- The Vote Igniting the Middle East
So what do you do when a friend winds up with someone who's obviously wrong for them? Play along? Smile?
I love you, Andrew, but ... I don't know. That place you're staying ain't you. I'll still check you out, but mostly I'll be hanging over here with the ink-stained wretches. While they last.
Andrew Sullivan, stuck on the Carrie Bradshaw of websites.
Erik Lundegaard and the Power of Kissing: A Valentine's Day/ABC-News Exclusive
I should be happy that I'm mentioned in an ABC-News article on the power of kissing.
But I'm more bemused than happy.
Here's the article: “First Kiss Is More Powerful Than First Sexual Encounter” by Susan Donaldson James. I'm mentioned near the end:
Some of the most memorable kisses have come out of Hollywood. Burt Lancaster's famous kiss in the surf with Deborah Kerr in the 1953 film “From Here to Eternity,” still ranks as the most memorable of all screen kisses, as rated by entertainment writer Erik Lundegaard. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ranked second in their upside-down kiss in the 2002 movie “Spider-Man,” followed by George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the 1990 move “Ghost.”
How much do they love me at ABC? Let me count the errors:
- Burt Lancaster's famous kiss ... still ranks as the most memorable of all screen kisses, as rated by entertainment writer Erik Lundegaard. The article they're referencing is here, or, really, here. I wrote it five years ago for MSNBC.com to coincide with Valentine's Day. But I didn't rank the kisses. I categorized them: the desperate kiss, the kiss in the rain, the manhandle, the woman takes charge, etc. I also wrote how many Hollywood kisses, stuck in the rut of their perfection, are actually unmemorable.
- Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ranked second in their upside-down kiss in the 2002 movie “Spider-Man”... Again: not ranking anything. Are they just counting pictures here? They seem to be.
- ...followed by George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the 1990 move “Ghost.” Now it gets odd. I mention “Tiffany's,” but negatively. “Ghost” I don't mention at all.
- ...as rated by entertainment writer Erik Lundegaard. The link should lead you to MSNBC's site or to the index page of my own site. Instead it goes to my review, from last April, of the movie “Kick Ass.” Which has nothing to do with kissing. It merely begins with a k-i and ends with an s-s. What bots are doing ABC's research for them?
Four mistakes from one little paragraph. Impressive. Made me think of two Elvis Costello's songs from “King of America.” The first, “Our Little Angel,” reminds us the man knew a thing or two about heartache and Valentine's Day:
You think that you'll be sweet to her but everybody knows
You're the marshmallow valentine that got stuck on her clothes
The second, “Brilliant Mistake,” reminds us that the man knew a thing or two about news divisions:
She said that she was working for the ABC News
It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use
Dowd on Dowdy
This is one of the dumber paragraphs I've read this week, and, big surprise, it comes from Maureen Dowd. Lamenting media coverage of Elena Kagan, Dowd dissects the difference between "single" and "unmarried" and writes of the double standard women endure:
But if you have a bit of a weight problem, a bad haircut, a schlumpy wardrobe, the assumption is that you’re undesirable, unwanted — and unmarried.
Not only is this not a double standard—since it applies to men, too—but it seems the very definition of undesirable in our culture: fat and dowdy.
Dowd's real complaint is that a male version of Kagan—successful, outgoing, but no George Clooney—would still be seen as a sexual being, but this is because of a different double standard: the premium women place on male success. The problem, if you even want to view it as a problem, is yours, Maureen.
The whole column is an embarrassment. I don't doubt news coverage of Kagan has been awful, but Dowd's corrective is no corrective.