Now I think understand why Ann Althouse, an intelligent, rational lawyer and law professor, has begun holding a “Most Loved Rat” contest on her blog to see which of her rat doodles are most popular. I’m less creative, I guess (though I also draw good rat cartoons!)—my head just explodes. It exploded last night.
It’s hard to explain exactly what did it. Here I was, watching a series of baseball play-off games (since the Red Sox had been eliminated by the Cleveland Indians the day before), and Neil Patrick Harris appeared yet again to tell me that “Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man’s meat.” (I wrote about the gratuitous vulgarity of this ad here. Apparently this makes me a homophobe.)
Wait…isn’t flipping another man’s meat sexual assault? What is the difference, in lack of respect and sexual assault ethics, between grabbing a woman by the pussy, as Donald Trump so eloquently put it, because you’re a rich celebrity, and flipping another man’s meat because…of beer?
How is this TV commercial, running at 6:17 EST when kids are watching baseball with their parents, charming, harmless and funny, even though it is intentionally broadcast to millions, while poor Billy Bush, who did little more than play along with Donald Trump while he was alluding to sexual assault hyperboles of approximately equal vulgarity, sees his job gone and his career destroyed by the same network that runs this ad repeatedly? (Not last night, but at other times, and often.)
How is smirking Neil Patrick Harris, a gay man, still cute while making this suggestion, while Billy Bush, equally smarmy, not quite as talented, but also not accepting money to be publicly vulgar and assuming that he is not going to be broadcast to millions, outed himself as a danger to women by playing Mini-Me to The Donald eleven years ago? An esteemed commenter just asserted on another thread that women at NBC should be afraid of Bush now. Should men who perform with Harris be similarly wary? Just gay men? All men? All attractive men? Or is it all harmless, because Neil is joking? Bush wasn’t joking?
Is the distinction that Harris is scripted, and Bush was just talking? So if comments making light of sexual assault are written and filmed for mass viewing, that’s acceptable, but spontaneous comments implying similar attitudes that were never intended to be widely viewed are a firing offense?
Is the main distinction that sexual assault jokes about men are funny, but sexual assault jokes about women are taboo? Wait, how does that square with feminism and gender equality?
I multi-process during baseball games, and a bit before the first running of the meat-flipping ad, I had read on my laptop about Joy Behar’s comment on The View yesterday.
It was a segment on some of Bill Clinton‘s rape and sexual assault accusers attending the debate, and being evoked during the debate by Donald Trump in his attacks on Hillary. Behar suggested that Clinton should have responded, “I would like to apologize to those tramps that have slept with my husband.” Wait—wasn’t it Hillary who said that the accusations of victims of sexual assault had a right to be believed? Isn’t the assumption that the woman is to blame when a husband cheats the height of sexism? Never mind that none of the accusers being discussed had any consensual sexual relationship with Bill Clinton at all, making Behar’s “joke” factually false as well as disgusting. Why is Behar’s dishonest sexism, displayed intentionally before a national TV audience, treated as a “mistake” that she was allowed to apologize for this morning, case closed, no harm done? ABC forgives a show host who cruelly and unfairly denigrates women on the air, and NBC destroys a host for being caught on a video joining in a smirk-fest with the guest of an NBC show.
Reconcile those for me, please, without using the words, “double standard.”
Then Harris’s ad ran again. And again. I saw it six times last night, on three channels. But that’s not all. There was also one new commercial that ended with an animated elephant talking about peanuts and saying, I have no idea why, because I only caught the end:
“I mean, who wants to eat something that begins with pee and ends with nuts?”
Oh, niiice. “Nuts” alluding to male genitals is playful fare, but “tits,” which was one of the taboo words Bill Bush didn’t slap Donald Trump silly for saying in a conversation intended for two individuals only, is unforgivable. Got it.
No, in fact I don’t. I don’t get it at all.
The popular culture, which includes everything on TV, and liberals, who disdained simple civility as “up-tight” censorship from the 1960s on, have worked overtime for decades to coarsen U.S. culture in discourse, entertainment, personal demeanor and dress. They paved the way for Donald Trump, whose vulgar public conduct and modes of expression would have made him a pariah before this cultural rot was planted and cultivated. Moreover, his manners are the manners of a large proportion of those who create and administer what we see and hear as entertainment, advertising and news.
I agree that the video revealed the awfulness of Donald Trump and his utter lack of fitness to be President, but that awfulness and unfitness had already been on full display. I understand why Democrats have the gall to behave as if their continued idolizing of Bill Clinton isn’t completely hypocritical, for though there should be little doubt that he has had thousands of equally repulsive conversations about women and his power-fueled conquests of them—because that’s the kind of creep he is—this is politics and it has been well-established that journalists and confused voters will let them, and him, get away with it.
The popular media, however, is ethically estopped from acting as if the miserable values that Trump exhibits have not been encouraged, enabled, and flagrantly exploited by them, routinely and oppressively, and still are, even while they pretend condemn them when it’s expedient to do so.
The full, cynical, hypocritical import of this only began to sing out as I watched Neil Patrick Harris grin about flipping my meat.