Does the fact that I’m a woman make anything potentially controversial I post more contentious?
Now, before I sink my teeth into this, I’ve always been of the impression that the general belief is, controversy sells. In this article from the Time dated Feb. 22, 2007 the writers says that last fall Rosie O'Donnell took over The View like the loudest third-grader at a school recital and made it a must-see--building buzz and many other sources concur: The View was struggling and Rosie O’Donnell put it back on the map.
Even Ivana Trump declared "Donald and Rosie, they're getting fantastic ratings, they're getting publicity, they're really using it as a marketing tool, not because they are enemies, and I understand that only too well."
Right. Controversy sells.
These days I don’t watch much TV at all. We could pull the plug and it wouldn’t bother me. However, I am certainly familiar with different shows. I have, in the past, seen The View. And ages ago I did watch Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show sometimes. Even now, if I’m in a really extreme mood and desperate for TV distraction, I can enjoy a half hour of Roseanne.
Rosie has been credited with basically saving The View, and now she is departing. With news that she won’t be returning to the show in the fall has come an accusation from Trump that being able to come to a contract agreement had nothing to do with it:
Insisting that O'Donnell had been fired instead of being unable to come to a contract agreement, Trump said O'Donnell was an `'embarrassment to this country.'' That's because she had latched on to the growing "9/11 Truth Movement," which dismisses the official story about the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Hmmm. What happened to controversy sells? What could Rosie have possibly said that would make a network allegedly fire the person saving their bacon?
"In America, we are fed propaganda and if you want to know what's happening in the world, go outside of the U.S. media because it's owned by four corporations. One of them is this one (ABC)," O'Donnell said in March, reaching an audience at least 15 times that of Fox News.
And there have been other things. She accused fellow ABC daytime host Kelly Ripa of making a homophobic remark, said "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America" and has been critical of President Bush.
Statements by public figures are being watched more closely in the post-Don Imus era. The lobbying group Focus on the Family said it was preparing to contact advertisers on "The View" as part of a campaign against O'Donnell. The group is angry at O'Donnell for comments they feel were insulting to Catholics.**
As the author of the article I’m referencing in The Toronto Star said, Unlike all the blond-trophy-second-wife types flanking old men co-hosts all over the TV grid, neither Barr nor O'Donnell shut up and look pretty.
Not a single mainstream media news show is hosted by a woman who is aggressive and candid, the way that Bill O'Reilly is on Fox, or Joe Scarborough or Keith Olbermann are on MSNBC. There is no female David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel or Bill Maher.
Oprah Winfrey, as revealed on Bill Moyers' outstanding post-mortem on the pre-Iraq media last week, shut up audience members who questioned the Bushies. Ellen DeGeneres hasn't uttered a controversial word since she yelled, "I'm gay!" on her sitcom 10 years ago.
Has no network found the courage to offer, say, Sarah Silverman or Janeane Garofalo a platform? Or will O'Donnell's replacement be Red State straight?
(Larry) King, who is floating the rumour that (Roseanne) Barr could get the job, sought her opinion. "I think she has a lot of guts," said Barr. "And I think she put everything on the line to go on and say things that real Americans were talking about and wanting to hear about and which is just, you know, pretty much non-existent in the media.
"I mean, we could hear stuff about Anna Nicole's baby and gossip and dieting every day until we are blue in the face. It's kind of like ... dumbing women down and making them barefoot and pregnant again. And she changed that and I love her and I love freedom of speech."
Is it that old ‘men feel threatened by smart women’ line, that by censoring women who hold controversial views and want to discuss issues more serious than Anna Nicole Smith networks are trying to keep women in a very narrow gender role box?
Which had me thinking about something I wrote in Suspicious Circumstances:
Farraday glanced at her. “I never thought of you as a romantic.”
She (Lara) shrugged. “Most honest men want women to be romantic and idealistic. Isn’t that what makes it possible for them to find wives that overlook their faults?”
The corner of his mouth turned up and he shook his head. “And I thought I was going to hear the ‘men feel threatened by smart women’ speech…”
Now, as author, I know two things. This exchange happens almost exactly halfway through the book (so these two have a certain amount of banter that's built up). And Lara has a bit of the dry sense of humour I’m cursed with. I’d peg her at only half serious. And she suffers with a rotten boss – as one reader said in a recent note to me: Hatcher… yeah he was a nasty piece of work, but I’ve had managers like him, and just thought he was arrogant and sexist. (He was.)
Despite that, my own words have prompted a bit of introspection on my part.
I have to admit, I like guys with backbone. They think for themselves. They don’t let women push them around or manipulate them. I mean this in a broad, general sense, because I have definitely manipulated a few things out of Evil Kev in my day. Like a bite of his chocolate bar. Or the choice of a holiday destination. But when it comes to beliefs, values, pursuits we respect each other’s choices. There have been a lot of sacrifices that come with his commitments to the fire department. There’s a lot of time I spend at home alone because of it. But it’s important to him. It doesn’t mean we don’t talk about our feelings about it sometimes (or other things, like all the sacrifices he makes for me and my writing) but we don’t use emotion to manipulate decisions about that stuff from each other, although there might be something slightly spiritually abusive about his frequent declarations that I’m going to hell…
When I read the piece in The Toronto Star I really got wondering. Did the author, a female columnist with The Star have a valid point? Are women who are too controversial being silenced?
Or is this just a way of avoiding other issues? Is it easier to hide behind sexism than to say that if Rosie was axed it was because of politics? Sounds to me like Trump is inferring it’s her stance on the 9/11 Truth Movement that’s prompted this alleged move by the network… Not because she’s a woman who expressed an opinion. Is the author of the Toronto Star article suggesting that if Rosie was actually Ross and was an outie instead of an innie that the network would have taken no action at all?
Are we perpetuating ideas about sexism when there is no valid basis for the accusation? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy, that by making reckless accusations without facts to back them up it contributes to the conclusion women are irrational, illogical and emotional?
How much of this goes to networks, anyway? I have to think that no matter what, short of a critical backlash from the viewing public based on something Rosie O’Donnell said, the network would tolerate just about anything for the ratings. After all, as I understand it, ratings are what give a show it’s advertising ranking, and a better ranking means more money. Call my cynical, but since when does network television put principles over profit? We need only think back a matter of days to the decision by NBC to air footage of the Virginia Tech shooter on air after receiving that package… (Which in reality only extended the legend of the VT shooter and gave him even more press coverage as networks and investigators speculated over his reasons for sending the package, why NBC, etc. Here’s a thought – he did it to prolong his 15 minutes. When he sent it he had no idea if he would succeed with his planned actions. Sick as it is, I think it’s reasonable to think he wanted to be sure he got lots of media coverage because he didn’t know yet… well, you know. And I don’t want to be disrespectful.)
I don’t know. I’m not saying I didn’t find the column interesting – I did. And you’ve got to know I respect anyone with as much sass as the author to actually say some of what she said. However, I’m a humanist, and I get nervous any time people jump to conclusions about the reasons for a certain action. As far as I know, at this point it’s only speculation that Rosie was actually fired. That hasn’t even been proven. To use it as a platform to build an argument that the networks are stifling intelligent, controversial women? I don’t know… Seems reaching. Plausible, but unlikely.
It’s what Rosanne Barr said that I find really interesting. "I mean, we could hear stuff about Anna Nicole's baby and gossip and dieting every day until we are blue in the face. It's kind of like ... dumbing women down and making them barefoot and pregnant again.’
Look at the news. Some days, I wonder who it’s written for. So many of the ‘hard news’ articles start off sounding more like a work of fiction, some piece that’s trying to be overly dramatic. What happened to who, what, when, where, why and how, and we’ll let the reader interpret the facts? I find myself wondering how low the bar will go in what appears to be media efforts to sensationalize the news in order to keep readers.
There is something very soap-operaish about it. But is it part of some elaborate conspiracy to keep women stupid, or is it feeding a percentage of society what they want? No matter how little appeal it has for me, loads of women read romance novels. By publishing them are publishers conspiring to keep women barefoot and pregnant? What does it say about the women who write them?
I guess what I’m saying here is, interesting points. To some degree valid, just taken a bit too far. Honestly, if people thought Rosie O’Donnell was booted because she was controversial I can’t fathom how anyone would consider Roseanne Barr for the job for even half a heartbeat.
But if she gets it, I’ll smile. Rosie and Roseanne both share a common trait I admire that’s sadly lacking with most entertainers: candor. It’s the entire reason why they both made names for themselves in show business. Whatever else you want to say, I don’t consider either of these amazing women to be ass-kissers.
The only thing to fear from people who express a difference of opinion is that they might challenge you to open your mind. I am friends with many people I hold different views from. We do not need to see the world in the exact same way on every issue in order for me to love and respect them. Those who know me know my views on some very serious topics have changed dramatically over time. Ignorance is bliss, and it can be a tool used to control people. I honestly don’t find anything Rosie O’Donnell has been reported as saying to be that controversial. She should be commended for having the courage to stand for something. In these days of phony grins, faux celebrities and people without opinions that might offend anyone I salute those who stand for something. And since I did watch Rosie’s show from time to time years ago I remember the gun control debate – I actually believe Rosie’s quite passionate and sincere about the issues she tackles.
** Homophobic statements are okay? Personally, I’m dead on with Rosie here. Radical Christianity has been responsible for bilking millions of dollars from people while ‘spiritual leaders’ use prostitutes. Not surprising that Focus on the Family would advocate censorship of opinions, though. I mean, speaking of keeping women barefoot and pregnant…
*** And if it sounds like I'm not 100% convinced on the subject, I'm not. Not enough facts. Interesting to think about, but that's about it.