Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Offhand Remark

USA Today has a Sunday supplement that appears in more than 700 local newspapers across the country. The magazine is called USA Weekend.

The magazine is a reflection of our culture, highlighting articles on health, relationships, and travel. It also has interviews with celebrities and includes a column on page two titled “Who’s News” that answers questions pertaining to the careers of various entertainment and sports figures.

On page 24 of the June 11-13, 2010 magazine is an interview with Joan Rivers by Brian Truitt. The interview is online here. If you go to the hotlink, look at the right-hand column, just below Joan's picture. Here’s what appears:
Joan’s take on…
Barack Obama: He’s becoming very pompous, and I voted for him. We all had such hope in him, and I think he’s reading his own press clippings.
Jay Leno: [Makes a loud snoring noise.] Perfect where he is. You don’t have to take an Ambien to go to sleep.
Sarah Palin: An idiot. I hate to say it. I could give you a terrible joke, but I won’t.
Oprah Winfrey: She’s like Scientology – you don’t say anything against Oprah.
Kate Gosselin: Go home and take care of your kids. I find this truly appalling. You don’t leave eight children at home while you’re running around tap-dancing.
USA Weekend is meant to entertain, not provoke. It caters to mainstream points of view.

How does it end up being the subject of a post in Anti-Republican Culture? It has to do with nonchalance. The Sunday supplement gives us two fairly controversial characterizations and they are presented in a matter-of-fact manner. What are they?

Our president is characterized as “becoming very pompous.” Could it be he is becoming uppity? As politically charged as that characterization might be, Joan Rivers is allowed to make reference to it since she “voted for him” and “had such hope in him.” She brandishes her anti-Republican credentials, and so is absolved from any possible racist intent.

Sarah Palin is characterized as “an idiot.” Do you think it is just Governor Palin that is mentally challenged, or is it all Republican women? What about Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman? How will Joan characterize them? I don’t think Ms. Rivers will be inclined to vote for either one, but come October, will she have a triple lynching as part of her schtick?

Let me take a moment to calm down and summarize what’s going on here…

The operation of our culture is subtle. It is reflected in our entertainment, media, and schools, and shows us what values are “right and natural.” Joan Rivers makes her living in this environment. She has to validate cultural norms, or people will be driven away from her performances.

Joan knows what she can get away with and where she must hold back. Similarly, the editors of USA Weekend know what is appropriate and what is not.

To see that political characterizations of this sort are approved and considered non-controversial is what causes me to pause and reflect for a moment.

I hope I’m not alone.

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