Tube Tied: David Letterman Cheats, Women Shrug
Other than Jon, by and large, I have never been much of a watcher of late-night TV. This is no doubt a function of my demographic. I'm too young - I grew up post-Carson. I'm also entirely too cynical to enjoy most celebrity interviews, because much of the time I'm thinking, "It's really bizarre that Kirsten Dunst is this inarticulate," or, "Why hasn't Jared Leto showered?" There are too many books in the world to read, too many blogs to surf, too much sleep to be gotten for me to watch these people night after night, even in the age of the DVR. And I've written in this space before about my suspicion that there isn't any grand standard of comedy anymore, and it seems to me like the non-Comedy-Central contingent of these shows still seem to harbour delusions on that score, of being the Great American Comedian, and so I just kind of tune them out.
So when this hullabaloo about David Letterman getting his pecker in his payroll started to kick up on Friday, readers, I yawned. Having spewed venom all week over Roman Polanski and his defenders (Pedro, why, why??!!!), I was worn out. Besides which, other than the extortion part, there seemed very little scandal in this scandal; the ladies involved were of age, and none appeared to be claiming coercion. I'm not wild about professional men viewing nubile young women in the workplace as their rightful spoils, but I've been in enough exhausting conversations with male friends about such situations ("why do you want to Stand In the Way of Love?") to know better than to spend much time arguing with them about it. I suppose Regina Lasko, Letterman's longtime girlfriend, feels somewhat differently about it, but I can't see how I or anyone else can be of use to her if we take to the soapbox to pontificate at length about just what a horndog she's married.
But the media has never been much for resisting a story about how Important It Is, and so, we have been treated to cable news coverage of this minor issue even as the public option in American health care is failing. So I don't know whether to laugh or cry when, as Jezebel points out this morning, the media is all a-flutter about whether Women Will Be Able to Trust Letterman Now. Granted that 58% of his viewership is female, their average age is also just under 55. That means these women have likely known, on average, 55 years' worth of powerful and philandering men, because such is the way of this culture, and most others as far as I'm told. That means, in short, that they could hardly have been surprised.
I'm not sure women ever trusted Letterman at all, I guess, is my point. I realize that it fits some kind of beautiful media narrative about women having daddy issues (thank Sylvia Plath for immortalizing that one) and television obligingly providing us with reassuring figureheads, but all in all, I don't know too many women, comfortable and middle-class though they may be, who look to powerful men for moral leadership. It's just too much of a gamble, too much of a roll of the dice. I know women who haven't the least interest in feminism ("too man-hating") who will say that you just can't trust men. "You just don't know what they're going to do when you're not there," said one to me the other day. Letterman, in short, is not telling women, feminist or not, anything they don't already know: that at this time, in this culture, thinking with your penis is not only accepted, it's practically de rigeur. If women quit watching everything by men who were known or suspected cheaters, there'd probably be nothing left on television.
I know that's a bit of a gloss. I know not all men are the same. I know that women cheat too. But I also know that powerful women don't appear, so consistently as powerful men do, to regard the workplace a smorgasboard of potential sexual partners, if only because the risk for powerful women is far greater. I know that sexual freedom, if we're going to call it that, still gets exercised largely on the terms written by and for men. And I think, all in all, women are woefully aware of these facts, simply because they live in a world where men do these things, all the time, and still get to be Governor of New York, President of the United States, and self-anointed King of Late Night TV. Most of the time, we all shrug: it is what it is. We'd like to change it, we'd like to be surprised by things like this. But outrage? Ugh, at some point your sense of indignation gets dulled beyond repair. There are so many other things to be righteously angry about.
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