Kerbloffle: The Olivia Munn Saga
At this point, the blog kerfuffle (try to portmanteau that, Web 2.0) about The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's "woman problem" and their new correspondent Olivia Munn has reached epic proportions. Here's a little he-said she-said to get you caught up.
Irin Carmon at Jezebel published a post criticizing Munn's "geek goddess shtick" ("Munn comes off as a potty-mouthed provocateur whose appeal seems targeted to what she thinks men want"), then another one about The Daily Show's lack of female representation and poor treatment of female writers and correspondents, calling the show "a boys' club where women's contributions are often ignored and dismissed" and implying that Munn was hired more for her appearance than her comedic talent. Munn responded with a a few crude quotes and tweets ("I think that anyone who's out there trying to bring down why any woman would get anywhere... just needs to fucking turn her fucking computer off, take the sandwich out of her mouth and go for a goddamn fucking walk"). The female staff members of The Daily Show responded with an open letter about how much they love their workplace ("While rampant sexism at a well-respected show makes for a great story, we want to make something very clear: the place you may have read about is not our office"), while Emily Gould of Slate responded with a blog post about blogs (haha, dumb, right? But wait, this is... OH NO). Amanda Hess of The Sexist responded to the Daily Show staff message with a dissection of the societal forces that drive sexist hirings even in liberal work environments ("If you haven't considered the societal forces and ingrained prejudices that may contribute to gender disparities in your hiring practices, your hiring practices are probably sexist"), while Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown wrote a pretty scathing satire of it that you should definitely read. Munn then did an interview with Salon.com about the entire kerbloffle. I never thought I would say this, but - Jesus, enough feminist response to pop culture, already.
And now here's some more: in the interview with Salon, Munn says "these women [Jezebel bloggers] sit behind this very thin veil that I can see right through, this idea that 'we stand up for women.' If you stand up for women, then don't bash me." This quote reveals a strict adherence to what I'll call the Palin Feminist Fallacy: the idea that if a woman does something, it is automatically a feminist action. Being "okay" with a sexist remark doesn't mean that it's automatically no longer sexist, and being a female who makes misogynistic jokes doesn't somehow cancel out the misogyny.
There's a distinction between critiquing and "bashing" someone that's sometimes hard to make, especially on the internet. Bashing has an element of simplistic mean-spiritedness to it, which I don't think was present in Carmon's first couple of Jezebel posts about Munn. After Munn responded defensively and rudely, the critique got a little more heated and obviously, much of the comments section could accurately be categorized as Bash City. Saying that Munn can't possibly be an hardworking entertainer because she's attractive is bashing. (Saying that Jezebel doesn't stand up for women because they criticize a woman is also bashing.) I don't doubt that Munn's looks were part of The Daily Show's decision to hire her, but that really can't have been all. It's The Daily Show with Jon freaking Stewart. They don't have to settle for someone they think isn't funny enough.
But despite this ringing endorsement, a rather unflattering image of Munn has emerged from the kerbloffle (I'm going to make fetch happen with this one). Frankly, she seems like kind of an asshole, or at best, an ignorant person who says ignorant things. She really likes one of the most popular corollaries to the Palin Feminist Fallacy: My Gay Friend, also known as I Know Black People, which goes like this: "I'm allowed to make racist/homophobic jokes because I have a friend of that minority." Munn told the Daily Beast that "in the first 10 minutes of my meeting with Jon, I made some kind of Holocaust joke — and by the way? It's always too soon — and he died laughing. He was like, 'Wow, you open up with the Holocaust? ...I said, 'No, no, it's cool. I dated a Jewish guy!... See, I date different guys of different religions and races so I can always make the joke. I date the blacks, I date the Mexicans. I date 'em all for comedy. You can't buy that kind of gold. Having sex with a guy once is worth it." It's possible that this statement was an ironic joke. I really hope so.
Munn is also one of them newfangled "post-feminists," saying to HollywoodLife: "We're all human beings in this world... I think it's really a disservice to all women when there are women out there who try to compartmentalize us as human beings, saying 'women' and 'men,' because I'm just out there… I never tried to use anything besides my own sweat and blood and talent to get somewhere." God, you are so right. All those feminists should just stop trying to compartmentalize people into "men" and "women" – don't they know we live in a post-feminist, genderless utopia world now, where everyone is treated exactly the same all the time? (Although, to be fair, when she jumped into a giant chocolate cream pie wearing a skimpy maid costume on Attack of the Show, one of her male co-hosts did the exact same thing, costume and all.)
Now that we've got Munn's comedic boundaries covered, how about her actual comedy stylings? That's subjective, of course; my take is, she's not the worst, but she's definitely not the best. Her timing isn't great. She fits in moderately well with The Daily Show, but I doubt she'll be kept on. While it's cool that there's a woman of color on the show now, we could definitely use a better representative than Munn.
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