Tube Tied: Stephen Colbert Asks About Women, and Maybe that's All I Need
I spend a lot of time blogging complaints. Not enough women, too many but too insubstantial, why do they only talk to each other about men, etc., etc. This is a complaint commonly made about bloggers, and, hell, feminists, that they are too critical and don't ever seem to see any good in anything.
But today I've something positive for you. The other night I was watching the Colbert Report and a small, good thing happened. Colbert was interviewing Aaron Sorkin, who, if you've been living in media blackout for the last six weeks, has out a new movie about Facebook called The Social Network. The movie being essentially about a tech startup, not a form of human organization known for its devotion to vagina-ocracy, there aren't exactly strong female roles in it. This is not something I expect to be a common observation about the film, because at least as regards the gender of the main movers and shakers, the film is merely reporting the facts: they were men. So imagine my surprise when the one major issue Colbert stated about the movie was that its portrayal of women seemed flat. "The other ladies in the movie don't have as much to say because they're high or drunk or [beep]ing guys in the bathroom. Why are there no other women of any substance in the movie?" And then when Sorkin admits this is a fair question and terms the women "prizes," Colbert asks, "Are women at Harvard like that? I'm trying to figure out if I missed out on the college experience."
Readers, I cheered. Sadly, only my cat was there to hear me.
As coincidence would have it, during the summer I waded into a discussion about the Daily Show and women. If you missed that particular foofaraw, here is a short recap: Jezebel notes Daily Show seems to have a paucity of women staffers, Jon Stewart pouts about it on-air, Daily Show women staffers write back and let the internet know there's tons of women working there and their boss is really nice. (Note: I'm sure he is, but if you read my old piece you'll see I'm not sure it's the point.) The controversy died down relatively quickly and at least from all outward appearances the show did not really treat the criticism as more than the regular kind of poo flung by internet monkeys. Well, except that these particular internet monkeys got mentioned on a nationally-broadcast, critically-adored political television show.
But at the time, a lot of people, in discussing the issue, were asking what it was that feminists thought might remedy this situation. Some kind of idiotic quota system, either for staffers or for jokes or both, perhaps? Usually these sort of crass policy proposals were advanced by people who thought Jezebel was out of line, or who generally had a beef with what they saw as feminist "complaining." But the questioners had a point: what can you do to show you do, actually, care about these issues?
The other night, you see, Colbert reminded me of what it is that I'd want, if I were calling all of these shots. Different show, I know. But personally, I just want people to be interested in the question of why we make movies about Harvard, or hell, anywhere, in which characterization as drunk, stoned, ridiculous "prizes" suffices as a picture of female humanity. I'd just want to be reminded of that, from time to time, by them throwing questions about it in the middle of an interview about something else. That's really all I'd like to see: the interest. The rest will come afterwards, I think. Or at least, I hope.
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