I am not invulnerable to Reese Witherspoon. Between us, her ruling class charm once struck so hard, I took a picture of it to a stylist and said, “Make me look like this.” So, yes: Hollywood women may have authority over intimate lady things, including my hair. That they can touch us less superficially is unlikely.
Of course, this is an unpopular view and “media effects” thinking is now a religion. If someone—possibly including a media effects theoretician—suggests that the culture industry has anything less but the most foundational power to transform everyday behaviour, then they are, like, a total dick. In the West, one must publicly agree that Good Role Models make Good People. If one does not agree, one is a contrarian or a bitch, possibly an idiot. If one does agree, one may be able to charge a good fee to address a women’s business luncheon.
My hope that the empowerment industry is endangered got a little boost yesterday as I watched the 90th Academy Awards.
As I continue to consider the limits of Ms Witherspoon’s influence, I have not been asked to address a women’s business luncheon.
(Sidebar: I did receive a recent request to be a Keynote Woman speaker, but it turned out that feminist organisers had meant to invite Helen Garner. As I enjoy torturing myself with proof of my market irrelevance, I kept an eye on the event and note that the lauded writer did not accept. In the place of her biography is that of another writer, one who will speak to the importance of empowering female stories in corporate media. The extreme religion of media effects can prove extremely profitable.)
Still, I hold out hope that the Counter-Terrorism For Her industrial complex will fall apart. Not so I can laugh (much) at the heroines of the present who applaud, say, the “empowering” qualities of Gal Gadot, a person whose past actions and present views might both be read as far more brutal than those of Harvey Weinstein. Not so I can make (much) money, as I truly know I never will. Honestly, I am just sick to the shitter of this extremist faith in popular culture as a political force.
Sure, a good flick might lift the spirits. Certainly, propaganda is of great political value—we’d not see this current vintage revival of the Russia-US arms race without Western outlets making like “Putin started it and stole our real president” for the past 18 months. But, honestly, it just sticks in my craw that we accept, without evidence, that Wonder Woman can transform the lives of girls while remaining blind to the material things that truly transform the lives of girls. I’d say that the lives of Palestinian girls might be more immediately improved with fewer assaults by Gal Gadot’s former employer than an empowering Gal Gadot matinee.
Even in the case that Western media can be said to transform the lives of ordinary Western women—a case I do not uncritically accept—we must still ask: WTF? Surely, if one accepts this, one ought to then be truly crapped off that any industry holds such power. Rather than the search for Good Role Models, which may include Reese Witherspoon, one should spend all feminist hours training girls, and boys, in tactical media avoidance. If you are angry about life as it is currently practiced—a perfectly reasonable rage—get angry enough to wrest control of life from a few powerful people, even if they are nice, like Reese Witherspoon.
To believe in the power of Good Role Models is to believe that power as it currently exists must not be challenged. It is also to ignore the possibility that Reese might one day change her views on “empowerment”, and possibly go and enlist, Gadot-style, with the IDF. This is the whole deal with democracy, right? Power should be shared? Not just afforded, as it is, to the wealthy or to the apparently meritorious or to women who are quite good at acting.
Anyhoo. My hope that the empowerment industry is endangered got a little boost yesterday as I watched the 90th Academy Awards. Not sure if Reese presented, as Jimmy Kimmel’s “brave” monologue about the emasculated Oscar and the power of courageous women etc. etc. acted as a sedative. As did the re-do of last year’s “let’s thrill the common people with our star power” stunt. It was quite funny last year to surprise those everyday people whose lives Hollywood is so certain it has the power to transform. This year, it was as fucking boring as the endless news reports that began with “Amid the glitz and the glamour, Hollywood had an important message”.
The whole thing was blander than a bland white blancmange.
No, it didn’t. Hollywood has the same message it always does: we are very important, and our industry survival depends on you believing this as much as we do. The whole thing was blander than a bland white blancmange who just loves to watch Steven Pinker do his TED talks about how nice everything is, and if you couldn’t see that Oscar had the wobbles, then you have eaten all the bullshit about media effects. Entertainment! It can transform our lives more quickly than an Israeli settler trained in combat by Wonder Woman!
That top-drawer satire Get Out achieved any acknowledgement at all was one of the ceremony’s few decent moments. Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph were funny enough to provide another—very funny, but not sufficient to defend the coronation of that stupid movie about fish. The rest of the time, presenters seemed insincere, self-serving or, as in the troubling case of Salma Hayek, still too raw to speak powerfully about the #MeToo moment. Honestly, the best thing about the whole thing was the frocks.
But, as Witherspoon has advised, one must #AskHerMore than the name of a designer. Gowns remain beautiful, custom-made and still often carry a high five-figure price-tag. Still, one part of the entertainment industry must work with another part of the entertainment industry and pretend that these dresses of great beauty and value are not relevant. What really matters is what an actor thinks.
What would I know? I am an idiot, contrarian bitch.
I miss just worrying about how an actor wears her hair. They’re good at that. They’re not always good at interrogating a feminism that may be useful to those of us watching at home.
Still. Whatever floats your boat. Also. What would I know? I am an idiot, contrarian bitch. Hardly Reese, and never Helen Garner.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN WITH THE SUPPORT OF DAILY REVIEW READERS. FIND OUT MORE HERE