Part 2—Mothers of convention: Long ago and far away, Elizabeth Taylor delivered a speech to Spencer Tracy in a semi-iconic film.
She delivered it in the 1950 film, Father of the Bride. She was 18 years old at the time.
It was in this year that Taylor made her wildly successful transition to adult film roles. This is what she said to Tracy, who had been cast as her father:
"Now listen, Pops. I'm 20 and Buckley's 26, and we're grown people."
Again, the year was 1950. Taylor, 18 in real life, was playing 20 in the film. Her character was going to marry 26-year-old Buckley Dunstan, who she said was "a wonderful businessman."
She was going to marry at 20. She was telling her fretful father that there'd be no turning back. Along the way, she told him his concern about age was hopelessly old-fashioned:
TRACY: I didn't marry your mother till I was 25.To peruse the script, click here.
TAYLOR: I know, but that was millions of years ago.
Did we mention the fact that the year was 1950? In that year, the average age of first marriage for American women was 20.3 years of age.
That average age is much higher today—it seems to have been 27 as of 2013—but that was the state of American culture in the postwar years. Indeed, by 1970, the average age of first marriage for a women had only risen to 20.8 years of age.
According to our analysts, that means that roughly half of American women were even younger than that when they first got married! Several may have been as young as 19!
We mention these facts for a reason. Recently, our intellectually moribund upper-end "press corps" has been mired its latest moral panic. Sadly, the parochialism of these people has long been an existential threat to people all over the world.
Our journalists rarely bring a sense of historical context to their panics, or to their resulting stampedes. It seems to us that this latest panic helps us consider the way these upper-end "thought leaders" work.
Many have gone to the finest schools. Routinely, though, their work is dumbfoundingly poor. In what follows, we attempt to assess our American press corps, not the people about whom they write, including Alabama's Roy Moore.
Concerning Moore, a moral panic is currently underway among our American pundits. The panic has routinely led to work like that shown below. It comes from a front page report in today's Washington Post.
In today's report, Elise Viebeck is reporting on the calls for Al Franken to resign from the Senate. Along the way, she discusses the accusations against Roy Moore.
Incredibly, Viebeck wrote the passage shown below, or maybe her editor did it. Whoever actually typed it out, this is the fruit of a panic:
VIEBECK (12/7/17): The drive to purge Franken, coming a day after Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) resigned under pressure in the House, was a dramatic indication of the political toxicity that has grown around the issue of sexual harassment in recent months.Say what? Is Moore accused of "pursuing" women when they were teenagers? In fact, he stands accused of assaulting two teenagers, in ways which would presumably be criminal.
It also stood as a stark—and deliberate—contrast with how the Republicans are handling a parallel situation in Alabama, where Roy Moore, their candidate for U.S. Senate in next week’s special election, is accused by women of pursuing them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
Roy Moore stands accused of assaulting two teenagers. That said, at the Washington Post, it seems to be the dating which has the scribes upset.
On Tuesday night, it was associate editor David Swerdlick who complained about the dating, speaking weirdly to CNN's Don Lemon. This morning, it's Viebeck who skips past the alleged assaults. According to future anthropologists in the years after Mr. Trump's War, this is what happens within our species when we go on our moral stampedes.
This is what happens when our species stages its moral panics! We can no longer see the forest for the scraggly ground cover. We lose all sense of moral perspective. We become unable to think.
Within our floundering upper-end press corps, even scribes from the finest schools fail to consider the cultural context of the conduct they condemn. In this report, and in the several reports to follow, we examine this highly parochial conduct by our upper-end press.
(Viebeck graduated from Claremont McKenna, class of 2009. Swerdlick graduated from Cal in 1992, with a later law degree from Chapel Hill. Despite their degrees, they can't seem to grasp the type of misconduct of which Moore stands accused.)
Today, we begin by considering a fact which our scribes have disappeared. This fact was spelled out, loud and clear, in the initial Washington Post report on this topic. But because it undercuts the stampede, the fact has been disappeared.
The fact in question has been disappeared. Returned from the dead, here it is:
When Moore dated several teenagers way back then, their mothers cheered him on!Their mothers loved Roy Moore! According to that initial Post report, Gloria Thacker Deason dated Moore for several months in 1979. He was 32 years old. She turned 19 during this period.
Deason's mother urged her on. “My mom was really, really strict and my curfew was 10:30 but she would let me stay out later with Roy,” Deason told the Washington Post. "She thought he was good husband material.”
Deason's mother hoped the dating might lead to a first marriage! That said, Debbie Wesson Gibson's mother may have felt the same way.
Gibson dated Moore for several months in 1981, when she was 17 and he was 34. “I’d say you were the luckiest girl in the world," she quoted her mother saying with respect to Ol' Roy's attentions.
In a recent report in the Washington Post, Gibson described the high esteem in which she held Moore for years after their dating ended—years in which she and her family exchanged Christmas cards with Moore. But according to Swerdlick, Moore stands accused of this outrageous dating, not of the alleged assaults!
These basic facts were sitting right there in that first Post report. In part for that reason, we'd say the Post displayed peculiar journalistic judgment in linking these accounts of dating to the allegation that Moore molested a 14-year-old girl during this same time period.
Did the fact that he dated someone 19 support the claim that he molested someone five years younger? The pathway to panic was already there as the Post decided to float this highly tendentious connection.
From that day forward, the fact that the mothers cheered Moore on has been completely disappeared. Indeed, in the thousands of hours of thrilling discussion we've watched on cable and broadcast TV, we've never seen a single pundit mention this basic fact.
You haven't seen anyone mention that basic either! But then, our "press corps" always invents or disappears facts when a stampede is on.
Why were those mothers in love with Roy Moore? In part, we'll guess the answer might start with Elizabeth Taylor telling her father, in that film, that he was old-fashioned to think that 20 might be too young to marry.
Moore's teenage dates were born around 1960. Their mothers would have been born even earlier than that, perhaps around 1940.
Their values and outlooks would have been formed during that cultural era. Women married very young—and Hollywood kept suggesting, in its private conduct and up on the screen, that these very young women should maybe perhaps and possibly hook up with older men.
This history is highly amusing, and it's sadly instructive. This history is also interesting, something we can't say for the panics our "journalists" frequently stage.
Before we close today, we should probably mention this:
In that very same year, 1950, Elizabeth Taylor married for the first time. She was 18 years old. Her husband, Conrad Hilton, Jr., was 24.
Two years later, she married again. This time, she was 20 years old. Her new husband, actor Michael Wilding, was already 40.
This was the prevailing culture. As we'll see in future reports, this sort of thing wasn't hugely unusual as the mothers who loved Ol' Roy were themselves coming of age.
Back to the present! Our deeply unimpressive corporate pundits have staged many panics in the past thirty years. Some of their most disgraceful panics have led to death all over the world.
The current panic is stupid and sad. The history, though, is highly amusing—also, sadly instructive.
In closing, let's restate that basic fact. Roy Moore stands accused of two criminal assaults. Except in the prehuman upper-end press corps, where he's accused of dating!
Future anthropologists weep as they see how we came to Trump's War.
Coming, though we may have jury duty tomorrow: Frank and Mia; Jack and Jackie, and Hitchcock's films; the fellow Judy married first, after Artie Shaw married Lana when she was 18; also, "the best love story, ever."
Also much, much more! Unlike the work of our upper-end press, the history here is highly instructive, and it's sadly amusing.