WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023
...without inventing the Other?: We'll admit that we don't watch the Super Bowl halftime show. We simply start watching something else, then click back 28 minutes later.
We also don't watch the ads! Beyond that, we'll admit that we're puzzled by some of the values espoused by These Kids Today.
The Washington Post's Monica Hesse isn't exactly a kid, but for current purposes, she comes reasonably close. She's twenty years out of college—Bryn Mawr, class of 2003—and she's been a highly successful writer, as the leading authority on her career explains:
Monica Hesse is a national bestselling author from Normal, Illinois. She is the recipient of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery for her book Girl in the Blue Coat, and the Society for Feature Journalism's Narrative Storytelling award.
She is a feature writer for The Washington Post where in 2018 she was appointed first ever gender columnist.
If Bill Clinton was the Man from Hope, Hesse is the Woman from Normal!
Monica Hesse is a good, decent person; we have zero doubt about that. She did watch the halftime show last Sunday night, and that's where our puzzlement about These Kids Today begins.
Hesse actually was the Washington Post's first gender columnist. In theory, the institution of such a position suggests that the Post was taking a possibly somewhat belated interest in the sexism and the misogyny which had often been running the world.
That said, Hesse watched the halftime show Sunday night, and it seems that she liked what she saw. Headline included, her new column for the Post starts exactly like this:
Rihanna’s pregnancy was not the star of her halftime show
Rihanna’s pregnancy reveal was at once showstopping and subtle, dazzling and mundane. The impending birth of her second child was disclosed via a spandex jumpsuit on a stage floating at nosebleed altitude in the Super Bowl stadium during a halftime show performed for millions of viewers...
She was far from the first celebrity to orchestrate a public pregnancy reveal. Online chatterers likened the moment to Beyoncé’s bump unveiling (I’m sorry this language is all so revoltingly cutesy; we really need better pregnancy colloquialisms) at the Video Music Awards 12 years ago...
Comparatively speaking, that was a pregnancy announcement. Beyoncé’s reveal was a definitive entrance to motherhood, an invitation for fans to celebrate her transformation. Rihanna’s reveal was less an announcement than an acknowledgment, almost a casual one. Viewers had to wait until the halftime show finished to receive definitive confirmation from Rihanna’s representatives that they’d even seen what they thought they’d seen.
The reveal was seamlessly folded into her performance rather than given its own showcase. It conceded that, yes, something was happening inside this woman’s body—but meanwhile, when is the last time you listened to “B---- Better Have My Money”? That song bangs. And meanwhile, do you remember that Rihanna is also a business mogul? Let her remind you, by pausing mid-set to produce a compact from her own cosmetic line and powder her nose. Her choreography was sultry and sexy; less maternal-madonna than Madonna-Madonna, down to a few well-placed crotch grabs.
We're prepared to admit it! We're not sure we understand the values, including the feminism, of These Kids Today.
"There’s a lot you could find inspiring about what Rihanna did on Sunday night," Hesse writes as she continues. By the end of the column, it's plain that Hesse saw nothing in Rihanna's performance which wasn't inspiring.
Meanwhile, riddle us this:
In her column, Hesse asks readers of the Post when they last listened to the Rihanna hit, “Bitch Better Have My Money." (We're spelling the whole title out.)
We'd never listened to the song, and so we decided to check it out.
As it turns out, "Bitch Better Have My Money" has its own Wikipedia entry. After a fair amount of throat-clearing and folderol, the video gets explained:
The video was directed by Rihanna and Megaforce...The official trailer for the music video was released on June 28, 2015, at the BET Awards. The trailer captured a cryptic storyline: a rich woman, identity unknown, gets herself ready in her lavish apartment, clothes on and purse gathered in her arms, kisses her partner goodbye, and enters a dimly-lit elevator. As this occurs, Rihanna, wearing dark makeup, pulls up to the apartment complex at night.
She opens up her car's trunk and pulls out a large suitcase. Struggling with the suitcase, she too enters the elevator. In one scene, the elevator doors close on the two standing women. In the next, the doors open and Rihanna struts out, alone, except for her heavy suitcase. The full video, which is seven minutes long, was released on Thursday, July 2, 2015, and was rated MA for graphic violence, nudity, and adult language. In France, the music video is broadcast after 10:30 pm with a warning Not advised for kids under 12 years old (in French, déconseillé aux moins de 12 ans)...
The actual plot of the video involves Rihanna and friends intoxicating and then later sadistically torturing the woman (Rachel Roberts), and also her corrupt accountant husband (Mads Mikkelsen), who has been stealing money. A video was later posted on Metro.com of deleted scenes from the video, showing the torture of the accountant in greater detail. The music video was inspired by Rihanna's real life experience with an accountant who cheated her of her money.
On November 18, 2016, it surpassed 100 million views, becoming the first age-restricted Vevo Certified video to reach that mark.
Those French! Just as Steve Martin once claimed, they have a different word for everything!
Meanwhile, so unbelievably cool! Bitch and her husband get sadistically tortured—and Rihanna gets her money! Even cooler, the video was "inspired" by Rihanna's real life experience!
Bitch Better Have My Money bangs, Hesse opines. These gender columnists today!
Just last week, we had a brief conversation with a lifelong friend about this popular music today.
"Why does anyone care about Taylor Swift?" we skillfully asked at one point. Our friend, who had introduced the topic, said he had no idea.
When we were kids, our popular singers were busy stopping a war. Also, they described the murder of Medgar Evers—and the lonesome death of Hattie Carroll, which happened here in Baltimore, just a few miles from our current campus.
(Decades later, a coffee shop friend told us that his southern Maryland family had always known the Zanzingers. He'd known "Billy Zanzinger" his whole life, he said, to our surprise.)
That's what the songs of our big stars were like, way back in the day. Today, the big stars' songs all seem to be about their angry disputes with other money-grubbing big stars, we thoughtfully told our friend.
Why would anyone care about songs like that? We have no idea. Beyond that, why would a gender columnist seem to endorse a song in which a billionaire extracts even more money from a bitch she decides to sadistically torture?
We've long been puzzled—on occasion, appalled—by the seemingly faux pseudo-feminism our pathetic blue tribe performs.
This takes us back to the slimy misogyny widely directed at Namoi Wolf all through the fall of 1999 as a way of taking down Candidate Gore, but also to the bizarre arracks on liberal women unleashed by Chris Matthews, with no one even saying a word—way back when Hardball was one of the most influential of the relative handful of "cable news" political shows.
(For the record, the misogynist attacks on Wolf came at her, again and again, from major figures of the mainstream press. We know of two major figures who complained about this ugly behavior—Bill Kristol and the late William Safire. We liberals all shut our traps!)
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our self-impressed, highly moral blue tribe can sometimes give voice to somewhat puzzling values. In other ways, though, our struggling blue tribe has been pushing the frontiers of decency forward.
(We tend to do that when such conduct doesn't force us to say bad things about major misogynist billionaire stars, until they show up at Mar-a-Lago kissing the ascot of Donald J. Trump with their antisemitic friends.)
Blue values have produced large gains for gays and lesbians in the past in the thirty years. Elsewhere, though, we blues, like many other humans, may display an unfortunate tendency to insist on creating The Other as we pursue further gains.
Can our tribe pursue social justice without engaging in tribal warfare? Without sinking into the brainless types of reactions Nicholas Kristof described in Sunday's column in the New York Times?
Without insisting on the Other? Without insisting that the Other exists? Without demonizing the Other?
Can our tribe pursue greater justice without creating and denouncing the Other? Or have we reached the point where tribal anger forces us to behave that way?
We ask because that hard-wired impulse may possibly tend not to work.
Tomorrow: These Very Bad People Today!