- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

Spielberg bails

“As we predicted last year, Steven Spielberg has bailed on his role as artistic adviser to the Olympics, because the Chinese government has not used its influence to quell the violence in Darfur.

“It’s been a tough ride for Spielberg, with Mia Farrow pressing him to get out … in a Wall Street Journal article in which she exhorted him not to be ‘the Leni Riefenstahl’ of the ‘08 games. Farrow told us that she’s happy Spielberg had what she called ‘a Lillian Hellman moment.’ … She was referencing Hellman’s refusal in 1952 to name names before Joseph McCarthy’s infamous House committee. At the time, Hellman famously issued a statement that read in part, ‘I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.’ …

“In response to the Spielberg news, a coalition of activist organizations promptly said they will run ads around the world decrying China’s inaction. The next move will be pressuring corporate sponsors, including GE, McDonald’s, and many other giant American corporations. Farrow is already asking the public to call these companies and speak out.”

Kim Masters, writing on “Spielberg Bails on the Beijing Olympics,” Feb. 14 at Slate.com

Virtually confident

“Anyone who has ever had a bad hair day, when looking like a latter-day Medusa makes you feel cranky and antisocial and plodding, can sympathize with the Oakland Raiders. … The Raiders alternated between mostly black and mostly white uniforms, depending on whether they were playing at home or away. Knowing that appearance affects people’s mood and outlook, psychologists wondered whether uniform color influenced the Raiders’ aggressiveness. Using data from the 1970s and 1980s, they found that the team racked up way more penalty yards — a measure of aggression — when they wore black than when they wore white, for minor (encroachment) and major (roughing the kicker) infractions.

“Jeremy Bailenson and Nick Yee of Stanford University had this and other classic studies in mind when they started wondering about the effect of being able to alter one’s appearance. They weren’t going to study wardrobe choices, however. Their quarry is avatars, digital representations of players in such games as Second Life. ‘Your physical appearance changes how people treat you,’ says Bailenson. ‘But independent of that, when you perceive yourself in a certain way, you act differently.’ … The effect of appearance on behavior, they find, carries over from the virtual world to the real one, with intriguing consequences.”

Sharon Begley, writing on “Our Imaginary, Hotter Selves,” in the Feb. 25 Newsweek

Unfair treatment?

“This week’s New York Times asks a question we’ve been wondering about ourselves — namely, are female stars subject to more public scrutiny than male celebrities?

“The article, titled ‘Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Hounded by the Media,’ starts off with the fact … that Entertainment Tonight decided to pull a video of Heath Ledger hanging out at a ‘drug-fueled party’ out of ‘respect for [his] family.’ Around the same time, however, tabloids let loose with a storm of photographs of Amy Winehouse smoking what the British tabloid the Sun said was a pipe of crack cocaine. Owen Wilson attempted suicide, the article continues, and got on one cover of Entertainment Weekly. Britney Spears goes for psychiatric treatment … and she gets six stories during the same time period. …

“Tabloid magazines are, in many cases, an ink and paper form of rubbernecking, and one of the reasons we buy them is to make ourselves feel sorry for celebrities whom we might otherwise envy. The real question, then, is why we seem to be more attracted to watching women self-destruct than we are to watching men. Theories?”

— Catherine Price, writing on “Are we sexist in our schadenfreude?” Feb. 18 at Salon.com.

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