Sunday, August 24, 2003

Populist glitterati

“Arianna Huffington was insisting recently that the handful of viable candidates in the California recall race should debate, when she was asked whether she saw Gary Coleman, the actor, as credible.

“Ms. Huffington told her interviewer on CNN in a sultry Greek accent that sounded like Zsa Zsa Gabor, ‘I will hold Gary Coleman on my lap during the debate.’ …”

“Beyond acknowledging her knack for publicity, no one ever seems to know quite what to make of Ms. Huffington, who addresses her many high-powered friends as ‘dahling’ and who, with a master’s from Cambridge, is as lucid on Keynes as she is on Armani.

“Even her friends describe her as something of a contradiction. She has reinvented herself countless times over the last 10 years, taking a journey from outspoken Republican Washington hostess and fast friend of Newt Gingrich to darling of the liberal West Los Angeles glitterati-literati to populist candidate.”

Sarah Kershaw, writing on “A Candidate Who Confounds, Charms and Reaps Publicity,” Aug. 19 in the New York Times

Equality in slavery

“Radical feminism [argues that humans] have no experience of natural men or natural women; even the sex act is socially constructed and so not really sex at all. We don’t have natural purposes but ‘gender’ roles, and those roles have been determined by those who have wielded social power — namely, the patriarchy.”

“Feminism … seems on its way to disappearing. On one level, this is because feminism has mostly won: almost everyone now believes that the truth about nature points to equal rights and equal opportunity for both men and women. But in a more fundamental sense feminism has almost completely lost. Most women do not really believe that they can be happy by liberating themselves altogether from their natural desires for both men and children. They do believe that being a woman simply means being duped by society’s oppressive construction of gender roles. …”

“The life of the contemporary ‘post-feminist’ woman also looks rather hard and often miserable. She is free to leave the home and enter the workplace, but this freedom is now seen by most women as an ‘economic necessity.’ As Marx predicted, most of our women have become ‘wage slaves’ just like men, while men are not reliably doing their part at home and with the children.”

Peter Augustine Lawler, writing on “The Rise and Fall of Sociobiology,” in the spring issue of the New Atlantis

Updated delinquents

“‘Thirteen’ is a cautionary bad-girl picture, a genre that’s been kicking around since before movies could talk: It’s the stuff of laughable ‘50s juvenile delinquent films, ‘70s TV movies with Linda Blair, and ‘Afterschool Specials.’ Given its formulaic premise, you wouldn’t guess that this film would be such an emotional workout. … [Director Catherine] Hardwicke has goosed up the old melodramatic formula with a neorealist syntax and up-to-the-minute cultural nuances and violence — shots of girls piercing each other’s navels, for instance. The scenes haven’t been written from the outside, by middle-aged white guys wagging their fingers while serving up sex and drugs and horror for the audience’s delectation. What in outline sounds like one cheesy melodrama has a first-person ring.

“In fact, the script was co-written (with director Hardwicke) by its bad girl, 15-year-old Nikki Reed. … [W]hile ‘Thirteen’ isn’t explicitly racist, the scenes in which she’s surrounded by tall, good-looking black boys seem meant to set off anti-miscegenation bells in even the most resolute white liberals.

“The movie’s target, of course, is parents, who are either unwilling or unable to keep their kids from succumbing to the relentless temptations of the culture.”

David Edelstein, writing on “Girls Gone Wild,” Aug. 20 in Slate at

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