In a pleasing tidal shift, the internet’s outrage this week was not directed towards fake hate crimes, but instead towards narcissistic overpaid celebrities – something people on all sides of the aisle can get behind.
The brunt of the news coverage went to Kathy Griffin – who was still recovering from posting a photo of herself holding a bloody severed Trump head. Griffin and her photographer claimed the image was meant to mock Trump’s comments regarding Megan Kelly, which if true, is a joke absolutely no one got. When Trump said that Kelly was bleeding from her “wherever”, I’m not sure anyone thought “wherever” meant her severed neck.
Griffin and her attorney then gave a press conference where she claimed a combination of Donald Trump and sexism ruined her career:
“This is a woman thing.” “I’m sorry if you don’t agree with that but I live with it. I’ve been living with this my entire career.”
While Griffin perhaps has faced sexism her entire career, it’s hard to pin this incident on sexism. Male comedians are not making similar jokes. It’s not like during her bit role on Seinfeld, Jerry got mad at Kramer for getting the blood from a decapitated Bill Clinton on his puffy shirt.
And while Griffin’s attorney pointed out that Marilyn Manson and the band GWAR had previously used similar imagery of Trump beheadings, her comparison points aren’t exactly persuasive. When your moral barometer is Marilyn Manson, a man who once wrapped a pregnant woman in a Nazi flag, you’re probably going to lose your job hosting a playful New Years Eve broadcast. When the producers at Ryan Seacrest’s Rockin’ New Years Eve are determining if someone is too controversial, they aren’t measuring it against a man who calls himself the Antichrist. And the comparisons to GWAR are equally dumb. For those who don’t know what GWAR is, GWAR is what would happen if a cartoon version of Marilyn Manson made a guest appearance on the Flintstones.
Griffin is also incorrect in her claims that President Trump is ruining her career. Trump doesn’t have the power to ruin celebrities’ careers. If he did, Meryl Streep would be driving for Uber instead of starring in an upcoming Steven Spielberg movie. Megyn Kelly, the woman Griffin’s photo was allegedly defending from Trump, is set to make $18 million per year. Trump can’t ruin celebrities’ careers – he can only ruin the careers of his press secretaries.
Griffin’s career is over because it was already on life support, and even her left-leaning costar Anderson Cooper tweeted that her photo was “clearly disgusting and inappropriate.” Griffin’s actions were so irresponsible that even Squatty Potty, a device to help you lift your legs as you poop, felt gross being associated with the comedian.
Luckily for Griffin, Bill Maher took over some of the media outrage by calling himself the n-word:
His guest for the segment, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), invited Maher to “come work in the fields with us” in his home state of Nebraska.
“Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n*****,” Maher replied.
Variety quickly called for Maher’s firing for the incident as “it’s just the latest in a very long string of racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic, and transphobic things Maher has said or tacitly encouraged.” They also faulted Maher for having controversial guests like Milo Yiannopoulos on his show.
In other words, Maher should be fired as host of a political debate show…for engaging in political debate…and inviting people with opposing views…onto his political debate show…in an effort to encourage political debate.
Maher’s quip was meant to be self-deprecating and was in no way derogatory or malicious against black people. While it is obviously unacceptable for white hosts to use the n-word, should the penalty always be losing your TV show and being banished to host a podcast from your garage? Is intention and context totally irrelevant?
If Maher manages to retain his job, no doubt many will point to sexism as the reason he remains employed while Griffin’s career was flushed down the squatty potty. But other than making news, the actions of Maher and Griffin could not be more different. Griffin actively courted controversy through a bold statement that required both planning and contemplation.
She wasn’t playing a basketball game, only to catch the ball and realize it was actually a severed Trump head. At some point she was putting on makeup next to a blood covered mock up of the President’s head, and she still went through with it. Contrast that with Maher, who made a funny quip in conversation that elicited laughter from the live audience, but afterwards caused him to realize that he had uttered the wrong magic outrage words.
The level of malice and forethought with each person’s action could not be more different. Yet the media, obsessed with identity politics, will try to put them in separate but equal boxes. The world is full of more and more people seeking to be outraged, and fewer and fewer people asking why we find the conduct to be outrageous in the first place.