Entry from May 6, 2014

The best joke from Joel McHale’s appearance at the White House Correspondents dinner — as transcribed for the Washington Post — ran as follows:

America is doing just fine, guys. How do I know that? Because we are making a fourth movie about trucks that turn into giant robots. And why are they making a Transformers 4? Because there is still so much story left to tell. So chin up everyone, this country is still number one in the all-important categories of cream- filled pastries, face computers and robot trucks. Education, the economy and the environment? Hey, we’ll get them next time.

The three E’s, I guess, have in common that they are all things we can joke about being, with varying degrees of accuracy, wrong with our country just because we no longer expect to “get them next time” — any more than we expect the infantilization of our culture to be reversed and Hollywood to start making movies for grownups again. The joke is really on us, but, like the politicians Mr McHale came to skewer, we’re rather pleased with ourselves for not minding. Or at least pretending not to mind.

Half the world doesn’t know. . . Hadley Freeman is cross. And who is this Guardian feminist cross with? The media. Why is she cross with the media? Why, just look at the contrast between the way they are treating the recent engagement of George Clooney and that of Jennifer Aniston two years ago! It’s enough to make anyone cross. But let’s let her tell it:

Poor George Clooney. Poor tragic, oldster, childless, longterm singleton George Clooney. Did you know he’s over 50? Did you know he got divorced over 20 years ago and has not been married since? Instead, he has lurched pathetically, hopelessly from one failed relationship to the next, his biological clock going tick-tock-tick-tock. Meanwhile, his ex-wife, Talia Balsam, who was clearly too good for him, remarried sexy John Slattery from Mad Men and had a son. A family. Ouch! That must have hurt. But now, lucky George has finally found a woman in the nick of time, and has somehow convinced her to marry him. They got engaged after only seven months of dating, which proves how desperate poor/ lucky George Clooney is. I bet he's going to turn into a right Groomzilla now and insist on having a baby immediately. 

You get the idea. And, just in case you don’t, she adds: “I jest, of course. Clearly that is not the way George Clooney's unmarried life and recent engagement were reported in the media, because George Clooney is a man.”

Do tell! It’s always amusing, the power of the most banal realities to surprise those accustomed to inhabiting ideology’s dream world. Sexual realities are particularly liable to outrage those who start with the attitude that they have no right, if there were cosmic justice for women, to be realities at all, or who assume that the familiar and long established differentiation of male and female behaviors and attitudes can only be the result of an ideology of oppression. Such people seem destined to spend their whole lives being cross at people, since very few of those accustomed to living their lives on familiar terms with sexual reality can be persuaded to forget what they know and adopt instead the unisex fantasy.

What they can be persuaded to do is to believe in the fantasy of male oppression as the source of sex-differences. It gives the women someone to blame for all that’s wrong in their lives, even if it is not the kind of grievance which requires them to be as obsessive about it as Ms Freeperson must be. Also, men may be glad to believe it since the guiltiest parties are their sexist grandfathers rather than themselves and it gives them a reason to go on hoping that, once women are quite liberated from the old patriarchal assumptions, they will want sex for its own sake, just as men do. Those are two very different dream worlds inspired by the same dream of equality, though I sometimes wonder if either is quite aware of the other.

At least they know they’re doing it. . . It’s not exactly shocking news that British diplomats in the early days of the Reagan administration looked down their noses at the new president, regarding him as a “bumbler” and a bit slow-witted. As one of them put it: “We have self- evidently a President who — how shall I put it? — is difficult to engage in serious discussion.” I was a school-teacher in England at the time, and the newly-released diplomatic papers from the National Archives echo what was being said by my pupils, who were always quick to repeat as revealed truth any such judgments they had picked up from the media. I remember one 15-year-old sneering that Reagan was “not just an actor but a B-movie actor.” I very much doubt he knew what a B-movie was.

I put this kind of thing down to an adolescent predisposition to extreme credulity any time they had an excuse to flatter their natural belief in their own intellectual superiority to world leaders and other important people. Now, however, the revelation of what their diplomats were saying back in 1982 is regarded, at least in some quarters, as an embarrassment and an indication of British snobbery about those they so often regard as uncultivated Americans. An editorialist for The Times even went so far as to write that “this inglorious tradition of writing off the leader of the free world also stretched to George W. Bush, as will become clear in decades to come when the files are released to the public.” Where was this guy back in the noughties when the British press — not to mention the American one — was speaking with one voice about W’s idiocy? Better late than never, I guess. But do we dare hope that they won’t be so quick to dismiss the next Republican to occupy the Oval Office? Assuming there ever is one.

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