December 25, 2008

Winners of the Orange Prize

Hey, everyone—

Honored to be invited here as a guest-blogger. For a first shot, I thought I'd try picking at some ideas currently stuck to a brain too desk-like already with gum and graffiti. (That I was only able to wrap this post up by Christmas Day suggests I’ve got all the timing of a young Jon Heder.) Let's say the class started when I caught the new Britney Spears video.

The biggest shock initially was the extent to which it rips off "Never Again", the video for Kelly Clarkson's single from last year. Apparently, they are directed by the same guy. (I mean, of course they are.) Both tell the story of a hound pursued by a fox, where being caught means being tossed back in with the bathwater. Both videos also employ suites of images which are pretty much identical. They’re alike in every way, except for their ideological content, which is strictly opposed. The lesson learned here, I guess, is that you don't have to squint your ears very hard before Ibsen starts sounding like Strindberg.

The difference begins with the evidence against the defendant, and ends with a message about what constitutes a female exemplar. The target in the Clarkson is a genuine malefactor, whose guilt finds proof both in the witnessed act and in the remorse-flavored mental pudding he becomes. It is also for the most part a localized triumph. Clarkson's heroine and the blonde interloper fail to forge the dread female dichotomy, as there is simply too much talented and solitary about the one and too much doubt about the other. What is commendable about Clarkson's character ultimately is her critical faculty. Compare that to the Spears. Her mark does nothing worse than check his planner at breakfast; that he flirts with Spears as she’s got on different wigs is less sinister than her own plot, as she's out to burke him. It’s the decision to have Spears play all the women that’s the drag, and what makes the video’s politics something mustier than the slang of the title, itself disinterred from the abandoned disco hall that had been its tomb.

By making Spears their proxy, “Womanizer” implies that women are psychopaths, whose sole path to empowerment rests in acting sexy in public, luring a man around until he’s in the bedroom, where he can be made into toast. It's a joke which begins in a kitchen styled after a Korova Milk Bar and ends in the molestation and deletion of some nameless catalogue model: the only plausible way to market Spears now is as a crazy thug; the only way to market her as a crazy thug is by attempting to normalize the idea that women are crazy thugs; and that, as a seriously arrested person addicted to fame and lacking a meaningful conception of privacy, her moral agency may as well begin and end at the fact of each performance.

Basically, it is important that Spears be marketed, as it is the view of the consensus that that is the only time she acts rationally. Her compromised state should be considered a sign of grave damage, not that we’ll ever know its true extent or all those responsible, as that would lead to hassle and diminished profits. Too bad, as I think her profiteers likely committed some real atrocities against her, a suspicion that stirs with the Rolling Stone article and other anecdotes. One example is my music instructor’s explanation (backed up by Wikipedia) that the Spears vocal coaches taught her as a teen to sing in a way designed to sound "sexy," a method that was guaranteed to ruin her voice. What do you even call that, the vocal equivalent of foot-binding?

In context, the whole idea of Spears’s comeback makes a similar impression as the Kubrick version of Clockwork: endless violent childhood followed by a period of distinct suffering, followed by society offering the reward of doing it all over, with the caveat that what offended be done next time with more discretion. Meanwhile, there's nothing left in the body to make you an adult, and no help in that direction either. It’s us failing, again, to mark the difference between civility—which are manners—and decency—which are morals. (See here, for the popular explanation by Blumenthal, or here, for an example of it being put to important use.) The distinction is important, because it necessitates the concept of private space: the domain for behavior that is regarded as decent, but which cannot usefully be made civil. In the same way, abolishing privacy (say, by a lifetime of perpetual fame, or by a belief in a particular conception of G-d) can lead to the conflation of the two concepts. See also how privacy is eroded by consistently attacking a group's moral agency.

When I consider the difference between the concepts of public and private space, I can’t help but think the answer might involve the idea that only one of them contains children. It would make sense, as motherhood has always appeared to be an important trigger for confusion about female agency. Sarah Silverman got in trouble for a joke she told at the VMAs in which she says that the Spears kids "are the most adorable mistakes you'll ever see." (The gossip at the time was that Spears had told her kids they were mistakes in a flash of anger.) The word “mistake” in that lexical category should offend, as it impugns the worth of guiltless people based on choices made by a second party, thus implicitly endorsing the removal of that choice, to protect the lives of the innocent. It’s sexist. What should happen afterwards but that the routine be scrubbed from youtube to protect Spears’s two children: an act which essentially neutralized Silverman’s agency to tell a joke targeting a term that endorses the neutralizing of female agency, so as to protect Spears’s two children. It’s quite funny, and makes me wonder if it was Spears who used her agency to call for the scrubbing, though I doubt it, as the universe has not yet committed the final headdesk of collapsing in on itself.

Another trigger, I’d argue, is the act of performance itself. Walter’s review of Jesus is Magic has always bothered me, mostly for his assumption that there’s some ambiguity regarding the artifice of Silverman’s persona (there is??), and his ire in response to a character break:

"Yet protesting her innocence defuses her subtext, doesn't it? In this mad desire to not be taken seriously, suddenly Silverman comes across as ignorant and run-of-the-mill crass. It might be in that shift in paradigm that her jokes are suddenly toothless, replaced by uncomfortable silences and bursts of nervous laughter."

My problem, I guess, is that I don’t understand what exactly separates Silverman from that other popular comedian who says horrible things, and who also happens to break character all the time, to the enormous and obvious delight of his audience. Without that distinction clearly expressed, all I’m left with is a queasy feeling I associate with bearing witness to the act of confusing art with nature. (It’s a feeling that's become familiar, ever since the Emmys decided that the actors on The Wire don't deserve awards because they all must truly be drug dealers from Baltimore, even Elba.) It particularly disturbs me because it’s also something I’ve been guilty of, thinking this counted as the most tolerable of Spears’s output and not the most heinous. That it manufactures such a plausible posture for Spears results in me forgetting all the evidence that Spears doesn’t actually regard fame with anything resembling a jaundiced eye. In its deftness, it has me denying her performance, even as I suspect that's all she's got. What an asshole, right?

But more thoughts on Sarah Silverman later.

19 comments:

jacksommersby said...

Congrats on being selected as a FFC blogger. In light of the great talents already blogging here, you should feel honored as hell.

(Only, please, don't bring up the gruesome John Heder w/o giving a heads-up beforehand. I hold him in as low regard as Walter does Paul Walker.)

Anonymous said...

I also think "Piece of Me" is Spears' best work, but the hyper-personal nature of it bothers me. It bothered me when Eminem was doing it all the time, it bothers me more with Britney considering that she didn't write it. (No writer's credit for Britney. Even Paris Hilton gets a writing credit, for Christ's sake.)

Still, I appreciate what Britney did with that album. You could see her team trying to avert a career disaster by throwing every fucking thing they could think of at that album. "Womanizer" is just the sound of lazy people trying to keep the momentum going and not rock the boat. "Womanizer womanizer woman womanizer you you you are you you you are." Gag me.

As for Colbert and Silverman, yeah, I think Chaw's right on this one. Even when not breaking character, Colbert is clearly taking the piss out of it. He's playing an SNL character. Silverman, meanwhile, lives and dies by her complete conviction in her persona; I haven't seen "Jesus Is Magic" but I can't imagine how any kind of wink to the camera wouldn't kill the magic.
-Kim

Rachel Andelman said...

In light of the great talents already blogging here, you should feel honored as hell.

Take comfort. For I do recall, in my emails to the FFC brass, the h-word popping up a few dozen times or more.

Also, I apologize for any lunches lost with the Heder ref.

I also think "Piece of Me" is Spears' best work, but the hyper-personal nature of it bothers me. It bothered me when Eminem was doing it all the time, it bothers me more with Britney considering that she didn't write it. (No writer's credit for Britney. Even Paris Hilton gets a writing credit, for Christ's sake.)

Still, I appreciate what Britney did with that album. You could see her team trying to avert a career disaster by throwing every fucking thing they could think of at that album. "Womanizer" is just the sound of lazy people trying to keep the momentum going and not rock the boat. "Womanizer womanizer woman womanizer you you you are you you you are." Gag me.



The point of the post, though, is that Britney Spears is not making art. Britney Spears is performing according to the directions given her. "Piece of Me" is not hyper-personal. It uses details of her life, sure, but only as grist to construct a plausible role for Spears to inhabit for three minutes at a time. It's useless to compare her to any other musical act unless that act shows signs of neurological trauma and is being picked at by wolves.

Because anyone who is profiting off Britney Spears is a wolf. I recall a quote by Chris Rock, in which he said that if you have a friend in show business who is an addict, the best thing you can do for them is to get them fired, because they're not going to get better until the money runs out. I imagine the same principles apply with an addiction to fame, except that the level of difficulty is even higher. Of course, a lot of people can't get better. Britney Spears might be one of them. But she will certainly not get better as long as she is famous.

So: who cares if the people who made "Womanizer" are lazy? The people who made "Womanizer" are reprehensible, as bad as anyone who kept Chris Farley just sober enough, for just long enough, to make a buck for themselves.

As for Colbert and Silverman, yeah, I think Chaw's right on this one. Even when not breaking character, Colbert is clearly taking the piss out of it. He's playing an SNL character. Silverman, meanwhile, lives and dies by her complete conviction in her persona; I haven't seen "Jesus Is Magic" but I can't imagine how any kind of wink to the camera wouldn't kill the magic.

You're failing to notice that Walter and I aren't disagreeing about anything, certainly not about the "what," and not about the "why," either. I am just asking him to think about the "why" part harder. Because his reasoning is not there yet. Meanwhile, sexism flourishes in the implicit.

I would be interested to hear, for instance, if Walter thinks it's currently possible for a woman to do what Stephen Colbert does, to perform at such a high level of status so comfortably that she'd be able-- encouraged-- to wink about it. If he doesn't think it's possible, that's interesting. If he thinks it's possible, just not for Sarah Silverman, that's also interesting. The point is to get this stuff spilled.

I'd point out that Kathy Griffin got on one writer's Worst Persons list for the awful sin of, um, being too comitted to her persona. Getting it from both sides, I tell ya...

I'd also like to point out something that kills me from Walter's review of The Baxter. The review is fantastic and almost entirely spot-on. (It also helped me recall this Kids in the Hall sketch, which is "The Baxter" if it were made twenty years ago, came in under two minutes and was funny.)

The problem I have is with the review is with a bit of sentence construction. Obviously, one of the facts murdering humor in the film is that Showalter and his romantic interests are leagues apart. And Walter is clearly blaming Showalter's protag for being too unlikeable, which lowers his status. (Compare that with Ian's review of "Big Bang Theory," where the difference of status is blamed on the vague construction of Penny, making her, Ian asserts, too high-status.)

Awesome so far. But check the construction:

"The Baxter unfolds with a... parade of women so far out of Elliot's league.."

"...his ultimate match (with Cecil (Michelle Williams), likewise far out of his league).."

The WOMEN are out of HIS league. Get it? The construction blames the women. I mean, how dare they be out of his league. Don't they know that makes the film less funny? (Compare that with: "Elliot is not in the same league as any of the women he meets," "Cecil (Michelle Williams), whom he does not deserve.."

It might sound nit-picky. Whatever. I don't think it's a waste to be careful, especially when we're talking about women and comedy, especially when we're attempting to point out sexism in comedy. When I was reading that review, when I heard the failure of "The Baxter" fall like a hatchet on the head of Michelle Williams, well you can bet that my heart just broke.

Walter_Chaw said...

That's interesting - and scary - to be read so closely. . . makes me wonder why I'm not more careful at the same time it makes me understand why there's not that much interesting criticism going on out there. Anyhow - it's a male thing, I think, to be irritated to see the Ed Burnses in the world cast themselves opposite impossible women (Woody Allen syndrome, perhaps) - not impossible, impossible, but impossible for them. It's seeing the guy at the party with the girl that you love and that he, most definitely, does not deserve. Blame? Yeah, we blame the girls. I hadn't thought of that until now. Isn't the basis of porn similar? Doesn't matter what the guys look like - in fact, the less likely they look (Ron Jeremy, case in point), the hotter the sex because, shit, if she'll do that with them, what won't they do with you?

Good thread. Food for thought for sure and much along the same lines of what I've been thinking about lately.

James Allen said...

As for Colbert and Silverman, yeah, I think Chaw's right on this one. Even when not breaking character, Colbert is clearly taking the piss out of it. He's playing an SNL character. Silverman, meanwhile, lives and dies by her complete conviction in her persona

I would add that given what Colbert does (a show 4 times a week), the character was bound to shift to what it is currently. If you watch Colbert on his old Daily Show appearances and early on in his own show, there were still some interview subjects who were not sure what to make of Stephen, which made for some very great (and uncomfortable) moments. He was even able to fuck with his audience in a convincing way very early on. But now that everyone and their grandmother are in on the joke, he's shifted/settled/regressed to what he does now. It's still funny, but it's not the same.

Silverman's a lot more consistently venturesome in her approach so I don't doubt that the risk/reward factor is on a much higher level. I don't know how many jokes Stephen's gotten in "trouble" for (I guess the Correspondents Dinner is one, which was the peak for his character), but I can think of at least three from Sarah that were made a big deal out of. Is it because she's a woman? Is there a double edged sword whereby she can both "get away" with more, yet make people uncomfortable because it's a woman doing the naughtiness? To her credit, I think Silverman consciously walks that line and the results, while being a mixed bag to me, are never uninteresting.

Great subject, Rachel. You've made pondering Britney Spears (or at least an idea behind the nature of her existence) more interesting than I thought was possible. She is an idiot, yes, but hardly surprising given that even that part of her seems have been turned into a selling point. (The value of schdenfreude seems to be at an all time high these days.)

Rachel Andelman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Andelman said...

Is there a double edged sword whereby she can both "get away" with more, yet make people uncomfortable because it's a woman doing the naughtiness?

If you're slapped with the "controversial" label, and your routines are being scrubbed from youtube, and advocacy sites are condemning your act, you're not actually getting away with that much.

Your claim that The Colbert Report is old hat is basically another way of saying that Stephen Colbert can now get away with just about anything.

Comedians want to tell jokes. Controversy is only useful to the extent that it gets you a bigger audience. It's important to recall the most exciting stuff to watch is the most excruciating to perform. Colbert's only trying to be funny. Silverman's only trying to be funny.

The difference is that Silverman, as a woman, doesn't have as much room. She is controversial because the places she needs to go to be funny are not normalized as comedic space. It's a sword, all right. Just one edge, though.

Or:

Jon Stewart probably looked up to Lenny Bruce as a kid. Lenny Bruce probably would have killed for Jon Stewart's career.

James Allen said...

If you're slapped with the "controversial" label, and your routines are being scrubbed from youtube, and advocacy sites are condemning your act, you're not actually getting away with that much.

Depends how you define "getting away with," a phrase I probably shouldn't have used, as it's somewhat vague in the context of what we're talking about, although I would say that getting taken off of youtube and getting angry letters doesn't mean you're being eliminated from the landscape, it means you're hitting the right nerve the right way. The double edge I was talking about was that Silverman plays with the general expectations people have from a female comedian, something she is well familiar with working in a male dominated business. Silverman takes those conventions and burns them, not just acting like a female comedian in a man's world. And I'm amazed that people like humor but not when it's impolite.

And I don't think Colbert gets away with anything anymore because he doesn't really do anything new. He's in his own safe haven now, and along with Jon Stewart is getting wildly overpraised for pretty standard, unironic political satire that is wildly applauded by an ever accomodating studio audience. It's not bad, just a safe place that like minded people who've laughed at Bush jokes for 8 years can still go and not have their worldview challenged one whit. That it's consider the "best" political humor by some just shows how low the bar is.

Rachel Andelman said...

I was talking about was that Silverman plays with the general expectations people have from a female comedian, something she is well familiar with working in a male dominated business. Silverman takes those conventions and burns them

I'm not sure what you're referring to here. What are the expectations for a female comedian? What would an example of a conventional female comedian be? Joan Rivers? Margaret Cho? Maria Bamford? Rita Rudner? Wanda Sykes? Janeane Garofalo?

There's a case to be made that a lot of what Silverman does is essentially a fusion of Rudner and Garofalo's personas. She combines the high status indicators of Rudner-- wealth, a focus on being slim/pretty, a ditzy obliviousness that implies a sequestered upbringing-- and the high status indicators of Garofalo-- an educated background, political subject matter, the privilege to NOT be pretty (ie, immaculately dressed, groomed, etc.) She does both Rudner's aloofness and Garofalo's passion, she does one-liners like Rudner and longer-form content like Garofalo. Of course, as she's higher status than either (having combined those indicators) she can start really getting into that stuff we know her for. Without that high status, none of her jokes would read as self-deprecating, they would only ever read as her being a douchebag.

The idea that conventions are ever "burned" is an irksome one. Conventions are never destroyed, they are only built on. If Silverman weren't working from well-established conventions she wouldn't be funny. It's exactly the paucity of conventions that is frustrating for female comedians.

O'JohnLandis said...

Dicussing Colbert with you might be a trap--as I'm not sure I've seen his show enough to productively talk about it and I gather you know it quite well--but I think comparing Silverman and Colbert is a cheat. Far from an issue of gender in comedy, this is an issue of tone in comedy.

Silverman in stand-up is playing a character and that character is primarily based on innocence. This is not news. The controversial content works because of that innocent approach and tone. In fact, she plays that character so well that sometimes people aren't sure if it's a character at all. She's wonderfully funny and, at her best, quite perceptive, but her comedy is based on a kind of gimmick. Therefore, even though she's very good and very funny, judged as perforance art, the gimmick makes it weaker art than, say, Eddie Izzard or Louis C.K. or Patton Oswalt.

I bring this up not to say anything against her--I think she's great (oh, that word...)--but because her gimmick is the weakness that matters in this discussion. If she knowingly breaks the tone, it's extremely jarring because it screws up the innocence. Even if the reasons are more complicated, it would have been profoundly jarring if Andy Kaufman had broken character and winked at the camera, and certainly not because he's a man. But the Colbert comparison fails because Colbert's character doesn't require innocence, it requires arrogance. And when he breaks character, it's usually (always?) unintentional. Breaking character doesn't always mean the same thing because not all characters are the same. No matter what Walter says, the passage isn't sexist.

On a similar note, no matter what Walter says, the Baxter passage isn't sexist either. Your ellipsis was the cheat. Here's the full sentence:

Not a terrible idea (i.e. making the boring, button-down dork the center of a satirical romance) for a movie as self-serving, self-pitying, neo-Woody Allen ideas go, but as The Baxter unfolds with a suspiciously-familiar series of contrived situations, gentle misunderstandings involving homosexuality and a strange woman in your bed, and a parade of women so far out of Elliot's league as to render his eventual abandonment as inevitable as his ultimate match (with Cecil (Michelle Williams), likewise far out of his league) is unlikely, it becomes clear that the flick is just as stupid as that which it purports to lampoon.

Your suggested first alternative isn't at all usable. The second sorta works, but in not repeating the "league" wording, it weakens the sentence. And this doesn't really matter, because "out of X's league" is neutral and requires clarification. Elliot is beneath Cecil, so Elliot could say to her, "I am out of your league." She could say that to him and have it mean the same thing. It's less likely, but only because people are more likely to act defeated than they are to act like an asshole, at least while they're talking.

Man or woman, who--but maybe George Clooney--can't reasonably say that someone is out of his/her league in the depressing way? If it's sexism, it's the most boring sexism possible. But really, if it's sexism, what isn't?

Rachel Andelman said...

Dicussing Colbert with you might be a trap

This is nitwitted. If you don't know what you're talking about, you're more than free to not talk about it. How insecure to imply that it's somehow my fault if you prove that you are not an expert on any topic.

Comparing Silverman to Kaufman only makes sense if there's evidence that Silverman has made a Kaufman-like effort to confound her audience. As far as I can tell, there is not. Thus the question remains why Silverman convinces more in her persona than Colbert, if it is not at least partly due to the fact that agency is harder to accept when it is female. This would also explain why so many men are convinced the stripper likes them, despite the fact that relatively few strippers have graduated from RADA.

I think your innocence/arrogance dichotomy fails to hold up under inspection. Watch her Letterman here. Listen to how she describes the character at 3:36: "Earnest, ignorant, but arrogant and kind of an asshole." Tell me how that fails to describe Colbert. The only way you can differentiate the characters greatly is if you intentionally ignore the arrogance at the heart of Silverman's persona, as well as the fact she does not describe the character as innocent but ignorant, as innocence implies the character is harmless.

It should also be said that when Colbert breaks character is unintentional. That he breaks character is completely intentional. (It's about the looseness with which the character is worn.) Anyway, Walter never mentioned intentionality in his review, so I'm not sure why it would matter.

Your suggested first alternative isn't at all usable. The second sorta works, but in not repeating the "league" wording, it weakens the sentence.

My examples, of course, were not meant to be directly inserted into Walter's piece, only to provide an example of construction that would support Walter's point and not undermine it. (I do wonder if you are at home, snickering at the fact you got me to spell that out. What a sucker.) Your grander point-- that what is said matters less than the fact it is said well-- is vapid, if not actually repellent.

And this doesn't really matter, because "out of X's league" is neutral and requires clarification.

Of course, this is complete rubbish. Thus proving that true pedantry, like true love, is something difficult to find on the internet.

Anonymous said...

The "out of my league" business depends on the person saying it. I've said it before and it's not been because I think it's the fault of the other person it's because the observation is made from my perspective in the lower league. I'm in my league the other person is out of it.

Bill C said...

Off-topic, but if all goes according to plan our Top 10s of 2008 should be up at the mothersite in the wee hours of New Year's Day. Simultaneously dreading the reaction and feeling more at peace with this batch of lists than usual.

Rachel Andelman said...

You're right, Anonymous. You should be able to speak from your own perspective, where people are in or out of your league. Dating should be about finding people in your league.

Blame comes in where the perspective is not obvious, and when the characters are finite and fictive. Walter spends the entire interview laying into this Eliot guy, except for the constructions I mentioned, where he inexplicably reverts to Eliot's perspective. If the women in a film really are more likeable/sympathetic/well-rounded/whatever, it's a shame to think that their being women should be a real barrier to audience identification.

Also, it seems that this thread might be winding down. I really appreciate the discussion that's been going on. Thanks especially to James Allen and Walter. Still digging on what you guys are saying.

O'JohnLandis said...

Look, did you work for Colbert? If you did, you might know more about his process than I do. The trap is one I set for myself and isn't at all your fault. I watched his show a lot when it came out, but not so much anymore. My credentials may be superior to everyone else's, but I assume I'm at a natural disadvantage to you so I don't know what's intellectually dishonest about stating that right at the beginning. I think quoting a Letterman interview, if nothing else, proves detailed expertise is something you clearly value. I stand by my decision to mention a possible lack of expertise, though I promise not to do so in the future if it so offends. Hopefully from now on everyone will have the exact same base of knowledge about every topic.

Still, I don't give a shit what Silverman says about her own character. She isn't necessarily the best qualified to analyze her art, and since you love attacking relevance, was she specifically asked to compare herself to Colbert? She says awful things with wide-eyed innocence and he's mostly bluster. Do you actually disagree that her tone is more innocent than his? At the beginning of the "Report," Colbert's persona convinced far more than Silverman's, so if that's changed (not sure it has to someone watching for the first time), his far greater exposure is way more likely than any other reason.

As to comparing Silverman to Kaufman, they both have people wondering if it's all an act, though obviously to different degrees. Maybe in a Letterman interview, Kaufman explained his process, so start searching.

Meanwhile, I stand by my definition of "out of my league" and don't think it's at all incorrect for an arrogant person to use it as an insult. But clearly, thefreedictionary.com is a definitive source. Try to win an argument without hyperlinks.

And why quote the passage in the exact structure of your example if you weren't cheating? You could have just said that the whole thing needed to have been rewritten, no matter the effect on the meaning or the art. You didn't say that. Who cares if you admit that the example was useless? That was obvious. I'd rather you admit that you care less about criticism as an art than as a process created, one day, to achieve perceived perfection of gender neutrality in writing.

I assure you that I haven't snickered at one of these discussions in a long time, though you at least seemed to get angry enough to drop your usual glib distance. I guess that's an improvement, but I assure you, it isn't any fun being alone in these fights.

It was a stylistic choice to end my response the way I did and it was a poor one--not because the central idea that you're reducing the concept of sexism to nothing/everything is wrong--but because this particular type of deeply personal, deeply useless linguistic analysis is all you seem to be able to do. Therefore, it's unlikely you'll stop and I'm once again just left throwing my arms in the air, as though I was trying to prove conclusively that I wasn't "in denial."

Self-deprecating language does not imply that someone else deserves blame. Can't you simply hate yourself without worrying that what you're really doing is hating everyone else?

As a Hail Mary on yet another topic:

Did it ever occur to you that, even if this type of linguistic sexism exists, by altering the offending language and removing its naturalism, the revision might seem in some way forced or false or "off" and wind up being more sexist than the original?

James Allen said...

To put a capper on this I just have to say I don't think we disagree about Silverman all that much, Rachel, that, no, conventions aren't literally burned, and that you won't be seeing gender neutral comedy anytime soon. I'm not sure many people would want that anyway.

And a paucity of conventions for women in comedy just means there's a lot more ground to explore.

Silverman, regardless of what she says, is not agressive, but uses her wide-eyed innocent looks as a counterpoint to her cutting swipes. It works. Would "I'm Fucking Matt Damon" have worked if not for this approach? Would it have come off as anything but mean if it was done by a guy? Notice Kimmel didn't respond with "I'm Fucking Julia Stiles (or whomever)" but immediately went gay, the tired staple of the male comedic point of view. (At least the thing morphed into a "We Are the World" parody which was actually funny.)

Happy New Year, all.

Rachel Andelman said...

I don't know what's intellectually dishonest about stating that right at the beginning.

An argument is an argument. Its strength depends on your base of knowledge, which can then be inferred by anyone paying attention. Making caveats is obnoxious. It reads like you're attempting to lower expectations for yourself.

Do you actually disagree that her tone is more innocent than his?

Her delivery is more innocent. Her persona is not. "Tone" doesn't actually refer to anything. I have only referred to their personas.

Maybe in a Letterman interview, Kaufman explained his process, so start searching.

You made the comparison. The burden of proof was always on you.

Meanwhile, I stand by my definition of "out of my league" and don't think it's at all incorrect for an arrogant person to use it as an insult. But clearly, thefreedictionary.com is a definitive source. Try to win an argument without hyperlinks.

Idioms are the same as words. They have definitions accepted by society. You don't get to stand by your definition. Your definition is made-up. Your claim that this is an argument is false.

It's also why I will not be replying to your comments in the future. If you truly believe that words mean whatever you decide, then there is no point in further discussion.

Congratulations.

Rachel Andelman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
O'JohnLandis said...

Apparently to myself in a mirror:

When does an expression become an idiom? When it doesn't make sense on its own?

In that case, any construction using "league" with that definition becomes its own unique idiom. This seems to go against what an idiom actually is. My proposal is simply that there's a new definition of league (meaning class) and that "out of my league" is the most common usage.

For what it's worth, mirror, dictionary.com has as its sixth definition of league, "group; class; category." And the urban dictionary defines out of my league as, "a person who is not in your class: social, physical, etc."

I truly believe words mean what they mean, no matter how tricky it is for people or dictionaries to write those meanings down. For instance, near the bottom of the "outs" on the urban dictionary page is, "Out of the butt and into the fuck." The only thing below it is, "Out of the butt, and into the fuck."