It is the media. It is not the mainstream media, and it is not some post-hip sobriquet like the lamestream media which, face it, along with Repugnican, wingnut, Freeper, Faux News, and a host of other tired old terms has passed its hour to be purged from the language. It is the media’s job to report. As citizens, our job is to communicate among ourselves on what and how they report, which is another reason to avoid slangy terms. There is nothing hip or particularly communicative about acting like teens speaking in adult-proof code.
Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” All of the media, these days, seem to be sending one message which, so far, only theSkimm has actually articulated.
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The idea is arguable, no laughable, that consuming what has been read and broken down for you makes you smarter. At least theSkimm comes out and says it has put your veggies in a KitchenAid with apples, pears, and high fructose corn syrup. All of the media do it, and it is a little like reading Lamb’s Tales but not as elegant or as much fun. At its worst, it leaves huge information gaps that abound among the electorate and presents an exercise in frustration for those who prefer their asparagus and brussels sprouts whole and unadulterated.
There was a time, in the early days of this blog, so, not that distant in the past, when I could go to media sources and find an entire interview to post. Today, a mere seven plus years into this work, all I can find are media bytes. Little 1.5 – 3.5 minute spoonsful. As theSkimm unabashedly tells you, it is all cut up and pre-chewed for you – like baby food. Unfortunately, they are the only ones telling you that, leaving the impression that you are getting the whole story from other sources, but that is not the case. Most of what you find today is Gerber’s in another guise, and it no longer seems to matter whence the source – there no longer is a mainstream. The media has achieved true social, if not economic, democracy.
When I posted, two days ago, about Fareed Zakaria’s stroke of genius in dividing his interview with Helen Mirren in two and asking her how she would portray Hillary Clinton, I gave credit where it was not due. That was not Fareed’s fault entirely, although he did supply the mini-clip of the conversation. Throughout yesterday, additional stories about Dame Helen’s remarks arose, and I added one of those to that post. Nothing I read or posted prepared me for the whole, real story. Nothing rectified my initial misconception.
Who, then, had the brainstorm and should have received the credit? It was not the interviewer. It was Dame Helen herself who brought up the subject of Hillary Clinton, along with her own appetite to play that role should a script appear. She did insert a disclaimer that there was some self-interest, but that was not really why the subject came up. The topic was roles for women on stage and screen.
Dame Helen has long been an advocate for broader, deeper, more complex longitudinal portrayals of women in drama. In an age when sustainability is a buzzword and even, somehow, an area of academic pursuit, female actors have less sustainable careers than their male counterparts, and, as Mirren points out, ever has it been so. The Bard did not provide much in the way of roles for mature women which is why Mirren portrayed Prospero as Prospera in Julie Taymor’s fantastic production of The Tempest. It is a matter of taking on and refitting the male roles for the mature woman. She stopped short of suggesting she would ever play Lear. Here is how Hillary and 2016 actually entered the conversation.
ZAKARIA: Over the span of a 50-year career in acting, Helen Mirren has done a lot of things. She has done everything from high Shakespearian theater to the scandalous 70s film of “Caligula,” played everything from a queen to a Mossad agent, and won everything from an Oscar to a Tony to an Emmy. But the one thing she has never played is a Bond girl. Is she bitter? Not Dame Helen.
ZAKARIA: You said we’ve all sat and watched as James Bond has become more and more geriatric. While his girlfriends —
HELEN MIRREN, ACTRESS: Get younger and younger. That was the case for a while, wasn’t it? I mean, it was like embarrassing. I thought it was ridiculous.
ZAKARIA: But do you think it’s — is it a big problem in Hollywood that men get cast for roles well into their 60s and 70s, and for women it’s more of a struggle?
MIRREN: It is more of a struggle. But even Shakespeare did that to us, you know. As you get older, even the Shakespeare roles become — that’s why we have to start stealing the men’s roles, you know. Doing like I did “The Tempest,” Prospero. And it’s great that a lot of women are, you know, doing Hamlet, doing “Henry V.” I’m a sure there will be a female Othello soon. And I love that. I think it’s absolutely great. Because, why not.
But it’s changing. I’ve always said, don’t worry about roles in drama — well, do — moan and complain, and I do. But really spend your energies on changing roles for women in real life, because, as night follows day, as the roles for women in real life change, they will change in drama. And I really hope that we’re going to see a female president in the next — when are the elections?
MIRREN: 2016. Oh, not till then. A while. Oh, next year! So I hope we see a female president next year. That would be absolutely fantastic, and that would make a huge difference to the understanding of what women can be.
ZAKARIA: Do you think you could pull off the accent for Hillary Clinton?
MIRREN: She would be a wonderful person to play. Somewhere down the line, someone will do a story. Because she has had — well, it was an extraordinary trajectory, and the brilliance, brilliance at handling her world.
And what unbelievable challenges she’s had over the years.
ZAKARIA: If you were to compare the two, the queen and Hillary, what is the defining character of Hillary Clinton that you, as somebody playing her, imagine to be playing her, what would you be trying to capture?
MIRREN: That’s a very interesting question. I mean, the enormous intelligence, the brain that I think is very, very, very fast-moving. And I think the incredible tenacity. The queen of — Elizabeth Windsor, I call her, is — it’s a different — hers is I just — put my head down, I do what I’m supposed to do, I do it as well as I can, and I don’t argue, and I don’t complain, and I just do it. Hillary is much fiercer than that. It’s, you know, she is a lioness of a kind. A lioness. And the — Elizabeth Windsor is not, you know. I don’t know what animal she is. I’ll have to think about that one.
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No run up to this interview prepared me for Dame Helen being the one who brought up Hillary and the election. Everything that was out there – and ended up in the earlier post – led me to think it all Fareed’s idea. These two videos are all that CNN offers. Not the entire interview. Only these. Important content has been skipped,
The real story was much deeper than an interviewer with a campaign cycle agenda. It was a woman with a much bigger agenda, changing the roles of women in the world.
Why did I not know that this was Helen’s subject to raise? Because of the piecemeal nature of reportage. The story was cherry-picked for me by the host and by those who wrote about the interview in advance having seen it in advance. This was not at all about a smart anchor raising a brilliant question, as the promos had me believe. It was about a brilliant female leader perceiving the value of expanding the roles of women in general and, as an example and role model, promoting one brilliant woman in particular.
Why was that not the message we all received as we looked forward to this interview? Because the media adulterated it, masticated and strained it for our consumption, just like baby food, and all the good stuff stayed in the strainer and went into the compost bin.
This was less about Helen Mirren wanting a role and therefore wanting Hillary Clinton to ascend to that role than it was about Helen Mirren wanting to boost all women and recognizing Hillary’s ascendancy for its value in that social revolution.
Maybe the fault in the previews had something to do with men having provided all the promotional reports I saw about this interview. Not that they necessarily meant to, but they edited out those crucial first words on the subject. Men are used to Hillary being brilliant and fierce and many men support her. Is it possible that, to more men than I would hope, this was somehow scary? “Spend your energies on changing roles for women in real life.” Why was that part of the story excised?
Thank you, Dame Helen Mirren for your wise advice. You are one of the most brilliant people around, and I cannot imagine two better role models and leaders for women than you and Hillary Clinton.
We women, especially, should be wary. When we see clips of Hillary, we miss some of the context. That original clip of Helen lacked important context. So much of the time all we see, and all I can find, are the little pre-digested bytes, bits, and pieces. I have always tried to find full transcripts and videos of Hillary’s speeches and remarks, but even at her campaign site they are few and far between. All the information comes in memes, clips, and shorthand. If the medium is the message, as McLuhan said, we are all being shortchanged.
APB, Media!!! We do not really need you to do the hunting for us. Lionesses come in prides! We hunt. We have teeth! We can rip the meat off the bone and chew it for ourselves.
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