Jan 16, 2007

Christopher Hitchens Jumps The Shark

Some of y'uns were asking, so here it is: the full text of my Response to Hitchens, previously posted on Burnside Writers Collective. BTW: Graydon Carter is the Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair.

Ah Graydon, we thought we knew ye. But you have been sucked into the swirling eddy of a drowning man. Christopher Hitchens’ neo-con politics aren’t sexy any more, on account of the whole Iraq War thingy, and Hitchens being a grumpy atheist British drunk. So now Hitchens is reaching for attention, as evidenced in his latest (and we hope, his last) article for your December issue: “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”

I can just see Hitchens in the Vanity Fair story meeting, desperate to convince you, VF's editor, while draining his last bottle of Peach Schnapps.

Hitchens: On me life, Graydon, people’ll buy the Chrissimus issue, just for me article.
Graydon: But Pro-Rumsfeld stories are dead …
Hitchens: Wait for it, Wait for it. You ready? “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”
Graydon: Just because they’re not laughing at YOUR jokes.

And therein lies Hitchens’ faulty reasoning. Just because the media doesn’t reward funny women doesn't mean funny women don’t exist. For men to complain that there aren’t enough funny women is like the Nazis complaining there were no more Jews in Warsaw.

You got rid of us.

Men don’t want women to be funny; you just want us to look good in a thong.

Hitchens says that “the chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex,” and that humor is his best shot at winning a woman. That may be true, humor is a big aphrodisiac for women. But then Hitchens claims women don’t need to work at attracting men: “you’re already appealing.”

I beg to differ. If “Ugly Betty” doesn’t say it all, there’s this whole cottage industry called Women’s Magazines, and the covers don’t advertise stories about how women are fine just as we are. They don’t show a woman how to win a man by using her biting, incisive wit. Not even with her non-threatening apple-pie wit. They’re all about how to get a man by losing ten pounds, using the right lip gloss and getting Jennifer Aniston’s Japanese flat perm.

Let me reiterate: men don’t want women to be funny; men just want women to look good in a thong. And this says more about men’s inability to value humor than it does about a woman’s inability to be funny.

Hitchens admits that humor could be threatening. “If humor is a sign of intelligence, perhaps men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals.” Well now, that’s the first bit of honest writing the man has done.

But he doesn’t go anywhere with it. He writes that, for women, “cunning minxes that they are,” humor is secondary to our higher calling of bearing children: a job so wondrous and serious a matter, we can never laugh about it.

Hitchens has never been to a MOPS meeting or a baby shower or Chick Night. I get together with my women friends once a month. We eat chocolate and cheese, drink wine, and laugh our Over Size Zero asses off with stories about men, dating, sex, and yes even episiotomy scars. But those meetings are kept private under a sacred, solemn oath; so I cannot disclose their grave and mysterious content.

And excuse me: cunning minx? Who calls a woman a cunning minx? Hitchens little Mickey Spillane and phoned it in. What a hack.

Hitchens is not completely off base. It’s quite true: there are far more successful funny men than funny women in entertainment (I assume we’re omitting the clowns in politics, economics and astrophysics). Check the cast list of TV and film comedies: it’s always an average, dopey but likable guy, cast opposite a hot woman. Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne Smith. Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston/Renee Zellwegger/Jenny McCarthy (no Jenny, standing with your mouth agape in a silent scream doesn’t make you funny).
Adam Sandler and Kate Beckinsale. Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate. Will Ferrell and Leslie Bibb in “Talladega Nights”. Who in the H-E-Double toothpicks was Leslie Bibb? Just the latest charmless pretty girl. Fat-boy Kevin James got Amber Valetta in “Hitch”. Who are we kidding?

There are many funny women in entertainment: Molly Shannon, Anna Gasteyer, Tia Leoni, Amy Poehler. Diane Keaton. But you don’t see Hollywood developing sitcoms with Anna Gasteyer getting it on with Josh Duhamel, or Molly Shannon bedding George Clooney. Even pairing Diane Keaton with Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give” was scandalous, she was so close to his age.

Hitchens was also correct that there are far more male standup comedians than there are women. But standup comedy is solo venture, in a dark, lonely, competitive, and solipsistic atmosphere. Women are more relational. We're better at improvisational comedy. Look at the successful women who came out of Second City and The Groundlings: Edie McClurg, Jula Sweeney, Julie Louis-Dreyfuss; Gasteyer, Shannon, Poehler. And let's not forget the amazing Tina Fey, erstwhile head writer on SNL, who now helms her own new comedy, 30 Rock.

I don't believe think Hollywood’s beauty bar was set so high forty or fifty years ago. Leading women had to be attractive, of course; but they didn’t have to be smokin’ hot. Take for example Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell. In “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” it was Jean Arthur who saved Jimmy Stewart, using her humor and intelligence. Lucille Ball was pretty, but she wasn’t Greta Garbo.

So what changed?


Well, sex and the decline of Western Culture. But let’s start with sex. We all know that when dating, if we don’t jump into bed right away, we might be forced to talk to each other, and become attracted on more lasting qualities such as intelligence and humor. The same is true in films and television. Actresses could carry a picture based on their humor and intelligence. Even sexy movies, like “To Have or Have Not”, were sexier for their subtlety.

Since the sexual revolution, women were free to have sex with no repercussions; and men were free to desire women solely for sex, with no repercussions. Playboy had a lot to do with turning women into mute, two-dimensional sex objects. You’ve come a long way, baby. A long way down.

And this is a lot of what we are dealing with: the demise of Western Culture. With no God, there's no higher authority to answer to, nor needs greater than, our suckling narcissistic ID. So: men turn women into blow-up dolls, and women turn men into money machines. And there’s no better example than Donald Trump and the women he occasionally marries.

Yes, women aren’t the only victims. Men have also suffered from the sexual revolution: they're wanted simply for their power or pocketbook. And that’s gotta be frightening for men like Christopher Hitchens. And judging by his slide down the credibility ladder, he’s scared and angry. So he blames it on the women for not laughing at his jokes. Methinks the wino doth protest too much.

A few humorous asides: Hitchens, bitter atheist that he is, sites the embarrassing human anatomy as proof there is no God. He then describes a scene in hell where demons snicker at our pooping skills. I've heard of people who believe in heaven but not God. But people who believe in Hell but no God? That's a special kind of nihilist.

Hitchens also states that religion is the “official enemy of all humor.” But just who are the leaders of most religions: girls? Who’s at the pulpit most Sundays delivering those humorless three-point, alliterative sermons: Girls? Well, if religion is the enemy of all humor, and men are the figureheads of religion, then men are the enemy of humor. And girls win.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey susan, i said it before and i'll say it again: excellently written article. 30 rock is one of my favourite new shows and is growing on me rapidly. tina fey is definitely dynamic and a fresh inhale in this carbon copy north american assembly line of pop-stereotyped female figures. when will you be on earl? i'll be watchin.

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