More men behaving badly

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Wednesday October 18, 2017
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We do love CNN anchor Erin Burnett. With the exception of the days she was reporting from Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre we've already pushed out of the news cycle, when she looked truly shaken, she never fails to call out Trump.

Oct. 12 was no exception. Burnett labeled Trump the "hypocrite-in-chief" on her show "Out Front" after Trump signed his 50th executive order in office. That 50th EO rescinded the subsidies one in five Americans receives for their healthcare. Burnett said, "Hypocrite-in-chief Pres. Trump did something today he harshly criticized Pres. Obama for doing. Trump signed his 50th executive order." She then detailed in old Trump tweets how he'd referred to Obama's executive orders as "authoritarian" and "power grabs." Huh.

Speaking of women who call out Trump, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was interviewed by David Axelrod on "The Axe Files" on CNN Sat., Oct. 14. Some days it seems Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Kamala Harris are among the only people in Congress fighting for the rest of us. Pelosi was the only one to acknowledge the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder 19 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1998. At least someone is tracking our LGBTQ history.

If you love Sarah Silverman and need a regular dose of how-do-I-survive-Trumplandia, her new Hulu show "I Love You, America" is for you. The talk show from the irascible NSFW comedian debuted Oct. 12. Silverman does a hilarious opener in which she sings her complicated feelings about where we stand now with Trump, "the racist South," and "whatever this state is" as she stands over Iowa on a huge map. It's funnily hyperrealistic when she goes up to a black woman on the street and asks "how to be a better ally" and is told to go read up, because the woman does not have time to educate her. It's cringeworthy for all white liberals when she comes to the realization that black men and women were being killed by police all along, but she just got woke about it recently.

Can Silverman get us to embrace more than just groups and relate to individuals, or are we hopelessly riven as a nation? The jury will likely be out for the next three years and three months, but "I Love You, America" is definitely worth watching. In the opening episode Silverman interviewed a family of Trump supporters from Louisiana as well as Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church who left the church after meeting her husband on Twitter.

Lots can happen on a streaming show. Hulu isn't restricted by any norms, like network. Cable is far less restrictive than network - we still revel in Burnett's insistence on repeating Trump's "sons of bitches" comment repeatedly to make her GOP guests squirm: "But do you think they are, as the president said, sons of bitches?" - but there are still things that can't be said. So the freestyle of Hulu explains the flash of full-frontal male nudity early on - just because Silverman wants to know you're paying attention.

Then there was this from the former Westboro Baptist family member: "One thing that's really important for people to understand is that I think extremists generally are not psychopaths," Phelps-Roper told Silverman. "They're psychologically normal people who have been persuaded by bad ideas. We can't expect to isolate these people and hope those ideas will just fade into oblivion. We have to actually engage those ideas and find ways of, one, understanding the mindsets of the people that we're dealing with, and then constructing arguments. It's not just for the sake of these extremists. because they impact the rest of society." That's a lot. But worth delving into.

Scare package

Speaking of delving, with Halloween almost upon us, "Lore" seems the perfect scare-fest. Aaron Mahnke's award-winning podcast about the bizarre, unexplained and could-be-supernatural was just made into a scripted TV series for Amazon. The focus is mysterious moments in history, and the podcast is like sitting in the woods around the campfire telling scary stories.

"X-Files" producer Glen Morgan is the showrunner, and "Walking Dead" producer Gale Anne Hurd produces. Mahnke is still on board. The first two episodes of the Amazon series star some heavyweights, Campbell Scott and Colm Feore. If you like the podcast, you will also like the series, though you may need to close your eyes to get yourself into the space of eerie, preternatural, what-comes-next scarification.

LGBTQ History Month hasn't resonated on the tube, which is unsurprising. But we were pleased to see some hot, realistic gay male sex on "American Horror Story: Cult," hot, realistic lesbian sex on "Grey's Anatomy," hot joking about gay male sex in a bar with male strippers on "How to Get Away with Murder," which also revealed in the final 30 seconds on Oct. 12 that Connor has two dads. Whoa.

On "Star," which now follows "Empire," which also gives us gay every week, Carlotta's transgender daughter Cotton (trans actress Amiyah Scott) is being primed for some dramatic love interest. Paris Jackson will return for more episodes, too. Yay.

Our fave new gay streaming series, on Amazon Prime, is "Zach & Dennis: How It All Began." A sweet, funny, sexy, complicated tale of an older and younger man, the series begins when Dennis wakes up to discover Zach, an attractive and much younger guy, in his bed. He gingerly removes Zach's arm from around him and goes off to make tea, picking up their discarded clothes as he goes. He looks at the tag in Zach's briefs, snorting, "Small." Is Zach just a one-night-stand, or is it more than that? This is a must-watch. If you don't have Amazon prime, the episodes make their way to YouTube.

We take what we are given and gladly, but we would like to have more. A lot more. PBS and the History Channel are primed to do LGBTQ history. It's always in October. Do better, straight people who have plenty of time to sexually harass women, but no time to put together a half-dozen shows on LGBTQ history once a year.

Harvey Dick

The ongoing revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein continue, impacting film, TV and books. For the first week CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all seemed perversely fixated on why Hillary Clinton hadn't spoken out about the revelations, since Weinstein had donated money to her campaigns (along with dozens of other Democrats and progressive causes, like Human Rights Campaign and Emily's List). Apparently everyone forgot that Hillary never worked in Hollywood. Oddly, comments were not demanded of men, including any of the dozens of true Hollywood elites like CNN's Jeff Zucker, who was a longtime friend of Weinstein. Or Stephen Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen, George Lucas, Martin Scorcese, Ron Howard, James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton, Michael Moore and many others.

Samantha Bee had no such compunctions. On her Oct. 11 episode of "Full Frontal" in a segment titled, "Listen Up, Creeps, Weinstein edition," Bee went on an eight-minute rant about Weinstein, Trump and other serial sexual assaulters of women. It's a sharp and arch indictment.

Another indictment came from actress and screenwriter Rose McGowan, who stated on Twitter Oct. 12 that Weinstein raped her, and that Jeff Bezos had cancelled her contract for her series with Amazon Studios when she complained about it. McGowan was named in both The New York Times and New Yorker investigations into allegations against Weinstein.

The Weinstein scandal will impact TV, not just movies, as myriad shows are produced by the Weinstein Company, and he had his name on many. The first show to scrub his name from the credits is "Project Runway." The long-running hit series not only (spoiler alert!) finally dumped those twins in what can only be called #TapeMeasureGate, but also snipped Weinstein's name from the credits on Oct. 12.

Tamron Hall, former anchor at MSNBC and co-host on the Today show (was she really replaced by Megyn Kelly?) and current host of "Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall" on Investigation Discovery channel, was scheduled to have her own daytime talk show via the Weinstein Company next season. That, like many other deals orchestrated by the now-disgraced Weinstein, is up in the air. Hall told HuffPo, "It's a woman's worst nightmare to be in a situation where you believe someone more powerful has control over your life. I immediately thought about the women who have suffered in silence and were paralyzed by fear, fear that I've seen with domestic violence survivors, fear that I've seen when I interviewed women who were raped on their college campuses."

Meanwhile, revelations about other serial abusers are coming to light, among them Ben Affleck, who has been accused of groping women he's worked with on big and small screens. His brother Casey Affleck previously settled out of court with two women who alleged he had sexually assaulted them.

In August, lesbian comedian Tig Notaro ("One Mississippi") alluded in an interview with The Daily Beast that comedian Louis CK, a producer on her show, was a serial abuser, and that she had experienced an "incident" with him. Notaro has stopped speaking to the comedian, and when her Amazon series debuted its second season last month was quick to note that he was no longer involved in her show.

The allegations have swirled for over a year, first noted by comedian Roseanne Barr in a 2016 interview with Daily Beast. Barr, a longtime advocate for sexual abuse survivors, said, "It's not just Bill Cosby. Some of the biggest comics, males, are doing some terrible things. And they're about to get busted." Barr, whose re-boot of "Roseanne" premieres on ABC next season, said, "I've been speaking up. It's Louis CK, locking the door and masturbating in front of women. I've heard so many stories. Not just him, but a lot of them. It's just par for the course. It's just shit women have to put up with."

Notaro's comments were personal. Telling Daily Beast that Louis CK needed to "handle" the allegations against him, Notaro said, "It's serious to be harassed. It's serious, it's serious, it's serious." Yikes.

In her Time interview in September, Notaro said, "I think that if somebody is assaulting people, they need to get professional help. They also need to acknowledge this to their victims. That's a good place to start. It seems like when things are unchecked, it doesn't stop." Louis CK has declined to address the allegations.

Actor Terry Crews ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine") also spoke out last week about being sexually harassed by a high-level Hollywood executive. In a series of 16 tweets on Oct. 10, Crews detailed how the man grabbed the Emmy-nominated actor by his genitals at an industry party. He said fear of reprisal and racial bias had kept him from speaking out: "I decided not 2 take it further becuz I didn't want 2b ostracized - par 4 the course when the predator has power n influence. I let it go. I understand why many women who this happens to let it go. I empathize with those who have remained silent. But Harvey Weinstein is not the only perpetrator. Hollywood is not the only business [where] this happens, and to the casualties of this behavior: you are not alone."

Crews, who was previously host of "Millionaire," ended his tweetstorm saying he hoped that telling his story would "deter a predator and encourage someone who feels hopeless." His revelation is important for many reasons: he's black, a former football player, six-foot-three, weighs 240, and is ripped. The juxtaposition of Crews' body vs. his ability to fight back in such a situation exemplifies the powerlessness victims feel.

"Dawson's Creek" alum James Van Der Beek, now 40, was a gay heartthrob in his youth. He spoke out about his experience with sexual harassment in a series of tweets in which he was supportive of the women speaking out. "What Weinstein is being accused of is criminal. What he's admitted to is unacceptable in any industry. I applaud everybody speaking out."

On Oct. 12, Van Der Beek wrote, "I've had my ass grabbed by older, powerful men, I've had them corner me in inappropriate sexual conversations when I was much younger. I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness & inability to blow the whistle. There's a power dynamic that feels impossible to overcome."

Neither Crews nor Van Der Beek named names, but Van Der Beek added, "Apologies to any mentors & champions and wonderful friends I've made in this industry who may have been pulled into wrongful speculation. I realize I left a door open by not initially naming, but please don't impugn innocent people w/out cause. That's not fair. Or right."

The complexities of the Weinstein case and others will continue to play out for weeks to come, and one thing remains crystal-clear: the victims of these unwanted advances, the many women and the smaller number of men, deserve support. And the men with power who could have said or done something to stop the ongoing abuse, but didn't? They are culpable and complicit.

So for the good, the bad, and the really ugly, you know must stay tuned.

CNN anchor Erin Burnett called out Trump as the "hypocrite-in-chief." Photo: CNN