It’s been quite a week for Wonder Women. Every little girl who got a glimpse of TV news learned that she, too, can take a cue from a superhero and grow up as powerful and successful as her imagination will allow — and also that if she should fail, the thing to do is to blame misogyny.
I can’t stand Kathy Griffin, never could, not for a moment. I never came close to laughing at any of her shtick during the 20 years in which she has inexplicably managed to maintain a toehold in popular culture. But I equally wish CNN hadn’t terminated her contract.
It was in bad taste for Griffin to decapitate President Trump in effigy — but I don’t want ours to be a country where the freedom to display bad taste, especially bad taste that involves satirizing powerful figures, gradually gets snuffed out by the timidity of the advertising business. While pressuring CNN’s advertisers in hopes of shaming the news channel into dumping Griffin is simply harnessing market forces in the service of basic norms, the endpoint of that kind of campaigning is that our culture (or at least the huge percentage of it that is sponsored by advertisers) will become subjugated to the blandness-enforcing dictates of Kellogg’s and Allstate. I want America to be a place where rodeo clowns can make fun of President Obama and unfunny comediennes can pose for pictures with the fake bloody head of President Trump. Besides, anytime the ugliest fantasies of the Left and its kulturkampf foot soldiers stand revealed, it harms them, not us. We should promote Kathy Griffin, not silence her.
Yet she who sets out to be shocking and outrageous should hardly declare surprise, much less suffering, when people react with due shock and outrage. Be transgressive if you wish, but don’t then claim to be taken aback when people notice you’ve crossed a line. Publicly complaining you’ve been wronged and wounded is a particularly pathetic strategy for a sharp-elbowed comedian. Any comic who made it past those first trembling open-mic nights at the Laff Loft should be an expert in handling audience jeers.
Instead, after receiving a thoroughly well-earned national razzing, Griffin broke down in tears and played the victim at a press conference more shameful than the stunt that led to it. Claiming others are being too mean is a curious tack for someone who has just been photographed holding someone’s bloody, severed head. Yet “this is a woman thing,” Griffin wailed, and “what’s happening to me has never happened in this great country.” Tell it to Tuffy Gessling, who was banished for life from the Missouri State Fair after CNN and other news outlets castigated him for wearing an Obama mask during his rodeo comedy act, just as he had worn masks of previous presidents. Gessling’s joke amounted to tapioca compared with Griffin’s Tabasco.
Joking about Donald Trump is essentially the fracking of the comedy business — “Trump Jokes Are at a Record Level on Late Night,” ran a May 5 headline in the New York Times in which Stephen Colbert called Trump “an incredible gift.” Yet Griffin thinks that the president has at his disposal a comedy-inquisitor force and unfairly chose this moment to unleash it on her. It seems a tad more likely that it was instead the widespread public disgust with her decapitation joke that led to her dumping by CNN. “I’m not afraid of Donald Trump. He’s a bully,” she said. “I’ve dealt with older white guys trying to keep me down my whole life.” As if no one but old white guys could possibly take offense at an image of the bloody head of the president of the United States. She claimed the backlash against her was “hurtful.”
Griffin’s press conference came from the same place as Hillary Clinton’s excuse tour.
If there were an anthem for today’s most prominent females, it would have to begin, I am woman, hear me whine. Griffin’s press conference came from the same place as Hillary Clinton’s excuse tour. Except that when you put them side by side, it’s unclear whose finger-pointing is more embarrassing. At least Griffin hasn’t blamed the Russians or her fellow liberals or the New York Times for her public face-plant.
Clinton has not only repeatedly blamed misogyny for her loss, she did Griffin one better and asserted without evidence that any women who didn’t vote for her were suffering from “internalized misogyny.” As if hating Hillary Clinton were the same thing as hating women. Clinton also calls herself “the victim of a very broad assumption that I was going to win,” as if having a substantial lead is a burden.
You can claim to be the toughest, canniest woman around and you can claim that it’s unfair people had high expectations for you, but not both. You can claim to be a sharp-tongued, politically engaged comedian and you can break down in tears while claiming the boys are being too mean to you, but not both. Women can assert agency and responsibility for their actions or claim they’re hapless playthings of exterior forces, but not both.
— Kyle Smith is National Review Online’s critic-at-large.