February 19, 2008

The Tabloidization of the Media and How it Beats Up Women

One of the things that I have been concerned about for some time is the "tabloidization of the media" and its detrimental effect on women.

This whole celebrity obsession seems to have started almost a decade ago and one episode that stands out in my mind as to the double standard - even back then- between male and female stars was the short relationship of Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. They met and supposedly feel in love on the set of Proof of Life. Once they were spotted together, the world turned against her for cheating on Dennis Quaid (of course, no one knows the state of their marriage at the time.) Meg who had been so popular in the 90s (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Courage Under Fire) seemed to almost disappear after the flop of Proof of Life and Kate and Leopold (with Hugh Jackman) that also did not do well (which I still think is adorable). According to IMDB she didn't make a movie from 2004-2007. It also didn't help that she hit 40 which is the kiss of death for women in Hollywood. (I am so looking forward to Meg's next role in the Diane English remake of The Women.)

But Russell Crowe passed through that incident, and many others (he actually is violent, remember the phone throwing incident), but he always bounces back and gets the next starring role making $20 million. Meg Ryan was judged more harshly because of the types of roles she played -- the good girl -- and the world couldn't handle the good girl with the bad boy.

My main concern is that we, as women, seem to be obsessed with the drama of these young women's lives. I am just as guilty with my subscription to Us Magazine (I am seriously thinking of canceling it- I am tired of seeing Britney Spears or Nicole Richie or those girls from Laguna Beach on every cover). We need to stop consuming this crap and then maybe the harassment of these young women will subside. Cause really folks, it is harassment. They can't drive anywhere, they can't eat anywhere. It's enough. Things are out of control.

The NY Times ran a piece in the Sunday style section on Sunday that illuminated this issue. Here are some quotes:

Yes, women are hardly the only targets of harsh news media scrutiny — just ask Mel Gibson. But months of parallel incidents like these seem to demonstrate disparate standards of coverage. Men who fall from grace are treated with gravity and distance, while women in similar circumstances are objects of derision, titillation and black comedy.
Mel did something illegal so let's not put his indiscretion in the same category as poor Britney who clearly has some psychological problems.
Some celebrities and their handlers are now saying straight out that the news media have a double standard. “Without a doubt, women get rougher treatment, less sensitive treatment, more outrageous treatment,” said Ken Sunshine, a publicist whose clients include Ben Affleck and Barbra Streisand. “I represent some pretty good-looking guys, and I complain constantly about the way they’re treated and covered. But it’s absolutely harder for the women I represent.”
Liz Rosenberg, a publicist at Warner Bros./Reprise Records who represents Madonna, among others, also thinks sexism is at work. “Do you see them following Owen Wilson morning, noon and night?” she asked.
Go Liz!
Some editors confirm that they handle female celebrities differently. But the reason, they say, is rooted not in sexism, but in the demographics of their audience.

The readership of US Weekly, for example, is 70 percent female; for People, it’s more than 90 percent, according to the editors of these magazines.
We are our own worst enemy! What are the kids learning when we are obsessed with Britney or Lindsay Lohan?
“Almost no female magazines will put a solo male on the cover,” said Janice Min, the editor in chief of US Weekly. “You just don’t. It’s cover death. Women don’t want to read about men unless it’s through another woman: a marriage, a baby, a breakup.”

Ms. Min acknowledged that her magazine played down its coverage of Owen Wilson and Heath Ledger. Part of the reason, she said, was that female readers tend to be sympathetic toward young men in crisis.
Why are women (cause women are the readers of the magazines) more sympathetic towards young men in crisis vs. young women in crisis? Why do we coddle the boys and hang the girls out to dry?
“There is certainly an argument for it being incredibly sexist, the attention that’s given to women and the hounding of them,” the actor Colin Farrell said at a recent party for his new film, “In Bruges.”
So now Colin Farrell is the spokesperson for women being hounded in Hollywood. Where are the women standing up for themselves and each other? Did the NY Times not bother to try and talk to one of the women who gets hounded so relentlessly?

Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Hounded by the Media