Vanity Fair photo lauding late-night hosts sparks Twitter firestorm

15 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘VF’ all-male comedy cover sparks outrage.

Instead, there sat a boys’ club of Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, Trevor Noah, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Larry Wilmore, Jimmy Fallon and Bill Maher. Vanity Fair published a piece on Monday, which, while likely garnering thousands upon thousands of page views, few people actually read, seeking to explain “Why Late-Night Television Is Better Than Ever.” Yes, in 2015, even with absolutely zero women helming shows, diversity in late-night television is arguably “better than ever” save for two whole months in 2007 in which both George Lopez and Chelsea Handler had shows airing.

VF posted the caption “We talked to all the titans of late-night television, and found out why it’s better than ever,” alongside a staged photograph of all of the current late-night hosts that was shot for the accompanying article. Immediately, this brings to mind Chris Rock’s remarks in New York magazine on the sad state of American race relations, which once again smartly exposed how black people generally don’t enjoy the luxury of nostalgia: White people were crazy.

There’s his comedic acting chops—you may know him from the sitcoms Less than Perfect (ABC) and Chuck (NBC), the latter of which he’s directed episodes for. There’s no doubt that the people who give us our last laugh before heading to bed all have one thing in common, as shown in this October Vanity Fair photograph: They’re dudes. In 2012 Adam Carolla told the New York Post, “The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks.” And just this year, Michael Eisner dusted off the sentiment at the Aspen Ideas Festival, telling a crowd that beautiful women aren’t funny. “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman,” he said. “By far.

Since the beginning of network television’s late night talk show tradition, starting from the days of Steve Allen and Jack Paar, that has largely been the case, minus a few notable blips, including the late, great Joan Rivers. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. … So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. She labeled the original image “good,” then presented a “better” edit, with herself Photoshopped in as muscular, tatooed centaur with laser-beam eyes.

There’s been a palpable desire to put a woman behind the desk amid the late night changing of the guard, as Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart left their shows in recent years. While Amy Schumer has acknowledged that she turned down “The Daily Show,” happy where she is at Comedy Central, that doesn’t mitigate the fact that Chelsea Peretti, Megan Amram, and Jen Kirkman, to name but three contenders, are alive, sentient, funny, and presumably open to taking a meeting.” And yet, the story is likely to resurrect past criticisms of Vanity Fair, which infamously ran a column in 2007 by the late Christopher Hitchens declaring that women aren’t funny. And, quite notably, Levi is something of a “tech head” icon as the founder of the immensely popular company and Web site The Nerd Machine, which spreads the gospel of all things nerd, from Comic-Con to the Twitterverse. But no amount of tweeting could convince the powers that select America’s late night hosts to stick it out with a woman. “How gobsmackingly insane is it,” writes Vanity Fair’s David Kamp, “that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late night comedy program to a female person?” Yet, as the major broadcast networks have yet to name a woman as a host to a show since Rivers’ short-lived Fox show in the late 1980s, Chelsea Handler will host a new show for Netflix (following Chelsea Lately, which ran 2007 to 2014 on E!), and Daily Show alum Samantha Bee will do the same for TBS. A memorable rebuttal story, featuring “Saturday Night Live” stars Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph on the cover, also ran in the magazine the following year.

So when Vanity Fair was invited to check out Levi’s garage, it revealed the stuff of nerd dreams: a perfect fusion of technology, gear, entertainment, and emergency preparedness—think Oculus DK2 virtual-reality headset, drones, and food rations and generators (because after all, “shit’s going to go down”). I don’t say it out loud, of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist, Hitchens if very sick, and the third guy I made up.” “Unless one of these men is my boss, which none of them is, it’s irrelevant,” she continued. “My hat goes off to them. Having the hosts sit around in their suits and drink, given the exclusivity of the late-night club, channels a Don Draper-like essence of casual misogyny, in which the only thing that’s missing is a “no girls allowed” sign on the door.

In either case, Bee had just a slight adjustment to correct this omission: Even Stephen Colbert, who kicked off his tenure hosting The Late Show last week, wrote in Glamour, “It has been pointed out to me that I, like other late night TV hosts, am a man. More than that, the photo is shot on a white background, lit with what appears to be white light, meaning that everyone in the shot looks similarly beige, stripping Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore of their heritage while presenting an even more homogenized and whitewashed vision of late-night than actually exists. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.” “Two female hosts plus the 10 men featured here is still a long way from a late-night that truly looks like America,” he writes. “But the next version of this story’s opening picture will be that much brighter.” Though Vanity Fair’s article eventually goes on to speak about how outrageous it is that there is still such a dearth of female representation in the late-night world, nothing it says could speak louder than the unintentionally revealing photo that accompanies the article itself.

Earlier this year, during a roundtable of female comedic actresses for The Hollywood Reporter, Amy Schumer was blunt after joking that it was because women get their periods at night. “I think people hate women,” Schumer later added. “I think people hear a woman talk too long and project their mom yelling at them, or they’re afraid that they’re going to hate women. But it’s, like, a dance you have to do.” “People are so stuck in these old formats that the idea of any form of risk-taking becomes terrifying to them,” Lena Dunham said. But it was a kind-of-nice paragraph relegated to an afterthought at the end of the story, that chose to advertise itself with a glaringly offensive boys-club class picture—with scotch glasses, no less. Do it.'” “There is a real, slow move to allow people in, and there’s a way that we just recycle what we know,” Tracee Ellis Ross said. “And there’s a plethora of female talent out there.” With boatloads of comedians like Bee, Schumer, Dunham, Ross and others, there’s no shortage of funny women who can command a show (with laser eyes, as Bee asserts above). Of course, Rock’s larger point was that yes, things are still terrible for many black Americans, but this is the least terrible they have ever been.

If you’re in the mood for magnanimity, you could credit the presentation of Vanity Fair’s story with similar insight — grimly sobering realism deceptively packaged as cheerful, fresh-faced — some might say clueless — optimism. The biggest lesson we may glean from Vanity Fair is that after so many years of earnestly exclusionary annual Hollywood issue covers, either celebrating the film industry’s homogeneity or willfully ignoring its existing (if paltry) diversity, we don’t trust its attempts at irony. In times like this we must turn to former “Daily Show” correspondent Samantha Bee, the soon-to-be host of her own late-night show, “Full-Frontal With Samantha Bee,” which debuts on TBS in January.

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