Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Nora Ephron's white people

The white people of Nora Ephron's movies.

Joseph alerted me to Nora Ephron's insipid column on "White Men." The Ephron excerpts that he quoted:

This is an election about whether the people of Pennsylvania hate blacks more than they hate women. And when I say people, I don't mean people, I mean white men.

Hillary's case is not an attractive one, because what she'll essentially be saying (and has been saying, although very carefully) is that she can attract more racist white male voters than Obama can.

Oh, gawd. Go read Joseph for his political viewpoints and to get the link to Ephron's column. He's absolutely right about Ephron's implied threat, Vote as I tell you to vote, or I'll call you a racist or a sexist.

What nauseates me about Ephron? Her blindness to her projection onto Hillary of the very criticism of which she's made a career: white woman meets white man, relationship unfolds toward commitment. M'yeah. Meg Ryan, who played the romantic lead in Ephron's movies, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, represents a white female who isn't happy without the white man of her dreams played by actor Tom Hanks. Has Ephron considered how she's contributing to the sexist, racist storyline she now decries? She depicts a world in which her main characters are all white. Have Pennsylvania voters become influenced by all the Hollywood movies that reinforce white racial hegemony? Has Ephron considered the underlying racist narratives in her films? Silly idea, isn't it?

Of course, it ridiculous in Nora's mind to entertain the possibility that PA voters prefer Clinton's policy positions over Obama's. Or maybe PA's white male voters have been repulsed by Barry's negative and dubious campaign attack ads against Clinton. I dunno. But I can say with confidence that skin color doesn't qualify a candidate to solve the economic worries that voters say are their top concern. I support Hillary because she offers solutions I prefer. Perhaps Obama hasn't convincingly persuaded PA voters on the issues more than Clinton. But to Nora, those white men in PA are racists and so is Hillary. Disregard that their voting preferences may be predicated on their wallets and who can best fill them with job income and better economic conditions.

I'll set aside the anti-feminist argument that a woman needs a man for her self-fulfillment because humans do crave companionship. How Nora represents these human yearnings irk me as a feminist. Simply, she infers sexist stereotypes. Funny that Nora hasn't discovered the log in her eye.

There's another reason to discount Nora Ephron's ramblings: she mishandles facts. In her column she stated (with emphasis):

Even around the time of Ohio, when there were primarily three candidates, the outlines were murky, because Edwards was still in there, picking up votes from all sectors.

Edwards dropped out of the presidential race before Super Tuesday on Jan. 30, 2008, when he declared, "It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze it's path." Ohio's primary date was March 4. Hello! Earth to Nora. Edwards was not in the race "around the time of Ohio."

So pardon moi if I open a can of bwahahaha when Ephron makes an fallacious, inflammatory assertion without any proof that Hillary is saying although very carefully that "she can attract more racist white male voters than Obama can." Proof, Nora, present your evidence if you can without mangling the facts. When a pundit undertakes the serious allegation to smear a candidate implying racism, it's her job to present evidence. Subjective propaganda and opinion isn't acceptable. Show me the proof to substantiate the claim or to my thinking, the accuser is an unmitigated slanderer or a hopelessly irresponsible ninny.

Historically, white racists vote Republican (see the Southern Strategy). Why would they turn out for a Democratic primary? I can think of a reason: vote for the unelectable candidate, the one they think their GOP candidate can beat in the fall. I could speculate that spoilers are crossing over in open primaries to help Obama beat Clinton so they can vote against him in November since Clinton is more likely to defeat McCain.

Secondly, Ephron evidently lacks a depth of political knowledge to realize that playing the race card isn't a new invention used against a Democratic presidential opponent. Bill Bradley maligned Al Gore in 2000 when he "ripped the vice president for injecting racism into the 1988 campaign by raising the Willie Horton case against Michael Dukakis.” It wasn't true--Gore is not a racist--but our mindless press corps picked up the racial theme against Gore and spread it, just as our biased media have painted the Clintons as slobbering racists in this campaign. [Ed. note: Al Gore never mentioned Willie Horton in case you don't click the The Daily Howler link. H/t to Joseph Cannon in comments.]

Why liberals fall for this specious propaganda, one can only speculate, but none of the answers are good when allegedly intelligent people follow the plot lines our morally-bankrupt news media concoct. If the Clintons are such super-smart politicians, why the hell would they commit electoral suicide undermining Hillary's chances of winning? It defies logic, but don't expect to find sound reasoning in Ephron's column (or from rubes who swallow such drool).

Based on Nora's own "insights," how has Ephron exempted herself from the fact that she devises a world on film that is predominantly white-skinned? Are we to assume, based on Nora's suppositions, that she is saying she can attract more racist white movie-goers than Spike Lee can (and has been saying, although very carefully)? Goose, gander, sauce, Nora.

Ephron bemoans, "after all these stupid articles about how powerless white men are. . . after all this, they turn out (surprise!) to have all the power." You know what's ironic? The swooning of Nora's female characters into the arms of men in her cinematic works. In You've Got Mail, the Hanks character owns a bookstore chain that eventually puts our struggling heroine's independent bookstore out of business. The female lead played by Ryan can't stand the powerful businessman who precipitates her company's demise. Yet, in the end, they fall in love. Cue soundtrack, Over The Rainbow. Can you believe it? Maybe it's time to start boycotting her sexist movies where men "turn out (surprise!) to have all the power."

Why Nora continues to churn out intellectually-shallow polemics is a mystery. In her "White Men" column, I wonder if she's attempting to assuage her white guilt for having been racially insensitive in casting and writing screenplays that tell stories about white people. Just a guess. I have no proof other than her filmography, which relegates African-American actors to bit parts. To foster such an argument is as overly-simplistic as Ephron saying that Hillary can "attract more racist white male voters than Obama can."

Maybe Nora hasn't paid attention. Obama is attracting more African American voters than Hillary, but I wouldn't particularly assign a racial component to Barry's voting bloc. History-making and enthusiasm? Yes. Racist? No. Sexist? Maybe. Of course, there are racists, sexists, and homophobes. But are we to blame the candidates for how bigots vote? Not if they don't pander to them. What's also troubling is Ephron's judgment that "white men cannot be relied on, as all of us know who have spent a lifetime dating them." Ahem. Making judgmental generalizations isn't helpful in healing whatever divides men, women, ethnic groups, or any segment of our society.

I don't have time today--aren't you lucky--to analyze why women like Nora dislike Hillary enough to slime her. But there's something deeply pathological and psychologically disturbing going on. Using racial smears is ugly business. Doing so without facts is libelous.

One thing you can bet: Winged Tasmanian wombats will fly out my bum before I waste one dollar on any Nora Ephron enterprise past or future.

POSTSCRIPT: One key observation from Joseph that I failed to mention: "People like Nora Ephron do the Republican Party's work so expertly that I wouldn't be surprised to learn of a covert GOP pay-off."

IMAGE: Cropped from a movie poster of Sleepless in Seattle. Poll graphic from Yahoo! News.

UPDATE: Edited for clarity.