Sunday, May 29, 2011
Powerful, Piggish Men and The Journalists Who Secretly Love Them
Time Magazine's cover story this week is a piece by Nancy Gibbs entitled: "Why Do Powerful Men Act Like Pigs?"
It is the first in a series aptly entitled, "Why Does It Never Rain When My Head Is Pissed On?"
It includes such articles as:
"Why Are Lazy People Who Gorge Themselves Fat?"
"Why Do Tampon Sales Drop in the Post-Menopausal?"
"Why Are People Capable of Rapidly Moving Their Legs So Fast?"
As well, as her award-winning essay from her college days...
"Why Do Nights with Frat Boys Sporting a Tube of Lubricant Invariably Involve Unconventional Sex?"
Gibbs, whose piece uses the Strauss-Kahn and Shwarzenegger scandal as a point of departure, draws needed attention to a long-overlooked issue that, if I may, begs the question:
Why do journalists who should know better don't and ask such silly questions as if surprised? Or: Why do journalists pretend not to know better and indulge the public's silly questions?
Gibbs posits the question with a tone irony, doesn't she?
As "behaving like pigs" is part of a vernacular (I mean, she's not implying that they wallow in filth and eat slop) that she acknowledges exists, it's not that she's shocked that any man act like a pig, but that powerful men do.
It would be less disturbing if this behavior came from others and not the men who do it. Those more fit for this sort of thing, you know.
Wouldn't it be easier if it were those who give us nothing? I mean, are we responsible for supporting the rise of these powerful people who abuse? Maybe?
Why, though it is long-since established that they more so than men without power, is Gibbs so mortified that powerful men act this way?
As a regular contributor to Time, a publication devoted to the elevation of popularity over ideas and the celebrating of the celebration of celebrity, the issue has a stressed value.
Simple definition: Power is the ability to exert one's will over others.
The better someone is at that, the more power they get, the more esteem they are given over all subordinate to them and so on.
Hold that thought...
For the record, if not the powerful, who does Nancy Gibbs (and the popular media) believe is a more fitting pig?
There's a TV commercial for some car, economical and cool. A woman, 30's, of tasteful dress and manner stops at a gas station and is approached by her high school prom date.
He is fat, mulleted, and howls in an 80's jock kinda way with The Flock Seagulls "I Ran" playing in the background as he gyrates by his beat-up shitbox of a car.
She scowls and goes on her merry, texting and twittering way. How funny.
That is what a pig is supposed to be.
He still lives at home with his mother. He's unattractive. Unhip. And terribly unsuccessful. Moreover, he has an awful, rusted car (imagine?). Fortune has echoed the condemnation of his inner-ugliness and depravity.
Gibbs writes "Since when has intelligence correlated with decency?"
Correct. But when has power ever meant decency? In fact, when has it ever not meant an occasional indiscretion?
As a writer who deals with powerful people, she should be the least surprised.
Anyone who has ever dealt with a powerful person, any powerful person, might comment on their charm, but can see that they've made enemies. More than the average person.
The powerful man has placed success over loyalty and even his past. The loser, ex-high school hero boring you at the high school reunion with his past glories, might offend your sensibilities, but he really cares what you care about him, that his name be good.
That alone separates him from the power-hungry.
When has the loser from the commercial ever deliberately misrepresented himself to betray confidence? Over whom has he ever lorded power? And yet, he is to embody the worst of terrors; more than just being unattractive, "he's a nightmare."
When you build up a loser just chugging past in his tacky get-up to be the worst of all nightmares, then is it any surprise that the real nightmares rest easy in the blind spot?
The story of Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger is, according to Gibbs, all to familiar: The wives of despicable men stand by them.
As well, the public has betrayed women by allowing men who, though they achieved great things in financial or political fields, have ultimately victimized other women and embarrassed their wives.
Anne Sinclair, Strauss-Kahn's wife, is conveyed as a soulless, obstinate woman who refuses to hold her husband to any accountability, nor is she capable of seeing him for what he is.
Shriver stuck by Arnie in the hard-fought 2003.
Sinclair was clueless and cold, and Shriver, the dear from "Dateline," was just too good, too earnest for her husband.
Herein, we find the problem...
Gibbs is asking an ostensible question: How do we as a wife, a partner, a society tolerate intolerable behavior just because of a person's achievements?
Looking at something in Shriver's life that may make her vulnerable to such flawed men, Gibbs sighs that her family "has had its own zipper issues."
Zipper issues? That's it?
Her uncles fought over the same woman in one of the most infamous and tragic romantic triangles in history. Another uncle on the way to or from a drunken tryst (or attempt at one) left a woman to die after a car crash into water. One cousin killed a girl, an object of his infatuation, in a drugged rage. Another publicly fended off the accusation of a rape during a party on the family compound.
And that gets cutesy 'zipper issues' from the solemn Gibbs?
Where's the indignation? The cold detachment and severe judgment worthy of the offenses?
And why? Because: Airports, schools, libraries, hospitals, iconic speeches and quips, Time-Life photos, handsome men and happy women in black-and-white on plush lawns playing tag football.
And perhaps, shared political affiliation, ideology...or alums of the same prestigious schools...
Gibbs asks how in this age of enlightenment can anyone buy off accountability of crimes. Her waggish brushing over the Kennedys, in contrast to the piece's ominous tone and subject matter, simply shows that everyone has a price.
According to the soon-to-be-released study, successful men and women are more likely to commit adultery than the average person.
I can't imagine? You mean a person who has five million people pining to kiss their ass might not value the warm, familiar embrace the same as the guy who lost his job at Sunoco?
Explain that? I hope the study elaborates...
Oh, it does, Gibbs writes "They think they can get away with it..."
Nobody attains any level of power without risk, without divorcing oneself from the Average Joe's way of life.
The ultimate way they get away with it?...They don't care as much.
Most preposterously, Gibbs puts forth that powerful men become pigs. Read Studs Terkel's 1970's essay on Arnold Schwarzenneger and his willingness to be cold when needed. Read up on Strauss-Kahn's early life. News flash: men who are looking to conquer the world tend to start from piggish, selfish notions.
They don't happen into a life of power. It makes sense to them...
Arnie's willingness to up and leave Austria and not look back, coming to America and L.A. where being shameless and self-promoting is a virtue, reflects part of his personal make-up. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the sexual make-up of a man who believed in limitless possibilities wasn't grounded.
DSK and Arnie weren't satisfied with traditional family and sexual exchanges -- committed and exclusive and equal- their marriages appear to have been sound business decisions with partners agreeable to the fiduciary responsibilities (and rewards) of them.
Successful, powerful people are marked by their ability to focus; to sublimate basic relationship and sexual needs for their pursuits.
Take how the straight-A student who becomes an opportunistic frat pervert at a prestigious college feels entitled (and Gibbs is right about entitlement factoring into this): he was at the library while his high school classmates were going steady and making-out on the hill. How could he not equate his success with sexual reward (Yale=Getting some)? In a way, he's bought it, right? Hostile, ain't it?
In the powerful person, you will see a magnificent capacity to delay gratification...but when they sate it, lock the doors and shutter the windows...and watch the fuck out.
Marriage doesn't mean the same to the powerful person. Never has. Power means more than love, relationship, marriage and even children, or have you not watched the Kids of Celebrities Editions of E! True Hollywood Story.
"How far are you willing to go?" is the fundamental question asked daily of those seeking power and fame.
Strauss-Kahn's affirmation was found not in love or marriage but conquest...of business, politics, and women willing or not.
Has Gibbs read any book of history? Henry VIII didn't have six wives because his love was infinite...
Gibbs accuses Anne Sinclair of sticking by her husband to the detriment of these many victims. "They have abandoned women..."
Gibbs asks "why?" and I'm still not totally sure what she's confused about. I guess, what is she going to say having devoted a professional career to giving top currency to every word the powerful mutter, and quoting them in her articles.
I get the feeling that Gibbs, a Yale Grad and native of posh NYC, might not have much real experience dealing with the more humble; the powerful is all she knows.
What's a girl to do...?
Ask the guy with the mullet and the Pacer.