Broadsheet, The Blog

Two Lady Artists with Bees in Their Bonnets

22 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

We Vegetarian Broads would like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Please re-join us after the holiday
when we will continue with the sporadic programming
you've come to know and expect!

The Broads

13 November 2006

Q: How many Feminists does it take to Screw in a Light Bulb? (A: That's not Funny!)

I will admit at the outset that I haven't yet had the cringe-filled pleasure of viewing the Borat movie, and have been looking forward to doing so. But I think I've seen enough of Borat on Da Ali G Show to understand and comment on his modus operandi. When Sacha Baron Cohen (or Stephen Colbert, for that matter) exposes the stupidity and hypocrisy of bizarrely unwitting politicians or other public officials by baiting them and selectively editing the results, it is obviously unfair to the participants but in the end I have little sympathy for them. This is partly because I share most of Baron Cohen's and Colbert's political biases, partly because these people clearly have so much more power than they deserve, and partly because public figures should know better.

But though I think Baron Cohen is truly hilarious, and one of our generation's sharpest cultural critics, I am very ambivalent about what seem like some misplaced targets within the admittedly target-rich environment of the USA. In particular, I was surprised by the story of artist and member of Veteran Feminists of America Linda Stein, who writes her account of their encounter in Downtown Express. Stein, by the way, has an exhibition of her work up at Flomenhaft Gallery on 27th Street in Chelsea until December 20th.

Stein on her fatal mistake:

I finally agreed, although I admit that I failed to read the fine detail on the “Standard Consent Agreement.” Since I thought this was a documentary, I probably would have signed it anyway. When I did study it later, I realized that it’s anything but “standard.” Buried are statements asserting that I waive claims for “offensive behavior” and “misleading portrayal” and “fraud (such as any alleged deception or surprise about the film or this consent agreement).” While I’m no legal expert, I can’t believe that you can agree to be defrauded — or wouldn’t every used car dealer use the same clause?

On the process, and what it all means:

But it wasn’t long before the fake journalist started switching and baiting, performing like a Howard Stern wannabe. Women in his country must walk behind men, he said. Condoleezza Rice is the “chocolate lady,” he claimed, implying that she beds foreign diplomats. He gestured his interest in large-breasted women. His goading produced predictable results. Right before I kicked him out, he declared — as the clip shows — that women have smaller brains than men.

In humor or art theory, you could argue that his statement is so ridiculous that the very utterance of it proves the reverse, and therefore is an unmasking of his character’s small mindedness. Some of Borat’s most famous segments do just that, such as when the comic, who is Jewish, cajoles patrons in a country-western bar to sing “Throw the Jew down the well” to expose covert anti-Semitism. But what exactly is he trying to unmask when he ridicules women?

Borat could cause a sensation by pressing his “small brain” commentary on people like Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard who resigned after saying that women can’t be scientists. Instead, for the sake of a cheap laugh, he chooses to reinforce the stereotype of women as the inferior sex, at the expense of women. How funny is that?

Her last point is a good one: it would make more sense, within Baron Cohen's own oeuvre, for him to go after sexists than to go after feminists, and the fact that he chose the latter displays laziness and willingness to go for the cheaper laugh. I suspect his point with this scene of the movie, unhelpful as it is, may be that feminists are humorless and artists are out-of-touch weirdos. Once again, we prove to be easy targets.

09 November 2006

It's Morning in America (or, as they say, Mission Accomplished)

It's hard not to be optimistic today, however cautiously. It remains to be seen how different things will be. But somehow we can't help but feel hopeful today. It's a strangely unfamiliar feeling, but we're indulging in it just for a day or two.

03 November 2006