Bee and Barr: Parsing What Offends

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It seems while I was off-grid attending to a personal family matter yesterday, all Full Frontal hell broke loose.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was sitting in Samantha Bee’s audience less than a month ago reveling in the vulgarity of it all. I enjoyed comedian Allana Harkin’s sometimes salty warmup. Then, when the show began, Bee’s delivery of jokes was sharp and stinging, just the way I’d loved from back in her days on The Daily Show.

That’s fact No. 1. Now here’s fact No. 2 – as comfortable as I am with the word “fuck,” I hate the word “cunt” and don’t want to see it used, ever. Not for Ivanka Trump and not for Stormy Daniels and not for Hillary Clinton (as seen on many t-shirts from the deplorables during the presidential campaign).

Now in our national conversation, we have begun to play “what about-ism” on all of these incidents, so it’s worth unpacking this in relation to more recent ones. I’m not going to defend the choice of word, but attempt to explain why it’s a false equivalency with, for example, what Roseanne Barr said.

It’s about principles and world view, not vulgarity. In both cases the person delivering it said a “bad” word, to put it in kindergarten parlance. Bee called an employee of the current presidential administration a “feckless cunt.” Barr called an employee of a past presidential administration the descendant of an ape.

We now know what Bee thinks of Ivanka Trump, but no one now thinks Samantha Bee hates women. In fact, one could say she has a pattern of uplifting/advocating for women. Barr, on the other hand, has a pattern of showing us what she thinks of people of color. No one who sits across from Bee in an interview is going to think they’re not getting hired because they’re female. If I were African-American, I would never expect to get a fair shake from Barr.

As for whether Bee should be fired (show cancelled), you’re not naïve enough to think that’s going to come down to morality in America, right? It’s about numbers, people. If her advertisers flee (as of this writing, two already have), the show will be jeopardized. Plus, the entire Full Frontal producing team had a hand in putting that expletive on the air.

Contrast that with the Roseanne show. Almost immediately after Barr’s Tweet about Valerie Jarrett, members of the cast started abandoning ship. There was no way it was going to survive. ABC’s announcement was a mere formality.

I keep seeing the “what about-ists” bringing up other incidents as if they’re not all very different. There’s nuance here. It’s not about what offends me more or what offends you more or what’s funny or not funny. We have to dig deeper.

For example, the Kathy Griffin joke might have missed the mark, but I think we can all agree she didn’t have real intent to chop off Donald Trump’s head and walk around with it. (Well, the Secret Service actually did investigate that in an interesting use of tax dollars). Laura Ingraham’s mocking of Parkland teenager David Hogg for not getting into some colleges showed us more about who she is than if she’d called him a prick.

Do I think either Bee or Barr issued a sincere apology? No, I don’t. Barr has been Tweeting almost maniacally since her firing and nothing in her commentary indicates she understands what she did was wrong. It’s what she really thinks of black people. It’s deeply ingrained. And, frankly, all the support she’s been getting has made me wonder if any of those people are hiring or supervising in their respective jobs. You see where I’m going with this.

And I think Bee apologized because she had to if she has any shot at keeping her show. I’m sure she stands firm in her belief about the President’s daughter, which is this:

“Ivanka Trump, who works at the White House, chose to post the second most oblivious tweet we’ve seen this week,” Bee said. “You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless c***!”

The shame of it all is what got lost in the joke — that Ivanka Trump is feckless. Because she is a complete disappointment in terms of the role she’s been given on the national and global stage. That word “feckless” alone was enough. It would have been more powerful than any expletive.

 

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