Opinion
Apr 30, 2018
10:44 AM
Pseudo-Event of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner
Michelle Wolf and Journalism in the Age of Trump
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The pans of the comedian Michelle Wolf, and the calls for decorum, were blatantly out of scale.
By Troy Patterson FROM The New Yorker
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Michelle Wolf’s routine was only as obscene as the Presidency itself.
The cultural relevance of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is directly proportional to the annoyance its entertainment inflicts upon the comfortable. It is far from clear that the citizenry gains any benefit from this pseudo-event, unless you count the pleasure of rubbernecking at a ten-thousand-tweet pileup of controversy.

On Saturday night, the comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a nineteen-minute set, largely on the themes of sex and gender. She spoke about the former often with reference to sex crimes: the “Access Hollywood” bus, the Roy Moore campaign. She even invoked the financial crisis of 2008, during which, Wolf said, she worked at Bear Stearns: “That whole company went down on me without my consent.”

She spoke about gender with frequent reference to women who disappoint her with their politics or perfidy, including Kellyanne Conway, whom she called a liar, and Ivanka Trump, whom she called “about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons.” Naturally, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seated just a few feet away from Wolf, earned special attention. Wolf compared her to Aunt Lydia, one of the abusive enforcers of the fascist regime in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and to a bullying softball coach. Oddly, the focal point of the controversy around Wolf’s set – the joke singled out for scolding – connected Sanders’s eyeshadow preferences to her cosmetic approach to candor. Wolf said, “She’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s lies.”

I suppose it is indecorous to call attention to a woman’s makeup under any circumstances. But the pans of Wolf and the defense of decorum immediately mounted – by name-brand journalists, other members of the political class, and sundry opportunists – were blatantly out of scale. The objectors lunged to condemn an insult that wasn’t quite there while matter-of-factly accepting the premise of the joke, which was about this White House’s uniquely strange relationship with matters of fact.

At one point, while gathering steam in her denunciation, Wolf muttered an aside chiding the people who’d hired her, saying, “Shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.” It was, indeed, negligent of the White House Correspondents’ Association to provide a platform for Wolf or any another political comedian with eyes to see what is going on in this country, given the group’s mission to offer a “unifying message,” to borrow a meaningless phrase from its weaselly repudiation of Wolf’s act. This dinner does not rate as entertainment in these dire times. Watching the C-SPAN telecast in any given year, you find yourself swept back to the nineteen-nineties – the age of George magazine approaching politics as a life style and of the Man from Hope charting new frontiers of President-as-celebrity. If the people who run this anachronism want it to succeed without raising any rancor, they would need to reach back further still, to the days when Bob Hope or Benny Goodman would show up, make the assembled feel swell, and dematerialize without incident.

Those days are gone. This evening is an exercise in lost innocence. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner of 2015, President Obama, delivering his remarks, surveyed the audience and said, “And Donald Trump is here. Still.” It was funny at the time.

SOURCE: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/michelle-wolf-and-the-pseudo-event-of-the-white-house-correspondents-association-dinner?mbid=nl_Daily%20043018&CNDID=11493100&spMailingID=13414616&spUserID=MTY5NjQwNjYzNjY5S0&spJobID=1382638657&spReportId=MTM4MjYzODY1NwS2

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